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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.

 

Young girl in multi-coloured jacket and bright pink helmet and ski pants, grins broadly while skating with arms outstretched.

 

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.

 

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

 

Tires on ad for safe winter travel with winter tires from Fountain Tire in Pincher Creek

 

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.

 

Solar panel on ad for Riteline Electric in Pincher Creek

 

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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.

 

Beauty products on ad for Providence Salon & Spa in Pincher Creek

 

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.

 

Bottle of Huckleberry Tea Liqueur against purple background on an ad for Lost Things Distillery in Pincher Creek.

 

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.

 

Gift certificates on ad for Blairmore IGA

 

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.

 

You're in good hands – animated ad for National Newspaper Week

 

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.

 

We got your bumps and bruises covered advertisement for Osa Remedy'sRx in Pincher Creek

 

 

 

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