Albert Edward Cortland McDonell



Note: I have used the various spellings of the surname McDonell as they appear in the literature for each individual referred to. You may notice the two different spellings of the surname on A.E.C.'s monument; his wife's name is spelled MacDonell (drives you nuts when your doing genealogy).

The 4th of July, American Independence Day was approaching. Sgt. McDonell of the Milk River detachment (about 14 miles from the US border) had been with the force about 7 years at this point. He knew that an old time whiskey trader named Tom Percel had a load of liquor just over in Montana that he would run across the border at the first opportunity. McDonell started out on patrol at about 7:00 in the evening and soon found fresh wagon tracks. He simply quickened his pace, followed the wagon tracks and caught up with Percel who had 6 five gallon kegs of contraband whiskey in his wagon. McDonell escorted the outfit to Lethbridge, Percel paid a $100.00 fine and the wagon, horses and harness were seized by the Customs Dept. and sold off.

This isn't a very interesting or unusual story except for the fact that McDonell found himself $50.00 richer in the process, half of the fine being paid to him by Customs who counted him as the informant.

McDonell joined the force in Montreal and was posted to Calgary in July of 1882. He saw service in the construction of the railway through the Rockies and was stationed at Revelstoke when the North West Rebellion broke out in 1885. Inspector Sam Steele was in command of the police supervising railway construction and was posted with his command, including McDonell to the Alberta Field Force under Major General Strange.
They marched out of Calgary in April 1885 under the fife and drum of the 91st Battalion.
They came into contact with Big Bear's warriors at Fort Pitt and then again at Frenchman's Butte.

Following the Rebellion, he was stationed at Lethbridge and was among the detail of Mounties to attend Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

Promoted to Inspector, he was stationed in the Yukon in the early 1900's. On July 29, 1903, he was on patrol with with Constable Povoas and Special Constable Stick Sam. Sam was one of the first native Special Constables employed with the NWMP in the Yukon. The three came to the Kaskawulsh River, which was running high, and decided to camp overnight. The next morning, the three saddled up and proceeded to cross the river. McDonnel was the first to cross. He got about half way across and, thinking the water was safe, signalled to the others to follow. No sooner had he done so than he realised his horse was swimming. McDonell followed procedures and slipped from his saddle and swam beside his horse. Special Constable Sam's horse had charged into the stream too quickly and plunged into the deep water before Sam could react. The horse fell over and both horse and rider were swept downstream. Special Constable Sam, I believe, was the first native officer killed in the line of duty. Doubly tragic was the fact that Sam's body was never found even after exhaustive searches by both the police and Sam's relatives.

This tragedy in McDonell's life repeated itself in April of 1931 when his son, Constable Donald MacDonell, was killed in the line of duty in similar circumstances when a flash flood inundated an island he was camped on.

McDonell left the force in 1917 to help establish the Alberta Provincial Police as it's first Superintendent. The Alberta Provincial Police was eventually disbanded and reincorporated into the Mounted Police and McDonell became a magistrate in Peace River.

You would have to travel a long way to find a family which has given as much to the force as the McDonells. Superintendent McDonell's Uncle was Superintendent A.R. MacDonell who served with the force from 1876 until 1895 and commanded Wood Mountain during Sitting Bull's time in Canada and helped negotiate the chief's return to the United States. A.R. MacDonell was placed in charge of the Wood Mountain detachment as a young constable as early as 1876, shortly after he joined the force.

His nephew was Superintendent A.C. MacDonell (later Sir Archibald McDonell) who commanded the Canadian First Division in WW1.

He had three sons who joined the force; Staff Sgt. A. MacDonell, Chief Superintendent C.B. MacDonell (who is buried two rows to the east) and, as mentioned earlier, Constable Donald MacDonell who was killed in the line of duty and is number 50 on the Honour Roll. Last, but not least, a grandson, Assistant Commissioner C. I. C. MacDonell served until 1993.

Four generations of highly regarded Mounted Policemen.

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