Friday, August 23, 2013

Corporal Alfred Aspinall of the Northwest Mounted Police

Corporal Alfred Aspinall by Wanderfull1
Corporal Alfred Aspinall, a photo by Wanderfull1 on Flickr.
Corporal Alfred Aspinall of the Northwest Mounted Police in his buffalo coat. My great grandfather.

Photo was probably taken in the late 1800s while stationed in Calgary. Found through the Glenbow Museum Archives.

Alfred came to Canada from England around the mid-1800s to ranch with his cousin William Campbell in the Bowden/Innisfail area.  William Campbell kept a diary and in it are several entries of Alfred trying to make a go of it. At one point Alfred traded his "opera glasses" for a horse harness.

Alfred joined the Northwest Mounted Police for five years, while attempting to ranch at the same time.  Unfortunately, it didn't always work out.  I found letters where Alfred asked for leave to help round up cattle.  Permission was denied.

During his time as a Mountie, Alfred volunteered to fight in the Boer War in South Africa as part of a mounted rifle battalion. He was discharged within a few months after being shot at eight times (judging by the holes in his coat) and hit three. After the war he had a brief posting in the Yukon where he was returned to Calgary seriously ill with typhoid fever.  Most of his five year contract was spent stationed in the Calgary and Banff areas.

When Alfred's contract with the Mounties ended he did many things on the side while still trying to make a go of ranching.  For a time he worked in Murphy's General Store in Mayton (now a ghost town) where he met his future wife, Carolina Murphy.  Eventually, Alfred sold his land and they moved to Innisfail where they had three daughters. Alfred did many jobs to support his family, including real estate and Justice of the Peace.

In 1948, the year before he died, Alfred sent a scathing letter to the RCMP regarding the conduct of their officers.  The gist of it was that during his time of service Mounties were more honourable and not condescending to the people they served.  A proud and honourable Mountie, with or without the buffalo coat.

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