Five years ago today, Big Hill Springs Flooded

At today’s AGM, Larry Want recalled that 5 years ago this very date and time the Museum was heavily damaged by spring flooding.

Here is the story of the flood and our recovery.

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.


Deep Dive

Calgary Stampede Chuckwagon Photos 1947-1948

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get in touch

Share your story and photos of Cochrane's rich history.

Virtual Tour of Cochrane Historical Museum

Great news. We’re ecstatic to announce the virtual tour of the Museum is ready.

During this unprecedented Global Pandemic,  CHAPS takes our volunteers and our visitors’ health and safety extremely seriously. As a result, we have temporarily closed our facility to help limit the transmission and to ensure everyone’s safety.

Our mission is to promote the history of our incredible community and provide interesting and exciting displays of what life was like in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. As such, we have explored some new technological options to help us ensure we can continue to provide this important service.

We have had the pleasure of working with Chris Konanz from Blue Pixel Media and he has helped us put together a 360° virtual tour. This will allow our guests to view our exhibits and interact with them in an engaging and informative way, from the comfort of their own home! You can explore each room of our museum, interact with some key pieces and learn all about how our organization works.

 We welcome you to take a tour of our space and learn about how this museum came to be, our featured exhibits on the history of Working and Sport Horses, and even a sneak peek at an upcoming unveiling next year of something we are very excited to showcase!

We thank everyone who contributed to the project including:

  • Lynn Ferguson
  • Frank Hennessey
  • Gayle Want
  • Shannon Want
  • Mike Taylor
  • Lynda Alderman
  • Gordon Davies
  • Chris Konanz of Blue Pixel Media

It was a very collaborative effort by all the volunteers to produce a professional product that we are quite proud of and we hope the public will take advantage of the opportunity to sneak preview our displays on the Role of the Horse in Cochrane and community.

A Day at the Track

This article was written by Tim Collard and appears in the Cochrane Times. Photos courtesy of Glenbow Archives.

On a mild May 14th, 1930, the Town of Cochrane bustled with excitement. Though it was a Wednesday, most businesses in town closed at noon, as this was the first day of the Spring Meet of the Southern Alberta Turf Association. The crowd, many travelling from Calgary by train or automobile, buzzed with anticipation as the horses for the second race shifted restlessly, awaiting the starters pistol. A purse of $250 awaited the winners, nearly $4,000 in 2019 dollars, the bets placed using the newly popular Pari-Mutual betting system reached even higher. The Cochrane Races held in 1930, a four-day event with professional jockeys and horses from across Western Canada, were a far cry from the early days of horse racing in Cochrane.

The first recorded horse race in Cochrane took place in 1891. I was a match race between W.D. Kerfoot, former manager of the Cochrane Ranche, and his brother-in-law, William Bell-Irving, an early settler in the Grand Valley. Kerfoot’s horse, “the Dude” one the race by a nose, this was the first of many victories for W.D. Kerfoot in Cochrane races. In 1893 at the Mitford and Cochrane Races, Kerfoot’s cream and old gold racing silks occupied the winners circle after every race. In 1895, Kerfoot continued his dominance, this time on “Dixie Land”, a horse that went on to win races in Calgary, Winnipeg, San Francisco, and Australia.

By 1910, the Cochrane Races had become the premier social event in Cochrane. The CPR ran a special train to bring spectators from Calgary and the Cochrane Racing Association had built a brand-new track, including a grandstand and stables, on land purchased from Robert Howard. This new grass track was the only one-mile grass track in Western Canada which the Calgary Herald referred to in 1927 as “the mecca of a summer throng, keen for the bangtails.” During this period, the big names in Cochrane racing included D.P. MacDonald, Clem Gardner, E. Howard Abell, and Walter Hutchinson. While racing looked to be taking off in Cochrane, the outbreak of World War I hindered this development. Race meets were still held during the war, but attendance was reduced and the field of horses and riders was diminished due to the demands of the war.


The Rhodes Brothers

In 1924, the Rhodes brothers, know familiarly as “Dusty” and “Bumpy”, undertook to revive the Cochrane track.

