Pioneer Terms – 2

Many of the terms Alberta Pioneers used now sound unfamiliar. How do you do with these 10 pioneer expressions?

  1. A-fence – any fence using A-frames instead of posts driven into the ground
  2. Aladdin lamp – A large lamp with mantle and a tall glass chimney, giving a clear white light. Kerosene was used for fuel.
  3. Backfire – a fire set as a defence against an oncoming prairie fire by burning the area in front of it.
  4. Bennett buggy – an old auto converted into a horse drawn vehicle during the Depression. So named because R.B. Bennett was Prime Minister of Canada during part of that era.
  5. Broody hen – one that sits on and hatches eggs. Essential to the poultry producer before the days of incubators and hatcheries
  6. Chaps – from the Spanish Chaparajos. A pair of strong leather trousers without a seat, often with the hair left on the outer side. Worn by cowboys for protection and warmth. The belt was laced in front; the lacing would break easily if caught on the saddle horn.
  7. Democrat – a light springed wagon usually pulled by a driving team.
  8. Doubletree – the bar of a vehicle of piece of machinery drawn by a two horse team, with singletrees attached.
  9. Marcel – curling a lady’s hair into waves with a hot iron.
  10. Riding skirt – a divided skirt worn by lady riders before the days of slacks.

Photos and text (page 791) from Big Hill Country.

Hat Etiquette

More than just clothing to protect you from the elements. There are rules attached. Reprinted from page 18 More Big Hill Country.

A gentleman always removes his hat when first meeting a lady.

In subsequent meetings, a gentleman tips his hat to the lady.

When entering an enclosed living space, such as a home it is proper to remove one’s hat.

Do not leave your cowboy hat in the back window of your car while parked out in the heat of the day.

Better yet don’t leave your hat in a vehicle at all.

When looking for a place to put your hat, the first and most appropriate spot is the top of your head!

And, it had always been considered bad luck to place your cowboy hat brim on the bed.

The image of the haying crew is from our archives. It’s one of the many local photographs we’ve received with no details.

Geography Bee Graduate – Leslie Davies

Leslie Davies talks about growing up in Cochrane, working at Mackay’s, going to school in the old 2 room, later 4 room brick school and a life lesson learned by volunteering.

This video from our 100 Stories for 100 Years series on our YouTube site. Please like and subscribe.

This video is part of the Live Stories Programme – 100 Stories for 100 Years, Produced by Barry Thorson – Lone Wolf Theatre Company


Cochrane Ranches Significance in Canadian History

CHAPS has received a number of documents outlining the historical significance of the COCHRANE RANCHE.

Other Names:

  • British American Ranch Co.
  • Cochrane Creamery
  • Cochrane Ranch Co. (Ltd.)
  • Cochrane Ranch Co. Ltd
  • Western Heritage Centre

Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place

Cochrane Ranche is the site of Alberta’s first large‐scale ranch, which operated between 1881 and 1888. The designated area consists of archaeological remains and landscape features on approximately 137 acres, located in a sheltered valley on the west bank of Big Hill Creek, west of the Town of Cochrane and overlooking the Bow River.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of Cochrane Ranche lies in its representation of large‐scale cattle ranching in southern Alberta prior to 1896.

In 1881 the federal Conservative government initiated a policy of granting large‐scale grazing leases in hopes of establishing an Anglo‐Canadian ranching elite in the North‐West Territories. The first such lease, for 109,000 acres west of Calgary, was secured by the Cochrane Ranche Company, a group of Eastern capitalists under the leadership of Senator Matthew Cochrane of Montreal. As the first lease‐holder the Company was able to choose land that appeared to have all the criteria for success. The lands straddled the proposed route of the Canadian Pacific Railway and was blessed with good agricultural land in the Bow River valley, a climate of chinooks and plentiful grasses.

It also had ready access to markets for cattle in the nearby North West Mounted Police (NWMP) posts, Stoney and Sarcee Indian Reservations, and with future settlers. In 1881 the I.G. Baker Company of Fort Benton was contracted to drive cattle up from Montana and the ranch’s first manager, James Walker, a retired NWMP superintendent, began constructing buildings beside Big Hill Creek. Despite these advantages, the Ranche suffered drastic losses in its first two years, due to hard winters, lack of winter fodder, and poor herding practices. In 1883 the Company relocated its cattle south to a new lease on the Belly River and tried to raise horses and sheep on the original Cochrane Ranche, now reincorporated as the British American Ranch Company. This was not profitable, either, and in 1888, amid increasing pressure from incoming settlers to break up the large leases for homesteads, the property was sold.

