"Wishing you the season's compliments, "I remain, "Yours very truly, "JNO. M. EGAN."
Taken together these letters, with tributes from two such men, more than substantiate the claims we have made for the part played by the Police in that critical era of Western Canadian history.
It is anticipating in order of time, but this is our railway chapter, and so we note here another service of enormous value rendered the railway by the men in scarlet and gold. The road was completed in 1886 from Montreal to the West Coast, and people used to wonder how this railway, traversing some 3,000 miles across lonely prairie and lonelier mountains, escaped having its trains held up by robbers, as was so frequently the case in other countries. The reason emerged in a report given by Superintendent Deane, of Calgary, and that reason was the preventive power of the presence and prestige of the Mounted Police. Deane, in his annual report for 1906, refers to the only effort that had ever been made to rob a train, and starts with the following revealing statement: "It has for years been an open secret that the train-robbing fraternity in the United States had seriously considered the propriety of trying conclusions with the Mounted Police, but had decided that the risks were too great and the game not worth the candle. After the object lesson they received last May, it may be reasonably hoped that railway passengers will be spared further anxiety during the life of the present generation at least." And Deane's hope has been justified.
The special event of May to which he refers was a train robbery at Kamloops in British Columbia by a notorious train-robbing expert, Bill Miner, alias Edwards, etc., assisted by two gunmen, William Dunn and Louis, alias "Shorty" Colquhoun. A robbery had been committed by the same parties before nearer the coast, but it had been dealt with by local authorities and no trace of the robbers was found. However, the railway authorities were now thoroughly alarmed and, though the Provincial Police, one of whom, Fernie of Kamloops, did good work, were on the trail, were not inclined to take any chances. Accordingly, a wire was sent by C.P.R. Superintendent Marpole to General Manager Mr. (later Sir) William Whyte, of Winnipeg, who in turn telegraphed to Commissioner Perry, of the Mounted Police, asking that a detachment of his men be put on the work of hunting the robbers who had escaped into the difficult country south of Kamloops. Perry wired Calgary for two detachments to be in readiness, and left to take charge of the arrangements. From Calgary Inspector Church, with Sergeant Fletcher and ten men left for Penticton, so as to cut off the escape of the robbers over the boundary line. The Commissioner left for Kamloops, accompanied by Staff-Sergeant J. J. Wilson, Sergeants Thomas and Shoebotham, Corporals Peters and Stewart, Constables Browing and Tabateau, Wilson being in charge of the detachment. The weather was bad, the horses they secured at Kamloops were poor, but despite these handicaps this posse came on the robbers within forty-eight hours. The outlaws were armed to the teeth, but when they were discovered off guard were in the bush at dinner. Wilson reported what happened as follows:
"We all dismounted, leaving the horses standing, went into the bush and found three men eating dinner. I asked them where they came from. The eldest man, who afterwards gave the name of Edwards, said, 'Across the river.' I asked them where they were before that. Edwards said, 'From over there' (pointing towards Campbell meadows). I asked how long since they had left there. Edwards said, 'Two days.' I then asked them what they were doing. The one who afterwards gave the name of Dunn, answered, 'Prospecting a little.' I then said, 'You answer the description given of the train-robbers and we arrest you for that crime.' Edwards said, 'We do not look much like train-robbers.' Just then Dunn rolled over and said, 'Look out, boys, it is all up,' and commenced to fire his revolver. I immediately covered Edwards. Corporal Peters was standing close to Colquhoun, who was reaching for his revolver, and he covered him and ordered him to put up his hands, at the same time snatching away Colquhoun's revolver. Sergeant Shoebotham, Corporal Stewart and Constable Browning ran after Dunn, firing as they went, he returning the fire as he ran. After some twenty shots had been exchanged Dunn fell into a ditch and threw up his hands, saying, 'I am shot.' The men ceased firing and took two revolvers from Dunn. On taking him out of the ditch it was found he had been shot in the calf of the leg, the bullet going right through."
The Mounted Men brought the whole gang into Kamloops, refusing to give them up to anyone till they landed these desperadoes in jail, whence they were taken to serve sentences in the penitentiary.
It is interesting to note that at that time Mr. Marpole, in a statement issued to the press, strongly advocated the extension of the Mounted Police Force to other parts of Canada in addition to the Middle West. In recent years that has been done, and the result has been enormously beneficial, as we shall later consider.
And so Deane's expectation, as we indicated, was fulfilled, for, except for the clumsy efforts of a couple of foreigners, the train-robbers have evidently concluded to give a wide berth to any region where the Mounted Police stand for British Law.
And it is not inappropriate at the close of this railway chapter to quote Steele's account of the ride given him out of compliment to his work and that of the Police generally, on the train which was the first to go through to the coast after Donald A. Smith had driven at Craigellachie in November, 1885, the spike which united the two oceans across Canada. Steele was back on duty in the mountains again and, as he knew some of the party, was invited to go through from Kamloops on a private car with Mr. Dickey, the government engineer, and the manager of construction on the coast end of the huge undertaking. And Steele writes in his most interesting book, Forty Years in Canada, "Dickey knew the Manager well, which was sufficient to ensure a warm welcome, and the train rushed along at the rate of 57 miles an hour, roaring in and out of the numerous tunnels, our short car whirling round the short curves like the tail of a kite, the sensation being such that when dinner was served Dickey, the manager and I were the only men in the car who were not suffering from train sickness. I think this was one of the wildest rides by train any of us ever took. Many years have passed since that memorable ride, and to-day one goes through the mountains in the most modern and palatial observation cars, but the recollection of that journey to the coast on the first train through is far sweeter to me than any trips taken since. It was the exultant moment of pioneer work, and we were all pioneers on that excursion." And we add again all due honour to the famous corps that had watched over the destinies of the long steel trail.
Some years ago a well-known Senator told me that he was at a dinner party in Sir John Macdonald's house in Ottawa, when a telegram was delivered to the Premier at the table. He read it and put it under his plate. Nothing could be gained by throwing that bombshell in the midst of his guests. But in a few minutes, as the friends were saying good-night, Sir John came to the door with the Senator and said, "Mac, there's the very mischief to pay in the North-West." The wire had communicated the news of the Duck Lake fight, by which the rebellion, under that mad egoist, Louis Riel, was publicly staged in its opening act. And the Senator told me he recalled for all the years that followed the look on the Premier's face as one of pained surprise and unexpected shock. If the Senator was a good reader of faces and read that expressive countenance aright, he could doubtless see indications of pain, for Sir John was a tender-hearted man. But, if he saw surprise on the face of the Premier, it is proof positive that official pigeon-holes in the West had not divulged their secrets to Ottawa, or that his subordinates were hoping to quell the discontent of the half-breeds on the Saskatchewan without worrying the "old chieftain" unduly.
And this we say because the outbreak of rebellion was a surprise to Western residents only in the sense that the resort to arms was considered unlikely. But every one knew something of the discontent. The Mounted Police saw it coming to a head, and Superintendent Crozier, who was in command at Fort Carleton, on the North Saskatchewan, has reported in July, 1884, some eight months before the outbreak, that Riel had been brought from Montana to champion the "rights" of the half-breeds. Superintendent Gagnon, who understood their language well, reported as to Riel's presence and the discontent of the half-breeds more than once. The causes of the discontent were not far to seek. Many of the half-breeds on the South Saskatchewan were the same who had taken part in Riel's first rebellion on the Red River fifteen years before. They were not people of a settled temperament. They did not take naturally to the farm. There was enough of the Indian blood in them to make them nomadic hunters rather than settlers, and enough of the fiery volatility of French blood to make them susceptible to the appeals of aggressive agitation. And Riel, though not specially anxious to fight himself, was a past master in stirring others up to get into conflicts. And when Superintendent Crozier notified the Government that this hot-headed, vain but magnetic agitator had come amongst his old compatriots, steps should have been taken to deport him, or otherwise put him where he could do no harm.
Gagnon was quite right when he stated later that the main cause of the discontent amongst the half-breeds was the introduction by the Government of the rectangular survey of land on the prairie. Under this system settlers had to hold their farms in square blocks of 160 acres or more, and in consequence such settlers would be necessarily some distance apart. This was not to the mind of the half-breeds, who were more given to social gatherings than to agriculture, and who preferred the old survey that they knew on the Red River and the Assiniboine, where their holdings were in narrow strips fronting on the river and running two miles back. To introduce this on the prairie, the Government contended, would lead to confusion, and so it was easy for the agitator to stir up discontent amongst these inflammable people who had always been accustomed to the freedom of the plains. It was easy for the orator to say that the Government was trying to break up their old social customs, and when such a statement was followed up by saying that their patents giving them title to land were being long delayed, and that possibly they would never be granted at all, a live coal had fallen on material as combustible as the dry grass on the prairie. And once the half-breeds began to consider revolt it was not hard for them to stir up certain bad Indians with the proposal that by combining they could drive out the whites and have the country to themselves again.
