In 1893 Superintendent Perry, in referring to the reports he was transmitting from Superintendent F. Norman, of Wood Mountain, Inspectors McGibbon, of Saltcoats, J. O. Wilson, of Estevan, C. Constantine, of Moosomin, and W. H. Routledge, in Manitoba, says these reports show "how varied and multifarious are the duties which are demanded of us—at Wood Mountain our men are found acting as cowboys, rounding up and driving back across the boundary vast herds of wild American ranch cattle which again and again wander northward in search of better feed and more water. At Estevan and Gretna they are seen in charge of large herds of quarantined cattle, attending sick animals, milch cows, and at the expiration of their term in quarantine driving them long distances by trail, loading on trains and conveying them to their different destinations; in Manitoba they are engaged in enforcing the customs laws, aiding the regular customs officials, whose duties they at times perform, and executing the Crown Timber and Dominion Land regulations; and, in addition to this work of a special nature, everywhere carrying out their regular duties of detecting crime, aiding the administration of justice, acting as prairie fire and game guardians, and maintaining a patrol system which covers weekly some 1,200 miles." No wonder Perry adds, "Such extended duties test the capacities of the Force and their successful performance illustrates the diversity of attainments in the personnel of the North-West Mounted Police." And those of us who have seen them under many circumstances can vouch for their being not stereotyped officials, but all-round adaptable men. There are flashes of humour all through the reports of Police Officers. Sometimes they may have been unintentional, but humour is a saving grace and men who were facing tragedies almost every day would have given way under the strain if they had not put a little comedy into life even in their reports. Here, for instance, is an item from a report by Inspector Z. T. Wood, who later on did such splendid work in the Yukon. Writing from Calgary in 1894 he reports a case by saying, "On the night of July 5 a man named Wilson took his effects from a C.P. Railway car and started north without going through the usual form of paying the freight thereon. He was caught, brought back and committed for trial." Superintendent Deane exposes one of the peculiar technicalities of law when he says, "On the 15th of August a traveller had a pair of field glasses stolen from his buckboard at a ranch about 12 miles from Lethbridge. We know who took them, but the one witness who could convict the thief had disappeared." The same officer elsewhere observes, "On the 15th of September last, in the Pot Hole country, a saddle was stolen from the back of a piqueted horse whose rider had dismounted to shoot some ducks. We know who is responsible for this piece of impudence, but shall be lucky if we succeed in recovering the saddle." Deane saw humour in the situation, but was evidently rather sceptical about the ways of law. These examples of wit could be multiplied readily from what to the casual student seem to be dry annual reports. In reality these same reports pulsate with life. But it is often only found between the lines by the reader who knows the history of the land.
Nearly midway in that last decade of the last century the golden Yukon swung out of solitude into the vision of the world and there as elsewhere in the vast north-land the Mounted Police were to play a large and brilliantly useful part. To some study of that part we shall come in succeeding pages.
IN THE GOLD COUNTRY
Away on the banks of the Red River hard by where the City of Winnipeg with its aggressive business marts and its surging polyglot population now stands, there is the old Kildonan Church, which the original Selkirk Settlers, pioneers of the West, built for themselves and their children. These early colonists, unmindful of worldly gain, had the traditional hospitality of the Highland race to which they belonged, and the proverbial absence of class distinction which always obtains on a frontier:
"No bolts had they to their doors Nor bars to their windows, But their houses were open as day And the hearts of the owners."
It was natural that to such a place should come on frequent visits the Hudson's Bay men, the explorers and pathfinders, most of whom were of the same race and creed as the pioneers. And it was natural too, that when these pathfinders came to the end of the long trail their bodies should be brought back to rest in the God's acre around that old church, the famous cemetery where
"Each in his narrow cell forever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."
There were other lines of Gray's immortal poem that could be applied with great appropriateness to that churchyard that lay in the midst of a settlement in which were men of undoubted talent and power had their lot been cast in other surroundings. Such lines, for instance, as these:
"Some village Hampden, who, with dauntless breast, The little tyrant of his fields withstood: Some mute, inglorious Milton here may rest: Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood."
But there are many resting there who became known far beyond their early circle. Most of them are not connected with our present story, but one monument in that ancient churchyard bears the name of a man whose record shines out with splendour in the history of the Yukon, which region was afterwards the scene of one of the most brilliant, successful and grandly tragic chapters in the record of the Mounted Police. The name is that of Robert Campbell, the famous Hudson's Bay Company explorer, who threescore years before the famous gold-rush which required the guardian presence of the Police had discovered the Yukon River, and had travelled for years in the regions which later on became known as one of the great gold-fields of the world. Campbell was not looking for gold or caring for it. He was opening out a new Empire for trade with the usual self-forgetful devotion of its employees to the interests of the great Fur Company.
I remember Campbell, guest often in my father's house on the Red River in my boyhood, and later, for he lived to a great age. A Highlander too was he, from Glenlyon in Perthshire, tall, stately, handsome, with black hair and beard, his whole bearing suggestive of power. A modest man withal, for he refused to call after himself the great river he had discovered, and he left no material out of which a real biography could be written. But it was because he had blazed the way and because another Hudson's Bay man, Hunter Murray, had built Fort Yukon, that others throughout the years began to penetrate into the wild until, in the nineties, there came the discovery of acres of gold which attracted the wildest rush in the history of mining. There have been many wild rushes in different parts of the world, but those who went on the Yukon rush faced climatic conditions in blizzards, bottomless snow drifts and desperate cold, as well as on torrential streams and treacherous rapids, which, from the standpoint of hardship and privation, dwarf all other mining expeditions into insignificance. Of all this burden and exposure and hardship the Mounted Police, in the simple discharge of their duties, bore the lion's share, and that without any financial compensation such as others expected who were drawn to the north by the lure of gold. The Police had nothing beyond their small pay, and they kept themselves strictly and sternly aloof from opportunities to enrich themselves either in the way of business or in the way of allowing any offers to be made them as a price for shielding law-breakers. They did not make any money, though it was being made by thousands all around them. But they did their duty so valiantly and so uncompromisingly that they added to their already great prestige and showed the world a new record in keeping potentially dangerous frontier camps almost entirely free from crime. There was hardly any gun play. There were only two or three homicides, and there were no failures in justice and no lynchings.
When in 1894 the first rumours of a probable rush into the region came to the outside, the Dominion Government felt that it was imperative that, in order to prevent lawlessness as well as to protect the interests of Canada in respect to the area within her boundary, the famous corps that had policed all the western frontiers should be represented immediately in the gold regions of the far north. And it was vitally important that a man should be sent in as officer commanding who would be specially fitted for such an unprecedented and extraordinary task. That man was found in the person of Inspector Charles Constantine, and he, taking with him other picked men in Inspector D. A. E. Strickland, Assistant Surgeon A. E. Wells, Staff-Sergeant Brown and twenty non-commissioned officers and constables, left for their distant field of action in the month of June. Strickland, who had done fine service on the plains, was to be of great value in the north on account of his knowledge of woodcraft logging, building and such like, in addition to his regular police duties. Wells was to have his hands full, since for some time he was, as some one said, the only doctor in a region as large as France and had, with sometimes inadequate means, to fight scourges of scurvy and the other diseases incident to food and climate. The men in the detachments were experienced and hardy enough to face anything that might turn up either in the shape of man or beast or difficult atmospheric conditions.
Constantine had served in the Red River expedition, and then, on account of special qualifications, had been made chief of the Provincial Police in Manitoba, where he was a terror to evil-doers. When the second Riel rebellion broke out and a volunteer regiment was being hurriedly raised in Winnipeg for service in the Big Bear country, Constantine, to the great delight of all of us who joined up with that regiment, became Adjutant. During that campaign he was always to the fore in every crisis and showed particular skill in rooting out men who were inciting the Indians to revolt. One morning of dense fog away beyond Fort Pitt our outside picket was fired on when I had charge of the guard. Calling out the guard and getting them under arms I went over to notify the officer commanding in the camp, but met Constantine with his forty-five ready for action. He had scented the alarm and did not wait for notice before getting out to see what was doing. A less keen-sighted or an excitable man would probably have shot anyone looming up through the fog, as I did from the direction of the shooting, but Constantine, though as quick as a flash, always had himself in hand. After the rebellion he became an Inspector in the Mounted Police, and had so approved himself as a wide-awake, intelligent and courageous officer that when the Yukon sprang up with its special demand he was appointed to be the pioneer in that far region of the north. Of medium height but very compactly built, Constantine was immensely strong, quick in his movements and capable of enduring tremendous strain. If it came to a rough and tumble he was as hard a man to handle as anyone would care to find. These qualities, along with his mental alertness and judicial training, made him a good man to send to a region where he had to exercise many functions until fuller government could be established. Constantine first of all made an investigating and exploratory trip accompanied by Staff-Sergeant Charles Brown. Leaving Moosomin in May in obedience to orders to report in Ottawa for special duty, Constantine received instructions to proceed to the Yukon and make recommendations as to general administration. He accordingly left for the north and by crossing over by the Lewes-Yukon he reached Fort Cudahy on August 7, where he remained about a month before returning by St. Michaels and arriving at Victoria in October. He reported elaborately on the resources, climate and possibilities of the whole country. This was in 1894, and in consequence of Constantine's grasp of the situation and his talent for organization he was sent back next year with the officers and men above indicated, arriving at Fort Cudahy on July 24.
