HEADQUARTERS REMOVED TO
The Usefulness of Fort
Walsh Disappears, and the Post is Abandoned—Several New Posts
Established—Fort Macleod Moved—The Construction of the Canadian Pacific
Railway—A Record in Track-laying and an Equally Creditable Record in the
Maintenance of Order— Extra Duties Imposed Upon the North-West Mounted
EVER since the
establishment of the Mounted Police there had been uncertainty as to the
best place for the establishment of permanent headquarters. It has been
related how, in 1874, Swan River near Fort Ellice was chosen as the site
for headquarters and the erection of barrack and other accommodation
begun. It has also been explained that Lieut.-Colonel French, the first
Commissioner, on the return march from the Pelly River, arrived at Swan
River, but on account of the unpreparedness of the buildings, and the
lack of winter forage, due to prairie fires, left only one division at
and near Swan River, and proceeded with headquarters and the remainder
of his force to Winnipeg, and later to Dufferin, Man.
The next spring the
headquarters of the force were, under orders from the Government, and in
spite of Lieut.-Col. French's opinion that the site was unsuitable,
established at Swan River, but in a few years, owing to the vital
importance of preserving order among the numerous tribes of Indians in
the vicinity of the International frontier, and the necessity of putting
a stop to illicit trading across the lines, headquarters were first
removed to Fort Macleod, and in 1879, to Fort Walsh.
The Mounted Police
Buildings in the North-West Territories in 187G were as follows:—
accommodation for 150 men and horses
Hattleford, accommodation for 50 men and horses
Fort Macleod accommodation for 100men and horses
Fort Walsh accommodation for 100 men and horses
Fort Calvary accommodation for 25 men and horses
Fort Saskatchewan accommodation for 25 men and horses
Shoal Lake accommodation for 7 men and horses
The buildings at Swan
River and Battleford were erected by the Department of Public Works;
those at the other posts by the Mounted Police.
To the outside observer
it began to look as though the headquarters of the Mounted Police were
destined to be a perambulatory institution, but as a matter of fact,
within the force, and particularly on the part of those responsible for
Us efficiency, the idea of establishing a satisfactory permanent
headquarters for the force was never lost sight of.
Wood and Anderson's Ranch, On site of Old Fort Walsh.
In his annual report
for the year 1880, dated January 1st, 1881, the Commissioner, referred
to this subject as follows:
"1 am perfectly well
aware of the many important considerations that require to be most-
carefully weighed before a point for the headquarters of the force can
be finally settled upon. It is a matter that cannot be looked at merely
from a military point of view. The future construction of public works
throughout the North-West Territories, the rapid immigration that may
safely be anticipated, and the settlement that will necessarily
accompany it, must, I presume, also prove important factors as regards
the permanent establishment of police headquarters. It would then be a
most grievous mistake to arrive at and hastily formed conclusion which
might, and the chances are would, be a source of never ending regret.
"I propose that in
future the headquarters of the force be a depot of instruction, to which
place all officers and men joining the force will be sent, where they
will remain until thoroughly drilled and instructed in the various
police duties. To carry out this plan successfully, it is indispensable
that a competent staff of instructors be at my disposal. A portion of
such a staff I can obtain by selection from officers and
non-commissioned officers now serving in the force. In addition to this,
however, I recommend that the services of three perfectly well qualified
non-commissioned officers and men be obtained from an Imperial Cavalry
Regiment. I am satisfied that the inducements we could hold out would be
the means of obtaining the best class of noncommissioned officers to be
had in England. I would not recommend that non-commissioned officers of
more than five years service be applied for. Old men, who have already
spent the best days of their life in the British service, would be quite
unfit for the work that in this country they would be called upon to
perform, nor would they be likely to show that energy and pride in their
corps which is desirable that, by example, they should inculcate into
others. Instructors of the class I have described, in addition to the
knowledge they would impart to others, would serve as models for
recruits, as regards soldierlike conduct and general bearing. The
importance of the benefits the "force would thus derive cannot, in my
opinion, be overrated."
In the same report the
following reference was made to the unsatisfactory condition of the
barracks at headquarters and elsewhere:—"Complaints continue to be made
regarding the condition of the police buildings, and the character of
the accommodation they afford in their present state of repair. It is
most desirable that the barracks should be as comfortable as possible,
but it is not deemed expedient to incur any considerable expenditure
upon them at present, not until the line of the Pacific Railway has been
finally determined, as upon that determination will depend the situation
of the permanent headquarters; and it may then be found convenient to
abandon a number of the existing posts and construct others elsewhere.
There were obvious disadvantages attaching to the custom of permitting
detachments to remain throughout the entire length of service at one
post, and during spring the system was inaugurated of moving them to new
stations at least once in two years. It is, of course, understood that
the headquarters staff do not come under the operation of this rule."