Nonetheless, the Cochrane Ranche is a prominent part of the history of the beef cattle industry in Alberta and reflects the relationship between Eastern Canada and southern Alberta in the period after Confederation.

Between 1898 and 1919 the property was also the site of two brickyards, which played a role in Calgary’s booming construction industry prior to World War One. Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Heritage Resource Management Branch (File: Des. 395)

Character‐Defining Elements

The character‐defining elements of the Cochrane Ranche include:
‐ archaeological remains associated with historic buildings and structures including the manager’s house, bunkhouses, stable, blacksmith shop, dugout, brickyards, barns and sheds, corrals;
‐ information potential of affiliated archaeological deposits, which provide an opportunity for additional
archaeological research;
‐ landscape features such as a quarry, viewscapes, elevations, creek;
‐ documentary records relating to the history of the ranch, which support existing interpretation and provide
opportunity for additional study, including: plans of survey, maps, managers diaries, photographs, etc.;
‐ records resulting from archaeological studies previously undertaken including: reports plans, maps, photographs and substantive artifact collections, which provide an opportunity for additional research and interpretation.

The federal government has supplied a document to assist with maintaining historic sites.

Restoring a Notebook Project

Gordon Davies recently recieved a number of pages from a notebook kept by Margaret Buckley. CHAPS goal is to digitize the notebook and photos, restore the photos and add them to our collection.

The photo at the top of this page is labelled 1927.

The scan of the original document is below. We rescanned each image and did a minimal amount of processing to correct it. Those pictures with notes also appear below.


Special train travelled from Calgary for day of horse racing in Cochrane 1900 onwards.

Water lines being installed 1952?.

Parade Main Street Cochrane Remembrance Day 1957

Swimming pool under construction 1960

Man of Vision Cochrane Provincial Historic Site

Our final steps will be to have the images printed and put out for display.

My Volunteer Story – Mark Boothby

CHAPS is looking for volunteers. We have a role for people with any type of time commitment. I’ve read that may non-profits attract people by existing members explaining their experience. Given that, I want to share what I gain by volunteering.

The above photo is one of our Grand Father at the time of the opening of the Legion. My volunteer experience has turned up several photos of family I’d not seen before.

I grew up in this area but pursued careers away for several decades. My wife and I returned just a couple of years ago to a town much different. We wanted to meet people and renew acquaintances so we looked for opportunities.

When I was young my parents and brothers went on many drives through the area. Both parents grew up here and we heard many stories. I’ve come regret that I didn’t really pay attention and forgot most of the details.

I heard about CHAPS and the Cochrane Historical Museum from a teacher and coach Gordon Davies. That convinced me I should get involved.


One of my jobs has been to refresh our website whose style and content had become dated.  Since one of my careers had been in Information Technology, I was happy to take on the task and develop the site with alot of help from contractors, photographers and volunteers.

Just recently, I came across this display about our grand parents in the Museum. It contains a very nice write up and photos. Many, if not most of the details I’d not been aware of.


One of my projects has been to electronically scan CHAPS albums. I’ve come across many photos of family that I’d not seen prior, like this one of our dad on the right, next to life time friend Bob Beynon.

I’ve gotten involved in research for this blog and for an article series for the Cochrane Times. While looking for and researching those articles I came across this drawing my dad did for my aunt Audrey Brown. I’d had an idea Dad had drawn but I’d never seen him do it. I was delighted at his talent and sense of humour. I’d only heard him called Billy by one person my whole life, yet that was how he signed it.

During the development of our social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube I’ve met people that I would not have without this volunteer opportunity.

I’m very happy to have been involved in a project on our YouTube channel that CHAPS sponsored years ago called 100 Stories for 100 Years.  The idea of that program was to capture some of the historical and simply people stories about Cochrane and area. Those videos have been in our archives for years but are now visible to people on YouTube. The videos contain many interesting and historical stories.

