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Author: Farley Wuth

Farley Wuth, a moustached man wearing a bowler hat, shows an historic image.

Chronicles of the White Hall Store and L.H. Allison and Co.

Pincher Creek’s commercial history abounds with stories highlighting its individual businesses and the settlement as a regional service centre. Here we take a look back one such thriving enterprise, that of the longtime grocery store popularly known first as the White Hall Store and later as L.H. Allison and Co., at 749 Main St.

Early store chronologies

This independently owned and operated store dated back to 1919, being established only a year after the end of the First World War. Although a worldwide recession hit following the end of hostilities, many businessmen thought this was a prime time to start up new enterprises as eventually, during peacetime, there would be more consumer spending.

Pincher Creek businessman C.E. Allison took advantage of the post-war forecasting and established his grocery store. Locally, he saw a need for another outlet. T. Lebel and Co. and Fraser-McRoberts Co. Ltd. offered grocery sales as part of their department stores, and groceries were sold by some of the smaller businesses, but Allison saw the need for a full-scale store that specialized in groceries alone.

Originally, the store was housed in the old Independent Order of Odd Fellows building, located at the corner of Main Street and Christie Avenue. This was on the south side of the street, just opposite the Lebel store and near the west end of Pincher Creek’s commercial district.

This 1½-storey structure dated back to 1905 when early businessman James H. Schofield constructed the complex to house his second general store in this community. Six years later, the building and its business were sold to longtime employees Wilmer McKerricher and Will Cook, who operated it during the First World War era.

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

It was this prime location that Allison bought into after the war. He named his store the White Hall.

Chancy Emerson Allison, born in Ontario in 1881, was the third son in a family of 11 children born to Alfred and Sarah Allison. The parents arrived in Pincher Creek in 1901 and son Emerson came two years later. Several of the family members took up homesteads in the Fishburn district.

He married his wife, Maude Ellison, in 1911, and some eight years later established his grocery store. This business was in partnership with Lewis H. Hunter, who formerly had been manager of the old Hudson’s Bay Co. store, previously located some two blocks farther west on Main Street. The partnership lasted for three years, until Hunter’s retirement in 1922.

C.E. Allison operated the store on his own until his passing on Aug. 28, 1932. The store was inherited by his widow, Maude, and son Louis H. Allison. The latter took over the active management of the store following one year’s university education. He enthusiastically operated the business until his retirement in 1970. The business was discontinued and the building sold at that point.

Longtime Pincher Creek residents will recall the array of pioneer employees this esteemed grocery store had over the years. Some of these individuals were Herm Taggart, Bob Gunn, Hank Callahan, Bill Mullis, E. Clazie, Walt Upton, Jack Cowan, Doug Fraser, Don Pearson and Elsie Marcellus. Each was very appreciative of a job in a thriving pioneer grocery store.

 

 

Store specials and subsequent changes

The store carried a wide line of grocery items and originally included a butcher shop. The enterprise was listed in both the 1924 and 1928-29 Henderson’s Directories as a grocery, indicating the volume of trade the business conducted.

In 1927, store advertisements promoted that it had the best-quality fresh and cured meats, and a full line of the best quality groceries. By 1936, the store was being modernized and the butcher shop discontinued.

By early July 1949, the advertised in-store specials included a one-pound carton of lard selling for 22 cents, five-pound cartons of macaroni for 58 cents each, 28-ounce tins of Prairie Maid peas for 21 cents a pair and Red Bird matches for 23 cents per package.

The following week, store ads in the Pincher Creek Echo encouraged customers to place their orders for preserving raspberries and cherries, which were arriving daily in fresh batches of excellent quality.

Significant changes to the store took place after its initial 27 years of operation. In 1946, Louis Allison had the opportunity to move the store to a new location, a block farther east on the north side of Main Street.

The new premises, which Allison knew was a more centralized location, was the former home of  “the Bucket of Blood.” The colourful name denoted the tailor shop operated by Charlie Taysum, which also served as an informal social centre for the fellows in the community.

The building was extensively renovated to include a new storefront facing the street, featuring brickwork, chrome moulding, a large plate-glass window, and a canvas marquee extending out over the sidewalk, thereby providing passersby with some shelter from the sun, wind and moisture. Hardwood flooring was utilized, a feature that was nostalgically recalled as still being in use during the 1960s.

 

Ad for Creekview Dental Hygiene clinic in Pincher Creek

 

One item that remained the same for much of the store’s history, from the mid 1920s through the mid 1950s, was its telephone number, which was 43.

