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NWMP & the Liquor Question

Approximately twenty (20) items regarding the regulation of liquor in the North West Territories of Canada in the late 1880s and early 1900s. The difficulties faced by the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in enforcing the unpopular permit-based liquor laws of the time are given particular attention.

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Copy of “The Liquor Question” report written by L.W. Herchmer Commissioner NWMP

A nine (9) page mimeographed copy of an 1888 draft report written by L.W. Herchmer, Commissioner of the North West Mounted Police. The Commissioner makes reference to the “liquor question,” the ongoing law enforcement issues within the North West Territories with regards to controlling the sale of liquor. The report shows some handwritten corrections and margin notes indicating the portions which were printed in the final report and submitted to Parliament.

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Mimeographed Copy of Memo from Comptroller to Hon. Minister in Ottawa

Typed letter dated in Ottawa, March 12, 1889. It is a submission to the Honourable Minister providing documents for consideration in connection with the “liquor question” in the North West Territories. It is signed by Comptroller "F.H."

The memo outlines the documents attached:

  • “Extract from the report of the Commissioner of the N.W. Mounted Police for 1888, as received at Ottawa with marginal notes showing the portions which have been printed and submitted to Parliament. / The attention of the Minister is particularly called to the paragraphs not printed.” (see 2011.002.002)
  • “Extracts from the Annual Report of the Commissioner and other Officers as printed and submitted to Parliament.” (see 2011.002.003)
  • “Copies of Police reports of inspection of Saloons at Calgary on 29th December and 9th January last, by which the Minister will see how impossible it is, under the existing permit system, to exercise efficient control over the sale of liquor.” (see 2011.002.004-006)

Extracts from the Annual Report of the Commissioner submitted to Parliament

Typed header reads: “Extracts from reports of Officers of the N.W. Mounted Police for 1888 on the subject of the liquor laws. / 1888. / Commissioner L.W. Herchmer.” Officers include the Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner and Superintendents Cotton, McIllree, Neale, Deane, Steele, Perry, Griesbach, and Antrobus.

Commissioner Herchmer:
“There is a feeling, however, among the farmers, and naturally, that the sale of good beer should be allowed, and that it should be brewed in the country out of the home-grown barley, the present regulations allowing a wretched apology for beer to be brewed in the country out of grape sugar and other poisons, while the brewing from home-grown malt of an article of equal intoxicating power is strictly prohibited.”
“… I unhesitatingly affirm that under the permit system and the North-West Act, as then interpreted by our judges, there was less intoxication among the whites, according to population; and there can be no comparison between the quantity of liquor then supplied to Indians and the quantities they have obtained since that portion of the Province was, as certain people call it, emancipated.”
“In the days when the Act was first introduced there were no lawyers in the Territories and appeals were almost unheard of . . . Since the advent of lawyers everything has changed.”
“A saloon keeper of any experience keeps about enough liquor on his premises to fill his permits, and whenever ‘pulled’ by the Police he produces his permits, or those of his friends, and keeps his reserve stock of contraband liquor in hay stacks and manure heaps, closets and other hiding places of the same sort”
“The profits of the trade being enormous our men are all the time subject to the temptation of, to them, immense bribes, to pass a cargo, and who can wonder, under such conditions, that they sometimes fall.”
“I think it would be advisable to permit the establishment of breweries of sufficient capacity to support an Inland Revenue officer, as small concerns without much at stake are liable to be tempted to evade the law, particularly as regards Indians.”p.2
“In Calgary I may safely say we have captured more liquor consigned to two druggists than to any two saloon keepers in that town.”p.2

Assistant Commissioner:

“The liquor law is not working at all satisfactorily, and is no doubt being evaded, and would be, even if there were five times as many police as there are. The law is unpopular. This accounts for the great difficulty we experience in connection with it. It is almost impossible, under the existing state of the law, to get a conviction.” p.2

Superintendent Neale:

“Nearly all classes of the community in this district are antagonistic to the existing liquor laws, and there are very few indeed who will not assist in the smuggling of liquor.” p.4

Superintendent Steele

“The reason for passing the Act was to prevent the sale of intoxicants to Indians, and for that purpose answered very well, . . . . no serious trouble has been caused since from the drunkenness of the Indians; but when the same law is applied to the whites it is quite another thing.” p.5
“Under the system of smuggling, which prevails, the dealer brings in pure alcohol, and by the admixture of pernicious drugs and water makes it into an article resembling whiskey in color but most dangerous in its effects.” p.5

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Copy of Jan 9, 1889 Police Report of Calgary Saloon Inspections

