The American cannibal who as soon as known as Kelowna residence | iNFOnews

FILE PHOTO – Bob Hayes


November 27, 2022 – 2:33 PM

An American miner who resorted to eating his partner to survive in BC’s wilderness is being remembered and his story retold.

Kelowna historian Bob Hayes will present the story of “man eater” as part of the Brown Bag Lecture Series, hosted by the Penticton Museum Nov. 29 from 12 to 1 pm in the museum’s auditorium at 785 Main St.

The story involves two American miners, William Owens and Joseph Williamson, who headed off from Kamloops to find silver in the Southern Interior wilderness during the spring and summer of 1884.

“The snow was melting and the streams were rivers and they couldn’t get across the streams as easily as they wanted. Meanwhile, they were running out of food,” Hayes said.

Williamson died in the harsh conditions and Owens was left with no food. Starving, Owens then cut off his partner’s flesh and kept pieces in his wallet. He wandered for weeks before stumbling upon his eventual rescuers.

“He should not have been rescued but as fate would have it, they were surveying for the CPR Railway (southeast of Revelstoke),” Hayes said.

In Ellison, the man earned the nickname “man eater” and he lived in “basically a hole in the ground, nobody knew what his name was,” Hayes said, adding when he died, people filled in the hole so he’s believed to be buried in the area.

Owens’ account of the incident was told in newspapers around the world.

“I think because it was so unusual,” Hayes said. “They found the man who was a cannibal… and the poor man, what a horrible choice to have to make.”

There’s no record of his death or burial.

“This guy was just living below the radar, literally in the ground,” he said. “It was a fascinating story.”

Admission to the presentation is by donation and it is suggested $2 for adults, $1 for children.

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