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Highways 16 & 40
North Battleford, SK

American-Abell steam traction engine with threshing crew of several men
Artifact Articles

Winning the Prairie Gamble


“A Serviceable Outpost, the appearance of which is strikingly neat”

By former Education-Extension Coordinator, Leslee Newman
September 2012

North West Mounted Police Outpost - North Battleford WDM

Land on the northern shore of Jackfish Lake was like a magnet. There was good water, plentiful bush for lumber and firewood, rolling landscape for shelter. By 1858 the Hudson’s Bay Company had established a post there to trade for furs with the Cree people of the area. In the 1880s Métis from the Duck Lake area settled in the area. By 1887, Aurele Arcand, a newcomer from Quebec, built a stopping house there on the road from Jackfish Lake to Frog Lake. The 1890 Annual Report of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) recorded “the Indian Department and several principal farmers of Battleford selected Jackfish Lake district as the wintering place for their cattle, it being suitable for their purpose, feed and water being abundant and the surrounding hills affording good shelter.”

By 1895, the settlement at Jackfish Lake was thriving. People ranched, farmed and fished. Interestingly, butter-making was also listed as a local occupation. Tragedy struck the NWMP force in 1895 with the death of a constable. It was reported in the Saskatchewan Herald, that Constable Lutz had died on May 2, 1895. A week earlier he had been thrown from a wagon when the horses bolted. Two other constables sustained minor injuries in the same accident on April 26, 1895 at Jackfish Lake.

In 1895 the Force purchased 320 acres at north end of Jackfish Lake as a North West Mounted Police Reserve. The legal land description was the north half of Section 21, Township 48, Range 17, West of the 3rd meridian. Two buildings were erected - a barrack and a stable - both recorded as built by N. Pomerleau at a total cost of $522. The log dwelling measured 20' x 24' with a 10' ceiling. The stable was 16' x 24' and 8' high.

The following year, a lean-to for cooking and storage was added to the house. In a report to J. Cotton, Superintendent of C Division, it was recorded “At Jackfish Lake we found ourselves somewhat inconvenienced having no storehouse, one of the rooms of the barrack building had to be used in the joint capacity of kitchen and storehouse. These objections were overcome by the building of a lean-to. Half is now used as a kitchen, half as a storehouse. The material for this addition was selected from the suitable logs of an old building formerly standing in the barrack square here. The logs and lumber were hauled by our teams to Jackfish Lake, the building and carpenter work entailed was done, and well done, by our men. With your authority I have also had the house willowed and plastered on the outside. A neat strong fence taking all the buildings and hay corral I had put up without cost, our men hauling the rails and putting up the fence. We now have at Jackfish a serviceable outpost, the appearance of which is strikingly neat.”

But the detachment at Jackfish Lake was short-lived. By 1909, the Force had pulled out and records falter. We believe that eventually the land was sold for farming. It may have been that in 1917 the land was acquired by Soldiers Settlement Board. We do know that sometime around 1940 or 1941 Helena and Elphage Carignan purchased the land and buildings, farming there until 1956. Helena was the daughter of Aurele Arcand who had built the original stopping house, so Helena must have known the land well. In the mid-1950s, the Carignans moved to the village of Jackfish, apparently donating the barrack building to the fledgling WDM, but selling the land. The barrack outpost was not immediately moved.

Then it was 1967, Canada’s centennial year, and people across the country were bitten by the heritage bug and buoyed by Canadian pride. Local Museum volunteers and staff were inspired to preserve some of the early stories of the time before farming became king. Just over seventy years after it was built, the outpost was moved from the Carriere farm to the new Western Development Museum location at the intersection of Highways 5 and 40. A note in the file states that the “Original prisoner chains are in the possession of present owner of the land at Jackfish, Mr. Carriere.”

NWMP outpost in Heritage Village 1998Heritage Village in 1998

In 1972, spurred by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police centennial in 1973, the WDM refurbished the outpost. The exterior was re-lathed with willow and mudded. Bottom logs that had rotted were replaced. New doors and windows were fitted. The interior was partitioned into four rooms. Artifacts were installed, minus the original prisoner chains referred to in 1967.

Damage to NWMP outpost building at North Battleford WDM

Close-up of exterior damage to NWMP outpost building at North Battleford WDM

The NWMP outpost is now over 100 years old. Built to last, the barrack has survived, but time has taken a toll. It has been 40 years since a pair of horses trudged through clay, straw and water to mix the exterior arging. Even though some floor timbers were replaced and some mudding was re-done in 2002, pieces are breaking and dropping, exposing the network of willow lathes and log walls beneath. Only a new surface will bring the barrack back to “a serviceable outpost, the appearance of which is strikingly neat.”