In March of 1920, federal agents with the newly established Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP) made their way to the Nicola Valley to establish a detachment in Merritt. Still operating today, the Merritt RCMP has a storied history in the community, which all started with a handful of constables, horses, and basic equipment.
As reported in the Merritt Herald in March of 1920, the RCMP began operations when the Inspector and commanding officer of the newly created force arrived in the Nicola Valley to set up the detachment. The detachment would be made up of a small number of men, to be sent from Vancouver, and led by a Kamloops RCMP constable.
“Inspector G. F. Fletcher, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, arrived in Merritt, Tuesday night, from Vancouver to install the promised RCMP detachment for the Nicola Valley at this point,” reads a Herald article titled ‘RCMP Detachment Installed in City’ from March 1920.
“With Inspector Fletcher was Constable A.D. Hilliker, from Kamloops, who had been selected to take charge of the local detachment.”
The Merritt RCMP was initially headquartered in the Merritt Armory, now the Elks Lodge, which Fletcher secured as both office and living quarters for the local constables. As they were the mounted police, accommodations were needed for the RCMP’s horses as well. Inspector Fletcher contracted local Merritt Transfer proprietor Fred B. Billett to stable the horses. Once the detachment had been established, Fletcher returned to Vancouver with the promise of more horses, equipment, and officers for Merritt.
The newly established Merritt RCMP force worked alongside the British Columbia Provincial Police (BCPP), which had already been well established and providing policing services for decades. The two organizations often worked together until the BCPP’s dissolution in August of 1950. While the BCPP was run by an experienced officer in Chief J. T. Willgoose, the Herald reported that the Merritt RCMP’s leadership included fresh blood.
“Constable Hillliker, in charge of the Merritt detachment, though a young man in point of years, has had a wide and varied experience,” the article adds.
“He was for some years stationed in the Yukon, and made the 1,000 mile annual patrol, carrying the mails, from Dawson City to Fort Machpherson, on the Mackenzie River, about 200 miles from the Arctic Ocean.”
After returning from fighting overseas during World War I, Hilliker joined the Vancouver Squadron of the RCMP. Before coming to the Nicola Valley and creating the Merritt RCMP, Hilliker also worked as part of the Kamloops detachment. He then left Merritt in April of 1920, being replaced by a Constable Ray.
The RCMP’s history in the Nicola Valley is undeniable, with the organization being at the centre of over 100 years of community protection, policing services, controversy, and emergency services.