Letter to Premier Walkem describes McLean brothers’ wild rampage

K/J/M22 (204/79)

The 1879 murder of Kamloops Constable John Ussher by the notorious McLean brothers is the subject of this letter to BC Premier George A. Walkem, written by Charles A. Semlin, a Cache Creek rancher, former MLA and future Premier.

Allan, Charlie and Archie McLean were the younger sons of former HBC chief trader Donald McLean and his third wife Sophia Grant, daughter of a woman of the Colville Tribe. When Donald died in 1864, his sister refused to recognize the marriage, and claimed the estate, leaving the family with few resources. The fatherless boys were wild and lawless, but Semlin notes that they had never killed until they embarked on a rampage after learning that their sister Annie had been seduced and impregnated by John A. Mara, a local merchant, MLA and magistrate. Semlin describes the events leading up to the formation of a posse, and asks for help to equip it. He notes, “If you wish you can publish the above leaving out the social question” about Annie.

The outlaws were eventually captured, and in January 1881, Allan, 25, Charlie, 17, and Archie, 15 – along with fellow gang member Alex Hare, 17 – ¬were hanged for killing Ussher and local shepherd James Kelly. Allan McLean’s legacy does have a more laudable side, however. His son George later served in the Boer War and WWI, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at Vimy Ridge.

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