Johnson Family

– Laurie Johnson Big Hill Country

My father, Everett C. Johnson, was born in Virginia in 1860 and moved to Minnesota with his parents after the American Civil War. At the age of fifteen, he drove stagecoach in the Black Hills, and a year later he went to Wyoming where he rode with Bill Cody and Portugee Phillips. He went to work for the Powder River Cattle Company and was one of the three foremen under Fred Hess. He was captain of the roundup in Johnson County at the age of nineteen. He

became a friend and hunting companion of Owen Wister who used my father’s character and some of his adventures in the book “The Virginian.” In 1886 Hess sent him to Canada to locate a ranch for the 76. He returned to Wyoming but soon came back to Canada. In 1890 he was foreman of the North West Cattle Company under the manager, Fred Stimson, at the Bar U. 

My mother, Mary Eleanor Bigland, was born in Windermere, England, and came to Western Canada with her uncle, William Laycock. She was a Registered Nurse, and while nursing Mrs. Stimson at the Bar U, she met my father. They were married on November 18, 1891, by the Presbyterian minister, J. C. Herdman. My father’s best man was his old friend from Wyo ming, Harry Longabough, known as the Sundance Kid. The bridesmaid was her mother’s cousin, Maggie Laycock, who married Blue Osborne. 

For several years, Dad, as everyone called him, was a cattle buyer for Gordon, Ironsides and Fares, and he located and built up the Two Bar Ranch for them. I spent my early life at the d’Eyncourt Ranch where Dad was a partner. About 1904 we built a house on 18th Ave. in Calgary and Bert and I went to school at the Convent. Our elder sister went to school in the United States. 

In 1910 my parents moved to Cochrane where Dad opened a butcher shop. When the Spanish Influenza epidemic broke out my mother turned our home into a hospital and nursed a great many in 1918 and 1919. She also delivered many babies during her years in Cochrane. 

There were four children in the family: Jessie Lucretia who married John Annear, a locomotive engineer, and lived in Edmonton, where they raised nine children; Robert Everett Poindexter who went Overseas in the First World War, married Ona Patterson and lived in Banff where he had a service station and took an active part in the affairs of the town; myself, Laurence Branch; and Frances Olive, the youngest, known as Dot. 

Dot married H. K. (Chappie) Clarkson, the son of oldtimers in the Pincher Creek district. He

owned the NW14 15 and SE14 22-26-5-5, on the highway west of Cochrane. Their two eldest children, Patricia and Robert were born there. Chappie moved his family to Turner Valley where he became a driller and worked in the oilfields for years. Three more children were born to them: Donald, Laurine and William. 

Patricia and Robert both enlisted in the Army in World War Two. Patricia joined the C.W.A.C. and played the trombone in their brass band and did the comedy numbers. They played in cities all across Canada and gave concerts in England, France, Germany and in Apeldoorn, Holland, where they were stationed for several weeks. 

Robert enlisted when he was sixteen and was a corporal before he left Calgary. In England, he held the middleweight boxing title for the Canadian forces and was a Commando instructor. By the end of the war, he was a Lieutenant. He went to work in the Leduc oilfields and was elected the first Mayor of Drayton Valley. He established the Clarkson Oilfield Construction Ltd., a very successful company, but he died at the age of thirty-nine, leaving his wife, Mona, three daughters and a little son. 

I have spent most of my life in the Cochrane District. In 1917 after I left the Bar C, I went to work for D. P. McDonald, breaking workhorses and saddle horses. We brought some horses into the Calgary Horse Show where young Peter Welsh rode Smokey and I rode Osborne Johnson’s horse, Beaver, in performance jumping and in jumping pairs. 

In 1918 the Parks Department took over the Ya-Ha Tinda, away up in the Red Deer River, and Jim Brewster had to get his horses out of there. He sold them to P. D. Bowlen, Norman Luxton and Bill Logan. Boney Thompson, Eddy Rowe and I gathered them and took them down to the Beaupré Ranch. 

In 1919 Frank Wellman bought Tom Wilson’s Powderhorn horses which ran on the Kootenay Plains, up the North Saskatchewan River. Jack Fuller, Wat Potts, Bill Potts, Johnny Wilson and I went up with Wellman to gather them, taking Paul Beaver along as a guide. We stayed at the Wilson place where we were able to hold the horses as we gathered them. Paul, a Stoney Indian, was a great help to us. Once when the horses were about to get away down the river, he raced his horse along a high bank and jumped him far out into the river to head them off. Horse and rider went out of sight in the water for a moment or two, but he turned the horses. It was in May but the snow was very deep for much of the way as we trailed the horses south. Paul broke trail all the way, leading an old mare whose family of young stuff kept right with her. There were many broke horses in the bunch so every so often we would catch one and take it up to Paul so that he could have a fresh horse. 

After we got back from the Kootenay Plains we took a large party up the Kananaskis. Frank Wellman, the outfitter, did not go but hired Bill  

Potts as a guide and he and I did the cooking. The packers were Wat Potts, Jack Fuller, Marshall Baptie and Bobby Quigley. We started out from Morley with the party of publicity people: Murray Gibbon of the C.P.R.; Jack Lait, editor of the Chicago Tribune; Grantland Rice and his wife; Mr. Wheeler and his wife, and Charlie Towne, a poet. Byron Harmon was the movie cameraman and Dawson, the C.P.R. photographer, took the stills. On this trip, the idea of the C.P.R. Trail Ride was born. Later that year I took out two more parties, Henry Colgate and his wife on their honeymoon, and Bob and Sue Johnson (of Johnson & Johnson) on a hunting trip to the Clearwater country. 

In 1923 John Hazza asked me to manage a Polo Pony Ranch for him, west of Calgary. There I schooled many good polo ponies, most of which were shipped to New York and Aiken, South Carolina. Some of these ponies played international polo. 

In 1927, while foreman of the Rhodes Ranch in Grand Valley, I married Jean Lamont of Calgary who came west with her parents from Woodstock, Ontario, in 1912. While at the Rhodes Ranch we lived at the old Oddie place which Rhodes then owned. He sold it to Sherriffs. In 1930 I bought land along the Bow River, west of Cochrane. This was the S12 14 and the SE 14 15-26 5-5, which had been vacated by Lloyd Noland who had it under the Soldier Settlement Board. I leased two sections of Crown land in Big and Little Coulees. 

Our buildings were on the river flat with a spring creek running between the house and the stables. By means of a furrow plowed along the sidehill from the spring, we were able to irrigate a large garden and the trees which we obtained from Indian Head, Saskatchewan: 100 ash, 100 elm and 375 caraganas. The hot, dry years of the Depression were upon us but we had plenty of vegetables which we could keep in good condition, a couple of milk cows and a large flock of hens. 

Here are some figures and facts from Jean’s account book:

  • 1931: Total for a year’s groceries, $127.60. 
  • Cream went down in price till special was only 17 ¢ per lb. butterfat. 
  • Eggs sold for 20 ¢ per dozen. 
  • Wheat sold: 549 bushels for $164.50. 
  • On Oct. 20th gave the Calgary Herald 10 bushels of wheat to pay for a subscription to the paper. The paper was thrown off a mile away up at the highway, by the Brewster Transport bus, every evening. 
  • We took wheat to a flour mill and paid for the milling with wheat. We got flour, middlings, shorts and bran. 
  • On Oct. 29th sold to R. B. Rogers: 100 lbs. of carrots $1.50; 90 lbs. of turnips 90¢; 75 lbs. of potatoes 75¢; 60 lbs. of cabbage 90¢`; Total $4.05. 
  • Income for the year: $882.77, mostly from the sale of horses. 
  • Total expenses for the year: $741.45. 
  • 1932: Things were tougher. 
  • Total for a year’s groceries: $91.60 (100 lbs. flour $2.25, 100 lbs. sugar $5.50, 5 lbs. tea $1.95, 5 lbs. coffee $1.85.) 
  • Total for clothes $13.09. 
  • Cream, graded special, was as low as 14¢. 
  • Sold Johnny Morrison 250 lbs. carrots and turnips for $2.50. 
  • Total income: $441.71; total expenditures $428.55. 

We still played polo, went on hunting trips and had parties and dances. R. B. Rogers, Duncan and Archie Kerfoot and the Rhodes Ranch had tennis courts and gave very enjoyable tennis parties. We often had dinner parties in those days, and I remember one at R. B. Rogers’ when Pierre Eyma, a new neighbour in the district, arrived in formal dinner clothes. It did not take him long to get used to our strange ways. 

In 1933 I leased the old Coleman Ranch from my cousin, Ruth Laycock. It was seventeen hundred acres in extent and took in Lot 5 of Morleyville Settlement. In 1885 Lucius Coleman was living in the Adams house, later owned by Jack McDonald. Two years later he built a large log house on the E 12 20-26-6-5. We moved into this house and lived there for three years. In 1933 Duncan Kerfoot was instrumental in getting my team on for the building of the Banff-Jasper Highway. They went up again in 1934, and I took them up myself and worked there in 1935 when the pay was much better. In 1936 there was a change of government, and we were told that our horses were Conservatives and could not work there. They were the best Conservatives that ever looked through a bridle. 

In 1934 my wife bought the NW14 8-28-6-5 and homesteaded the NE 14 of 7 adjacent to it. She camped there for four summers on a creek that flowed into Rabbit Creek and it became known as Jean’s Creek. I homesteaded the SW14 17-27-6 5, and we took a twenty-year lease on three sections of Crown land. Guy Gibson put up the logs and built the fieldstone fireplace for the house on my homestead, the Lazy JL. We moved there in 1936 and finished building the house. Our daughters, Donna Carroll and Margaret Jean got their education by Correspondence School from Edmonton till the younger of the two went 

to High School in Calgary and then to Olds Agricultural College. 

For several years I was the head guide on the C.P.R. Trail Ride. When Donna was thirteen, she came as a guide, taking complete charge of ten horses and riders. She guided in the mountains for three years and always trailed our horses up and back, alone. From 1939 till the girls left home we took in dudes, mostly children, every summer. In this way, the girls were able to associate with young people from all over Canada and some from the United States and England. Every Saturday during the winter, they rode the ten miles down to Pocaterra’s where Norma Piper Pocaterra gave them piano lessons and Mr. Pocaterra taught them Spanish. 

