Shootout at Fortier’s Café

Canada’s wild, wild west…

gunfight2Thanks to the dime store novels and Hollywood larger-than-life approach to frontier history, most of the gunfights we know about are American. However, Canada has had its share of shootouts, too. Take the shootout outside Fortier’s Cafe in the gold mining community of Fisherville, British Columbia, in 1864.

Ironically, the dispute began between two factions who each wanted to be the law in Fisherville, and after much threatening talk the two agree to meet to talk things over. The players were a group of Americans under the leadership of William “Yeast Powder Bill” Denniston (a.k.a. Bill Burmeister); Robert “Overland Bob” Evans; and Neil Dougherty. The opposing side, mostly Canadians, was lead by a hot-tempered, mouthy Irishman named Thomas Walker. His lieutenants were William “Dancing Bill” Latham, John “Black Jack” Smyth and “Paddy” Skie.

The talk started peacefully enough but within a few minutes the two [walker and Dinniston] began shouting. Tom Walker, his temper boiling over, pulled his revolver from its holster, levelled it at Yeast Powder Bill and squeezed the trigger.

The range was point blank when the heavy pistol roared but, unfortunately for Walker, his hand was unsteady. The .45 slug missed Bill’s expansive chest by ripped away the thumb from his right hand. Walker tried to fire a second shot but his gun jammed. Yeast Powder Bill, howling in shock and pain, drew the pistol from his left holster and shot Walker through the heart. Walker died where he stood. It was his great bad luck that Bill was ambidextrous.

When Walker’s gun fired, Overland Bob Evans commenced shooting. This brought immediate return fire from Walker’s friends. Within seconds the shooting had become general and Evans lay prone in the dust with at least two bullets in his body. Although Evans was down his companions, thinking him dead, continued shooting.

cemetery, fishervilleWalker was dead, there was no doubt about that, and his friends, intent on avenging him, kept up a steady barrage of fire into the ranks of the Americans. For several minutes the scene was one of sheer chaos. The men who were armed with clubs closed and began to beat on each other. When the shooting finally stopped the air was heavy with the acrid smell of gun smoke. Both sides retreated to count casualties.”

Amazingly, Evens recovered from his wounds so Walker was the only actual casualty from the fracas.


Source: Wild Canadian West, by E.C. (Ted) Meyers

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My list of of interesting books about Canada (to date). You can add your favourites, too. Just send me a note with your choice, title and author, to gerrybbooks@yahoo.ca

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