In any case our main interest in this book is the story of the Mounted Police, and we repeat that they did their duty in warning the authorities a long distance ahead. When their warning was not heeded and the flame of rebellion broke out, they, as this story will show, did more than their share in putting out the fire where it had started, and in preventing it from spreading, as it might have done, over the whole country.
We have quoted Superintendent Crozier's warning. Let us notice also the testimony of another experienced officer, Superintendent Sam B. Steele. It appears that in 1884, when Steele was still in command at Calgary, Mr. Magnus Begg, Indian agent of the Blackfeet, reported that the former friendly attitude of those Indians seemed to be changing to one of sulkiness and hostility. Steele asked him about a certain half-breed who had been with Riel in Montana, and Begg, on being given the description, said he was in the camp with Chief Crowfoot. Steele sent and had this half-breed arrested, but he escaped by making a leap from the train. And when next day Colonel Irvine and Superintendent Herchmer came to Calgary to take over the command from Steele, who was under orders for duty in the mountains, he reported the facts to them with his conviction that the half-breed was one of Riel's runners trying to stir up the Indians. They asked Steele to stay over and arrest him in Crowfoot's camp, and taking two men with him, Walters and Kerr, well known for their strength and reliability, he went to the camp, and, through L'Hereux, the interpreter there, demanded the half-breed, whom he found in Crowfoot's tent. Crowfoot, with the half-breed beside him and his chief men around him, had evidently been imposed upon by sinister Riel propaganda, and seemed to be quite hostile. He sprang up and faced Steele threateningly as he entered the tent, but the giant policeman waved him back and told him it would be the worse for him if he started anything, because he had come for the half-breed and that he was going to take him, as the Police always did when they started after a man. Then Steele, suiting the action to the word, seized the half-breed by the back of the collar, whirled him round, and, dragging him out of the tent door, handed him over to the two stalwart constables, who lifted him into the buckboard and drove away. Steele remained behind for a while, and told Crowfoot that he had been misled by the half-breed, and addressing also the hostile-looking band of Indians present, the Superintendent told them that the half-breed had spoken to them with a forked tongue, and that it would be sensible for them to remain friendly with the Government and the Police. Steele told Superintendent Herchmer, when he came back to Calgary, that he was sure Riel was going to make serious trouble, and that he had runners like this half-breed in other places amongst the Indians, and the sooner the Government knew it the better. So the Police were doing their part to forewarn the authorities, but the men at Regina and Ottawa either did not get all these warnings, or else they treated them too lightly.
And, accordingly, Riel, down at Batoche on the South Saskatchewan, kept up the agitation, and in the atmosphere of the adulation of his half-breed admirers his characteristic vanity asserted itself till, refusing to acknowledge the authority of either Church or State, he looked on himself as a sort of Divinely ordained leader. Rattle-brained as he was, he possessed elements of strength and magnetism enough to get a large following in a short time, and, assuming the name of "Louis 'David' Riel, Exovede," he took the aggressive by plundering some stores, arresting the Indian agent and others, and sending a flamboyant message to Superintendent Crozier to come with his men and surrender to the rebel chief. Crozier, who had done splendid service at Wood Mountain, Cypress Hills and elsewhere, was not the kind of man to surrender, but with the hope that he might avert trouble and incidentally give the Government time to mobilize the long-delayed reinforcements, he offered personally to meet Riel and discuss the whole matter with him. Riel, however, would not venture out, and so Crozier sent Mr. Thomas McKay, a well-known Prince Albert man and native of the country, to see him at his headquarters. When McKay reached Riel's council room at Batoche he found things at white heat. Riel told him excitedly that there was to be a war of extermination, during which the "two curses," the Government and the Hudson's Bay Company, and all who sympathized with them were to be driven out of the country. "You don't know what we are after," shouted Riel to McKay; "we want blood, blood—it's blood we want." McKay had a cool head and so sparred for time, till the rebel sobered down somewhat and then McKay left and returned to Carlton, where he reported to Crozier. Next day, in answer to a request from Riel, McKay and Mitchell, a merchant of Duck Lake, with Crozier's consent, met two of Riel's men, Nolin and Maxime Lepine (a brother of Riel's adjutant in the Red River revolt), who demanded again the surrender of Fort Carlton. This, of course, was refused, and in a few days rebellion was rampant, with this man, half-knave, half-madman at its head.
The first clash came on March 26, 1885, when Crozier sent out a small detachment of Police with a few civilian volunteers from Prince Albert, under the general direction of that experienced and fearless frontiersman, Thomas McKay, above named, to bring in to Fort Carlton some Government stores from Mitchell's trading place above mentioned. This little detachment, of some twenty all told, were met when near Duck Lake by that mischievous Indian, Chief Beardy, with his warriors and Riel's fighting Lieutenant, a famous half-breed plainsman, Gabriel Dumont, this rebel force being estimated by Duck Lake residents at between 300 and 400 men, all well armed, though all did not appear then on the field. A confab took place, Beardy and Dumont being very insolent, and endeavouring evidently to get Crozier's men to begin hostilities so that the rebels might wipe them out. But McKay, though boldly standing his ground, would not be drawn, and after a somewhat stormy interview, retired to Carlton, daring the rebels to follow.
In the meantime, the Commissioner, Colonel A. G. Irvine, a careful and conscientious officer, who had succeeded MacLeod in command of the Police in 1880, wired from Regina to Ottawa and got orders to take all available men, less than 100, and proceed to Prince Albert, as that whole section of country was exposed to the utmost danger. Irvine made a record march through slush and snow, outwitted Riel's forces at South Saskatchewan by going through their zone, and arriving at Prince Albert with horses so used up by the spring roads that a day had to be taken to get them able to go further. He had received word from Carlton that there was no immediate likelihood of trouble, but he lost no time in pressing on to that point, reaching there in the afternoon of March 26, only to find that Crozier had gone out that day to Duck Lake with his handful of police and civilian volunteers and had just returned after experiencing a reverse.
At that time, and later in his formal report, Irvine expressed keen regret that Crozier, knowing the Commissioner to be within 50 miles with reinforcements, had not waited. But Crozier had been true to the Police record of not counting odds when duty seemed clear. And so, when his first small detachment, under Thomas McKay, had come back, the Superintendent doubtless felt that unless he acted at once, the rebels would say that the Police could be bluffed, and would thus be able to call to the cause of the revolt hundreds of half-breeds and Indians, who would take courage from the apparent apathy or weakness of the Government forces. Besides this, it became known later that the volunteers from Prince Albert were anxious to settle the rebels, as their homes were menaced by the uprising.
So the Duck Lake fight took place between Crozier, Inspector Howe, with Surgeon Miller and fifty-three men of the Mounted Police, aided by forty-one civilian volunteers from Prince Albert, under Captains Moore and Morton, a total of ninety-nine on the one side against Gabriel Dumont, Chief Beardy and a force of nearly 400 half-breeds and Indians on the other. The rebels first used a flag of truce, and under cover of conference partially outflanked our men on the one side, while the rest of their forces were well concealed under cover of log buildings and brush. The thing was too unequal, and our men, after fighting in the open with the utmost coolness and courage against a practically hidden enemy, gathered up their nine dead and five wounded, who needed care, and retired in good order to Carlton. The loss of the rebels, who concealed their dead, was not known, but Gabriel Dumont was wounded by a bullet which plowed along his head and felled him to the ground. A few years later Mr. Roger Goulet, a famous loyalist French half-breed land-surveyor in Winnipeg, who was on the Commission to inquire into the question of half-breed rights, said to me: "The Duck Lake fight was worth while, because Gabriel Dumont's wound, which I saw later when he took off his hat to make an affidavit, cooled his ardour to such an extent that he was timid for the rest of the campaign, or the rebellion might have lasted much longer." Goulet's theory possibly accounts for the fact that Dumont, whose judgment was for a night attack on Middleton's camp at Fish Creek, gave up the idea rather swiftly when Riel did not seem to see its advisability. When Colonel Irvine reached Carlton, as related, and found out how things stood, the immediate thing to settle was as to whether he should hold that post or not. This was not hard to decide. Carlton was simply a Hudson's Bay post without population, while Prince Albert was the largest white community in the whole region. The people there must be protected as a first duty, and it was only fair to the Prince Albert volunteers, who had left their homes and came so splendidly to the aid of the little body of Police, that the latter in turn should not leave those homes exposed to the barbarities of the rebels now intoxicated by a certain success. Accordingly, Fort Carlton was abandoned. It took fire from a hospital mattress and an over-heated stove, just as the Police were leaving, and burned to the ground. Irvine and his men, with their wounded, arrived in due course at Prince Albert, which they found full of refugees from surrounding homesteads as well as the town. Most of these refugees were in the church there, which they had surrounded with a wall of cordwood in dread of attack. The women and children were wild with apprehension of possibly falling into the hands of Beardy's tribe. And there was a band of Sioux to the north that it was feared might at any moment assert their traditional love of the warpath.
HEADQUARTERS STAFF, 1921.
