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

Pioneers with business and homesteading origins

Pincher Creek’s historical landscape is dotted with an array of early pioneers and their contributions, many in the commercial and agricultural realms. Here are a couple of their stories. 

Marion Millar Kew

Early businesswoman and community activist Marion Kew had pioneer roots in both Pincher Creek and Stavely. Her maiden name was Millar, and she was born in Merrickville, Ont., in the late 1890s. She was one of three children, two daughters and one son, born to Mr. and Mrs. William Millar.

Her brother, Harry, resided in Ontario all his life but the two sisters wandered west. The first to arrive in Pincher Creek was her older sister, who married Dr. J.J. Gillespie, a medical doctor who set up shop here. They resided in the former Schofield Family home on what was then Bridge Avenue.

Upon the passing of Marion’s mother, just prior to the outbreak of the First World War, William Millar and his second daughter moved out to Pincher Creek, where they resided with the Gillespies.

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

Marion Millar quickly became involved in Pincher Creek’s social life. She took an active interest in both the Alexandra Rebekah Lodge No. 8 of the Oddfellows and the Capt. McPhail Chapter of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire.

She also was a local captain of the Girl Guides and sang regularly in the Pincher Creek United Church choir.

A big change in her life came in early 1926 when accepted a job offer as manager of the James H. Brand store in Stavely. A few months later, on Sept. 16, Marion Millar and Wilson L. Kew were united in marriage. Kew was the editor of the Stavely Advertiser, that community’s weekly newspaper.


Also read | Pioneer doctor Edward Connor began career in Pincher Creek


She continued to be active in her new home town and transferred her Rebekah membership to that community.

Marion Kew took ill and passed away in June 1934.

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Archie and Jessie McKerricher

Archie and Jessie McKerricher had a long commercial history with Pincher Creek, but their original connection with the area was agricultural.

Archie Douglas McKerricher was born in Plantagenet, Ont., in January 1878. He was the fifth of seven children — three sons and four daughters — born to Daniel and Annie Stuart McKerricher. Archie was raised in nearby London, where he went to school.

His wife, the former Jessie Florence McColl, was born in nearby Glanworth, Ont., on April 11, 1879. The couple married in 1906 and were blessed with three children.


Also read | Frontier chronicles of the Fugina family


Their daughter Annie was born in September 1907 here in the Pincher Creek area. As an adult, she became Mrs. S. Holden of Calgary.

Son Duncan was born just over three years later, in October 1910. Years later, he resided in Devon, Alta.

Their youngest child, Lexie, passed away on Oct. 1, 1915, at the age of 20 months.

By the late 1960s, there were four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren in the McKerricher family.

Archie McKerricher had moved to the West in 1902, first establishing a homestead in the Chipman Creek district. It was located five miles east of Pincher Creek and immediately west of the Piikani First Nation reserve. He farmed there for a full decade.

In 1912, the McKerricher family moved into Pincher Creek, where Archie began a career working for local businesses. His first posting was at the Fraser-McRoberts Store, which as of 1916 was housed in a two-storey brick structure at the corner of Main Street and Police Avenue.

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Later he worked for the Betterway Store, located in the late 1940s in the old Scott Block on the south side of Main Street. The business was later re-established in a building east of the Oddfellows Block.

He retired from work in 1952.

Both Archie and Jessie McKerricher were active in the Pincher Creek Baptist Church. Jessie had received her teacher’s training at normal school in London, Ont., and taught school before coming out to the Pincher Creek area. She combined her church and education interests by teaching Sunday school here.

Jessie was a member of the Alexandra Rebekah Lodge, while Archie was active in the Oddfellows.

Archie McKerricher passed away on Jan. 21, 1967. Jessie followed on Aug. 30, 1969. Both were aged 90 and were buried in Pincher Creek’s Fairview Cemetery.

