Pleasant Memories

By Anna Robertson pg 689 Big Hill Country 1977

My dad, James Robertson, crossed the Atlantic several times in charge of groups of immigrants to Western Canada. Later he took up ranching. In 1898 he purchased a ranch west of Airdrie from Andy (Shorty) Smith and later, from 1901 to 1906, added many fine grazing sections. This ranch was always called the “Smith place.” Dad also grazed sheep and horses on his Bow View Ranch, west of Cochrane. 

Dad passed away on March 21, 1917, after a brief illness. Mom carried on with the difficult task of running the ranches. Mom was Vice- President of the Southern Alberta Pioneers and Old-Timer’s Association at the time of her death in a tragic bus accident at High River in 1933. 

Unfortunately, I remember very little of my father. He died when I was quite small, having contracted pneumonia after attending an auction sale. I do remember a few precious things about him that keep his memory close to my heart. Once, my parents left the four of us youngsters for a few days in the care of close neighbors, the Harringtons, while they went by team and democrat to Cochrane to attend a funeral. I was absolutely heartbroken at the separation and spent almost all the time under the stairs, crying my eyes out. I’ll never forget the joyous reunion that occurred on their return. I ran pellmell down the road on my fat little legs to meet them. 

I remember Daddy returning in the cutter from a trip to Crossfield in the winter. Excite- ment knew no bounds when he came into the warm kitchen where we sat around the friendly old coal stove. The older girls landed in his arms while all I could do was hug his knees and feel the lovely softness of his huge coonskin coat, then look up and see the frost on his eyebrows and the icicles on his moustache. 

One day I was allowed to go with him in the buggy while he looked over the cattle and dropped off blocks of salt. I was delighted and felt so important sitting up there beside him on the seat, as we children were usually relegated to the floor of the buggy at the feet of the driver. I asked him if the cattle belonged to him. 

“No,” he said, “They belong to us.’ 

Music was always present in our home. My father had a beautiful singing voice. Each member of the family contributed something, playing a musical instrument, singing or dancing. 

I was forever asking Daddy when I would be allowed to ride a horse all by myself. One day he measured me on the side of the barn and then put a distinct mark several inches higher up. 

“When you’re as tall as that mark, then you may have your own pony.” How I stretched and waited for the day. 

Scotty and Doug McDonald and Angus Perry were cousins of mine who worked for us. Ernie Archibald was our first foreman and Jock Herron often looked after our south ranch until my brother Angus moved there. Deaf Scotty looked after the sheep at Bow View. 

Mother started a library at Abernethy School and was often on the school board. She was an avid reader. She expected us to know as much about the classics and world events as she. She had a deep appreciation of the theatre, and we were fortunate in being taken to all the best shows that came to Calgary. 

From time to time we had a Chinese cook; Charlie was my favorite. He was rather difficult to understand, but he cooked sumptuous meals. One day my sister and I noticed him packing a huge box of food. We asked him why he was doing this and he replied, “Oh, I send this to Beljim.” The Belgians were starving at that time and all were encouraged to send them food parcels. We thought it wonderful of Charlie  until we learned later that it was for Jim Ballentyne at the Smith place. Charlie was using the Chinese custom of reversing names! 

I loved the early morning roundups on the ranch at branding time, the Crossfield Sports Day on July 1st, and the Dog Pound Picnic. Mom usually accompanied us to the dances at Crossfield. With moonlight sleigh rides, and skating parties and hockey on our lake in McPherson Coulee, the winters slipped by with fun for all. These are some of my memories of “Home on the Range.”

Deep Dive

Does our Social media reach people?

This is the sixth year of re-publishing historical articles on our blog. Every year before the AGM we ask ourselves if we’re reaching people and why.

We find that our most popular articles remind people of their family and growing up. The best example of that is a post on the Cochrane Cafe which as of this writing has been shared 196 times. That doesn’t count shares from already shared posts. Every few months someone reads the old post and shares it. Then we find it being shared and re-shared all over again.

Our goal is also to inform people who recently arrived of the history of this very interesting part of Alberta. I always say it’s better than television.

I firmly believe our social media channels complement our favorite small museum, the Cochrane Historical Museum on the Cochrane Ranche site. There’s nothing like seeing the actual objects and having one of our Guides tell you about the history.

You’ll find links to the articles I mention in the Deep Dive section below.

Cochrane Cafe

The most visited website blog has been about the Graham Pharmacy. As of this writing, it’s been read 883 times.

The Pharmacy was the place to visit because of Alice and Bob’s friendliness and because it contained so many interesting objects.  When I went there with my mom I was always enthralled by Bob’s loud yet friendly voice, the smells, and the sights of the inventory. I always thought you could find anything there.

Grahams Pharmacy. Alice and Bob

Our YouTube Channel has some wonderful videos in the 100 Stories for 100 Years series. As well, the MD of Bighorns, Oral History project has been well received. Both offer some personal perspectives of Cochrane and areas history.

We’ve got a couple of Jade Lewis and companies recreation of a couple of historic events. They are quite wonderful.

One of my favorite videos is from the original Hooves of History 1990 sponsored by the Canadian Rodeo Historical Association and the Stockmen’s Memorial Foundation as a fundraising event for the Western Heritage Centre. The video is a moving tribute to our Western traditions, Pioneers, and the spirit that still exists.

Would you like to get involved?

We have a role for every interest and time committment.

Deep Dive

CHAPS YouTube Channel

Have you seen CHAPS YouTube Channel? We have over 60 videos.

Here is a preview of some of the most viewed.

Cochrane had one of the few shot towers in Western Canada. View the video, Get the Lead out by Ron Baker.

Hamish Kerfoot tells about his families harrowing experiences

Ivan Davies talks about Dewey Blaney and growing up in Cochrane.

Heather, Rhona and Robyn explain how Cochrane’s iconic ice cream store evolved after the passing of their father.

Vernice Wearmouth talks about the Tower Ranch, Brushy Ridge fire, and ranching in early Cochrane area.

Bonus videos

Jade Lewis and company retell the story of the Cochrane Ranche.

Jade Lewis and company retell the story of a visit by Royalty.

History of the Cochrane Library


The mission of CHAPS is to identify, preserve, protect, and educate the public about historically significant properties and buildings in Cochrane, Alberta. The focus of this history is of the founding and early years of the library and is not meant to be a complete history.

Institutions like the Library are particularly valuable since they were founded by volunteers with little support from any level of government. Four women visualized and implemented the first Cochrane Library. Vola McPherson, Nan Boothby, Amy Callaway and Grace Oldfield who saw the need for the hamlet of Cochrane to have a Library and took the steps to obtain books, space and staff to provide that service to residents. Over time many people volunteered and continued to grow the Library supporting the needs of the community.

We should not lose the memory or the spirit of these visionary pioneers.


The Cochrane Home and School Association on October 3rd, 1950 decided to sponsor a library in Cochrane. Vola McPherson was the first librarian and retired in 1952. Nan Boothby took over. “She felt that Cochrane needed a library and she focussed on getting kids involved with books,” says Brenda Hughes, a librarian in 2000. “Her thing was to get Kids to become life-long readers.”  

The Cochrane Home and School Association on October 3rd, 1950 decided to sponsor a library in Cochrane. Vola McPherson was the first librarian and retired in 1952. Nan Boothby took over. “She felt that Cochrane needed a library and she focussed on getting kids involved with books,” says Brenda Hughes, a librarian in 2000. “Her thing was to get Kids to become life-long readers.”

The following is a quote from a History of the Library by E. B. Boothby, one of Nan Boothby’s sons. 

“Education in Cochrane was furnished by the Cochrane school district.. Following the depression years and World War 2, cash and collection of taxes was a tough role and books and educational references expensive. The school authority had difficulty in collecting enough money to pay the teachers, janitor and keep the building warm

A Home and School Association was formed. Mrs. MacPherson served a period as president as did Nan Boothby.. There was not a book for reading or reference in the school or a test tube in the science room for use by the students. The association and the student parents decided that something should move forward to improve the situation. For books, a community drive could take place for book donations and shelves to stock a library in the school. The community drive for book donations began. 

At the same period, roads in the area had improved. The adjoining school district wanted to close the Horse Creek, Bearpaw, Glendale schools and build a new school. Discussions took place to merge the Cochrane school district with them and have the new school in the town of Cochrane. Ratepayers of the Cochrane school district approved the merger. On the new school term, there were now bookshelves stocked with books supplied by the school district, leaving no action required by the home and school association. 

Many of the student parents, including Nan Boothby and Mrs. MacPherson, decided that a community facility stocked with reading and reference material and located in a public environment would be nice for the student body and a wonderful place for adults to obtain fresh titles to borrow and return. 

The town of Cochrane had recently purchased a privately owned recreational building that had been used as a town hall. The upstairs was rented for dances and public events. An unused room existed in the basement. The town authorized the use of this room for a library but advised that not a cent of public funding was available to improve the facility or finance any library function

Now funding had to be put in place. Nan Boothby, Mrs. Wallace, Mrs. Callaway thought that funding could be put in place to modernize the room and build shelving by providing snacks at baseball games and light catering undertakings. The group would be called w.w.w. in short for willing, working, women. They would be joined by other volunteers in the community.. The room was quickly sanitized, and funding starting to fund modernization of the room. Mrs. Ed Davies would visit Nan Boothby and they would spend hours repairing books donated by the community. These old editions could now be moved to the new location and the doors opened. Discussion took place as to a name, but no decision was made and the doors opened without a sign and was known as the library. an organization name was structured to enable banking and required usage. “



Library entrance was on North Side

The library has been in several locations. The first was in a broom closet in the basement of the Community Hall.   The second location, also in the basement of the old Community Hall in a room that formerly was used to store coal.  

In 1975, the third location became the basement of the town hall which was warmer but not much bigger.   Then a move to a much larger location in the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The library was renamed the Nan Boothby Memorial in honour of the women that worked hand in hand to build the library in its first 12 years.  

Odd things were reported at that location. The site was a former cemetery. Human remains were later found by the University of Calgary and moved to the cemetery.    

The current location is on Railway Street.


Again from E.B. Boothby

“Use of the facility gradually grew, and would be influenced by five factors

First: The government of Alberta introduced a matching grant to libraries which now meant that an increased flow of new reading an reference material could be obtained

Second: Local service groups began providing cash donations which enabled funding for new editions

Third: The town would improve the fire equipment and convert the town office to a fire hall. This meant that the nicely furnished library would be needed for the office of the town secretary. The library could move to the empty coal room if desired, but there would be no financial support to renovate the room. The library volunteers and Nan Boothby understood well that the location took a lot of work to renovate but the location had an outside north entrance.. With some lights installed and renovation, the balance of the community building could be sealed off, and the doors of the library opened for evening use. Students and youth could now come and research. Adults could now pick up reading material at this alternate time. I was always highly impressed with the spirit of Mrs. Beatty, Mrs. Lathwell, Mrs. Callaway and others who joined Nan Boothby in this new location. Only a single teenager would come on many evenings. The ladies knew in their hearts that this person was now occupied in a positive manner and would go forward and take his or her place in society in a positive manner. The time was well spent

Fourth: An election was called in Canada. At Cochrane, John Boothby, Nans husband, was called upon to assist Carl Nickle in his campaign for election to Parliament. Carl was owner and editor of the Nickel Oil bulletin. On the afternoon prior to the public meeting, John would take Mr. Nickle to the library. I long remember the astonishment of Mr. Nickle when he viewed the library and discovered that it was operated by volunteers and without public funding. Mr. Nickle was aware of the Alberta matching grants for libraries.. A couple of months later, the library received a letter. The donation allowed the library to go shopping for new editions and apply to the province for the maximum grant

Fifth: There are those in the community who have much,, many with some and those with little. There are those in their teens who have much energy, many with some and those with interest not held by the majority. There are adults with sound minds, active minds and those who need to keep their mind active with an activity that is of interest and available. None will be drawn to a library because of the name, but will come to a service whatever the name and will tell their friends when the atmosphere at the facility is most positive. 

