Jack Pine Savages

by Jean Johnson 

The Jack Pine Savages was a little local club organized by Mrs. Ethel Wynne and named by Guy Gibson. Mrs. Wynne – never called by her first name – was an interesting person. She was artistic, well-read and she had an active mind. She was a staunch Conservative and, at one time, she had taken a great interest in politics. She worked for R. B. Bennett in his successful campaigns of 1925 and 1926, but for some mysterious reason, when he became a leader of the Conservative party of Canada in 1927, she went into what she always called the “Seven Year’s Silence.” 

In 1934, having broken the Seven Year’s Silence and having renewed her correspondence with the “Right Honourable”, she cast about for a cause. In 1934 all the talk was about Social Credit. 

Mrs. Wynne decided to form a club for the purpose of suppressing this upstart idea. So, mounted on her roan pony, Willie, she rode around the neighbourhood and interviewed those she wanted in her club. The idea of a club, an excuse to get together for a social evening, appealed to all of us and we agreed to join. Mrs. Wynne was the president of the Jack Pine Savages, Jean Johnson, the secretary, and Audley Richards, the treasurer. The other members were: Walter Candy, “the common denominator of all Albertans’, Mrs. Jamieson and Sandy, Jack McDonald, Guy Gibson and Maud Lewis King. A rather unlikely group to overthrow anything. 

Throughout all our meetings Social Credit was never mentioned; we decided that the proper procedure was to raise some money. Each member was instructed to arrange an affair at which a silver collection could be taken. Several of us put on dances in our homes, but there was a natural reluctance to pass the hat. The music was free and the ladies brought food – so why charge? 

In the winter of 1935-36, Mrs. Wynne attempted to get up a play with only Jack Pine Savages in the cast. But most of us were rather poor actors so she abandoned that project. 

In 1936 Jean and Laurie Johnson put on the first gymkhana held on the Mount Royal picnic grounds. A picnic for local people, with foot races, jumping and a few horse races, had been a yearly event, but there had never been a full-blown gymkhana such as the one now planned by the Jack Pine Savages. It was decided that the members should ask merchants and others to donate prizes. Walter Candy went to Calgary and returned in triumph with the following loot: twenty subscriptions to the Farm and Ranch Review, a flashlight, a lady’s compact and a dozen tulip bulbs. Jimmie Rodger of Morley Trading donated a pair of stirrups, Laurie browbeat Riley and McCormick into donating a bridle and Tilda Hammond donated a Navajo blanket. Word of the last two prizes generated great excitement and people started training their saddle horses. 

Most of the events were of the traditional type, but Guy Gibson devised a cowboy race in which the rider lay on the ground wrapped in his saddle blanket and his head on his saddle; his horse hobbled nearby. On a signal, he was to arise, unhobble his horse, saddle up and ride to a given point. This race led to a horrible amount of skullduggery. All were supposed to be wrapped in a full-sized blanket which had to be folded up. Some sinners disregarded this rule. Each was required to hobble his horse with a strip torn from gunny sack and tied with a square knot. One malicious character snuck in and wrapped certain knots with stout twine tied in hard knots which couldn’t be untied in half an hour. But, we made some money. The gymkhana was a great success and under other auspices, was carried on for many years. 

In November of 1936, a disastrous fire swept the country south of the Bow River. The Savages unanimously agreed to donate all their funds to help those who were burned out. After that, no more meetings were held. 

Ironically, Social Credit in Alberta outlived all the Jack Pine Savages except three, Audley, Sandy and Jean. 

The Richards Family

by Audley and Jim Richards, as told to Wendy Vaughan

 The Richards Brothers, Bill, James, Albert (Ab), and Dave resided at McLaren’s Depot, Frontenac County, Ontario, where they farmed and ran a general store. 

In 1902 Bill Richards came West to Calgary and went into the sawmill business with a man named George Hatt. The mill was located on the south side of the Stoney Indian Reserve at Morley. That same year Bill Richards wrote his brother, James, asking him to come west and look things over, which he did in 1903. James Richards purchased George Hatt’s interest in the mill at that time, and in 1904 brought his wife, Agnes, and their four children, Audley, Edgar, Hazel and Gladys, West. After their arrival three more children were born to their family; Jim at Morley in 1909, and Agnes and Bill in Calgary in 1911 and 1913, respectively. The two other Richards brothers, Ab and Dave, also came West a little later. 

After buying out George Hatt in 1904, Richards Brothers moved the mill to the north side of the Stoney Indian Reserve near the east end. As their contract with the Indians to supply logs was not panning out, they purchased 12 of Section 23-26-7-5 (north of the Reserve) from the CPR. 

They were about to move the mill to the new timber berth when the Indians decided they wanted them to stay, and so instead in 1905 they moved the mill one mile west of the old site onto a small lake. This new site was the original location of Reverend George McDougall’s first Fort when he moved to Morley. The mounds of the old Fort can still be seen, and the house which the Richards built also still stands there. 

In 1906 the Richards Brothers, James, Dave and Bill, homesteaded some land in the Queenstown area, and in May, 1907, were caught in a severe blizzard at Gleichen while moving two carloads of equipment and horses to the homesteads. The horses were unloaded at Gleichen during the storm which lasted for three days and took a large toll of livestock in the area. At this time the Richards Brothers’ families were living in Calgary as there was no schooling in the Morley area then. 

In 1910 James and Bill Richards formed a company with George Wayman, owner of the City Planing Mills, Calgary, and carried on lumbering, a sash and door business, and contracting. In 1913 they expanded their operation. This was a disastrous move for the company as it came just before the slump of 1914 when

everything came to a standstill. With their lumber business at a low ebb, in 1914 Richards Brothers took on a haying contract at Hussar and put up 500 tons of hay for P. Burns at $2.00 a ton. Machinery for haying was purchased from the Cockshutt Plow Co. and International Harvester Co. Before they could collect their money for the contract they had to buy a baler, bale the hay, and ship it out 12 miles in the spring of 1915. In 1914 when Richards undertook the haying contract, general economic conditions were terrible. For example, while they were taking their wagons and equipment through Calgary on the way to Hussar, hundreds of men out of work tried to jump on the wagons with the hope of getting a job with the outfit. In fact, so many men climbed aboard that they had to be pushed off so the horses could still pull the wagons. Eventually they were all pushed off, except for one man who was so persistent that finally Richards allowed him to stay. This man helped them hay the rest of the summer for only his board and room. 

During 1913 and 1914 Richards Brothers plowed fireguards for the CPR from Radnor (east of Morley) to Seebe. On May 16, 1914, James Richards staked a mining claim in the Clearwater area of the Forest Reserve. John Hunter of Morley and Tom Noble went with him on this venture. The claim, however, was never developed. 

The Company liquidated due to the Depression, and in 1915 James Richards took a contract breaking and farming a quarter section of land west of Langdon owned by his brother Ab. The fall of 1915 he supplied Foulton Brothers of Indus with six teams and bundle racks for their threshing outfit. James’ sons, Audley and Edgar, worked as helpers on this crew, as well as on a crew for Foultons in 1916. During the summers they worked the mill at Morley. 

In 1917 the Richards Brothers contracted to build a barn for Robert (Scotty) White of Indus (later of the Cochrane District). Audley and Ed also worked on this project, and in the summer the brothers again moved back to Morley to work the mill. 

After the Richards Brothers Company liquidated, only James Richards and his family remained in the Morley district, where James continued to run the mill. His wife, Agnes, had passed away in 1914 leaving a family of very young children. During their school years, the children went to various schools in Calgary. Some also attended school on the Reserve and at other times they had a governess right at the mill. Audley recalls a time when he went to school at Victoria School in Calgary, located near the present Calgary Stampede grounds, and that they used to go down to the race track to watch the famous pacing horse, Dan Patch, work out. In 1908, Audley also recalled seeing a type of stampede in Calgary. It was more or less a big roundup of horses and cattle, with a lot of cowboys there riding and roping. 

Many stories could be told of life at the mill. One is recalled when James Richards employed a Chinese cook. This cook would set his fresh baked pies on the window sill of the kitchen to cool. Young Jim and Bill Richards and their friend, Joe Fox, would watch for the cook to go to the spring for water, then would sneak up and steal the cook’s pies off the ledge and run off into the maze of lumber piles to eat their spoil. The cook would return to find some of his fresh pies missing, and would then stand on the kitchen step and look and look, but never caught them. 

In 1918 Audley, the eldest of James Richards’ sons, went to work for Mr. Desjardine of Gleichen when Desjardine moved 500 head of cattle up to Morley. Desjardine had leased the north side of the Stoney Reserve and built a full set of corrals on the north side of the Bow River west of Morley, a location which is still known locally as the “Desjardine Corrals.” The location has also become well known in the film industry as scenes from several movies have been filmed there, including those from “Little Big Man.” Desjardine moved his horses and cattle back to Gleichen in 1919 and Audley, after helping put in the crop in the spring of 1920, quit and came back to Morley just before the mill burned down. 

The mill completely burned down in 1920 shortly after it was started up in the spring. The mill was built to run from steam, had three steam boilers, and was valued at about $20,000. As there was no insurance on it and little was saved, the mill was never rebuilt. 

The summer after the mill burned, Audley and Ed went to work haying for their uncle, Bill Richards, at Irricana. They also did a mile of road grading for him to enable him to work off his land taxes, and in the fall the two brothers 

also helped other farmers in the district threshing. In 1921 Audley and Ed went in on a haying contract which T. J. Noble and Donald Cameron of the McCorkell Place obtained for putting up hay on the Ricks Ranch, southeast of Morley. 

For several winters after the mill burned down, James Richards and sons supplied pilings to Alberta Wood Preservers in Calgary. They took the pilings out of their timber berth during the winter, stockpiled them at the mill site, and in the summer hauled them to Morley where they were put on cars for shipping to Calgary. All of the timber was hauled by horses. In 1924 James and his sons, Audley, Ed and Jim, hauled poles for Calgary Power for the No. 3 Line from Ozada to Chinequay. Audley also had a job stretching wire with a team from Morley to Calgary. Richards had a teepee of their own at this time and used it for camping in while working on their contracts. 

The years following the mill’s burning saw James’ girls, Agnes, Gladys and Hazel all eventually take up permanent residence in Calgary. Hazel married Oscar Beaudry and they had three children, Joan, Victor and Louise. She resided in Calgary until her death in 1957. Gladys worked in Calgary as a legal secretary until her death in 1948. Agnes still resides in Calgary where she has her own dressmaking business. James Richards lived mainly in the Morley and Calgary areas until his death in 1956 at the age of 83. 

In 1930 Ed Richards purchased some land originally belonging to Andrew Sibbald (now a part of the Stah Wapta Ranches) and the four young bachelor brothers resided there much of the time until the late 1930s. James also stayed with the boys until he purchased a section of land directly south of Ed’s and moved there in the early 1930s. He later sold this section to his son, Bill, after Bill returned from the Second World War. Also during the early 1930s Audley, Jim and Bill homesteaded quarters northwest of the Morley Indian Reserve. Jim and his family still live on his homestead where they carry on ranching. 

While the brothers were batching at Ed’s, they raised a number of horses, and broke and sold horses. They also worked out for various local ranchers including Dave McDougall, Jim Boyce (an outfitter in Banff), Tom Noble, Laurie Johnson, and others. Audley, Jim and Bill also made improvements on their homesteads during this period. 

During these years of bachelorhood, the young Richards brothers were dubbed “The Playboys of Poverty Bend” by their local neighbours. The first break-up of the group occurred in 1937 when Jim married Tillie Zuccolo. They met in 1931 when Tillie was teaching the Tom Lauder children. Tom Lauder and his family were working for Laycocks then, and Tillie lived with them and taught the Lauder children from September of 1931 through to January of 1933. The romance did not truly blossom however, until Tillie was teaching Laurie and Jean Johnson’s girls in 1936. 

After Jim and Tillie married they lived on Jim’s homestead. They moved a log cabin which Tillie owned up to the homestead. The cabin had been located on Guy Gibson’s Soldier grant down by the Ghost River. For the next five years they worked in the mountains for Fred Brewster during the summers, and lived on their homestead in the winters. While they worked in the mountains (mainly out of Jasper), Jim acted as a big game guide and Tillie cooked. 

