The 1904 Charles King murder
Charles King left home at the age of 12 years and spent his life on the ranches and in the mines of Utah, Idaho, Kansas and Montana. He eventually met Edward Hayward and in 1904 they began a trip to Lesser Slave Lake Settlement [renamed Grouard in 1909] to seek a fortune in prospecting for minerals. They travelled the Swan Hills Trail and ended up on the Sucker Creek Indian Reserve where they camped. Late at night on Sept. 17, or the early morning of Sept. 18, 1904, a shot was fired and heard by Indian women. An investigation eventually began that resulted in the first hanging in the Province of Alberta. King was found guilty in a trial in Edmonton and hanged in Fort Saskatchewan on Sept. 30, 1905. King, whose age was never disclosed, but estimated at 42, was described as an “intellectual infant” and remained virtually quiet during two trials. Just before his death, King finally spoke. “I do not know what you are hanging me for, I am an innocent man – God knows that I am an innocent man.”
South Peace News
Editor’s note: In this story, Lesser Slave Lake Settlement is referred to as Grouard, although the name change did not occur until 1909.
It was a busy time in the fall of 1904 near Grouard. Even Chief Moostoos at Sucker Creek could not remain untouched by the flow of prospectors into the Lesser Slave Lake area. In fact, the main trail to Grouard ran right through his homeland. With all the prospectors, came the crime that the white men brought with them.
Two of those men were Charles King and Edward Hayward. One would be the victim, the other a convicted murderer by the time the story was over. It would prove to be of great historical significance as King would be the first person hanged after Alberta became a province on Sept. 1, 1905.
King and Hayward started from Edmonton in August 1904 with an outfit of four pack horses, traps, and supplies for a season of hunting, trapping and prospecting. They traveled over the Swan Hills Trail to the Lesser Slave Lake area where they were seen arriving by several people. Many testified at the subsequent trial.
They camped on the reserve at Sucker Creek and were visited by Indians and others. On the third day after their arrival, Hayward was missing. King immediately broke camp and moved away saying his partner had gone to Sturgeon Lake.
However, suspicions were already arising. Indian women heard a shot late one night from the direction of the two men’s camp. It was odd, they knew, that such a shot would be fired so late at night. They looked at one another, puzzled. No one should be firing guns late at night. Something was strange. Very strange.
After King broke camp, the Indian women, as was their custom, went over to the camp to see if anything was left that might be of use. One Indian woman noticed the fireplace was much larger than required for ordinary use. Another Indian woman stood at the edge of the fireplace and looking up noticed, on the underside of the leaves of a poplar tree, globules of fat where the thick smoke had struck the cool leaves and the evaporating fat had condensed.
“He was burning flesh in this fire!” she said.
The next day, the Indian women told their story to Moostoos. He went to the camp to see for himself. He was also told by the Indian women that King was seen building a huge fire on the spot. After examining the camp, it aroused the suspicions of Moostoos.
Moostoos visited Sgt. Kristjan “Andy” Anderson at Grouard to tell him his story; how he was told by the Indians that one man had disappeared. Anderson, who was in command of the police at Grouard, testified at the preliminary hearing on Feb. 20, 1905 that at first he paid no attention, thinking it to be the superstitious nature which all ignorant Indians possess. [Edmonton Bulletin, Feb. 21, 1905]
However, at the persistence of Moostoos, Anderson accompanied him to the camp on Oct. 8, 1904.
Anderson testified he found the ashes of an unusually large campfire. He looked about and scratched in the ashes, and found several small half-burned bones.
Anderson was at once very interested.
He immediately found a small lump of burned flesh, then what looked to be a heart, and near this some pieces of liver and lungs, all burned.
Anderson then walked up and down the edge of the nearby slough near the campsite. Seeing nothing unusual, he again went back to the camp and discovered some blood and brains on some straw near the ashes of the campfire. Also in the ashes, he found the pike end of a canoe with the wood nearly burned out. Then he retraced his steps to the edge of the slough and found a camp kettle which had been thrown to one side.
The next day, Oct. 9, Anderson discovered that King was staying at the home of George Morin, who lived near the camp. Anderson took Const. Low with him to interview King Oct. 10.
In the first interview with Anderson, King’s fate was sealed. King claimed he “had no partner” but had been with Hayward only for a very short time. King claimed the two met on a trail near the reserve and that Hayward accompanied him to the camp.
“The man you speak about wasn’t my partner at all. I never saw him until we were within a short distance of the reserve. I overtook him walking on the trail with his belongings packed on his back. We came together to the reserve and camped at the spot you speak of for one night but the next morning he left for Sturgeon Lake,” the Edmonton Bulletin reported Feb. 23.
King claimed Hayward’s name was Lyman. Another lie.
King also told Anderson he didn’t know the name of the deceased [Hayward] nor anything about him.
All this, of course, would be proven to be false after Anderson concluded his investigation.
Oct. 10, Anderson sent a couple of constables over the Sturgeon Lake trail to try to find Hayward without success.
Oct. 11, a decision was made to arrest King. He was taken to the police barracks with the assistance of Low. After the arrest, Anderson found several personal articles on King including a letter addressed to King, also a pocketbook containing about $60 in notes and some silver, and also three keys which would be vital at trial as belonging to Hayward.