The Duck Lake fight, with its balance in favour of the rebels, encouraged Big Bear up near Fort Pitt to rebel and do all the damage he could, starting in with the massacre of nine white men, Government agents, etc., on the reserve and imprisoning the rest, including the Hudson's Bay factor and his family, who gave themselves up to the Indians at Fort Pitt. It stirred up the powerful Cree element under Poundmaker at Battleford, where depredations were committed, and where the white people barricaded behind stockades suffered siege and the imminent danger of famine and attack for many weeks. It sent its echoes down into the south-west part of the territories where the warlike Blackfeet confederacy had its centre. At each of these points, as at Prince Albert, the few Mounted Police that were on duty became a literal tower of strength. At Battleford, Inspector Morris, with his few men, organizing also a home guard, guarded nearly 400 women and children who sought refuge inside the stockade. And Constable Storer, riding out alone from that stockade, when all the wires were cut, though pursued for 60 miles, carried the dispatch to the relieving column at Swift Current. At Fort Pitt, in the Big Bear country, Inspector Francis Dickens, son of the famous novelist, with a mere handful of men, one of whom, young Cowan, was killed by the Indians, and another, Loasby, was wounded, held that Hudson's Bay post until the factor and his family and employees gave themselves up to the Indians, when Dickens, having no farther object in staying there, dropped down the river to Battleford and took part in the fight against Poundmaker. And away in the south-west, where the whole region was charged with the electricity of revolt, the masterly hand of Superintendent Cotton, a cool, courageous and diplomatic officer, ably assisted by Inspector Antrobus and Surgeon Kennedy, was able to restrain the most dangerous of the Indian tribes in the West. Superintendent McIllree commanded at Maple Creek and Medicine Hat, and kept a constant eye by scouting parties on the Cypress Hills region, and Inspector McDonnell's services at Wood Mountain were of much value. Superintendent Deane was in charge at headquarters in Regina, and did a great deal of important work in recruiting men and using his influence for peace amongst Indians, such as Chief Pie-a-Pot and others. Northward, in the Edmonton country, where there were great numbers of Indians, amongst whom Riel and Big Bear had runners, that experienced soldier, Inspector A. H. Griesbach, "the father of the Police Force," as he was often called, accomplished tasks of first importance by holding Fort Saskatchewan, where many settlers took refuge, and by assisting with the organization of the Edmonton Home Guards, as well as patrolling the whole region round about. No one who knew the situation as it really existed at that critical hour, could ever dream of apportioning honours differently to men who were actually in action and those who stood guard over helpless settlers, or prevented by determined diplomacy the uprising of the Indians in their localities.
Some who did not know the situation—arm-chair critics at a safe distance—levelled some darts of fault-finding at Colonel Irvine at Prince Albert, and I write a paragraph or two in reply, because I know whereof I speak. I have some reasons for claiming to know Prince Albert, which was founded as a mission and named by some of my relatives in 1866. At the time of the rebellion there were two brothers and a sister, as well as many other relations there whom I saw on my way down the Saskatchewan after the rebellion was over. They knew that some people in the East had raised the question as to Irvine remaining at Prince Albert during the rebellion. But they spoke with indignation in regard to all such critics, and said if these people who were talking in that way only knew what panic would have ensued if the Police had been withdrawn, and how likely it was that the whole settlement would have been pillaged and probably wiped out, the criticism would cease. If the British way is "women and children first," then the duty of protecting them against death or worse comes before the desire to save oneself from possible criticism. The Mounted Police, in over ten years' previous service on the plains, had established an unprecedented reputation for courage under all circumstances, and wherever in the rebellion time they had opportunity in the field, they shone out conspicuously as men who had no thought of self when fighting was the duty of the hour. In proportion to the numbers engaged, more men of the Mounted Police were killed or wounded than any other military body in the field. But when savages were on the warpath, and defenceless people, principally women and children, rushed for refuge to Prince Albert, Battleford or any other point, nothing could be so un-British, not to say inhuman, as to abandon them for the more exciting life on the field. Not only on Western plains, but in India and other such portions of the Empire, has this been exemplified. This much is said from the viewpoint of the ordinary sensible and chivalrous onlooker. But more can be stated.
When the rebellion started with the fight at Duck Lake, the Government dispatched General Middleton from Ottawa to the West. The plan of campaign outlined had three objectives. General Middleton was to attack Riel at Batoche, where the rebel headquarters were; Colonel Otter was to march from Swift Current to the relief of Battleford, where Poundmaker's band was in arms; and General Strange, a veteran of many years' service, was to mobilize at Calgary whatever forces he could muster and go northward into the Big Bear country, to relieve the Edmonton district, settle with Big Bear and release the prisoners he had taken at Frog Lake and Fort Pitt. Middleton, a good soldier and a brave man personally, was in the supreme command of all the forces in the field, including the Police, and it is not too much to say that he asserted that fact very strongly all through the campaign, partly because of natural disposition and partly because he under-estimated the value of the "raw soldiers" of Canada, as he called them in a famous dispatch. Withal, while he was totally unaccustomed to the kind of warfare he was facing, he was not given to receive counsel from those who did know, and from close personal contact with the situation at the time, as well as from careful study since, I feel that General Middleton rather resented the dominant place of the Mounted Police in the mind of the West, and was more ready to make some slighting remarks about them than to take their counsel. And this I say without seeking to disparage the general quality or the personal valour of the officer in supreme command.
Hence it was that General Middleton never intimated in any way to Colonel Irvine that he or any of his men should leave Prince Albert and come to the seat of war at Batoche. On the contrary, Majors Bedson and Macdowell, who made their way to Prince Albert from Middleton's camp by way of Carrot River, told Irvine that the General wished the Police to stay where they were and look out for the scattered half-breeds. And one day, when things were quieted around Prince Albert and Irvine made a reconnaissance in force to the south as far as Scott's, some 14 miles out, he was met by one of Middleton's scouts with a message to return to Prince Albert.
That the above represents General Middleton's general attitude is further attested by the fact that when Riel's stronghold fell and Middleton was on his way by Prince Albert to close the campaign by proceeding against Chiefs Poundmaker and Big Bear, he declined Irvine's offer to go with him with his men, who knew the country and the Indians at first hand. Irvine offered to take his men, carrying their own rations, and go a day ahead of the General, or to go on the other side of the river, but was refused. Yet orders came back to Irvine a few hours later to go to Carlton, which he did, arriving there before Middleton, and sending out scouting parties in search of Big Bear's band that, as we shall see in a later page, had been scattered by Strange's column. It was not long before one of these Police scouting parties had captured Big Bear with some others and landed them in the jail at Prince Albert. And it is rather interesting to recall that it was big Tom Hourie, a Police interpreter, accompanied by two Police scouts, Armstrong and Diehl, who captured Riel and took him into Middleton's tent at Batoche. It is also interesting at this point to reproduce an overlooked extract from a letter written by the Earl of Minto, who, as Lord Melgund, was chief of General Middleton's staff, and who, therefore, wrote out of personal knowledge of the situation. After speaking of our three main columns, this fine soldier, who was wounded on duty, says:
"Besides these three columns there was another force in the field—the North-West Mounted Police detachment, under Colonel Irvine, the value of which has always seemed to me underrated. The fact of Colonel's Irvine's force being at Prince Albert afforded a safe refuge to many outlying settlers, and, if it had not been there, the task General Middleton had to solve would have been quite a different one. Hampered, as Colonel Irvine was, by the civilian population of the settlement and by a difficult country, the possibility of successful junction with Middleton must always have been doubtful, whilst the moral effect of the force at Prince Albert was certain."
I have gone ahead of the history in mentioning the capture of Big Bear, the pursuit of whom is the record of General Strange's column which, as already noted, mobilized at Calgary. In addition to the 65th Rifles of Montreal, the Winnipeg Light Infantry, with whom I served, and some irregular scouts under Major Hattin and Osborne, we had two Mounted Police detachments, one from the mountains under Inspector Sam B. Steele, and the other from Fort MacLeod under Inspector A. Bowen Perry, the present able Commissioner of the Force. Both these officers, coming at that time under the command of General Strange in the Militia, were given the Militia rank of Major. Steele enlisted a number of men, mostly ex-Mounted Policemen, as scouts, his whole corps, thus augmented, being generally called Steele's scouts. Perry, who was selected by Superintendent Cotton on account of special fitness, brought with him a nine-pounder gun, which did unique service in demoralizing and scattering Big Bear's murderous and pillaging band, to whose outrages we have already referred. These two Police detachments became the tentacles of our column and the mainspring of its ultimate success.
Of the two officers Steele was the senior in years and in length of service. He had been in the Red River Expedition, and was in the School of Gunnery at Kingston, when he enlisted in the Mounted Police at its organization and worked his way up from the ranks. Powerfully built, he had all the appearance and carriage of a frontier soldier, accustomed to unexpected situations and always ready for any action that might be necessary. Perry attracted me first by his stalwart appearance and fine horsemanship. Even in a country where riding was a fine art, Perry was a distinguished figure on a horse, and later on I discovered that he made a point of doing everything well. He was a graduate of the Royal Military College, and had served with the Royal Engineers before joining up with the Mounted Police, where his genius for thorough administration and his general popularity raised him to the highest position in the Force.