In 1950 Donna married Richard Butters whose grandfather came to Alberta in 1883. Richard had a ranch, the OC, which joined our land on the south. Late in 1964 Donna and Richard bought our land and cattle to add to their own and moved up to the Lazy JL. They have three sons: Erik, Lamont and Ian. 

Our younger daughter, Peggy, also lives in the Cochrane District. She spent two years in the Navy at Halifax where she married Lieutenant Commander S. R. Wallace. He is now with the University of Calgary and they live just east of 

Cochrane on the Lochend Road. They have three children: Robert, Laurence and Carolyn. 

On June 7, 1975, Erik Butters and Wendy Fenton were married and went to live at the OC Ranch. Wendy is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lynn Fenton.

The abandoned Hamlet of Seebe

Did you think Seebe is just the dam?

I did. It was not until one of my first jobs out of high school, that I learned about the Hamlet of Seebe that existed downstream of the dam. In 2005, the Hamlet was abandoned, locked up and moved.

Seebe was once a Calgary Power (now TransAlta) company town. Employees at the Kananaskis and Horseshoe Dams lived in the hamlet.

The Horseshoe Dam was built first starting in 1911. Kananaskis followed in 1913.

Calgary in 1911 used the supplied electricity to mostly power streetcars. It wasn’t long before homes began to use electricity.

The Control Room (1975) controlled the power generation and transmission from Kananaskis, Horseshoe, Ghost and Bearspaw Dams. (confirmation required). Thanks to Denise Shellian for supplying the control room photo (Ron Shellian at the desk, Pat Cooper standing)

The hamlet was abandoned in 2005. Many of the former buildings were sold and moved to other locations in Alberta.

Seebe was once home to the smallest artificial curling rink in the world. (1 sheet). It was built in 1948 and the plant improved in subsequent years.

The hamlet had a school and store with a gas pump. We’re looking for photos of the hamlet and will update this article as we uncover them. I’ve heard of Toad Hall that had a dirt floor and was used for community events. Children learned to swim in the lake at Nakoda Lodge. If you put your feet down it was quite likely you’d find leeches on your legs. Families in town “had” to have gardens. It was just a thing at the time.

A lot of first-hand details of the hamlet are captured in a series of videos done by the M.D. of BigHorn. Click the button to see.

Pat Ritchie, featured in the playlist, is the daughter of Dolly and Alistair Moore of Cochrane. We have a video of Alistair on our Youtube channel. Sweet Cebola

Ghost Dam
Bearspaw Dam


  1. TransAlta TransAlta History
  2. Wikipedia Seebe
  3. Prisoner of War Camp Ozada

Rhodes Family and Minnehaha Ranch

Besides having an amazing family history, Dusty and Bumpy were active in the Cochrane Race Track.

– Mark Boothby

The three Rhodes brothers, Alan (Dobby), Bernard (Bumpy) and Gilbert (Dusty), were wealthy Englishmen, all of whom held commissions in the British Army in World War I. During the War, Dobby and Dusty bought a share in the Critchley Ranch in Grand Valley. Dusty was not too interested in the ranch and spent most of his time at Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, but retained his interest in the Cochrane race track. After the War, Bumpy came to Canada and bought out Oswald A. Critchley’s interest in the ranch. He added to his holdings by buying Andy Garson’s land. Andy also sold him a herd of horses. Bumpy was interested in playing polo and raised many good horses. Laurie Johnson was hired to school the ponies and play polo with them. 

In 1926 Bumpy married Cullette Gopel, an American divorcee who had land west of Midnapore. They had one adopted son, David. Around 1930 Bumpy and his wife and son moved to Victoria and bought a mansion. Bumpy died in Victoria, and following his death, Dusty and his family moved back to Scotland. 

Mrs. Rhodes and David returned to the ranch in Grand Valley. David attended Brentwood College on Vancouver Island but spent his vacations at the ranch. 

One summer Mrs. Rhodes went to Tahiti on vacation. While there she bought a coconut plantation at Papeete. Two of her friends, Eric Hanner and Count Von Luckner, were German citizens, so the French Government revoked Mrs. Rhodes’ visa and she had to leave Tahiti. She bought a fifty-foot two-masted schooner, the Valkyrie, and she and David, with Eric Hanner as captain and two Tahitian sailors as crew, sailed for Honolulu. Mrs. Rhodes and Eric Hanner were later married in Victoria, and David went to the United States. Mrs. Rhodes met Margo de Carrie, who had been Amelia Earhart’s secretary. Mrs. Rhodes, Eric and Margo cruised the Pacific, stopping at many small islands, hoping Amelia Earhart could be found. When they reached Honolulu Mrs. Rhodes had her marriage dissolved, and she and David returned to the ranch at Cochrane. David managed the ranch for a while then joined the Lord Strathcona Horse. When the United States sent recruiting teams into Canada he transferred to the United States Army. While in the Army he married, and they were sent to Vienna, Austria, for five years. Here they adopted a boy, Barry. 

After David went to war, Mrs. Rhodes assumed her old name and ran the ranch herself for a while, then rented it to Art Hall. Clarence Ginrich was the manager. The ranch was sold to Jack Bolton in 1947 and Mrs. Rhodes went to live in Santa Monica, California. 

During the Korean War, David was stationed at Breckinridge, Kentucky. He and his first wife divorced, and David married a girl who was in the Diplomatic Foreign Service. He and his wife Helen had two sons, David and Brooke Anthony. Cullette spent her first years with David and Helen when they lived in Evansville, Indiana. She passed away in 1951 and is buried in Evansville. David left the Army in 1953 and has worked for the Western Electric Company for 21 years and now lives in Columbus, Ohio. 

The Minnehaha Ranch has changed hands several times during recent years. Jack Bolton sold to the Marston Ranching Company, who named it the Grand Valley Ranch, and Art Galarneau was the foreman. It was then sold to Peter Bawden, who hired Dale Flett as foreman. The ranch was sold back to Jack Simpson, who sold it to Bob Burns. The ranch is now called the Anchor X.

– Big Hill Country Pg 407

Sherriff Brothers

In 1929 William Sherriff, manager of the Model Laundry in Calgary, bought three-quarters of land, 11 miles northwest of Cochrane in Grand Valley, for three of his sons, George, Jim and Harry. The land, N12 and SE 14 23-27-5-5 was bought from Bumpy Rhodes for $27.00 an acre. Later the SE14 26-27-5-5 was purchased from the Hudson’s Bay Company and added to their holdings. 

The boys’ only experience with ranching was gained from visits to their grandparents, the William Browns, who farmed in the Glendale district on the Burnt Ground northeast of Cochrane. The Sherriffs raised purebred Hereford cattle, Yorkshire hogs and Clydesdale horses. Their stallion, Chief, and a purebred mare and colt were bought from Bob Hogarth. The boys took great pride in their buildings and surroundings. Trees were planted around the house. The hip-roofed barn, still a landmark on the property, was built in 1925 by Jack Fuller and his brother-in-law, Orville Boucher. Jack maintains that the barn should outlast any barn in Alberta because it was built of fir logs, peeled and hewed, and placed on a concrete foundation that was poured on top of a hardpan. For years the stallion’s head and neck extended out over the half-door of the barn and was a familiar sight as one drove past on the Grand Valley road. 

Barns at George Sherriff farm

Like most boys, arguments as to who was doing the most work were everyday affairs. The story is told that Jim and Harry, being younger, had to milk the cow. Jim milked half and then Harry would go to the barn and milk the other half. 

In October 1939, Jim married Emily Rasmussen and they went to live in Calgary. During World War II, Jim worked at the mess hall at Currie Barracks. After the War, he went to work as a cook at the General Hospital, where he worked for 2912 years. Jim and Emily have three children: Muriel, James and Barry, and five grandchildren. 

George joined the R.C.A.F. in 1943 and was stationed in Toronto. He married Christine Gamlin in 1945. Christine came from Bristol, England, to Toronto, in 1931. George was discharged from the Air Force in June 1946. He and his wife returned to Cochrane and purchased the Walter Patterson place at Cochrane Lakes, four miles north of Cochrane. He bought six head of purebred Hereford heifers from Bernard Powlesland Sr., and soon built up a herd of prize cattle. The George Sherriffs sold their farm in 1967 and bought a retirement home in Cochrane, where they still reside. 


Harry was a good athlete and played on hockey and baseball teams in the area. He married Evelyn Holmberg in January 1941, and they continued to ranch on the home place. They have four children: Betty, who married Larry Eby, Harry (Buster), Greg and Dale. Harry and Evelyn sold their farm in 1972 and moved to Calgary. They are now retired and live at Salmon Arm, British Columbia. Their farm has now been subdivided.

Pg 409 Big Hill Country

I believe the family home site is 11 KM’s northwest of the George Sherriff farm.

I remember George Sherriff playing hours and hours of crib with my grandfather in their later years.

– Mark Boothby

Its spelled Sherriff in Big Hill Country

Ghost Ranger Station Stories – Ray & Margaret Hill

The oral history project by the M.D. Bighorn has another story near and dear to me. I remember Cal Hill coming to school for the first time. He had a huge lunch kit and stories of spending hours each day on the bus. I also got to spend a weekend at the Ranger Station. I remember the hospitality of his parents and how beautiful the area was.

Here is the Hill family story from More Big Hill Country (pg 509). A video of the Hills from the oral history project by M.D. Bighorn follows.

Ray and Margaret Hill Family By Margaret Hill 

We came to the Cochrane area in September of 1960 when Ray became Chief Ranger at the Ghost Ranger Station. It was wonderful to be back in a ranching community and so warmly welcomed. Even though we still had no telephone and plowed roads in winter, at least we had neighbours nearby. We had previously spent two years at the Sheep Ranger Station west of Turner Valley, then three years in the Red Deer district where our closest neighbours were at least ten miles away and town (Sundre) was thirty-seven miles. Our two boys, Cal and Cam, were born during this time so we did little travelling in the winter months.

