SOOKE HISTORY: Alleged bootlegger has day in court

Blackberry wine confiscated at home

While this aerial view of Port Renfrew was taken much later than the court case occurred, this image taken by Michael Foort, showing Beach Camp and the San Juan bridge, illustrates some of the Port Renfrew forests and beaches. (Sooke Region Museum)

Elida Peers | Contributed

“Liquor case is adjourned” read the headline of a column in a Victoria daily newspaper back in the days when Port Renfrew was a remote community generally reached by CPR steamer. While the clipping is undated, we believe the case took place in the mid-1930s.

The news story goes on: “Judgement in the case of Arthur Beauchene, Port Renfrew farmer, charged with keeping liquor for sale, will be given in the provincial police court next Monday. The case was concluded this morning when Mrs. Beauchene and John R. Saunders were called by the defense.

“Mrs. Beauchene testified her husband had at no time considered bootlegging the wine which police had confiscated from their home. Her husband had made attempts to sell the blackberry wine to the Liquor Control Board. The rhubarb wine and apple cider were for home use. They knew the board purchased loganberry wine and could see no reason why the blackberry product would not be purchased.

“Mr. Saunders gave character evidence. He had known the accused many years and during that time had found him to be a hard-working and honest man.

“Frank Higgins, KC, defense counsel, submitted facts of the case and pointed to the innocence of the accused. There had been no attempt to conceal the wine from the police and the accused had volunteered the information to them that he was making it. Under the Liquor Act there was no limit placed on the amount of wine made from native fruit which a person was allowed to keep and he argued the magistrate could not draw the inference he might on other charges where liquor was kept which was not a product of native fruit.

“Sergeant Richard Harvey, for the prosecution, claimed the accused had admitted to the police who searched the premises, that the wine was kept for sale.”

We are not aware of what judgement was made by the magistrate the next week. While the newspaper refers to Arthur Beauchene as a farmer, our forest history records show that he made his living as a logger. During the 1930s he was recorded as running a steam donkey logging operation throughout Port Renfrew forests, and running a steam tug called Lulu. Mrs. Beachene was the daughter of pioneer logging and sawmill operator Alfred Deakin.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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