On Oct. 11 or Oct. 12, at his own expense, Anderson went back to the slough near the campsite and hired some Indian women to wade inside and feel the bottom of the slough with their feet to try and find evidence. The women found a sovereign case belonging to Hayward, a stick pin, miner’s scales and several pairs of shoes, the soles of which had the uppers completely cut off. Anderson was later able to match the footprints of the shoes and proved they belonged to Hayward.
On Oct. 13, 1904, Const. Low took King to Edmonton.
Oct. 14, Anderson returned to the camp to search for more clues. He found three pieces of bone which he determined to be skull bones. A fourth bone found the following day fit perfectly making the upper part of a skull complete. Anderson was also was given a tooth by Moostoos which he had found among the ashes.
Anderson also sifted through the ashes and found more pieces of bone, corrugated rubber and most of the metal pieces which are in the clothes of a man, such as buttons, rivets and eyelets of shoes. All the evidence proved Hayward was burned in the fire.
Anderson then had to prove the two men knew each other before their arrival at Sucker Creek to make the final connection and prove his case. Sparing no expense, Anderson made a trip to Southern Alberta and British Columbia to investigate the history of King and Hayward.
In Nelson, B.C. Anderson found the name of Hayward on the register of one of the hotels on Aug. 8, 1903.
Later, Anderson went to Lethbridge. He secured the page of a hotel register showing the signature of King.
With all the dots being connected proving the two men in fact knew each other, more evidence came at the hearing. A young Indian testified seeing Hayward and King at the camp on the reserve. He said Hayward came to his father’s house and secured the services of himself and brother in finding his pack horses which had been lost. After they were found, King and Hayward took them back to the camp, and stayed with the two men for a meal.
Later, the young Indian’s brother testified and verified the story, saying he never saw the deceased again and King only once at Fort Saskatchewan.
More proof came at the testimony of an Indian named Keenty- pous, who lived near the scene of the crime. He said he saw King and Hayward for three days but on the night of the third day he heard a gun, which came from the direction of the camp. This was contrary to an earlier statement when King claimed he met Hayward on the trail and only knew him for one day.
The next day, he met King with all four pack horses passing along a small wood trail.
And the dog? Sam Cunningham testified King tried to trade him the dog for some fish.
“He won’t stay with me,” said King. “I just got him the other day from Angus McLean [one of the settlers] and he is always trying to get away.”
The Indians noticed that the white man’s dog seemed unwilling to follow. Dogs stay with their masters.
Sources for this story include the following:
Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Richard T. Price and Cora Voyaguer
South Peace Historical Society
The New North by Agnes Deans Cameron
RCMP Veterans’ Association
Policing the Plains. . . by R.G. MacBeth
Icelandic National Leage of North America
Keeping the Peace [Kristjan’s Diary] by Andrew Anderson
Edmonton Bulletin newspaper [various editions]
Provincial Archives [Charles King photo]
Editor’s note: Reports of this case vary. Spelling of the Indian
witnesses also vary. Edmonton Bulletin reports were given highest priority.
The man who was the law
Kristjan Fjeldsted “Andy” Anderson was born May 22, 1866 on a farm bordering the Huita River in Iceland. His parents were Andres Andresson Fjeldsted and Sesselja Kiristjansdottir.
Not much is known of his early years in Iceland. However, he left at an early age [disappeared, actually] on a trip to Liverpool with a load of horses. It has been speculated that he was escaping an arranged marriage. The family in Iceland didn’t know what had happened to him until the 1970s when a family member went to Iceland to trace the family.
Anderson spent his first years in Canada at a number of jobs. In 1889, he signed up with the North West Mounted Police. He remained a Mountie for 32 years and retired with the rank of Inspector.
His first post was Regina, then Maple Creek and finally northern Alberta, the Peace River Country where he was the law. He gained a reputation as a relentless tracker with a stubborn streak and an iron constitution. On one occasion he chased a wanted man deep into the mountains during a blinding snowstorm, eventually wearing him down and returning him and another accomplice to justice.
During this time he also played a role in the signing of Treaty 8 between the Crown and the local natives.
In 1904, the title Royal was added to the NWMP making it the RNWMP. In 1905, Alberta was created and the RNWMP was then stationed at Lesser Slave Lake. It was at this time  the Charles King murder case occurred.
Although the case seems to have officially started when Chief Moostoos brought certain circumstances to Anderson’s attention, it is the family’s understanding that it started when the brother of Edward Hayward, the murder victim, contacted Anderson by post from England. He had experienced a most vivid dream in which he witnessed his brother’s murder. Apparently, he was so convincing that Anderson looked further into the circumstances. Although this was not evidence, it did add a surrealistic element to the case.
There is no historical evidence that draining the swamp produced a body, although the family story says there was a body, badly decomposed. [In fact, trial testimony proves no body was ever produced.]
Anderson was discharged to pension Jan 1, 1921 and moved to Jasper to live with their daughter, Peace. He passed away in Jasper in 1949, the final words of his obituary which appeared in the RCMP Quarterly read as follows: “His deeds are indeed his monument.”