During 1881, the
contract for the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway was made by
the Dominion Government with the Montreal syndicate at the head of which
were Messrs. George Stephen and Donald A. Smith (now Lord Mount Stephen
and Lord Strathcona). The work of pushing the gigantic work to
completion was at once taken up energetically, and with the laying of
the rails across the prairies a new era dawned for the North-West and
the Mounted Police. It was realized that the exact location of the line
woidd have much to do with the future distribution of the force and the
location of the permanent headquarters. In his report at the end of the
year 1881, the Commissioner wrote:
"The distribution of
the force cannot well be satisfactorily laid down until the exact
location of the Canada Pacific Railway is known. In any case there is an
immediate necessity for having a strong force in the Macleod district,
which includes Fort Calgary. In the meantime the following will give a
fairly approximate idea as to what I consider a judicious distribution,
viz:— Qu'Appelle, 50 noncommissioned officers and men; Battleford, 50
noncommissioned officers and men; Edmonton, 25 noncommissioned officers
and men; Blackfoot Country, 200 non-commissioned officers and men;
Headquarters, 175 non-commissioned officers and men. Total 500. It will
be observed that this distribution is based upon the assumption that my
recommendation, as regards the increase of the force, will be acted on.
I make no mention of Wood Mountain; for this section of the country I
propose utilizing the fifty men shown as being stationed at Qu'Appelle.
I understand the Canada Pacific Railway will run south of our present
post known as 'Qu'Appelle.' The chances are therefore, I will hereafter
have to recommend that the location of this post be moved south. Were
this done we would then have control of the section of country in which
Wood Mountain post now stands. The location of the present post at
Battleford may not require to be changed for some time at all events.
Edmonton would be an outpost from Calgary. Our present post in the
Edmonton district is Fort Saskatchewan, which is situated some eighteen
miles east of Edmonton proper. It is, I think, actually necessary that
our post be moved to Edmonton.
"There is, to my mind,
no possible doubt but that the present headquarters, Fort Walsh, is
altogether unsuitable, and I would respectfully urge upon the Government
the necessity of abandoning this post with as little delay as possible.
In making this recommendation I am in a great measure prompted by the
knowledge of the fact that the Indian Department do not consider that
the farming operations at Maple Creek have been successful in the past,
and that they are still less likely to prove so in the future."
At the time this report
was penned, Col. Irvine believed that the main line of the C.P.R. would
pass considerably north of the Cypress Hills and of its actual location
; as was first proposed, in fact. During 1882, the Commissioner was
notified by Mr. C. E. Perry, the engineer in charge of the work, that
the southern route had been adopted, and that considerable supplies
would have to pass through, or in the immediate vicinity of the Cypress
Hills. In view of the change, the Commissioner received a letter from
Mr. Perry, on the subject of the syndicate parties receiving protection
from the police. He was at the same time informed that large quantities
of supplies were to be shipped through Fort Walsh, and a considerable
number of men were to be employed at once in and about Cypress Hills.
This being the case, the situation of affairs was essentially changed,
and Col. Irvine was compelled to somewhat modify his previous
recommendations, in so far as they related to the immediate abandonment
of Fort Walsh, as he saw that it was actually necessary to maintain a
force of police m that vicinity for the protection of the working
parties from United States Indians as well as Canadian ones, and also to
prevent smuggling and illicit whisky dealing being carried on from the
United States territory. He therefore recommended that Fort Walsh be not
abandoned until the authorities were positively informed as to the
location of the Canadian Pacific Railway line, by which time a suitable
site for a new post could be selected, possibly, he thought, near the
crossing of the South Saskatchewan River, about 3o miles north-west of
the head of the Cypress Hills. On ascertaining the final location of the
Canadian Pacific Railway line, the Commissioner communicated with the
Minister of the Interior recommending that the site for future
headquarters be decided upon at once, and a suitable post be erected
without delay. He based this recommendation upon the assumption that the
site would be selected at or near the crossing of the South Saskatchewan
River. He stated, however, that should the Government consider that
point too far west for headquarters, it would nevertheless be necessary
to erect a post in the vicinity of the Cypress Hills.
By a telegram of the
20th July, 1S82, Col. Irvine was informed of Sir John A. Macdonald's
decision of the Pile of Bones Creek (now Regina) being the headquarters
of the force, also of the number and dimensions of the section buildings
to be made in the Eastern Provinces and forwarded to Regina, for stables
and quarters. This telegram reached Colonel Irvine at Fort Macleod.
Soon after his return
from that post to Fort Walsh, he proceeded to Qu'Appelle; and after
having inspected "B" division, accompanied His Honour the Lieutenant
Governor, the Hon. Edgar Dewdney, to the Pile of Bones Creek. The
Commissioner, after looking over the ground, instructed Inspector
Steele, who had accompanied him, where the buildings were to be
situated, and immediately moved the headquarters of "B" division from
Qu'Appelle to Regina. At the end of October the sectional buildings
commenced to arrive, and building was proceeded with.
