Life and times of frontiersman Daniel Cassidy and family
The history of the Pincher Creek area is interwoven with the tales of frontiersmen who shaped the community we have today. Such was the case with Daniel Cassidy and his family, whose rural chronicles made them well known through southwestern Alberta.
Daniel Cassidy was born in 1864 in what was to become Port Elgin, Ont. As his birth took place three years before Confederation, this harbour along the eastern shores of Lake Huron was still part of the British colony of “the Canadas.” His parents were Neil and Catherine (Cummins) Cassidy, and he had five siblings — four brothers and one sister.
Folklore indicates that, as a young man, the junior Cassidy led a life of adventure in parts of Canada and the United States. He always was interested in animals, and first spent time pursuing studies to be a veterinarian. Later, he raised thoroughbred race horses, and also was a jockey.
Cassidy also worked as a businessman prior to his arrival in the Pincher Creek area. It is claimed that he once owned and operated a hotel in Castlewood, S.D. He also worked as a dock foreman on the American side of Lake Superior, having secured employment with Iron King Bennett, the famous Minnesota-based shipping magnate.
It was in early November 1887 that Cassidy married his bride, a member of the Smith family who also hailed from Port Elgin. The wedding took place in the American settlement of Duluth, Minn.
Popular Mountain Mill couple
Twenty-six years later, in 1913, Mr. and Mrs. Cassidy arrived in southwestern Alberta. They established a farm a few miles west of Pincher Creek, and both husband and wife became active in the old timber-harvesting and agricultural community of Mountain Mill. This rural area had a settlement history almost as old as Pincher Creek’s, dating back to 1879 with the first sawmill in this area.
Over the years, they became fast friends with such Mountain Mill, Beaver Mines and Beauvais Lake pioneers as the Wilbur, Clifford and Ray Langs; Jack Ledingham; the McDowells; and William Boyden. They also knew Marie Rose Smith, known locally as the Fifty Dollar Bride, and her numerous children.
Three of Mrs. Cassidy’s younger brothers — Tom, Johnny and Jim Smith — also resided with the couple and their daughter Elsie, and this made for an interesting mix of Smiths in the area, although the two clans were not related. The three Smith brothers were well liked for their fiddle playing at the many dances hosted by the rural community and, like the Cassidys, were highly respected by their peers.
The Cassidys were enthusiastic about their opinions and never hesitated to comment on current affairs. It is said that the couple led many an intriguing discussion on a wide variety of topics.
The Cassidys’ farm was a thriving operation. For nearly 35 years, they resided in a large two-storey house on the property.
One of the highlights for the couple likely came shortly after their 1913 arrival in the Pincher Creek area when they ordered a large coal-burning Home Comfort cookstove. A faded old photo, now housed at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, shows the arrival of this coveted item, brought in on a wagon pulled by a team of horses.
This steel appliance was noted for its large warming oven on top and its ornate chrome finish. Like other farming families, the Cassidys appreciated the convenience of this stove, which made cooking home meals as well as heating their home much more efficient.
For such a family located close to the Christie Coal Mine, more often than not it would have burned this local fuel, but often the pioneer stoves were adaptable to wood as well. It all depended upon which combustible resource was available locally.
The couple’s golden wedding anniversary, in 1937, was celebrated with a large afternoon community gathering. In 1945, the Cassidys retired to Pincher Creek, acquiring a house on the south side of Main Street. Mrs. Cassidy passed away the following year at the age of 89. Dan Cassidy lived another dozen years, passing away at the age of 94.
One of the many intriguing aspects of the Cassidys’ history is the varied research sources utilized to put it together. Everything from old newspaper articles from the local and regional press, archival photographs housed at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village and local folklore can be accessed to compose a historical article from the local past.
These sources underscore the importance of preserving and documenting the district’s chronicles, thereby ensuring that they can be accessed and appreciated by future generations.