As time flies by, I’m very happy to be involved in the culture and history of the area. I believe that no matter how long you’ve been in Cochrane, have some extra energy, ideas and want to get involved we have a role for you

Get in touch

We have a role for you.

Horse Racing in Cochrane

The History of Horse Racing in Cochrane

CHAPS is planning monthly presentations of the history of Cochrane and Area. The first, which was given in October, goes hand in hand with an exhibit we’re planning. Thanks to Tim Collard for researching and developing a pamphlet. The presentation was done by Frank Hennessey. Photos courtesy of Glenbow Archives.

Cochrane Races 1900 – 1910 The First Race

The first recorded horse race in Cochrane took place in 1891. W.D. Kerfoot, former manager of the Cochrane Ranche, challenged his brother-in-law, William Bell-Irving, to a match race. Kerfoot’s horse, “The Dude”, won by a nose. This would be 
the first of many races won by a Kerfoot horse in Cochrane.

Cochrane Races 1900 – 1910  The First Track

The first Cochrane track was built on land owned by George Bevan, across from the brickyard, between the railroad tracks and the highway.

These early meets largely consisted of local ranchers riding their own horses and racing against their neighbours. By perhaps as early as 1907, however, the popularity of the Cochrane Races drew enough interest from Calgary that the CPR 
began to run a special train to bring spectators out to take in the action.

Original Grandstand

Local Horses, Local Riders

The early 20 th century saw Cochrane establish itself as one of the premier horse raising areas in Western Canada. Anchored by the Bow River Horse Ranch (an offshoot of the Cochrane Ranche) and bolstered by such horsemen as W.D.
Kerfoot, D.P. McDonald, Clem Gardner, The Murphy Brothers, and Walter Hutchinson. 

The first thoroughbred in Cochrane was “Konrad”. Imported by Senator Matthew Cochrane, “Konrad” helped to establish the thoroughbred stock in the area. Another import,

“Juryman”, was stood on the Bow River Horse Ranch and sired “Cyclone”, one of the first great horses bred in the Cochrane area. Sold to A.J. Murphy, “Cyclone” dominated the early era of horse racing in Cochrane along with Kerfoot’s “Dixie Land”. 

These two horses won races across the continent from Winnipeg to San Francisco.

The Race Industry Grows

By 1910, racing in Cochrane had become the Village’s signature event of the year. The Racing Association decided that a new, modern track, complete with grandstand, was needed. A parcel of land west of town (near the present community of Heartland) was purchased from Robert Howard and the new track was constructed.

Growing Interest

Racing continued to grow in popularity after the new track was constructed in 1910. The Cochrane Advocate referred to the 1910 races as “our great annual holiday” and report that hotel rooms were full throughout the Village as crowds from Calgary flocked in by train and the newly popular motor car.

These races were dominated by horses owned by D.P. McDonald, Clem Gardner , E. Howard Abell and Walter Hutchinson, with McDonald’s “Dolly” winning many of the races held in these years.

New Grandstand and barns

Early Race Meets

The Cochrane Racing Association was formed in 1894 by A.J. Murphy, William Bell-Irving and W.D. Kerfoot. In 1895, at the Mitford and Cochrane Races, Kerfoot’s horses won all of the flat races on the program.

Cochrane Races 1914-1931  Outbreak of War

1914 saw the outbreak of World War I and with it, a marked decline in horse racing in Cochrane. The races continued throughout the war, but attendance was significantly lower and the field of both horses and riders diminished as Cochrane
was a major supplier of horses for the Canadian army.

Following the War, racing once again began to grow in Cochrane. In 1922, over 2,000 people attended the Cochrane Race meet. D.P. McDonald and Clem Gardner were still competing and Cochrane Area rancher, Laurie Johnson, won five of the ten races he entered.

The dominance of local ranchers would wain, however, with a change of management at the Racetrack.


Around 1925, the Rhodes Brothers, known locally as “Dusty” and “Bumpy”, took over the management of the Cochrane Racetrack. They modernized Cochrane racing by instituting the newly popular Pari-Mutual betting system and attracting professional horsemen from further afield. 

The local ranchers’ race was still included, but the Rhodes brothers capitalized on
Cochrane’s reputation as “the best one-mile turf track in Western Canada” to attract a more serious racing crowd to the annual event. The meet was expanded to become a four-day event with larger prizes for the winners.

