Commissioner L.W. Herchmer assigned the task of collecting exhaustive information on the best route to take from Edmonton to the headwaters of the Pelly River in the Yukon to Inspector J.D. Moodie, by an order dated August 27, 1897.
Inspector Moodie, with a party of six, Constable F.J. Fitzgerald (who, as a commissioned officer in 1911 perished in the famous last patrol from Fort McPherson to Dawson City) S/Csts. R. Hardisty, F. Lafferty and H.S. Tobin, a half-breed interpreter and an Indian guide, 24 pack horses and 6 saddle horses, left Edmonton on September 4, 1897.
Inspector Moodie arrived at Fort St. John, B.C. a trading post of the Hudson Bay Company on November 1st. Several weeks were spent preparing for winter travel the remainder of the way. He left Fort St. John on December 3rd, 1897 and arrived at Fort Graham on January 18, 1898. Here the party was forced to remain until April 1, 1898. Moodie finally arrived at the Upper Pelly River on October 1st, 1898 and by November 20th had returned to his post at Maple Creek, traveling via Fort Selkirk, Skagway and Vancouver. Moodie submitted his recommendations on the best route to be followed through northern B.C. to the Yukon — and it was not the one he had used.
Another patrol under the command of Inspector A.E. Snyder left Edmonton on December 11, 1897 and lasted until mid-February, 1898. Inspector Snyder visited Fort St. John traveling via old Fort Assiniboine and Lesser Slave Lake. He traveled a distance of 1,070 miles, the purpose of the patrol being to determine the whereabouts of Inspector Moodie, to check police stores left at Fort St. John, to check the well being of the prospectors along the trail and to carry mail.
The trail established by Moodie and his men lay forgotten until 1905 when it was decided that a pack trail should be constructed from Fort St. John to Teslin Lake in the Yukon, a total distance of approximately 750 miles. This road was to be made in such a way that “at some future time it may be made into a wagon trail”.
A detachment of two officers, Superintendent C. Constantine and Inspector Richards, thirty non-commissioned officers and constables and sixty horses left Fort Saskatchewan on March 17, 1905 to begin this work. They arrived at Fort St. John on June 1st.
Establishing his headquarters, Constantine succeeded in renting a small shack, which he made into an office and mess room. The firm of Bredin and Cornwall were engaged by Constantine to erect two buildings for the use of the Force, one 24′ x 24′ to be used as a mess, recreation room and cookhouse, and another 20′ x 40′ for a barrack room. The exact location of these buildings is not known. Constantine also erected a winter herd camp and a corral some four miles northeast of Fort St. John. In September of 1905 the men employed on the trail returned to Fort St. John to spend the winter. A shack for Inspector Richards, a stable and cow house with small corral, a good-sized water tank, a latrine and wash house were built that same fall. These new buildings, together with those previously constructed by Bredin and Cornwall, were referred to as “making a really excellent barracks”. No sizes or locations are given for the latter buildings. No mention is made of the Fort St. John buildings after 1906. It is not known what became of them.
Work commenced on the wagon road to the Yukon on June 15, 1905. At the end of 1905, 94 miles of road had been completed from Fort St. John. Considerable hard work was encountered on the Peace River-Yukon Trail but 131 more miles had been completed by the end of the 1906 season.
By September 25, 1907 another 151 more miles had been completed and connection was made with the Telegraph Trail 4 miles north of Fourth Cabin — 104 miles north of Hazelton and 377 miles west of Fort St. John.
In 1907 navigation on the Peace River was general during most of the summer. The steamer Peace River made three trips between the chutes and Fort St. John.
On February 20, 1907 Cst A.G. Gairdner and S/Cst. De Couta, with two dog teams, patrolled to Peace River Crossing, Dunvegan, Fort St. John and Fort Graham. Their instructions were to pick up what mail they could at these points and carry some to the Peace River-Yukon trail party that was wintering at Fort Graham. They returned to headquarters at Lesser Slave Lake on May 17, 1907, after covering a total of 530 miles.
In the spring of 1908 the Government of British Columbia did not see fit to assist in further construction of the Peace River-Yukon Trail and as the Force did not have the men to spare, the road was abandoned.
One patrol of interest was made through the Peace River District in 1910. Sgt. Darling and Csts. St. Laurent and Bowen patrolled from Athabasca Landing to Whitehorse with packhorses. They left Athabasca Landing on May 4, 1910 and arrived at Whitehorse on October 15, 1910 after traveling a total of approximately 1,700 miles. The object of their patrol was to follow and clear the police trail through to the Government telegraph line north of Hazelton, then go on to Whitehorse via Telegraph Creek and Atlin. Sgt. Darling noted that between Fort St. John and Telegraph Creek the road was in very bad shape and unused. A great deal of fallen timber blocked the trail and many of the bridges had either rotted or had been washed away.
During 1911 a patrol was made by Sgt. R. Field who accompanied Mr. Conroy of the Indian Department, from Fort Chipewyan down the Mackenzie River to Fort Simpson, then up Liard and Nelson Rivers to Fort Nelson, B.C. He returned by way of Fort St. John and then down the Peace River to Fort Chipewyan, a round trip of 2,150 miles. The trip took place between June 30 and October 6, and travel was by steamer, canoe and pack horse.
