By Lauren Gagatek
Colin Cameron, the first man to enforce the law in the Columbia Valley, was described as a well-built man, with a full moustache on his lean weathered face, and short, greying hair.
The dapper officer of the law was most commonly found sporting a single-breasted suit with a heavy gold chain across his lapeled vest.
With a jauntily placed Fedora upon his head and a thin tie knotted around his starched white collar, Mr. Camerons uniform of choice was a far cry from the RCMP of today, as police uniforms were not introduced until 1923.
Mr. Cameron was born in Ontario on October 18th, 1862. He took his first job as a police officer in Victoria, B.C., where he worked to keep the peace between docked sailors and the Chinese on Fisguard Street.
Cameron helped to keep the streets in order during Chinatown lotteries and riots caused by fan-tan, a Chinese gambling game similar to roulette.
On his rounds, Cameron encountered many a hard drinker, but he had a different tactic than most. He would take drunks around the corner, kick them in the pants and send them on their way home.
But the hirsute police officer wasnt only known for his lawmaking abilities, but also for his knack at sports. Being a bachelor left him with lots of time to practice for sporting competitions.
He won a cup for tossing the caber (throwing a 17 foot log) and second prize for putting the stone (similar to shotput).
He was also the captain of the winning tug-of-war team when Victoria police faced off against the sailors of the H.M.S Comus during the 1970s.
After living and policing in Victoria, the attorney general sent Cameron to Telegraph Creek in northern British Columbia, where he got a taste for life in the north. He moved back to Victoria for a year-and-a-half after having his employment terminated due to a political conflict.
He left again on May 15th, 1900, for Dawson City a town of 20,000 boasting 64 steamboats, 40 restaurants, 12 hotels, six newspapers, two breweries and four churches. But this time, Cameron decided to sideline his policing career and instead left on a steamboat with 22 tons of goods for Klondike trade, after buying a miners license for $2.75.
Prices of goods were outrageous in the north, he noted in his well-kept records. Eggs sold for $18 a dozen and butter for $5 a pound. Mr. Cameron even recorded a local rumour of cats being sold for an ounce of gold each due to their value in managing the mouse population.
Unsure of how to charge duty on cats, the customs people charged a dollar on each for the fur.
After a year of life working as a businessman in the north, Mr. Cameron left to resume his career as a policeman. Instead of returning to Victoria, in 1901, Cameron moved to the opposite side of British Columbia, coming to rest in Wilmer (known at the time as Peterborough).
Upon arrival, he was involved in solving the valleys first murder a strange case involving an honorable, young, English aristocrat named Frank J. Lascelles.
Lascelles shot his Chinese servant in a delusional fit when he mistook him for a notorious First Nations Chief named Lame Joe.
Colin Cameron helped to bring Lascelles into custody. Lascelles pled not guilty and was housed in an insane asylum until his family brought him back to England.
But Mr. Cameron was involved in the community as more than just a policeman. He was known to sit in on games of poker with the boys in Wilmer.
In the winter, court dates in Wilmer proved to be difficult to uphold when local children would pour water down the hill to make it better for sledding. Some days it was so icy that Cameron, his prisoner and the witnesses couldnt make it up the hill to the courthouse.
Unfortunately for Cameron, his time in the valley wasnt all fun and games.
One day, while talking in front of the grocery store with his foot upon the spokes of a wagon wheel, the horse pulling the wagon became frightened. It took off, dragging Cameron behind the wagon for quite some distance. He ended up with a badly broken hip. Even the restorative powers of the local hot springs did little to sooth the injury, which troubled him for the rest of his life.
As time passed, Cameron became even more immersed in the community. He was appointed Chief License Inspector and the Deputy Mining Recorder for the Windermere area. Cameron was loved by the townsfolk and became quite the social figure, even drawing crowds at social events.The smitten townsfolk threw an appreciation dance at the Athalmer Town Hall before he left to visit his family in Paisley, Ontario.
Cameron served on the committee for the sports day at Windermere, which featured foot races, greased pig grapples and swimming contests in Lake Windermere. Some annual highlights of the sports day included soccer games, the rifles shoot between Windermere and Golden and the famous Grand Ball.
On September 4th, 1909, Mr. Cameron gave up the ways of the bachelor when he married Miss Ellen Gray, a housekeeper from Donaghmore, Ireland. She wore an empire gown cream point in colour and carried a simple bouquet of sweet peas. Ellen was 26 and Colin was 47 at the time of the marriage. The pair had four children.
A mere two weeks after his wedding, Cameron moved to take a post with the North-East Kootenay police district. He lived with his family in Golden from 1909-1914, when he then moved to Ashcroft.
In 1918, Cameron moved again to Vancouver, at the age of 56. The officer spent his last days in Vancouver. He passed away on December 26th, 1940 at the age of 78.