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Honore Beaugrand’s Classic French-Canadian Folktales

Honore Beaugrand’s Classic French-Canadian Folktales

Ever since the passing of the Official Languages Act in 1969, Canada has formally been a bilingual nation with two official languages: English and French. Today, most Canadian goods sold outside the province of Quebec have both French and English labels on their packaging; Canadian flight attendants address airline passengers in both French and English; and most high-ranking Canadian government officials are required to be fluent in both of our nation’s official languages. Despite the half century in which Canada has officially existed as a bilingual nation, the cultural and linguistic rifts between French and English-speaking Canada remain nearly as strong today as they were during the days of the Seven Years’ War. Barring the residents of a few French-speaking enclaves scattered throughout the Western provinces and Northeastern Ontario, and excepting the Francophonic habitants of historic Acadian settlements in the Maritimes, most Canadians living outside Quebec have a limited knowledge of the French language. Similarly, less than 15% of French-Canadians, discounting the denizens of Quebec City and Montreal, are fluent in English.

One unfortunate consequence of the language barrier separating French Canada from its English-speaking counterpart is the segregation of Francophonic and Anglophonic Canada’s respective histories and folklores. By dint of their mother tongue, French-Canadian folklorists and historians are uniquely equipped to research the old French letters, journals, and newspaper articles from which interesting fragments of history and folklore can be extracted. English-speaking Canadians, of course, enjoy a similar advantage when it comes to researching historical sources written in the English language. Since there are precious few folklorists and historians literate in both French and English who also possess the inclination to translate sources from one language to the other for the benefit of the unilingual, French-Canadian stories- particularly those of the local variety- tend to remain in la Belle Province, leaving Anglophonic Canucks bereft of the rich history and folklore endemic to the St. Lawrence River Valley, the frontier tales of the Pays d’en Haut, and the legends of old Acadia.


Honore Beaugrand

Fortunately, there have been a few bilingual French-Canadian historians and folklorists who have generously translated some of the old tales of New France into English for the benefit of us English-speaking Canadians. One of these gentlemen was Honore Beaugrand, a French-Canadian soldier, journalist, politician, newspaper owner, and writer.

Honore Beaugrand was born on March 24, 1848 in what is now the town of Lanoraie, Quebec, situated on the St. Lawrence River about halfway between Montreal and Trois-Riveres. After studying briefly with a Roman Catholic pedagogical order called the Clerics of Saint Viator, at the College Joliette, and at the School of Military Instruction of Montreal, 17-year-old Beaugrand travelled to Mexico and joined the army of Emperor Maximilian I, the Habsburg Archduke of Austria and the first and only monarch of the short-lived, French-backed Second Mexican Empire. Beaugrand fought for the Emperor for eighteen months, probably leaving France with other French troops who evacuated Mexico throughout the spring and fall of 1866. In the summer of 1867, Maximilian’s loyalist Mexican troops were defeated, and the Emperor himself was executed by firing squad.

Honore Beaugrand spent the next few years working various jobs in France, Mexico, and the United States. In 1871, he established himself in the town of Fall River, Massachusetts, home to a sizeable population of Quebecois immigrants, and quickly became one of the town’s leading French-Canadian citizens. There, he established a French newspaper called L’Echo du Canada, which was sympathetic to the plight of French-Americans. From 1875 until 1879, Beaugrand worked for, established, and ran a number of different newspapers based out of Fall River; Montreal, Quebec; Boston, Massachusetts; St. Louis, Missouri; and Ottawa, Ontario.

Beaugrand eventually settled in Montreal, where he immersed himself in local and federal politics. A radical liberal (which, in this context, means what he was a strong proponent of republicanism and not adverse to criticizing the officers of the Catholic Church), he was elected twice as the mayor of Montreal, and served that office from 1885-1887. In the year of his first election, he was awarded the French Legion of Honour, the highest French military and civil merit.

In the early 1890s, Beaugrand began to withdraw from politics on account of poor health. He spent the next decade and a half travelling throughout the Mediterranean, the American Southwest, and the Orient, writing as he went.

In the year 1900, Honore Beaugrand published a French-language collection of his recent writings, which he entitled La Chasse Galerie: Legendes Canadiennes, or “The Pleasure Hunt: Canadian Legends”. In this book, he included several short stories based on the rural folklore of Quebec and his own experiences in French Canada, specifically the titular La Chasse-Galerie, or “The Pleasure Hunt”; Le Loup-Garou, or “The Werewolf”; La Bete a Grand’Queue, or “The Big-Tailed Beast”; Macloune; Le Pere Louison, or “Father Louison”; and Le Fantome de L’Avare, or “The Miser’s Ghost”. Today, Beaugrand’s book is considered French-Canadian literary classic.

That same year, Beaugrand published another collection of his own stories based on Quebecois legends and his own perception of Lower Canada, this one written in English. This anthology, entitled La Chasse Galerie and Other Canadian Stories, included an English translation of Beaugrand’s La Chasse-Galerie as it appeared in his aforementioned French book; an English version of his story Le Loup-Garou, which he entitled “The Werwolves” in this issue; and a story called La Quete de l’Enfant Jesus, which translates to “The Collection for the Child Jesus”.

Four years later, in 1904, Honore Beaugrand published a third collection of Canadian short stories (written in English) entitled New Studies of Canadian Folk Lore. This book included a Foreword by Canadian writer William Douw Lighthall and four chapters entitled “The Goblin Lore of French Canada”; “Macloune” (which is a word-for-word English translation of the French story from Beaugrand’s earlier book La Chasse Galerie: Legendes Canadiennes); “Indian Picture and Symbol Writing”; and “Legend of the North Pacific”.

Honore Beaugrand passed away on August 7, 1906, in Westmount, Quebec- an enclave in the city of Montreal- and was cremated at Mount Royal Cemetery in another Montreal borough called Outremont.


  • Canadian Dictionary of Bibliography: Volume XIII (1901-1910), by Francois Ricard (volume edited by George W. Brown, Ramsay Cook, and Jean Hamelin)

The following is a reproduction of Honore Beaugrand’s three classic collections of Canadian folktales: La Chasse Galerie: Legendes Canadiennes (1900; English translation); La Chasse Galerie and Other Canadian Stories (1900); and New Studies of Canadian Folk Lore (1904):


La Chasse Galerie: Legendes Canadiennes (1900; English Translation)

La Chasse-Galerie

Le Loup-Garou

La Bete a Grand’Queue


Le Pere Louison

Le Fantome de L’Avare


La Chasse Galerie and Other Canadian Stories (1900)

La Chasse-Galerie

The Werwolves

La Quete de l’Enfant Jesus


New Studies of Canadian Folk Lore (1904)

The Goblin Lore of French Canada


Indian Picture and Symbol Writing

Legend of the North Pacific

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The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 5

The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 5

Continued from The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 4.

Trouble with the Ottawa

After speaking with the French fur traders, Henry decided that it would be in his best interest to bring his trade goods to the “Nadowessies”, or the Dakota Sioux of Lake Michigan; and the “Chipewa”, or Ojibwa of Lake Superior. On the day of his departure, however, Fort Michilimackinac was visited by about two hundred Ottawa warriors from a southwesterly village called “L’Arbre Croche”, or “Crooked Tree” (present-day Harbor Springs, Michigan), which revolved around a Jesuit mission. Henry described these Ottawa as being “much advanced in civilization” compared to the Ojibwa of Mackinac on account of their proficiency in the art of growing maize, or Indian corn.

The Ottawa chiefs ordered Henry and his men to meet with them in the fort’s governor’s house. There, one of the Ottawa leaders addressed the traders, telling them that he and his people had been glad when they heard the news that English traders had arrived in the country, as they were in desperate need of supplies. They became dismayed, however, when they learned that these goods would instead be transported away to be sold to other nations, some of whom were their enemies. The chief then implored the Englishmen to give every Ottawa man 50-beaver-pelts’-worth of goods and ammunition on credit, assuring them that his people would pay their debts in the summer.

Henry and his men learned, presumably from the French traders at Mackinac, that the Ottawa were notorious for failing to repay their creditors. When the Englishman and his voyageurs attempted to negotiate better terms, the Ottawa informed them that they would give them one day to consider their initial offer. If they refused it, the Ottawa would take the traders’ goods by force.

That night, as the traders’ pondered their situation, Henry and his men were visited by Farley, their French interpreter. Farley informed them that the Ottawa intended to murder them that night, and urged them to accept their proposal before they launched their attack. Henry, however, distrusting the Frenchman, suspected that the disturbing report was nothing more than an attempt to induce him and his men to abandon their enterprise. Instead of taking Farley’s advice, Henry armed his men with muskets and stationed guards around his house. Fortunately, the night passed quietly.

The next morning, the Ottawa asked Henry and his men to attend a second council with them. The Englishman and his voyageurs simply refused the offer, opting instead to remain in Henry’s cabin. That night, they received the comforting and unexpected news that a detachment of British soldiers had been tasked with garrisoning Mackinac, and were expected to arrive early the following morning.

Henry and his traders spent an anxious night in the house, having received word around midnight that the Ottawa were holding a war council. To their surprise and relief, however, the Ottawa broke camp and departed without a fight just before sunrise. Later that morning, the fort’s French traders met with the adventurers and congratulated them on their good fortune. The Frenchmen told Henry and his men that the Ottawa had proposed that they join them in a surprise attack on the incoming English soldiers. Their refusal to participate in the ambush disheartened the Ottawa and was the reason for their departure.

That day, at noon, 300 infantrymen of the British Army’s 60th Regiment of Foot marched into Fort Michilimackinac, relieving Henry and his men of all their anxieties regarding the Ottawa and other hostile Indians native to the area. While natives from all around flocked to the fort to pay their respects to its new British commander, a number of Henry’s voyageurs set out on their planned journeys to Lakes Michigan and Superior.

Continued in The Adventures of Alexander Henry: Part 6.

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Progress of the Territories

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 XXXIII – Some Advice to Settlers.


Chapter XXXIV


IN ADDING THE LAST chapter to a history I commenced to write nearly thirty years ago, and have at odd times carried on, and then let long intervals pass without a word being written, I wish to draw the attention of my readers to the following points:

I have not tried to write a novel, but only the dry facts of the original opening of the Northwest Territories of Canada in the days of 1874, and on to the year 1887, which thirteen years really take in the hard work done by the police in opening up that section.

As immigration brought bore people into the country, of course things changed, and that very rapidly, as I stated in the last chapter. For eight or nine years up to 1895, the progress was slow, but today, that is in the year 1905, a jump of another ten years, the changes are more astonishing, and in a few pages I will show what these changes have been.

So far as I am concerned, my life since leaving the Indian department in 1887 has been a varied one. In British Columbia, prospecting and mining; in the State of Montana as United States Forest Ranger; and in many western states and territories, in all sorts of capacities, I still have been in touch with my old friends in western Canada, and have watched the advancement of that country with the greatest interest. Large towns have sprung up at Calgary, Edmonton and Macleod, and nearly all points where our first police forts were built; cattle are on the prairie by tens of thousands; farms are flourishing where the buffalo used to graze; and, recently taking a trip through western Alberta, I was unable to recognize the country. Railroads now run where our cart roads used to be, towns have sprung up where we used to camp, and all is changed.

Just think of it. Calgary, which I left twenty years ago, had then about 200 inhabitants; today it has 12,000, electric lights, fine stone and brick buildings; and Macleod and Edmonton are not behind. The immigration is increasing by leaps and bounds, and that from the western States of America is, I think, the best element obtainable for the settlement of western Canada that can be got.

Much has recently been said regarding the influx of Americans, and the idea that the American element coming into the country is liable to Americanize Canada. I find that these western Americans settling in western Canada become good law-abiding British subjects; they like our laws, and are all thoroughly practical men, nearly all with means and great push. They will make this western country, as they are doing in the mining sections of British Columbia. For some reason our people of Canada are slower in taking hold of an opportunity in the way of opening up a section of country than our neighbors of the south. I do not like the idea of bringing in large numbers of pauper emigrants from Europe, such as Doukhobors. These uneducated people are a detriment to any country, and their emigration to western Canada should be discouraged, and that of hardy intelligent western American settlers cannot be too much encouraged.

