Staff Sergeant Hall 1887 - 1909

Background information on William John Hall. 

Staff-Sergeant William John Hall (Reg. No. 692)

by Margaret Nelson

From Trails North of the Saskatchewan: Tulliby Lake and Onion Lake Area History (1995) p 353

In order to write a biography, one must do a great deal of research. Through my research I have discovered that William John Hall was not only a dedicated, efficient and outstanding policeman
but he was also an upright, kind and generous citizen.

After coming to Canada from Belfast, Ireland, where he was born on February 22, 1853, he was employed as a grocery clerk in Toronto. On April 17, 1872, W. J. Hall joined the North-West Mounted Police at the age of nineteen. His registration number was 692.

In July of 1875 staff Constable Hall was in charge of the Escort of Major General Smythe. He received his orders from Commissioner French. Constable duties were as follows:

  1. You proceed West in charge of the Escort for the Major General.
  2. The following instructions are for your guidance, but you must distinctly understand that anything herein contained, is to be considered secondary to any orders given you by any officers of the Major General's Staff.
  3. Of the nine under you - two will have to drive spring-wagons - leaving you seven men to be
    mounted. You will therefore only take seven saddles - The Major General and staff furnish their own saddles.
  4. You will see that your men are properly fitted out with clothing, uniform and see before starting that they are always (when on the march) properly dressed. Their harness, saddlery, bits and uniforms being at all times thoroughly clean. You win be extra particular of these points when approaching settlements or posts.
  5. Those of your men who have not already forwarded articles of extra kit by Mr. Shurtleff's party may take with them water- proof bags and not more than twenty pounds of luggage
  6. At starting each man will have his valise properly packed and carry it on his saddle, also his great coat and cape - but as your  wagons are lightened of oats you will ease the saddle horses by transferring the valises and great coats to them.
  1. Men will have to travel four hundred miles before receiving a change of horses. Those now proceeding with you have for the most part just completed a march of 330 miles. The rate at which you will have to travel will be rapid (possibly 40 miles per diem) and altho' your horses have been selected with care - you will have to use the greatest judgment to carry them through.
  2. As the General and Staff will often ride considerable distance off the road examining the country and will thus travel over much more ground than your party their horses will more frequently have to be changed. See that fresh horses are always available and that they are good saddle horses, and easy in their paces.
  3. The annexed memorandum shows the provisions and oats available at Touchwood Hills and Carleton. Four days supply at each place ought to be sufficient.
  4. Detail a piquet of three men every night - this party to divide the night into three watches, and to look generally after the horses and the camp.

11. Hobble the horses as little as is consistent with safety - keep one or two horsed always tied up or picketed - to be available in case of others stampeding.

  1. If flies or mosquitos are very troublesome light "smudges" and if horses will not feed they may as well be tied up and extra oats given them.
  2. Instead of working several horses down and then taking others, keep continually relieving them - which you can readily do without losing time by changing them at halting places.
  3. Save your horses all you possibly can. Make both drivers and riders dismount and walk frequently - and always when going up hills or over bad stretches of road.
  4. Work systematically. See that horses are not brought in and tied up, or harnessed before it is absolutely necessary - thereby depriving them of some of their time for feeding.

Signed French, Commissioner

In a ten-year period Constable Hall was promoted three times. First to the rank of Corporal on September 1, 1883. Then to Sergeant on October 1, 1895. and finally to Staff-Sergeant on April 17, 1897. Seven years later he was stationed at Onion Lake where he remained in the force until his retirement in 1910.


Hall, Staff Sergeant and Mrs. William John and Family

By Dorthea Mayhew as told by Mildred Ruud William

From Trails North of the Saskatchewan: Tulliby Lake and Onion Lake Area History (1995) p 763

John Hall came to Canada from Belfast, Ireland where he was born on February 22, 1853. He joined the North West Mounted Police on April 17, 1882. Margaret Elizabeth Giles, born August 27, 1876 in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, became his wife on December 7, 1896 at Prince Albert. Her father, William Giles, a veteran of both the Boar War and World War 1 had the first flour mill for Onion Lake Indian Agency.

When Staff-Sergeant Hall came to Onion Lake in about 1894 his first barracks was a log building with a sod roof. It was located northwest of the Agency buildings. This was replaced with a new barracks that was built in 1895 on the south side of Lake John (Burke Lake) SW 11 55 1 W4, northwest of Onion Lake village. The site was chosen by Prime Minister McKenzie Bowell. The post was occupied on January 1, 1896. A twelve-stall barn was erected. The two-storey frame house had a large kitchen, a dining room, a living room and two bedrooms. There was a full-length veranda along the south side. Upstairs, on the south side, was Staff-Sergeant Hall's office. The prison cells were on the north side overlooking the lake. The lumber for these buildings was sawn by the local Indian Department Sawmill.

