James Macleod was born in Scotland, and emigrated to Canada in 1845. He received his BA from Queen’s in Ontario, and he began to practice law. However, his passion was for the military, so he joined the Volunteer Militia Field Battery in Kingston. His first deployment was on the Red River Mission in 1870, which resulted in him gaining several prestigious decorations.
The success of this mission was the precursor to the formation of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP), which Macleod joined as Assistant Commissioner in 1873. The following year, he led a police column to southern Alberta and established Fort Macleod.
Macleod’s extensive responsibilities included establishing law and order, eliminating the whiskey trade in the area, and establishing a strong dialogue with the First Nations population. He played a big part in maintaining the peace between the different tribes in the area, based on creating diplomatic relations. In 1875, Macleod also sent troops to build Bow Fort, which was later renamed Fort Calgary after a castle in Macleod’s native Scotland.
Macleod married Mary Isabella Drever and they had four daughters and a son. He left the force in 1875 to become a magistrate and judge, and then took on the additional role of Commissioner of the NWMP from 1876 to 1880. As commissioner, he successfully negotiated Treaty 7 with the Stoney, Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan, and Sarcee tribes in 1877.
In 1887, Macleod became a Supreme Court Judge in the North West Territories, and remained in that position until his death. Instead of focussing on the financial opportunities in the new West, Macleod maintained strong principles and resolved to create law and order for all.