Early Advocates of a Mounted
Constabulary—Creation of the Force, 1873—Lieutenant-Colonel French
Appointed Commissioner— Services of Non-commissioned Officers—Major
Walsh, with the Right Wing, Comes West via Dawson Trail, 1873—Left Wing,
Under Commissioner French, Comes via Fargo, 1874— The March Into the
Wilderness, 1874—Colonel MacLeod Appointed Commissioner, 1876—Dealings
with Recalcitrant Indians—The Police Found the Canadian Ranching
Industry —A Famous Police Ballad—Cattle Rustling—Building of the C. P.
R.—Colonel Irvine Appointed Commissioner, 1880, and Headquarters
Transferred to Regina (1883)—The Police in the Rebellion of
1885—Lieutenant-Colonel Hercitmkr Appointed Commissioner, 188C;
Succeeded by Commissioner Perry, 1900—Manifold Duties of the Force—Tales
of Heroism: Corporal D. B. Smith; Constable Conradi; Constable Pedley;
Corporal Field—The Charles King Murder—The Return of Indian Refugees—The
Tragedy of Almighty Voice—Arrest of Notable Desperadoes: Cowboy Jack;
Idaho Kid; Bill Miner— The Policing of the Yukon—The R. N. W. M. P. and
the South African War—Patrolling of the Far North: Inspector Pelletier's
Expedition, 190S; Inspector Fitzgerald's Disaster, 1910; Numerous
Similar Patrols—Varying Strength of tiie Force-Relations of Mounted
Police to Provincial Governments.
Many years ago an old Indian chief,
speaking at a council and addressing a representative of the Royal North
West Mounted Police, said: "Before you came, the Indian crept about. Now
he is not afraid to walk erect." It is the proud boast of the force that
since its celebrated march west in 1874 neither white man nor Indian has
been afraid to walk erect, whether on the prairies, in the hinterland of
the Hudson's Bay or in the far-away Yukon. It will be the purpose of the
present chapter to sketch how the extraordinary sense of security
enjoyed in the Great North West has been achieved. The topic is one
familiar to all westerners, but one to which they ever revert with
pride. In our days of crude commercialism it is refreshing to turn to an
institution of our very own that combines the sanest acumen and
business-like administration with the glamour and legitimate paternalism
of the best things in the age of chivalry. Therefore, it is with no fear
of failing to interest that the writer invites attention to the
following recital of things new and old, bearing on the organization and
achievements of the most famous mounted constabulary in the world.
The creation of such a force came under
consideration immediately after the annexation of the Hudson's Bay
Territories. Mr. Donald A. Smith had recommended it to the authorities
in 1870, as also did Captain Butler in 1871. In 1872 Colonel Robert
Ross, subsequently Adjutant-General, had been despatched by the Canadian
Government to make a reconnaissance and to report upon plans for the
preservation of peace and order, and had made a like recommendation. The
establishment of such a body had been urged by Captain Louis de Plainval,
the head of the Manitoba Provincial Police, and numerous other prominent
westerners. In the minutes of the North West Council for March 10, 1873,
occurs the following entry:
"That in the opinion of Council it is
necessary that for the maintenance of peace and order in the North West
Territories, a sufficient force of Military and Police, the latter under
military discipline, and either wholly or in part mounted, should
without delay be stationed in the Territories."
The need was certainly great, but it
may be doubted whether it would have been met so promptly as it was had
not the public conscience been shocked into activity by the hideous
massacre of Canadian Indians at the hands of American whiskey traders
and other desperadoes among the Cypress Hills. At least a few public men
were wise enough to see that, in the default of firm and just
precaution, the Canadian West was about to see duplicated the bloody
drama familiar to all the western American states-outrages of lawless
white men, massacres of settlers by the Indians, costly punitive
expeditions and all the nameless horrors of a war of extermination.
Accordingly, as we have seen in previous chapters, provision was made
for a force of mounted police by an Act of the Dominion Parliament in
the year 1873. This measure was introduced by the Premier, Sir John A.
MacDonald, who always retained a special interest in the force. In
September of 1873 the first steps were taken towards actual
organization, the command being entrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel George
A. French, who accepted the post in October and proceeded at once to
Manitoba. This distinguished officer retained the commissionership only
until July, 1876, when he returned to the Imperial Army. In the
meantime, however, he had shared in the performance of a task entitling
him to the permanent gratitude of Canada.
The plans at first involved the present
enrollment of a maximum of only three hundred men. Most of those
accepted had had previous military experience, and several of the
officers and non-commissioned officers had taken special training at the
Royal Military College, Kingston, with a view to serving in the
It is no reflection upon the officers
of higher rank when one assigns to their non-commissioned coworkers a
major part of the credit for the success of the force. "No matter what
anybody else says or who may claim it, it was the non-commissioned
officers that made the Mounted Police," said Colonel Steele to the
present writer. As a matter of fact, no one seems inclined to dispute
this verdict. The original non-commissioned officers in particular were
an exceptional group of men, all thoroughly well fitted to exercise the
duties of a rank much superior to that in which they were employed, and
all absolutely devoted to the service and seemingly indifferent to
The regulations required that each
recruit should be between seventeen and forty years of age and able to
read, write and ride. Those accomplishments constitute "the three R's"
of a policeman's education. The period of service was to be three years.
A fine not exceeding two hundred dollars might be imposed on any person
refusing food, shelter or transport to any member of the force when
suitable compensation was offered. The Commissioner and each of his
superintendents were ex officio Justices of the Peace, and the force was
to have jurisdiction throughout Manitoba and the whole of the North West
Major Walsh, with the right wing,
numbering one hundred and fifty, came west first, in 1873, shortly
before the coming of Commissioner French. Major Walsh followed almost
the same line of march as that of the Wolseley expedition, which Colonel
Steele and some other members of the new force had accompanied. Though
this second march, being over somewhat familiar ground, was relieved of
some of the stupendous difficulties of the first, it was arduous enough,
and the left wing followed a different route, via American territory.
The right wing spent the winter in Winnipeg in training before the left
wing arrived in the West. Sixty raw bronchos supplied the recruits with
material for practice in horsemanship. Major Walsh and his fellow
officers had been allowed practically no time for the proper selection
of their men and it is not surprising that a number of the recruits had
to be eliminated subsequently. From this and other causes the numerical
strength of the first contingent was considerably impaired.