Nan Boothby died in 1962

The Cochrane Art Club began about the same time as the library. One of their members painted a likeness of Nan Boothby and presented it to the library to honour Nan Boothby. Nan was actually the first librarian. 

In due time, the town would construct a new building. This would now contain the library. The library portion was named the Nan Boothby Memorial Library. The name carried forward when the next new building was constructed.” 

Carl Nickle was a politician from 1951 – 1957 

I believe Nan was actually the second Librarian after Vola MacPherson.

In 1980 the library became a municipal library.  

Fee’s in 1950 were set at $1.00 per year for adults. Children attending school $.50 and if not attending school $1.00.   

The newsletter Nan Boothby Memorial Library History and Development (Appendix) contains a listing of the first Library Board and library staff from 1950 through the 35th anniversary in 1985. 

Stories from the early Years

Gordon Davies recalls that his mother and Nan Boothby used to travel to Calgary by bus to obtain books.  Books were often in need of repair so covers were replaced and the books put into circulation.

There have been many long-serving volunteers since the library’s inception including Emily Lathwell (33 Years), Margaret Beattie (32 years), Catherine Hansen (25 years) and Dorothy Steves (21 years). Some of their service dates back to the mid-’50s.

The Hansen family moved to Cochrane in the early 1950s. Linda Steeves (Hansen) and Fay Lewis (Hansen) shared their memories of the impact of the Library. 

“The Cochrane Library was located in the basement of the Community Hall and became an important part of our first summer in Cochrane. I, (Linda) would go to the Library at 2 pm (opening time) and take the two books I was allowed to borrow home. 

I would read the books, have supper and go back to the Library in the evening to get 2 more books. These books had to last until the next opening of the Library!.

The hours of the library at this time were:

Monday 2 PM – 5 PM, 7 PM – 9 PM

Wednesday 2 PM – 5 PM, 7 PM – 9 PM

Saturday 2 PM – 5 PM, 7 PM – 9 PM

All of us used the Library for recreational reading and research for school projects.

Our mother, Catherine Hansen became an active member of the Library Board.

Catherine’s family is proud of their mother’s commitment to the library and the commitment to community work she had. “ 

Final Thoughts

“Gordon Davies, a CHAPS member who remembers visiting Nan and her library in the basement as a kid said volunteers are the cornerstone to many services in town and their efforts shouldn’t be forgotten once it’s taken over municipally.

It’s a shame that people who are recent residents of Cochrane don’t understand (the history). I think that’s too bad because I think that part of Cochrane is really important. I think there are other organizations and groups that will face the same thing.” Davies said.”  Cochrane Today article by Amy Tucker Jan 10, 2019

Golf had an early beginning

page 53 A Peep into the Past Vol. 1 Gordon and Belle Hall

In the middle 1920s Cochrane had a nine-hole golf course. It was situated where the subdivision of Cochrane Heights is now. The golf course had sand and greens and the first green on the first hole was situated where the Cochrane High School sits. The land at the time was owned by the late Andrew Garson. Golf was played each summer for about four years when it was abandoned. Caddies for golfers made about 50 cents a round and wooden-shafted clubs were used. 

For years afterward, this land was known as the golf course and in later years was fenced and used as a cattle pasture. The McConachies owned it for a time, but the land was eventually sold to the town. 

There was an early tennis court in the village, it was located where Dave Whittle had his upholstery shop. The court was made of crushed red brick and had a high fence around it. The younger fry had a skating rink north of the lane behind Downs Hardware. It was hard to haul water to make ice; however, this rink didn’t last long and a new rink was built where Andrew Sibbald stands. The school well was used for water for ice making. the caretaker of this rink was Bert Sibbald. Bert’s word was law, with very little fooling around. This rink was used for a good number of years, up until the new school was built. 

In the late 1920s, the kids of the town used to skate on the Big Hill Creek and down onto the Bow River, which in those days before the Ghost Dam was built, used to freeze quite smooth. Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Clark lived close to the river and their house was always a haven to thaw out in and get some hot chocolate. 

February of these years was what was called Dog Days. Farmers coming to town with a team nearly always had a dog with them. Seems the farmers went home without the dog, who stayed in the village. Some smart cookie used to set out poison and it got so bad people were scared to go out at night. There were mad dogs running up and down the streets and in the morning there would be about 15 or 20 dead dogs around the village. If we were out skating on the creek, Walter Crowe would come to meet us, get us to walk behind him, then he would march us up the street. Walter had a big Colt 45 six gun in his hand to protect us from poisoned dogs. Several people were blamed for the poisonings, but when one of the local merchants poisoned himself, the episode of dog poisoning came to an end. 

Deep Dive

James Holme comments on the Cochrane Ranche 1883

Trip West in 1883 in AB History, spring 2000, Vol48, #2. Pg 14& 15

An article suggested by Lynn Ferguson, our Museum Coordinator.

A railway surveyor James Holme travelled west in 1883 to check on the progress of building the railway and his excerpts are recounted in “Trip West in 1883” in AB History, spring 2000, Vol48, #2. Pg 14& 15 are about his arrival at Cochrane Ranche.

Deep Dive

Allan and Helen Elliott Family

by Danny Elliott page 437 More Big Hill Country 2009

My name is Danny and I am the Senior Son so I am going to write our story. It’s “Danny”, not Dan or Daniel. It’s Danny because that is the name my Mom gave me. 

We are Cochrane people. Corporal Allan Glen Elliott (everyone knows him as Curly Elliott so from now on it is Curly) and his young family arrived in Cochrane on August 30th, 1960. Curly had been transferred to Cochrane from Fort Vermilion, Alberta, to be the COP (Chief of Police) and we are rather proud of that. 

We lived in the old and original “Police Detachment”. It was a small, square, white house built in the early 1900’s. It was a big move for us from Fort Vermilion. We had like a ‘toilet’, not an outhouse, and a bathtub, and an electric stove (not wood burning). The house was small. It held both the “Police Detachment” with a cell for the prisoners as well as our living quarters, but we were in the Big Town now. 

Curly was the COP. There was also a young single Constable and Moses Ear. That was it for Police in the Cochrane area. I have to tell you about Moses Ear. Moses was a Stoney Indian from Morley. He was the last official “Indian Scout” that was RCMP employed. Jerry Potts was the first. Jerry worked with Colonel McLeod on the great March West of the NWMP in 1874. Moses was the last scout and he worked with Curly. He guided, interpreted, helped out and was a good friend to us. He should be recognized and remembered in a book like this.


 Cochrane was a lot smaller when we moved to town, no houses up on the hill, no shopping center. Everyone knew everyone and word soon spread that there was a new COP in town. It just happened but here is the story. A lot of the local Ranchers used to come to town every Tuesday or Thursday or whenever it was to have cof- fee and conversation. One of them was coming in on the IA Highway when he saw the new COP. Curly had spotted a big coyote running full tilt across the field. He stopped the police car right on the road, cracked out his handy 30-06 rifle, leaned over a fence post and shot him flat. Didn’t even twitch. I asked Dad later how he did it and he said, “Well, about three feet high and about 6 feet in front of him”. The fact that he could never do it again in about a hundred tries is a story that won’t be told. Anyway, within about an hour the story was out. “There’s a new Mountie in Town and it is going to be Law and Order from now on ’cause that new RCMP guy can really shoot”. 

We’re Anglicans. I was just born that way. I never had a choice, but I learned to like Catholics in Cochrane. You see our house was built about where the Fire Station is now. The Roman Catholic Church was right beside it. One of the first stories I heard when we moved in was that a truck lost its brakes coming down the big hill and ended up in our bathroom. I always thought it was highly considerate of those Catholics to build their new church there. 

There are two other stories I should tell you. The old Fire Hall (now in Heritage Park) was right beside our house. It was not used too often and was a great “fort”. My brothers and I played in there all the time, catching birds and jumping on the old Fire Truck. One day we found a box of “Secret Buried Treasure” right under the truck. It was a case of dynamite that had turned into nitroglycerine. That was cool for us but a big deal for Curly. 

Cochrane Fire Hall Heritage Park

We also had a “Bomb Shelter”. The Government thought the Russians might Nuke us in the 1960’s. And of course, Cochrane, being what they thought was a primary target in Canada, had a Bomb Shelter at the Police Detachment. It was a big culvert buried in our back yard, another totally cool fort. 

One of the best parts of growing up in Cochrane was being able to walk to any and all of our activities. We knew everyone in town. Cubs and Scouts had a high priority in Cochrane. The campouts were great. I proudly became a Queen’s Scout. The swimming pool was our summer highlight. We were in Competitive Swimming and won a few medals. In winter we played Hockey. We competed with teams around Cochrane, which included Canmore, and leaving home at 6 a.m. became a regular routine. 

Curly, or Corporal Elliott, organized the first School Patrol in the Cochrane schools when I was in Grade One. I remember being chosen to represent the Cochrane School Patrol in the Calgary Stampede Parade when I was in Grade Six. That was a long walk. 

And now about us later on. Curly was in charge of the Cochrane Detachment from 1960 until 1967. While in charge of Highway Patrol in Calgary he initiated the Aircraft Speed Control. That led to Dad and I buying a Taylorcraft airplane, CF-DOC Elliott. His last posting was in charge of Security at the Calgary International Airport. He then went to work for the Royal Bank as a Private Investigator for fifteen years. He built a house on Mara Lake in British Columbia, caught a lot of fish and today lives happily in Calgary. He is a member of the Masonic Lodge in Cochrane, belongs to many other Lodges and was Provincial Grand Master of the Royal Order of Scotland. Mum, Helen Louise Atkins, now Elliott is a highly educated teacher, artist, mother and grandmother. She was an original member of the Cochrane Art Club. She retired as the principal of Acadia School in Calgary. 

I, Danny Charles, was born in 1954 in Grande Prairie, Alberta. David Allan was also born there in 1956 and my other brother Robert Lee was born in 1959 in Fort Vermilion. Dave has worked for Shell throughout his career and is now with Shell International and lives in Holland. Lee is with Revenue Canada. He loves history and is involved in Medieval Reenactment. He organized the Canadians who fought at the 940th Anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in England on


October 14th, 2006. The Canadians were one of the twenty countries that participated in this historic event I now work as a Crown Prosecutor. I’ve prosecuted more people than anyone else in the history of Alberta I could tell you about the day the Judge drove his Cadillac through the Courthouse wall or the day I had nine prisoners escape all at once. Then there are all the fish we caught and all our hunting adventures. But those are stories not to be included here.