Cochrane Races 1914-1931 Famous Jockeys

During the heyday of professional racing in Cochrane in the mid to late 1920s, many aspiring jockeys took to the Cochrane course to ply their trade. Two of those jockeys went on to have hall of fame careers in horse racing. 

In May of 1930, a cigar store clerk from Calgary and a young jockey with a penchant for books both made their way to the Cochrane course to compete. In the second
race of the third day, the cigar store salesman, Johnny Longden, beat the bookworm, Red Pollard by a nose. 

Red Pollard went on to a hall of fame career as Seabiscuit’s jockey while Johnny Longden won over 6,000 races, making him one of the winningest jockeys of all time.

The End of the Race

The late 1920s looked ready to establish Cochrane as a premier racing venue, but the onset of the Great Depression shattered that hope. The Depression made the large, multi-day races that the Rhodes introduced too expensive an undertaking. 

At the same time, interest from the local ranchers had waned as the races became
more professionalized. The last race was held at the Cochrane Racetrack in 1931.

CHAPS Plans Diorama Race Track

CHAPS is sponsoring the construction of a diorama showing the Cochrane Race Track at it’s peak. The diorama will be included in our Tribute to the Horse exhibit Summer 2020.


Mitford – A presentation by CHAPS

Mitford, Glenbow and Cochrane were towns that existed in close proximity. Why did Mitford become a ghost town? Are there any remnants?

CHAPS plans a series of presentations on the history of Cochrane and area. This is the second of the series that occur monthly.

We’ve recorded the presentation by Frank Hennessey and Gordon Davies and copied it to our YouTube channel.  Have a look and remember to subscribe to our channel to get updated every time we produce a new video.


Here’s a video history of Mitford we found on YouTube.

It’s time to renew your Membership

Membership fees for the 2019/2020 year are now due. If you would like to continue to be a member of CHAPS, please forward the payment as soon as possible. 

Dues remain $10 for an individual, $15 for a family, and $25 for a corporation.

The mailing address is:


P.O. Box 2104,
Cochrane, AB T4C 1B8

We need your help in any of the following volunteer opportunities in:

  • Research
  • Social Activities
  • Membership
  • Museum committee
  • Fundraising
  • Social Media


Museum staffing future clouded

The Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) was recently cancelled. CHAPS has used the STEP program this past summer to partially fund the salaries of 2 summer employees. (Photo of Jade Lewis and Tim Collard)

With the cancellation of the program, CHAPS is exploring other options for the funding of summer employees to maintain our summer hours of operation.

A link to the Province’s announcement follows:

Comments or suggestions? Comments are moderated so please keep the nature of comments positive.

Man of the Times – Andy Marshall

Andy Marshall talks about his involvement with the Cochrane Times.  

From the Livestories Programme: 100 Stories for 100 Years. Produced by Barry Thorson & Lone Wolf Theatre Company. Years ago, CHAPS sponsored the production of videos from Cochrane residents to capture their stories.

CHAPS has created a Youtube channel to present these wonderful stories.


Thanks to our supporters during the Flood

In the spring of 2019, the Cochrane Historical Museum was damaged by flood waters from the Big Hill Springs Creek. The lower floor of the Museum containing office space, archives, and research area was damaged by a couple feet of water.

CHAPS, the umbrella organization that runs the Museum put out the call for assistance to help us restore the museum.

We’d like to thank the following people and organizations that came to the rescue. We’re overwhelmed by the generosity and level of support. It really shows how much people treasure the link to history.

DONATIONS - Individuals
Jen Barton
Heather Brosseau
Yvonne Callaway
Lloyd & Clare Copithorne
Jim & Lydia Graham
Kathleen Holland
Wally & Lois Irons
Norline Johnson
Kate King
Austin Long
Tim & Jane Mason
Angus & Jean MacKenzie
Jerry McClyment
Terry & Lorna McNeill
William Meggeson
Bill & Jo-Anne Meller
Kaitlin Mercier
Pauline Murray
W. Penner, R. Penner, T. Penner
W. Malcolm Sharp
David Stinson
Heinrich Karl & Marilyn Unger
Kari Wenz
Valerie Wilson
Lawrence & Patricia Woods
DONATIONS Corporations
Charitable groups
Service groups
Bow View Rebekah Lodge 125
Cochrane Big Hill Needle Arts
Cochrane Legion – Branch 15
Cochrane Lioness Lions Club
Cochrane Men’s Walking Group
Drycleaning by Dave
FortisAlberta Inc.
Inter Pipeline Ltd.
Red Hat Society - Cochrane
Riverbend Interiors Floors & Décor
Royal Mechanical Services Ltd.
Totem Charitable Foundation
Town of Cochrane
Treasures for Your Home Society
UFA Co-operative Limited
Winter Photographics

CHAPS offers our sincere Thank You!