Three page copy of a Calgary police report written by Sergeant Ernest Cochrane to the Officer Commanding “E” Division. Sergeant Cochrane summarizes the alcoholic beverages and permits found during his searches conducted the afternoon of January 9, 1889 of Alberta Saloon, D. Cameron’s Saloon, and Pullman. He includes brand names, permit numbers, names on permits, and the number of both whole and broken bottles.
Sergeant Cochrane points out that 8 bottles of gin were found in Pullman in a search conducted December 28, 1888 but that Pullman now has 11 whole bottles and 1 broken bottle of gin while still producing the same permit number seen in the previous search. “This shows an increase of . . . 3 bottles and no new permit to cover the evident augmentation of quantity.” Sergeant Cochrane writes that “[m]y only hope is the possibility of stopping the supply in transit.”

Copy of Police Report of Calgary Saloon Inspection

Two page mimeographed copy of a letter written to the Commissioner of the NWMP in Regina by J.H. McIllree Supt. Commanding “E” Division.
The letter contains extracts from a police report written by Corporal Walker. Corporal Walker conducted an inspection of Pullman Saloon which is “normally kept by J. McNeil” but is actually kept by a local man known as “Smithey” who is described as “the most notorious of the whiskey men in Calgary.” All kinds of whiskey and intoxicants were found on the property, covered by permits largely made out to “Smithey” under variations of his own name, the name of “a woman he keeps” and a bartender.
Sgd. McIllree claims his recommendation that permits not be issued to these individuals “has been over-ruled . . . by the personal exertions of the Judge of the Supreme Court and the members of the legislative assembly for this District.”

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Two (2) Prince Albert Times Newspaper Clippings

The headline of the first article reads: "Magistrate's Cotrt. / Queen vs. Leslie." A typewritten note on the back of the paper identifies the newspaper as the Prince Albert Times dated December 2, 1987 [presumably a typo for 1887].

The case involves charges of vagrancy against Constable A. Leslie of the North West Mounted Police. Constable Leslie was found at night lurking in a stable belonging to Mr. T. Oram of the Queen’s Hotel.

The second clipping lacks a headline. It is an editorial comment on the Queen vs. Leslie court case. A typewritten note on the back identifies the newspaper as the Prince Albert Times dated December 2, 1887.

"While we are opposed to the principle of the present liquor law, we agree that so long as it is in force it is the duty all good citizens to assist the authorities in legitimate endeavors to carry it out, but when constables - whether on duty or not - put themselves in positions where they might very properly be taken for sneak thieves or burglars, and when interrogated as to their business refuse to give a satisfactory account of themselves, they not only make themselves amenable to the law, but naturally and rightly prejudice the minds of people against them and against their superiors, under whose orders they may be acting, as well as against the law itself.”
“The Mounted Police Force has done good work in the earlier days of its existence, but it has outlived its usefulness as a force. Now that the Territories are becoming settled and municipal organizations springing up, the carrying out of the laws should be left to the purely civil authorities. And if it is found necessary to have an armed body to preserve peace amongst the Indians, that body should be a purely military force.”

Jan 31, 1890 Memo Re: Liquor Permits, N.W. Territories

Two page typed memo written by an unnamed Comptroller. Dated in Ottawa, 31st January, 1890.

“Until recent years a permit was understood to cover liquor imported into the North-West for the use of the person named therein, but it has been ruled in Court that both the permit and the liquor may be held in the possession of a person other than he to whom the permit was issued.
Under the protection of this ruling, saloons are supplied freely with permits and liquor, and it is quite a common occurrence for the Police to find in the same house liquor covered by permits in the names of half a dozen or more different persons.
Liquor is smuggled into the country to replenish the kegs or jars protected by the permits, and it is impossible to prove that the liquor found in such kegs or jars is not that which was originally imported into the country under permits_ a permit may thus be used as a perpetual license unless a case of selling can be established.
If the permit system is to be continued, the undersigned suggests that the law should be amended in such manner as will forbid the transfer of permits and restrict the custody and use of liquor imported there-under to the residence and household of the person to whom the permit is issued.”

Response to ‘Whiskey Informers & Detectives’ from the Medicine Hat Times

Typewritten, “1888: Whiskey informers & detectives: Newspaper articles re. Extract from the Medicien (sic) Hat ‘Times’ of Sept 10, 1887. THE INFORMER: Considerable consternation was imminent in the city Monday over the rumour that a whiskey informer was at large.”

Pencil notation, “1889 – no. 401: Liquor question N.W.T. General Memorandum.”

