Settlement and Development
In October 1874, 150 North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) established the first police post in what is now Alberta on an island in the Oldman River. The NWMP named it after the post’s founder, Assistant Commissioner James F. Macleod. Annual flooding forced the post’s move to the present townsite 10 years later. The post was the headquarters of the force from 1876 to 1878, the year when the headquarters moved to Fort Walsh. It was a divisional centre until 1919 and thereafter a subdivisional headquarters.
Fort Macleod was the centre from which the whisky trade was wiped out in the southern plains. It was also a judicial seat and the scene of several famous trials, including that of Charcoal, arrested for the murder of an NWMP sergeant. Even as it declined as a police centre, Fort Macleod continued to function as a regional distribution point for a ranching and farming hinterland.
Today tourism is a major industry. The Fort Museum (a recreation of the original fort), the heritage buildings located on the main street (the province’s first designated historic area) and neighbouring Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) attract tens of thousands of visitors annually. (See also Red Coat Trail.)