Corporal Ernest Harris signed up for the NWMP in Regina in 1893 and was sent to the post at Tagish on January 10, 1898. After two winters, he went to Skagway on leave in August 1899. It was paradise compared to Tagish. So, he decided he did not want to go back to Tagish. He became ill on March 15, 1900 so Dr. I.H. Moore did an emergency appendectomy on him. Luckily he survived that, but his NWMP Superiors in Tagish were not amused. So they sent Dr. Pare of the NWMP to Skagway to examine him, which he did, and reported that indeed, poor Harris could not travel.
Supt. Steele wanted him declared a deserter on April 6, 1900, but when he received a letter from Dr. Moore, he relented until May 29th when he said that unless Harris went to Tagish he would call him a deserter. On June 30th Harris finally returned to Bennett and Tagish at which time Steele had him examined by Dr. Pare.
So, in June 1900 Z.T. Wood finally declared him a deserter from August 26, 1899 which would prevent him from receiving pay from that time until 1900. What became of poor Harris, we don’t know, but if given the choice of spending another winter at Tagish or in Skagway, one can certainly sympathize.
library and archives Canada on the NWMP personnel records online.
Frank Novak was born on April 5, 1865 in Webster County, Iowa. He ran a mercantile store in Walford Ohio. He suffered some “financial reverses” (actually a gambling addiction) and put the business in debt. So, in frustration he took out a $30,000 life and accident insurance policy on himself. Then, on February 2, 1897 lured his friend Edward Murray to the store, crushed his skull, robbed him and then burned the store over him to cover the crime. He fled the scene, I found some evidence that Novak’s wife, Mary had claimed that he died in the fire, thus claiming the life insurance. But insurance companies are not so easily fooled. He was pursued for six months across the continent and to Alaska by Detective C.C. Perrin of Chicago or Denver. In total they traveled 26,000 miles back and forth across the continent. Finally in Washington, Perrin discovered that Novak had taken the steamer Al-Ki at Port Townsend on February 23 to Juneau. Perrin took the steamer Mexico on May 24 to Skagway. Both men had to secure provisions to cross the Chilkoot Pass.
Detective Perrin spent many days on the Chilkoot Pass looking for Novak. He then briefly saw him as his boat passed Novak’s boat on Lake Bennet. He followed Novak to Dawson where he got a warrant from the Canadians to arrest him and take him back to Ohio for trial. Novak was claiming that his name was J.A. Smith. But when Captain Constantine compared the dental records (possibly dentures) of Novak with his dentists records from Ohio, the Mounties decided that they had their man!
On the way back through St Michael, Novak told Perrin that back in Iowa, he kept a bottle of whiskey impregnated with morphine in the store and found Murray drinking it. Later during the fire he tried to rescue him but was unable to (perhaps because he had first bashed in his skull). Such a story! Perrin was not swayed and succeeded in bringing the murderer back to Iowa for trial.
In November 1897 he was brought back, tried, and convicted of second degree murder and put in the Anamosa prison in Ohio. A second trial by the Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision. By 1903 he was involved in photography and was on the prison band being a model prisoner and his friends petitioned the Governor for clemency. Not sure if that happened as he was serving a life sentence. He died in Chicago on July 12, 1930 but was brought back home to be buried in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a few miles from the scene of the crime in Walford.
The Carroll Herald, April 1, 1903. The Baltimore Underwriter October 1897. Two Years in the Klondike and the Alaskan Gold Fields by Haskell.
P.C.H. Primrose was born on October 23, 1864 in Nova Scotia. He applied to the newly formed NWMP in 1885 and was commissioned then.
In 1898, at the outbreak of the Klondike Gold Rush, Primrose was assigned to the Yukon, where he was stationed at the H Division in Tagish. He became superintendent of that division in October 1899, then was transferred to become superintendent of the B Division one month later. In 1901, he was posted to Dawson, where he assumed responsibility for 43 Mounted Policemen and 4 other men at the Whitehorse station. During his time in the Yukon, the main role of the police was guarding people awaiting trials and prisoners serving sentences.
Primrose supervised the 1900 Yukon census, reporting to the Commissioner that the territory’s population was 16,463. On May 13, 1900, he fined 31 “members of the sporting fraternity” $55 each, boosting the territorial treasury. Other activities included more community-oriented tasks, such as firefighting when permitted. He returned to Regina in 1914 and worked in many different capacities including being the 5th Lt. Governor of Alberta. He married and had 4 children and died in Edmonton on March 17, 1937.
He is seen above as a young North West Mounted Officer.
Robert Belcher was born on April 23, 1849 at London England. In 1868 and at the age of 19, he joined the 9th Lancers (Queen’s Royal) which was a cavalry regiment in the British Army and was assigned the rank of Trooper. He remained with the 9th Lancers until he departed to Canada and joined the new North-West Mounted Police on November 3, 1873. After serving three years he retired, but then reenlisted in 1885. When free time became available, Robert Belcher was actively involved in promoting sporting activities amongst the Force members. “In 1879 cricket was introduced at ‘G’ Division, Fort Saskatchewan by Sgt. Major Bobbie Belcher, a former English public school boy.” In 1897 he was selected to go to England for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Celebration The chosen members were all young, trim, handsome, 5’10” to 6’0” in height, average waist of 35 inches, average chest of 39 inches and most sported long waxed mustaches which were considered dashing at the time. He then served at the Chilkoot Pass that winter under Captain Z.T. Wood and later in Dawson (I wonder if they played cricket at the pass?). He then went to the Boer War in South Africa and served in Lord Strathcona’s Horse Regiment for which he was awarded the Companion Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George medal (he is circled in the photo above). He later served in the Alberta Dragoons and the 5th Cavalry Brigade and saw some action in World War One. He died suddenly on February 10, 1919. His son Perry Belcher also died in World War One at Passchendaele. (There is a very good movie by that name about that battle, I have it if anyone locally wants to borrow it.) Colonel Belcher Hospital in Calgary, Alberta is named for him. Honored in Places: Remembered Mounties Across Canada by Hulgaard and White, page 20.; www.rcmpveteransvancouver.com