They established the Southern Alberta Turf Association and expanded the meets to four days, attracting professionals from across the Prairie West. Initially, this proved to be a great success, with the races in 1927 and 1928 attracting huge crowds from Calgary and establishing Cochrane as the lead-off event on the Canadian racing calendar. It was this new-found prestige that brought two young, aspiring jockeys to the Cochrane race track in May of 1930.

Crowd in front of Pari-Mutual Betting Buidling

Red Pollard & Johnny Longden

As the starters pistol sounded, “Billy Wisp” and “Prodigal” shot off the line and barrelled down the course, their jockeys spurring them on. At the finish, “Prodigal” nosed ahead to cross the line first, giving jockey Johnny Longden an important win. Close behind, “Billy Wisp” placed with jockey Red Pollard on board.

Red Pollard would go on to become a successful jockey, most notably as “Seabiscuit’s” jockey through most of that famed horse’s career. Johnny Longden went on to become one of the most successful jockeys in the history of racing, with a Triple Crown and over 6,000 victories to his name.

Unfortunately, the future of the Cochrane racetrack was not as bright. The onset of the Great Depression brought the Rhodes’ dream to an abrupt end, with the final race meet held at the Cochrane track in 1931. While the memory has faded, Cochrane was once one of the premier racing venues in Western Canada.

To learn more about the Cochrane racetrack, be sure to visit the Cochrane Historical Museum.

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.

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 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

Luggage Cart Renos complete

This year CHAPS received what we suspect is a luggage cart that was used at the Cochrane CPR Train Station. Wayne Hilland ran a garage that was just across the street from the train station and likely rescued the cart before the station was demolished.

CHAPS members Mike Taylor and Lonnie Basiuk took on the task of restoration.

We will be placing the cart outside of the museum sometime in May or June.

Lonnie Basiuk & Mike Taylor (L-R)

When we looked at the cart back in November, we figured it was original because the wood was worn and there was lichen growing on the deck but it wasn't. We know it wasn't the original because of the hardware and the screws that were used,

The 4 by 4’s are hardwood and likely from Eastern Canada. We believe they are original.

Approximately 100 hours of restoration were required to take the cart apart, sand blast the original parts, replace and rebuild the cart. Many of the original parts were re-used. The wheels, lower undercarriage and trim are original. 

Reconstruction took place in the Want Quonset during November and December. Mike was hopeful Reno’s would have taken a week but it required striping down and replacing parts. They were hopeful we could sand the trim but we had to sandblast at a place called Consolidated Compressor. We completed the sandblasting in 2.5 hours.

We did find a number on there, 2414.

The metal was primed then  painted with “Tuscany Red”. This colour closely matches the original. 

We think that baggage carts for CP and CN were constructed by the same manufacturer. We’ve tried to track down these numbers. When you think of it every station had one of these carts. We think the cart came from the late 1800’s, early 1900’s due to the square bolts used. We need to get into places like Heritage Park to do more research.

Mike figures with all the construction materials the cart weighs in a three quarters of a ton and yet when you pick it up it moves just beautifully. It’s got big wide wheels so it doesn’t fall into cracks. It’s extremely well designed.

Cost of renovations was just under $1000.00

Chain hanging is part of braking system
Hitch can be locked in upright position

The Cart was offered to CHAPS by the family of Wayne Hilland. We are grateful for this addition to our exhibit. We are planning on placing the cart outside of the Cochrane Historical Museum, spring of 2020. We will let you know the date of the dedication.

Would you like to get involved in CHAPS?

We need help doing research, organizing events, memberships and social media.

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.

Nothing Really Outstanding – Aileen Copithorne

Aileen Copithorne talks about the freedom experienced growing up in Cochrane. CHAPS Cochrane has a YouTube Channel with over 40 interesting stories of Cochrane. 

Aileen Davies grew up in Cochrane in the home that is now the Cochrane Historical Museum.

She has many stories of growing up in a small town.

She tells a story of biking with friend, Dorothy Reed when Mr O’Keefe, the Bank Manager once offered them ride to 12 Mile Coulee to watch the Stampede Fireworks. They left their bikes behind Andisons’ store. Not thinking that fireworks were after dark they didn’t get home until late. Both parents had searched river and creek areas looking for them. “Our parents were so glad to see us we didn’t get in too much trouble.”

