Jacquet River rowdies attack officers, 1924

Bloody midnight battle at Charlo

The Campbellton Graphic on July 31, 1924)

Probably not since the early years of colorful pioneer days has any village on the north shore been the scene of such a barbaric hand-to-hand battle as was waged near a highway bridge at Charlo on Tuesday about midnight between local representatives of the law and a number of men who, not content with breaking the law and ignoring those who sought to enforce it, seemed determined to do grievous bodily harm to the officials who interfered with their arrogant attempt to take matters into their own hands and do as they pleased.

The fight in which more than a dozen combatants engaged, took place on or near the premises of the Farmers' Hall at Charlo where a dance and social entertainment was being held. The fight, which was both fierce and bloody, started shortly before midnight and lasted according to the police, for an hour and a quarter.

The dispute began when some men from Jacquet River, who were attending the dance, refused to comply with a very reasonable request of a liquor inspector.

Expected trouble

Because of similar disturbances on previous occasions those who had promoted the entertainment at Charlo vaguely expected trouble. A request was therefore conveyed to authorities here asking that officers attend the affair and keep order lest some quarrel should occur to make things unpleasant for the guests.

Constable William Smith and Prohibition Inspectors Chas. B. Gray and Wilfred Brown accompanied by Barney Poley and Palmer Walters accordingly went to Charlo. The officers also expected trouble as it had been rumored that a certain bunch intended to "get" them if they interfered with their plans of having a good time in their own way.

All went quietly until nearly twelve o'clock. A large crowd was present an all appeared to be having a good time.

About this time, however, those who had liquor in their possession became more audacious. When some of these seemed determined to drink this in view of the crowd, Inspector Brown quietly asked them not to drink where they could be seen by the lady guests. The men however refused to comply with this reasonable request and the dispute which followed, rapidly developed into a fight.

Was fast and furious

In a moment several men sprang upon Inspector Brown and one or more held him while others beat him over the head with a bottle. The other officers attempted to help him and found themselves involved in a hand-to-hand struggle. As moments passed the fight grew more furious. The officers at first merely attempted to protect themselves, but as the blows of their assailants were rained thick and fast upon them, they realized that the occasion demanded real fighting. Blood began to flow freely from battered heads and faces. Both hands and feet were used with all the strength of their owners. Bottles, sticks, stones, and even pieces of metal, secured from a nearby blacksmith shop, were, it is alleged, employed by several of the men in their attack and the officers were obliged to use their billies freely.

Attracted by the noise of the encounter and the shouts of the men as they swayed to and from [sic] in the fierce struggle, a great crowd gathered from the hall and neighbouring houses. Scores of men lined up and watched the fight but made no move to assist the officers to restore order. As they fought the men staggered across the highway to the bridge nearby and near the end of the struggle two of the men were hurled over the railing to the bank of the river some 12 or 15 feet below. During the encounter Constable Smith had his nose broken and when entering a neighbouring house to have his injury attended to was followed by a part of the mob who shattered the windows of the house with stones and other missles. The windows of the hall were also broken during the fray.

Many sore heads

The exact extent of the injuries sustained by those who took part in the encounter is not known but it is safe to say that there were many sore heads after the affair was over. One man from Jacquet River is thought to have been pretty severely bruised about the head while others sustained minor cuts and bruises. Inspector Gray sustained two bad cuts on the head which required medical attention as also did the injuries sustained by Constable Smith. Gordon McLean, who is employed here with Grays Wholesale and who displayed considerable courage in going to the aid of the officers also received several bad blows. Barney Poley and Palmer Walters, who went through the thick of the fight, escaped without serious injuries.

Names withheld

The names of the ringleaders in Tuesday's affray are known to the police but are being withheld for obvious reasons. Warrants were issued this morning and local constables left this morning to round them up.

[Note: We were unable to determine what the resolution of this event was. Several men from Jacquet River and Culligan were arrested and put on trial in Campbellton, with one Jacquet River man still at large, but the judge adjourned the trial to consider other evidence and we cannot find where the trial might have been resumed. By the account in the Graphic, it seemed like the Jacquet River men were having their friends swear that it was not them who were involved in the fight, evidence which the Graphic hinted was not believable. Nor do we know why the matter came before a police magistrate in Campbellton when there were courts in Dalhousie. There was a later account of a conviction in a higher court in Dalhousie against a Jacquet River man for an assault on Inspector Gray, for which he got four months in prison, but there is no indication if this was related to the Charlo incident or something else. Assault must not have been seen as a particularly serious crime in those days, because at the same assize another man got nine months for defamatory libel - merely nasty words -- against an "inoffensive clerk".]

Courtesy The Tribune