Piikani Nation elders Peter Strikes with a gun, in regalia, and Jeannie Provost at Piikani Nation Secondary School feather blessing ceremony

Shootin’ the Breeze – June 12, 2024

This week’s headlines:

Pincher Creek funds community recreation facilities

Pincher Creek council passes two new bylaws

Pride flag at Pincher Creek library targeted for second year

New Crowsnest Pass bylaw stirs controversy, residents raise concerns for freedom of speech

Heritage Acres Victory Garden grows hope for another year

Health Canada ends Paxlovid coverage, Albertans to pay over $1,400 per treatment

Athletes place well at trace and field zones

Registering personal and business security cameras could assist RCMP with criminal investigations

Young ranchers show great work at achievement day

Timber Trails members impress judge

Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village seeks community support to preserve Pincher Creek’s firefighting history

Ranchers left their mark with hard work and perseverance

Farmers market set to return with local delights

Plus the best local options for Father’s Day shopping and events, community notices, job opportunities, service directory, obituary for Henry Doell, Coffee Break puzzles and general information for Pincher Creek, Crowsnest Pass and Piikani Nation.

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

Pioneer doctor Edward Connor began career in Pincher Creek

The history of the Pincher Creek area was blessed with a number of pioneer medical doctors who worked hard to improve the general health of our frontiersmen. Often working without good facilities, these individuals dedicated themselves to the betterment of the settlements they served.

One such individual was Dr. Edward Connor, who practised medicine here for four years, mostly at the old Memorial Hospital, located north of the creek.

Edward Lawrence Connor was born in January 1881 in Windsor, Ont., and was raised in a family of five children. He had one brother and three sisters.

He showed early interest in pursuing a medical career, and following his public schooling he studied medicine in the United States. This was followed by postgraduate work in Vienna, then a significant cultural centre in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire that dominated much of the European map prior to the First World War.

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Further studies were taken at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where the frontiers of medical science were constantly being pushed back.

Early years in Pincher Creek

Dr. Edward Connor launched his first medical practice here in Pincher Creek, arriving in the autumn of 1911. He set up his office in a small frame building on the south side of Main Street, just east of the old Hudson’s Bay Co. store and west of St. John’s Anglican Church.

This structure, noted for its bright windows facing out to the street, served him well for conveniently receiving patients in the centre of town.

Connor also practised medicine in the two-storey Memorial Hospital, architecturally noted for its eye-catching veranda. Located in the north part of Pincher Creek on what was to become John Avenue, the community’s premiere hospital facility was named in honour of the three local casualties of the South African War of 1899 to 1902.


Also read | Frontier chronicles of the Fugina family


Robert Kerr, Fred Morden and Thomas Miles were amongst about 30 local fellows from this largely British ranching settlement who voluntarily enlisted to defend the interests of the mother country in this geographically far-removed war.

When the trio did not return, the community constructed this hospital in memory of their supreme sacrifices. Remotely located and little more than a generation removed from its 1878 establishment, this frontier settlement had scarcely received rudimentary attention from the medical profession up to that point.

Connor worked as a doctor at the hospital for four years, until 1915. One of the nurses he worked with was Rose Husband, who later married Lionel Parker, a homesteader from east of town.

Hospital and medical practices, although primitive by today’s modern standards, would have been quite up to date for a rural ranching settlement nestled in the far western reaches of the Canadian Prairies during the 1910s.

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Surgery, still in its infancy, was performed only in the most serious cases. Ailments that were treated included everything from broken bones and injuries from nearby coal mining and railway industries to contagious diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Long hours and hard work were the call of the day.

Other medical work and social affairs

During the second year of the Great War, Connor resigned his position at Memorial Hospital and took on medical work in Lethbridge.

Much of his surgery work would have been done at Sir Alexander Galt Hospital, a two-storey brick building at the west end of Fifth Avenue South that overlooked the prairie-sculpted Oldman River Valley. That impressive structure now houses the city’s museum and archives.

Connor’s practice expanded quite significantly in this urban setting, to a point where his health was seriously impaired. In spite of the latest medical attention, including several surgical procedures, he developed a lingering illness. Sadly, he passed away on Jan. 31, 1929, having just turned 48.