Deep Dive

Brooker Family

by Ian Brooker Page 313 More Big Hill Country 2009

Just after the war in March 1947, our family emigrated from England. My father had arrived six months earlier and bought 160 acres SW of Condor, Alberta. Mother was left to bring over whatever personal effects she could and two kids, myself age six and my sister Glenda age nine months. We came on a converted troop ship five days on the sea and seven days by train across Canada. 

Times were tough for everyone in our district. The land was either rocky or muskeg and required a lot of work to make it farmable. Dad had little farming experience and we arrived with no money, so buying tractors and equipment was out of the question. My parents bought a rogue team of horses and some old horse drawn equipment and attempted to make a living. We raised a few pigs and hand milked six to eight cows from which we shipped cream. That is we tried to ship cream as often the road was impassible and the truck from Red Deer could not get within a mile of our place. 

I attended a one room, 18 kids grades 1-8, school locat- ed about 1 1/2 miles away. No school buses, so mostly the kids walked. There was a barn at the school, so some kids rode horses. I often walked 3/4 miles then doubled with a friend on his horse to school the rest of the way. 

Mother had four more kids by the time I left school, and we were pretty destitute. As we lived on the farm we didn’t go hungry, but we sure didn’t have much. The winters were very cold, and our old house was not much more than a shack. No power or indoor plumbing. Mom and Dad finally threw up their hands after about eight years and moved to Calgary, where Dad went to work at the Post Office and Mom at the Colonel Belcher Hospital. 

I left school after grade 9, and worked various jobs including cowboying at various ranches, oil patch work and whatever I could get.

approx. Cochrane Foodmaster Location

In 1964 I met Diane (she was a farm girl from Lyalta) and we married and had two children, Ivan and Kathy. I apprenticed as a meatcutter and worked for Safeway, ending up as meat department manager in Banff, but the rural life kept pulling, so in 1970 we bought 253 acres at Dog Pound. A couple of years later we bought the old Wigmore Ranch at Boggy Lake and about 100 head of cows and some machinery. 

No sooner had we gone into debt to purchase our land, etc. than the price of cattle and grain nose dived. We had lots of debt but I could see the potential of the ranch so we purchased about 20 horses and gear and borrowed a few more and started a trail riding business which we called Silver Valley Ranch. 

Business was brisk, and so with farming, trail riding, cutting logs, post and poles, plus even Christmas trees, we did just fine. Occasionally in the winter I helped out as a meatcutter at M&K Foodmaster in Cochrane. After a few years, M&K was put up for sale and we decided to buy it and sell the farm and ranch. 

We operated the store, which we now called Cochrane Foodmaster, and business improved. Our sales doubled as we started supplying oil camps and doing most of the custom meat cutting for local farmers and hunters. In 1983 I was elected Mayor of Cochrane, my first and only stint in politics. 

In 1985 we sold the store to Mr Frank Krause of Red Deer. 

Our daughter Kathy is a Legal Assistant for MacLeod Dixon in Calgary and has been with the firm for nine years. Our son Ivan married Christa Stehr in 1985. They have three great kids: Tyler, Jessica, and Mikayla, all living in Cochrane. In about 1986 Ivan and Christa purchased and ran Big Hill Meats & Deli for four years. 

Ivan was elected to Cochrane Town Council for the term 2000 to 2003. He and Tyler have a couple of franchised distribution routes, supplying bakery products to stores and restaurants in the Calgary, Canmore and Banff areas. Jessica is planning to continue her education to become a psychiatrist and presently works at Mark’s Work Wearhouse. Mikayla is in grade 7. 

After selling Cochrane Foodmaster, I moved to Christina Lake where I met Faye Gustafson. We opened the 50’s theme ‘Great Canadian Ice Creamery’ in 1996 and have operated it as a summer only business for the last 11 years, so were able to travel in the winters. It has become quite a well known shop and we have had some great write ups in travel magazines. We have recently sold this business and Faye is able to go back to her first passion, which is doing western art ( and I am going fishing! 

Winters Last Fling by Faye Gustafson

Deep Dive

Pioneer Days in Morley (Mini Thni)

By Annie Niddrie Page 81 Big Hill Country 1977

I, Annie Niddrie of Edmonton, am the only surviving child of William and Hannah Niddrie who came to Morley in 1890. Prior to this time, they lived in Winnipeg for seven years. Three sons were born while they lived there: Willie, born November 3, 1885; John, born October 2, 1887; and Fred, born March 27, 1890. Two daughters were born in Morley: I, Annie, born February 18, 1892; and Fanny, born February 18, 1894. 

At Morley, my parents decided to start a cattle ranch. They bought a quarter section of land from Andrew Sibbald for $700.00. The land was partly improved. I think it was fenced and had a three-roomed hewn log house on it. 

Andrew Sibbald rates among the truly great pioneers of the West. He was the first teacher in the territory of Alberta, long before it became a Province. Although Mr. Sibbald had lost part of one hand in his youth, he and my uncle, John Niddrie, became famed axemen and could build a log structure with dovetailed corners, probably better than anyone in the area. 

My father’s place joined the Stoney Indian Reserve on one side. Mr. and Mrs. Sam Fletcher and their son Arthur, who neighbored with my parents in Winnipeg, came to Morley in 1889 and had a cattle ranch three miles away. The Potts and Warnocks also played a noble part in pioneering at Morley. Reverend George McDougall was the first missionary to settle at Morley and his son John followed in his footsteps. 

There were Indians (sic) everywhere. They all rode horseback. Often the mother rode in the center and had a child in front of her and one at the back. After giving birth, a mother often named a new baby after the first object she saw such as: Mark Poucette, Johnny Powderface, David Bigstoney, Johnny Two Young Man and Walking Buffalo. 

There were no modern conveniences. The washing had to be done on a washboard. There were no bathtubs or indoor bathrooms. The mothers usually sewed all the children’s clothes, dad’s shirts, and knit all the stockings and mitts by hand. Everybody burned wood in the stoves. The wood had to be cut with an axe or sawed by hand. The water had to be pumped from the well and carried to the house in pails and heated on top of the stove for washing and scrubbing. 

Times were hard. There wasn’t any income except for the sale of a few fat steers in the fall, which sold on foot for three or four cents a pound. It took a large animal to sell for thirty-three or thirty-four dollars. 

Tuberculosis had never been heard of in Canada until the white people came to live among the Indians (sic), and then it spread like wildfire. The Indians (sic) called it: “The White Man’s Plague.” It was many years before “Sans” were built and this dreaded disease came under control. 

We had several dry years in the Morley area so my parents decided a change must be made. Feed for the cattle couldn’t be had and the cattle were bellowing for water. It all had to be pumped from the well for them as the river was several miles away. The McDougalls had a large herd of cattle on the north side of the Big Red Deer River. My dad also moved his cattle there but took a squatter’s claim seven miles away from McDougall’s ranch. 

My parents sold their ranch in Morley for six hundred dollars to Mr. Graham in 1894. Every cent had to be traded out at Graham’s store. Not one cent of cash was given out. Hundreds of dollars’ worth of work had been put on the place. 

Three Morley families moved to the Big Red Deer area: Lucius Coleman, Arthur Fletcher and William Niddrie. Mr. Coleman, a Justice of the Peace and graduate of Victoria University at Cobourg, Ontario, was a gentleman in every sense of the word. 

At our new location, there was hay and water everywhere and the cattle thrived. We milked cows and raised chickens and had milk and butter for our use. 

My uncle, John Niddrie, came to Morley in 1889. The Reverend John McDougall invited him to come and start work among the Indians (sic). He helped on the ranch and also with the Church work. He taught the Indian (sic) day school for four years and supervised the Indian (sic) orphanage for seven years then taught day school again. He preached the gospel and was a real blessing to

Morley. My grandmother, Jane Niddrie, had lived with John, her son, for some time and died in 1894, just eight days before Margaret Fletcher passed away. They were buried side by side in the Morley graveyard. 

Later, John Niddrie received his ordination in Winnipeg. After twenty years in Morley, he was transferred by the Methodist Church to Oxford House, Manitoba. He spent five years there and was then moved to Island Lake. He spent another five years there and again moved to Berens River, which is one hundred and fifty miles north of Winnipeg. He remained there for twenty years. He mastered three Indian languages and was known all over the North. He had helped to raise seventeen Indian (sic) boys. His picture hangs among those of other pioneers in the McDougall Church at Morley. His work was finished when he passed away at Berens River, May 4, 1940, at the age of 76, after preaching the gospel for forty-eight years. 

Deep Dive

Irvine and Isabella Brodie and Family

by Ida Edge Page 200 Big Hill Country 1977

Dad, son of William and Ida Brodie (Seyler) of Waterloo, Ontario, was born in 1886. He came to Cochrane in 1906 to work with his cousin, Dave Alexander, in the Cochrane Hotel. Dave was managing the hotel at that time. 

Mother, Isabella Tweedly, daughter of Margaret and John Tweedly, came over to Canada from Rothesay, Scotland, in 1909. She was seventeen years of age when she came to visit her sister, Jessie Lowill, whose husband worked at the Glenbow Quarry as a stonemason. 

Mother got a job working in a restaurant in Cochrane, operated by Mrs. Jack Beynon Sr. While working there she met Dad and they were married in 1910 in the Macleod house, now owned by Mrs. Dave Murray Sr. There were two girls in our family, myself and Thora. 

When World War I broke out, Dad enlisted with the 137th Battalion and went Overseas in 1915.

Irvine Brodie WW1 Veteran

 Mother took Thora and me and moved into Calgary to be near her sister while Dad was away. After the war was over we came back to Cochrane and Dad established himself in a barbershop and poolhall business. 

Dad was a very active young man in sports of all kinds, especially hockey and baseball. When he got older and couldn’t play, he refereed most of the games played in Cochrane. Dad was a very fun-loving person and helped organize a drama club and later the Cochrane Minstrels. They were a great success and traveled to different towns putting on shows. I was lucky, for one season I had a part in a little skit with my dad, and did I ever enjoy traveling with them! 

Times were hard back then; we kept a few chickens and there was always a big garden. Dad worked from 9 a.m. until 1 a.m. nearly every day. A shave was twenty-five cents and a haircut was fifty cents. Dance nights were always busy with men coming in from the country for haircuts, prior to going to the dances. 

Thora and I both attended school in Cochrane and we both worked at the Telephone Office, operated at that time by Ernie Crowe. 

I married Ollie Edge on November 4, 1936, in my parents’ home in Cochrane and moved to Ollie’s ranch in the Brushy Ridge area, where we made our home. We have two daughters, Myrna and Gail. Myrna married Bob Lathwell and they have two sons and one daughter. Gail married George Lauder, and they have one son and one daughter. 

Thora married Dick Shantz July 7, 1941. Dick has retired from Calgary Power and they reside in Calgary. They had two sons Harvey and Richard. Harvey lost his life at the age of three, while they were living in Seebe. Richard is with the Edmonton Police Force. 

Dad retired in 1943 due to ill health and passed away in July 1945. Mother was active in her church and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Canadian Legion. She loved tea parties, finding great enjoyment in reading tea cups. Mother passed away in September 1968, after a lengthy illness.

My husband passed away in 1965, and I now make my home in Cochrane.

Ida Brodie Cochrane Advocate July 12 1923

CHAPS recently had early articles of the Cochrane Advocate digitized. They are proving to be useful research tools.