The headquarters of the
force was transferred from Fort Walsh to Regina 011 the 6th of December.
A recruiting depot,
with an establishment of one officer and ten men was, under authority of
the Minister established in Winnipeg in the spring of 1882.
Building was carried on
extensively during the year 1883, not only at the new headquarters but
at other posts. During the year in question the buildings at Pile of
Bones Creek (or Regina) were completed. New barracks at Fort Macleod to
replace those previously in use, were in course of erection New posts
were pushed forward towards completion at Medicine Hat and Maple Creek.
There had been very
special and particular reasons for building a new post at Fort Macleod.
in fact a new site had to be selected. January 18, 1881. the
Commissioner reported that the course of the "Old Man's" River at Fort
Macleod had changed, This river, at high water, at this date, deviated
from its original course in two places, the stream, after this
unexpected freak of nature, passing nunediately in front and rear of the
fort, the post thus being made an island in rear the water flowed within
a few feet of the west side of the fort The deviations made from the
original course of the river continued, becoming more and more
formidable, and it was probable that in the coming spring many of the
post buildings would be carried away if left in their actual positions.
Taking all these things
into consideration it was felt to be absolutely necessary that Fort
Macleod be removed from its original site. The Commissioner recommended
that a new site be selected at the police farm, which was situated some
30 miles south-west from where the fort originally stood.
It appears that the Old
Man's River changed its course by breaking through a narrow neck of land
that divided the main stream from a slough. In 1880, the river reverted
to its old bed, breaking through lower down, cutting off another large
portion of the island on which the fort was built, and causing the
demolition of several houses. The soil of the island was a loose mixture
of sand and gravel, and to show the strength and velocity of the
current, it might be mentioned that in one night one hundred and twenty
yards of the bank was washed away. To save the saw-mill from being swept
away it was necessary to move it from its old site. The whole lower
portion of the island, including a part of the farm, was inundated, and
the water rose so high as to approach within twenty yards of the fort
itself. The level of the flood was not five feet from the floors in the
Nothing was done about
the selection of a new site until March, 1883,when the Commissioner was
informed that the latest site which had been selected for the erection
of the new post at Fort Macleod had been approved, and that the erection
of a new post was to be commenced during the following summer. The site
chosen was about two and a half miles west of the old post, on the bench
land overlooking the "Old Man's" River, and on the south side of it.
Every care was taken in the selection of the site. The soil was dry and
gravelly, good drainage was obtainable, plenty of fresh water was near
at hand, there was good grazing ground in the immediate vicinity, and an
uninterrupted view was afforded.
Work on the post was at
once begun and pushed to completion. The principal buildings were laid
out in a rectangle, 484 ft. long by 254 ft. wide, with officers'
quarters on west side, barrack rooms facing them on the opposite side,
offices, guard room, recreation room, sergeants' mess and quarters, on
the north side, with stables, store rooms, harness room, opposite; the
remaining buildings were outside the "square".
The buildings were of
the same general construction. All buildings rested on foundation blocks
about 12 inches square, and placed at intervals of 6 feet. These blocks
had a firm bearing on the hard, gravelly soil, a thin layer of soil and
mould being removed. All sills were 8 in. square, floor beams, 2 in. by
8 in., and were 2 ft. apart; framing 2 in. by 6 m. and were 18 m. apart,
with 0 in. square corner posts. Plates of two 2 in. by 6 in. scantling,
firmly spiked joists, which were 2 in. by 8 in. by 6 in. strongly braced
and firmly attached to ceiling joists, which were 2 in. by 8 in.
Every precaution was
taken to strongly brace the framing and roofs, to prevent any damage
resulting from the high winds which prevail at Fort Macleod.
All outside walls were
of common 1 in. boarding covered with tar paper, and then sided up with
5-8 in. siding, 6 in. wide and lap of 7-8 in.
The floors throughout
were of two thicknesses, with tarred paper between. Roofs were shingled,
with felt paper between shingles and sheeting. The window casings and
door frames were of neat appearance. The officers' quarters, barrack
rooms, mess room, hospital, offices and recreation room, were all lathed
and plastered in the interior; the guard room and store houses were
lined with dressed lumber. All doors leading to the exterior were 3 ft.
by 7 ft. and 1J in. thick inside doors, 2 ft. 6 in. by 6 ft. 8 in and 1
in. thick; with the exception of the barrack rooms all the doors were 3
ft. 7 in. The windows in all the buildings had twelve lights, 12 in. by
16 in. except in the kitchens of the officers' quarters and store and
harness rooms, which were each of twelve lights, 10 in. by 12 in.
All buildings were
painted a light grey, and trimmed with a darker shade of the same colour.
The wood work and casings in the interior were painted the same colour.
Roofs were painted with fireproof paint.
