Colonel James Walker



Recommended reading; Grant MacEwan's biography, "James Walker, Man of the Western Frontier".

On April 3, 1936, the city of Calgary was in mourning for one of it's foremost pioneers, James Walker. The streets were lined with citizens paying their last respects as the funeral procession wound it's way from Knox United Church. A firing party from the 15th Canadian Light Horse regiment was assembled at the grave site to give the final salute, and the North West Police veterans were present to say goodbye to their old commander and comrade.

James Walker was born near Hamilton, Ontario and became one of the original commissioned officers in the North West Mounted Police in 1873, taking part in the trek West in 1874.

Walker, like all the commissioned officers of the force, faced the same hardships as the enlisted men with the added responsibility of caring for the new recruits, (most of them city boys - some as young as 15 - with little or no experience in the frontier) and assuring their safety and the success of the expedition. Walker and Col. Macleod, at one point, had to leave the expedition and travel on alone to procure extra supplies and horses to replace those which had died along the way.

Walker was promoted to superintendent in 1876 and sent back East to arrange for new recruits. While in Ottawa, he was instructed to take some of the recruits and a troop of more experienced policemen (they were two year veterans but you became "experienced" very quickly under their conditions) to Battleford to establish a Mounted Police fort and provide an escort for the treaty commissioners who were travelling in the same area.

No sooner had they arrived in Battleford when Walker learned that Chief Beardy had no intention of signing the upcoming treaty without special consideration for his own people. Expecting trouble, Walker and his men headed for Fort Carleton leaving some of the troop at Battleford in charge of construction. There was a festive mood amongst the native people at Carleton, but the treaty commissioners had not yet arrived. Walker learned that Beardy intended to stop the treaty commissioners en route and press his own demands.

Walker and his men then set out to intercept the treaty commission and encountered Chief Beardy and his force. Instead of confronting Beardy, Walker ordered his men to ride right past Beardy's group as if they weren't there. When they reached Dumont's Crossing, instead of finding the expected blockade, the commissioners were greeted with a note from the Cree at Fort Carleton welcoming them.

Chief Beardy had many treaty disputes but, being a great negotiator, did manage to obtain special considerations. The Natives of Treaty #6 called Walker, "The Eagle that Protects"

Shortly after this, Walker married Euphemia Quarrie and brought his new bride out West. They arrived in Fort Battleford, they discovered that the commander's residence still wasn't ready and this young, very proper, lady from Gault, Ontario had to fit in to the rugged life of a North West Mounted Policeman as best she could. To add to the culture shock, they arrived in Battleford to discover that a group of Sioux had come up from Cypress Hills and were camped around the Barracks.



Commanders Residence Ft. Battleford


Like most of the original commissioned officers, Walker had a great respect for the Sioux people and for Sitting Bull in particular. Walker kept contact with the Sioux who had drifted North but impressed upon them that they were not part of the treaties and thus not entitled to any of the treaty benefits or support. Most of the Sioux wanted work but there wasn't much work available in the area. Walker did what he could by hiring them to do labour around the fort and finding them employment with the local settlers.

In order to have the Mounted Police become more self sufficient, Walker established a farm and truck garden at the barracks and in the first year, produced 36000 lbs. of potatoes, 3800 lbs. of turnips and 1000 lbs. of beets. This practice became common at NWMP forts and outposts.

In 1880, Walker was ordered to assume command at Fort Walsh but, on his way there, was ordered to Ottawa to appear before the Prime Minister. He was offered a position at a large cattle ranch being started by Senator Cochrane and resigned the force to assume his new duties as manager of the operation. He left the ranching business in 1882 and took over a sawmill which supplied much of the lumber for Calgary and area. The Walker family also owned a farm, in an area which was then east of the city and is now Inglewood.

He was pressed into national service once again during the North West Rebellion of 1885 when he formed the Home Guard. He was a Lt. Col. in the 15th Light Horse and served overseas in WW1 as the commanding officer of the Canadian Forestry Corps.

Walker was a prominent and well loved Calgarian; in 1884, he was declared chairman of the newly formed Calgary Citizen's Committee, he helped establish Calgary's first school district, he was a school board chairman, he was director of the first general hospital and active in both the Southern Alberta Pioneers and Old Timers Association and the NWMP Veterans Association of which he was the first president - serving several terms, on and off, from 1886 until 1919. In 1975, the City of Calgary proclaimed Col. James Walker "Citizen of the Century" an fitting tribute for a man who gave so much to this city.

The lasting legacy of the Walker family is the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, a conservation project championed by Walker's son, Selby, shown in the picture on the left (the old Walker residence in the background).

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