Merino Ranch

CHAPS first history book has a history of the Merino Ranch that used to exist west of town. I’d only recently learned of the Countess Bubna so its interesting to hear more of her story.

MERINO RANCH — by Margaret Buckley 

It is believed that J. A. W. Fraser homesteaded part of the property later known as the Merino Ranch.

In 1891, Frank White purchased the SE and SW14 of section 2-26-5-5. Here he raised a large herd of Merino sheep and gave the Merino Ranch its name. Prior to Frank’s purchase of land, he resided in a shack and had some sheep sheds built on SE114 13-25-5-5. It was here his sheep grazed on the hills and valleys near the Jumping Pound Creek in 1890 when the land surveyors came through the area. 

Around the turn of the century, Frank found it impossible to raise sheep profitably. Cattlemen were enjoying a boom, with over 1300 head being shipped from Cochrane in 1900 and 1901. The Boer War kept the horse market healthy. During this time Frank, the only sheep rancher of any size, disposed of his stock as he had been losing money steadily during the 1890s. He sold the ranch to C. W. Fisher in 1901.

Mr. Fisher imported a herd of Shorthorn cattle to stock the ranch but when he entered political life, he sold the ranch to A. McPherson. Mr. Fisher then purchased the property now known as the St. Francis Retreat.

In 1910, Mr. McPherson sold the cattle and went into the raising of horses. He was appointed one of the captains of the first Polo Club formed in Cochrane in 1909. W. Hutchinson was the other captain. Mr. McPherson also had holdings in the Argentine. He married Mary “Dumpy” Ritchie, daughter of Dr. T. Ritchie, and in 1912 sold the ranch to Countess Bubna for thirty-six thousand dollars. The McPhersons moved to the Argentine where two sons and two daughters were born. The children were raised in the Argentine but the McPhersons returned to Cochrane in 1929 to visit Mary’s sister, Rena (Mrs. Archie Howard). On this visit, they brought a parrot from Rio de Janeiro. The parrot swore in Spanish and was left with Rena in Cochrane when the McPhersons returned to their home. McPherson’s’ sons were killed in two separate car accidents, one year apart, in the Argentine. One daughter, Betty Risso, passed away in Toronto in 1974. Their other daughter, Lucy Feldman, resides in the U.S.A.

In 1912, the Countess Bubna appointed E. L. McBride manager of the ranch. She imported a number of English Shire horses, considered to be the best quality heavy horses ever brought into Alberta. She also owned the first tractor in the country. 

Countess Bubna had two very talented daughters and after arriving at the ranch the Chapman Brothers, from Cochrane, were hired to build their beautiful home. The ceilings were 16 feet high and the house had a skylight. The rooms were built in a circle, leading to a living room furnished with lovely furniture from England bearing the English family crest. 

During the time the Countess owned the Merino Ranch, she added to her holdings considerably. There were a number of homesteaders who wanted to move, so she bought their land from them and built the ranch into a going concern. She stocked it with cattle and proved a very capable businesswoman. 

Alex MacKay and his wife Annabell worked for many years for the Countess. 

Having come originally from London, England, the Countess was a very interesting person. She was the daughter of the Duchess of Sutherland and the step-daughter of the Duke of Sutherland. She married an Austrian Count and in 1911 came to Canada to buy a ranch, satisfying an early ambition. It was hoped that the Count would be able to join her in this country, but due to the International situation at that time, he was not allowed to enter Canada 

The Countess and her daughters spent the summers on the ranch and the winters in the U.S.A. While at the ranch, she made many friends in the district. After operating the ranch until 1922, she traded it to Malcolm McLennan for his 7000-acre ranch a few miles south of Vernon, British Columbia. In addition to receiving a substantial amount of cash, Mr. McLennan took over the 4500-acre ranch and 500 head of cattle. 

The Countess’ ranch in Vernon was known as the Postill Ranch and was considered to be one of the best properties in the Okanagan. She remained in British Columbia for a short time, then went to Egypt so she could be near her husband. She devoted herself to writing a play but died before it was finished. 

Mr. McLennan operated the Merino Ranch and during his ownership added another 2500 acres. He had bought the ranch for his son but the son was thrown from his horse and killed instantly. As Mr. McLennan had no further interest in the ranch after his son’s death, he sold the ranch to Ralph Coppock and on October 20, 1930, he moved to the U.S.A. 

Ralph Clifton Coppock was born in Merriam, Kansas, and ranched west of High River from 1911 to 1918 when he sold his property to F. J. Hartell. The village of Hartell was formed on the property later. He lived in High River from 1918 1927 when he and his family moved to Madden, Alberta, where he ranched until 1929. 

After purchasing the Merino Ranch in 1931, he built up the 7000-acre ranch into an enterprising concern. He bred up an outstanding herd of commercial Hereford cattle and in his feedlots, produced a quality product that found favour on the South St. Paul and Chicago markets. He also topped the market in Vancouver, in the 1940s with a shipment of 110 steers from his feedlot. Along with his cattle operation, Mr. Coppock developed a hog operation, where he marketed 250 bacon-type hogs annually. He cultivated 800 acres of his own land but every year purchased thousands of bushels of grain from neighbours in the Cochrane area for his feedlot. He also bought feeder steers to supplement the steers produced on his own ranch. Mr. Coppock was a member of the King Solomon Lodge A.F. and A.M. in Cochrane and the Western Stock Growers Association. 

Mr. and Mrs. Coppock had three sons, R. C Coppock Jr., Kenneth and Gerald and one daughter, Dorothy. Mrs. Coppock passed away in 1940 and Mr. Coppock in 1943. 

C. Coppock Jr., (Clifton) attended Palo Alto University and was a banker. He married Marion Crawford, daughter of Dr. Crawford and niece of Arthur and Ethel Crawford. 

Ken was secretary-manager of the Western Stock Growers Association and editor of the Canadian Cattleman magazine. He then owned and operated Kenway’s Saddle and Western Wear store in Calgary. 

Dorothy graduated from Palo Alto University and was a singer. She married Elwyn Bugge and they lived in Palo Alto, California. 

Gerald went to school at Cochrane, met and married Mary Rees, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Rees. Gerald was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army Corps and after the passing of his father, he managed the Merino Ranch until 1946. 

The Merino Ranch was sold in 1946 to the Federal Government Department of Indian Affairs along with the adjoining acres of Arthur Crawford. This area became an extension of the Stoney Indian Reserve. The original log house, built-in 1881 was still standing and in livable condition at the time of the sale. 

A big auction sale was held to dispose of the possessions on the ranch, thus ending the era of the Merino Ranch of the Cochrane District. 

Local Buffalo Jumps

The first of CHAPS history books “Big Hill Country” contains an article about one of the local Buffalo Jumps.

A couple of notes:

  • the original article was written in 1977 and has been slightly edited to appear here.
  • local Jumps are on private property to which the public does not have access.
  • Alberta has a World Heritage Site at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump which is a wonderful day trip.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump


The Hutchinson Buffalo Jump, located in the vicinity of Big Hill Springs, was discovered in 1968 by an amateur archaeologist, Ken Browne, of Calgary. 

It was excavated in the spring and summer of 1972 by students from the University of Calgary, Archaeological Division, under the direction of Larry Lahren,  Miss Marie Murray and Foster Kirby, with the kind permission of the landowner,  Jonathan Hutchinson. Numerous artifacts and relics were analyzed and identified. It was designated as “The Hutchinson Buffalo Jump Eh Po7.” 

