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Gun play at Grand Forks

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

The latest Boundary Historical Society report (No. 18) reprints a story from the Grand Forks Gazette of April 24, 1958 about pioneer Bob Simpson. This part caught my eye:

He remembers the gun fight between policeman Harry Sheads and a fellow named O’Connor.
O’Connor was standing downstairs in the doorway and Sheads was upstairs in a window. Sheads would lean out and shoot towards O’Connor; and then O’Connor would lean out of the doorway and shoot towards Sheads.
“Neither of them got hit,” adds Bob, “but they sure shot a lot of holes in the hotel.”

Simpson doesn’t say so explicitly but implies elsewhere that the hotel was the Russell, which was known as the Granby until 1909.


The story is presented breezily, like a shootout downtown was no big deal in those days, but it must have been terrifying for anyone who witnessed it.


Did something like this really happen? Yes, although Simpson misremembered the location, one of the names, and where the men were standing when the shots broke out. Here’s the story from the Nelson Daily Miner of Sept. 3, 1899 (it was also reprinted four days later in the Vancouver Daily World):

Unfortunately, we don’t know the outcome of the trial as the Grand Forks newspapers of 1899 don’t survive, and I couldn’t find it reported in any other paper either.

Grand Forks, ca. 1908-13. (Greg Nesteroff collection)

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George Manson
George Manson
Oct 25, 2021

How did McQuinlan become O'Connor or vice versa?

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I didn't realize hop-smoking was a thing until I read about it here. Googled it and sure enough ... and to think of all the banana peels we wasted our time on when we coulda bin smokin hops haha https://www.locustlightfarm.com/blog/2018/2/21/smoking-hops

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Greg Nesteroff
Greg Nesteroff
Jan 25, 2019

Looking west on downtown from the east side of the Kettle River, not far from where Highway 3 passes today.

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Nathan Wilkinson
Nathan Wilkinson
Jan 25, 2019

Reading this in Grand Forks! We can't place the photo at the end though--where was it looking onto?

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George Manson
George Manson
Oct 25, 2021
Replying to

Looks like it is looking West .the little bridge would be Bridge street.

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