Many have passed by the former Great Northern Railway station upon Marine Drive – now the White-colored Rock Museum and Archives – without noticing a small, but significant, detail.
Windows at the east end of the particular 1912 building have bars on them that seem inconsistent with the free movement of people.
It’s likely the truism that will wherever there are bars on the windows of an old creating there is some story to be told.
And, as a sign recently placed on the station building points out, the pubs there were installed for good reason – between 1913 and 1951 that part of the building was the holding cell with regard to Canadian Customs and Immigration’s White Rock and roll offices.
The close proximity of the Canada-U. S. border, and the prevalence of rail travel before the development associated with the current network of highways, meant that will the Whitened Rock station was the first stop in Canada for many visitors from south of the boundary.
If some needed to be detained for a few reason or another, the White Rock depot cell was the place for them.
This had a lighter side, as the particular sign suggests – during the Great Depression of the 1930s men would ride the rails up and down the particular west coast in search of work, and some associated with them would be detained by the Immigration Department.
White Stone archivist Hugh Ellenwood recalls late longtime community resident Don Munro telling him that, on hot summer nights, the barred home windows of the particular cell would be left open as well as the unemployed – including several longtime career ‘hobos’ – could regale neighbourhood youngsters with tales of their travels.
The particular bars remaining around the constructing today are the last vestige from the cell plus customs offices, a variation in the usual GN depot design which had required approval from the Canadian Board of Railway Commissioners before construction could take place.
But the bars also point in order to a darker side associated with White Rock’s history – in which local customs and immigration officers played a small role in larger events across the globe.
The era in which the White-colored Rock train station was built – succeeding a cluster of smaller shacks constructed at the particular time the waterfront line was first opened in 1909 – was one of institutionalized racism, cross-border crime plus unrest.
Close on its heels, within July 1914, came the First World War, a complicated and morally ambiguous struggle with tensions and repercussions that could be felt keenly here, in what was then a tiny summertime resort.
Even before the building of the new station, Whitened Rock was your scene of the international incident recounted with the Blaine Journal in April, 1911 – and 1 worth investigating further in light associated with Black Background Month this February.
A passenger car-load of 30 potential immigrants from Kansas City had been denied entry into the particular country while the immigration department within Ottawa was notified of their applications regarding resident status.
According to the newspaper report, the black males, women and children – seeking the new start in B. C. farming communities – spent hours in the original White Rock customs and migration offices prior to Great Northern decided in order to bring the car and its passengers back to the particular Bellingham depot within the U. S. part, to await more information through Ottawa.
It is hard to assess full criteria for admission or rejection of migrants at the time. But it is known that a single Canadian requirement – that each immigrant have $50 in his or her possession (about $1, 600 in 2023 dollars) – effectively barred most labourers (the largest category among ethnic minorities) from access.
Whatever the case, Ottawa ultimately chose to allow 19 of the 30 of the group from Kansas City to enter North america, while the remainder decided to settle in Washington State.
By the summer of 1911, White-colored Rock traditions and immigration staff, including Immigration Officer H. G. Lawrence, experienced become adept at chasing – plus sometimes catching – large numbers of “undesirables. ”
In numerous cases, they found that will border-jumpers had been equipped, by opportunistic racketeers, with maps showing the best routes in order to bypass official scrutiny.
By 1912 this particular influx associated with potential immigrants, driven by a lengthy recession in the particular U. S., had risen to some 150 per day. In 1913 migration officers in White Rock were estimated to become examining between 15, 000 to 18, 000 people each month – which should come as a surprise in order to anyone familiar with the sleepy, small-town environment presented within photographs of the time.
The traffic was not all one-way. In the following, fateful, year of 1914 two Excellent Northern trainmen were arrested in Blaine on charges of smuggling Chinese Canadians, seeking better working opportunities across the line, in their locomotive’s toolbox.
Crime wave of 1914
Failure of international diplomacy – and a complex network of alliances – was about to drag the European nations and their own colonies, and ultimately even the Oughout. S., into a ruinous four-year war.
However the bigger news locally – at that moment – was the particular final chapter in a series of close to a dozen bank raids on either side associated with the edge.
In January of 1914, the Bank of Granite Falls in Snohomish, Wash. have been relieved of close to $1, 500 (some $40, 500 in 2023 dollars); within March, the Royal Financial institution in Abbotsford was robbed at gunpoint, in a bold daylight raid, of $2, 1000. Another successful robbery followed the same month on the Elma Bank in Chehalis, Clean.
