Centennial Audio Files

by Gordon Davies

Gordon has converted some old articles to audio. We’re pretty excited about it and will be adding them to our posts whenever applicable. We think that an explanation will do a lot to encourage understanding. Here’s an example.

Deep Dive

2022 Top Stories Part 2 – 5 to 1

Here is part 2 of our 2022 Top Stories as chosen by your readership count.

Click on the photo to go to the original story.

5. Robert and Kathleen Beynon Family

Robert George Beynon “Bob” was the third child of Sophie and Jack Beynon, both Welsh immigrants. He was born March 17, 1926, in the big brick house at the east and of town. Alistair Moore and his wife Dolly lived there for many years.

4. Wallace Family

In August of 2005, the Wallace family celebrated the 100th anniversary of the farm started by grandparents, Sarah and William Wallace. Our grandparents were among those flocking to the west to prove up on homesteads: the population of Alberta (then the Northwest Territories) quintupled from 1900 to 1910. 

3. Elizabeth Barrett: First Woman Teacher in Alberta

Hundreds upon hundreds of Blackfoot lodges spread through the valley, and the preparation of meat, tanning of hides, the singing and the feasting went on, uninterrupted. On the hillsides, 15,000 or more horses of the Blackfoot grazed untethered. The fully-armed Indians were resplendent in smoke-tanned war shirts trimmed with ermine or fringes of otter and fox. Intricate beadwork adorned their moccasins and headdresses. Thick shields of buffalo hide were as gaily painted as their teepees in the valley.

2. Hawkwood Family

At this time (1949) the Foothills Rural Electrification Association was formed. Bill McNeill was President, Ernie Vickie Secretary-Treasurer, Bill Osler and Tom were directors. After many discussions and decisions, the Calgary Power Company brought power to the district. The farmers dug the holes for the poles to speed up the progress. In September 1950 the “lights came on”. Everything from milking machines to washing machines were some of our new acquisitions.

1. Richard and Sophia Copithorne

Richard was a man who liked horses and when the First World War broke out there were about three hundred Clydesdale horses on the ranch. A horse in those days never had a rope on him until he was four years old. A hurry-up call for horses for the cavalry made a considerable lot of work. It was often marveled at how these wild horses tamed down when taken off their home range and put in a military camp. 

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What’s new in Cochrane February 1917 and 1924

From the Cochrane Advocate by Gordon Davies

February 1, 1917 – Cochrane Advocate 

Another carload of six Ford touring cars arrived this week for Thos. Quigley, the local dealer. 

February 8. 1917 – Cochrane Advocate 

The local Odd-Fellows Lodge are holding their annual ball of the evening of February 16th. The net proceeds will be equally divided between the Red Cross and Patriotic Funds. Everybody welcome. 

The Girls’ Athletic Club will hold a Masquerade Dance in the Odd-Fellows Hall on the evening of Friday, February 9th. Admission 50c. Proceeds go to the Red Cross. Mrs. A. L. Lewis, who now resides in England, has kindly donated the sum of $25 to help with this dance. 


There is a job waiting in this town for a Sherlock Holmes. Some person or persons at present unknown is putting out poison rather extragevently(sic) and the dogs around town are picking it up. If the person is ever found out he will have to face some very angry ex-owners. 

Recruits Wanted for R.N.W.M. Police 

Wanted men for service in the R. N.W. M. Police. Applications for engagement must be accompanied by at least two certificates of good character from responsible parties. 

Minimum height 5 ft. 8 in., minimum chest measurement 35 in., maximum weight 175 lbs. 


Medical examination and transportation expenses paid if the applicant is accepted. 

Married men engaging for service in the R. N. W. M. Police may draw a separation allowance of $20.00 per month. 

Terms of enlistment may be as follows: In the case of married men, one year. Single men, one or three years at the option of the applicant. 

Recruits are wanted for Special War Work in the Province of Alberta. 

For further information apply to 

Const. A. F. C. Watts, R. N. W. M. P., Cochrane

Quigley Garage
Mr Mrs Harry Webb Mr Mrs Charlie Webb Tom Quigley
Mr Mrs Harry Webb Mr Mrs Charlie Webb Tom Quigley

February 7th, 1924 

Commencing on Monday, Feb. 11th., the Cochrane School will start at 09’clock n the morning instead of 9:30 as has been the rule this winter. As new classes will be begun on Monday morning, young children who are to commence school should start on that day. 

February 14, 1924 

After a spell of the mildest weather ever experienced in this part of the country during the month of February, a change took place yesterday morning. A light snowfall which continued practically all day, developed last night into a real storm which kept up until late this afternoon. There is now nearly a foot of snow all over this district. 

Banff Highway 

Considerable discussion is taking place in Cochrane at the present time with regard to a rumor that the Provincial Government is being asked to consider the advisability of changing the course of the Calgary-Banff highway from its present position, to the south side of the Bow River. The plan put forward, apparently is to continue the existing road through Springbank and Jumping Pound to cross the river at Morley. In a recent issue of the Morning Albertan, the sponsors of this new plan endeavored to show the advantages of this new route, among which were mentioned, avoidance of hills, shorter distance, more thickly settled country, and scenic advantages. 

Runaway in Cochrane 

A team belonging to Mr. Geo. Kirkland took flight in the C.P.R. yard this afternoon and stampeded across the tracks onto First Street, where they collided with a telephone pole in front of the Drug Store. The hay rack to which they were harnessed was badly wrecked and the telephone pole was smashed completely off. The harness broke on the impact with the pole and the team continued their hasty journey out of town without any further damage.

Country jail NWMP Morley 1883
Odd Fellows Hall ad from the Cochrane Advocate
Odd Fellows Hall ad from the Cochrane Advocate

Deep Dive

2022 Top Stories Part 1 – 10 to 6

We’re pleased to count down our top ten stories of 2022 chosen by your readership count.  Here are numbers 10 through 6.

Click on the photo to go to the original article.

10. Hall Story

They lived at first in what is now East Calgary, near where the stockyards are located. The police barracks were nearby, and when they arose one morning the scaffold could be seen, where a criminal had been hanged in the early morning hours. 

9. Don and Dorothy Edge - Bar 50 Ranch

While playing a few practice chukkers with Will Rogers Junior at Will Rogers State Park in the Pacific Palisades, California, Don observed the rustic fireplace in the late Will Rogers’s ranch house and patterned ours after it. 

8. History of St. Andrews Church

“Thomas Davies was superintendent and teacher about 1915. He wore his hair longish and it and his beard were white.” Vivian, a very young child then, thought God must look like Mr. Davies. He traveled in a buggy pulled by his buckskin pony.

7. Catholic Church in the Cochrane Area

In the summer of 1874, another great event was taking place; the North West Mounted Police were establishing themselves in the Northwest Territories. Having assisted at the annual retreat in St. Albert, Father Scollen, in company with Father Bonald and Louis Dazé, arrived back at the Elbow River Mission on November 2, 1874. Father Bonald was put in charge of the Mission, while the others organized a hunting party to get provisions for the winter. During this hunting trip, Louis Dazé was frozen to death in a snowstorm on November 22, 1874. 

6. William Robinson Family

I can recall the flu epidemic in 1918. Grandma Quigley was kept busy nursing all the ill members of her family. She went from house to house tending to them all.

Herbert and Gertrude Fox Family

Pg 452 More Big Hill Country 2009

"They gave more and expected less."

Like many of their generation, Herbert and Gertrude Fox, or Bert and Gertas they were known, were a hardworking, resourceful farm couple that, with a strength of spirit and a good sense of humour, enjoyed the satisfaction and endured the challenges of family farm life. Bert was born July 29, 1919, in Nanton, Alberta, and grew up in “the Hillswest of Nanton. Given the limitations of harsh economic times and isolated rural surroundings, he spent a lot of time afoot and on horseback, roaming the hills as he grew up. His work and play fostered a durable and strong attachment to nature and farm life, and there was no question of his desire for that to continue

The events of history interceded and, joined the army in 1941, Bert served four years with the Seventh Field Company, Second Division Engineers. His tour of duty began with basic training in Camrose, leading to a lengthy station outside London, England, and ultimately landing him on the beach near Caen in France. part of the ‘second wave’ after the famous Normandy invasion of 1944.

By the terms afforded by the Veterans Land Act, he was now able to borrow the money he needed to move forward with his plans for ranching. Twenty dollars an acre bought him the half section located nine miles up the Grande Valley, but he found himself fairly under-equipped to begin working his new property, starting out with only an axe, his Swede saw, and a prize Adams saddle. Bert did the required work “off the place” such as cutting mine props for use in the Drumheller coalmines and custom haying for Percy Copithorne. resulting in enough money to buy his first four cows and a John Deere model “M” tractor. 

Money may have been scarce for Bert in those early days of Grande Valley, but he struck it rich one evening at an Alhazar Temple dance in Calgary. This is where he first met Anna Gertrude Swalling (1920- 1996), a farm girl by way of Delburne. At this stage in her life, Gert thought she had left the farm life behind. having truly done an admirable job of enduring the thirties, educating herself, and then finding gainful employment in Calgary. However, Bert soon produced a ring that resulted in nuptials on the 21st of March 1951. The sparks may have been flying that day for the two of them, but the weather recorded was some of the worst ever. A snowstorm raged that nearly prevented Bert from getting his old Fargo truck to the church on time. Known for her calm nature, the bride showed little anxiety. As the hour drew near, still with no groom in sight “there was no need to worry” said Gert, expressing the steadfast trust they held for each other. “If he’s late it’s because he is riding his saddle horse to get here!”

It was the first of many times together the two battled adversity, the second challenge coming as soon as later that summer when their first crop was completely flattened by a hailstorm. 

Grande Valley was designated a Local Improvement District and without snow plows, it was common practice for travelers to wheel through the hayfields as a better option. Phone service was still unavailable and the log house where Gert began her married life was without electric power. In spite of his best efforts, Bert had not quite finished his renovations which included filling the cracks between the logs where the wind whistled in. To his amazement, he admired how “she soon turned out a batch of bread and even a lovely pie” in the cramped kitchen. 

As the two prospered, a nice frame house was moved from Mortimer coulee and the old log house went into service as Gert’s chicken house. She soon counted on regular visits from neighbours who became her “egg customers,” looking to enjoy a cup of tea and some prize-winning baking in the bargain if Gert wasn’t too busy off in her garden or looking after her two boys: John Herbert (1957) and George William (1960). Gert and the two youngsters usually made the trip to Cochrane on Sundays, where they attended the service at St. Andrews United Church. After church, the boys were let loose at McKay’s Ice Cream to spend their allowance while she made the rounds delivering her eggs. Both she and Bert were active in the church through the late sixties and seventies, canvassing for renovation funds, teaching Sunday school, and helping stage many events at the church.

Their strength of spirit was tested in late 1969 when Jon’s life was cut short in a choring accident on the farm. The despair of losing their first son made a lasting mark, though as time passed they were able to move on together and resumed their involvement in the community. 

The Fox farm was home to a fine herd of Hereford cattle that pastured west of the ranch on two sections of government grazing lease. Plenty of feed had to be put up before winter and Bert persevered with the technique of stacking loose hay when most all had gone the route of square or round bales. During the hottest days of the year, he could be seen out in the hayfield, “topping off” the big 20-foot stacks wielding a pitchfork to muscle the hay so it would shed the snow and rain. It was a technique that required some old-time skills that Bert used in abundance on his farm. He was also the last of the farmers to harvest with the threshing machine. Every fall right through to the mid-seventies he worked with the Patterson family, first cutting their crops with a binder, then stooking the bundles so they’d be dry and ready to run through the old threshing machine. Eventually, parts were impossible to obtain for the machines and they called it quits. 