“Dorothy and I had stick horses which we rode over the hill to the brickyard. We also had stilts made by uncle Jack. The family across the road had tall stilts and used to sit on roof of house across the street just to watch people.  Their name was  Kinsley.”

Aileen went to school in brick school that used to be where Holy Spirit currently sits. She remembers looking south one day to see the Brushy Ridge fire.  Students were glued to the windows and the smoke was horrendous.

“I was the lone graduate in my class of grade 12. It was very lonely in high school.” She had classmates in earlier grades but they did not stick it out to Grade 12.

“School was  very regimented. Our Principal had a hand bell to call us back to class. If you didn’t behave you got hit with the bell. We used to have to line up girls then boys and march into school.”

“Cochrane used to be divided into east side and west side. You didn’t have friends from the other side of town. You visited the other side if you had relatives but there was little mixing. Many homes in Cochrane had barns behind them for horses and carriages. Homes had large gardens.” Aileen remembers Auntie Annie feeding a lot of men when they got off the train with food from the garden and from local chickens.

She attended a very rigorous 3 year Nursing program at Calgary General. “The first year you felt basically a slave, we were paid $6.00 per month, had no days off, had to attend lectures from Doctors during our off time and had a 10 PM curfew.  Year 3 you were a Senior and had more freedom.” Occasionally she came home on the midnight train.  The uniform was black stockings, striped blue and white dress, with apron and bib with white hat. “The stockings were terrible.” 

Since the train used to stop in Cochrane it was used to get into Calgary.

Thomas Davies Home

Aileen married John Copithorne and moved to their family place that originally sat where Gleneagles Golf Course currently is.

Aileen tells a story about John’s dad when driving their first tractor. He ran it through a fence into McPherson’s. When asked about his accident he said he hollered “Whoa but the damn thing didn’t stop”.

Copithorne family diary
Claude Copithorne 1920 using binder to harvest grain on Cochrane Hill.
John and Aileen Copithorne.

Aileen says they were lucky to grow up in Cochrane in an uncomplicated time. 

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What is our Why?

We want to share our “Why” with you.  I prefer to have other peoples perspectives but I’ll share a couple of my own first.

  • 20 years ago,  a volunteer group of people concerned with saving the history of Cochrane started the Cochrane Historical & Archival Preservation Society. 
  • 5 years ago,  CHAPS opened the Cochrane Historical Museum. This scope of this one project amazes and motivates me. CHAPS saved a historic building, fund raised, co-ordinated with several levels of government , had it moved to a wonderful location and had the building restored as a Museum. Truly Inspiring.
  • A dedicated, core group of volunteers has been keeping CHAPS active for 20 years. We are in need of help. We need to expand our membership, our influence and our volunteers.

In the next year, I want to interview a number of our volunteers and get their perspective on being involved in CHAPS. Stay tuned.

I hope you are asking yourself how I can help. I have a few ideas that don’t cost a lot of your time or money.

  • share and comment on our social media posts with your friends. We want to share our core message of saving and educating about our history to be spread widely. We’re seeing a massive swing lately. Help us keep it going!
  • Like our pages. CHAPS Cochrane and Cochrane Historical Museum have pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Youtube. I’ll be adding social media icons to our webpage soon to help you find and like our feeds.
  • Become a member. It’s super inexpensive. $10.00 a year for an individual, $15.00 for a family. Here’s a link to our Member page.
  •  Attend one of our meetings. We are having more and more educational meetings. Stay tuned to our events webpage for updates. 
  • Donate to CHAPS to help us fund our projects. We have a Donate button on the top right side and bottom of our webpages. Our CHAPS Facebook page is running a fundraising campaign until the end of March. They have been hugely successful so far and we can always go over the top.
  • Lastly, most importantly, become a volunteer. We have a core group but they can’t do it forever. We can use your help however you want to become involved. A couple of my own ideas are:
    • Membership. Help us find new members and stay in touch with existing members.
    • Become a Director. Volunteer now and let your name stand at the September A.G.M. I did, scared me to death but I’m sure glad I did.
    • Research. Get in touch to hear the topics we’re planning.
    • Volunteer at the museum during the summer.
    • Attend or help with our summer time guided tours of Historic Cochrane.