During the 1930s Jim Richards competed in Saddle Bronc Riding at various local rodeos such as Morley, Dog Pound, Sundre and Calgary, He was in the North American Saddle Bronc Riding finals five out of the six years he rode in Calgary, although he was never lucky enough to win the event. Jim recalls that in those days travelling to rodeos did not have all the luxurious conveniences of swift trucks and fancy campers. In 1937 he and Tillie, along with Laurie and Jean Johnson, packed a couple of horses and all rode to Sundre for the rodeo. They camped at Sundre during the rodeo and then packed up and rode home when the show was over. Jim recalls that he won the Saddle Bronc event at Sundre that year and that the total trip took several days. 

Jim and Tillie settled down permanently to ranching in 1943 when their daughter, Wendy, was born. A son, Doug, was born in 1946. Wendy married Walter Vaughan of the Dog Pound area. They now own the Vaughan place east of Bottrel, but having pioneer blood in their veins, they rented the farm out in 1974 and moved to the Bonanza area of the Peace River country to prove up on their homestead land in that area. Doug married Jill Harries of Calgary and they reside in Jim’s place, where they are building a new log house. The lumber being used for their house was planed at Brooks’ sawmill and the planer which Brooks have is the one the Richards brothers had in their mill. Like Jim, Doug has become a bronc rider. He won the Saddle Bronc Riding title in the F.C.A. Rodeo circuit in 1971, and also has a small string of good bucking horses. Also, like his Dad, Doug married a school teacher. 

In 1938 Ed Richards married Marjorie Eckel. They had one son, Kenneth. Ed and Marjorie ranched on Ed’s place until the mid-fifties when they sold out to what is now Stah Wapta Ranches. They then moved to Calgary where Ed worked for Firestone Tire Co. until his retirement. They now reside in Creston, British Columbia, 

Audley married Esther Ernst in 1945. They have a daughter, Jackie, now married and living in Calgary, and a son, David. When they were first married they resided in Audley’s homestead. They then worked for Brewster’s for a number of years and resided part of the time at 

Black Rock where Brewster’s winter their horses. During the 1950s Audley went to work for Calgary Power at Seebe and remained with them until his retirement. He still resides at the Horseshoe Dam below Seebe and works for the Parks Department in the summertime. Esther cooked for Brewster’s on their Trail Rides out of Banff for many years as well. David Richards is presently building a log house on his Dad’s old homestead. 

In 1946 Bill Richards returned from the Second World War and brought with him his war bride, Mariette, from Belgium. Mariette, a war widow, had a small daughter, Suzy, who joined them here several years later. For a time Bill and Mariette resided on their homestead next to Audley’s and Jim’s. This was at first a harrowing experience for a new bride from Belgium who, at the time, could speak very little English. One of Mariette’s biggest fears was bears, and Wendy recalls a time when she stayed with Mariette for a few days to keep her company while Bill was away: 

“At the time, I was about 3 or 4 years old and bears were the least of my worries. I remember going outside (unseen by Mariette) to the little house” up the trail. I was sitting there minding my own business when I heard Mariette calling my name (at the time I didn’t understand much else she said). Finally, I answered and she came and gave me a good scolding. To get her point across I can remember her pointing into the woods behind the little house and stressing the word “Bears”, to which I remember replying that I hadn’t seen any bears, and generally acted most unconcerned.”

Bill and Mariette sold their homestead quarter to Jim in 1952 after they moved to Bill’s Dad’s place. In 1959 they sold this place to Two Rivers Ranches and moved to Calgary for several years. When they were still at the ranch, Bill worked at different times for Poole Construction on various projects. In the mid-1960s Bill and Mariette built a new home in Cochrane and moved back to the district. After he left the ranch Bill worked for the Department of Highways until his death in 1972. Suzy married John Poynter in 1958 and lives in the Beaupré district with their three children, Rosemarie, Gary and Jerry. Mariette sold her home in Cochrane and moved back to Calgary in 1974. 

The Richards could tell enough stories of happenings and events of their everyday lives through the years to fill a book. The following are only a few of those stories which bear facts of historical interest to the community or have a dash of entertainment value, as told by various members of the Richards family. 

Audley recalls some of the early neighbours they had at the mill and a couple of events in his own life: 

“During the early days at the mill, the nearest white neighbour was three miles away. David McDougall’s family ran a store two miles east of Morley and George McDougall ranched one-half mile further east yet. John McCorkell ranched east of George McDougall, and the Graham place was the Bow View Ranch. John Niddrie was the school teacher at the Indian Orphanage, but later moved to an old schoolhouse one mile from the mill. He had a few students there for about a year. Niddrie also had a quarter of land near the Graham Ranch, and his brand was bar F5. 

Other neighbours in the area were Frank Fletcher, L. Q. Coleman, and Mr. Potts (Sandy Jamieson’s Grandad). T. J. Noble rented the Andrew Sibbald place and later homesteaded a quarter just east of it. 

The Kidd Brothers, Fred and Stewart, ran the store at Morley and ranched on the SL (Leeson and Scott Place) located southeast of Morley, The brothers later moved to Nordegg with the Indian Affairs Dept. Mr. Fleetham was the Indian Agent and Stocking was the Clerk. Christianson was the Blacksmith. He later set up a shop in Cochrane. John McKenzie was the Indian Stockman at that time and later moved to Exshaw. 

Mr. Ings was the minister at the Indian Church. Mr. L. Q. Coleman supplied a piece of land on the main road on his place for the Methodists to build a church for the white settlers. At the time when the Richards family was living at the mill, a minister came from Canmore every two weeks to preach a sermon and would stop overnight at different places. 

Mr. L. Q. Coleman had a second place on the Red Deer River and when Archie Howard came to work for Coleman, Archie homesteaded that place and ran a bunch of horses there for a number of years.” 

Audley also recalls: 

“In 1929 I helped Gunsolly round up a bunch of horses from behind the Devil’s Head Mountain. These were the last of the large number of horses which the Bar C had run. They were taken down to Gunsolly’s place on Horse Creek for breaking and were then trailed to Edmonton where they were loaded on rail cars and shipped to Spirit River. After being unloaded at Spirit River they were sold to local farmers and homesteaders in that area. Raymond Shortclothes also helped with breaking and shipping these horses. 

“One time, when I was still quite young, one of our neighbours went to town (Calgary) and asked me to pick him up off the train at Morley. This neighbour had a habit of “taking on a little too much” when on his town excursions, but the conductors got to know him and would let him off at Morley. Anyway, the day I went to pick him up, the train had already passed through when I got there and the neighbour was nowhere to be found. However, some Indians were there and they told me he had gone to Jake Swampy’s place not far from the station, so I went over, and sure enough, the neighbour was there, but in no condition to ride home. Another old Indian, Peter

Wesley was there. He was probably about 70-80 years at the time and had been a scout for McDougall’s when they came to the Morley district. He couldn’t speak English, but using Jake Swampy for an interpreter, started telling me stories of the days when they used to fight other tribes and to demonstrate, took off his shirt to show the torture wounds and arrow scars he bore. After a few of these stories, I began to get worried, as the neighbour was unaware of the situation going on around him, and it was growing dark outside. Needless to say, I was most happy to leave when I finally aroused the neighbour and we got underway. The old Indian, Peter Wesley, was reputed to be one of the best “Bow and Arrow” Indians of his day. 

Another bit of interesting general information on the Richards boys is that during the 1930s and 1940s they accumulated a large number of horses. They estimate that at one time they had in the neighbourhood of 400 head. These horses roamed the free-range north of the Morley Reservation and west to the mountains on what was then Forest Reserve. When the Forest Reserve was first leased out for cattle grazing, the Richards had to reduce the size of their herd. As horses were then virtually worth nothing, Jim, Audley and Bill went into the mink business and began shooting these wild horses to feed the mink. They stayed in this business several years during the late 1940s and used up a large number of their horses for mink feed. None of them enjoyed this, and when the horses were thinned out and mink prices went down, they went out of the mink business. 

Tillie Richards recalls that times were not always easy back in the late 1930s and early 1940s when she and Jim were first married. Guy Gibson had given her a mare and colt for a wedding present, and in 1944 she sold the old mare with the four colts that she had by then. She had to add $2.00 to the money received for the mare and colts to buy the separator which cost $39.40. 

It might be noted that over the past few years while Jim’s son, Doug, has been building up his herd of bucking horses, Jim has been heard to complain about “all those damn horses eating off the grass for my cows.” However, it was noticed, while Jim was thumbing through his old files, that in the late 1930s when he was reporting to the Alberta Government on the numbers of livestock which his homestead was supporting, the figures over a five year period read something like this: 1st year — 2 cows and 6 horses; 2nd year – 4 cows and 8 horses; 3rd year – 4 cows and 10 horses; 4th year – 4 cows and 12 horses; 5th year – 4 cows and 20 horses. And so, it seems that perhaps the ratio of cows to horses is actually somewhat higher now than it was back then! 

I (Wendy) would like to add a few items about our family as seen from my own point of view, and during my time. I recall well the early days at home when Uncle Bill and Uncle Audley were living on their homesteads next to Dad’s. The recollection I most remember is that they always rode in on horseback, and Uncle Audley, particularly, often corralled horses at our place. I recall Dad and Uncle Audley bringing in numbers of horses, especially in the spring, and pulling their manes and tails. The horsehair was then stuffed into gunny sacks and weighed and sold by the pound. I also remember that it was not taken too kindly if someone pulled the tails of another party’s horses. 

My brother Doug never went to school, and I only went to school in grade 12. We took all the rest of our school by correspondence. Some of the local kids wondered how we could stand doing school that way, but we thought it was O.K. as we were able to work hard some days and take days off if we wanted to go somewhere or do other things. Also, we usually had our work done at least a month ahead of kids in school and enjoyed long summer holidays to do as we wished. Our close neighbours were the Dawson’s and the next closest were the Wasson’s (about 8 miles by horseback). We would often ride to each other’s places to visit and play and as we were all in the same age group, we had a lot of good times together. One of our favourite sports was to go out on the “Point”, a flat area on the south side of the Ghost River where the land was quite flat and reasonably smooth for a couple of miles. Here we would line up our ponies and have horse races, which I’m sure would not have been totally approved of by our respective parents had they known of them at the time. I remember that my old white mare, Josephine, would often win some of these races. As a point of interest, she is now owned by Hugh Wearmouth and is over 30 years old. 

When we were quite young, Doug and I joined the local 4-H Beef Club which we enjoyed very much. We were in the club for seven years and during that time showed some of the calves from Dad’s herd to club championships. As the 4-H Club was the centre of our social life with other people, we gained a lot of good knowledge and entertainment from it, which has benefited both of us to this day. 

In summarizing, our family life was always happy and usually had a lot of funny moments. The thing that clearly sticks out to me now is that we nearly always did things together. Mum and Dad, particularly since the roads and communications have improved to their place, are quite active in community affairs. Dad has been the Councilor in the I.D. area for a number of years and is also on the Board of Directors for the Rockyview Hospital in Calgary, and Mum is on the Planning Board for the area. 

One other thing the Richards boys will always be remembered for in the community is when they participated at local house parties and dances. Dad and Uncle Audley both called square dances, but the highlight of every evening was when someone would bring in the old washtub which Dad would use for a Tom-tom. He would sing the Indian chicken dance chant and beat the tub, and Uncle Audley and Uncle Bill would do the chicken dance. Depending on the time of night and the “spirit” of the occasion, these chicken dances could sometimes transport the audience back in time, to where they would almost believe they were at a real Indian pow wow.

A Doctors Grave at Kicking Horse Pass


It is a steady climb from Cochrane to Banff and Lake Louise and on up to the Kicking Horse Pass which seems to be tucked away in the heart of the Rockies right on top of the world. It is probably the best-known pass through the Rocky Mountains because the first trans-Canada railway was built through it. But long before it was built surveyors and engineers trudged through the mountains in search of the easiest route to lay steel to the Pacific 

That is how Captain Palliser of the Royal Civil Engineers of England and his friends Captain Blackstone, who was also an engineer; Mr. Sullivan the camp cook; a Frenchman who was botanist for the party; and the hero of the story, Dr. Hector, their medical advisor, came to be camped beside a wild unknown river deep in the heart of the mountains. Swift and turbulent, this river channelled its way through a gorge of stone over a cataract, resounding so loudly that even at the engineer’s camp, a quarter-mile away the waterfall echoed like distant thunder. There was a sharp frost that June night about 1860, so Mr. Sullivan crawled out of his bed of spruce boughs in the early dawn and stirred up the fire and had a pot of tea boiling, some pemmican porridge cooking and a special treat of rainbow trout sizzling in the frying pan when the warmth of the fire and the good smell of food cooking brought the others from their tents. 