Though dedicated to a slower but more economical way of operating, Bert held status as one of the most clever and trusted farmers in the valley. In the early days, he recognized that in order to “build up” the grey wooded soil red and alsike clover were the best legumes for hay instead of the alfalfa that never seemed to thrive in acidic conditions. As well, Bert was quick to add selenium into the supplement for his cows once it was speculated that it might be lacking in that area of the country. It then became common practice once it was seen the marked difference it made in their health. 

All the while working alongside his parents, young George, with support and encouragement from the rural communities around the Cochrane area, developed as a country singer and eventually brought his music to Canada and many other parts of the world. “There was a real golden age through the ’70s and 80’s when the country dance was alive and well,” says George. “I was fortunate to learn my craft at some of those great community functions, singing to people that I had a great respect for, even after seeing the way they could behave at two or three in the morning!” George was encouraged enough by these followers to use his savings and sell some of his cattle in order to finance his first recording. It was a fateful morning on the ranch during fall weaning time when, above the din of bawling cattle, George and his Dad managed to hear shouting from up at the house, “Someone calling from Toronto!” Gert shouted from out on the front porch. “They want to talk to you about your tape!” 

Things were soon set in motion that had George launched full-time into a music career, his videos, and television specials through the nineties often incorporating the foothills area and the town of Cochrane. The CBC special “A George Fox Christmas” was filmed on the streets of the town, and out on Grande Valley footage was taken for the CBC “Time of My Life” special and his first music video “No Trespassing.”

In the summer of 1995, a street naming ceremony took place in Cochrane marking the contributions and achievements made by George and his parents. The road leading west from the number 22 highway on the south side of the Bow River became known as George Fox Trail. George expressed his gratitude, acknowledging how important the gesture was to him. 

“I really feel like my singing career has been a result of the work ethic I learned here and especially from how I was encouraged by this community”, he said. 

In the words of a song George has written, he reflects on what great contributions were made by his parents and others of that generation who knew the value of working together and even in trying times always having A Kind Word for each other. 

Gert passed away on Thanksgiving Day 1996. Bert, George, and his wife Monica were all with her at home when cancer took her at age 76. Bert sold the ranch in 2000 and moved for a time to Big Hill Lodge before joining George, Monica, and his two granddaughters Anna May and Ruby in Ancaster, Ontario. 

Bert passed away peacefully at the McMaster Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario on Monday, November 19, 2007, at the age of 88. 

A Kind Word 

You’ve done quite a stroke of business

I can’t thank you quite enough.

You took the lead and found a reason

When the going was mighty tough.

This family and this nation, independent free and strong 

Owe thanks to the likes of you, now we’ve got somewhere we belong 


So I’ll proudly sing the story of your pioneering glory, 

A Kind Word 

To set your mind at ease 

As this page in history turns with due respect so 

well deserved 

Won’t you accept A Kind Word. 


I learned a lot of history about the early days 

out west. 

The prairie fires, the hail and the dry spells, that put 

you to the test. 

You won’t talk about the war years and the sadness 

left behind 

“It’s better off left unsaid, son, it won’t bring peace 

of mind” 

Yet your name is still recalled and believe me, that’s 

not all 

A Kind Word 

And a story of how you lived 

Rest assured you’re mentioned there 

As one who gave more than their share 

And who deserves 

A Kind Word.

Bert and Gert Fox 40th Anniversary

Deep dive

  • Cochrane Now Article on George Fox induction into Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame
  • Randall Prescott & George Fox to be Inducted into Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame

Passing of the Torch 2022

CHAPS recognizes the passing of 3 members this past year.  With each passing, we lose some of the drive, spirit, and memories that have made Cochrane and the area such a wonderful place to live. However, we are grateful for the impact they have made.

We send our condolences to the family and friends of each.

Jean MacKenzie

Lyle Taylor

courtesy Cochrane Eagle
Courtesy Cochrane Eagle

Mac Elder

Their stories

How Muller Windsports came to be

The Beginning  By Vincene Muller pg 208 More Big Hill Country 2009 

In 1971, Willi Muller was skiing at Lake Louise and watched Les Oitz (then the Area Manager) fly his Jobe Kite down the Men’s Downhill. As Les folded his kite at the bottom of the downhill run, Willi took his ski pole and measured the kite. At that time he was the Area Manager of a small ski hill in Calgary with a large day lodge. 

Back in Calgary he found a sailmaker and gave him a rough diagram, bought tubing, and built the frame in the day lodge. The first test flights were down the ski hill, but the kite wouldn’t fly, even when Willi went off the ski jump built by fledgling freestyle skiers! Willi soon realized that he had been one ski pole length short in his measurements. The Jobe kite was 13′ 6″ (wing length) and Willi’s was only 11 feet! Back to the drawing board to build a new kite.

The new model was a massive 15 feet; the sail was 3 oz. nylon (bigger and heavier will always be better). He attached a broken ski tip on a hinge on the nose (in case of a less-than-perfect landing) and went back to the ski slope to try it out. It flew! The next day he went up to Mt. Norquay Ski Hill near Banff, took his kite to the ski jump, and tried it out. It flew down and over the ski lift to land in front of the ski lodge. Next, up to the top of the Lone Pine Ski Run (1300 feet). Skiers lined the run to watch him take off. Local photographers took photos which were sent around the world on the wire service. It was quite spectacular to see the kite (no kingpost and very narrow control bar) with the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the background. This was March 1971. 

By the next winter Willi had built a larger kite, an 18-foot wing with 15’8″ keel. The reason for the shorter keel was because with 18 feet all around, the sail didn’t fit in the sail maker’s loft. So the sail was designed to fit! 

Willi continued flying at ski areas around Western Canada and the Spokane area. People started asking him to build kites for them so in January 1973 he formed Muller Kites Ltd. and started off his factory in downtown Calgary. His first foot-launched flights were in Palmdale, California. 

In January 1973 Willi entered the “World Snow Kite Championships” at Big White in Kelowna. Some 26 pilots entered. Most pilots were from California and included soon-to-be ‘big’ names in the new sport; Bob Wills, Chris Price, Dick Eipper and Dave Cronk to name just a few. From Canada were Terry “Birdman” Jones from Edmonton and Bob Jones from Kelowna. Norman Proctor was there from Wetaskiwin with his Cronkite that he had built from plans (but at that time he hadn’t learned to fly), and Dave Cronk, who was flying a plastic version and was very impressed with Norm’s superior construction. By the way, Dave soon found that plastic in -20 degrees doesn’t hold up too well. It fell apart on his launch run. The Meet Director was Bill Bennett. 

Willi won the ‘free-flying’ competition (time in the air and target landing). Terry Jones won the tow competition (towed up by snowmobiles) and Bob Wills was crowned overall champion for demonstrating superior skill. He flew with Bill Bennett’s backpack and also hung upside down as he flew down the hill. 

In 1973 Willi and Vincene Muller purchased land on Cochrane Hill which is now the Cochrane Flying Site. At that time a few local pilots were using the site and were told by the realtor to buy it soon otherwise it would be developed for housing. There are many stories of dealings with municipalities and government that the Muller’s have had to contend with over the years to keep the flying site open. 

Back in Calgary the kite business grew. Muller Kites manufactured kites until 1978. At that time due to changes in design, kites were using a large amount of different sized tubing. Due to difficulties with tubing and dacron supplies, Willi started importing from the US. At this time Muller Kites Ltd. became Muller Hang Gliding Ltd. 

Due to the many ski areas allowing kite flying in the early 1970’s, Willi formed the Alberta Hang Gliding Association in 1973 in order to get insurance. He started the school in 1973 also. Transport Canada approached him and said that they would like a National body to deal with and the Hang Gliding Association of Canada was formed. Willi was founding president for both organizations. In 1975 he was part of a group of instructors who met at Todd Mountain Ski Hill to write up recommendations for Instructors Standards. 

In 1978 he imported the first Soarmaster Powerpacks. At that time Transport Canada were interested in hang gliding and the new powered hang gliding. At a meet- ing in Calgary, a demonstration was put on at the Cochrane Flying Site. Shortly after that Transport Canada came out with regulations for powered hang gliders but allowed the sport of unpowered hang gliding to remain self-regulated. 

The shop was moved out to the Cochrane Hill Flying Site in 1985. In 1987 Willi bought his first paraglider. Paragliding became part of Muller Hang Gliding in 1988. Willi had a Master Rating in the Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association of Canada and Senior Instructor Status for both hang gliding and paragliding. Willi represented Canada internationally several times in hang gliding and he held a World Paragliding Record and many Canadian Hang Gliding & Paragliding Records. He was Canadian Hang Gliding Champion three times and Canadian Paragliding Champion once. His best international result was seventh in the 1981 World Hang Gliding Championships in Japan. Chris Muller started flying tandem with his father Willi in 1981 at age 5. Over the years they had many soaring flights and a few cross-country flights togeth- er. He started flying paragliders at age 11 and hang gliders at 13. 

In 1990 he flew his first competitions in both the Canadian Nationals (Golden, B.C.) and US Nationals (Dinosaur, Colorado). In Paragliding he competed in the Western Canadian Paragliding Championships which eventually became the Canadian Nationals. He was Western Canadian Paragliding Champion twice, Canadian Paragliding Champion three times and Canadian Hang Gliding Champion three times. 

He has represented Canada at the World Paragliding Championships in Switzerland, Japan, and Spain and the World Hang Gliding Championships in Spain and Australia. 

His best results were second in the 1998 Pre-World Paragliding in Austria and 17th in the 1998 Pre-World Hang Gliding In Italy. He placed second in the 1999 World Paragliding Championships in Austria. He held the Paragliding World Record for Flight to a Declared Goal (shared with Sean Dougherty) of 101.5 km set in 1991 which he broke in 1992 with a flight of 146.22 km. He set the South American Record flying 242 km in Brazil in 1999. In 2000 he flew 246 km from Golden to Jaffray, BC, the longest flight in Canada. In 2002, he flew from Golden, British Columbia to Morley, AB, 138 km. In 2004 he flew a hang glider 331 km from Golden past Trevo, Montana. This equaled the Canadian Open Distance record set by Willi in 1989.

Deep dive

Aviation in Cochrane

pg 204 More Big Hill Country 2009

The twentieth century could be described as the era of mechanical transportation, a far cry from the open range. 

The McDougall’s depended on the oxen to pull their Red River Carts to carry all their provisions on the trek westward from Fort Garry. 

The early ranchers depended on their saddle horses to move and work their cattle on the open range. 

In 1903, Henry Ford produced his first automobile and also on December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur were the first men to fly in a heavier aircraft powered by an engine they designed. 

Few urges have inspired and frustrated mankind as the desire to fly. The Wright brothers experienced this many times. In 1909, Louis Bleriot flew across the English Channel, and Charles Lindberg flew across the Atlantic from New York to Paris, France in 33 hours in the “Spirit of St Louis” Ryan monoplane. In 1929, the German Graf Zeppelin flew around the world in 21 days with four flight stops. Willy Post with Harold Gatty as navigator flew around the world from New York and back again in 8 days 16 hours. This route was across the Atlantic, Western Europe, Russia, Alaska, Canada, and the U.S.A. On July 22, 1933, he had flown around the world solo in 7 days, 18 hours, and 49 minutes with the aid of a radio compass directional finder. These were the early pathfinders of air transportation. 