Several contractors and day workers assisted with the building’s renovations.

J. Auger, Con Martin, Charlie McClain, Jake Smith, J. Roberson and T. Patterson assisted with the rough construction. Bricklaying and stucco work was completed by J. Shaw, with Comet Electric doing the wiring.

Stanley Pearson and Richard (Dick) Sorge were responsible for the plumbing work. At one point, Sorge also worked as the boiler man for the Prince of Wales Hotel, constructed in 1927 down at Waterton Lakes. Joe Tourond worked on the front door and basement connections.

The store’s façade was worked on by John S. Buchan (who was a carpenter by trade), Dave Bower, G.R. Getson, B. Brooks, J. Shaw (who oversaw the tile settings) and J. Stevenson (who was in charge of painting the store).

The refurbishing work was completed in spite of the labour shortages that occurred following the end of the Second World War.

L.H. Allison and Co. held a grand opening in mid August 1946, an event that was marketed via large display ads placed in the Echo. Promotional items included a free pure milk chocolate bar for each household member, boarder and out-of-town visitor who patronized the store during this special event.

The store advertised a wide selection of groceries, promising to feature both plentiful and scarce items. Promises of customer service continued to be made for the new premises, a much sought-after feature of the previous location.

Allison’s operated at this location until 1970.

 

 

Ad for Vape in Pincher Creek
Farley Wuth, a moustached man wearing a bowler hat, shows an historic image.

A look back at Pincher Creek’s pioneer landscape

Pincher Creek a century and a quarter ago certainly was a different-looking settlement than what we have today.

True, there were historical roots, planted in the 1880s or 1890s, which still can be seen today in terms of how the community functions. But in the intervening five or six generations, there have been many changes.

What did Pincher Creek look like during those bygone days on the western Canadian frontier?

Early land surveys

After the success of the North West Mounted Police horse ranch, established here in 1878, Pincher Creek quickly became established as a commercial centre for the expanding ranching industry.

During the next 20 years, numerous pioneer businesses sprang up to serve local economic needs. The settlement’s “business centre” was located less than a mile to the west of the Mounties’ detachment, on what was to become Pincher Creek’s dusty Main Street.

The selection of where the commercial outlets were to develop was made by ex-Mountie Charles Kettles, who in 1883 was commissioned to survey the streets and the business and residential blocks for the portion of town south of the creek.

The area’s proximity to the creek, with shelter offered by the valley, obviously appealed to Kettles in terms of where businesses could be built. His massive two-storey ranch house, located near what is now the west end of town, dated to 1890 or 1892.

Pioneer Albert Morden (1844-1907), patriarch of the first non-NWMP family to settle here, surveyed the portion of the settlement north of the creek. Many of these streets he named after members of his family. He tragically drowned in the rushing spring waters of the creek.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

A few early businesses of the 1880s and 1890s

The first local business was the Schofield and Hyde General Store, established in 1883 as a log structure near what is now the corner of Main Street and East Avenue. Three years later, the outlet was purchased by the Hudson’s Bay Co., with Henry Hyde remaining on as its manager.

Down the street was the old Arlington Hotel, also known as the Brick Hotel. Originally owned by the partnership of Mitchell and Geddes, William R. Dobbie purchased the latter’s portion of the business, and the hotel was greatly expanded during the 1890s.

Dobbie, who like Hyde later went on to become Pincher Creek’s mayor, also operated a livery stable next door to the east.

Farther to the west was Timothee Lebel’s Store, a series of log and frame buildings dating back to the mid 1880s. It was not until 1904 that his three-storey stone business block was constructed.

At the opposite corner was the old hardware store operated by William Berry and Sons. Established way back in 1886, this business flourished because of its connection with the local ranches.

On the south side of the street were several other early businesses. The old Union Bank, also housed in a majestic stone building dating from 1904, had been located almost directly across the street from Schofield and Hyde’s store since 1898. To its west was the Alberta Hotel, which dated back as early as 1885, and was closely connected with the ranching Connelly family.

Blacksmith businesses, such as the Allison family’s IXL Blacksmith Shop, and livery stables, such as the massive two-storey building owned by the Lynch brothers, were located farther east.

 

 

Local streets and long-distance travel

Pincher Creek streets during the 1890s were a far cry from what they are now. Pioneers often recalled that during wet weather they were little more than massive mud holes. During dry weather, they were at best simple trails, often very dusty when heavily trodden with horses or during frequent wind storms.

