Solomon’s Sorrow: The cross-examination of Jimmy Sampson, Merritt, BC, 1911

The local paper gave a ton of space to this courtroom story, thus giving us a rare peep into the use of Chinuk Wawa and pidgin English in that setting…

…and it matches what I’ve found in my years of dissertation research on Kamloops Wawa-type Jargon. Expressions like skookum house ‘prison’ and charco ‘to come’ are used, as is the “null” (i.e. lack of) preposition in “you go skookum house”. And the pidgin English / local Chinook Jargon word stop is used instead of CJ mitlite.

The reporter obviously had a lot of fun writing this story, and I doubt you need your hand held to spot his attempts at humor. The “Yip On” who is mentioned is not, as I first imagined, a jokey name for a loquacious Chinese immigrant, but instead was a well-known BC figure.

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Solomon’s Sorrow

Stableman From Nicola Set Free From Serious Charge

Last Tuesday afternoon, shortly after five o’clock, in fact, Justices Tutill and C. MacDonald acquitted Solomon Shrimpton of the charge of having supplied liquor to an Indian. The case occupied a day and a half. The hearing commenced last Saturday afternoon, but after the evidence for the Crown was all in the magistrates advised the defendant to secure counsel, as the evidence against him appeaered overwhelm- 

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ing. It was then adjourned to Monday morning, when M.L. Grimmett appeared as the prisoner’s legal adviser. The prosecution failed to take the hint to secure special counsel and rested their case upon the evidence submitted Saturday afternoon.

Phillip Sampson, an Indian from the Coldwater reserve, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with being in a state of intoxication. An Indian, be it known, can never become legally drunk; he may only be described as intoxicated. Being questioned as to the source of his liquor supply Phillip at once informed the provincial police that he had obtained his liquor from a stableman at the Nicola hotel. He then swore out an information 

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against the charitable stableman and Constable Vachon accompanied him to Nicola, where, out of a roomfull of seven men he at once identified Solomon Shrimpton. The latter was arrested and brought to Merritt, where Dr. Tutill and Chris MacDonald sat in judgment.

Philip Sampson, a Sampson in name but not in his physical attributes, swore that last Thursday morning, March 9th, he in 


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company with his fourteen year old brother Johnny and another Indian, Johnny Bob, went to the Nicola hotel, arriving there from the rancherie at eight o’clock in the morning. The trio put their horses up in the stable for a feed while they went into their breakfast. Before Phillip went in, he swore, he handed Shrimpton a two dollar bill and asked him to get him a bottle of whiskey or rum.  This Shrimpton agreed to do, and further informed him that he would find the bottle in the manger on his return from breakfast. At that time the Indian has $22. 


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35, or perhaps a little more, on his person. This amount was in two tens and one two dollar bill and the balance in small silver. His breakfast cost him twenty five cents. He swore that he paid for his own and his brother’s breakfast with this money, having given his brother money for his. When witness came out from breakfast he went into the stable and in the manger found the bottled hidden under the straw.

Jimmy Sampson, a diminutive Indian with a distinctly Oriental 

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cast of countenance, being sworn testified. “I was at Nicola on Thursday. Accused gave Phillip a bottle of whiskey. We put our horses up at the rancherie the night before and brought them to Kirby’s stables at eight o’clock the next morning. The horses were not at Kirby’s stable during the night. “He did not know what accused was doing around the stable. They had had no whiskey at the rancherie.

In reply to a question: I did not see accused milking any cows.

Did you see Phillip give accused 

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two dollars? — I did.

After some laborious indirect questioning, difficult inasmuch as the witness did not understand much English, witness said that Phillip got the bottle from the manger and the accused put it there for him.

The cross-examination by the prisoner of Phillip Sampson followed.

Were you not drunk when you came to the stable? — I was not drunk. 

Hadn’t you left your horses in the stable all night? — No.