The Advocate contained articles about local activities, much as social media does today.

Deep Dive

Vote for Cochrane Arena at Kraft Hockeyville

Cochrane Arena, built in 1974 could use some upgrades. Cochrane has been nominated as one of the top 4 rinks in Canada in the Kraft Hockeyville competition.

Voting starts at 9:00 AM ET on March 29 and runs until the %:00 PM ET March 30th. The top prize is $250,00.00 for arena upgrades and the chance to host an NHL game.

Show your support by voting for Cochrane.

Cochrane arena under construction 1974 supplied by Pat Woods
Front of Cochrane arena Credit Nicole Henson
Aerial Cochrane Arena from SW Credit Nicole Henson
Aerial from north Cochrane Arena Credit Nicole Henson
West side Cochrane Arena Credit Nicole Henson

Thanks to Nicole Henson, of Nicole Henson Realty, CIR Realty for providing the most current photos of the Arena. Date unknown but the arena is currently a different colour.

Vote for Cochrane

It would be thrilling to host the NHL game and to upgrade the 50 year old arena.

Deep Dive

Five years ago today, Big Hill Springs Flooded

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

Here is the story of the flood and our recovery.

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


Deep Dive

Mary and Jane McQuitty

Page 600 More Big Hill Country 2009

Mary McQuitty 

In a rainstorm in 1965, we arrived in Cochrane, having driven from Montreal, George to open a medical practice in Cochrane, with Jane, our daughter, and our dog. My first memory is of crossing the wooden bridge over the Bow and getting a first glimpse of Cochrane, a small village then, unpaved, which gave rise to the effect of a Chinook on our first or second night. George had gone to Calgary to collect some luggage. Late in the evening, a Chinook blew in. I had no idea what was happening, dust blowing with the odd bits of paper, etc. past the window. Jane and I huddled in a dark corner away from glass, wondering if I would see my husband, who should be on his way home and was perhaps blown off the road. He arrived safe and sound, the wind had abated and when we asked how he had survived he said, “It was only a strong wind”, he was on a paved road! 

Until his death, Cochrane was always special to George. He loved going to the old office twice weekly after it became apparent permanent residence was not possible because of the distance from the hospital. 

So many people were so helpful in those early days and the many kindnesses we won’t forget. 

One project that was important to George from the very early days was the need for a lodge so that elderly people were not sent off to Calgary, away from their families. Clarence Copithorne, then MLA for the area,

was instrumental in helping him achieve that project; the other was to have a resident doctor in Cochrane, which he was able to do when his practice became a satellite teaching unit of the University of Calgary. Nurses were provided and medical services grew. 

I have watched Cochrane grow into the large town it is today, and I am sure it will retain a great deal of its character through the many changes.

Jane McQuitty 

I had just turned seven when we moved from England to Canada, and remember arriving in Cochrane as the culmination of a most amazing family adventure. We had spent a week crossing the Atlantic on a huge ship called The Empress of Canada. It created a very favorable impression on a little girl, with stunning morning buffets of amazing dishes like stewed raisins, masquerade parties for children, the thrill of being reunited with a favorite toy that I believed had had to be abandoned in Birmingham, whales, and then the first sight of a forested island, I think it was Anticosti. There was the thrill of discovering Quebec City, a taxi ride during which my father spoke in French and English to the taxi driver all the way to Montreal (there was a train strike on), a few days in a hotel of an elegance I’d never seen before, while we waited to be reunited with our luggage. Next, the arrival of a huge station wagon, now ours, and the start of another cramped in like a sardine with the luggage, seven days drive west. West! The place I could only hope would actually be very like ‘Bonanza!’ and where I had been assured by the lady at Customs, I would find real live cowboys and Indians. Thrills of the drive were many, including the sequential blowing of all four tires on the station wagon, being

able to tell my parents that they were looking at a chipmunk (my T.V. watching in Birmingham had not been a complete waste of time, it had made me much smarter than I’d realized), hunting for mysterious things called ‘pollywogs’, which turned out to be tadpoles, with friends instantly made at a Thousand Islands picnic site and some stunning, bone-rattling prairie thunderstorms. I immediately liked Cochrane. It was really in the country and we were camping. It appeared that all three of us, Mum, Dad, and Patch, the dog, were going to be spending quite some time living on top of each other in the downstairs room at the back of Dad’s Main Street office. In spite of the terrifying Chinook my mother remembers, I remember the first weeks of July 1965 as hot and sunny and blue-skied everyday, perfect weather to be outside. Miraculously, something about the move from Birmingham to Cochrane had changed all the rules so that, for the first time in my life, I could wander in and out and find my way to the playground without anxious adult supervision. And, to my delight, the Customs lady had been serious, not just talking down to a child, there actually were real live cowboys and Indians. The first morning I woke up in Cochrane, I went outside to find an elderly lady with long braids, a blue cardigan, a print skirt, moccasins, and wrappings around her legs sitting on our doorstep drinking an Orange Crush, and there, walking by, was a real live cowboy with a Stetson hat, a press button shirt, and cowboy boots. 

People and children my age were kind and welcoming but I soon noticed, especially out of the stratosphere of my parents, that I wasn’t quite right; I talked funny and dressed funny. Getting out of pastel cotton dresses and Clarks, and into blue jeans, Keds, and my very own press button shirt from R.E. Moore’s was thanks to the largesse of my Dad. He couldn’t help me with the funny talk though, and I didn’t have the effrontery to suggest that maybe he and Mum should be doing something about their own stick-out-like-a-sore thumb funny talk, so I decided to work out a solution for myself. In the next few days, I put a lot of effort into copying the speech of two friendly girls from a trailer park in Ontario. In no time I was flawless at it. I was very sad when the camping ended and we had to leave for Calgary.

Deep Dive

Mrs Chester and Mrs Sid Chester Grand Valley 1895

Sid Chester

Pg 210 Big Hill Country 1977


Born in London, England, in 1873, Sid Chester came to Vancouver at the age of 16 years. He met and married Tina Campbell while he lived in Vancouver. About 1895 he came to Cochrane and took out a homestead, the NW 14 30-26-4-5, in Grand Valley. After residing there for a few years he purchased land northeast of Cochrane, where he farmed for awhile. This land is now owned by Gordon Callaway. 

Sid and his wife adopted two boys. One boy, Wallace R., passed away in 1913; the other boy lost his life in World War I. 

Sid and his wife moved into Cochrane around 1913, where Sid purchased the Howard Block and set up a store business. The block became known as the Chester Block. There was a dance hall upstairs, where many a good time was had by the young folk of a few years back.

Sid operated a lumber yard in Cochrane for a number of years. He was also in the real estate business. At one time he owned several houses in Cochrane. 

Mrs. Chester passed away in 1953, and Sid passed away in 1960.

Sid’s homestead is now owned by P. and M. Cary.

Mislabeled photo of Sid Chester

Deep Dive

2024 Museum Summer Hours

Plan on joining us at Cochrane’s favourite little Museum this summer:

  • Learn about the equine influence on the development of Cochrane. See our miniature display of the famous Cochrane Race Track. People used to come by train and plane to take in Race Week. Red Pollard and Johnny Longden made appearances as jockeys.
  • Take a look at the historic and current photos of Cochrane locations.
  • See how one of Cochrane’s first hospitals looked.
Crowd in front of building at Racetrack

Towers Ranch

Page 756 More Big Hill Country 2009

1st Generation

Francis Towers left Birmingham, England in 1856 at the age of 18. He worked his way to Canada by helping on a cattle boat. Hearing of work on the Canadian Pacific Railway, he headed for Toronto. While in Toronto he met and married Elizabeth Glover, who had come to Canada from the Guernsey Islands, just off the coast of France. She had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and the doctors gave her six months to live. However, she lived to the ripe old age of 88 years. 


Eventually, Francis Towers was promoted to Canadian Pacific Railway foreman and was given the job of laying the tracks from Winnipeg westward. As Alberta was not yet a province they were headed for the North West Territories where some buffalo still roamed the land. Upon arriving in what is now known as Alberta they lived east of Fort Calgary for a while. This was only a few years after the signing of Treaty Number 7 and some of the Indians were not pleased with their placement on the reserves. The young braves liked to try to get even with the white man and the Riel Rebellion was also happening at this time. Elizabeth, alone through the day with her children had a few scary encounters. One such occasion occurred during the morning after the men left the house for work when an Indian walked into her home. What he planned to do was unknown because the children, who had been asleep upstairs, had woken up and playfully put on their Dad’s boots. When the Indian heard the heavy footsteps upstairs he thought one of the men was home and promptly fled.

Francis and Elizabeth had seven children. Three died at an early age. All the children were delivered without the aid of a doctor. Sometimes an Indian woman would assist; sometimes Elizabeth simply had them on her own.

My grandpa Leslie Towers was born in 1884 in a log house at the junction of the Bow and Elbow Rivers near Fort Calgary. 

When the railroad tracks passed Calgary and started to go farther west, Great Grandpa Francis had begun to accumulate some cattle and by the time the tracks reached Mitford, he had approximately 90 head. The railway inspector came along one day and told Great

Grandpa Francis that he could not hold down two jobs and advised him to take up land and look after his cattle. After all the railroad would soon be completed and his job would be over. So, in 1885, Francis Towers, his wife Elizabeth, and their four remaining children settled on their homestead on the NW Sec 20 Twp 24 Rge 4 W5M beneath the third-highest hill in Alberta. 

To file on a homestead costs ten dollars. This entitled the owner to a quarter section. The land had to be fenced and fifteen acres had to be plowed up after a year. Francis, Elizabeth, their 4 children (as they came of the legal age of 21), and Elizabeth’s mother all claimed a homestead. Grandpa (Leslie Towers) at legal age filed as his homestead the SE Sec 28 Rge 4 W5M. 

Great Grandpa (Francis) first built a small homesteader shack west and part way up the hill from the present log house. This shack has been moved several times and is presently part of the bunkhouse. 

In about 1887 they built their log house which can still be seen. William Edge and Charlie Pedeprat dove-tailed the logs and helped complete the house. It was quite an art to end up with the logs fitting tightly. The house was a spacious two-story building with two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and two bedrooms downstairs plus a living room, dining room, kitchen, and verandah. The bathroom had a washstand and big tub in the middle for baths. Plumbing was added in 1918. 

Over the years Great Grandpa Francis bought more land for his increasing cowherd. Some he paid $1.00 an acre for. In 2007 that same land sells for $25,000.00 an acre. He acquired the Wine Glass brand before 1900. 

Francis and Elizabeth drove by wagon to Calgary for a six-month supply of groceries in the spring and fall, always stopping at Bill Wallace’s in Springbank to rest their horses. The deep ruts across many of our fields can still be seen after years and years of use. 

When Great Grandma first settled here she was two

years without seeing a white woman. She made all her soap, candles, the boys’ smocks, shirts, socks, and the rest of the clothes. Everything except boots. At times she cooked for as many as 50 men, mixing bread every morning in a washtub. She was a very small person, had wonderful stamina, and was known as a hospitable gracious person. She would often come downstairs in the morning and have to step over 10 or 12 cowboys sleeping in the dining room. 

Great Grandpa Francis and Great Grandma Elizabeth left the ranch in 1914 to live at Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver, and came back every summer. His two sons, Harold and Leslie, continued the ranching operation and in 1928 Francis divided the ranch between the two of them. 