A few of the major thoroughfares, primarily adjacent to the businesses or in established residential areas, were adorned with wide wooden boardwalks. These state-of-the-art pedestrian walkways utilized local lumber harvested at the logging operation at Mountain Mill. Whenever the boards were replaced, children would scurry by, looking for loose change that had been accidentally dropped through the slats.

Regular travel to points beyond Pincher Creek was limited during those early days on the frontier. The railway did not arrive for a full generation after Pincher Creek’s establishment, and motorized vehicles were still a dream of the future.

Travel was on horseback or by stagecoach, and even a return trip to Fort Macleod, the closest centre to the east, was a major undertaking of several days’ duration. Such a trip was next to impossible during wet weather, when the local trail would become a massive mud hole. Winter travel was plagued by snow-clogged challenges.

The route left Pincher Creek east of the NWMP detachment, travelled along what is now Macleod Street, crossed the creek at Goforth’s Crossing and went northeasterly from there.

Similar cart trails headed west from town to the Pass, and south to Waterton Lakes. Travel was difficult at best.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Early bridges and fording the creek

Within town, the first bridge constructed across the creek was an old log one, located on what was to become Bridge Avenue, now Bev McLachlin Drive. It connected the frontier business core with the pioneer housing landscape on the north side of the watershed.

Before its construction just prior to 1898, there was little need for a traffic bridge. Most creek crossings within the settlement were handled through a series of fords, one located behind the Mounties’ detachment and a second set, according to local folklore, located farther upstream near Morden’s Grove. As far back as the 1890s, there was a log footbridge near the Morden property, an agricultural spread now occupied by the fire hall.

The old Bridge Avenue crossing was replaced circa 1906 by a sturdy metal structure, required when a much-too-heavy steam engine crashed through the wooden bridge to the creek below.

Some years later, shortly before the First World War, a second steel bridge was constructed at the far west end of town. This provided the ranches at Beauvais Lake, Mountain Mill and Beaver Mines with access to our pioneer business settlement.

 

Ad for Dragons Heart Quilt Shop in Pincher Creek

 

Ad for Ascent Dental in Pincher Creek

 

Old black-and-white photo of hockey players on rink in downtown Pincher Creek

Chronicles of Pincher Creek’s 1909 hockey season

Pioneer times in the Pincher Creek area were blessed with strong sports traditions that were both competitive and recreational. As we head into our annual winter season, it encourages us to reflect back to traditional fun times.

Hockey played on outdoor rinks was a mainstay of those traditions. Informal matches usually involved local players and games, while district and regional leagues witnessed a more competitive spirit accompanied by some travel.

Travel beyond the local area after 1897-98 patronized the Crowsnest branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Such was the case with the 1909 hockey season, which saw league teams from Pincher Creek, Macleod and Lethbridge battle it out on the ice.

 

Ad for Sara Hawthorn, Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass realtor

 

Competitive matches hampered by the cold

The first game of the season, played the evening of New Year’s Day, was hosted by Macleod but won by Pincher Creek with a score 7-5. Lethbridge referee R.D. Robson ensured that a fair game was played. Press reports indicate that the ice was soft, possibly due to the warm weather, but a fast hockey game was pursued.

Initially the Macleod team had the upper hand, but Pincher Creek outskated its opponent in the second half. Only one Pincher Creek player was issued a penalty, while four players from the NWMP settlement to the east “decorated the fence.” Folklore indicates that players and spectators alike were happy with the community recreation.

A second match, this time against Lethbridge on Pincher Creek’s home ice, was hampered by immensely cold conditions. The temperature literally froze at -32 F, with both teams suffering as a result of the cold. At least a pair of hockey enthusiasts from both teams had their feet and fingers touched with intense frostbite.

 

Ad for Shadowbar Shepherds Training in Pincher Creek

 

So miserable were the conditions that the Lethbridge team was unable to practise on the rink before the game and therefore could not attest to the particularities of the ice. The city press indicated that this put their team to a disadvantage.

Reporters noted that the latter part of the game was “fast and furious.” Pincher Creek established a strong lead early in the match with the scoring of two goals, but quickly Lethbridge held back its ranchland competitor.

Although the puck-handling and passing work by our team was fast paced, it was not always strong enough to break through the city’s defences. However, only once did the Lethbridge offence succeed in overtaking their opponents, resulting in their single goal.

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

Players from both teams appreciated the chance to pursue their favourite winter sport.

The accompanying photograph from the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village archives depicts a 1909 hockey game on an outdoor rink on Pincher Creek’s frontier Main Street. This well-patronized ice rink was located on the street’s south side, with the old-time Alberta Hotel and its livery stable situated next to the rink.

