There are few sites as important to the early history of southwest Saskatchewan as Fort Walsh. It was here, where Ottawa first had a major presence within the west. It was here that law was brought to the west. With whiskey trading in the Cypress Hills reaching epidemic proportions, Ottawa decided that the time was right to put an outpost in the area. As a result, Major James Morrow Walsh, along with 30 other men of B-Troop, were sent to the Cypress Hills in 1875. The 160-mile trek was completed on June 7, 1875 and the construction of the fort soon began.
The fort, which was named Fort Walsh, took a total of six weeks to build. Along with Fort MacLeod, Fort Calgary and Fort Saskatchewan, the four forts helped create a network of law in the west. Near the fort, a horse camp was also set up.
During Fort Walsh’s time in the Cypress Hills, the NWMP dealt with several common problems in the west, including whiskey trading, fur traders, horse thieves and fights between settlers and the First Nations. One of the biggest events to happen to Fort Walsh early in its history was when Sitting Bull and 5,000 Sioux Indians came up to Canada after the Battle of Little Big Horn. This influx proved to be a challenge for the fort, but the NWMP shined by helping to set up farms and ranches to feed the natives who came up. More troops were also stationed at Fort Walsh as a result and in 1878, Fort Walsh became the headquarters for the NWMP.
In 1879, a tragic event occurred when Constable Graburn left Fort Walsh to get gear at the horse camp. He was found the next day, shot to death. A First Nations man by the name of Starchild was tried in Fort MacLeod for the murder but he was acquitted. As a result of his death, the area west of Fort MacLeod is now called Graburn Coulee.
Fort Walsh would continue to serve as the headquarters of the NWMP until 1882. The following year, the fort was dismantled and closed for good.
In 1924, the site of Fort Walsh became a National Historic Site of Canada and in the 1940s, the fort was reconstructed in order to breed horses for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Musical Ride.
Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Saskatchewan.
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