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Double murder and suicide at the Black Hills Roadhouse, 1913

Crime & Policing in the North

The Whitehorse to Dawson Overland Trail

Dateline: January 27, 2020.

The Weekly Star, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory - Friday, January 31, 1913
The Weekly Star, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory - Friday, January 31, 1913

Terrible Tragedy on Yukon Overland Trail, 1913

Three Persons Found Cold in Death at Black Hills Stage Post on Whitehorse-Dawson Road - Dead are W. F. Smith and Wife, Roadhouse Keepers, and C. M. Kelly - Indications All Point to Double Murder and Suicide - Bodies Discovered Tuesday Evening by Stage Driver Burwash - Details are Meager - Police Officials From Dawson Investigating.

    Another terrible tragedy has been added to the pages of Yukon history, the scene being at Black Hills stage station on the overland trail, fifty-five miles south of Dawson, news of which came to this place Wednesday afternoon in a telegram from Dawson to C. W. Cash, acting superintendent of the overland mail service.

    The message stated that Driver Burwash of the north-bound stage had on arriving at the Black Hills post Tuesday evening, discovered the dead bodies of Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Smith, keepers of the house, the former lying on the floor of a bedroom and the latter on the bed. Going to the barn, Burwash found the body of Stableman C. M. Kelly cold in death, All the bodies were fully dressed which indicates that the tragedy occurred in the daytime.

    The Star at once endeavored to obtain additional news from Dawson, but was unable to get further details. Police officers at once left Dawson for the scene of the tragedy, but as there is no telegraph or telephone connection between that place and Black Hills, it will probably be some time today before any further information reaches Dawson. The wire received here appearances indicated that Smith had murdered his wife and Kelly and then committed suicide.

    While little seems to be known of Smith, his wife who was probably 20 years his senior, was an old-timer in the country, having conducted a laundry in Dawson as far back as twelve years ago. Her daughter, Miss Jessie Jones, was an actress. Mrs. Smith was an English woman. The Smiths went to Black Hills from Dawson late in the fall to conduct the roadhouse.

    C. M. Kelly, "Pop," he was called by his friends, served in the Royal N. W.M.P. for eight years, being stationed here. He was a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia. He joined the police in 1900, arriving here the same year. He took his discharge in 1908 and has been employed by the mail department of the White Pass much of the time since. He was with the boundary survey last summer. He was a very large man, happy dispositioned and popular with everybody. He was one of the best horsemen in Yukon. He was 35 years of age. A brother, Thomas F. Kelly of Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been communicated with and has wired for further details of the tragedy.

The Weekly Star, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory - Friday, February 7, 1913

Tragedy Was Result of Drunken Craze, 1913

William Franklin Smith. Keeper of Black Hills Roadhouse, Was in Ugly Mood Previous to Killing His Wife, Colin Kelly and Himself - Had Quarrelled With and Cursed His Wife Monday Morning - Also Quarrelled With Kelly During Day - Verdict of Coroner's Jury - Kelly's Body Being Shipped To Halifax, Nova Scotia.

    Further details of the double murder and suicide which occurred at the Black Hills roadhouse on the Whitehorse-Dawson trail early Tuesday morning, January 28, have been received here. It has now been fully established that William Franklin Smith, keeper of the roadhouse, killed his aged wife, Colin Miles Kelly, stableman for the mail service, and then took his own life.

    Driver Ed Reeves who arrived here from Dawson Tuesday morning, tells of happenings at the road house the Sunday night previous to the killing. He arrived at the roadhouse in the evening and spent the night there. He says he retired at 9:20, but that a number of men, miners in the vicinity, were with Smith in the bar until 3 o'clock in the morning and that there was a great deal of noise. At 3 o'clock, Mrs. Smith who had retired in the family sleeping room upstairs, arose and went down and censured her husband for making so much noise and permitting the men present to drink so much. At that time Smith roughly ordered his wife back to her room. Shortly after that the men left and Smith joined his wife in their room. Reeves heard considerable quarrelling between the two and after a while the house became quiet. As is usual at roadhouses on the trail, Reeves arose early Monday morning, but as neither Smith or his wife appeared, Reeves rapped loudly on the stovepipe down stairs at the same time calling to the Smiths to get up and get him some breakfast. Getting no response and Kelly already having the horses hitched to the stage, Reeves left without any breakfast. In conversation with a Star representative Tuesday Reeves gave it as his opinion that Mrs. Smith was dead when he left Monday morning and that her busband had choked her to death; also, that during the day he brooded over what he had done and, knowing that his crime would be found out soon, he further fortified himself with whisky and that night killed Kelly and himself. If the theory advanced by Reeve is correct, Smith evidently fired a bullet into the dead body of his wife later, as the coroner's inquest showed that she had been shot through the heart.

    The following special telegram was received by the Star from Dawson on Tuesday:

    DAWSON, Feb. 4 - The verdict of the coroner's jury before Captain Telford, Royal N. W. M. P., was that William Franklin Smith fired the shots which resulted in the triple tragedy at Black Hills roadhouse last Tuesday. Smith shot Mrs. Smith and Miles Colin Kelly and then suicided. All three of the victims were pierced through the heart. Kelly was also shot in the right side.

    Mrs. Smith left an unfinished note which she was evidently writing when shot. It was addressed to her daughter, Mrs. Murray, Tacoma, Wash., and said: "Dear Jessie - Will is going to shoot me and himself. I did not think" - The last word was only a scrawl.

    Four witnesses testified that there was a drunken bout at Smith's roadhouse Sunday night which wound up by Smith breaking his temperance resolutions and going on a spree in which he became very ugly. It is believed that he, while crazed with liquor, quarrelled with his wife about a trip she proposed taking to the outside on a visit to her daughter and that as she was counting money, struck het over the head with a wash bowl and then shot her. He then opened two boxes of cartridges, presumably for the purpose of killing anyone else who might be about the premises. Kelly being the only one around at the time, was killed. Smith then tied a string to the trigger of the rifle, a 35-40, and fired with his toe, the ball penetrating his heart.

    Smith had quarrellea with Kelly the previous day. He was very quarrelsome when drinking and frequently tried to curb his appetite for drink, being aware of its effect on him.

    Kelly's body will be shipped on the stage Thursday enroute to his old home at Halifax. He had planned to leave Black Hills on the day after he was killed, for Dawson, where he expected to remain in the employ of the White Pass the remainder of the winter.