Nearly all of the police officers mentioned in this book have passed to the great beyond, and I know only today of five besides myself of the old police officers of 1874 who are still living. The hardships endured in those old days, in a great measure caused them to die off at really not a great age, and even the men who came out west in the ‘70’s, although not remaining as long as most of the officers, are few and far between.

        Many of the old police constables settled in the country, and went in for cattle ranching; these men married and raised families, and nearly all did well, but only a few of them are alive today. Different government parties have come into power and gone out, but the great work has steadily gone ahead, and the time is fast coming when that great country which we found a wilderness, and only inhabited by Indians in 1874, will have the say, and the whole say, in the directing of the policy of the Canadian Government, and the Government cannot learn that too soon for the benefit of the whole of Canada. The west is the coming country for farming, mining, and cattle raising, and these industries are the ones that bring wealth to a country, and populate it with hardy, intelligent and enterprising people, who go to make a great nation.

Manitoba is fast filling up, and since the early days of the police railroads have been built in many directions, and branches constructed north and south, thereby opening up to settlement a vast country that in our days was wholly unoccupied.

        The railroads in Alberta are now running right through the heart of the farming and cattle grazing country. A road now runs from the boundary on the south, through Lethbridge (which is a prosperous mining town), Macleod and Calgary, northward over 300 miles to Edmonton, and all along this road prosperous towns are springing up, being feeders to the agricultural and stock country behind. The Northwest Mounted Police are everywhere stationed all through this section, with central posts in Edmonton, Calgary, and Macleod, and outposts all through the west. They are most efficient in their work, giving information regarding customs duties, or any information a settler may require, recovering stolen stock, and in all cases seeing that life and property are safe, and a more efficient force is not to be found in the world. The force is now over 1,000 strong, and they are scattered from Alaska to the American boundary line, and detachments are even stationed on the shores of Hudson’s Bay.

The force which was led out to the far west in 1874 by Lieut.-Colonel French, now General Sir G.A. French, K.C.M.G., and were the first to open the Northwest Territories, are still as efficient as ever, and it would indeed be hard to get on without them.

Not only have the police continued until the present day to do good work and valuable service all through the Northwest, but detachments are stationed on Hudson’s Bay, at the mouth of the Mackenzie river, with 300 men permanently stationed in the Yukon Territory, in which country they carry out the laws, oversee mining settlements, carry mails, and, in fact, do both civil and military work during the hard winters and short summers, just as well as they did the work in the old days of the opening of the Territories.

I cannot close without mentioning the work of this force during the South African War, and although they were not known as a corp in South Africa, still the Northwest Mounited Police contributed largely to the force sent by Canada. They sent enough men to have formed a regiment, but yet, although they did the very best of service, little was heard of them. While other Canadian corps have had their merits extolled to the skies, you hear little of the work done by the police, both officers and men, who did so much to make for thorough efficiency, bravery and everything that goes to comprise a strong, hardy, and soldierly body of men.

The police never trumpeted their deeds, but, through hardships and trials of all kinds, ever went forward on the path of duty, regardless of fear or favor. As an instance of their work in South Africa, I might mention that the Canadian Mounted Rifles of 1899 and 1900, and the Strathcona Horse of 1900, were officered and organized by the police, and contained a large number of police non-commissioned officers and men on leave, and ex-members of the force were to be found in the ranks. It was the same with the Second and Fifth Regiments of the C.M.R., the last being commanded by Inspector McDonnell.

The contingent commanded by Lieut-Colonel Herchmer, 400 strong, were, you might say, all Northwest Mounted Police, only two officers not belonging to that corps. The splendid service they did is well remembered. Lieutenant-Colonel Sanders was second in command

of the Second Regiment of Canadian Mounted Rifles, and served a year of stern duty, under General Hutten, and General Smith-Dorrien.

Lord Roberts, in a despatch, dated Johannesburg, Nov. 5, 1900, reports to the War Office as follows:

         “Smith-Dorrien states that Major Sanders and Captain Chalmers (of the Canadian Mounted Rifles) behaved with great gallantry in the action of Nov 2. Sanders rode out under a heavy fire to bring in a horseless non-commissioned officer (Tryon, nephew of Admiral Tryon, who went down in the Victoria). Sanders was wounded, and his horse killed, and Chalmers went to his assistance. Sanders implored him to leave, but was refused, and the gallant Chalmers was killed.”

The above is one of the many brave acts done by police officers and men. The officer mentioned above was recommended for the Victoria Cross, which he well deserved but never received. Major Sanders was thrice wounded, as also was Captain McDonnell; both received the D.S.O.

Major, now Colonel, Sanders received his commission in the police in 1882, and went through hard service in the west. Since his return from South Africa he has been in command of the Calgary district, and the manner in which law is enforced, and settlers protected and helped, shows that the police officers of today are fully equal to those of the old days. Many other individual acts of bravery were done by members of the police force, enough to fill a volume, but they have been but little heard of, except through the dry records of the official blue books. This is not as it should be, and I hope the time is not far distant when the work done by the police in South Africa will be brought before the world in its true light, and the people of Canada will then realize what a splendid force they have in the Northwest Mounted Police.

I may at some future tie go more fully into the progress made in the Northwest Territories since 1887, but many books have been written already on the subject, and my idea has been only to give a brief history of the early work of the Northwest Mounted Police, and the opening of the Northwest Territories from 1873 until the present time. There is a rumor abroad that the Northwest Mounted Police force will be removed from Edmonton, Calgary, Macleod and central points, where the towns are to be formed to do the work now done by the police. This will be found to e a mistake, as it has taken the police force thirty-one years to come to their present state of efficiency, to learn the country thoroughly, and understand the handling of the thousands of Indians still in the Territories. Not only that, but the knowledge gained in all these years as to how to handle and help the settler recover stolen stock, and make the Canadian law so respected in the west that you never hear of railroad hold-ups, or other depredations committed that are so prevalent in the Western States of America, will be to some extent lost. The first thing an American settler remarks when he comes into Alberta is the wonderful way the law is upheld, and the rights of all settlers protected. I have, therefore, added this last chapter to show this western country has gone ahead since I closed the early history in 1887, and also to show that without this grand force of Mounted Police this could not have taken place; and I have written this book so that some record (and that authentic) should remain of those early days of hardships and adventure, undergone altogether by that force to which I had the honor to belong, so that the new generation growing up in the Western Territories of Canada will have some idea as to how their country was first opened up, and that they may give unstinted praise to those grand men of the original Northwest Mounted Police, who made it possible for them to live I peace and quietness, in a law abiding country.



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Some Advice to Settlers

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 XXXII – After the Northwest Rebellion.


Chapter XXXIII


IN CLOSING THIS VOLUME I write a few words on the advantages, or otherwise, of settling in the present Northwest Territories, which comprise the following divisions: Alberta, Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Keewatin, and Athabasca, more particularly to those intending settlers coming from the old country. Much advertising is done in England showing forth the easy living to be derived by men with means going to Western Canada, and many men come out without the slightest idea of the country, or the hardships they will have to endure before they attain that state of wealth which they fondly hoped, before they left home, would come to them with little endeavor on their part.

What I have written in this book goes to show the country in its first state on the advent of the police, its gradual settlement from that time until 1886, how farms were started and stock brought in, and the success, or otherwise, of these undertakings. These matters I have endeavored to fairly portray without fear or favor, stating only as far as my knowledge went the actual facts, and I now, in closing skip nine years, in which time many changes have taken place, and close the volume for the time, taking the history up to 1895.


The eastern portion of the Territories has rapidly come to the front as a farming country. Going westward from Maple Creek as far as the mountains, and from the boundary line on the south to Calgary and Edmonton in the north, is, in my opinion, the garden of the Territories, and nothing can be too great for its future. This country was the home, and both summer and winter the grazing ground for buffalo; it is one immense grazing ground, with grand soil as well, which with cultivation and irrigation will yield prolifically.

The winters in this area are comparatively mild. A few days or perhaps a few weeks during any winter may be severe, and the thermometer may go down to 40 below zero, but this is not lasting, a warm wind, named the Chinook, will spring up, and in twelve hours or less the snow will disappear and the ground will be covered with water. This will continue for weeks, the cattle and horses running out all winter without shelter or feed, and come out fat in the spring. In March the farmer can begin his ploughing, and the rivers break up. One of the great drawbacks to the settlement of southern Alberta at first was that the Canadian Government granted large tracts of the most fertile land of this section to large cattle corporations, giving them long leases at a nominal rental, with the option of the purchase of thousands of acres at the end of their term. These companies naturally picked out the best grazing lands, with water front, on the most timbered bottoms on the rivers, and, as according to their lease with the Government they were perfectly right in doing so, they kept all settlers off until within the last few years, when some of the leases have been thrown open.

Calgary started with a rush, and it has the markings of a fine town. In the Macleod district, although this was the centre of the leasing policy of the Government, and although the settlement of the country has, on that account, been slower than probably any other portion of the Northwest, prospects are bright. The old town of Macleod, started in 1874, on the advent of the police, and moved to its present site many years after, never underwent a boom, and is not much larger today than in those old times, but its best days are to come. A grand stock raising country both north and south; a wonderful climate, and as fertile a soil as in any part of the world; but it must still be remembered that all prairie countries are subject to drought, particularly where timber is scarce and land uncultivated. This will pass, as these gaps are filled up, and no doubt irrigation will have to be resorted to in the first place before equable seasons are attained, but this will surely follow as the country gest settle and cultivated. Tree planting will also come into vogue, which will also be a great help towards making the seasons more moist. Irrigation is no doubt costly, but probably in time the Canadian Government will see the advantage of giving grants towards this end, and it will have the advantage of bringing more settlers into the country and making a sale for the millions of acres of vacant lands, which will always remain vacant unless irrigation is resorted to. This irrigation is only required in southern Alberta, on what are now the cattle ranges. North of Calgary to Edmonton, the farther you go the damper the soil, and after you are 50 miles north of Calgary the timber belt begins and runs into the far north. In this section rain is abundant, and the soil very rich in consequence. This is at the present time a section of the Northwest to which settlers from the States and the old country are flocking, and a good class too, going in for mixed farming and stock raising. Many hundreds of families have been settling in the section between Calgary and Edmonton in the last four years. But although this section is undoubtedly a good farming country, with plenty of wood, coal, water and hay, it must be remembered that some winters are severe, not

particularly as to cold, but the snow fall has often been deep. As the snow lies all winter, the Chinook winds not often being felt in that section, stock wintering out would run a chance of suffering; therefore any settler going into that part should be prepared to not only feed his stock in winter, but also have shelter for them. This, of course, would be more costly than wintering out, but a farmer could only keep a limited number of animals.

Farming, as I have before stated, is in that part of the country a success, and a large acreage of nearly all kinds of grain can be grown, but grain and vegetables are not easily sold there. There are many advantages, however, to counterbalance these drawbacks; living is cheap, as all garden produce and grain can be grown; hay for stock is plentiful; wood or coal for fuel is there in abundance; much game, such as ducks, geese and rabbits are to be got for shooting, and minerals are beginning to be discovered; gold mining on some of the rivers even now pays well during low water. These are certainly advantages, and no doubt, when railroads are built, its disadvantages will disappear. Therefore, for mixed farming with stock on a moderate scale, not more than can be winter fed, no better section can be found in Canada.

There is an enormous country lying north of Edmonton, nearly altogether uninhabited, rich in minerals no doubt right to the mouth of the Mackenzie river, and the time is bound to come when this section will be opened up, and then Edmonton and that district will be the point of supply for it, and those settled there will be well paid for waiting. I have briefly glanced at the different sections of the Territories as they are today, and honestly given my impressions of them for the guidance of intending settlers, and will in a few words give some advice to those intending settlers I wrote more especially for.

Do not expect to grow rich at once, or without putting your shoulder to the wheel. When you have chosen your location, remain there, and grow up with the country. The old motto is true: A rolling stone gathers no moss; so will a moving settler gather no wealth.