In the early days, the First Nations people killed buffalo and slaughtered them in great numbers in order to provide sustenance. The buffalo roamed the prairies in great herds and First Nations people devised several ways of killing them, such as the buffalo jump, the pounds and the surrounds. 

A buffalo jump is a kill site where a herd of buffalo was forced over a steep cliff or embankment. The buffalo that were not killed in the initial fall would be sufficiently wounded or crippled to be more easily dispatched by the hunters. Such jumps were usually found below cliffs or steep slopes, sometimes along creeks or coulees. One or more layers of buffalo bones may be found, the layers varying from several feet to over a hundred feet in depth. 

Another method of hunting buffalo was the pound or corral. A structure of logs, stones, and brush plus the use of the natural contours of the land would all be utilized. The herd would be slowly started in the desired direction. Perhaps several hunters would masquerade as wolves and slowly chase the herd. Men, women and children well hidden amid the rocks, hills and natural cover, would be stationed in lines in a big V, sometimes for a distance of several miles. As the buffalo went by, the hunters would shout and make a great commotion, thus alarming the herd and stampeding them into the pound, where the avid hunters lay in wait. 

With the acquisition of horses and rifles by First Nations people, it was not so necessary to maim the buffalo by running them over cliffs (i.e. buffalo jumps) or to trap them in corrals or pounds. Now the mounted hunters could ride up to the herd of buffalo and circle around them, causing the animals to mill about in confusion. The hunters, shouting, waving and shooting at the herd as they rode in an ever changing circle, afforded the buffalo little chance of escaping such a surround. 

Sometimes the hunters would set fire to the prairie around the buffalo herd to drive them in a certain direction. There is evidence of a line drive in the Hutchinson buffalo jump. Here, lines of rock and the natural contours of the land formed a funnel shape. The buffalo herd was gathered on the western flats from up to a distance of five miles, and then driven in a southeasterly direction into the cup-shaped vale and ultimately over the cliffs forming the buffalo jump, into Bill Hill Creek valley. 

In the spring and summer of 1972, people were encouraged to visit the dig on specific days. The Chinook Chapter of the Historical Society of Alberta, the Nose Creek Historical Society, and their guests, numbering close to two hundred, stopped for an informative lecture and visit with Larry Lahren, who gave a commentary on the buffalo jump. Guests were able to view the dig in progress. 

The Hutchinson Buffalo Jump was found to have been used many times and archaeological evidence indicates that it dates from about 300 A.D. to 1500 A.D. The site contains remnants of Ethridge pottery, which possibly suggests a pre-Blackfoot type of nomads and hunters. Some of the projectile points (arrowheads) were made of quartz and minerals which had originally come from the Dakotas. Beads found were made of clam shells that would have been traded from early peoples of the British Columbia coast. The projectile points found throughout the site ranged from Avonlea and Triangular to Late Plains side-notched. There were pictographs on the cliff above the jump. Ochres of yellow, white, orange and red were found in abundance. Ochre was highly prized as a body paint after it was powdered and mixed with grease. In its natural state, it could be used for colouring teepee walls and personal weapons. 

Archaeological evidence gathered to date indicates that the Hutchinson Buffalo Jump was primarily a jump site and a butchering station that was used mainly in the autumn. There are teepee rings in four or five nearby locations that may be related to this specific site. At least four other bison jumps are known of along the Big Hill Creek valley, and who knows what other evidence may yet be found about our prehistoric past; only time will tell. 

Wearmouth Buffalo Jump

A second buffalo jump known as the Wearmouth Buffalo Jump was investigated. Read more about it here.

From Russia with Relief – Gordon Davies

Gordon tells the story of one of his adventures with the MacMillans. This story is from the series 100 Stories for 100 Years produced by Barry Thorson back in 2005.

Gordon took many student trips to Europe as well. I know the trip Cam Camden, Greg Hawkwood and I went on was a memorable experience. If you have a story about your trip please comment below.

It was our first trip outside North America. It was a whirl wind of travel, architecture, different food, meeting other groups, bus travel, castles, churches and unsupervised adventures. The photo on our return tells the story.

 I’ll make sure Gordon sees them.

Greg Cam Mark return from Paris France

History of Mt. St Francis

The History of Mount St. Francis By a Franciscan Friar 

(Based on facts and figures presented in the booklet entitled: “Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre” prepared by Roy Farran, Glenn Plats, Terry Cioni, Fern Bentz and Rose Herard.)

 One of the early pioneers in the area was Charles Wellington Fisher. He was born near London, Ontario in 1871. He arrived in Cochrane in 1899. He became the leading merchant. He bought the Merino Ranch, which was sold to Countess Bubna, daughter of the Duchess of Sutherland. 

In 1907 Charles Fisher married Marjorie Powell. He promised to build her a castle. He purchased a large ranch, which included Big Hill or Manachaban. It is now called Mount St. Francis. He built the country house on the crest of the wooded bluff above Big Hill Creek. This building is now part of the Retreat Centre. 

Charles Fisher died in 1919 from influenza – the Spanish Flu. Tom Fisher, his brother occupied the Big Hill Ranch until 1932 when it was sold. It became the Just Home Guest Ranch and was owned by the McConachie family. 

In October 1948 Friar Alphonse Claude Laboissiere, newly elected Franciscan provincial commissioner, visited Bishop Carroll of Calgary. Bishop Carroll asked if the Friars would open a retreat house in his diocese. In 1948 the bishop sent Msgr. LeFort to show the Franciscans some land for sale on the banks of the Bow River. This land was considered unsuitable. It was worth $75,000.00 

Msgr. Le Fort then approached the McConachie’s who wanted to sell their ranch for $92,000.00 without the cattle.

 In January 1949, a Calgary realtor, Clair J. Cote, advised the bishop that McConachie’s Ranch was to be sold to an American gentleman for $184,000.00, house and land. This American’s wife died suddenly and the sale was off. McConachie would now sell the house without the 1500 acres of land and the cattle. Next day the deal was off. Mrs. McConachie couldn’t leave her home. On January 28, three days later, Mrs. McConachie became seriously ill and negotiations were open again. 

In March 10, 1949 the purchase by the Franciscans of 171 acres including the mansion was complete. Another 165 acres was also bought from Mr. McConachie, which included Manachaban Hill and ravine slope. 

On April 21, 1949 Mr. Clair Cote used the commission he had earned from the vendors of the McConachie Ranch to purchase the extra 165 acres, which he donated, to the Retreat. 

On July 8, 1949, Friar Timothy Gilker became the first of the resident retreat leaders. 

On August 14, 1949, Bishop Carrol blessed Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre. 

On April 26, 1950, the Sisters of St. Elizabeth moved into their convent adjacent to the Centre. 

In June 1950, Clair Cote purchased another 25 acres of land owned by Mr. Fisher and donated it to the Franciscans.

This article is from the churches section in More Big Hill Country.

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Battle of Vimy Ridge Anniversary

Vimy Ridge was a World War 1 Battle from April 9-12, 1917. The 4 Canadian Divisions functioned for the first time as a Corp. Their mission was to take a ridge that the French and British had failed to do. A more complete story is available at the website of the National War Museum .

More Big Hill Country remembers the residents of Cochrane and area that served during World War 1.  (Page 231) Jack Tennant wrote an article about two local brothers entitled “Medic’s Diary” that follows:

Medic’s Diary offers a glimpse into First World War By Jack Tennant 

John and Bill Trevenen were brothers born two years apart and both grew up in Cochrane. 