Generally life on the ranger stations was busy. In the early years all travellers had to register and during hunting season they also had to register their rifles at the ranger stations. As there were no secretaries in those days and the men spent a great deal of time in the field, this job often fell to the wives, along with checking out game that had been shot and checking licenses and tags. I remember one hot fall day checking some hunters who had shot a moose. They had shoved it into their trunk, still warm, hide, hair and all. I was sorry I asked to check the tag, as it was all I could do not to gag from the stench. I wonder how it tasted! 

Disoriented hunters were common and often a source of amusement, as in their words “they weren’t lost, just didn’t know where they’d left their vehicle.” They always got out okay, though after a couple of nights in the bush huddling by a campfire or taking refuge in an old trapper shack, their faces and clothes often so black with soot their own wives probably couldn’t recognize them. 

Many nights we were awakened by a pounding on the door to find shaking, wet or tired travellers who had hit the ditch miles away or rolled their vehicle. The rangers did many rescue trips and patched up many victims. We served many gallons of coffee to calm and warm them. One of the more interesting patch jobs was a bullet hole through the arm of a careless hunter who had shot himself. At least he was quite calm if not somewhat embarrassed. 

One of our most memorable events was the Spy Hill jailbreak during one cold drizzly night in September of 1969. About midnight the RCMP phoned Ray to close the barrier (which was only a pole) across the road by our house. Almost instantly a car slid to a halt and seven inmates bailed out and scattered into the bush. Within minutes the RCMP started arriving along with tracking dogs and loudhailers. Needless to say, our whole household was up for the remainder of the night. During the next twenty-four hours, I served about a hundred cups of coffee and depleted the cookie supply as the guys dropped in to warm up. 

Ray’s main job was fire prevention and suppression. He spent several years as a Bird Dog Officer, which meant he flew ahead of the water bombers to direct them to their drop zone. 

When the fire hazard was low in his district he was often exported to other districts as Fire Boss, which included northern Alberta and as far as Ontario. During our sixteen years at the Ghost, the largest fire was the Burnt Timber fire in 1970, which consumed 4000 acres of prime timber. Communications in the bush were not the greatest in those days (no cell phones) so the telephone in our house was a popular feature. The ranger station was a buzz of activity with long days and short nights for everyone! The helicopter landing pad was our lawn and it was well used. The big bonus was the frequent rides we all had. One day a congenial pilot flew his helicopter down to the Bar C Ranch to pick up our boys from the school bus. This was their first flight in a helicopter and they were very excited! 

Our oldest son, Cal, took his grade one and two by correspondence as the school bus only came to Butters Ranch, a distance of nine miles. The next year Cam started grade one and they went to Cochrane School for a month. We then spent the next six months at Hinton, in a two-room motel, where Ray finished Forestry Training School. 

The boys finished the school year in Cochrane. The following summer (1966) the Wirsigs and Bothams moved to the Bar C Ranch, so with a total of seven kids, the bus came that far. We still had to drive them three and a half miles, which sometimes got a little nasty in the winter. We also got our first telephone that fall! 

Our boys have fond memories of growing up in the Ghost. They fished, hiked, rode, swam in the local creeks and lakes and then in the early seventies snowmobiling arrived.

Between the four of us, we’d put 5000 miles on two machines over a good winter, a good winter meaning lots of snow, a term our rancher neighbours didn’t always agree with. 

In November of 1976, we took a transfer to Canmore as we knew a move was imminent once the boys finished school. Our lifestyle changed somewhat as Ray was involved in much of the development of Kananaskis Country. I spent thirteen enjoyable years as a high school secretary and did considerable hiking and skiing. Ray retired in the spring of 1987 and spent time at Kootenay Lake where we had a property for a while. 

In 1989 we bought property on Lochend Road, bordering the Sunset Ranch. As the property was in two titles, Cal bought the north one where he and his wife Judy built a log home. They have two girls, Jessa and Caylee. Jessa graduates this year (2006) and Caylee is completing grade 10. Both are delighted to graduate from the same school as their Dad. Cal is a geologist and has been with the EUB for the past twenty-six years. Judy works part-time for an accountant and maintains a small herd of Dexter cows. 

Cam spent several years with Kananaskis Parks, and then his spirit of adventure led him to BC Parks to a place called Toad River on the Alaska Highway. After nearly five years there he transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Division at Vanderhoof, BC where he now resides. He and his wife Heidi are presently building a log home on their 400 acres, which is also home to a dozen or so horses. Their daughter, Sierra, also graduates this year. Their son, Ridge, resides in Vanderhoof where he has a farrier business. 

Unfortunately, most of the old ranger stations have been abandoned and demolished. The only structure remaining at the Ghost is the treehouse the boys built many years ago. Cal and his family retrieved some of the boards from it and made picture frames as souvenirs from the past. It’s sad to see the home where we spent so many happy years disappear. It’s also very sad that the Alberta Forest Service has regressed almost to the point of extinction. We can only hope that a future government may rectify and revitalize it.

See the rest of the Hills experience at the Ghost Ranger Station with fires, escaping prisoner’s and other postings.

Stories of the Stoney First Nation – Donna Butters

Donna Butters was interviewed for the Oral History Project on Nov 18, 2011. She recalls her mother’s stories of her neighbours; the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, Elizabeth Hunter and the Four Richards.

The Oral History Project is displayed on the MD Bighorn YouTube channel. The complete playlist of Donna Butters is at Donna Butters Interviews

Read More about our neighbours at the Stoney Nakoda First Nation by clicking on the button.

Well Travelled Cheques

Ken Hall recently contacted us about some items from his father’s things. He has a couple of cheques from the early 1900s issued by the Cochrane Creamery. We jumped at the chance to save another relic of the history of our town.

What we didn’t realize was that these are some well-travelled cheques. Ken’s great grandfather operated a trucking business in Edmonton. Ken now lives in Yellowknife.

Also, the cheques are in pristine condition. I’ve included a couple of photos in this blog. This is not how we store our exhibits, it’s just me taking a couple of quick photos.

Cheque 102 June 19, 1912
Unknown cheque # Date April 13, 1918

Ken's explanation follows:

Greetings from up North

Enclosed are the old cheques about which we recently corresponded. I spoke with family members but we could not glean much information. 

These cheques were amongst my Great Grandfather’s effects. His name was Thomas James Hall and he lived in Edmonton. He would have been about 40 years old when these were issued. No one recognized any of the names. The best they could surmise is that he had came by these as a result of some of the business dealings he had in the area over the years-amongst other ventures he had a trucking company. 

We would be very interested in hearing any information related to these that folks may recall. 

We will be doing some research on the cheques and will report back.

I have a couple of quick observations:

  • The cheque from 1912 is for $73.00 which sounds like a lot of money for the time.
  • It was cashed at Union Bank of Cochrane on June 21. We’ll have to research banks in town at the time to see where it was.
  • It’s signed by J. Cook and the name of the secretary-treasurer I can’t make out.
  • The second cheque was issued April 13, 1918, which was during W.W. 1 (ended Nov 11, 1918)
  • We have some newspapers in our collection on these dates. I wonder what news of Cochrane was on those days?

If you can make out or know any details please get back to us.

We’ve written about the Cochrane Creamery in a previous blog. Cochrane Creamery Association

Bates Bar J Ranch

The MD of Bighorn has a series of videos called the oral history project. One playlist dear to me is Randy Bates talking about his folks, Jack & Barbara Bates and the Bates Bar J Ranch. Randy describes how the Bates Bar J evolved from the Elkana.

My brothers and a neighbour spent a couple of summers at the ranch. It’s a special memory of growing up in Cochrane and the area.

We went on trail rides every morning and afternoon, went swimming at the swimmin’ hole, ate in the common area, slept in chilly dorms, learned how to build shelters out of boughs, shot bows and arrows, and went on hayrides. Just about the perfect place for kids.

Here is another blog and the story of how the Bates Bar J affected her life. Bates Bar J Ranch.

That blog has a lot of comments from former alums and most speak about how the experience changed their lives and is a very fond memory.

Maureen Wills reasons for Immigrating

Maureen Wills recalls the reasons for immigrating to the Cochrane area and her 11-day voyage.

She talks about knowing that Cochrane would be her home for the rest of her life from the very first sight.

Thanks to M.D. Bighorn’s oral history project for capturing this story.


Article from page 811 More Big Hill Country

Maureen Wills Family

By Andy Marshall 

On her second day in Alberta after arriving from England, rounding the top of the Cochrane Hill on an exploratory drive to Banff, the thought strikes Maureen Wills as clearly as the stunning view before her: “This is where I will spend the rest of my life.” 

The year was 1960, and although it took two years for the then 24-year-old to realize her vision, she’s lived in the Cochrane region for almost 46 years, helping build the community and serving others with remarkable contributions of time and energy. 

Now 72, she’s still hard at it, sitting on a task force deciding on the future of the former town office site, president of several organizations, including Victim Services, Handibus Society, William Watson Lodge Society, and the multi-million-dollar Kerby Seniors Centre operation in Calgary. 

There’s her nine years on the Family and Community Support Services advisory committee, her involvement from their beginnings with the Cochrane and Area Humane Society and the Beaupre Community Association. Town councillor from 1998 to 2004, she was also a founding member of the town’s affordable housing group. And, the town can celebrate her life long involvement with scouting and her drive to build the Frank Wills 

She’s now promoting expansion, broadening her horizons is a constant theme with Maureen. “I’m still up for a challenge,” she says, a twinkle in her eyes. “I come from Yorkshire” (England). “The most tenacious dog breed is the Yorkshire terrier, so Yorkshire people are supposed to never quit,” she adds. 

Born near York, she grew up and went to Catholic school there. “We were poor, working-class, but my parents gave us precious gifts of love and support.” At five she joined Brownies, “and my life since has been living by the ideals of scouting.”

 An all-around athlete, Maureen yearned to be out playing rather than inside pouring over books. Leaving school at 16, she hated her first inside office job. But subsequent work on a poultry farm and later at the York Institute of Agriculture reinforced her love of animals and the outdoors. 

She joined the Royal Air Force during the 1950s, learning a trade in radar. After a stint with an electrical equipment company, she joined friends for that fateful trip to Canada. 

A magnificent blanket on Maureen’s bed is an evocative memento of her first two years in Canada teaching physical education in the Blackfoot Nation east of Calgary. The blanket was a gift from elder Rosario Redgun, who earlier “adopted” her and gave her a Blackfoot name equivalent to Blue-eyed Woman. Maureen hopes one day to finish a book, From Tipi to Trailer, inspired by these experiences. 