Do not begin in a large way- a few cows, horses, hogs, and chickens; your buildings, fencing and tools can be procured in any portion of Alberta, at as reasonable a price as anywhere else in Canada. Take care of these, and you will in a few years be surprised at the way your stock has increased, and remember that each year the land is increasing in value.

Keep out of debt, and even stint yourself before borrowing money from those sharks always on the look-out to lend money on a mortgage on stock or land; many of these abound, and are growing rich at their business, lending money on good security at 2 per cent. Per month. No farmer can stand this, as he must, as many have, only get deeper and deeper into debt, until nothing is left.

Temperate living is absolutely necessary. The small towns through the Territories now abound with licensed hotels and bars, and a hardworking farmer coming into town, after many months of quiet on his ranche, is only too liable to meet his friends, and, before he is aware of the fact, a great portion of his summer’s earnings has gone over the bar for good and all.

The climate of the western Territories is very healthy, and the life on a ranche a pleasant one, the work being far from laborious. With care a competency is secure; railroads are building, and each year more will be built, bringing a market to the door of the farmer. He is not cut off from civilization, as in some new countries, and neighbors are not far apart. The class of settler now in the country is of a very high standard, and good company can always be found; hunting and fishing can, at certain seasons, always be procured, and a hunting trip into the mountains in the fall is an inexpensive and splendid change.

Those intending to settle should at least have the knowledge of the prices of stock, and other accessories to farming, so as to be able to know what would be required to begin, and not be in the hands of agents, or those who require premiums. These are generally a swindle.

I will now draw this book to a close, and trust that the little advice I have given will be received in the same spirit in which it is offered, coming, as it does, from experience gained while seeing the country develop from 1874 until the time in which this book is written.

Continued in Chapter 34: Progress of the Territories.

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After the Northwest Rebellion

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 XXXI – Indians of the South Kept Quiet.


Chapter XXXII


ALL THE MILITIA stationed in the west were withdrawn by the fall of 1885, and the scouts disbanded. All men of the militia, and those engaged as scouts, received land grants for their services, but the police received none; a most unjust and unwarranted measure. These men had borne the burden and the heat of the day all through 1885, doing their work in grand style, work that only long training could fit them to fulfil, but on account of their being a regular corps, a land grant which all others received, including many of those who did no work at all, was denied them. Thanks and promises were profuse after the rebellion, and that was about all. I myself received thanks in a flowing letter, which I still have, and also the promise of a permanent position, which was, of course, unfulfilled.

        On the withdrawal of the militia forces, the police force was increased to 1,000 men, up to which strength it has continued, until recently, and many new detachments were posted at different points throughout the country. Telegraph lines were also constructed from different points on the Canadian Pacific to points such as Macleod, Lethbridge, Wood Mountain, etc.

The whiskey traffic had increased during the summer of ’85, as most of the points along the line were left unwatched. Horse stealing had also become common, many American Indians and white men making a business of it during this summer.

This horse stealing was not along confined to the Northwest, but a police detachment under Inspector Saunders was stationed in southern Manitoba, and found this crime rife. He, however, put a complete stop to it, and, on returning to headquarters in the fall of ’85, reported that for some time previous to his leaving not a case was reported.

Inspector Steele had been stationed with a strong detachment in the mountains along the line of the C.P. railroad, and his work, although difficult, was completely performed. He remained there until his services were required to take charge of a force, which, as I have already mentioned, operated under General Strange. An extract from his report will show the work he had to do. He states:

“About the 1st of April, owing to wages being in arrears, 1,200 of the workmen struck where the end of the track then was, and informed the manager of construction that, unless paid up in full at once, they would do no more work. They also openly stated their intention of committing acts of violence upon the staff of the road, and of destroying property. I received a deputation of the ringleaders, and assured them that if they committed any acts of violence, and were not orderly in the strictest sense of the word, I would inflict upon the offenders the severest punishment the law would allow me. They saw the manager of construction, who promised to accede to their demands, as far as lay in his power, if they would return to their camps, their board not to cost them anything in the meantime. Some were satisfied with this, and several hundred returned to their camps. The remained stayed at the Beaver (where there was a population of 700 loose characters), ostensibly waiting for their money. They were apparently very quiet, but one morning word was brought to me that some of them were ordering tracklayers to quit work, teamsters freighting supplies to leave their teams, and bridgemen to leave their work. I sent detachments of police to the points threatened, leaving only two men to take charge of the prisoners at my post. I instructed the men in charge of the detachments to use the very severest measures to prevent a cessation of the work of construction.

         “On the same afternoon Constable Kerr, having occasion to go to the town, saw a contractor named Rehan, a well known desperado (supposed to be in sympathy with the strike) drunk and disorderly, and attempted to arrest him. The constable was immediately attacked by a large crowd of strikers and roughs, thrown down, and ultimately driven off. He returned to barracks, and on the return of Sergeant Fury with a party of three men from the end of the track, that non-commissioned officer went with two men to arrest the offending contractor, whom they found in a saloon in the midst of a gang of drunken companions. The two constables took hold of him and brought him out, but a crowd of men, about 200 strong and all armed, rescued him, in spite of the most resolute conduct on the part of the police. The congregated strikers aided in the rescue, and threatened the constables when they persisted in their efforts.

         “As the sergeant did not desire to use his pistol, except in the most dire necessity, he came to me (I was on a sick bed at the time), and asked for orders. I directed him to go and seize the offender, and shoot any of the crowd who should interfere. He returned and arrested the man, but had to shoot one of the rioters through the shoulder before the crowd would stand back. I then requested Mr. Johnston, J.P., to explain the riot act to the mob, and inform them that I would use the strongest measures to prevent any recurrence of the trouble. I had all the men who resisted the police, or aided Rehan, arrested the next morning, and fined them, together with him, $100 each, or six months’ hard labor.

         “The strike collapsed next day. The roughs, having had a severe lesson, were quiet. The conduct of the police during this trying time was all that could be desired. There were only five men at the Beaver at the time, and they faced the powerful mob of armed roughs with as much resolution as if backed by hundreds.

         “While the strike was in progress, I received a telegram from His Honor the Lieutenant-governor of the Northwest Territories, directing me to proceed to Calgary at once with all the men, but in the interests of the public service I was obliged to reply, stating that to obey was impossible until the strike was settled.

         “On the 7th day of April the laborers had all been paid and I forthwith proceeded to Calgary, leaving the men in charge of Sergt. Fury; everything was perfectly satisfactory.”

In the early part of the winter of 1885, I reported to the Government that it was not necessary for me to act for them among the western Indians, any further, everything being quiet and the agents well able to do their work. Having retired to my ranche near Macleod, a telegram was brought me from the Lieutenant-governor at Regina, requesting me to pay him a visit at that place. I therefore proceeded to Regina, and found that Mr. Dewdney had just returned from Ottawa, and he stated that the Government were still most anxious about the Indians in the west, and that he had the premier’s authority to request me to remain among the western Indians, and watch their movements, and keep him well informed of them during the winter. I was at first rather disinclined for any more work under that department, but he informed me that if I would accede to his request a permanent appointment would be tendered me in the spring. I therefore agreed to do as requested, and returned to Macleod, visiting the reserves often during the winter, and keeping matters straight. Among other things I was informed during the winter that it was the intention of the Government to sent troops into the west, to show the Indians the power of the Government, and I was asked my opinion, which I most decidedly gave in the negative, the Indians all being quiet. Such a step would only have caused fresh trouble to arise. The project was, therefore, wisely abandoned.

The following spring, as there was no sign that the promises made me would be fulfilled, and as, in fact, the opposite was the case, I a third time severed my connection with the Canadian Indian department, leaving all quiet on the different reservations.

         The country, after the rebellion, and since the railroad was built, had grown rapidly in population, and much stock was brought in. The work of the police was now different altogether to what it had been in the previous years, a railroad was built through the country, and branch lines were building; good, comfortable buildings had been erected in place of the old log forts; the transport was excellent, and food and clothing were of the best quality. The long journeys that used to be made were now a thing of the past, as small detachments, with good buildings, were stationed at different points along the Indian reservation and along the boundary lines. But the force was as necessary as in the old days, or even more so, and will continue to be so for many years to come. Although a shortsighted policy of late years has decreed the reduction of this splendid and necessary force, it will eventually be found that the country, for a long time to come, cannot get on without them, considering the multiplicity of duties performed by this force. Although for some years past, owing to the false Government policy, the southern portion of these Territories has been at a standstill as far as settlement goes, it is still imperative that a strong force should be along the boundary line, in close proximity to Indian reserves and cattle ranches, as well as the white settlements scattered through the country. It is a duty that can only be performed by such a force as the Mounted Police, who have had long experience and training in the country itself. There may not be, and probably is not, any necessity for a large police force at a place like Regina, or even Calgary, but in the south and north the time will be long in coming before they can be dispensed with. Less centralization and more scattering of the force in small detachments should now be the policy, as the time is past when an Indian outbreak in the west can be looked for, and as the settlement of this western country is for some cause very slow, the few ranches and villages are wide apart, and it is at those points that police are required.

It is not my intention to carry this book beyond the spring of 1886, although at some future time I may do so, and also give a fuller account of the rebellion in 1885, but I have endeavored in this short volume to show the actual police work performed, and necessarily had to include much Indian and Indian department matter.

Many of the old officers and men engaged in the force in the years comprised in this volume are dead, and as time passes there is less likelihood of an account of the work done ever being written, and I have therefore written, although with but few books or reports to refer to, most of the old reports having long since been destroyed, with a personal knowledge of the subject throughout, and with the thought that

some record should be left by one actually engaged in the work of the splendid services rendered by the Northwest Mounted Police to the Canadian Government and the country generally. I have endeavored to do this, and although most incomplete and faulty in many respects, I have at least told in a short form, facts, and left on record a short history of the police work in the early days.

I might mention that during the summer of 1885 one of the oldest officers, Superintendent Winder, died at Fort Macleod. He had left the force a few years previously, having been one of the first to get a commission in 1873, and going through all the hardships we all underwent. He started, after leaving the force, one of the first cattle ranches in southern Alberta, which was, and still is, most successful. His loss left another gap amongst the old policemen, which is year by year growing wider, and it will only be a few years before we shall all be of the past, and ourselves and our work forgotten, as must happen with nearly all old pioneers, although the result of their work may remain a monument for ever.

Continued in Chapter 33: Some Advice to Settlers.

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Indians of the South Kept Quiet

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 XXX – The Northwest Rebellion.


Chapter XXXI


BY JUNE, 1885, the rebellion in the north might be said to have ended, with the exception of scattered bands of Indians who had taken to the woods in the far north. There were parties of police and scouts after these bands, and they were brought in one by one during the summer. On July 2, Big Bear, the leading Cree rebel chief, was captured by Sergeant Smart of the police, and the detachment with him, near Ft. Carleton. This chief, together with many other prisoners, was taken to Regina shortly afterwards for trial. The execution of Riel and other rebels some time afterwards, is too well-known for repetition.

The officers and men in other parts of the north and operating with different militia regiments did good and valuable service. Superintendents W. Herchmer and Neal served with the column sent from Swift Current to the relief of Battleford; Superintendent Herchmer acting as second in command to Col. Otter, who reported both officers specially, for the services rendered by them at the fight at Cut Knife. Superintendents Steele and Perry held important commands while serving with the Alberta field force under General Strange in the country to the north and east of Edmonton, and were most highly commended by that officer for their ability, energy and zeal.

Superintendent McIllree did excellent work south of the C.P. railroad, watching the Cypress hills and to the boundary line, while Superintendent Cotton had his hands full in the west, in the Macleod district. All other officers and non-commissioned officers and men did their work most thoroughly and well.

