City of Regina in 1883.

These are the Prairies

Chapter Ten


Reports were coming in that the Mormons of the Cardston district were supporting Frank Oliver, the Liberal candidate, and Zack took a horse and rode the forty-odd miles to see what could be done about it. He was joined at Cardston by Senator Lougheed, Mr Bennett's law partner, and R. J. Hutchings of Calgary, and some meetings were held there and at neighbouring points to impress the followers of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young with the merits of the Conservative policy.

The district was settled almost entirely by Mormons from the State of Utah, who were developing it with their usual energy, and already enjoying a considerable measure of prosperity. Many amongst them bore names historic in the annals of Mormonism. A number of their leaders had been polygamists in the States, but a ban being placed upon that matrimonial condition by the American Government, they emigrated to Alberta, taking one wife with them and leaving what others they might possess in Utah. Most of these people ceased contracting polygamous marriages when it became unlawful, but they felt it would be unjust to discard altogether relationships already established. They were particular that none of them should have more than one wife in Canada at one time. A leading Mormon was living at Cardston with his family and one wife. The child of another wife came from the States on a visit. It was taken seriously ill and the mother was summoned by wire from Salt Lake City. Before she arrived, the father left Canada. He did not wish to offend the laws of the Dominion by remaining in the country with two women claiming a marital relationship with him.

The Mormon movement into Southern Alberta is a tale of epic achievement. They found the region an almost uninhabited wilderness and in a few years they made it "blossom like the rose". They were pioneers and the sons of the pioneers who had forced the harsh and unfriendly soil of Utah to yield them sustenance. They brought with them to Southern Alberta a practical knowledge of irrigation and were the first people in western Canada to lead the revivifying water of the mountain streams to do their will on the land. They were a decent, law-abiding folk and made noble contributions to the development of the great foothill region where they settled.

The Leader of the Cardston settlement was a white-bearded, patriarchal old gentleman named Charles Ora Card. He derived some of his importance from the fact of his marriage to one of the daughters of the famous Brigham Young. Mrs Zina Young Card, or "Aunt Zina" as she was called by the Mormons, was a clever woman with a strong personality who had much influence with the people of the district.

Mr. Card was reputed to have Conservative leanings, while Mrs Card was a supporter of Frank Oliver. It was desired to wean Mrs Card away from her political "heresy" if possible, and Zack went to call upon her with the result that the Senator, Mr Hutchings and himself were invited to her house for dinner. Mr Card was away in the States at the time, but Mrs Card played the role of hostess to perfection. The table was beautifully appointed and a splendid meal served. She was an entertaining conversationalist and, in response to the tactful queries of Senator Lougheed, spoke much of the eventful history of the Mormons in the United States.

She told of the wagon train which, travelling through the desert, had reached the shores of the Great Salt Lake. It was decided to camp there a while and rest. The morning after the arrival her father was observed walking among the sand dunes. At last, he paused and, calling the bearded elders about him, drove his staff into the ground and declared: "Here we will raise the temple of our God." On that very spot the great Salt Lake Tabernacle, one of the wonders of North America, was erected.

Mrs. Card vigorously defended polygamy, although declaring it was no longer practised by her people. She said that she was the daughter of a polygamous marriage and the various wives of her father associated among themselves in the friendliest relationship.

Very tactfully, Senator Lougheed suggested that the Conservative party would greatly appreciate her influence during the approaching election. She would make no promise but laughingly said, referring to her husband: "You have the head of the family on your side."

"Indeed," responded the Senator with meaning, "I am afraid we haven't."

Just before the party left Gardston a man came to the Hotel and asked for my husband. He was not a very engaging-looking individual but announced himself a Conservative. Any kind of a supporter was better than none, and there were mighty few in Cardston; so Zack listened to what he had to say. He told a tale of persecution on account of his alleged political faith. He declared that certain Mormon Liberals had trumped-up charges against him and his friend, who also was a staunch supporter of the party of Sir John Macdonald, with the object of locking them up in jail, so that their votes and influence would be wasted. Their preliminary trial was to come off that afternoon and as the local lawyers were all Liberals so he said they could get no one to defend them. Was there a lawyer in the party, who would plead their cause for righteousness sake?

