B.C.’s first war ­– and its Common Prayer warrior
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In the fourth installment of our series marking B.C.’s 150th anniversary, author and pastor Ed Hird profiles a man of war – and worship.

HOW MANY of us have ever heard how Colonel Richard Clement Moody ‘fought the good fight’ in B.C.’s first war?  

In 1858, Colonel Moody’s troops steamed north along the Fraser River to Yale, on the Enterprise.

Ned McGowan had led a vigilante gang to falsely imprison the Yale Justice of the Peace, P.B. Whannell.  

McGowan had great influence with the vigilantes, as he was both a former Philadelphia police superintendent implicated in a bank robbery, and a former California judge acquitted on a murder charge.

Without Moody’s intervention, the fear was that B.C. would be quickly annexed to the U.S. by McGowan’s gang.  

Upon arriving in Yale, Colonel Moody and his force were unexpectedly received with “vociferous cheering and every sign of respect and loyalty,” according to one account of the day.  No shots were even fired!  

Matthew Begbie (the so-called ‘Hanging Judge’), in his first-ever B.C. court case, fined McGowan a small amount of £5 for assault, after which the defendant sold his gold-rush stake and promptly returned to California.  

Journalist (and later B.C. premier) Amor de Cosmos declared B.C. had “her first war – so cheap – all for nothing,” adding: “B.C. must feel pleased with herself.”  

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Moody left his mark spiritually, as well. At the conclusion of ‘Ned McGowan’s War,’ Colonel Moody invited 40 miners to join him at the courthouse for worship.

As no clergyman was present, Colonel Moody led worship from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.   

Moody wrote afterward: “It was the first time in British Columbia that the liturgy of our church was read. To me God, in his mercy, granted this privilege. The room was crowded with Hill’s Bar men . . . Old grey-bearded men, young eager-eyed men, stern middle-aged men of all nations knelt with me, before the throne of Grace.”

– from Ed Hird’s Battle for the Soul of Canada.

August 2008