At the fight at Cut Knife the police under Superintendent Herchmer showed the greatest bravery, two, Corporal Lowry and Trumpeter Burke, being killed in that action, and Sergeant Ward badly wounded. Superintendent Steele in command of a troop of scouts raised by him at Calgary, together with twenty-five police of the command that had been under him in the mountains, was present at all the operations of the Alberta field force under command of Major-General Strange, who speaks most highly of the work done by the police, stating in his report that during the whole of the operations of the Alberta field force, the Mounted Police with it behaved in the most exemplary manner,

and elicited the admiration of General Strange, and all the militia officers. He also particularly mentions Sergt. Ferry, Constables McDonald, McRae, Davidson, Bell, McMinn and Kerr, stating that all of the constables above mentioned performed the duties of non-commissioned officers to the scouts satisfactorily, and are able to do the work of either corporal or sergeant. “They have, owing to their experience on the Canadian Pacific railway, becoming thoroughly acquainted with the proper way of doing their duty as constables. I have no hesitation in saying they are collectively the best body of men I have ever had anything to do with. Sergt. Ferry and Constable McRae were wounded, the former at Loon Lake and the other at Frenchman’s Butte’ they are unable to do duty.”

The detachment of police that left Fort Macleod under Inspector Perry joined the Alberta field force under General Strange, and marched from Macleod to Edmonton and Ft. Pitt and back, 1,300 miles. They accomplished this, hauling a gun weight 38 hundredweights over roads sometimes nearly impassable, without the loss of a horse. Frequently the gun had to be dismounted from its carriage, and carried out of soughs in which the horses were mired, and as Inspector Perry stated in his report, the detachment of N.W.M. Police under his command has borne out the reputation for energy, pluck and endurance, which has been carried by the North West Mounted Police force during many years of long and trying service in the Northwest Territories.

At Fort Pitt Inspector Dickens (son of Charles Dickens), was besieged by the Crees under Little Pine with a very large following. These Indians had committed many murders, and were a pretty desperate lot. Inspector Dickens had to abandon the fort, and went down the

Saskatchewan river with his party, by road to Battleford, where they arrived without any loss; Fort Pitt was burnt to the ground by the Indians, after the police had left, but the Indians met with a heavy reckoning at the hands of the Alberta field force, a short time afterwards.

         A sad death occurred at Batoche after the fight was over and the rebels defeated; Inspector J. French who was through the fight from beginning to end, and who had shown great bravery throughout, was standing at the window of a house in the village, looking down on the street that was filled with troops and civilians, when a shot was fired from among the crowd by an Indian, which- striking him in the heart- killed him instantly. The Indian was seized and riddled with bullets. Inspector French was a brother of Major General French, the first Commander of the force, and had been an officer in the Irish militia previous to joining the N.W.M. Police in 1874; he left a wife and large family, and being a favorite among his brother officers, his untimely death was much regretted. He was about the last man killed in that section during the rest of the rebellion.

In the south among the plain Indians, things had remained quiet during the summer. When word was received by telegraph at Fort Macleod of the Duck Lake fight, I was on a ranche about three miles from Macleod and was called up in the middle of the night by a message from Superintendent Cotton, commanding the police in that district, who was stationed at the fort. On going over, I found a great state of excitement existing in the fort, word having just been received of the outbreak of the rebellion in the north, and great uncertainty existed as to the attitude the plain Indians would take. Superintendent Cotton requested me to take charge of Treaty No. 7, and visit the Indians at once. This I declined to do, unless full power was given me to act as I deemed fit, stating that I had resigned the agency on account of orders received from Ottawa instructing me to act in a manner which I knew could only end in disaster. I, however, told him that I was quite ready to do anything I possibly could for the police or that would be of any advantage to the country.

He requested me to visit the Bloods, and find out their feelings and advise them to remain quietly on their reserves. This I agreed to do on the following day, when he and I together drove out to the Blood reserve. I sent messengers through the camps to call the Indians together, and a very large number collected. I gave them an account of what was going on in the north, and advised them to remain quiet on their reserves. They had a good deal to say, and many complaints to make, particularly that they had not enough to eat, but altogether the meeting was satisfactory. I promised them more food, in which I saw they were much in need. On our return to Macleod I found the following telegram awaiting me from the government: “You are authorized to act for the government in Indian matters in any way which you may deem advisable. E. Dewdney, Lieutenant-Governor Northwest Territories.”

I therefore determined to take charge of the treaty for the summer, and notified the Indian commissioner accordingly; I also instructed the agent at the Bloods to increase the rations of beef on that reserve at once, and I started for the Blackfoot crossing as soon as possible, it being the most important point in the treaty, and the agent, Mr. Begg being away, it was most necessary that I should not lose any time in getting there. I found the Blackfeet even more excited than the Bloods, as messages had been received from the Crees and half-breeds asking the Blackfeet to join them. They also complained of not having enough food, so I increased their rations to the same as the Bloods. I remained a week with them, going from camp to camp, and when I left for Calgary, I was sure that there would be no trouble caused by the Blackfeet. I found quite an excitement at Calgary, as false rumors had been circulated there as to the attitude of the Blackfeet, and it was reported that they intended to make a raid on the town. These fears I soon quieted, and after visiting the Sarcees and Stonies, and leaving them quiet, I returned as quickly as possible to Macleod.

Matters had remained quiet at Fort Macleod, a corps of scouts under Captain Stewart had been raised, and had gone to Medicine Hat. I visited the Piegans and Bloods several times, and finding no danger to be apprehended from them, I returned to the Blackfoot crossing. I remained among the Blackfeet until the close of the rebellion, making an occasional trip to Calgary and several to the Bloods and Piegan reservation. I had not the slightest trouble with any of these Indians, who behaved well. I formed a corps of Blackfeet scouts, and sent many of them north to keep me posted as to movements in that section, and they did this work most satisfactorily. I had continual communication with the Lieutenant-Governor, who kept me informed of what was going on in the north, and I finally persuaded him to pay a visit to the Blackfeet, who were most anxious to see him. A great council was held, which went off very quietly, and many promises were made to the Indians, which were, as usual, broken in after years. Sir John Macdonald telegraphed from Ottawa to Crowfoot the head Blackfoot chief as follows: “The good words of Crowfoot are appreciated by the big chiefs at Ottawa. The loyalty of the Blackfeet were never be forgotten. Crowfoot’s words shall be sent to the Queen. All Mr. Dewdney’s promises shall be faithfully carried out.” (15-4-85- Forwarded to Mr. C.E. Denny, Fort Macleod.)

Yet, in spite of the above, a year had not passed before the rations were again cut down, and have been so ever since. With the exception of the Lieutenant-Governor and his party, there were but few visitors to the Blackfeet during the summer; and with the exception of the Church of England clergyman and the Catholic priest, who both remained steadily at their posts, no other missionaries visited us, although it has been reported otherwise. Father L’Comte visited the reserve once, and that was with the Lieutenant-Governor’s party. I received a letter from him Calgary during the summer asking me to go to that place and send a party of Blackfeet away, who were camped there’ this I did. I also during the summer received the following telegram, which speaks for itself:

“Regina, May 1st.

         “A few Crees, some thirty in number, skulking around Cypress. Would like Blackfeet to clean them out. Could this be done quietly? Advise me before taking action.”

To this I replied as follows:

“Blackfoot Crossing, May 1st.

         “Better not send Blackfeet; would all wish to start out. Could not keep track of them.”

It can, therefore, be seen what there was to contend against. Not only was there plenty of work required to keep the Indians quiet on their reserves, but you also had to combat orders issued with an utter ignorance of Indian ways. The result of such an action as that advised above would have taken all the able-bodied Indians out of Treaty No. 7 and have started a nice little war to get them back again. I might relate more of these wise moves, but I think the one is sufficient, and if the northern Indians, before the rebellion, were handled in the same manner, there is no wonder that the outbreak took place.

Superintendent Cotton at Fort Macleod patrolled eastward towards the Cypress Hills during the summer, and did good service. Mr. Pocklington, Indian agent to the Bloods, and myself visited them in May. A copy of a portion of my report I give, as it shows how many different matters, small in themselves, tended to make the Indians uneasy, and these had all to be particularly explained to them. The raising of companies of scouts at Calgary and Macleod they could not at all understand, and there were always evil-disposed persons who would tell them that it was the intention to attack them, and, unless these reports were contradicted, much trouble might have been caused.

“Fort Macleod, 17th May, 1885.

         “To the Indian Commissioner at Regina.

         “Sir,- I have the honor to report that Mr. Pocklington and myself visited the Blood reserve yesterday, and held a council with the Indians. I gave them the message you gave Crowfoot, and also his reply, and a message Crowfoot sent by me to the Bloods and Piegans, to the effect that they were to remain quietly on their reserves at work. The Bloods had a few complaints to make, but most of them were easily settled. Mr. Pocklington had seen Mr. Cochrane, and will take possession of his place next week; an issue house will be established there, much to the satisfaction of the Indians. It was necessary that the beef rations of the Bloods should be increased, as they had already heard that the Blackfeet have extra beef. This extra ration through this treaty was most necessary, as the ration they were getting was barely enough to keep them alive. I am glad to say that I had an opportunity to place Mr. Pocklington on a sound footing with the Bloods, who had held him responsible for many refusals to applications made by them for articles, etc., which he had no authority to grant.

         “The Bloods, if quietly handled during this summer, will not leave their reserves, but work on their farms. It is most important in dealing with the Bloods, Blackfeet and Piegans, this summer, that their attention should be withdrawn from anything going on outside of this treaty. There will, no doubt, be a change in garrison of the different police posts at Calgary and Macleod, and strict instructions should be given that, when it is necessary for these new men to visit our Indian camp for the purpose of m

aking an arrest, they should be accompanied by an officer of the Indian Department known to the Indians, and that in no case should a party of militia go to an Indian camp without this step being taken.

         “My reason for this is that the Indians are used to the police going into their camps for prisoners, but do not understand men dressed in another uniform doing this duty. Just before I left the crossing, quite a stir was made in the upper Blackfoot camp by Major Hatton, from Calgary, entering that camp in the middle of the night with a party of militia on a patrol, and great excitement prevailed for several days.

         “It was only very rarely that any of the militia in the west visited the reserves, those in command being always most careful on that point, leaving much matters altogether in the hands of the police and Indian department, who brought the Indians of Treaty No. 7 quietly through the year 1885 without a hitch, while had inexperienced hands held the reins an outbreak of the Blackfoot tribe would most certainly have taken place, causing great loss of life and property, to say nothing of the cost.

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

         “C.E. DENNY, Indian Agent.”

Continued in Chapter 32: After the Northwest Rebellion.

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The Northwest Rebellion – An Excerpt from Cecil Denny’s 1905 ‘Riders of the Plains’

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 XXIX – Treaty Indians Making Progress.


Chapter XXX


IT IS NOT MY INTENTION to write a history of the outbreak among the halfbreeds and Indians in the Northwest during the year 1885, the subject has been written on hundreds of times already, and little is left to record. I will only give a short outline of the beginning of the trouble in the vicinity of Battleford in the spring of that year, and the part taken in it by the Mounted Police. Much was said derogatory to this force after the rebellion was put down, not one word of which was true, as their efficiency and conduct during the time of this uprising, (in which they took the most active and arduous part) was exemplary.

As I have shown in previous chapters, for some years past matters had been going on badly among the Indians. What with cutting down the rations and settlers coming into the country, and bad advice given them by the hundreds of dissatisfied halfbreeds who principally lived near and in the Crees residing on, or off, their reservations in that section, to come sooner or later, and did arrive in 1885. Many halfbreeds who were in the Red River rebellion under Riel, lived in the north, and their old leader who had only a year or two previously been pardoned and allowed to return to Canada by the Dominion government, had rejoined them and was again the leader in a revolt, comprising nearly all the Crees residing on, or off, their reservations in that section. The Blackfeet and other plain Indian tribes, who heretofore had always been at war with the Crees, and had more than held their own against them, keeping them from the plains altogether, had at the instance of the whites made peace with their old enemies and perfectly well knew what was about to take place in the north, but although much pressed by the Crees had not yet made up their minds to join them, having still a deep rooted enmity towards those northern tribes.

