Cst. Oscar Alexander KERN – April, 27, 1896

  1. Reg. # 3100, Cst. Oscar Alexander KERN

April, 27, 1896, near Estevan, North-West Territories                         Age: 23 yrs.

He was employed with the Deutsche Bank in London in 1883 prior to moving to British Columbia. At the age of 21 yrs. 9 months, Cst. KERN was engaged into the NWMP at Calgary, Alberta on September 10, 1894.

Cst. Oscar KERN drowned while fording Short Creek near Estevan, North-West Territories.

He had only served a little more than one and a half years with the Mounties before his fatal accident. KERN’s death was the seventh drowning in the 23 years since the inception of the Force. Up to this time, one-third of all deaths of members of the NWMP were caused by drowning. If this seems high, it must be remembered that, in the west, there were many fast-flowing streams that had to be crossed daily and, in those early days, there were no bridges and few boats. It was also very difficult to find a shallow place to ford. Furthermore, in those frontier days, fewer people knew how to swim. Only those who have crossed a swollen, fast-moving river on horseback can truly understand how dangerous it can be. When his horse came to the detachment alone with his saddle and bridle on and KERN’s cloak draped over it, soaking wet, a search party went out to find him. They looked for days, but were unsuccessful in locating him until May 4 when his body was pulled from the water by grappling hooks

That danger is best expressed in a portion of an actual report cited below. It was submitted by Cpl. John HYNES, who was one of the NWM policemen who went out searching for the missing Cst. KERN.

“. . . We found the creek very swolen (sic), where we usually crossed fetlock deep. There must have been ten or twelve feet deep, with a strong current. I tracked KERN’s horse where it went into the water, he went in the lee of a point of bush. There was a large deep pool of still water, I tracked the horse out again, a few feet above where he went in. I formed the opinion that when the horse got swimming in the deep pool there must have been a strugle (sic) of some kind, caused perhaps, by a touch of the bridle or some thing of that kind, and that the horse roled (sic) over and unseated him, and either in the strugle (sic) struck him or stuned (sic) him or that KERN swam away to get clear of him and that horse followed him and tried to paw into him as they always do & struck him and stuned (sic) him – unless he was stuned (sic) or disabled in some way, I do not think he could be drowned as he was a good swimmer and it was an easy bank to get out on. We searched up and down the ban on both sides but could find no tracks except those I mentioned . . .”

Cst. KERN was given a proper funeral conducted by Rev. Watson of Moose Jaw, Sask. and buried in the Cemetery at Estevan. He left behind his father, F.A. KERN of London, England

(File reviewed on www.collectionscanada.gc.ca)