Historic Photos from Fort MacLeod

In response to the lawlessness that was being reported in its western territories, the Canadian government created the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) to protect its sovereignty. The force was dispatched west to combat the unlawful practices of whiskey traders whose firewater was wreaking havoc on the local Indigenous population. Their arrival established an official presence in Canada’s west, which was being eyed for annexation by the United States, and effectively opened the western frontier for settlement. Led by Colonel James F. Macleod, the NWMP constructed Fort Macleod in 1874, which was the first barracks in southern Alberta, and the second in Canada’s west after Fort Livingstone.

Bull train en route from Fort Benton, Montana to Fort Macleod, Alberta, 1879

The original fort was built on Macleod Island in the Old Man River, approximately one and a half kilometres east of the town’s present location. The island was chosen both for its defensible location as well as its picturesque setting, however with the arrival of the first spring floods, the attractiveness of the site had decreased dramatically. A decade later the Town of Fort Macleod had begun to spring up around the fort’s original location but the NWMP had relocated their fort to the southern bank of the river, west of the present townsite. The fort served as the NWMP’s headquarters from 1876 to 1878, when the distinction was transferred to Fort Walsh.

C. Troop North-West Mounted Police, Alberta, 1879

Fort Macleod received National Historic Site of Canada status in 1923 due to its importance in the early history of the North West Mounted Police. Today you can visit the Fort Museum of the North West Mounted Police and First Nations Interpretive Centre, which features a re-creation of the original fort and highly popular NWMP Music Ride.

I. G. Baker and Company’s store with new false front under construction, 1879
C. Troop mess North-West Mounted Police, Alberta, 1879
Interior of an officer’s quarters, Alberta, 1880
View of North-West Mounted Police post, Fort Macleod, Alberta, 1878
Old town of Fort Macleod, Alberta, 1878
Colonel James Farquharson Macleod quarters, Alberta, 1875
Constable William F. Parker, North-West Mounted Police, Alberta, 1874
Captain Jack, Chief of the Blackfoot, Alberta, 1878-1879
George Winder, North-West Mounted Police officer and horse, Alberta, 1880-1883
North-West Mounted Police camp on the prairie near Fort Macleod, Alberta, 1884
View of North-West Mounted Police post, Alberta, 1880s
John D. Higinbotham’s drugstore, Alberta, 1884
Main street, Alberta, 1880s
Settler possibly William Samuel Lee and Blood man at Fort Macleod, Alberta, 1880-1883
Ox team on main street, Alberta, 1880s
Blackfoot girl with cat, Alberta, 1880
North West Mounted Police officer in front of Macleod Hotel, Alberta, 1883
Foothills scene west of Fort Macleod, Alberta, 1880s
Fort Macleod, Alberta pioneers, 1887
Hudson’s Bay Company store, Alberta, 1887
Selling government stores to Blood people, Alberta, 1885
Blood women on travois, Alberta, 1890s
Polo team, Alberta, 1890
Dunbar ranch house, west of Fort Macleod, Alberta, 1888
Mrs. Reach, merchant, Alberta, 1880s
Macleod Gazette building, Alberta, 1887-1889
Blood tipis, Fort Macleod area, Alberta, 1885-1900

For similar stories about historic forts across the prairies, please visit these previous posts: Historic Photos of Fort Edmonton, The Colourful History of Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills, Curated Collection of Vintage Photographs from Fort Calgary, Lethbridge Lineage: Southern Alberta’s Historic Fort Whoop-Up, and Red Deer’s Roots: Alberta’s Historical Site Fort Normandeau. You can also read more about the Blood Reserve by visiting Historic Photos from the Kainai Nation.

Interior of Christ Church, Alberta, 1889

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. If you’re interested, additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on the photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.

About Tyler Dixon 218 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.