Commissioner French returned to Ontario
in February, 1874, to arrange for the recruiting of the force up to the
limit of three hundred indicated in the Act under which it was
organized. P>v April most of the new recruits were in training at
Toronto. Before leaving for the West with the second contingent, June 6,
1874, Commissioner French gave the weak-kneed two opportunities for
withdrawal. No one was wanted who was not prepared for genuine
hardships. After six days' railway journey the force reached Fargo,
North Dakota, on June 12, 1874, and three days afterwards it began the
famous march into its vast western domain. On June 17th we find the
column one hundred and sixty miles northward, at Dufferin, .Manitoba
(now known as Emerson), where it was joined by the Fort Garry
Many stories could he told of this
famous initial expedition into the wilderness. The following is but an
example. While the police were at Fort Dufferin, a terrific thunderstorm
and gale swept over the encampment about ten o'clock at night. The wind
tore away from a "prairie schooner" its canvas covering, carrying it
into the air over the already terrified horses. They were seized with
panic and some two hundred and fifty of them stampeded, charging over
the heads of their sleeping masters, six of whom were injured.
Fortunately, a few of the horses were gotten under control and upon one
of these, followed at a considerable distance by some troopers, Colonel
Walker pursued the panic-striken herd through the darkness and tempest.
Most of the stampeded horses were recovered within thirty-five miles
after a search of thirty hours; but many days were lost before the
search for the other animals was given over. The actual loss was
eventually reduced to one horse. The search involved terrific rides for
the new police and proved the ability and endurance of the force. It
also helped to eliminate, before the real beginning of the great inarch
west, the remaining "unfits." The column then proceeded westward in the
second week in July.
It was a scene that appeals to the
imagination. First, in command of Inspector Jarvis, came Division A,
forty-one in number, mounted on splendid dark bays and followed by
thirteen wagons. Division B, forty strong, came next, riding dark brown
horses. Division C, forty-three in number, were on bright chestnuts and
convoyed the guns and ammunition wagons. With Division D, numbering in
all sixty-one, mounted on greys, rode the four staff officers. Division
E consisted of forty-eight men on black horses, and the forty-three
members of Division F were mounted on light hays. Behind the main body
came a long procession of ox carts, cattle, wagons and agricultural
implements. The marching-out state on July 8, 1875, showed twenty-one
officers, two hundred and ten horses, two field guns, two mortars, one
hundred and forty-eight oxen, one hundred and fourteen ox carts,
seventy-three double wagons, and ninety-three milch and beef cattle.
After a journey full of hardships the
force reached the site of the present town of Lethbridge, Alberta,on1
September u, 1874, having ridden some 789 miles since leaving Dufferin.
No human habitation save a few wigwams had been passed for over 760
miles. Assistant Commissioner Macleod advanced to the Belly River in the
vicinity of Fort Whoop Up. There he established local headquarters in
the midst of the Blackfoot country, for the supervision of the Indians
and the repression of the liquor traffic illicitly conducted by American
desperadoes. He built Fort Macleod on Old Alan's River and from that
centre so efficiently policed the wilderness that at the end of the year
the whiskey trade had been all but completely stamped out, and the
riots, robberies and assassinations of the recent past came to an end
forever. Meantime, the commissioner himself had returned to Dufferin. It
had been decided to transfer the headquarters to Fort Pelly, near Swan
River, but the barracks there was not ready. Commissioner French
administered the affairs of his office from Fort Garry.
In summarizing the salient features of
the famous march of 1874, Commissioner French reported as follows:
"At this latter place (Emerson) the
whole force was divided into six divisions or troops, and on July 8
started on an expedition which veteran soldiers might well have faltered
at. Tied down by no stringent rules or articles of war, but only by the
silken cord of civil contract, these men, by their conduct, gave little
cause for complaint. Though naturally there were several officers and
constables unaccustomed to command and having little experience or tact,
yet such an event as striking a superior was unknown and disobedience to
orders was very rare. Day after day on the march, night after night on
picquet guard and working at high pressure during four months from
daylight until dark,—and too frequently after dark— with little rest
even on the day sacred to rest, the force ever pushed onward; delighted
when a pure spring was met with, there was still no complaint when acrid
water or the refuse of a mud-hole was the only liquid available. I have
seen this whole force obliged to drink liquid which, when passed through
a filter, was still the color of ink. The fact of horses and oxen
falling and dying for want of food never disheartened or stopped them,
but, pushing on on foot with dogged determination, they carried through
the service required of them under difficulties which can only be
appreciated by those who witnessed them. Where time was so valuable
there could be no halting on account of the weather; the greatest heat
of a July sun or the cold of November in this northern latitude made no
difference: ever onward had to be the watchword, and an almost
uninterrupted march' was maintained from the time the force left
Dufferin with the thermometer 95 to 100 degrees in the shade till the
balance of the force returned there in November, the thermometer marking
20 to 30 degrees below zero, having inarched 1959 miles."
Gradually the little band of three
hundred men were systematically organized into divisions and distributed
far and wide over the Great New Land. At the close of 1877 thirty-one
members of the force were operating from bases in Manitoba (Swan River
and Shoal Lake); seventy-nine were in what is now Saskatchewan (Ou'Appelle,
Battleford. Wood Mountain, and Fort Walsh), and the remainder were
assigned to what is now Alberta (Fort Macleod. Pinto Horse Butte, Milk
River, Fort Calgary and Fort Saskatchewan).
In 1876 Colonel J. F. Macleod, C. M.
G., succeeded Colonel French as Commissioner. Fort Macleod became the
headquarters of the force, but a few years later it was shifted one
hundred and seventy miles eastward, to Fort Walsh.
In 1876 Colonel Walker was transferred
to Battleford and organized police patrols at He a la Corne, Prince
Albert, Fort Pitt, Duck Lake and Carleton. During this period the police
performed valuable services in connection with the consummation of the
Indian treaties, to which a previous chapter has been devoted.
When Treaty Number Six was signed at
Fort Carletou, Chief Beardy, of Duck Lake, was recalcitrant. He sent
word to the Lieutenant-Governor that unless certain supplies that he had
desired were instantly sent to him he and his followers would loot the
stores at Stobert and Eadon's Trading Post. The Lieutenant-Governor
entrusted to Colonel Walker the duty of preventing this outrage. Walker
and three companions immediately rode to the trading post, where they
were in waiting when Beardy and his warriors in full war paint galloped
up to the gate of the stockade, firing their guns and making the air
ring with their war whoops. Beardy dismounted at the open gate, and,
entering, found to his discomfiture the four police officers ready to
welcome him. After saluting Beardy, Colonel Walker commanded his men to
load their weapons and stand in front of the store. He then addressed
the astonished warrior to the following effect: "I have been informed
that you have come here for the purpose of attacking the stores, and
that you and some of your band have openly offered insult to both the
Queen and the Governor. Now, the stores are in the building there, so
all you have to do is to enter and take them, but I have given
instructions to those three men who are on guard there to fill full of
lead the first man who attempts to enter." This pointed oration had the
desired effect and Beardy assured the Colonel that he and his men were
the most loyal of Indians and innocent of all desire to do mischief.
