Richfield, Williams Creek, Cariboo


Execution of the Murderers James Barry and the Indian Nikel Palsk

Judge Begbie sentences Barry
The Trial of James Barry

The first public execution that has ever yet happened in this district took place on Friday last, the 8th, at 6 o'clock am in front of the court house, Richfield.

Throughout the greater part of the previous evening the carpenters were engaged in constructing the scaffold, and before it was completed a large crowd of spectators had collected around where it was erected. At about half past 5 o'clock the sheriff with his posse entered the cells of the prisoners, and announced to them the near approach of the fatal hour, which they received with calm indifference.

The officers then proceeded to unfetter the prisoners, and while so doing, the only remark that Barry made was that he hoped that none of those present would ever be placed in his awful position. The Indian, who up to the time his shackles were being removed appeared perfectly harmless, began to manifest a disposition of resistance, expressing a determination not to be hanged, but insisted that he should be shot and struggled in such a manner as to induce the officers to keep the irons still on his wrists.

A few moments before the hour the prisoners were conducted to the scaffold accompanied by the Ref. Father McGuicken, who had previously administered the Holy Eucharist to Barry and the rites of baptism to the Indian. On the scaffold, Barry who had been suffering for some days from a severe attack of sickness, betrayed no symptoms of trepidation, but sustained himself throughout the trying scene with the utmost fortitude and coolness. The Indian on the contrary, behaved in a very excited manner, and indulged in the most foul and blasphemous language, cursing the King George man and his Indian accomplice, endeavouring all the while to extricate himself from his pinions. Neither of the prisoners made a public confession, although it is very certain that Barry must have done so to the priest before he could receive absolution; if he did so the tenor of it will never be communicated to human-ears, as the laws of the Roman church forbid the revealing of secrets made at the confessional.

Everything being ready at a given signal the executioner drew the bolt and the door fell with a dull heavy sound, and the murderers were launched into eternity without a struggle. After the bodies had hung for the space of half an hour, they were examined by Dr. Bell who pronounced them dead, and being immediately cut down by the hangman were at once conveyed in coffins to the place of internment, near the burial ground at Richfield.

By 7 o'clock the scaffold was removed and nothing remained to show that any unusual event had occurred.

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