Bill, the older brother, was born in 1895 and broke horses on the Cochrane Ranche as a young lad. The war to end all wars” came in 1914 and both brothers went overseas to serve with the Allied forces. Bill took the long ocean voyage to England in 1914 and John followed in 1915. Both were medics and John served with the Third Field Ambulance in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. Only Bill came home

The brothers kept diaries and John’s 1918 entries are particularly poignant. Keep in mind the diary was written by John Trevenen nearly 90 years ago. 

March 9. 1918 “Nobody can complain of a lack of sleep today as we didn’t rise until 1 p.m. We had one walking wounded in the afternoon and two in the evening.” 

March 12, 1918 “Gas around which we were warned about. Had a pretty busy night. Cleared 19 cases altogether but we had wheeled stretchers which helped us greatly. Most walking cases and about five on stretchers.” 

March 16, 1918 “Our squad on duty tonight and we only have two cases and one walking case in the morning. Fritz tried to pull off a raid in the evening and started a barrage. Our guns answered the SOS and cut loose pretty heavy. Fritz got stung.” 

March 18, 1918 “Supposed to be a gas attack tonight. Stood out for three hours but it was a false alarm.” 

March 29, 1918 (Good Friday): “Got a tin of Players from Cochrane and a cake from Mrs. Murray Hardrie.” 

April 1, 1918 (Easter Monday): “Went to bed with hopes of a good night’s rest but were disturbed at 1:30 a.m. with orders to get ready to move. Such is life.”

 April 14, 1918 “Germans are attacking heavily in the north and are close to Bethune. Rather serious but trust they will be stopped in time. Won a few games of checkers in the afternoon and listened to a good talk by a chaplain, Lieut. Harrison, in the evening.” 

April 15, 1918 “No mail today” but he wrote five letters to family and friends. That was John Trevenen’s last day. The next entry in his diary was April 16, 1918, and it was written by Bill Trevenen: “Was killed, died of wounds. WGT.” 

There is some confusion over the date of John’s death. Both the Books of Remembrance, where every Canadian casualty is listed and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission list his date of death as April 24, 1918. Chances are Bill’s diary note of death April 16 is right because it often took a few days to have combat deaths properly registered. 

Bill Trevenen returned to Calgary and Cochrane and was a successful trainer of thoroughbred horses for many years. 

John Fileccia is a Calgary plumber who lives in Cochrane and is the grandson of Bill. His mother Joan, Bill’s daughter, lives in Bragg Creek. Fileccia provided the diary entries. 

John’s memory was served for many years with a thoroughbred racing trophy. John Trevenen’s name is carved in the Cochrane Cenotaph, but unfortunately, the last name is misspelled. 

Critchley Bros

The Story Of Red Pollard and Seabiscuit

“Red” Pollard’s story is too big for one blog, so we’re providing more of his story.

Seabiscuit & “Red” Pollard

Seabiscuit is famous for his race with War Admiral in 1936.  While Pollard rode and won on Seabiscuit many times it was Woolf in the stirups during the match race with War Admiral.

The race was also in the 2003 movie “Seabiscuit” with Toby McGuire.

Seabiscuit & another Canadian George Woolf

Edmonton born Pollard is recognized in his home town. Youtube 

The Cougar and the Iceman The story of the two Canadians involved with Seabiscuit.

Red Pollard

Tim Collard wrote this article that also appears in the Cochrane Times.

John M. “Red” Pollard (October 27, 1909 – March 7, 1981) was a Canadian horse racing jockey. A founding member of the Jockeys’ Guild in 1940, Pollard rode at racetracks in the United States and is best known for riding Seabiscuit.

Family History

Red Pollard was the grandson of Michael Pollard, born ca. 1834 in Ireland. Michael emigrated to New Jersey in 1850, moved to Illinois by 1855, and in 1863 married Irish immigrant Bridget Moloney. They moved to Iowa in 1870, where Red’s father, John A., was born in 1875.

John A. immigrated to Edmonton, Alberta, in 1898. After the turn of the century, he and his brother Frank founded the Pollard Bros Brickyard.

John M. “Red” Pollard was born in Edmonton in 1909. He spent his early years in affluence, but the family brickyard was destroyed when the North Saskatchewan River flooded in 1915, instantly throwing the family into poverty.


Red Pollard stood 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) and weighed 115 lb (52 kg), which is considered big for a jockey. In 1933, Pollard rode in Ontario at the Woodbine and Fort Erie racetracks. Early in his career, he lost the vision in his right eye due to a traumatic brain injury suffered when he was hit in the head by a rock thrown up by another horse during a training ride. Because he would not have been allowed to ride had the full extent of his injury been known, he kept his vision loss a secret for the rest of his riding career.

Down and out in Detroit in 1936, Pollard was hired by horse trainer Tom Smith to ride Charles S. Howard’s Seabiscuit. The team’s first stakes win came in the 1936 Governor’s Handicap. Pollard and Seabiscuit won numerous important races, including the 1937 Brooklyn Handicap at Old Aqueduct Racetrack in New York City, the 1937 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs in Boston, and famously lost by a nose at the 1937 Santa Anita Handicap. Pollard and Seabiscuit were considered by most as the best pairing of race horse and jockey in the USA at that time. In 1940, Pollard jockeyed the then 7-year-old Seabiscuit to a win the Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. It was Seabiscuit’s last race. Pollard rode Seabiscuit 30 times with 18 wins – all of them stakes or handicaps.

Following the 1940 season, Pollard bought a house in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Pollard continued to ride into the 1950s, mostly in New England. Eventually, he became a jockey’s valet at Narragansett Park in Rhode Island

Honors, awards and portrayals

In 1982, Pollard was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Actor Tobey Maguire portrays Pollard in the 2003 film Seabiscuit.

Personal life

Besides the previously referenced damage to his vision, Pollard was known for other severe injuries that he suffered.[2] In February 1938, Pollard suffered a terrible fall while racing on Fair Knightess, another horse owned by Howard. His chest was crushed by the weight of the falling animal, and his ribs and arm were broken. He had extensive surgery, and almost did not survive. He recovered, and was working again by the July of the same year, when he suffered a compound fracture in his leg from a runaway horse. When he had nearly recovered, while walking the hills of Howard’s estate, he broke his leg again when he stepped into a hole. Howard, who thought of Pollard as a son, paid for his hospital stays throughout their time together.

While recuperating from his July 1938 injuries, Pollard fell in love with his nurse, Agnes Conlon.[2] They were married the following year and had two children, Norah and John.

Pollard died on March 7, 1981 in Pawtucket. He is buried at Notre Dame Cemetery, a mile north of Narragansett Park racetrack, beside his wife.

Cochrane Connection

In 1930, when Pollard’s career looked to be over before it started, Pollard raced at the Cochrane racetrack during the Annual meet. This was the penultimate meet at the Cochrane track before the Depression ended the annual meetings. In one race for which records of Pollard’s participation exist, he finished second behind fellow future hall of fame jockey Johnny Longden

Second race - Longden on Prodigal, Pollard on Billy Wisp

Medicine in Early Cochrane

Todays post is from page 89 of More Big Hill Country. The image is of the Davies House which once served as Cochrane’s Hospital and is now home to the Cochrane Historical Museum.