As we have seen in former chapters, the
Indian situation in the seventies and early eighties was complicated by
the presence in Canadian territory of many thousands of warlike American
Sioux. A large number of these had settled in Manitoba near Portage la
Prairie, after the Minnesota Massacre of 1862. Ten years later these
unwelcome refugees numbered approximately ten thousand, and after the
Custer Massacre of 1876 their numbers were augmented by the ingress of
Sitting Bull and his warriors.
Meantime, however, the Canadian North
West had been the scene of a bloodless revolution in which the Mounted
Police had played an important part. The warring tribes had settled into
permanent peace, and hostility to the whites had almost ceased to be
dangerous. Indeed, the aborigines had now come to recognise in "the
Riders of the Plains" their best friends and guardians. We have already
commented upon the admiration for the police which took possession of
Sitting Bull himself and upon the warm personal friendship established
between him and Major Walsh and other officers of the force. The details
of the Sitting Bull episode have already been recounted elsewhere.
It was through the instrumentality of
the Mounted Police that the ranching industry was first established in
the Canadian West. Fresh horses were continually required for the force
itself, as the work was very severe. For example, the police escort
assigned to duty in connection with the tour of the Marquis of Lorne
travelled two thousand and seventy-two miles at an average rate of
thirty-five miles a day. Upon the representations of Major Walsh a
police farm was accordingly established near Fort Macleod.
In the Saskatchewan Herald of September
23, 1878, there appeared anonymously a stirring ballad which well
depicts the work of the police in these early days, and, indeed, fairly
represents their spirit and duties from that time to this:
"THE RIDERS OF THE
"We wake the prairie
The ever-welcome sound—
'Ring out the boots and saddles'—
till Its stirring notes resound.
Our horses toss their bridled heads,
And chafe against the reins—
Ring out, ring out the marching call
Of the Riders of the Plains.
"Full many a league o'er
Our pathless way must be;
And round it roam the fiercest tribes
Of Black foot and of Cree.
But danger from their savage hands
Our dauntless hearts disdain—
The hearts of those that wear the helms
Of the Riders of the Plains.
"The thunderstorm sweeps
o'er our way,
But onward still we go;
We scale the weary mountain's range,
Descend the valley low ;
We face the broad Saskatchewan,
Made fierce with heavy rains—
With all its might it cannot check
The Riders of the Plains.
"We track the sprouting
When lost to white man's ken;
We startle there the creatures wild,
And fight them in their den;
Where'er our leaders bid us move,
The bugle sounds its strain;
In marching sections forward go
The Riders of the Plains.
"For us no cheerful
Their welcome gates unfold;
No generous board or downy bed
Await our troopers bold;
Beneath the starry canopy
At eve, when daylight wanes,
There lie the hardy slumberers—
The Riders of the Plains.
"We muster but three
In all this 'Great Lone Land'
Which stretches from Superior's waves
To where the Rockies stand;
But not one heart doth falter,
No coward voice complains—
Though all too few in numbers are
The Riders of the Plains.
"In England's mighty
Each man must take his stand;
Some guard her honoured flag at sea,
Some bear it well by land;
Not ours to face her foreign foes—
Then what to us remains?
What duty docs our country give
To the Riders of the Plains?
"Our mission is to plant
Of British freedom here;
Restrain the lawless savage
And protect the pioneer;
And 'tis a proud and daring trust
To hold these vast domains
With but three hundred mounted men—
The Riders of the Plains."
The practical extinction of the buffalo
herds in the later seventies and the early eighties reduced the Indians
to the direst extremities and greatly increased the difficulties of the
police in their efforts to restrain the wretched aborigines from
depredations. The degree to which they were successful reflects great
credit alike on the force itself and upon the care-burdened chieftains
who cooperated in teaching their braves respect for the law. Horse
stealing, of course, was very common, and among the Indians themselves
there were very few who viewed it as a crime.
This rendered exceedingly hazardous any
attempt to arrest an Indian "rustler," but the police never flinched
from their duty. If space would permit, many stirring anecdotes might be
told in this connection. The following are typical:
A party of Sioux had all their horses
stolen by some Assiniboins and Grosventres. The Sioux called upon
Assistant Commissioner Irvine for succor. With six men he located the
stolen horses in an encampment of three hundred and fifty lodges, which
he entered with four companions and Sub-inspector Mclllree. The balance
of the story maybe told in the words of Irvine's report:
"It was quite dark when I got into the
camp. I went straight to the chief's lodge. It was surrounded with
Indians. I told the chief I knew he had the stolen horses in the camp
and had come to get them. He said he did not think his young men would
give them up, and that the Americans were very 'strong, and would not
allow any white man to harm them. I told him we could not allow anyone
to steal horses on this side of the line, and that he should have to
answer before I left his lodge. He then said, 'When you come in the
morning, I will hand you over every one of them.' I went in the morning
and they handed me over all they could find. It would have been
impossible for me, with only four men, to have made any arrests; besides
it would have been difficult to find the guilty parties. However, I gave
them a good lecture, and they promised to behave themselves in the
In May, 1877, Major Walsh, with fifteen
men, entered an encampment of two hundred excited warriors who had put
the police at defiance, and arrested a number of turbulent braves on the
instigation of other Indians
who had been molested. Indeed, such
exhibitions of nerve and of the dominating powers of strong
personalities were of everyday occurrence. Frequently Macleod, Walsh,
Irvine, Steele, or some other distinguished officer was the hero of the
tale; as frequently it was a nameless private.
On the 4th of May, 1882, Inspector
Macdonell, of Wood Mountain, was advised by Air. LeGare, the well-known
trader to whom frequent references have been made in preceding chapters,
that on the evening of the 28th of April a war party of thirty-two Crees
took possession of his encampment. He had with him a Halfbreed and a
Sioux Indian. During the night Air. LeGare heard the Indians arranging
to kill him and the Sioux; but in the morning it was decided to allow
Air. LeGare and his friends "to eat once more" before their execution.
When LeGare commenced preparations for leaving camp a terrific uproar
occurred, some of the Crees crying for the scalps of the whole part)',
others wishing to kill only the Sioux. Two attempts at firing were made,
but, fortunately, the guns missed fire both times. Finally, LeGare
succeeded in buying the lives of his men at the cost of his outfit.
Macdonell determined to arrest the perpetrators of this outrage at any
cost, and ultimately located some of them in a camp of about forty-five
lodges. At first the presence of the criminals was denied, and there was
every prospect of armed resistance to the police. Nevertheless,
Macdonell, covering the ringleader with his revolver, so cowed the
assemblage that they surrendered the miscreants. It became a tradition
of the force that discrepancy of numbers was an irrelevant consideration
when dealing with angry Indians. "Fortes fortunajurat."