Chimneys were of zinc,
14 in. square with a circular flue, 7 in. in diameter, thus giving a
large air space, which was utilized as a ventilator. They projected 4
in. above the peak of the roof, and passed through the ceiling.
Owing to the distance
from the railway, 138 miles, it was impossible to construct the chimneys
of brick. Where stovepipes were carried through partitions, they were
surrounded by three inches of concrete.
This new post was
considered a masterpiece at the time it was built.
On the 10th of May
last, 1884, the new barracks were taken over from the North-West Coal
and Navigation Company, and occupied shortly after by "C" division, a
small party only being left as caretakers in the old buildings.
Fort Calgary having
been created a district post, and "E" division removed there, under the
command of Superintendent Mcllree, the buildings were entirely
inadequate to accommodate the Division, and were so entirely useless and
out of repair that Col. Irvine gave instructions to that officer to
commence building at once on his arrival, and to retain for use during
the winter such buildings as, with little, or no expense, could be made
habitable for the winter The buildings to be erected were to be laid out
in a general plan for a new post.
Calvary Barracks, erected in i888-89.
immediately on his arrival commenced work Several of the old buildings
were pulled down to make way for the new ones, all the same logs being
utilized. A contract was at once let for the erection of a new barrack
room, 110 ft. long by 30 ft. wide, with (lining room, 30 ft. square, and
kitchen, 15 ft. square; attached, 1 guard room, 30 ft. by 50 ft., with
12 cells; 1 hospital, and 1 officers' quarters. These buildings were all
completed during 1882. The walls of the buildings throughout were 9 ft.
high and constructed of logs, with the exception of the officers'
quarters, which were frame. The cracks were filled with mortar. The
floors consisted of 7 inch planed lumber, tongued and grooved, while the
roof was of shingle laid in mortar. The buildings erected were good and
substantial ones, neat in appearance, well ventilated, and slited for
the requirements to which they were to be put. Much more commodious
barracks were erected at Calgary in 1888 and 1889.
For some considerable
time it had been the intention to abandon the old Fort Walsh post, which
had figured so prominently in the early history of the force, and
abandonment was desirable for many reasons. In the first place, the site
was, from a military point of view, a most objectionable one. The rude
buildings, always considered but a temporary refuge, had become utterly
dilapidated. The post, too, being some 30 miles south from the located
line of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, rendered a change of site
imperative, in addition to the fact of its being a temptation to
straggling bands of lazy Indians whose desire was to loiter about the
post, and when in a destitute condition, make demands for assistance
from the Government.
therefore, acting under usual authority, had the post demolished; the
work being performed by the police, commencing on the 23rd of May, and
concluding on the 11th of June. The serviceable portion of the lumber of
which the old buildings were composed, was freighted to the camp
established at Maple Creek, a point on the main line of the Canadian
Pacific Railroad, where the division previously stationed at Fort Walsh
was encamped during the summer.
Acting under the
direction of his Honour the Lieut.-Governor, a detachment, consisting of
one officer (Inspector Dickens) and twenty-five men, was, during the
month of September, 1883, stationed at Fort Pitt, and a police post
established there. This was done on account of reports which had reached
His Honour, to the effect that the Indians on reserves in that vicinity
were likely to give serious trouble.
At the end of 1882, the
Commissioner was able to report that the increase of the force, referred
to in an earlier chapter, had proved most judicious. The effect on the
Indians throughout the Territory had been to show them that the
Government intended that law and order should be kept, by both white men
and Indians alike, and that sufficient force was provided to accomplish
this. The cases of " Rig Bear" and of the trouble at the Blackfoot
Crossing, early in the preceding January, were sufficient to show that a
strong force was still necessary to enforce the law among the Indians.
The Commissioner was, owing to the increase of force, enabled to move a
sufficient force to Forts Macleod and Calgary, winch was urgently
required. At Fort Macleod there were the Blood and Piegan reservations,
numbering about four thousand people. The Sarcee reservation of about
five hundred was only ten miles from Calgary, and the Blackfoot reserve,
50 miles down the Bow River from that post. The fast growing settlements
about these posts, together with the large cattle ranches, rendered it
imperative that they should receive good police protection from such a
large body of Indians, in all about 7,000, as well as that order should
be kept among the Indians themselves.
Great vigilance was
required to prevent smuggling from Montana, U.S.
The following is a
return showing the amount of Customs duties collected by the North-West
Mounted Police, during the year 1882:—Port of Fort Walsh, up to 8th
December, $15,135.40; Port of Fort Macleod, up to 30th December.
S35.525.70; Port of Wood Mountain up to 31st December, $2,784.04; Port
of Qu'Appelle up to 31st December, $1,070.50—Total S52,522.30.
It can be readily
understood how largely the police work of the force was added to during
the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. As the work neared the
eastern boundary of the Territories, the troubles then feared ma)- be
classified as follows:—
1st. Annoyance and
possible attack on working parties by Indians.
