THE MARQUIS OF LORNE'S
A Vice-Regal Escort
which Travelled over Two Thousand .Miles—Some Notes of A Highly
Significant Prairie Pilgrimage.
THE year 1881 will
always be memorable throughout the. North-West by reason of the visit
made, to the region in that year by His Excellency the Marquis of Lorne,
Governor General of Canada.
In 1877 the Earl of
Dufferin, then Governor General, visited Manitoba, accompanied by the
Countess of Dufferin, but their tour through the prairie region of the
Dominion was confined to the limits of the Province of Manitoba. So that
the Marquis of Lorne, in 1881, was the first Governor General to visit
the North-West Territories. The visit was fraught with great practical
benefit to the North-West and the whole Dominion, the newspaper reports
of the Vice-Regal progress bringing the new region immediately, and >n a
favourable manner, to the attention of the people of the older Provinces
in a way no other event could have done.
This tour of Lord
Lorne. not only brought the Mounted Police into wide notice at the time,
but is still considered as one of the best proofs of the early
efficiency and usefulness of the force, for the entire duties in
connection with the long prairie journey, were taken over, and with
complete success, by the force.
By a letter from Mr. F.
White, the Comptroller. A Irvine was informed a few weeks before the
event, that His Excellency the Governor-General had decided to visit the
North-West. He also learned that an escort of the North-West Mounted
Police Force would be required to accompany His Excellency, together
with a certain number of additional men to act as teamsters, etc. The
Commissioner at once communicated with the Comptroller on the subject,
pointing out the various details that required consideration and action.
Similar letters were written to Superintendents Herchmer and Crozier.
The officers commanding at Battleford and Fort Macleod were informed as
regards the supply of forage, etc., required and the points at which
such supplies should be delivered along the road.
It was decided that the
escort and additional men required should be furnished from
headquarters, and that their equipment should be made as complete .as
possible. The necessary stores required were carefully selected, and
Superintendent William Herehmer was appointed to command the escort.
On the 8th of August,
Superintendent Herclunce, who had part of his escort with him, reported
to His Excellency, for duty at the railhead of the Canadian Pacific
Railway, west of Portage la Prairie, and assumed charge of some
additional transport brought up by train for the co-regal party. It
having been arranged that His Excellency should proceed to Fort Ellice
by river, the main escort, was assembled there, and the transport under
Superintendent Herchmer was advanced there without delay. August 13, His
Excellent landed at Fort Ellice, was met by a mounted escort of twenty
men under Superintendent Herchmer and escorted to the Hudson Bay Post.
The appearance of the escort and the general hearing of the men called
forth universal admiration.
About 3 p.m., on the
14th August. His Excellency and his escort started for Qu'Appelle, which
was reached on the evening of the 17th, His Excellency being received by
a smart guard of honour under Inspector Steele.
On the 19th, the party
started for Carlton with 46 men and 84 horses. Of these 84, 36 were
remounts and 46 horses belonging to the various divisions.
Supt. William H. Herchmer, later Assistant Commissioner.
The route was via
Humbolt, Gabriel Dumont's Crossing, Fort Carlton, Battleford, Blackfoot
Crossing, Calgary, Macleod, to Fort Shaw, Montana, from which point His
Excellency returned east through United States territory.
A more exact idea of
the route, and a correct statement of the distances travelled by the
Mounted Police escort is given in the following abstract diary:—
Aug. 8, end of C. P. R.
to camp, one-half day, 5 miles; Aug. 9th, to Big Mud Creek, 32 miles;
Aug. 10th, to Rapid City, 25 miles; Aug. 11th, to Shoal Lake, 38 miles;
Aug. 12th, to Birtle, 25 miles; Aug. 13th, to Ellice, one-half day, 4
miles; Aug. 14th, camp, one-half day, 6 miles; Aug. 15th, camp, 35miles;
Aug. I6th, to Qu'Appelle River, 40 miles; Aug. 17th, Qu'Appelle, 34
miles; Aug. 18th, halt; Aug. 19 to camp, 38 miles; Aug. 20th, Edge of
Salt Plain, 33 miles; Aug. 21st, halt; Aug. 22, to camp, 38 miles; Aug.