Her first job in the Cochrane area was caring for dogs, horses and other animals at the Ghost River Ranch. There followed a spell with the Red Cross, a trip back to England, then a return to the ranch. 

A tumble off a horse introduced her to Frank in 1967. He happened to be nearby when her horse reared backwards and he untangled her foot from the stirrup. 

“I really fell for him right there,” says Maureen. There’s that twinkle again. They married the following year. 

Together with Frank, a longtime Scout leader and owner of several sawmills, they spent countless hours rejuvenating scouting throughout the region. They lived on Jamieson Road, northwest of Cochrane, opening up their large home, with a firing range and games room, for young people in need of recreation. 

Frank, a keen hunter, had his Spaniels; Maureen her beloved Corgis. Their daughter, Kathy, was born in 1971, so she was only eight when Frank died in 1979. Still close to Maureen, she enjoys, with her husband, a career in monster truck driving, the only woman in Canada to manage that, according to proud Mom. 

In 1989, the two moved into Cochrane’s east end. All the time, Maureen kept up her involvement with scouting. She also drove a school bus for 17 years and, incidentally, became a Provincial Driving Champion. 

Numerous awards cover a wall in the apartment she moved to three years ago, reflecting her relentless advocacy for seniors and young people: Commonwealth Golden Jubilee Award, Citizen of the Year, scouting silver and gold medals, Provincial Seniors’ Service award are just some of them. Maureen is quick to deflect the glory. “I don’t win these alone. I work with other people, and that’s what makes it fun.” 

Amazingly, she still has time to play cards. For her spiritual restoration, nothing beats a quiet time in Kananaskis Country. Ask her what keeps her going, she replies: “I have to have something to go to bed and feel good about it.” 

She’s certainly living up to those ideals. 

Maureen Wills Obituary

This article from Cochrane Today contains many images of her long list of interests.

Stories of the Wild West

While researching other stories this week I came across this delightful YouTube channel by the M.D. of Bighorn called the oral history project.

CHAPS has a similar goal of capturing these family stories while there is still time. When you watch this video you’ll understand why we feel this is so important.

Erik Butters tells the story of how his maternal great-grandfather came to Alberta. Along his travels, he meets some of the most famous (infamous) people of the wild, wild west.

You have to watch this!!!

Get involved in saving our local history!

Our stories are worth telling and remembering. Click the button to get in touch if your family has a story to tell or you want to help in capturing these wonderful stories.

Read more

  1. Sundance Kid once worked as a Ranch hand on Bar U.
  2. Sundance Kid
  3. Sundance Kid Facebook
  4. Sundance Kid article – CHAPS also gets a mention

Calgary Stampede Chuckwagon Photos 1947-1948

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get in touch

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

Hooves of History 1990

In 1990, the Canadian Rodeo Historical Association (C.R.H.A.) and the Stockmen’s Memorial Foundation organized a fundraising cattle drive for the Western Heritage Centre to be built in Cochrane. The event is remembered in a video and book.

In 2020, the original VHS tape and a DVD copy was donated to the Cochrane Historical & Archival Preservation Society. (C.H.A.P.S) CHAPS is the umbrella organization that runs the Cochrane Historical Museum.

CHAPS goal is to educate the public about the town and area’s rich history.

Consequently, we thought the video would be a wonderful, very popular addition to our YouTube site. You can see the video by clicking below or by visiting our YouTube channel.

Please like and subscribe to our channel to see this and many other memories of Cochrane and Area.

Malcolm Mackenzie, a local artist and rancher donated stock, developed the event logo and created a bronze for fundraising.

He is also the creator of  the Man of Vision statue that stands in Cochrane Ranche.


Preparation for the massive event took 50 volunteers over 6 months. The day of the event over 200 volunteers, 100 media people, 53 wagons, and 1200 horses and riders took part.  2000 people were at the nightly camp.

Not all the cattle were used to people and pens

I’m struck by the wonderful images of the horses, cattle and wagons strung out along the foothills.

Participants and cattle came from the 3 western provinces, Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and 10 U.S. states.

Not all the wagons were the stereotypical chuck; not all the riders were cowboys.

Ivan Daines wrote a song for the drive and performed at one of the nightly stops.

Bert Sheppard, one of the last 3 surviving cowboys from the Bar U participated and was recognized at a closing event. He joined the Bar U in 1922.

Can you imagine the stories?

Ten thousand people greeted the Drive on the streets of Cochrane.

Not your normal traffic jam

Ernie Isley, Minister of Agriculture and Phil Gaglardi, Mayor of Kamloops and Reg Kesler, Cowboy and stock contractor spoke very highly of the event at closing ceremonies.

I think what you people pulled off is tremendous.

Ernie Isley, Minister of Agriculture Tweet

Hooves of History closed with a livestock auction, cowboy church, invitational rodeo, beer gardens, and car show.

A second Hooves of History fund raiser was held in 2001.  Read more about it here.


  1. Canadian Rodeo Historical Association
  2. Stockmen’s Memorial Foundation
  3. Eunice Reeve for a Christmas gift in 1990 of the Hooves of History Cattle Drive VHS tape
  4. Chris Konanz, of Blue Pixel Media for the creation of the digital copy, colourizing the video, correcting the audio and sharpening the video.
  5. All the images in this blog are from Hooves of History video
  6. I read Hooves of History 1990 Cattle Drive by Dorothy Willows as a reference. 
Book Cover Author, Editor Dorothy Willows

Wild Horses

This article by Jade Lewis appeared in the Cochrane Times.

We often tie the emergence of horses in the west to the colonial settlers, like Senator Matthew Cochrane, who imported the first Thoroughbred horse into western Canada. However, wild horses ran through this valley and were used by the indigenous people long before colonial settlers claimed Cochrane.

Contrary to popular belief, wild horses do not originate from the prehistoric North American horse, the last of which died out around 11,000 years ago. The wild horses we have today are actually escaped Spanish mustangs that were introduced to North America during the Spanish conquest. However, their previous domestication had little impact. The horses reverted to ancient behavioral patterns and evolved independently of the domestic horse.

Of course, during this time the genetic diversity of the wild horses was increased by other escaped domesticated horses. The horses in this area have intermingled with the good bloodstock of Thoroughbred, Arab and Quarter horses. This goes back to 1920 when a Ghost Forest Rancher raised 1,000 horses hoping to send them towards the war efforts. The war ended before he could send the horses, so instead, he set them loose.

The Stoney Nakoda nation has their own oral history of the wild horses on this land. The horse is a sacred animal for the Stoney people who say they were sent by the creator and accepted the responsibility of caring for the human race. It is believed that wild horses came from the water, from the lakes in the mountains. Their account describes the horses as having been first found around Kananaskis Lake.

For the Stoney people, the use of horses meant that many tasks such as hunting, trapping or traveling no longer had to be done on foot. The Stoney people traveled their territory from camp to camp and had originally used dog packs to carry supplies and the large tipi poles. Many elders recount the transition from this way of transport to the use of both the tamed wild horses and dogs to move camp.

“ The spirit of the horse is key to the survival of the first nations people; they rely on the spirit of every animal that the great spirit provided here on earth,” said Stoney knowledge holder Hank Snow. Today, the wild horses continue to roam the prairies, though their existence is threatened by decreasing habitat and looming culls. The Ghost Forest area in the most recent count has about 50 wild horses while the Central Foothills has 250. The voices of the Stoney elders echo a warning that the wild horses should be left alone in their environment, they should remain free so that they can be preserved for future generations. A living symbol of the importance of horses in this area long before homesteads.

Virtual Tour of Cochrane Historical Museum

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

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

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

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

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

We thank everyone who contributed to the project including:

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

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

Inglis Ranch Research

Bill Watts of Ottawa recently asked if we knew of the Inglis Ranch. Frank Hennessey did some research and found an article in Big Hill Country.

CAPTAIN AND MRS. INGLIS – by Jo Hutchinson 

William Mason Inglis, who was generally known as Captain Inglis, owned land north of Cochrane along Beaver Dam Creek. He received title to SW1/4 17-28-3-5 in 1907, the S 1/2 of section 8 in the same township in 1908, and the adjoining NW1/4 in 1912. This land is now the property of the Jansen family. It should be understood that he could have been living on his land, and possibly homesteading a part of it, a number of years before the title was registered. He received title to SW1/4 32-27-3-5 in 1910, and sold it to Ernie Bell the following year. 

SW 17 28 3 W5

Captain Inglis was a veteran of the Boer War. His army saddle, that shows the mark of bullets, is now owned by Walter Hutchinson. It may be presumed that Captain Inglis left the Cochrane area to serve in the Boer War, since he did live here before its outbreak in 1899. 

He was a prominent Thoroughbred breeder and at one time is believed to have a had a race track on his land, although it was probably only used by him, and his neighbour, R. F. Bevan. Captain Inglis took an active part in the operation of the Cochrane race track; he also entered horses in the races, and on occasion, rode in events himself, 

During World War One Captain Inglis sold a number of horses to the Canadian Army for use in cavalry regiments. He and R. F. Bevan would trail the horses to Cochrane, where they were purchased by Army representatives and shipped by train to the East. 

Records of All Saints Anglican Church, Cochrane, show that Captain Inglis was appointed to the Vestry in 1899, serving as People’s Warden. As he lived about 25 miles from Mitford, where the church was located until later that year, attendance at church would have been dependent upon a fast team on the buggy, or a good saddlehorse. Communication with the far-flung parishioners would have been difficult, too, without the benefit of telephones or automobiles. 

Captain and Mrs. Inglis had three children, Ian, Robin and Evelyn. He sold out during the early 1920s, and it is believed that the family returned to England. Attempts at locating the family have proved unsuccessful. 

The Inglis family are remembered north of Cochrane; when a Post Office was opened at McCrady’s, it was officially named Inglis. The school district that was organized in that area was also named Inglis. The site chosen for Inglis School was on land originally owned by Captain Inglis. 

