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Governor General Visits Northwest

Back to The Riders of the Plains.

The following is an excerpt from The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Cecil Edward Denny. This work is in the public domain.

Continued from Chapter XXIV – Indian Farm Started.


Chapter XXV

Governor General Visits Northwest

THE COMMISSIONER of the Police was notified from Ottawa during the summer of 1881, by the Comptroller of the force, Mr. F. White, that it was the intention of the Marquis of Lorne, the Governor General of Canada, to visit the North-west Territories during that summer, and to have escorts of police in readiness to accompany his party in their journey through the country. In July an escort left Fort Walsh in charge of Sergeant-Major Lake for Qu’Appelle, it being arranged that Superintendent Herchmer should meet them at that place. I might mention that, as heretofore the ranks in the force had been constables, acting constables and sub-constables, they had this year been changed to sergeants, corporals and constables, and the commissioned ranks, being previously inspectors and sub-inspectors, were now superintendents and inspectors. The uniform had also been materially changed. The party from Fort Walsh consisted of sixteen constables, three corporals and three staff sergeants, with thirty one horses and three wagons. The party under Superintendent W. Herchmer’s command was to meet the Governor General at Fort Ellice, which was situated about 400 miles from Fort Walsh, so they had a nice little journey before their actual work began. Relays of horses were sent to Battleford and Calgary, together with forage and other supplies.


The Commissioner met the Governor General and party at the Blackfoot crossing on the 11th of Sept., where a grand war dance of the Blackfeet had been held, in honor of the visit, and proceeded with the party to Ft. Macleod via Calgary, at which latter place they rested a day or two.

At Ft. Macleod the escort was changed, and Superintendent Crozier took command for the journey south into Montana, the Governor General intending to return east by the United States.

The officer in command of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, Colonel Kent, at Fort Shaw, Montana, situated something over 200 miles south of Ft. Macleod, was notified by Col. Irvine of the Governor General’s intended visit, and the notice was received by him and the officers under his command with the greatest satisfaction. Lt. Col. Irvine and Col. Kent, with an escort of United States cavalry met the Governor General with the escort of mounted police, at the South Piegan Agency, Montana, and the two escorts proceeded together to Ft. Shaw, where the Governor General and the Canadian police were most cordially received and all honors shown them. From this point the Governor General travelled under the escort of United States troops, Superintendent Crozier returning with his party to Ft. Macleod. Altogether the journey from the beginning to the end was most satisfactory, and the behavior of the different police escorts beyond all praise, as the following copy of a letter written on the old escort from Winnipeg to Macleod, will show.

Ft Macleod, 18, Sept., 81


I am commanded by His Excellency the Governor General to desire you to express to Superintendent Herchmer his entire satisfaction with the admirable manner that officer has performed his duty while in command of the force of mounted police which has escorted his Excellency from Winnipeg to Ft. Macleod. I am further to request you to convey to the non-commissioned officers and men who formed the escort, his Excellency’s thanks for the services rendered by them while on the march, and the pleasure it has afforded him to witness the discipline and efficiency of the corps.

I have the honor to be, Sir

Your obedient servant,

(Sgd.) F. De Winton, Lt. Col.


The same thanks were also given to Supt. Crozier and the escort under his command before they returned north from Fort Shaw.

The whole of the Northwest Territories were now beginning to settle, not it is true, with great rapidity, but slowly and surely, and it was becoming evident that the strength of the police force, about 300, was not sufficient for the work they were called upon to do, more particularly as nearly all the Indians had now settled on their reserves. The force was stationed and divided up between thirteen posts, as follows; Fort Walsh, Qu’Appelle, Shoal Lake, Swan River, Ft. Macleod, Blackfoot crossing, Calgary, Macleod Farm, Blood Reserve, Battleford, Saskatchewan, Prince Alberta and Wood Mountain. These different stations were in most cases at long distances from each other, and being so numerous, their strength was very small. The commissioner therefore recommend this fall to the government the necessity of increasing the force by at least 200 men, giving many good reasons for doing so, the most particular being the necessity of protection for the settlers now entering the country against the Indians, and vice versa. I quote a portion of the recommendation as follows:

“Since the beginning of Treaty 7 in 1877, the Blackfeet, Bloods and Piegans have never been even temporarily assembled in Canadian territory up to their full strength. In 1877 it must be remembered that large quantities of buffalo were to be found in the country. The Indians were then self supporting, in fact almost rich, and certainly contented. Thus notwithstanding the fact of these three tribes being nothing less than savages, they were not dangerous. Now matters have completely changed; the savage nature alone remains, and they are purely dependent on the government for a living. The yoke of dependence weighs somewhat heavily upon them. It is true that the policy of settling the Indians on reserves, and instructing them in agricultural pursuits has been adopted; small bands have from time to time straggled in, food homes on the reserves and adopted the new mode of life, but the majority are fresh from the south of the international boundary line, where they have been employed in hunting buffalo. It must be remembered that these Indians have led a lawless and roving life, that they have been accustomed from infancy to regard other men’s cattle and horses as fair plunder, and that the habits of a life time are not easy to unlearn. It is not natural to suppose that they will at once settle down to a quiet, humdrum life, and devote themselves heart and soul to farming. Discontent may, in fact more than probably will, break out, and the spirit of unrest show itself, particularly among the young men, which, if not suppressed in time, will result in periodical raids on the cattle and horses of settlers. This would in a short time lead to acts of retaliation and a serious outbreak would follow as a natural consequence.

“The number of Indians in the Northwest Territories, all under the jurisdiction of the police, may be taken as 27,000. The area of territory is some 375,000 square miles, almost equal to the area of France and Germany combined, or nearly twice that of Spain and Portugal.”


It was also recommended that the fort at Macleod should be rebuilt on another site, as the river bottom on which the old fort stood was fast being washed away by the Old Man’s river. Ft. Walsh was also recommended to be abandoned, as the site was far from being a good one, and the Cypress Hills would never be a farming country, as summer frosts were too prevalent. No settlers whatever had come into that district in the six years the police had been there, and I doubt if in 1881 there was a single settler within a hundred miles of that place. The Canadian Pacific was now creeping towards the Northwest and it would soon become necessary that the headquarters of the force should be on the line of railway as soon as it was built to a suitable point, which would soon occur. During the summer of this year, 1881 the coal mines at the present town of Lethbridge were first opened by Capt. Bryant, working for the Galt company, who had leased the coal seams in that locality from the Canadian government. Capt. Bryant also visited the coal seams on the Blackfoot reserve on the Bow river, and started men cutting timber on the Company’s timber limit in the Porcupine Hills, west of Ft. Macleod, where a saw mill was afterwards erected and timber cut and hauled to the Old Man’s river, at Ft. Macleod, where barges were built and sent down the river to the coal mines, where they were, until the advent of the C.P. Railway, loaded and towed down the south Saskatchewan river.

During the stay of the Marquis of Lorne at Calgary I was offered by Mr. Dewdney, the Indian Commissioner who was with the party, the agency of the Cree and Assiniboine Indians at Fort Walsh, which I accepted, together with Mr. Dewdney, proceeded from Ft. Macleod across country to Ft. Walsh after the Marquis had gone south.

There were about 700 Assiniboine and about 1,000 Crees camped at Ft. Walsh and in the neighborhood, and these were in a very destitute condition. An experimental farm had been started for them on Maple Creek, on the north side of the mountains, but owing to the summer frosts, had not proved much of a success; although some wheat had been raised it had not fully ripened. No beef cattle had been contracted for these Indians, and as there were no buffalo now in that section, it was difficult for them to get a living, which they managed to gain principally by fishing. Some of the lakes in the Cypress Hills were full of fish, principally suckers, and on these they had to live. A great many of the Cree Indians were non treaty, and it was the aim of the government to get them all, both Crees and Assiniboines, away from Cypress, and on to reservations east of the present Regina. They had, however, shown great unwillingness to go, and as the season was far advanced, it was necessary that some provision should be made for them at Ft. Walsh, and with the scanty supply on hand, I and Inspector McIllree, who was in charge of the police at that place, had our hands full. The winter was a very hard one, and the Indians suffered greatly, bacon, a little pemmican, wheat and fish, being altogether their food during the winter, and our work was of the hardest to keep them quiet on these short rations. Too much credit cannot be given the commanding officer and those under him for the manner in which they handled the Indians this winter and kept them quiet. There were many bad characters among the Crees assembled there, such as Lone Man, Little Pine, and many others who took an active part in the rebellion of 1885.

Mr. Dewdney the Indian Commissioner was this winter appointed Lt. Governor of the N.W. Territories, Lt. Governor Laird’s time having expired. Mr. Dewdney at the same time was Lt. Governor and Indian Commissioner, and Mr. E. Galt Asst. Indian Commissioner. It was not until late in the summer that the Assiniboines and most of the Crees left Ft. Walsh, and then they went south along the Missouri river, as they had received word that buffalo were to be found in that direction, and it was with great difficulty that most of them were induced to go on their reserves near Qu’Appelle, but after the payments they again went south after returning all tools etc., that they had received from the government.

Big Bear and a large following of Crees, all non-treaty Indians, who refused to sign the treaty, as they said they objected to hanging as the punishment for murder, had for years off and on, been hanging round Ft. Walsh, sometimes going south to the Missouri river after buffalo, but always returning to Cypress; these Indians had given endless trouble but in December, 1882, they took the treaty at that place, and went north in 1883, only, however, to foment discord and to join the rebellion in 1885.

Regarding these Indians, the Indian Commissioner in his report of November 1882, remarks:

“The wish of the government that all Indians south, should go north, as, I am sorry to report, been only partially successful, but had Ft. Walsh been abandoned as determined on last winter, I have no doubt the bulk of them now south would have been on their reserves, and some of the restless ones who went north would not have risked returning south as they did. The knowledge that if the buffalo failed, they could fall back on Ft. Walsh, made them visit what would otherwise have been starvation. At one time during the summer it looked as if we should have had a return of the buffalo in large numbers, as several bands were north of the Missouri River, on the Milk River, but the United States troops stationed south of the boundary to prevent the return of the Indians, coupled with the burning of the grass along the boundary line by the American Indians, drove them back, and they are still south of the Missouri river.

“Our Indians who expected to meet buffalo this fall, remained south, and when starvation actually stared them in the face, they congregated round Ft. Walsh. They were in a most deplorable condition and begged to be paid their annuities at that place.”

The Indian Commissioner goes on to report Big Bear being admitted to treaty No. 6, and states that: “Big Bear, who has, I think, borne unjustly a bad character, will make one of the best of chiefs.” This prediction of the Commissioner was far from being realized, as Big Bear was one of the most mischievous and stubborn Indians of the Rebellion.

During the summer of 1882, the Northwest police, which up to this time had been only three hundred strong, was increased to 500 in number and the western posts greatly strengthened thereby. It was time this increase was made, as the Indians were all through the south and west giving a great deal of trouble in getting them to remain on their reserves, and to put a stop to horse stealing in the south, which was becoming very prevalent and giving rise to complaints from the American government. The small force of police had more than they could do, and it was high time that an increase in the strength of the force should be made.

Continued in Chapter 26: Trouble with Blackfeet.

Indian Farm Started

Back to The Riders of the Plains.

The following is an excerpt from The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Cecil Edward Denny. This work is in the public domain.

Continued from Chapter XXIII – Trouble with the Indians at Calgary.


Chapter XXIV

Indian Farm Started

IN NOVEMBER 1880 Col. Macleod, the commissioner of the police, resigned that position, and the Assistant-Commissioner, Lt.-Col. Irvine, was appointed in his place, the headquarters of the force still being at Fort Walsh. Col. Macleod was appointed stipendiary magistrate for the Northwest Territories, his district being a very large one, comprising the Fort Walsh district, and that of Macleod, Calgary and Edmonton. Lt.-Col. Jarvis who had been in command of a troop at Edmonton since 1874, he having taken that troop there in that year, building Ft. Saskatchewan the following year, on the location where it now stands, was moved from Edmonton to Ft. Macleod and given command of that district, I and Sub-Inspector Dickens being his subalterns. During the winter of 1880 a serious fire occurred in the fort, all the stables being burned; the buildings were not much loss, being only old log buildings, the roofs being of mud, but much harness and saddlery were destroyed, and at one time it looked as if the quarter-master’s stores would also go, but with the assistance of many of the civilians from the village the fire was at last extinguished, with only the loss of the stables. The buildings in the old fort had not improved very greatly since they were first built; floors had been laid, but the mud roofs still remained, and the buildings even now were far from comfortable. Ft. Walsh was much ahead of Macleod, the buildings being all roofed in and fairly comfortable.