The first settlers came into the Cochrane area in the late 1880s and continued to arrive over the next twenty or thirty years. Medical theory and practise has changed a lot of course, from that time to the present. It is interesting to look back and read the stories of those people, our very own parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents and try to imagine ourselves in the same medical situations and how we would react. 

In those days … 

* The germ theory of disease, that infections are caused by bacteria and viruses, had only recently been accepted and taught to medical students and nurses. It was also very difficult for a doctor in a place like Cochrane to keep up with any new discoveries. 

* Anaesthetics such as nitrous oxide, chloroform and ether had just been discovered and were not available in the hinterlands. 

* Abdominal surgery of any kind was uncommon except in larger cities. For instance, the first appendectomy was performed in Europe in 1900. 

*There was no effective treatment at all in those days for communicable diseases, pneumonia, ear infections, mastoiditis, vomiting and diarrhea, “blood poisoning” 

* all common killers of both children and adults. 

* Babies were by necessity usually born at home often far from civilization. Mothers and babies often fed in childbirth done in the “natural” way without the help of trained midwives or doctors; Hemorrhage would be the commonest cause in easy delivery. Untreated toxemia could cause the death of either mother or baby or both. Sometimes the labour would on over many days without success and the baby or mother or both would die at that time or possibly a week or so later from puerperal infection. 

Mitford Days 

Tom and Lady Adela Cochrane built the town of Mitford in the early 1880s. In 1888, they convinced a young Dr. Hayden to come over from England to set up practice and run a drugstore in the town. One of Tom Cochrane’s first projects was a sawmill. He built a railway 

Horse Creek and over to Grand Valley to bring the ng down to the mill. Unfortunately, the steam engine was forever running off the track. On one occasion, the brakeman was found under the engine with severe head injuries. Dr. Hayden transported him back to town by wagon and he eventually recovered. Two weeks later, the engine was returning to the sawmill pulling four trucks of logs when it left the rails again pinning the engineer and broke two bones in his leg. Treatment of accidental injury would be a big part of medical practice in those days.Dr. Hayden left in 1891 but the drugstore remained open. Many home remedies would be sold there so people could use treatments handed down from grandmothers of past generations. 

A few stories survive illustrating other problems people faced before the turn of the century. 

Atkins Family 

In 1895, Harry Atkins brought a new bride to his homestead near where Cremona is now situated. His wife successfully gave birth to two daughters but in 1901, a son was born and the mother died either during the delivery or shortly after, leaving him with two young children and a newborn baby. The next year, tragedy struck again as the oldest girl died of pneumonia at age six. 

John McNeil Family

 His wife and three children arrived in Mitford in 1886. They had three more children there. She was in late pregnancy with her seventh when she got the news that while her oldest boy was away getting supplies, his team of horses ran away and dragged him to death. Mrs. McNeil went into labour a few hours later and died while giving birth. The next spring, the Bow flooded their Mitford home and the children had to climb to the roof before being rescued. The baby boy died soon after. The four girls were put in a convent in Calgary and the son Joseph went to live in Cochrane. The next winter, Joseph died of appendicitis. His father John helped dig his grave in Cochrane, developed pneumonia and died three days later in the hotel in Cochrane. It is not often that so many tragedies as this would happen to one family but it does illustrate the dangers faced by pioneers. 

Dr. Harbottle

 In 1907, late in his life came from Ontario with a grown son and daughter. They all homesteaded in the district. He never opened a practice but he was often called by his neighbours in times of illness. He helped Mrs. Oldaker through a bout of erysipelas, a serious very painful skin infection that lasts a long time. In those days, the treatment was likely to rest, heat, elevation, and relief of pain and hope for the best. The old doctor was found by neighbours one day, he had died alone in his homestead home. One of the problems in those days was that many bachelor homesteaders lived alone far from neighbours. It was not uncommon for them to be found dead days or weeks after a serious accident or illness because they had no way of calling for help.


Doctors came and went but the ladies that helped deliver the annual crop of babies were the most valued and valuable medical service in the district in those days. Many of them had nursing training but some had learned what to do from their mothers or grandmothers. Most mothers of necessity had their babies in their own homes far from their neighbours. The brave nurse-midwives would be out all times of the day and night in all kinds of weather sometimes leaving their own families to fend for themselves as they sat through long labour or nursed someone through a serious illness. They charged no fee as they knew the time would come when they might need a neighbour’s help themselves. 

The names of some of these ladies keep cropping up in the stories told by old-timers; Mrs. Hugh Robinson, Mrs. Oliver Mickle, Mrs. Jimmy Patterson, Louise Tempany, Mary Hughes, Mrs. Boucher, Mrs. Lancons, Mrs. Urquhart, Granny Hogarth, Mrs. Anderson, Mrs. Dawson, Lura Gano, Maud Lewis, Hilda Beard, Nancy (Harbidge) Boothby, Nurse Roberts. Others took in maternity and other patients in nursing homes or their own homes in Cochrane and they are mentioned elsewhere.

Dr. Andrew Park

First resident physician in the town of Cochrane. He graduated in 1904 and came immediately to Cochrane to set up practice. He was unmarried and lived in the hotel at first. His office was upstairs in the Fisher Block. There were no cars and no roads so he rode horseback on his rounds to patients in the large area he served.

In those days, most patients were treated in their homes and the doctor made his rounds from home to home as often as necessary carrying his surgical instruments and medications with him, If they were so sick they couldn’t look after themselves, there was usually some neighbour who could help. In 1906, he married a teacher from his hometown in Ontario and they set up housekeeping in Cochrane. At this time he bought a horse and buggy to do his rounds. He later bought one of the first cars in Cochrane. In 1915 Dr. Park left Cochrane to serve in the armed forces during World War 1. 

A few stories told by his patient’s highlight problems faced in that era.

Hank Bradley; in 1913 at the age of six years had one of his fingers chopped off by a man cutting a soup bone off a shank of frozen beef with an axe. The boy was holding the beef so it wouldn’t slip at the time. The man who wielded the axe soaked the wound in saltwater and wrapped it in a towel while he went and caught and harnessed a team of horses. Then he had to go to a neighbour to borrow a democrat before he could take the boy to the doctor. The doctor had to tie him down to work on his finger. 

John and Lucy Morgan homesteaded in the Bottrel area. Lucy went into labour on November 24, 1908, during an early winter blizzard and a temp of -20F. They sent their 13-year-old son by horse and sleigh to fetch Mrs. Dawson, the midwife, who lived seven miles away. She gathered up her equipment and back they went through the cold and driving snow. It was a complicated labour so Dr. Park was called from Cochrane. He hitched up his horse and cutter and arrived sometime later. Luckily the brave mother was finally presented with a healthy baby. Because Lucy was confined to bed for a day or two, Mrs. Pogue came and stayed with her until she was well enough to look after her family. The next year, Mrs. Pogue had a baby at home so she sent her two children over for Lucy to look after while she too recovered from her labour. A Neighbour helping neighbour allowed people to survive. 

Lou Shands was hauling firewood in the bush in 1905 when his team ran away. He was thrown off and broke his leg badly. He was hauled to his home on a stone boat and someone rode into town to get Dr. Park. By the time the doctor arrived many hours after the injury, the leg was so swollen that after it was set the cast would not hold it properly. He was eventually left with a marked limp. In 1945, Lou took seriously ill on his farm right after a blizzard had closed all the roads. This time a more modern ambulance, an airplane, took him to hospital in Calgary. Such a change in one man’s lifetime. 

