In 1885, with the outbreak of the Riel Rebellion, there was great concern and anxiety in Medicine Hat that the Blackfoot, Assiniboia, Prairie Cree and Sioux would join Reil and attack the town.
|Medicine Hat, NWT 1884|
A committee was formed to plan a defence which resulted in arguments and confrontations with the police as to the best line of defence against an attack. An engine was kept fired up day and night, ready to evacuate the women and children. Anxiety was relieved by the arrival of a company of Rocky Mountain Rangers, largely made up of cowboys and ranchers and later joined by a Regiment from the Maritime Provinces. A line of defence was constructed on the side of the hill by digging rifle pits and trenches. (The trenches remained visible until 1912 before being obliterated by the growth of the city.) The confederated Indian tribes hoped to get the powerful war-like Blackfoot tribes to join them and wipe out the whites from their territory. However, Chief Crowfoot, in his wisdom, realized the futility of doing battle against the whites and chose to remain loyal to the King. One can only surmise that if he had not, a disastrous battle would have ensued which would have been the bloodiest Indian battle in the history of North America.
The uprising ended suddenly and the Indians slowly returned to the reserves. For a while peace and quiet reigned – or as much peace and quiet as could be expected in a frontier town.
In 1899, however, citizens who were having a hard enough time receiving protection from drunken and rowdy men on the streets, were faced with another problem as the town was flooded by hobos and vagrants, nearly all of whom existed by robbing and pillaging. The NWMP, with only five members in the detachment, were unable to devote any time to keeping law and order in town. Therefore, the city fathers decided to create a position of Town Constable. A bylaw was drawn up outlining the duties of a combined Inspector-Heath-Officer-Policeman and read as follows:
|Courthouse and Jail, Medicine Hat, NWT 1899|
BYLAW # 8
It shall be the duty of the Council of the Town of Medicine Hat to appoint one or more persons to the office of Inspector, Health Officer and Policeman.
“It shall be the duty of the said town and to perform such services as may be required by the chairman of the various committees in looking after and keeping in repair, all Town property and in looking after the cleaning up of all streets and to engage and keep the time of such labour as the said Council may direct.
To have charge of the Council Chamber, to keep the same clean and in an orderly condition and to attend the fire and lighting of the same when in occupation for Town purposes and to attend the meetings of the Council.
The said officer shall be allowed his reasonable disbursements for fuel, coal, oil and for cleaning the said Council Chambers.
The said officer shall have the right to enter into and upon any premises or places within the said town for the purpose of effectively performing the duties of his office and enforcing the bylaws.
The said officer shall have supervision over all persons to whom licenses are granted and make a thorough inspection of the premises sought by the licensed and shall make all enquiries relating to matters connected with the granting of licenses as may be required.
To assist at least once in every month and oftener, if necessary, all premises licensed by the town for the purpose of ascertaining whether the person licensed comply with the provisions of the bylaws governing licenser.
To carefully examine, when necessary, all chimneys, fireplaces, hearths, ovens, furnaces, boilers, stoves, steampipes, funnels, stovepipe holes, flues and all places where fires are made or kept on which ashes are kept and to enforce any bylaw which now or may hereafter become law, for the prevention of fires on the erection of buildings.
The said officer shall generally be under the direction and control of the Mayor or Chairman of the said Council for the time being.
The said officer shall be diligent and watchful to discover all nuisance matters and things likely to injure the health and be prompt in applying a remedy under the law.
To see to the arrest of all disorderly persons and generally to the maintenance of law and order in the Town.
Any person appointed to the above position shall hold office during the pleasure of the Council.
The salary of the said officer shall be the sum of fifty dollars a month and two suits of uniforms annually.
Dated and passed in council this 13th day of January, 1899.
W.B. MARSHALL, MAYOR”