Medicine Hat Coulee

Medicine Hat News - - LIFESTYLES - Mal­colm Sis­sons

Pre­lude: 1876. Se­na­tor Ger­shaw states in “Saamis,” that NWMP Sergeant Bob McCutcheon and three other po­lice­men were look­ing for horse thieves and came upon the Medicine Hat Coulee and “the whole place was ab­so­lutely black with buf­falo.”

Although we rec­og­nize the long pres­ence of First Na­tions in our river val­ley, we as­sume that the next phase of our com­mu­nity be­gan with the ar­rival of the CPR in 1883. Not so. In re­search­ing the old­est ex­tant res­i­dence in the city, the fol­low­ing doc­u­ment turned up. Twenty-three set­tlers pe­ti­tioned the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for ti­tle to the lands upon which they had squat­ted in 1882 or ear­lier. Here is their plea:

(The fol­low­ing was tran­scribed from a hand­writ­ten doc­u­ment re­ceived from Archives of Canada)

Medicine Hat Coulee Novem­ber 19th, 1882

We the Un­der­signed set­tled in and about Medicine Hat Coulee in the North West Ter­ri­to­ries re­spect­fully beg to call your at­ten­tion to the fol­low­ing facts rel­a­tive to your pub­lic no­tice served on this com­mu­nity.

We beg to state that we are “bona fide” set­tlers on the un­sur­veyed lands of the North West Ter­ri­to­ries. We set­tled on these lands be­cause we had con­fi­dence in the ex­pressed in­ten­tion of the Gov­ern­ment to pro­tect the rights of squat­ters in ad­vance of civ­i­liza­tion. The ma­jor­ity of us have ei­ther been in the ser­vice of the Hud­son Bay Com­pany or have good dis­charges from the North West Mounted Po­lice, a num­ber hav­ing re­ceived great in­duce­ments to set­tle in the coun­try; in fact, we may say al­most all of us are old pi­o­neers.

Our in­ten­tions were, and are, to ap­ply for en­tries to these lands un­der the Homestead Clause of the Do­min­ion Lands Act. We had set­tled here be­fore the lo­ca­tion of the Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way to this point while it was the gen­er­ally ac­cepted opin­ion that it would pass some eighty or one hun­dred miles to the north of this.

We have made sub­stan­tial im­prove­ments on our farms, have erected good houses, done con­sid­er­able plough­ing, hay-cut­ting and have made prepa­ra­tions to put un­der crop in the spring a large acreage.

We would re­spect­fully call to your at­ten­tion the fact that if we have to give up our farms now, it will sub­ject us to most griev­ous loss and dis­ap­point­ment.

In view of the fore­go­ing facts, we earnestly pray you will give our case your most favourable con­sid­er­a­tions believ­ing that you will take steps to have us pro­tected in our just rights as loyal and law abid­ing sub­jects and set­tlers in the van of civ­i­liza­tion in a coun­try where we have had to en­counter dan­gers and dif­fi­cul­ties and where it has been our daily lot to meet with the great­est hard­ships and pri­va­tions.

To the Hon­ourable The Min­is­ter of the In­te­rior Ot­tawa, On­tario We have the hon­our to sub­scribe our­selves Yours re­spect­fully Robert McCutcheon and 22 oth­ers

1882! All were set­tled here be­fore the ar­rival of sur­vey­ors. It re­mains to be de­ter­mined where they were ac­tu­ally lo­cated although var­i­ous sources as­sert that McCutcheon was the first set­tler on River­side.

Mal­colm Sis­sons is a mem­ber of the Her­itage Re­sources Com­mit­tee of the City of Medicine Hat.


The McCutcheon barn shown in later years (now de­mol­ished) with sign on it iden­ti­fy­ing 1882.

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