Skip to main content

Tag: Pincher Creek History

Kenzie Stewart of Crowsnest Pass competes in butterfly at the Pincher Creek Dolphins swim meet

Shootin’ the Breeze – July 17, 2024

Discover the top headlines from Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass. Stay up to date with local news and events in your community.

This week’s headlines:

Emergency crews respond swiftly to wind turbine fire

Alberta’s general surgery is at a tipping point, with lives on the line says AMA

Grizzly bears back in crosshairs as Alberta lifts hunting ban in select cases

Weathering the elements: extreme summer weather in southwestern Alberta

Fire restrictions in effect with ban in Forest Protection Area

Tribute to Dennis Novak of Eden’s Funeral Home

The butterfly effect – Dolphins’ swim meet

Heed the heat – tips to keep dogs cool and hydrated

Opinion: When is a grizzly hunt not a grizzly hunt

Heavy Airship set to land hard at the Empress

Meet your backyard neighbours

Obituary: Robert (Bob) Edward O’Brien

Celebration of life: Dana Hungar

Pincher Creek Humane Society Pet of the Week

Town of Pincher Creek events and notifications

Frontier Canadian Recollections – Pincher Creek’s exciting 1928 baseball season

Plus local events, contests, concerts, community notices, job opportunities, service directory, Coffee Break puzzles and general information for Pincher Creek, Crowsnest Pass and Piikani Nation.

Owen Crow Shoe of Pincher Creek rides his horse as parade marshal leading the Calgary Stampede parade on the front page of the July 10, 2024, issue of Shootin' the Breeze

Shootin’ the Breeze – July 10, 2024

Get the scoop on what’s happening in Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass. Stay informed about local news, events, and community projects.

This week’s headlines:

Owen Crow Shoe rides as Stampede parade marshal

Piikani Nation RCMP looking for suspect in aggravated assault

Pincher Creek musician Aly Williams drops first single from mountaintop

Pincher Creek Swimming Pool celebrates 25th anniversary

Alberta commits millions to methane reduction

Co-op cybersecurity incident impacts local shelves

Town, MD of Pincher Creek residents urged to conserve water as heat wave envelops province

Acceptance and strength sewn into works of local artisan Laurel Francis

Editorial: Rekindling the news flame

Editorial: Calgary Stampede recollections

Embrace Summer feature section

Geat ready for the heatwave

Try a digital detox this summer

MD of Pincher Creek sponsoring free Weeds and Wildflowers guided walks

A taste of summer

Obituary: Gertrude Welsch

Obituary: James Tillack

Celebration of life: Dana Hungar

Pincher Creek Humane Society Pet of the Week

Town of Pincher Creek events and notifications

Frontier Canadian Recollections – Chronicles of Pincher Creek area’s gas industry Part 2

Plus local events, contests, concerts, community notices, job opportunities, service directory, Coffee Break puzzles and general information for Pincher Creek, Crowsnest Pass and Piikani Nation.

Front page of July 3, 2024, issue of Shootin' the Breeze – two young girls in Canada Day photo booth at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek

Shootin’ the Breeze – July 3, 2024

Discover what’s happening in Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass including Canada Day photos, local council concerns and community projects.

This week’s headlines:

Celebrating Canada Day in style

Pincher Creek town council raises concerns over provincial legislation

Pincher Creek Emergency Services receives vehicle donation from Plains Midstream

Key takeaways from the 2024 Alberta Energy Outlook

A conversation with new NDP leader Naheed Nenshi about rural interests

My Little Corner – Catching up with Jess

Breeze Mailbox – Crowsnest resident wants cyclists to be more courteous

Summer bike safety with local fire chief

Crownsest Pass to see trail improvements this summer

Fawn season is here in Pincher Creek: town issues safety advisory

Embrace volunteerism this summer

Crowsnest Conservation completes Bee Aware project

Heritage Acres needs helping hands

Peter Van Bussel urges fellow grads to stay authentic and unique

Silver Reins 4-H Club hosts 31st annual achievement day

Celebrating the spirit of community: the significance of powwows

Tips for keeping off-road vehicles safe this summer

Frontier Canadian Recollections – Chronicles of Pincher Creek area’s gas industry Part 1

Obituary: James Tillack

Plus local events, contests, concerts, community notices, job opportunities, service directory, Coffee Break puzzles and general information for Pincher Creek, Crowsnest Pass and Piikani Nation.

