RANCH TALKES: Animosity among ranchers

Ken Mather tells the story of Alfred Goodwin and J.B. Greaves

Alfred Goodwin and his brother, Fred, pre-empted land near Fish Lake, northeast of the Douglas Lake Ranch, in 1891.

Late that same year, the brothers acquired an additional three half-sections when the 29-square mile Marsh Meadows opened up for acquisition. This land bordered the Douglas Lake Ranch on the west and, right from the start, Douglas Lake manager J.B. Greaves and Alfred Goodwin were at odds.

Over the next few years, a number of incidents fuelled the animosity between the two.

In 1904, Goodwin, in an attempt to increase his holdings, built a fence around a field that was Crown land. The fence was regularly broken down, especially when Douglas Lake cowboys were in the area.

This did not help an already strained relationship and, in 1907, matters came to a dramatic head. Neighbouring rancher, Billy Lauder, was riding across Goodwin’s land to purchase some cattle and noticed 25 head of horses, mostly Clydesdales, many with the distinctive lll (one eleven) Douglas Lake Ranch brand on their shoulder blotched out. Lauder informed Greaves of what he had seen.

Greaves sent long-time Douglas Lake cowboys, Joe Coutlee and Jack Whiteford, over to have a look and they found 23 horses, 13 of which had their brands disfigured. They drove the horses to the home ranch and Greaves sent to Nicola for Const. Walter Clark.

Clark conducted a search and found two more horses. Although it was obvious what had happened, there was no concrete proof that Goodwin had taken the horses or altered their brands so a reward of $1,500 was offered to anyone who could help in the arrest and conviction of the horse thief. The provincial government offered a further $500.

Later that year, Oliver Walker, who had been in charge of Goodwin’s cattle in 1907, confirmed that he had helped Goodwin steal the Douglas Lake horses and change their brands.

Charges were then laid against Goodwin for stealing 14 two-year-old horses from the Douglas Lake Ranch and altering their brands.

Further investigation saw a number of other charges laid against Alfred Goodwin.

The preliminary hearing in Kamloops uncovered much about Goodwin’s dealings. Oliver Walker’s evidence was the most damaging. He testified that he and Goodwin had rounded up 25 Douglas Lake horses and put 14 of them into their corrals, where they treated the brands with Fleming’s Lump Jaw Cure or Spavin Cure.

These salves caused a blister on the hide that would slough off, taking the lump or spavin with it.

They had the same effect on brands, removing them from the hide and leaving behind a sore that would heal over, leaving only scar tissue.

In the spring assizes in Vernon, Goodwin’s lawyer, A.D. McIntyre, cleverly questioned Walker’s reliability, suggesting that he was the mastermind behind the scheme and that his testimony was more for the reward money rather than any desire to see justice done.

Goodwin himself took the stand and denied any involvement in the matter.

McIntyre was so effective that the jury failed to reach a verdict and a new trial was set for Kamloops.

After hearing the same evidence, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty and Goodwin was released.

Wisely, he decided not to return to his ranch, preferring to lease it out and move to the Monte Creek area, away from his arch-enemy J.B. Greaves.

Ken Mather is a Spallumcheen author. He can be reached through www.kenmather.com.