By Medicine Hat News on January 12, 2019.
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
We have the honour to subscribe ourselves
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.
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