Front page of June 26, 2024, issue of Shootin' the Breeze — Jasper and Jameson Patrick, dressed in Indigenous grass dance regalia, carry a yellow flage with red Napi Friendship Association logo and orange Every Child Matters flag, open Indigenous Peoples Day powwow at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek.

Shootin’ the Breeze – June 26, 2024

There are great celebrations and activities planned for Canada Day in Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass — get the scoop on page 12!

This week’s headlines:

Pincher Creek honours Indigenous Peoples Day with community at the heart

Demonstrating cultural pride

Walk and powwow honour Indigenous culture and heritage

Teens successfully complete Fire Academy

Crowsnest council to curb corner visibility obstructions

Editorial: Jaunty Journo Jargon

Local Co-op gets a new look, continues to invest in community

Opinion: Town of Pincher Creek ARO responsibilities

Opinion: Bully for the blackbirds: inspiration from nature

Naheed Nenshi elected new NDP leader

Marigolds and sunflowers, Part II

Thank you, Crowsnest Pass Medical Clinic

The life and times of frontiersman Charles Vent

Tim Isberg to kick off Fort Macleod’s 150th

Obituary: Melvin Toews

Obituary: Rocky Blakeman

Plus local events, contests, concerts, community notices, job opportunities, service directory, 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.

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.

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.

Ad for Creekview Dental Hygiene clinic in Pincher Creek

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.

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

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.

Ad for Sara Hawthorn, Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass realtor

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.

Black Alberta cowboy John Ware.

From cowboys to businesswomen: celebrating local Black history this Juneteenth

In 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, ending the previously legal practice of slavery in America. The end of the horrific practice is celebrated each year on Juneteenth, commemorating when Union soldiers arrived in Texas on June 19, 1865, freeing those who had not yet been released due to Confederate control.

John Ware

Upon freedom, many formerly enslaved individuals left to start new lives, with some coming up to the local area, such as southwestern Alberta’s famous Black cowboy, John Ware.

“He would probably have been a horseman on whatever plantation or farm he had worked on during slavery,” says Gord Tolton, education co-ordinator at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek.

Horseman work was quite in demand during that time period, so Ware found work along several northbound trails, ending up in the Montana area.

Tolton notes that about one in six north-travelling cowboys at that time were Black and that Ware stood out because of his size and ability to learn new skills.

Ad for Vape in Pincher Creek

“When he first started, he couldn’t even afford a pair of boots,” says Tolton. “He learned how to save up and buy the right gear to do this.”

In the early 1880s, Ware was contracted to deliver cattle into southern Alberta for the Northwest Cattle Co. and was then offered a position at the ranch.

Though racial tensions and racism were deeply present in society, Tolton says Ware was respected by the local ranchers for his skills. However, Ware reportedly had to avoid urban areas such as Calgary because of the rampant racism, and was once stopped by police and told he would have to travel around the city rather than through it.

Black Alberta cowboy and rancher John Ware with his wife Mildred and children Robert and Nettie in about 1896.

Black Alberta cowboy and rancher John Ware with his wife Mildred and children Robert and Nettie in about 1896.

“John Ware, rancher, with wife Mildred and children Robert and Nettie in southern Alberta”, [ca. 1896], (CU1107289) by Unknown. Courtesy of Glenbow Library and Archives Collection, Libraries and Cultural Resources Digital Collections, University of Calgary.

Ware eventually bought his own land and cattle and married Mildred, a Black woman from the Crowsnest Pass area. The two had children who lived in the Vulcan area for many years.

Ware was killed when his horse stumbled on a badger hole, falling on top of him and crushing his ribcage.

“He was a great legacy,” says Tolton, noting that the locals remembered him for what he could do as a cowboy and rancher. “He was an embodiment of the Alberta spirit.”

Ware was an independent man who was able to pick himself up from harsh beginnings to learn, creating a legacy of himself despite the challenges of racism and enslavement.



York, William Bond, Henry Mills and Charlie Dyson

Though he is perhaps the most famous, Ware was not the first Black cowboy in the region.

“There were Black people working in the fur trade prior to Ware, going back to the 1860s,” says Tolton.

An enslaved man named York was perhaps the first Black man in the area and was revered by the local Indigenous communities.

In the 1870s, several Black men came up to work in the whisky trade. William Bond was one of these men, exchanging buffalo for whisky and other goods, and operating his own post.

Bond was later arrested by RCMP, along with his boss and others involved. His boss paid fines for the release of everyone except Bond, who spent several months in prison in Fort Macleod for racially motivated reasons.