Six of the Hall children were born at the barracks: Margaret Irene, Violet Victoria, Christian Aileen, Mildred Alexandria, William John Jr. and Naomi. The three younger children, Sidney Warren and the twins, Edgar and Edna, were born after the family moved into the big log house that was just west of Onion Lake village on SE 2-55-1-4.

The children earned money by trapping muskrats and selling pelts. Mildred, Naomi, Johnny and Sid each had a trap line. Fur buyers drove throughout the area and offered their prices. On one occasion a buyer offered Mildred thirty- five cents for each hide she had skinned and stretched. She turned the offer down and not long after got seventy-five cents each from another buyer. There were times when trap-line territories were under hot dispute with the Tusault boys. These disagreements were usually settled on the spot with the occasional bloody nose. Later, with no grudge held, they became the best of friends.

Mildred had a black saddle horse named Prince. She bought herself a saddle and did a lot of enjoyable riding. Mildred had sewn, by hand, a tweed riding skirt. It was made with a row of snaps, front and back, so that it could be used for a dress or for riding. The turtle neck sweaters that she wore with it were also her handiwork.

The Hall youngsters enjoyed the social activities of the district. On Saturday nights they attended the dances at the Hudson Bay Fur Loft. There were basket socials held on special days like St. Patrick's Day and Easter Monday. Admission was twenty- five cents, Dancing to the music from a gramophone under the light of a gas lamp Went on until the early morning hours.

The Hall family, like many others, enjoyed visiting their neighbours. There would be dancing card parties or just visiting. Calling on you; neighbours, was the thing to do in those days. There was no need for an invitation. Skating parties on the lake near the Hall home were frequent and always enjoyed. The ice was cleared with a horse and fresno. Wood for a bonfire was
hauled on a stoneboat. When the chores were all done and the supper dishes washed, the skating started. It often continued until eleven or twelve o'clock. Johnny Hall was an outstanding skater. He could skate backwards better than most people skate forwards. The Lovell boys and Rossie McLeneghan often joined the fun. When the skaters returned to the house for lunch, Mrs Hall would be knitting under the light from a coal-oil lamp. Preparations for Christmas kept the family busy. There was much baking to be clone. Many gifts were to be made. Purchased gifts were Out of the question. The house was decorated with an abundance of spruce boughs draped with red crepe paper streamers. The fresh smell of spruce greeted all who entered.

New Year's Eve was always a very special time. Following supper there was a ride with the team and a big sleigh. Usually we picked up Mr. and Mrs. Burke and the Lovells. Then we kept going making stops at other neighbours' homes wishing everyone Happy New Year." Mother always took a large dish-pan filled with sandwiches, cookies and other "goodies" to be enjoyed with tea and coffee which was served at the various homes we called on.

Getting an education was not always easy. Some of The Hall children were able to attend the Mission Schools as "day students." This was only when there were vacancies. The Hall children were not from the reserve so did not qualify to attend their schools. The other alternative was to board away from home some place where there was a schoo1. For a time Johnny Hall stayed at the Donald Cameron home in Harlan and went to school there. Then he worked at Battleford where he attended night school to finish his education. The younger Hall children, Naomi, Sid, Edgar and Edna all went to school at Greenvale after it was established.

The Hall home was located in an ideal spot to serve as a stopping place for those travelling any distance. Many stopped overnight. Farther north there was a sawmill belonging to Guy Hunter. There was a camp there where George Lewis did the cooking. Before spring break-up, many of those who had a long haul home would bring their lumber out on sleighs as far as Halls, pile it there, and finish hauling it home in the summer.

For any pioneer family, a large garden was a necessity. Quantities of potatoes and root vegetables were grown for winter storage. Then there were cows to milk. The cream and milk to look after and the butter to churn. All family members had work to do. Both Sergeant and Mrs. Hall were known for their hospitality. A familiar
greeting of Sergeant Hall's to young and old alike was, "Come in my boy and have something to eat." There was always ample food for unexpected guests.

Following is a summary of the marriages:

Irene married Johnny Forbes. They had six children. Both have passed away.

Violet married Roy Wagner. Both have passed on.

Aileen married Gunvick Ruud. They had seven children including a set of twins. Aileen has passed away.

Mildred married Alvin Ruud. They had two children. Alvin has passed away.

The above mentioned all made their homes in the Onion Lake area.

Johhny went overseas during World War II and was very seriously wounded. He lived in San Francisco, U.S.A. for a number of years and passed away on February 14, 1985.

Sid married Christie Camp. They have a family of three. After farming in the Marwayne area for many years they now live in Edmonton.

Naomi lived at Red Pheasant.

Edgar and his wife Berry of Langley, B.C. have four children including a set of twins. Edna married Lloyd Cardinal. They had five children.
Edna remarried John Ogbourne in British Columbia. She has also passed away.

Sergeant Hall was postmaster at Onion Lake from October 6, 1925 until the time of his death on February 14, 1926.

Mrs. Margaret Hall was post mistress from April 7, 1926 serving the public until January 3, 1949. She passed away in Edmonton in 1957. They were buried in the St. Barnabas cemetery at Onion Lake.