Gertrude de la Vergne, besides her love of horses, became interested in flying and in 1928 became the first licensed woman pilot in Alberta. Flying instruction was taken at the Calgary Aero Club in De Havilland Moths. Gertrude became involved with the R.C.A.F. Women’s Division at Number 5 E.F.T.S. High River, Alberta during WWII. She later married Reginald Tanner and moved to Vancouver B.C. Gertrude’s father, Charles de la Vergne’s family, was the successful owner of the de la Vergne Refrigeration Company of New York City. Mr. de la Verne bought 3 1/4 sections of land at Glenbow, a valley located north of the Bow River, west of Calgary in Township 25, Range 3, West of the 5th in 1909. He owned this property until 1933 when it was sold to Eric L. Harvie. 

In 1953, Eric Harvie’s son Neil took over management of this Glenbow Ranch and in 1962 bought a used Piper Super Cub PA-18A CF-LQW which Neil used on the ranch. Neil’s son Tim still flies this airplane in 2006.

Barons Josef and Endre Csavossy, Hungarian noblemen bought 2 1/2 sections of the old Bow River Horse Ranch in 1925 on the south side of the Bow River in Township 25, directly across the river from the de la Vernes at Glenbow. 

In 1928, besides winning a special award from the Agricultural Society for a fine outlay of farm buildings along the river flat, and a silver cup for a crop of oats on a plateau field east of the farm buildings, Baron Josef bought a Gypsy Moth aeroplane. After taking flying lessons from Freddie McCall, he became Alberta’s first flying farmer. 

The Donald R. McLaurin farm and buildings, SW Sec 4 Twp 25 Range 3 W5M is 3 miles straight south of the Bow River Horse Ranch Buildings on the River flat. On January 22, 1969, the Department of Transport expropriated this farm and the Springbank Airport came into being. The majority of civil pilot training in the Calgary area is conducted at the Springbank Airport including helicopter training. 

The Cochrane Flying Club was formed in the summer of 1946. Six members owned the Aeronca 7AC Champion lightplane with Canadian registration CF- DNF which Eustace Bowhay, in July 1946, ferried from the factory in Middleton, Ohio to the Chinook Flying Service in Calgary. 

The Cochrane Flying Club president was Eustace Bowhay, Secretary was Bill Andison Jr. and Joe Mahood was Chief Instructor for the new fledgling club. Robby and Barbara Webb, Dallas Sperry from Cochrane, and Mile Martinusen and Victor Watson of Airdrie were some who took flying lessons from Joe. Mrs. Art and Mrs. Roy McPherson of Springbank were Joe Mahood’s sisters. He was born on a farm and grew up in Springbank. In the late 1930’s he moved to a farm of his own, north of Cochrane on the Bottrel Trail (highway 22). In 1940 Joe joined the R.C.A.F., first serving as a mechanic at Claresholm, Alberta. He then took training there and became an instructor on Ansons. In the last year, he served overseas with the Pathfinder Squadron, flying Mosquitoes. In 1948, Joe sold his farm and joined the staff of the Chinook Flying Service. 

Bill Andison Jr. was born and grew up in Cochrane and later worked in his father’s grocery store on the main street. In the late 1950’s he moved to Victoria, B.C. Bill ferried two aircraft from Middleton, Ohio to the Calgary Chinook Flying Service. They were Aeronca 7DC, CF-FMN in April 1948 and Aeronca Chief, CF- FNO in June 1948. On the second trip, Joe Mahood flew him to Middleton from Calgary in CF-BTS, a Cessna T50 (Crane). 

Eustace Bowhay grew up on a farm in Simons Valley, north of Calgary. He and his brother Lloyd lived there on a farm which their mother operated for many years. Eustace learned to fly after World War II in Calgary and became a partner with Franz McTavish of Chinook Flying Service as a flying instructor for a few years. Eustace married Nora Grisedale in 1946. Her parents lived on a farm in the Cochrane Lakes area. 

Eustace and Nora built a restaurant “Bowhay’s Coffee Bar” north of the Cochrane Hotel and also a small house in the next adjoining lot. The restaurant building still stands today although somewhat modified. It was called the Range Grill for many years and now is Pix and Stix Music Headquarters. Their home was torn down to make room for the Rustic Market Square. Ernest and Mildred Thompson lived in this house from 1952 to the late 1960s, after they retired from their farm in the Glendale district. 

Robby Webb was co-owner of Webb and Milligan Esso Service Station on the comer of 1st Street West and 1st Avenue W. They had the Ford car and farm tractor dealership. In 1969 it became Bow Ridge Motors and in 2000 was replaced with a new Royal Bank. 

The Cochrane Flying Club field was located west of Highway 22 and south of 1A Highway and the C.P.R. line on land owned by John Boothby. It was a grass field, large enough to accommodate small twin-engined aircraft. A simple “T” shaped open front hanger was built to protect the Club plane from the weather. Fence posts for anchor support, walls, and roof sheeted in with shiplap boards. The open front was protected by a barbwire gate stretched across the front to keep Boothby’s cattle out when they were grazing in the field. 

The Cochrane Flying Club plane successfully flew Mrs. Roy Buckler to the hospital when she became dangerously ill at her Bottrel farm home. Bill Andison Jr. responded to the call, in spite of a high wind and treacherous landing place at the farm. He successfully picked her up and flew to the Calgary Airport where an ambulance waited and took her to the hospital. 

Angus MacKenzie experienced quite a few enjoyable flights with Bill Andison in the Flying Club Aeronca plane. One time, Angus and Dave Murray Jr. went with Bill to the flying field together. It was winter and the Club Airplane had its tires removed and was fitted with skis. Dave wouldn’t go flying because he said, “This engine is held on with only 4 bolts”, after looking at the open engine cowl when Bill was checking the oil level. Thus Angus got his first experience of flying with skis. The only regret Angus had was that he forgot to take the lens cover off his small camera, so there were no photos. 

Dave Murray Jr. had built a hardware store a couple of years before, north of MacKay’s store on 2nd Ave. W. This store is now Westlands Art Gallery and Book Store. 

As the only members left of the Club members in 1954, Bill Andison, Robby and Barbara Webb decided to sell the Club plane. Joe Mahood and Eustace Bowhay’s flying work took them to other parts of Canada. A rancher near Pincher Creek bought the Club plane. 

In 1956 or 1957, Angus MacKenzie was visiting the Chinook Flying Services Calgary hanger workshop area and came across what looked like a totally stripped down fuselage of a red painted Aeronca Champ with cream trim. As the Cochrane Club plane had been painted red with cream trim in 1948.

Although thoroughly stripped down the color of the fuselage caught Angus’s attention and sure enough it was CF – DNF. It had been flown from Pincher Creek for a minor repair, but they forgot to tie it down while parked outside overnight. A strong chinook wind blew the plane over on its back and against a fence doing extensive damage to the wings and tail. It was now salvaged for parts. Who knows, maybe someone years later may have restored this plane as a building project. During the years 1958 to August 1961, Bill Perkins completely restored a 1936 Taylor J2 cub plane to flying shape. Most of this construction was done at their home on their Horse Creek farm. Bill’s rebuilt Taylor J-2 cub first flew in late August 1961 and it flew very well. Bill, an accomplished mechanic, had installed a Continental A-65 h.p. engine rather than the original Continental A-40 engine which gave a better performance at Cochrane’s higher altitude. Perkins used the Boothby field (the former Flying Club Field) but not the old hanger as it was too shabby. He just tied his airplane down outside, a short distance in front. 

Due to some changes in the Taylor J-2 cub and a change of ownership of the company very few Taylor J-2 models appeared on the prairies during the hungry thirties. Chinook Flying Service of Calgary purchased one Taylor J-2 cub CF-AZK in 1946 for “cheap” student flying at Chinook. 

Robert Martyn of Calgary built a sturdy all wood air- plane in his home in Calgary, a single seater of original design. Robert was a senior draftsman with Shell Oil. The first flight was May 14, 1960 at McCall Airport Calgary. After tests were done at Shephard airport, this home built plane was parked beside Bill Perkins Taylor J-2 cub for three years in the early 1960’s at the former Cochrane Flying Club Field of Boothby’s. 

The Hang Gliders, as the new flying enthusiasts were called, are aircraft that fly without motors or any kind of external power. They use nature’s own forces of air and gravity aided by the energy the pilot contributes on take off in flight and landing. The Rogallo Kite depends entirely upon shifting the weight by the pilot for speed and direction. 

In the 1970’s Willi Mueller bought property on the top of the Cochrane Hill and gave hang gliding flight instruction to students in the art of self kite flying. For the last 30 years Hang Gliding on the Cochrane Hill has been a common sight. 

Aviation in Cochrane - Bruce Gowans By Angus MacKenzie 

Bruce Gowans of Bearspaw did a complete restoration of a 1937 Taylorcraft A-40 airplane with Canadian registration CF-BGR in the 1970’s.

The last time this light airplane had flown was in 1941. C.G. Bradford from Pennsylvania is the designer of all the Taylor Cub and Piper Cub airplanes and also Taylorcraft Company in Alliance, Ohio, U.S.A. 

Konnie Johannasson, Flying Service, Stevenson Airport, Winnipeg took delivery of CF-BGR in 1937 from the Taylorcraft Company and for the next three years, it was used mainly as a student trainer. 

In August 1940 Spencer Addeman of Blackie, Alberta bought BGR and logged 116 hours on this airplane most of the time over the local countryside giving rides to family members and the occasional flight to Calgary. 

In the spring of 1941, CF-BGR was sold to Lomer Cyr of Edmonton. This aircraft was due for an overhaul having 1230 hours of flying time logged. Lomer was told the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (S.A.I.T.), Calgary would be the better shop during World War II for service for small civil airplanes so he flew BGR to Calgary and S.A.I.T. from Edmonton. It wasn’t until 1950 that Lomer Cyr inquired about BGR at S.A.I.T. and found nothing had been done on his plane due to a student shortage. He was advised that it would be cheaper for him to purchase one of the many surplus aircraft on the market at the time. 

He decided to cancel the Department of Transport License on CF-BGR and the airplane remained at S.A.I.T. until 1960. It had been used for instructional purposes. It was then declared surplus. 

The airplane was given to George Ryning who was an aircraft Maintenance Instructor and he had hoped to restore this airplane however was never able to find the time. In 1971, George Ryning turned CF-BGR over to Bruce Gowan as he had accepted a four-year posting in Zambia. 

Bruce Gowan was also an instructor at S.A.I.T. but it wasn’t until 1977 that Bruce was able to start rebuilding BGR. Prior to this time, Bruce had spent a few years searching for original parts and pieces for this airplane and he actually succeeded in locating the original engine. In 1979, the wings were completely overhauled. Most of the restoration was done in Bruce’s garage at their home south of the Bearspaw Lifestyle Centre and Bearspaw School. 

The completed Taylorcraft CF-BGR was test flown at Springbank Airport on June 18, 1980. After flight testing at Springbank Bruce’s airplane was flown to Airdrie Airport and tied down outside, close to his Cessna 170A airplane. 

A severe hailstorm in the summer of 1987 did a lot of damage to the fabric-covered wings and tailplane of Bruce’s Taylorcraft so he decided to disassemble the airplane and put it into storage. Bruce still owns this aircraft today (2007). He sold his Cessna 170A a few years before and it is still in active flying service.

More reading:

The Alberta Rose – Doug Richards

pg 6. More Big Hill Country

She’s the pride of Alberta

As everybody knows

Our Provincial emblem

The wild Alberta rose. 

She’s a hardy flower 

She’s scattered everywhere…

Shady thickets or gravel ditches 

You’ll find her growing there. 


It takes a better man than me 

To tell the rose’s story 

Of how she looks and smells

When to bloom in all her glory.