Harold decided to sell his part of the ranch in 1946. Grandpa (Leslie) wanted to buy it, offering to make payments over a period of time. Harold wanted the total cash up front so he sold it to Clarence Copithorne, thus the present ranch is approximately two-thirds the size of the original one. 


2nd Generation 

My Grandpa (Leslie) married Edith Sara Callaway in 1918. They lived with Harold and his wife until their house was built in 1919. Later Gram and Grampa raised the house and dug out the basement themselves. Gram remembers holding the team hitched to the scraper while Grandpa filled it. Then it was taken out and dumped. The foundation was poured late in the fall. In order to keep the cement from freezing and cracking, straw was packed around the wooden frames and 3 wood stoves, with their chimneys alongside the straw, were kept burning 24 hours a day. Leslie and Edith (Sara) had one daughter, Vernice.

The spruce trees around the house and part way down the barnyard came from Frank Sibbald’s. Every May Grandpa would harness up the team and wagon and leave before daylight to get a wagonload of trees. He’d arrive home long after dark. The next day would be planting day. 

There were several bridges built across the creek below Gram’s house. The first was a footbridge. You walked up a plank, across, then down a plank. It was soon washed out in one of the floods. Then a swinging cable footbridge was built. On one side was a high 4′ X 5′ anchor embedded in the ground. On the west, the bridge was tied to a group of poplars. This one lasted many years, until the late 1940s when the poplars died. About this same time, Harold sold out and moved so a new bridge was never built. Car bridges were also tried. Once you got on the bridge, there were planks on both sides but the drive up onto and down off the bridge had to be maneuvered with great precision! 

November 19, 1936, was a day no one on the ranch will forget. The wind was blowing a gale (90 mph) and blew down some power lines in what is now Kananaskis. A fire started and was to fill the day with horror. Mom didn’t ride to school that morning because the wind was so strong, so Grandpa drove her. At 8:40 am they drove over the hill where Ponaths now live and could see the fire far away in the mountains. Mom arrived at the school and they started practicing for the Christmas concert. At 9 am Mom was playing the piano for the class when Uncle Ted Callaway raced into the school and told the teacher to get the children out. They were going out the east door as the west door was burning. Mom and another older girl dragged Kass Wallace (Beynon) across the road. Kass was small and couldn’t stand up against the wind. At 9:10 am the school was burned and lost. The children all gathered at Uncle Ted’s house across the road. Burning tree branches fell on the roof but the strong wind blew them out. Harry Johnson, who lived where Ponath’s live now, had 20-30 milk cows in the barn. He couldn’t get them out and they burned in the stanchions. Cattle ran through the fences trying to escape. Pigs were running with their sides open and fat dripping. Every man for 20 miles came to help fight the fire. Even the creeks and roads didn’t stop it. Often an unburnt strip of ten to fifteen feet wide would be found where the wind swept the fire up and over. The fire went as far as Bowness. Here the wind suddenly changed to the north and it started to snow. 

The fire burned all our winter supply of hay and came to within a half mile of the buildings. There was nothing anyone could do because the fire came and went so fast. All day Gram thought Mom was burned but about 5 pm she received word that Mom was safe. Grandpa had to sell off many cows and ship the rest to Olds

to winter in large haystacks. It is no wonder that every rancher or farmer is terrified of the word “fire”. Throughout the following years, we have kept fire-fighting equipment handy. An old cream can for water. Some gunny sacks and shovels. Many times throughout the years the men have had to use them. 

Floods of the Jumping Pound Creek were fairly common and Gram and Grampa had pigs. The first pig house was below their house. During one flood only one corner of the pig house was left standing. The old sow and babies were huddled in this corner. The chicken house was also below Grams. During the same flood, Grampa tied a rope around it and anchored it to a group of poplars. The chickens, trying to reach dry ground, would fly out and land on a floating board only to be carried away down the flooding stream. Grandpa built the present-day brooder house and the roundhouse (for pigs) on the higher ground. 

Until the spring of 2005, the worst flood of the Jumping Pound was the spring of 1932. At night Mom lay in bed listening to the ice banging and breaking against the cliff of the swimming hole. The water was up to Harold’s barn and Gram’s garage. At the widest, the creek ran about 200 yards. For some time there was the possibility of having to move Gram’s house. The grove of poplars by the swimming hole was washed away. The flood altered the course of the creek in many places. In an effort to stop further erosion of the creek banks Grandpa and Dad with the men built 3 water breaks. These were log frames 3 feet wide, 16 feet long, 4 feet high. These were filled with rocks and one of these can still be seen today. 

The barn was built about 1925-1930 by Mr. Sargeant. He stayed in Gram’s spare room. A small straw shed was also built at one end of the feedlot. Dug into the bank, posts with stringers on top, then poplar rails, straw piled on top. This was a very inexpensive cattle shelter as only the straw had to be replaced every year because the wind blew it off. 

Gram and Grandpa always had a very happy home. Gram was a great practical joker and loved to play tricks on Grandpa and the hired men. Every morning during haying Gram made sandwiches and packed them carefully in a box to be sent to the hayfield. A pie or two would go along for dessert. Gram made lovely sandwiches out of homemade bread and butter. The pie was delicious looking with spatterings of berry juice on top. Upon biting into their lunch the men would occasionally find the sandwiches filled with paper, or the pie filled with nails and screws. Needless to say another box of edible sandwiches and dessert would always show up at the appropriate time 

The hired men played tricks on each other also and with about ten or so men around there was bound to be arguments. Such was the case when one fella took another chap’s false teeth and hid them in the laundry basket. The poor chap went without teeth for several days before the laundry was done and the missing teeth were found. To get even this chap found a garter snake and put it in his opponent’s tobacco tin. What a shock when he reached in! Another fellow had a habit of not bathing so the rest of the men got Grandpa’s permission to throw him into the creek to clean him. He quit that night!

During the 1930’s the government was paying men $5.00 per month to work on farms and ranches and paid farmers $5.00 per month towards room and board. This was the first so-called “government assistance” Grandpa ever got. It was greatly appreciated in the 1930’s. In the 1940’s winter wages were $50 to $60 per month plus room and board.

3rd Generation

Vernice Towers (Wearmouth) was born in Calgary at the Holy Cross Hospital in 1920. She was an only child. 

Because of poorly developed roads, she had to board away from home during her school years. From grade one to three she stayed with her grandpa Callaway and attended Brushy Ridge School. For grades four through seven she boarded in Cochrane with Mrs. Hughes and went to school there. She then returned to Brushy Ridge for grades eight to eleven. During these years she rode four miles from home to school and opened and closed seven wire gates morning and night. Vernice then attended Olds College for two years of Home Economics. 

Vernice married Hugh Wearmouth in 1941. They lived with Vernice’s Mom and Dad until their house was built. Bob Beynon built the house, which was 37 feet by 24 feet, and cost $4,000.00 for the labour and lumber. Bob also built most of the other buildings that Mom and Dad put up. The house was added on to three times; originally the master bedroom was the living room. Mom had no running water or power and always forgot to fill the lamps until after dark, and then she would have a terrible time. They later got a Delco generator, which charged up sixteen batteries kept in the basement. This provided the necessary power. Electric power was put in about 1952. 

I always remember my grandpa as “Pom”, a name my brother Doug and sister Irene called him. He was always immaculately tidy and kept the ranch in perfect repair. A much-respected man in the community he was known for always being honest and fair. He was an excellent horseman and even into his late 70’s sat straight and tall in the saddle while riding a spunky horse.

We had a windmill in Section 21 that needed fixing. It was about a 30-foot climb up a precarious ladder, then a walk around the “catwalk” at the top. The hired man wouldn’t climb to the top, due to a bad back he claimed, so Pom did. It was August and very hot. When Pom got home he had a heart attack. He had three heart attacks before he passed away at home in his bed. He was never hospitalized but was nursed at home with the help of some neighbourhood women who were nurses. I was 10 at the time and remember embroidering my first pillowcase while I sat in his room. 

In July of 1963, we had a birthday party for him with 50 friends and neighbours. He passed away in September of 1963. Gram was 63. 

At this time Mom and Dad had been operating the ranch for 22 years so the transition was not a sudden one.

Gram took in a few boarders for company after Pom died. Usually, they were single RCMP men posted in Cochrane, far away from their own homes and welcomed

the home cooking and Gram’s motherly care. 

During our growing-up years, we would frequently ask to stay at Gram’s. I always forgot my pajamas so I could wear one of her long flannelette nighties. As a teenager every morning there was breakfast in bed and occasionally we would have a bath. Gram would lavishly pour her expensive bath oil in the water for Renie and I and when we were ready to get out she would bring up towels she had put in the oven to warm up for us. Gram’s bath towels always had brown burnt spots where they came too close to the burner. 

After many years of heating the house with wood and coal, the house was heated with oil and in 1984 a propane furnace was installed. Indoor plumbing was put in about 1946. 

4th Generation 

In 1947 Hugh and Vernice’s son Doug was born, fol- lowed by Irene in 1949 and myself Edith in 1953. We were all born in Calgary at the Holy Cross Hospital.

For grades 1 to 6 Doug and Irene (Renie) attended the new one-room Brushy Ridge School. The original school Mom attended was burned in the fire of 1936. I attended Brushy Ridge until grade 4 when it was closed. We all finished our schooling in Cochrane. After graduation Doug joined the police force, Renie graduated from Calgary General Hospital with her R.N. and I became a Registered Nursing Aide (now called an LPN, Licensed Practical Nurse). 

In 1956 Pom took Dad into partnership and the ranch was then called the “Towers and Wearmouth” Ranch. 

The trees around Mom and Dad’s house and down the road were planted in the late 1940s. Most were bought from the Sarcee Indians at Bragg Creek for 40 cents a piece delivered. They were about 3 feet high. 

Part of the married couple’s bunkhouse was Great Grandpa’s original homestead shack; the kitchen pantry and porch were added in the early 1950s. The single men’s bunkhouse was built in late 1950. The old red shop was moved from the Jumping Pound Gas Plant during the 1960s. It cost $250 for the building, $250 for the cement floor and foundation, and $250 to move it here. 

Events at the Jumping Pound Hall were always a big thing. As a little girl, I learned to dance at the Jumping Pound Hall. I learned to “follow” the lead of a man. I did my first public speaking, public singing, piano playing, and acting at the Brushy Ridge School Christmas concert. When I started having my own children it was a yearly tradition for all the young mothers to go and scrub and wax the hall floor before the Christmas Concert. My kids still remember their performances there, starting to learn a poem or song in early December. One poem was 

The trouble with my mittens 

They can be such a chore 

For when I have my mittens on 

I cannot open our back door. 

One year my cousin and I decided to have a barn dance. We cleaned all the dust and cobwebs, swept, shoveled and decorated. The tack was all in order, the stalls were filled with fresh straw, streamers were put up and two dummy horses made out of burlap sacks were put in the stalls. We got Mom to make lemonade and Renie made cookies and charged everyone to eat at the dance. We had a record player for music but the power to the outlet wasn’t very good. Every once in a while the turntable would show down and the record would come across in this slow deep voice. Someone would have to give the turntable a push to get it going again. Doug gave taxi rides from the house to the barn on old Febe, the red Cockshutt tractor. These rides cost 25 cents and of course, the money was turned over to us. 