ROBERT INGLIS – by Jo Hutchinson 

Robert Chalmers Inglis received title to NW14 16-28-3-5 in 1891. The title was transferred to R. F. Bevan in 1898, and the land is now the property of the Leonard Beddoes family. 

It is believed that Robert (Bob) Inglis was related to Captain Inglis, and that he was a bachelor. There may have been several members of the Inglis family living in the Calgary area around 1900, since there are seven people by that name listed in the 1907 Brand Registry, all of whose addresses were listed as either Okotoks or Calgary. 

INGLIS SCHOOL – by D. M. McDonald 

The Inglis School District was formed in 1917, after a great deal of debate between the parents of school-age children and the many local residents who had none. Ernie Bell, who had three school-age children, and the Irish Kings, also with three, were the chief advocates for the formation of a new school district, as the nearest schools to these families were Weedon, Summit Hill or Lochend. After much discussion with Alberta Government representatives, the district was formed, and was named Inglis in honor of Captain Inglis, a veteran of the Boer War, and a local resident. 

In the spring of 1917, the contract to build the school was let to Dan Fenton, and by the fall of that year the school was ready to open. It was the first of the new style of schools that was built in the Cochrane area. Most of one side of the school was windows. 

The first teacher was Miss Ruby Wood, from Calgary. She boarded with the Ernie Bells, who just lived down the hill below the school, which was located on the SW corner of the Bell’s land, the SW14 32-37-3-5. The first pupils to enroll were three of the Irish King children, three of the Bells, the two Malcolm girls, John Milligan, Eric North and Douglas McDonald. The only one of these students in the Cochrane district at the present time is John Milligan. 

The Bells moved away shortly after the school was opened. Eric North, who had been staying with the Bells, also left, so the enrollment was sharply reduced, then the Ferguson family moved into the district; they had two school-age girls who attended. There was never a large enrollment at Inglis School, and it was closed periodically owing to a lack of students. At one time it was kept open for four students.

 Miss Lila Webster from Cochrane taught at Inglis for a time. She later married Tom Cairns. Miss Collier boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Angus McDonald while she taught there; Miss Janet Smith, who was related to the McCradys, boarded with them. She married Harry Jones. Miss Eva Whittle, who later married Ernie Peppard, boarded with the Edgar Youngs. As far as is known, other teachers at Inglis, not necessarily named in order, were Mr. Millar, Miss Wilson, and Miss Catherine Zuccolo. 

Angus McDonald and Ab McCrady were among those who took an active part in the operation of the school, serving as trustees for many years. 

The Inglis School was moved to Cochrane and used as an auxiliary classroom during the late 1940s. Later it was moved to the skating rink, to be used as a dressing room for several years.

Update from Bill Watts

FYI – he’s buried at Calgary, died suddenly in 1912. He was wounded in action in the Boer War (shot in the leg).

All Saints Anglican Church

This article originally appeared in More Big Hill Country 1999, Page 99.

In the early days in the Cochrane area, the spiritual needs of the community around the countryside were served by a visiting minister. Neighbours gathered in a local home and services were generally held by a son or a visiting minister who would arrive by horse and buggy or on horseback.

The Bow River, in the Cochrane, Mitford, Morley area were proved a bit of a disadvantage as there were no bridges to cross and everyone had to rely on certain areas that were safe enough to ford and that the river was low at the time. However, it appears that the people met regularly in various homes to worship, whether the Minister or Priest was present, or not. 

With the growing community of Mitford, it appears that people were meeting in a building or home at Mitford. It was decided to petition the Bishop of Calgary for permission to build an Anglican Church at Mitford, Rupert’s Land. 

Thus Lady Adela Cochrane (no relation to Cochrane Ranche) and other residents of the nearby district began the one hundred and fourteen-year history of All Saints Anglican Church in 1891. 

“To the Right Reverend Father in God, Cyprian, by Devine Permission, Bishop of Calgary: 

“The humble petitions of the Rev. W.F. Webb, BA, Curate-in-Charge, Thomas Cochrane, Lady Adela Cochrane, Robert Cowan, Frank White, W.D. Kerfoot and others, resident of the mission district of Mitford, Alberta, N.W.T., whose names and signatures are hereunto subscribed, for themselves, and in the name of the members of the Church of England in Rupert’s Land residing in and around Mitford … members of All Saints Congregation, within Your Lordship’s Diocese and jurisdiction showeth: 

“That a certain parcel of land containing half an acre, as fully described in deed of same, has been given absolutely and entirely by Thomas B. Cochrane and William Brabizon Lindsay Toler, Earl of Norbury, Trustees of the Canada Northwest Coal and Lumber Syndicate Limited, for purposes of a burial ground and erection of a church in connection with the Church of England in Rupert’s Land and are desirous to have it set apart from all profane and common use whatsoever. 

Your Petitioners, therefore, in their own names and the names of the constituents, do humbly beseech Almighty God to accept of this their sincere intent and purpose and do humbly pray that your Lordship will be pleased to separate the said portion of land from all profane uses and to dedicate and consecrate the same for the purposes of Christian burial in connection with the Parish of All Saints Mitford.” 

“And your petitioners will ever pray.” 

The following signatures are listed on the petition: W.F. Webb, B.A., Thomas B.H. Cochrane, Adela Cochrane, Adriana Macbean Kerfoot, W.D. Kerfoot, Ella M. Cowan, Robert W. Cowan, F. White, H.C. Hickling. 

Bishop Pinkham evidently received the petition favourably for, in 1892, All Saints Anglican Church was built at Mitford. 

Lady Adela Cochrane was instrumental in raising money for the church’s construction. She collected many funds in England and a grant of twenty pounds sterling was sent by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge in England. A few parishioners also gave donations. 

The site chosen was on the north side of the Bow River, on a small hill, northeast of the few houses and buildings that already existed. The building was constructed of native wood from Tom Cochrane’s sawmill. The total cost was fifteen hundred dollars and most of the work was probably done by volunteer labour. Eleven pews, the altar and lectern were built by Tom Cochrane, Stephen Brisco made the motto, “Cease not to give thanks” which was hung above the altar. Some years later, the motto was carved on a piece of polished wood and hung in place of the original. 

Stained glass windows were shipped out from England and Lady Adela’s friends and relations contributed many of the furnishings. The beautifully carved Bishop’s chair was given by Mrs. King, who lived in the Beaupre district in later years. The carved seat at the back of the church was one of Lady Adela’s gifts. A purple cloth was embroidered by Mrs. John Phipps and the white Communion cloth was given by Lady Adela’s sister. Mrs. Hickling embroidered a white silk cloth. A Communion Set was given by Mrs. Carr Rayden, mother of James Rayden, who homesteaded on Horse Creek. Mrs. Rayden may also have given the pair of candlesticks. 

Like other pioneer churches in Alberta at the time, All Saints was a very simple structure. One storey, fifteen wide by thirty feet long, it is a rectangular, steeply pitched gable-roofed structure with ship-lap wood siding. The church building is distinguished by the quality of workmanship on both the exterior and the interior. A bell and tower summoned the parishioners to church. 

The new church was consecrated on All Saints Day, November 1, 1892, with Bishop Pinkham, Rev. Webb and Rev. Cooper in attendance. The churchyard was also consecrated at that time. The records show that the first baptism was held on October 23, 1892, when James William, infant son of Walter and Frances Jones was christened in the new church. Service was conducted by Rev. A.W. Cooper, Rural Dean of Calgary and his sponsors were Alfred Foster and Annie Shaw. The Parish register lists twenty-four other children baptized at All Saints, Mitford. 

The history of All Saints Church is to a great extent recorded in the minutes of meetings held since January 1, 1893. On January 1, at the closing of Divine Service, a meeting with the Rev. Cooper, Rural Dean of Calgary in the Chair, was held with the following steps taken for the purpose of the organization: the Chairman appointed Mr. Thomas B. Cochrane as Incumbent’s Warden and the parishioners elected Mr. Frank White, Merino Ranch, People’s Warden. The following were elected Vestrymen: Mr. Horace Hickling, Mr. R.W. Cowan, and Mr. S. Hambly 

The minutes of 1894 were not copied into the Minute Book and it was found impossible to hold a meeting in 1895. However, at a meeting of the parishioners on May 10, 1896, it was moved by R.W. Cowan and seconded by R. Smith that the churchyard be surveyed and laid out in a proper manner for a permanent burying ground. Again in 1897 and 1898 no minutes were entered in the minute book thus information of the church at Mitford is scant. 

Records do show however that the only Confirmation Service conducted at All Saints Mitford was held on December 1, 1895. The candidates were John Haigh, Mary Alice Haigh, Thomas Haigh, Walter George Bestwick, Laura Phipps and George Wills. The Bishop of Calgary, Right Reverend Cyprian Pinkham conducted the service. There were five marriages solemnized at all Saints Church, Mitford. The first was that of William Gray and Maggie McMullan, both of Springbank on April 23, 1893, then; Andrew Franklin Sibbald of Morley and Janet Emily Johnstone of Cochrane, on November 23, 1893; Charles Mortimer and Emily Wainwright, both of Mitford were married on June 11, 1894 and on December 26, 1893 was James Sweet Carr Rayden and Agnes Evelyn Phipps. The last couple married at All Saints Mitford was Richard Copithorne of Jumping Pound and Sophia Wills of Springbank on June 12, 1895. Rev. W.F. Webb officiated at all the services. Rev. Webb also conducted the first marriage ceremony after All Saints was moved to Cochrane when Charles Perrenoud and Laura Phipps were married on April 2, 1902. 

According to the Register of Burials, the first burial to take place at Mitford was that of Francis Bell-Irving aged three, who died on March 21, 1896. Two burial services had been conducted at all Mitford, those of Elizabeth and Clara Webb. on March 19 and May 8, 1894, respectively, but interred near the Elbow River. Reason given: no cemetery near. Mitford cemetery was used until 1910 the burial being that of Francis Coombes on Jun 22 1910. Others buried in the Mitford cemetery are:

  • William Joseph Wade, 1859 – 1896; 
  • Peter Robert Wainwright 1846-1899; 
  • Mary E. Wainwright, 1846 – 1900;
  • George Bevan, 1837 – 1901; 
  • infant McEwan, 1901: 
  • Richard Smith, 1858 – 1902,; 
  • infants Evelyn Annie and Mary Elizabeth Townsend, 1902; 
  • Frank Woodhead. 1905. 
  • James William Jones, 1892 – 1905; 
  • John William 1873 – 1909. 

