Col. James Farquharson Macleod


The name of Col. James Macleod is literally synonymous with the city of Calgary and it is fitting that he rest at the highest point of Union Cemetery, overlooking the city that he named and the major thoroughfare which bears his name.

James Farquharson Macleod was born in Scotland in 1836, educated at Queen's College, Kingston and Osgood Hall and in 1860 became a practising lawyer in Bowmanville, Ontario. He had military inclinations and joined the Volunteer Militia Field Battery in Kingston, Ontario under Col. Wolseley. During the Red River expedition of 1870, he was mentioned in dispatches and decorated for his actions.

This expedition was a foreshadowing of the formation of the NWMP. One of the reasons for choosing red tunics was that the Native People had formed an opinion of the red coats of the men of the Wolseley Expedition and viewed them as their friends.

He joined the NWMP in 1873 and was number three in seniority. He was instructed to engage men for the force in Ontario, West of Kingston. He was an expert snowshoer and added this skill to the training of the men.

The following year, he was appointed assistant commissioner of the force and, in 1874, led his troops to establish the post named in his honour, Ft. Macleod. Macleod had always been impressed by the herds of buffalo roaming the plains and suggested the idea of adding the buffalo head to the monogram of the force.

Macleod realised that the 150 ragged men who arrived at the Old Man River could not possibly suppress the area by force and he made up his mind that the relations between the Mounties under his command and the native peoples of the area would be cordial and fair.

Macleod's forces were left almost entirely on their own, direct communication with the East was a 200 mile ride to Montana and winter was coming. First consideration was given to the hospital and shelter for the horses, then to the men's quarters and finally to the officer's quarters; the usual order for construction of NWMP posts. Remember that all through the construction and establishment, Macleod still had to maintain his objectives; establishing law and suppression of the whiskey trade, preliminary negotiations with the native people and (at the back of his mind at all time) bringing those responsible for the Cypress Hills massacre to justice.

The whiskey peddlers thought Macleod and his men would never make it through the winter, but the initial arrests made eventually amounted to success in the matter and Macleod was able to report an end to the illegal whiskey trade in the area by the end of the year. Thanks to the help of the local settlers and native groups, enough supplies were laid in to see them through the winter (although hay for the horses continued to be a problem).

In late November, 1874, Macleod met with the leaders of the Blackfoot Confederacy to establish relations. Before Treaty #7, peace in the area was kept by the gentleman's agreement reached between Chief Crowfoot and Macleod at this and subsequent meetings. Crowfoot called Macleod "Bull's Head", probably from the bull depicted on Macleod's family crest. The Macleod family legacy is honoured by the inclusion of the bull in the crest of The University of Calgary.

The hunt for those responsible for the Cypress Hills Massacre came to a head in 1875 when a number of the suspects were located in Helena, Montana. Macleod and Irvine headed for the United States with witnesses in an attempt to extradite the suspect back to Canada for trial.

The massacre had caused outrage in Canada, but in Helena, there were demonstrations in the street in favour of the suspects but, in the end, the extradition was denied on the grounds that it could not be proved the crime had been committed in Canada. Macleod was then arrested for false imprisonment and placed in custody. The charges were dropped and Macleod released when it became obvious that the Canadian group had followed all the proper procedures in the matter.

Also in 1875, Macleod ordered Inspector Brisbois and 50 men from `F' troop to proceed North and establish a much needed intermediary post on the Bow River. The men were sidetracked even further north to escort General Selby-Smyth , the commander of Canada's Militia, on his inspection of the NWMP operations. The General was met at the Red Deer River where F troop cared for the Militias weary horses and supplied the escort for the continued tour. The remainder of F troop then proceeded to the site of the new Fort.

The going was easy and F troop reached the McDougal mission at Ghost River, followed the Bow River East, crossed the Bow just above the Elbow and began building what was referred to as the "Bow Fort". Near the site for the fort was grisly reminder of why the force had come West. Human remains were scattered about, evidence of a confrontation between natives and Whiskey traders.

Inspector Brisbois had been referring to the new fort as "Fort Brisbois", which he had no authority to do; it was officially referred to as the Bow Fort. Eventually an official name had to be found and, following a discussion between Irvine, Macleod and Denny, Macleod recommended the name "Fort Calgary" after an area near his sister's home in Scotland.

Macleod left the force in 1875 to became one of three stipediary magistrates for the North West Territories. The next year, following the resignation of commissioner French, Macleod became the second Commissioner of the NWMP. He did not, however, relinquish his job as magistrate; he had two jobs to do.

Macleod recommended a massing of the force in the south in order to deal with possible conflicts caused by the influx of Sioux from the US and the fallout from the American wars with the native peoples. He then turned his attentions to the completion of the Treaty 7 negotiations. Immediately following the signing of Treaty 7, Macleod headed full steam to Fort Walsh to the famous confrontation between Bitting Bull and General Terry of the US Army. It was here that Sitting Bull told Terry that they would stay in Canada because Walsh and Macleod had always kept their promises.

This could sum up Macleod; he always kept his promises. Throughout his monumental task of living up to the treaties and administering justice in the West, Macleod always acted fairly, firmly and with a sense of justice and order.

By 1880, it became obvious that one man could not be both magistrate and commissioner of the NWMP so Macleod sadly left the force to continue his judicial work. His judicial district was the area of Fort Walsh, Fort Macleod, Fort Calgary and Edmonton with courts held in various post along the way.

Macleod had to travel by wagon or horseback over great stretches of country. When, on occasion, he took the tri weekly stage from Lethbridge to Fort Macleod, he would hop up on the driver's seat and take the reins himself. He hated being called "Judge" preferring his military title. He also had a reputation for having an extraordinary capacity for whiskey, which he could consume in large quantities, apparently with no effect.

Once a group of American Army officers travelled from Ft. Assiniboine to test this legendary capacity: Macleod ended up literally carrying the American officers, one by one, up to their beds.

In 1887, Macleod was appointed to the Supreme Court of the North West Territories, a position he held until his death in 1894. Although there were plenty of opportunities for Macleod, with his connections, to make a fortune, he chose to continue to administer justice in the West and died a poor man. He was reported to have left behind, "A wife, five children and 8 dollars".

His legacy lived on in Calgary, not only in it's name; his daughter Helen married A.E. Cross, one of the founders of the Calgary Stampede. His grand daughter, Mary Dover, became one of the first two women elected to Calgary City council and continued to be a key member of the community until her death in the early 1990's.


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