But she’s my favourite flower

I can hardly wait for June

When once again I see 

The roses when they bloom.


The time when they’re in blossom 

Well it really goes so fast 

Why it only seems a fleeting moment 

That their beauty lasts.


But to me it’s worth the wait 

Through the months of winter’s gloom

For those few days in the summer 

When Alberta roses bloom. 

Deep Dive

The Spirit of Cochrane

by Jean Johnson pg 210 More Big Hill Country 2009

When Guy Gibson fell heir to an old Model A Ford he sold me his Model T. I had often cast envious eyes at the little car. It was in excellent shape having been abandoned in a garage for years before Guy got it. The radiator cap was missing but that had been replaced by a small can that once held the milk from contented cows. The car had belonged to a plumber who converted it into a truck with angle irons on the side for holding pipes. 

Although we had lived west of Cochrane for the fifteen years since our marriage, I had rarely been to the village and did not know the people there. By car, Morley was much farther away so I set out one day to shop at Cochrane. For ten miles the trail was deep in mud wherever it was not almost solid rock. When I hit better going on the Banff Trail, I pulled Lizzie’s ear down and was going like all get out with my wits away woolgathering. Suddenly I snapped out of it and was about to careen into the Texaco Service Station on two wheels when I was hit by a long, shiny, green car. Lizzy took a nimble jump to the right side of the road; the car with the strange license plates went about fifty yards before stopping. A man got out and looked at the long gash in the side of his car. Then he saw me, where I stood in the middle of the street, mud-bespattered and apprehensive With the expression of a mad bull he came at me, white with fury and shaking his fist. Immediately a chorus arose from three men who were standing in front of the gas pumps, “She put out her hand: She put out her hand.” Seeing that he was outnumbered the stranger got back into his car, drove down the street, and stopped in front of the hotel. 

“He’s asking directions to the police barracks”, said one of my defenders. “Hurry up and get there before him and tell your story first.” 

I drove there as fast as I could go, walked in, and faced a Mountie whom I had never seen before. I told him that I had had a small accident. 

“Let me see your driver’s license”, he said. 

“I have none”, I replied. “Quick,” he said, “go to the Post Office and get one.” When my little Lizzie was warm you didn’t have to crank it. I jumped in, turned on the ignition and we were off. At the Post Office, someone was dawdling over getting a money order. Mrs. Chapman, the Postmistress, noticed my distress, but when I asked for a driver’s license she said, “You have to be recommended by the RCMP.” 

“He sent me”, I said. 

With a startled look and shaking hand she wrote it out hastily. I drove back to the barracks. The man had been there. The Mountie looked up. “Let me see your driver’s license”, he said quietly. 

He wrote something down. Then he told me that the man had reported me and said that I did not signal that I was about to make a left turn. I told him three witnesses said that I did put out my hand. 

“But did you put out your hand?” he asked. 

“Well”, I said, “I can’t remember signaling. It is a sort of reflex action. But they all said that I did.” He kept writing without looking at me. 

“Anyway”, I said, “he was exceeding the speed limit”. 

“Have you a speedometer on your car?” 

“No, I haven’t.” 

“Then how do you know that he was exceeding the speed limit?” 

“If he could pass me, he had to be exceeding the speed limit”. 

His face was expressionless. I had no idea what he was writing or what would happen to me. He said. “Let’s look at your car”. We went out. There was not a mark on the car. Not even a touch of green paint. 

“Now, listen to me”, he said. “In about two weeks you will get a letter from that man’s lawyer demanding that you pay damages. Don’t answer it. About three weeks later you will get a letter that will scare you half to death. They are going to take it to court. They are going to throw the book at you. Don’t answer it. You will never hear from them again” 

About two months later I met the Mountie on the street. He asked me how it turned out. 

“Exactly as you said,” I told him. 

Then he said, “You know, sometimes when I am driving around Cochrane, I don’t put out my hand either”.

Guy Gibson of Benchlands

by Jean L. Johnson pg 308 Big Hill Country 1977

Guy Gibson was born in England in 1883 and came to Canada with his parents in 1891. They settled in the Simons Valley district north of Calgary on a place they called The-cup-of-tea Ranch. Guy became a wandering cowboy and a good roughrider. In World War I, he enlisted in the Army and went Overseas where he became a P.T. Instructor and an expert at dismantling and assembling the Lewis gun. 

After the war he worked for Ruth Laycock on the old Coleman Ranch. Around 1922 Mrs. Ethel Wynne came from Vancouver and bought the Warnock place, just east of the Coleman Ranch. She had some Aberdeen Angus cattle and hired Guy to manage them. Thus was formed an association that lasted for many years. 

In 1927 Mrs. Wynne sold out to Pat Render and bought NE4 5-27-6-5 from the C.P.R. This was a lovely place. The Ghost River flowed through the land and far to the northwest, the Devil’s Head Mountain brooded over the valley from behind the shoulder of Black Rock. From the pine-covered hills on the south side of the Ghost, an old Indian trail wound down to the Buffalo Crossing and passed along the river flat on the north side, up the steep hills, and northward. Between the old trail and the riverbank, Guy built a log cabin for Mrs. Wynne and a bunkhouse for himself. The few remaining black cattle were turned out in the Rabbit Creek Valley where they rustled winter and summer. 

On September 4, 1929, a wildcat oil well, Baymar No. I, was spudded in, almost on the line between the north quarters of section 5. Guy built a little log cabin there for the use of the men. George Webster (once Mayor of Calgary) had an interest in the well, and when it proved to be a dry hole, he obtained the cabin and the northwest quarter of land and transferred both to his daughter, May Olson. May and Orren Olson began using the cabin in 1930 and became the first of the summer people, the first “cabiners.” They sold the cabin to the Suiters and Guy built the Olsons a log cabin on their land just west of Robinson Creek. The Suiters, too, had a new cabin built and sold the oilwell cabin to the Trowsdales who wanted it placed down on the flat near Mrs. Wynne’s cabin. Guy, who was equal to any task confronting him, somehow slid the old cabin down the steep hill and set it on the river flat. 

Mrs. Wynne registered her quarter section as a Junior Townsite so that she might have it surveyed into lots. She called it Benchlands, a descriptive name, for the land rose steeply from the river flat to a level bench that followed the contour of the Ghost, and from there it rose much higher to the flats above, making three levels in all. 

One of the first cabins on Benchlands was built for Elsie French at the east end of the middle bench. In September 1938, Elsie French sold out to F. C. Manning for $300. This gave him clear title to the lot, the cabin, two cots, the folding chairs, and the coal oil lamps, once so dear to the hearts of the cabiners. 

About the same time that Guy built the French cabin he built one for Miss Scott on the same bench. This cabin, with some additions, is now the permanent home of Lloyd Greenway. 

In 1934 Mrs. Wynne sold Benchlands to Guy so that he might homestead an adjacent quarter of Section 4. He built many more cabins on Benchlands. At first they served only as summer places but in time several families made their permanent homes there. 

In 1935 May Olson sold a piece of her land to Donald Leslie and Guy built a cabin for him west of Olsons. When Guy Gibson passed away in April, 1965, Donald Leslie gave this story to the Calgary Albertan: “Guy always had a smile and an amusing story to tell – I don’t know how true all the tales were but they showed the spirit of the man. After the First World War, Guy had had enough of bugle-blowing and restricted life. So when he returned to the West, Guy put his alarm clock on a wooden block and smashed it to bits. He said the sun and the stars could tell him the time of day in the future. Although Guy was wild and tough, he was one of the gentlest people I’ve ever known.

Aside from his dogs and his horse he always kept a goat. Guy used to say the goat was his refrigerator. Whenever he needed milk he’d call the goat to him.” 

Guy Gibson’s ashes were scattered over Benchlands. 


Guy Gibson was born in Gaythorpe, Lin- Lincolnshire, England. He came to Canada when he was eight years old, away back in 1891. His mother packed all the food for the trip in England and brought it to Canada in wicker baskets. When they arrived in Canada they took a settlers’ train to Calgary. On the train, they were allowed to cook their own meals to save expenses. The Gibsons ate the last of their food sitting beside the C.P.R. tracks in Calgary. 

Guy’s parents homesteaded in the Simons Valley area. When Guy was ten, he went to help a neighbor with chores; here he learned to ride and train horses. Later he worked and ranched on different places. He served with the 31st Bat- talion in France during the First World War and was wounded twice. After returning in 1918 he settled in the Ghost River area. Over the years he became known as Lord of the Ghost. 

Township27 1935

More Reading

Where do we go from here?

By Dave Whittle Pg 220 More Big Hill Country 2009

Cochrane’s population in 1970 finally reached 1000 people after many decades of not exceeding 500. The present explosion to over 13,000 has in part affected the growth and nature of the business community. 

In the 60’s, we relied on three service stations for our cars and their repair and fuel. Presently, cars are purchased from a similar number of dealers but gasoline comes from other sources – gas bars with convenience stores; supermarkets with gas bars, and regular gas stations. Tires are a separate business with name-brand stores.

Car washes have become a necessity, mechanical repair shops a must as well as auto body repair and car detailing businesses. Specialists in wheel alignment, oil changes, windshield replacement, trailer hitches, parts store, and even driver training help to employ our growing members. 

For many years the town had no motels, relying on an outdated hotel and a few small cabins, occupied mostly by permanent residents. Suddenly, this changed and now there are four major hotels, supported by many condos that have changed the picture. 

From a mere three restaurants and an ice cream parlour in the fifties, one can now choose to eat out at a different place every day for a month. 

In the 1970s, Cochrane’s first liquor store arrived which was a government-operated outlet. In those days one had to fill out a form giving name, address, and telephone number as well as what liquor one wanted. This was handed in to the person behind the counter who then went and got your liquor putting it in a brown paper bag. Thirty-five years later we have at least six of the private variety. 

A new market created by the age of computers has prompted many business opportunities in the town. 

In the field of health and wellness, fifty years ago we were lucky to have a full-time resident doctor and even more fortunate to have a dentist. From 1917, there was a local drugstore operated continuously by Mr. Smyth. Dr. Waite, Hedley Hart, and Bob Graham until 1955. How many drugstores do we have in 2008, including those in supermarkets? 

No paramedics, no ambulance, and no local hospital, it really was a do-it-yourself community of 500 people in 1950.

At present, nearly all our needs have been fulfilled including many wellness and fitness clinics, spas, and gymnasiums, along with many health professionals. Not to be overlooked is the Family and Community Support Services, funded by the town and the provincial government. 

The growth of the town is probably best portrayed by looking at the old brick schoolhouse which was torn down and replaced in 1967. Presently, there are at least eight schools in use within the town. 

Before After

More Reading

Oil and Gas Resources in Big Hill Country

Page 65 Big Hill Country 1977

In 1914 there were ten oil companies drilling in the Jumping Pound area. Natural gas had been leaking out of fissures in the ground in the district since the earliest times but had attracted little attention until 1914. Some idea of the availability of gas pockets may be gained when the experience of the Purity Gas Co. in 1914 is considered. This company drilled to a depth of 890 feet and discovered three large gas deposits in that distance. Throughout 1914, 1915 and 1916 various companies drilled wells. Some of them went to a depth of 3000 feet, but, although great quantities of gas were discovered, there was little crude oil. In 1927 Imperial Oil drilled a well 5200 feet and still did not find oil. 

Since the Second World War, Shell Oil Co. has drilled two wells to a depth of ten thousand feet but has been unable to find oil in commercial quantities. This company turned its attention to the natural gas in the district and constructed a large scrubbing plant to purify the gas for export. The gas contains large amounts of sulphur compounds, and methods were developed to purify the gas and make the development of this natural resource profitable. A pipeline to Calgary was completed in 1950, and work then began on a line to Exshaw and Banff. 