The years 1890 and 1899 proved to be fateful for Mitford as a disastrous fire swept through the area destroying many buildings and causing a large number of people to leave. 

By 1896 the Cochrane’s had returned to England and the All Saints Records indicate that the Parish of All Saints almost died with the town of Mitford. Finances were low, church attendance was poor as no doubt many of the original supporters of the church had already left the area. 

At the Annual Meeting on April 2, 1899, the parishioners of All Saints decided, at the urging of their priest, the Reverend W.Eugene-Perrin, to move the church to the little village of Cochrane. 

“The Chairman then stated that since the town of Mitford was dead and All Saints Church left alone by itself, he had sounded the feeling of the people with regard to its removal to Cochrane; the Bishop had just telegraphed authority for the removal and the Cochrane Townsite Co. had presented a lot. It was next decided (for the Bishop’s approval) that the name of the Parish should be changed from All Saints Mitford to All Saints Cochrane.” 

No records remain to indicate who was involved in moving the church building however it was almost certain that it was volunteers. Twelve teams of horses were used and that the building was transported on to rollers, to what was to become, in time, the corner Second Avenue and Second Street in Cochrane.” land had formerly been designated as CPR land was donated to the Town in 1902. It was a slow arduous task as each log would have been removed from behind the building and placed in front of it as the church rolled over the logs. One observer related the difficulties involved when the church got stuck on the Big Hill Creek Bridge, west of Cochrane. This is certainly possible but not a proven fact. Various other reports suggest there

was a considerable delay and a great deal of difficulty involved in the move. Lady Adela Cochrane, then living England, is said to have refused to believe that Mitford was dead and vigorously opposed the removal of the church. 

At any rate, the records show that the first service following relocation of the church was held on April 30. just twenty-eight days after the decision to move it was made. 

From the Minute Book: 

On the fourth Sunday after Easter, April 30, 1899, His Lordship Cyprian (Right Reverend Bishop Cuprian Pinkham) Calgary, reopened the Parish of All Saints Church Cochrane, which had been moved the previous week from Mitford. The congregation numbered thirty-two. This was due to a stiff blizzard and snow which may be calculated by the fact that it took Richard Smith and George Reid four hours to come from two miles the other side of the Phipps ranch to attend the baptism of R.Smith’s son. The incumbent drove His Lordship to Calgary at 4:30 pm, the blizzard still blowing.” 

In 1899, Cochrane consisted of a few buildings scattered along main street paralleling the railway line. All Saints rested alone on the treeless, undeveloped flatland to the north of the existing buildings. 

Artist depiction of the church move in 1899  painting by Agnes Hutchinson 

Following the relocation of the church and the renaming of the parish to All Saints Cochrane, the records show many ups and downs in the finances, attendance and other affairs of the parish through the year. 

After 1905 a new trend became evident: for the first time, ladies were present, and took part in the business of the meetings. However, their presence was not officially recognized until the annual meeting of 1908 when the ladies were allowed to vote in matters of the church. 

This was long before women were allowed the vote by law. 

As the population of Cochrane grew and the church became more established, All Saints became home to a Missionary Society, a Sunday school and an Anglican Church Women’s group, known as the Ladies’ Guild. The first mention of the Ladies Guild was made in the minutes of a meeting held on July 30, 1909. 

Between 1909 and 1913, many members of the Ladies’ Guild (mostly rancher’s wives) left town. This was likely due to the fact that rural families no longer had to live in the town during the school year now that rural school districts were being established. 

Luckily, the women’s commitment to the church was strong even without representation. 

All Saints parish and the wider community of Cochran suffered many financial hardships in the years following the church’s relocation and it was largely thanks to the parish ladies that the church community was able to struggle on. Money had to be found for repairs, insurance, lighting and the priest’s stipend. 

Much of the necessary maintenance work was carried out by volunteers from the parish but many times the Ladies Guild raised funds to cover church expenses such as those needed for a stone foundation in 1905, and a much needed exterior paint job in 1911. The ladies did this, as they do now, by entertaining, holding “box socials” (where decorated lunch-boxes were auctioned off to the highest bidder), concerts and other entertainments. Later the ladies took on the extra cost of insurance premiums, incurred after electricity was installed in the church. 

The First World War took its toll, as described by the Reverend J.P. Dingle: 

“1916 was for us a year of just carrying and keeping things going. We feel the loss of familiar faces, some removed by death, others away doing their duty. Our church has been hard hit by the war in many ways.” 

Electricity was finally installed in 1914, but at times the supply was cut off “until further notice” because of unpaid bills.

After the war came the Depression and parish finances remained in very poor shape. In 1930 the Books showed a balance of $1.43. As usual, any urgent maintenance work was done by members of the Parish to save money. 

In 1921 the church was closed for six months due to lack of funds and again in 1953 after sharing a priest with Canmore and having a service every other Sunday, the church was closed for two years. Likely this was due to the difficulty of finding a priest to conduct services in Cochrane. 

The Ladies’ Guild never ceased to exist but was officially re-established at All Saints in 1954 as the Anglican Church Women. It was strong and active for many years contributing greatly to the financial and social needs of the parish.

In 1956 Cochrane became part of the parish of Exshaw and Canmore and once a month services were officiated by the Reverend O. Foster, the incumbent at Canmore. When the Reverend T.F Wright took over St. Michael’s in Canmore services in Cochrane became more frequent until he was taking regular weekly services as well as celebrating Holy Communion on All Saints days and other occasions. The Cochrane Masonic Lodge presented an organ to the church in 1958

By 1963, there were seventy families on the parish roll and a Sunday school had been established. The parish budget rose from $300 to $2500 and many improvements were made to the church. A new gas furnace was installed, the wood floors sanded and refinished, a carpet was laid and the exterior was repainted. 

It was not until 1966, and a decision to invest in a rectory, that the parish of All Saints Cochrane finally acquired its own incumbent priest. This was a discussion that had been ongoing since 1909. Finally, in 1966, a rectory was purchased and the Rev. Douglas Blackwell and his family moved into 110 Cochrane Crescent. Subsequent residents in the rectory were Rev. Alan Howes (1970 1972) and Canon Leonard Hill (1972-1978). In 1978, the parishioners had a mortgage burning ceremony when the rectory was fully paid for and they put a torch to the last bill. 

The Rev. David Asher followed Canon Hill in December 1978 as a deacon and then remained as a priest in charge from 1979–1981. Bishop Douglas Ford arrived in October 1981, having recently retired as Bishop of Saskatoon. He and his wife Dorothy remained in the rectory during the four years of his incumbency. 

A much-needed parish hall was built onto the original church structure in 1984 during Bishop Ford’s tenure. It was named Ford Hall in his honour. 

Succeeding Bishop Ford in 1985, the Reverend Richard Lemmon served All Saints as parish priest until 1990 when the Reverend Derek Dunwoody came to us from Ireland, via Winnipeg and Didsbury. Since he did not need the rectory it was sold and the proceedings were put into a Diocesan Trust Fund for future use. Derek Dunwoody’s focus during his incumbency was to introduce parishioners to some of the ideas of more modern Christian thinkers and to some of the ways in which the Anglican Church is evolving. 

In 1992, the members of All Saints celebrated the 100th anniversary of their church’s consecration. The celebration kicked off with a pancake community hall, followed by a wonderful special service of commemoration with soul-inspiring music. 

It was soon after this milestone that the congregation and vestry members decided to work with a consultant to help them re-examine the parish’s mission and role in the community. After exhaustive discussion, several surveys and many evening meetings at homes the congregation envisioned All Saints as “a thriving and expanding Christian community embodying God’s welcoming presence and offering healing, hope and inspiration to those who seek them.” 

In 1999. All Saint’s celebrated another centennial, anniversary of the church’s “rebirth” as the Anglican parish church of Cochrane, Alberta. Over the previous 100 years, the 15 by 30-foot building had become a focal point of downtown Cochrane, one of the oldest surviving buildings in a town whose population exceeded 10.000 people.

Although the church still served a thriving community it’s small size had become problematic, making it difficult to grow, or even celebrate those occasions such weddings and funerals that are part of the life of any church community. Many ideas to overcome the span problem were considered, including building onto the church or buying land on which to erect a new facility but nothing came of these ideas despite many attempts to reach a consensus. 

After ten years of service, Derek Dunwoody left All Saints in order to retire in 2001. Several interim priests filled in for many months and became an integral part of our parish until the current incumbent, the Reverend Greg Clark became our new priest in September 2002. 

A solution to the problem of the All Saints’ growing congregation came in 2004 when the members of Cochrane’s Roman Catholic Church, St Mary’s decided that they, too, had outgrown their church building and offered our congregation the opportunity to purchase their beautiful facility up on the hill on 5th Avenue. After making the decision to move, the parishioners of All Saints decided that, if possible, their historic little church building should stay in the community of Cochrane and continue to function as a sacred place. 

These wishes were fulfilled when representatives from Cochrane’s Bethany Care Centre expressed a need for a place of worship for the elderly residents With support from the Anglican congregation, Bethany Foundation, the Town of Cochrane and many donations from near and far, our small wooden was moved once more. Not by a team of horses this time, but by a house moving truck, to its new home on Quigley Drive and the Bethany Care Centre. It is not For from its original home at Mitford. Sitting on a small wise on the grounds, attached to the Bethany Care Centre, our church continues to serve as a cherished place of spiritual reflection for people of all faiths among residents, staff and the wider community. 

The congregation of All Saints worshiped in the gymnasium of the Holy Spirit School for three years, in anticipation of the move into our future home up on the hill. During this time of transition, the congregation has continued to reflect on the kind of church it wants to be within the thriving community of Cochrane. At the start of the new millennium, parish members came to the conclusion that people are looking for a base community to help them live more meaningfully and humanely in their families or household units, as well as within the larger society. 

After having their services for three years in the school auditorium, they finally moved to their new home on the hill, formerly St. Mary’s Catholic Church. They had their first service in the “new” All Saints Anglican Church on March 25, 2007. How delighted they were! some changes, painting and upkeep were made. They the pleased that a Daycare for Cochrane will be opened in the former Rectory soon. They plan to continue to embrace and serve their community. 