Edith McKinnell and her husband John homesteaded in the Bottrel area after arriving from Scotland. Edith had been brought up in a rich family with servants to do all the work. It was quite a culture shock to come to an area where only the very basics of life were to be had and where she spent months without seeing another woman. All five of her children were born in her home without medical help with only her husband to assist. Sadly, the first baby died at birth but luckily the rest survived and thrived. 

Elizabeth Winchell and her husband Frank homesteaded near Water Valley. Two of her babies died at birth at home but one son survived. 

Dr. Thomas Ritchie 

Dr. Ritchie arrived in the Cochrane district in 1904 with a wife and family of eight children. He had been practicing for a long time in Virginia USA and it appeared he had done well financially and moved here to invest and farm rather than continue doctoring. He bought a small ranch near Mitford that is now part of the Morley reserve. He also purchased land at the mouth of Jumping Pound Creek. There he ripened and sold the first wheat ever shipped from west of Calgary. Of course, he couldn’t refuse to treat people if they needed help when Dr. Park was away. In the fall of 1919, his car overturned in the ditch during a snowstorm and he died from his injuries three days later. 

Some stories survive that involve this doctor. 

Dave Bryant was six years old when he fell off a horse and broke his arm. He was taken to Cochrane but the doctor was away so they took him to Dr. Ritchie’s ranch. There the doctor with the help of his son was able to set the bones. No anesthetic was used. Alcohol, morphine and cocaine were about the only means of relieving pain that doctors had in those days. A child of six could be held down by a strong man while the bones were reduced. This seems cruel but it had to be done so there was no alternative in this case. 

William Tempany froze both feet hauling hay in the winter of 1906. Dr. Ritchie was sent for and came from his home on the ranch to do what he could for him. Part of one foot had to be amputated later. 

Anne Steel was knocked down by a horse and broke her leg. Dr. Ritchie came to their farm by horse and buggy to set it. For a cast, they wound strips of bedsheets soaked in hot starch solution around the leg. As it cooled and dried, it hardened enough to do the job. 

Communicable Diseases spread unchecked because of the lack of immunization and few medications that were effective. 

Smallpox still occurred although vaccination had been available for many years. In 1908, an epidemic occurred in Cochrane. Tents were erected down by the river and anyone with smallpox was sent there. Guards were stationed on the roads and at the railway station to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the town for any reason. These guards carried rifles and enforced the quarantine to the letter. Rev. Sale, the priest at All Saints Anglican Church at that time, rode into town on horseback to visit a parishioner without knowing about the quarantine. When he was challenged, he ignored the order to stop. He stopped in a hurry when a shot was fired over his head. When no more cases occurred, every resident had to take a bath in an approved disinfectant before the town was declared safe and the school could reopen. 

Scarlet Fever was a serious disease in those days before penicillin. Many adults and children died from its effects and many developed rheumatic fever, kidney problems and chronic ear infections as complications from the disease if they survived. In 1910, it was prevalent in the district. Jack Dowson and his niece Lily Johnson died from it. 

Diphtheria took the lives of many children. They would suffocate because a membrane would sometimes form over the breathing passages, or the toxins from the disease would affect the heart, kidneys or nerves. In 1898, the Scotty Craig family was infected and the oldest son died at age 10. Andrew and Suzanna Nagy lost two of their oldest children to the disease in 1915. In 1924, Elizabeth Phillips (nee Skinner) in the Lochend area, died from diphtheria leaving her husband with three young children to raise. It was not until the 1930’s that a vaccine was available although an antitoxin was available prior to that. Antibiotics, of course, were not discovered until the 1940s. 

Typhoid fever was also present in the district because wells could be contaminated by poor hygienic practices and there were always carriers of the disease in those days. In 1882, Elizabeth Sibbald died from typhoid, and in 1907 Thurman and Elizabeth Ault lost a son from the disease. In 1911 John Boothby was treated for typhoid fever in the relatively new Davies-Beynon hospital by Dr. Park. In 1917, two of Mrs. Davies’s granddaughters died of typhoid fever. The disease is now controlled by strict public health measures regarding water supply and sewer systems. 

Measles, mumps, chickenpox, whooping cough and rubella went around every few years and in those days every child would catch most of them over the childhood years. It was not until the 1940s that the whooping cough vaccine was used and the 1960s that measles, mumps rubella vaccine was available. Chickenpox vaccine didn’t come along until about 1995. It was rare for one to die from these common diseases but serious complications sometimes occurred. 

Child Mortality 

One of the saddest parts of pioneer life was the large numbers of infants and children that never reached the teen years. Besides the babies that died at birth, there were many that succumbed to complications of communicable diseases, infections of all kinds, and vomiting and diarrhea possibly due to lack of a safe water supply. Lack of availability of medical and nursing care would be a factor as well. 

Mr. and Mrs. Andy Clarke opened a butcher shop in Cochrane in 1914. Out of their nine children, two died in infancy. No diagnosis is given. 

James Hewitt Family homesteaded near Cochrane and later ran a pool hall and barbershop in the town. Out of their family of thirteen, three died in infancy. 

James Quigley Family raised a family on land in the east part of present-day Cochrane. Out of nine children, two died in infancy. 

Since there was no cemetery at that time, the Hewitt and Quigley children were all buried on the Quigley farm. When the new cemetery opened, they were all disinterred and moved there. 

Rev. David Reid in 1932 came to the United Church in Cochrane. While living here in the manse, they lost their youngest daughter. As usual, no diagnosis was given. 

Bert and Lizzie Sibbald had five children. They lost a daughter at age twelve in 1930. 

Samuel and May Spicer lost their first child in 1911 to some unknown disease at the age of eighteen months.

Clem and Peggy Edge lost daughter Margaret at 18 months of age from a “heart seizure”. 

Charles Harbidge, out of six children born in the Cochrane area after 1905, one daughter died at age eight and one son at age thirteen. 

Mel and Christine Weatherhead had a new son born about 1909. While Christine was upstairs looking after the baby, her two-year-old son downstairs had a convulsion of some sort and died. Christine, being postpartum, became severely depressed and blamed herself for the tragedy. 

Earl and Letha Whittle had a family of four children in 1912. Six-year-old Gladys suddenly died of pneumonia that year, and two months later ten-year-old Claude died of a “heart condition” 

Robert and Edith Beynon had three children. One died in infancy and another at the age of two. Only one son survived. This was around 1930 in the town of Cochrane 

Maternity, Nursing Homes and Hospitals 

Mrs. Richard “Dickie” Smith (Amy) Her husband died in 1902 on the ranch which later became known as the Virginia Ranch in the Dogpound area. Amy went back to England with her three children to study to be a midwife as she could see the need in this area. In 1903 she set up a nursing home in Cochrane in a log building set back from the street about where the back of the Grahams Building sits now. Mrs. Smith’s nursing home closed after she remarried in 1905. The house later became the Yee Lee laundry. 

Mrs. Jack Boldack Used her house as a maternity home and nursing home for several years in the early 1900s. She was a midwife herself but the doctor would sometimes be called to help. 

The Davies Hospital 

By 1910 Dr. Park needed space for patients that required hospital care. The Thomas Davies family was building a townhouse in Cochrane and they were persuaded to build it a little larger so part of it could be used for hospital patients. It seemed a good fit since Margaret Davies lived there and could preside over it and her daughter, Annie Beynon, had nursing training and could handle that end of the business. This hospital served Cochrane from 1910 to 1915, when it was closed because Dr. Park had left for war service and Mrs. Davies was in poor health. 

