Sunday, August 20, 2006

Fort Steele Courthouse

Built in 1897, this building served as both the local government building and the courthouse, at Fort Steele, just north of Cranbrook, British Columbia. According to the Fort Steele website,

The origin of Fort Steele can be traced to the small settlement of Galbraith's Ferry, which was born during the 1864 Kootenay Gold Rush to Wild Horse Creek. In 1888 the settlement's name was changed to Fort Steele to honour Superintendent Samuel Benfield (Sam) Steele of the North-West Mounted Police , who peacefully reduced tensions between the Ktunaxa and the white and Chinese settlers who were relatively new to the area.

According to the histories I have read and heard, some of the townsfolk arrested two members of the Ktuaxa (or Kootenay) nation, locked them in the local jail, and accused them of the murder of two miners. Chief Isadore managed to set them free, and tensions mounted. Sam Steele negotiated with the Chief, who agreed to return the prisoners. Superintendent Steele then had a hearing, and after carefully examining the evidence, determined that there was insufficient evidence to convict. The two Ktuaxa were free.

Sam Steele appears to have had a true sense of justice toward all people, a sense not always shared by his contemporaries on the frontier.

You can read more about Sam Steele here and here.

This picture was taken by my wife, Michele, earlier this month. If you visit Fort Steele in the summer, I recommend the two day "Steele of a Deal" tickets.

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