The Battle of Jericho, Wednesday 12 June 1872
The earliest known use of the name Jericho in this area was in reference to an 1872 incident dubbed “The Battle of Jericho.” Frank Shepley and William Brown, American pirates who “proved themselves a terror to residents of British Columbia,” stole some guns from Mr. Maude on Hornby Island. Maude tracked the duo to Burrard Inlet and alerted Constable Miller, the lone cop at Granville Townsite. Mr Bridges also reported the fugitives for trying to sell him one of the two boats in their possession; when the duo was unable to produce a receipt, Bridges correctly deduced it was stolen.
Constable Miller recruited his predecessor, Tompkins Brew, and a Mr Handy as his Special Constables to help nab the outlaws. Shepley and Brown got wind that the police were onto them and booked it from around Hastings Mill to False Creek to make their getaway. The police caught up with them at Jerry’s Cove (hence “Jericho”). Shepley spotted Tompkins Brew and began shooting. Brew drew his revolver and returned fire, and soon Constable Miller was on the scene joining in. No one was hurt in the gunfight, but the freebooters escaped into the bush, leaving their boats and most of their loot behind.
A correspondent in one of the Victoria newspapers criticized the police for failing to capture the fugitives. In response, Tompkins Brew wrote an indignant letter to the Mainland Guardian:
It was to be hoped the battle of Jerico would be forgotten, almost as soon as Gravelotte, or other comparatively insignificant engagements, but no – it is still the subject of comment by wiseacres, who think they would have done better than the Constables. When the Magistrates in New Westminster wanted Specials to hunt up Brown and Shepley, there was an excellent chance for some people to display their patriotism and valor by going. No doubt they would have done better than the Constables, and many people regret that some of them did not go. There would then be far less comment on the matter.
Shepley and Brown left Burrard Inlet, but continued pillaging the coast of the Pacific Northwest, except now there was a $250 reward for their capture, dead or alive.
On 20 July, the bandits were recognized by a storekeeper when they tried to sell him butter in Tulalip, WA. About a week later, they attempted to break into Mr Brannan’s farmhouse on the Cowichan River. The pair nearly met their demise in early August after a dramatic shootout with the sheriff and his posse near Seattle left both men wounded. Once again, they got away. Shepley was spotted two weeks later on the San Juan Islands, which, until October of that year, were the subject of a territorial dispute between Britain and the US, thus making it feel like a safe haven for the desperadoes. According to a witness, Shepley was in rough shape, but still had an air of bravado and boasted about digging a bullet out of Brown with a pen knife.
In September, some natives recognized the marauders near Georgison’s house in Active Pass after barking dogs on the property scared them off. And that’s where the online newspaper trail goes cold for the outlaws Shepley and Brown, though I can’t imagine it ended well for them.
Source: Jericho Beach and Tidal Flats photo by Bailey Bros., ca. 1890, City of Vancouver Archives #Be P41
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