DENNY, Cecil




Author Tags: Law

Cecil Denny served as the police magistrate at Fort Steele in southeastern British Columbia during the construction of the Crow's Nest Railway in the late 1890s.

Formerly nicknamed 'Texas Jack' for his yarns about travelling in the United States as a remittance man, Alberta's chief archivist from 1922 to 1927, Sir Cecil Denny, wrote about the 'taming' of the west in his two books The Riders of the Plains (Calgary: Herald Company, 1905) and The Law Marches West. Both recount and glorify the achievements of the North West Mounted Police Officers such as himself who made the 800-mile journey into the prairies in 1874 to provide law and order between Winnipeg and the Rocky Mountains. Portions of those two books have been condensed into Denny's Trek: A Mountie's Memoir of the March West (Heritage, 2004).

Denny was co-founder of Forts Macleod and Calgary, as well as an Honourary Chieftain of the Blackfoot Nation. Denny resigned from the force in 1882. "It was, in fact, his womanizing which ended Denny's police career," claims Ron Atkin, in Maintain the Right: The Early History of the North West Mounted Police. "A Fort Macleod settler named Percy Robinson brought a civil action for $10,000 damages against Denny, claiming the officer had enticed away his wife... the case was dismissed because of insufficient evidence." Denny's subsequent years as an Indian agent, hired by Sir Edgar Dewdney, were depicted in Hugh Dempsey's book Red Crow. He was also a fire ranger in the Athabasca and Lac La Biche areas and led a NWMP pack train expedition into the Peace River region in 1904 (that resulted in a memoir called Trail to the Yukon, printed in the Alberta Historical Review in 1967).

When his half-brother died in England in 1922, Denny inherited the family estate and the title of sixth baronet of Tralee Castle, Ireland, but he remained in Canada. Most of his writings concern the prairies, not British Columbia, but he was an integral figure in the development of Western Canadian policing. The North West Mounted Police became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on February 1, 1920. Denny died on October 21, 1928 in Edmonton at age 78.

[BCBW 2004] "Law"