The Shell Plant is located 11 miles southwest of Cochrane on the west bank of the Jumping Pound Creek. The original plant was officially opened on May 7, 1951, with a treating capacity of 20 million cubic feet per day of sweet natural gas. It employed 15 men. A Sulphur Recovery Plant was added and went into production on February 2, 1952, with a capacity of 27 long tons of sulphur per day. The Sulphur Recovery Plant has the distinction of being the first of its kind in Canada. Four wells supplied the feedstock to the plant from the Jumping Pound field during the first year of operation. 


Over the last 22 years, the raw gas supply has been increased by the drilling of another seven wells in the Jumping Pound field as well as the addition of the Jumping Pound north, Sarcee, Jumping Pound west, and Bragg Creek fields. At present, there are a total of 29 wells. 

During this period, the plant has undergone four major expansions and five minor and medium-sized expansions, increasing production to 200 million cubic feet per day of sweet natural gas, 500 long tons of sulphur per day, plus propane, butane, and pentane as additional products. 

The installation of continuous operating, monitoring, and control facilities to preserve the environment has been a significant factor included in the various expansions. 

The Jumping Pound plant supplies more than 70% of the domestic and industrial requirements of the city of Calgary and 100% of the requirements of Cochrane, Morley, Exshaw, Canmore, and Banff.

The plant employs 69 Shell personnel as well as a contract maintenance group averaging 23 personnel. All personnel commute daily from Cochrane and Calgary. 

The Wildcat Hills gas field, situated about 10 miles west of Cochrane, was discovered in December 1958. The field initially contained seven producing wells and development drilling has continued over the past fifteen years to the point where eighteen wells now produce gas for the plant. 

The Wildcat Hills gas processing and sulphur recovery plant is located nine miles west of Cochrane, on the north bank of the Bow River. It is operated by Petrofina Canada Ltd. for a group of five owner companies, including Petrofina. The plant was started on January 1, 1962, and processes a sour gas stream from the Wildcat Hills gas field to the northwest of the plant. The sales products from this plant are sweet natural gas, liquid hydrocarbons, and sulphur. 

With over ten years of production from the field, the natural pressure in the underground reservoir has dropped considerably. In order to maintain a high rate of production, it has become necessary to lower the field pipeline pressure. Since the plant has to operate with an inlet pressure of 1,000 pounds per square inch, the pipeline had to be boosted ahead of the plant. For this reason, in 1972, two 1,670 horsepower compressors were installed, being the first major addition to the plant. 

While the plant requires only three people a shift to run it, the total number of persons working in the plant and field is 38; of these, 16 live in Cochrane and the district, and the remainder in Calgary. 

A third plant, the Alberta Natural Gas Company Cochrane Extraction Plant is located one and a half miles northwest of Cochrane. It is the second largest of its kind in the world. The plant is designed to process 830,000,000 standard cubic feet of pipeline gas per day. This is enough to heat eight cities the size of Calgary for one day. From the pipeline gas, propane and other liquid hydrocarbons are extracted. All plant liquid hydrocarbon production has been contracted for a forty-year period. 

Installation of new equipment to the value of approximately 60 million dollars is expected to begin in 1977. This equipment is necessary to accomplish the recovery of ethane in addition to the present production of butane and propane. 

During the construction of this plant in 1969, 400 men were employed. This highly automated plant went on stream in 1970, and presently employs 23 people on site, many of whom are Cochrane and district residents. 

In 1962 the first producing oil well near Cochrane was drilled in the Lochend area. There are presently eight oil wells in production in the Lochend-Inglis field. It is classed as a “stable field;” the oil is recovered from a seven-foot pay zone in the Cardium formation. 

An excerpt from a book entitled “Oil Finding,” by E. H. Cunningham Craig, printed in London in 1914, is interesting in regard to the discovery of oil and gas. E. H. Cunningham Craig was the man J. A. W. Fraser had as a guest at Jumping Pound when the oil boom was on in Calgary. It was on this man’s advice that Mr. Fraser formed the company Petrol Limited, with headquarters in Belgium. Plans fell by the wayside with the invasion of Belgium in 1914. Mr. Cunningham Craig writes. 

“It is, of course, in the case of the first test well of a new field, or presumed field, that the importance of carefully selecting a site is more forcibly brought home to us, and it is this aspect also which appeals most to the general public. The geologist who undertakes oilfield work will soon weary of the oft-reiterated question, “How do you know where to put a well?” 

“There are many methods of actually making the first selection. It is told of one well-known and very successful exploiter and driller in the United States he frankly stated that his method was to put on an old and cherished hat and gallop a rough horse about the countryside or farm till the hat dropped off. On the spot where it fell, he drilled the well. The story is at least “ben travato,” and it is possibly quite true. 

“The writer knows one highly productive and very valuable field, miles from the nearest surface indication, where the first test-well site was selected in almost as haphazard a fashion. Drillers and field superintendents had met to make the location, and the area in which a spot was to be selected was generally determined, but with characteristic caution none would venture an opinion before the others as to what exact spot should be fixed upon. At last, one bolder spirit than the others, spoke up and said, ‘Well, boys, if it’s all the same to you, let’s put the well where that crow sits down,’ pointing at the same time to a crow which was flying about them. The crow alighted, the spot was marked, and the well drilled with remarkably successful results; it is still producing after eleven years. A flight of a hundred yards or so further to the eastward would have put the well beyond any hope of striking oil.” 

In 1914 and part of the year 1915 a well was drilled on Sec. 11-26-4-5. It was drilled by the National Oil and Gas Company and called Cochrane No. 1. They went to a depth of 1400 feet using standard cable tools. There are no records showing it produced gas or oil and the site was abandoned in 1915. 

CHAPS thanks our Content partners

In 2022, CHAPS developed several local partnerships we want to recognize.

CHAPS goal is to preserve and educate about important Cochrane and local history. These partners have done so much to help us accomplish this.

We are sincerely grateful. 

Urban Casual is a local resource for area news. They re-post our Saturday Stories and 100 Stories for 100 Years on social media. This has done a great deal to increase our reach. 


Blue Pixel is another local resource. They have assisted with the creation of our Virtual Museum Tour, installation of display monitors, and improving some of our old videos for social media.


Home Base, a local small business guide magazine, has published several of our articles including those previously published in Big Hill and More Big Hill Country.


CHAPS THANKS our local supporters

Wild cattle created bedlam in early days

by Gordon and Belle Hall, A Peep into the Past Vol. 1, pg 32

Every fall thousands of head of cattle were driven to the stockyards at Cochrane to be sold and shipped by rail to the buyer. They were weighed and brand recut here also. 

I can just imagine some of the poor souls that live here now, that can’t put up with train whistles, trying to cope with the bedlam when these cattle hit town; however, it wasn’t a bedroom town then, but a genuine working cow town. Charlie Mickle was one of the brand readers. The scale was covered over by a roof and they read brands and weight a carload at a time. A stock train would arrive from Calgary in the morning with about 40 cars. The engine stay with it all day, moving loaded cars along. There were two loading chutes, and they loaded two cars at a time. 

The Russell Hotel had a dining room which was a little more exclusive than the Chinese Cafe, and most of the ranchers and stockmen ate there. I always remember the Copithornes; they were big, powerful men. 


Getting the herds across the Bow River was always a problem. There was an old wooden bridge to start with, then in 1925, a new steel bridge was put across the Bow. Also, that was the same year the elevator was built and the Royal Bank came to town, taking over the Union Bank. Some outfits just swam their cattle across the river, while others put a quiet milk cow in the lead, and the herd would follow. 

Cattle were wild in the early days, as they had just come off the range, where there were very few people, only cowboys on horseback. I remember a Mr. McLennon, who bought the Merino Ranch from the Countess Bubna, brought in a herd to the stockyards; and his son, who was a cowboy and stockman, was crushed to death by a herd of steers in the stockyard pens. McLennon sold out soon after and moved away. 

Gradually trucks took over the cattle moving business. The stockyards are gone and most people in Cochrane do not know where they were situated. 

Another era of the old West has been phased out.

More Reading

Ralph and Carol Maier Family

By Carol Jean (Boyer) Maier pg 585 More Big Hill Country 2009

 Ralph was born in the Wayne Hospital, Alberta. His family lived at Willow Creek and he and his two sisters, Martha and Marlene, had a large playground around the HooDoos east of Drumheller. When Ralph was seven, the family moved to Cochrane, to the farm Sec 3 Twp 28 Range 4 W5M. The children walked to the Weedon School, located at the corner of NE Sec 22 Twp 27 Range 4W5M for September, it was closed due to a lack of students. They then were picked up by Mr. Wesley Wilson and went to Cochrane Lakes School until Christmas. In January 1944 they walked to the school bus stop which was half a mile away and went to Cochrane School. In 1953 Westbrook School opened and the means of transportation was either horseback or walk, the family lived too close to the school for the bus to pick them up. 

Ralph has been farming most of his teenage and adult life. In his teens he was on a threshing crew, supplying his own team, wagon, feed for his horses for $5.00/day. He took Agricultural Mechanics Course and Welding at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, drove into Calgary part of the time in a Model A. During the winters he worked out at many jobs: working for James Henderson, building roads, fencing in the Municipality, working on pipeline fall of 1960 around Rocky Mountain House. After that he started on with the rigs, G.P. in 1965, then Westbourne, working mostly in Northern Alberta drilling for gas and oil. If a drilling site was close to home he worked on it year-round, putting the crop in after his shifts and days off. One winter he was employed with Nabors drilling and the crew went to Japan to drill holes for geo-thermal for power plants. 

Carol was born in Broadview, Saskatchewan, and in 1959 our family moved to my Mom’s family ranch in the Cypress Hills, Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. After high school, I attended Business College in Medicine Hat, AB. I was employed for the Maple Creek School Unit for several years, and then my sister and I took off for Ottawa, Ontario. I worked in the Ottawa Public Library for 10 months, and on days off we were tourists, Expo 67, Montreal, New York and of course Ottawa! We came back west and on to Calgary. Worked for a furniture store in the office for a few years, and then took off for a tour of the world. I came back to Calgary and was able to get my job back at Ravvin’s, and worked there until I moved to the farm. 


Weedon School Courtesy Glenbow Archives NA 1098-3

Ralph and I met at a square dance club in Calgary and we were married in 1974. That fall we moved to the Cypress Hills, Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. For close to 4 years Ralph was travelling back and forth many times. Ralph’s Mom still had her chores, a few cows, pigs and chickens, which she loved doing and her huge garden. With our neighbour Buck Miller checking on her often and Ralph’s sister Marlene and daughter Leni living in Calgary, everything went well. 

We have 3 sons: Robert Douglas was born in Foothills Hospital, Calgary, Joseph Kent was born in the Maple Creek Hospital, and Gary John was born in the old Grace Hospital, Calgary. They attended Weedon Play School, Bob was in kindergarten in Cochrane, half days (bused only in the morning), Joe kept on at playschool, and Gary went to kindergarten at Westbrook, full-day, bused both ways. All 3 attended Westbrook School and Cochrane High School and were bused. 

In 1974 family and friends moved Ralph’s Mom into her “new” home, one that had been moved out of Calgary, in which she had running water and heat at all times. The old house had many memories for her, with a wood stove which had to be stoked, often in the winter. She did enjoy her new kitchen! We lived in a mobile home in the yard. Ralph’s Mom passed away in May 1982 and once again the month of May brought lots of snow. Ralph and I have carried on with the same garden plot that she had, but have cut down on the size by at least three-quarters. 