As well as chickens Mom sometimes had turkeys. As they had the run of the yard the gobblers would follow you and try to peck you. The faster you went the faster they followed. The turkeys roosted on the feedlot fence and when the calves were newly weaned the flapping of the rooster getting up to roost caused them to run right through the feedlot fence. One year we had to wean three times. 

During the early years on the ranch haying was done by teams of horses; 2 or 3 teams hooked to mowers and 2 or 3 teams hooked to dump rakes. Many green horses were well broken after a session in the hayfield. In later years the haying was done with a tractor-driven mower and we stacked with a front-end loader on the tractor. With bigger newer equipment we changed from loose hay to baled hay. In 1978 the hay in the hay valley was over the cab of the truck and went four tons to the acre. After haying came harvest, first done with the horses and then changed to power-driven equipment. 

The Wine Glass brand was registered in 1889 by Francis (Frank) Towers. In 1980 it was passed on to his great-granddaughter Edith Wearmouth. In 2004 it was passed on to Frank’s great-great grandchildren in different branding locations for cattle. 

The old crank telephones were something no one forgets. Our ring was F1607 and Gram’s was R 1608. We had 8 others on our party line. When you went to use the phone you asked “Line busy?” If it was you were supposed to hang up. Many people didn’t and this was called “rubbering”. Our ring came as 2 shorts and a long. When you finished using the phone you gave one long ring to let people know the line was clear. A fire or emergency was 4 longs. Everyone picked up the phone and was told where the fire or emergency was. In 1967 we got the dial phone and we had 2 other people on our party line. 

Edith married Lindsay Ecklund in 1973. In 1975 we moved from Cochrane to a mobile home on the same quarter that my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents had lived. In 1980 we moved into Mom and Dad’s house and they built a new log home on the NE Sec 28 Rge 4 W5M. Also in 1980, we took over the ranching operations. 

We have three children, all born in Calgary at the Foothills Hospital. Travis was born in 1977, Shane in 1979 and Lori-Anne in 1981. They all attended school in Cochrane. When I think of my kids growing up we took them everywhere with us. If we rode, they rode; in front of us or by the time they were five they had their own horse and were expected to chase cows along with us. Many a time during calving season or if we were working cows, we’d put them in a pen or stall with instructions to stay there. They played, they imagined and they passed the time just fine. 

In 1980 we renamed the ranch “Wine Glass Ranch” after the old brand. 

1985 was the worst drought year the ranch had ever seen until 2000-2003. Even in the 1930’s we had more rain and have always had some kind of crop to harvest. 

Besides no grain, we had an infestation of grasshoppers and only 45 frost-free days. We bought hay from Rimbey at $120 a ton delivered. 

In 1994 Lindsay and I divorced and I took over as sole owner and operator of the Wine Glass Ranch. At this time a joint venture agreement was entered into with a neighbouring ranching family to help.

My Dad, Hugh Wearmouth, continued to ride and ranch into his late 80’s on his Palomino horse, “Slippers”, with his dog “Tippy” at his side. 

Ranching, even in the last 20 years, has had many challenges. In 1996 a big snowfall came on November 13th. The snow stayed until spring. We had to feed the cows for 6 1/2 months but no Chinooks came our way. On March 29, 1999, a wildfire started west of the ranch. John Buckley called about it in the morning. Several people showed up to fight the fire and after a few hours, it appeared to be out. Leaving the local fire departments there, most of the neighbours went home. The wind picked up, changing direction shortly after, catching some smouldering cow paddies and starting the fire up again. The wind raged. Seven fire departments, water bombers, road and maintenance equipment and hundreds of neighbours and other people came to help out. By the end of the day, it had burnt 2000 acres on 3 different ranches, many miles of fence and would take many years for the native grasses to recover. 

The years 2000-2003 saw a severe drought. For the first time in the ranch’s 107-year history, we did not have any cows on the place in the summer of 2002. We sent them away to pasture in response to poor growing conditions due to the 1999 fire and the drought. 

In 2003 B.S.E. was discovered in Canada. This had a huge effect on the cattle market for the next several years. 

In 2005 we saw a one in one hundred year flood. 

Normally the Jumping Pound Creek flows at 3 cubic metres per second. It peaked at just under 300 cubic metres per second. Full-grown cottonwood trees already leafed out and with a diameter of 22 inches were uprooted and floated down the creek. The creek changed course in many places. The Wine Glass buildings were on an island as water surrounded it. 

In 2004 the ranch was awarded the Environmental Stewardship of the Year award for the Province of Alberta from the Alberta Beef Producers. 

In 2005 Hugh Wearmouth passed away and later that year Vernice Wearmouth had a stroke and moved into the Bethany Seniors Lodge in Cochrane. She is enjoying her suite and keeps busy quilting, gardening, playing the piano and enjoying the tea parties and visitors. I obtained the log house that Mom and Dad built in 1980. As of spring 2007 the house is being relocated to the NE Sec 20 Rge 3 W5M where I am fixing it up and am looking forward to moving in to it. 

My children have grown and the 6th generation on the ranch will continue. Travis married Michelle Heerschop in 2000. He is an electronic technologist. In 2007 they will move to the ranch house that his grandparents built in the 1940’s. Shane married Amanda German in 2003. He is in the building and construction trade and they live west of Crossfield. They have three children; Zane, Zoe and Zachary. These children are the 6th generation of the original family of Francis Towers. Lori-Anne Eklund has finished her honours degree in anthropology from Cape Breton University. She plans on returning to Alberta to pursue a career in anthropological research.

Deep Dive

photo courtesy Global News

Edward F. (Boney) Thompson

By Jean L. Johnson pg 754 More Big Hill Country 2009

Boney Thompson came to Cochrane from Montana in 1905. He was considered one of the best riders of his time and earned the title, King of the Riders. While working for Bob Meiklejon on the place now known as the Grande Valley Ranch he homesteaded the quarter section later owned by Gordon Hinde. He broke horses for G. E. Goddard at the Bow River Horse Ranch and following the death of W. D. Kerfoot, worked for a time at the Virginia Ranch in Grand Valley. 

Thompson was undoubtedly the best rider who participated in the 1912 Calgary Stampede, but he failed to draw a horse that would buck and there were no re-rides. A horse from Montana named Gaviota threw every rider and his owner claimed that he couldn’t be ridden. Some Cochrane men put up bets that they had a man who could ride him. When the man from Montana learned that the rider’s name was Thompson, he asked, “By any chance do you mean Boney Thompson?” When he learned that Boney was indeed the man he called off the bet. He said, “I don’t want Gaviota ridden.” 

Boney Thompson liked the way Laurie Johnson handled horses and asked him to give him a hand-breaking horses at the Hornbach place, up Grand Valley. This was the beginning of a friendship which lasted as long as Thompson lived. They worked together for George Creighton at the Bar C and later broke Thompson’s own horses branded EF Bar. 

In 1918 when the Parks Department took over the Brewster Ranch at the Ya Ha Tinda, Boney, Laurie, and Eddie Rowe gathered the Brewster horses. Among these horses was a brown mare, clean-legged, sixteen hands and weighing over twelve hundred pounds. When the horses were penned she kept right on and cleared a six-foot corral. Boney got her, named her Mother Brewster, and had Laurie break her. 

Up on the Dog Pound Creek, northwest of Cochrane, there was a log cabin and a set of corrals; and there in the summer of 1921, Boney and Laurie were breaking horses. At this time Boney was 48 years old and suffering from stomach ulcers. One day they rode up to the Little Red Deer place, on the edge of the Forest Reserve, where Big Bill Loblaw and Lome Bingeman (the Bingy Kid) were breaking horses. Laurie rode a bronc and Boney was on Mother Brewster. It was raining heavily when they reached the Little Red so they spent the night there. 

The next day Bingy and Loblaw saddled up the broncs. Both men had been bucked off these horses so Bingy asked Laurie to top his off. This Laurie did without bothering to change saddles. Boney said, “If you can ride Bing’s saddle, I reckon I can ride Bill’s.” And he stepped up to Bill’s horse, even though the stirrups were too long for him. The horse bucked violently. jumping high and landing stiffed legged. At the second jump they could see that something was wrong with Boney. He remained upright in the saddle till the horse stopped bucking; then he slumped to the ground. 

Cochrane Stockyards 1914

They carried him into the house where he lay in agony and begged for his gun. He needed a doctor and the nearest telephone was eighteen miles away at the Mount Royal Ranch. Laurie saddled Mother Brewster and told Bingy to follow him with two extra saddled horses and wait at the Glen Finnan hay meadow, about the halfway mark of the journey. 

Laurie walked the mare across the river flats, forded the river and then he galloped. There was no road; his trail led through creeks, coulees, brush, and muskegs for half the distance. One hour and a quarter after Boney dropped from the saddle Laurie galloped into Mount Royal with the mare covered with foam. Pete Dreever, who was working for D.P. McDonald, saw him coming. He asked no questions, just took the mare, threw a blanket over her, and walked her till she cooled out. This gallant mare was not hurt by the ride but she was never saddled again. D. P. phoned Cochrane for Dr. Waite who drove out in his Model T, picked up Laurie and went on to the meadow where Bingy wait- ed with the horses. Dr. Waite who had never ridden, was mounted on a quiet horse. Laurie and Bingy each took a satchel; one led the doctor’s horse while the other urged it on. Dr. Waite grasped the horn with both hands and throughout that ride, which must have been a nightmare for him, he spoke not a word. He could do nothing for Boney but ease his pain, for the pelvis was shattered and the bladder punctured. In the meantime, Jack Fuller had brought a team and wagon from his home six miles down the river. They filled the wagon box with hay, put a mattress on it and headed down the river as this was the only road out. Bingy went ahead and got Austin Reid to come to meet them with his car. When they finally got Boney to Calgary, Dr. McEachern operated but without success. Boney Thompson died and the whole district mourned. E.C. Johnson made the arrangements for a cowboy funeral. The church was packed. 

The Stoney Chiefs were there too. The Rev. Mr. Brooker spoke eloquently, of the life and attributes of the cowboy whose death they mourned. A wreath of wild flowers was laid on the coffin and the coffin placed on a horse-drawn wagon, driven by Bob Armistead. Ed Thompson’s saddled horse, Big Sis, was led behind and his boots were reversed in the stirrups. The pallbearers dressed in their cowboy clothes and wearing black bands on their Stetsons, were following on horseback behind Boney’s horse as the procession moved slowly up the Big Hill to the cemetery. Ed “Boney” Thompson’s grave is marked by a headstone placed there by one of his friends, Andy Garson. 

Deep Dive

Wayne and Melva Blood

More Big Hill Country 2009 Pg 299

Our story begins in 1938 when Sam and May Blood moved with their young family, Wayne and Pat, to Cochrane. The children attended school in Cochrane and most of the family still live here. 

In 1960 Wayne Blood was working in Turner Valley for Royalite when he met Melva Porter. Melva had moved to Turner Valley as a teenager from Medicine Hat. 

Wayne and Melva married and joined Sam and May Blood in a new adventure, south and west of Cochrane. Sam and May had just entered into a partnership with George and Gertrude (Gertie) Copithorne to open a garage, gas station and coffee shop at the top of the Scott Lake Hill on the new TransCanada Highway. This facility was built in 1960 and a very large house was moved out from Calgary and placed behind the Service Station. 