“He escaped one day during the winter, he was shot at by one of the Mountie sentries, and nobody ever found any trace of him for the longest time,” says Tolton. He was later discovered to have died of exposure.

Bond had an unidentified brother who also worked in the whisky trade.


Dave Mills, son of Black Alberta fur trader Henry Mills, with his Kainai wife.

Dave Mills, son of Black Alberta fur trader Henry Mills, with his Kainai wife.

Photo courtesy of Pincher Creek and District Historical Society

Another historical figure in the area was Henry Mills, a fur trader who worked for the American Fur Co. in North Dakota and later travelled up the Missouri River. He brought his family to southwestern Alberta, where some of his sons married into the local Blood Tribe.

The town of Pincher Creek itself carries the history of two notable Black business owners, Charlie Dyson and Annie Saunders.

Dyson had a blacksmith shop just off Main Street in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


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


Annie Saunders

Saunders was born in 1836 in the United States and was married and widowed before making her way to Alberta. She contributed immeasurably to the local community, despite obvious barriers as a Black woman in the 1800s.

Laurel Francis, a Kootenai Brown volunteer, local artist and business owner, has taken this historical figure on as her own for historical re-enactments, and emphasizes just how incredible she was.

“We may have been considered free but that didn’t mean we could get jobs and support ourselves,” said Francis in a historical re-enactment of Saunders.

Saunders was working as a steward on a steamboat when she met newlywed Mary Macleod. The two got on very well, and Macleod asked Saunders to come back to Canada with her to care for her kids.

Saunders moved with the family to Pincher Creek, and started several businesses in the community.


Black businesswoman Annie Saunders of Pincher Creek.

Black businesswoman Annie Saunders of Pincher Creek.“Old Auntie,” ca. 1890, [NA-742-4] by E.M. Wilmot. Courtesy of Glenbow Western Research Centre, Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary.

“She found a need, and she filled the need,” says Francis.

The community needed child care, so she cared for children. People liked her food, so she started a restaurant. Kids needed a place to stay after school when they couldn’t go home on snowy nights, so she started a boarding house. People didn’t want to do their laundry, so she opened a Main Street business to do it for them.

“Not only was she an entrepreneur, people found her safe,” Francis says. “They found her safe with their kids. She just broke down barriers and had a big sense of humour.”

She went by Auntie, a self-given nickname that Francis notes as being very clever and calculated.

“There’s a lot of other names you can be called. There’s a strength in that you claim your own name,” she says.


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


This not only showed the community how friendly she was, but it also told people to call her something that wasn’t the N-word.

“She was a smart woman who knew the only way to get by. ‘Call me auntie.’ And she picked her own name,” Francis says.

Auntie Saunders was a literate woman, a big thing for her time. The history of her upbringing and education is not clear, but it’s possible she learned while enslaved as a “house slave,” like caring for children.

She encountered lots of prejudice when in the area, with organizations such as the Woman’s Institute trying to keep her out with articles saying she wasn’t wanted here.

But Auntie Saunders was also documented in newspaper archives, detailing her acceptance and the extent of her local contributions.

“For her to take on all of the opportunities that she created is huge,” says Francis. “I think that there was an adventurous spirit in there that I really love about her. That’s a real big strength.”



For the local community, she left behind a legacy of acceptance.

To Francis, the fact that she is not talked about as “the Black person” but rather as a member of the community was a huge contribution when there was such a feeling of separateness.

“She was accepting of people’s foibles, obviously, or she couldn’t have done what she did. The fact that people still talk about her today I think is amazing,” Francis says.

“It’s just a simple person. From just teaching kids, being a nanny, making food, having dances at her establishment, doing laundry and all those things show that simple people can make huge differences in communities. Forget about their colour, their ethnicity, whatever. You can make a difference.”



Related story | Town council to name future street after Annie Saunders



Man with his arm around smiling woman kisses her on the side of the head in the doorway of a barn.