A police farm had been started at Pincher Creek, about twenty-five miles west of Macleod, under the charge of Sub-Inspector Shuortcliff, but it did not turn out a success, and was shortly afterwards abandoned. The Indian department had also started an experimental farm at the same place, with the view to raising grain to be supplied to the different Indian reservations in the treaty. Some fairly good crops were raised here, but the expense was greater than the return, so this farm was, after a few years, also abandoned, and sold shortly afterwards. The section of country in and around the vicinity of Pincher Creek was, and is to-day, by far the best farming section in Southern Alberta, and in that section, as time went on, most of the settlers located, that is, those who went in for mixed farming and stock-raising, while the country east on the plains was taken up by the large stock-owners, and in after years large leases of grazing land were secured by these companies, which had a tendency to keep back the settlement of the country by making it impossible for settlers to take up land.

I resigned my commission in the police force in the early spring of 1881, as I intended to start ranching at Calgary that year. I therefore went to Calgary in February and started building and ploughing land to crop. There was at that time only I.G. Baker and the Hudson’s Bay company stores at that place. Both were small stories, as indeed there was little or no white trade there in those days, there being only half a dozen or so settlers anywhere in the country between Macleod and Calgary, and from there to Edmonton. Sgt. Johnstone was alone in charge of the old fort at Calgary but at Morleyville mission, at which place the Stoney Indians had their reserve, David McDougall had a store, and did a very good business with those Indians who confined their hunting and trapping altogether to the mountains, going far south on their hunts, into the states, and also a long way north, and in those hunts they collected large quantities of fine fur, such as silver and black fox, beaver, martin, bear and deer skins, of many varieties. These they nearly altogether traded to Mr. McDougall, who made a yearly trip to Winnipeg, where he disposed of his fur, and brought a supply of trading goods back with him. The Stonies did some trade with the Hudson’s Bay company, both at Edmonton and Calgary, but little or none with the American traders. They had some cattle given them by the government, and this, together with a little farming they had begun to do, made them better off, as they were more industrious than any other tribe on the plains.

The Crees had nearly ceased coming south altogether, since the buffalo went south, with the exception of a large band of non-treaty Indians under Big Bear, who hung around the Cypress hills and who joined the half-breeds in their rebellion in the year 1885. There was, as I have before mentioned, a small band of Iroquois Indians, who lived altogether by themselves in the Jasper Pass, northwest of Edmonton. These Indians were brought out from Canada many years ago, to act as boatmen and hunters for the Hudson’s Bay company; and, settling in the mountains, have remained there to this day.

I started ranching at Calgary with a small band of cattle and some horses, but the prospect of making anything was not encouraging, there being no market in the country, and even in 1881 we never expected to see a railroad built in that section, although rumors were in circulation that the C.P.R. would be commenced before long; the survey was made near Edmonton, and it was at first thought that the road would be built through that section.

Lt.-Col. Jarvis also left the force in this year, going to Edmonton and locating. A new fort had been built at Qu’Appelle, and Inspector Steele with D troop was in charge there for some time. Mjr. Crozier had been removed to Fort Macleod, and Capt. Winder who for some years had been in command there, left the force that year and went into stock ranching in the vicinity of Macleod, and started the ranche today known as the Winder ranche. He also built and stocked a trading store in the old village of Macleod, and did very well in business for some years, in fact until his death at Macleod in 1885. A good many men left the force about this time, many remaining in the country and taking up farms. It was in 1881 that the first large herd of cattle was brought to the country by the managers of the Cochrane Ranche Co., who were also the first to obtain a grazing lease from the Canadian government, on the Bow river in the neighborhood of Calgary.

 They bought their cattle in Montana and Oregon at low figures in those days, and they brought in this summer about 7,000 head; they had to employ American cowboys almost entirely to drive them in, many of these men- all first class cattle men- being permanently engaged by the Cochrane Co., and as other cattle companies were started many more came in and found good wages on the different ranches, the pay being from sixty to one hundred and twenty-five dollars per month. Major Walker, an ex-police inspector, who had come with us as far as the Sweet Grass hills in 1874 and who had been stationed at Fort Pelly until he left the force, was engaged as manager of the Cochrane ranche, whose headquarters at first were at Calgary, but he was a good deal across the line during the first year, buying and starting the herds of cattle north.

The year 1881 saw therefore the beginning of the stock industry, on a large scale, in this western section, and as time went on, many large cattle ranches, now paying well, were started in Southern Alberta. This summer matters were very busy in police circles. In July, after long negotiations, Sitting Bull and his band of refugee Sioux surrendered to the United States government at Fort Buford, on the Missouri river in Montana. For a long time the Canadian government had tried to forward this end. The Sioux, about six hundred and fifty lodges, had for the last year been put to great straits for food. The buffalo had disappeared, and, as our government had refused to feed them, they were in a bad way indeed, and had nothing left them but surrender or starve, and they chose the former. The commissioner, Col. Irvine, in his report to the government in 1882, says as follows:

 “It is, I think, a matter of the utmost congratulation that the Canadian government has peaceably effected the surrender of a warlike and powerful nation of Indians, whose presence in our country has necessarily been a source of continual anxiety. In connection with this surrender I trust the government has every reason to be gratified with the manner in which its policy has been carried into effect by the force under my command.”

  It will be remembered that in 1877, soon after the latter fight, Sitting Bull and his followers, numbering some hundred and fifty lodges, crossed the boundary line to seek shelter in British possessions. It was astounding with that rapidity the news of Sitting Bull’s safe arrival in Canada was transmitted to other branches of Sioux, who had up to this time remained in the United States. This news quickly had the effect of rendering out country attractive to the remainder of the hostile Indians who had taken part in the Custer fight; their numbers being augmented by large bands of Indians of the same tribe, who previously had been located on American reservations. In other words, a general stampede took place, and in an extremely short time Canada became the home of every Sioux Indian who considered himself antagonistic to the American government. In all they numbered some seven hundred lodges and these lodges being crowded it may safely be estimated that they contained eight souls to the lodge. Thus suddenly we had our Indian population increased in a very undesirable manner by some five thousand six hundred souls. In addition to Sitting Bull, we had such celebrated chiefs as Spotted Eagle, Broad Tail, Bear’s Head, The Flying Bird, The Iron Dog, Little Knife, and many others.

It will be seen by the above extract from the commissioner’s report that by this surrender we got rid of a very large band of strange Indians, and ones who were a thorn in the side of our own Indian tribes, with whom they had always been at war. It also took a great deal of laborious duty off the hands of the police, who constantly had to maintain control and supervision over them, more particularly during the hard and severe winters, when the travelling was at its very worst.

The police commissioner had in the year 1880 reported to the government that in his opinion the Sioux would in the end be forced to surrender, although much contrary opinion was held in Canada, and no doubt much underhand influence was brought to bear by traders and others to induce them to remain, which caused so long a delay in their ultimate surrender.

Therefore, in July, 1882, Sitting Bull with his camp moved south towards Fort Buford, to which post an officer of police had gone ahead to notify the American authorities of his coming with the intention of surrendering, which he did July 21.

He was afterwards sent south into exile and his band altogether broken up, being sent down, the majority of them, into the Indian Territory. Sitting Bull himself, as will be remembered, in 1890 headed another Indian rising and was shot by one of the government Indian scouts. Rain in the Face, the Sioux chief who killed General Custer, was also shot some years before while trying to escape from confinement at one of the American military posts.

Continued in Chapter 25- Governor General Visits Northwest.

Trouble with the Indians at Calgary

Back to The Riders of the Plains.

The following is an excerpt from The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Cecil Edward Denny. This work is in the public domain.

Continued from Chapter XXII – After a Murderer.


Chapter XXIII

Trouble with the Indians at Calgary

SHORTLY AFTER MY arrival at Fort Walsh, I obtained two months’ leave, to return to Fort Calgary, at which place I intended to take up a ranche on the bottom where the present town is now built, and I wished to make arrangements with an ex-policeman, an old servant of mine, Joe Butlin, to build a house before winter set in. As Colonel Macleod was returning to Fort Macleod himself, I took the opportunity of travelling with him, he having a four horse team and spring wagon. I was also able to take my baggage along, riding my troop horse. The Indian agent, Macleod’s son, Norman, was also with us, having just arrived via the Missouri from Canada, and was on his way to join his father at Fort Macleod. Jerry Potts, and two other men formed the balance of the party.

 Our journey was uneventful until we came to the Belly river at Whoopup, where we found the stream very high, and just managed to cross without swimming. We dined here and went on to Slide Out, that being the second crossing of the same river. It was then about six in the evening, and Colonel Macleod having taken my horse, I rode in the wagon. He and Jerry crossed the river, and being on the ford they got over without swimming. I told the driver to drive in after him, but when we were nearly half way over, on the south bank, and come over in the morning, and that himself and Jerry Potts would go on to Macleod that night, nine miles north. We turned and went back, although I was loath to do so, having made a good start to cross. However, we had to obey orders, and went back.

We put in a most unpleasant night. Having no tent we slept under the wagon. The mosquitoes were very bad all night, and sleep was almost impossible. During the night two of our horses crossed the river, although hobbled, and in the morning we could see them on the other side. A little after daylight I sent the driver, Hooley, over after them, and also instructed him to pay particular attention to the ford, so that he would know where to drive when we started over. He got across all right, and brought back the two horses. I watched him cross, and saw that the water was about breast high, and a swift current running. He informed me that he considered the ford all right and that we would have no trouble in getting over.

We therefore loaded the wagon and hitched up, and started for the river. There was a small log shanty on the north side, not far from the river bank, owned and occupied by two ex-policemen, Bell and Patterson, who had a short time before left the force, and taken up a ranche at this point, intending to go into farming and stock raising. These men were in the house at this time, but it being very early, they were still in bed. We had reached the middle of the river, which was about breast high on the horses, when the lead team baulked. It seems that they were sometimes given to this habit, although I was not aware of the fact. I took the reins of the leaders, and the driver held those of the wheel team, and after a short interval, we started them all together, and I handed back the reins I held to the driver. We had only gone a few steps when they stopped a second time, the leaders swerving down stream, dragging the wheel team round with them, and tilting over the wagon, throwing me out into the river among the horses. How I escaped being injured by them I cannot tell, but, half drowned, I managed to gain the shore, and scrambling up the bank, saw that young Macleod and Stewart had jumped off and swam ashore. The team and wagon were going down the centre of the river; the driver had let go of the reins, and was holding on to the side of the seat, the water being up to his waist. The horses were swimming, and the leaders having turned round, were frantically pawing on the team behind them. The driver, who had completely lost his presence of mind, called out, “Mr. Denny, come and help me!”

I of course jumped into the river, swam down towards the wagon, and had come within a few yards of it when it turned completely over, with the man underneath, and the whole, horses, man and wagon, disappeared. I swam over the spot, and down the river for a quarter of a mile, without any signs of any part coming to the surface, and being nearly exhausted, I had to make for shore.

In the meantime, the two young men had watched this horrid catastrophe from the bank, and being young, were naturally in a very nervous state. I called up Mr. Bell and Mr. Patterson, and, borrowing two horses from them, sent Macleod and Stewart into the fort for assistance. I, together with Mr. Bell and Mr. Patterson, went down the river and found that the wagon, with the drowned team still attached, had landed on a bar in the middle of the river, about half a mile down. Of poor Hooley there was no sign. We could do nothing until assistance arrived from Ft. Macleod, as there was no boat on the river. We waited about an hour and a half, when a party of men, with a boat loaded on a wagon, arrived, and we went out to the wreck, and after many hours’ hard work, managed to disentangle the horses, and bring the wagon and harness and some baggage ashore, but no sign whatever of Hooley’s body could be discovered. We then went many miles down the river, searching, without success, and towards evening reluctantly had to relinquish the search. Most of our baggage was lost, but, curious, as it may seem, not a thing belonging to Col. Macleod was missing, even his waistcoat that contained a gold watch, and had been left on the driver’s seat, was recovered. I lost, among other things, a good part of my uniform, together with three months’ pay I had in my uniform case.

Poor Hooley’s body was not recovered for nearly a month afterwards, when it was found about twelve miles down the river from where the accident happened, and was buried with military honors at Macleod. This was one of the many fatal accidents that occurred in those days in crossing the dangerous rivers in this country, and many more occurred in after years. These mountain streams are very dangerous, the current being so swift that the different bars are constantly changing, and where you found a good ford one year, you might be swimming the next.