Throughout breakfast, they discussed the work for that day and it was decided to ford the river above the falls where the current appeared to be less strong. However, it proved strong enough when the pack horses balked and had to be chased into it. Just as it appeared as if all would ford the river safely, another packhorse balked and Dr. Hector leaned over and gave him a sharp cut with his whip. Instantly the horse kicked out with both feet and a sharp iron shoe caught Dr. Hector on the forehead. He slumped in the saddle and the horse bolted with his unconscious body. When the animal was finally captured and Dr. Hector released, he appeared to be quite dead. A grave was dug in that lonely spot, where the turbulent waterfall would be his monument. According to reports, the grave was completed and Captain Palliser had gone to one side to meditate over the simple words for the funeral service of his friend. Suddenly one of the other men noticed a slight movement as of breathing, and a tinge of colour returning to the doctor’s cheeks. He lost no time in calling the others and you can imagine their thankfulness at finding their friend alive. That is why that particular campsite is recorded in Captain Palliser’s notebook as Kicking Horse Camp and that is why the name Kicking Horse was later adopted for the falls, the river and the mountain pass.

Thanks again to Belle and Gordon Hall for this story from A Peep into the Past Volume II.

CHAPS sends condolences

CHAPS would like to recognize the passing of the subjects of two of our recent stories. Horst Wirsig, who told the stories of his family’s immigration and adventures after World War II passed away in January. Bob Smith who told stories of Seebe, Lake Minnewanka, photography and nature also passed away in January.

Both had their stories captured on video in the Oral History Project (History Resource Committee, M.D. Bighorn).

CHAPS sends our condolences to family and friends.

Horst Wirsig talks about the Bar C Ranch

Horst Wirsig owned the Bar C Ranch from 1966-1972. The Heritage Resource Committee of the M.D. Bighorn captured this interview as part of the Oral History Project.

There is a whole playlist of videos outlining his immigration from Poland, across Canada and eventually settling in the area.  I enjoyed his stories of community building and entrepreneurial challenges.

Antics of Remittance Men

From a Peep into the Past Vol. II Gordon and Belle Hall

Oldtimers in Alberta are fond of telling stories about remittance men. To the westerner, these were sons of good English families who received money or remittance from home. They came to different points in Alberta to engage in ranching and their strange ways, their misfortunes and their sins of omission and commission were discussed around many a kitchen table. Most of these men did not fit into the social life of their British homes and were sent to Canada so their relations would not be embarrassed by their conduct.

They came with their leggings, monocles, caps, accents and habits and proved at times to be a good source of enjoyment and at times, profit to the cowboys and settlers. These boys had money and instead of working, they seemed to crave leisure and excitement. They tried to paint the town red as it were. They would drink with anybody and tear up the interior of hotels and waste their money in sinful pursuit. The hotelkeepers would give them sleeping rooms, food and credit at the bar because they could count on the quarterly dividend from England. Many were scions of good families and they made pitiful exhibitions. 

 The settlers who laughed at them and ridiculed them were often not above taking advantage of them by selling them supplies and farms at ridiculously high prices. A remittance man in High River went through $100,000 in a few years and came down to driving a scavenger wagon. As the years went by, the money from home ceased to come and some became beggars, hotel hangers-on or worse.

 There is one story, told to me by an oldtimer at Fish Creek south of Calgary. It seems the remittance man had heard that in pig butchering you had to have a big tub of scalding water to scald the hair off after of course the pig was killed This fellow got the pig into his house where there was a bathtub full of hot water. Shooting at the pig, he missed it and blew a big hole in the bathtub. A local farmer coming by heard the ruckus and rushed in and saved the pig. Needless to say the place was a shambles. One thing the remittance men all did, when World War I started and danger threatened the Isle of Britain, they dropped everything and regardless of costs, rushed to the defence of the beloved land of their birth. Many of them never returned.

Reprinted with permission of the Hall Family

This article has been edited for language. Photo courtesy of SemanticScholar.org

The Warner Story

As told by Mrs. Warner - Big Hill Country
Photos courtesy Marsha Warner

Mr. and Mrs. Roy Warner and their six children moved from Conway, Missouri, to Cochrane in the spring of 1938. The family moved to the farm, east of Weedon School, which had been left to Roy by his uncle, Mark O’Neil. They travelled in a car and a truck, loaded with the family’s possessions. The journey took ten days, however, for three days the Warners were forced to shelter in a vacant house near Lincoln, Nebraska, during a terrible blizzard. Fortunately, they had bedding and groceries with them and managed to heat the house with a brooder stove and some coal which they found there. 


Norma Martha Ron Mark who were in the truck.

Mr. and Mrs. Warner were married in 1914 and lived on their farm near the Ozark Mountains until they moved to Cochrane. They raised chickens, kept a few cows, grew bedding plants for sale and sold vegetables to a nearby cannery. Once, Mrs. Warner recalls, her husband planted part of the garden area to turnips. They did so poorly that they were left in the ground come winter. The next year those turnips all went to seed. Roy had a good tight wagon box, so he and the children carefully cut off the ripe seed heads and flailed them in the wagon box. The seed was sold for about one hundred dollars; those turnips turned to gold! 

Times were very hard, but as Mrs. Warner says, “I was never used to a lot, so I knew how to make do.” Her cousin once sent her a box of old clothes to makeover for the children. Included was an old suit, worn shiny but otherwise still good. Mrs. Warner turned the suit so that her son Burrell could have something to wear to a wedding. The result was a nice-looking suit, except that the buttons were on the wrong side! 


Grandma Warner Burrell

When the Warners moved to Cochrane their eldest son, George, was 22. Nova, Martha May, Burrell and William were also through school; Norma attended school at Weedon and Cochrane. Mark and Ronald were born after the family’s move to Cochrane. After World War Two started, George returned to the United States and joined the U.S. Army. Burrell and William also returned to the land of their birth and both joined the Merchant Marines. All were in Active Service and returned safely. 

George, Burrell and William live in Missouri, Norma lives in California, while Nova and Martha May both live in Alaska. Mark married Helen Begg; they have four children and farm in the Weedon area. Ronald is a partner in a trail riding business in Banff. 

Roy Warner passed away in 1969. Mrs. Warner lives in her lovely new home on the farm. She has 23 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Her busy life through the years is summed up by her statement, “I have a lot to be thankful for.

George , Norma, Martha and Grandma Warner
Warner Truck 1938
Marsha, Mark and Ron on ranch corrals

Jappy Rodgers Family

Big Hill Country (1977) page 533

William Jasper (Jappy) Rodgers was born in March 1896, at the General Hospital in Calgary. He grew up on a ranch six miles west of Okotoks. His father, James, came from Ireland and was a great horseman. After coming to Canada, he returned to Ireland to be married. He and his bride, the former Maud Pinkerton, then came to make their home in the Okotoks area.

Jappy joined the Lord Strathcona’s Horse Regiment in Calgary in 1918. In a short time he was in the remount department, handling horses the Russians had bought and wanted trained. 

Shortly after joining the Army, he met an old girlfriend, Lulu Hamilton, from Okotoks. They were married in August 1918. That fall Jappy was stationed in Vancouver, looking after horses that were en-route to Russia. While he was there Armistice was signed. He stayed in Vancouver that winter, looking after the horses. In the spring they were sold by public auction, some of them coming back to Calgary. Jappy was out of the Army and returned to his wife, who had spent the winter in Calgary living with her sister.

In 1919 Jappy was hired by a Government agency that wanted an expert horseman to handle horses at the Calgary Stockyards. His duty was to match and train teams for the Soldier Settlement Board. About 30 horses would be brought in every few weeks; most of them had been former artillery horses. While working there he met Captain T. B. Jenkinson, an Englishman, who was shipping polo ponies to Spokane. Jappy sold him his pony, which he had been riding at the Stockyards. Later in the year, when his job was over, he was hired by Layzell and Durno. A month later Capt. Jenkinson approached him, saying that he needed help at his ranch on the Dog Pound Creek. Jenkinson had bought the ranch from Barton French, who had installed running water and electricity in the house, and many other extras which were rarities in those days. In the fall of 1919, Jappy went to work for Jenkinson. His wife joined him after Christmas.

He worked for T. B. Jenkinson at the Virginia Ranch for nine years. While there he received a good education in handling horses, and training polo ponies. A highlight was when he was sent to California with horses, caring for them on the way down. He spent the winter playing polo at Coronado Beach in San Diego. In the spring the polo ponies were sold, with the exception of two, which Jenkinson traded for a sports car. He drove as far as Portland, Oregon, then sold the car to a friend, and he and Jappy returned to Calgary on the train. There were other trips with polo ponies, to Sheridan, Wyoming, Vancouver and Toronto.

The Rodgers’ children were born at the Virginia Ranch. Kathleen was born August 24, 1922, Patricia on July 25, 1925, and Douglas on January 29, 1928. Douglas was six weeks old when the family moved to the NW 114 4-29-4-5, which Jappy had purchased. It had been the homestead of George Shand Sr., and in later years it had been sold to Fairman’s by the Soldier Settlement Board. Jappy bought cattle and machinery, and he trained horses that were readily sold due to excellent contacts in the horse business. They also milked cows, and Mrs. Rodgers was a good gardener. ‘

The children attended Mount Hope School. Kathleen married Ramsay Parsons, a water well driller. They reside in Calgary and have two sons, Rodger and Ronald. Patricia (Patsy) finished her schooling at Olds, took a commercial course, and worked in Calgary. In 1946 Patsy was chosen as Miss Rodeo Calgary. She is married to Robert Henderson, and they live in Vancouver. Her two sons, James and Douglas Mitchell, live in Calgary. Douglas married Margaret (Peggy) Croft. They have two children, Donna and Ronald. Doug and Peggy live on the home place, where they farm. Both are affiliated with the Foothills Cowboy Association, Doug as a director and Peggy as an assistant secretary and timekeeper. 

Both Jappy and his wife were affiliated with the Dog Pound Stampede for many years. Jappy still rode his horse and helped in the arena at the 1975 Stampede. Mrs. Rodgers was a very active member of the Bottrell Busy Beavers Club. She passed away on March 25, 1956, and is buried in Queen’s Park Cemetery, Calgary. Jappy has retired and lives in a trailer beside Doug and Peggy’s home.

Miss Rodeo Calgary

Daughter of Mr. W. J. Rodgers and the late Mrs. Rodgers – Patsy, who was christened Patricia, is a descendant of two noted pioneer families, the Rodgers and the Hamiltons, who, as early settlers, came into Southern Alberta in the late 1800s. Her father, better known as “Jappy”, is a noted horseman and now a retired rancher. Patsy was born on Jenkinson’s Virginia Polo Ranch north of Cochrane and later moved with her parents to a ranch near Bottrell. She rode her pony to a country school and was her father’s shadow on horseback during a time out from classes. Being brought up in a ranching atmosphere gave her a natural love for horses and rodeo. 

Honoured in 1946 by the late Jack Dillon of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Board, Patsy was chosen as Miss Rodeo Calgary and was Calgary’s representative to ride in the Madison Square Gardens Rodeo in New York City, and at the Manger Gardens Rodeo in Boston, Massachusetts. There, under the sponsorship of the late Everett Colburn and the Gene Autry Rodeo production, Patsy was accompanied by five Rodeo Queens from the various Southern States, whose duties were, to ride in with their country’s flag at each grand entry and carry it in the downtown parades. They also made guest appearances on television and radio programs, toured Military and Children’s Hospitals and attended many sports and social events. 

Now residing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Patsy and her husband, Robert Henderson, frequently visit Patsy’s two sons, James and Douglas, in Calgary, and her father who is still living in the Bottrel area. 

Mcdonald Family

by Jack Fuller – pg 330 Big Hill Country

DP was a quiet man. Almost shy. Perhaps a little awed by the women in his life for he was, first and last, a horse and cowman of the old school. Soft-spoken with a subtle sense of humour and, a soft, almost silent laugh. In a country where cussing was a fine art his sole contribution to blasphemy was, “Great Scott, is zat so.” Once when told that the Mounted Police had found fifty of his beef hides cached in the Red Deer River his only comment was, “Great Scott, I wonder who did it.” (The rustlers were later caught and drew seven years for luck.) Though a canny Scot by birth, he was, in many ways, generous to a fault. He may not have always paid top wages but his monthly grub bill must have been the highest, for his hospitality was the warmest in the country. Kids, cowpunchers, cattle buyers, horse thieves and Indians rode miles out of their way to rest their elbows on Momma DP’s red flowered tablecloths and she served more between-meal dinners than any short order cook in the country. Looking back across the years, the untiring effort, energy and achievements of such Old Timers is almost unbelievable; few could wear their moccasins today. 

