Law and Order


When Bancroft was incorporated in 1904, the first council appointed a constable to enforce law and order. His name was John Bailey. Generally, the settlers were law-abiding folk. Only occasionally the constable had to break up a fight in one of the two existing bars, where some patrons had imbibed more than was good for them. Constable Bailey also had to ring the curfew and control the crowd at fires and other events, scheduled or unscheduled. Rarely would he be called out to calm down participants in domestic disputes. In those days these were settled inside the home, for better or worse. Shame and fear of becoming the target of gossip in this small, tight-knit community were strong. Traffic problems did not exist, which made the life of Constable Bailey comparatively easy.

Yet lawfulness and calm did not always prevail in the Bancroft district. In 1908 Constable Milt Steenburg was put on alert regarding three armed bandits that were supposedly headed for the area. Soon the constable found two of the wanted men in a store on Bridge Street. The only problem was that they were armed, and he was not. When the brave constable tried to arrest them, one of the bandits drew his pistol. He held the policeman at bay, and then the two scoundrels escaped, joined in flight by the third bandit on the bridge. By the time the constable had got a pistol, they had fled a considerable distance up the railway tracks, where the policeman’s shots could no longer harm them. To secure the area, Bancroft men then formed small groups to help the constable hunt down the outlaws in the surroundings. However, they did not succeed in locating them. Years later one of the former bandits, who had reformed, let it be known that the three men had hidden for two days in an old barn right in Bancroft, before they made their final get-away.

On a different occasion a man named Coe was found drowned in the York River. He had been seen the night before in one of the hotels, acting noisy and unruly. It appeared Mr. Coe had been choked to death and then thrown into the river. His murderer was never found.

In 1933 the Ontario Provincial Police formed a detachment in Bancroft; and by the 1960s the OPP force had grown to one corporal and seven constables. Enforcing traffic laws throughout North Hastings had now become a principal part of their police work. In general, the crime rate in the Bancroft district has remained low.