2nd. Difficulty of
maintaining law and order among he thousands of rough navvies employed;
and the prevention of whisky being traded in their midst md at all
points of importance along the line.
Indians were so kept in subjection hat no opposition of any moment was
encountered from them.
His Old Order and the New—An Indian at a Celebration of Whites near a
As originally expected,
numerous and continued efforts were made to smuggle in whisky, at almost
I) points along the construction line. This taxed ie resources and
vigilance of the force to the utmost; but these labours were successful.
In the construction of
the railway during 1882, upwards of 4,000 men were employed during the
whole summer, some of them exceptionally bad characters, •wing, however,
to there being no liquor obtainable, very little trouble was given the
police, the contractors, the settlers, or anybody else, by them. Where
large amounts of money are being expended among such men as railway
navvies it is to be expected that many attempts will be made to ftp ply
them with liquor, and such attempts were made in the west in 1882. Had
this not been effectually stopped, the historian of the period would
have had to report a large number of depredations as having been
committed. It is probably unparalleled in the history of railway
building in an unsettled, unorganized western country that not a single
serious crime had been committed along the line of work during the first
year of operations, and this fact certainly reflected great credit on
those responsible for the enactment and carrying out of the laws.
The following is a copy
of a letter the Commissioner received from W. C. VanHorne, Esq., General
Manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway, just as he was preparing his
Office of the General Manager,
Winnipeg, 1st Jany., 1883.
"Dear Sir.—Our work of
construction for the year of 1882 has just closed, and I cannot permit
the occasion to pass without acknowledging the obligations of the
Company to the North-West Mounted Police, whose zeal and industry in
preventing traffic in liquor, and preserving order along the line under
construction have contributed so much to the successful prosecution of
the work. Indeed, without the assistance of the officers and men of the
splendid force under your command, it would have been impossible to have
accomplished as much as we did. On no great work within my knowledge,
where so many men have been employed, has such perfect order prevailed.
"On behalf of the
Company, and of all their officers, I wish to return thanks, and to
acknowledge particularly our obligations to yourself and Major Walsh.
(Signed) W. C.
VaxIIorne. Lieut.-Col. A. G. Irvine,
North-West Mounted Police, Regina."
The next year, 1S83,
the work of railroad construction was accompanied by increased duties
and troubles for the Mounted Police.
Track-laying on the
Canadian Pacific Railroad ceased in the month of January, at a point
some twelve or thirteen miles eastward of the station now known as Maple
Creek. Several parties of workmen employed by the railway company
wintered in the
Cypress Hills, cutting
anil getting out timber. These men, ignorant of Indian habits, were on
different occasions needlessly alarmed by rumours that reached them of
the hostile intentions of the Indians in the vicinity. On one occasion,
a timid attempt was made by a few Indians to stop their work, such
attempt at intimidation being prompted on the part of the Indians by a
desire to procure presents of food from the contractors. On
representation being made to the officer commanding at Fort Walsh,
prompt and effectual steps were taken to secure quietude, and prevent
any similar occurrence. On this subject Superintendent Shurfliffe
reported to Col. Irvine as follows:
"On the 7th inst., Mr.
LaFrance, a railway contractor, who was cutting ties in the
neighbourhood of Maple Creek, came to me and complained that a body of
Indians, under 'Front Man,' had visited his camp and forbidden them to
cut any more timber, saying that it was the property of the Indians, and
that they had also demanded provisions from them. Mr. La France and his
men being thoroughly frightened, at once left the bush and repaired to
the police outpost at Maple Creek and claimed protection. On hearing Mr,
LaFranec's complaint, I sent for 'Front Man.' and explained that it was
a very serious matter to interfere with any men working in connection
with the railway, and convinced him that it would not be well for him or
any other Indian to do anything having a tendency to obstruct the
progress of the road. On being assured that he would have 110 further
trouble, Mr. LaFrance resumed work."
The Pie-a-pot incident
, is one of the traditions of the force, for have not gifted pens
The work of
construction was being rushed across the prairies west of Swift Current,
and right in the line of the engineers, directly where the construction
camps would soon be located with their thousands of passionate,
unprincipled navvies—the flotsam and jetsam of humanity—Pie-a-pot and
his numerous tribe had pitched their tents, and brusquely announced that
they intended to remain there.
