The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #68888   Message #1163794
Posted By: Sandy Mc Lean
17-Apr-04 - 11:29 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Capture of Albert Johnson (Wilf Carter)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: the mad trapper of rat river
Carter's is the only song that I know but there may well have been others. Carter's was certainly the one best known about a fascinating incident.
Below is the true story . Writer Don Barnett.

The Mad Trapper was Albert Johnson, a trapper who had done some trading at Fort McPherson. He was a strange sort of character and Constable Edgar "Spike" Millen of the nearby Arctic Red River detachment had talked to him. Shortly after, during the Christmas holiday season of 1931, complaints were received about Johnson bothering people's traps west of Fort McPherson. Millen sent two officers, Alfred King and Joe Bernard into the area to find Johnson. Arriving at Johnson's cabin in 40 degrees below zero weather, they called out when they saw smoke rising from the chimney. Receiving no answer King looked in the window and stared into the face of Johnson, who quickly dropped a burlap sack over the window! Faced with a man maybe with a gun and held up inside the protection of a cabin, the Mounties wisely decided to retreat and get more reinforcements. They travelled 80 miles to Aklavik and picked up two other Mounties, Robert McDowell and Lazarus Sittichinli. Arriving again at Johnson's cabin, they knocked on the door. This time they were greeted with a rifle bullet which rang through the door and hit King in the chest, knocking him into the snow. More shots were exchanged before King was lashed onto a dog-sled and the twenty-hour rush to Aklavik to save his life was made.

This time a nine-man posse with twenty pounds of dynamite confronted the madman held up in his lonely cabin along the Rat River. In the meantime, Johnson had turned his cabin into a fortress. He had pulled up the floor and dug three feet (one metre) below ground level, placed several loop-holes in the walls of the cabin, and had reinforced the base of the walls with extra logs and frozen sod. He fired at the Mounties with two sawed-off shotguns and a twenty-two Winchester rifle with the stock sawed off. Meanwhile, the Mounties thawed out and warmed the dynamite by holding it next to their skin. When they threw the dynamite at the cabin, it ripped the roof off and partially caved in the walls. The Mounties dashed to the cabin and peered into the dark smoke. The Mad Trapper fired, shooting a flashlight out of the hand of Garland, one of the Mounties. Again the Mounties were forced to retreat. After fifteen hours, an Inspector Eames wrote that "the trapper, showed himself to be an extremely shrewd and resolute man, capable of quick thoughts and action, a tough and desperate character".

It was now January 16th, 1932 and another attempt to get the mad trapper was made. Arriving at his cabin again, the police discovered it was abandoned! The entire area was searched with trackers and guides for two weeks without success. Finally, on January 30th the Mounties ran into Johnson, but came out on the short end. The posse came upon Johnson's unsuspecting camp and every advantage was on their side. However, two of the men, Millen and Riddell, foolishly started to advance toward the camp, against the advice of some of the others. In a face to face confrontation, Millen and Johnson shot it out. Millen was shot through the heart and killed instantly. That same night, Johnson slipped through the surrounding Mounties and escaped once more.

The police could not capture the mad trapper, so more reinforcements -- world renown World War I fighter pilot turned northern bush pilot Whop May was called. The pilot arrived at Aklavik on February 5, 1933. His aircraft, a ski-equipped Bellanca mono-plane, provided aerial surveillance and brought in supplies in the man-hunt in the rugged Richardson Mountains west of Fort McPherson.

When carrying in supplies to the Mounties' base camp, heavy snow clogged May's take-off path. He tied the tail of the airplane to a tree and gunned the engine to maximum velocity. The Mounties raised an axe and cut the rope, propelling the airplane forward, cutting a swath through the snow that enabled the plane to get airborne!

Whop May picked up Johnson's trail from his airplane and directed the Mounties to his location. Without the assistance of aircraft, it is questionable as to whether or not the Mad Trapper of Rat River could have been captured. And the daily news report of the gun battles spread the slogan "The Mounties Always Get Their Man".

The aircraft enabled May to report to the Mounties on the ground the amazing maneuvers across the snow-covered frozen land. The world listened to the daily news reports. The Mounties eventually caught up with Johnson and fired nine bullets into him after another running gun battle. Whop May is quoted as saying: "I circled back up river. As I flew over the fugitive's lair, it seemed as though he was lying in an unnatural position. Swinging back, I nosed the Bellanca down 'til our skiis were tickling the snow. Johnson was lying face down, his right arm out flung grasping his rifle. I knew he was dead."

May walked over and turned the dead man around, and said later: "I got the worst shock I've ever had. Johnson's lips curled back from his teeth in the most awful grimace of hate I have ever seen, the hard-boiled, bitter-hate of a man who knows he's trapped at last and has determined to take as many enemies as he can with him."

Johnson was a strange man. Where he came from or what he did before coming to the Arctic Red River area is not known today. In his pockets were found over two thousand dollars in bills, some gold, a pocket compass, a razor, a knife, fish hooks, nails, a dead squirrel, and a small dead bird. During the entire man-hunt, the Mounties had never heard Johnson say a single word. The Mounties do have to deal with some strange and horrifying characters at times, don't they?