Front page of June 19, 2024, issue of Shootin' the Breeze with 3-year-old Holly Hays on horseback at Pincher Creek Kids Rodeo

Shootin’ the Breeze – June 19, 2024

Special Feature: Class of 2024, graduates of Matthew Halton High School, St. Michael’s School, Livingstone School, Piikani Nation Secondary School and Crowsnest Consolidated High School

This week’s headlines:

From cowboys to businesswomen: celebrating local Black history this Juneteenth

Pincher Creek town council hosts open house, connecting with residents on top-of-mind issues

Women’s shelter highlights donations and strategic growth at AGM

Controversial ‘energy war room’ shut down: money and mandate to go elsewhere

Memorial service will mark 110th anniversary of Hillcrest Mine Disaster

Highway 22 collision leads to arrests

Tip results in drug changes in Piikani Nation

Ready to ride

Meet new MD councillor Jim Welsch

Crowsnest Pass Health Foundation presents $2,800 50-50 cheque

Filipino community celebrates Philippine Independence Day in Pincher Creek

Holy Spirit School Division superintendent Ken Sampson will be missed

Volunteer efforts key to successful Reuse and Recycle Fair

Caption contest winner

Coming up roses at the Lebel Mansion

Frontier Recollections: Pioneers with business and homesteading origins

Snodgrass Funeral Home kicks off annual flower barrel contest

Mobile mammography service to visit Glenwood


Plus local events, contests, concerts, community notices, job opportunities, service directory, obituary for Vicky Miller, Coffee Break puzzles and general information for Pincher Creek, Crowsnest Pass and Piikani Nation.

Historical Dodge D600 fire truck, which had served both the Pincher Creek and Cowley fire departments before being retired and sold multiple times over the years.

Bring It Home: Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village seeks community support to preserve Pincher Creek’s firefighting heritage

Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village is seeking support from the community to fund its new project, Bring It Home. This project will repurpose an existing building to house a new fire hall, showcasing the region’s rich history of firefighting and emergency services. The journey began in October 2022 when Dylan Yanke, a firefighter from Pincher Creek, stumbled upon a significant piece of local history — a Dodge D600 fire truck for sale near Sundre. Originally purchased by the Pincher Creek fire department in 1967, it had served both the Pincher Creek and Cowley fire departments before being retired and sold multiple times over the years.

Recognizing its historical significance, Yanke decided that the truck had to return to its original home. He contacted fellow firefighter Will Thorpe, and soon after, senior firefighter Lynn Roberts joined the effort. Together, they purchased it in January 2023.

“I have always wanted to get an older truck,” shares Roberts, a seasoned firefighter with 30 years of service in Olds and Pincher Creek. “When we found this truck, which is an original Pincher Creek fire truck, my partners and I felt it was important to return this classic piece of equipment to its home,” he tells Shootin’ the Breeze. Reflecting on the truck’s historical features, Roberts describes its versatile capabilities: “The front-mount pump is quite significant. You could suck out of a dugout with it, or hook up to a hydrant and flow water.”

After the truck’s restoration, the trio approached KBPV, offering to donate it. The Pincher Creek and District Historical Society, which oversees the museum, saw this as an opportunity to provide a comprehensive exhibit highlighting the evolution of firefighting in the area, so that it could be seen and appreciated by others. For this, the society has proposed building Fire Hall No. 1. This will display the fire truck as the centrepiece, as well as a range of other firefighting artifacts.

Ad for Ascent Dental in Pincher Creek

The Dodge pumper will join a 1900s-era original horse-drawn ladder truck and hose reel, and other uniforms, tools, and artifacts to tell the story of emergency services and the history of firefighting in Pincher Creek, says Gord Tolton, education co-ordinator at KBPV. “Fire has played a significant role in shaping the history of Pincher Creek, with numerous landmark fires affecting the community over the years,” Tolton says. “From the early days of volunteer firefighters responding to calls with horse-drawn equipment, to the modern full-time fire service, the exhibit will trace the evolution of firefighting techniques and technologies.” 

The exhibit will also highlight the dedicated individuals who have served as fire chiefs and firefighters, many of whom were volunteers, he adds.

The project is set to be a focal point for community engagement and education.


Also read | Wildfire safety procedures from AltaLink


“The goal is to create an immersive and educational experience that brings to life the history of firefighting in Pincher Creek,” Tolton says.

To make Fire Hall No. 1 a reality, the historical society has already begun fundraising efforts. It has planned several events and opportunities for people to participate and support the Bring It Home project.

The fundraising kicks off with a major event planned for Father’s Day on June 16. Fire Drill will feature EMS-inspired relay races open to all members of the community.

In this event, teams of five have been invited to a timed relay race based on activities that a firefighter may have to perform during an emergency. It will include a bucket brigade, a target to knock over with water from a pressurized hose and other challenges. 

The entry fee for a team is $50. Participants are divided into two categories: youth (10 to 15 years old) and adults (16 and older).

“Anyone can enter a team. The funds raised will go towards the development of Fire Hall No. 1 and the exhibit,” Tolton emphasizes.