It was well that Strickland was a practical logger and builder, for quarters had to be provided. It was a land of extremes, with intense cold in the winter and equally intense heat in the summer. Constantine speaks of an occasional 75 degrees below zero in the winter and the heat as high as 120 degrees. In another report he writes, "The miners have a simple method of determining when it is too cold to work by hanging a bottle containing mercury outside the house. When it freezes it is time to remain inside." We should rather think so. Albeit, the climate is dry and healthy when people are prepared for it and are not found fasting after prolonged exposure.
It was in the hot weather that Strickland and his picked men went up the Yukon amid the heat and flies, cut down the logs and floated them to where Fort Constantine was built before the extreme cold struck the region. The men who stayed with Constantine had cleared the ground of moss and brush with great effort. The moss varied from one to three feet in depth. Below it was ice, so that the report says the men worked a good part of the time up to their knees in water. "If it was not 90 degrees in the shade it was pouring rain." Up the river Strickland and his men were getting out the logs as stated, but without any appliances except their own physical strength and energy. Only men of the finest type could have stood it, and the Inspector gives them unstinted praise.
The buildings were rushed up as stated before the winter. They were chinked with moss and the roof covered with earth, there being no time to saw boards to cover. All this was not so bad for the winter, but when the spring came the men who had fought the intense cold were subjected to another kind of hardship. Constantine says in a later report, "During the heavy rains the roofs leaked so badly that oil sheets and tarpaulins had to be put up over all the beds to keep them dry. The earth roofs of this country will only absorb a certain amount of moisture and when the limit is reached, a deluge of very dirty water is the result." Evidently the men were not having a picnic.
However, Constantine and his detachment keep the country in order, administer justice, collect customs due to the Dominion and generally make conditions civilized and British. There was a time when it was generally believed that most of the gold-bearing creeks were on the American side of the line, but a survey made under direction of the Police revealed the opposite to be the case and Constantine notified the miners on Miller, Glacier and other creeks that they were on Canadian territory, subject to British law and amenable to regulations as to mining fees, Constantine's modesty and determination are illustrated in one quiet paragraph, which some of us who knew him will find luminous between the lines. He says, "A few miners denied Canada's jurisdiction and right to collect fees on the ground that there was a possibility of error in the survey. However, I went up to Miller and Glacier Creeks and all dues were paid without any trouble except that of a hard trip, but as all trips in this country are of that nature, it was part of the bargain. On Glacier Creek a number of miners undertook to run matters in accordance with their own ideas of justice and set themselves up as the law of the land. The trouble ended, however, by the Canadian law being carried out." Constantine was clearly serving notice on all and sundry that the Mounted Police were on hand to live up to their reputation of seeing justice done and playing no favourites. The authorities had made no mistake when they sent him in as the pioneer.
Then he speaks in 1896 of new discoveries which began to cause the mad rush from all parts of the world as the news percolated through to the outside. "In August of this year a rich discovery of coarse gravel was made by one George Carmack on Bonanza Creek, a tributary to the Klondike. His prospect showed $3.00 to the pan." Not bad picking for George, who became wealthy. But George's shovel and pick and pan, clattering as he worked, awakened echoes to far distances and the wild stampede of all kinds of people, prominently the adventurous and the get-rich-quick class, began with a vengeance.
Constantine got ready for it, strongly recommending the establishment of civil courts, the appointment of an administrator and law-officer and the reinforcing of the Police so that they could be scattered up and down the new mining areas as required. A post called Fort Herchmer, after the Commissioner, was built at Dawson which was to become the big centre shortly, and the Police Force was augmented by the arrival of two small detachments under command respectively of two well-known officers, Inspectors Scarth and Harper. And not any too soon were these precautions taken, for Constantine lets light in on the kind of people who began to head for the diggings when he says in his graphic way, "A considerable number of people coming in from the Sound cities appear to be the sweepings of the slums and the result of a general jail delivery. Heretofore goods could be cached on the side of the trails and they would be perfectly safe, now a man has to sit on his cache with a shotgun to ensure the safety of his goods. Cabins in out-of-the-way places are broken into and everything cleaned out." That was before the newcomers realized that the Mounted Police were to the fore. Constantine and his men kept on their track and perpetrators of ordinary offences were astonished when they were run out of the country in order to save food for the decent people who were willing to work without preying on others. And the Inspector gives parting salute to the deported individuals by saying, "Many of them could well be spared in any community, for the rush had brought in toughs, gamblers, lewd women and criminals of almost every type, from the petty thief to the murderer."
But Constantine gave them no quarter, and so it was that by the time the big stampede took place into Dawson and the Creeks it had become known far and wide that the Mounted Police would stand no nonsense. So the way was made simpler, though not at any time a sinecure, for those who followed the intrepid pioneers in the scarlet tunic. But coming at the summit of an active and strenuous life, the exposure, responsibility and general wear and tear of his Yukon years undermined the once rugged strength of Constantine. He was transferred to the prairie after nearly four years in the Yukon, but never fully recovered his vigour. His leaving the Yukon had a very human side. The miners showed their appreciation of his manly, straightforward character by crowding in and presenting him and his wife and boy with nuggets of gold and indicating in their diffident but genuine way that if ever any of them needed help they could count on their Yukon friends for anything required. Which reminds us that tribute should be paid to the wives of these policemen who braved the wilderness places of the west and north to be helpers to their husbands and to make their homes centres of social refining influence where such influences were of untold value.
Inspector Cortlandt Starnes, the present efficient Assistant-Commissioner at Ottawa Headquarters and who has done valuable service all the way across the country from Hudson Bay to the Yukon as well as on the plains, took over the command from Constantine and remained in charge till the arrival of Superintendent Steele, a period extending from June to September, 1898. Starnes, who is a short, heavily built and powerful man, capable of enduring much hardship, had come through in the previous winter, staying some months at Lake LaBarge and Little Salmon, accumulating stores of goods from the coast to be taken through in the spring to Dawson, where a shortage was impending. He had no easy time getting over the route, he and his men only saving themselves from wreck on Lake Bennett by throwing overboard some of their freight. With forty below zero and everything frozen up, Starnes had to build winter quarters at Little Salmon, and with the true democracy of the frontier we find the officials he was escorting into the Yukon giving a hand—Judge McGuire, Mr. F. O. Wade, Crown Prosecutor, Dr. Bonnar and others. But early in the spring Starnes moved on to Dawson. The rush was setting in and with Inspector F. Harper and a few men he had to hold the place for law and order during a sort of interregnum period. No civil courts were established till Judge McGuire came, and to administer the law under such conditions was always trying. But it was done. Offenders were given no rest. "Gunmen" were made impossible and gamblers found no city of refuge in the gold country. In three months Starnes and Harper, principally the former, tried 215 cases, these being all the way from dog-stealing (dogs were dogs in the north), drunkenness, keeping or frequenting disorderly houses to vagrancy, using vile language and refusing to work. If men would not work when free they were sentenced to jail with hard labour, because these experienced men knew that idleness is the prolific progenitor of crime. In consequence crime never got a start in the most quickly crowded mining camp in the world. It had been held down from the beginning. The place had its saloons and dance hall and fools were fleeced there as they are in older centres, but the superb strength and incorruptibility of the Mounted Police proved too much for the lawless element, and the whole period makes one of the proudest records in the history of this wonderful force.
The big stampede for Dawson started in 1897-98, and to cope with the incidentals and probably accompaniments of it, there was a whirlwind series of movements by the Mounted Police which seemed to anticipate every contingency, head off all manner of calamities, make provision for protecting the boundary line against infractions of the customs regulations, and generally see that law and order should prevail all over the wide area that was soon teeming with a nondescript heterogeneous population of excited gold-hunters. Two of the big men of the Force, Superintendents A. B. Perry, a masterly organizer, and S. B. Steele, a determined enforcer of law, were called on to go up to the north and meet the unprecedented situation. That these two superior officers did not shirk any of the hardships could be demonstrated from many an instance like the following related casually by Steele as to an incident at the outset. "At Dyea I met Perry and together we returned to Skagway in a small sailing boat. The weather was very cold and as the tide was out we were obliged to wade through the pools in our moccasins. When we embarked we were soaked to the hip and our clothes were frozen like boards." And they came that way the whole distance to Skagway, where they got no time to change as Perry had to leave for Vancouver that night in regard to further arrangements.