DP must have had more than a little administrative ability to accomplish what he did. He ran two brands: 75 and DP. His cattle ranged over the muskeg and timbered valleys of the foothills as far as the Greasy Plains twenty odd miles to the north. His horses ranged over the same country but as far west as the Sand Hills on the North Fork of the Ghost River. He had calf camps up Big Hill Creek and on the Burnt Ground northeast of Cochrane and camps and range on the Rosebud, a hundred miles to the east. There were no trucks or cattle liners in those days; he trailed his cattle back and forth, bossed the job from a horse’s back and covered more miles a year than a Canada goose. As well as running these several outfits he found time to raise a fair-sized bunch of pedigreed Thoroughbreds, Hunters, French Coach, Clyde and Shire horses, train and race a small string of racehorses, train and show jumpers, hunters, saddle stock and prize studs, ship carloads of polo ponies, hunters and saddle stock to New York and the southern States, butcher his own beef, drive his family to church in Cochrane on Sunday and stage an annual picnic at the Big Springs on Spencer Creek every twenty-fourth of May, which left just enough time to get Brodie to cut his hair and say, “Here’s where I get paid for going through the motions.”

DP raised some good horses and, but for Government red tape, might have had some fame. Shortly after World War I, two government men made a special trip from Ottawa to purchase a chestnut stud DP had raised, which, according to statistics, was the biggest boned Thoroughbred on record. They were authorized to pay DP one thousand dollars for the horse and ship him east where his skeleton was to be mounted in the Ottawa museum. DP had sold the horse a short time before to a neighbouring rancher but offered to buy it back; however, because he did not own it at the time, they refused to take it. A shining example of governmental hair-splitting. Perhaps, of all the horses D Praised or owned he will be best remembered for the Alberta Cow Country’s Aristocrat, “Smokey”, the little high jump champion. 

DP didn’t quite deserve all the credit for Smokey. Smokey’s hide should be in a museum but it likely fed a hungry coyote. If it’s still hanging on someone’s fence, you might find a crown brand on the right thigh. Duncan and Pat Kerfoot raised Smokey, broke him and trained him for a polo pony. They did a good job for he turned out to be the best cutting horse in the country and DP bought him for just that. The Kerfoot boys knew he could jump and likely told DP, but, from then on DP deserves all the credit, for he trained the little horse and made him a champion. 

I happened to stop at the Mount Royal Ranch the night they got home from the show where Smokey’s record was broken. At supper, that night, Irish, DP’s trainer, and the rest of the boys, were all mad enough to chew nails and spit nickels. In spite of D P insisting it had been a fair contest, he couldn’t shut the boys up. Irish claimed that when Smokey had made his record jump, the top bar had been tied on with two strands of binder twine but when the horse that broke Smokey’s record made his jump, the top bar was buckled on with a double wrap of a flat saddle stirrup leather. Just how great a contribution DP made to Alberta’s Light Horse and horse show industry is hard to say but I doubt if he got more than a small part of the

credit due for the time, effort and expense involved. 

The Mount Royal Ranch is fifteen miles or So from Cochrane. Cochrane was twenty-two miles from Calgary by rail. The stock had to be trailed to Cochrane, loaded on cars and shipped to Calgary, Edmonton or elsewhere. You couldn’t turn a bunch of bang tails, show ring stock and prize studs loose and haze them down the trail; maybe you could have, but they would never have looked the same again. They all had to be led separately. Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow might have been bigger but no more spectacular than the Mount Royal Ranch en route to the big show. 

First, the Thoroughbreds, led by exercise boys, blanketed if the weather was bad, eager to run, or walking with the long, gliding stride only the Thoroughbred knows. Next, the show ring stock, hunters, jumpers, saddle and harness stock and last, the big prize stallions, fat and slick as seals, their foretops, manes and tails a hairdresser’s masterpiece of French braids and coloured wool, brass and silver studded halters, saddle soaped and shining, as the big studs, full of fight, reared and squealed or, grunted, as the men leading them jerked on the brightly burnished lead chains running through the stud bits to keep each in its place. Strung out half a mile or more along the dusty trail or, through the snow or through the rain and mud for, then as now, the show must go on. Surely a worthwhile effort, as historical as the prairie trail they trod. 

Behind every great man is a great woman and Momma D P was all that and more. She loved her horses. To watch the McDonald silks lead the field under the wire, and her two daughters winning ribbons in the show ring, were the great thrills of her life. DP might not have been so enthusiastic had she not loved it so. It was her only luxury, her only extravagance, she loved it every minute and no one deserved it more, for she was a hard-working woman with plain and simple tastes and a heart as big as the whole outdoors. 

She’d walk a mile to watch a horse jump, buck or race. Boney Thompson was her favourite bronc rider and she never tired telling of watching him ride a big, brown Thoroughbred mare of D P’s that, she claimed, turned a complete somersault with Thompson scratching sparks out of her ears, laughing and talking all the while. 

There was a little paddock around the house to keep the stock away but in the spring at foaling time, Momma DP kept her

Thoroughbred mares there where she could keep an eye on them in case they needed help. They often did and many a Thoroughbred colt would never have lived to carry the McDonald colours but for her gentle hands. 

We’d come to the Cochrane district in 1905. In 1910 my folks located on the forks of the Grease Creek and Little Red Deer River and started a small horse ranch. It takes horses a while to range break and for the next few years, it seemed I spent most of my days and a lot of my nights, tracking down horses and trailing them home. I was only ten or eleven years old at that time and a regular customer at Momma D P’s dinner table, usually an hour or two late, but she’d get my dinner and sit and talk to me while I ate. She would ask me all about our place and how many horses we had and when I’d tell her she’d say, “Great God, you’ll soon be as rich as old George Creighton.” I think she enjoyed kidding me but our horses finally range broke and maybe she was as glad as we were. Even at that, we had better luck than old Hughie McDonald. 

Hughie and his brother George had a place near Calgary and too many horses. They took out a lease up the Ghost River west of D P’s, trailed their horses up and turned them loose but they were a homesick bunch. Hughie said he could trail them up from Calgary, turn them loose on the lease, ride into Morley, sack his saddle, catch the train to Calgary, take a taxi home and his horses would be waiting for him to let them in the gate. 

Besides taking care of a big house, cooking three meals a day for a gang of men and feeding half the riders in the country, Momma DP raised a few hundred geese, turkeys, and chickens. Hunting up the nests they stole away, gathering the eggs, hatching her broods and fighting off the magpies and coyotes was a man-sized job. She kept a few coyote hounds and when they jumped a coyote out on the flat I think she enjoyed the chase as much as the hounds did. Magpies and coyotes were about the only unwelcome visitors at the Mount Royal and some hundred-odd coyote tails nailed on the back wall of the machine shed proved a lot of coyotes learned it the hard way. 

My dad and I stopped for supper one night on our way home with a bunch of horses. When she learned my mother had some geese but no gander, she went down to the barn with us after supper, corralled a bunch of her geese, caught a big gander and gave it to my dad. He put the gander in an oat sack, stuck its head out through a hole and handed it to me. I tied the sack to my saddle horn with the old gander half sitting on my off knee. It was early spring and near dark, by the time we got strung out and by the time we got in the timber up the Montreal Valley it was black as pitch. Those horses wanted to go anyplace but where we were headed and broke up every draw and through every patch of timber on the trail home. The old gander never let out a 

squawk and ducked the limbs and brush like an old horse thief. I’ll bet he’s still telling his grandchildren of chasing range horses through the Alberta foothills in the dark of the moon. 

The fact that Momma DP had a couple of good-looking daughters almost as nice as she was didn’t help DP’s grub bill any. The spring of 1917, while the girls were home for Easter, Marshall Baptie, Laurie Johnson and I were breaking remounts at the lower Bar C. We galloped our broncs out on Beaupré Flats, which was open country at that time. Once our broncs got strung out we’d ride over to DP’s, kid a while with the girls and ride back and get a new string. We could ride out fifteen or twenty broncs a day with a few little visits on the side. 

None of us fancied our own or each other’s cooking, so we usually just happened to be talking to the girls about the time Momma DP would come out and say, “Come and set the table, girls, and you boys might as well tie up your horses and stay for dinner.” We took an unfair advantage of her for a week or more, for I doubt if she enjoyed our company as much as we did her cooking. 

Not long after the First World War, the bottom dropped out of the cow business. Fall calves sold for three dollars a head, cows for fifteen and horses for a dime a dozen. Folks pensioned their old horses off and turned them loose to enjoy what life they had left, and fur farms and horsemeat packing plants were a curse to come. The slump left a lot of the boys, just back from the war, at loose ends and more than a few of those loose ends drifted into Jack Ass Canyon and holed up at the Mill. Exshaw McDonald paid some of the grub bills but for the most part, they lived off the fat of the land and the best place to get fat in that part of the land was Momma D P’s dining room table. Scarce a day passed but one or more of those loose ends dropped in to help keep D P’s grub from spoiling. 

One day, when a couple of those loose ends dropped in for dinner, Momma DP apologized for not having any meat. She said, Donald, has had a beef in for a week but just hasn’t had the time to butcher.” One of them said, “Gee Mrs. McDonald I’m sure sorry I didn’t know, I’d have brought you over some. We had a calf break its leg and we had to butcher it, I’ll bring you over a hindquarter this afternoon.” He was as good as his word but it was one of D P’s calves they’d sidehill butchered a few nights before. Even so, with calves at three dollars a head it was a friendly gesture, typical of the man who made it for he’d have given you the shirt off his back and, taken yours while you slept, yet, the world would be a dreary place but for his kind. 

Grub-line riders, or saddle tramps, as they are called today, were, in reality, non-existent in this part of the country. Cowpunchers were a restless lot. The men that graced Momma DP’s dining room table represented most of the Western States. Some had been to the Argentine and back. Even the local boys had worked on ranches scattered over most of Alberta. They’d drop in for a meal, a day or maybe a week, sometimes they’d stay all winter, but they were always welcome and more than earned their keep. They were congenial, capable, and often did more work than a high-priced hired man. Of the “loose ends” that hung around the Mill, those still living are respected citizens today in many walks of life. Most have crossed the Big Divide but they have lots of friends at both ends of the trail. Nor were Momma and Poppa DP the only big-hearted couple in the country, they were one of many. Hospitality was a common courtesy of the open range, but fortunately for the women, now a historical has-been, for it was the women who bore the brunt of the worry and the work. 

A lot of water has run down Spencer Creek since those days. The DP picnic at the Big Springs is but a memory. Trucks, tractors and farm machinery clutter the little paddock where Momma DP once kept her Thoroughbred mares at foaling time. No horse wears the DP high on its withers, and Charlie Russell would have starved to death painting the breed of cows that pack the old 75 brand. The old machine shed with the hundreds of coyote tails tacked on the north wall is long gone. There are no flocks of geese and turkeys squawking around the barnyard and the creek is mostly dry. The big barn still stands but no prize studs or Thoroughbreds breast the box stall doors taking playful nips at you as you walk by. The big harness room is empty. The hundreds of ribbons that once adorned the walls are packed away in trunks. Only the wind sighs through the empty loft and sagging doors, mourning an era forever gone.

Momma and Poppa DP have long since taken the trail where the tracks lead only one way but if there is a Short Grass Country in that Great Beyond, five will get you ten, that they are still dishing up grub to a bunch of broken-down cowpunchers, horse thieves and Indians. They’d all be there. Boney Thompson, George Creighton, Charlie Miokle, Ed Johnson, Frank Ricks, Me Track’em, Irish, Paul Beaver and Jonas Benjamin and maybe more, with DP sitting at the head of the table carving half-inch thick slices off a hundred-dollar roast laughing soft at the tall stories being swapped across that red-flowered tablecloth. If there’s an extra place set I hope it’s for me. Progress may be a great thing for the country’s economy but it’s left a hell of a big hole they’ll never, never fill.

Old Cowboy's Dream - by E. Ward Rivard

To all the happy memories of the Mount Royal and Bar C Ranches

Last night I dreamed that I rode once again 

With the friends of my youth on that far distant plain. 