Dealer believes this is a Letter to the Editor written by Commissioner L.W. Herchmer.

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Extract from the Regina Journal of 16th February 1888

A typewritten copy of an extract from the Regina Journal newspaper dated February 16, 1888. The extracted article deals with how the Mounted Police conducted a recent liquor search. Mr. F. Arnold, proprietor of Lansdowne Hotel, accuses four NWMP officers of entering his wife’s bedroom while she was still in bed during their search of his hotel. He does not give names of officers.

Three Extracts of Letters to the Editor by L.W. Herchmer printed in the Regina Journal 1888

A single sheet of paper onto which three (3) letters to the editor of the Regina Journal newspaper have been typewritten.

In red type:

In black type:
“Regina, 21 Feb. 1888
Sir: With reference to the article which appeared in the Regina ‘Journal’ of the 18th instant respecting a recent search of the Lansdown Hotel in this Town, for liquor, conducted by Insp. McGibbon, I have the honor to inform you that I have had the matter of the statements made in the article above referred to thoroughly investigated and find them to be untrue.
Mrs Arnold, the wife of the proprietor of the Hotel, informed Supt. Deane that the Editor of the Regina ‘Journal’ while sitting in the bar room of the Lansdown, read out in her hearing what purported to be an account of the police visit to that Hotel, and she then said to him: ‘Oh! Mr Atkinson, I cannot allow you to publish such a thing as that, the men did not come inside my bedroom at all, and were perfectly civil.’ Or words to that effect.
The Comptroller, Ottawa
I have, etc.
(L.W. Herchmer) Commr.

5th Mar. 8
Sir, Referring to your letter of the 21st ultimo, respecting the searching of the Lansdowne Hotel at Regina for Liquor, I am glad to be placed in possession of the statement of Mrs Arnold which exonerates the police from the charge of incivility. The article in the Regina Journal of the 16th ulto states on Mr Arnold’s authority: ‘Only last Sunday drunken policemen bothered him to such an extent that he was compelled to lock the door. The police threatened to break the door in but dared not do it.’
It would be gratifying to know that this statement also can be contradicted.
I have the honor, etc.
The Commr, NWMP, Regina.

Regina 10 March 8
Sir: In reply to your No. 302 of the 5th instant, on the subject of the searching of the Lansdowne Hotel at this place for liquor, I have the honor to inform you that there is no proof that the men who threatened to kick Arnold’s door in were policemen.
If they were, I am of the opinion that Reg: No- 2041 Constable Lynch was one of the party as he was punished for having overstayed his pass the night the alleged disturbance is stated to have taken place.
I have the honor, etc.
The Comptroller, Ottawa
(Sgd) L.W. Herchmer

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Liquor in the Territories

Two (2) clippings from the Lethbridge News newspaper dated April 5, 1888. The clippings make up the editorial response to NWMP Commissioner L.W. Herchmer’s annual report printed elsewhere in the same issue.

"Some Detectives" Clipping from the Lethbridge News June 21, 1888

An editorial extract from the Lethbridge News of 21st June 1888.

“Some Detective” headline is underlined in red. Referring to the North West Mounted Police, the writer asserts that “[t]he long-talked-of detective service has apparently fizzled down into a staff of whiskey informers.” Also comments on the unfair nature of the exemption the Canadian Pacific Railway has obtained from the liquor laws.

"The Northwest Prohibition Farce" Calgary Tribune Clipping

“The Northwest Prohibition Farce” newspaper clipping from the Calgary Tribune and dated July 18, 1888.
An editorial piece protesting the exemption granted the Canadian Pacific Railway from the permit-based liquor laws of the time.
“In another column will be found the announcement that permission has been granted to the Canadian Pacific Railway hotel in Banff to import and sell wine and beer as a beverage, and the Mounted Police authorities have received instructions not to interfere with them in the carrying on of that business. . . . The Government at Ottawa (by whom the Lieutenant-Governor of these Territories has unquestionably been authorized in this case) seem to be under the impression that the people of this country are a lot of serfs and nincompoops who have no conception of the rights of freemen . . . ”

"Hungarian Miners Resist the Police" Macleod Gazette Newspaper Clipping

Newspaper Clipping from the Macleod Gazette, dated July 4, 1888.

“A Fierce Affray. / Hungarian Miners Resist The Police. / A Free Fight the Result, in Which Several Police and Civilians are Injured – Eighteen Arrests Made.”

Byline is “Lethbridge News.”