The Blackfeet in the spring of 1885 were far from being settled, and a very little would have caused them also to break out, in which case a clean sweep would have been made of the thousands of head of stock on the plains, and the unprotected settlements would have been wiped out. The expense and loss of life to subdue the plain Indians had they followed those of the north, would have far exceeded that incurred (great as it was) to suppress the rebellion that did occur, and great anxiety was shown by the Canadian government and also in all western settlements as to the action the plain Indians would take.

In the north during the previous year many meetings were held by Riel, his audiences being half breeds and Indians who had, or fancied they had, grievances. These meetings were reported by Superintendent Crozier in command of the police at Battleford, who states, “I have already reported that I believe the Indians sympathise with the half breeds, nor could anything else be expected, being close blood relations and speaking the same language, what may be the result of this half breed agitation, or what result it may have on the Indians, of course I cannot foretell.” In August 1884, Sergeant Brooks at Prince Albert, reported a meeting held by Riel together with Big Bear, and again a meeting held by Indians at Duck Lake. Sergeant Keenan at Duck Lake, again reported in August and September, meetings held by Riel and other dissatisfied half breeds and Indians, and Sergeant Keenan stated that at a meeting held September 1st, at which Riel, Jackson, Scott, and Isbister, three of Riel’s strongest supporters, were present, speeches were made condemning the government, and Jackson stated that the country belonged to the Indians and not to the Dominion of Canada. These reports were all forwarded by the Commissioner to Ottawa, together with many from the superintendent in command in the north, showing that he looked upon matters as serious, but still the government until an actual outbreak took place, seemed to give no credence to them, either through ignorance or incapacity of their officials, such as was shown the year previous in dealing with the Indians in the west.

The number of police stationed in the north, and divided up between Battleford, Carleton, Prince Albert and Fort Pitt, in the spring of 1885, was only 200 of all ranks, and they were continually on the watch for what was going on, reporting the same. Superintendent Gagnon reported in December 1884 that the half breeds had held a large meeting at Batoche, and forwarded petitions to Ottawa, and that they were trying to induce Riel to remain among them, offering him a well furnished house to live in.

Superintendent Crozier reported in January 1885 that Little Pine, the Cree chief, had held a large meeting at Duck Lake, and that this chief had tried to induce a number of Blackfeet to join him and move northward in the spring. Matters went on about the same until towards the end of February (in fact quieting down if anything) when Riel caused a report to be circulated that he had been required by the government to leave the country, at the same time getting up a meeting himself to discuss the question, at which meeting he was pressed to remain.

Reports then came thick and fast of the uneasiness of both Indians and half breeds, of their intention to prevent supplies coming into the country, and March 13, Superintendent Crozier telegraphed the commissioner at Regina:

         “Half breed rebellion liable to break out any moment. Troops must be largely reinforced. If half breeds rise, Indians will join them.”

This message was sent to Ottawa at once, together with the recommendation of an increase of force being sent at once.

The commissioner left Regina Mar. 18th with all the men he could muster, consisting of four officers and eighty-six N.C. officers and men. Word was received by him March 19th that the half breeds had seized the Indian department stories at the South branch of the Saskatchewan, and held the Indian agent, Mr. Lash, prisoner, also committing other depredations.

No time was lost by the commissioner and party on the road, forty-three miles being the first day’s journey and the rest of the days in proportion. The time taken to reach Prince Albert was seven days from Regina, the distance being about 290 miles, and this in the coldest weather, through deep snow, so the hardships were very great.

On the road a second telegram was received form Superintendent Crozier, as follows:

         “Beardy’s Indians joined the rebels this afternoon. The wire is cut, the rebels are assembled on south side of river. Prisoners are held in Roman Catholic church about a quarter of a mile up stream from crossing. All of One Arrow’s band of Crees joined them this afternoon. Many of Beardy’s also joined them. The remainder of Beardy’s will probably follow tomorrow. The number of rebels assembled this afternoon is estimated at from 200 to 400 men. They rapidly increase in numbers. My impression is that many Indian bands will rise. The plan at present is to seize any troops coming into the country at the South Branch, then march on Carleton, then on Prince Albert.”

At Prince Albert the commissioner raised volunteers and with his additional force of twenty five men proceeded towards Carelton, the scene of operations, where Superintendent Crozier had his head quarters.

March 26, when within nine mines of Carleton, the following despatch was received from Superintendent Gagnon:

“Superintendent Crozier with 100 men started on Duck Lake road to help one of our Sergeants and a small party in difficulties at Mitchell’s store. I have seventy men and can hold out against odds. Do not expect Crozier to push on further than Duck lake. All is quiet here.”

When the commissioner’s party were close to Carleton another despatch was received to the effect that Major Crozier had come into collision with the rebels, and had lost some men killed, and was retreating on Carleton.

And when the commissioner and party arrived Superintendent Crozier and party, with the killed and wounded, had just got in, together with the party of volunteers he had with him.

Superintendent Crozier had that morning despatched Sergeant Stewart and seventeen men with P. McKay of Prince Albert as guide, to bring in some police provisions and ammunition that were at the store of a trader named Mitchell at Duck Lake. They were met near that place by a large number of armed half breeds and Indians, who behaved in a very overbearing manner, demanding the surrender of the party or they would fire into the. This was refused, and Mr. McKay informed the rebels that their fire would be returned should they commence. The police pluckily held them off, retiring towards Carleton, to which place a man had been sent to notify Sergeant Crozier, who with all the men he could spare, about 100 civilians and volunteers included, at once went out to the scene of action, meeting the other party on their way in. He then proceeded towards Duck Lake to get the stores that the first party failed to secure. They met the half breeds and Indians at about the same place that they were first seen, but their force was much augmented, and they had sheltered themselves behind strong natural cover. Superintendent Crozier posted his men to the best advantage but was much outnumbered. The principal cover being the sleighs, and the snow being deep and crusted, quick movements were impossible. Superintendent Crozier states as follows: “I consider that the line extended to our right prevented the revels surrounding us. There we sustained the heaviest loss, because concealed from view to the right of the road, on which we approached, were two houses in which were posted a large number of rebels, and from whence they poured upon us a fierce fire. From this point they tried to gain and were working upon our right rear, the deep crusted snow however impeded their movements, thereby preventing them from accomplishing their purpose before the termination of the engagement.

         “The engagement last about thirty minutes, and though the rebels were on their own ground, entrenched in ambush with the advantage of a commanding position, ready and waiting for us, we drove back their right, and had we been opposed by them on our right on anything like an equality, we could have done the same on their left, but there we had to contend against the enemy in houses and in ambush. The right of my line did prevent the enemy gaining our rear’ they attempted it at the cost of their lives, and they could do no more. Both the police and volunteers who composed by little escort behaved superbly. Their bravery and coolness under a murderous fire was simply astonishing.

         “The enemy were in ambush, behind splendid cover, while we were exposed, yet not a man shirked or even faltered until the order was given to retire, and then they moved off quietly.”

Nine of the Prince Albert volunteers were killed in this first engagement, and five badly wounded, while three police were killed and six wounded. Superintendent Crozier states of the loss to the volunteers, as follows: “The Prince Albert volunteers lost more heavily than the police, because several of them happened to be extended on the right of our line where they were more exposed to the fire of the enemy in ambush and in the houses.

         “The gun did good service and no men could have worked better than the gunners did that day under conditions that would have tried soldiers, however well disciplined. I did not think when the line extended, there was a house on our right, and that the enemy were ambushed about it in large numbers, so that I did not purposely expose one part of the line to fire more than another. The sleighs I threw out for no other purpose than for cover, and they were taken advantage of as such, by the volunteers and police indiscriminately, and if unkind or unfeeling remarks have been made, it was not by any of those who fought so gallantly together and received, without flinching, as hot a fire as men were ever exposed to. The strongest feeling of friendship exists between the Prince Albert volunteers and the Mounted Police, because all who were present that day, knew that no man shirked his duty, or shrank from danger, but that each unflinchingly and bravely took his chances and did his work. Though unsuccessful in getting possession of the stores, I considered that one consequence of my action was to force the rebels to give up for the time the attack on Ft. Carleton, which they had meditated and would otherwise have made on the night of March 26, and prevented the bloodshed that must have occurred.

         “Before concluding the report, I may repeat that it was the rebels who attacked me and began the action. They had their disposition most skillfully made and nearly succeeded in cutting off my command, which they would have done but for the steady valour and good discipline of the men under me, on which I justly relied before setting out.”

I have mentioned this engagement with different extracts from police reports, as it was the first that occurred in the rebellion of 1885, it was also as far as severity goes, much the hottest engagement that occurred through the whole summer, taking into consideration the few engagements and the great odds to contend with. The police, in whatever action they were in, either acting alone or in conjunction with the militia, showed the same courage throughout, doing in fact most of the hard work, such as scouting, etc. As I have before mentioned, jealously was shown towards them, but not for one moment could a word be said against their efficiency and pluck. The commissioner mentioned the work done by the scouts as follows in one of his reports: “The importance of the work done by my scouts could not, I think, have been surpassed. These men, all perfectly familiar with the country, were kept constantly employed form the outset under the direction of a man (Mr. McKay) well qualified for such work. My scouts at all times labored incessantly, cheerfully and efficiently. Perhaps the most important part of the work done by the scouts was the driving back of the men employed on similar duty by Riel who, on various occasions, tried to scout right into Prince Albert. Ditch and Armstrong, two of the three men who captured Riel, were police scouts who had been sent by me with despatches to General Middleton. The whole country around Prince Albert was thoroughly scouted.”

Previous to March 26, Riel and his followers had robbed, plundered, and terrorized the settlers and the country. They had robbed many government and other stories, captured government agents and others, and had armed parties patrolling the country with orders to kill all who would not surrender. They had also encouraged the Indians to rise, and in spite of all proclamations and warnings had at last begun the threatened outbreak by attacking a government party under Superintendent Crozier, and killing and wounding a large number.

The force of half breeds and Indians at Duck Lake were about 400 armed men, the odds being too great for such a small force as were with Superintendent Crozier, to resist, and had not exceptional bravery been displayed they must surely have been annihilated. The total strength of the force at Carleton, both police and volunteers, was only 225 officers, non commissioned officers and men, and of these many were wounded. On the militia arriving in the Northwest in the following April under command of Major General Middleton, the police were put under his orders, and by that time the rebellion had assumed serious proportions, having extended to all the different Cree tribes in the north, and nearly all the half breeds were in rebellion. Strictures were passed on the police commissioner for not attacking the combined force of half breeds and Indians at Batoche (where General Middleton’s forces had an encounter with them) conjointly with that officer, but it was by a direct order from General Middleton that he did not do so, although both he and the police under him were only too anxious to try conclusions with the rebels.

General Middleton had under him at this Batoche fight about 1,200 men, while the whole police force with volunteers in that district, as before stated, was only 225 men all told, and as Lieutenant Colonel Irvine, the police commissioner, stated in his report after many unjust reflections had been thrown upon himself and those under him, it was indeed fortunate for us (the Northwest Mounted Police) that the development of these great territories is so closely and honorably interwoven with the history of the corps.

Continued in Chapter 31: Indians of the South Kept Quiet.

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Treaty Indians Making Progress

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 XXVIII – Western Indians Become Restless.


Chapter XXIX


THE LIQUOR TRAFFIC, which in the first five or six years after the police arrived had been nearly stamped out, in fact none being sold to Indians, again began to grow into serious proportions as the country became settled. It was about as disagreeable a duty as the police had on their hands. By the temperance portion of the community they were condemned as being too lax, while on the other hand, the non-temperance portion found them too severe.