The friends of my youth, the old friends so dear, 

Like music the laughter that fell on my ear. The Rockies arose, majestic and grand, 

Like sentinels stationed to guard that fair land. The Bow swiftly flowing beneath the blue sky; 

‘Twas a scene ne’er forgot till the day that I die. From the hilltop we gazed o’er the valley below 

Where the herds slowly grazed by the sides of the Bow. On far distant ridge there vanished from sight 

A bunch of wild horses in fear-maddened flight. The horse that I rode, oh! Strange did it seem 

To be riding old Smokey again, in my dream; There wasn’t a doubt, it was plain as could be, 

The crown on his hip, on his shoulder “DP.” The creaking of leather, the jingle of spurs 

Was sweeter to me than the song of the birds; Down the trail I could hear a voice gaily sing 

As we rode the old range on the roundup in spring. Dawn came, and my heart seemed to break with its pain, 

When I tried to recall the sweet dream again, To turn back the pages of time 

To the days of my youth and the joy that was mine. 

Mount Royal Ranch

Big Hill Country Page 328

In 1881 A. P. Patrick, a Dominion Government surveyor took out a lease of five thousand acres along the Ghost River about four miles north of the Bow River. He called it the Mount Royal Ranch and it was the first privately owned ranch in the area. At that time the Government allowed large leases to be taken out for a cent an acre. A homestead could be established on the leases if there was ample water supply; naturally, most early settlers built their houses and stables near good springs and creeks. After obtaining his lease and erecting the necessary buildings required, A. P. Patrick went to Eastern Canada and purchased two hundred head of stock to put on the lease. The cattle were shipped as far as Winnipeg and then trailed overland to the ranch. The drive from Winnipeg took six months. In 1883 A. P. Patrick took Mr. Bayne into partnership with him on the Mount Royal. In September of that year, Frank Ricks arrived from Oregon with two hundred and fifty head of horses for the ranch. They had been purchased from D. E. Gilman and Company in Oregon. Frank Ricks started north with the herd in May and came through the Crows Nest Pass and then along the foothills. The drive ended in September. Frank remained working for the Mount Royal and became well known as an outstanding rider of the area. 

A.P. Patrick married Maggie McPherson, daughter of Murdoch McPherson who came into the area in 1884. In 1886 they sold the ranch to W. C. Wells and Nelson Brown. Mr. Wells owned a sawmill at Palliser, British Columbia, and he did not spend much time on the ranch. A. P. Patrick had been concentrating on raising horses but Wells and Brown decided to change over to cattle. They brought five hundred head from British Columbia and added to the herd they had purchased with the ranch. The following winter was extremely cold and many of the cattle that were brought from British Columbia perished. 

Around 1887 Donald Peter McDonald went to work on the Mount Royal and at that time Frank Sibbald, son of Andrew Sibbald of Morleyville, was the ranch foreman. In 1890 D. P. McDonald became ranch foreman and in 1901 he made an agreement with Wells and Brown to take over the ranch and he eventually became the owner of it. After Mr. Wells sold out his interest in the ranch, he entered politics in British Columbia and became a member of the Legislature there. A grandson of D. P. McDonald, Jaye Bowlen, is now operating the Mount Royal Ranch. 

SMOKEY — by K. Bowlen 

In the early 1900s, my father, D. P. McDonald, bought some horses from W. D. Kerfoot of Grand Valley, and Smokey was one of the horses. He was by the Thoroughbred horse, Porton, out of a hackney mare. In his younger days, he was generally esteemed as one of the smartest and handiest cow ponies on the range. 

I really don’t know how Smokey’s jumping ability was discovered, but he would jump out of the corral whenever he felt like it. I think the credit will have to go to Tom McCaul, a young Irish boy, who came to work at the ranch. Anyway, Tom and Smokey made their jumping debut at the Calgary Exhibition in 1908, clearing the bar at 5’6″. After very little training, the next year he raised his mark by four inches. In 1910 he jumped 6’2”. 

In 1911 at the spring show in the old Sherman Rink on 17th Avenue and Centre Street, Miss Bernice Walsh rode him over a 6’2” bar; incidentally, that was a world’s record for Miss Walsh as an amateur lady high jump rider. In 1912 Smokey jumped 6’2″‘; he was ridden by Angus McPherson of the Merino Ranch, who weighed 165 pounds. That was the first time Angus McPherson had ever ridden him. In 1913, ridden by a stranger, he quit at 5’10” and was beaten by Sioux who made six feet. At the following exhibition, ridden by Jack Hennessey, he cleared 6’3”. Between these two shows, he got the only real training he ever had. At the Edmonton show, he was ridden out by Percy Sawtelle at five feet. After the Edmonton show, he was turned out and not touched until February, then he was taken up and jumped on the line. At the Edmonton show the first week in April 1914, Smokey cleared 6’10” ridden by Percy Sawtelle (a jockey). After that a lot of people wanted my father to retire him, but the old horse went on to jump 7 feet, which was a record for an Alberta bred horse. Smokey’s record of 7 feet held until 1930 when Rolla G. Kripp, ridden by Ernie Bell, jumped 7 feet.

Smokey was retired in 1915 and died on the ranch at age 26. Percy Sawtelle went to war in the summer of 1914 and was killed in action in 1915.



Weather permitting, there was a picnic held every year on May 24, at the Mount Royal Ranch owned by Mr. and Mrs. D. P. McDonald. The site was about a mile southeast of the ranch buildings. The night prior to the picnic our barn was always bulging with horses that would be contesting the next day. At first, my mother did all the cooking for the event, but it wasn’t long until everyone brought food. Tablecloths were spread on the ground, the food set out, and tea and coffee were served. After lunch, there were foot races for the children and grown-ups, pole vaulting, high jumping, a few horse races, and a tug of war. It gradually got bigger and from 1936 on, it was all horse races, with many novelty events added. People came from near and far to take part. In 1946 the gymkhana was moved to Cochrane, thus, ending one of the yearly events that was looked forward to each year and had been enjoyed by so many.

Early Mayor had Pandemic to Handle

CHAPS recently received a donation of “A Peep into the Past”, A Collection of Historic Poems and Short Stories by Gordon and Belle Hall Vol. II.

CHAPS is happy to continue the Hall’s role of collecting and educating people about Cochrane and Area’s rich history.

Our first story of the Halls is their recollection of the early Mayors of Cochrane.


Cochrane has had a lot of overseers, chairmen and mayors since 1903. In 1903 an application was made to the Commissioner of Public Works at Regina, N.W.T. for the hamlet of Cochrane to become a village. At this time there were approximately 13 or 14 houses taxable with the CPR station house and the CPR section house and one hotel. 

On Aug. 31, 1903, Dan White was appointed overseer. For the next four years, the following men were overseers: 1904, Alex McEwen; 1905, Donald J. Bruce; 1906, Donald J. Bruce; 1907, James Quigley. In 1907 the village act came into being and in 1908 Andrew Chapman became overseer, and this was a year that a smallpox epidemic hit the district. 

Tents were ordered from Calgary and an isolation area was set up near the Bow River. The village was supposed to have been guarded by men with rifles, and food and medical supplies were dropped off halfway to the camp to be picked up by people from the camp. In 1909 A. Chapman was overseer again with J.A. Campbell and Gerald Mortimer on the council. This is the year the volunteer fire brigade was formed, so the department is 80 years old this year, 1989. Council chambers and fire hall were built at the cost of $429 with $ 150 for the lot to put it on. R. Hewitt was the first fire chief. 

In 1909 also, the village sent a petition to the Minister of Public Works of the province of Alberta asking that their present system of taxation be changed to that known as single tax or assessment based on the actual value thereon. In 1914 the population was 500 people. The first post office was opened in July of 1887 and the first postmaster was James Johnstone and we unveiled a plaque in the current post office, honouring the first 100 years on July 1, 1987. 

Several things happened in 1925 when F.L. Gainer was mayor. The elevator was built in Cochrane, a steel bridge was put over the Bow River, the Presbyterian Church amalgamated with the United Church, and the Union Bank was taken over by the Royal Bank. Andrew Chapman was associated with the town council from 1909 up until 1945. Graeme Broatch was mayor 13 times, Hank Engert six times and Caroline Godfrey, the first woman mayor, eight times. Graeme Broatch was mayor when the present Queen and Prince Phillip made a stop in Cochrane in November 1951 – the then Princess and Prince were presented with a Gissing painting. 

In 1954-57 Barney Klassen was mayor and was instrumental in getting natural gas in the village, also sewer and water and seven fire hydrants. He also was one of the top officials in getting the first mechanized fire brigade organized. There are many incidents down through the years, too many to mention in our small column, but they all have their place in history. 

As time went on, the Halls realized if someone didn't start recording Cochrane's tales from the past, they would eventually be lost forever.

Foreword - A Peep into the Past Volume II

Gordon came to Cochrane with his parents, Syd and Mary Hall in April 1923. He took most of his schooling in Cochrane. During the hungry thirties, he worked at farming, logging and other jobs. 

Gordon went to work at Cochrane Auto Service in the early 40s and in 1942 he married Belle Tindal from Cochrane Lakes. Gordon and Belle made the home in Cochrane after working for Harry McConachie of the Justhome Ranch for three years. They purchased a lot in the east end of Cochrane in 1946 and built their own home. Gordon worked for Graeme Broatch at the auto service for 16 years and in 1960 he was made Postmaster. Gordon kept this job for 18 years, retiring in 1978. He was a volunteer fireman for 34 years and formed the first mechanized brigade in 1954.

Gordon and Belle raised four boys, two of whom are still living. They were active in the Boy Scout movement for 30 years. 

Belle’s parents, Frank and Marion Tindal farmed most of their lives and raised a large family. Belle took her schooling at Cochrane Lakes and loves dancing, sports and travelling, Belle was the first Noble Grand of Bow View Rebekah Lodge #125. 

Gordon and Belle were awarded the Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce Community Builders award in 1986. “A sincere thanks to each and everyone that encouraged us to put this book together.”

Originally printed March 1994. Reprinted here by Permission of the Hall Family.

Nipper and Eleanor Guest Family

– photo courtesy the Memory Project

– Article pg 478 More Big Hill Country

Eleanor hails from the Lake Simcoe area of Ontario. She came West in 1950 at the time of the second oil boom. I’m originally from the Barrhead district where my father, who came West from Ontario as a boy in 1910, acquired a farm as a ‘returned man’ under the Soldier Settlement Grant program after World War 1. However, we moved to Edmonton before I started school and I grew up there. I served overseas in the infantry in World War II and studied engineering at the U of A under the Veterans Affairs program. 

We had three small boys when we moved from Calgary to Bearspaw in 1961. Fred, the oldest, attended the old Bearspaw School for two years before it closed and then attended Cochrane schools, as did the other boys. I was one of three school trustees for the Bearspaw School District but there wasn’t much to do as the school closed in 1964. 

Our place is located in NW Sec 19 Twp 25 Range 2 W54 or South of Hwy 1A and East of Bearspaw Road. The small acreage was purchased from Lauritz Pederson, a dairy farmer who emigrated from Denmark. The small subdivision was identified with the lofty name Bearspaw Heights but none of the residents use the team although it enjoys a splendid view of the river valley, the mountains and Calgary. We were eight miles from the city limits then and are less than a mile away now. 

Our children enjoyed many happy days camping in the coulee below us that stretches from Hawkwood’s farm to the Bearspaw Reservoir. For many years it was my tradition to take a cold beer to share with Tom Hawkwood when he was haying in the field below our house. 

My career was in the field of process control and automation. I was a founding partner of Sparta Controls and worked there until retiring in 1985. I operated Bearspaw Bicycle Company, a small business from home for several years. Bicycle touring was a major pastime that took me to many parts of the world and included a solo ride across Canada at age 70 For many years I cycled every day winter and summer no matter the weather and became a fixture in the neighbourhood. 

The boys all attended the University of Calgary Fred is a consulting reservoir engineer and lives at Ghost Village. Gordon, a geologist, lives in the woods near Bragg Creek and works in the environmental field Bruce after 18 years as an engineer moved near Saskatoon and is enrolled in the veterinary college. 

We feel blessed to have lived with such a fine view and pleasant neighbours. 


Get your copy of More Big Hill Country

Almost every day I learn something about the area.

Hollowood Ranch Store


 – by Tootie Poynter 

In the spring of 1938 Jack and I, with the help of my dad and Dave Pow, built a store on our Hollowood Ranch, the W1/2 of 17-26-5-5. The store was named after the ranch, named by me after all the hollow wood in the coulee. 

In October of the same year, the acreage and the store were sold to my dad and mom, Jack and Gudrun Nissen. My dad suffered considerably from cancer caused by an old injury and passed away in June 1941, at the age of 54 years. Mom managed the store alone until November when she married Corporal Angus MacDonald. 