Ad for Shadowbar Shepherds Training in Pincher Creek

In addition to the Father’s Day event, the historical society is hosting an outdoor concert at the KBPV on Aug. 10. Award-winning country music entertainer Trevor Panczak will headline the show.

The aim of the concert is to generate additional funding for the proposed structure, and the society invites the community to support it in several ways. Purchasing a $35 ticket to attend the concert is one way to do this.

Additionally, the society is seeking sponsorships from businesses.

“We are asking for a $250 donation to assist us with covering all expenses associated with the concert. You will be issued a tax receipt and two tickets to the concert in appreciation of your donation,” the society states on its website.

Individuals can also contribute by purchasing a brick for $250. The brick will be inscribed with the purchaser’s name and placed permanently in Fire Hall No. 1.

People can also buy 50-50 tickets for $5 each.

“This draw will run until December. Interested persons can buy tickets at the events or the museum,” the society says.

Bring It Home represents a significant step forward in preserving and interpreting the history of Pincher Creek. By creating this dedicated exhibit, Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village is ensuring that future generations will have the opportunity to learn about and appreciate the vital role that firefighting and emergency services have played in the community.

This project not only preserves the past but also keeps Pincher Creek’s history relevant and engaging. As the fire hall exhibit takes shape, it promises to be a testament to the community’s resilience and a celebration of the men and women who have dedicated their lives to protecting it.

Ad for Dragons Heart Quilt Shop in Pincher Creek
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.

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

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.

Ad for Blinds and More in Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass

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.

Ad for Aurora Eggert Coaching in Beaver Mines

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.




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.



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.



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.



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.

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.



Farley Wuth, man with long grey beard and sideburns, dark-rimmed glasses and brown bowler hat, holds a cup of coffee.

Join Farley Wuth for Coffee with the Curator

If you’ve ever met Farley Wuth, curator of Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek, you know he’s the closest thing you’ll find to a human encyclopedia on the history of southwestern Alberta.

Farley has been a wealth of knowledge in his role for just over 25 years, and now people have the opportunity to sit down with him and pick his brain, while sharing their own recollections of the region’s history.

The first Coffee With Our Curator event, a series of informal discussions with Farley about a plethora of local historical topics, was held Sept. 12 at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village. Each month, the museum will host one of these sit-down conversations, featuring a new topic every session.

According to Farley, these discussions are meant to be a two-way dialogue between himself and participants eager to learn about local history and share their own knowledge and recollections.

“It’s a new way of engaging the public in local history, getting them to come to the museum and get them thinking about these topics,” he says.

The first session revolved around the region’s early explorers and how they shaped the land. Two sets of explorers were discussed — official and unofficial. 



Official explorers consisted mostly of men sent by the Canadian or British governments to identify the agricultural potential of the West. Unofficial explorers are those who came on their own, with Farley referring to them as “renegade frontiersmen.” 

The discussion group also explored how the land’s Indigenous Peoples ensured the survival of these men. 

This conversation will be followed up each month with a new topic to ensure that conversations stay fresh. Topics include early Pincher Creek pioneers, railway settlements, early ranchers of the area and more. 

The hope is that these informal yet informative dialogues will increase public interest in local history while fostering recollections that can provide insights into the area’s past.

The series will run until May, before taking a break for the summer. If the program proves popular enough, the plan is for Coffee With Our Curator to return in the fall of 2024. 

Regardless of what the future holds, Farley is thrilled for this opportunity to sit down with locals and engage them about the early history of Pincher Creek and surrounding areas.

“I always find it very exciting to have discussions with local residents, descendants of the pioneers and people who have come more recently and are finding out what their interests are in the local history,” he says. 

Each monthly sit-down will run from 1 to 3 p.m. and will be hosted in Pioneer Place at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village. The gatherings are free to attend.

Visit the Kootenai Brown website for dates, topics and additional info.

Any questions can be directed to KBPV by phone at 403-627-3684 or by email.



Header for Frontier Canadian Recollections Column with Kootenai Brown's cabin and man in bowler hat

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.

Early adventures

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.


Shootin' the Breeze connection to more local stories


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.

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

Documents shed new light on early Pincher Creek ranches

Many locals are keenly aware of the varied and rich agricultural heritage that has blessed the Pincher Creek area for nearly a century and a half. Yet our historical research here at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village has uncovered old promotional materials from the late 1880s that shed some new light on the nature of some of the early family ranches.

Let’s have a look at a few of those early ranching operations.