Now Pie-a-pot and his
band had not just then that wholesome respect for the law of "The Big
White Woman" and the red-coated guardians thereof which a few months
additional acquaintance were to confer. Moreover it is as true with the
aborigines as with other people that "Evil communications corrupt good
manners." and in spite of the efforts of the police, Pie-a-pot's band,
or individual members thereof, had been just enough ii) communication
with the railway construct ion camps to be decidedly corrupted. The
craze for the whiteman's money and whisky raged within the numerous
tepees of Pie-a-pot's camp. In fact, just then Pie-a-pot's band fairly
deserved the appellation of "Bad Indians," and even the possibility of
the massacre of some of the advanced parties engaged in the railway work
was darkly suggested As the army of navvies advanced towards the Indian
camp, and the latter remained sullen and defiant, the railway officials
appealed to t he Lieutenant-Governor for protection. His Honour promptly
turned the appeal over to the Mounted Police, and, with just as much
promptitude, means w ere taken to remove the difficulty. Pie-a-pot had
hundreds of well-armed braves spoiling for a fight, with him, but it is
not the custom in the North-West Mounted Police to count numbers when
law and duty are on their side. Soon after the order from headquarters
ticked over the wires, two smart, red-coated members of the force, their
pill-box forage caps hanging jauntily on the traditional three hairs,
rode smartly into Pie-a-pot's camp, and did not draw rein until in front
of the chief's tent.
Two men entrusted with
the task of bringing a camp of several hundred savages to reason! It
appeared like tempting Providence—the very height of rashness.
Even the stolid Indians
appeared impressed with the absurdity of the thing, and gathering near
the representatives of the Dominion's authority, began jeering at them.
One of the two wore on his arm the triple chevron of a sergeant, and
without any preliminary parley he produced a written order and proceeded
to read and explain it to Pie-a-pot and those about him. The Indians
were without delay to break camp and take the trail for the north, well
out of the sphere of railway operations. Pie-a-pot simply demurred and
The young bucks laughed
outright at first, and soon ventured upon threats. But it did not
disconcert the two redcoats. They knew their duty, and that the written
order in the sergeant's possession represented an authority which could
not be defied by all the Indians in the North-West. The sergeant quietly
gave Pie-a-pot warning that he would give him exactly a quarter of an
hour to comply with the order to move camp, and to show the Indian that
he meant, to be quite exact with his count, he took out his watch.
sullenly expressed his intention to defy t he order, and again the young
braves jeered. They entered their tepees, and when they returned they
had rifles in their hands. The reports of discharged lire-arms sounded
through the camp, a species of Indian bravado. Some turbulent characters
of the tribe mounted 'heir ponies and tried to jostle the mounts of the
two redcoats as they calmly held their positions in front of Pie-a-pot's
tepee, some young bucks firing off their rifles right under the noses of
the police horses. Men, women and even children, gathered about jeering
and threatening the representatives of law and order.
They knew that the two
men could not retaliate. Pie-a-pot even indulged in some coarse abuse at
the expense of his unwelcome visitors, but they sat their horses with
apparent indifference, the sergeant taking an occasional glance at his
When the fifteen
minutes was up he coolly dismounted, and throwing the reins to the
constable, walked over to Pie-a-pot's tepee. The coverings of these
Indian tents are spread over a number of poles tied together near the
top, and these poles are so arranged that the removal of a particular
one. called the " key-pole." brings the whole structure down. The
sergeant did not say anything, but with impressive deliberation kicked
out the foot of the key-pole of Pie-a-pot's tepee, bringing the grimy
structure down without further ceremony. A howl of rage at once rose
from the camp, and even the older and quieter Indians made a general
rush for their arms.
The least sign of
weakness or even anxiety on the part of the two policemen, or a motion
by Pie-a-pot. would have resulted in the speedy death of both men, but
the latter were, apparently, as calm as ever, and Pie-a-pot was doing
some deep thinking.
The sergeant had his
plan of operations mapped out, and with characteristic sang-froid
proceeded to execute it. From the collapsed canvas of Pie-a-pot's tepee
he proceeded to the nearest tent, kicked out the key-pole as before, and
proceeded to methodically kick out the key-poles all through the camp.
As W. A. Fraser, the
brilliant Canadian novelist, writing of this remarkable incident, put
it, Pie-a-pot had either got to kill the sergeant—stick his knife into
the heart of the whole British nation by the murder of this unruffled
soldier—or give in and move away. He chose the latter course, for
Pie-a-pot had brains."
During the month of
December, 1883, a very serious strike occurred on the Canadian Pacific
Railway line, the engineers and firemen refusing to sign such articles
of agreement as were proposed and submitted to them by the railway
authorities; these workmen making demands for increased rate of pay,
which, being refused by the Company, led to the cessation of work by
engineers and firemen all along the line. It at once became apparent
that the feeling between the Company and their employees was a bitter
one. This being the case, and the Company further finding that in
addition to its being deprived of skilled mechanical labour, and also
that secret and criminal attempts were being made to destroy most
valuable property, the services of the N.W.M.P. were called into demand.
A detachment of police,
consisting of two officers and thirty-five men, was placed under orders
to proceed to Moose Jaw. On the evening of the 10th December, Mr. Murray
of the C.P.lt. reached Regma with an engine and car, and the detachment
proceeded forthwith to Moose Jaw, which was the end of a division, and
40 miles west of headquarters. On arrival at Moose Jaw, Superintendent
Herchmer, commanding the detachment, placed a guard on the railway round
house at that place. From the assistance rendered by the police the
railway company was enabled to make up a train, which left for the east
on the following morning with passengers and mails. By this train Supt.
