D. C. Baldwin



The hardships faced by the men of the NWMP were not just whiskey traders and raging rivers.

Constable Baldwin was the nephew of the Canon of Toronto and the grandson of a Canadian statesman, and in March of 1899 his tour of duty with the North West Mounted Police was coming to a close. For some months before, Baldwin had been talking with the men in barracks about how much he was looking forward to taking up ranching after he left the force. His wife and two small children were back in Hamilton, and he planned to bring them out West once he got established.

On March 11, he had just finished his discharge interview and returned to barracks to change into civilian clothes. He asked one of the Sergeants for a piece of paper, sat down on his bunk, wrote a letter, then pulled out his revolver and shot himself .

At the inquest which followed, it was discovered that he had recently received a letter from home which had caused him great distress. The contents of the letter were , of course, not made public. After being notified of his death, Baldwin's family left no instructions for burial.

We often think of the people of the 19th century as being somewhat less tolerant, compassionate and understanding than we are today but I have not found this to be the case. Baldwin's death comes at the end of a number of suicides in the force following the North West Rebellion (the most notable being that of the surgeon at Fort Battleford), and in each case I have looked at, the amount of compassion showed in the media towards these men is far greater than what is shown in the media today towards people in similar circumstances.

We often hear of cases of suicide being "buried outside the fence", but in the case of Constable Baldwin, the funeral service was conducted by Bishop Pinkham and he was interred in an NWMP plot with other officers. However, you will notice that he is buried far from others who died around the same time and there are empty plots on either side of his grave.

 

I do not know what the Mounted Police were thinking of when Baldwin was buried, or why he was buried in that particular plot; maybe they just didn't know how to handle the situation, or maybe they though that Baldwin would have to be disinterred later and shipped home and maybe it is all coincidental. Your guess is as good as mine.

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