Connor’s wife was Lena Florence Connor. She was nearly seven years his junior, having been born in November 1887. The couple wed in 1910, and two daughters were born to this union.

Florence passed away on March 22, 1976, aged 88.

Both Dr. and Mrs. Connor were active members of the St. John’s Church of England parish during their four-year stay here.

Socially, they were close friends with the Dobbie family, connected with the prestigious Arlington Hotel on the north side of Main Street; public school teacher Miss Mary Bull (1870-1941); Henry and Elizabeth M. Hyde, who were known in local banking and political circles; and businessman Charles Hart, who with his brother-in-law operated the Montgomery and Hart Ford dealership garage, which dated back to 1914.

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

Frontier chronicles of the Fugina family

Readers of our column from a few weeks ago will recall our look back at the flood of 1942 and how it took away the old Fugina bridge at the far west end of Pincher Creek. Further research has unearthed additional historical details on the Fugina family, who farmed nearby.

The Fuginas were a pioneer agricultural family from the Pincher Creek area who are only partially remembered from the pages of our local history. Their farmhouse was a landmark for several generations.

The family patriarch, Francis Joseph Fugina, was born in Independence, Wis., on April 22, 1880. His wife, the former Anna Cecelia Dugan, was born some three years later, on Sept. 11, 1883, in Carrington, N.D. Both were raised in their respective rural American West settlements, where they received a traditional education grounded in the Three Rs.

It is believed that Francis Fugina immigrated to Canada in the early 1900s, eventually settling at Pincher City. In 1908, Anna Dugan followed suit, also settling in this railway and ranching settlement. Francis and Anna were married that year. 

Agricultural heritage

Some three years later, in 1911, the Fuginas moved to a farm located on the northwestern outskirts of Pincher Creek. Situated on the north side of the creek and accessed by the pre-First World War traffic bridge constructed to bring into town traffic from the rural communities of Mountain Mill and Beaver Mines to the west, the farm was ideally located to offer the best of both worlds.

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Agriculturally, the farm’s proximity to the creek and one of its tributaries to the west ensured a fairly regular water supply, essential for Francis Fugina’s head of cattle and the varied crops with which he experimented. The area was fairly sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds, which aided the farm’s success.

The property’s proximity to town ensured the family had easy access to commercial and religious services.

Francis and Anna were regular grocery shoppers at the Main Street Fraser-McRoberts and White Hall stores, the latter operated by the Allison family. History tells us that the Haltons’ horse-drawn rig service delivered groceries as far west as the Fugina residence.

Roman Catholic in faith, the family worshipped regularly at St. Michael’s Church on the south hill.

The dwelling that Francis and Anna Fugina constructed was an impressive two-storey frame structure with a wrap-around veranda that faced east. This architectural feature provided the family an eye-catching view of the farm and nearby creek. The house dated back to the pre-First World War era and included a massive parlour and dining room on the main floor.

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A working kitchen was added onto the house’s west side many years later. An array of outbuildings stood further west still. The house, sitting on the north side of the creek, was situated directly opposite the old Bossenberry dwelling and the two were in some ways similar in function and design.

Retirement and descendants

Francis and Anna Fugina resided on their Pincher Creek farm for over 35 years. In 1947, they retired, sold the property and moved to Creston, B.C. Folklore indicates that the couple particularly enjoyed the climate in this new setting.

After a decade’s residence there, Francis passed away at Creston Valley Hospital on Jan. 19, 1957. He was in his 77th year. His widow, Anna, remained in the community for another 11 years, and then in 1968 moved farther west to Nelson to be closer to family. She passed away on Nov. 25, 1970, at the age of 87.

As adults, the five Fugina children had connections to British Columbia and the United States.

Mary Margaret was the Fuginas’ eldest daughter. Born Aug. 10, 1909, she first attended St. Michael’s School in Pincher Creek, followed by a business education at the Lethbridge business college. Several years’ employment was secured at the Montgomery and Hart Garage, the local Ford dealership established at the corner of Main Street and Police Avenue back in 1914. In 1936, Mary married Dennis Bush and the couple moved to Cranbrook, B.C., later settling in nearby Kimberley. Sadly, she passed away on April 11, 1949, after a lingering illness.