Luggage Cart Renovations

CHAPS is restoring a luggage cart once used at the Cochrane Railway Station.

Mike Taylor and Lonnie Basiuk are leading the project. They have disassembled and examined each of the parts. While well constructed, they’ve discovered most of the wood needs replacing. The metal parts will be sand blasted. The cart will soon be painted, reassembled and join the collection of the Cochrane Historical Museum.

Lonnie & Mike inspecting parts
Cart Hitch
It is well crafted, notice the arch.
Douglas Fir in the hitch has stood up well.
Wood has shrunken over time.
An undated photo shows the cart
The cart represented in our Diarama

Thanks to Wayne Hilland & family for rescuing and donating the cart.

Winters of Discontent – Fred Stenson

Years ago CHAPS sponsored the creation of 100 Stories for 100 Years. Last year we created a YouTube channel that highlights these local stories. The producer of the series is Barry Thorson of Lone Wolf Theatre Company.

This video is the first we’ll highlight on our website blog.

Author Fred Stenson talks about the history of the Cochrane Ranche and his book Lightning.

Phase 2 Historic Signs Installed

CHAPS recently sponsored the installation of 5 more historic signs. Each sign details a bit of the history involved with the site and why it’s important to our local story.

They include the Range Grill, Murray Hardware, Camden House, Shoemaker shop, and Meat Locker plant.

Thanks to all the volunteers and contractors that helped with the construction and installation. These signs help CHAPS fulfill our mission of educating people about the history of our beautiful town.

Everyone's high school favourite, the Range Grill.
Camden House - 120 3 Ave West
Shoemaker Shop - across 119 1 Ave
Locker Plant - across from 316 1st St W
Murray Hardware - across from 118 2 Ave W

My first visit to the Museum after flood repairs.

Today was my first chance to get back into the Cochrane Historical Museum after flood damage this past spring. The exhibits on the first floor were unharmed but the archives, work area and meeting space on the lower floor were significantly damaged.

I am sure impressed. Not only have repairs been done but it looks better and more functional than before. The area is divided into an Archives, meeting space and research space that is more attractive and useful than before.

Meeting area and one research station

The chance of future flooding reaching the Museum has been eliminated by adding a berm.

Berm to reduce flooding

Gravel placed around foundations

Access to the lower floor has been improved by making changes to the original stairs.

Improved access to lower floor

Thanks to all the volunteers, donators and contractors that made this possible. The history of our beautiful town can again be displayed.

2019 President’s Message

The yearly planned activities of CHAPS was suddenly interrupted and altered during the late evening of March 23rd, 2019. The Big Hill Creek overflowed it’s banks resulting in the flooding of our Museum basement.

Thanks to members of the Cochrane Fire Department and CHAPS volunteers, many historical and cultural artifacts, books, photo albums and other objects were saved. We were very fortunate to not of lost our entire basement and contents.

This event shattered our sense of safety. Though heartbroken and devastated, CHAPS members and volunteers rallied together to repair the damages. This publicly  demonstrated how CHAPS members and volunteers are dedicated and devoted to help protect, preserve and maintain the history of Cochrane and the surrounding areas.

As a result, many individuals, non-profit organizations and local businesses made financial donations to help recoup our losses.

Remember “out of tragedy, good things happen”. Human nature cannot live without the news. Through the local news print and social media applications, information about CHAPS has spread very quickly. This raised public awareness and visibility has helped mobilize people to support our identity, goals , values and purpose.

We must keep and improve this “recognition process” moving forward in 2020. We must move ahead with vigor, passion and fixed determination to achieve our goals. We all need to keep going.

It’s important for our volunteers to know what an enormous gift you give by simply helping and caring. Thank you.
Larry Want

want more details?

Fill in your details and we'll be in touch