With these two from the beginning, indeed some were in the country ahead of them, was a group of very able officers, Superintendent Z. T. Wood, Inspectors P. C. H. Primrose, C. Starnes, F. Harper, W. H. Scarth, A. E. Strickland, R. Belcher, A. M. Jarvis, F. L. Cartwright, Surgeons W. E. Thompson and S. M. Fraser. Non-commissioned officers like Tucker, Macdonnell, Barker, Bates, Graham, Hyles, Corneil and Raven were amongst those in charge of early detachments or attached to hospital bases in the first year of the big rush, and these with the help of as able and resolute a body of men as ever wore uniform led the way to a new world record for policing a country in a paternal method of oversight which guided and controlled but never resorted to shooting. The use of the word paternal calls to mind the way they threw a cordon around the country to prevent at the threshold the entrance of men who were unprepared for the hardships with either clothing or supplies or physique. And the manner in which the Police interposed against the madness of inexpert men who were anxious to run the White Horse Rapids and the Miles Canyon in crazy boats on the way to Dawson was admirable in its quiet forcefulness. A good many of these people were men and women from offices and stores in American cities who knew boats only by hearsay. So when Steele arrived at the Rapids he gathered the stampeders together and said:
"There are many of your countrymen who have said that the Mounted Police make the laws as they go along, and I am going to do so now for your own good, therefore the directions that I give shall be carried out strictly and they are these: Corporal Dixon, who thoroughly understands this work, will be in charge here and be responsible to me for the proper management of the passage of the Canyon and White Horse Rapids. No women or children will be taken in the boats. If they are strong enough to come to the Klondike they can walk the five miles of the bank to the foot of the White Horse and there is no danger for them here. No boat will be permitted to go through the Canyon until the corporal is satisfied that it has sufficient free board to enable it to ride the waves in safety. No boat will be allowed to pass with human beings in it unless it is steered by competent men, and of that the corporal will be the judge. There will be a number of pilots selected, whose names will be on the roll in the Mounted Police Barracks here, and when a crew needs a man to steer them through the Canyon to the foot of the rapids, pilots will be taken in turn from that list. In the event of the men not being able to pay, the Corporal will be permitted to arrange that the boats are run without charge."
Some of the impetuous who were willing to risk everything for the glitter of gold rather demurred at this strong paternalism, but when it was all over they thanked their stars that the Mounted Police had been on hand to head off the folly of fools.
We have anticipated in the last paragraph in order to illustrate how the Mounted Police guided the wild stampede. But let us get back and find Superintendent Perry on the ground just as the rush was starting for the passes. He made a swift trip and placed detachments of police on the Chilcoot and White Passes, putting those reliable officers Inspectors Belcher and Strickland in command. Up to a certain date it had almost been taken for granted that the whole country was on the American side as the names of Miles, the Indian fighter, and Gordon Bennett had been given by enthusiasts to the Canyon and the lake. But when Perry put Belcher on the Chilcoot and Strickland on the White Pass to hoist the British flag and collect customs levies, intimation was given that the great gold country was on the Canadian side of the line and that all who wished to pass that way must contribute to the Dominion exchequer and thus swell the revenue of Canada. Weather conditions were nothing less than awful. Steele, who, with Constable Skirving, went up the Chilcoot from Dyea where they had come on a craft which was covered from stem to stern with six inches of ice, says, "As we proceeded up the pass we faced a wind so cutting that we had often to make a rush for the shelter of a tree or walk in a crouching position behind the tailboard of a sleigh for a few minutes' respite. We overtook some on the trail next day out of a notorious tent town known as Sheep Camp. Many of them were staggering blindly along, with heavy loads on their backs, some of them off the trail and groping for it with their feet. These we assisted or they would have fallen by the way."
The same writer goes sympathetically into the following vivid description: "It would be difficult to describe the hardships gone through by the Mounted Police stationed at the passes. The camp at the Chilcoot under Inspector Belcher was pitched on the summit, where it is bounded by high mountains. A wooden cabin was erected in a couple of days. The place where it was in the pass was only about 100 yards wide. Below the summit, on the Canadian side, was Crater Lake, named after an extinct volcano. On its icy surface the men were forced to camp when they arrived. In the night of February 18 the water rose to the depth of six inches. Blankets and bedding were wet, the temperature being below zero with a blizzard. The tents could not be moved and the sleds had to be taken into them to enable the men to keep above the water at night. The storm blew for days with great violence, but on the 21st abated sufficiently to admit of the tents being moved to the top of the hill, where, although the cold was intense, it was better than in the water-covered ice of Crater Lake."
"The nearest firewood was seven miles away and the men who went after it often returned badly frost-bitten.
"Belcher, collecting customs, performing military as well as police duty on the summit, lived in the shack, which had all the discomforts of a shower-bath. Snow fell so thickly and so constantly that everything was damp and paper became mildewed. For some weeks the weather was very cold without storm, but on the 3rd of March there was a terrific day when the snow buried the cabin and the tents on the summit, the snowfall for the day being six feet on the level." The occupants had to shovel constantly to keep from being suffocated.
On the White Pass Inspector Strickland and his men had to pitch tents on the ice at first, no timber for cabins or firewood being nearer than 12 miles. Logs were cut and hauled in by horses. There were raging blizzards and great danger constantly threatened the men, who had to be on the alert to avoid being lost or frozen. However, on February 27 the Union Jack flew to the breeze and collection of customs began. A strong guard kept the trail and men were told off to examine the goods of the stampeders. There was a tremendous rush, and Strickland, overworked and suffering from severe bronchitis, struggled along, ably assisted by his splendid men. An enormous amount was gathered from those who were rushing in by thousands from the other side of the line bringing their supplies with them.
About this time Inspector Cartwright arrived from Regina with twenty men, and Steele, going up the White Pass with him, put him in charge, sending Strickland to Tagish, where the dry air soon restored him to health. It is an illuminating comment on Steele's disposition to look after others and forget himself that he was also, as Dr. Grant said, suffering from bronchitis which he had contracted weeks before when wading through icy waters to a boat. But as there was no one around to order him off duty he just kept right on, trusting that his strong constitution would see him through.
If physical conditions were bad with storm and cold, moral conditions from the coast to the summits were worse. The authorities on the American side seemed to accept as a sort of axiom the statement that a frontier had to be lawless. Anyway "Soapy Smith," a notorious gunman and gambler, who was eventually killed by a United States Marshal who was going to arrest him and who was killed by "Soapy" at the same time, both firing at one moment, had, with a big gang like himself, terrorized Skagway and the trails for months. Murders, robberies, shell games and the rest were practised without cessation up to the Mounted Police line on the summits, where they suddenly ceased because things of that sort would not be tolerated for a moment. At that point the incomers put their "guns" away and went quietly about their business. One finds it difficult to account for this difference unless by the assumption that immigrants into the American Republic had taken advantage of her wide proclamation of the ideal of liberty and had abused the ideal by turning it into licence. In this way nests of law-breakers and anarchists were allowed too much opportunity by local officials, where in a similar case a compact force like our Mounted Police with no local strings on them and with intense sentiment for the honour of the whole force, never permitted a situation to get out of hand in any locality however remote from the centre of government.
In a preceding paragraph I mentioned the name of Dr. Grant. He is the Rev. Dr. A. S. Grant, a Presbyterian Missionary who went in over that White Pass trail with a pack on his back. He could stand it better than most men, for he was a broad-shouldered and powerfully built man. Going as a missionary he was a man of peace, but he would not allow anyone to be imposed on in the difficult road. Hence one day when a bully elbowed a grey-haired man roughly into the snow, Grant interposed and receiving only insult, taught that bully a lesson he did not forget. To the credit of the bully be it recorded he took his medicine and shook hands with the man of peace who believed in protecting the weak.
Grant had taken a course in medicine which proved of immense value on the trail and during the early days in Dawson. Steele says of him, "Dr. Grant, a clergyman as well as physician, treats hundreds of sick without remuneration. Our force owes him a heavy debt of gratitude for the way he saved our men. More than half of those at the summit and Lake Bennett had pneumonia but were so well treated that we lost none. I have never seen men in such a dangerous state and it seemed impossible that they should recover, but they were pulled through."
This same Grant when he got into Dawson started the Good Samaritan Hospital with his own funds and became a large factor for the physical and moral well-being of the place. And his tribute to the Mounted Police is unstinted, for once he wrote me saying, "Canada owes to these men a debt of lasting gratitude. A true history of the West will say much about the self-sacrifice and heroism of this body of men. Many of their noblest deeds will remain unknown but they will be registered in a higher type of civilization expressed in a truer type of citizenship. Many of these deeds will find register only in the writing of the recording angel."
The official reports of the officers of that period as of others are full of self-suppression. For instance, that able and unassuming officer Superintendent Z. T. Wood, says in one place, "I received orders to take the money of the Government in customs, licences, fees, etc., to be deposited in the bank at Victoria. I accordingly left Bennett going out by the Chilcoot and Dyea and took $150,000 in gold and bills. I reached Victoria in due course and handed over the money." That is all, but in fact it was a very dangerous journey. He had the stuff in police kitbags, but those were the days of "Soapy Smith's" gang of ruffians. Going from Dyea to Skagway, Wood had to threaten to fire on a boat that was following. Soapy Smith and his toughs were on the wharf at Skagway, but the determined bearing of Wood and his few men, together with the presence of the crew of the C.P.R. boat Tartar, got them through. It was a ticklish situation.
