|the Mad Trapper of Rat River © wood engraving (ed. 40) image: 7 x 5 in. $70.00 (go to "Hi There" for purchase information)|
|In the summer of 1931 a man with a Scandinavian accent, calling himself Albert Johnson, arrived in Fort McPherson in the Northwest Territories of Canada. He arrived on a two-log raft, with very little in the way of supplies and built himself a small cabin on the banks of the Rat River. Without taking out a trapping license, he began to work as a trapper in the area (but there was no evidence he ever sold any pelts). Later, one of the other local trappers comlained to the RCMP detachment that someone was tampering with traps and he suggested that it might be Albert Johnson. The Mounties went to Johnson's cabin to ask him about the case but he wouldn't talk to them. When they returned with a search warrant and attempted to force their way in, Johnson shot through the door, injuring one of the Mounties. They never heard him say a word.
A larger posse returned with dogs and some dynamite and during the seige they blew up the cabin, but Johnson survived the blast and held them off. The Mounties returned to headquarters for more instructions. Meanwhile the press was following the drama and the story was traveling around the world. An even larger group, including Native trackers, returned to find Johnson missing. He was tracked to the base of a steep cliff, where they had him surrounded. In the gun battle that followed he shot and killed Constable Millen. That night Johnson scaled the cliff and, in extremely cold and brutal weather, managed to make it over some high passes. The RCMP engaged the services of WWI flying ace W. R. (Wop) May to help pick up the trail and Johnson was discovered using carabou tracks to hide his own progress. He was eventually cornered and killed on the frozen Eagle River, after wounding some of the posse. A total of $2000.00 in Canadian and US currencies, was discovered in his belongings. No relative came to claim his body and he was buried at Aklavik, Northwest Territories.
In 2007 his body was exhumed for DNA tests. There are indications and evidence that the Mad Trapper of Rat River may have been a Norwegian immigrant who thought the RCMP were after him because he had evaded conscription during the First World War.
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