Across the street can be seen the Arlington Hotel, which was in business for close to six decades following its construction, circa 1890. Snowdrifts along the creek valley and the Porcupine Hills are visible in the background.

Regional newspaper clippings were used as the research sources for this history article.

 

 

 

Farley Wuth, a moustached man wearing a bowler hat, shows an historic image.

New insights into pioneer families of Heath Creek

Recent historical findings have added more details to the chronologies of two early pioneer families from the Heath Creek district. Online research into the 1921 Canadian census and, via Ancestry.com, homestead records held by the Provincial Archives of Alberta, has accessed data and tales from the old days.

Earlier versions of the Lowe and Webber histories appeared in the book Prairie Grass to Mountain Pass, but the stories told here offer further insights into their agricultural endeavours of over a century ago. 

Claude and Gladys Lowe

E.D. Claude and Gladys Jessamine Lowe settled up the other valley from Heath Creek. Their homestead was on the southeast quarter of S15-T10-R1-W5. Lowe’s application went in on Jan. 29, 1909, and he received title to the property effective Oct. 16, 1914.

The homestead prospered as a mixed farming operation. Lowe had 10 acres plowed and five seeded in crops in 1910. By 1913, this had increased to 23½ acres in crops. His cattle production peaked in 1911 with 15 head. He started with seven horses in 1910, increasing to 11 a year later.

Frontier buildings reflected Lowe’s agricultural endeavours on the Canadian Prairies. He constructed a log house measuring 26 by 32 feet that featured a 16-by-20 addition. The dwelling may have been worth $500. A 26-by-42-foot stable, also built of logs, was valued at $350. A 16-by-16 pigpen was pegged at $15. Three-wire fencing stretching 2½ miles cost $250 to construct.

 

Ad for Blinds and More in Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass

 

Community-minded Claude Lowe had the Heath Creek post office and also served as a trustee for Heath Creek School District No. 3481. This country school operated for over a generation, from 1917 to the late 1930s. Lowe had the distinction of owning the only telephone in the district, installed in 1921.

Mrs. Gladys Lowe, Mrs. Stephanie (Johnny) Spears and Mrs. Violet (Harry) Holmes all were sisters, being Buchanan-White daughters.

Claude and Gladys Lowe were wed on her parents’ ranch, south of Cowley, on March 12, 1912. The couple received a wedding present of $5 from Gladys’s parents.

The Lowes had four daughters: Helen Udys, born circa 1913; Pearl Marsahel (also known as Peggy), born circa 1916; Kathleen Adams, born circa 1918; and Molly. They had one son, Stanley Edwards, born circa 1920.

The Lowes left Heath Creek circa 1927, moving to Lethbridge, where they resided at 1816 Seventh Ave. N.

Claude was born in England circa 1884 and immigrated to Canada at the age of 20.

Gladys was born in Perth, Scotland, on Aug. 1, 1884, and immigrated to Canada at the age of 19, in 1903. She passed away in Lethbridge on Sept. 6, 1935.

The Lowes’ religious affiliation was with the Church of England.

 

 

Mr. and Mrs. Tom Webber

Two of the first settlers in the Heath Creek district were Mr. and Mrs. Tom Webber. Tom raised longhorn cattle on what is called the George Cleland place, now owned by the Burles family. The little stream that flows into Heath Creek was called Webber Creek.

The couple had one adopted son, Harold, whom they took as a baby after his mother died in a house fire.

The Webbers’ homestead was located on a fraction of S4-T10-R30-W4. They may have squatted on the quarter as early as 1898, with the official application going in on June 27, 1904.

Tom Webber received title for the property effective Nov. 4, 1908. He also became a naturalized citizen on Dec. 20, 1907, near the end of those proving-up years.

Webber made several agricultural improvements to the property, mostly of a ranching nature. He started with 70 head of cattle in 1904, which increased to 150 by 1908. Webber had 10 horses throughout the five-year proving-up era.

 

Ad for Aurora Eggert Coaching in Beaver Mines

 

By 1908, only four acres were plowed and seeded in crops. The property’s location in the rugged Heath Creek district of the Porcupine Hills made it conducive to ranching rather than farming. In his application, Webber made note of the topography’s excellent grazing conditions.

Webber constructed several sturdy frontier buildings on the homestead. Featured was a log house measuring 18 by 24 feet, with a 10-by-10 addition. It had a value of $200.