Our boys kept us busy with their activities: school, school sports, 4-H Beef Club, hockey, and Joe was in High School Rodeo, bull riding, and he won enough points in the Alberta finals two years in a row, that we got to go on two “holidays”. The first year was to Fallon, Nevada, and the next year to Gillette, Wyoming for the North American High School Finals. Also to Yorkton, Saskatchewan for Canadian High School Finals. Bob is a journeyman agriculture mechanic, working as a heavy-duty mechanic in Calgary. Joe is working as a welder, working towards a “ticket” in Olds. Gary is a journeyman millwright and works in many areas of Alberta. All have left home, but they help us out lots. 

Ralph and I are still farming on the place that Ralph’s Dad bought in 1943 and when his Mom saw it for the first time asked “Here, with all these rocks?” 

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields



In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

        In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

        In Flanders fields.

More Reading

Names and photos of Cochrane Veterans

Beattie Family

By David J Beattie and Gloria H. (Beattie) Johnson Pg 286 More Big Hill Country

Thomas Leslie (Tom) Beattie was born in Carlisle, England on December 8, 1909, the middle son of David and Mary (Byers) Beattie. David Beattie was a shepherd who worked in the borders region of northern England and southern Scotland and their marriage certificate states that Mary worked as a confectioner’s assistant. Grandpa David died when Tom was about five and we believe Grandma Mary died a short time after. It appears that Tom’s two brothers, Robert, the oldest and John, the youngest, ended up on the west coast of Scotland, just south of Glasgow, possibly in an orphanage. For reasons unknown, it appears the Byers family, who farmed west of Carlisle, took in young Tom. Details are sketchy as Tom did not talk to his family about his childhood years. 

Under the auspices of the Salvation Army, Tom sailed to Canada in 1926 with the approval of his uncle, William Byers, whom the ship’s passenger list names as Tom’s guardian. Tom’s occupation on the ship’s list is shown as “messenger” which we learned means he delivered mail, likely on foot. These were years when Britain shipped thousands of youngsters to Canada and other parts of the Commonwealth as “British Home Children”. Canada accepted these children to increase the population but, frequently, the families who took them in treated them poorly and used them as cheap labour. By coming to Canada, Tom lost contact with his two brothers for over twenty years. Eventually, the Salvation Army helped Tom regain contact with Robert and John. They corresponded but Tom never saw either brother again. 

A farmer in the eastern townships in Ontario held Tom’s indentureship for two years until he was just past eighteen. Our research revealed he received a wage of $135 for the first year and $148 for the second. After completing his indentureship and repaying the Salvation Army for his passage to Canada, we think 

Tom ventured west to the Cochrane area in late 1928 or early 1929. He found work as a cowboy for local ranchers. David remembers him talking about McConaghies and McEwans having large ranching and farming operations. Tom was an adept horseman and put his skills at leatherwork and leather braiding to good use. Similar to American cowboys of that era, Tom carried a 44-40 lever-action rifle and a 44 Colt revolver. These both used the same ammunition making it less to carry. In 1933, the Canadian government abolished the carrying of sidearms. We do not know what became of either of Tom’s firearms. 

Tom worked for various ranchers and eventually, Kendrew’s sawmills became his employer in the mid to late 1930s. Logging and sawmills provided steady work during some of the depression years. 

Margaret Ida Kimeri (later, “Kimery”) was born in Moosomin, Saskatchewan on November 12, 1912. She was the youngest of nine children of Josef and Juliana Kimeri who had emigrated from Hungary in 1905. Margaret’s five older sisters were born in Hungary; one sister and two brothers were born in Saskatchewan. Margaret did not learn English until she started school. She grew up on the family farm west of Kennedy. Saskatchewan. She talked about the rope that connected the distant barn to the house. In the heavy blizzards or dust storms of the depression years, the rope would guide her between the two buildings to do her chores. She also talked about snaring gophers and magpies and receiving cash for their remains as part of her contribution to the family. 

Grandpa Josef died when Margaret was quite young and her brother, Louis, who had just completed his teaching certificate, died in the 1918 flu epidemic Both Grandpa and Grandma Kimeri are buried in the Bekavar Cemetery south of Kipling, Saskatchewan. Margaret left home after finishing school and lived with one of her sisters in Winnipeg where she graduated from business college. Her children remember she had beautiful handwriting and could take shorthand. 

Margaret came to Cochrane in the mid-1930s to help her older sister, Rose Watson, with her family and to find work during the depression. The family does not know how, when or where Tom and Margaret met. They were married in December 1937. 

Early in their marriage, Tom worked at the Kendrews sawmills located at Jumping Pound, Morley and northeast of what is now the Village of Waiparous. He was the steam engineer and rose very early to fire the boiler that generated steam to power all the sawmill machinery He was accomplished with an axe and saw and built several log cabins for his family and others living near

these sawmills. David remembers being quite young when Tom and he visited an old sawmill site. Tom was pleased to see that several cabins were still standing. Margaret and Tom embarked on life-long friendships at the mills with the Lathwells, Steeves and Grays, to name a few. 

Marion Margaret Beattie was born in October 1938 and spent her early years growing up around local sawmills. 

When World War II started, Tom tried to enlist but was ‘unfit for service’ because of punctured eardrums. It is possible his ears were “boxed” when he was a child. Tom would get quite upset when anyone slapped a child’s head and would remind them the child had a bottom” for disciplinary measures. 

By the early 1940s, there were German prisoner of war camps situated in the Kananaskis and Bow River valleys. The government considered the Ghost River power generating dam and station at risk from escapees and hired guards to protect operations at the dam. 

In October 1943, Andy Chapman, a Justice of the Peace, swore Tom in as a Provincial Constable. Tom received a Colt 45 revolver and began the night shift guarding the dam. Tom’s certificate, dated the same cay David Joseph was born in the General Hospital in Calgary, suggests Tom likely missed the arrival of his first son! 

The young Beattie family lived in a Calgary Power staff house below the Ghost dam and David remembers Margaret telling him she would place him outside in the baby buggy for daytime naps in the fresh air. However, one wet day she discovered bear tracks around the buggy, so David did not sleep outside again until the family moved to Cochrane in mid-1944. 

After WW II ended Tom went to work for Sam Peverell who owned the Cochrane Creamery. The Creamery bought and processed local milk and cream. The cream arrived from various farms in varying sizes of cream cans and in varying conditions. The cream quality or grade was determined by tasting it prior to pasteurizing and churning. Butter churned from the cream won several awards of excellence over the years. 

David remembers helping Tom with grading and one particular can which contained cream covered with mould. David was ready to mark an “X” for sour beside the farmer’s name. Tom said this was unacceptable and reminded David that penicillin came from the mould so he had David sample and taste the cream. It was bad and the farmer did get an “X” but Tom taught his son a lesson about doing things correctly. David still remembers some really foul-tasting cream and, even after a mouth rinse, the taste lingered on. David soon learned to take

very small samples and never to swallow any. 

There were still a few that received “X” if Tom was not supervising but David remembers the wonderful butter the Creamery shipped after the local cream was pasteurized and churned. Some cream was really sweet and Tom would bring samples of it home for whipping and accompanying hot gingerbread, cereal or garden-fresh fruit or berries. David doubts cream of that quality is available anywhere now. 

Another interesting, but sometimes dangerous, job at the Creamery was washing the milk and cream bottles. A bottle brush, mounted on the wall above the huge wash sinks, driven by an electric motor spinning at a furious speed. The operator really needed a good two-handed grip to put the glass bottles on, or pull them off, the washer. The danger was in losing one’s grip and allowing a bottle to get loose. Glass bottles did not fare well against all the steel and concrete in the Creamery. Once David was 12 years old, Tom deemed him capable of doing this job. 

One of Tom’s several duties for the Creamery was milk delivery throughout the village. Many people remember his melodic whistling as he walked from house to house. Delivering milk with Tom was a neat job but had its dangers too. Many people in Cochrane had a dog and certain dogs took real exception to the placing of milk bottles on their doorsteps. Defending oneself from dogs wanting to bite when both your hands were carrying glass bottles of milk was difficult, to say the least! A bottle of milk was a good weapon but Tom would not allow David to break a bottle over a dog’s head. The better defence came in the form of a leather quirt which Tom square braided. One end looped over the wrist and the other end featured four eight-inch cattails. Tom filled the square body of the quirt with a lead shot. If a flick with the cattails did not deter the annoying dog, then a clunk with the quirt handle did. Dogs would still growl about the milk delivery but kept their distance. 

Tom Beattie also worked at various jobs for the Town of Cochrane. Gloria remembers him changing the early street light bulbs with a long, wiggly pole which was challenging at the best of times and quite frustrating when the strong west wind was blowing. 

Another job Tom did for the Town was digging graves with Dewey Blaney. Dewey was the only “black” person in Cochrane at the time. He worked for John Boothby and was a friend to many of Cochrane’s children. However, Dewey would only dig graves until sunset, so Tom would take the night shift. David remembers Tom telling a story about one winter night at the cemetery. Dewey was digging the frozen ground 

Margaret Beattie and Family

and, just at dark, his shovel hit a coffin. Tom met Dewey racing down the hill to town at full speed. Tom laughed, saying all he could see was the whites of Dewey’s eyes as he went streaking by. The tracks in the snow at the graveyard told Tom that Dewey had jumped clear of the gravesite in one gigantic leap and had hit the ground running. 

Gloria Hazel Beattie was born in July 1945. Linda Mary Jane Beattie was born in September 1946. 

With a growing family, Margaret and Tom needed a larger house. Their small two-bedroom bungalow became a larger four-bedroom bungalow, complete with an earthen basement and a closed-in verandah or porch. Tom also built an indoor bathroom when the Town installed water and sewer facilities. The house expansions happened in stages as finances allowed. David was old enough to help with some of the additions. 

John Robert Thomas (Bob) Beattie arrived in November 1950. 

As David was now seven years old, he had several chores and responsibilities. The Beattie family’s source of heat was wood and coal. David sawed wood by hand with a hand-made crosscut saw, split kindling and wood with an axe and broke the coal into proper-sized pieces with a sledgehammer. Ashes from the kitchen stove and pot-bellied heater were spread on the garden and driveway. 

The Beatties pumped water into pails from a 45-foot hand-dug well. Tom or David transferred water to the large reservoir in the kitchen stove and, on bath days, to a round tub placed on the stove. When the water was hot, the tub was moved to the floor in front of the cook stove’s oven. Margaret’s order for bathing children would begin with Bob, followed by Gloria and Linda and then David. Older Marion had the luxury of her own bathwater. Margaret also hand-washed and rinsed all the laundry, including diapers, in tubs using a washboard which David still has. 

Margaret reprimanded David several times each winter. He could not resist convincing visiting city kids to lick the heavy frost off the cast iron water pump handle. A warm, moist tongue would always freeze to the pump handle. This seems cruel in retrospect but it was fun at the time. Margaret always came to the rescue with warm water to pour on the pump handle and free the hapless victim. The rest of the outdoor plumbing was David’s domain, as well, and involved emptying the slop pail under the sink and keeping the outdoor toilet clean. 

Water, sewer and natural gas arrived in Cochrane in the early 1950s. Like most residents, we hand-dug the ditches from the street to our house. Water and sewer lines required eight to ten feet of cover. David remembers 

being in the bottom of the ditch and filling a pail with earth and rocks. On top, Tom hoisted the pail to the surface with a rope tied to the handle. The wooden ladder was always beside David in case he needed to make a quick exit. 