Senator Lougheed was a lawyer and a good one, so Zack put the proposition to him to represent these unfortunate Conservatives before the Magistrate. He agreed to act and went away with his client, whose appearance certainly belied the exalted political principles he professed.

Things had not proceeded very far before the Senator realized that the case against his clients was a black one indeed, but he made a noble effort to save them. It was entirely without avail, and the two patriots were committed to jail to await jury trial.

Zack was in Cardston on Election Day and, remembering the protestations of these two gentlemen, he had them brought from jail under Police escort to cast their votes. It was then possible to do that. Sad to relate, when the ballots were counted at that particular poll, there was not a single Conservative vote recorded.

About the middle of the summer Zack went off on business to a mining camp in Montana, where the Glacier National Park is now located. My friend, Miss Thomas, was at the house with me while my husband was away. She was leaving on a certain day and Zack promised to be back by then. When she left on Sunday morning my husband had not yet put in an appearance. I do not think I ever experienced a longer day. We had been in Macleod only a short time and I knew few people. Every time a rider passed and that was often in the equestrian time and place, I rushed to the door or window, but when evening came I had become so nervous that I nearly concluded I would never see Zack again. About eleven o'clock I went upstairs to bed.

I lay long awake, but eventually, weariness claimed me and I must have dozed off. During the night I was awakened by someone stumbling upstairs. I called out in alarm and was reassured on hearing my husband's voice in reply. I rose and lighted a lamp. He eased himself down in a chair and then jumped up again as if he had sat on a hot place. I anxiously asked what was the matter and he grinned rather ruefully and said: "Oh! nothing much. I have ridden ninety miles since morning, that is all. I find it difficult to sit down."

He had not concluded his business until late Saturday night and mindful of his promise to be home on Sunday, commenced his long ride early in the morning. He had left his horse at Cardston and was riding a big black bronco belonging to the Mormon liveryman at that place. Cardston was more than fifty miles distant from the mining camp and he intended to change horses there when his own animal would be fresh for the last portion of the journey.

The early morning part of the ride, a distance of about fifteen miles, was made through a wild and mountainous country, where much speed could not be achieved. About nine o'clock Zack came to a stopping place on the banks of the St. Mary's River, kept by a well known western character named "Hod" Main. He had breakfast there and gave his horse a feed of oats. The banks of the River were too precipitous to allow him to water the animal and the spring was some distance away; so he decided he would give him a drink at one of the smaller creeks on the trail. This horse made trotting its speciality, which is by no means a desirable accomplishment for a saddle animal, and it was inclined to be wild and stubborn.

It was cold early in the day in that foothill country and the mountain streams, glacier-fed, had the temperature of ice water. When Boundary Creek, under the shadow of towering Chief Mountain was reached, Zack, dismounted, loosened the "cinches" and permitted his horse to drink. It filled itself with the cold water and, when my husband essayed to mount, objected strenuously. After much difficulty, Zack, at last, led the brute under a bank and dropped on its back from the elevation. Even then it "pitched" vigorously, but he soon had it in hand. When the horse realized it was mastered and on the road for home, it shook its head and, throwing out its front feet, commenced a vigorous trot. Zack settled himself in the saddle and said: "Old boy! If you think you are going to 'rack' me to pieces by trotting me into Cardston after your other mean behaviour, you are making a sad mistake. If you can't 'lope', we will see what you can do at a gallop."

And gallop it did most of the way to the Mormon town.

The black horse was lathered with sweat, and when Zack rode into the livery stable he thought the man from whom he hired it might be displeased. However, it was Testimony Sunday at the Mormon Church; almost every adult of the place was absorbed in religious observances and there was no one at the stable except a helper. Accordingly, my husband saddled his own horse and after having something to eat at a restaurant, proceeded on his homeward way. He had still forty-odd miles to cover before reaching MacLeod.