The Fuginas’ second daughter, Frances C., became Mrs. Leroy Drew, residing south of the border in Bremerton, Wash. She was born Sept. 25, 1914, and passed away Oct. 29, 2014, having just reached the impressive age of 100 years. As an adult, she attended normal school and taught for several years in a one-room school, where she found rural life isolated.

Another daughter, Anne Cecile, became Mrs. Brady and resided in Nelson, B.C. She was born Oct. 26, 1917, and passed away Dec. 28, 1976.

The fourth daughter, Mrs. James Brooks, resided in Vancouver.

The family’s son, Joseph, resided in Kimberley, where he was active in the garage business. In January 1947, he was united in marriage with the former Lucille Edith Hamilton, a highly respected school teacher from Trail, B.C. His birth dated to Oct. 2, 1910, and he passed away March 16, 2006, having celebrated his 95th birthday the previous autumn.

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As of 1970, there were 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren in the Fugina family.

Research sources for the Fugina family history included old newspaper clippings and the Find a Grave database. A special thanks goes out to the Creston Museum in B.C. for its research assistance.

Old fashioned log cabin with wooden bench in front – heading for Frontier Canadian Recollections

Pioneer rancher and hotelkeeper Cole Sedgewick

One of the less chronicled but very interesting pioneers from the long-ago pages of our local history was Cole F. Sedgewick (circa 1878 -1931). Although he had hard luck in terms of his ranching and family background, his perseverance won him accolades from friends and neighbours.

Ranching and business ventures

Cole Sedgewick was born in rural Montana. There is some disagreement as to his birth year. The Dominion of Canada Census for 1911 lists it as 1878, while his obituary from 1931 indicates that he was only 48 years of age when he passed away. That would have made his year of birth 1883.

Such discrepancies are commonplace in old-time data and are challenges for both the local historian and the genealogist.

Sedgewick’s family ancestry was English, and he had two brothers. His parents were involved in the ranching industry and hotel business south of the line. They operated three hotels in different Montana centres during the frontier era.

Building upon those life experiences, Sedgewick came north to the Lundbreck area in 1899. According to the 1911 Dominion of Canada Census he became a British subject three years later. He established a ranch just a short distance from this agricultural and coal mining settlement.


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This was in the year following completion of the Crowsnest line of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Within a few short years, he had built up a large cattle herd and the ranch flourished.

However, a severe snowstorm during the winter of 1910 spelled disaster, as most of his cattle were wiped out. The resulting financial setback forced Sedgewick to give up his ranching venture.

Disappointed but not prepared to give up on southern Alberta, our ever-resourceful pioneer headed to Lethbridge for a short period, where he pursued business options. He soon ventured west, however, settling in the coal mining town of Blairmore, the heart of the Crowsnest Pass. There he purchased a hotel, which he operated until 1923.

Building upon his business experiences at his Lundbreck ranch, Sedgewick secured a thriving trade for the hotel. The mines often were busy and the hotel was located close to the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks, which saw near continuous passenger and freight traffic.


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


B.C. commercial activities

After more than a decade in the midst of the Pass, Sedgewick took on another business venture, this time adjacent to Kootenay Lake in southern British Columbia.

Building upon the business contacts he had made many years earlier in Lethbridge, he attempted to organize an oil company for these entrepreneurs. In spite of their best efforts, the venture did not get off the ground, but within two years Sedgewick had secured a short-lived position with the Canadian Oil Co.

This position was successful due to Sedgewick’s organizational skills. He secured new capital and combined it with the monies of the Canadian Oil Co. to establish the Kootenay Oil Co. His efforts resulted in his being appointed its general manager, a job he held until 1928.

That year Shell Oil bought out the smaller corporation, but Sedgewick continued his work for another 12 months, resigning in 1929.