We found on arrival at Ft. Macleod that summer, that the Sarcee Indians, who were camped at Calgary, and very badly off for food, were making themselves very unpleasant to those in charge of the Hudson’s Bay Co., and I.G. Baker & Co’s stores at that place, and there being no police then stationed there, they had it pretty well their own way and we had not been long at Macleod before word was sent us from there, that the storekeepers were in danger of their lives, and asking for assistance. These Sarcee Indians, although a small tribe of only about 500 all told, were by far the most troublesome Indians in the west. They came originally from the far north, somewhere in the vicinity of Great Slave Lake, and their language was similar to that of the Chipewayans who still live in that section. This portion of the tribe must have migrated south very long ago, as they themselves have no record among them when this migration took place. They were at one time a large tribe of several thousands, but were continually at war with the Blackfeet and all other tribes of plain Indians, and this, together with the smallpox, which killed off hundreds, was the means of bringing the numbers down to what we found them on our arrival.


They had been given their reserve with the Blackfeet at the Blackfoot crossing, and were told that only at that place would they receive rations. They could not get along with the Blackfeet, and went in a body up to Calgary, to demand food, and when they found the place without police protection and the two stores there well provided with goods, they began to demand in a very threatening manner that they be supplied with all they required.

The Indian agent, Col. Norman Macleod, together with myself in charge of a police detachment of eight men, and Sgt. Lawder, a N.C. officer, therefore proceeded at once to Calgary to move the Sarcees away from that place, and to punish any who had committed depredations. There was not much lagging on the road, and we made Calgary on the second day, and right glad the few settlers at that place were to see us.

The Indians had, up to this time, gone no farther than threatening, and firing off their guns inside the stores. The agent held a council in the fort, and on the Sarcees refusing to go back to the Crossing, promised to issue them rations at Ft. Macleod, if they would go there, which they were very loath to do, wanting to be rationed at Calgary, but this was altogether out of the question, there being no cattle or other supplies at that place. The agent then left Calgary and proceeded to Morleyville to visit the Stoney Indians, leaving us the job of getting the Sarcees out of Calgary and on the road to Ft. Macleod.

We had very hard work for them; for three days they refused to move and even threatened us in the fort. We had to nearly all keep on guard day and night, as it looked very much as if they would attack us, and they no doubt would have done so had we not shown a bold front. We, as they say in this country, “bluffed” them off, and on the third day they promised to go the following morning, and asked help to move their tents and goods, as their horses were all very poor. This I promised them in the shape of carts, and also told them that if they did not move on the following morning, I would pull down their tents and take them off. This was a pretty bold threat, but we had to see it through. I therefore engaged Sam Livingstone, a rancher in that vicinity, and an old Hudson’s Bay Co. man, to bring a number of carts the next day to take them south. On the following morning I went to the camp with all the men I could collect, (I think ere were thirteen of us,) and found no sign of any move on the part of the Indians. I therefore drew up the men with their rifles loaded, just on the outskirts of the camp, and I and Sgt. Lawder commenced to pull down the tents. The Indians swarmed out and were very nasty for a time, but cooled down at the sight of the

armed party outside the camp, and presently began to pack up their goods into the carts we had handy. One shot was fired from the back of a lodge that was still standing, and the bullet came unpleasantly close to Sgt. Lawder. We could not ascertain who fired the shot, and as the Indians were well under way in their moving, we paid no more attention to it. We got them well on the road south by the afternoon, stayed with them for one day, and then rode on to Ft. Macleod. The camp arrived at that place in four days, and for the next year remained there drawing rations, after which time they had a separate reserve given them on Fish creek, about ten miles from Calgary, where they have remained to the present day.

A sad death, and one that cast a gloom over us for a long time, occurred this fall. Capt Clarke, the adjutant of the force, and a great favorite with all ranks, died at Ft. Walsh of gastric fever. This was always an unhealthy post and a good many men died there of fever during the few years it was occupied. Capt Clarke was the first officer we had lost since we came to the country, and his death was greatly felt by all. Dr. Kittson and Dr. Kennedy, our two police surgeons, and both very clever men, attended him with all that skill could accomplish, but he died in spite of all, and was buried at Ft. Walsh. The monument over his grave was still standing a year or two ago, although the fort itself and all the builders of the old village have long since disappeared most of them having been burned down by Indians some years after it was abandoned.



Continued in Chapter 24: Indian Farm Started.

After a Murderer

Back to The Riders of the Plains.

The following is an excerpt from The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Cecil Edward Denny. This work is in the public domain.

Continued from Chapter XXI – Famine Among the Blackfeet.


Chapter XXII

After a Murderer

WE RECEIVED WORD during the winter of 1879 at Fort Walsh that the Indian, Star Child, on whom suspicion rested as having been the murderer of Greybourn, was in an Indian camp south of Fort Benton, Montana, and Major Crozier who was in command of Fort Walsh that winter, instructed me in the early spring to proceed to Benton, and try indirectly, with the sheriff of Fort Benton, to have the Indian given over to us. I was authorized to offer as high as $500 to attain that object. Colonel Macleod was that winter at Fort Macleod, which place was for the time being headquarters of the force, on account of the disturbed state of the Indians in that district. An Indian agent had been appointed during the winter for Treaty No. 7, with headquarters at Fort Macleod, and the commissioner’s brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Norman Macleod, was the one appointed. He was expected to arrive in Benton in the spring, and the commissioner was to be there to meet him. Commissioner Macleod had the previous year brought his family out west, and his wife, with the exception of Mrs. Winder, and the wives of two of our officers who came out in the same year, 1877, but a few months earlier, was the first white lady in the Fort Macleod district of the North West. These ladies attended the treaty in 1877, and shewed the greatest courage and cheerfulness through all the hardships and dangers they had to encounter, through long and rough journeys with poor transport, and living in mud-roofed huts; through which the water streamed during the rainy season. They were often left alone with only the company of each other, while their husbands were away on duty, sometimes for long intervals, and this in a country only inhabited by thousands of warlike Indians, and a white population not the most select.

I rode to Fort Benton, about 150 miles from Fort Walsh, in the early spring of 1880, and tried to make arrangements to have Star Child turned over to us. Extradition was out of the question, as our evidence was very slight, and I endeavored by the offer of a reward to have this Indian captured, but the terms asked were out of my power to give, according to the instructions I had received. I, therefore, waited for the arrival of Colonel Macleod, who came in after I had been in Fort Benton a few days, with Jerry Potts, our guide, Sub-Inspector Neal, who was on his way to Ottawa, and Staff-Sergt. Norman, the commissioner’s secretary. We remained in Benton for five weeks, waiting the arrival of Col. Norman Macleod, the new Indian agent who was coming by way of the Union Pacific, and from there by stage to Helena and Benton. This was my first visit to Fort Benton, and of course I had to “take in the town.” At that time Benton was quite a busy western town of about 1,000 inhabitants. It is the head of the navigation of the Missouri River, and for fifty years back had been a great Indian trading post. The old fort, built of unbaked bricks, or “adobies,” as they were termed, still stood, although some handsome business blocks and residences were to be found in the town. It was a very rough place. Gambling and dance houses, together with liquor saloons, occupied the whole of Water street, facing the river, and the sidewalks and streets were a mass of playing cards, thrown out from the different gambling places as the easiest way to get rid of them after use. Mr. C. Conrad, of the firm of I.G. Baker and Co., who had spent the first two years at Fort Macleod when we first came out, showed us the greatest hospitality, placing his very comfortable house at our disposal. They boasted of a club in Benton at that time, the Choteau, called after the name of the county, and our names were immediately enrolled as members. We found it to consist of a very mixed array of members, among whom we met Colonel Donnelly of Fenian memory, who was a justice of the peace, practicing law in Benton, and not at all a bad fellow socially. He seldom referred to the little unpleasantness that existed between himself and the Canadian Government. We also met the colonel and officers of the portion of the Seventh United States Infantry stationed at Fort Benton, the headquarters of the regiment being at Fort Shaw about 10 miles west of Benton. As it was, we spent a very pleasant time in Benton, and were quite sorry to say good-bye on the arrival of Mr. E. Galt, our assistant Indian commissioner, and Colonel Norman Macleod, Indian agent.


Colonel Macleod, the commissioner, together with his brother, proceeded to Fort Macleod, with the guide Jerry Potts. Mr. Galt and I went to Fort Walsh, as Mr. Galt, as assistant Indian commissioner, was on a tour of inspection of the western Indian reservations comprised in Treaty No. 7. Colonel Macleod’s trip was an uneventful one, with the exception that in crossing the St. Mary’s river, the stream being high and the ford rough, Staff-Sergt. Norman, who had acted as Colonel Macleod’s secretary for some years, and who was sitting in the rear seat of the wagon, was thrown into the river, and by hard swimming reached shore without anyone being the wiser, with the exception of Jerry Potts, who was sitting beside him. Shortly before reaching the farther shore, Col. Macleod noticed a woolen cap floating down the river, and turning to the driver said: |Hold up, I think Jerry has fallen in.”

Jerry, sitting behind and hearing this, became most indignant, and answered back, “No, sir, not by a d—-d sight, but your d—-d sergeant is drowned.”

However, Sergt. Norman was found none the worse, and no further accidents happened on the journey, and on arriving at Fort Macleod everything was found to be going on well. After a few weeks’ stay at that place, the commissioner proceeded to Fort Walsh, which then was the headquarters of the force.

I proceeded with Mr. Galt, assistant Indian commissioner, to Fort Walsh, where he inspected the different Indian camps in that vicinity. I then accompanied him to Fort Macleod, making a five-days’ trip of it, as the weather was cold and stormy. We met Colonel Macleod on the road, on his way to Fort Walsh. Mr. Galt and myself visited the Indians at Macleod and Calgary, Colonel Norman Macleod going with us, and taking over the duties of Indian agent of Treaty No. 7, his headquarters being at fort Macleod. A farm instructor and issuer of rations was stationed with the Blackfeet at the Blackfoot Crossing; one at Calgary for the Sarcees, and another at Morleyville for the Stonies. Instructors were also placed on the Piegan reservations, twelve miles above Macleod, and on the Blood reserve, south of the Belly river.

I remained at Calgary that summer with only ten men and a non-commissioned officer. It was necessary that some force should be stationed at this point, as a good many Blackfeet were camped at the Crossing, and there was also a large camp of Crees in that vicinity, and the two did not agree at all. In fact, at one time open collision between them nearly took place. Word was brought to Calgary that a Cree Indian had been killed by a Blackfoot at the Crossing, and that the Crees were about to avenge his death, and attack the Blackfoot camp. I, therefore, started for that point with what men I could spare, only six all told, with an interpreter, and made the ride to the Crossing in one day, arriving there late at night. We took a light wagon with us, but very little bedding. Some of the men were recruits, who had only come up that year, and the ride tried them severely. It was as much as I could do to get them in that night. We camped on the river bottom until morning, when we found a Blackfeet camp of about 1,000 Indians on the edge of the bluff overlooking the river, and the Cree camp, nearly equal in numbers about three miles distant. Many of the Blackfeet chiefs came down to see me. They had many complaints against the Crees, and on my asking if it was true that a Cree had been killed, they informed me that it was so, but they had lots of excuses. I demanded the Indian, but found that he had left the camp and gone no one knew where the day after the killing was done. I then told the Blackfeet to put up a large lodge in their camp, and that I would go to the Cree camp, and try to get their chiefs to come over and meet the Blackfeet, and try and make peace between them. This they promised to do, and also to talk reasonably and do their best to straighten matters.

I rode with the interpreter to the Cree camp, and found them more amenable to reason than I expected. In fact, they were pretty badly scared, as being in the Blackfoot country, and a long way from any of their friends, they were very much at their mercy. However, they felt pretty sore over the killing of one of them, but were willing to overlook it if the Blackfeet would pay them, and agreed to come over on the following day and make peace with them, after which they promised to move camp and go back to the Cypress Hills, and join the rest of their tribe. On my return to camp, I informed the Blackfeet of this, and they were satisfied. I found that some of the Indians had brought dried meat to our camp, and had pitched a lodge for us, as we had no tent with us. This showed great friendliness on their part, and the meat was most welcome, as we had only bacon with us.

The following morning I and the interpreter went to the Blackfoot camp, and were shown the tent they had pitched for the Council. The two of us seated ourselves alone at the head of it. After a short interval the head chief, Crowfoot, arrived, and with great ceremony paced round the fire, and shook hands with me, at the same time throwing down before me a fine head and tail buffalo robe. I told the interpreter to tell him that I had not come to take presents, but to settle the trouble between them and the Crees. The interpreter advised me to take the robe, as it was given to show that they were friendly towards us, and that if I did not do so, the Indians would think that we were not friendly to them. I, therefore, threw the robe behind me, and after doing so, thirty-three chiefs, both Crees and Blackfeet, filed in and shook hands, and each chief threw down a robe. After having taken the first, I now had to take all, as had I taken the one and refused the rest, they would have been deeply affronted. I, therefore, had thirty-four robes piled up behind me. However, these robes came in most usefully, as we all were short of bedding, and the cold weather was coming on before we got back to Calgary. I divided them equally among the men, who were delighted to get them.

