McGowan, Edward
b. 1813-03-12
d. 1891-12-08
Edward McGowan spent most of his time in British Columbia causing trouble for the residents of both Fort Yale and Hill's Bar. His antagonistic behaviour initiated the so-called McGowan's War. A lawyer by trade, McGowan came to Hill's Bar from San Francisco after fleeing persecution by the Vigilance Committee. At Hill's Bar he encountered Dr. Max Fifer, a former member of the committee, and attacked him in the street over lingering grievances from his time in San Francisco.1
After assaulting Fifer, McGowan faced trial on January 19, 1859. In a log-cabin courtroom…the principal battle of McGowan's War would be fought.2 McGowan pleaded guilty to the charge of assault and was given the maximum fine and ordered to keep the peace. Earlier in January, however, the battle between two rival factions for Hill's Bar escalated. McGowan convinced George Perrier, Justice of the Peace for Hill's Bar, to arrest their mutual enemy, and Perrier's Brother Magistrate, P. B. Whannel for contempt of court and ordered the release of Whannel's prisoners, allies of their own.3 For McGowan's involvement in the crime of falsely arresting Whannel and releasing Crown prisoners, he pleaded not guilty and convinced Judge Matthew Begbie to hold a preliminary hearing. McGowan produced evidence that he had been deputized by Perrier and acted on his orders. Begbie felt he had no choice but to dismiss the defendant.4
McGowan left British Columbia on February 26, 1859. He claimed to dislike BC's weather, though the timing was only one week before he was scheduled to fight John Bagley in a duel south of the border. He returned to California on the same steamer that brought him.5
  • 1. Donald Hauka. McGowan's War (Vancouver, BC: New Star Books, 2003), 169, 172.
  • 2. Ibid., 179.
  • 3. Douglas to Lytton, 20 January 1859, 2738, CO 60/4, 70; Hauka. McGowan's War, 141
  • 4. Hauka. McGowan's War, 172-184.
  • 5. Ibid., 209-210.
Mentions of this person in the documents