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Not content to retire from business life, Cole Sedgewick acquired the Pitner’s Café in early 1931, renaming it the Plaza. His wife, Lois, took on active management of the business. However, disaster struck just a few weeks later, in March, when Cole passed away unexpectedly. He had been ill for only a short time.

The former Lois Porter, whom he married in July 1925, was Sedgewick’s second wife. Little is known of his first wife, other than she was born in 1878. Official records list her only by her first initial of “W.” She passed away while the couple resided on their Lundbreck area ranch, following several years of poor health.

Socially, Sedgewick was a member of the Presbyterian Church. He also was active in the Independent Order of Oddfellows when he resided in Blairmore, and later in the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks when working in Nelson, B.C.


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


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Old fashioned log cabin with wooden bench in front – heading for Frontier Canadian Recollections

Pincher Creek winter weather extremes

The cold snaps experienced early this winter offer us a glimpse into those changeable winter weather patterns of the past. A look back to the winter of 1917-18 provides a few local illustrations of the volatile weather conditions to which we begrudgingly have become accustomed.

Winter weather for Christmas 1917

According to the old records, Christmas 1917 dawned cold and was accompanied by fairly high snowfalls. The coldest was the morning of Christmas Eve, when the temperature dipped down to 26 degrees below 0 Fahrenheit. Overnight temperatures remained almost that cold for the next four nights, and daytime readings fluctuated between –11 and 20 degrees on the old scale.

Meteorological notes indicate that seven inches of snow fell during those five days, and local press reports indicate that the snowfall was widespread throughout southwestern Alberta.



A chinook rolled into town one day

In typical local fashion, everything changed virtually overnight.

On Saturday, Dec. 29, 1917, one of Pincher Creek’s infamous and most welcome chinooks blew fiercely into town. The temperature rose dramatically. Registering a cold 0 as the day’s low, it rose a tremendous 52 degrees by 8 p.m. that evening.

The editor of the pioneer press reported that water was running down Main Street by early Saturday morning and that locals, concerned about a possible flood, were clearing obstructions away from the street drains. By evening, most of the snow had melted but everything was one massive mud hole.


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The warm weather continued until January 1918, and within 24 hours of the initial warming trend, the streets in town had virtually dried out. Our pioneers knew they could never underestimate the power of those westerly winds.

Even in the country, the conditions were thawing out. As early as noon on that changeable Saturday, motorists were able to come into town from points as far south as Twin Butte. This was no mean feat, given motor vehicle technology as well as the road conditions of the time, aided and abetted by the heavy snow that had built up the previous month.

A March storm blew in

Local temperatures made the usual winter fluctuations during the rest of January and February. Late in February, another storm blew into the Pincher Creek area, and, although temperatures still hovered in the 10 to 20 F range, this weather change was noted more for its snowfalls and gusty winds.


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On Feb. 24, just under a foot of snow fell in town and, according to local folklore, up to eight additional inches fell in the foothills and mountains. The following two days the winds picked up to gale force, and the press reported that at times it was nearly impossible to see across any street in town due to the blowing snow.

By 9 p.m. on the 26th, the winds had died down and the snow-covered landscape had changed significantly in typical Pincher Creek fashion: there were wide areas where the ground was swept bare of snow, yet in the sheltered areas there were high, deeply crusted drifts.

Located in great numbers throughout the countryside, these drifts made travel difficult. Bus connections with the trails at Pincher Station had great difficulty in travelling back and forth, and reportedly got stuck on a regular basis.


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Conditions to the west and south of town told similar stories. Large drifts that accumulated along Lang’s Coulee as well as at Mountain Mill made it very difficult to reach Beaver Mines for several days, and blizzard conditions at Waterton Lakes virtually closed down activity there.

The only saving grace was that the storm did not block rail traffic along the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Crowsnest line: the trains had enough power to get through the drifting snow.

As we now watch the current winter weather unfold, we are reminded that Pincher Creek’s very changeable weather patterns truly have not changed all that much over the years.





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