Another of the innumerable examples of
the extraordinary influence exercised by the police is recounted in the
reports for 1883. An Indian called Crow Collar had destroyed some
property, and when an officer was sent to arrest him the head chief,
Bull's Head, refused to give him up. Accordingly, Irvine ordered the
arrest of Hull's Head also. When he was seized he resisted violently and
called on his braves to assist him. They were in a most excited state
and Irvine saw the arrest could not be made at that moment without
bloodshed. He accordingly retired for the night to the agent's house,
but in the morning he returned to the Indians, and intimidated them into
producing Crow Collar. Bull's Head himself sent word that he would come
the next day, and this he did, accompanied by most of his braves, and
Irvine put the dismayed dignitary into a cell. There he kept him for a
couple of days, when, after explaining to him in what a very wrong
manner he and his tribe had behaved, the commissioner released him.
During the building of the Canadian
Pacific Railway it was the duty of the Mounted Police to suppress the
traffic in intoxicants among the employees, keep a general oversight
over the railway camp, and preserve order along the right-of-way. In a
letter dated January i, 1883, Sir William Van Horne expressed his
gratitude for the efficient manner in which these onerous duties were
performed. "On no great work within my knowledge where so many men have
been employed," said he, "has such perfect order prevailed."
When the great American
transcontinental roads were under construction they were continually
impeded by the Indians. A few sporadic attempts in this direction were
made in Canada, but the energy and sang froid of the police prevented
any serious trouble.
On one occasion Chief Pi-a-pot and his
band resorted to the stratagem of passive resistance, deliberately
encamping on the right-of-way and refusing to move. A complaint was duly
registered with the police authorities and a sergeant and a constable
were sent to move the troublesome band. Accompanied by a jeering mob of
the barbarians, they went directly to Pi-a-pot's tent, conveyed the
command for him to remove his encampment and informed him that if the
order were not obeyed forthwith they twain would undertake the task at
the end of fifteen minutes. The proposition was received with laughter.
The sergeant accordingly took out his watch and he and his companion
stood at attention beside the lent door for a quarter of an hour, much
to the entertainment of the Indians. When the time had expired the
sergeant returned his watch to his pocket and, without further parley,
the two constables cut the guy ropes of Pi-a-pot's tent, causing it to
collapse on the heads of its surprised occupants. The whole encampment
was instantly in an uproar and nothing but the chieftain's vigorous
personal efforts saved the lives of the policemen. Pi-a-pot was no fool.
He understood well enough that these two audacious Red Coats had behind
them the whole might of Canada and the King, and he promptly ordered his
braves to strike camp and leave the railway line free of obstruction.
The third commissioner of the North
West Mounted Police was Colonel Irvine, who on November 1, 1880,
succeeded Colonel Macleod. It will be remembered that at this time the
force was administered chiefly from Fort Maeleod and Fort Walsh, the
latter having recently been given special importance because situated in
the midst of the region most directly affected by the recent Sioux
incursion. In 1883 the headquarters of the force was transferred from
Fort Walsh to Regina, though the barracks at the new Territorial Capital
was not completed until 1886. Commencing on May 23, 1883, however,
Irvine had demolished old Fort Walsh, which was off the line of the
coming railway and otherwise ill-suited to remain the seat of police
Of the part played by the police in
rebellion days, sufficient has been said in previous pages. If the
warnings of the commissioner and other prominent police officials and
civilians had been heeded, there would have been no insurrection, and
if, when the ill-starred outbreak occurred, the force had been suitably
augmented and given the necessary freedom of action, it seems
unquestionable that it could have met successfully this great emergency
as it has so many others, and that the rising would have cost Canada
much less than it did, both in blood and treasure. As it was, it was the
police more than anyone else who kept the disorders from spreading.
For several years after the rebellion
it was necessary to issue relief every winter to large numbers of the
Halfbreeds, who had been ruined in the rising. The oversight of this
matter fell to the police. These were hard years, and poverty was
widespread, but hard times did not bring its usual concommittant—an
outbreak of lawlessness. In 1888 considerable treaty money was paid to
the rebel Indian tribes, upon the recommendation of the Indian agents.
In speaking of the numerous Indians in the Prince Albert district, the
Superintendent was able for the third time to comment upon the.
excellent conduct of the Indian population. Not a single crime had been
committed among them. Indeed, in his report for 188S the commissioner
comments on an almost entire absence of crime in the Territory during
the preceding year. In all quarters of the Territories except the
southwest the Indians were making rapid strides toward self-support.
Some of their chiefs rendered very valuable assistance to the police in
the enforcement of law and the capture of criminals.
Space will not permit more than a brief
glance at the varied activities of the Mounted Police during the period
of Lieutenant-Colonel Herchmer's tenure of office as commissioner
(1886-1900). The following note from the report of Superintendent Perry
2 for 1893 speaks for itself, however. What it implies must be left to
the imagination of the intelligent reader. It is to be remembered that
the Superintendent is speaking merely of the men of his own division:
"In Wood Mountain our men are found
acting as cowboys, rounding up and driving back across the boundary vast
herds of American ranch cattle which again and again wandered northward
in search of better feed and more water. At Estevan and Gretna they are
seen in charge of large herds of quarantined cattle; tending sick milch
cows; and at the expiration of the term in quarantine driving them long
distances by trail, loading them on trains, and conveying them to their
destination. In Manitoba they are engaged in enforcing the customs laws,
aiding the regular customs officials whose duties they at times perform,
and executing the Crown Timber and Dominion Lands regulations, and in
addition to this work of a special nature they are carrying out their
regular duties of detecting crime, aiding the administration of justice,
acting as prairie fire and game guard-
superintendent Perry was promoted to
the office of commissioner in 1900, assuming command on August 18, in
succession to Lieutenant-Colonel Herchmer, retired, and at the time of
writing (1913) is still at the head of the Force he has served so long
and so efficiently.
To the varied catalogue of duties
indicated above many others might be added. For example, in 1905 the
police took the census of the old District of Assiniboia, Saskatchewan
and Alberta. This meant a house-to-house visitation involving 65,873
whites and 7,633 Halfbreeds sparsely scattered over a stupendous area,
and the magnitude of the task, assumed in addition to normal duties, is
rather appalling. Such visitation, however, had many advantages to the
police in the execution of their ordinary functions, by increasing their
familiarity with the whole citizen body. At all times the police patrols
go and come, not as spies and ministers of outraged justice, but as the
settlers' friends, and as such they are and always have been recognised—especially
by the lonely homesteaders who often would be overtaken by actual
destitution but for their aid and familiarity with pioneer conditions.
For instance, in his report for 1904
the Commissioner specially comments upon the heroic work of Corporal D.
