James Farquharson Macleod was born
on the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 1836, the son of Martin Donald Macleod
and Jane Fry. The Macleods moved to Upper Canada in 1845, where young
James received his BA from Queen's University in 1854. He was called to
the Bar in 1860 and began his practice at Bowmanville, Ontario. However,
in 1856 Macleod entered the Canadian militia as a lieutenant of artillery.
With the outbreak of the Riel Rebellion in 1870, Macleod was promoted to
brigade major under Colonel Wolseley.
In 1873, the Dominion
government decided to form a permanent corps of mounted police for the
Northwest. Macleod accepted the position of Inspector (Captain), and then
Assistant Commissioner, second in command of the newly formed North-West
Mounted Police, and the following year led a police column on a long and
arduous journey of over 1500 kilometres from Manitoba to southern Alberta.
Macleod's orders were to bring order to the region. The main problems were
the inability of the Hudson's Bay Company to establish trading posts due
to the hostility of the 8,000 strong Blackfoot Nation - and the need to
drive out American whiskey traders who had introduced alcohol to the
aboriginal population, with disastrous results. The march halted at the
Sweet Grass Hills, within sight of the Rocky Mountains.
By 1875, order had been
restored to the region and Fort Macleod had been established. Later that
same year, Macleod sent troops to establish Fort Walsh in the Cypress
Hills and Fort Calgary. Macleod himself named the latter fort after his
ancestral home, Calgarry Bay on the Isle of Skye.
The position of
Commissioner of the NWMP was given to Macleod in 1876, and he served in
this capacity until 1880. He married Mary Isabella Drever this same year,
and they eventually had four daughters and a son. As Commissioner he
successfully negotiated Treaty No. 7 in 1877 with the Blackfoot Nation,
bringing peace to the region, and opening it for non-aboriginal
settlement. It has been said that the successful treaty was largely
because of Macleod's integrity and the respect he had earned from the
leaders of the various tribes within the Blackfoot nation.
Macleod resigned as
Commissioner in 1880, and moved to Pincher Creek and devoted himself to
judicial duties as a stipendiary magistrate, with control, shared with two
other magistrates, over all civil and criminal matters in the North-West
Territories. In 1887, he became judge of the Supreme Court of the same
region. He served in this capacity until his death in 1894 at the early
age of 58 in Calgary, only two months after moving to the city.
To learn more about James
Farquharson Macleod check out your local library for Macleod of the
Mounties by Michael Crauford-Lewis.