Friday, June 13, 2014
When Great Britain granted independence to Canada in 1867, the new Canadian government decided it had to bring law and order to the vast Canadian west, so the North West Mounted Police Act was passed on May 20, 1873. One hundred and fifty men were recruited and sent on an arduous journey across the Great Lakes and overland to Lower Fort Garry, just north of Winnipeg. While they were training there, it was decided that the force would be too small, so another one hundred and fifty were enlisted. This time, in order to speed the trip west, Canada got permission to transport the new recruits across U.S. territory, which they entered at Detroit and traveled by train through Chicago and St. Paul.
The Mounted Police arrived at the railhead, Fargo, Dakota Territory, on June 12, 1874, where a line of boxcars ended on a sidetrack. Dumped out were men and horses, unassembled wagons, saddles and riding tack, supplies and provisions. Stuff was littered in disorder along the track for a considerable distance. Commanding officer Colonel George A. French commented that, “The Fargo people quite enjoyed the sight; they considered that it would be at least a week before we got off; but they had little idea of what can be done with properly organized reliefs of men.”
Indeed, the “Mounties” were up and at it by four o’clock the morning of June 13. The first of three divisions rode out late that day; the other two divisions were on their way by the afternoon of June 14.
The column crossed into Canada at Fort Dufferin and met the Fort Garry contingent coming down from Winnipeg on June 19. Then began the epic march of three hundred men in scarlet coats on horseback accompanied by wagons and artillery across several hundred miles of open prairie.
The little band soon spread out into small detachments and succeeded in bringing law and order to the Canadian west and achieving friendly relations with the Indian tribes. They performed so well that they became legendary. Queen Victoria renamed them the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, and later, when they became the national Canadian police force, the name was changed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that we know today.
Dakota Datebook written by Grael Gannon
Tags: Fargo, Northwest Mounted Police, Mounties, RCMP, Canada.
Source: David Cruise and Alison Griffiths, “The Great Adventure: How the Mounties Conquered the West,” New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996, pp. 68-69.