Ric Hall’s NWMP Commissioner’s Reports – 1887 to 1888

Photograph of NWMP Commissioner Lawrence Herchmer/



Veteran Ric Hall has undertaken an effort to review the early North West Mounted Police Annual Reports to the Canadian government.






In so doing, he has provided some of the notable details below for your reading pleasure.:

Photograph of No

Photograph of NWMP Commissioner Lawrence Herchmer.

Commissioner Herchmer’s Annual Report of 1887

Indians – The conduct of the Indians throughout the Territories during the past year has been remarkably good, those in the North and East having generally stayed at home and worked their farms with the most gratifying results. Early in the spring Bloods caused a good deal of trouble. A number of their young, men, tired of the reserve , and anxious to distinguish themselves , made a dash on Medicine Hat and vicinity and on U.S. territory, stealing a number of horses. During the summer too we had occasional trouble with them.

Occasionally cattle have been killed in the neighbourhood of their reserves, but arrest, speedy trial and punishment of “Good Rider,” a Blood, stopped this practice.

The Piegans and Sarcees have given no trouble, with the exception of a few cases of breaking into houses in the vicinity of their reserves. The rapid settlement of the country in the vicinity of these tribes, and the system of allowing the Indians off their reserves, practically when they please, together with their being permitted to carry arms (mostly of the repeating pattern) is liable sooner or later to result in serious trouble, involving not only the cattle business in the West, but the settlers.

The police have been frequently blamed for not displaying their old firmness and dash when dealing with criminal Indians, but it must be remembered in the old days the Indians could only retaliate on the Police themselves, and on a few traders, quite able and only too ready to care of themselves. Now-a-days the people are scattered all over the country, and rashness on part of the Police might at any time result in the murder and insult of settlers and their families. There is no deficiency of pluck in the Force I have to the honour to command, and when necessary and advisable, I have no doubt the same dash will be found as formerly.

Conduct, Discipline, etc. – “The conduct of the men in the force has generally been very good indeed during the last year. Nearly every instance of bad conduct has been directly attributable to whisky, and I have found it necessary to summarily dismiss several men. I propose in the future with your consent to dismiss all men with dissolute habits as they are only an encumbrance to the force.”


The energy and good conduct of the non-commissioned officers throughout the forces has been a bright example to the mean, and I am happy to say that I have no cause to regret any promotions that I have made during the year.”

A great deal has been written in the newspapers about dissatisfaction among the men, caused by bad management and favortism for Old Countrymen when making promotions. This is not the case as the men are generally well satisfied, strict impartiality having been invariably shown in promotions. Being a Canadian myself of United Empire Loyalist stock, it is hardly likely that I should pass over Canadians, in fact the records of the force in your possession clearly show that there are more Canadian non-commissioned officers in proportion to the number of Canadians in the force than is the case of other nationalities.”

1894 - Photograph of NWMP members posted to Fort Saskatchewan (Source of photo - RCMP Veterans' Association - Vancouver Division's photo collection).

1894 – Photograph of NWMP members posted to Fort Saskatchewan (Source of photo – RCMP Veterans’ Association – Vancouver Division’s photo collection).

Reengagement – “Many others would re-engage if there was no objection to married men, but the difficulty of providing married quarters and many other reasons, render the engagement of married constables undesirable.” This brings rise to the old line, used for many years prior to married men and women being accepted into the Force…if the RCMP had wanted you to have a wife…they would have issued you one!

Physique – “The general physique of the force is of a very high standard, and there are very few men who are not in the prime of life, they are well set up and generally fit for the arduous work they are liable at any time to be called upon to perform.”

Desertions – “Most of the deserters were as usual of very short service and were generally town-bred men who were not suited to the lonely life incidental to a policeman’s duty in this country. Greater care is necessary in selecting recruits for this force. Many of the certificates on which men were engaged are written by friends who are anxious to them out of their neighbourhood, and hope that the discipline of the police will reclaim their protegees.”

Commissioner Herchmer’s Annual Report of 1888

Indians – “In all quarter of the Territories, except in the south-west, the Indian are making rapid strides towards self-support. All they require are more cattle and a cash market for their produce to encourage them. Death and disease in some of the bands is making considerable havoc. It is to be regretted that it is impossible, owing to distance, to render effectual medical assistance to them al, although in most cases their habits and inability to understand nursing would probably neutralize the most efficient professional advice and medicine. In the south-west, with the exception of the Piegans and Assiniboines, it is only the constant patrols kept up by the Police that prevents their giving trouble. They undoubtedly kill cattle occasionally when off their reserves when they want meat, and most of them will steal horses if they get the opportunity.”

Crime – “There has been a most remarkable absence of crime during the past year; and outside arrests of criminals from the United States, we have made no important arrest in our Territory.”

Horses – “The horse now in the force are a particularly useful lot for our work, many of them being also handsome animals. Not a single eastern horse has been purchased during the year, and our team horses have, with few exceptions, been obtained from the heaviest of our saddle horses.”