After a solemn smoke all round, I advised the Crees to move, and also the Blackfeet to settle with the family of the Indian killed in the usual Indian fashion, by paying so many horses, and altogether gave them lots of advice. I had, however, to sit for several hours and hear the different grievances they had against each other, and sometimes the talk waxed pretty hot. However, I managed to settle their troubles, and the Crees promised to move the following day and the Blackfeet to give up the murderer should he come into camp. I made them shake hands all round and, after seeing the Crees out of camp, returned pretty well done up to our camp, near the river. We remained here for two days until the Cree camp was well started on its way to the east. We then pulled out for Calgary, being two days on the road, with very cold stormy weather all the way. But for a little management there might have been most serious trouble between these two large camps, and had it once started, it would have spread to other camps, and a general Indian war between the Crees and Blackfeet would have followed, which, with our small force, would have been nearly impossible to quell. Our hands were pretty full all this summer, the Indians being very restless, and being unaccustomed to remaining for any length of time at one place, it was difficult to keep them on their reserves, where they could receive their rations.

Although the buffalo were in vast herds when we arrived in 1874, they must in the olden days have been many times more numerous. There are, at the foot of a bank of about fifty feet in height, on the Elbow river, six miles south of Calgary, the remains of many thousand animals, which must at one time have been driven over this bank. Below the soil at the foot of the cliff there is a thickness of at least three feet of nothing but old bones, pressed by the weight of the soil into a solid mass. How far back this extends, it is impossible to say, but ages ago an enormous number of buffalo were in some manner slaughtered there. I have found flint arrow heads mixed among these bones, which shows that the Indians had a hand in the slaughter.

I returned to Fort Walsh in the early part of the summer of 1880, leaving one man in charge at Calgary, and he, with the exception of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s trader, A. Fraser, and G.C. King, who had charge of a small trading store belonging to I.G. Baker, was the only white man left at Calgary.

At Fort Macleod things were about the same. A few more settlers had taken up ranches along the Old Man’s river, being principally old policemen who had taken their discharge in the country and having saved a little money, had invested in a few head of stock and settled down. Most of these early pioneers did well and many of them are still in the country and well off.

The Indians in the vicinity of Macleod now and then killed cattle but, horse stealing was their principal pastime. This we found was impossible to put a stop to, and the guardroom was generally pretty well filled up with these Indian horse thieves.

Jingling Bells, the Blackfoot Indian who killed the Cree at the Crossing in the spring, was captured this summer and after being in the guardroom at Macleod for a month, made a desperate break for liberty, and after swimming the river, with a volley fired after him by the guard, managed to effect his escape. He was again captured about two years afterwards and sent to the Manitoba penitentiary, where he died, after being in jail only one year.

Star Child, the Indian supposed to have killed Constable Greybourn, was captured after considerable resistance in a Blood camp. He was tried by Colonel Macleod in the fort and although there was little or no doubt that he was the man who committed the murder, there was no proof whatever to convict him, and he was therefore released. He was arrested about a year afterwards, and sentenced to give years in the penitentiary for horse stealing, and he also died in prison before his time had expired. This was the case with nearly all the Indians sent down; they very rarely lived any length of time in confinement, consumption carrying them off in nearly every case.

The village of Macleod had not increased at all, but still a good deal of money was in circulation and there was plenty of work. Mr. C. Conrad had returned to Fort Benton, and Mr. D.W. Davis was in charge of I.G. Baker & Company’s business at Macleod.

From time to time a whisky trader was arrested and fined or imprisoned, but whisky could nearly always be procured, (a vile compound at $5 per pint bottle) but the popular beverage was Jamaica ginger or alcohol with a little essence of ginger, at $1 a six-ounce vial.

It was seldom that an Indian could now procure liquor, and the whisky illegally smuggled in was sold altogether to the whites. The permit system had now come into force. A permit was granted by the lieutenant-governor to any party well recommended, for not more than two and a half gallons of liquor, said to be for medical purposes. These permits were unfortunately transferable and the system was thereby abused.

At Fort Walsh things were more serious than in the west. Indians of all tribes were congregated in its vicinity and endless trips into the camps had to be made, and the greatest judgement had to be shown in making arrests, as the Indians, particularly the Crees, showed a sullen and unfriendly attitude towards us. They were at this time half starving, little or no rations being issued them by the Indian department at Fort Walsh, so the burden of all was laid on the shoulders of the brave little band of police, under Assistant Commissioner Irvine at that post.

Continual journeys had to be made to Wood mountain, near which post the Sioux in large numbers still camped, causing ceaseless anxiety to the police. Some remarkably fast journeys were made by the assistant commissioner to this post, through a country devoid of wood and game for one hundred and seventy-five miles. Up to my arrival there in the summer of 1880 from Calgary no trouble had occurred, but the work done was remarkable, and the steadiness and forbearance of the men beyond all praise.

Continued in Chapter 23- Trouble with the Indians at Calgary.

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Famine Among the Blackfeet

Back to The Riders of the Plains.

The following is an excerpt from The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Cecil Edward Denny. This work is in the public domain.

Continued from Chapter XX – Troubles with the Sioux.


Chapter XXI

Famine Among the Blackfeet

IN THE SPRING OF 1879, Mr. Dewdney, the Indian commissioner, arrived at Macleod, and visited the various reservations in Treaty No. 7. The Indians were beginning to return from the south, bringing some dried meat with them, but not enough to last long. The buffalo had now nearly altogether disappeared from off the plains, and the Indian commissioner left word that should the Indians suffer from hunger, cattle were to be slaughtered for them, arrangements being made with I.G. Baker and Co., to supply both beef and flour, should it be necessary to issues.

Considerable numbers of cattle had been driven into the country the previous fall by men intending to settle, most of them locating near Macleod or Pincher Creek, a few only going north. By the beginning of summer, nearly all the Blackfeet and Sarcee Indians had returned to the Blackfoot Crossing, and a large number of Bloods had returned to their reserve on Belly river. They could not procure no game, and the Bloods in the south commenced to commit depredations by killing what cattle they found. They slaughtered a large number, and although as soon as word would be brought to the fort that cattle had been killed, parties of police would at once go out and try to arrest the perpetrators, none were caught.

The Indians posted sentinels on the hills at long distances apart, who, as soon as a party of police would leave the fort, flashed signals with glasses they carried for that purpose from one another, until the party engaged in cattle killing were warned, and had ample time to escape.

This cattle killing near Macleod finally became so bad that many of those owning stock drove them back across the line, preferring to pay the heavy duty over there to the risk of losing all their stock. Some of the parties remained on the American side several years, eventually returning to this side when the Indians were finally settled on their reserves, and drawing regular government rations.

At Calgary, at which fort I was in command, matters began to be very serious, as the summer advanced. The Blackfeet were actually dying of starvation, and had I not taken the responsibility of feeding them, an outbreak must most certainly have occurred. It was a pitiably sight to see the parties brining in their starving fellows to Fort Calgary for food, some of them being mere skeletons. I have seen them after I had an animal killed, to issue, rush on the carcass before the life was out of it, and cut and tear off the meat, eating it raw. The Blackfeet showed great gratitude for the food I issued them, and never afterwards forgot what was done for them, and I found in after years, when I had charge of them as Indian agent, that to this one cause I greatly owed the success I had in dealing with them on many a critical occasion.

The following is the report written by me to Colonel Macleod, who was at that time expected at Fort Macleod, although Capt. Winder, who was in command at that post, had authority to forward supplies to any Indian camp in need of food:

“Fort Calgary, 5th July, 1879


 “Sir: As Mr. Merent leaves this fort to-day to proceed via the Crossing to Fort Macleod, I have the honor to report how the Indians are situated at this post and the Crossing, and the action I have taken in the matter of feeding them. On the first arrival of word from the Crossing that there were nearly 200 lodges there starving, and waiting for supplies, I immediately despatched S.C. Christie to Fort Macleod with a letter to you, also stating the condition of the Indians, and asking permission to purchase beef for them. Ever since that time the Indians have been coming in here in hundreds, always headed by a chief, for food, as they are actually dying of starvation. (I have heard already of 21 cases of death.) As they are and have been getting no assistance from any post, I took upon myself the responsibility of purchasing and issuing beef to them; for the last three days I have been obliged to issue beef at the rate of 2,000 lbs. per diem. I have advised the Indians not to move their camp up here from the Crossing, as I expected you would have been at Fort Macleod when Sub-Constable Christie arrived there, and that some of the Indian cattle would be sent to the Indians at the Crossing. I have told them all that as soon as you arrived at Fort Macleod provisions would be sent to them, and that in the meantime I would supply them with meat, which I have done, and am now doing. Until assistance arrives from Fort Macleod I can manage to keep them in meat the way I am now doing for a week or two, but of course the expense will be great. I am buying cattle from Mr. Emerson of this post, at 7 cents per pound. There is no doubt whatsoever that if I had not fed them, and do not continue to feed them, they will take the matter into their own hands, and help themselves.

 “Crowfoot sent up here yesterday, asking me to go down to see and talk to them in their distress. It is utterly impossible for me to leave here until the Blackfeet receive assistance from some other post. Crowfoot himself will, I think, be here to-morrow. All the other chiefs have been in, with the exception of Three Bulls, who is at Cypress. The Blackfeet are utterly destitute, there being no buffalo in the country. I have had to send meat out to parties coming in here who were eating grass to keep themselves alive. The rush here is not quite so great as it was, as I have established some order in the going and coming. Every part that tomes in is headed by a chief, who sends a man some hours ahead to notify me of their coming. Every party that comes in is headed by a chief, who sends a man some hours ahead to notify me of their coming, so that I can have meat ready for them. I am keeping careful note of what I issue, and to whom, and in what quantity. I am paying the men from whom I purchased beef by voucher on I.G. Baker and Co. I am nearly out of flour, and can issue no more without running myself short. It is impossible for me to keep meat for our own use any length of time, because of the scarcity of salt. I sent some time ago to Macleod for salt, but could procure none. I am not only feeding the Blackfeet, but also Stoneys and some halfbreeds, who have come off the plains starving. I have asked Mr. L’Hereux to go himself to Fort Macleod. He will be able to state the exact nature of the case. I have advised the Blackfeet not to move up from the crossing until I hear what is going to be done for them, and when supplies will be sent. They are now within easy reach of this post, coming up from the Crossing in a day and going backwards and forwards with meat. I hope that I have your approval in the action I have taken, and trust to have full instructions before long, as this is rather a trying situation.

 “I have the honor, sir, to be your obedient servant,

 “C.E. DENNY, Inspector commanding Fort Calgary.”

 I had received orders from the Indian commissioner in the spring not to ration Indians at Calgary, but of course such a state of affairs as I have described was not apprehended, and not long afterwards I received a letter from the Indian commissioner, thanking me for the action I had taken. The price of beef, 7 cents per lb., was in those days considered high, strange as it may seem, as to-day the country is overrun with cattle, and beef sells as high as 10 and 12 cents per lb. The reason of this was that cattle could be purchased in Montana at a low figure, there not being much market in that country at that time for them, and the ranges were much overstocked. The herd of yearling heifers purchased by me in 1878, cost, delivered at Calgary, $10 per head, of which $3 per head was allowed for driving, and say $2 per head profit for the purchaser. This would leave the original cost $5 in Montana. As soon as possible after things had come to this pass with the Indians, cattle and flour in large quantities were contracted for, and sent to the different reservations. Men were also engaged to butcher, and police went to see to the fair issue of rations. From this year dates the beginning of the issue of regular rations to the Indians under treaty No. 7, which has continued ever since. For a year or two after this many bands of Indians would be away for months at a time in quest of buffalo, sometimes going far south along the Missouri river, and in fact scouring the country for them. It was hard to make them believe that the buffalo had become extinct, as for years after they believed they would reappear.

Their belief was that the buffalo originally came from a hole in the ground, in the centre of a lake, located in the north, and that on the advent of the whites, they had returned into this lake, ultimately to reappear.

 The ration given to the Indians at that time was 1 lb. of beef and ½ lb. of flour per head all round, and this ration has been little altered, although the tendency has been during the last few years to cut it down, but it is little enough, where they have nothing else whatever to live upon.

Since we came to the country in 1874 up to this year, 1879, no man of the force had been killed or molested by an Indian. Many had died from various causes, but no death was occasioned by Indians. But the clean record was broken in October, 1879, by the deliberate murder at Fort Walsh of Constable Greybourn, stationed at that post.

It was the custom to herd the horses belonging to the fort about three miles away where the feed was good, and a permanent herd camp was established of four men and a non-commissioned officer stationed there under canvas, one man being continually on herd during the day, and the horses being driven into the fort and stabled at night.

