John Nash has the tragic distinction of being the first member of the North West Mounted Police (now Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to die in the line of duty. He is one of the original members who made the trek westward over land in 1874 from Fort Dufferin, Manitoba to present-day southern Alberta.
The details of his death near Fort MacLeod in the Northwest Territories remain a mystery as most of his service records were lost in the 1897 fire that damaged the West Block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. What little is known about Nash comes in a document held at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police headquarters. It confirms that Nash was born in 1849, that he joined the force in Halifax in 1873, that he was nominated to the Honour Roll, and that his death was related to an accident involving his horse.
His final resting place is where he perished, Fort MacLeod (now part of Alberta), in Union Cemetery, in the North West Mounted Police Field of Honour, row 5, grave number 24.
Library and Archives Canada has two useful resources available to the public for research and gathering background history on early members of Canada’s famed police force:
- The North West Mounted Police (NWMP) – Personnel Records, 1873–1904 database provides access to personal correspondence, clippings and other information about members long after their discharge from the Mounted Police (searchable by surname, given name, and regimental number).
- The website Without Fear, Favour or Affection: The Men of the North West Mounted Police provides historical context for the type of police work the men did, some of the popularized imagery of the force, and aspects of serving the nation and fighting crime.
To further your research you may wish to consult the following:
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Flickr album)
- 140 Years Strong: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Blog)