23, to camp,
34 miles; Aug. 24, to
Gabriel's Crossing, 36 miles; Aug. 25th. to Carlton, one-half day, 20
miles; Aug. 26, 27, 28, 29, to Battleford, 92 miles; Aug. 30th to
Battleford; Aug. 31, to Battleford; Sept. 1, to camp, 33 miles; Sept. 2,
to camp, 36 miles, Sept. 3, to Sounding Lake, 37 miles; Sept. 4, to
camp, 23miles; Sept. 5, to camp,
35 miles; Sept. 6, to
camp, 30 miles; Sept. 7, to camp, 23 miles; Sept. 8, to camp, one-half
day, 10 miles; Sept. 9th, Blackfoot Crossing, 34 miles; Sept. 10th,
camp, one-half day, 14 miles; Sept. 11th, camp, one-half day, 18 miles;
Sept. 18, Calgary, 28 miles; Sept. 13, halt; Sept. 14, to halt; Sept.
15, to High River,. 37 miles; Sept. 16th, to Willow Creek, 40 miles;
Sept. 17th, to Macleod, 25 miles; Sept. 18, Macleod; Sept. 19th, to
Macleod; Sept. 20th, Colonel Macleod's house, 40 miles; Sept. 21, to
halt; Sept. 22nd. to camp, 28 miles; Sept. 23, to camp, 28 miles; Sept.
24, to Cutface Bank, 38 miles; Sept., Birch Creek, 31 miles; Sept. 26th,
to Teton River, 68 miles; Sept. 27, to Fort Shaw, 28 miles.—Total number
of miles: 1,229.
In addition to this,
the escort, or most of it, for Supt. Herchmer took some men with him
from Battleford, travelled in the first place from Fort Walsh to Fort
Ellice, a distance of 443 miles; then again from Fort Shaw to Fort
Macleod, and from Fort Macleod to Fort Walsh, a distance of 400 miles,
making an aggregate total of 2,072 miles.
His Excellency held
councils with Indians at Fort Ellice, Fort Qu'Appelle, Fort Carlton,
Battleford, Blackfoot Crossing, and Fort Macleod.
Owing to the hurried
nature of the trip, it proved very trying on the horses. Between Ellice
and Qu'Appelle, Superintendent Herchmer was obliged to leave three
horses on the trail, while between Qu'Appelle and South Branch, he left
four horses, two dropping dead. Of these two, one was the property of
the Indian Department. Between Carlton and Battleford, three horses were
left, between Battleford and Blackfoot Crossing, five were dropped along
the trail. At Carlton, one horse was left, and at Calgary, seven. None
of these horses were incapacitated from lack of care, for day and night
the horses received the greatest attention, and throughout this long and
trying march, not a horse was incapacitated for work by sore back or
shoulders, truly a remarkable and probably an unprecedented record.
The force crossed the
South Saskatchewan at Gabriel Dumont's Crossing, on August 25thj the
crossing being effected most successfully, 80 horses and 19 waggons
being crossed in five hours with one scow. The men of the force worked
admirably, their handiness and cheerfulness under most trying
circumstances, the wind being very high, being most favourably commented
upon. At Carlton, it was determined that His Excellency and party should
visit Prince Albert, travelling by the steamer "Northeote".
Superintendent Herchmer with the escort and transport, proceeded
overland to Battleford, reaching there on the 29th. The following day,
His Excellency arrived from Prince Albert by steamer "Lily".
On the 31st, His
Excellency visited the barracks and quarters at Battleford, expressing
himself very much pleased.
While the party was en
route from Battleford to Calgary, on the morning of the 7th, they came
upon a small herd of buffalo near Red Deer River. Three buffalo were
killed by the party; the meat thus supplied being most acceptable, as
they had been somewhat longer on the road than was calculated on, the
distance travelled being greater than expected. There being no road, the
party did not steer as direct a course as if they had gone over a
well-marked and direct trail. The guide originally intended to have
taken the party to a crossing of the Red Deer River, immediately south
of the Hand hills, but when about 20 miles from the Hand hills, the
guide assured Superintendent Herchmer that the party would encounter
serious difficulty in getting the waggons down to the river, and also
stated that he could take him to a crossing still farther south, which
had a better approach. This being the case, Herchmer decided to accept
the latter course and found a good crossing.
At Red Deer River, the
guide, John Longniore, informed the Superintendent that he could take
the party no farther, as he was unacquainted with the country beyond.
Herchmer, therefore, utilized the services of "Pound Maker", a Cree
Indian chief from Battleford, who had accompanied the Indian
Between Battleford and
Red Deer River, there was plenty of water; but the only wood was at
Sounding Lake, about half way, so wood for cooking had to be carried.
Soon after leaving Red
Deer River, on the 8th. a cold and very severe rain storm set in, and
after travelling some 8 miles, the party camped at the first water. Had
Superintendent Herchmer not camped at this point, he would have had to
make too long a drive without watering the horses. The rain continued
for twelve hours, the weather remaining cold.