At the time the murder occurred, a camp of Blood Indians was not far off from the herd camp, and they made themselves very obnoxious by continually prowling round and begging in the camp. Greybourn left camp that morning to take his turn on herd, and shortly thereafter an Indian, named Star Child, also left. This Indian had given a good deal of trouble, and in fact at one time Greybourn had strong words with him. Some hours after Greybourn’s departure his horse returned to camp along, and the men at once went out to search for him. About a mile away they came upon his cap, and a further search disclosed his dead body, lying at the bottom of a gully and in some brush. On examination a bullet hole was found in the back of his head, no doubt causing instant death.

Word was immediately sent to the fort, and the body removed. A party proceeded to the Blood camp, as suspicion at once centred on Star Child, who was known to have had a grudge against Greybourn. The camp was thoroughly searched, but the Indian could not be found, and no information whatever could be gained from any Indian in the camp. It was afterwards learned that Star Child had that morning left for Montana, where he remained for two years, and although efforts were made to have him extradited they were without effect.

He returned to the Blood camp near Macleod in 1881, and was, after much trouble, captured. He was tried for murder at Fort Macleod, but, although it was a moral certainty that he had committed the murder, there was not the slightest evidence to prove it, and he therefore was acquitted. He, therefore, was arrested a few years afterwards for horse stealing, and sentenced to five years in the Manitoba penitentiary, where he died before completing his sentence. Poor Greybourn was buried at Fort Walsh with military honors, and a gloom was cast over the whole force at the end of this year by the sad event.

Continued in Chapter 22 – After a Murderer.

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 4: The Lucky Thirteen

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 4: The Lucky Thirteen

The following is a plot summary of Season 7, Episode 4 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The episode begins at Smith’s Cove Upper Beach. There, Paul Troutman informs us that Choice Drilling has punched a second hole ten feet northwest of the hole drilled at the end of the previous episode, in which was discovered evidence of the dynamiting operation carried out by the Oak Island Treasure Company back in 1897. In a core sample taken from a depth of 50-53 feet in this new hole, which is dubbed OITC-6, Paul Troutman and Terry Matheson discover two pieces of wood separated by two feet of moist earth. The wood pieces appear to be fragments of hand-cut beams, leading Troutman to speculate that they might constitute the remains of some sort of underground tunnel. Matheson expands on Troutman’s theory by suggesting that the undisturbed quality of the earth above the wood, coupled with the fact that there are no documented tunnels in the area, may indicate that the wood is part of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. The treasure hunters call over Rick Lagina and inform him of the development.

The Fellowship of the Dig then meets in the War Room, where Paul Troutman presents the recently discovered wood pieces to his fellow treasure hunters. Gary Drayton remarks that the wood bears some resemblance to that which comprises the slipway unearthed at Smith’s Cove the previous season. Steve Guptill then shows the crew a diagram depicting where OITC-6 lies in relation to other landmarks on Oak Island. Specifically, a line drawn from the drillhole to the centre of the U-shaped structure intersects one of the walls discovered at Smith’s Cove, which has been entitled “Wall 2”; and another wall closer to the U-shaped structure, which Billy Gerhardt discovered the previous season. When the line is extended westward, it runs through the Money Pit area. The team members conclude their meeting by agreeing to carbon date the wood discovered in OITC-6.

Later, Alex Lagina, Peter Fornetti, Charles Barkhouse, and Terry Matheson meet at Smith’s Cove’s Upper Beach, where Choice Drilling is busy sinking another hole. A core sample taken from 51-54 feet yields nothing but undisturbed till.

While the drilling operation continues at Smith’s Cove, Rick Lagina and Craig Tester meet with Tom Nolan in the War Room. There, they explain that they have identified three locations they would like to excavate in the Oak Island swamp, namely the Ship Anomaly, the Paved Wharf, and the so-called ‘Eye of the Swamp’. As talk turns to the swamp, Nolan informs his two companions that the swamp bottom has risen substantially over the past thirty years due to an accumulation of organic material. “What you’re walking on today isn’t what we were walking on back then,” he says, before recommending that the crew remove the top layer of the swamp before proceeding with any of their planned excavations.

Later, Rick and Marty Lagina and Steve Guptill meet with Jack Nichols of Dam-it-Dams, the contractor who constructed a successful inflatable cofferdam around Smith’s Cove back in Season 4, Episode 12. They inform Nichols that they would like him to dam off a section of the swamp so that they might be able excavate the three aforementioned areas of interest without having to contend with water. After touring the area in question, Nichols declares the task feasible and accepts the job.

Meanwhile, Charles Barkhouse and Gary Drayton conduct a metal detecting operation on Oak Island’s Lot 21, where Drayton discovered the iron swage blocks in Season 7, Episode 2. The pair quickly discover a British copper halfpenny bearing the image of a young Queen Victoria- a feature indicating that the coin was probably struck in the 1840s or late 1830s. Shortly thereafter, west of the old McGinnis family cabin and not far from the shore, they unearth a decorative brooch bearing a fern-like design. The two men call up Rick Lagina and Doug Crowell to inform them of the find. When prompted by Rick, Drayton tentatively dates the artifact from 1500-1700. Crowell then ventures the opinion that the brooch might actually be a military cap badge similar to that which was found on the same Lot back in Season 6, Episode 5, prompting the narrator to remind us of the theory that the Money Pit was constructed by members of the Duc d’Anville Expedition of 1746.

Later, Alex Lagina and Laird Niven drive to Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where they present the brooch-like object recently discovered on Lot 21 to conservator Kelly Bourassa. Bourassa proceeds to clean the object with a wooden skewer, a glass fibre brush, and a toothbrush, revealing a unique design consisting of twin coils of rope surmounted by a fern-like leaf. Bourassa suggests that the object, which indeed appears to be a brooch, has a Maritime flavour to it, but tells the two men that, despite the thorough cleaning he administered, he is still unsure of its age or maker. He also tells Alex and Laird that he has never seen another artifact like it.

Following Alex and Laird’s return, the Fellowship of the Dig congregates at the Mug & Anchor Pub in Mahone Bay, where Alex presents the Oak Island team with the leaf brooch. Marty Lagina observes that the leaf on the brooch appears to have thirteen veins, evoking a tree-like symbol on the Evans stone and the tree on the Appeal to Heaven flag– symbols also associated with the number 13, which were introduced in the Season 6 finale. On Laird Niven’s suggestion, the crew agrees that they ought to continue to scour Lot 21, on which the brooch was found, in an archaeological manner.

The next day, the Oak Island team meets in the War Room, where Craig Tester presents the results of the carbon dating of the wood fragments discovered in Drillhole OITC-6. Tester tells the crew that the wood appears to date from 1735-1784- a date range which corresponds perfectly with the dendrochronological dating of the various structures found beneath Smith’s Cove throughout Season 6. All of the crew members, including an especially enthusiastic Jack Begley, agree that the carbon dating is very encouraging, and that they ought to thoroughly investigate the area surrounding OITC-6.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 3: The Eye of the Swamp

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 3: The Eye of the Swamp

The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 3 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The Oak Island crew meets in the War Room with geoscientist Dr. Ian Spooner, who collected some of the core samples taken from the swamp anomaly in the previous episode and brought them to his lab for further analysis. Dr. Spooner, who has since performed that analysis, informs the team that sedimentation present in the core samples appears to indicate that the swamp is relatively young- specifically three to four hundred years old. When prompted by Rick Lagina, he concedes the possibility that the swamp might be artificial. He goes on to speculate that, prior to the swamp’s formation, the triangular area which comprises the swamp today may have supported terrestrial vegetation. This notion accords with the implication of the various stumps discovered in the swamp over the years, and appears to challenge the theory that the triangular area constituted sea floor at the time of the swamp’s creation. When questioned by Dave Blankenship, Spooner states that Oak Island may indeed have comprised two separate islands at some point in the distant past, as some theorists believe, but implies that these islands would have amalgamated into the larger Oak Island long before the swamp’s formation.

We then learn that Dr. Spooner and his team, in a previous operation which was not featured on the show, collected additional core samples from the swamp and probed its floor with an iron rod. Using a map, Dr. Spooner points out a small oval-shaped body of water devoid of vegetation at the northernmost tip of the swamp and states that he and his team discovered a circle of stones there which appeared to skirt the feature’s perimeter. The geoscientist says that the stone pattern, coupled with the area’s lack of vegetation, seems unusual to him, and advises the team to investigate the anomaly.

The next day, Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, Gary Drayton, and Steve Guptill meet at the swamp, where they intend to investigate the anomaly identified by Dr. Spooner. After Drayton dons a wetsuit and a snorkel, the four men pile into a dingy and row out to the feature. When they reach the area in question, Drayton gets out of the dingy and, using a probe, quickly discovers a stone on the feature’s perimeter. He then applies his pin-pointer metal detector to the stone and gets a hit indicating the presence of iron. Drayton goes on to discover several more stones nearby, all but the largest of which similarly appear to nuzzle iron. As Drayton probes and scans, Steve Guptill plots the coordinates of the rocks with a GPS receiver.

When Marty Lagina dubs the mysterious formation “the Eye of the Swamp”, the narrator attempts to connect the feature with the “all-seeing eye”- a Freemasonic symbol which treasure hunters and theorists have previously associated with the triangular swamp itself; the mysterious stone triangle which once lay on Oak Island’s South Shore Cove; and a marking on a rock in a water well in the nearby town of New Ross, Nova Scotia, discovered in Season 4, Episode 2.

Later, the Fellowship of the Dig congregates in the War Room, where Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, Gary Drayton, and Steve Guptill inform the team of the discoveries they made at the Eye of the Swamp. Guptill shows the team a map depicting the rocks that they discovered in the area, one of which is highlighted in red. Guptill explains that the red-highlighted rock is the largest rock that Drayton discovered, which the metal detecting expert described as being cone-shaped and having a single flat side, similar to the boulders which comprise Nolan’s Cross. This stone also happens to be the only one in the area around which Drayton failed to find any evidence of iron. The team agrees that they ought to drain the swamp and investigate the rocks.

The next day, several members of the Oak Island team meet at the swamp with Shawn Wilson of Wilson Excavation Ltd. We learn that Wilson has been tasked with excavating three areas of interest in the swamp, namely the ‘Ship Anomaly’ indicated by the data of the seismic survey carried out at the end of the previous season; the pattern of stones which Tony Sampson discovered in the Season 7 premiere, which have collectively been dubbed the “Paved Wharf”; and the Eye of the Swamp. Wilson explains to the team that he intends to excavate the areas of interest by using 16’x16’ trench cages, or dig boxes- square caissons which will isolate the areas of interest from the surrounding swamp.

That afternoon, Alex Lagina, Peter Fornetti, and Charles Barkhouse drive to St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, they meet with Dr. Christa Brosseau, to whom they show the iron swages which Gary Drayton discovered on Oak Island’s Lot 21 the previous episode. Dr. Brosseau uses a file to strip away some of the rust which coats the artifacts and extracts samples of the metal beneath. Then, with the help of research instrument technician Dr. Xiang Yang, she examines the samples under an electron microscope and finds them absent of manganese- a characteristic which, she claims, indicates that the artifacts were likely made prior to 1840. Charles Barkhouse remarks that only two companies searched for treasure on Oak Island prior to 1840- the Onslow Company and the Money Pit’s three legendary discoverers. “Other than that,” he says, “[the swage could only have belonged to members of] a recovery operation or a deposit operation…” Peter Fornetti then asks whether the Onslow Company or the Money Pit co-discoverers are known to have worked on Lot 21, where the swage blocks were found. Barkhouse replies that both of these treasure hunting groups are believed to have concentrated their activities at the opposite end of the island, where the Money Pit lies, the implication being that the swages probably belonged to pre-1795 depositors or recoverers.

The next day, Rick Lagina, Doug Crowell, Terry Matheson, and Paul Troutman meet with Brennan McMahon of Choice Drilling at Smith’s Cove. Matheson explains that Craig Tester drew up a plan to have Choice Drilling drill five holes on Smith’s Cove’s Upper Beach, in the area at which the team hopes the convergence point of the Smith’s Cove box drains might be located. As the contractors begin sinking the first of the holes, Steve Guptill explains to some crew members that the flood tunnel is believed to lie somewhere between 90-120 feet below the surface, the wide depth range being attributable to the many topographical changes which the area between the Money Pit and Smith’s Cove has undergone in the past 150 year. In a later interview, Rick Lagina augments the potential depth of the flood tunnel from 50-130 feet below the surface.


