The death of retired Inspector K.F. Anderson at Jasper, Alberta in January 1949 brought to a close a colorful career. His was a life of activity interwoven with the story of early law enforcement in the Canadian North. At 82, he was one of the few surviving links in the pioneer chain of the Peace River district.
Kristjan Fjeldsted Anderson — born in Iceland on May 22, 1866 — came to Canada in 1887. He worked at railway construction for a short time, but yielding to the lure of adventure and action, joined the NWMP as Reg. 2353, at Regina, on Aug. 19, 1889. Five years later he became a naturalized British subject.
A northerner by birth, it seemed only natural that he spend the greater part of his police service in the North of his adopted country. There, his name became synonymous with law and order. Fearless and bold, his powerful and commanding physique earned him the respect and admiration of trappers and Indians alike. His intense loyalty and devotion to duty was the scourge of law-breakers. “Andy”, as he was best known to his intimates, was intrepid. He was a wonder on the trail with dog teams, and on snowshoes under most arduous conditions he was unsurpassed. His exploits have become northern legends and are in keeping with the finest traditions of the Force.
In 1894 young Anderson, then a corporal, was stationed at Maple Creek. Three years later as sergeant he was transferred to Fort Saskatchewan. In 1900 Sergeant Anderson was mail courier on a northern patrol, and the following year received the Commissioner’s commendation for bringing two prisoners a great distance by river and trail to Fort Saskatchewan. With the expansion of the Force’s work in the North, the demands for new police buildings and living quarters could not be ignored. During 1902 and 1903 Andy’s duties consisted chiefly of long hard trips winter and summer to help erect log buildings and barracks for the Force.
Anderson has been described by old-timers as the toughest policeman they ever knew and a veritable law unto himself. It was a reputation earned in a rugged country. And if some of his methods were unorthodox they were tempered with justice, and in the long run, effective. A methodical attention to detail compensated for any lack of imagination or the brilliance reputed to be characteristic of outstanding investigators. This was best illustrated in the notorious King murder case.
In the fall of 1904 Edward Hayward, a well-to-do young Englishman who had financed a trapping partnership with Charles King, disappeared from their camp at Lesser Slave Lake in the Peace River district. Word of it reached Anderson through an Indian who told of seeing King with all the equipment and horses.
Anderson, then a staff sergeant, followed King and arrested him on suspicion, though the trapper claimed he and Hayward had separated to meet later at Sturgeon Lake. A long painstaking investigation, beginning at the partners’ last camp, followed and as a result Staff Sergeant Anderson collected considerable evidence.
By sifting through the fragments of a huge fire he found particles of bone. Then, at his own expense, he hired Indians to drain a nearby slough. In the muddy bottom they found buttons, a belt buckle, pocketknife and bones later identified as spinal-vertebrae. A bullet imbedded in the vertebrae was of the calibre of King’s revolver. Hayward’s brother, who traveled from England to testify, recognized the knife as one he himself had given the missing man for a present. He also recognized the buttons as being similar to those used by a tailor in their hometown in England.
King was subsequently tried for murder, and although no body was ever produced, the evidence built up by Anderson’s methodical investigation was so strong that the trapper was found guilty. He was executed Sept. 30, 1905, at Fort Saskatchewan.
On another occasion, while in charge of Grand Rapids Detachment, Andy was the hero of a thrilling affair which occurred in May 1898. Three men became stranded on a rock in a turbulent river when their boat overturned. In the face of almost certain death and ignoring the advice of onlookers who warned that it could not be done, Andy effected their rescue.
On July 1, 1915, while stationed at Peace River crossing, Staff Sergeant Anderson was appointed Inspector. He remained at the Crossing for a few months as officer commanding that sub-district, then later the same year was transferred to Grouard, at that time an important northern outpost. On July 25, 1917, Inspector Anderson was transferred to Fort Fitzgerald, where he continued to serve until his discharge to pension on Jan. 1, 1921.
Ex-Inspector Anderson spent most of his retirement at Peace River and Jasper. On March 22, 1935, he received the RCMP Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
In ex-Inspector Anderson’s death the RCMP had suffered the loss of another who did so much to carve out of the wilderness the foundation and traditions of the Force. Canada too is the loser, for the ex-officer was indeed a true son to his adopted country, a good citizen, and his life exemplified the hope, trust and mutual benefits interchanged between state and immigrant in this country. His deeds are indeed his monument.
To his sorrowing widow, daughter and two sons, Reg. No. 12655 Cpl. Norman and Reg. No. 12045 Cpl. Charles of “F” Division, the Quarterly offers this tribute of respect and admiration on behalf of all member of the Force.
[Reference: Alberta Provincial Museum and Archives, Edmonton]