“On Sunday last the celebration of a wedding took place and a large amount of beer was consumed, quite a number of the participants becoming intoxicated. At around 21 o’clock three of them came outside the house and commenced fighting. Sergt. Ross was soon on the ground and arrested the principals in the fight, when a swarm of Hungarians, headed by one Geo. Czaperalich, rushed out . . . Czaperalich came out with some others to inform the sergeant there was no picnic going on there, whereupon the sergeant immediately arrested him. Directly he was arrested a swarm of Hungarians rushed out of the cottage armed with clubs, stones, bottles and other weapons. . . . A prominent feature in the fight was the part taken by the women, one of whom particularly distinguished herself by her agility in high kicking.”

“Prohibition v. License” The Moosomin Courier Newspaper Clipping

“Prohibition v. License” newspaper clipping. Black ink handwriting indicates the clipping is taken from the Moosomin Courier dated July 19, 1888.

The writer objects to "the subpoenaing of a number of our fellow-townsmen to give evidence for the Crown against two of our hotel keepers for selling liquor without a permit from the Lieutenant-Governor of these Territories."

Toronto Mail Newspaper Clippings from 1888

Two clippings from the Toronto Mail, “North-West Drinks” June 23, 1888 and “The Whiskey Trader” July 5, 1888. Both are stapled to a sheet of paper. Typed on the reverse in red ink “File D42, 1888: LIQUOR LAW N.W.T. – ARTICLE IN TORONTO MAIL by ‘G’ re.”

Both articles are written by someone identifying themselves as 'G' and are reprinted from the New York Evening Post.

“North-West Drinks. / How the Liquor Law Works on the Prairies. / Prohibition in the North-West Territories – Substitutes for Liquor – The North-West Mounted Police and Their Work – Hunting Whiskey Traders – A Bootless Chase.”
“ ‘G’ writes as follows to the New York Evening Post from Fort McLeod, N.W.T.:”

“The Whiskey Trader. / How He Pursues His Calling In the Territories. / Looked Upon as a Desperate Character – How He Looks at the Law – His Methods – A Capture and an Escape – A Race for Freedom.”
“The following is ‘G.’s’ second letter to the New York Evening Post from Fort MacLeod, N.W.T.:”

“Cafeteria and Bath House Raided by the Police Last Night” clipping from Calgary Daily Herald

“Cafeteria and Bath House Raided by the Police Last Night” newspaper clipping from the Calgary Daily Herald dated Monday, April 24, 1911.

“The Calgary police, in conjunction with the provincial license inspectors, made raids early Sunday morning on the Cafeteria and Moose Baxter’s bath house. The raids were conducted by Chief Mackie in person, and reflect great credit on the department for the methodical and successful manner in which they were carried out.”

During the police raid on the Turkish bath house, one of three clients found bathing was in fact an undercover license inspector, who “had been quietly investigating for the past two weeks, as a result of which he located the liquor in a sack at the bottom of the plunge.”

Two Newspaper Clippings from an Unidentified Newspaper

The first newspaper clipping headline reads: “Maximum Fine in Reid Case / Pleaded Guilty of Illegal Liquor Selling and Was Fined $500 / Moose Baxter Case was Adjourned / Accused Claimed That He Was Not Proprietor of Turkish Baths”

Bert Reid, proprietor of the Cafeteria, pled guilty before Superintendent Deane of the Royal North West Mounted Police to selling liquor illegally with the understanding that the additional barrel of beer and wine discovered outside did belong to his brother, John, who had the liquor on hand for a planned housewarming party. This version of events was contested by Stanley Jones of the Moral Reform league.

A preliminary to the trial of Moose Baxter was held following the Reid case. Moose Baxter claimed that he was managing the Turkish bath house which the police raided, but that it was his brother Hector Baxter who actually owned the business. The rest of the article is not included.

The second newspaper clipping headline reads: “Sleuth Grimsdall Hadn’t Authority to make Arrests”

Detective Grimsdall arrested “Moose” Baxter in two assault cases, but both cases were dismissed by Col. Walker who said that in neither case did Grimsdall have the authority to arrest Baxter in the Barracks court.