Wayne and Melva lived in a mobile home on the site for several years and then they moved into the big house, which they shared with staff. 

Because of the remote location of the Service Station and Coffee Shop it was difficult to convince workers to live that far away from the city and May advertised as far away as the Winnipeg Free Press for waitresses, cooks and mechanics. Applicants were varied, some didn’t work out and others became family friends and stay in touch to this day. Employees came from many nationalities and places and some went beyond the call of duty at times. 

The Blood’s welcomed the trucking business and after a slow struggle up the Scott Lake hill, many of the truckers became regular customers in the coffee shop. There was a guest book for them to sign each time they stopped and after twenty visits they received a free meal. Other regulars included the Jumping Pound neighbours and many from the Morley Reserve. 

At the time the Scott Lake Service Station and Restaurant was the only place to get service or something to eat between Calgary and Canmore. It was welcomed by many including the Cochrane and Canmore RCMP who could now stop for a bite to eat and coffee on their long shifts patrolling this new highway. 

Wayne and Melva welcomed two daughters, Heather in 1961 and Brenda in 1964 while living at Scott Lake. Both girls could be found in their playpen in the kitchen or happily playing in the storage room while Melva helped out in the restaurant. 

Wayne and Melva loved to curl and would often take Heather with them to Cochrane where she would sleep in her basket while they played the late draw. On other nights, friends were invited out for card parties, corn roasts around the campfire, or stories in the big teepee that Sam erected. Dances and parties in the Jumping Pound Hall were enjoyed with the neighbours in the community and the yearly Christmas Concert was a special occasion for the children, parents, and grandparents. Heather started school in Springbank and fondly remembers the first day Jim Copithorne’s bus picked her up at seven in the morning for her first long ride to school. Being first on the bus and last off was certainly a long day for a little girl. Melva was always insistent that the girls be kept “busy” and there were many trips to Calgary for piano, voice and Highland Dancing lessons. Melva was also an active member in All Saints Anglican Church, teaching Sunday school and playing the organ. Both Heather and Brenda would accompany her each Sunday to Cochrane and enjoy the camaraderie with the Edgelow, Harvie and Blackwell families to name a few. As the years went on and the TransCanada Highway became busier, the Government announced that they were twinning the highway from Calgary to Banff. This was a huge improvement given the difficulty many vehicles had climbing the hill, especially in winter. However that also meant that the eastbound traffic would have no access to the station, a situation that resulted in the decision to sell the station in 1969. 

Melva, Wayne and the girls moved into Cochrane, first renting an apartment in the “East End” before moving to the newly developed area of Cochrane Heights, where they welcomed the birth of their son Ross in 1969. Heather moved from school in Springbank to Andrew Sibbald Elementary School. Brenda and Ross started school at Andrew Sibbald Elementary and the children continued on through Manachaban, and the High School in Cochrane. 

They soon found a group of friends who all enjoyed playing pranks on each other or getting together at someone’s house or backyard for a weekend party. Pranks such as decorating vehicles or various articles and houses took place. Once even saw the neighbours all dress up as a motorcycle gang for Halloween, even though no one owned a motorcycle! In the summer it was not unusual to find a number of families heading out for a camping weekend of laughs, card games and water fights. 

Wayne began working for Eagle at the Shell Jumping Pound Plant and then moved to Petrofina (currently PetroCanada) where he eventually became one of the Field Operators. He volunteered as a Scout Leader for 

Lions Rodeo dedicate to Wayne Blood

a number of years, coaching the boys to victory at the Annual Ice Stampede in Calgary. He was an enthusiastic member of the Lions Club in Cochrane and he and Melva were quite active in the Community enjoying curling and dances at the old Community Hall. Unfortunately, Wayne’s life was cut short when he passed away in September 1997 of a heart attack. 


Melva stayed at home while Ross was young before returning to the Royal Bank where she spent the next twenty-three years at various branches filling in while others took vacations. She also renewed her commitment to Girl Guides, serving as Guide Captain and having the pleasure of watching many of the local girls grow up and become young women in the community. Melva still continues her association with the Girl Guides and was recently awarded her fifty year pin and a Life Membership in the organization. 

Melva keeps busy volunteering for many of the fundraising casinos in the community, singing in two choirs, playing Bingo, and bowling. She is a Director on the Frank Wills’ Memorial Society and was recognized for her commitment to the community with a “Citizen of the Year” Award from the Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce and more recently an “Integrity Award” from the Rotary Club. Melva continues to work at the local RCMP detachment as a Matron since 1988. 

Heather continues to reside in Cochrane, taking after her Mom in some of her volunteer efforts. She sat on the Board of the Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce and the 2nd Hooves of History Cattle Drive. She organized the Annual Cochrane Light Up for ten years and has been a member of the Calgary Downtown Attractions – Old Time Rigs Committee for ten years as well as the Stampede Rodeo Committee for 5 years. 

Heather started working after High School in the Royal Bank- Brentwood Branch before heading into other careers in Accounting, Executive Assistant, Real Estate Assistant and Oil and Gas Land Administration. She even tried her hand at following in her father and grandfather’s footsteps when she took over the Turbo Gas Station (now Shell) at the bottom of the Big Hill in Cochrane. Deciding that she wanted to continue to travel Heather left the gas station business and joined West Jet Airlines as a Flight Attendant in 2002 where she continues to be employed today. When she is home, you’ll often find Heather enjoying her biggest passion in her life, having fun with her two Thoroughbred horses. 

Brenda, after finishing her twelve years of school in Cochrane, continued her education at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology with her EMT-A diploma. She

then worked on the Cochrane Fire and Ambulance Department for several years while also working as a medical assistant and lab aid at the Coach Hill Medical Clinic. 

In May of 1992, she gave birth to the first of her two children, a girl, Chelsea Lynne. What a Mother’s Day present! At this time she took a position with the Cochrane Medical Clinic and between work, playing baseball, parenting and the odd ambulance shift, her second bouncing bundle of joy arrived in August of 1995 a son, Gavin Maitland. The first grandchildren for Melva and Wayne. Can you say spoiled? 

Shortly after the birth of Gavin, six months to be exact, Brenda and family moved lock, stock and barrel to the Town of Hinton. It is a very picturesque town where they reside to this date. Being away from Cochrane took a great deal of getting used to, but new friends soon developed. Brenda soon went back to work, part-time at the ambulance and the swimming pool. She worked, played baseball and started full-time taxi service (Mom can you drive me to ….) 

In 2000, with both children in school, she realized it was time to go back to work full time. She accepted a position at the local swimming pool and worked as a Senior Lifeguard Instructor/Pool Operator for five years until leaving to work full time in the Oil and Gas Industry. She is currently employed as an EMT-A with Oilfield Medical Services and has been with them for three years as well as teaching First Aid and CPR courses and taking the odd shift at the pool when time allows. In her spare time, she continues to play baseball, take the kids on camping trips and spends a great deal of time driving the roads of North Central Alberta on the various trips that the kids have. Both of them are heavily involved in sports. 

Chelsea is the goalie for the Hinton Junior Bulldogs Ringette Team as well as being involved in soccer, baseball, volleyball and badminton. She currently is in grade ten at Harry Collinge High School and is on the academic honor roll for excellence. 

Gavin is also involved in sports and is a right winger on the Hinton Peewee “A” hockey team. He also plays baseball and enjoys riding motorbikes when he gets the chance. Gavin is currently in grade seven in Ecole Mountainview and excels in Phys.Ed. 

They lead a busy life, they still manage the occasional trip back to see the family in Cochrane and look forward to the trips to the dam for ice fishing in the winter and quading in the summer. 

Ross grew up enjoying life – rules were meant to be bent and everything was supposed to be fun. He took all his schooling in Cochrane and like lots of boys, 

school wasn’t all that important, taking things apart and mechanics were always more interesting to him. Thanks to his Uncle Lorne and cousin Craig, Ross quickly developed a love for operating machinery and riding motorcycles in particular, Cross Country Racing. Ross did very well, placing first in many of the races he entered. There were many weekends when Wayne or Melva would pack up the motor home and head out to a race to cheer him on, returning with lots of memories and a stack of dirty muskeg-covered racing gear. Ross left Cochrane for a number of years to develop his heavy equipment skills in Northern Alberta on the oilrigs, returning in 1997. Ross loves to play baseball, go camping and travel. He works in the construction industry operating heavy equipment. He is currently residing in Calgary.

Deep Dive

Grand Old Lady of Cochrane

A Peep into the Past pg 18 Vol. 2 Gordon and Belle Hall

A ‘Stately Old Lady’, the Rebekah Hall on main street in the town of Cochrane was built around the year 1900, the exact date is not known. There are few buildings of this age left in Cochrane. Whether it was the first hall in Cochrane is not clear, as the Howard Block was built about the same time and had a dance hall upstairs. 

The Rebekah Hall was built and owned by an Orange Lodge, called Mount View Loyal Orange Lodge #1813 of Cochrane, and was of course known as the Orange Hall. The Oddfellows formed a lodge here in February 1912 and had their meetings in the Orange Hall. The rent was around $15 per month when things got too tough they would rent a room in the Howard Block and move. During the First World War, times were tough. Electric lights were just appearing so when you vacated a room or whatever, you rolled up the wire and took your lights too, and had them hooked up at the new place. 

When my family arrived here in 1923, the Orange Hall was the hub of social life – dances, minstrel shows, Christmas parties for the kids, and concerts were held there. Then motion pictures were coming into vogue, so the Orangemen built the front of the hall out to the sidewalk, making about an extra 10 feet long, and adding two extra rooms to the side with a big room up stairs The reason for all this was to get space to put a room that was completely lined in case of fire. The local electric current was not strong enough for the projector, so Mr. Sharpe of Sharpe’s Theatre Supplies Calgary had a Delco plant in the back of his old Dodge car. It sat out front of the hall with a cable going up and through one of the windows and into the tin room. They were the old silent films, and we saw the Dempsey-Tunney fights. Charlie Chaplin in the Gold Rush, etcetera. 


Gray Sharp, Photo courtesy of UofC Digital Collections

In 1934, when I joined the Oddfellows, we met in the Masonic Hall, in 1936 the Orange Hall came up at a tax sale, and we bought the Old Girl and lot for $200. The hall at this time was heated by wood and coal stoves, and remember the first supper the lodge members had in their new hall-it was in February 1937. We had cooked the food and turkey ourselves. The temperature outside was about 20 below zero. We ate supper with our overshoes and overcoats on and the steam from the cooking filled the hall. 

In 1937, J. D. Curran, a local artist and oldtimer of the area and a relative Andisons, painted two huge pictures for the hall, one was at the back of the a stage and was later ruined by water. The other was painted on a canvas and was the stage curtain as it rolled up and down on a pole across the sage When the stage was taken out, the canvas was framed on the north wall of the hall, where it hangs today. It is a painting of the Three Sisters mountains at Canmore – Curran was 86 years old at this time. 

At the start of the Second World War, a platoon of soldiers or militia was formed in Cochrane, named the Second Battalion Calgary Highlanders. The hall was offered to them by the Oddfellows to store rifles and equipment in and drill in the winter months – this went on for about four years. 

The old hall has seen much of Cochrane’s past history, her back is bent, her floors are warped, the roof leaks, the doors don’t fit too well, but after about 90 years, who cares.