“Quigley House” Hospital 

The house at 402 Carolina Drive became a nursing home after Dr. Park left. May Coatsworth was head nurse and Mrs. Campbell Roberts was the administrator. Both were well-trained midwives. The dates of the operation of the hospital are uncertain but in 1917, May married Angus McDonald and left. After her marriage, May continued to act as a midwife and do a lot of home nursing in the district as far north at Bottrel. 

Mrs. E.C. “Dad” Johnson 

The 1918 influenza pandemic hit Cochrane hard. There was no hospital or doctor at that time. Mrs. Johnson was an R.N. so she turned her home into a hospital for the worst cases. It was still in use as a maternity and nursing home as late as 1925. Mrs. “Jappy” Rodgers and Bernice Linfoot both had babies there within hours of each other in 1922 and John Claude Copithorne was born there in 1925 with Dr. Waite in attendance. 

Dr. William Saunders 

In 1905, he came out with his father, mother and even siblings to homestead in the area near the junction of Lochend Road and Highway 567. In 1913, he proved up a quarter section of his own in that area. He studied medicine and graduated in time to assist Dr. Waite in his practice for a short time. He lived on his homestead so he was too far away to be of much help and moved to Calgary shortly after to open a practice. 

Dr. Waite 

Since Dr. Park had decided to move to Calgary after the war, Dr. Waite and his new bride Mona arrived in Cochrane in the fall of 1919. Mona was a nurse so she turned part of their first home into a nursing home and took in patients and delivered babies there. In 1923, they bought the drug store from Mr. Smythe and renovated it to include living quarters. They lived there the remainder of their time in Cochrane. Mrs. Waite did mot take in patients any more but helped in the drug store and assisted the doctor on his rounds. Dr. Waite was a busy man in the fifteen years he lived here. He died in 1934. Cause of death is not known but he couldn’t have been much older than forty years. After his death, the drug store was sold to Mr. Hart. 

A few stories remain of medical problems that Dr. Waite faced in those days. 

Ted Cook just before Christmas 1919 was shooting partridges with a double-barrel shotgun. He killed three with the first shot but a wounded one tried to flutter away. Forgetting that he had cocked both barrels, he used the butt of the gun to knock the bird down causing the hammer to be released on the loaded barrel shooting him in the hip. 

It took several neighbours to get the doctor out through the deep snow and transport Mr. Cook into the nursing home in Cochrane where he spent the winter recuperating. 

Louis Garlin was a widower baching on his homestead and came down with pneumonia. Dr. Waite had been out to see him several times and a nurse helped him during the day. Paul Swanson and Arthur Wells were to sit with him one night as the doctor didn’t think he would live long. The men shaved him and cut his hair so he wouldn’t go to heaven unshaven and unshorn. Dr. Waite had given them a bottle of brandy and they were to give him an ounce every four hours to help him on his way. Instead of an ounce of brandy, they decided to give him two and a half ounces. Along about 4 am. Louis began to sing. He eventually recovered and lived to be 90 years of age. He always believed that the brandy had saved his life. It was probably as good a treatment as any they had in those days. 

Jack Reid fell and broke his leg one day when he was a teenager. He saddled his horse and rode out to the field to tell his dad. This required him to get off and on the horse several times to open gates and close them. His father didn’t think there was much wrong so he rode home to tell his mother, opening and closing gates as before. By the time he got home, there was no doubt that it was fractured. Dr. Waite was in the district on another case so he came and treated it. 

Ed “Boney” Thompson, while riding a bucking horse in the summer of 1921 he fractured his pelvis with complications of a punctured bladder and other internal injuries. He was up along the Little Red Deer River eighteen miles from the nearest phone and much further from the closest medical help in Cochrane. Laurie Johnson rode to the Mount Royal ranch and phoned Cochrane to send the doctor out. Dr. Waite arrived in his Model T with his tools and instruments but the road went no further. The next eighteen miles the doctor had to ride a horse. He was able to give Boney enough narcotics that they could move him into a wagon and survive the rough ride down to the ranch. Another car took him directly into the hospital in Calgary as they knew he would require surgery. Sadly, he died soon after at the age of forty-eight. 

Mrs. Tom Zuccolo went into labour on their ranch south-west of Bottrel on a cold January 8 morning at 2 a.m. A 14 mile trip over snow-covered roads with a team and sleigh got her to Mrs. Johnson’s nursing home in time for Dr. Waite to deliver a healthy little girl. 

Gordon Moore son of Alex Moore was watching one of the earliest cars in town go by. He thought he would catch a free ride by grabbing a door handle. He got a ride alright but also dislocated his elbow. Dr. Waite was able to reduce it and he got a good result from a serious injury. 

Jimmy Patterson was sixteen years old when he got scarlet fever. He got complications, infected mastoids and pneumonia and was near death in Cochrane where he had been ill for many weeks. With no X-rays to guide him, Dr. Waite decided to drain the infected fluid from the lung. His diagnosis was correct, the surgery was successful, and the boy recovered. The ear and mastoid infection caused him to become deaf, however. 

Dr. Rivers was a friend of Mr. Hedley Hart who had purchased the drug store from Mrs. Waite after her husband died in 1934. The country was in the midst of the depression, Cochrane had no doctor and the druggist somehow convinced Dr. and Mrs. Rivers to come to live here and help out for a time. They lived in the big brick house at the corner of Pope and First street E. His office was in the house but he treated patients and delivered babies in their homes as there was no hospital. Dr. Rivers would be the last resident doctor in Cochrane until what we consider “modern” times. 

Bob and Alice Graham bought the Hart drugstore and ice cream business in the mid-1950s. This store, and the brand new big store which they built later, became by default the centre of medical care in the town a: there was nothing else. Bob as a pharmacist and Alic as an R.N. could not refuse to give first aid and advice to their friends and neighbours when asked. Alice was often called out to emergencies as well. The Calgary doctors also might ask her to check blood pressures, give injections, remove sutures, or change dressings for the local patients. The Grahams did this gratis for many years. During this time, Dr. Milne and Dr. Prowse would come out occasionally to help out when necessary but there was no resident doctor. 


This takes us up to about 1960. By now, antibiotics were in general use, mothers had their babies in hospitals, hospitals had X-rays and laboratory tests to properly diagnose disease and injury, and children were protected from most communicable diseases by immunization. Better roads and cars were allowing people to access medical care from their distant farms and ranches. Cochrane and district now entered the modem medical age and the many different but still serious medical problems that we now face. 

Brickyards and Stone Quarries

Today’s post is from pg 29 of More Big Hill Country. This section of the book contains histories of early businesses.

The Big Hill Country had many sandstone quarries in the early years and many of the buildings in downtown Calgary are built with this sandstone.

The Shelley Quarry Company opened in 1908 and from 1911 to 1913, three quarries were operating up the valley of Big Hill Creek. Shelley Quarry sandstone was shipped to Calgary for finishing at the Headquarters of the Company. The sandstone was also sent to other parts of Alberta for use in buildings. 

The Glenbow Quarry was operating around the turn of the twentieth century and the Legislature Building and Government House in Edmonton are both constructed of sandstone from the Glenbow and Cochrane Quarries The quality of the sandstone was excellent and the quarries in the area provided much-needed work for many immigrants in the early days. 

