Fort Macleod, in Alberta, Canada, was established on October 18, 1874, with the arrival of the North West Mounted Police, led by Colonel James F. Macleod. James Farquharson Macleod was born September 25, 1836, in Drynoch, Isle of Skye, Scotland.
The original fort was erected of log walls, rough planking, sod roofs and dirt floors. It was located on an island in the Old Man River valley, about one mile east of the present town. The island, now known as Macleod Island, was chosen for the site of the fort as it was both a picturesque and defensible location. However, it diminished in attractiveness with the arrival of spring flood waters, which rendered the site practically inaccessible. By 1884, the NWMP relocated their quarters to the south bank of the Old Man River.
The Northwest Mounted Police had been formed to protect Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Territory. This interest was being threatened by the American whiskey traders who were trading deadly “firewater” for buffalo hides, wolf skins, and other items of value. The arrival of the NWMP put an end to the illicit trade in the Blackfoot, Blood, and Peigan Indian territory of Canada. Moreover, they established an official federal presence in the North West Territories, which were being eyed by the United States for possible annexation, and effectively opened the Canadian West to settlers. Fort Macleod was the first permanent police post in the British North-West.
The town soon followed, and incorporated in 1892. It became a bustling settlement, complete with a main street and a variety of commercial interests providing services to the region’s ranching industry. Development proceeded until 1906 when a fire destroyed most of the wood frame shops and businesses on Main Street. As a reaction to the fire, a law was passed requiring future buildings to be constructed of stone or brick, thereby changing the look of Main Street forever.
Let’s not forget Dudley Do-Right, of the Northwest Mounted Police:
Shelby, Montana to Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada: 131.9 miles