Barracks – “At Regina we require new officers’ quarters and an Officers mess, and the cellars of the new barrack buildings imperatively require to be walled with stone, instead of planked, both on account of fire and permanency of the buildings. At least $7,000 should be allowed for the erection of permanent outposts at important points. This would enable us to stay out all winter and would tend to make our patrol system thoroughly effective.”

1898 - Photograph of a NWMP member's sleeping accommodation at Bennett Lake Post (Source of photo Doug Madill's Photo Collection).Post).

1898 – Photograph of a NWMP member’s sleeping accommodation at Bennett Lake Post (Source of photo Doug Madill’s Photo Collection).Post).

I regret extremely to have again call your attention to the wretched barrack furniture now in possession of the force. this, the finest body of men in the country, still sleep on boards and trestles, while the Indians at the industrial schools have iron beds, and the very prisoners in the gaols have neat iron cots. Our barrack rooms are kept as neat as it is possible for men to keep them, but I am ashamed to show strangers, particularly military men, over them, on account of the very disparaging remarks they invariably make on our sleeping accommodations.”

Recruits – “The recruits we have obtained this year are generally all that the most fastidious commanding officer could desire. I am deluged with applications from all parts, even the old country and the United States, for admission to our ranks. A very large proportion are farmer’s sons, and I still prefer this class to all others.”

Discipline – “The discipline of the force is, on the whole, of a very high order, and while several of the non-commissioned officers have behaved badly, and have been promptly punished, generally I have received their hearty support. Drunkenness has, in almost every instance, been the cause of trouble. I think the nature of the duties of the Police are called upon to perform is not generally known, even by otherwise well informed men, who take a prominent interest in Canadian affairs, and the occasional lapse from duty of an unfortunate is immediately commented upon on all sides. The country occupied by the Police is now, including part of Manitoba, u700 miles long by over 350 miles wide, and until lately we also occupied the Kootenay country, in British Columbia. Over the whole of this enormous country the force is scattered, being divided into ten divisions, and each division, having many outposts are 150 miles and many are over 100 miles from the nearest officer, and with, generally, no railway communication. Up to date the men have had no future to look forward to, and have really only the discipline instilled in them and their own high character to keep them straight; they are under enormous temptation to misbehave and shield whiskey offenders, and are constantly in danger of getting into trouble by exceeding their duties.

Physique – “In physique we are second to no force in existence; our men are well set up, young, active, good looking, stout and tall, with good constitutions, our average height being over 5 feet 9 inches and chest measurement over 37 1/4 inches, and we have very few men who cannot ride day in and day out their fifty miles.”

Desertions – “As usual the difficulty of obtaining purchase by discharge, only three per month being allowed, has been the cause of many desertions. A lucrative job is offered a man by his friends, in the east, and he must accept at once or lose it; every possible allowance is made in such cases, but they occur so often that it is impossible to meet all of them. Discharge by purchase should, I respectfully submit, be granted at all of them. 
Discharge by purchase should be granted at thirty day s notice to all men over two years service, provided they can be spared. A good many deserters are giving themselves up; several others have offered to do so, and one actually wired to be sent for, but I declined, as the expense was too great.”

Clothing and Kit – “The kit of the men are, in nearly every case complete, although occasional some men must be short of some trivial article, either through loss or wearing out; still these shortages are immediately made good.”

Rations – “The rations are generally first-class, and if not are promptly returned to the contractors and replaced, and the supply of everything is liberal, although there is no waste.”


1895 – NWMP General Orders manual.


Drill Book – “A drill book for the force is now being printed on our own press at Regina, and a copy will be submitted to for approval. The drill is of the simplest kind, and conflicts in no way with the Mounted Infantry Regulations, but contains much information respecting details and movements absolutely required in the force, which are not laid down in the Mounted Infantry Manual.”

Assistant Commissioner Herchmer Reports from Calgary, NWT; “In police matters I have found everything most satisfactory. The divisions smart and well drilled, both mounted and dismounted, and great care taken of all articles of Government property. There has been little crime and that not of a serious very nature; little or no horse stealing, a form of crime very liable to take place in western counties. It is most difficult now with our chain of outposts and constant patrolling, to get away from the country with stolen property.”

The carbines are commencing to deteriorate, the Winchester is not, in my opinion, a suitable weapon for our service; it is altogether too delicate for rough work. The revolver i9s an excellent arm, and is generally in A 1 order.”

1898 - Photograph of NWMP recruits at Depot Division (Source of Photo - Jack Randle's Photo Collection).

1898 – Photograph of NWMP recruits at Depot Division (Source of Photo – Jack Randle’s Photo Collection).

The physique of the force is magnificent – a fine lot of smart, strong young men. There has been very little sickness generally.”

There are several attached Appendix from the various officers in charge of districts, as the Force continues to grow in size the Commissioners Annual Report grows in size.

image of Ric Hall closing block for his Photo Corner webpage