B. Smith, of Norway House, in connection with his public services during
an epidemic of scarlet fever and diphtheria. Corporal Smith supplied the
stricken people with food, disinfected their houses, helped nurse their
sick and buried their dead. Indeed, one of the important duties of the
Mounted Police is to care for the settlers in remote districts if for
any reason they are overtaken by actual need that friendly hand can and
may properly relieve. This happened to very many in 1907. The
Commissioner reports that west of Saskatoon and south of Battleford,
along the route of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and the Wetaskiwin
branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway, relief was given to some one
hundred and forty-five families, and patrols visited other settlers. The
snow was very deep and there were no trails. A winter of great severity
had set in much earlier than usual, and but for the vigilance of the
police the sufferings of the pioneers would have been much more serious
than they were.
The ever-present dread of the isolated
settler on the plains is that of the prairie fire. Hundreds occur
yearly; sometimes small, sometimes great; sometimes expending their fury
in uninhabited expanses, sometimes bringing ruin and at times death to
the pioneer; sometimes quickly extinguished, sometimes travelling far
and fast and lingering long. The police, of course, are ever on the
alert as fire guardians, and are continually saving valuable property
and at times human life itself. Space will permit us to note but a
single characteristic instance. On October 5, 1905, a constable by the
name of Conradi saw a tremendous prairie fire and learned that in the
threatened country there was a settler with a wife and ten children, but
he was warned by other settlers that it would be foolhardy to try to
reach the doomed homestead. It was his to make the attempt, however, and
fortunately he arrived at the settler's dwelling ahead of the
conflagration, and helped plow a fire guard. Conradi then started a back
fire with the assistance of the settler and his family. This did not
prove successful, however, and the torrent of flame rolled 011. The
smoke and flames were so thick it was impossible to see more than a few
yards. The constable ran through the fire and found the women and
children in a slough. Two of them he carried away and the rest he led to
what proved a place of safety, though they were nearly suffocated.
Conradi was badly burned himself, and lost his own horse. The settler
reported the affair to the authorities, stating that he and his family
owed their lives to the constable.
Some of the reports of the activities
of the force are most pathetic, especially those referring to the care
of the all too numerous unfortunates whom the solitude and hardships of
the wilderness have bereft of reason. Almost all westerners will be
familiar with the story of Constable Pedley's heroic conduct on behalf
of such an unfortunate and of the fearful cost at which lie did his
duty. This officer was stationed at Fort Chipeweyan, and in that
far-away region in 1904 a Presbyterian missionary went insane. Pedley
took him in charge and on December 77th set out with his demented
prisoner for Fort Saskatchewan, five hundred miles away. The madman was
refractory in the extreme. For a time he refused nourishment and had to
be fed forcibly. Sometimes he had even to be carried. At all times he
had to be watched and guarded with the utmost vigilance. Pedley reached
his destination on January 7, 1905, and the unhappy missionary was
turned over to the care of physicians, and in due time entirely
recovered his reason. Meantime, his rescuer commenced his return trip to
Fort Chipeweyan, but before reaching that post the hardships of the trip
and his anxiety for the safety of his charge had produced their effect.
At Lac La Biche he himself went violently insane. He was committed to
Brandon Asylum. It is a relief to know that kindly care and skill at
length restored him to such an extent as to enable his return to his
duties. When his term of service expired he was reengaged.
The official reports teem with such
cases. One more I cannot refrain from recording in at least its bald
outlines. Far away in the Haye River country a man went insane and
Corporal Field sallied forth from Fort Chipeweyan to his rescue,
subsequently reporting as follows under date of January 30, 1906:
"A few days before Christmas some of
the Indians from the North were coming into Chipeweyan. A man named
William Brown found out. where they were going and immediately followed
them, carrying neither blankets nor provisions with him. ... I went out
in search of him and found him wandering about on the lake. I saw at
once that the man was insane, and unfit to be at large. I took him
across and put him in the guard room. I thought possibly after a few
days' rest with good food he would get around again. . . . January
second he took a very bad turn, becoming a raving maniac, refusing food
or nourishment of any kind. I made preparations and started for Fort
Saskatchewan as soon as possible with him, as I saw he required medical
attendance. January 11 I left Chipeweyan with lunatic Brown and Special
Constable Daniels, and the detachment dog train. I also had to hire
another man with his team of dogs to carry the provisions and dog food
for the trip. ... I arrived at Lac La Biche January 24. I left the train
dogs here with the Hudson's Bay Company to be fed until my return. I
hired a team and left the following day for Fort Saskatchewan, arriving
on January 29."
Commissioner Perry adds the information
that the round trip was over a thousand miles.
The Charles King murder occurred in
September, 1904. In October of that year King rode through an Indian
reservation in the vicinity of Lesser Slave Lake, northward bound. The
Indians noticed that the white man's dog seemed unwilling to follow—a
circumstance that was sufficient to rouse suspicion on the part of the
observant natives. Chief Moostoos heard shortly after that when the
traveller had been at Swan 11 ill the Indians there had seen a companion
with him. Moreover, shooting had been heard, and King had been noticed
to have built a camp-fire of most unusual proportions. Moostoos laid his
information before the police and a careful investigation was initiated.
In the ashes of the camp-fire were found human remains. There was a
marsh near by, and it was searched inch by inch by the Indians. In it
were found a pair of shoes, a gold nugget and a portion of a needle, of
which the other half had been found in the ashes of the fire. King was
promptly placed under arrest, brought to Fort Saskatchewan, tried, found
guilty and hanged. The moral effect of this remarkable incident and of
the part played in it by the Indians was very important.
The lawless element were kept aware
that no region of Canada's mighty domain was too remote to be reached by
the red-coated guardians of Pax Britannica. In 1904 Inspector Genereux,
of Prince Albert, was notified of a mysterious death in the remote North
and promptly set out to investigate it. In due course he held a
coroner's inquest in the wilderness and established that the death had
been accidental. Having thus cleared up the mystery, he returned to
Prince Albert 011 January 7, 1905, after an absence of one hundred and
thirty-two days, during which he had travelled one thousand seven
hundred and fifty miles by dog train and canoe. Such exploits are almost
numberless in the history of the force.
Superintendent Dean, in 1896, reported
the return to Canada of a large number of Indian refugees expelled from
American territory, into which they had fled after the rebellion of
1885. They were rounded up by American cavalry and brought to the
boundary. Much amazement was shown by the American military forces and
much amusement caused in the country when a couple of Mounted Policemen
would replace fifty American cavalrymen at the boundary line to
undertake the escort duties across the prairie. Among the returning
Indians were found some of the Frog Lake murderers, who were immediately
arrested, but no one was molested for participation in the rebellion
itself. The repatriated Indians caused 110 trouble at all. For example,
Sergeant Caudle with two constables and a wagon escorted one hundred and
twenty of the refugees, with three hundred and eight horses and
twenty-five vehicles, a distance of one hundred and fifty-one miles.
Of course, it would be folly to suppose
that, in a force as large as the Royal North West Mounted Police,
scattered over so vast an area, and necessarily subject to so little
immediate supervision by their far-away superiors, mistakes, and
episodes more discreditable than mistakes, have not sometimes occurred.