A word should be added here as to the famous gold escorts. The practice was to turn the gold into ingots and send these to the coast under care of the Mounted Police in small detachments of from two to six men. The amounts thus carried often ran into tens of thousands and the care of these valuable loads of gold could only be given to men of the highest trustworthiness such as these guardians of law and order had always proven themselves to be. Not a mite ever went missing. It is a fine thing to quote this as a testimony that strengthens our faith in humanity. And this splendid incorruptibility was shown by men serving amidst difficult conditions in trails and rivers in all sorts of weather for a mere pittance a day.
Inspector A. M. Jarvis speaks about the "continuous roar of the snow-slides" which one would imagine to be rather disturbing music. He relates that when he started to collect customs at Dalton cache the first man to pay was a doctor from St. Thomas, Ontario, who had been living in the Western States for over twenty years. "The doctor came over, saluted the flag by taking off his hat, and said it was the first time he had seen it on British soil in that period." Of a trip taken with Constables Shook and Cameron on snow-shoes Jarvis says, "The snow was soft, and despite the snow-shoes we sank deep at every step. The following afternoon we returned to camp, having been travelling forty-six hours without blankets and only one meal."
Inspector Cartwright, who relieved Strickland at the White Pass, gives us a little insight into the problem of keeping warm in rather porous canvas tents by remarking that wood cost as high as $110.00 a cord. It was a case of supply and demand. And so in the manner recorded in this chapter did these pioneer policemen in the Yukon possess the land in gallantry under the Union Jack.
Meanwhile back on the prairie, the Mounted Police were alive to every movement and much was done to save people from their own overweening desire to get into the gold country by any route that might show possibility of success. Thousands had gone in by the front door of the coast and then over the passes, but a good many tried to enter by the back door, going by Edmonton and then over the routes that had been trodden years before by great explorers like Alexander Mackenzie and Robert Campbell. Hence Commissioner Herchmer thought it wise to send patrols out over this vast region of the Peace, Athabasca and Mackenzie rivers in order to prevent the loss of any of these more or less inexperienced gold-seekers.
The big patrol of that period was made by Inspector J. D. Moodie, who was sent out from Edmonton on September 4, 1897, to discover the best route for those who intended to get to the Yukon by the way of the Peace River and then over the Mountains. Moodie was accompanied by Constable F. J. Fitzgerald, Lafferty, Tobin and a French half-breed guide Pepin. They went part of the way with horses, part with dogs and part with boats. There was endless hardship through difficulty as to supplies and transportation and this long patrol to Fort Yukon took a year and two months. Moodie made a detailed report and his complete diary was published. Some idea of what the patrol involved may be gathered from the following paragraph in the report: "We arrived at Fort Graham on January 18, and were then entirely out of supplies for men and dogs. There was no dog-feed here and very limited supplies in the Hudson's Bay Store. Hearing that fish could be secured from some lakes about 25 miles away I next day sent out some of the men to fish with nets through the ice while others tried their luck after moose. Neither, however, were successful. I sent out in different directions to find Indian camps which were supposed to be somewhere within 50 miles of the post. These, however, could not be located. The dogs were almost starving, the snow was five feet deep in the bush and no guides to be had. I had therefore reluctantly to give up all idea of going farther till spring." In spring a start was again made and Fort Yukon reached as stated in about fourteen months after leaving Edmonton. Moodie's description of the route and the difficulties was not such as to encourage anyone else to try it. In that way the patrol did good service. For the rest of it, the collapse of the gold rush after 1898 made it practically unnecessary. But it demonstrated again the endurance, judgment and reliability of the police in carrying out any duty assigned to them.
To show the thoroughness with which the country was covered by the police in order to prevent danger and catastrophe to the rather improvident gold-seekers, a patrol was made by Inspector (later Assistant Commissioner) W. H. Routledge a distance of 1,100 miles or so from Fort Saskatchewan away north to Fort Simpson. This patrol was of value in getting into touch with many groups of "Klondikers," taking in their mail and bringing it out and also in making known at remote points the laws that were specially applicable to their situation. And there was also a patrol under Inspector A. E. Snyder undertaken with a view to seeing whether Inspector Moodie had been successful in getting forward towards the Yukon. This patrol under Snyder went as far as Fort St. John up near the sources of the Peace River and returned to report that Inspector Moodie and his men had gone on to Fort Graham, whence their way would be clear in the spring for the last lap of the long patrol as above related.
While the Yukon was being opened up the members of the Force on the plains and in the mountains were steadily doing their duty. They were perhaps less in the limelight for the time being since the attention of a good part of the world was centred on the gold country, but their presence was equally necessary as a terror to evil-doers and an encouragement to those that did well.
The construction of the Crows Nest Branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway entailed a very heavy amount of work on the Mounted Police. This came under the oversight of Inspector G. E. Sanders, who in turn was under the nominal direction of Superintendent Deane, then in command at Fort MacLeod. Deane had a busy time, as he had to cover about 400 miles of front with less than 200 men, of whom as many as fifty at a time had to be at certain construction points in British Columbia. Referring especially to the railway part of the work Deane says, "Inspector Sanders' report which I enclose will give a good idea of the amount of duty devolving upon him and his men, and I beg leave to record my opinion that it was well done. The effect of even a single mounted policeman's personality upon a lawless mob requires to be seen to be fully appreciated, and there were countless occasions where the qualities of tact and readiness of resource were required to supplement the prestige which is begotten of discipline alone."
"It would be impossible to estimate the thousands of men that have passed hither and thither along the line during its construction. A considerable proportion of them were entirely unsuited to the work. The construction authorities claim that by the operation of the Alien Labour Act they were deprived of the services of the professional railroader, the man who travels with his outfit all over the continent from railway to railway, and who would have made light of the difficulties of which so much has been said. It is undeniable that many men have suffered great hardships, but it is equally true that many of them should never have turned their attention to railway construction. Some have never done a day's work on the railway in their lives, and some have never done it at all."
There was a good deal of wage dispute on the line, but Inspector Sanders says, "As to the amount of wages received by the men and their not having any money to send to their families in the east, it was very noticeable to me that the men who complained most drank most." This needs no comment.
It is interesting to note here the outside opinion of the "Fort Steele Prospecter" as contained in an editorial in that paper in February, 1898. After giving a general description of the mixed class of men on the road it says, "The crimes along the road, however, are surprisingly small, considering the vicious element which comprises the contingent of camp followers" in the way of whisky sellers, gamblers and disorderly characters. "This happy state of affairs is due to the innate fear of Canadian justice and the scrupulous surveillance of the efficient corps of the North-West Mounted Police into whose hands the enforcement of law is committed. No one can travel over the line without a feeling of admiration for the system which can produce such excellent results, the absolute security of life and property in a region infested by rogues and adventurers from every clime." Sanders agrees that hosts of men had taken up work to which they were wholly unaccustomed. A lot of men were happy when handling an axe, but the pick and shovel had a saddening effect on them. And Sanders is in keeping with the general habit of the Police when he says, "We tried our utmost to have the real grievances of the men settled, and my representations to the general manager of construction always met with prompt attention." So they should, for they would be fair and just.
Inspector Howe, who was in charge in 1898 at Regina, had a wire from Boston about a man who had robbed the merchants of that aesthetic city of large sums of money. The man was supposed then on the train heading towards Regina. Howe sent a sergeant to Qu'Appelle, who boarded the suspected train and located his quarry in a Pullman compartment, which was locked. The man within, who was accompanied by a lady, would not open the door. At next station a Mounted Police constable got on board and the two men in scarlet uniform smashed the door. The woman threatened to blow their brains out, but failed. The runaway couple had the money and bonds, and after due process went back to Boston to serve a term.
Inspector Howe tells rather a rich story of a Police Inspector in Montana who apologized profusely to Howe for not answering by wire a telegram in which Howe had notified the said Montana Inspector of the whereabouts of a man much desired by the Police in that State. The Montana Inspector writes, "I handed my deputy a telegram and told him to send it off to you at once. He went out to send it but was shot dead, and this morning the coroner handed the telegram to me. It had never been sent, so you will see I am not altogether to blame." Howe considered the excuse valid, but the estimate of the value of human life in Montana it disclosed did not suit the ideas of a Mounted Policeman.
