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Alberta's Irish Legends: John Drought Lauder (1852-1934) b. Trim, Co. Meath

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

John Drought Lauder (1852-1934)

b. Trim, Co. Meath d. Innisfail

North-West Mounted Police officer, rancher, politician, civil servant, medical practitioner.

Picture source: "Doc' John Drought Lauder (left) and A. Halderman.", [ca. 1885-1886], (CU184312) by Ross, Alexander J.. Courtesy of Glenbow Library and Archives Collection, Libraries and Cultural Resources Digital Collections, University of Calgary.

Like many Irish recruits to the North-West Mounted Police, Dr. John Lauder was drawn to the prairies and their opportunities for settlement and remained in the West for the rest of his life.

Founded in 1873 to enforce Canadian law in the country’s newly-acquired North-West Territories, the NWMP was modeled on the Royal Irish Constabulary. In fact, the NWMP’s first commissioner, Sir George Arthur French, had served in the RIC before joining the army. The force’s Saskatchewan “Depot,” where recruits received their training, also took its name from the RIC headquarters in Dublin. It was therefore not surprising that the force attracted many Irish recruits who brought a diversity of skills and experience to the force.

Lauder received his medical training at Trinity College Dublin and in Liverpool. After immigrating to Nova Scotia in 1875, he worked briefly as a veterinarian. His experience with human and animal health would serve him well in the Canadian West. Upon moving to Fort MacLeod in 1876, he joined the NWMP, and was quickly promoted to Hospital Sergeant. He then worked as a government medical advisor in Calgary and surrounding areas, served briefly in the Department for Indian Affairs as an agent, then became a foreman on the Cochrane ranch, named for another Irish-Canadian.

As Calgary Herald writer Elizabeth Baily Price recounted in 1930, “No old timer of the west has had more colorful pioneering experiences than he has.” Lauder established himself as one of the first ranchers in Alberta, but briefly left his peaceful civilian life to join the Alberta Field Force during the Northwest Resistance of 1885. The regiment was organized by another rancher, the cavalry horse-breeder and retired major-general, Thomas Bland Strange, who recruited former NWMP officers, cowboys, and ranchers. The regiment saw action at the Battle of Frenchman’s Butte in Saskatchewan in May 1885.

As an early Alberta pioneer, Lauder contributed to Alberta settlement in many ways. After serving during the Northwest Resistance, he began ranching north of Calgary. His was the second cattle brand registered by the territory’s government. He successfully ran for a seat in the newly-established Northwest Territories Council and served until 1888. In 1885, he married Marguerite Thompson and they had five children. In the 1890s they moved to Innisfail “where for many years he practiced his profession as a medical man,” according to his obituary. The obituary also noted that more than 200 mourners from the Innisfail and Calgary areas came to pay respect to “an old and valued friend” who had applied the education he obtained in Ireland, along with the skills he acquired in Canada, to professional, civic, and community life in Alberta.

Further Reading

“Dr. John Lauder,” The Calgary Herald, 9 July 1934, p. 14.

Jamieson, Heber C. Early Medicine in Alberta: the First 75 Years. Edmonton: Douglas Printing Co., 1947.

Price, Elizabeth Baily, “The Fathers of the North West Territories,” Calgary Herald, 13 December 1930.


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