Angus was formerly from Nova Scotia. After serving in the First World War he came West and farmed in the Shepard district till he returned to the service during World War II. He was stationed at the Ozada Internment Camp on the Morley Flats near Seebe, where German and Italian prisoners of war were imprisoned during World War II. Later he was transferred to the internment camp at Lethbridge. In 1953 he was transferred back to Calgary and became a Commissionaire at Lincoln Airport. 

When Mom was at the store the coffee pot was always on and many good visits were held in the store. Later a streetcar was moved to the store property to be used as a restaurant. Many still remember Nini Andersen of Beaupre, who ran the restaurant 1950-51-52. Many will remember the delicious chicken dinners and homemade Danish pastry she served. All the cooking was done on a wood stove. Highway One A was the only highway between Calgary and Banff and tourists and skiers alike stopped on their way home for another delicious bite. 

In 1953 the store and part of the acreage were sold to Harry and Babs Woods. A young Saskatchewan boy, Bobby Gibson, came to work for them. The streetcar was joined onto the store and renovated into a very attractive dining car. The store is now owned by John McGillis. Bobby continued to work for John McGillis for several years before going to work at Bowridge Motors in Cochrane. A new store and restaurant have now been built a little closer to the coulee. 

Angus and Mom moved back to their acreage in 1962. Angus was not well and spent a lot of time in and out of the Belcher Hospital. Mom and Angus both passed away in their sleep, Mom, July 7, 1963, and Angus, August 25, 1963.

Johnson Family

– Laurie Johnson Big Hill Country

My father, Everett C. Johnson, was born in Virginia in 1860 and moved to Minnesota with his parents after the American Civil War. At the age of fifteen, he drove stagecoach in the Black Hills, and a year later he went to Wyoming where he rode with Bill Cody and Portugee Phillips. He went to work for the Powder River Cattle Company and was one of the three foremen under Fred Hess. He was captain of the roundup in Johnson County at the age of nineteen. He

became a friend and hunting companion of Owen Wister who used my father’s character and some of his adventures in the book “The Virginian.” In 1886 Hess sent him to Canada to locate a ranch for the 76. He returned to Wyoming but soon came back to Canada. In 1890 he was foreman of the North West Cattle Company under the manager, Fred Stimson, at the Bar U. 

My mother, Mary Eleanor Bigland, was born in Windermere, England, and came to Western Canada with her uncle, William Laycock. She was a Registered Nurse, and while nursing Mrs. Stimson at the Bar U, she met my father. They were married on November 18, 1891, by the Presbyterian minister, J. C. Herdman. My father’s best man was his old friend from Wyo ming, Harry Longabough, known as the Sundance Kid. The bridesmaid was her mother’s cousin, Maggie Laycock, who married Blue Osborne. 

For several years, Dad, as everyone called him, was a cattle buyer for Gordon, Ironsides and Fares, and he located and built up the Two Bar Ranch for them. I spent my early life at the d’Eyncourt Ranch where Dad was a partner. About 1904 we built a house on 18th Ave. in Calgary and Bert and I went to school at the Convent. Our elder sister went to school in the United States. 

In 1910 my parents moved to Cochrane where Dad opened a butcher shop. When the Spanish Influenza epidemic broke out my mother turned our home into a hospital and nursed a great many in 1918 and 1919. She also delivered many babies during her years in Cochrane. 

There were four children in the family: Jessie Lucretia who married John Annear, a locomotive engineer, and lived in Edmonton, where they raised nine children; Robert Everett Poindexter who went Overseas in the First World War, married Ona Patterson and lived in Banff where he had a service station and took an active part in the affairs of the town; myself, Laurence Branch; and Frances Olive, the youngest, known as Dot. 

Dot married H. K. (Chappie) Clarkson, the son of oldtimers in the Pincher Creek district. He

owned the NW14 15 and SE14 22-26-5-5, on the highway west of Cochrane. Their two eldest children, Patricia and Robert were born there. Chappie moved his family to Turner Valley where he became a driller and worked in the oilfields for years. Three more children were born to them: Donald, Laurine and William. 

Patricia and Robert both enlisted in the Army in World War Two. Patricia joined the C.W.A.C. and played the trombone in their brass band and did the comedy numbers. They played in cities all across Canada and gave concerts in England, France, Germany and in Apeldoorn, Holland, where they were stationed for several weeks. 

Robert enlisted when he was sixteen and was a corporal before he left Calgary. In England, he held the middleweight boxing title for the Canadian forces and was a Commando instructor. By the end of the war, he was a Lieutenant. He went to work in the Leduc oilfields and was elected the first Mayor of Drayton Valley. He established the Clarkson Oilfield Construction Ltd., a very successful company, but he died at the age of thirty-nine, leaving his wife, Mona, three daughters and a little son. 

I have spent most of my life in the Cochrane District. In 1917 after I left the Bar C, I went to work for D. P. McDonald, breaking workhorses and saddle horses. We brought some horses into the Calgary Horse Show where young Peter Welsh rode Smokey and I rode Osborne Johnson’s horse, Beaver, in performance jumping and in jumping pairs. 

In 1918 the Parks Department took over the Ya-Ha Tinda, away up in the Red Deer River, and Jim Brewster had to get his horses out of there. He sold them to P. D. Bowlen, Norman Luxton and Bill Logan. Boney Thompson, Eddy Rowe and I gathered them and took them down to the Beaupré Ranch. 

In 1919 Frank Wellman bought Tom Wilson’s Powderhorn horses which ran on the Kootenay Plains, up the North Saskatchewan River. Jack Fuller, Wat Potts, Bill Potts, Johnny Wilson and I went up with Wellman to gather them, taking Paul Beaver along as a guide. We stayed at the Wilson place where we were able to hold the horses as we gathered them. Paul, a Stoney Indian, was a great help to us. Once when the horses were about to get away down the river, he raced his horse along a high bank and jumped him far out into the river to head them off. Horse and rider went out of sight in the water for a moment or two, but he turned the horses. It was in May but the snow was very deep for much of the way as we trailed the horses south. Paul broke trail all the way, leading an old mare whose family of young stuff kept right with her. There were many broke horses in the bunch so every so often we would catch one and take it up to Paul so that he could have a fresh horse. 

After we got back from the Kootenay Plains we took a large party up the Kananaskis. Frank Wellman, the outfitter, did not go but hired Bill  

Potts as a guide and he and I did the cooking. The packers were Wat Potts, Jack Fuller, Marshall Baptie and Bobby Quigley. We started out from Morley with the party of publicity people: Murray Gibbon of the C.P.R.; Jack Lait, editor of the Chicago Tribune; Grantland Rice and his wife; Mr. Wheeler and his wife, and Charlie Towne, a poet. Byron Harmon was the movie cameraman and Dawson, the C.P.R. photographer, took the stills. On this trip, the idea of the C.P.R. Trail Ride was born. Later that year I took out two more parties, Henry Colgate and his wife on their honeymoon, and Bob and Sue Johnson (of Johnson & Johnson) on a hunting trip to the Clearwater country. 

In 1923 John Hazza asked me to manage a Polo Pony Ranch for him, west of Calgary. There I schooled many good polo ponies, most of which were shipped to New York and Aiken, South Carolina. Some of these ponies played international polo. 

In 1927, while foreman of the Rhodes Ranch in Grand Valley, I married Jean Lamont of Calgary who came west with her parents from Woodstock, Ontario, in 1912. While at the Rhodes Ranch we lived at the old Oddie place which Rhodes then owned. He sold it to Sherriffs. In 1930 I bought land along the Bow River, west of Cochrane. This was the S12 14 and the SE 14 15-26 5-5, which had been vacated by Lloyd Noland who had it under the Soldier Settlement Board. I leased two sections of Crown land in Big and Little Coulees. 

Our buildings were on the river flat with a spring creek running between the house and the stables. By means of a furrow plowed along the sidehill from the spring, we were able to irrigate a large garden and the trees which we obtained from Indian Head, Saskatchewan: 100 ash, 100 elm and 375 caraganas. The hot, dry years of the Depression were upon us but we had plenty of vegetables which we could keep in good condition, a couple of milk cows and a large flock of hens. 

Here are some figures and facts from Jean’s account book:

  • 1931: Total for a year’s groceries, $127.60. 
  • Cream went down in price till special was only 17 ¢ per lb. butterfat. 
  • Eggs sold for 20 ¢ per dozen. 
  • Wheat sold: 549 bushels for $164.50. 
  • On Oct. 20th gave the Calgary Herald 10 bushels of wheat to pay for a subscription to the paper. The paper was thrown off a mile away up at the highway, by the Brewster Transport bus, every evening. 
  • We took wheat to a flour mill and paid for the milling with wheat. We got flour, middlings, shorts and bran. 
  • On Oct. 29th sold to R. B. Rogers: 100 lbs. of carrots $1.50; 90 lbs. of turnips 90¢; 75 lbs. of potatoes 75¢; 60 lbs. of cabbage 90¢`; Total $4.05. 
  • Income for the year: $882.77, mostly from the sale of horses. 
  • Total expenses for the year: $741.45. 
  • 1932: Things were tougher. 
  • Total for a year’s groceries: $91.60 (100 lbs. flour $2.25, 100 lbs. sugar $5.50, 5 lbs. tea $1.95, 5 lbs. coffee $1.85.) 
  • Total for clothes $13.09. 
  • Cream, graded special, was as low as 14¢. 
  • Sold Johnny Morrison 250 lbs. carrots and turnips for $2.50. 
  • Total income: $441.71; total expenditures $428.55. 

We still played polo, went on hunting trips and had parties and dances. R. B. Rogers, Duncan and Archie Kerfoot and the Rhodes Ranch had tennis courts and gave very enjoyable tennis parties. We often had dinner parties in those days, and I remember one at R. B. Rogers’ when Pierre Eyma, a new neighbour in the district, arrived in formal dinner clothes. It did not take him long to get used to our strange ways. 

In 1933 I leased the old Coleman Ranch from my cousin, Ruth Laycock. It was seventeen hundred acres in extent and took in Lot 5 of Morleyville Settlement. In 1885 Lucius Coleman was living in the Adams house, later owned by Jack McDonald. Two years later he built a large log house on the E 12 20-26-6-5. We moved into this house and lived there for three years. In 1933 Duncan Kerfoot was instrumental in getting my team on for the building of the Banff-Jasper Highway. They went up again in 1934, and I took them up myself and worked there in 1935 when the pay was much better. In 1936 there was a change of government, and we were told that our horses were Conservatives and could not work there. They were the best Conservatives that ever looked through a bridle. 

In 1934 my wife bought the NW14 8-28-6-5 and homesteaded the NE 14 of 7 adjacent to it. She camped there for four summers on a creek that flowed into Rabbit Creek and it became known as Jean’s Creek. I homesteaded the SW14 17-27-6 5, and we took a twenty-year lease on three sections of Crown land. Guy Gibson put up the logs and built the fieldstone fireplace for the house on my homestead, the Lazy JL. We moved there in 1936 and finished building the house. Our daughters, Donna Carroll and Margaret Jean got their education by Correspondence School from Edmonton till the younger of the two went 

to High School in Calgary and then to Olds Agricultural College. 

For several years I was the head guide on the C.P.R. Trail Ride. When Donna was thirteen, she came as a guide, taking complete charge of ten horses and riders. She guided in the mountains for three years and always trailed our horses up and back, alone. From 1939 till the girls left home we took in dudes, mostly children, every summer. In this way, the girls were able to associate with young people from all over Canada and some from the United States and England. Every Saturday during the winter, they rode the ten miles down to Pocaterra’s where Norma Piper Pocaterra gave them piano lessons and Mr. Pocaterra taught them Spanish. 

In 1950 Donna married Richard Butters whose grandfather came to Alberta in 1883. Richard had a ranch, the OC, which joined our land on the south. Late in 1964 Donna and Richard bought our land and cattle to add to their own and moved up to the Lazy JL. They have three sons: Erik, Lamont and Ian. 

Our younger daughter, Peggy, also lives in the Cochrane District. She spent two years in the Navy at Halifax where she married Lieutenant Commander S. R. Wallace. He is now with the University of Calgary and they live just east of 

Cochrane on the Lochend Road. They have three children: Robert, Laurence and Carolyn. 

On June 7, 1975, Erik Butters and Wendy Fenton were married and went to live at the OC Ranch. Wendy is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lynn Fenton.