At the Indian Council
at Blackfoot Crossing the escort furnished a guard of honour under
Superintendent Herchmer. In his report that officer stated:
—"Notwithstanding the necessarily extremely short notice I received as
to this guard being required, the men turned out in a manner that would
have done credit to any troops stationed in permanent stations. His
Excellency and party were loud in their expression of admiration at the
men's appearance. 1 mention this incident as I consider it goes far to
prove the efficiency of a force which, notwithstanding the fact that it
had travelled over 850 miles of prairie, was thus enabled to supply a
guard of honour at a few minutes notice, fit to appear on a general
On the 11th, about 3
p.m., some 25 miles from Calgary, Lt.-Col. Irvine, the Commissioner,
accompanied by Superintendent Cotton, Adjutant of the force, arrived at
the Vice-Regal camp and were heartily welcomed. They brought a relay of
horses and a good supply of oats. At 1.30 p.m. on the following day the
party reached Calgary, making a successful ford at the Bow River at a
point immediately in rear of Police Post, which ford Col. Irvine had
previously formed and marked out.
The 13th and 14th, the
party remained in camp at Calgary, their rest being a particularly
pleasant one. His Excellency and party had excellent fishing, and some
On the 14th, the
Commissioner, accompanied by Supt. Cotton, started for Fort Macleod to
make arrangements for the reception of His Excellent.
On the 15th, His
Excellency and escort started for Fort Macleod with ninety-nine horses.
On the morning of the 17th, about seven or eight miles from that place,
the Vice-Regal party were met by the Commissioner and Supt. Cotton.
On reaching Willow
Creek, about three miles from Fort Macleod, His Excellency was received
by a salute fired from the two 9-pounder muzzle-loading rifle guns in
possession of the force. These guns were placed in an appropriate
position on a high ridge commanding Willow Creek, From the crossing of
the; Old Man's River to the fort the road was lined at intervals by a
party of mounted men under command of Supt. Crozier. At the main gate of
the fort His Excellency was received by a guard of honour under
Inspector Dickens. The general appearance of this guard of honour was
everything that could be desired.
On the morning of the
19th, Superintendent Herchmer handed over the command of the escort to
Suit. Crozier, in accordance with the Commissioner's instructions. Supt.
Herchmer had previously applied to be relieved from escort duty, in
order that he might return to Battleford and reach that post before the
winter set in.
Before leaving Fort
Macleod the following letter was received by Superintendent Herchmer:
"Fort Macleod, 18th
"Sir,—I am commanded by
His Excellency the Governor General to desire you to express to
Superintendent Herchmer, his entire satisfaction with the admirable
manner in which that officer has performed his duty while in command of
the force of Mounted Police which has escorted His Excellency from
Winnipeg to Fort Macleod. I am further to request you to convey to the
non-commissioned officers and men who formed the escort, His
Excellency's thanks for the services rendered by them while on the
march, and the pleasure it has afforded him to witness the discipline
and efficiency of the corps.
F. DeWinton, Lt.-Col.,
After leaving Fort
Macleod, His Excellency's party was joined at the Blackfoot Agency in
Montana by a detachment of United States troops, who accompanied the
party as far as Birch Creek. It had been the intention of the officer
commanding the United States troops at this point, Colonel Kent, to
escort His Excellency thence to Fort Shaw with a mounted detachment of
ten men, in addition to the escort of Mounted Police under
Superintendent Crozier, but
owing to the United
States troops having lost their horses from the encampment at Birch
Creek, this design could not be carried out. Colonel Kent, himself,
accompanied the party from the Blackfoot Agency, Montana, to Fort Shaw.
His Excellency was escorted about two miles on the road towards \ Helena
by the Mounted Police under Crozier, the duty then being transferred to
a detachment of the 3rd U.S. Infantry.
Prior to His Excellency
taking his departure from Fort Shaw, he commanded to be ordered a parade
of the escort of North-West Mounted Police, whom he addressed in the
most flattering terms.
To quote some of his
words, he said: "You have been subjected to the most severe criticism
during the long march on which you have accompanied me, for I have on my
personal staff experienced officers of the three branches of the
service—cavalry, artillery, and infantry—and they one and all have
expressed themselves astonished and delighted at the manner in which you
have performed your arduous duties, and at your great efficiency."
From His Excellency's
remarks, he fully appreciated the many different kinds of services
performed by the Police of the North-West.
"Your work." said he,
"is not only that of military men, but you are called upon to perform
the important and responsible duties which devolve upon you in your
civil capacities. Your officers in their capacity of magistrates, and
other duties are called upon to perform even that of diplomacy."
A Typical Four-Horse Mounted Police Team. (From photograph loaned by
the Comptroller, Lieut.-Col. F White).