STIRRING DAYS ABROAD AND AT HOME
In the report of Superintendent Cotton for the year of the big Yukon stampede there is related one of the many incidents which indicated that on the plains the Mounted Police were keeping up to their record for initiative and daring, even though their work was less in the limelight than the spectacular world rush to the Yukon furnished. It seems that some months before the date of the report a prisoner named Nelson, sentenced to a term of imprisonment for a serious offence, escaped by jumping from a train on the way to the Manitoba Penitentiary from Regina. Constable Clisby, who was on duty at Saskatoon, was notified by wire from Dundurn station, and at once took up the recapture. The Saskatoon ferry was out of order, so he could not use it. But he was not to be deterred from the pursuit of a criminal by a trifle like that, or he would not have been up to the Mounted Police standard in resource and inventive capacity. So, as the river was impassable in the ordinary way, Clisby commandeered a railway hand-car, and possibly nailed an extra plank or two upon it. Then he got his troop-horse to climb up and stand upon it, while this strong-armed constable took hold of the "pump-handle" and worked his way across the trestle railway bridge many feet above the surging river. One can easily see what a desperate risk this was to take in cold blood. The big bronco had been broken enough for use on the solid earth by an expert. But to venture into the air with a semi-wild horse, which by any movement of fright at the unusual experience might upset the whole outfit into the river, was about as daring an experiment as anyone could try. But the strange transport got safely over, and Clisby, shaking out that bronco into a long gallop, found his man in the home of a settler, engaged in filing off the leg-iron in order to be able to get away more swiftly. Of course the prisoner was gathered in, as was also the settler who had loaned the file and was standing by watching the interesting process. The peculiar thing was that when the settler, who had given the escaping prisoner the file and stood by to see him use it to make his escape more certain, was brought up before two magistrates for helping a prisoner to elude his sentence, these sapient administrators of law dismissed the charge. This miscarriage of justice so disgusted both the constable and his superintendent that in, contemplation of it they seemed to forget the astonishing feat with the hand-car. But we dig it up proudly from the old report. It is in keeping with this desire on the part of the Mounted Police to see justice meted out to the guilty for the protection of society that we find them impatient with legal technicalities which freed the guilty, or the views of any legally constituted body which headed off further investigation into what was possibly serious crime. And this remark is made at this point, because I come across a report in which a Mounted Police Superintendent, while not openly complaining, thinks it worth while to call attention to a Coroner's jury which, after inquest in the case of a man who had been found dead with his neck broken, brings in the unexpected verdict that the man died by the visitation of God. The fact that the Superintendent simply states the matter without note or comment indicates pretty clearly his opinion of the intelligence of that jury. It recalls the case of the famous frontier judge, Sir Mathew Begbie, of British Columbia, who is said to have been much disgusted and amazed when a jury acquitted a prisoner whom the evidence clearly indicated had sand-bagged an innocent citizen. The judge had no option but to discharge the notorious character whom the jury of his peers had exonerated. "You may go," said the indignant judge, "but it seems to me that you would be doing good service to this country if you sand-bagged every man on that jury."
While the gold-rush of which we have been writing was at its height in the Yukon there were rumblings of conflict on the dark continent where Paul Kruger, the grim old President of the Boer Republic, was getting ready to launch a war which he said would "stagger humanity." The trouble had been brewing for some years. Many thousands of British men were in the Transvaal, developing its resources, adding to its wealth and doing everything for its upbuilding but without the privileges of citizenship. And these British men were agitating for representation in addition to the taxation they already enjoyed for the benefit of the Boers. It is doubtful whether Canadians generally took much trouble to investigate these questions of franchise and suzerainty, which have always had two sides up for discussion. Canada was willing to trust the judgment of British statesmen on the subject, and when Britain is at war Canada is not disposed to stand back. Conan Doyle probably sensed the situation when he wrote the stirring lines:
"Who's that calling? The old sea-mother calls In her pride at the children that she bore 'Oh, noble hearts and true There is work for us to do, And we'll do it as we've done it oft before Under the flag, Under the flag our fathers bore.'"
There had been a swift sting, too, in a certain telegram sent by the Kaiser of Germany congratulating Kruger on the failure of the raid under Doctor Jamieson, for "Doctor Jim" was a popular idol. And the rather crude but strong lines of a music-hall song had percolated to the outposts of Empire:
"Hands off, Germany; hands off, all. Kruger boasts and Kaiser brags. Britons, hear the call. It's back to back around the world And answer with a will; It's England for her own, my boys, And Rule Britannia still."
So the "sons of the Blood" began to foregather from the ends of the earth.
And when cavalry units were desired from Canada the Mounted Police got a certain degree of opportunity. We put it in that way because for reasons known to the Dominion Government there was always necessity for keeping the larger part of the corps in Canada. They could not be allowed to enlist in a body for any war, and men who had special grasp of the problems at home could not be spared to go abroad. Nothing can be gained for the Empire through losing ground at home in efforts to gain it abroad. And this applied to both the Boer War and the recent Great War, in so far as the Mounted Police were concerned. At the Boer War period, we had the Yukon rush, which meant an extraordinary mob of desperate characters to deal with, in addition to the problems ensuing from large immigration into the Middle West. And at the period of the Great War, there was a singularly elusive but definitely pronounced tendency to destructive revolution in various parts of Canada, which only a corps with the great prestige of the Mounted Police could successfully meet with firmness and tact. The undisciplined violence which raw forces might use in such a restless, mutinous period, would work positive harm to the whole Dominion. Hence we could not on either occasion let the whole Force go abroad.
But on both occasions some opportunity was given to a certain number of officers and men, the main difficulty being, as the Commissioner said, "not who would go, but who must stay at home." However, in the Boer War the Mounted Police furnished, most being on the active roll, but some ex-members, nearly 300 officers and men to the Canadian Mounted Rifles, Strathcona's Horse, South African Constabulary, and other corps. Their identity was lost by merging them with various units, but, nevertheless, they did conspicuous and distinctive service. It is no reflection on those with whom they were merged to say that the special qualities which came from years of discipline and esprit de corps, as well as the decided initiative which their training on the frontier always developed, gave the Police a place of peculiar influence and prominence on the veld. And this was true of ex-members of the Force who served in various corps. There was "Charlie" Ross, for instance, whom I recall meeting at Battleford in Riel's day as the Mounted Police scout who seemed to bear a charmed life, and who did much to save the situation in the fight with Poundmaker at Cutknife Hill. Ross went to South Africa as a sort of free lance, but he joined up with a scout body, and so distinguished himself that he was permitted to form a corps of his own which, as Ross's Scouts, did some dashing service. All the Western Canadians gave a good account of themselves. They were not strong on the fine points of military etiquette, and sometimes offended by failing to recognize and salute officers in strange uniforms. They were rather restive in barracks, and did not take kindly to the life in Cape Town, but they were at home when in the saddle on really active duty, and got their full share of it before the war was over. Their presence on the veld and their effective work won high praise from such high-class officers as Sir Redvers Buller, Lord Dundonald, Lord Kitchener and, later on, in London, "the first gentleman of Europe," King Edward himself.
A thoroughly characteristic story is told by several writers about a C.M.R. man who had been a cowboy and "bronco-buster" in Alberta. An Imperial Regiment, under General Hutton, was bewailing the fact that they had a magnificent black Australian horse, a regular outlaw so vicious and powerful that none of their men could handle, much less ride him, and they were quite sure that no one else could, so that the animal might as well be shot. One of the C.M.R. officers who was present said some men in his troop could ride, and he would ask them about it. He went over and several of them volunteered, but they settled amongst themselves that Billy should tackle the situation. Next morning was the time fixed, and Billy, in cowboy costume, carrying his own trusty saddle and a quirt, sauntered over to the spot careless-like, and not knowing the insignia of rank very well, walked up to an Imperial officer in gold lace, and prodding him jocularly with the quirt, said, "Where is the black son of a gun that you say can't be rid?" The officer looked amazed at being so accosted, but, like a good sport, laughed and ordered the horse to be turned loose. Billy's friends promptly lassoed the "waler," hogtied and saddled him in a hurry. Billy was in the saddle when the snorting animal was on his feet. The horse put up a game fight, bucking, kicking, biting, "swapping ends," and doing everything else that a thinking bronco can indulge in to get rid of his rider. But Billy enjoyed it. He banged the horse over the head with his big hat, smote him with the quirt, and used the spurs, till the mad animal raced in fury a mile or two, only to come back with froth down to the hooves. But Billy had him under thorough control, quiet enough to eat out of his hand. And when Billy pulled off the saddle he remarked casually to the astonished officers who had expected an inquest over him, "Out in my country that hoss would cut no figure, for out there we can ride anything with legs under it, even if it is a consarned centipede." The Canadian Mounted Rifles 1st, 2nd and 5th, had some 220 officers and men of the Mounted Police, while Strathcona's Horse had only some forty or so, though the rest were men accustomed to the kind of irregular warfare they found on the veld. The fact that Strathcona's Horse was raised, equipped and wholly paid for out of the private purse of Lord Strathcona, the only case in the Empire during the war, gave that corps a unique place in the public eye. Lord Strathcona, who was a member of the House of Lords and High Commissioner for Canada, placed it in command of Superintendent Sam B. Steele, a widely known officer, entertained the corps lavishly both before and after the war, fitted it out as no other regiment was equipped, brought the officers and men into contact with Royalty, kept it more or less in touch with the Associated Press—and all of this tended to put this regiment more in the limelight than others from Canada. This, of course, did not make their task any easier, but rather the contrary, since any failure on their part would have been quickly known. As a matter of history they did their part in such a way as to bring the utmost credit to all concerned. The corps was officered by highly capable men. The Mounted Police officers, serving in Strathcona's Horse were: Superintendent S. B. Steele (in command), Inspectors R. Belcher, A. E. Snyder, A. M. Jarvis, D. M. Howard, F. L. Cartwright and F. Harper: included also were, Ex-Inspector M. H. White-Fraser, Sergt.-Major W. Parker and Staff-Sergt. H. D. B. Ketchen. The two last named were granted commissions in the Army and Colonial Forces. The commissions of the other officers of this corps were all in the Imperial service. Strathcona's Horse took part in many major engagements, did much scout and patrol work, and one of the Mounted Police serving in it, Sergeant A. H. L. Richardson, on July 5, 1900, won the highest of all the decorations for valour, the Victoria Cross. At a hot engagement in the village of Wolvespruit the odds were so heavy against our men that they were given the order to retire. One of our dismounted men, wounded in two places, lay on the field, and Sergeant Richardson, seeing his plight, rode back and brought him in, although exposed to a warm cross-fire at close range, and despite the fact that Richardson's horse was so badly wounded that he could only go at a slow pace. It was a very gallant action.