The abandoned Hamlet of Seebe

Did you think Seebe is just the dam?

I did. It was not until one of my first jobs out of high school, that I learned about the Hamlet of Seebe that existed downstream of the dam. In 2004, the Hamlet was abandoned, locked up and moved.

Seebe was once a Calgary Power (now TransAlta) company town. Employees at the Kananaskis and Horseshoe Dams lived in the hamlet.

The Horseshoe Dam was built first starting in 1911. Kananaskis followed in 1913.

Calgary in 1911 used the supplied electricity to mostly power streetcars. It wasn’t long before homes began to use electricity.

The Control Room (1975) controlled the power generation and transmission from Kananaskis, Horseshoe, Ghost and Bearspaw Dams. (confirmation required). Thanks to Denise Shellian for supplying the control room photo (Ron Shellian at the desk, Pat Cooper standing)

The hamlet was abandoned in 2004. Many of the former buildings were sold and moved to other locations in Alberta.

Seebe was once home to the smallest artificial curling rink in the world. (1 sheet). It was built in 1948 and the plant improved in subsequent years.

The hamlet had a school and store with a gas pump. We’re looking for photos of the hamlet and will update this article as we uncover them. I’ve heard of Toad Hall that had a dirt floor and was used for community events. Children learned to swim in the lake at Nakoda Lodge. If you put your feet down it was quite likely you’d find leeches on your legs. Families in town “had” to have gardens. It was just a thing at the time.

A lot of first-hand details of the hamlet are captured in a series of videos done by the Heritage Resource Committee of the M.D. of BigHorn. Click the button to see.

Pat Ritchie, featured in the playlist, is the daughter of Dolly and Alistair Moore of Cochrane. We have a video of Alistair on our Youtube channel. Sweet Cebola

We want to thank Marjory Smith Gibney for the wonderful photos of the buildings of Seebe.

Seebe School Duplex Cottages 1940
Cottage Duplexes 1986 Before
Cottage Duplexes 1986 After
Superintendents House Seebe
Superintendents House - Seebe
Seebe Staffhouse
Seebe Staffhouse

Seebe Staffhouse (Single staff quarters) There were 17 guys living there when my husband was there before we got married. There was a married couple who took care of cooking, cleaning and maintenance.

Ghost Dam
Bearspaw Dam


  1. TransAlta TransAlta History
  2. Wikipedia Seebe
  3. Prisoner of War Camp Ozada

Rhodes Family and Minnehaha Ranch

Besides having an amazing family history, Dusty and Bumpy were active in the Cochrane Race Track.

– Mark Boothby

The three Rhodes brothers, Alan (Dobby), Bernard (Bumpy) and Gilbert (Dusty), were wealthy Englishmen, all of whom held commissions in the British Army in World War I. During the War, Dobby and Dusty bought a share in the Critchley Ranch in Grand Valley. Dusty was not too interested in the ranch and spent most of his time at Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, but retained his interest in the Cochrane race track. After the War, Bumpy came to Canada and bought out Oswald A. Critchley’s interest in the ranch. He added to his holdings by buying Andy Garson’s land. Andy also sold him a herd of horses. Bumpy was interested in playing polo and raised many good horses. Laurie Johnson was hired to school the ponies and play polo with them. 

In 1926 Bumpy married Cullette Gopel, an American divorcee who had land west of Midnapore. They had one adopted son, David. Around 1930 Bumpy and his wife and son moved to Victoria and bought a mansion. Bumpy died in Victoria, and following his death, Dusty and his family moved back to Scotland. 

Mrs. Rhodes and David returned to the ranch in Grand Valley. David attended Brentwood College on Vancouver Island but spent his vacations at the ranch. 

One summer Mrs. Rhodes went to Tahiti on vacation. While there she bought a coconut plantation at Papeete. Two of her friends, Eric Hanner and Count Von Luckner, were German citizens, so the French Government revoked Mrs. Rhodes’ visa and she had to leave Tahiti. She bought a fifty-foot two-masted schooner, the Valkyrie, and she and David, with Eric Hanner as captain and two Tahitian sailors as crew, sailed for Honolulu. Mrs. Rhodes and Eric Hanner were later married in Victoria, and David went to the United States. Mrs. Rhodes met Margo de Carrie, who had been Amelia Earhart’s secretary. Mrs. Rhodes, Eric and Margo cruised the Pacific, stopping at many small islands, hoping Amelia Earhart could be found. When they reached Honolulu Mrs. Rhodes had her marriage dissolved, and she and David returned to the ranch at Cochrane. David managed the ranch for a while then joined the Lord Strathcona Horse. When the United States sent recruiting teams into Canada he transferred to the United States Army. While in the Army he married, and they were sent to Vienna, Austria, for five years. Here they adopted a boy, Barry. 

After David went to war, Mrs. Rhodes assumed her old name and ran the ranch herself for a while, then rented it to Art Hall. Clarence Ginrich was the manager. The ranch was sold to Jack Bolton in 1947 and Mrs. Rhodes went to live in Santa Monica, California. 

During the Korean War, David was stationed at Breckinridge, Kentucky. He and his first wife divorced, and David married a girl who was in the Diplomatic Foreign Service. He and his wife Helen had two sons, David and Brooke Anthony. Cullette spent her first years with David and Helen when they lived in Evansville, Indiana. She passed away in 1951 and is buried in Evansville. David left the Army in 1953 and has worked for the Western Electric Company for 21 years and now lives in Columbus, Ohio. 

The Minnehaha Ranch has changed hands several times during recent years. Jack Bolton sold to the Marston Ranching Company, who named it the Grand Valley Ranch, and Art Galarneau was the foreman. It was then sold to Peter Bawden, who hired Dale Flett as foreman. The ranch was sold back to Jack Simpson, who sold it to Bob Burns. The ranch is now called the Anchor X.

– Big Hill Country Pg 407

Sherriff Brothers

In 1929 William Sherriff, manager of the Model Laundry in Calgary, bought three-quarters of land, 11 miles northwest of Cochrane in Grand Valley, for three of his sons, George, Jim and Harry. The land, N12 and SE 14 23-27-5-5 was bought from Bumpy Rhodes for $27.00 an acre. Later the SE14 26-27-5-5 was purchased from the Hudson’s Bay Company and added to their holdings. 

The boys’ only experience with ranching was gained from visits to their grandparents, the William Browns, who farmed in the Glendale district on the Burnt Ground northeast of Cochrane. The Sherriffs raised purebred Hereford cattle, Yorkshire hogs and Clydesdale horses. Their stallion, Chief, and a purebred mare and colt were bought from Bob Hogarth. The boys took great pride in their buildings and surroundings. Trees were planted around the house. The hip-roofed barn, still a landmark on the property, was built in 1925 by Jack Fuller and his brother-in-law, Orville Boucher. Jack maintains that the barn should outlast any barn in Alberta because it was built of fir logs, peeled and hewed, and placed on a concrete foundation that was poured on top of a hardpan. For years the stallion’s head and neck extended out over the half-door of the barn and was a familiar sight as one drove past on the Grand Valley road. 

Barns at George Sherriff farm

Like most boys, arguments as to who was doing the most work were everyday affairs. The story is told that Jim and Harry, being younger, had to milk the cow. Jim milked half and then Harry would go to the barn and milk the other half. 

In October 1939, Jim married Emily Rasmussen and they went to live in Calgary. During World War II, Jim worked at the mess hall at Currie Barracks. After the War, he went to work as a cook at the General Hospital, where he worked for 2912 years. Jim and Emily have three children: Muriel, James and Barry, and five grandchildren. 

George joined the R.C.A.F. in 1943 and was stationed in Toronto. He married Christine Gamlin in 1945. Christine came from Bristol, England, to Toronto, in 1931. George was discharged from the Air Force in June 1946. He and his wife returned to Cochrane and purchased the Walter Patterson place at Cochrane Lakes, four miles north of Cochrane. He bought six head of purebred Hereford heifers from Bernard Powlesland Sr., and soon built up a herd of prize cattle. The George Sherriffs sold their farm in 1967 and bought a retirement home in Cochrane, where they still reside. 


Harry was a good athlete and played on hockey and baseball teams in the area. He married Evelyn Holmberg in January 1941, and they continued to ranch on the home place. They have four children: Betty, who married Larry Eby, Harry (Buster), Greg and Dale. Harry and Evelyn sold their farm in 1972 and moved to Calgary. They are now retired and live at Salmon Arm, British Columbia. Their farm has now been subdivided.

Pg 409 Big Hill Country

I believe the family home site is 11 KM’s northwest of the George Sherriff farm.

I remember George Sherriff playing hours and hours of crib with my grandfather in their later years.

– Mark Boothby

Its spelled Sherriff in Big Hill Country

Ghost Ranger Station Stories – Ray & Margaret Hill

The oral history project by the M.D. Bighorn has another story near and dear to me. I remember Cal Hill coming to school for the first time. He had a huge lunch kit and stories of spending hours each day on the bus. I also got to spend a weekend at the Ranger Station. I remember the hospitality of his parents and how beautiful the area was.

Here is the Hill family story from More Big Hill Country (pg 509). A video of the Hills from the Oral History Project by the Heritage Resource Committee, M.D. Bighorn follows.

Ray and Margaret Hill Family By Margaret Hill 

We came to the Cochrane area in September of 1960 when Ray became Chief Ranger at the Ghost Ranger Station. It was wonderful to be back in a ranching community and so warmly welcomed. Even though we still had no telephone and plowed roads in winter, at least we had neighbours nearby. We had previously spent two years at the Sheep Ranger Station west of Turner Valley, then three years in the Red Deer district where our closest neighbours were at least ten miles away and town (Sundre) was thirty-seven miles. Our two boys, Cal and Cam, were born during this time so we did little travelling in the winter months.

Generally life on the ranger stations was busy. In the early years all travellers had to register and during hunting season they also had to register their rifles at the ranger stations. As there were no secretaries in those days and the men spent a great deal of time in the field, this job often fell to the wives, along with checking out game that had been shot and checking licenses and tags. I remember one hot fall day checking some hunters who had shot a moose. They had shoved it into their trunk, still warm, hide, hair and all. I was sorry I asked to check the tag, as it was all I could do not to gag from the stench. I wonder how it tasted! 

Disoriented hunters were common and often a source of amusement, as in their words “they weren’t lost, just didn’t know where they’d left their vehicle.” They always got out okay, though after a couple of nights in the bush huddling by a campfire or taking refuge in an old trapper shack, their faces and clothes often so black with soot their own wives probably couldn’t recognize them. 

Many nights we were awakened by a pounding on the door to find shaking, wet or tired travellers who had hit the ditch miles away or rolled their vehicle. The rangers did many rescue trips and patched up many victims. We served many gallons of coffee to calm and warm them. One of the more interesting patch jobs was a bullet hole through the arm of a careless hunter who had shot himself. At least he was quite calm if not somewhat embarrassed. 

One of our most memorable events was the Spy Hill jailbreak during one cold drizzly night in September of 1969. About midnight the RCMP phoned Ray to close the barrier (which was only a pole) across the road by our house. Almost instantly a car slid to a halt and seven inmates bailed out and scattered into the bush. Within minutes the RCMP started arriving along with tracking dogs and loudhailers. Needless to say, our whole household was up for the remainder of the night. During the next twenty-four hours, I served about a hundred cups of coffee and depleted the cookie supply as the guys dropped in to warm up. 

Ray’s main job was fire prevention and suppression. He spent several years as a Bird Dog Officer, which meant he flew ahead of the water bombers to direct them to their drop zone. 

When the fire hazard was low in his district he was often exported to other districts as Fire Boss, which included northern Alberta and as far as Ontario. During our sixteen years at the Ghost, the largest fire was the Burnt Timber fire in 1970, which consumed 4000 acres of prime timber. Communications in the bush were not the greatest in those days (no cell phones) so the telephone in our house was a popular feature. The ranger station was a buzz of activity with long days and short nights for everyone! The helicopter landing pad was our lawn and it was well used. The big bonus was the frequent rides we all had. One day a congenial pilot flew his helicopter down to the Bar C Ranch to pick up our boys from the school bus. This was their first flight in a helicopter and they were very excited! 

Our oldest son, Cal, took his grade one and two by correspondence as the school bus only came to Butters Ranch, a distance of nine miles. The next year Cam started grade one and they went to Cochrane School for a month. We then spent the next six months at Hinton, in a two-room motel, where Ray finished Forestry Training School. 