Information against these law-breakers was almost impossible to obtain, as no settler, however much he was against the sale of liquor, would turn informer, and none of the traders themselves would do so for the half of the fine to be derived from giving such information. The profits on the whisky itself was immense, as much as a hundred dollars often being realized from the sale of a 5-gallon keg. It was necessary that police detachments should be stationed near the boundary line as most of the liquor was brought from Montana. The trains on the Canadian Pacific had also to be watched, as much liquor was brought in that way. The mails on that road from Moose Jaw westward were also under the charge of members of the force. These men were sworn in as special officials of the postal department, and carried out their duties greatly to the satisfaction of that department. It will therefore be seen how varied were the duties of the police. In 1883-84 many new police buildings were erected at different points along the railroad, also in the vicinity of many Indian reservations, and patrols were constantly on the move through the country. A new town had been started at Macleod and Lethbridge was just coming into existence, although the town was not really built until ’85. The Galt company in ’84 opened their coal mines at that place on a large scale. Calgary had the beginning of a large town, Edmonton was beginning to grow; ranches were now to be found scattered through the country from that place to Calgary, and from there on to Macleod, and south to the boundary line. Regina, Battleford and Prince Albert were fast growing, and innumerable small places springing up along the line of railroad.

It is therefore seen what great strides the country had taken since the first advent of the police in 1874, or in ten years from that time. Then the buffalo roamed the plains in countless thousands, and the Indians were given the pick of the country as reservations. It never was at that time for a minute contemplated that a great transcontinental railroad would be built through the midst of it. This influx of settlers had, however, demoralized the Indians, and was also causing their decrease at the same time. They themselves saw this, and were becoming more reckless in consequence. The cutting down of rations on Indian reserves both north and south, all at once, had a disastrous effect, culminating in rebellion, of which it was one of the causes. The many millions spent by the Canadian government to quell that disturbance would have provided enough for all the Northwest Indians for many years. Even in the year 1882 up to which year the Indians received a fair ration, they were making good progress on their reserves. I quote a portion of my report of that year to the Indian commissioners to bear out this fact, and it was not until 1885, in which year I again, having charge of the western Indians, increased their rations, that they again began to show any signs of progress.

         My report for 1882 records as follows: “The Stoney Indians’ cattle are doing as well as can be expected, a few having mixed with the large herds of the Cochrane ranche company, but as that company’s cattle are moving south, there will be no further trouble on that point. I have made a contract to have all the lumber bought from the Stonies taken in rafts down the Bow River to the Crossing, to be used for flooring and roofing our buildings on that reserve.

         “The Stonies have a good quantity of timber on their reserve, which will last them for years if carefully used, and they might be allowed to sell small quantities now and then in the shape of lumber. A few more wagons are required on the reserve, which it would be well to give them, with a few sets of harness. They do well by hunting and trapping, and I think that before long they will be able to support and look after themselves. The Sarcees have about 175 acres under cultivation and I have great hopes of a good crop on the reserve. They have not been as quiet as I should have wished, and a few of the worst characters among them have caused trouble during the summer, but have been arrested and punished. The head chief, Bull’s Head, is an obstinate man, and it would be better for his tribe if some other held that position. The tribe is a small one and on the decrease. Many among them are good workers, and they all have good houses and are anxious to work, but on account of the close proximity of Fort Calgary to their reserve, there is great inducement for them to go there. The farm instructor has instructions to stop the rations of those who leave, and I hope this will help to keep them more permanently on their reserve. I think it will not be many years before this tribe will scatter through the country, getting work where they can find it, as all the country around them is now becoming more settled.

         “We have to be constantly on the watch to prevent people encroaching on this reserve, cutting timber, etc., as timber in other sections is scarce. Now the railroad is passing so close to the northern reserves, and the country getting so thickly settled, the interests of the Indians must be closely watched, and they must be encouraged and kindly dealt with, as this change has come upon them so suddenly that they scarcely understand it. I must say that, so far, the settlers who have come in contact with the Indians have treated them well and kindly, but as they get more used to them this will likely change, and unless the interests of the Indians are well looked after they will go to the wall altogether, and many petty depredations will take place. It is also all-important that the men in charge of reserves should be well acquainted with the Indians under their charge.

         “At the Blackfoot crossing all has been going on quietly with a few exceptions. None of the Blackfeet have been off horse stealing, but have remained quietly on their reserves. They have increased the number of houses in all their villages, and fenced good large fields as well. In the early spring I spoke to them in council, on the approach of the railroad, and pointed out the advantages which would accrue to them. They expressed their willingness that the road should pass through their reserve, and since that time no change has come over them in this respect. Grading parties have been working close to their village, and the Indians have mixed with the men and have always been well-treated. The road is now running past the Crossing, and they are all satisfied so far. Instances have occurred where some trouble was caused by men from working parties cutting firewood on the reserve, but as it could not be prevented, the Indians allowed dried wood to be cut on receiving a small remuneration for the same. Many people passed through the reserve, while the road was being built, but I think that this will now cease. Some of the chiefs are anxious to go down to Regina, and even to Ottawa, by rail, and it might be well for some of them to go, as they would see and learn much of the white men that now they only hear of. Next summer much of the freighting, if not all, for the south, will come from the railway via the Crossing. I have a ferry boat already built, and I am waiting instructions as to how it is to be run. It would be well to keep it in the hands of the department, letting it on shares, the rent to go to the Indians. The instructor now at the Crossing has long experience with the Blackfeet, and under his management they are progressing.

         “Mr. Pocklington, sub-agent, has spent a great portion of his time on the reserve, and by his good judgement has kept things in order, and prevented much trouble while the road was being built.

        “The crops at the Crossing look well, and there are over 200 acres under cultivation in different fields on the reserve. I sowed wheat on some portions of the land, and so far it has turned out well. I think there is little doubt that the land at the Crossing is well adapted for wheat, and should this crop turn out well, I should recommend that some kind of mill be sent, so that the wheat can be ground. A small portable steel mill would be best, so that the Indians could get flour made from their own grain. Some new buildings have to be erected on this reserve, both at the lower and upper camp. This will be done this summer. The lumber purchased from the Stonies will be used.

         “There is a prospect of a good crop, particularly of potatoes, and I have instructed Mr. Wheatley to take in all the potatoes he can get from Indians and keep them for seed. We shall build new root houses, and be able to store a large quantity. I should not advise the sowing of barley in the agency; although it is a sure crop, no use can be made of it, there being no means of grinding it for flour, and it does not sell well, as oats can now be brought in much cheaper.

         “Mr. Wheatley has instructions to keep the Indians away from the railroad as much as possible, particularly on account of accidents, one of which happened a few days ago, an Indian having his foot nearly cut off by a passing train. Much sickness has occurred amongst the Blackfeet this summer, many dying of a dangerous fever which has prevailed against them. Dr. Gerard has visited the reserve twice and gives his best attention to the sick. His presence in this Treaty is a great help, and although his work is very hard and not agreeable, he takes the greatest interest in the welfare of the Indians. The passage of this railroad through the Blackfeet reserve in such close proximity to the villages, can have but one result, which will be the final extinction or scattering of the tribe. I have shown the Indians fully that their future prosperity depends on their own exertions; that if they follow the advice of those in charge of them, and steadily work on their reserves with the intention of loving by their farms, and if they send their children to the schools the government open for them, they will do well and prosper, but if their habit of wandering over the country and troubling themselves little about the future, and doing as little work as possible, goes on, they will in the end be lost.

         “The Indians along the line of railroad are in more danger of this than the tribes in the south, as the Bloods for many years yet will enjoy what, to Indians, is freedom. The advancement of the Blackfeet altogether depends on their management, and the help they may receive from the government during the next few years. The young people growing up among these Indians, and in all the other tribes, are bright and intelligent, and have not had the teaching of their fathers in stealing and going to war. If earnest missionaries go among them now, with means at their disposal, not only to teach, but to make it interesting for the young, and if schools are erected where the children can be taught trades, and be kindly and indulgently dealt with, their future will be a prosperous one, as they are inclined to learn, but great kindness will be required at first. At present, however, they are totally ignorant. A Catholic missionary, Father Lacombe, has worked among them during the last three years, and could his idea be adopted, what I have stated would result. Other missionaries are also working on the Indian reserves, in many cases with fairly good results; but the field requires not only teachers, but the expenditure of money.

         “The late visit of the lieutenant governor was looked forward to by the Indians, as an opportunity for them to state their grievances: and on nearly every reserve they asked for tools and help to farm, which shows their wish to work, and that they see the necessity of it.

         “When it is remembered that, not many years ago, the Blackfeet tribe were considered the wildest and most untameable Indians on the continent, it is thus shown that they are possessed of great intelligence, which could be turned into useful channels.

         “My reason for writing so fully on this subject is, that I can see that it is not by the receipt of rations or annuities they will be made self-supporting, but by the encouragement they get in farming and being taught useful trades. The older Indians will die out without ever learning, or doing much, as their old habits and prejudices are too deeply-rooted: but there are several thousand children growing up, who can and will learn easily, and these are the material to work on.

         “The Blackfeet will doubtless raise good crops this year which will, I hope, settle and encourage them, but they will still visit the Bloods or Piegans with whom they are related.

        “I can understand that this treaty was to be divied, in which case the Blackfeet, Bloods and Piegans should be in one division, and the Sarcees and Stonies in the other. Mr. Nelson, D.L.S., is this summer definitely fixing the limits of the reserves, and also laying out the timber limits for the Indians. Mr. Nelson has taken great pains to take the chiefs with him, and has pointed out to them where the lines of the reserves run.

         “The Indian department’s herd of cattle did not do so well as might have been expected, and the sale of that herd not long ago at a good price takes away another source of expense and anxiety. Fifteen cows from this herd were sent by me, under instructions received, to Mr. Lucas, in charge of a government farm in the Edmonton district. I also sent cows to some of the reserves, for the use of the men employed. This herd of cattle has been kept up for the use of the Indians when they should require them, but as they could not keep them, and did not want them, it was thought best to get rid of the herd and the expense. As it is, the Indians have received many things from the government not promised in the treaty, and I do not think that they are entitled to anything in lieu of these cattle.

        “The most central point for the headquarters of this treaty is certainly Fort Macleod, being close to more than half the Indians in the treaty (the Bloods and Piegans) and the next largest tribe, the Blackfeet, are within only a day and a half’s drive. As a new site is chosen for the town of Fort Macleod, good buildings should be erected for the agency storehouse; Indians’ waiting room and stables, also room for men who come in from the reserves, on duty, which will save much expense in the way of horse feed and board for the men. I am having a good supply of hay put in for the agency, so I hope that next winter livery bills will cease. A room will be put up for the medicines, and a room in which the doctor can see and attend to sick Indians. I am keeping down the blacksmithing expenses as much as possible, and since I have been allowed to have our work done by outside blacksmiths, and the salaried blacksmith has been dismissed, I think the work will be done cheaper than formerly. I have made many visits to the reserves in the treaty during the summer, and my time has been fully occupied in keeping matters running smoothly and in travelling among the Indians. The Commissioner’s late visit to all the reserves was a most satisfactory one, and in all the reserves the Indians were very glad to see him, and many matters that needed arranging were settled.

         “I received instructions during the summer to have a trail cut through the Crow’s Nest Pass, in the Rocky mountains, to join the trail being cut from Kootenay. We are supposed to cut a good trail for cattle and horses, as many parties were waiting for the completion of the road to come over with stock. I sent a party of five men up in charge of Mr. McCord, instructor of the Blood reserve, and in two months the trail was finished at an expense of $1,500; the road cut is a ten foot trail, and a good one for a mountain road; bridges were built, and a few miles on the other side of the summit were also finished. Many parties have come through since, and all say the road is a good one. Some work will have to be done every year, as the timber which falls across the track must be cut out. This I understand has already occurred on the west end of the trail, as heavy timber fires have been raging for some time past. Our party did their work well, and Mr. McCord, as manager, deserves credit. It is a good thing for the Kootenay country to have a good trail cut through this pass, as stock can be driven over and goods packed in from this side. My report of last year is up to so recent a date, that it is not necessary to go back many months. I have, however, endeavored to touch on all matters of importance and interest in this treaty, and to show what has been done, and what improvements the Indians have made and are making.”

The above report was written in December, 1882, and requires no comment, as much of the subject has been touched upon in other chapters.

Continued in Chapter 30: The Northwest Rebellion.

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Western Indians Become Restless

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 XXVII – Trouble with the Southern Indians.