Brennan McMahon and Terry Matheson examine a 69.5-73.5-foot-deep core sample from the first hole and find that it contains moist but solid earth. A second three-foot-long core sample, taken at a depth of 91 feet, contains soft clay mixed with small stones. Matheson describes the material as “amorphous”, or formless, and states that this is the first time such material has appeared in a core sample on Oak Island. He suggests that the material’s shapeless nature might be attributable an explosion which took place in its vicinity. A third sample, taken at a depth of 99 feet, contains charred earth that smells of gunpowder, a fragment of what Terry Matheson believes to be the paper wrapping of a stick of dynamite, and a piece of twisted metal tube inside which the suspected dynamite may have been set. Paul Troutman remarks that dynamite is known to have been used in the area by members of the Oak Island Treasure Company back in 1897, in an effort to destroy the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. The crew members agree that the material they discovered in the 99-foot-deep core sample undoubtedly constitutes evidence of the Oak Island Treasure Company’s operation, and decide to search for the flood tunnel between this new site and the Money Pit area.



Dr. Spooner’s Analysis

In this episode, Dr. Ian Spooner presented his analysis of the core samples collected from beneath the Ship Anomaly in the Oak Island swamp in the previous episode. Dr. Spooner concluded that the sedimentation of the core samples appears to indicate that the swamp is only three to four hundred years old, and that the area which comprises it likely supported terrestrial vegetation immediately prior to its transformation into a wetland.

This theory conflicts with the notion that Oak Island consisted of two separate islands prior to the swamp’s formation.

The Eye of the Swamp

In this episode, we learned that Dr. Ian Spooner and his team collected core samples and probed for anomalies in the swamp in a previous operation which was not presented on the show. In a small oval pond curiously devoid of vegetation, located at the northernmost tip of the swamp, Spooner and his crew discovered a number of stones on the swamp floor which appeared to encircle the area.

Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, Gary Drayton, and Steve Guptill investigated these rocks and found that most of them appeared to contain or lie on top of some sort of iron object, which the men were unable to locate. The only rock which appeared to be devoid of iron was the largest rock in the area. Conical, boulder-like, and bearing a flat side, this rock strongly resembles those which comprise Nolan’s Cross.

The Oak Island team plans to investigate this anomaly, dubbed the “Eye of the Swamp”, and its strange circle of stones by draining the swamp and having Shawn Wilson of Wilson Excavation Ltd. excavate the area in question through the use of a 16’x 16’ trench cage- a caisson-like device which will isolate the area from the surrounding swamp.

Upper Beach Core Sample

In this episode, the Oak Island team sank a hole on the Upper Beach of Smith’s Cove, at a location at which they hoped the convergence point of the Smith’s Cove box drains might lie. At a depth of 91 feet, the drill encountered soft clay mixed with small stones. Geologist Terry Matheson described the material as “amorphous”, and suggested that its formless nature might be attributable to an explosion which took place in its vicinity. At a depth of 99 feet, the drill brought up charred earth that smelled of gunpowder, a fragment of what appeared to be the paper wrapping of a stick of dynamite, and a piece of twisted metal tube- perhaps the remains of the setting for the supposed dynamite. The crew agreed that they had almost certainly uncovered evidence of the dynamiting operation carried out by the Oak Island Treasure Company back in 1897.

Although it is likely coincidental, the combination of clay and small stones found at a depth of 91 feet, coupled with the piece of metal tubing discovered at 99 feet, evokes a discovery made by Triton Alliance back in 1970. That summer, Dan Blankenship and David Tobias hired a contracting company called Becker Drilling to punch holes in the Money Pit area. Below the Hedden Shaft, at a depth of 160-190 feet, Becker Drilling encountered a chamber filled with blue clay in which were suspended equidistant layers of pebbles. At the bottom of this chamber was some sort of brass object which the drill chewed into.

The Oak Island Treasure Company’s Dynamiting Operation

In this episode, the Fellowship of the Dig discovered charred earth, a fragment of what appeared to be the paper wrapping of a stick of dynamite, and a piece of metal tube, all of which they suspected was likely evidence of the dynamiting operation carried out by the Oak Island Treasure Company back in 1897. That spring, the Oak Island Treasure Company attempted to destroy the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, hoping that by doing so, they would be able to excavate the Money Pit without having to contend with floodwater. They drilled five blastholes in a line running from north to south about 50 feet from the shoreline and loaded them with dynamite charges. Although the two 90-foot-deep blastholes on either end were dry, the middle one filled with seawater upon reaching the 80-foot level, apparently having hit the flood tunnel. When the charges were detonated, a massive jet of water exploded more than 100 feet into the air before subsiding. At the same time, the water in both the Money Pit and the Cave-In Pit, in the words of treasure hunter Frederick Blair, “boiled and foamed for a considerable time, and after the disturbance subsided, the oil in the dynamite showed on the water in both these pits.” This development verified that the Money Pit and the Cave-In Pit were both fed by the same water source, namely seawater from Smith’s Cove, which apparently travelled by way of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 2: Core Values

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 2: Core Values

The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 2 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

This episode begins in the Oak Island swamp, where Choice Drilling is busy retrieving core samples of the mysterious ‘ship anomaly’ indicated by the results of the seismic survey carried out at the end of the previous season. Tom Nolan, the son of Fred Nolan, joins members of the Oak Island team as they inspect a sample taken from a depth of 13-16 feet below the swamp floor. Disappointingly, the sample appears to contain little aside from mud and organic matter.

A second sample, taken from 18.5-21.5 feet, is composed of arid, crumbly clay, being perhaps the driest core sample ever collected on Oak Island. Heavy equipment operator Billy Gerhardt remarks that that the clay is similar to some of the material he has seen in core samples taken from the Money Pit area. The narrator then attempts to draw a parallel between this clay and the blue clay said to have been found in the original Money Pit by the Onslow Company in 1804, neglecting to point out that the latter was described as having a puttylike consistency very different from that of the moistureless material found beneath the swamp.

At a depth of 30 feet, the drill bites into something hard. A core sample taken from that depth contains more dry clay similar to the material found at 18.5-21.5 feet. Within the sample is a piece of hard rock, which Marty Lagina refers to as a “caprock”. The narrator explains that “caprocks” are sheets of hard rock which overlie weaker material, forming impermeable barriers which prevent the flow of fluids from one side of the rock to the other. Marty’s reference implies the theory that this caprock and others like it prevent the swamp water from leeching deep into the ground below, suggesting that the presence of such rocks might explain the dryness of the core samples the team has unearthed.

When Choice Drilling attempts to drill further into the swamp, the drill seizes up, presumably having encountered a hard rock. The Oak Island crew reluctantly decides to abandon the hole and sink another one later.

The next morning, while Choice Drilling repositions the floating platform upon which their drilling rig stands, Craig Tester, Alex Lagina, Laird Niven, and Steve Guptill meet at Smith’s Cove with Ground Penetrating Radar experts Don Johnston and Steve Watson of Global GPR Services Inc. Tester explains that he would like the GPR experts to search the area for underground voids in the hope that they might locate the legendary Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Equipped with a Noggin 100 GPR sensor- a geophysical tool which uses radio waves to map the underground- Johnston and Watson proceed to scan Smith’s Cove’s upper beach, where the team believes the convergence point of the flood tunnel’s supposed finger drains might be located. The pair quickly discovers a 7-metre-long anomaly which begins 5 metres below the surface and runs roughly parallel to the shoreline.

Meanwhile, Rick Lagina Dan Henskee, and Gary Drayton head to Oak Island’s Lot 21 to do some metal detecting. Located at the westernmost end of Oak Island, Lot 21 is the area at which Gary and other crew members discovered the glass brooch in Season 6, Episode 1; a French grenadier’s hat badge in Season 6, Episode 5; and a lead cloisonné in Season 6, Episode 18, the isotopic signature of which proved to be identical to that of the lead cross found at Smith’s Cove. On this latest excursion, the trio discover a hefty triangular piece of iron with a large hole through the middle, which Drayton suspects might be the head of a quarry hammer. In a later interview, Rick Lagina remarks that the possibility of the artifact’s being a quarry hammer evokes the headstone at the centre of Nolan’s Cross, believed by some to have been shaped by man. Shortly thereafter, the three men come across what appears to be yet another quarry hammer head, this one more substantial than the first one.

The next day, Rick and Marty Lagina meet with geoscientist Dr. Ian Spooner of Acadia University on the South Shore road and show him some of the core samples taken from beneath the swamp. Dr. Spooner observes that the sediment from the samples contains a high concentration of clay, which he states is a characteristic of marine environments. He also remarks that the samples contain less organic material than he would expect to find in an ancient wetland, and concludes that the swamp floor likely constituted sea bottom at some point in the relatively recent past. Spooner agrees to conduct a more thorough examination of the core sample material in his lab.

Later, Craig Tester, Doug Crowell, and Laird Niven take GPR experts Don Johnston and Steve Watson to the Cave-In Pit, around which they ask them conduct a GPR scan. The narrator explains that some theorists believe that the Cave-In Pit lies directly on the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, constituting an air-shaft constructed by the flood tunnel builders. The Oak Island team members hope that Johnston and Watson might be able to locate the tunnel which the Pit possibly intersects with their sensor. Sure enough, Johnston and Watson discover several anomalies in the vicinity of the Cave-In Pit, one of them 25 metres (82 feet) below the surface and the other 28 metres (91 feet) deep. Tester remarks that those depths roughly correspond with the depth at which the flood tunnel is believed to lie in the area of the Cave-In Pit.

The next day, members of the Oak Island team meet in the War Room with blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge, to whom they show some of the metal artifacts discovered on Oak Island this season. Legge identifies one artifact, the discovery of which was apparently made off-camera, as an 18th Century English ox shoe. He then identifies the triangular pieces of iron, which Drayton suspected might be quarry hammers, as crude swage blocks used for sharpening rock drills, and opines that their presence on the island is suggestive of “some major mining or tunneling operation”. He claims that such artifacts are very rare, and estimates that the ones found on the island may date as far back as the mid-15th Century.

Following Legge’s revelation, Marty Lagina deduces that the builders of the Money Pit and the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel would not have had much use for the swage blocks, as they dug through glacial till rather than rock, and would therefore probably have done their tunneling with pickaxes rather than rock drills. He suggests that the artifacts’ presence on Oak Island may be indicative of tunnel work that took place on the western side of Oak Island, as the bedrock there is composed of hard slate as opposed to the softer anhydrite limestone which characterizes the bedrock on the eastern side of the Island.

Later that day, the Oak Island crew heads to the swamp, where Choice Drilling has finished extracting a number of core samples from depths up to 50 feet. Geologist Terry Matheson, who examined the samples beforehand, informs the team that the cores are absent of wood or any other evidence which might indicate the presence of a ship, which some crew members hoped the ‘ship anomaly’ might designate. The cores do, however, contain more of the same dry clay found earlier, through which, Marty Lagina remarks, it would be possible to tunnel.

Later, members of the team meet in the War Room to discuss the inconclusive results of the exploration drilling operation in the swamp. In light of the discovery that the swamp is underlain by a layer of hard, dry clay, Steve Guptill theorizes that the ‘ship anomaly’ revealed by the seismic survey might denote an underground tunnel rather than a buried ship. Talk then turns to the many steps the team will need to make in order to acquire a digging permit which will enable them to test this theory. “First, we have to decide what our target is, and how deep we’re going to go,” says Marty Lagina in a later interview, “and then we [have] to figure out how and what’s permissible.” Rick Lagina concludes the meeting by suggesting that the team attempt, in a scientific matter, to determine, once and for all, whether or not the swamp is manmade. The team concurs with Rick’s suggestion.



Exploration Drilling in the Swamp

In this episode, the Oak Island team took core samples of the so-called “ship anomaly” in the Oak Island swamp, the presence of which was indicated by the seismic survey carried out at the end of Season 6. Although the samples did not contain any wood or other evidence indicating that a ship might lie buried beneath the swamp, as some crew members had hoped, they did contain curiously dry clay, along with fragments of natural caprock which presumably prevents the swamp water from leeching deep into the ground below.

Dr. Spooner’s Swamp Theory

In this episode, geoscientist Dr. Ian Spooner of Acadia University inspected some of the core samples taken from beneath the Oak Island swamp. Spooner argued that the samples’ high concentrations of clay, coupled with their dearth of organic material, appear to indicate that the swamp is a young wetland, and that the area which it comprises lay beneath the sea sometime in the relatively recent past. This hypothesis is consistent with the theory that Oak Island is an artificial conjunction of two separate islands, the strait between which now constitutes the Oak Island swamp.

Dr. Spooner’s intriguing theory appears to conflict with the handful of oak stumps which have been discovered in the swamp over the years, including the stump discovered at the Mercy Point area in Season 2, Episode 1, which was carbon dated from 1450-1640, as well as the stump which Tony Sampson discovered in Season 4, Episode 3, which appeared to be rooted to the swamp floor. Back in Season 2, Episode 4, tree expert Joe Peters analyzed one of the stumps pulled from the bottom of the swamp and determined that it could not possibly have grown to its current size while submerged in brackish water. Discounting the possibility that they were thrown into the swamp by former treasure hunters, Island residents, or the mysterious men behind the Oak Island mystery, the presence of oak stumps in the Oak Island swamp hints at the possibility that the swamp area once comprised dry ground in which oak trees were able to take root- a notion which appears to conflict with the idea that the swamp area was covered by seawater in the not-so-distant past.