The news from the North coming to us at Calgary, indicated that the whole country north of the Red Deer River to Edmonton and beyond was full of rather surly and hostile Indians, who would rise at any moment if they thought there were any chances of success. Hence, General Strange, a thorough-going soldier greatly beloved by all of us, determined to push on to Edmonton with all speed accompanied by Steele. We of the Winnipeg Light Infantry waited a few days till Perry could reach us from MacLeod, and then we also started north under his guidance. We forded the Bow River, but when we got to the Red Deer we found it flooded by the spring freshets into what our Adjutant Constantine, who later did such splendid service with the Mounted Police, called, in warning the men, "a wide, swift-flowing and treacherous stream." Strange had crossed before the river rose, but how we were to get over was a problem. Our chances of getting on to the north looked slim. It was well that Perry, whose service with the Royal Engineers meant something, was along in command of the column. He decided to throw a rope across with the little skiff, which was the only thing in sight and then construct and cross by a swinging raft. The raft was constructed under his direction, and his own detachment of Police, with the gun and ammunition and harness put on board. Of course, he went himself, as he never asked his men to go anywhere without him. Things went fairly till near the other side, when the rope made out of the picketing lines of the horses broke by binding round the tree, from which it was being paid out, and the raft began to go down the raging current. At the risk of their lives Perry and Constable Diamond, grasping another rope, plunged into the torrent and managed to reach the shore and fasten it to a tree. But the current was too strong and this rope gave way. The boat went down a mile or so and, being caught in an eddy, was beached, and the stuff on board dragged up a steep cut bank. Then Perry commandeered lumber from a primitive saw-mill down the river, and built a ferry on which, in a day or two, we crossed. In the meanwhile, as we were in the hostile Indian country, Perry had accomplished the difficult task of crossing the 65th Regiment in the little skiff, taking a whole dark night to do it. He kept our regiment on the south side till the ferry was built. He thus had both sides guarded against any attack. Once over the river, we made a quick march 100 miles to Edmonton, where General Strange paid a high compliment publicly to Major Perry for the splendid way in which he had overcome obstacles and got our relief column through in such good time. The people of Edmonton gave us a hearty welcome, as their position in the midst of a big Indian country was very serious for a time.
Big Bear, with the prisoners, was now treking away to the north, and it was our business to overtake him. The Infantry went down the river, while the Mounted Men went by trail near the river bank, or our clumsy, open flatboats might have come under fire. Forced marching, from Fort Victoria by Frog Lake to Fort Pitt, brought us to the scene of the Big Bear's atrocities, as we saw from the Sun-dance Lodge, the mutilated body of Constable Cowan and the charred remains of the nine white people who had been massacred at Frog Lake reserve. Fort Pitt was burning, but we saved two buildings. Big Bear and his marauding band in large force had kept up their retreat and vanished, but whether it was on the north side of the river, or the south side where they would effect a junction with Poundmaker could only be ascertained by scouting parties. Accordingly, General Strange at this point detailed Major Perry and seventeen men of his detachment (keeping the rest for the nine-pounder gun) to cross the river to the south side and move towards Battleford. It was not an enviable duty, and as the men crossed the river in the darkness and started their ride through a region that was supposed to be infested with hundreds on the warpath, it looked rather like a last patrol. However, after a hard ride they made Battleford to find that Poundmaker had surrendered, Middleton having just then arrived. Perry reported to Middleton with the information that Big Bear must be on the north side, arranged for a steamer to go up with supplies, which we needed very badly, and got on the steamer to return with his men. When part of the way back he got word that we were engaged with Big Bear, and so he landed his men and sent the steamer back to Battleford for reinforcements. After one of the most severe and risky rides of the campaign, Perry and his men rejoined us to find that his gunners under Sergeant O'Connor, and the nine-pounder, had made fine gun practice, and had been mainly instrumental in demoralizing the forces of Big Bear, with whom we had been in contact for two hot days. General Strange was much pleased with the way in which Major Perry had carried out the difficult reconnaissance with a handful of men.
Meanwhile, after our fight with Big Bear and his flight from Frenchman's Butte, where he had a strong and well-fortified position, Major Steele, with his mounted detachment, had made a rush to Loon Lake, where, in a rattling encounter during which Sergeant Fury was severely wounded, he completed the defeat of Big Bear. Two days or so afterwards our scouts crossed Gold Lake in birch canoes and secured the release of the remaining prisoners of Big Bear, the others having come in to our lines after the fight at Frenchman's Butte, where Constable Donald McRae, still happily surviving, was wounded, but refused to leave the field till he had exhausted his ammunition.
On the disbanding of the Alberta Field Force General Strange, who had served ever since the Mutiny, warmly commended the Infantry, and expressed the opinion that he had never commanded better soldiers than were in the Mounted Police detachments, ready for all kinds of duty.
Preceding the surrender of Poundmaker, already mentioned, at Battleford, the fight at Cut Knife Hill had occurred. Colonel Otter had made a swift march from Swift Current to Battleford and relieved the beleaguered garrison and civilians there. With Otter came Superintendents W. M. Herchmer and Neale with a few Mounted Police. And when Otter decided to go out and attack Poundmaker these, with the few who had been at Battleford, and those who had come from Fort Pitt under Inspector Dickens, made up seventy-five Police, who went on that errand with Otter, and some 200 of his infantry and artillery. Just why Otter went out has never been very clear, except that he possibly wished to punish the band of Indians and prevent a possible junction of Poundmaker and Big Bear. Anyway, the Police were under his command, and they went in obedience to orders, as was their fashion. And the Police, being the advance guard to Cutknife, and both the advance and rear guard on the return, as well as in the hottest part of the fight for seven hours, where they behaved with great gallantry, lost heavily in killed and wounded in proportion to their numbers. It is not any reflection on the gallantry of the other corps, who were totally unused to Indian warfare, to say that it was the masterly tactics of the Police which extricated the column from the ravine after Colonel Otter saw that it was not advisable to continue the conflict against the large force of Indians who had every advantage in position. A few days after this Poundmaker, who was a very splendid-looking Indian, and who had given the order to cease fire when Otter was retiring, came in and surrendered to General Middleton, and the rebellion was practically over, though it was still a few days before Big Bear was captured, as already related.
Perhaps there is no finer summing up of the services of the Mounted Police during the rebellion than that given by Dr. A. Jukes, Senior Surgeon of the Force, in his report at the end of that year. He says, "While I must leave to those whose duty as combatant officers it more especially becomes to record with sorrow, not unmingled with pride, the names and services of the gallant men who have fallen unflinchingly in the path of duty, I cannot withhold my humble tribute to the courage and fortitude of the mere handful of Mounted Police who, fewer in numbers than any battalion engaged in active operations, and generally far over-matched by enemies wherever it was their privilege to meet them, have left beneath the bosom of the prairie of their dead, 'killed in action,' a number greater than that of any battalion in the field, save one whose record, at least, they have equalled."
And one cannot close this chapter without emphasizing what has often been overlooked by those who do not know Western affairs at first hand. Looking back now over the years, one is not surprised to have to see that the collapse of the rebellion, instead of leaving the Mounted Police Force carefree, actually added to their burdens and ushered them into a period of pronounced and continuous strain. The Militia, which was made up of several thousands of men—infantry, artillery, cavalry—all were withdrawn and scattered to their homes in various parts of Canada. The Mounted Police stayed at their posts or moved from place to place, as required in a readjustment period. The defeated rebels and many of the Indians were in a sullen mood, the year had been wasted from the standpoint of producing anything for food, the Indians were off their reservations in some cases, in others the reservations had been laid waste, and the buildings that had been erected for their comfort had been burned or wrecked by themselves when the spirit of destruction arose as they went on the warpath. Yet the officers and men of this remarkable corps, without any cessation or furlough, took up the ravelled skein of human life around them, and with great patience, skill and tact, soon had things running smoothly again. It was a wonderful piece of reconstructive statesman-like work and, as it proceeded, both the half-breeds and Indians who had been disaffected began to regret deeply the action they had been misled by agitators into taking contrary to the advice of the men in the scarlet tunic, who had always been their friends, and who always had stood for the square deal for every one. It was not only not the fault of the Mounted Police, but largely through ignoring their long-repeated warnings to the Government that the rebellion had taken place. While it lasted these Police did their duty like men at great cost without ever saying, "We told you so." And when it was over they so comported themselves in the midst of a distracted population that it could never occur again.
