Colonel James Walker

Citizen of the Century
Submitted by Granddaughter, Mary Lynas (Pioneer Lady 2000)

Colonel James Walker
Photo courtesy of
the Glenbow Museum

Col. James Walker was born April 14, 1846, near Carluke, ON. James was the fifth child of Margaret and John Walker. He attended School of Gunnery which is now the Royal Military College of Kingston, Ontario. Col. French was his instructor. Col French was eventually the Commissioner of the North West Mounted Police in the west.

Booklet Back Cover

The Force was originally named North West Mounted Rifles. The Americans objected to the name Rifles and so it was changed to the North West Mounted Police. James was appointed Sub Inspector under Inspector Walsh of D Company. He was then made Inspector and commanding officer of E Troupe and posted to Battleford. The home was not yet built. Sitting Bull and his tribe had arrived after the Custer Massacre in the U.S.

The Commissioner received $2,600 per year, a Sub Inspector received $1,000 per year. After Battleford, he was appointed to accompany Lt. Gov. Dewdney to pay treaty money to the Indians. He was in charge of the money trunk containing $100,000 in one dollar bills.

On a trip back to Ottawa by wagon and walking, he was asked by John A. Macdonald to resign his commission and become manager of a ranch in Southern Alberta that Senator Cochrane and a group had purchased. He left the Cochrane ranch after two years and established the first saw mill in western Canada west of Winnipeg. He paid his workers $3.00 per day which was top wages; this made him very popular. He acquired 125 acres in Calgary and built his first and second house, both lost to floods of the Bow River. He then built the red brick house currently located on the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. In 1915 he took a Forestry Corp overseas to France and to Scotland to cut wood for the trenches. He was then seventy years old, the oldest to go overseas. He returned to Calgary in 1919.

Col. Walker's son, William James Selby, turned the Walker property into what is now known as the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

Col. Walker had many firsts in Calgary: First Immigration Agent, first telephone system, 1884 - 30 customers. Chairman of the Civic Counsel to incorporate the town of Calgary. The first president of the Exhibition Board responsible for securing the present site of Victoria Park, 94 acres at $2.50 per acre. He organized the Home Guard during the North West Rebellion. He supplied the lumber for the first Presbyterian Church (Knox). He helped organize the first school. He was chairman of the school board for six years and a member for 14 years. He organized the 1st Militia Unit, the 15th Light Horse. Member of the 1st General Board and served for 29 years. He helped to organize the Boy Scout and Cadet movement. The first president of the Southern Alberta Pioneers Association.

He donated land for Col. Walker School which is still operating. Walker died March 31, 1936, shortly before his 90th birthday. His funeral was a military funeral conducted at Knox United Church. He is buried in Burnsland Cemetery. He was chosen Citizen of the Century in 1975.