Chapter XXVIII



THE GENERAL WORK of the police from 1883 until 1994 was most severe, as the field of the operations was much greater, and as in all parts of the country the influx of settlers was great, and in consequence, crime of all sorts was more prevalent. In the year 1884 five cases of murder are recorded; two by Indians, two by white men, and one by a negro. Calgary had by this year become quite a thriving village, and had moved from the first townsite on the east side of the Elbow river, which was owned by Major Stewart and Col. Irvine, to the west side. These gentlemen had taken up the land originally owned by me as a ranche and laid it out in town lots, making at first many sales of land. As this company held their land at a high rate, and would give the railroad company little or no inducement to build their station and other buildings there, the railroad company decided to erect their station on their own land on the west of the said river, where the present town now stands, and were shortly followed by all those who had erected buildings on the east side. The policy of the owners of this land was disastrous, in a financial sense, for had they held their lots at a reasonable figure, not only would the town have been located on their land, but they would have realized a tidy fortune from the sale of it.

The first murder case at Calgary in February, 1884, is about as follows: A report was made to Major Steele, commanding the police at that point that a man named Adams had committed suicide in the town. Inspector Dowling and Dr. Kennedy were dispatched to the place to examine the body, and they reported that murder had been committed. A negro named Williams, had been seen in conversation with Adams shortly before the deed must apparently have been committed. Sergt.-Major Lake visited the tent occupied by the negro, and found him with traces of blood on his hands and clothing. He explained this by stating it was caused by beef he had been carrying, but it was found on inquiry that the beef he had bought was frozen hard.

A razor was found in his tent covered with blood, and his tracks were followed in the snow leading to the back door of the murdered man’s house; a glove and some bills were also discovered near the same house and identified as the property of Williams, and the negro shortly afterwards confessed his guilt. He was tried before Judge MacLeod and a jury of six at Calgary, and sentenced to death, being executed at Calgary on the 29th March.

Up to January, 1884, I had remained in charge of Treaty No. 7, having charge of five reserves already mentioned, together with the two Indian supply farms. I was naturally kept on the road from one reserve to another most of each month, and being allowed a clerk stationed at the head quarters of the treaty, Fort Macleod, he had the returns etc., ready for me when I arrived at the end of each month, when after being signed by me they were forwarded to the Indian Commissioner. A teamster was also necessary, together with a man to look after and issue Indian and farm stores at Macleod, where scarcely a day passed without something being needed, and this was not surprising when it is remembered at what long distances some of the reserves were from the point of supply.

This staff, together with an interpreter, certainly was not a great one, when the amount of continual work the one agent had on his hands day by day, is remembered. However, the government, or at least its representative, the Deputy Superintendent-General of Indian affairs, thought it too large and about the end of January I received a letter from that official, part of which I quote:

        “I have to inform you that the superintendent general is of the opinion that there exists no necessity for employing a clerk in your office, consequently you will, after giving him a month’s warning, discharge him, as it is considered that you ought to be capable of performing all the office work in your agency, as well as supervising the issue of supplies from the store. The store-keeper should therefore be dismissed and you are consequently required to act as store-keeper, and to restrict yourself to one visit each month to each of the reserves within your district, and on making your visits, you are to lock your office and storehouse, and take the interpreter with you to act as servant and interpreter.”

This letter goes on further to say: “The superintendent general is of the opinion that no assistant instructors are necessary, and that the employment of officials has a bad effect. The instructors ought to be able to supervise all the Indians in their respective districts.”

         When it is known that on my leaving the treaty in the summer of 1884, treaty No. 7 was divided up into three separate agencies with each agent at the same salary that I received while in charge of the whole, and that each agent had not only a clerk, but farm instructor and assistant, with many other subordinates, such as issuer of rations etc., the short-sightedness and absurdity of the above order becomes apparent, and this short-sightedness, or want of knowledge of the northern and western Indian reservations, was one of the causes that led to the outbreak among the northern Indians in the year following.

I resigned the agency in the summer of 1884 in the following letter:

“Macleod, 1884

        “Sir, – I have the honor, in reply to your letter No. 5989, to state that I have notified my clerk, and also the storekeeper, of the instructions contained therein. This is most hard on the clerk, who has only just arrived here after a long journey. I beg to inform you I cannot undertake to do this work, and I therefore think it best to notify you of the same, as I have always, and shall always, do my work thoroughly, and I do not see my way to do so in this instance. The work of a clerk in my office takes all his time from one month’s end to the other, and I cannot do this and look after my treaty. My work has been difficult since I came here, but I am glad to say that I have everything in this treaty now in perfect order, and do not wish, while I am here, to see it upset; I therefore beg that I be allowed to resign my position as agent of this treaty, as soon as convenient to the department. I have applied for leave from the 1st March, and if my place is filled up before that time I shall be glad while I am here to assist the new agent all in my power, and will turn over the treaty in good order.

         “To the Honorable The Superintendent General of Indian affairs. Ottawa.”

I therefore gave up the agency this year, and it was during the summer divided up as I have stated, and I took up a ranche after turning everything over, on Willow creek about three miles from Ft. Macleod.

The commissioner of police this spring forwarded a report to Ottawa, which was called for by a suggestion made by the deputy-superintendent general of Indian affairs to the effect that Indians should not be allowed to leave their reserves without a permit from the agent. This showed a total want of knowledge on his part of the treaties made with the western Indians, in which it was distinctly stipulated that they might travel anywhere through the country subject to the law of the land, and as the police commissioner states in his report, I pointed out that the introduction of such a system would be tantamount to a breach of confidence with the Indians generally, inasmuch as from the outset the Indians had been led to believe that compulsory residence on reservations would not be required of them, and that they would be permitted to travel about for legitimate hunting and trading purposes. This concession largely contributed to the satisfactory conclusion of the treaty with the Blackfeet.

The Indians nearly all over the country began to give a good deal of trouble this summer. Sergeant Fury of the Police, with one constable and the interpreter, arrested a Blackfoot, by name Whitecap, at the Blackfoot crossing, for horse-stealing. They were surrounded by about eighty Indians who threatened to take the man away from them, and also demanded more rations. I might mention that their rations had been much reduced. The sergeant got away with his men by showing a bold front, and next day Superintendent Steele, who was in command at Calgary, visited the camp with a party of thirty men, with the view of arresting the leaders in the obstruction the previous day. But the leaders had gone to Calgary, where they were afterwards arrested, and being reprimanded by the judge, were eventually released.

Trouble also occurred this summer with a camp of Crees at Crooked lakes, near Broadview, where a number had collected in a house to hold a medicine dance. After dancing for a week and getting into a great state of excitement, a large party went to the reserve and broke into the agency store-house, stealing a large quantity of provisions; police were sent and a party of ten under Inspector Dean proceeded to Broadview. They could, however, make no impression on the Indians, or arrest the culprits, and had to send to headquarters for reinforcements, which arrived the following day under Superintendent W. Herchmer; the whole party then proceeded to where the Indians were camped and were waved off by a large band of armed Indians. A parley took place in which the ringleaders of the robbery were demanded without success, and a determined show of resistance took place, the house bristling with muzzles of rifles, and as most of the party were covered at short distance, it would have been foolhardy to fight under the circumstances. After a good deal of talk the police drew off and camped for the night at a house near by. After two days’ talk and persistence on the part of the police, four of the Indians were given up, the Chief, Yellow Calf, being released, as he had given help to the police during the disturbance. The other three were also afterwards tried and discharged by Judge Richardson at Regina being, as the commissioner stated in his report, probably the most satisfactory conclusion to a troublesome affair.

Other Indians were becoming very troublesome, leaving their reserves and going north. A man named Pollock was shot at Maple Creek, presumably by Indians, whose trail was followed by Sergeant Patterson and a party of police as far as the boundary line, but without coming up to them, though they travelled over a hundred miles. This party was supposed to be Blood Indians, and no doubt were, as the agent on that reserve reported parties of Bloods of the reserve at the time. At the same time that Pollock was shot a band of horses was stolen from the same vicinity, but not recovered.

The Indians near Battleford were also very unruly, particularly on the Cree chief Poundmaker’s reservation, where the farm instructor, Craig, was assaulted by an Indian, and the Indians refused to give up the offender. Superintendent Crozier with twenty-five men then proceeded to the camp to take him, and as they found a sun dance in progress, concluded to wait until its conclusion, and at the same time send for reinforcements- moving into the old agency buildings some three miles from the camp and taking the Indian department stores and cattle with them. As they passed the camp on their way to the buildings it was at one time feared that an attack would have been made on their small party, as the Indians made a great demonstration, firing off their guns in the air over the heads of the police, and some of the bullets coming unpleasantly close.

The buildings were put into as good a state of defense as possible, and reinforcements having arrived, and the sun dance being finished, negotiations were opened, with the final result of the capture of the Indian, but nor without at one time very nearly coming into hostile contact with the Indians, who were very loath to give him up. In this camp were Poundmaker, Big Bear, Lucky Man, and other old chiefs who took a leading part in the rebellion of ’85. Superintendent Crozier gives the greatest praise to the detachment under his command, stating that their coolness and steadiness were most praiseworthy.

Twenty-five horses were stolen from Maple Creek this summer, and twenty-two of them recovered from the Bloods and Piegans near Macleod. At the time these horses were stolen, a half-breed, who was herding them, was found dead, having been shot; but it was never possible to identify the murderer. Two of this war party were subsequently arrested and sent to the penitentiary for two years respectively.

The police commissioner found it necessary to again recommend that an increase of 500 should be added to the force, and a great portion stationed at Macleod. Every possible assistance was given to the Indian department by the police, and it would have been impossible for that department to have done its work without them. In many cases the Indian payments were made by the police, such as at Fort a la Corne by Sergeant Brooks, and at Green Lake by Sergeant Keenan. Inspector Steele with a detachment was stationed in the mountains along the line of the Canadian Pacific railway west of Calgary, and on to the end of the track, having about 150 miles of road on which work was being done under his supervision, extending about twenty miles west of the Columbia river. This officer reported no injury done to the road whatever, and all the contractors were satisfied that this was mainly due to the work performed by him and those under his command.

       The police commissioner states in his report regarding horsestealing that the prevalence of horsestealing by white men, half-breeds and Indians indiscriminately throughout the Territories is a marked feature of this year’s annals of crime. There is no doubt that the commissioner was right in this, case after case continually being referred to the police, and the settlers seemed to think they had only to report the loss of stock to have it immediately recovered. An instance of this occurred in June, ’84, when a telegram was received at a police post as follows: “Pieapot’s Indians stole team of horses from me last night. Will you please find them.”

Numbers of horses were this year stolen by American Indians, and white men from the other side, and little nor no help could be got from the American military officers at the posts along the line to aid in putting down this practice. The commissioner instructed Superintendent McIllree in July to proceed to the American post nearest the C.P.R., (Fort Assiniboine,) to enquire whether the military authorities on the other side would be willing, and at liberty to co-operate with us in the suppression of horse-stealing. Colonel Coppinger replied that the United States troops would be glad to aid us in every way to put an end to this crime, but he would first have to get authority from his superior officer. He communicated with General Ruger at Helena, who referred the matter to Washington.

On September 1 Col. Coppinger telegraphed to Superintendent McIllree his regret that he was not permitted by the authorities to enter into any negotiations on the subject. Colonel Coppinger explained to Superintendent McIllree that his powers were limited to recovering government horses and putting intruders off Indian reserves. While Superintendent McIllree was at Assiniboine he saw a member of a gang of horse-thieves- which included a fugitive from justice on this side- and considered that many horsethieves and whisky smugglers fitted out there. It is therefore obvious that many cases occurred in which it was impossible to recover stock stolen from settlers, because they had been driven over the line and out of reach.

Continued in Chapter 29: Treaty Indians Making Progress.

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 7: Things That Go Bump-Out

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 7: Things That Go Bump-Out

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






Plot Summary

The Fellowship of the Dig meets at Smith’s Cove with Mike Jardine of Irving Equipment Ltd., who has come to construct the “bump-out”, or extension, to the Smith’s Cove cofferdam first discussed in the Season 7 premiere. Jardine and members of his crew begin their operation by removing sections of the metal cofferdam with a crane, allowing seawater to flow back into Smith’s Cove.