The marvel is that they have been so few. An instance in which
mismanagement was all too apparent is that of Almighty
Voice. This was a well-known and
popular young Indian athlete whose farm was in the Prince Albert
country. In 1905 he was charged with a petty offence, and despite his
protests and promises to come without resistance, the police officer
insisted on handcuffing him. To be led into town a manacled captive
broke the heart of poor Almighty Voice, and transformed a good Indian
into a bad one. If this were the place, it might be shown that the young
Indian had still juster and more serious grounds for swearing vengeance
on the police. Presently he escaped from custody. lie was pursued and
tracked for several days by Sergeant Colcbrook, who overtook him on the
morning of the fourth day, and was promptly shot dead. Every effort was
subsequently made to effect the murderer's recapture, but without
success that season. In May of the following year a police patrol came
upon Almighty Voice after a hunt of almost a twelvemonth. After
seriously wounding a scout he took to cover in a bluff, where, with two
companions, he was finally killed, but not until he had slain Civilian
Grundy, Corporal Hocken and Constable Kerr, and wounded Inspectors Allan
and Raven seriously. In the final battle with Almighty Voice a
nine-pounder from Regina and a seven-pounder from Prince Albert were
Such occurrences as this have been
exceedingly exceptional. Indeed, the success of the Mounted Police in
dealing with desperadoes of all sorts is a matter of universal
acknowledgment. A hundred good and entirely authentic stories could be
told by way of illustration. For example, an interesting police report
for 1906 relates to the arrest at North Portal of a notorious "bad man"
known as Cowboy Jack. On the 17th instant, states the report, Corporal
Hogg was called to the hotel at North Portal to quell a disturbance. The
hotel was full of cowboys, who, under the leadership of Cowboy Jack,
were proceeding to enact the customary melodrama of wild-west-shows.
Hogg induced the ringleader to follow him into an adjoining room. When
they had both entered, the officer locked the door and threw the key
away. These details arc omitted in the officer's report, however.
Indeed, that document is delightfully laconic:
"On the 17th inst., I, Corporal Hogg,
was called to the hotel to quiet a disturbance. I found the room full of
cowboys and one Monaghan, or Cowboy Jack, was carrying a gun, and
pointed it at me against sections 105 and 109 of the Criminal Code. We
struggled. Finally I got him handcuffed behind and put him inside. Iiis
head being in bad shape, had to engage the services of a doctor, who
dressed his wound and pronounced it nothing serious."
Whilst the doctor was in attendance
Monaghan remarked that had Hogg not captured his gun, another death
would have been recorded in Canadian history. An official note also
records that "during the arrest of Monaghan the following Government
property was damaged; door broken; screen smashed up; chair broken;
field jacket belonging to Corporal Hogg spoiled by being covered with
blood; and the wall plastered with blood." The Toronto Globe in
commenting upon this report spoke as follows:
"It is too bad about the chair and the
screen, and we trust that the Government will promptly see to their
proper repair; and perhaps money for a new coat for Corporal Hogg can be
spared out of Mr. Fielding's big surplus of last year. If the Government
should in addition see fit to carry out Commissioner Perry's
recommendation of a grant of $25 to Hogg in recognition of his service,
the country will not disapprove."
A somewhat similar arrest which was
greatly appreciated by the citizens generally was effected by Constable
Lett at Weyburn in May, 1903. A desperado rejoicing in the title of
"Idaho Kid" undertook to "shoot up the town." Among other pleasantries
in which he indulged was that of compelling citizens to hold up their
hats while he shot holes in them. At the same time he announced that
there was nobody in Canada who could arrest him, and, indeed, offered to
put up a bet of $25 to that effect. Constable Lett rode in from Halbrite
and promptly captured the bad man, took his revolver from him and then
with the same weapon compelled him to hold up his hands while being
handcuffed. The same officer has frequently distinguished himself by his
courageous defense of law and order. In 1907 an Ontario desperado broke
jail and, when a subsequent attempt was made by county constables to
arrest him, his immense strength brought him off victor in an encounter
with three of them on the streets at Orangeville. Some time later
another attempt was made to secure him, but the outlaw drew two
revolvers and drove the constable away. The county council then placed a
reward of a hundred dollars upon his head and he hastily removed to
Saskatchewan, where he fell into the hands of Lett, now a sergeant. The
desperado's domestic arsenal consisted of a brace of revolvers, a rifle
and a shotgun, all loaded, which indicated that he had not anticipated
being deprived of his liberty quite so suddenly and peaceably.
In 1906 Canada was startled by the news
that the train robbing fraternity had perpetrated a "hold-up"—the first
event of its kind to occur in the Territories. This was a challenge to
the Mounted Police, and they were not slow to act upon it. The reply of
the violated Justice of Canada was given a few days later, when after an
exciting chase and effective exchange of bullets, the notorious American
train-robber, Bill Miner, was captured by the Mounted Police and
promptly consigned to the penitentiary. The easy trade of the
train-robber will never gain a foothold 011 the Canadian prairies until
the R. N. W. M. P. force is abolished!
In the middle nineties, as the gold
fields of the Yukon commenced to attract miners and adventurers from all
parts of the world, it became necessary to give special organization to
the work of the police in that part of Canada. It was determined in 1895
that a party of twenty inclusive of officers should be dispatched to the
Yukon for duty there, and Inspector Constantine, an officer of great
determination and ability who had been in that country the preceding
year, was selected to command, the other officers being Inspector
Strickland and Assistant Surgeon Mills. They left Seattle on June 5 and
arrived at their destination on July 24, where, at Fort Cudahy, after a
journey of 4,800 miles, they constructed their barracks. This year about
$300,000 worth of gold was taken out of the Canadian side. In his report
for 1896 the commissioner remarks that "we still occupy the Yukon with
twenty men, including officers, but communication has been so irregular
this year that we know very little about them." In 1897 this number was
considerably increased. The output of gold this year was about
$3,000,000, that of 1897-8 between six and seven millions, and the great
and turbulent flood of mining immigration was rising fast. Indeed in
1897 it was seen necessary to relieve Commissioner Herchmer from the
immediate supervision of the work of the Mounted Police in this remote
and difficult region and Major Walsh was accordingly made police
administrator for the Yukon. For a few years (1898-1901) the normal
strength of the Mounted Police detachment in the Yukon stood at 250, and
in 1902 this number was raised to 300. However, the detachment was
gradually reduced as during the first decade of the century the
extraordinary conditions of the preceding few years disappeared. In 1910
the force in the Yukon was fixed at fifty, the lowest strength since the
great influx of gold seekers in 1897. The relative security of life and
property in the Canadian as compared with the American Yukon and with
new and remote camps in other parts of the world has ever reflected the
highest credit on the Mounted Police.