In writing these chapters it is necessary to throw in a story or incident here and there out of the regular sequence in time, so as to relate cognate subjects to each other. Hence, as their names have all been already mentioned, it may be well here to indicate the terms of office occupied by the several Commissioners who have directed the destinies of the famous corps. With all of these, except Colonel French, who was the first in order, I have had some personal contact. The office of Commissioner has been held by Colonel G. A. (later Sir George) French from 1873 to 1876, by Colonel James F. McLeod from 1876 to 1880, by Lieut.-Colonel A. G. Irvine from 1880 to 1886, by Colonel Lawrence W. Herchmer from 1886 to 1900, and from 1900 up to date by the present Officer Commanding in the person of Colonel A. Bowen Perry, C.M.G. These all had their distinctive traits of character and each had his own speciality—foundation building, discipline, organization and so on—but they all meet on a common plane as soldiers and gentlemen without fear and without reproach. Of Colonel French we have already written—he was the layer of the corner-stone—and the after-history of the Police as a spirit level proves that it was well and truly laid. Colonel McLeod came into the command when the Indians, under changing conditions at home and amidst perplexing problems born of the Indian situation south of the boundary, had to be handled with unusual discreetness and care. And MacLeod was distinctly the man for such a period, of wide human sympathies, absolutely impartial and even-handed in his magisterial decisions and inflexibly courageous, he became to Indian and white man alike a sort of embodiment of the highest ideals of British administration.
Colonel Irvine had served with credit under Wolseley and was highly esteemed by his men. His commissionership fell within the stormy time of the second Riel rebellion, and despite the fact that he was not generously treated by the Commander of the Militia forces during that period, he emerged from it with an enhanced reputation and with the respect not only of his own men, but of all who knew how difficult and important his task had been.
Colonel Lawrence W. Herchmer, besides some service with Imperial forces, had been through some especially important work in connection with the Frontier Boundary Commission. This experience proved of much value to the Force and the country when he became Commissioner. Coming in the restless period succeeding the rebellion, Colonel Herchmer's contribution to Police history was his extension of the patrol system all over the vast territory under his oversight. A man of fine appearance and courteous bearing he was well liked and popular with the men and the community during his term of office.
Colonel Perry, the present Commissioner, has had the longest term of service in the supreme command. As his name will come up frequently in the remaining chapters of this story, we need not make special note of his work here. But it is not too much to say that owing to his outstanding ability and his wide range of general knowledge, as well as his keen perception, he has during his long term of office practically recreated the Force in many particulars. He has unusual power for getting to the heart of a situation by a sort of intuitive insight. He has the reputation of being able to grasp and analyse the contents of documents almost at a glance and seize their salient points for action. His decisions are thus made after rapid assimilation of the facts, and he expects his orders to be carried out with exactness and dispatch. In this he is not disappointed, as the officers and men under his command have such confidence in his judgment that they work out his plans with enthusiasm. He is fair to all classes, but will not tolerate movements that make for the subversion of the constitution or the wanton disturbance of law and order. Intensely Canadian, he is not insular, for few men in his line have read more extensively in the fields of history. Having made these notes on the men who have guided the Force, we can take up the story again where we ended the last chapter with the close of the second Riel rebellion.
As intimated at that point, the Militia Forces were withdrawn and the Mounted Police were left alone to deal with the problems of reconstruction and peace. Certain of the rebels who had been specially seditious and murderous had to be rounded up and dealt with by process of law in order that such unseemly doings should not again menace the safety of the settler and the march of civilization. It fell to the lot of the Police to gather the evidence, to secure the presence of witnesses, to furnish guards, and at headquarters in Regina the duties were very heavy. But these trained men worked with steady precision, for the lesson had to be taught that insurrection and murder were not to be tolerated under our flag. The men in the scarlet would see that whatever had been true of other frontiers, Canada was not to have a wild west or a wild north either. So the rebels suffered the due reward of their deeds. Louis Riel was tried and, despite the efforts of his lawyers, Lemieux and Fitzpatrick, brilliant men who came from Quebec to defend him and whose conflict with the Crown lawyers, B. B. Osler and Christopher Robinson, afforded a consummate spectacle of dialectic sword-play, this leader of two rebellions was executed at Regina. Several Indians, notably Wandering Spirit, who was the evil genius of the Big Bear revolt, were also visited with capital punishment. Big Bear himself, who had become decrepit, and the lordly Poundmaker, who sturdily maintained that he had only defended himself when attacked at Cutknife, were confined to the Stony Mountain penitentiary for a time, but released when a medical board decided that the change from out of doors would soon end their lives. Poundmaker was a splendid-looking man, stately and grave in manner, and his chivalry at Cutknife, where he ordered the "cease firing" when Otter was withdrawing, entitled him to consideration. I recall his pride in the long pleats of glossy black hair that adorned his handsome head. It was a graceful recognition of his gallantry that the authorities at the penitentiary, at the instance of the Department, left the fine locks of their captive unshorn during his prison term. At the suggestion of the Mounted Police officers many of the chiefs who had remained loyal were taken on a tour of the east, where they received many tokens of the kindly attitude of Canadians towards them.
I recall a story in that connection—a missionary story. It is in place here because no one knew so well as the Police what a large part in preserving peace in the rebellion time was played by missionaries like John McKay, of the Mistawasis Reserve near Carlton, John McDougall, of Morley, George McKay, of Prince Albert, Pere Lacombe and others. In the partnership of the Police and the missionaries the law and the gospel wrought together for good ends. The story was told a group of us by John McKay, to whose influence over Chief Mistawasis was largely due the fact that that powerful Cree chief, whose reserve was almost within sound of the guns of Duck Lake, did not join in with Chief Beardy and Dumont. After the rebellion, Mistawasis was one of the chiefs taken east as a reward for his loyalty. I recall seeing some of them being driven around eastern cities in cabs to see the sights. They preserved the usual stoical silence and evinced no surprise, but they missed nothing and when they got back home their tongues were loosed and for many a day they recited their experiences and told the story of the white man's great cities and manifest power.
Mistawasis, on his way home, met John McKay on the plains, and they sat around the camp fire late that night as the chief poured out his recollections of what he had seen. One thing had puzzled the Indian, though he had thought much over it. "The strangest thing that happened," said Mistawasis, "was in Ottawa, where some good people had a missionary meeting at a house, and they were singing songs, and a lady played on the singing machine (piano). At last they asked me and Star Blanket to sing. We both were ashamed, because we could not sing much. But I told Star Blanket I would sing what the missionary taught us out on the plains and I began, and all of a sudden the lady ran to the singing machine and began to play and then they all joined in and I was leading the whole band." "Now," continued the Chief, "how did they know in Ottawa the same thing you taught us out at the reserve in Saskatchewan?" And then John McKay told him the tune was "Old Hundred," which all good people knew, and that the company sang it in English words while he sang in Cree, but that they were singing the same thing. This delighted Mistawasis, who felt that he and the white people there were really one in the deep experiences of life. And that meant brotherhood to him.
But all the Indians were not like "Big Child," as this chief's name meant, and so the Mounted Police had strenuous work for some years after the rebellion, when scarcely a thousand of them had to patrol and guard a territory twenty times as large as some European kingdoms.
From the ably written and graphic Police reports for the years following the rebellion, one can visualize the changing conditions of the country. The outbreak had undesignedly advertised the wide West. The thousands of men who had come out on military duty, having spied out the wondrous fatness of the land, had gone back to the east to become unofficial immigration agents by telling what they had beheld. And so the tide of humanity began to flow over the plains towards the setting sun. This means that the buffalo were gone for all time and that game generally would become a precarious means of existence, that the ranch and the farm would supersede the open plain, that settlers would need much guidance as well as protection, that the Indians would have to be taught to stay on their reserves and make a living there, and that the half-breeds, who were no lovers of agriculture, would have to be weaned from their nomadic inclinations. In some parts of the vast country, as at Prince Albert, Superintendent A. B. Perry, who took charge there after the rebellion, states, "The general attitude of the half-breeds and Indians was one of regret for what had happened." All was going well, but in some other quarters there was a sort of sullenly defiant spirit abroad which took all the tact and the courage of the Police to overcome. It was fortunate that the officers and men of the Police had from the beginning so commended themselves to the Indians and half-breeds as exponents of fair play that these natives of the country never seemed to hold the Police responsible for the errors, delays or mistakes of any government.
In speaking of Police reports I would like the reader to bear in mind that, in addition to the reports furnished by the combatant officers generally so classified, commissioners, superintendents, inspectors and others, some of the most remarkable and important documents sent forward to the proper authorities, through the usual channels, were written by the surgeons and their assistants, and also by the veterinary surgeons. Men and their troop horses were companions on the long trails, and they both had to be cared for by sympathetic experts in each line. It was vastly important that both should be kept fit if the work was to be done, and of the two the men themselves were always more anxious about their horses than about their own comfort. Hence these health-preserving specialists were of peculiar value for the efficiency of the corps. And as they were men of education as well as keen observers, their reports bore the evidences of research, which made them treasuries of information.
As an indication of the way in which the Police showed that they were in the country not only to preserve law and order but to guide settlers in the interests of the country's development as well as for their own welfare, I quote from one of Commissioner Lawrence Herchmer's annual reports this valuable statement in 1886: "As a rule too little fall ploughing is done in the North-West, and there is consequently too much hurry amongst the farmers in the spring and large tracts of land are sown, but not sufficiently worked—nearly all the farmers work too much land for their strength. Very few of them made any use of the manure from their farmyards, and although at nearly all Police posts, farms are quite close, I am not aware that any manure is drawn from our stables by any farmers." This statement was amply justified and very much needed, as those of us who knew the country then can affirm. Many had rushed west with the idea of getting rich "quick." They spread themselves over too much land, they neglected fall ploughing and ran the risk of getting caught with frost next season, and they thought they could save themselves time and money by doing without a fertilizer and taking all they could get out of the land. No doubt Herchmer and his thousand men preached the gospel of good farming with effect, for not many years passed before the flagrant mistakes he pointed out were remedied, to the great benefit of the country which has become in large measure the granary of the Empire.
