WOOD, ZACHARY TAYLOR, office holder, militia officer, and RNWMP policeman; b. 11 Nov. 1860 in Annapolis, Md, son of John Taylor Wood* and Lola Mackubin; m. 9 April 1888 Frances Augusta Daly in Napanee, Ont., and they had two sons; d. 15 Jan. 1915 in Asheville, N.C.
Zachary Wood was the great-grandson of Zachary Taylor, the 12th president of the United States and also the great-grandnephew of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate states during the American Civil War. His father, John Taylor Wood, was an instructor at the United States Naval Academy when Zachary was born but at the outbreak of the war he left to accept a commission in the Confederate forces. He settled in Halifax with his family at the end of the conflict.
Zachary Wood was educated at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont., graduating in 1882. The next year he was appointed to the supernumerary staff of the customs service at Winnipeg, and on 1 Dec. 1884 he was placed on the permanent list. At the outbreak of the North-West rebellion, Wood went west as a lieutenant in the 90th (Winnipeg) Battalion of Rifles and participated in the battle of Batoche in May 1885 [see Sir Frederick Dobson Middleton*].
On 1 Aug. 1885 Wood was appointed an inspector in the North-West Mounted Police, which was expanding because of the perceived danger of violence on the western frontier in the wake of the rebellion. In 1887 and 1888 he served under Superintendent Samuel Benfield Steele on an expedition into the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, to counter the threatened uprising of the Kutenai under Chief Isadore*. The intervention of the mounted police helped pacify the situation and laid the groundwork for resolution of a dispute over land ownership. Late in 1888 Wood was given the command of a division of NWMP and in the next nine years he exercised a number of independent commands in the North-West Territories.
The discovery of gold in the Klondike precipitated a rush of prospectors to the Yukon in 1897 and 1898. It also ensured the continued existence, and even growth, of the mounted police as it was required to enforce law and order in this new northern frontier. Inspector Wood was transferred there in 1897, and with Steele was in the forefront of establishing order in the potentially chaotic situation, first at the entry point at Skagway, Alaska, and then at Bennett Lake (Y.T./B.C.). Shortly thereafter, Wood was joined in the Yukon by his wife and family, who spent the next 13 years with him on this northern frontier. Promoted superintendent in 1898, Wood assumed command of the NWMP in the Yukon on 18 April 1900. He was raised to the rank of assistant commissioner in 1902, and remained in the territory until 1910. During the tenure of his command, he established a fine reputation for keeping the level of crime at a minimum and for the solution of the serious crimes that did occur. Under his direction the mounted police also performed a variety of services for the government and the community in the Yukon, from the collection of licence fees to the provision of relief supplies to those in distress.
Wood was transferred in 1910 to Regina, where he became second in command of the entire Royal North-West Mounted Police. From the time he came out of the north he suffered from ill health, including an incapacitating rheumatism, which the force and his family ascribed to the hardships of his service. For his outstanding contributions to law enforcement, he was appointed a cmg in 1913. Two years later he died while on sick leave in North Carolina. His son Stuart Taylor Wood was commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from 1938 to 1951.
AO, RG 80-5-0-160, no.6924. NA, MG 30, E98 (photocopies); RG 18. Can., Parl., Sessional papers, 1886–1914, reports of the (Royal) North-West Mounted Police, 1885–1913. K. S. Coates and W. R. Morrison, Land of the midnight sun: a history of the Yukon (Edmonton, 1988).