I began my writing career as a travel writer and I drove and camped through all of British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and Alaska, writing about what there was to see and do in those provinces, and the territory and state. I learned a lot of history, saw a lot of beautiful scenery, and met a lot of wonderful people.
The following is about Fort Macleod, along the Crowsnest Highway, from my travel book the Backroads of Southern Alberta. Fort Macleod, coincidently, is the setting for the novel, Illegally Dead, the first book of my Travelling Detective Series boxed set.
After the Hudson's Bay Company sold Rupert's Land to the Canadian Government in 1869, fur traders from Fort Benton in Montana travelled north into present day Alberta and set up illegally trading posts called Whiskey Forts. They brought wagon loads of whiskey and guns to trade for furs with the natives. The watered down whiskey, laced with any or all of Tabasco, red pepper, tobacco, ginger, molasses, tea, sulphuric acid and ink, drove the natives wild and they brutalized and killed their own tribesmen, other bands, and some whitemen. Sir John A Macdonald, prime minister of Canada at the time declared that the area should be safe for settlers moving west and he formed the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in 1873. The next year they marched west and established Fort Macleod, which is southern Alberta's oldest settlement.
The downtown district, on 24th Street between Second and Third Avenues, was declared Alberta's first provincial historical site on May 14, 1984. There are many wood frame buildings that date back to 1890s and some brick and sandstone ones from the early 1900s.
The Empress Theatre opened in 1912 and was used for vaudeville acts, minstrel shows, silent films, political rallies and talking films. It has been renovated, but the original pressed metal ceiling, double seats in every second row, and the old radiators remain. The Empress Theatre Society presents movies or live performances during the summer.
The present-day Fort Macleod is a reproduction, but some of the log buildings inside the Fort Museum are original and house numerous historical native and North West Mounted Police-Royal Canadian Mounted Police artifacts. A Musical Ride is staged four times a day during July and August. Young men and women dressed in replica North West Mounted Police uniforms present an exhibition of horsemanship and precision, similar to the world famous Musical Ride.
Harry `Kanouse' Taylor, a former whiskey fort owner, set up a hotel in Fort Macleod after the arrival of the NWMP-the original name of the RCMP. Due to the changing times and transient population, there had to be certain rules in his hotel. They were:
1. Guests will be provided with breakfast and dinner,
but must rustle their own lunch.
2. Spiked boots and spurs must be removed at night
3. Dogs are not allowed in bunks, but may sleep
4. Towels are changed weekly; insect powder is for sale
at the bar.
5. Special rates for Gospel Grinders and the gambling
6. The bar will be open day and night. Every known fluid,
except water, for sale. No mixed drinks will be served
except in case of a death in the family. Only
registered guests allowed the privileges of sleeping
on the bar room floor.
7. No kicking regarding the food. Those who do not like
the provender will be put out. When guests find
themselves or their baggage thrown over the fence,
they may consider they have received notice to leave.
8. Baths furnished free down at the river, but bathers
must provide their own soap and towels.
9. Valuables will not be locked in the hotel safe, as
the hotel possesses no such ornament.
10. Guests are expected to rise at 6:00 a.m., as the
sheets are needed for tablecloths.
11. To attract the attention of waiters, shoot through
the door panel. Two shots for ice water, three for
a new deck of cards.
No Jawbone. In God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash.
The Criminal Streak
West To The Bay
The Travelling Detective Series boxed set:
The Only Shadow In The House