In patrol work the following from Superintendent Neale throws a little side-light on some of the frequent experiences of the Force in that period. The reference is to the "Old Man's River" in the foothill country in December. Neale says: "I had gone ahead to try the ice and found it unsafe. The saddle horses were then crossed, followed by the wagons, one of which, the hospital spring wagon, came to grief by the horses refusing to face the wind, trying to get on the ice and breaking the pole. Both men and horses were covered with ice, as the wind was very strong and bitterly cold. The stopping place at Kipp being only in course of erection, there was no place to go into, and the raising of a tent was an impossibility. However, the horses were placed in the shelter afforded by some haystacks, and after being dried and fed the men managed to get a cup of tea and then turned in with their horses." There is not much detail here, but one who knows that country at that season reads between the lines and shivers. And that the conditions might crop up at other dates is evident by a line in the same report which says that "Inspector Sanders travelled the whole distance from Lethbridge to Bull's Head coulee in a driving snowstorm." That would be a dangerous outing.
That others of the Police were taking note of new conditions for the benefit of the country, as Lawrence Herchmer did in his remarks on farming above quoted, is evidenced by a recommendation by Superintendent Steele, who says in 1886: "I wish to call your attention to the quality of wood used last winter for fuel, causing large fatigues, much waste and consequently great expense. This could be avoided by entering into coal contracts with people residing near the coal beds on the North Saskatchewan, who would be able to supply at low rates." Thus were these guardians of the peace keeping their eyes open and urging forward the proper industrial development of the country.
There is a striking and characteristic passage in a later report from Superintendent Perry, the general truth of which is just as vital to the well-being of the State to-day as it was when written not long after the rebellion. It appears that Perry and his men had traced and brought for trial a good many cattle-killers, mail-robbers and others, but found much difficulty in getting convictions in local court where jurymen and others seemed to have more sympathy with the accused than necessary. Perry sees the far-reaching danger of this attitude, and refers to it as follows: "I regret that convictions for the serious crimes were not secured against the guilty parties. Evidence was produced for the defence which could well be doubted. Not only has this case produced sympathy for crime, but in other cases, it has been plainly manifested. Petitions have been forwarded to lessen the penalties where laws of the country have wilfully and knowingly been broken. So notorious has this become, that it has disheartened us in attempting to secure criminal convictions. There seems to be an absurd idea that the dismissal of a charge means a snub to the Mounted Police, whereas it strikes home at the root of society and threatens the lives and property of the very men who jeer and flaunt." The frontier was fortunate in having men who saw and pointed out this tendency in time. There is the ring of a statesman in that declaration.
But Perry and his men were by no means deterred, even if feeling disheartened by that state of apparent sympathy with law-breakers. This is attested by the fact that when the first stage robbery ever accomplished in the territories took place by the holding up of the Prince Albert mail near Humboldt, Perry and his detachments under Inspectors Begin and Guthbert so combed the whole country in search of the perpetrators that this attempt to introduce the Jesse-James programme into Canadian territory was effectually discouraged. It took some time to land the robber, a man named Garnett, in the north country, who was given a long term sentence in the penitentiary.
The Police were always on active service, but the service was very varied in character. It is interesting to find this note in one of the reports of that period written by Superintendent Deane, then in command of the Headquarters District at Regina. "On the 15th of August it was reported to me that a child about two and a half years old, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Pringle, of Regina, had strayed from her mother, who was on a visit to Pense. A Police party was dispatched to search the neighbourhood. The child was lost on the evening of the 15th, but the loss was not reported to me till the following afternoon. The child was found on the evening of the 17th in some bushes a mile or two away from the house from which it had strayed, and beyond being somewhat frightened, was little the worse for the exposure." One can quite imagine the concern of these red-coated knights of the saddle for the lost child. They would not say much, but thoughts of food and sleep would be put aside till the child was found. What plan they employed is not stated, but I have seen men under similar conditions, mounted or dismounted, holding hands and swinging in compass circles on the plain so as not to leave a foot of ground unsearched. Deane's report is as above, but again those who know the country and the men will read between the lines and see these uniformed athletes quieting the fears of the little one and then going away to some other duty glad with the remembrance of the child and the rejoicing parents.
For a few years after the Riel outbreak there was a lot of unrest amongst the Blood Indians down to the south, where the proximity of the boundary line gave much opportunity to horse-thieves, cattle-killers and smugglers of whisky, but the watchfulness of Superintendents Neale and MacDonnell, Inspectors Howe, Sanders, Wattam, Sergt.-Major Lake and others checkmated every effort at lawlessness. Inspector Sanders made a clever capture of two Bloods, "The Dog" and "Big Rib," who were tried and sentenced, but who escaped to the other side of the line from the sheriff. This escape led some of the Bloods to think they could get ahead of the Police. In fact one of the chiefs, "Calf Shirt," brought in liquor from Montana and said he would defy the Police, while another Indian, "Good Rider," tried cattle-killing on the Cochrane Ranch. But the Police took a hand at this point. Superintendent Neale wired Superintendent MacDonnell for a detachment of officers and men, and MacDonnell sent Inspector Howe with twenty men to meet Neale with a like number at Stand Off. The result was that both "Calf Shirt" and "Good Rider" were arrested at two different camps, and each was duly tried and sentenced to a term with hard labour. This nipped the law-breaking in the bud. That was the Mounted Police way.
After this experience it is not surprising to read in Commissioner Herchmer's report for 1888, "There has been a remarkable absence of crime during the past year and, outside arrests of criminals from the United States, we have made no important arrests in our territory." This was the gratifying result of the thoroughness of the Police patrol system, and the natural sequence to the fact that there was not much use or profit in trying to thwart the law when these red-coated guardians of the peace were around, and as the Indians found that law-breaking did not pay, they turned to more profitable pursuits, in which they were encouraged and helped by the Government and the Police. Hence this observant Commissioner is able to say that "in all quarters of the territories the Indians are making rapid strides towards self-support." The day was coming when, under the same paternal encouragement, the Indians would be the prize-winners at the fairs on the plains where they had once hunted buffalo—a very remarkable transformation.
In the same year Herchmer calls attention to the highly pleasing fact that the introduction of the telephone would lead to an enormous saving of men and horses, and notes the able and diplomatic way in which Superintendent Steele, assisted by Inspectors Wood, Huot and Surgeon Powell, had quieted matters in the Kootenay country where Chief Isadore's attitude had discouraged settlement. With his usual social insight, Herchmer indicates that the Mormon settlement in southern Alberta, with its possible polygamy, will be the better of some oversight in the interests of British law. This latter was a wise decision, and led at least to the practical abandonment of a doctrine that had brought much odium upon that sect.
It is interesting to find in that period of the late eighties a letter to Superintendent Deane, at Lethbridge, from the Montana Stock Growers' Association conveying a resolution of "thanks to the officers and men of the North-West Mounted Police and also to the Canadian authorities generally for assistance given to many of the citizens of Montana in recovering horses stolen from our territory." And that the Police were just as ready and willing to see the Indians got their dues either way is evidenced by another entry in which Deane pithily says, "A Blood Indian named 'Mike' laid an information against a Blackfoot for stealing his horse. 'Mike' recovered his horse and the Blackfoot is now serving three months' imprisonment here." Touching on the question of smuggling near the boundary, Deane tells of a patrol consisting of Constables Campbell and Chapman who, between Pendant d'Oreille (evidently a place where people should step lively, for the Superintendent says it "bristles with rattlesnakes") and Writing-on-Stone. These constables came across a man named Berube with five horses and a wagon. His story did not sound well to them, and so they asked him to come to camp. He agreed with evident reluctance, and when he said he was hungry and his team tired, the Police told him to unhitch the team, mount one of them and come along to camp for breakfast. Then Berube wished to get his pocket-book out of the wagon, but instead he fished out a revolver and galloped away saying he would riddle them if they followed. Of course they followed. With the usual Police restraint they forbore to shoot. Campbell overtook the smuggler, but just as he ranged alongside the policeman's horse stumbled and fell, Campbell, leaping off as the horse fell and grabbing at the halter of Berube's horse, but failing to hold him owing to the speed. Berube again threatened the riddling process, but the constables chased him to a slough, where the smuggler's horse got mired, but Berube tried to lead him out. Campbell fired in the air, but Berube kept going, whereupon Campbell shot the smuggler's horse, and the patrol took Berube and his four horses into camp. Deane says that as the horses appeared to be glandered, he wired for Veterinary Surgeon Wroughton (now the able Assistant Commissioner), who declared the case virulent, and ordered everything destroyed. This was done, and Deane adds, "The slaughter and destruction were carried out by the Police, some of whose clothes suffered destruction in the process for which they, not unreasonably, look for some compensation." And we hope they got it. Handling glanders was almost as dangerous as either the bullets or the rattlesnakes.
