In 1873 an act of Parliament was passed that allowed the formation of the North West Mounted Police. The act was not followed through though until June 1, 1873 the date of the Cypress Hills massacre, in which an entire village of Assiniboine men, women and children was completely destroyed. The horrid event finally lead the government to realize the importance of a law force to take control out in western Canada. Especially in stopping the whiskey trade with the First Nations people.
In 1874 the government sent out an enlistment advert for men to join the NWMP. The biggest drive for enlisting was the thrill of adventure and the 160 acres of land promised at the end of three years of service. Men came from eastern Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and the United States. The NWMP’s target was Fort Whoop-Up, the most notorious whiskey trading fort, run by Americans on Canadian soil, located near what is now Lethbridge, AB.
The march west was tedious and full of trials and hardships, the men brought no extra water and no canteens. The guides they hired had no more of an idea where they were than the officers themselves. On the journey most of the tall, eastern horses died and numerous men became ill. Upon arrival at Roche Percee, the ill men and horses were sent north to Fort Edmonton on easier, well travelled trails.
The men that remained continued to the Sweet Grass Hills. Commanding Officer Commissioner George Arthur French and Colonel James Macleod took a few men down to Fort Benton to gain supplies and a trustworthy guide. There they met Jerry Potts, a Scottish-Native American, horse trader and scout.
Potts lead the men to Fort Whoop-Up. Upon arrival the men found the whiskey post abandoned, only the caretaker remained to offer the Fort to the force for $25,000. The men declined the offer as the force was only given $19,000. Jerry Potts then lead them to where is now Fort Macleod, the first NWMP post in the North West Territories.
The town of Fort Macleod, was home to many founding figures in Western Canadian history, including Fred Kanouse, Sir Fredrick Haultain, James Macleod, Jerry Potts, Fred Bagley, Francis Dickens and many, many more.
The Fort Museum is dedicated to preserving aspects of the great story of Fort Macleod, the NWMP, and the First Nations people of Southern Alberta.