Late that evening he reached Stand-Off, on the Blood Indian Reserve and stopped for supper at the post of George Pearson, an Indian trader. He rested there for a while and when he was ready to resume his journey was so stiff he had to be helped into the saddle. The last ten miles of that tremendous ride must have been torture. He declared every time the horse's feet hit the ground, it jarred every nerve in his body.

At that time, 1900 the big cattle "outfits" were still running their herds on the southern ranges. After the coming of the Mounted Police in 1874, news had gone out that a matchless range country lay between the American Boundary and the Bow River, and trail herds were driven in from Montana and Wyoming. It was a noble grass country and the land of the "Chinook". When the Mounted Police first reached the Old Man's River, their horses and livestock were thin and weary. Attempts were made to gather wild hay, but the season had been dry and there was little to be obtained. Winter came down early with frost and snow, and it looked as if all the stock would perish. To the surprise of the members of the Expedition, January came in with a thaw; a soft and balmy wind blew from the West; the hold of the winter was relaxed on the land and every little watercourse was brimming. Soon all the snow was gone and the animals turned out on the prairie, began to pick up. The "Chinook" had come to the rescue.

One of the first big cattle herds to arrive was brought in by John R. Craig for the "Oxley", a concern incorporated by some English noblemen and members of Parliament. Mr Craig was a competent and experienced Ontario stockman, who quickly adapted himself to the western conditions. He was an independent character and some friction resulted in the severance of relations with his aristocratic directors. Some years afterwards he wrote an entertaining book, entitled Ranching with Lords and Commons. When we were in MacLeod he was engaged in ranching on his own account. He was regarded as an oracle amongst the cattlemen.

The "Oxley" was still in existence and managed by a gentleman named Springett, who for many years had been in the service of the Indian Department. He was tall and good looking, with a drooping moustache and while on foot had the somewhat slouching gait of so many hard riding Englishmen.

The Cochrane Ranch was an institution of the country. It owned a matchless range watered by two rivers extending far into one of the mountain defiles. Many thousand head of cattle were carried and it prospered. The manager was W. F. Cochrane, a son of Senator Cochrane, of Compton in Quebec. He was one of the first men in Southern Alberta to acquire an automobile and when he drove it out to the Ranch was responsible for several stampedes.

Some of the other big "outfits" were: "The Circle", managed by Howell Harris for the Conrad Brothers of Great Falls in Montana; Maunsell Brothers; the "Wald-rond" in the Porcupines, owned chiefly by Montreal interests and directed by Dr. McEachern, long connected with the Dominion Veterinary service; "The Glengarry Ranch", managed by Alan Bane Macdonald, afterwards a member of Parliament. There were, of course, many other concerns, but these were the largest then engaged in the cattle business.

While we were in MacLeod the Commission which adjudicated upon the scrip claims of the North West Half-breeds sat there and was attended by wandering bands of Metis, not only from the southern prairies but from the Montana region where they had gone following the Rebellion of 1885 and were only now venturing to return to Canadian territory. As soon as their claims were established before the Commission, land scrip for 240 acres was issued to each successful claimant, and these poor improvident people immediately proceeded to turn their scrips into cash. This was easily done because the Commission was followed from place to place by speculators who induced the Halfbreeds to part with their scrip at ridiculously low prices. Those who thus disposed of their birthright lost no time in putting their money into circulation with the result that scenes of debauchery and drunkenness were daily to be seen on the streets of MacLeod.

One evening my husband and I were walking by the banks of the Old Man's River about a mile beyond the town. The sun was setting and twilight was creeping in. A Halfbreed camp lay close at hand to which our attention was attracted by the sound of strife. Presently two or three men emerged from a tent and commenced to struggle; a knife flashed, there was a cry and a man broke from the group and plunged headlong into the river. In a moment his head appeared black and glassy on the surface and, as the other rushed to the bank, he dived, perhaps expecting a shot to be sent after him.

We hurried in the direction of the men on the bank who scattered at our approach. Then we watched for the swimmer, but he was so long in appearing that we thought, perhaps weakened by a wound, he had sunk. Zack tossed off his clothes and was already in the River to go to his assistance when we saw him break water far away. He was swimming strongly with his long hair trailing blackly behind him. He reached the far bank and, pulling himself out by a branch, disappeared in the bushes.