Superintendent Perry, who with the good assistance of Inspector Cuthbert commanded in the Prince Albert district in 1888, made some specially valuable recommendations as to the future care of the Indians, and praised the work of the missionaries amongst them. He said, "The hope of improvement in the Indian lies in the training of the rising generation, and it is to be hoped that before long the children will be taken in hand." And Perry's recommendation then made as to Industrial Schools bore fruit not many years later to the great advantage of the Indian and the country as well. Thus were the Police doing social service work as their duties proceeded.
An interesting side-light is thrown on the changing conditions of the West by our finding that in the late eighties a detachment of Police was sent by request from that Province into southern Manitoba. This detachment, under Inspector J. A. McGibbon (recently Assistant Commissioner at Regina, now retired), who had done important work at Moose Mountain and other far western points, had headquarters at Morden. The business of this detachment was to patrol the whole country near the boundary line, to grant special "Let Passes" to people who were entitled to cross backwards and forwards, to prevent wood being taken from the Canadian side by Dakota settlers, and generally to stand for law and order. In connection with other work I was up and down that region a good deal in those days, and recall the sense of general security the scattered settlers had because of the presence of McGibbon and his men.
After five years in command of the Prince Albert district, which had been the critical storm centre around which the winds of the Riel rebellion had beaten fiercely, Inspector A. B. Perry, before changing to another command, makes another valuable contribution to the development of Western history when he writes some special paragraphs in regard to the future of the half-breeds. Game was disappearing and the occupation of freighting on the prairie was being rendered useless by the incoming of railways. Perry says, "The mass of the half-breed population must therefore turn their attention to other methods of making a living. They have no alternative: farming must become their occupation in earnest. The English and Scotch half-breeds have already done this successfully; but very few of French descent have yet made any real attempt at it." Perry was right. These people had the blood of the nomad and the volatile in their veins. Perry continues, "As farming is the inevitable pursuit of the French half-breeds, all who are friendly to them should agree in urging and encouraging them to remain on their present holdings, so that they may at once face their destiny and ultimately obtain the position of a self-supporting people. They should be treated with patience and aided generously, remembering that it is not easy for white men possessing all the advantages of education and civilization to change their occupation. Can the half-breed hunter or freighter be expected to be more apt in adapting himself to change? It would be an astonishing thing if they quietly and quickly adapted themselves to the work of a farm on which success is only obtained by hard, patient and continuous labour." And Perry goes on to advise special instruction for these people. And he concludes, "There is a tendency on the part of some to regard the problem of the future of these people as insolvable. Knowing their many sterling qualities I cannot despair, but believe their descendants will be prosperous and desirable citizens of our North-West Territory." Words like these could not be written by a man who contented himself with the routine duty of a policeman, but by a wide-awake Canadian who was anxious for the future of his country and his fellow-citizens, and it is because there were so many in the Force who saw these questions in the light of Canada's future that we have always placed the Mounted Police amongst the real nation-builders of this new Dominion.
And the decade which ended with 1890 finds one of the new pages in the story of the Police in the patrol by Inspector J. V. Begin across the stormy waters of Lake Winnipeg up to the bleak shores of Hudson Bay at the famous old post of York Factory. This patrol involved much hardship and danger, but it stabilized conditions in that remote Keewatin area. In this regard Inspector Begin's trip was successful, but during his absence in the north there occurred the wreck of the Police boat on Lake Winnipeg, taking down with it Corporal Morphy and Constable Beaujeu, to both of whom the Inspector was warmly attached. They were splendid young men, full of gallantry and courage, but they answered the last roll-call while in the discharge of duty in a Force that has always been on active service.
The decade from 1890 to 1900 witnessed changes and incidents that were fully up to the Police history record for matters of thrilling importance. In 1891 Sir John A. Macdonald, who was the originator of the Force, and who had always taken great pride in its splendid efficiency, passed away after a brief illness at the historic homestead, Earnscliffe, in Ottawa. Not even Sir John's most rabidly partisan friends had ever claimed perfection for their political idol, but I did hear one man say that he was so devoted to "The old Chieftain," that he was quite prepared to support him whether he was right or wrong. This was probably an extreme case, but it illustrates the extraordinary magnetism of the remarkable man who had been the chief pilot in taking the country through the shoals and rocks that threatened to wreck Confederation at its launching. Sir John's Canadianism was intense and so was his Imperialism, for was it not he who said, "A British subject I was born and a British subject I will die"? The undoubted political lapses in his career seemed to proceed from his being possessed with the idea that his presence at the head of affairs was so necessary for the well-being of the country that he should get there and stay there at any cost. His two great achievements in connection with Western Canada were his inauguration of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and his organization of the Mounted Police. This does not mean that in these two projects he had not the aid of others, for in some measure he had the support of even his political opponents, who differed from him in considerable degree on the railway policy, but who supported him in his proposal to organize the Mounted Police.
When I last heard this Disraeli-looking man speak, it was in Winnipeg, when he was making his first and last trip across Canada on the railway for which he had done and ventured so much. In his semi-humorous and semi-serious way he said, "I used to state that I never expected to live long enough to see the road completed, but that when my friends would be crossing the continent upon it, I would be looking down upon them from another and better sphere; my opponents said I would be looking up, but in reality to the surprise of both, I am doing it on the horizontal." On that same trip the veteran took great delight in seeing the scarlet and gold uniforms of his favourite corps on their "native heath" in the great prairie land of the West. Such was Sir John's interest in the Force that, despite his heavy duties, he retained the headship of the corps to the end of his days. In later years Sir Wilfred Laurier, Sir Robert Bordon, and the Hon. N. W. Rowell were outstanding also in their high opinion of, and their great interest in, the riders of the plains. In fact all public men who really understood the Western situation and the wide-reaching influence of the Police on Western history have always been ready to estimate highly the great services rendered by these remarkable men. During that same decade which rounded out the century Colonel MacLeod, who had been appointed to the Bench and whose fine character had endeared him to the Police and the country, crossed the Great Divide amid the grief of all who knew him. The Assistant Commissioner, W. M. Herchmer, who had throughout nearly thirty years served with distinction in the Militia and the Police, died much regretted, and was succeeded by Superintendent John H. McIlree, who retired in 1911 after thirty-eight years of most valuable service.
It was in that decade also that the gold-rush into the Yukon took place, as we shall see, and furnished a new occasion for one of the most remarkable periods in the history of the Police, replete with incidents of adventure and tales of endurance along with a devotion to duty and a triumphant enforcement of law which added immensely to the already great prestige of the Force, and made a record that not only astonished but won the admiration of the world. We will, however, review some notable events of that decade before coming to the Yukon.
Tragic but glorious was the fate of a young constable near Pendant d'Oreille, who was out on special duty when a blinding snow-storm gathered to the height of a blizzard across his path. Losing the way, the troop-horse stumbled into a ravine and broke his neck. But the athletic young policeman, who had developed muscle as well as mind in his university, extricated himself and struggled on in his determination to carry out his commission. The odds of blizzard and cold were too heavy, and the gallant lad succumbed in the unequal contest. But he would bring no discredit on the Police tradition, and when his body was discovered by a search party the following words, scribbled with freezing fingers, were found on a paper in his dispatch bag, "Lost. Horse dead. Am trying to push on. Have done my best." In the long roll of honour there are few more remarkable incidents than this of the young policeman battling with the relentless elements which some of us have witnessed raging on these Western plains. But he did not fail. From his numbing hands he had passed on to others the supreme duty of upholding the great tradition.
And then we can swing to another and lighter, but still very important phase of Police life. In the nineties Superintendent Steele, who was at Fort MacLeod, gives us some vivid and interesting pictures of social evenings in the winter, and out-door sports in the summer. The Police were leaders in these gatherings, but all the country-side turned out, and the barrack hall was thrown open on occasion for winter gatherings. There was wisdom in all this, for to teach people to enjoy proper recreation and play is to make them better citizens and more cordial one to the other. In the summer the Bloods and Piegans with their ponies and dogs attended the sports, and took active part under the general oversight of that incomparable scout and interpreter Jerry Potts.
In the roping of the huge wild steers there was much opportunity for the display of skill and nerve. When these big steers had been run out and had passed the line the cowboy on his trained pony followed at racing speed. His pony seemed dowered with full knowledge of the methods, and so watched the lasso thrown over the steer's head, when the wary pony, with all four feet braced to meet the strain, came to a sudden halt. This swift stop caused the steer to go heels over head and fall on his back, the pony holding the rope tight till the rider dismounted and tied the steer up in orthodox fashion, the pony watching every movement till the task was finished.