On September 12, 1914 the SS Grenfell, owned by the Peace River Trading and Land Company, was destroyed by fire 15 miles above Fort St. John on the Peace River.
By 1915 telegraph communications existed between “N” Division headquarters at Athabasca and Fort McMurray, Lac La Biche, Fort St. John, Grande Prairie, Peace River Crossing and Grouard.
In December 1918, the jurisdiction of the Force, so far as Federal duties were concerned, was extended to all Western Canada. In 1919 eighteen detachments were opened in B.C. But it was not until 1950 when the Force took over the policing of British Columbia that detachments were opened at Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, B.C. Both detachments were opened on August 15, 1950. Two constables were stationed at Fort St. John and 5 constables were stationed at Dawson Creek. A detachment was opened at Pouce Coupe on August 15, 1950, but was closed on October 15, 1952, due to the close proximity of the Dawson Creek Detachment. A detachment at Hudson Hope was opened on March 1, 1963.
Fort St. John: On August 15, 1950, the R.C.M.P. took over, for use as detachment quarters, four rooms in an eight room building on Centre Avenue and Highway Street owned by the Government of British Columbia. The Fire Marshall had condemned this building in 1946 so the Force began an immediate search for more suitable quarters.
A Department of Transport building — a former R.C.A.F. building located at the airport — was transferred to the force for use as detachment quarters, jail and Court House on December 15, 1950. There is a gap in our building files from 1954-59 but it is assumed that the Force continued to occupy the building located at the Air Base throughout these years.
A new police-owned standard detachment building was erected in 1958-59 at 10525 Mackenzie Street (100th Street) Lots 3 and 4, Plan 4745, Block 2. This building was first occupied on February 10, 1959.
A number of members stationed at Fort St. John:
1950 Cst. W. Martin, 16935 (formerly of the B.C. Police) i/c Cst. Millers
1959 Cpl. I.G. Thorsteinsson, 13874, i/c
1960 Cst. K.R. Morrison
1967 Sgt. K.H. Katzalay, 19127, i/c
1971 s/Sgt. H.J. Griemann, 17766, i/c
Dawson Creek: On August 15, 1950 the R.C.M.P. took over — for use as detachment quarters — a modern 16 room, 2 storey building with basement, designated as 10324-10th street. This building was rented from the province of B.C. The ground floor was utilized as office and cell rooms, while the second floor comprised two suites of living quarters. These quarters were vacated on November 30, 1961. On December 1, 1961 the Force began leasing rural detachment offices and cells in the newly constructed City Hall on Alaska Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets, from the city of Dawson Creek.
A number of members stationed at Dawson Creek:
1951 Sgt. T.A. Stewart, 16327
1952 Cpl. A.S. Wellens, 16338
Cst. W.D. Fletcher, 13643
1953 Cst. G. Redhead, 16430
Cpl. A.E. Vickers, 16333 i/c
1955 Cpl. M. Marcus, 14393, i/c
Cst. W.F. Hare, 16478
1957 Sgt. M. Marcus, 41393 i/c
A/Cpl. R.L. Purdy, 16638
Cst. G.J. Brickenden, 18347
3/Cst. A.M. Campbell, 19612
2/Cst. R.E. Collis, 19303
2/Cst. I.M. Cooper, 19559
Cst. E.A. Friesen, 16898
2/Cst. A.E. Fry, 19369
2/Cst. D.E. Kelly, 19565
2/Cst. J.V. Matthewson, 19297
Cst. R.K. Stitt, 18359
3/Cst. J.S. Grabowski, 18096
2/Cst. M.A. Young, 18726
1961 Sgt. W. Gordon, 14213
1966 Sgt. E.E. Smith, 16477 i/c
1971 S/Sgt. J.C. Vincent, i/c
Pouce Coupe: In February, 1951, the detachment quarters at Pouce Coupe consisted of 3 office rooms, a cell and a store room in the basement of the Provincial Court House. It is not known when this building was first occupied by the Force.
A number of members stationed at Pouce Coupe:
Feb. 1951 Cst. J.K. McNamara, 19600 i/c
Spl. Cst. A. Robson, 10486 (Radio Operator)
Husdon Hope: From March 1, 1963 the Force rented from the Hudson Bay Company as Hudson Hope detachment quarters, a small 1-1/2 storey frame house, consisting of office, cell room, bath and kitchen on the main floor with 2 bedrooms for the single members on the second floor. These quarters were located on Lot 420 Group 1, Cariboo District.
In 1966 the Force was renting separate married quarters from the B.C. Hydro and Power Authority. These quarters, designated as B.C. Hydro House No. 83, were located on Lot 4, Block 13, Plan 81.
In 1967 the Force had detachment quarters with office, cell single and married quarters constructed by the Fort St. John Development Company on a lease basis. These new quarters, which were occupied on September 1, 1967, are located on Lots 11 and 12. One of the members stationed at Hudson Hope in 1967 was Cst. E.R. Parry, 18542 i/c.