When at the close of the main part of the war the South African Constabulary was formed, Steele, of the Strathcona's, was appointed its Colonel, and much "mopping up" was done in the pursuit of irregular Boer bands. Inspector Scarth, Constables C. P. Ermatinger, and J. G. French were given commissions. For their service with the 2nd and 5th C.M.R., Inspectors John Taylor, Demers, Sergt.-Major J. Richards, Sergt.-Major F. Church, Sergeant Hillian, Sergeant H. R. Skirving, Constables A. N. Bredin and J. A. Ballantyne were also granted commissions.
I have mentioned certain circumstances which set Strathcona's Horse more in the public eye than the Canadian Mounted Rifles, in which the majority of the North-West Mounted Police served, but the latter took a part in the war which involved much hard fighting, and did much to enhance the prestige of Canadian soldiers, whose service abroad up to that time had not been in military units. The North-West Mounted Police officers who joined the various units of the C.M.R. and received commissions in the Militia were: (2nd C.M.R.) Lieut.-Colonel L. W. Herchmer (the then Commissioner of the Police, who commanded the battalion), Superintendent J. Howe, Inspector A. G. Macdonnell (afterwards in command of 5th C.M.R.), Inspector J. D. Moodie, Inspector J. V. Begin, Inspector T. A. Wroughton, Superintendent G. E. Sanders, Inspector A. E. R. Cuthbert, Inspector H. J. A. Davidson, Inspector F. L. Cosby (Adjutant), Inspector M. Baker (Quartermaster), Inspector J. B. Allan, and Veterinary Officer Lieut. R. Riddell. These officers and the men they commanded were intent upon their duties, and such able soldiers as General Hutton, General Lord Methuen, and others, gave them unstinted praise for their work in the Orange Free State and their advance guard work on the march to Pretoria, under Lord Roberts, who was greatly impressed by their ability in scouting and patrol work.
It fell to the lot of that able and popular officer, Superintendent (Major) G. E. Sanders, to show on two special occasions, with small detachments against large odds, the mettle of the North-West Mounted Police. Near Middleburg, when Sanders with 125 men was guarding the railway, he was attacked by a considerable force of the enemy with artillery. A hurry call for reinforcements was issued, but before they came the Canadians had beaten the Boers back, Major Sanders and Lieutenant Moodie, as well as some of their men, being wounded in the determined resistant fight. Two months later, Sanders, with a handful of sixty men, formed the advance guard for General Smith-Dorien's column, but his guide missed the way and all of a sudden Sanders and his men, completely out of touch with the General's column, came in contact with a larger force of the enemy. The rifle fire of the enemy was very heavy, but the handful of Canadians held on till orders came from the General to retire. While they were retiring Corporal Schell's horse was killed, and the corporal was hurt by the horse falling on him. Sergeant Tryon most gallantly gave his own horse to Schell and himself continued on foot. And then Major Sanders, taking in the situation at a glance, galloped to the assistance of Tryon, whom he endeavoured to take before him on the saddle. It was a splendid effort, but, as Sanders endeavoured to lift Tyron, the saddle cinch slipped, the saddle turned to the side of the horse, and both men fell heavily to the ground. Sanders was stunned somewhat by the fall, but pulling himself together ordered the Sergeant to make for cover and he would follow. But a Boer sharpshooter dropped Sanders wounded in his tracks. Then another fine thing took place. Lieutenant Chalmers, a former Mounted Policeman also, who had led one wing of the advance guard, wheeled his horse and spurred to the help of Sanders, but he was unable to move him alone, and started for the firing line. The Boer sharpshooter was still abroad and, turning his attention to Chalmers, shot that brave officer, who fell mortally wounded from his horse. Major Sanders and Tryon were both rescued by a rush of reinforcements, and the Major is still doing effective service for the country as Magistrate in Calgary. It would seem to an onlooker that the decoration "for valour" should have been awarded to Sanders for his gallant and dangerous endeavour to rescue Tryon, and in a posthumous way to Chalmers, who sacrificed his life in the effort he made to save his superior officer. One recalls in this connection the similar action of former Inspector Jack French, whom I recall well as a stranger to fear, who at Batoche rushed in on foot and carried the wounded body of Constable Cook in his powerful arms from the fire zone to a place of safety. Many of the sacrificial deeds of men are unheralded.
Officially, the officers and men of the North-West Mounted Police who served in the Boer War, were noted as on leave from their own corps, and therefore their services to the Empire are not recorded in the Police reports. But Commissioner Perry, in this particular case, gives in his annual report an extract from Militia orders, in which Lord Roberts wires the War Office: "Smith-Dorien stated Major Sanders, Captain Chalmers, behaved with great gallantry rear-guard action, November 2." To this the Commissioner adds: "I greatly lament the untimely but glorious death of the gallant Chalmers, with whom I had not only served as an officer in this corps, but also as a cadet in the Royal Military College."
And then the Commissioner expresses this well-grounded opinion: "I regret much that the identity of the Force was lost in South Africa. The North-West Mounted Police are well known beyond the bounds of Canada. And I would like that it had been known to the world as one of the corps which had taken part in the South African War. With but few exceptions all ranks were willing to go, and it was not a question of who would go, but who must stay at home." This is well and wisely expressed. If ever there should be another war, which we hope not, unless absolutely unavoidable, Canada should strive to have her units kept intact. Destruction of identity leads to destruction of great traditions to which men should be true, and to the loss of the esprit de corps and noblesse oblige elements, which go so far to creating unconquerable regiments.
At the end of the war, in addition to the Victoria Cross won by Sergeant Richardson, as already related, the following honours, gained by members of the North-West Mounted Police while on service in South Africa, were announced in general orders:
To be Companion of the Bath and Member of the Victoria Order, 4th Class:
Superintendent S. B. Steele, Lieut.-Colonel commanding Lord Strathcona's Horse.
To be Companions of the Order of St. Michael and St. George:
Inspector R. Belcher, Major 2nd in command, Canadian Mounted Rifles. Inspector A. C. Macdonnell, Captain Canadian Mounted Rifles. Inspector F. L. Cartwright, Captain Lord Strathcona's Horse.
Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal:
Sergeant J. Hynes, Sergt.-Major Lord Strathcona's Horse. Sergt.-Major Richards, Sqd. Sergt.-Major Lord Strathcona's Horse. Constable A. S. Waite, Private Canadian Mounted Rifles.
The conclusion of the Boer War, with the additional service in the South African Constabulary, marked the transference of Colonel Sam B. Steele from the North-West Mounted Police to the Militia service of Canada, as he was appointed to the command of Military District No. 13, with headquarters at Calgary, though later he took over Military District No. 10, with headquarters at Winnipeg. He was one of the "originals" of the Police, joining up in 1873, and became one of the distinctive and picturesque figures in the famous Frontier Force. Capable of an enormous amount of work in a given time, he had never spared himself in efforts for the country and for the Force. He had large gifts as an administrator, as well as a fighter and enforcer of law, and these he placed unstintedly at the disposal of his generation. When he left the Police Force and accepted service in the Canadian Militia, he did much to recognize existing work and establish new units. When the Great War broke out he offered his services at once, and while waiting for overseas service he was intent on recruiting all over Canada. He went over in command of the Second Contingent from Canada, but the tremendous strain of his forty years of service began to tell on his once powerful physique, and to his deep disappointment he was prevented from leading his men in the field. In recognition of his services to the Empire he received Knighthood and a Major-Generalship, which represented a long and strenuous road travelled up from the ranks. He died in England while the war was still raging, and a funeral service in London was attended by a great number of people prominent in the world of affairs. But his body was brought back to Canada, the land he loved so well, and was buried with full military honours in Winnipeg, the city to which he had come long years before as a soldier under Wolseley.