Herchmer, with nineteen men, proceeded to Broadview, the eastern end of
the same rail way division.
Colonel S. B. Steele, C. B., etc., formerly Inspector and later
Superintendent in the North-West Mounted Police.
During the year 1884,
the progress of the Canadian Pacific Railway construction, then
approaching the mountain section from across the prairie, was made as
uninterruptedly as heretofore. The large influx of miners and others
into the vicinity of the mines in the mountains on the resumption of the
train service in the spring (the service wras suspended during the
winter), necessitated a material increase in the strength of the Calgary
division, the headquarters strength of which it was advisable to
diminish as little as possible.
In March, Inspector
Steele, who was commanding at Calgary, in the absence of Superintendent
Mcllree, on leave, reported that preparations were on foot for the
illicit distillation of liquor in the mountains, and in June called
attention to the difficulty of checking illegal importations into
British Columbia under the narrow latitude imposed by the Peace
Preservation Act applying to the vicinity of public works. This latitude
was subsequently extended to twenty miles on each side of the railway
track. On the 10th of May, in consequence of a message from the manager
of construction, anticipating trouble at Holt City and its neighbourhood,
Sergt. Fury and ten men were posted there for duty, two being retained
at the 27th siding, and a corporal and four men at Silver City, and
these men, for the time, maintained order amidst the rowdy element in a
highly creditable manner. On the 5th June, Superintendent Herchmer
assumed command of the Calgary district, being accompanied from
headquarters by a reinforcement for "E" division, of two non-connnissioned
officers and 22 men. On the 21st June, a detachment of mounted men was
dispatched to the Columbia River, to protect the railway company's
property and interests at that point.
A detachment of the
force under Inspector Steele, was employed in the maintenance of law and
order on that part of the Canadian Pacific Railway under construction in
the mountains, during the early part of 1885. The distribution of this
detachment was as follows:—Laggan, 3 men; 3rd Siding, 2 men; Golden
City, 8 men, 7 horses; 1st Crossing, 4 men, 2 horses; Beaver Creek, 2
men, 1 horse; Summit of Sell.irks, 2 men, 1 horse: 2nd Crossing, 4 men,
2 horses. A little later, as construction proceeded, Golden City was
left with three men and one horse, the balance being moved on to Beaver
Creek. In the absence of gaol accommodation for the district of Kootenav,
cells were constructed at the 3rd Siding, Golden City, 1st Crossing,
Beaver Creek, Summit or Selkirks and 2nd Crossing. A mounted escort of
four constables was detailed to escort the Canadian Pacific Railway
paymaster whenever he required it.
"About the first day of
April, owing to their wages being in arrears, 1,200 of the workmen
employed on the line struck where the end of the track then was, and
informed the manager of construction that unless paid up in full at
once, and more regularly in future, they would do no more work. They
also openly stated their intention of committing acts of violence upon
the staff of the road, and to destroy property. I received a deputation
of the ringleaders, and assured them that <f they committed any act of
violence, and were not orderly, in the strictest sense of the word, 1
would inflict upon the offenders the severest punishment the law would
allow me. They saw the manager of construction, who promised to accede
to their demands, as far as lay in his power, if they would return to
their camps, their board not to cost them anything in the meantime. Some
were satisfied with this, and several hundred returned to their camps.
The remainder stayed at the Beaver (where there was a population of 700
loose characters), ostensibly waiting for their money. They were
apparently very quiet, but one morning word was brought to me that some,
of them were ordering the bricklayers to quit work, teamsters freighting
supplies to leave their teams, and bridgemen to leave their work. I sent
detachments of police to the points threatened, leaving only two men to
take charge of the prisoners at my post. I instructed the men in charge
of the detachments to use the very severest measures to prevent a
cessation of the work of construction.
"On the same afternoon.
Constable Kerr, having occasion to go to the town, saw a contractor
named Behan, a well known desperado (supposed to be in sympathy with the
strike), drunk and disorderly, and attempted to arrest him. The
constable was immediately attacked by a large crowd, of strikers and
roughs, thrown down and ultimately driven off. He returned to barracks,
and on the return of Sergeant Fury, with a party of three men from the
end of the track, that non-commissioned officer went with two men to
arrest the offending contractor, whom they found in a saloon in the
midst of a gang of drunken companions. The two constables took hold of
him and brought him out, but a crowd of men, about 200 strong, and all
armed, rescued hi ml in spite of the most resolute conduct on the part
of the police. The congregated strikers aided in the rescue, and
threatened the constables if they persisted in their efforts.