One of our nearest neighbours in MacLeod was a gentleman named MacDonnell, who was known to everyone as "Cluny" because he had once operated a trading post at the village of that name near the Blackfoot Crossing of the Bow. Some of the young businessmen of MacLeod used to go for an early morning swim, and MacDonnell was usually of the company. He was absent from the bathing exercises for two mornings in succession. He turned up on the third but did not explain his defection. During the day it transpired, he had been getting married. His bathing friends commented adversely on his conduct in not taking them into his confidence.

"Disgusting I call it," declared R. G. Mathews, the Secretary of the Western Stock Growers Association, "why he bathed with us under entirely false pretences."

While living at Cluny Mr MacDonnell had participated in an Indian tragedy. One morning Magnus Begg, the Indian Agent at the Blackfeet, had driven over to one of the reserves to check the supplies. When he reached the buildings there was no stir about the place; not a wisp of smoke from a chimney, or even a dog barking. Mr Begg jumped from the "rig" and walked over to the quarters of Skinner, the official in charge. Just outside the door, he found the body of the unfortunate man. It was lying across the threshold with one side of his head shattered, evidently by a gunshot. He must have come out in response to a summons and had probably been in bed when called, for he was clad only in nightshirt and trousers and had a lamp in his hand. Mr Begg sent his Interpreter to Cluny to notify the Mounted Police while he took charge of things on the spot.

There is a subtle sense that warns Indians of unusual events, and it was not long before some of them began to gather. Begg learned from them that an Indian named Scraping High had been cherishing a grudge against Skinner. A child belonging to the Indian had been sick with a wasting illness, and the father conceived the idea it was caused by some meat that Skinner had issued. Scraping High had declared that if the child died he would send the official to keep it company in the Land of Shadows. The child had passed away the previous day, and indications pointed to the father as the murderer.

Not far from the Indian Department buildings stood a round hill, the flanks of which were brush-covered. An armed Indian was observed to emerge from the shelter of the bushes, take up his position on the summit and cry his war song. He was at once identified as Scraping High and Begg, turning to the group of Indians who had assembled, said: "Fifty dollars to the man who will go up there and take his rifle from him."

Instantly some thirty mounted young "bucks" started up the hill at a gallop. Before they had reached the slope, Scraping High called a warning to them not to approach, and his gestures, backed by his brandished weapon, were sufficiently menacing for them to forget all about the fifty dollars, and they beat a hasty retreat.

"You are a lot of cowards," cried Begg. "Give me a rifle and I will see what I can do."

The weapon was procured and the Agent was preparing to attempt to dislodge the murderer when the rattle of wheels was heard and the members of the Cluny Detachment drove up. With them was Mr MacDonnell, our MacLeod neighbour.

Almost immediately an advance was made upon Scraping High's position. Mr Begg and Mr MacDonnell accompanied the "Mounties". The Indian opened fire and Begg afterwards told my husband that, although he had rated the Indians as cowards, he would have given a great deal to have been able to turn about and retreat, particularly when a bullet from the Indian's rifle struck the ground between the Sergeant and himself.

The attacking party paused for a moment at the edge of the bushes and then dashed up the slope. Seeing they were not to be intimidated, Scraping High made a rush for shelter. Just as he reached the trees one of the Mounties took a snap shot at him and, from the way he flinched, it appeared as if he had been hit.

To follow an armed and desperate Indian into cover is an adventure attended with danger, but the Police and Mr MacDonnell went after him. The civilian was the first to sight him among the trees and sent a bullet in his direction. The Indian was hit again, but he did not stop. The pursuing party followed in his tracks, which by this time were marked with blood. Before long they found him mortally wounded. The bullet from the rifle of the "Mountie" had struck him in a vital spot and Mr MacDonnell's shot had also inflicted a severe wound. The poor misguided Indian paid for his murderous folly with his life.


Author: Webmaster -
"Date Modified - June 5, 2024."

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