The boys finished the school year in Cochrane. The following summer (1966) the Wirsigs and Bothams moved to the Bar C Ranch, so with a total of seven kids, the bus came that far. We still had to drive them three and a half miles, which sometimes got a little nasty in the winter. We also got our first telephone that fall! 

Our boys have fond memories of growing up in the Ghost. They fished, hiked, rode, swam in the local creeks and lakes and then in the early seventies snowmobiling arrived.

Between the four of us, we’d put 5000 miles on two machines over a good winter, a good winter meaning lots of snow, a term our rancher neighbours didn’t always agree with. 

In November of 1976, we took a transfer to Canmore as we knew a move was imminent once the boys finished school. Our lifestyle changed somewhat as Ray was involved in much of the development of Kananaskis Country. I spent thirteen enjoyable years as a high school secretary and did considerable hiking and skiing. Ray retired in the spring of 1987 and spent time at Kootenay Lake where we had a property for a while. 

In 1989 we bought property on Lochend Road, bordering the Sunset Ranch. As the property was in two titles, Cal bought the north one where he and his wife Judy built a log home. They have two girls, Jessa and Caylee. Jessa graduates this year (2006) and Caylee is completing grade 10. Both are delighted to graduate from the same school as their Dad. Cal is a geologist and has been with the EUB for the past twenty-six years. Judy works part-time for an accountant and maintains a small herd of Dexter cows. 

Cam spent several years with Kananaskis Parks, and then his spirit of adventure led him to BC Parks to a place called Toad River on the Alaska Highway. After nearly five years there he transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Division at Vanderhoof, BC where he now resides. He and his wife Heidi are presently building a log home on their 400 acres, which is also home to a dozen or so horses. Their daughter, Sierra, also graduates this year. Their son, Ridge, resides in Vanderhoof where he has a farrier business. 

Unfortunately, most of the old ranger stations have been abandoned and demolished. The only structure remaining at the Ghost is the treehouse the boys built many years ago. Cal and his family retrieved some of the boards from it and made picture frames as souvenirs from the past. It’s sad to see the home where we spent so many happy years disappear. It’s also very sad that the Alberta Forest Service has regressed almost to the point of extinction. We can only hope that a future government may rectify and revitalize it.

See the rest of the Hills experience at the Ghost Ranger Station with fires, escaping prisoner’s and other postings.

Stories of the Stoney First Nation – Donna Butters

Donna Butters was interviewed for the Oral History Project on Nov 18, 2011. She recalls her mother’s stories of her neighbours; the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, Elizabeth Hunter and the Four Richards.

The Oral History Project is displayed by the Heritage Resource Committee on the M.D. Bighorn YouTube channel. The complete playlist of Donna Butters is at Donna Butters Interviews

Read More about our neighbours at the Stoney Nakoda First Nation by clicking on the button.

Well Travelled Cheques

Ken Hall recently contacted us about some items from his father’s things. He has a couple of cheques from the early 1900s issued by the Cochrane Creamery. We jumped at the chance to save another relic of the history of our town.

What we didn’t realize was that these are some well-travelled cheques. Ken’s great grandfather operated a trucking business in Edmonton. Ken now lives in Yellowknife.

Also, the cheques are in pristine condition. I’ve included a couple of photos in this blog. This is not how we store our exhibits, it’s just me taking a couple of quick photos.

Cheque 102 June 19, 1912
Unknown cheque # Date April 13, 1918

Ken's explanation follows:

Greetings from up North

Enclosed are the old cheques about which we recently corresponded. I spoke with family members but we could not glean much information. 

These cheques were amongst my Great Grandfather’s effects. His name was Thomas James Hall and he lived in Edmonton. He would have been about 40 years old when these were issued. No one recognized any of the names. The best they could surmise is that he had came by these as a result of some of the business dealings he had in the area over the years-amongst other ventures he had a trucking company. 

We would be very interested in hearing any information related to these that folks may recall. 

We will be doing some research on the cheques and will report back.

I have a couple of quick observations:

  • The cheque from 1912 is for $73.00 which sounds like a lot of money for the time.
  • It was cashed at Union Bank of Cochrane on June 21. We’ll have to research banks in town at the time to see where it was.
  • It’s signed by J. Cook and the name of the secretary-treasurer I can’t make out.
  • The second cheque was issued April 13, 1918, which was during W.W. 1 (ended Nov 11, 1918)
  • We have some newspapers in our collection on these dates. I wonder what news of Cochrane was on those days?

If you can make out or know any details please get back to us.

We’ve written about the Cochrane Creamery in a previous blog. Cochrane Creamery Association

Bates Bar J Ranch

The Heritage Resource Committee of MD of Bighorn has a series of videos called the oral history project. One playlist dear to me is Randy Bates talking about his folks, Jack & Barbara Bates and the Bates Bar J Ranch. Randy describes how the Bates Bar J evolved from the Elkana.

My brothers and a neighbour spent a couple of summers at the ranch. It’s a special memory of growing up in Cochrane and the area.

We went on trail rides every morning and afternoon, went swimming at the swimmin’ hole, ate in the common area, slept in chilly dorms, learned how to build shelters out of boughs, shot bows and arrows, and went on hayrides. Just about the perfect place for kids.

Here is another blog and the story of how the Bates Bar J affected her life. Bates Bar J Ranch.

That blog has a lot of comments from former alums and most speak about how the experience changed their lives and is a very fond memory.

Maureen Wills reasons for Immigrating

Maureen Wills recalls the reasons for immigrating to the Cochrane area and her 11-day voyage.

She talks about knowing that Cochrane would be her home for the rest of her life from the very first sight.

Thanks to Heritage Resource Committee of the M.D. Bighorn’s oral history project for capturing this story.

Article from page 811 More Big Hill Country

Maureen Wills Family

By Andy Marshall 

On her second day in Alberta after arriving from England, rounding the top of the Cochrane Hill on an exploratory drive to Banff, the thought strikes Maureen Wills as clearly as the stunning view before her: “This is where I will spend the rest of my life.” 

The year was 1960, and although it took two years for the then 24-year-old to realize her vision, she’s lived in the Cochrane region for almost 46 years, helping build the community and serving others with remarkable contributions of time and energy. 

Now 72, she’s still hard at it, sitting on a task force deciding on the future of the former town office site, president of several organizations, including Victim Services, Handibus Society, William Watson Lodge Society, and the multi-million-dollar Kerby Seniors Centre operation in Calgary. 

There’s her nine years on the Family and Community Support Services advisory committee, her involvement from their beginnings with the Cochrane and Area Humane Society and the Beaupre Community Association. Town councillor from 1998 to 2004, she was also a founding member of the town’s affordable housing group. And, the town can celebrate her life long involvement with scouting and her drive to build the Frank Wills 

She’s now promoting expansion, broadening her horizons is a constant theme with Maureen. “I’m still up for a challenge,” she says, a twinkle in her eyes. “I come from Yorkshire” (England). “The most tenacious dog breed is the Yorkshire terrier, so Yorkshire people are supposed to never quit,” she adds. 

Born near York, she grew up and went to Catholic school there. “We were poor, working-class, but my parents gave us precious gifts of love and support.” At five she joined Brownies, “and my life since has been living by the ideals of scouting.”

 An all-around athlete, Maureen yearned to be out playing rather than inside pouring over books. Leaving school at 16, she hated her first inside office job. But subsequent work on a poultry farm and later at the York Institute of Agriculture reinforced her love of animals and the outdoors. 

She joined the Royal Air Force during the 1950s, learning a trade in radar. After a stint with an electrical equipment company, she joined friends for that fateful trip to Canada. 

A magnificent blanket on Maureen’s bed is an evocative memento of her first two years in Canada teaching physical education in the Blackfoot Nation east of Calgary. The blanket was a gift from elder Rosario Redgun, who earlier “adopted” her and gave her a Blackfoot name equivalent to Blue-eyed Woman. Maureen hopes one day to finish a book, From Tipi to Trailer, inspired by these experiences. 

Her first job in the Cochrane area was caring for dogs, horses and other animals at the Ghost River Ranch. There followed a spell with the Red Cross, a trip back to England, then a return to the ranch. 

A tumble off a horse introduced her to Frank in 1967. He happened to be nearby when her horse reared backwards and he untangled her foot from the stirrup. 

“I really fell for him right there,” says Maureen. There’s that twinkle again. They married the following year. 

Together with Frank, a longtime Scout leader and owner of several sawmills, they spent countless hours rejuvenating scouting throughout the region. They lived on Jamieson Road, northwest of Cochrane, opening up their large home, with a firing range and games room, for young people in need of recreation. 

Frank, a keen hunter, had his Spaniels; Maureen her beloved Corgis. Their daughter, Kathy, was born in 1971, so she was only eight when Frank died in 1979. Still close to Maureen, she enjoys, with her husband, a career in monster truck driving, the only woman in Canada to manage that, according to proud Mom. 

In 1989, the two moved into Cochrane’s east end. All the time, Maureen kept up her involvement with scouting. She also drove a school bus for 17 years and, incidentally, became a Provincial Driving Champion. 

Numerous awards cover a wall in the apartment she moved to three years ago, reflecting her relentless advocacy for seniors and young people: Commonwealth Golden Jubilee Award, Citizen of the Year, scouting silver and gold medals, Provincial Seniors’ Service award are just some of them. Maureen is quick to deflect the glory. “I don’t win these alone. I work with other people, and that’s what makes it fun.” 

Amazingly, she still has time to play cards. For her spiritual restoration, nothing beats a quiet time in Kananaskis Country. Ask her what keeps her going, she replies: “I have to have something to go to bed and feel good about it.” 

She’s certainly living up to those ideals. 

Maureen Wills Obituary

This article from Cochrane Today contains many images of her long list of interests.

Stories of the Wild West

While researching other stories this week I came across this delightful YouTube channel by the Heritage Resource Committee of the M.D. of Bighorn called the oral history project.

CHAPS has a similar goal of capturing these family stories while there is still time. When you watch this video you’ll understand why we feel this is so important.

Erik Butters tells the story of how his maternal great-grandfather came to Alberta. Along his travels, he meets some of the most famous (infamous) people of the wild, wild west.

You have to watch this!!!

Get involved in saving our local history!

Our stories are worth telling and remembering. Click the button to get in touch if your family has a story to tell or you want to help in capturing these wonderful stories.

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Calgary Stampede Chuckwagon Photos 1947-1948

I was looking through some of my Dad’s stuff to see what we might loan to the Museum for the upcoming Equine Exhibit. I didn’t have to look far.

Dad, Bill Boothby was an outrider for the Slim Fenton rig in the late 1940s. Dad obviously treasured those times as he created a bit of a Museum downstairs highlighting those times. 

I’m sure he told us about those times but I could not recall much. He spoke a lot of adding the “stove” at the start of the race but that’s about all I remember. Since they are great action photos of the World Famous Chuckwagon Races and contain locals,  I think they are a great fit for the Museum. Lynn Ferguson with the Museum committee agreed so I started doing some research and looking for ways to loan the photos.

My brother (Dana) believes Dad might have ridden a horse named Dixie who was the parent of Old Blue, a horse I was familiar with from my childhood. Since Old Blue was Blue in colour and his parent would probably look similar.  That was a good clue. There are two “Blue” horses in the photos.

Gayle Dionne’s grandfather is Slim Fenton. So I got in touch to find out if the family knew who else might have been on the team. Gayle responded that her mother (Frances) recalled that Bill Boothby, Mac Leask, Slim Leask, Roy Fenton,  and Alf Dionne were the others. 

Slim Fenton’s canvas is visible in a couple of photos. It says Slim Fenton, Horse Creek with a longhorn image. I don’t know how successful they were. I’m thinking of following up with the Stampede to see if they have records. 

That led me to contact Jackie-Lou Leask(Edge) an old high school chum to see if Mac and Slim were members of her husband’s family. Sure enough, they are and Jackie remembers having photos of those times on a display when Mac was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame.

When I removed the photos from the frames for scanning and a bit of touchup I saw they are from 1947 and 1948. Some of the photos were taken by Lorne Burkell, then of the Calgary Albertan.

As we dig up more details, I will add to the story.

Dad told me everyone when I was doing family trees. He loved those pictures, and the stories....WOW they had a lot of fun, with the team from the farm. My grandfather could do anything with horses. He was quiet training them out in the field with my Aunt Joy blocking them to go around the barrels.....

I’ve heard there were other people involved in the Stampede. If anyone would like to contribute stories of their family, I’d love to hear them. I’m just as certain the Museum would like to talk to you about borrowing any photos.

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