In almost all associated with the raids, witnesses described the perpetrators as speaking among themselves in the ‘foreign language, or barking English commands in thick Eastern-European accents, leading law officers in order to believe that the jobs were the function of a single group of Russian (or possibly Austro-Hungarian) bandits based in the particular U. H.
The robberies were within many ways the last gasp of Old West-style banditry, doomed in most jurisdictions by the spread of the automobile and train traffic, improved communications plus increasingly organized law enforcement.
As late as 1914, the Pacific Northwest, still characterized simply by thickly forested areas, dense undergrowth and only a few roads – more suited to horse plus buggy than ‘flivvers’ (cars) – offered greater opportunity for law-breakers to disappear into the woods with their loot.
Determined opposition by lawmen, posses, and armed townsfolk seemed to be turning the particular tide, however.
On 04 7, what seemed in order to be exactly the same gang – described because seven ‘foreigners’ – attempted an ill-considered robbery associated with the Union Bank of Canada within Hazelton, B. C.
Canadian authorities shot down three of the robbers and captured 3 more, although one later escaped to join the remaining man for the loose.
After months associated with regrouping, plus recruiting, the particular bandits had been back in action upon Saturday, Oct. 17, 1914 in Sedro-Woolley, Wash., a rough-and-ready frontier town offering many saloons, restaurants, and brothels catering to loggers, mill workers and miners.
Banks within the town offered a brief window in the busiest night of the week for city businesses in order to deposit their particular receipts, and it was at one particular of these, the very first National, that a group of six men – armed with pistols plus speaking with Eastern-European accents – struck, shortly after 9 p. m.
Bank employees were furthermore armed, however , and they managed to shoot one of the robbers before being overpowered and forced to open the safe, which yielded $11, 649 in gold coin plus currency.
Alerted by sound of gunfire, armed citizens and law-enforcement officers opened fire on the bandits as soon as these people set foot on Ferry Street, precipitating a 15-minute gun battle that resulted in injuries to two bystanders and the mortal wounding of a 13-year-old boy who had ventured too near to the particular shooting.
The robbers disappeared in to the woods but information of – and outrage about – the robbery spread rapidly on both sides from the border as a growing communications system of peace officers sprang into action.
So it was that will when five of the robbers were spotted at Ferndale, Wash., heading north in order to the Canadian border, customs and immigration officers in White Rock and roll were in the information loop, along with other lawmen, as far away since New Westminster.
One of the Whitened Rock traditions officers, J. Clifford Adams, joined a group of Canadian and American officials speeding to the border within the Hall’s Prairie/Hazelmere area south of Cloverdale in the early hours of April. 22.
The popular young man who got been using the service for two years – though only 23 at the time of the thievery – Adams was keen to join in the plan to intercept the criminals, who acquired been spotted crossing the particular Douglas boundary.
The group, headed simply by U. T. Inspector A. E. Burke, encountered the bandits upon foot on a GNR right-of-way at what is today close to the intersection associated with 176th Street and 16th Avenue.
Burke called out ‘Halt! ’ – to which the apparent leader from the gang responded by drawing his. 38 caliber Colt automatic.
The particular lawmen opened up fire, pistols and rifles flashing in the wintry darkness, and the particular bandit dropped dead without having firing the shot.
His comrades fired back, hitting one officer in the hand plus sending a bullet through the crown of Burke’s hat, scorching his hair. Another robber was hit in the particular hip yet crawled into the undergrowth after their fleeing companions.
As the smoke cleared, Burke and his fellow officers discovered Adams’ lifeless body over the right-of-way, felled by the bullet within the heart.
A bigger posse from Blaine, hearing the gunfire, arrived at the particular scene minutes later.
Grimly, they adopted a trail of blood to the bush, discovering the wounded bandit, who was dying from a shot towards the head.
At first glance they will thought the particular man’s mortal wound has been self-inflicted, but it quickly became clear he had been given a coup-de-grace by his friends, who experienced taken his money belt to prevent the loot through falling into the hands of interrogating officers.
The three remaining robbers had slipped away in the night, but a total of $3, 067. 20 was recovered from the particular dead plus dying outlaws.
As day dawned, White Rock learned of Adams’ demise.
“His tragic death has been dreadful shock to the entire community, ” reported the Semiahmoo Gazette in the particular Oct. 27 edition.