In 1891, Tom Cochrane established a brickyard at Mitford which he ran a little over a year. In the late 1890s, Mr. Little established a brickyard and Pete Collins took it over, building the first kiln in 1902. The brickyard shut down during WW1 but reopened after the war in 1918 and operated into the 1920s. The French Brickyard was established by E. Perrenoud and J. Boudreau in 1904. Gabriel Bruel bought them out a short time later. In 1914, Mr. Bruel and most of his employees were called back to France to serve in the army. The brickyard was shut down and did not reopen. Then in 1910, Mr. Quigley started a brickyard however it went bankrupt before World War I in 1914.

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

Collins Brickyard Cairn

Schools in Cochrane

This old article recently came in CHAPS possession.  The original photo was taken by Ed Arrol, a teacher at the school.

This article was written during the Covid-19 pandemic so the resources of the Cochrane Historical Museum have not been available. Fortunately, CHAPS recently started using G SUITE which converts pdf files to text. This allowed me to convert the article “Schools in Cochrane” on page 127 in More Big Hill Country for use in this post.

In the late 1890s, James Quigley and Donald Bruce decided that a school was needed in the Hamlet of Cochrane. They had enough children between them of school age and there were some of the Hewitt children ready for school as well so the application was made for a school and a one-room building was erected in the east end of Cochrane. The first teacher was Mr. George Bevan. 

The school soon became too small so the school, formerly the saloon, from Mitford, was moved to Cochrane and placed on the Grayson/Bruce property on what is presently Centre Avenue. The building was placed facing north and south and became a school for the small children around 1900. This building was later bought by the Masonic Lodge and is currently their home. 

These two buildings appear to have served the hamlet until 1918 when a two-room Brick School was built on Main Street near the present Holy Spirit School. In 1926 a second storey with two more rooms was added to the Brick School and the little school was used as a gymnasium for the children. It is said that there were sets of boxing gloves hanging on the wall of this small gymnasium and many of the boys learned to box there. 

This arrangement seemed to be fine for the population attending the Cochrane School until, as the population increased and roads were being built, it became necessary to have more room. In the late 1940s or early 1950s, a white clapboard sided one-room school was moved onto the property near the Brick School and this little school was used until about 1956. From 1957 to 1961 grades five and six were taught in the “white school” as it was called. It was later moved to the outdoor skating rink in Cochrane’s east end and was used for many years as the rink house. 

It was during this time that the number of children in the town was increasing and one-room schools were starting to close so some of the parents of the children and other citizens in Cochrane facilitated the building of a new elementary school on the Main Street site. Many children had to go to Calgary for high school as it was not being taught in Cochrane. These parents succeeded in getting a new school built to house all the students. At this time around 1955-1956, Mr. Grant was teaching grades nine and ten in the basement of the Community Hall. They used the upstairs for their gymnasium. 

The new Cochrane Elementary School was built in 1957 and it housed grades one to four. It had six rooms and a gymnasium and grades five and six were housed in the little white school. Grades seven, eight and nine were in the old Brick School and during this time the Cochrane School Board and the parents were working on plans for a larger school. In 1958 there were 250 students in grades one to twelve. 

The new Cochrane High School opened for the 1962-63 season and it offered grades nine, ten, eleven and twelve. By 1968-1969 construction began on a new elementary school addition to joining the Cochrane Elementary School. Construction was going along well on the new addition being added to the east end of the elementary school and the contractors had large propane tanks and their new construction area covered with tarps so that the cement would not freeze and work could continue through the colder months. One night a wind got up and blew the tarps onto the propane tanks and a large explosion took place. It did not damage the new building site but managed to move the old Brick School off its foundation. This then proved another problem, 

“Where do we put these students?”?

 The grade five and six classes were scheduled to move into the Brick School but that could not happen now as the old school had to be dismantled and removed from the site. These classes remained at Cochrane Elementary and in grade seven they were moved up to the High School. It was a scary thing to have to move up to that big school however they had a party at one of the homes where all the kids and a lot of parents gathered. Mr. Sly, a teacher from the High School came and they all got to know each other and support each other during this “BIG” move to the new big school up on the hill. 

The new elementary school was completed and officially opened in 1968-1970 with a new name, Andrew Sibbald Elementary School. The school was named after Andrew Sibbald, the first school teacher in Alberta who had come to Morleyville. The school now had a Library, a Science Room, a large double room, new administration offices and new entrances. It looked after students from grades one to six until Manachaban Middle School was opened in 1972. The name Manachaban was also chosen in a contest open to everyone, students, town and surrounding area residents. Manachaban means a hill of bows and arrows and is very fitting for that location. 

Shortly after Andrew Sibbald School opened portable classrooms had to be added to the north side for Mrs. Eddie Edge and Mr. Gunn to teach Math. Bruce Davies, Vice Principal and John Edwards taught science, Miss Armstrong, music, Mrs. Nu, Ed Errol and Jim Jenkins, Principal had classrooms in the new wing. The old wing was redecorated and Mrs. Otteson, Mrs. McPherson, Miss Bennett, Mrs. Scott, Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Elliot enjoyed the teacher’s lounge, the library and all the other up-to-date facilities. 

Many students passed through the doors of Andrew Sibbald Elementary School and the other Cochrane schools before it. More schools have been built as the town has grown adding Elizabeth Barrett, named after the first woman school teacher in Alberta who also came to Morleyville, an addition to Cochrane High School, Glenbow Elementary, Mitford School, Bow Valley High School and St. Timothy High School. Sadly. Andrew Sibbald School closed and was sold to the Catholic School System and is now Holy Spirit School. It is hoped that when a new school is built in Cochrane it will be named after Andrew Sibbald. As Andrew Sibbald taught in this area first it would be a great tribute to our history

Cochrane Legacy Statue

March is Women’s History Month. In light of that, I thought I’d research the “Chicken Lady” statue on main street Cochrane. Certainly not a complete list, the friends and families of 40 women had their names added to the base of the statue.

The sculptors are Don & Shirley Begg and the statue cast by Studio West here in town.

A Project of the Cochrane Centennial Celebrations Society. Unveiled June 17, 2003.  On the occasion of Cochrane’s 100th Birthday

A tribute to the women of character and perseverance who have built and nurtured the social fabric of our community. Those whose names are inscribed in the base have been so honored by the contributions of their families and friends. They represent generations of women whose hard work laid the foundation for the life of this community.

The project was also made possible by the contributions of the Cochrane and District Community Foundation, Fred Whittle, and the Cochrane Rotary Club.

Sculptors Don & Shirley Begg created this bronze statue of a woman feeding chickens as a tribute to prairie farm women. The original statue, “Egg Money”, is in Fish Creek Provincial Park, Calgary, Alberta. It includes the figures of a boy and a girl. This statue, and a second one in Saskatoon, are based on Egg Money.

Names are impressed into the base of the statue:

Violet DesJardins

Rose McGonigle

Eleanor (McArthur) Berwick

Sarah (Ellis) Edge

Mabel Robena Turner

Gertrude Copithorne

Annabelle (Quigley) MacKay

Mildred Camden

Helen Scott

Mary Crowe

Edith (Callaway) Towers

Annie Beynon

Jemima "Mamie" Callaway

Lady Adela Cochrane

Janet (Johnston) Sibbald

Amy Begg

Letha Whittle

Susanna Nagy

Ethel Margaret (Munro) Crawford

Bertha Harbidge

Ida (Brodie) Edge

Christine Jacobs

Glendale Women's Institute est 1925

Winnie Wearmouth

Emily Lathwell

Yvonne Callaway

Sophia Beynon

Flora Garson

Vernice (Towers) Wearmouth

Marjorie Spicer

Ellen (Ullery) Bryant

Christina Smith MacKay

Jessie Louise Bateman

Isobel (Allan) Fenton

Alice Miriam Callaway

Betty (Hanes) Birchall

Claudia Edge

Nan Boothby



Cochrane Today has an article on the original model for the statue here.

