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Louis Sam's rifle barrel

Significance 

This steel rifle barrel belonged to Louis Sam, who was wrongfully accused of murder, arrested, abduction and lynched.

In 1884, 14 year old Louis Sam (also known as Louis Jack), a Sto:lo First Nation boy, travelled to Nooksack, Washington for work. Instead of the job he was promised, he was used as a scapegoat in the murder of 64 year-old James Bell. Accused of murder, Sam was chased back to Canada by a mob of Nooksack men led by Dave Harkness. After crossing the border, he was stopped by Canadian Justice of the Peace William Campbell and arrested on speculation of murder. Sam was then handcuffed and held in custody overnight at the house of Thomas York. In the middle of the night, on Wednesday, February 27, Sam was abducted by a vengeful mob of over 50 men from Nooksack. Sam’s rifle was taken from the house as evidence of his supposed crime. Helpless and still restrained by handcuffs, Sam was slung over the back of a horse and lynched while still on York property.

The story of Louis Sam’s murder was skewed by the racial prejudices of the time, and only in March 2006 did the Washington State Lieutenant-Governor announced its regret and acknowledgement that they “failed to take adequate action to identify the true culprit of the murder and bring the organizers and members of the lynch mob to justice.”

This rifle barrel was donated to Major J.S. Matthews of the Vancouver Archives by Mrs. Thomas Fraser Yorke who was married to Thomas Young’s son. Mrs. Yorke was present the night of Sam’s abduction and murder, and recalls her husband finding the gun barrel by the hanging tree several years after Sam’s death. Major Matthews attached a label to the barrel which reads: “Lynching at Sumas 1884/ The Culprit Indian's Rifle/ Presented by Mrs. Thomas Fraser Yorke".

Date Range 
1884
Dimensions 
94 cm long
Museum Location 
Storage
Catalog Number 
H976.35.22
Donor 
City of Vancouver Archives