“The dead officer was a son of Ald. George H. Adams, the prominent merchant of New Westminster. The young man is a native son of the Royal City, and received his education there. ”
Ironically, the particular bodies associated with the two dead criminals, after becoming identified simply by witnesses of the Sedro-Woolley bank job, were also taken to New Westminster, where they were buried within unmarked graves.
The remaining bandits had been soon located, ambushed trying to cross the GNR bridge throughout the Nooksack River in Ferndale, Wash. by night.
Two of them were killed; one simply by the Whatcom County Deputy Sheriff who arranged the ambush, the other by the particular Ferndale Fire Chief, wielding a shotgun, and a further $3, 088 was retrieved from money belts on their bodies.
The final robber, that escaped with the rest of the loot, had been never brought to justice, even though operatives from the William M. Burns Detective Agency believed him to be a Seattle dock worker of Russian-Armenian heritage, and Seattle detectives positively identified among the dead outlaws as another immigrant, former owner associated with a King Street lunch stand.
War and Prohibition
Other incidents involving White-colored Rock customs and migration officers couldn’t match that case intended for drama, although they were instrumental, in 1915, within charges brought against 2 Hall’s Prairie farmers of German descent, who were accused of aiding enemy aliens to escape across the edge into the then-neutral U. S.
Also indicative associated with a high state of alertness within the early days of the war, a cook named Benson – working at the Whitened Rock Hotel – was arrested by customs officials for carrying a concealed weapon, and subsequently sentenced in order to a week in prison.
Customs officers also kept busy, for the remainder from the conflict, tracking a steady stream associated with aliens upon both edges looking to cross the particular border, possibly to get into the war, or get much away from it.
B. Chemical. ’s experiment with Prohibition, which usually lasted from 1917 in order to 1921, also kept traditions officers on their toes checking for liquor illegally imported from the particular U. S i9000.
Then, as America enacted national prohibition at the beginning of 1920 – which remained in place until the end of 1933 – the alcohol trade started flowing another way.
Numerous assume that will local authorities turned a blind eye to rum-runners moving alcohol southern of the border, but this is not really exactly the case.
Minor infractions may have been overlooked, and larger-scale ventures – such as the Balmer’s Boathouse operation on East Beach (which launched regular shipments in order to the Oughout. S. at high tide) and the infamous St. Leonard Resort (in what is right now Peace Mid-foot Park) may have counted on corruption to grease the particular wheels.
Yet smaller operators were prone to prosecution under draconian regulations of the Liquor Control Board that dictated all terms to get alcohol distribution in the province (even though B. D. citizens were legally able to buy liquor as of 1921, for instance, they weren’t allowed in order to consume it publicly until as past due as 1925).
Thus White Rock customs officers like Alex Smith were often watching because assiduously since their American counterparts pertaining to infractions from the rules – including individuals depositing bottles of alcohol on less-travelled areas associated with the beach or cases of alcoholic beverages waiting for pickup in rowboats anchored off shore.
With their U. S. counterparts, the White-colored Rock officials also investigated large shipments of alcohol travelling southward by train, such as $40, 000 worth of liquor concealed in a carload of furniture bound meant for California within 1921, or even the 260 bottles associated with Old Crow found in a load of lumber seized between Whitened Rock plus Blaine soon afterwards.
Suspicions that this GNR was regularly being used because a conduit for the particular liquor trade ultimately led to an investigation by railway authorities, although there is no record that significant charges had been ever laid.
End of an era
The wild early days associated with the boundary slipped slowly into nearby legend after Prohibition has been repealed within the U. Ersus., and since White Rock and South Surrey became increasingly ‘civilized’ – and less inviting for major criminal activity.
Pacific Highway (176 Street), first opened to the edge in 1913 – plus re-opened, as Surrey’s 1st paved highway, in 1923 – grew to become the main port of admittance to the Pacific cycles Coast simply by 1937, when a new customs and immigration building was opened up there, less than a kilometre from the scene of Cliff Adams’ unfortunate demise.
Ranked the third largest entrance port within Canada by 1944 – by which usually time Second World Battle security measures had made the border far less porous – this had become the main focus associated with customs plus immigration exercise locally.
The White Rock and roll offices were still busy enough, nevertheless , that the train-depot’s original central breezeway was enclosed in 1949 to provide additional space.
Barely three years later on, in 1951, the period of the train depot because a customs and immigration port came firmly to a close when a new federal building had been opened in the foot of Martin Road, and almost all activities had been transferred there.