“There’s gold in them there hills!” Those words drew thousands of men to the Boundary in the latter half of the 19th century.
They came, they panned and they dug; and they took the gold away. But not all that was taken from the ground actually left the country.
In 1896, one Matthew Roderick stole three gold bars as they were being transported to Midway from a stamp mill in Camp McKinney. It is widely believed that Roderick buried two of those bars in the vicinity. According to local stories, Roderick was shot and killed when he returned to retrieve his loot. But the gold bars were not with him and they have never been found.
To bring the story and its characters to life on the stage, Midway and Beyond Little Theatre director John Hibberson spent hours researching the story, including reading the court transcripts of the man who was tried for the murder of Roderick.
His play, All That Glisters, is made all the more exciting because those two missing bricks of gold would be worth around half a million dollars at today’s market.
All That Glisters (the TRUE story of the famous 1896 Camp McKinney gold bar robbery) played to packed houses on Friday, Nov. 28 and Saturday, Nov. 29 in the Midway Community Hall.
This was the first production by Midway and Beyond, a theatre project that Hibberson has championed over the past year. Coming under the wing of the Midway Community Association, Hibberson was able to use their society status to apply for grants.
Bill Baird, Area E director at that time, was first approached and the first to give, providing $1,000 from his grant-in-aid budget. “In giving the $1,000, Bill called it ‘seed money’, and it was exactly that,” Hibberson said.
Others who have sponsored the new theatre group are the Village of Midway (curtain and in-kind labour for some of the heavy lifting), the Phoenix Foundation of the Boundary Communities and Midway Partnership Fund (lights), Vaagen Fibre Canada, Heritage Credit Union (portable stage), Jeanette Taylor, Dr. Naude and a very generous $10,000 donation from Hibberson’s long-time friend Anthony Gage.
“The story of the Camp McKinney gold robbery of 1896 has always intrigued me,” Hibberson wrote in the program notes.
“Perhaps it has a lot to do with the fact that a half million bucks of gold is, I firmly believe, still lying buried out there somewhere. Yet my primary fascination is in the way in which our lust for gold and the dreams it ignites, burns within us as an actual ‘Gold Fever’; an infection, a curse, as old as mankind.”
Hibberson acknowledges that several articles have been written about the incident. “All with various theories about the truth of the matter.”
“I was incredibly fortunate to have been given the actual trial testimony from Joe Keane’s trial for murder and to actually ‘hear’ the voices of all the main people who where involved with the incident,” Hibberson says in the program notes. “What you are about to witness, therefore, is as close to the truth as you’re going to get.”
The play was set in the year 1896, with scenes in Camp McKinney, Seattle and Spokane. The production featured 11 characters played by 10 actors and had a backstage crew of 24.
Absolutely stellar performances were given by all on the cast. While Hibberson may not (yet) have found the missing gold bars, he and the Midway and Beyond Little Theatre have made all those who enjoyed the show richer for the experience.
And as Hibberson said in the program notes, “Why, maybe it will infect you enough to begin your own search for Roderick’s hidden loot.”