Agriculture and related services

pg 28 More Big Hill Country 2009

When the CPR line arrived in Cochrane in 1883, United Grain Growers built and operated a Grain Elevator beside it. United Grain Growers operated this elevator until the 1960’s when it was purchased by Parrish and Heimbecker. They ran the elevator until it burned down on February 14, 1981. Some of the Agents that worked in the Grain Elevator were Bob McKnight, Jack McLeod. Malcolm “Mac” Kopas and Harvey Thompson. 


Due to the large numbers of cattle being raised in the country, stockyards were built near the train tracks and the local ranchers and farmers trailed their cattle and horses there to be bought, sold, or shipped by rail. There were also stockyards at Mitford, on the south side of the Bow River where cattle were shipped from as late as the early 1940s. Crossing the river with cattle was always a difficult and dangerous job, so the trains loaded the cattle from the Mitford site. In the late 1940s trucks began to appear that could handle trucking to the Calgary Stockyards. 


In 1909 there was an auctioneer business run by King and Bevan and by 1911, it was called King and Webster. Then in 1913, W.A. Mackenzie offered auctioneer services. Joe Taylor was auctioneering in 1924 and by 1946, Ed Thompson was offering his services in this business. 

Farm Machinery 

Records show that C.W. Fisher and Alex McEwan were selling Farm machinery soon after the turn of the 20th Century. This was horse-drawn equipment like wagons, plows, hay mowers, and hay rakes. Russell Webster took over Fisher’s machinery lines in 1909 but Val Fisher kept the Cockshutt Line and McEwan handled Massey Harris, a Canadian company. Robert Butler succeeded Webster with McCormick and Deering, Frost and Wood, and the Oliver dealership. Robert Butler also handled Union Oil and Gas, which later became British American oil and gas. 

Tractors were becoming popular as well as grain binders and threshing machines so in 1916, a local blacksmith George Hope, acquired a John Deere franchise. Robert Young bought the International dealerships. McCormick and Deering from Bob Hogarth in 1932. Bob Hogarth had succeeded R. Butler. 

Whittle Implements was the International Harvester Dealer for farm machinery and repairs  

Veterinary Services 

There were no veterinary services available in Cochrane for many years however at times if things were needed the Drugstore kept a small supply of medicine for emergency needs. Many supplies were purchased from Eaton’s Catalogue and during the early years Veterinary Care was serviced from the Animal Clinic in Calgary and later Dr. Brian Edge built the Rockyview Animal Clinic. Dr. Quine did some work from his farm on the south west side of the steel bridge over the Bow River. The first vets in the Cochrane area had a large area to cover but certainly were a welcomed help at the farm gate when needed. 

Brickyards and Stone Quarries 

The Big Hill Country had many sandstone quarries in the early years and many of the buildings in downtown Calgary are built with this sandstone. The Shelley Quarry Company opened in 1908 and during 1911 to 1913, three quarries were operating up the valley of Big Hill Creek. Shelley Quarry sandstone was shipped to Calgary for finishing at the Headquarters of the Company. The sandstone was also sent to other parts of Alberta for use in buildings. The Glenbow Quarry was operating around the turn of the twentieth century and the Legislature Building and Government House in Edmonton are both constructed of sandstone from the Glenbow and Cochrane Quarries The quality of the sandstone was excellent and the quarries in the area provided much needed work for many immigrants in the early days. 

In 1891, Tom Cochrane established a brickyard at Mitford which he ran for a little over a year. In the late 1890s Mr. Little established a brickyard and Pete Collins took it over, building the first kiln in 1902. Collins brickyard shut down during WW1 but 

reopened after the war in 1918 and operated into the 1920s. The French Brickyard was established by E. Perrenoud and J. Boudreau in 1904. Gabriel Bruel bought them out a short time later. In 1914, Mr. Bruel and most of his employees were called back to France to serve in the army. The brickyard was shut down and did not reopen. Then in 1910, Mr. Quigley started a brickyard however it went bankrupt before World War I in 1914.

In 1911, J. Murphy and Mr. Loder established the Cochrane Brick Company and Charlie Burnham bought them out. This brickyard was situated near the intersection of the present Highway 22 and 1A (in south west corner). After the war new sources of Brick were found nearer to Calgary and the brick business in Cochrane ceased. 

Coal and Gas 

Tom Cochrane mined some coal on the south side of the Bow River, west of Mitford. This enterprise did not last too long although later the Hozaida mines operated for a few years and the coal was used locally. Some was shipped on the train from Radnor crossing. In 1909, J.D. Curran had a coal mine on the south side of the Bow called Coal Mine Creek. Cochrane’s coal was not of the best grade so many still imported their coal from the Carbon, Drumheller area. As natural gas came in to the town and many of the rural areas, coal was not as widely used. 

Natural Gas was discovered early in the 20th Century in the Jumping Pound area. It was discovered by some early ranchers and researchers thus early drilling began. However, the field was not developed fully for production until the early 1950s. This was a great boon to the town of Cochrane as many employees lived there or in the surrounding districts and more moved in. 

Sawmills and Lumber 

Whenever people build homes they must have a source of lumber. In this area, Morley probably had the first sawmill as Andrew Sibbald, Alberta’s first school teacher, had experience in the sawmill business in Ontario and brought a sawmill to the Morleyville area with him. At Mitford, Tom Cochrane started a sawmill as his first enterprise. This venture lasted from 1886 to 1890. In Cochrane, the Murphy Brothers operated a lumberyard from 1898 until Joe’s death in 1920. Mr. Tom Quigley ran a lumberyard from 1910 until 1913 selling lumber from his mill west of Cochrane. When 

Sid Chester bought the Howard Block in 1913, he operated a lumberyard west of Third Ave West, a half block from First Street. To the west, beyond the Wildcat Hills, the Brooks family still operates a sawmill that started in 1923. It has lasted many generations and is still doing business eighty-five years later. Tom Zuccolo and his family had a small sawmill northwest of Cochrane. They used to bring wood into Cochrane to sell as firewood and they supplied lumber for the Dartique Hall built in 1934. In 1938, Mr. Al Mottet bought a sawmill, and with his brother George they bought a planer and sold lumber until the mid-forties. Other sawmills were located in the Bottrel area including the Buckler Brothers. They ran their mill both on the family farm and in the Deer Springs area as well they cut and peeled poles for Calgary Power in the late 1950s. Also in the 1950s others began sawing and planning lumber including Scott Lumber and J&L Lumber. Mr. A. Scott cut and sawed in the Kananaskis and his planer was in Cochrane where the recently vacated trailer park was located. (Corner of 5th Ave. and Glenbow Drive). About this time Mr. Alex Howes started a sawmill in Grand Valley. By 1950, he and his sons had opened a retain lumberyard in Cochrane. 

They advertised dressed lumber, rough lumber, building blocks, shingles, cement, nails, Monarch Paint, and brushes. In 1974, Dalton and Gloria Gibson purchased the lumberyard and ran it until 1979, they then sold it to a group led by Dr. Urban, from the Bearspaw area. The business was expanded to include a second location in Crossfield. The Cochrane location was discontinued but the lumberyard still operates in Crossfield under the name Howes Bros. in Crossfield. 

In 1974, Spray Lake Sawmills moved into town. Their operation included using the by-products as well as the lumber. The company has a large labour force and is a great asset to the community. In 1973, Cantree Building Supplies was opened by the Dickey Brothers, catering to the needs of the building trade and the urban people. As Cochrane has always served the surrounding farm and ranch community’s needs this business did not last more than 4 or 5 years. 

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