Commentary – A convenient error of omission

Chris Clegg
I was stumbling across old editions of the Edmonton Capital newspaper one day and came across a story in the July 23, 1914 edition.

It piqued my interest.

To my surprise, a court report was published. Not a special case like a murder, but a regular docket. Specifically, it reported on the illegal liquor trade, better known as bootlegging.

“As a result of the operations of agents of the Attorney General’s department a considerable number of convictions have been secured in connection with the illegal sale of liquor at Grouard, within the restricted area,” read the report.

The convicted names read like the social register of Grouard. Geo. Yeaman [Yeoman], $100 and costs; Charles Roath, $150 and costs; Harvey Andrews, $125 and costs; Harry Powell, $100 and costs; Leland Yeaman, $150 and costs; Jean Baptist Agard, $150 and costs; H.E. Myers, $75 and costs; William Bibbs, $50 and costs. All convicted for selling liquor without a permit, or bootlegging.

At the time, Yeaman and Roath both advertised their businesses in the News.

Alec Lehoe and Dave Long received suspended sentences, as also was Moye Lawrence, charged with having liquor in his possession without a permit.

Warrants were issued for the arrest of the following persons who had left Grouard: Lee Barrey, Pat Gallagher, John Malloid, J.H., Yeaman, Archie Gardiner.

I was curious so I looked up the July 18, 1914 Grouard News court report for the same day.

“$1,000 was the sum paid out by numerous parties who appeared before Major McDonell at the Mounted Police barracks on Saturday morning last to answer to the charge of selling liquor.”

Earlier, Inspector Nicholson arrived in town to clean up the illegal trade. Nicholson apparently did his job.

“Summons to the number of about 20 were immediately issued and the parties appeared the following morning to answer to the charges.”

Here is the rest of the report:

“The first man to appear pleaded not guilty and two provincial detectives were called to give evidence, after the evidence had been produced in the first case the balance of those accused pleaded guilty, apparently seeing that this was the wise course to pursue as the fines were notably decreased in the case of pleading guilty.
“Quite an array of bottles of all brands were produced going to show that the detectives never haggled over the brand. The most noticeable part in connection with the bottles was the fact that they were nearly all empty. Evidently, somebody had an awful thirst.”

And that was it.

What is so interesting? Not a single name published!

It is said that the Peace River paper once accused News editor Roy S. Burns of associating with the bootleggers. It was a charge never refuted by Burns.

It is interesting to note that Burns chose not to publish the names of the convicted bootleggers.

It is now 100 years later and we will never know why Burns chose to not publish the names. We can probably assume there was a connection because the paper did publish the names of convicted people in its docket on other occasions.

Was Burns involved in bootlegging? It certainly seems suspicious. You decide.

At best, the evidence is circumstantial. It does make one wonder, though.

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