One of the most prominent residents in Red Deer at the turn of the last century, but also a man whose life-story reflected the pratfalls which could befall the community’s business and municipal leaders, was Leonard Crane Fulmer.
Leonard Fulmer was born on Christmas Day, 1856, in Economy, Nova Scotia. In the 1880s, he decided to move to western Canada to see what opportunities were available for an ambitious young man such as himself.
In early 1887, he bought a lumberyard in Banff.
On Sept. 6, 1887, he married Janet ‘Jennie’ Kaulback Webster at a ceremony in Calgary. They were to have six children – three boys and three girls.
Leonard did very well. He started a general store. In 1892, he was named the postmaster for Banff. He was also appointed a justice of the peace.
In 1897, Leonard decided to establish a business in the booming Kootenay region of British Columbia.
He secured the mail contract and started a stagecoach line from Golden to Fort Steele. The venture did not turn out very well.
Leonard was soon back in Banff where he contracted to build the fence around the Park’s new buffalo paddock.
Leonard was still restless to find new opportunities. In 1900, he moved to Red Deer where he started a business as an accountant. In June 1901, he was appointed as the Town of Red Deer’s first secretary-treasurer.
Fulmer also continued to expand his business interests.
In 1903, he became the secretary-treasurer of the Western Loan and Savings Association. In 1906, he became the secretary-treasurer of the Red Deer Mill and Elevator Company, a business in which the Town was a major investor.
He and Jennie became very active in community affairs. They both became stalwart members of the Presbyterian Church and were both active in the Alberta Natural History Society.
Jennie became the president of the local Christian Endeavour Society. Leonard became the founding president of the Red Deer Choral Society and was a key member of the local Conservative Party.
Leonard was appointed a justice of the peace again and was later made a magistrate. He also served as the secretary-treasurer of the Red Deer Memorial Hospital Board, while Jennie became the secretary-treasurer of the Hospital’s Ladies Aid.
Their daughters became founding members of the Alexandra Club, which raised money for the Hospital and other charitable causes.
The Fulmers loved spending their summers at Sylvan Lake and built one of the first cabins there. Leonard’s impressive sailboat, the Janet K., became a noted summer feature at the Lake.
In 1907-1908, the North American economy plunged into a brief, but painful recession. Leonard had increasingly mixed his personal financial affairs with those of the Town, However, he had always made sure that the accounts were rectified before the annual Town audit.
However, with his various business ventures running into trouble, Leonard missed covering all of the funds he had borrowed from the Town’s accounts. A taxpayer’s cheque, which had been made out in Leonard’s name at Leonard’s request, was not properly accounted for. The auditors then looked more closely and found all kinds of discrepancies.
Leonard tried to sell his house to cover all of his debts, including what he agreed he owed the Town. He then moved to Seattle, Washington.
An attempt to extradite him to face trial in an Alberta civil court failed.
He did return to Red Deer in November 1909 to face a criminal trial for fraud. However, the Town’s accounts were found to be such a blur that the judge acquitted Leonard on the fraud charges.
Leonard and Jennie became American citizens and spent the rest of their years in Seattle. Red Deer changed to a commission form of municipal government whereby the elected mayor and the appointed commissioner (secretary treasurer) became equally responsible for the operations of the Town.
The Commission governance system helped to ensure that Red Deer did not have a financial scandal again for many decades.