Bronco-breaking was a regular industry, and every meet of the kind just described had its bucking contents, but not after the manner of circuses with a few dispirited animals that go through a programme without springing any surprises on the rider. A real prairie bronco five or six years old, that had never been ridden or even handled since he was branded when a foal had no set programme. The rider never could tell what that bronco would do next. The animal might start away quietly, as if he was wondering what had gotten on his back when he was blindfolded. Then suddenly he would leap right up into the air, "swap ends," so the cowboys said, and come down facing the opposite way Then he might rear up and fall backwards, or throw himself down and roll over, but the rider was always on the bronco's back before he could get going again. This went on for some time, varied by a swift race out over the plain, from which the return would be made with the froth down over the hooves of the horse. Then the cowboys pronounced the bronco broken, but woe betide the unsuspecting tenderfoot who was tempted to get on the hurricane deck of what these men called a broken horse.
The Police were good riders and each Division had several constables who made a speciality of breaking refractory broncos. And the work was necessary because for months after the horse was first broken he would break out again on occasion. One day on our line of march to the north from Calgary, a constable after the noon hour stop found on mounting his horse that the bronco spirit was still existent, and that bucking was evidently the order of the day. But the policeman was ready. He banged the horse over the head with his hat and used the spur till the unruly animal made a few kangaroo-like leaps and came to a sudden halt at the edge of the hole where the camp fire had left a bed of hot coals. The rider was not disturbed by the shock, but the buckle of his cartridge belt gave way under the strain and the whole thing dropped over the horse's head into the fire. Those of us who were looking on lost no time in taking cover when the fire got at those cartridges.
Steele tells us in this same connection of an extraordinary feat of horsemanship he witnessed by Mr. Charles Sharples, of the Winder Ranch. Sharples had brought some horses to MacLeod to sell to the Mounted Police, and had them in a stable near the Old Man's River, where there was a perpendicular bank about 30 feet high. He started out to show one of the horses to the Commissioner at the Fort, but the brute bucked fiercely towards the cut-bank, sidling and fighting against its rider until at last there seemed to be nothing for it but to go over the bank side-on. That did not suit Sharples. He turned the brute sharply towards the precipice, gave it the spur and went out into space. Everybody rushed to the top to see what had become of this bold horseman, and were amazed to see him still firm in the saddle with the horse swimming towards the opposite bank, none the worse for his wild leap. Steele does not tell us whether Sharples made a sale of that horse, but he deserved to succeed in so doing. A horse like that would come in handy.
Perhaps the races and other sports inaugurated by the Police had their effect in discouraging the Indians from the barbaric Sun-dance which the Government sought to end as soon as possible, although not desiring to repress them by force. The Sun-dance was a semi-religious, semi-tribal festival for the purpose of enabling young braves to prove that they had courage and stamina enough to go on the war-path. While we were engaged in the Riel rebellion campaign we saw several Sun-dance lodges along the line of our march after Big Bear, these lodges being left standing with a view to frightening our men from pursuing braves who could demonstrate their courage in the way the lodge indicated.
The Sun-dance lodge was a circular wooden structure of poles with rafters coming together to a point above. From these rafters hooks were suspended by thongs of tough leather. The prospective braves danced around furiously within the structure in a frenzy of excitement, fastening the hooks in their skin and thus lacerating themselves till they sometimes fainted away. This performance was an annual affair on the general principle that they should be always ready for war. There was nothing in the festival that would justify a forcible suppression of it, which would offend the Indians by interference with an ancient custom. But the Mounted Police used their persuasive influence against it and showed the younger Indians how foolish and useless it was. Accordingly, we find Superintendent Steele, who was in command at Fort MacLeod, saying in 1891, "This year both Bloods and Piegans indulged in the time-honoured Sun-dance. From personal observation and careful inquiry I am convinced that this festival has almost entirely ceased to have any significance except to the old people. The vanity of the ancient warrior is no doubt gratified when he recounts his scalps, but there seemed very little interest and no enthusiasm on the part of his audience. The young Indians of both sides seem to look on the whole thing as an excuse for a picnic. Many Indians on the reserves did not take sufficient interest in the festival to attend it. Two braves were made at the Blood dance and none at the Piegans'." So this pagan custom was vanishing. It is now a thing of the past, but we must credit the Police with gradually ending it. About this period there were still some rumblings of discontent amongst the Sioux Indians south of the boundary line in the region of Manitoba. There were recurrent "scares" and many rumours of "Ghost dances" on our side of the line, in expectation, it was said, of an incursion by the Sioux, who were reported to be stirring up our Indians to commit depredations on the settlers. But the presence and the constant patrols of Inspector J. A. McGibbon and his men in the scarlet tunic soon restored the equilibrium of things and calmed the fears of the settlers so that they went peacefully on with their work. A literary outcome of the situation was the widely quoted and beneficially humorous utterance of a punster on the staff of the Winnipeg Free Press, who asserted that the Sioux (sue) scare was seizing a lot of fellows who owed money.
The relations existing between the Mounted Police and the American soldiery south of the line were always of the most cordial and fraternal type. Superintendent A. W. Jarvis, who was in charge at Lethbridge in the nineties, refers to this in one of his reports. He says, "Several deserters from the American army arrived here in the spring, but only one of them brought a horse. This was taken from him and was sent back to the officer commanding at Fort Assiniboine. This was the only opportunity I had to reciprocate the courtesy so freely extended to us under similar circumstances by the American officers at that post. These gentlemen have always shown themselves ready and willing to assist the Mounted Police by any means in their power." Speaking of desertions it was generally felt that a man who would desert was not really worth a search. So far as the Mounted Police were concerned, there were not many desertions, but there was probably more relief than otherwise when some unworthy man took French leave and escaped. Such a man was not wanted. The standing of the Force was to be maintained, and so the statement once made by Commissioner Lawrence Herchmer became a classic: "I want to see the Mounted Police Force to be the hardest to get into and the easiest to get out of in the world."
There is a fine human picture in another clause of Superintendent A. W. Jarvis' report already mentioned. He says: "On November 20 two boys, aged 16 and 10 years respectively, sons of leading citizens of Medicine Hat, were caught in a blizzard a few miles south of that town and frozen to death. Two days later the Police Patrol from Bull's Head found the bodies. Sergeant Mathewson remained alone all night on the open prairie to watch them and protect them from the cayotes, till the Police team came next day to take them to town." Mathewson had a lonely and dangerous vigil on the blizzard-swept plain, but it was characteristic of these big men to stand guard in such pathetic cases.
The same fine touch comes out in a brief medical import in 1892 from that able man Senior Surgeon Jukes at the Regina headquarters. It had been a time of stress in the hospital work, and Dr. Haultain, the assistant surgeon, had been laid completely aside by illness. So Dr. Jukes cut out the office work and let reports go in order to devote himself to the sick. Then Assistant Surgeon Fraser arrived from Calgary to help, and Dr. Jukes has time to send in a brief note before the time for having reports in the printer's hands expires. And he says at the end of it, "I am assured by the comptroller that in consideration of the enormous amount of work which has been thrown on me for the last three months, no censure can possibly be passed on me for having devoted the whole of my time to the sick under my charge and other professional duties, in preference to the writing of an annual report." Well spoken, Dr. Jukes, and the authorities saw the point at once. Reports could wait, but the sick had to be looked after at once. That, too, is a police tradition. Take care of the casualties now and report later.
That the Mounted Police Force was continuously progressive to ever higher efficiency was due in no small measure to the fact that officers and men were encouraged to be on the look out for improved methods and to feel free to suggest these to those in command. Superintendent Perry had been the means of bringing about a system of districts and sub-districts with constables scattered over many points rather than concentrated at headquarters, qualified only by the suggestion that changes be often made so as to keep all in touch with regimental duties. And I find that Inspector Constantine, a man of quite unusual gifts and powers, as we shall see later, makes a striking recommendation in his report from Moosomin in 1893. He says that the farther division of districts into groups in charge of a non-commissioned officer has increased the self-respect of these men and developed their interest and initiative. He says men are more to be trusted than regulations. "Get good men forward, give more power to individuals, create a confidence through all ranks one with the other and things will work harmoniously in maintaining the peace of the country." And because all the men cannot be experienced from the outset Constantine suggests that a special instruction book should be issued to every recruit, a necessary part of his equipment, and to be produced at kit inspection or whenever called for by the officer commanding. And this keen Inspector adds that young men who had this book would be in a better position to carry out their duty "besides having the confidence inspired by a knowledge that they were right and not being in an agony of indecision caused by being advised by parties having different interests." Happy the Force that had leaders able and free to suggest new departures to greater efficiency. That the officers were always careful about minor details with a view to the comfort of the men and economy at the same time as far as possible is evidenced by some suggestions from Inspector A. C. Macdonnell, who was in charge at Wood Mountain in 1893. Macdonnell (now Sir Archibald, Commandant at Kingston Military College and the wearer of many war decorations) says that he had the old mud-roofs removed and replaced by shingles and painted, and makes the recommendation which those who know the country will understand, "that next year all the log-buildings be chinked with mortar. It would last five years and be much cleaner and neater in appearance than mud, and save the cost of the annual mudding." These officers kept their eyes on everything. It is in keeping with what was said above as to deserters that Macdonnell reports a desertion and adds, "As this constable was the possessor of an exceedingly bad defaulter's sheet, the Force sustains no loss." Let the Force be made easy for undesirables to leave, as Herchmer said some years before.