While the work continues at Smith’s Cove, Rick Lagina meets with Doug Crowell and Steve Guptill in the Oak Island Research Centre. Guptill shows the treasure hunters a diagram of his own making which shows the location of the searcher Shaft 9 (discovered the previous episode) in relation to other shafts and landmarks on the Island. As Shaft 9 was said to lie 100 feet southwest of the Money Pit area, the diagram includes a semi-circle with a radius of 100 feet extending northeast of Shaft 9, its circumference representing all the possible locations at which the original Money Pit might have lain.

Doug Crowell then shows Rick a photo taken in 1931, when Chappells Ltd. was hunting for treasure on the Island. In the photo, a depression in the earth is clearly visible at what now appears to be the location of Shaft 9. Crowell points out another depression in the earth, and suggests that it might mark the location of Shaft 2, built by the Onslow Company in 1804. Crowell reminds Rick that Shaft 2 was said to have been built 14 feet southeast of the Money Pit. If they manage to ascertain the location of Shaft 2, then they will be able to determine the exact location of the original Money Pit; the Money Pit would lie at the northwestern intersection of circles drawn around Shaft 9 and Shaft 2, with radii of 100 and 14 feet, respectively. ­­­As Steve Guptill succinctly summarizes, “if we can find [Shaft] 2, we have an X-marks-the-spot.” Doug suggests that they attempt to locate Shaft 2 through exploration drilling, and Rick concurs.

That afternoon, various members of the Oak Island team meet at the Money Pit area, where the search for Shaft 2 is about to commence. Using old aerial photographs of the Money Pit site in conjunction with the GPS coordinates of the newly-discovered Shaft 9, the team has estimated the location of Shaft 2, and has tasked Choice Drilling with retrieving core samples from the area. The Fellowship stands by as Choice Drilling sinks a hole at the prescribed location.

While the drilling operation is underway, Rick Lagina, Peter Fornetti, Doug Crowell, and Billy Gerhardt drive to the Dartmouth Heritage Museum (which the narrator refers to as the “Helen Creighton Heritage Museum”) in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. During the drive, Rick explains that a man named Kevin Rideout approached him at Dan Blankenship’s funeral and told him an interesting story. More than forty years ago, while visiting the museum, Rideout was made aware of a rock in the museum’s yard which a tour guide claimed was the Money Pit’s legendary 90-foot stone. In a later interview, Rick Lagina states his belief that the supposed 90-foot stone found beneath the old Halifax bookbindery in Season 6, Episode 7 was an unfinished replica of the original stone, and expresses his hope that the real 90-foot stone is the artifact which Rideout described.

The treasure hunters arrive at the so-called “Evergreen House”, in which the Dartmouth Heritage Museum is housed, and meet with Kevin Rideout and the museum’s curator, Terry Eyland. After Rideout recounts the experience which Rick related in the car, Eyland takes the treasure hunters to the museum’s backyard. Using his memory as a guide, Rideout estimates that the stone he was showed forty years prior was embedded in the grass in an area overtop of which a rhododendron bush now stands. Eyland then informs the crew that the stone was likely interred in the yard prior to the museum’s foundation, prompting the narrator to explain that the Evergreen House was purchased by Nova Scotian folklorist Dr. Helen Creighton in 1919. The narrator points out that 1919 is the same year in which the bookbindery of Helen’s distant relative, A.O. Creighton, at which the 90-foot stone was last seen, went out of business. In a later interview, Rick Lagina infers that the Creighton family may have transported the 90-foot stone from the Halifax bookbindery to the Dartmouth estate in 1919.

Without further ado, the treasure hunters walk over to the rhododendron bush in the yard of the Evergreen House, under which Kevin Rideout suspects the stone might be located. Rick Lagina and Peter Fornetti crawl beneath the bush and make an unsuccessful preliminary search for the stone. The treasure hunters suggest that they ought to apply for a permit to excavate the area in an archaeological manner, and Terry Eyland gives them his blessing to do so.

Later, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley do some metal detecting on Oak Island’s Lot 6, on the northwestern side of the Island, where Drayton discovered an iron chain and an old coin back in Season 4, Episode 6. A shovel-wielding Begley explains that he has a particular interest in Lot 6, attributable in part to the relatively little amount of metal detecting to which the area has been subjected. The treasure hunters head to the beach, where Drayton discovers a modern nail. Shortly thereafter, the metal detecting expert comes across two old square-headed iron pins lying side by side, which Drayton suggests might be the remains of an 18th Century shipwreck. The treasure hunters then find another larger pin closer to the water, which Drayton calls a “crib spike”. In a later interview, Drayton outlines his belief that the iron objects he discovered on the shores of Lot 6 are evidence that the beach “was a place where boats came into, and there was activity in the area. Whether this was a place where ships were repaired or a place where treasure was unloaded, we’ve got the finds to back those theories up now.”

The next day, Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, and Dave Blankenship meet with Mike Jardine at Smith’s Cove, where construction of the bump-out is well underway. “We got all the frames in, all in location” says Jardine of his crew’s progress, before pointing out a new structure that his team discovered outside the boundary of the old cofferdam consisting of both horizontal and vertical timbers. Jardine remarks that the structure bears some resemblance to the top of a vertical shaft. The team agrees to examine the structure once the cofferdam bump-out is complete.

Later, various members of the Oak Island team meet at the Money Pit area, where Choice Drilling’s search for Shaft 2 is underway. A core sample taken from a depth of 12-15 feet contains nothing but disturbed earth. A second sample, taken from an undisclosed depth, contains a few pieces of wood. A third sample, taken from a depth of about 30 feet, contains significant quantities of wood- perhaps cribbing from Shaft 2. The crew members agree that they ought to search for the other walls of the suspected shaft in order to determine the structure’s orientation.

The next day, Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and Gary Drayton head to Smith’s Cove, where the cofferdam’s bump-out has been completed. Mike Jardine takes the treasure hunters to the new wooden structure that he and his crew discovered, the most prominent part of which is a vertical timber sticking out of the ground. Although it is not mentioned in this episode, this vertical timber strongly evokes an object which Rick Lagina spied at Smith’s Cove during low tide back in Season 1, Episode 1, which he likened to “an elephant tusk coming out of the water”. In that episode, both Dan Henskee and Charles Barkhouse declared that they had never noticed the tusk-like object before.

In the next scene, Rick Lagina, Craig Tester, archaeologist Laird Niven, and heavy equipment operator Billy Gerhardt conduct their own inspection of the new structure discovered at Smith’s Cove. Niven gives the crew the green light to excavate the sides of the structure, which Gerhardt proceeds to do with his backhoe. Gerhardt removes a load of material immediately adjacent to the structure, exposing a wall of horizontal logs covered by sheets of what appears to be 19th or 20th Century tar paper. Immediately beside the wall is a pile of rocks, which some of the treasure hunter suspect might be the remains of the legendary finger drains believed to feed the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. This supposition is bolstered by the large volume of water which quickly rushes in to fill the hole. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to uncover more of the structure so that they might better ascertain its nature.



Shaft 2

In the previous episode, the boys discovered Shaft 9- an old searcher shaft which was connected with the original Money Pit by a 100-foot-long tunnel. Rather than attempt to locate this tunnel via exploration drilling, the crew decides in this episode to take a different course of action prescribed by Doug Crowell. In an aerial photograph of the Money Pit area taken in 1931 by a former treasure-hunting syndicate called Chappells Ltd., Crowell noticed two depressions in the earth. One of these appears to be in the same location as the recently-discovered Shaft 9. Crowell theorized that the other depression might be the backfilled remains of Shaft 2, a searcher shaft constructed by the Onslow Company in 1804 fourteen feet southeast of the Money Pit. Crowell observed that, if the crew manages to ascertain the location of Shaft 2, then they will be able to determine the exact location of the original Money Pit; the Money Pit would lie at the northwestern intersection of circles drawn around shaft 9 and Shaft 2, with radii of 100 and 14 feet, respectively.

Using Chappell Ltd.’s aerial photograph of the Money Pit site in conjunction with the GPS coordinates of the newly-discovered Shaft 9, the team estimated the location of Shaft 2 and tasked Choice Drilling with retrieving core samples from the area. A core sample taken from a depth of 12-15 feet contained nothing but disturbed earth. A second sample, taken from an undisclosed depth, contained a few pieces of wood. A third sample, taken from a depth of about 30 feet, contained significant quantities of wood- perhaps cribbing from Shaft 2. The crew members agreed that they ought to search for the other walls of the suspected shaft in order to determine the structure’s orientation, which will, in turn, enable to them to ascertain the precise location of the original Money Pit.

The Stone at the Dartmouth Heritage Museum

In the middle of this episode, Rick Lagina, Peter Fornetti, Doug Crowell, and Billy Gerhardt drove to the Dartmouth Heritage Museum in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. There, they met with Terry Eyland, the museum’s curator, and a man named Kevin Rideout, whom Rick had met previously at the funeral of Dan Blankenship. During their first meeting, Rideout told Rick that, more than forty years prior, while visiting the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, a tour guide pointed out a rock embedded in the grass in the museum’s backyard and told him that it was the Money Pit’s legendary 90-foot stone.

In an interview showcased in this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, Rick Lagina stated his belief that the supposed 90-foot stone found beneath the old Halifax bookbindery back in Season 6, Episode 7 was an unfinished replica of the original stone, and expressed his hope that the real 90-foot stone is the artifact which Kevin Rideout claimed to have been made aware of during his visit to the Dartmouth Heritage Museum more than forty years ago.

Interestingly, the narrator informs us in this episode that the building which now houses the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, called the Evergreen House, was once the residence of Dr. Mary Helen Creighton, a celebrated Nova Scotian folklorist and a distant relative of A.O. Creighton, owner of the old Halifax bookbindery. Helen Creighton purchased the Evergreen House in 1919, the same year in which the Halifax bookbindery went out of business. Rick Lagina, in this episode, infers that the Creighton family may have transported the 90-foot stone from the Halifax bookbindery to the Dartmouth estate in 1919. It is interesting to note that, in her 1957 book Bluenose Ghosts, a collection of Nova Scotian ghost stories, Creighton includes a number of tales set on Oak Island yet fails to mention the 90-foot stone.

In this episode, Terry Eyland takes Kevin Rideout and the visiting treasure hunters to the museum’s backyard. Using his memory as a guide, Rideout estimates that the stone he was showed forty years prior was embedded in the grass in an area overtop of which a beautiful rhododendron bush now stands. After an unsuccessful preliminary search for the stone beneath the bush, suggest that they ought to apply for a permit to excavate the area in an archaeological manner, and Terry Eyland gives them his blessing to do so.

The New Structure at Smith’s Cove

Throughout this episode, Mike Jardine and the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. constructed the bump-out, or extension, to the Smith’s Cove cofferdam, first discussed in the Season 7 premiere. During the process, they discovered a new wooden structure at Smith’s Cove which lay outside the original cofferdam. This structure consists of horizontal and vertically-aligned logs, and Mike Jardine suggested that it bore some resemblance to the top of a vertical shaft.

While examining the structure, Marty Lagina made a brief reference to its most prominent section, namely a vertical timber sticking out of the ground. Although it is not mentioned in this episode, this vertical timber strongly evokes an object which Rick Lagina spied at Smith’s Cove during low tide back in Season 1, Episode 1, which he likened to “an ancient tusk coming out of the water”. In that episode, both Dan Henskee and Charles Barkhouse declared that they had never noticed the tusk-like object before.

Near the end of this episode, Laird Niven gave the crew the green light to excavate the sides of the structure, which Gerhardt proceeded to do with his backhoe. Gerhardt removed a load of material immediately adjacent to the structure, exposing a wall of horizontal logs covered by sheets of what appeared to be 19th or 20th Century tar paper. Immediately beside the wall was a pile of rocks, which some of the treasure hunters suspected might be the remains of the legendary finger drains believed to feed the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. The treasure hunters agreed that they ought to uncover more of the structure so that they might better understand its nature.


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