Fort Macleod NWMP Barracks
The North West Mounted Police arrived in southern Alberta in 1874 and constructed a log fort in the Oldman River valley. The fort, named after Assistant Commissioner James Macleod, was built on the river flood plain and each spring the buildings were threatened with rising water and erosion. In 1884, a new Barracks was completed on the prairie level on the western edge of the current town of Fort Macleod. During its peak, the Barracks housed at least 175 men and 75 horses. A small community grew beside both the original fort and the new Barracks.
The Barracks were used by the Mounted Police until the late 1920s when many of the buildings were moved to other locations or burned. Part of the site was later occupied by a drive-in movie and a service road and sewer line cut through the property destroying several of the buildings’ foundations. The historic significance of the property was lost until the Riders of the Plains Troop Association decided to recover the site, and interpret the NWMP history in three buildings they reconstructed.
Archaeologists studying the site noted it had been extensively disturbed by memento hunters. The locations of the Officers’ Quarters, Wagon Shed and Stable were found and the portions of each were excavated. To the archaeologist’s satisfaction architectural features and a large number of artifacts were uncovered. In a garbage dump, a wide variety of personal items were found along with the expected ammunition from NWMP issue firearms.
Historic photos, reports and maps helped provide the archaeologists with valuable information to complement their findings in the field. There are many more buildings to excavate but archaeological digs are expensive undertakings so these will not happen until funds become available. The site is now managed by the Town of Fort Macleod.