When the first Canadian Contingent
sailed away to Africa to fight in support of British interests and
ideals, October, 1899, numerous ex-members of the Mounted Police force
volunteered. The recruiting of the second corps of Canadian Mounted
Rifles was entrusted to the Mounted Police and many officers and men
were given leave of absence to go to the front as members of this
contingent. Besides these, more than thirty members and numerous
ex-members engaged under Lieutenant-Colonel Steele, of the Strathcona
Nearly all of the officers and many of
the men who were granted leave for the purpose of joining the Canadian
Mounted Rifles of Strathcona Horse returned to the force during 1902.
One member of the force was awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous
bravery at Wolvespruit on July 5, 1900. This was Sergeant A. H.
Richardson, a policeman of C Division, Battleford. Superintendent S. B.
Steele, in command of the Strathcona Horse, was awarded a C. B. and was
made a member of the Victorian Order. Inspectors R. Belcher and A. M.
Jarvis were given C. M. G.'s and three other officers
became Companions of the Distinguished
Service Order. Distinguished Conduct medals were won by Sergeant J.
Hynes, Sergeant-Major Richards and Constable A. S. Waite. The North West
Mounted Police contributed to the South African War, all told, 245
members and ex-members, of whom four were killed in action and three
died of disease while in South Africa. The force also contributed
thirty-four men to the new South African Constabulary, of which
Superintendent Steele, C. B., M. V. O., was appointed colonel.
In 1904, in recognition of the services
of our Mounted Police in Western Canada and throughout the Empire, the
following was among the coronation honors announced on June 24: "His
Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to confer the title of
Royal on the North West Mounted Police."
"Peace hath her victories no less than
War," and every year of its existence the force is winning them. From
1902 onwards one of the most interesting portions of the annual reports
is that dealing with the more and more systematic supervision of the
shores of the Hudson's Bay and the Arctic Seas. It is the duty of these
lonely patrols to supervise the Indians and Eskimos; to collect customs
duties from foreign vessels doing business in the Bay; to maintain order
among the somewhat turbulent whalers; to succor shipwrecked parties and
relieve destitution in general; to convey mails; to conduct
explorations; and to fulfill many other useful and heterogeneous duties.
One R. N. W. M. P. post is 2,500 miles from headquarters!
A record was established in various
regards by Inspector E. A. Pelletier's patrol in 1908. On June 1 he and
his party left Fort Saskatchewan for Athabasca Landing, proceeding
thence to Fort Resolution on Great Slave Lake. Leaving that point on
July 1, Inspector Pelletier proceeded to Chesterfield Inlet, Hudson's
Bay, reaching that point two months later. At this point they were met
by a party in the coast boat McTavish, which was chartered by
Superintendent Moodie from the Hudson's Bay Company for the purpose of
meeting Inspector Pelletier and his party. Unfortunately the McTavish
was wrecked 011 the way to Churchill and the party was obliged to
proceed to Fullerton, where there is a police post, and there await the
freeze up. On the 29th of November they started with dog trains overland
for Fort Churchill, which they reached on the nth of January. There they
remained until the 7th of February, and reached Gimli, a railway station
on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg. On the 8th of March. The total
distance travelled by this patrol from rail to rail was 3.347 miles.
Commissioner Perry comments in his report to the comptroller that of the
many long and arduous patrols performed by the R. N. W. M. P., this had
been the most extended and difficult.
The hardships of the work in the Far
North was brought all too forcibly to the notice of the world when, two
years later, a party of police died of starvation. Ever since the season
of 1904-5 a police patrol carrying mail has been sent from Dawson to
Fort McPherson and back, in the Yukon Territory. In 1910 Inspector
Fitzgerald, who had had many years' experience in the Far North and had
thoroughly proven his fitness for such work, tvas given command of this
patrol. He left Herschell Island at the end of November and arrived at
Fort McPherson on December 3, where he spent a fortnight in making
preparations for the journey to Dawson. On December 20, 1910, he left
Fort McPherson with three dog teams of five dogs each, accompanied by
Constables Kinney, Taylor and Carter, the last named being employed as
guide. The party never returned. A relief expedition left Dawson 011
February 28 to search for the missing men. On March 21 the searchers
came upon the camp where lay the bodies of Constables Kinney and Taylor,
and on the following day the remains of Inspector Fitzgerald and Special
Constable Carter were discovered. Nothing in the annals of arctic
exploration exceeds in pathos the record of this ill-fated expedition as
contained in Fitzgerald's diary. The disaster was caused by the guide
losing his way. Moreover, as the party wished to travel "light" the
quantity of provisions proved inadequate. Fitzgerald's entry in his
diary for January 12 is as follows: "37 below. Fine, with slight head
wind. Sent Carter to look for portage, but he could not find it." Thus
commenced the tragic search for a pathway of escape from the mountain
wilderness in which the ill-fated patrol found itself. On the 17th
Fitzgerald says: "Carter is completely lost and does not know one river
from another. We have now only ten bags of flour and eight pounds of
bacon and some dried fish. My last hope is gone, and the only thing I
can do is to return and kill some of the dogs to feed the others and
myself, unless we can meet some Indians."
"13° below. Wednesday, Jan. 18. . . .
Killed the first dog to-night for dog feed. Hardly any of the dogs would
eat him, and we had to give them a little dried fish. Our food consisted
of a small piece of dried bannock and dried fish. . . .
"28° below. Thursday, Jan. 19. Very
misty, with a slight southwest wind. . . . We were at times ankle deep
in water. Killed another dog to-night. 21 miles.
"21° below. Friday, Jan. 20. Very
strong southwest gale all day. . . . Ate the last of the flour and
bacon. All we have now is some dried fish and tea.
"Zero. Saturday, Jan. 21. Strong gale.
. . . Killed another dog to-night. 20 miles.
"50° below in a. m. Sunday, Jan. 22.
64° in p. m. . . . Carter's fingers badly frozen.
"64° below. Monday, Jan. 23. Misty,
with strong head winds. . . .
"56° below. Tuesday, Jan. 24. Strong
south wind with very heavy mist. Left camp at 7:30 and found the river
open right across. Constable Taylor got in up to his waist and Carter up
t0 his hips. We had to go into
Settler signing K. N. W. M. P. patrol
book. From painting, property of Dominion Government.
Camp at 11 a. m. . . . Killed another
dog and all hands made a good meal on dog meat. . . .
"53 below. Wednesday, Jan. 25. . . .
Killed another dog; our food is now dog meat and tea. 18 miles.
"21 below. Thursday, Jan. 26. . . .
Going very heavy in deep snow and all hands and dogs getting weak. 8
"13 below. Jan. 27. Heavy snowstorm
with heavy mists. Camped at Waugh's tent at 2 p. m. Searched tent and
cache for food, but found none. Going very heavy. Killed another dog. We
have now only nine dogs; the rest are gone for food. 11 miles.