Odd Fellows Hall Ad

Deep Dive

Boothby Family

John and Nancy Boothby Family Page 303 More Big Hill Country 2009

John Boothby came to Cochrane from Cheshire, England. His mother died in 1905 when he was ten years old. His father William, came to Canada soon after his wife died to work at the Cochrane Stone Quarry. 


In 1911, John came to Cochrane and found work at the Collins Brickyard. He fell ill with typhoid fever a month after he arrived and was hospitalized at the Davies Hospital as a patient of Dr. Park. John then spent three months recuperating at the home of Robert Dawson. The Dawson family had lived about seven miles from the Boothbys in England. 

Collins Brick Yard 1911
John William Boothby 10th Battalion Jan 1916


John worked in and around Cochrane until he joined the 137th Battalion of the Canadian Army in World War I. He served at Vimy Ridge and was wounded. After hospitalization in England he returned to the trenches until the end of the war. He received his discharge in September 1919 following a stay in England. 

John returned to Cochrane and homesteaded the SW Sec 34 Twp 26 Rge 4 W5M through the Soldier Settlement Board. This land had been a Government Water Reserve that had been set aside in the early days of the pioneers so that everyone could get water. He stocked his farm with sheep bought from Bill Tempany. 

Nancy Harbidge came to Calgary at the age of six months in 1903 with her parents, brother Charles and uncle, aunt, and their three children. They stayed in the Immigration Hall for a few days before living in a tent near a quarry ten miles north of the city of Calgary, where Mr. Harbidge found work, cutting stone at Allan’s Quarry on Nose Creek. Then they lived in a tar paper shack her father built. A year or so later, they moved to Hillhurst and built another shack to live in. While here Mrs. Harbidge had a second son. 

In 1905 Mr. Harbidge and Mo Adams filed on homesteads in the Bottrel area. After building tar paper shacks they moved their families to the farms in November. The snow was deep and they had to sleep under the wagons on the two day trip to their new homes. 

The closest post office was Bottrel, six miles north. Mr. Harbidge had to walk there and back for their mail. He worked in Calgary, returning to the farm on weekends and going back to Calgary, leaving at 12:00 AM on Monday so as not to travel on Sundays. He did this until he was able to stock the farm with animals and work the land on a permanent basis. 

Six more children were born to this family. All the children were: Charles, Nancy, Mike, Alice, Miriam, Mary, Ruth, Samuel and Dan. Ruth died at age eight and Samuel died at age thirteen. Charles married Violet West in 1919. Mike and Dan married sisters Matilda and Lavina Hamm respectively. Mary married Henry Hupkes, Miriam married Kornelis Westra while Alice married Marlow Blatchford. 


John Boothby married Nancy Harbidge in September 1923. They had two sons, Bill and Bruce. Bill was born March, 1926 in the Tom Quigley house on the corner of First Street East and Pope Avenue. The family moved to Cochrane in 1927. John continued to work on the farm often working with Frank Whittle doing the haying and baling. Nancy worked hard on the farm along side of John. Bruce was born in January 1934. 

Nancy was self educated and very community minded. She was involved as a Sunday School teacher at St. Andrews United Church, a Charter Member of the Cochrane Branch of the Eastern Star as well as one of the Founders of the Cochrane Library, where she volunteered for many years. Nancy passed away in September of 1962. Years later the Cochrane Library was named the Nan Boothby Memorial Library in her honour. John retired in Cochrane. He spent many hours playing cards with friends. He and Ernie Crowe took part at the Sod Turning and Opening Ceremonies of the New Legion Hall in 1974. 

Nan Boothby Memorial Library
John Boothby, Walter Crowe with shovels

John and Nancy’s son Bill married Dorothy Reed of Cochrane and they had three sons: Mark, Laurie and Dana. They ranched north of Cochrane. 

Bruce married Dorothy Ellett from Mearns, Alberta and they had two daughters Susan and Joan. They ranched in Grand Valley. 

Bruce Boothby Family Ranch at Grand Valley

William and Dorothy Boothby by Dorothy Boothby

William (Bill) Boothby and Dorothy Reed were married on January 5, 1957, in the North Hill United Church in Calgary. The Reverend Pottruff was the Minister and his wife, Mrs. Pottruff, stood up for us. After the wedding, we drove to Okotoks to tell my parents, Sydney and Lilian Reed. Mom and Dad moved to Okotoks as the Cochrane Creamery was taken over by Mrs. Loughery’s nephew. Lilian and Sydney Reed lived in Cochrane for 35 years. Dad had many jobs but worked for the Creamery until 1953. 

Cochrane Creamery Limited

Bill and Dorothy had three sons. Mark was born December 8, 1957, Laurie October 14, 1959 and Dana August 25, 1961. We lived 1 1/2 miles north of Cochrane on the Bottrel Road. The children had to be taken to school as the bus came much later. 

Boothby Ranch Barn and Outbuildings built by McConachies
JW Boothby buys Just Home Ranch

There was a great rivalry between Walter Lyons and Bill as to who had the best horse. I don’t think that was ever settled, they both won their share of races. 

Bill and I both curled in the rink next to the United Church and he was the Draw Master for many years.

We had both started in Cochrane’s oldest curling rink next to the Blacksmith’s Shop. I worked for Andison’s store for a short time then joined the Credit Union and worked for 15 years. 

Mark spent some time with Highway Patrol, but now is a Computer Programmer for the City of Red Deer. He married Della Burke from Williams Lake, British Columbia. Laurie moved to Toronto and worked in the steel industry. While down east, he married Thelma Duguay from New Brunswick. After the economy slowed, they moved back to Cochrane when they had a baby daughter, Celina. 

The Boothby ranch bought a piece of land around Bashaw where Laurie, Thelma and Celina moved. In 1995, they had a son Julian. We kept the farm until 2004 when BSE took its toll in the ranching business. Laurie and his family now live in Red Deer. 

Dana stayed on the ranch after going to the University of Calgary; he married Melanie Cherwayko of Bearspaw on January 3, 1987. They have three sons: Tanner, Riley and Reed, currently in school. 

Bill became ill in the 1980’s so Dana had to be ranch manager. We moved to Cochrane in 1990 and Bill’s health failed; he passed away December 3, 2006. I still live in my home in Cochrane.

Deep Dive

James and Yvonne Bowlen

Page 306 More Big Hill Country 2009

James “Jaye” Edward Bowlen was born February 23, 1936, in Calgary, Alberta to Eddie and Kathleen “Toddles” Bowlen. He had four sisters: Delores, Maureen, Cheryl, and Kaye. The family lived in Calgary and visited their Aunt Helen on the Mount Royal Ranch frequently. They loved to stay with her and she loved having them.

Jaye attended St. Mary’s High School in Calgary where he excelled in football under the coaching of the late Rev. Jim Whelibaw, the Rev.Lawrence Moran, and Hank Carmine. 

Yvonne Stannge was born February 9, 1937 in Claresholm, Alberta to Frank and Louise Stannge. She had two sisters, Bernice and Pat, and a brother Alvin.

Yvonne was educated in Claresholm and moved to Calgary after completing high school. In Calgary, she worked in the oil industry for Fracmaster for several years. Jaye and Yvonne were married on September 15. 1962. They moved to Jaye’s family’s ranch, Mount Royal Ranch, west of Cochrane to manage it. They lived in the teacherage at Beaupre for a couple of years and moved to the Ranch House when Jaye’s aunt Helen moved into Cochrane. 

The Ranch House was an old log, two-storey building built into the hill. In the spring when the snow melted the water would run into the house, so one day Jaye took a brace and bit and drilled holes in the floor. The water soon disappeared. 

Jaye and Yvonne adopted two children. Catherine “Cathie” in 1967 and Robert “Bobby” in 1970. Before Bobby arrived, they moved a house from Calgary to the ranch and vacated the ranch house. The old log house was then used to house the hired help. Eventually it burned down. 

Cathie and Bobby were educated in Cochrane. Cathie was an excellent gymnast and was encouraged in her endeavors by her father. She made the National Team but was forced to quit because of her knees. 

Jaye and Yvonne were members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and they also enjoyed curling and golfing Yvonne was an excellent seamstress and enjoyed quilting and sewing. She and her sister Pat contracted to make many liturgical linens for the church. 

Cathie had three children: Ashley, Briegh-Ana, and Scott. Jaye and Yvonne loved their grandchildren and donated much time and effort into their well-being. 

Bobby excelled at football in school and followed in his father’s footsteps managing the ranch. He also took training as an electrician. He married Carrie Baldwin in 2000. Their wedding was held at the Mount Royal Ranch They have four boys: Payton, Tyson, Jacob, and Wyatt. 

Jaye and Yvonne’s lives were tragically cut short on May 21, 1999, by two young offenders, friends of Cathie They are all serving life sentences for the Bowlen deaths.

Deep Dive

Passing the Torch 2023

CHAPS wants to remember the community members who passed away in 2023. Their contributions are listed in the obituaries and articles below.

Dorothy May Edge 

March 16, 1940 – December 26, 2022

Janette Whittle 

November. 5, 1934 – January. 31, 2023

Mildred Davies 

January 24, 1931 – February 12, 2023

Nelda Sharp

February 26, 1938 – April 25, 2023

Myrna Lathwell

December 5, 1939 – May 10, 2023

Marilyn Whittle

January 20, 1943 – August 26, 2023

Ray Whittle

January 10, 1932 – January 6, 2024

Jim Lauder

September 7, 1934 – September 17, 2023

Ruby Keller

October 10, 1939 – October 6. 2023

Pat Woods

April 20, 1932 –  September 8, 2023

Valerie Wilson

August 27, 1944 – November 30, 2023

 A celebration of life will be held at the Ranch House in Cochrane at 2:00 PM on January 13, 2024.

 Beryl Sibbald

 1943 – 2024


Funeral Services will be held at Cochrane Ranchehouse (101 Ranchehouse Rd, Cochrane, AB), on Monday, January 22, 2024, at 1:00 p.m. with reception to follow. Condolences, memories, and photos may be shared and viewed with Beryl’s family here.

CHAPS apologizes to any family whose family member we may have missed.  

Deep Dive

Top Stories from 2023 5 through 1

Welcome back to our review of the top 10 most read articles from 2023. Here are the top 5 beginning with number 5.

5. Gordon Ivan Davies Family

4. The Ghost Dam

3. Lodgings and Hotels

Also contains an audio history by Gordon Davies.

2. Cochrane’s Olympic Spirit

Contains an audio by Gordon Davies

  1. Doug Richards and the Early Years.

Thanks to M.D Bighorn Historical Resource Committee for this excellent narrative from the Oral History Project.

That’s it for 2023. Stay tuned for 2024 as it looks to be just as exciting.

How do you want to get involved?

Do you want to research and submit an article, volunteer at the Museum, or organize an event. We have a role for you!

Top Stories from 2023 10 through 6

2023 saw an increase in the readership of our stories. We are grateful you enjoy them. Based on your readership here are the top 10 from 2023. We’ll start with 10 through 6.

#10 The Morleyville Settlement

#9 Dave Bryant

8. The Reed Family

7. Restaurants and Cafes

6. Passing of the Torch 2022

We hope you enjoyed the first of our series on the top 10 articles from 2023. Stay tuned next week for the top 5.

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