It is not generally known that, though he had not been in the Force for nearly twenty years, one of his last acts was the writing of an earnestly worded and, under the circumstances, a pathetic letter, to Sir Robert Borden, Premier of Canada, then in London, pleading for the full recognition of the military standing of the Mounted Police in Canada. In that letter he recounts out of his own recollection the history of the corps in which he had served from the outset for some thirty years. He recalls the work they had done as a military force on what was really active service all through the years, points out the high military qualifications of the men who were officers in the corps, as well as the uniformly high type of men in all ranks, to the large contributions the Mounted Police had made to the Empire in wars abroad, and spoke of the heavy responsibility resting upon the Force in the Dominion. He said: "I question whether the present command of Canadians overseas in England is equal to the great responsibility held by the Commissioner of the Mounted Police and his Assistant in Canada." The letter asks the Premier to do certain things for the officers and men, the effect of which would be to give them equal rights with members of the permanent Militia Force in respect of titles, decorations and general standing. And the result of the requests, if granted, would be to place the Mounted Police in the same position as the Militia in regard to medals, pensions and land grants, a matter of great interest and importance to the members of the Force. There is something very fine in this personal endeavour of "Sam" Steele, who, with many anxieties and responsibilities of his own at the time, made a serious appeal to obtain what he considered the rights of the comrades with whom he had shared hardships and dangers all over the vast North-West of Canada. A copy of this letter of Steele's, which was occasioned by changes then taking place in the Police organization, came into my possession from a private source, but it is not a confidential document, and is published here in recognition of the enduring loyalty of this sturdy old soldier to his companions, the veteran riders of the plains. They richly deserve the recognition for which he pleaded.
And we cannot turn over the page of the Boer War and leave it in history without recalling that a few pages above reference was made to the fact that Canada had gone into the war more because she had faith in the judgment of the statesmen of Britain, whose life-long training and world-vision inspire confidence in their decisions, than because she had studied out the situation at first hand. British statesmen have made mistakes here and there, but since the tragic day when through ignorance of the situation they failed to recognize the rights of British colonists on the American continent to have a voice in the government of the country, they have not erred by refusing their Dominions overseas the privilege of governing themselves where they have proved their capacity for so doing. But there was a bold and world-startling faith manifested when they granted self-government to the Boers within a short time after the war ended. True, these same statesmen had led up to it by the ministry of reconciliation exercised by the high-souled Kitchener with a Canadian Mounted Policeman, Colonel Steele, a noted administrator, as Chief of the South African Constabulary. And these and others who worked with them to remove bitterness and misunderstanding from the minds of the conquered Boers had supporting evidence of good-will on the part of the conquerors in the fact that our soldiers had acted chivalrously in the enemy's country during the years of war, so that no woman or child in all that region was ever knowingly hurt or molested. All this with the gift of responsibility transformed our gallant enemies into loyal friends who stood by us splendidly in the recent war, and who contributed to the councils of the Empire in a critical hour the magnificent ability and statesmanship of Botha, Smuts and others.
Meanwhile, in the homeland here in Canada, the steadfast, unflinching and imperturbable Mounted Police were doing their duty just as pronouncedly as their comrades on the veld. They had practically all wanted to go if required, but the Government had interposed and, as we have already quoted, it was not a question of who should go, but who must stay at home. And they were greatly needed here, for nothing is gained by consolidating the Empire abroad if we allow it to disintegrate right under our eyes and around our own threshold. The Pax Britannica—the orderliness of British rule—had to be preserved in the vast spaces of the North and West of Canada. Thousands of potentially lawless men were surging through our mining country in the Yukon, challenging Canadian administration with the dictum that huge frontier mining camps had necessarily to be outlaw regions where every man did that which was right in his own eyes. And it became the duty of the Mounted Police to back the administration of law, to answer the challenge of lawless men, and to prove to them and to the world that the dictum above quoted was a lie in so far as Canada was concerned. And these intrepid men in the scarlet tunic did their duty so well that the world learned a new lesson by seeing policemen preserving order without killing anyone where it could be avoided, even at the cost of their own lives. The Mounted Police know how to use their "guns," but they never in all their history degenerated into "gun-men."
And, in addition to policing the Yukon mining country, these few hundred men had to guard human life and property in the immense stretches of the Middle West where, into a country larger than several European kingdoms, tens of thousands were pouring in a tidal wave of immigration. From the ends of the earth these immigrants were coming, hosts of them, alien in race and tongue, as well as in religion and morals—people who had lax ideas as to the sacredness of human life and the sanctity of home. They, too, must be taught to keep the peace, and to become loyal to the institutions of the free land where they had sought asylum from despotism and oppression. And nothing but consummate tact, endless patience along with unvarying coolness and courage, enabled the men of the old corps successfully to meet this unprecedented situation.
Besides, all that great north country had to be patrolled hither and thither into the circle under the shadow of the Pole itself. Wherever the flag flew, Indians and Esquimaux, as wards of the nation, had to be protected against the dangers of famine, the inroads of sickness, as well as from the exploitation of unscrupulous men. And they, too, had to be taught the sacredness of human life, as well as the rights of private ownership, in order that no loose ideas about property should prevail in the land. Few things, if any, in the history of the Empire equal the hardiness, the courage and endurance manifested in the great patrols of the Police into the ice-bound regions of the Arctic and sub-Arctic areas of Canada. For years the explorers who have searched for the Poles have been the heroes of many a story of thrilling influence on the minds of readers. One would not detract an iota from the achievements of these gallant adventurers. But for the most part they were equipped and outfitted abundantly with everything that money could buy in order that all requirements and emergencies could be met as they arose, and their expeditions were few throughout the years. The Mounted Police, on the other hand, were incessantly at this work, not in parties and highly equipped, but in twos and threes and sometimes singly, with nothing beyond their winter and summer uniforms and dependent largely on their own efforts for food, as they were not possessed of the means of carrying any large quantity. Many of these men probably said, as Inspector F. H. French recorded in his diary during the famous Bathurst Inlet patrol, of which we shall read later: "Have had no solid food for two days, and every one is getting weak; dogs are dropping in their harness from weakness. This looks like our last patrol." Only a brave man could write down words like that, and it detracts nothing from the splendid courage of him and his men that the words were not long written when providentially some deer were sent across their path and saved these men for future work. These men who went out on patrol only gave the barest outline of their experience in the reports which they had to make to their superior officers, and through them to Ottawa, but those who know the country could read between the lines and feel the thrill of admiration and wonder. And these same officers, when not on the particular patrol they were commenting upon, paid unstinted praise to their men in their own reports, but even these reports were buried in the mass of material in the Department, so that the public did not see them. But once in a while we get hold of some comment, as when Superintendent Perry referred to one patrol and said "nothing greater had been done in the annals of Arctic exploration." Or when Inspector Sanders referred to the leader of another patrol and said his action "was in keeping with his brave and manly character." And I like the way in which Superintendent A. E. C. Macdonnell, with some manifest diffidence, introduced into a report from Athabasca Landing the following quotation from the Toronto Star:
"The world takes a lively interest in Polar expeditions, but Canada supports a Northern Police patrol of which very little is heard, and the journeyings of some of these men is quite as daring as anything connected with searches for the North or South Pole. They contend with the same conditions, are inexpensively equipped, and, as a rule, succeed in all that they undertake. A sheet or two of foolscap, giving to the Department at Ottawa an official report of their travels and observations, is the only record that survives. And very few ever read these records, although they sometimes thrill those who do read them."
One other important duty fell to the lot of these Policemen in the home country, and reference has been made to it in the earlier pages, namely, the self-imposed duty of becoming builders of the country by making known the resources of all its various parts. And when they made known the resources of the country they, without any gain therefrom themselves, protected those who came in to develop them. Sometimes they had to protect these people against themselves. In the Yukon gold rush the Police threw a cordon around the entrances to the mining country and prevented foolhardy, unfit and unequipped men and women, crazed with the gold lust, from venturing a journey which would have meant their falling frozen by the wayside or being lost in the angry rapids, which even the inexperienced were ready in their ignorance to essay. These gold-seekers were allowed to go in when they were prepared or when they were under the care of men of experience. Similarly, at the time of this writing, the Police in the Athabasca, Peace and Mackenzie areas are guarding the ways to the reported oil fields of the North, so that the unfit in their wild desire for reaching oilfields may not perish in the midwinter, whose rigours they do not understand.
Yes, the Mounted Police, few and scattered in detachments, from the Great Lakes to the Yukon, and from the boundary line to the Pole, had enormous responsibilities at home, while many of their fellow-citizens were abroad in the Boer War. And the man who was Commissioner of the Police during that period had a burden to carry which only those who knew the situation can estimate. That man was Superintendent A. Bowen Perry, who succeeded Colonel Lawrence Herchmer in August, 1900, but who, from the time of the big gold stampede into the Yukon, had largely the direction of things there, and had taken over the command personally at Dawson City when Steele left there in the fall of 1899. Colonel Herchmer, who had been Commissioner from 1886, was an able and conscientious officer. He had gone over to the Boer War in command of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, but had to come back on sick leave, when he retired also from the Commissionership. From the date of Herchmer's appointment to the Canadian Mounted Rifles to Perry's accession to the Commissionership of the Police, the command of the latter body had been ably held and administered by Assistant Commissioner McIlree. Colonel McIlree, who retired from the Force a few years ago, and whose services won the recognition of the Imperial Service Order, was one of the original men of the corps, having joined at the outset in 1873. He had, therefore, a long record of highly important and creditable service when he retired in 1911, after thirty-seven years on the frontier.