Cave-In Pit Anomaly

In this episode, GPR experts Don Johnston and Steve Watson conducted a Ground Penetrating Radar scan of the Cave-In Pit with the aim of locating the flood tunnel which the Pit is believed to intersect. The pair discovered two anomalies, one of them 25 metres (82 feet) deep and the other 28 metres (91 feet) deep. Craig Tester pointed out that those depths roughly correspond with the depth at which the flood tunnel is believed to lie in that area.

Swage Blocks

In this episode, Gary Drayton, Rick Lagina, and Dan Henskee discovered two hefty triangular pieces of iron with large holes through the middle on Oak Island’s Lot 21. Although Drayton initially suspected that the artifacts might be the heads of quarry hammers, blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge later identified the items as swage blocks which would have been used for sharpening rock drills, and dated them from 1450-1750. Legge opined that presence of these objects on the island appears to be indicative of “some major mining or tunnel operation” which took place in the distant past, evoking the theory that the original Money Pit builders tunneled beneath Oak Island’s bedrock.

Marty Lagina expanded on Legge’s theory by proposing that the rock drills which the swages sharpened would have been employed most effectively in tunneling operations on the western end of Oak Island, the bedrock of which is composed of hard slate. Unfortunately, aside from the swages, there is currently little evidence to support the notion that any such operation was ever carried out on the western part of Oak Island.

David Hanson’s Theory

One facet of the theory that tunnels run beneath Oak Island is the argument put forth by the late Oak Island theorist David Hanson, which holds that 16th Century English explorer and privateer Sir Martin Frobisher discovered iron pyrite, or fool’s gold, on Oak Island by chance in 1575. In a misguided effort to encourage the Queen to finance future voyages, the Englishmen sailed back to Britain with the erroneous news that they had discovered gold in the North Atlantic.

With the approval of Queen Elizabeth I, English mining engineer Thomas Bushell and a crew of Cornish miners sailed to Oak Island, where they spent two years sinking shafts and digging tunnels beneath the island, extracting iron pyrite ore form the earth. When the Britons returned to England with their worthless haul, the Queen considered the fraud so humiliating that she erased all records of the incident.

Hanson believed that a crew of Englishmen later returned to Oak Island and interred treasures of great value within Bushell’s mine shafts. Specifically, Hanson believed that these treasures consisted of the original handwritten plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare- which, he argued, were actually penned by English noblemen Edward de Vere- the corpse of de Vere himself, and the lost treasure of the Plantagenet dynasty, lost by King Richard III of English during the 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field.

Marty Lagina expanded on Legge’s theory by proposing that the rock drills which the swages sharpened would have been employed most effectively in tunneling operations on the western end of Oak Island, the bedrock of which is composed of hard slate. Unfortunately, aside from the swages, there is currently little evidence to support the notion that any such operation was ever carried out on the western part of Oak Island.



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The Curse of Oak Island: Season 7, Episode 1- The Torch is Passed

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 1: The Torch is Passed

The following is a plot summary and analysis of the Season 7 premiere of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The Curse of Oak Island’s 2-hour-long Season 7 premiere begins with Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Craig Tester driving to Oak Island for another season of treasure hunting. During the drive, the narrator explains that legendary Oak Island treasure hunter Dan Blankenship passed away in his home on March 17, 2019, at the age of 95, having dedicated over fifty years of his life to the search for Oak Island’s elusive treasure. The treasure hunters mourn Dan’s passing before heading to the War Room to meet with the rest of the crew.

In the War Room, the Fellowship of the Dig calls up Marty Lagina and Jack Begley via Skype. First, the team observes a moment of silence in honour of Dan Blankenship. Rick laments that he and the crew were unable to “give Dan his breakthrough”, or unearth an artifact or piece of treasure which might justify Dan’s lifelong quest to solve the Oak Island mystery, and suggests that they ought to try make that breakthrough this year.

Next, surveyor Steve Guptill shows the crew the results of the seismic survey carried out in the Oak Island swamp by Eagle Canada in Season 6, Episodes 21 and 22. We learn that the survey indicates the presence of a 200-foot-long anomaly in the swamp, the shape of which, Marty remarks, bears some resemblance to the side profile of a sailing ship. Marty’s observation accords with the theory, once held by the late treasure hunter Fred Nolan, that an old ship lies at the bottom of the Oak Island swamp, having been buried by the mysterious builders of the Money Pit and the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. According to this theory, the eastern and western ends of Oak Island were, at one point, actually separate islands, joined together in a massive earthworks project by the original builders. This exotic hypothesis is supported by some intriguing evidence, including a potential scupper and piece of spar which Nolan discovered in the swamp in the 1980s; an iron spike discovered in the swamp, which one expert identified as a nail used in late 17th Century Spanish galleons; and the wooden plank unearthed from the southwestern corner of the swamp in Season 4, Episode 3, which was carbon dated from 1680-1735. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to investigate this new anomaly, which Gary Drayton speculates might be the remains of a Spanish galleon.

Next, the treasure hunters discuss their plans for the Money Pit this season. Craig Tester suggests that they drill some more holes in an effort to pinpoint the locations at which they will later conduct a larger excavation. Doug Crowell expresses interest in Borehole S6, which yielded large, old, axe-hewn oaken timbers, as well as a link of hand-wrought iron chain, in Season 6, Episode 17.

Lastly, talk turns to the U-shaped structure and the slipway discovered at Smith’s Cove the previous season, the wood from which dendrochronologist Dr. Colin Laroque determined was felled in the 1760s and ‘70s. Craig Tester suggests that the crew conduct a rigorous search for artifacts at the end of the slipway, where it seems likely a ship would have been moored several decades prior to the discovery of the Money Pit. In order to do this, the crew will need to extend the cofferdam fifty feet seaward.

After their meeting in the War Room, Rick Lagina, Craig Tester, and surveyor Steve Guptill meet with diver Tony Sampson and his assistants Krista McLeod and Dana Sweeny at the Oak Island swamp. Sampson dons his diving gear and the treasure hunters pile into a dingy, whereupon Steve Guptill leads the company to the northernmost section of the anomaly.

About fifteen metres northwest of the anomaly, Sampson discovers a hard object on the swamp floor using an iron probe. Shortly thereafter, he discovers two similar objects closer to the edge of the swamp, each of them located directly on the line between the first object and the point on the shoreline to which it is most proximate. Sampson suggests that the pattern evokes the cobblestones of an ancient roadway. He dives on the objects, which indeed prove to be rocks with flat surfaces. He then marks the rocks’ locations with inflatable buoys, allowing Guptill to plot their coordinates.

Later, Gary Drayton and Charles Barkhouse conduct a metal detecting operation on Isaac’s Point, at the easternmost end of the island. This is not the first time such an operation has been carried out at Isaac’s Point. Back in Season 5, Episode 1, Gary Drayton and Peter Fornetti unearthed the rusted head of an old woodcutter’s axe and an 18th Century copper coin of either French or English origin at that particular section of the island. In the following episode, Drayton, Fornetti, and Jack Begley discovered a musket ball and a neatly-cut quarter of a copper coin which Drayton suspected might be a Spanish maravedis. Later, in Season 5, Episode 4, the trio discovered a cowboy-style cap gun at Isaac’s Point which belonged to Richard Restall, who grew up on the island with his family in the 1960s.

On this latest excursion, Drayton and Barkhouse uncover a modern 12-gauge shotgun shell. Shortly thereafter, they discover an old silver dandy button bearing a starburst design, which Drayton dates from 1650 to 1750. This date range corresponds with many of the fascinating discoveries made in Season 5, including the human bones discovered in the Money Pit and the late 17th Century British coins found on Lot 16.

Later that day, Drayton and Barkhouse meet with other members of the team in the Oak Island Research Centre. There, they show their fellow treasure hunters the button they discovered at Isaac’s Point, which they subsequently examine under a microscope. Archaeologist Laird Niven observes that the button’s starburst design appears to be hand-carved rather than molded. Niven opines that the object is slightly younger than Drayton’s estimate, dating it from the 1720s to the 1770s- a range which accords more closely with that of the various wooden structures discovered at Smith’s Cove. The archaeologist then expresses his hope that a maker’s mark revealing the artifact’s date, the identity of its crafter, and the city in which it was made will be revealed when the button is professionally cleaned.

The next day, Rick Lagina accompanies his brother, Marty, to Oak Island. The brothers head to the War Room, where Steve Guptill updates Marty on the swamp anomaly indicated by the seismic survey. He also shows the crew a diagram which indicates that the potential roadway discovered by Tony Sampson appears to be about twelve feet wide and runs perpendicular to the anomaly, the southern edge of its midsection lying about two metres north of the anomaly’s northernmost tip. Historian Doug Crowell then opines that the stones discovered by Sampson might actually constitute a wharf rather than a cobbled path, suggesting that it may have been built for the purpose of transporting treasure from the supposed ship to the shore. Despite his historic aversion to the swamp, Marty Lagina agrees that the seismic data and Sampson’s discovery justify a future drilling operation in the anomaly area.

Later, the Lagina brothers and Craig Tester meet with Fred Nolan’s son, Tom, and Brennan McMahon of Choice Drilling at the Oak Island swamp. The five men watch as Brennan’s crew transports their equipment to Oak Island and begins to erect a floating drilling platform in the swamp.

Later that afternoon, the Oak Island crew meets in the Research Centre with conservator Kelly Bourassa, who has come to clean the silver button discovered at Isaac’s Point. After seeing the button, Bourassa explains that he intends to clean the object with a toothbrush, and with a glass fibre brush if necessary.

Gary Drayton and Alex Lagina then embark on yet another metal detecting operation. Although the show states that the pair have returned to Isaac’s Point, the men appear to be scouring the woods that front Smith’s Cove. There, not far from what is later revealed to be the Cave-In Pit, the two come across what appears to be the frame of a Victorian lady’s hand-mirror.

Later, while actually searching on the beach at Isaac’s Point, Gary Drayton and Alex Lagina find a hand-forged iron spike. Alex observes that the spike is not pitted, which Gary suggests is an indication that it is made of old wrought iron with a high carbon content. Drayton further suggests that the spike came from a galleon, and speculates that it might be much older than the 1700s.

This is not the first iron spike to be uncovered on Oak Island:

  • Back in Season 4, Episode 7, Gary Drayton discovered a large iron nail at the northern end of the Oak Island swamp. Although the artifact strongly resembled a railroad spike, antiquities expert Dr. Lori Verderame identified the item as an iron barrote nail of the type commonly used in the construction of Spanish galleon decks, and dated it from 1575-1600.
  • Later, in Season 5, Episode 1, Drayton discovered a hand-forged rose head nail in the spoils from Borehole C1.
  • In Season 5, Episode 5, Drayton discovered an 18th Century wharf nail on the Boulderless Beach not too far from Isaac’s Point.
  • In Season 5, Episode 10, Drayton discovered a wrought-iron spike coated with limestone or concrete in the same batch of spoils from Borehole H8 which yielded fragments of human bone.
  • In Season 6, Episode 3, Drayton discovered a strange-looking spike-like object on the beach of Oak Island’s Lot 26. Although variously identified as a medieval crossbow bolt and an Imperial Roman pilum, the artifact was eventually determined to be an old crib spike- a nail-like tool used in the creation of wharves, derricks, platforms, and cribbing.
  • In Season 6, Episode 8, Drayton discovered an 18th Century spike at Smith’s Cove, along with a gold-plated coin.

Gary Drayton claims that this latest spike is unique in that it is shorter and thicker than most of the other spikes he has uncovered on Oak Island.

Later, Rick Lagina and Laird Niven meet with Kelly Bourassa in the Oak Island Research Centre. There, Bourassa shows the men the freshly-cleaned button from Isaac’s Point. The conservator informs them that the starburst design on the button’s face appears to be stamped, that the button’s back is affixed with a raised foot, and that the silver laminate on the artifact’s surface appears to be covering a mold seam- a feature unique to objects cast in a mold. Upon consulting Ivor Noel Hume’s 1970 book A Guide to the Artifacts of Colonial America, Bourassa dated the artifact from 1720-1770, consistent with Niven’s earlier diagnosis. When prompted by Rick Lagina, he states that it is possible that the button was worn by a military officer.

Later that day, members of the Oak Island team meet at Smith’s Cove with Mike Jardine of Irving Equipment Ltd. The treasure hunters explain that they would like to add a fifty-foot extension, which they refer to as a “bump-out”, to the existing cofferdam which will enable them to excavate more ground in the vicinity of the mysterious slipway.

