With the initial construction of the rail line through BC in 1911, camps quickly became lawless, increasing the need for proper law and order. Most of the incidents that occurred were directly linked to alcohol consumption. Although alcohol was still legal in BC, prohibition had been instituted by the construction companies at the railway camps for a 3-mile radius around each camp in an attempt to maintain order.
Although a Justice of the Peace was appointed early on in 1912 for Tete Jaune Cache, his ability to enforce the law was limited due to the sheer volume of people in the area and the physical area he needed to cover. One of the first constables in the area, that same year, was W.A. Walker, who had recently migrated from Ireland. Constable Walker had several adventures in Tete Jaune, including an incident where he was locked up with another officer in their own stockade while the locals threw an uninterrupted party. The partiers planned on releasing the men after the party, but it wasn’t for a few days that anyone remembered to let them out. Walker was a good sport about it though, citing that his only real concern was the hardness of the bench and the fact that he was quite hungry.
By the time the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway made it to McBride in 1914, the police barracks had been built and manned by Constable Walker and Bill Stevenson. The office itself started out as a small shack between the Fraser Hotel and the railway tracks but within two years it had been built up and included a large stockade and larger barracks. Walker and Stevenson dealt with numerous cases in McBride, including bootlegging, blackmail, gambling, burglaries and, McBride’s first arson case. Constable Walker served in McBride until 1916. Stevenson left the police force to enlist in WWI, where he died in France (1916).
While Walker’s story is unique in the combination of specific events, he is not alone in his dedication to the people of McBride and the surrounding area.
Photo: Valley Museum and Archives