A collage of outbuildings collectively were worth $250. These included a shed, two stables for many of the ranch animals, two chicken houses, and a root house where vegetables from the family garden could be stored. One mile of fencing worth $150 dotted the property line.

A note by Webber said there were no minerals, particularly coal, on the quarter, which meant that the family had to obtain this valuable resource for heating their house from other locations or that timber was the source of fuel.

One of the farming tools Webber used was a wooden-beam walking plow, which is on exhibit at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village.

Further research still needs to be completed to add information on Mrs. Webber’s side of the family, including her given name.

 

 

 

Farley Wuth, a moustached man wearing a bowler hat, shows an historic image.

Utopia School educated rural students for nearly half a century

As was the case with other rural schools a century ago, Utopia School District No. 840 offered excellent education to the many pioneer students who attended classes within this rustic structure. Let’s have a look back at a few early historical highlights.

A pioneer school and its supporters

Utopia School was one of 10 one-room country schools situated southeast of Pincher Creek. It sat adjacent to the Waterton River, better known to locals of the 1880s and 1890s as the Kootenay River. To its north was Fishburn School, to the west Robert Kerr and to the south New Yarrow School, each offering an education in the “three Rs” to eager students.

The school at Utopia was a frame structure, a rectangular one-storey building that housed students from grades 1 through 8. A peaked roof, adorned with wooden shakes, covered the building.

On one side were two sets of three rectangular windows, a popular style from that era on the frontier. These were opened during the hot weather of the spring, in order to make the school less stuffy as students prepared for their June exams.

At the front end of the structure was an enclosed porch, used as a mud and cloakroom for the students as they entered and exited the building. This room was a bonus during inclement or winter weather.

 

 

Off in the distance was a shed where the teacher and her pupils could stable any horses that were ridden to and from classes.

For nearly half a century following its opening in 1904, Utopia School met the educational needs of local students. The school district’s old ledgers, a few of which are now housed in the archives of Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, chronicle some of the activities of those earlier times.

Starting in 1908, the first year for which property owners within the school district were listed, 27 families were on the roster. Pioneer surnames such as Fitzpatrick, Age, Walper, Swinney, Ward, White, Thomas, Speth, Gilruth, Miller, Blackburn and Whittacker highlight the pages of these intriguing ledgers.

Since Utopia did not have a post office at that time, many of these school supporters picked up their mail in nearby New Yarrow or Fishburn, depending on whether they resided to the south or farther north. Seven of these early families ventured as far as Pincher Creek, some 20 miles away, for their mail.

 

 

Revenues and expenditures reflected pioneer times

Utopia faced many of the same challenges as other pioneer school districts in terms of its revenues and expenditures. During its first operational year, 1904, it collected $262.86 in school taxes from the property owners who resided there. Each year, this revenue steadily increased so that four years later, nearly $1,000 was raked in.

One of the more intriguing tax revenues realized by the school district was from property owned by the Winnipeg Hudson’s Bay Co., which owned the west half of Section 26, Township 4, Range 28, West of the Fourth Meridian.

As guaranteed by dominion legislation, this fur-trading giant owned property in each township, which provided an extra source of property-based income for rural school districts. For Utopia, it provided anywhere from $9.36 to $14.40 in annual land tax levies.

The school district also realized annual grants from the Province of Alberta following its 1905 incorporation, usually received in three instalments. For many years, these amounted to between $135 and $255 each year.

Banking services of the Utopia School District were handled during those early years by the Pincher Creek branch of the Union Bank, located in a massive two-storey stone building at the corner of Main Street and East Avenue. Bookkeeper and former educator W.A. Ross (1875-1951) served as the district’s auditor for many years.

 

 

One of the more important expenditures was the teacher’s salary. In 1906-07 and 1907-08, the teacher was Annie Campbell, who appears to have received a monthly wage of $50, although the amounts do vary in the ledger. Payments at times were irregular, and it appears that extra wages were assigned at times when additional tutoring with the students was required.

She was succeeded in 1909 by Miss F.L. Ormond, who received a similar salary. Miss Dora McKerrill taught at Utopia the following year at much the same wages.

In 1906, Lillie Thomas provided the caretaking services at the school, looking after the coal-burning stove and assisting with the cleaning. A monthly wage of $5.50 was paid, although often the cheques were issued every second month.

Pioneer schools such as Utopia certainly were reflections of their rural communities. Utopia School closed due to consolidation in 1950, after educating students for 46 years.

The building remains standing on the south side of the road, a visual reminder of pioneer days gone by. An impressive gate at its entrance, arranged by former pupils, also bespeaks that rural community history.