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North West Mounted Police -
Standoff Detachment

Fort Macleod - Our Colourful Past"
pages 25 - 26
by Ella McNeil

History of the Standoff Detachment

The detachment at Stand Off was opened by the N.W.M. Police from Fort Macleod in February 1882. The original complement consisted of Reg. No. 419, Cpl. Thomas La Nauze in charge, Reg. No. 358, Const. Jack Leader and Reg. No. 578, Const. R. N. Wilson. Stand Off's original site was located at Dutch Fred's Ranch.

On April 8, 1882, the detachment was moved down the river to some property owned by Supt. Crozier of Fort Macleod. In 1881 Supt. Crozier had bought land and buildings about three miles north of Dutch Fred's Ranch and the detachment moved into these buildings, which the government rented for the use of the Mounted Police. In 1887 the land upon which the detachment quarters were standing was surveyed by Mr. C. F. Miles, D. L. S. and reserved by the Department of the Interior as a Mounted Police Reserve. The reserve consisted of 120 acres described as S.E. t/4 section 34 township 6 range 25 west of the 4th Meridian, lying west of the Belly River.

Stand Off, long famous as an outpost in whiskey trading days, was principally responsible for policing the Blood Reserve. The famous Charcoal Episode of 1896, in which Sgt. Brock Wilde, then in charge of the Pincher Creek detachment, was shot and killed, was also an incident in Stand Off's past, as much of Charcoal's activities centered around that location. E. McNeil was also the recipient of one of his bullets. From Stand Off, members of the Force patrolled the Blood Reserve to prevent cattle killing; attended the weekly Indian dances in winter and summer; and the Sun Dance, held annually in nearby "Macowan" (Blackfoot word for Belly Buttes). The Indian Department supervised an annual Fall Round-up of Indian and stray cattle. About the same time of year, the Police became truant officers and staged one of their own round-ups for the two residential schools.

Detachments were becoming modernized. City and town posts, of course, had electric lights and running water. Stand Off's lights were kerosene lamps, the water supply, a spring some distance from the buildings and the fountain, a pail of water in the kitchen. The fire extinguishers were red pails marked "Fire". They were always filled with water and kept on shelves in various parts of the detachment building. The cell at Stand Off was made of wooden two-by-fours reinforced with steel rods and located in the constable's room on the second floor. Naturally, upstairs was not the most convenient place to take a drunk Indian but once lodged in the cell he was secure, provided the constable did not carelessly leave wood-working tools near the prisoner.

Transportation was mainly by saddle horse or buckboard. Hauling supplies from Fort Macleod was done in the old general service wagon and in winter by bobsled. The old cook, Ed. Larkin, was one of the originals in the N.W.M.P. joining on June 5, 1877. His regimental number was 185. He had two or three pet cats and his favorite song was "The Red River Valley" with which he entertained the men morning, noon and night. The original Fort Standoff, also spelled Stand Off, was built at the junction of the Belly and Waterton Rivers in 1871. The builders of the fort were American traders who brought their supplies from Fort Benton, Montana, and there is an interesting story of how the fort got its name. The traders were trailed into Canada by a United States Marshal. When he overtook them, they successfully argued that they were in Canada and he was out of his jurisdiction and, therefore, without authority. So they named the fort they established "Stand Off" because, in that area they ( mostly whiskey smugglers ) stood off the law.

In the spring of 1925, the Standoff detachment was officially closed, the personnel moving to Cardston, Alberta. The shift was taken as a result of the building of a new Indian agency and two new residential schools on the Blood Reserve. In the last days of Standoff, the detachment was comprised of Cpl. Pat Gallagher in charge, Cst. G. V. Williams and Scout Percy Plain Woman. Cpl. Gallagher who used to ride a beautiful big black horse, would come into the store and ask for "a chocolate bar for my horse". He took a bite or two but the horse always got the balance.

We missed the force as we were always glad to have them come in for a chat.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup