NORTH WEST MOUNTED POLICE ORIGINS OF PINCHER CREEK
By Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
The settlement of Pincher Creek owes its origins to the North West Mounted Police.
In an effort to secure a large number of good quality horses required to conduct their patrols across the Canadian Prairies, the Mounties established a horse ranch in 1878 on the yet to be settled Pincher Creek. Two hundred head were herded the thirty miles across the open plains west of Fort Macleod that autumn, and nine N.W.M.P. constables were assigned to operate the ranch as well as build the detachment. These duties were in addition to their law enforcement responsibilities.
The ranch extended south and east of what would become the community of Pincher Creek. Current land use areas – such as the Matthew Halton High School grounds, the golf course, the east end of town and the industrial area east of the highway – owed their origins to the horse ranch. The detachment itself – constructed of timbers hauled in with teams of horses from the Christie Mine Ridge southeast of Beauvais Lake – was located on the south side of the creek (where the multi-purpose facility now sits). The ranch was in operation until the First World War, ensuring the Force could meet its law enforcement duties in the era prior to mechanized transportation. Up to 350 head of horses were raised at the ranch during its glory days.
Yet the Mounties’ agricultural venture did more than save the Force’s bacon. Its success also led to the establishment of the ranching industry on this southwestern corner of the Canadian Prairies. Within a year, private ranching operations began dotting the landscape, a collage of family and corporate operations. A settlement named Pincher Creek, which grew immediately west of the Horse Ranch, resulted from the N.W.M.P. and ranching expansion. It served as the ranch country’s commercial, social and education centre.
This horse barn is the last remaining building from the Mounties’ ranch. One of the original structures, it remained onsite for over sixty years. A 1939 fire destroyed the rest of the former detachment, but this building survived. It was acquired four years later to the Cliff Therriault Ranch southeast of Pincher Creek – taken apart log by log – and transported by horses to its second site where it was used as a sheep barn. It now stands restored at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village as a tangible reminder of those pioneer glory days of the Red Serge.