Questioned by the Bench, witness said: “I did not have any whiskey at all before going to Kirby’s stable. I did not see anyone drinking there. Accused 

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was in the stable working round. Accused was milking cows when he entered the stable, but witness was not sure what kind of cows. There was another man working in the stable; he would know him if he saw him. Jimmy Sampson and Johnny Bob saw him get the whisky from the manger. Accused put it in the manger for him, and he took it out and had a drink, but did not give any others a drink.

Johnny Bob substantiated the the [sic] testimony of the other witnesses. He was difficult to examine, on account of his meagre knowledge of the English tongue.

When Mr. Grimmett was called 

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into the case he asked for the privilege of cross-examining the witnesses. He managed to secure a corkscrew which had been found on Phillip Sampson when arrested for being intoxicated, and put it in evidence — the one and only exhibit of the trial — Exhibit A.

Pointing to the corkscrew, counsel exclaimed: So you are in the habit of carrying this instrument?  — Yeah, said Phillip. He was about as communicative as Yip On.

What do you carry it for?  — Oh, to open bottles.

Do you open many of them? — Oh, no, I only get a few. I help the others open their bottles when them can’t use a knife. 

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Then followed an interesting dissertation on the easiest manner in which bottles, especially whiskey bottles, may be opened without using a corkscrew.

Mr. Grimmett pinned Phillip down to his statements about the money he had when he arrived at the stables.

Jimmy Sampson was re-called. Jimmy understood very little English, more Chinook and some Indian. His cross-examination was like this:

Magistrate: “Kissa de book!” Jimmy kissed it with a smack. “You no tell truth, you go skookum house,” warned the magistrate.

Mr. Grimmett: You know this 

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man? — Yes.

Where he stop? — Nicola Lake.

You know Phillip? — Yeah, him brudder.

Constable Vachon: How many days ago you go Nicola? — One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, six, five, four, three? Well, we’ll try another method. You go to Nicola Sunday, Saturday, Friday, Thursday (pause), Wednesday, Thursday? — Threesday!

Magistrate: Any more man charco? — No.

And so it went. At times some information was gathered, but it all substantiated what the others had testified and never failed to shake him.

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For the defense Mr. Rhodes, of the Nicola hotel, testified that Shrimpton had not purchased any whisky from him, or taken any from the bar on the morning in question and that he had always known him to be sober and reliable. Mr. Kirby had always enjoined his employees to never supply liquor to Indians under any circumstances.

A. Warrington, another stableman, identified the Indians as having been at the hotel on Thursday previous. He did not see accused give them any whisky[.]  

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In reply to Mr. Grimmett, he had once found half a bottle of some dark liquid in a manger, covered up with straw. Being a teetotaler he refrained from an investigation of the contents and recovered it again. This was about three or four days before the Indians came. He had on another occasion found a small flask hidden under a step. He thought it might have held whisky, from the colour of it, but a teamster whom he showed it to tasted it and said that it was sweet nitre! (Disorder in the court.) He did not know whether that was right or not, he was a teetotaller[.] He 

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saw Informant give a ten dollar bill in payment for feed and accused borrowed money from him to make up his change. Had seen no whisky given Indians. Had never seen accused giving any liquor to Indians. Had slept six weeks in same room as accused and always found him sober and cleanly. Had only been out from England about a year.

Philip was again re-called and cross-questioned by the Bench on the money he had when he arrived at Nicola hotel.

In summing up Mr. Grimmett laid great stress upon this evidence. Phillip had sworn he had $22.35 when he arrived. Yet he 

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had paid for his own and his brother’s breakfast and two dol-

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lars for whisky with the $2.35. As this was impossible it caused serious doubt as to the reliability of the witness. The Bench gave the accused the benefit of that doubt and let him go, Mr. MacDonald warning him never to be brought back. 

— from the Nicola Valley News of March 17, 1911, pages 1 (columns 4-5) and 5 (columns 3-6)

What do you think?