On September 3, 1918, Edward Beatty took his smallest son and went to Yorkton, leaving his wife, Florence, their 12-year-old daughter, Thelma, and their two other sons, Ronald and Tyrel, at home in the Beaver Hills Forest Reserve, 22 miles from the village of Theodore. Edward was a fire ranger in charge of the Beaver Hills Forest Reserve and had employed a man named Barney Belcourt (also seen spelled Bellcourt and Bellecourt), who lived with him and his family. He’d been working for Edward for some time and was considered trustworthy and a member of the family.
Unfortunately, Belcourt was anything but trustworthy. He’d grown infatuated with the Beatty’s young daughter and had expressed a desire to marry her, which was obviously met with opposition and dismissed.
On the night of September 3rd, Thelma was awakened by the sounds of a struggle. Belcourt had beaten Florence Beatty in the head with a blunt instrument and despite putting up an incredible fight to protect her daughter, Thelma watched as he dragged her mother across the floor from the kitchen to the cellar door in the dining room. He shoved her head-first down the stairs into the cellar, then nailed down the cellar flap.
He then made Thelma carry a lamp while he moved the youngest child to another bed and collected both his and her clothing and gathered some food. He made her go out to the barn where he had two of the Beatty’s horses hitched to a rig and took her four miles from home where they made camp. He kept her until the following evening, raping her several times throughout the day. As evening grew near, he worried that harvest laborers might see them and drove her to about four miles from town, where he let her go.
Meanwhile, that same morning, Ronald and Tyrel had woken up and gone searching for their mother. They checked all over the farm until they finally pried up the cellar door flap and found her at the foot of the steps unable to speak. Florence had lain all night at the bottom of the stairs with a fractured skull, in the dark, damp cellar. The boys tried to call for help but the telephone wire had been cut.
They managed to get help and Florence was taken to Theodore. She died that afternoon from her injuries, on Wednesday, September 4, 1918. At sundown that same day, Thelma walked into town and told police that Belcourt had dropped her off four miles from town and a manhunt was organized.
Every available man, armed with shotguns and rifles, joined the hunt. Bloodhounds were brought in to help with the search. The trees in the Beaver Hills Forest Reserve were plentiful and grew close together, providing lots of places to hide. But with so many volunteers searching the area, Belcourt was located and captured without a fight the following day, on September 5, 1918.
He was taken to Regina jail when threats of lynching were made and police feared the community would try to take justice into their own hands. He was brought back to Theodore on September 13, 1918 for his preliminary hearing and was committed to stand trial at Melville.
His trial opened soon after on October 1, 1918 before Justice McKay. The prosecutor was H. E. Sampson and the defense was Mr. Smith of Yorkton. Thelma and her brothers testified, as well as the coroner about Florence’s injuries, and on October 3rd, Barney Belcourt was found guilty and sentenced to hang on January 8, 1919.
It’s unclear why, but Barney Belcourt’s sentence was commuted to life in prison on December 30, 1918 and he was taken to Prince Albert Penitentiary to serve out his sentence.
And that is the story of the horrific murder of Florence Beatty.
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Information for this post came from the following editions of the Saskatoon Daily Star and the Regina Leader-Post: Sep 5, 1918, Sep 6, 1918, Sep 7, 1918, Sep 9, 1918, Sep 12, 1918, Sep 13, 1918, Sep 14, 1918, Oct 1, 1918, Oct 4, 1918, Oct 7, 1918, Dec 30, 1918, Dec 31, 1918
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