They welcome newcomers to their church. 

Cochrane Ranche 1977 Photo

George Teply provided this photo of the current Cochrane Ranche site from Cochrane Heights from 1977. You can see the Gilbert Ranch buildings as well as what I believe is the brickyard pit in the background.

Here is an article from by Noel Edey in Cochrane Now about the current archeological dig and future construction of the intersection.

A Day at the Track

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

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

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

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


The Rhodes Brothers

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

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

Crowd in front of Pari-Mutual Betting Buidling

Red Pollard & Johnny Longden

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

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

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

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

Creameries in the Cochrane Area

Many of the stories this month have been of short term businesses. I want to finish off the month with a story about a long time land mark and successful business the Cochrane Creamery. But did you know, there was a another earlier Creamery in the area.

An 80 Year Industry By Jo Hutchinson 

The availability of a steady income, however small, was one of the greatest problems faced by pioneer settlers. Frequently the shortage of cash forced men into off-farm employment, sometimes at a distance from home. This could cause great hardships for his wife and family, and often resulted in the neglect of the farm they were trying to develop. 

When D.M. Ratcliffe built a creamery at the present location of Big Hill Springs Provincial Park in the 1890s, an important industry was begun in the Cochrane area. Settlers were able to eke out a steady income from milking cows and selling cream. There was a growing demand for butter, in railroad construction camps and in towns that were being established. 

Difficult access to Ratcliffe’s, later Brealey’s creamery, due to the steep surrounding hills, was probably the reason for its closure, and the establishment of a creamery in Cochrane about the year 1910. 

The Cochrane Creamery Association was formed by a number of farmer-shareholders. At first the creamery was on the present site of the Shell Service Station. In about 1921 it was moved west to a location on the banks of Big Hill Creek, immediately north of the 1A Highway. 

It is believed that Jim Loughery was hired as manager of the Creamery when it opened. He had previously managed a cheese factory, and later a creamery, at Bottrel; presumably it closed when Cochrane’s facility was started. Mr. Loughery had a brick house built in 1910 near the west end of Main Street. Legend has it that he used to walk to Bottrel on weekends to visit his fiancée, Irene Atkinson. They lived all their married life in this house, which is still standing and has undergone renovation.

During the 1930s, the Lougherys purchased the Creamery from its shareholders. The business served a wide area; for years Mrs. Loughery’s brother, Sam Atkhinson, hauled cream from farms as far away as Bottrel and Dog Pound, while other farmers delivered it directly. There was a big stack of cream cans on the platform outside the Creamery door; each shipper had two or more cans with their name and the letters CCA painted on. When they delivered cream, they found their empty on the stack and took it home for refilling. 

Most farms had poor facilities for keeping the daily accumulation of cream; some cans were hung down the well, while the odd farm was lucky enough to have a spring near the house which could be utilized for keeping the cream cool. In other cases, it just soured, in which case the grade was reduced and it was priced lower. Butter makers at most creameries had numerous anecdotes about what was found at the bottom of cream cans. However, health regulations were scanty and dubious additives such as mice or the odd lost dishcloth just added to the flavour of the ensuing butter. Regardless of occasional disturbing “finds”, the Cochrane Creamery took many awards over the years for its butter.

For a number of years, the buttermilk was sold to Beynon and Davies, who had a dairy and hog operation near the present site of the Cochrane Ranche House. 

Jim Loughery died in 1938 and in 1939, Sam Peverell, a nephew of Irene Loughery, became the manager of the Creamery. He purchased it from his aunt in 1954. Sam and his wife Muriel were Cochrane residents until the Creamery was closed and sold in 1975. The last churning took place in December 1974. By then there were few area farmers who wished to ship cream, as agriculture had changed direction. Small mixed farms were no longer a means of making a living, and ranching, hay or grain operations had taken over. Another chapter in the history of the development of Alberta closed. 

An interesting anecdote regarding the parking area at the Creamery is the fact that it was often filled with unlicensed vehicles during the Depression years. Farmers would bring their cream in and leave their vehicles at the Creamery while they walked into Cochrane for groceries. Apparently, the police turned a blind eye to illegally driven vehicles outside the village limits! 

Cochrane Creamery Limited

The First Creamery in Big Hill Country By Jon Hutchison Reprinted from Bill Hill Country 

In the early 1890s, D. M. Ratcliffe established a creamery straddling the line between the NW and the NE Sec 29 Twp 26 Range 3 W5M, beside the spring-fed creek which flows into Big Hill Creek. This site is in the present Big Hills Springs Provincial Park. This creamery is believed to be the first to produce butter in what is now the Province of Alberta. 

The Ratcliffe children attended school at Mitford. It is not known how long Ratcliffe operated the creamery or to what extent he built it up before selling to Brealey (Breeley) and moved to the Red Deer, Alberta area. From the records at Land Titles office, it is apparent that neither Ratcliffe nor Brealey held title to the land. The first registered owner was D. P. McDonald in 1919.

No record remains of how long Brealey operated the creamery but it must have been quite a few years, as the creek generally came to be known as Brealey Springs. It was not until years later that the name “Big Hill Springs” was substituted. 

Brealey had a complete set of farm buildings and corrals as well as the creamery. A part of the stream was channelled along the hillside in a ditch to the mouth of the coulee and then down a flume to the Pelton wheel, which supplied the power for churning the butter. The clear cold water was also the refrigerant for the cream and butter. Some local help was employed. 

First Creamery 1890

During the time the creamery was in operation, there was no road down the Big Hill Creek valley. The butter was hauled by wagon or democrat across Big Hill Creek through a shallow rocky ford, then south and east along the lower slope of the main valley and then up a narrow dry coulee to the east. From there it was hauled to Calgary, or possibly Mitford, and later Cochrane. Almost no trace of the old trail remains. 

From the northwest there was a trail of sorts that curved steeply down the point of the hill There is a story of one farmer, bringing his cans of cream by team and democrat down the tricky trail, who had the misfortune to have his rig tip over. One can imagine the unfortunate driver, himself dumped down the hill, still clinging to the lines, and trying to keep the spooked team from running away with what was left of his democrat, while his hard-earned cream went spilling down the hill. 

Until the mid-1940s, some evidence of the old creamery was still in existence. Part of the old ditch and parts of old building foundations could still be seen. Some of the sandstone slabs, part of the barn floor, were also visible. 

It seems a shame that the old name “Brealey Springs” was dropped. The name “Big Hill Springs” is not really correct. It is located 5 or 6 miles from the Big Hill. Big Hill Creek got its name from the fact that it enters the Bow Valley at the foot of the Big Hill. 

First Creamery built 1890

The Cochrane Creamery Association and The Cochrane Creamery By James Whittle 

On Saturday, March 13, 1909, Mr. C. Marker, the provincial Dairy Commissioner, held a meeting in Cochrane to provide information about the establishment of a creamery. However, it was not until late in 1910 that things got started in earnest. At that time, the firm of Marlatt & Clark of Fort Atkinson Wisconsin was building a creamery at Cardston. At the invitation of the Cochrane Board of Trade, the firm surveyed farmers and dairymen of the Cochrane district in December 1910 and determined that there was sufficient interest, shareholders willing to put up capital for construction, and farmers with cows to supply the milk. A site was to secured at the west edge of town, at what is now the northwest corner of 1st Street and 5th Avenue. A well was dug, and on Monday, March 20, 1911, construction began. The completed building was opened for inspection i on Monday, May 8, 1911. Meanwhile, The Cochrane I Creamery Association was organized under the provisions of the provincial Dairymen’s Act, the necessary declaration having been filed on April 20, 1911. The first Board was elected at a meeting of the shareholders on May 22, 1911. It consisted of J. Cook, President, N. Phelps, Vice-President, J. A. Campbell, Treasurer, G. A. Stringer, Secretary, and J. C. Craig, W. Steel, W. Milligan, and S. Spicer, Directors. 

The Board had difficulty in arranging for operating funds, with the result that the Creamery did not open for business until the middle of April 1912. By that time, a new Board of Directors was in control, having been elected at the annual meeting of shareholders on February 10. 1912: J.G. Tweed. Earle Whittle. J. A Campbell, J. Cook (President), G. Claxton, D. McEcheren, and S. Spicer. The Creamery was briefly under the management of Mr. L. Pilon, but on May 23 The Cochrane Advocate announced that Mr. J. W. Loughery had taken over. Despite a promising start, the first season was a disaster. A major customer, The Alberta Ice Cream Co., went bankrupt, some produce shipments were not paid for, and some patrons went unpaid for cream delivered. The Creamery closed for the winter at the end of September and did not open for business in 1913. 

In 1914, a fresh start was made. The annual meeting of shareholders on Tuesday, February 3, 1914, elected a Board consisting of Earle H. Whittle, President, J. Campbell, Vice-President, J. Cook, Secretary, and J. Elder and D. Morrison, Directors. Patrons agreed to accept 50 cents on the dollar in settlement of outstanding accounts, and the Creamery opened for business on 

May 18, 1914. The manager for the 1914 and 1915 seasons (the Creamery closed in the winter of 1914-15) was George Neilson, apparently a capable, conscientious creamery man who placed the operation on a solid footing. He aimed to create a steady market by giving the consumer a better grade of butter than they could obtain elsewhere. His high standards raised questions and complaints from local cream producers, but in the issue of September 8, 1915. The Cochrane Advocate reported that Cochrane Creamery butter had won first prize and a gold medal at the Brandon fair. 

Two significant events took place in the fall of 1915. At the beginning of October, George Neilson resigned and Jim Loughery returned, beginning his 20-year tenure as manager. And the Creamery commenced year-round operation, remaining open throughout the winter of 1915-16, and continuously thereafter. A cheque to Sam Spicer dated February 20, 1919, reproduced in Big Hill Country, representing his “2nd Creamery Dividend and Bonus,” indicates that by that time the operation was financially secure. 