"45 below. Saturday, Jan. 28. Strong
south wind with mist. . . . Taylor sick last night and all day. Going
very heavy. . . .
"20° below. Jan. 29. . . . Killed
another dog to-night. Men and dogs very weak. Cached one sled and
wrapper and seven dog harnesses here. 10 miles.
"51 below. Monday, Jan. 30. . . . All
hands feeling sick; suppose it to be from eating dog's liver.
"45 below. Tuesday, Jan. 31. 62° below
in p. m. . . . Skin peeling off our faces and parts of body and lips all
swollen and split: I suppose this is caused by feeding on dog meat.
Everybody feeling the cold very much for want of proper food. 17 miles.
"51 below in a. m. Wednesday, Feb. 1. .
. . Killed another dog to-night. This makes eight dogs we have killed,
and we have eaten most of them. We fed what dried fish we had to the
dogs. 16 miles.
"7 above, in a. m. Thursday, Feb. 2. 23
below in p. m. . . . Got astray in the mist.
"26° below. Friday, Feb. 3. . . .
Killed another dog to-night. . . . Men and dogs very thin and weak and
cannot travel far. We have travelled about 200 miles on dog meat and
still have about 100 miles to go: but I think we will make it all right.
. . .
"52 below. Saturday, Feb. 4. . . .
Going very heavy and everybody suffered very much with cold.
"48° below. Saturday, Feb. 5. . . .
Just after noon I broke through the ice and had to make a fire. Found
one foot slightly frozen. Killed another dog to-night. Have only five
dogs now, and can only go a few miles a day. ... 8 miles."
Apparently at about this juncture
Constables Taylor and Kinney were unable to proceed further. Accordingly
a camp was made and Fitzgerald left with his companions what supplies he
could, and with the unfortunate guide attempted to press forward in
search of relief. As a matter of fact they were but thirty-odd miles
from friends and safety, but the task was an impossible one.
In Inspector Fitzgerald's pocket was
found the following pathetic document, written with a piece of charred
"All money in despatch bag and bank,
clothes, etc., I leave to my dearly beloved mother, Airs. John
Fitzgerald, of Halifax. God bless all.
"F. J. Fitzgerald, R. N. W. M. P."
Such is the story of the saddest
tragedy that has overtaken the North West Mounted Police Force in all
its history. All Canada and especially all Westerners were plunged in
mourning. In the following year a bronze tablet mounted upon a marble
slab was unveiled by Lieutenant-Governor Brown in the chapel at the
barracks of the Royal North West Mounted Police, Regina. Upon it are
inscribed the following words:
"In memory of Inspector Francis Joseph
Fitzgerald; Constable George Frances Kinney; Constable Richard O'Hara
Taylor; and Special Constable Sam Carter; who lost their lives in the
discharge of their duty on patrol from Fort McPherson to Dawson,
February, 1911. Erected by their comrades."
It is to be remembered that equally
dangerous journeys are made by members of the police force every year.
In the same report in which the commissioner tells the story of the
Fitzgerald disaster may be found the record of the 700 miles and return
journey made by Sergeant Hayter from Fullerton, along the west coast of
Hudson's Hay, to Rankin Inlet, to meet Sergeant Borden coming from Fort
Churchill with mail and taking the census of the Eskimos. Sergeant
Walker journeyed from Fort Churchill to York Factory and return;
Sergeant Nicholls from Norway House to Fort Churchill and return;
Sergeant Edgenton from Split Lake to Fort Churchill —three days without
food; Sergeant Munday from The Pas to Lac du Brochet and return—900
miles in 51 clays; Sergeant MacLeod from Fort Vermillion across the
terrible mountains to Great Slave Lake. All these heroic officers were
performing definite police duties; carrying mails, supervising Indians
and maintaining law, whether in the remotest districts of Canada. In the
performance of such tasks tragedy is ever an immediate possibility, but
service in these trying posts, far from being avoided, is ever an object
of desire among the members of our famous force.
The strength of the force has varied
greatly from time to time. It numbered ".-300 men in 1873; in 1SS2, with
the advent of the railway, the ' strength'tfas increased to 500, because
of the new responsibilities thrown upon the police by the advance of
settlement. In 1885 the membership was raised to 1,000, at which it
stayed for a decade, when it was gradually reduced to 750. I11 1S9S the
gold discovery in the Yukon resulted in the increase of the force in
that territory to 250 men. In 1902 fifty more men were drafted from the
Territories to the Yukon. However, the authorized strength of the force
was now made Soo. The population of the Territories had doubled and the
strength of the force been cut in two in the preceding decade, though
new conditions were continually increasing the work of the police and
the responsibility necessarily placed upon its individual members. In
1912 there were five divisional posts and 82 detachments in Alberta,
with 252 men; 4 divisional posts and 87 detachments in Saskatchewan,
with 335 men; and 67 other members scattered through New Manitoba and
the Far North.
In the spring of 1906 the comptroller
and the commissioner interviewed the governments of Alberta and
Saskatchewan with the result that these provinces and the Federal
Government entered into an agreement by which it was arranged that a
strength of 500 men was to be retained in the two provinces for a term
of five years. Each Provincial Government was to contribute $75,000
towards the maintenance of the force. These terms were renewed in 1911.
On May 15, 1912, a very large portion of the Territories north of
Manitoba was annexed to that province, but the services of the Mounted
Police were retained by the Government of .Manitoba on terms similar to
those involved in the agreement with Saskatchewan and Alberta.
From time to time busybodies
unacquainted with conditions in our Great North West, and ignorant of
the work of the Mounted Police and of the advantages in prestige and
influence which they enjoy, as compared with any other possible body
that might take over their duties, have talked of withdrawing the force
from the Saskatchewan and the other prairie provinces. Such proposals
have always met with indignant remonstrance on the part of Westerners
and all others who know the country. Long may the great force flourish
and enjoy the affectionate admiration of the land it has served so well!
The space limits set for the present
sketch have already been passed and the temptation to linger over our
theme must be resisted. ' Many interesting and important topics bearing
upon our subject have been regretfully but rigorously excluded, with a
view to necessary brevity. No attempt has been' made to formulate
evidence indicative of the relative value of the services of different
members of the force, and its successive comptrollers at Ottawa have not
even been named. Men whose services to their country have outweighed
those of numerous contemporaneous cabinet ministers have been barely
mentioned or passed over in silence. In short. I have not attempted a
history, my aim has simply been to present a picture. I have not tried
to sketch the careers of its distinguished members; I have merely sought
to indicate something of the work in which they and their humblest
colleagues in the force have been engaged. Where individual officers and
their exploits have been alluded to, they are to be taken as merely
representative of the many similar devoted public servants and deeds of
heroism that have made the R. N. W. M. P. the pride of Canada.