At Nanaimo Historical Society’s September 8 evening meeting, Dave Flawse revealed the story of Nanaimo’s last hanging (of Henry Wagner, whose alias was Jack the Flying Dutchman). 

Ex-convicts and thieves Henry Wagner and his accomplice William Julian attempted to rob the Fraser and Bishop General Store in Union Bay the night of  March 3, 1913.  Interrupted by police constables Gordon Ross and Harry Westaway, shots were fired.  Harry Westaway was shot and killed, Henry Wagner was beaten and bloody when arrested by Constable Ross.  William Julian escaped in a rowboat to Lasqueti Island, where he was later arrested.  Chief Constable David Stephenson (Stephenson Point is named after him) of Nanaimo arrived from Cumberland soon after to take charge of the prisoner.  On March 13, Wagner was moved from the Cumberland jail to the Nanaimo jail, and following his trial, was executed by hanging on August 28, 1913.  His body lies in an unmarked grave in the Nanaimo Cemetery.  There were many discrepancies in testimonies at the trial, and it is still unclear how Constable Westaway actually met his end.

Dave is a freelance writer and editor based on Vancouver Island. He writes about history, but also other lesser-known, remarkable stories hiding in plain sight. A firm believer in literary citizenship, he promotes and furthers literary arts in British Columbia with the goal of helping this robust, and diverse community impact as many readers as possible. You can visit Dave’s website, Vancouver Island History.

We acknowledge that we meet on the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw people from whom Nanaimo takes its name.