When Perry returned from the Yukon (where he was succeeded by that fine officer, Superintendent, later Assistant Commissioner, Z. T. Wood) and assumed the Commissionership he faced an exceedingly difficult situation. The Force was seriously depleted both in men and horses by the inroads made upon it by the war. And at the same time the work, as above outlined, was growing by leaps and bounds. True, recruits were being obtained and new horses were being purchased, but every one knows that it takes time and training to get a depleted force up to proper strength again. But the new Commissioner had a genius for organizing and handling men, and, as he had been away in the Yukon for a period, one of the first things he now did was to visit the prairie detachments, study the whole and map out a policy for the future. Conditions in the country with rapidly changing development as well as in the Force, owing to demands upon it, required a sort of re-creating of the famous corps, as well as a new disposition of it to meet the new times. And Commissioner Perry, with a great faculty for swift, decisive action, and a gift for attracting the cooperative efforts of his officers and men, was the type to undertake the task and succeed. Now, for a score of years he has directed the movements of the Force, meeting the extraordinary and unexpected situations which arise in a country that is a sort of melting-pot of the nations. A polyglot population, a babel not only of tongues but of ideals, the rise of new social conditions, the presence of agitators and mischief-makers who are experts in setting men against each other in opposing classes, the coming of destructive agents whose theories have made some old world countries into ramshackle wrecks, the persistence of the elements of lawlessness with outbreaks here and there—all these and much more have marked the unprecedented history of these years in this last new country in the world. And Canada, perhaps, will never fully realize the debt she owes to this quiet, gentlemanly, resolute man, who is a student as well as a soldier, and whose strong hand has been in constant evidence in controlling, guiding and guarding the interests of a country larger than half a dozen European kingdoms.
When Perry took charge, the Force, outside those at the war, numbered some 750 men. These were distributed so as to give about 500 to the oversight of the vast Middle West and the balance to the Yukon. The men in the Middle West prairie section were scattered in over seventy detachments all the way from Southern Manitoba to Fort Chipewyan in the far North, a distance of over 2,000 miles, while in the Yukon the distance between the most southerly outposts and the farthest North was over 500 miles. Anyone who knows the country can realize the task of men who had to look after such an enormous area, when their number meant that one or two men would sometimes have to exercise control over districts many miles in extent. These men had to be constantly in the saddle or on the trail with dog-train. Verily Captain Butler's early suggestion as to organization of the Police, that the men sent out should be a "mobile force," was being amply vindicated as a good one to meet the necessities of a new land. And that the new Commissioner was looking ahead is evidenced by such clauses in his first report as "The great countries of the Peace, Mackenzie and Athabasca Rivers are constantly requiring more men. I am sending an officer to Fort Saskatchewan to take command of that portion of the territory." Later he says: "The operation of foreign whalers at the mouth of the Mackenzie will ere long require a detachment to control their improper dealings with the natives and control the revenue." And in due course they were there.
In that first report Perry indicates that "the Force should be entirely re-armed." A lot of the men had obsolete arms, and the Commissioner insists that "if the corps is to be armed it ought to be well armed." He suggests a change from the heavy stock saddle and accoutrements thereof, claiming that with some 46 lbs. on his back before the rider mounted, the horse had a right to ask: "Why this heavy burden?" And he speaks of necessary changes in harness, transports and uniforms. He discusses the question of the kind of horses required, even to the colour, and indicates ranges of country where horses can be bred that are "strong in the hindquarters." Quite evidently the new Commissioner had his eye on everything, and intended to have the corps equipped up to the limit of efficiency and comfort. He was going to speak out in the interests of his men and horses, too. For a mounted corps must have regard to both if the maximum of usefulness is to be attained.
The reports of officers in the Middle West for that year, Superintendents Deane of MacLeod, Griesbach of Fort Saskatchewan, Moffatt of Maple Creek, Inspector Wilson of Calgary, Strickland of Prince Albert, and Demers of Battleford, all indicate a good deal of cattle-stealing, the most of which, of course, was near the American boundary line, where outlaws from both sides dodged backwards and forwards in efforts to escape the authorities on either side, who co-operated and generally got these robbers in hold, But Deane felt that the ranchers themselves should exercise a little more intelligent interest, instead of leaving everything to the Police, who were few in numbers, and none of whom could be in more than one place at a time. Referring to the case of a man who had bought some cattle and had left them unbranded and unwatched in the pasture whence they disappeared in the night, Deane says, "Daly became very indignant, and has talked freely about bringing an action against the Mounted Police, but whether for allowing him to lose his beasts or for failing to find them I know not." However, Mr. Daly evidently concluded that he had no case against the Police, for he is not heard from again.
Up in the Yukon that year, as already mentioned, Superintendent Z. T. Wood was in command of the territory, with Inspector Courtlandt Starnes in charge at Dawson, and Superintendent P. C. H. Primrose at White Horse, and Assistant Surgeon Fraser on Dalton Trail. Besides these officers there were Inspectors J. A. McGibbon, W. H. Routledge, W. H. Scarth, A. E. C. McDonnell, as well as Assistant Surgeons Pare, Madore and Hurdman.
It was a time of general and reasonably stable prosperity, as evidenced by the fact that the men in Starnes' Division collected well up to a million dollars in royalties in the mining areas, the banner section being Grand Forks, including Eldorado, Bonanza and tributaries where Staff-Sergeant (later Inspector) Raven gathered nearly $520,000. The Government was spending freely for the oversight of the Yukon, but was getting back big dividends.
It is interesting to note in Starnes' report this significant clause: "To the early resident of Dawson the present sanitary condition of the town must be a source of congratulation and a matter of satisfaction." For thereby hangs a tale redolent with a record of hard work. In the spring of 1899 a Board of Health had been formed, under the general oversight of the Mounted Police, for Superintendent Steele (later succeeded by Superintendent Perry) was chairman, Corporal Wilson (though not on the Board) Sanitary Inspector, H. Grotchie and Dr. J. W. Good succeeding Dr. Thompson, who was the first medical officer, but had gone on leave. The year 1898 had been fever-scourged and haunted by a plague of scurvy, due largely to the lack of vegetables and fruit it was said. Dr. Good determined that this condition, resulting from the rush of thousands of people to camp on a frozen swamp, would not recur, and when Dr. Good made his mind up and contracted those heavy black brows of his something had to be done or he would know the reason why.
Dr. Good was a noted specialist in Winnipeg from the early days—a man of powerful physique, wide general education, and a grim kind of manner, which was redeemed from dourness by the constant bubbling up of the irrepressible humour which made him a most entertaining companion. He went into Dawson over the passes in the big trek principally from sheer love of the adventure, as most would say (and he had the adventurous spirit), but largely, I imagine, to be of service in what, to his practised understanding, might become a death camp. He had no need of seeking wealth, as his practice had always brought large revenue from the well-to-do, though a lot of poor people got no bills for his services. Dr. Good was and is (for he is still happily with us) a distinct type, and I say this out of personal acquaintance through many years. His battle for the health of the people of Dawson and districts was great and successful. He gives a semi-humorous report of it in a formal report to the Mounted Police Department. From it we make an extract: The Doctor says, "The duties of the Medical Health Officer were somewhat varied. I will give you a summary of them. Firstly, to inspect hospitals from time to time; secondly, to see indigents at his office or their homes, if necessary, and to examine them and see if they could be admitted to hospital. Thirdly, to inspect the water supply. Fourthly, to inspect the food and aid in the prosecution of those selling food unfit for use. Fifthly, to visit all vessels arriving, and when fish, cattle or food were on board, inspect everything before it can be landed. Sixthly, to inspect all cattle, sheep and hogs before they could be slaughtered to see if they were healthy, from which it must be inferred that the Medical Health Officer had studied veterinary medicine as well. I regret to say this was not the case." (This was the Doctor's modesty, but Steele says the knowledge of veterinary science he displayed was remarkable.) And then the Doctor adds in his humorous way: "Now, from the above, it must be plain that the Medical Health Officer led an exceedingly active and useful life." And we agree with him. And the Doctor goes on to give us a vivid picture of conditions in Dawson City when he took hold: "We found practically one vast swamp, which is usually navigable in the early spring, still in almost a primitive condition, or even worse, cesspools and filth of all kinds occupying irregular positions, typhoid fever and scurvy rife in the land. We immediately went to work to put the house in order, getting out all the garbage and refuse on the ice in the early spring, so that it might be carried down the river at the break up. We then specified places at which garbage, etc., should be dumped. We had the streets cleaned, by prison and other labour, had offensive material removed and rubbish burnt, while the Governor, with great vigour, inaugurated a system of drainage, so that in a short time the change excited the wonder and admiration of the people." The doctor is evidently fond of Scriptural phrases, for above he has spoken about "putting the house in order," and now he adds: "We had, of course, some difficulties to contend with, the fact that people to a large extent were 'strangers and pilgrims,' and unaccustomed to any restrictions unless those of a primitive order." But the Doctor, with the aid of the Mounted Police officers already named, as well as Corporals Wilson, McPhail and the men generally, triumphed and made the place healthy. Perhaps there is nothing more remarkable in the record of the Police than the way in which, wherever they were stationed, they always fought epidemics and disease amongst Indians or whites or Esquimaux to the utter disregard of their own safety, though it was not necessarily part of their ordinary duty.