T. A. Patrick Letters & Correspondence

An archive of 52 interesting and significant letters by Thomas “Alf” Patrick and his wife Marion (1889-1904). Almost all letters come with their original stamped mailing envelopes (49 envelopes in total). 44 letters are by Thomas and 8 by Marion.
Most of the letters are handwritten and signed, ranging from a single page up to five pages, often closely written. 3 are typed and signed.
In the case of letters by Thomas Patrick, many of the letters to his wife are almost in diary form recording events as they happened [often mailed from Regina]. Some letters are written when Patrick was physically sitting in the Legislative Chambers waiting for events to unfold there. These are usually on embossed North West Territory Legislative stationery.
Three themes run through the archive:

  • Significant political matters and events surrounding the period when Patrick served in the North West Territories Legislature
  • Historical events on the Prairies
  • Issues relating to a lack of infrastructure and a changing societal and political landscape due to heavy immigration into the
  • Life on the Prairies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
  • The close personal relationship and related family matters between two early pioneers in Saskatchewan
    Topics covered include: medical, legislative matters, Indians and half-breeds, railway events, life in Saltcoats and Regina, Saskatchewan, land investments, illnesses on the prairies, people (Clifford Sifton and Frederick Haultain) and related topics, immigration, Mennonites, Hungarians, Doukhobors, infrastructure, visiting patients, and much more.

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1889, May 20 - Letter to Marion

Place: Saltcoats, Assiniboia

From: Alf, T.A.P [Thomas A. Patrick]

To: Miss Marion Grittith, Byron, Ontario, Canada

Delivery: registered Canadian Post, via London, postmarks

Details: 18 pp + envelope

Notes: Alf writes to his fiance about a "cheeky" visiting doctor in Saltcoats who attempted to upstage Alf as he was checking on patients. This annoyed Alf greatly and he writes "I saw the fellow was trying to bluff me and to impress me with his wonderful self so I said - 'Well since you're here and a married man and have means, and a horse and rig, you'd better conclude to stay right here in this great country. There are much better openings here than in crowded Ontario. It will hardly pay you to stay six months in a place as a married man can not flit about very well. Bring your wife and your horse and your means up here and settle down. It will pay you even to leave your paying practice in Ontario." He continues that he is "getting an ad eumdem gradum from the University of Manitoba in June." Then, he writes that he has patients too poor to pay him work on his homestead, ploughing the land to help Alf with his settlement duties. He states "this little discourse enabled my friend to see that I have taken deep root in Saltcoats."

Alf, then, informs Marion that he is "laying a good solid foundation for future success here and if we are only married I would have no fear of any rival M.D. but as it is I feel incomplete." He informs her of his plans on paying off some debts, getting his diploma of the C. P. S. of Ontario, renting a house, and paying her fare down to Saltcoats so that they could be wed. Part of these plans, Alf informs her, is to register following the Medical Act that will come in force in October with his Manitoba degree and his Western University degree. Though he also has to finish his Ontario qualifications.

1889, August 25 - Letter to Alf

Place: Byron, Ontario

From: Miss Marion Griffith

To: Alf/ T.A. Patrick, M. D. Saltcoats, Assiniboia, N. W. T

Delivery: Canada Post, postmarked

Details: 8 pp + envelope, note on envelope "214," red wax seal

Notes: Marion writes to her fiance about her worry regarding her church choir's singing, which she though "did not sound well." She writes, "I really hope it did not sound as badly to the congregation as it did to me." She then tells Alf that she would be happy to pick out clothes for him and she hopes that she will "choose material to suit [him]." Marion encourages Alf in his efforts in Saltcoats, telling him that "do not even think of getting discourage Alf." She continues, "you can keep house almost as cheaply as you can board" but she warns him, "you know I am to assist furnishing our house." She then agrees that Alf must take the exam that he mentioned in his last letter although it "will be quite an expense, but a necessary one."

1889, Sep 14 - Letter to Marion

Place: Saltcoats, Assiniboia

From: Alf, T.A.P. [Thomas A. Patrick]

To: Miss Marion Griffith, Byron, Ontario, Canada

Delivery: registered Canadian Post, via London, postmarks

Details: 11pp + envelope, note on envelope “240” and “246”

Notes: Alf tells of a party he attended, an abscessed knee he treated, his good opinion of Bishop Anson of Qu’ Appelle, and an eyebrow he sutured. Alf enjoys teaching and is pleased to also be paid for it. He is unhappy at the unexpectedly high taxidermy bill for the mounting of a pelican. Alf had news of the death by consumption of his cousin, Mary Ann Hobbs, and it is expected that her father and sister will also pass soon. Alf has arranged to rent a house owned by Mr. Fisher, with plans to live in one bedroom while sub-renting part to Mr. and Mrs. Lauder and part to Mr. Cumming. A suit Marion selected for him arrived and Alf is very pleased with it. Writing again later, on returning from Crescent Lake to treat Mr. Kent, Alf believes the man to die soon and will not be charging the family as they are in financial straits.

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