On the morning of Monday, June 20, 1904, Frederick L. Stewart was in the fields, doing some ploughing on the homestead of his daughter, Edna Goodpasture, near Eagle Creek, west of Saskatoon. He was not a welcome visitor there.
A few months previous, on April 4th, his wife, Manda Stewart, had separated from him. She was living on her daughter’s homestead with her other two children, Blanche, who was fifteen, and Howard, who was ten. Edna was eighteen. Manda had separated from on account of the abuse she suffered at his hands. He’d knocked her around, kicked her, choked her, and at times, threatened her and the children’s lives. He’d asked her several times to live with him again but she refused.
Since the separation, Frederick had been staying on what was described as the Falkner Place. I’m not sure if that was the homestead of someone named Falkner, a landmark, or something else entirely. The sources I consulted did not elaborate. Two weeks before the day in question, the family met him on their way to town and he declared his intention of pitching his tent on Edna’s homestead. They forbade him, but he said he could do as he damn well pleased. When they returned, the tent was pitched, he’d taken possession of the barn and was gone to town.
They lived together in uneasy company until Monday, June 20th. Edna called Frederick for lunch at about noon, and at two o’clock he returned to the yard. He asked Edna if she called him, to which she replied that she had. He said he hadn’t seen it (they always hung a cloth out to signal meal times), and ate his lunch. Edna and Howard went into the tent, which was pitched in front of the shack, and Manda joined them.
At some point, an Englishman from William Wood’s homestead came down looking for eggs. Frederick visited with him in the shack while Manda gathered the eggs, which she gave to him with a jar of buttermilk. The man left and she went back into the tent to take off the butter she’d churned before lunch. Frederick followed her into the tent and sat down on the trunk, telling her it was ‘a nice lot of butter’ she’d taken off. He told her, “Manda, the next wife I get, I don’t intend she shall work very hard.” Then he asked her, didn’t she think he was good looking enough to catch almost anyone?
It’s unclear if he didn’t like the answer she gave, or she took too long to respond, but at that point he grabbed her by the throat and shoulder and threw her over onto the bed. He wrapped both hands around her throat and put his knee on her chest. He wasn’t choking her very hard, and she was able to tell him, “Fred, I want you to let me up.” When he wouldn’t, she threatened to yell for Blanche, their other daughter, and she did.
Howard, meanwhile, grabbed the butter ladle and started striking his father with it. When that had little effect, he ran for Blanche and told her to come quick. Edna shoved Frederick off her mother, saying she’d ‘had enough of this foolishness.’ He turned on Edna, striking her. Manda was able to get away from him and the two ordered him off the property. It was Edna’s land and she wanted him to take his tent and go.
Obviously, Frederick Stewart did not comply, or give any pretense of complying. Edna began cutting the ropes on his tent and he threatened to smash up her shack. She told him to go ahead. So he did. He picked up an old gun barrel started smashing windows. Done with that, he knocked Edna down and kicked her. Blanche had came out with an axe during this time and was also pulling up the tent ropes. When he struck her sister, she hit him with the axe (it read as though she did not struck him with the blade, but most likely the flat side). He jerked the axe from her grip and knocked her down(with his fist). She got up and ran a short distance from him while he turned and raised the axe over Edna’s head, saying, “I’ll kill you.”
At this point, Manda was between the house and the tent. She looked over, and on the front step of the shack was Howard with a single barrel shot gun, raised to shoot. She ran and caught the gun, but he pulled the trigger, shooting his father in the neck and killing him instantly. In her testimony, Manda stated that the gun was level and aimed low when she grabbed for it, and blamed herself for the shot going higher and catching Frederick in the neck, instead of his legs as the boy intended.
A post mortem was done by Dr. Stewart (no relation as far as I could tell) on June 22, 1904. Howard was allowed to stay home with his family until his trial, which opened at Rosthern on November 14, 1904, with Judge Prendergast residing. After being out for only fifteen minutes, the jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide and Howard Stewart was acquitted.
And that is the story of the shooting of Frederick L. Stewart.
Information for this post came from the following editions of the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: June 24, 1904, June 29, 1904, July 1, 1904 and Nov 25, 1904.
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The Trial of Mary Charlotte Smith
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