That afternoon, members of the Oak Island team congregate in the Research Centre in order to update each other on the developments of the day. The crew nominates the wrought iron spike discovered by Gary Drayton and Alex Lagina the most interesting find of the day, and suggest that they have it analyzed by Carmen Legge, the blacksmith who identified the Smith’s Cove crib spike discovered in Season 6, Episode 3 and analyzed the iron hinge discovered in Season 6, Episode 16.

Later, Rick Lagina and Gary Drayton travel to the Ross Farm Museum in the town of New Ross, Nova Scotia. There, they meet with blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge, to whom they show the iron spike discovered at Isaac’s Point. Legge identifies the artifact as a hand point chisel- a tool used to carve stone- and dates it from the 14th to the late 18th Century. Rick remarks that the artifact’s connection to masonry evokes the theory that members of some Freemasonic fraternity are behind the Oak Island mystery. Carmen Legge then suggests that the artifact may have been used to etch characters onto some of the many inscribed stones on Oak Island, including, perhaps the legendary 90-foot stone.

After Rick and Gary share Carmen Legge’s analysis of the iron spike with the team at the Mug & Anchor Pub in the town of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, the Fellowship of the Dig meets at the Oak Island swamp, where a floating drilling platform has been erected. The platform is towed into position and the drilling rig is started up. The episode ends as the drill descends into the swamp.



The Silver Button

In this episode, Gary Drayton and Alex Lagina discovered a badly corroded silver laminate button at Isaac’s Point, on the easternmost end of Oak Island. Conservator Kelly Bourassa, using Ivor Noel Hume’s 1970 book A Guide to the Artifacts of Colonial America as a reference, dated the artifact from 1720-1770 and suggested that it was possibly worn by a military officer.

Back in Season 5, a number of fascinating discoveries were made which seemed to indicate a European presence on the island in the late 1600s or early 1700s. The dendrochronological dating of the U-shaped structure and the slipway near the end of Season 6, however, hinted that a significant event took place on the Island sometime in the late 1760s or early 1770s. Bourassa’s dating of the silver button is among the first items discovered on the island consistent with this dating. Another artifact congruent with the date range in question is a British copper coin bearing the date 1771, which Gary Drayton discovered on Oak Island’s South Shore Cove back in Season 2, Episode 3. Another such artifact is a fragment of Staffordshire slipware which Gary Drayton discovered on Oak Island’s Lot 22 in Season 5, Episode 9, which Laird Niven dated from the mid-1700s to the 1770s. It must be mentioned that artifacts of this age are not necessarily out of place on Oak Island; the island was surveyed and subdivided back in 1762, and private citizens owned some of its lots as early as 1765.

The Hand Point Chisel

In this episode, Gary Drayton and Alex Lagina discovered a wrought iron spike at Isaac’s Point. Although Drayton initially expected that the artifact was a deck nail from an old Spanish galleon, he conceded that it was shorter and thicker than all the other spikes he had uncovered on the island. Sure enough, blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge identified the artifact as a hand point chisel- a tool used to carve stone- and suggested that it might have been used to create many of the mysterious stone inscriptions found throughout the island, including, perhaps, the legendary 90-foot stone.

The Ship Anomaly

In this episode, we learn that the seismic survey carried out in the Oak Island swamp by Eagle Canada in Season 6, Episodes 21 and 22 indicate the presence of a 200-foot-long anomaly beneath the swamp. Members of the Oak Island team remarked that the shape of this anomaly bears some resemblance to a sailing ship, evoking Fred Nolan’s theory that a ship lies buried in the swamp.

History tells us that we ought to take the exciting implication of the survey results with a grain of salt. Back in Season 6, Eagle Canada conducted seismic surveys in the Mega Bin and Money Pit areas and retrieved data indicating the presence of multiple underground chambers. A subsequent investigation, however, revealed these potential chambers to be nothing more than pockets of sand and loose earth which were less dense than the surrounding rock and till. Perhaps a closer examination of the ship anomaly will yield similar results.

Troubles with the Sioux

Back to The Riders of the Plains.

The following is an excerpt from The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Cecil Edward Denny. This work is in the public domain.

Continued from Chapter XIX – A Strange Adventure.


Chapter XX

Troubles with the Sioux

COLONEL MACLEOD, WITH myself and escort, proceeded to the Blackfoot Crossing to pay the Blackfeet and Sarcees. At this payment a good deal of trouble was caused at first by the head chief, Crowfoot, who was dissatisfied at the Bloods not being paid with the Blackfeet. He also pretended to think that they should receive the same amount, $12, per head, as at the first payment, although it was understood, by all that after the first year $5 each, except the chiefs and minor chiefs, was to be the amount. However, after a great deal of time wasted in talk, the payment was satisfactorily made, and I proceeded to Morleyville, and paid the Stonies, with whom I had no trouble.

An extract from Colonel Macleod’s report of 1878 on this payment is as follows: “At the Blackfoot crossing things were at first different, the Indians expressing their dissatisfaction at only receiving $5 per head this year, instead of $12, as they did last year. I had a long talk with Crowfoot, the head chief, and his band, the morning after y arrival. It is very evident to my mind that they are instigated to express their discontent by interested persons, who have been visiting them, and who should have known better. However, when they found that I had come there to carry out the terms of the treaty, and not alter the old one, or make a new one, they all came forward and received what the government had promised them by the treaty of last year. Several of the chiefs came and apologized for what Crowfoot had said on the first day of our meeting, and they all sent a message to say that they were perfectly satisfied with everything. The evening before I left I paid a visit to the head chiefs, and I was much gratified to hear them express the contentment which prevailed throughout the camp. Early in the morning, as I was leaving the camp, Crowfoot and several other of the chiefs came to say goodbye. Crowfoot taking me by the hand said: ‘We have come to shake hands with our old friend, and hope he will forget the words I spoke the other day.’

“I entrusted Sub-Inspector Denny with the payment of the Stoney Indians, and enclose his report, from which it will be seen that the duty was most satisfactorily performed.”

I returned to Macleod after this payment, and received instructions to return to Calgary, and take command of that post, with about 50 men. A herd of cattle for distribution among the Indians came in that year, but as the Indians were not prepared to take them over, as the most of them had, after the payments, gone south to hunt, the cattle were turned over to herders. This stock was herded in the Porcupine hills, near the present Pincher Creek, where the police had established a farm with the intention of breeding the mares belonging to the force. This farm was only kept up for two years, as it was not found to pay, and took too many of the few men we had to run it. The herd of cattle was eventually divided up among the Piegan and Stoney Indians; none of the other tribes would take them, and showed no desire to go into stock raising. The Piegans and Stonies have done well with these cattle, and a number of individual Indians have to-day quite respectable herds. But the Bloods and Blackfeet even to-day will not take them, preferring to live on the government rations, and do little or no work.

While I was at Fort Macleod a curious incident occurred. I.G. Baker and Co. supplied us with what beef we wanted, driving down what cattle they required to slaughter from the vicinity of Pincher Creek, near which place they ranged unherded. In butchering a cow it was discovered that the paunch contained considerable coarse gold, and on washing it out, about $20 in very coarse gold was obtained, mixed with a black sand. This discovery caused quite a stampede of men to that section of the country in which the cattle had been feeding, but nothing that paid was discovered, although in all the creeks and rivers color was found, though not in paying quantities. It has always been a mystery where this gold came from, as he animal no doubt either licked it up in some salty place, or had it in its stomach before it was driven from Montana.

No gold has as yet been found on the eastern slopes of the mountains in the Territories, although color can be found in all the streams, and, as in the North Saskatchewan, in paying quantities. As you go up that river towards the mountains it gets scarcer in quantity. The country as yet has been little prospected, and I think that in time gold will be found, particularly in the ranges of hills, such as the Porcupine hills near Fort Macleod.

The fall and winter of 1878 was passed quietly at Macleod and Calgary, as nearly all the plain Indians had gone south into Montana after the buffalo. This was indeed the last year that any large number of buffalo were to be seen in the North West Territories, although they did not entirely disappear for a few years afterwards. In fact, all game, with the exception of geese, ducks, and grouse, had nearly disappeared, the deer and elk being now only found among the mountains, and rarely seen along the rivers. A few bears would during the summer season be sometimes seen along the river bottoms, but with the exception the game was practically driven out.

 Our work, therefore, as most of the Indians were away, was this winter easy, although patrons had to be continually made up and down the different rivers. At Fort Walsh, however, there was plenty of work, as the Sioux at Wood mountain were troublesome, and many Indians of other tribes congregated there, so that much care had to be taken to keep peace among them all.

A small stockade fort had been built at Wood mountain, and a troop of police stationed there. This place is only a few miles from the American boundary, Fort Bufard on the Missouri river being the nearest American post. The Sioux Indians, under Sitting Bull, when they first came into Canadian territory after the Custer fight, numbered soe 150 lodges, with about eight souls to the lodge. They were much crowded when they first came over. The fact of these Indians, hostile to the United States, finding secure shelter on our side, soon had the effect of drawing to that camp numbers of dissatisfied Indians belonging to that tribe, until about 600 lodges were camped around Wood mountain, and the number of buffalo killed by this tribe was enormous. They committed many depredations along the Missouri river, and much trouble was the outcome of their sojourn in the country.

An extract from the commissioner’s report on the arrival of Sitting Bull and his Indians, states as follows: “At that time the savage warfare that these Sioux Indians had engaged in against the United States was fresh in the minds of American settlers. The press teemed with graphic descriptions as to the doings of the savages, whose presence caused such consternation among the settlers and intending immigrants. Their power and warlike dispositions was quoted again and again. Recollections of the Minnesota massacre were publicly revived, and large numbers of American troops were hurried forward and posted along the Western frontier. It was not to be wondered at that when the Sioux crossed over into Canadian territory general uneasiness prevailed.

“Not only were the fears of our actual and intending settlers aroused, but our own Indians and halfbreeds looked with marked and not unnatural disfavor upon the presence of so powerful and savage a nation in their midst. We were assured on all sides that nothing short of an Indian war would be on our hands. To add to this, serious international complications at times seemed inclined to present themselves. Both the American and Canadian press kept pointing out the possibility  of such a state of affairs coming about, the press of Manitoba even urging that a regiment of militia be sent to the North West to avoid international complications, and the interruption of trade.”

From the above it will be seen the position in which the police force was placed from 1877 until 1882, in which year the Sioux surrendered to the United States government, and left our country for good. A perpetual supervision had to be kept over them, and we were kept in a constant state of anxiety and watchfulness during these years, to say nothing of the hard service that had to be performed both in the summer and during the long and severe Northwest winters. When it is remembered that the force at Wood mountain only consisted of 50 men, in a poor wooden stockade, which a war party of Sioux would have had no trouble in taking in an hour, the courage and tact of the police is beyond all praise. Many a critical occasion arose in dealing with the Sioux, and only by sheer pluck was a massacre of that small force avoided.

One instance I remember that occurred the winter previous to the surrender of Sitting Bull. Major Crozier was in command of the small force stationed at Wood mountain. Sitting Bull and his camp were getting pretty hard up for food (the buffalo being about gone) and were most persistent in their endeavors, backed up by threats, to obtain rations from the police, which were, of course, always refused. They were therefore in a savage mood. They had always been hostile towards the Canadian Indians, particularly the Bloods and Blackfeet.

 The Blackfeet would always come to our posts when near them, and many of them were scattered all over the country on the look out for any stray buffalo that might still remain. A Blood Indian had strayed as far as Wood mountain, in a starving condition, and was making for the police fort when the Sioux got wind of him, hunting him like a pack of hounds. He evaded them by hiding in the thick brush, and managed to get to the fort at night, seeking protection, which was promised him. The Sioux, on hearing that he was in the fort, flocked there in hundreds. The gates being closed on them, they did not enter. They demanded his surrender, and threatened if it was not complied with to burn the fort and kill everyone in it. This they could have done, being some thousands strong. Everything was got ready for defense, and Major Crozier went to the wicket gate alone to parley with Sitting Bull himself. For hours he stood there and argued with him, and finally on Sitting Bull trying to push his way into the fort, he took him by the shoulders, throwing him out, and shutting the gate.

An attack was at once expected, but the firm front shown overawed even these fierce Indians, and they returned to their camp with many threats. The Blood Indian was smuggled out that night, and a horse given him, and he was soon well on his way west. He reached Fort Walsh with his scalp intact, thanks to the courage of that small band of police, and their brave commander. This was one of the many hazardous chances taken by the officers and men of a force only 300 strong, in the old days of the opening up of the now prosperous and fast settling up North West Territories.

Continued in Chapter 21- Famine Among the Blackfoot.

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