The Trial of Justice Nuttall: Trouble at the Saloon

Here is part 2 of my story “Trial of Justice Nuttall” from my book Mayhem at Rock Creek and More Gold Rush Stories


SaloonIt was the beginning of December and the miners were getting restless. The temperatures had dipped below freezing and the sluice boxes were full of ice.

George Allsop entered Foster’s Saloon and demanded a drink. Foster asked for money up front because his tab was unpaid. Allsop flew into a rage and drew his gun. Instantly, Foster took out his own gun from behind the counter and shot Allsop dead. Nobody was really concerned at first. Anywhere else, Foster could have claimed self-defence, but not here in the British colony.

The next day, Justice Nuttall was back in Marvin’s barber chair gloating over his new decision.

“I’m closing all the saloons that haven’t been properly registered.”

Marvin paused with his scissors above Nuttall’s head. “You closed all of them?!”

“I have to show who is in charge in this town, Marvin. The Foster Saloon was unlicensed as are the other twelve. Gold commissioner Ricketts has been too long at the helm, profiting from all of these illegal saloons. This is an opportunity which fell into my lap and I intend to take advantage of it.”

Marvin started cutting Nuttall’s hair. He’d already heard about Foster’s escape to Hill’s Bar but he asked Nuttall about it anyway.

“Foster wasn’t there when I went to make my arrest but to guarantee that he doesn’t stray too far I arrested his assistant.”

Marvin furrowed his brow, “what does Foster need him for? Foster probably left the saloon with his money and headed to Hill’s Bar. He’s one of Scranton’s ‘Law and Order’ men.”

Nuttall clenched his hands into fists, “Scranton again! I’m going to see to it that both he and Foster are arrested!”

There was no use in telling Nuttall that by closing all of the saloons, there would be more trouble in a town where people were already agitated and restless. The saloons were still closed on December 24, 1858 when the Christmas dance was held.

Marvin went there wearing his best suit and a clean pair of boots. Marvin was dancing when he heard shouts in his direction. It seemed two men were determined that Marvin was not going to be a happy man.

Marvin told them to go elsewhere. “You’re in British Columbia and I’ve got every right to be here.”

The two men took that as a taunt and a scuffle ensued. Marvin was tossed outside and onto the hard snow. Marvin’s head hurt but he got to his feet and yelled at the closed door. He was angry and upset. How could those two throw him out like that?

The next morning he dropped by Nuttall’s hut and found him standing by the fire. Marvin took off his hat and pointed at his wrapped head.

“Sir, I want to file a complaint against two of Scranton’s ruffians.”

Nuttall stepped forward, a look of concern on his face. “Who are they? I’ll have them arrested at once, especially if they’re friends of Scranton’s.”

“Green and Biggs are their names. You’ll find them at Hill’s Bar.”

“Leave it with me Marvin. In the meantime, do you need the services of Dr. Kilburn?”

“No thank you, sir. I’ve got years of practice helping injured folks.”

After Marvin left, Nuttall sent for Constable Trimble.

“Trimble, go to Hill’s Bar and arrest Green and Biggs for the assault of Walter Marvin.”

Constable Trimble found Green and Biggs playing cards with Andrew Scranton at the Hill’s Bar Saloon.

Scranton waved the constable away. “I’ll go talk to Nuttall.”

An hour later, Scranton knocked on Nuttall’s door and entered. The furnishings were minimal he noted. There was only one small table and upon this Scranton dropped a small bag of gold dust.

“I’ve come to talk to you about Green and Biggs,” Scranton began.

“And who are you to be barging in here? You’re not a constable!”

Scranton stood at his full height. “A reasonable man would be interested in bargaining. What’s to be gained by arresting these two men?”

“Take your gold dust and leave,” Nuttall said through clenched teeth. “I won’t be bribed.”