5 years ago,  CHAPS opened the Cochrane Historical Museum. This scope of this one project amazes and motivates me. CHAPS saved a historic building, fund raised, co-ordinated with several levels of government , had it moved to a wonderful location and had the building restored as a Museum. Truly Inspiring.

We have to say thanks:

  • to everyone that came out to our Photo Archive opening. Both members who shared stories and 15 excited, interested guests.
  • the support of the local media who have helped us share our message.
  • local admins of Facebook pages who provide a means for us to share.
  • everyone that has shared our message on any of our social media feeds.
  • to our existing members and volunteers.

Those other perspectives I spoke of:

  • an editorial in the Cochrane Eagle about maintaining our Heritage.
  • an article on CochraneNow about our Photo Archive.
  • an article in the Cochrane Times about a new exhibit in the Cochrane Historical Museum

1907 Canadian Red Ensign Flag Premiered

CHAPS premiered a new Exhibit at the Cochrane Historical Museum. A unique Canadian Red Ensign flag was unveiled at the Museum today.

Mike Taylor describes Flag Research

The flag was donated by David and Jane Raymont of Toronto who have familial ties to the area. Mr. Raymont purchased the flag in memory of local rancher Arthur Scott Lewis who died in W.W. 1 (1885-1918) He and his wife Maude Lewis, purchased a section of Spencer Creek Ranch (Beaupre Lake area) in 1908.

Alberta became a Province in 1905 and the shield of Alberta was added to the other 8 shields on the right hand side of the Red Ensign flag in 1907. The Union Jack was on the left side, so this flag represented all 9 provinces and England. This Red Ensign, or similar one would likely have been flown in Cochrane with great pride after Alberta became a province. It is therefore very appropriate that this flag will be prominently displayed at the Cochrane Historical Museum.

After the flag was donated it became clear that this was an important acquisition that should be restored, preserved and given pride of place in the Museum. Thanks to a generous grant from the Rotary/Lions/Bow Rivers Edge Campground Society, the Museum was able to have the flag cleaned, repaired, mounted and framed. The meticulous work of professional restorer Gail Niinimaa and the painstaking framing of Scott Winter at Winter Photographics has restored, preserved and beautifully displayed this unique acquisition.

Despite the Canadian Red Ensign never being officially approved by Ottawa, it flew over the Parliament Building for several years before being replaced by the Union Jack during the Boer War. Flag manufacturers capitalised on nationalistic feelings and produced several different varieties of Red Ensigns, adding the new Provincial Shields when they were approved by England. The Museum’s flag, like others has the Union Jack on the left and the provincial shields on the right, but unlike most Red Ensigns has a maple leaf and beaver garland around the shields, making it rare and truly Canadian.

Since the ‘Great Flag Debate’ of the 60’s when Canada finally acquired its own officially approved flag, little has been heard of Canada’s original flags. The history of the Red Ensign is in danger of being lost. In their lifetime, many Canadians have only known the current flag, and its a revelation for them to see an original early Canadian flag. The museum will be showing this history along with countless other exhibits when it opens again in June 2019.

Mike Taylor, Cochrane Historical Museum Committee member. The museum is a part of CHAPS, Cochrane Historical and Archival Preservation Society.


December 15, 2018

Museum Visitors – 2018

Jade Lewis has been operating the Cochrane Historical Museum for the last several years.  View our hours here.  Private viewing can also be arranged during off season months. Follow the above link for directions.

The number of visitors this year has remained constant. The number of visitors from outside of Canada was nearly 230 people. Not surprisingly 61 came from the US.  However, CHM had visitors from a total of 25 countries including Central & South America, Europe, and the Far East.

Toy Exhibit

The Vintage Toys have been a fun display at the museum this summer. We’re going to keep the display again next year and try to tweek it a little and maybe add a few items.

As you’ve been a lender, you have agreed to lend your items until this fall. If you want to let us exhibit them again we need you to sign or initial a change on your forms.

If you’re attending the AGM on Wednesday could you please see Shannon Want to do this.

Thanks so much,


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