"As the sergeant did
not desire to use his pistol, except in the most dire necessity, he came
to me, (I was on a sick-bed at the tune) and asked for orders. I
directed him to go and seek the offender, and shoot any of the crowd who
would interfere. He returned, arrested the man, but had to shoot one of
the rioters through the shoulders before the crowd would stand back. 1
then requested Mr Johnston, to explain the Riot Act to the mob, and
inform them that I would use the strongest measures to prevent any
recurrence of the trouble. I had all the men who resisted the police, or
aided Behan, arrested next morning, and fined them, together with hnn,
S100 each, or six months hard labour.
"The strike collapsed
next day. The roughs having had a severe lesson, were quiet. 1 he
conduct of the police during this trying occasion was all that could be
desired. There were only five at the Beaver at the time, and they faced
the powerful mob of armed men with as much resolution as if backed by
"While the strike was
in progress I received a telegram from His Honour the
Lieutenant-Governor of the Xorth-West Territories, directing me to
proceed to C'algarv at once with all the men, but in the interests of
the public service I was obliged to reply, stating that to obey was
impossible until the strike was settled.
"On the 10th day of
April the labourers had been all paid, and I forthwith proceeded to
Calgary, leaving the men in charge of Sergeant Fury until everything was
On the 7th of April,
this year, a constable found in the Moose Jaw Creek the dead body of a
man named Malaski, with a heavy chain attached. The same night Sergeant
Fyffe arrested one John Connor on suspicion of being the murderer. An
examination of Connor's house showed traces of blood on the walls and
floor, an attempt having been made to chip the stains off the latter
with an axe, and further examination revealed the track of the body,
which had been dragged from the house to the creek.
The murder had
evidently been committed with an axe, while the murdered man was lying
on the bed, probably asleep, there being three deep wounds on the side
of the head. Connor was convicted of the murder before Colonel
Richardson, Stipendiary Magistrate, and a jury, on the 2nd May, and was
executed at Regina on the 17th July. The prisoner made no statement of
any kind with respect to his guilt.
During the construction
of the prairie sections of the C. P. R. the duties of railway mail
clerks in the North-West were performed by members of the force. During
1884, from Moose Jaw westward, all the mail via the Canadian Pacific
Railway was conveyed to and fro in charge of members of the force, their
number varying with the alteration in the train service. Three
constables from headquarters performed this duty between Moose Jaw and
Medicine Hat, two of the Maple Creek division from Medicine Hat to
Calgary, and two of the Calgary division from that place to Laggan.
These men were sworn as
officials of the Postal Department, and in the absence of aught to the
contrary, carried out their duties to the satisfaction, no less of the
Postal Department, than of their own officers.
In his annual report
for 1884 the Commissioner pointed out the need of a further increase in
the number of non-commissioned officers and men in the force, to enable
him to comply with the daily increasing requirements of advancing
settlement and civilization. Colonel Irvine suggested that 300
additional men should be obtained as soon as possible, these to be
recruited in Eastern Canada, and to be men of undeniable physique and
character, accustomed to horses, and able to ride. With such men, the
Commissioner explained, the necessary training, including a course of
instruction in police duties, could be more rapidly completed than if
equitation, in addition to the rudiments of foot and arm drill, had to
We obtain a good idea
of the class of men composing the North-West Mounted Police at this time
from a very readable and well written book published by Sampson Low &
Co., London, 1889, entitled "Trooper and Redskin in the Far North-West;
Recollections of Life in the North-West Mounted Police, Canada, from
1884 to 1888," by John G. Donkin, late Corporal X. W. M. P. The author,
in a chapter directly concerning the personnel of the Mounted Police
wrote: "After having been about two months in the corps, I was able to
form some idea of the class of comrades among whom my lot was cast. I
discovered that there were truly "all sorts and conditions of men." Many
I found, in various troops, were related to English families in good
position. There were three men at Regina who held commissions in the
British service. There was also an ex-officer of militia, and one of
volunteers. There was an ex-midshipman, son of the Governor of one of
our small Colonial dependencies. A son of a major-general, an ex-cadet
of the Canadian Royal Military College at Kingston, a medical student
from Dublin, two ex-troopers of the Scots Greys, a son of a captain in
the line, an Oxford B. A., and several of the ubiquitous natives of
Scotland, comprised the mixture. In addition, there were many Canadians
belonging to families of influence, as well as several from the
backwoods, who had never seen the light till their fathers had hewed a
way through the bush to a concession road. They were none the worse
fellows on that account, though. Several of our men sported medals won
in South Africa, Egypt, and Afghanistan. There was one, brother of a
Yorkshire baronet, formerly an officer of a certain regiment of foot,
who as a contortionist and honcoinique was the best amateur I ever knew.
There was only an ex-circus clown from Dublin who could beat him. These
two would give gratuitous performances nightly, using the barrack-room
furniture as acrobatic properties."
This aggregation of
"all sorts and conditions of men," already proved to be efficient in
many a tight corner, was about to undergo the supreme test of service in