Timothy Trent Beattie was born in October 1956. Hot and cold running water and indoor plumbing made life somewhat easier for Margaret especially when she became the proud owner of an electric washing machine complete with an electric wringer. And, David’s chores were reduced considerably. Margaret would still hang clothes outside to dry and, in winter, they would freeze solid. Imagine a five-foot by seven-foot bed sheet frozen solid like a sheet of plywood. Somehow, Margaret would manage to wrestle these from the clothesline outside into the kitchen and hang them on the overhead inside clothesline to dry by the heat of the stove. The smell of clothes drying in the kitchen is a very pleasant memory for the Beattie siblings.

Growing up, David remembers children made their own entertainment. Cochrane was small and closely knit. In summer, children of all ages played games in open lots or fields – scrub baseball, kick the can and run sheep run. In winter, activities included sledding, skating, tobogganing, building snow caves and tunnels in huge snowdrifts. 

Tom was an early member of the volunteer fire department when the brigade mechanized in about 1954. This crew fought many types of fires with an old Ford truck and pumping unit. 

Tom developed lung cancer in early 1958 and had surgery to remove all of one lung and part of the other. Radiation was unsuccessful and Tom Beattie passed away August 16, 1958, several months before his 48th 



birthday. It is hard to imagine the grief and stress Margaret faced with five children at home, aged two to fourteen. There was no life insurance, no salary and only a very small federal widow’s stipend with which to raise her young family. Three months later, David was diagnosed with cancer and underwent two surgeries and radiation treatment. This was very hard on Margaret and she dealt with even more stress when she learned that Tom’s younger brother, John, had also just passed away from lung cancer in Scotland. David was extremely fortunate that Dr. Robert Walker (later a renowned cardiologist) managed his surgeries and aftercare and, in time, David fully recovered. 

As the oldest, at 12, David tried to assist Margaret by assuming more responsibility for the family. He worked after school and weekends at many menial jobs in an effort to contribute financially to the family. Margaret babysat in her home and worked as a cashier at weekend movies shown in the Cochrane Community Hall. The Beatties always grew a large garden which helped feed the family. Like many prairie women of that era, Margaret surrounded her low-eaved house with delphinium beds and planted lilacs in her fence so she and her neighbours could enjoy the beautiful blooms every summer. 

Margaret volunteered at the Cochrane (later Nancy Boothby) Library for over 35 years. A voracious reader, Margaret usually ended her long day by sitting in a straight-backed chair at the kitchen table engrossed in a beloved book. Card parties in Cochrane and surrounding districts helped her stay in touch with friends and neighbours. The Beatties made occasional trips to Calgary by train and later, by Greyhound bus. It was a big event for the whole family when David bought his first vehicle in 1960, a 1957 blue Ford pickup. The five younger Beattie siblings completed grade twelve at Cochrane High School while Marion finished high school at Mount Royal College in Calgary. 

Marion had a long career with the Royal Bank and is now retired and living in British Columbia. 

David completed a Southern Alberta Institute of Technology apprenticeship as an interprovincial automotive mechanic at Cochrane Auto Service owned by Graeme Broatch. Later, during a career in Alberta’s oil and gas industry, he completed his Certified Engineering Technologist designation. He is now semi-retired and living near Cochrane. 

Gloria has had a long career with the Royal Bank and is still working and living in Cochrane. 

Linda graduated and worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse and now lives in Cochrane. 

Bob completed a SAIT apprenticeship and graduated 

as a journeyman carpenter. He is still employed in Alberta’s oil and gas industry and living in Swan Hills. 

Tim has had a long career at The Calgary Centre for Performing Arts where he is still working and lives in Calgary. 

Margaret moved from the original Beattie home on Fourth Avenue to the newer Glenbow neighbourhood in the early 1980s. For the first time, she had a newer home with central heating and an attached garage and it backed on to the Big Hill Creek. She sold this home in 1989 and moved to the Bethany Care Centre in Cochrane. In Margaret’s view, not having to do her own cooking, dishes and cleaning was okay. She suffered from dementia in her later years and passed away as a result of a stroke on January 12, 2000. Margaret was a widow for almost three times as long as she was married. She was buried beside Tom in the old section of the Cochrane Cemetery. 

Marion was married to Buster Fenton of the Bottrel area. Their children are Karen, Thomas (Tom), Laurie and Teresa. 

David is married to Ann Neilson of Cochrane. Their sons are Malcolm and Sean. 

Gloria is married to Fred Johnson of Westbrook. Their children are William (Bill) and Deborah (Deb). 

Linda was married to Vince Hoomana of Hawaii. Tanya is their daughter. 

Bob is married to Carmen Schuman of Strathmore and they have no children. 

Tim was married to Lynn Leppard of Calgary and they have no children. 

More Reading

2022 Presidents Message


This time last year, none of us could have predicted how much our world would have changed. The global COVID19 pandemic has left a trail of devastation in its wake and uncertainty as to its longterm consequences. In the midst of unpredictability, we have survived. These challenging times have tested our character, but we have not broken down. It has tested our perseverance, but we are still here. It has tested our small group of volunteers, and they are still strong

CHAPS is very lucky to have the support of an incredible group of volunteers. Even though our volunteer engagement didnt look like the same as it has in previous preCOVID years, one thing remained a constant: our volunteers are tremendously important to CHAPS’ success and permanence. I would like to sincerely thank all of you who have participated, engaged, supported, and inspired CHAPS

Advances in technology have made the Cochrane Historical Museum more accessible than ever. Physical experiences make our museum displays more memorable, but modern technology will make our visitors more aware of the displays. This technology has helped to support our administration functions, our collection management system and our visitor services. The CHM provides a sense of our town and surrounding community and a place for celebrating our collective heritage, offering a great way to know our local history and identity Thereby building connections that will sustain our community in years ahead

Growth and development are inevitable, but keeping a piece of the way we were is important for our heritage. CHAPS helps to achieve this goal. CHAPS operates with the belief that a firm knowledge of the past will create a brighter future

CHAPS is located in a historical building that contains a small manageable museum. Programs include travelling exhibits that visits schools and libraries, lecture series for kids, adults, walking tours of the town of Cochrane and much more. The CHM serves as an onsite resource centre where interested parties can explore local photographs, newspaper articles, history books and materials. This is simply a small overview of the existing things that CHAPS is involved with

There is much more to come next year. 

Larry Want


 Cochrane Historical & Archival Preservation Society

Get involved

Become a member

Alexander Gillies

by Bessie (Simpson) Harris pg 310 Big Hill Country 1977

Alexander Gillies and his wife, who had been Mary Gillies of Morar, came to the Cochrane district from Inverness-shire, Scotland, in October, 1884. With them they brought their six children, John, Jessie, Kate, Mary, Alexandrina and Duncan. Annie was born at Cochrane and a little son, Donald, died in infancy. Mary Gillies made her husband keep travelling west till they found hills that looked like those of Scotland. They were undoubtedly influenced, too, by the fact that A. W. McDonald, who was married to Alexander’s sister, had been in the district since 1881. They stayed with the McDonalds while they built a small shack by the spring on the Mount Royal picnic grounds. There they lived while building the log house close to the east bank of the Ghost River. Both Alexander Gillies and his

Mrs. and Mr. Alexander Gillies

son, John, homesteaded near the Ghost River and had, altogether, a section and a half of land. They raised both horses and cattle. This place has always been known as the Ghost River Ranch. 

One day Alexander was away getting outbuilding logs and his wife was alone with the small children. She had just taken a pan of scones out of the oven when a big Indian with a gun appeared at the door with two or three companions behind him. Naturally, she was frightened. The Indian [sic] pointed at the pan of scones so she put them in his sack. A couple of weeks later the Indian [sic] came back and brought her a beautiful set of buffalo horns. These were hung at the front of the ranch house. From then on, the Gillies and the Indians [sic] remained very good friends.

Gillies home : Ghost River L to R Don Simpson, Alex Simpson, Jim Murphy, Enie Gillies, Eva, Irene and Helen Murphy, Jim Simpson

Alexander Gillies died in 1922. Mary, with John and Annie, moved into Cochrane after the ranch was sold. They lived in the house built by Mr. Tesky for Joe Murphy. Mary Gillies died in 1935. 

The following was written in May 1922, by Hugh Farthing, an old friend of the family: 

“During the early days in the West, Alexander Gillies’ strong, courageous personality and straightforward dealing endeared him to the hearts of all with whom he came in contact. Friends and strangers alike 

John and Annie Gilliles (standing) Mr and Mrs Gillies, and Duncan

were always sure of a hearty welcome and true Highland hospitality at the Ghost River Ranch. 

“The little cemetery at Cochrane is a fitting resting place for such an old-timer as he. Far below, the silver thread of the Bow River winds its way through the wooded slopes of the foothills he loved so well, and in the distance the Rockies, majestic and unchanged as when he first saw them thirty-eight years ago, complete one of the most wonderful pictures in the world.” 

John remained a bachelor. Jessie married John McPhail and their children were Lawrence, Mamie, Wallace and Alice. Kate married Alvin Rellinger. They had five children: Mary, Herbert, Alice, Josie and Catherine. Mary married William Simpson. The Simpson children were: James, Donald, Alexander, Edward, William, Bessie, Duncan and Theresa. Mary Simpson died in 1969. Duncan married Josie Elliott. They had no children. Alexandrina married Roland Gissing. They, too, had no children. Annie remained single.

Mary and Katy Gillies

Related reading:

Cochrane Ranche Cattle Drives

Excerpt from thesis of D.E. Brown U. of A. 1951

In the spring of 1881, plans were made to purchase the first herd of cattle for the Cochrane Ranche. Major Walker was sent to Montana, where he obtained six thousand eight hundred head at an average price of eighteen dollars per head with the understanding that the Montana ranchers from whom they were bought would deliver them to the boundary. 

The I. G. Baker Company contracted to drive the cattle from the boundary to the Cochrane ranch for two dollars and fifty cents per head. Frank Strong, a foreman for the Baker Company, was in charge of the drive and was assisted by thirty cowboys with three hundred head of horses. In order to make as rapid a trip as possible, Strong divided the herd in two. The “dry” herd, consisting of steers, was sent ahead and was driven at the rate of fifteen or more miles per day. 

The second group made up of cows and calves, was moved more slowly although it often covered fourteen miles in a day, Kelly says that “this drive has remained the criterion for hard-driving, and no such great numbers of cattle have since been moved so rapidly by trail”. The number of wagons came along behind the herds to pick up the calves that had fallen from exhaustion, hundreds of cattle were left to perish along the way. The herds were pushed across the Bow River near the site of the present Mewata Park in Calgary and turned over to Major Walker and his men.

Several of the Baker cowboys remained to work for Major Walker and quite a number of the saddle horses were sold to the Cochrane Ranche Company. The Baker Company had contracted to brand the cattle before turning them over to Major Walker but had been unable to do so because of the speed with which the drive was carried out. As a result, the cattle were accepted after a hair brand and proper branding was to be given at the home ranch. It was late in the fall when the herd arrived, however, and branding was postponed until the following spring. Winter came on before the cattle had a chance to recover from the hard drive and, although it was not an unusually cold winter, many died. 

Hooves of History image

The drive and the effect of the winter on the herd provided valuable information to the cattlemen of the west on the relative endurance of the various breeds of cattle. Black Polled Angus cattle proved most sturdy, Herefords rated second and Shorthorns were the least hardy. In the spring of 1882, the hair brand that had been put on the cattle the previous fall disappeared with their winter coats. 

