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The Cherbart Murder

by George Fraser

 

(as published in The Story of Osoyoos, 1952)


At the first crossing of Rock Creek on the night of June 13th, 1861, a Frenchman named Pierre Cherbart was brutally murdered by a man known as Charley or Saul.  The story of the tragedy as told by the murderer after he confessed was as follows.

“I overtook the Frenchman on his way to Rock Creek town.  As it was getting dark, we decided to camp in an empty cabin near the trail.  The Frenchman had some grub with him and he cooked supper for the two of us, after which we retired.  I did not sleep, as my heart was bad, and about midnight I got up and took a sheath knife from under the Frenchman’s head.  He wakened and got up and wanted to know what I meant and he tried to take the knife from me.  I stabbed him twice in the belly.  He asked me why he was to be killed and then I stabbed him in the back.  He fell and I ran out and got a big pointed stone and battered the back of his head with it.  He soon died.  I then took his money and dressed myself in part of his clothes.  I then dragged the body to the creek, which was high and swift, and threw it in.  I wandered about till morning when I went to Rock Creek and bought a large bowie knife and a pistol with which I could resist arrest and then I proceeded to my camp on the Boston side. (Americans were usually called Boston men by the Indians, and the British or Canadians were called Matson men.) Three days later I told Chief Tonasket what I had done and he at once sent work to Mr. Cox.  I was then arrested by Mr. Howele, who had heard talk to the murder among the Indians.  I escaped the next day and gave myself up to Tonasket to give me up to Mr. Cox, because I was afraid of plenty of people killing me.  I know that I deserved to die but this is the first time that I injured or stole from the Matson man and I do not want my death to be delayed.”

When discovered, the body was two miles below where the crime was committed.

As the murderer had made his way to an Indian settlement at the foot of Osoyoos Lake, it was doubtless there where he confessed and gave himself up.  On the 19th, an inquest was held under the direction of Commissioner Cox.  The Jury found that Cherbart had come to his death by being murdered by the Indian known as Charley or Saul.  That same afternoon a party of enraged miners, determined on revenge, rode over from Rock Creek and the following morning Charlie was lynched.

It was interesting to note that the murderer belonged to an American reservation, the murder was committed in Canada, the murderer was lynched on the American side of the border by a posse of miners from the Canadian side and there was not a whisper of international trouble!