Cochrane 2003 Centennial Calendar

One of the treasures we recently received from Edith Edge is a calendar from not too long ago.  It’s a calendar from Cochrane’s 100th anniversary. Produced by the Centennial Committee assisted by the Town Of Cochrane and CHAPS it contains some fascinating information about our history.

We’ll give an overview here and each month display the calendar from that month on our social media pages.

Click image for larger view

There are so many changes since 2003.  It’s also nice to place what used to exist with what exists now! The Murphy Hotel sat where the Royal Bank is now.

Click image for larger view

Cochrane became a village in 1903.

1908 A small pox epidemic caused isolation tents to be setup near the river.

1909 Davies house built that became first hospital.

2002 Population at census 12,074


Recovering from the flood, Looking forward

Our exhibits this summer are really coming together. We cant wait to show you.

All our exhibits will reflect how horses impacted the growth of our town. We’re certain well have some facts that you didn’t know.

This past year has been a challenge with 2 floods of the Cochrane Ranche. The Museum is put back together but we’re still working on restoring or replacing some of our exhibits. Here is a slide show that shows our progress.


Famous Cochrane Horses

Article by: Tim Collard & Mark Boothby

This article was published in the Cochrane Times March 4th, 2020

CHAPS exhibits at the Cochrane Historical Museum for the 2020 season will be on the impact of horses on the town and area. From the practical use of horses to horse racing, polo, steeplechase, rodeo and serving in World War 1 many famous horses were raised in the area. This article focuses on race horses and will be the first of several. Photos courtesy of the Glenbow Archives.

“The Dude”:

Owned by D.W. Kerfoot, The Dude won one of the first recorded horse races in Cochrane. In 1891, W.D. Kerfoot and his brother-in-law, William Bell-Irving, competed in a match race which Kerfoot won by a nose. The Dude was the first of many Kerfoot horses to win races in Cochrane.


Purported to be the first thoroughbred in the North West Territories (then comprising Alberta and Saskatchewan) Konrad (sometimes spelled Conrad) was imported from England by the Bow River Horse Ranch around 1886. Konrad and another horse called Moss Trooper were the first thoroughbred sires used in the Cochrane District.

“Dixie Land”:

Dixie Land was another Kerfoot horse. In 1895, Kerfoot won races at both the Cochrane and Mitford race meet and the Calgary race meet onboard Dixie Land. The horse would go on to win races across the continent, including in Winnipeg and San Francisco before eventually being sold and shipped to Australia where it continued to win races on the Australian racing circuit.


Cyclone was bred by G.E. Goddard of the Bow River Horse Ranch and was the offspring of another famous horse imported by the Bow River Horse Ranch, “Juryman” who had won the Belmont Stakes before being imported to the Cochrane area. Goddard raced Cyclone as a two-year-old before selling him to A.J. Murphy of Cochrane in the 1890s, Cyclone and Dixie Land were the most famous racehorses in the West. Cyclone won almost every race he entered, with victories in Cochrane, Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Grand Forks, ND, and Windsor. Sporting Murphy’s green and gold silks, Cyclone was one of the most successful horses to come out of the Cochrane area.


Another famous Cochrane horse, Smokey, owned by D.P. McDonald, was famous for his jumping ability. In 1914, at the Calgary Horse Show, 17-year-old Smokey set a record for the highest jump by an Alberta bred horse when he cleared a seven-foot hurdle with Cochrane boy, Percy Sawtell, riding him. This was Smokey’s last public appearance and his record stood until 1925. Though Smokey rose to prominence under the ownership of D.P. McDonald, Smokey was bred on the Kerfoot ranch before being sold to D.P. McDonald.

Remembering Library Founders

Once called the Nan Boothby Memorial Library, now the Cochrane Public Library, CHAPS held a meeting last night to gather information on the original volunteers who established and maintained the Library.

Thanks to Fay Lewis, David Beatty and Gordon Davies who gave their families history of how the library came into being, why it was so vital to a small community and how a group of volunteers gave it life. 


David Beatty, Fay Lewis, Gordon Davies

Our goal is to put together a history for the Museum as well as to present the information to the Library Board in April.

Signage when called the Nan

Pat Hutchinson Interview

CHAPS is searching for family histories before those memories are lost. We are attempting to record family stories in 5-10 minute videos.

If you’d like to participate please get in touch.

Pat has provided us with interesting photos of the Hutchinson and Perrenoud homesteads north of Cochrane. We’ll put this information in a video in the future.

Thresher at Perrenoud's
Steel wheeled tractor

Cochrane Cafe

I came across this menu from the Cafe on my desk this morning. The Cafe was such a Cochrane favourite that I want to share. I’ll also see if the Museum wants it as an artifact. The menu was from February 2015. Interesting that the directions are from Mackay’s.

Getting off the ranch for a meal, even one so close as ours was a real treat. I can’t imagine how many Ginger Beef and fried rice I had.

Grand Valley Steeplechase

It is written about on page 54 of the Big Hill Country.  We are interested in more details of the steeplechase,  but also would like to see if we can get the “Presidents Trophy” for inclusion in the equine exhibit next summer.
We’ve heard the “Presidents Trophy” may be held by Tim Lawrence who was once living on a ranch east of Red Deer.  
If you have a story about the Grand Valley Steeplechase or know of the whereabouts of the Trophy, please give us a call at 587-777-6926 
Steeplechase at Cochrane - photo courtesey Glenbow Archives

Does Research interest you?

CHAPS can use your help. Just get in touch.

Cochrane Lions Rodeo History

Cochrane Lions and CHAPS held a joint event at the Cochrane History Museum last night. The topic was about the history of the Cochrane Lions Rodeo which has been a local favourite since the mid-60s.

Thanks to Ted Westerson and Keith Garner for their wonderful stories of the rodeo and Cochrane.

Cochrane Lions have allowed us to copy the photos used. Ask if you’d like to take a closer look.

Team Roping

Cochrane Ranche Photo Gallery

Larry Want received some photos of the Cochrane Ranche and area from the Stockmen’s. We had them on display at our Christmas celebration. We’ve scanned them and made them available here.

The feature photo is one of the few I’ve seen of the Cochrane Ranche herd. (1882/83)

All photos courtesy of Glenbow Archives.

The photos are:

  1. Bow River Ranch Dining Room
  2. John Beams 12 miles north of Cochrane
  3.  Grand Stand 
  4. Howard Chapman’s General Store 1904
  5. Rev. Wood Sam Wigmire Morley late 1800’s
  6. Picnic Grand Valley Kerfoots mounted
  7. Main Street 1890
  8. Cochrane no year listed

Thank you Cochrane Foundation!

CHAPS wants to thank the Cochrane Foundation for their support. We just had a grant approved that we’ll use to improve our exhibit cabinets. We’ll celebrate with the rest of the grant receivers later this spring.

You’re invited to come out to the Museum and see the results when we open for the spring/summer season.

If you’d like to know more about the Cochrane Foundation and the work they do click the button.


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