The Company directors ordered Major Walker to round up every unbranded animal on the Cochrane range and brand it with the Cochrane 11CH. Several settlers in the area assisted for a time but, when they found that their own unbranded animals that were on the Cochrane range were to be included in the round-up, they quit in a body. The settlers were incensed at the prospect of losing their own cattle and, in order to avoid financial ruin, they set to work searching for scattered groups of cattle that had been missed in coulees and ravines during the general round-up. Any that were found were taken home and branded with the settler*s own brand. Quite a number of cattle ended up with the wrong brand and It is not unlikely that the settlers came out with somewhat augmented herds. 

Major Walker had been hampered in his management of the ranch on several occasions by the necessity of obeying orders from the company’s office in the east or from Dr. McEachren, who was his immediate superior and also manager of the Walrond ranch further south. These orders were often ill-advised since they were not based on sound ranching experience nor in accord with the conditions existing on the ranch itself at the time. During a trip to Montana in the summer of 1882, Major Walker was forced to follow a course of action that he found entirely against his better judgment and as a result, he tendered his resignation. Major Walker had arranged for the purchase of four thousand three hundred head of cattle from the Poindexter and Orr ranch in Montana. The deal was temporarily suspended when Dr. McEachren arranged for the purchase of the new herd by the I. G. Baker Company. This Company was planning to stock an Alberta ranch for itself and Dr. McEachren felt that the Cochrane herd could be more profitably purchased in conjunction with the Baker herd. The arrangements were tentative and opposed by Major Walker. The Baker Company finally abandoned the idea and Major Walker returned to the Poindexter and Orr ranch to find that the price of cattle had risen in his absence. The herd cost twenty-five thousand dollars more than it would have if the deal had been completed earlier and valuable time had been lost. 

Major Walker. was so incensed that he sent in his resignation, to take effect when a successor could be found. Poindexter and Orr undertook to deliver the new herd to the Cochrane ranch at a cost of two dollars and seventy-five cents per head. Deliveries were to begin July 1, but several delays occurred and the herd did not arrive until October. Poindexter was in charge of the drive and found it necessary to move rapidly to avoid being caught by an early snowstorm. The plan failed. At Fish Creek, near the present Midnapore, the weary herd ran into a bitter snowstorm and could proceed no further. Poindexter wanted to hold the animals there for a month until they had recovered from the long drive and the snow cleared, but Major Walker, acting on orders from the east, insisted that delivery be carried out as soon as possible.

Poindexter obtained a number of hardy steers from nearby settlers and sent them ahead to break a trail through the snowdrifts. The exhausted Cochrane herd was forced along behind them. The cattle were turned over to Major Walker on October 20. Poindexter was an experienced rancher but had been forced to move the herd too fast owing to the delay in purchasing it and was later forced to continue the drive after the snowfall because of the orders from the Cochrane Ranche Company directors, however, the Company had begun to learn a lesson. In a contract with the I. G. Baker Company signed on September 5, 1882, the Cochrane Ranche Company agreed to pay forty dollars per head for some four hundred and fifty to five hundred and fifty head of three-year-old steers, at the same time specifying that the herd was to be delivered to the Cochrane ranch and the drive was not to occupy less than three weeks. 

On September 7, 1882, Frank White, a former railroad man and bookkeeper, arrived at the Cochrane ranch to assume the duties of treasurer. On October 7, Mr. W. D. Kerfoot, a Virginian and an experienced rancher, arrived to take charge of the livestock and replace Major Walker. Major Walker subsequently established a very successful lumber business in Calgary. The winter of 1882-83 was a disastrous one for the Cochrane ranch. The storm mentioned above lasted until October 13 and was followed by a slight thaw that softened the snow. This thaw was followed by a severe cold spell and a hard crust formed on the snow. The cattle found it impossible to reach the grass and drifted continually. The directors in the east were advised of the condition of the range and the lack of feed but insisted that the stock be held on the Cochrane lease.


Hooves of History image

Camps of cowboys were established at the mouth of the Fish creek, at Calgary and along Nose creek to hold the herd. The whole winter was spent in holding the starving herd on the home range. This blundering policy was followed in spite of the fact that there was excellent winter range at Blackfoot Crossing and the Little Bow where only a small amount of snow fell throughout the winter. The winter of 1881-82 had been rather mild and the Cochrane herd had come through it without serious losses. As a result, no preparation had been made for the following winter. No hay had been put up and no one seems to have considered the possibility of a hard winter and the disastrous effect that such a winter would have on the cattle. The inability of the local manager to follow his own initiative compounded the disaster.

The extent of the losses of Cochrane cattle was not fully appreciated until June 1883, when the snow finally disappeared. Kelly, describing the Cochrane losses, says, “Dead bodies were heaped in every coulee, thousands of head having perished. Some of the long ravines were so filled with carcasses that a man could go from the top to the bottom, throughout its entire length, and never have to step off a dead body.

Indians made a very good wage for some time, skinning the animals for twenty-five cents each. Out of the twelve thousand head that had been purchased and placed on the Cochrane range, there remained now but a scant four thousand, counting natural increase.”  Other ranches in southern Alberta suffered but a fraction of the losses of the Cochrane Ranche chiefly because of a more practical policy of letting the cattle drift to areas where they could graze. 

In 1882 the Cochrane Ranche Company started a butcher shop in Calgary as a retail outlet for their beef. A camp was established at Nose Creek to hold the cattle for this shop and also to supply the beef required to fill the North West Mounted Police contract. About twenty steers a month were sold from this camp. Another camp at the Sarcee reserve supplied the twenty-five head per month required to feed the Indians there.

There were two other camps as well, one at Blackfoot Crossing, which supplied one hundred and thirty head per month to the Blackfoot Indians, and a second one at Morleyville, where twenty head of cattle were required each month for the Stoney. 

In the spring of 1883, the directors of the Cochrane Ranche Company decided that the winters in the area west of Calgary were too rigorous and a new lease was taken up in the Waterton Lakes area, southwest of Macleod. This new ranch was made up of land taken over from the ’’Rocky Mountain Cattle Company” and the ’’Eastern Township Ranch Company”,

Related Reading

History of Mathew Henry Cochrane

Excerpt from D.E. Brown's U. of A. Thesis 1951

In 1872, in an effort to encourage the settlement and development of western lands, the Dominion Government passed the first land act providing for the granting to settlers of the land adjacent to their farms for grazing purposes. This act was broadened in 1876 to allow for the granting of leases to anyone. Tracts of land, generally not in excess of one hundred thousand acres, could be leased by individuals or companies at the rate of one cent per acre per year. In the early history of ranching in southern Alberta, the strongly organized and heavily capitalized ranching companies greatly overshadowed the individually owned ranches. 

Generally, English or Eastern Canadian capitalists formed a ranching company, subscribed to the capital investment, took up an extensive lease, purchased a large herd of cattle in the United States to stock the lease and launched a large-scale ranching enterprise in a short time. Individual ranchers, on the other hand, were often hampered by a lack of capital and were forced to expand much more slowly. The great ranching companies gave the industry a tremendous impetus at its very outset and had very soon established an economically sound foundation for the future development of ranching in southern Alberta. 

The Cochrane Ranche Company (limited) whose holdings lay in the area under consideration, was the first of these great ranching companies. The Company was incorporated by the Dominion Government on May 14, l88l, although it had been formed sometime earlier. Senator M. H. Cochrane was President and his son, W. F.  Cochrane, was manager. The company also included Hugh MacKay, merchant, William Lawrence, manufacturer, William Cassils, Gentleman, William Ewing, seedsman, and Charles Cassils, manufacturer, all of the city of Montreal. It was capitalized at five hundred thousand dollars. Major James Walker, a former North West Mounted Police inspector, was appointed local manager and Dr. D. M. McEachren was made resident general manager.

Tom and Lady Adela Cochrane were neighbours from Mitford and not associated with the Cochrane Ranche.

Senator M. H. Cochrane, its founder, was the driving personality behind the Cochrane Ranche Company. Mathew Henry Cochrane was born at Hillhurst Farm, Compton, Quebec, in 1823. He took an early interest in farming, but at the age of eighteen, he went to Boston and established a leather business. In 1854 he returned to Canada and, in partnership with Cassils and Company of Montreal, opened a boot and shoe factory. By 1888 this business had a gross yearly income of half a million dollars. 

It was however as a successful breeder of improved grades of cattle that he was best known. In this respect, his reputation was worldwide. In 1864 he purchased Hillhurst Farm from his father and three years later obtained the services of Simon Beattie, an outstanding judge of cattle, as farm manager and adviser. With the help of Simon Beattie, Mr. Cochrane set out to secure the best Shorthorn cattle that could be bought.

In 1867 he purchased two outstanding animals in Britain – the famous cow “Rosedale”, who had no peer in the English show rings, and ’’Baron Booth of Lancaster”, a bull calf. “Rosedale” attained a greater celebrity than has ever been achieved by any cow on this continent. She was the sensation of every show.

“Baron Booth” subsequently passed into the hands of a cattle breeder in Illinois and his record as a show animal and a sire brought about a revolution in the Shorthorn industry of the United States mid-west.

In 1868, Mr. Cochrane imported the first of the famous “Bates” cattle into Canada. There were eleven head, and one of them, “Duchess 97th”, cost a thousand guineas, the highest price that had ever been paid for a cow. “Duchess 97th” was later sold to a New York breeder for a record seventeen thousand nine hundred dollars. From then on Mr. Cochrane carried on a campaign of importing the best English Shorthorns and selling them on this continent. 

There seems to have been no shrewder dealer in Shorthorns during the history of this breed of cattle. In 1882 Senator Cochrane abandoned the breeding of Shorthorns for a time and went into Aberdeen-Angus and Hereford cattle, importing some of the finest specimens of these breeds then available. He also imported choice lots of Southdown, Cotswold, Leicester and Lincoln sheep. A number of excellent Suffolk horses and Berkshire pigs were also brought to Canada. Senator Cochrane’s contribution to the improvement of Canadian, and United States, livestock cannot be overestimated. He had the courage, and the money, to buy the best animals. 

He was a pioneer in this field and his purchases made available to this continent’s livestock breeders the finest breeding stock of the period. He was called to the Senate in October 1872. Besides his interests in livestock, the boot and shoe factory and the Cochrane ranch, he was a vice president of the Eastern Townships Bank, a governor of the Sherbrooke Protestant Hospital, a trustee of Bishop*s College, Lennoxville, and a member of the Council of Agriculture in Quebec, Senator Cochrane died in 1903.  

I'd always assumed that since the cattle operations of the Cochrane Ranche was so short, it was due to the inexperience of the owners. Not entirely true. Cochrane had considerable experience in different conditions.

There seems to have been no shrewder dealer in Shorthorns during the history of this breed of cattle. In 1882 Senator Cochrane abandoned the breeding of Shorthorns for a time and went into Aberdeen-Angus and Hereford cattle, importing some of the finest specimens of these breeds then available. He also imported choice lots of Southdown, Cotswold, Leicester and Lincoln sheep. A number of excellent Suffolk horses and Berkshire pigs were also brought to Canada. Senator Cochrane’s contribution to the improvement of Canadian, and United States, livestock cannot be overestimated. He had the courage, and the money, to buy the best animals. 

He was a pioneer in this field and his purchases made available to this continent’s livestock breeders the finest breeding stock of the period. He was called to the Senate in October 1872. Besides his interests in livestock, the boot and shoe factory and the Cochrane ranch, he was a vice president of the Eastern Townships Bank, a governor of the Sherbrooke Protestant Hospital, a trustee of Bishop*s College, Lennoxville, and a member of the Council of Agriculture in Quebec, Senator Cochrane died in 1903  

Gilbert Ranch 1950 formerly Cochrane Ranche

The only original Cochrane Ranche buildings are the house and barn against the rock face on the hill-side.

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