Ad requesting memorabilia from CNP music festival


Excellent stock-raising area

The promotional literature made note of the excellent stock-raising attributes of the Pincher Creek area. Initial concerns that this district was too close to the mountains, thereby endangering ranching operations through a lack of open rangeland accompanied by heavy winter snowfalls, proved to be largely erroneous.

Early experiences established, with a few exceptions such as the harsh blizzards of 1886-87, that the local winters were not plagued with large snow accumulations. The large grazing areas indeed were a blessing for the early ranchers.

Promotional campaigns made note of the abundance of the local rivers and creeks, which provided adequate water for stock raising. The ranching potential along the South, Middle and North forks of the Oldman River, including those tributaries such as Todd and Ross creeks, was emphasized.

Pincher, Mill and Halifax creeks also were heralded as excellent year-round water sources for those looking for early endeavours raising cattle and horses. The southwest was a ranching paradise second to none.



Butte Ranch partnership

One of the earliest cattle operations established in the Pincher Creek vicinity was the Butte Ranch, originally connected with pioneer Frederick W. Godsal.

This ranching giant later went into partnership with a Mr. Allfrey (of whom we now know little; he seems to have disappeared into the pages of history) and Lionel Brooke, our area’s most infamous remittance man. Brooke later bought out most of the ranch from Allfrey and Godsal.

Situated adjacent to the South Fork, the ranch was enhanced by many improvements over the years. By February 1888, it was “well provided with good stables and sheds” as well as two fresh-water wells. Much of the ranch was fenced, and Brooke had built up the cattle herd to include 200 head of stock, bred by polled Angus bulls.

In spite of Brooke’s lack of hands-on ranching experience, the Butte Ranch did flourish during those early years.



South Fork Ranch envied by many

By the late 1880s, F.W. Godsal also was connected with his nearby South Fork Ranch. It was publicly touted as being “one of the best-improved in the country.”

Godsal, considered one of the premier ranchers attached to the southwestern corner of the Canadian Prairies, had painstakingly changed the system by which he had ranched. After a few years of practical experience, he had come to the conclusion that there was more financial profit in ranching with smaller numbers of cattle, well cared for, than having a large herd that had to be left to the uncertainties of the open range.

His cattle on the South Fork Ranch numbered an annual average of 400, which Godsal maintained provided easy access to those animals that were weak and needed veterinary attention. Feed, primarily alfalfa and timothy (which too were raised on the ranch) was readily available during the cold, snow-filled weeks of winter.

The ranch numbered over 5,000 acres in size, most of which was unfenced pastureland.


Shootin' the Breeze ad for free trial subscription


The modern South Fork Ranch buildings were the envy of many a non-local rancher. The well-constructed main ranch house utilized local logs, and was designed to withstand the massive weather fluctuations so common to the area. Inside, the structure consisted of a parlour, a kitchen, a pantry and two bedrooms.

Surrounding the house was a fenced yard, a portion of which was cultivated for a garden. Nearby was a second house, measuring 18 by 20 feet, which was for the ranch hands.

The outbuildings included a large barn, half of which was used for the horses and a harness room. The second half of this 30-by-40-foot log structure was for the calves.

An extensive system of corrals and sheds complemented the ranch operation. The arrangements well suited the ever-particular Godsal.



Clear Water Ranche and French Flats

The Clear Water Ranche was located at French Flats, near the present village of Cowley, close to a mile and a half from the South Fork. French Flats derived its name early in our settlement history as a result of the large number of French Canadian and Métis families who settled there in order to take up ranching.

The Clear Water was operated under a partnership of Jones and Sharpe, two pioneers in their own right. The ranch was well known locally for its extensive cattle and horse breeding operations. The horse stock was being improved with two Clydesdale stallions named Atlas and Prince.

On the ranch, nearly 320 acres was fenced, most of which was utilized as pasture. Also grown was an annual allotment of 1,100 bushels of grain and smaller amounts of timothy.



The ranch buildings were extensive and well utilized. Featured was a log stable measuring 30 by 40 feet and complete with a loft. Farther down the yard were several outbuildings highlighted by a solid granary, a cow stable measuring 160 feet in length, and several sheds.

A solidly constructed 50-by-18-foot house, expanded during the summer of 1888, complemented the ranch buildings.

The Jones and Sharpe partnership worked well: the Clear Water Ranche was a flourishing success.

Each of these agricultural entities was well known for its cattle and horses.



Local Stories Obituaries Story Idea?
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.



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.



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.



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.



More Local Stories