The supply of water at the Creamery site soon proved inadequate, and a second well, drilled in February 1917, didn’t solve the problem. So it was decided to move the Creamery to a site west of town, on the east bank of Big Hill Creek. Big Hill Country records that this was Bob Beynon’s “first big carpenter’s job” after he came to Canada in 1920. The move probably took place in the winter of 1920-21, for, at a meeting of the Cochrane Social and Athletic Club on September 14, 1921, the Creamery Association was able to offer the use of the old Creamery site” for the building of a skating rink. 

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the steady income from the Creamery was sustaining for many farm families in the area. But many shareholders saw better use for their money and sold out to Jim Loughery. Earle Whittle, still the president of the Cochrane Creamery Association, died on November 8, 1936, and Jim Loughery died about the same time. Loughery’s widow Irene emerged as the sole owner of the Creamery. The Association passed from the scene, and the Creamery operated from that point onward as a private business under the name Cochrane Creamery Limited. 

Sydney Reed had joined the staff of the Creamery in 1935 as a butter maker, working with Jim Loughery. When Loughery died, his widow Irene first engaged her brother Sam Atkinson as manager. But Atkinson wished to return to his farm at Bottrel, so, in 1939, Sam and Muriel Peverell moved to Cochrane, and Sam Peverell replaced Sam Atkinson as manager. Sam Peverell was Irene’s nephew, the son of her sister Elizabeth. Peverell and Reed operated the business through the war years and after. When it became apparent that Peverell planned to take over the Creamery (which he did in 1954, purchasing it from his Aunt Irene) Reed moved in 1953 to the creamery in Okotoks, where he worked as butter maker until his death in 1958. 

Sam continued to operate the creamery with his son Brian and they collected many awards for their butter, known quite widely. CCC Butter was the consumer’s choice. 

The churns of the Cochrane Creamery ceased to turn around 1970, and Peverell developed a domestic milk supply and delivery business. In December 1974, he sold the building and business to Mel Roland, who in turn sold out to the provincial government, to round out the boundaries of the Cochrane Ranche Provincial Historic Site, which opened in May 1979. 

The Creamery building was demolished to make way for the Park. But the Cochrane Legacy Statue unveiled on June 17, 2003, the one-hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of the town, includes a reproduction of a Cochrane Creamery Association cream can to serve as an enduring reminder of an institution that for sixty years contributed in an important way to the economy of the Cochrane District.  

Graham’s Pharmacy

We hope you’ve enjoyed this months daily dose of history. We have a couple more to tell before month end. Then, we’ll be out enjoying the spring.

This article about Graham’s Pharmacy from “More Big Hill Country” is one of the best stories of small town Cochrane. 

“Big Hill Country” was published in 2009. The story is presented here as it was printed.

In 1955 Bob and Alice Graham sold their home and furnishings in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, packed up their wedding presents, their two red cats and headed to Calgary. They had no idea what the future would hold for them. 

Bob was a pharmacist and Alice was a Registered Nurse. 

The Graham’s purchased Hart’s Drug Store in Cochrane, Alberta, a small town in cattle ranching country, located fifteen miles west of Calgary, Alberta on what was then the number 1 Highway. The pharmacy proved to be the closest thing to a first aid station or emergency ward for the people of Cochrane. The nearest doctors and hospitals were located in Calgary. 

When the new Trans-Canada highway was constructed in 1958 it was a blow to the Town of Cochrane as it would bypass all the communities until it joined the 1A Highway four miles outside of Banff, Alberta. 

The Graham’s chose to remain in Cochrane. They reduced the long hours they had been open from 9 am to 10 pm every day of the week, from 10 am to 6 pm and closed on Sundays and Wednesday afternoons. Most all of the businesses in Cochrane were closed on Wednesday afternoons at that time. 

Ice cream sales, which had been so brisk during the Hart’s time, decreased significantly and a big day for prescriptions never exceeded six to ten. Two-digit figures on the cash register were an everyday occurrence for nearly three years. Although business wasn’t booming their medical knowledge was being tested to the limit. 

The Graham’s had met Dewey Blaney when he was an employee of the Gordon Callaway. Dewey had at one time been a part-time policeman for the village. His job, as the Graham’s knew him, was the official town gravedigger. Periodically the job was too heavy for him so he hired Bert Lancons to help. Bert was never very good on his feet and one morning he fell into a grave, gashing his head. The grave had to be dug on time as Dewey was dedicated to his job. He packed newspapers on Bert’s head to soak up the blood and covered it tightly with a plastic vegetable bag, the only supplies available for such an emergency in Dewey’s tool shed at the cemetery. At noon they finished digging and walked the mile and a half into town to the pharmacy. 

When Alice carefully removed Bert’s skullcap, she was shocked to see another skullcap at least a half-inch thick of congealed blood with the classified section beautifully stamped on it. Underneath that layer was an exposed pumping bleeder. Bert was becoming quite pale so Alice replaced the dressing with pressure and moved them to the back yard, She served them lunch and coffee. They had to wait until 1 p.m. for Dr. John D. Milne to arrive. Dr. Milne did a good job of suturing and they all decided that printer’s ink was an excellent disinfectant! 

It was not unusual for Alice to be kept busy giving injections. The Graham’s boiled many needles and syringes for those who needed their services.

They also took blood pressures as many veterans preferred to stay rather than spend time at home rather than at the  Colonel Belcher Hospital in Calgary. 

The door-to-door and area gratis nursing, when they were called upon, was a challenge and fun but there were a few tragedies as well. 

The Graham’s also worked closely with the Cochrane RCMP. Early one morning Alice was lowered into a small gully near a small bridge in order to recover one local who had fallen asleep at the wheel of his car. He and his wife were returning from British Columbia when the accident occurred. The grateful gentleman and his wife supplied the Graham’s with fresh vegetables from their garden for many years to come. Alice was also paid for small favours with gifts of cream, eggs, chickens, preserves, cakes and plants. She said, “There is no amount of money could replace these gifts.” 

Cochrane’s two-man RCMP Detachment was also a two-bedroom home for Cpl. Len Clevette, his wife and their three children. 

In those days there was no mixed drinking allowed in Calgary bars so people travelled to Cochrane to the local hotel. Many ladies in distress were left on the streets of Cochrane by their companions. When the inebriated ladies passed out in the streets, Len would remove them with the help of passers-by either to the Graham’s living room or to the one cell which had been the third bedroom in the Clevette’s home. One time they picked up one girl, sobered her up in Graham’s living room and Len, in all good faith drove the girl to the city limits and let her out. Two days later in the “Albertan” newspaper Court News, the same lady’s name appeared. To the embarrassment of Len, she stated: “that the Cochrane people and the RCMP were much nicer to her than the City Police.” 

Over a period of two years, tabletop surgery was done in Graham’s home as Dr. Bill Prowse and Dr. Milne carried on many services. One evening a lad was brought in from a pipeline crew. His foot was severed from his leg. The foot was on the floor of the truck. Alice cleaned and bandaged the foot in place while waiting for the ambulance. They also notified the neral Hospital in Calgary. It was a sensational piece of surgery performed by a tremendous group of surgeons. The foot was saved! The patient walked into the store months later with a perfectly good foot. He had only lost two toes. 

Mount St. Francis also experienced Alice’s nursing skills. They made many emergency trips to the Munt. Brother David scalded his legs and feet badly when he was scalding butchered pigs in the fall. Alice did the dressings for him for 8 months.

Free deliveries were also the order of the day. One night the Graham’s were called out at 1 am during a storm to deliver a breach baby girl in the back seat of a car. This was Bob’s first experience at being a nurse’s assistant. There were no streetlights on the side of their premises to aid them in the delivery. The next delivery occurred at 10 am on Main Street. An Indian lady had just left Morley when nature produced a baby across the street from the pharmacy. The little papoose was named Alice by her mother. All went well except that a Chartered Greyhound bus of forty people was parked directly opposite them and all the people watched the entire performance. “Good nursing was a challenge in Cochrane”, said Alice. 

The Graham’s loved animals and many were abandoned on their doorstep. They managed to find homes for most of them but when they built their new pharmacy, they moved the cats into their new quarters which were especially designed for their nine extra permanent pets


CHAPS possesses Graham's sign

The new store, Graham’s Pharmacy Ltd. was unlike any other modern-day building. It was a two-storey cement block building; the second storey was the living quarters but it was the pharmacy itself that intrigued customers. It was as large as many chain stores but it had a pleasant mixture of antiques, Indian handicrafts and present-day inventory. 

Cliff and Ben Henry, bachelor brothers who ranched in the Bottrel area, raising Black Aberdeen Angus cattle, were good friends of Bob and Alice. The Henry Brothers knew that the Graham’s were planning on building a new and larger store. Alice and Bob had to promise them that they would build their new store to look old in order to make sure that the farmers would always feel welcome in their work clothes. In addition to this, they suggested that Graham’s preserve some of the artifacts of this district, which they did. 

When we moved into the new store in October 1962 Cliff and Ben arrived carrying two beautiful old framed pictures of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert which their parents had brought to Alberta from the Maritimes in the 1880s. They also brought along an old English Enfield Rifle. The two portraits and the rifle graced the entrance of the pharmacy. Customers were encouraged to enjoy the casual atmosphere which prevailed. Stools and chairs were located near the counter and people enjoyed free cups of coffee and a short visit while their prescriptions and purchases are made. 

When health studies produced data in 1971 that smoking could be dangerous to their health, the Graham’s butted out. They also stopped carrying all tobacco products but their customers could still enjoy their own cigarettes while sipping their coffee. Bob maintained they never lost any business because of their decision. He always said “You can’t be curing them in the dispensary and poisoning them in the other end. It appears that Graham’s Pharmacy was somewhat ahead of its time in 1971. 

Due to health problems, Graham’s Pharmacy closed in 1989. Bob passed away but Alice still lives in her home with her beloved cats.

Do you want to get involved?

We have roles like research to translate the text on the sign. We have roles to fit your skills.

Early Livery Stables and Garages

“More Big Hill Country” has lots of stories of early businesses.

There was a time when most homes in Cochrane had a barn for the horses. There were also several Livery stables in town.

Murphy’s Livery Stable 

The Murphy Livery stable was built next to the Murphy Brothers Hotel in 1898. It appears that the Murphy brothers leased the Livery Stable out to others to operate it. Beynon, Davies and Hewitt are recorded as running the business and in 1910, it was leased to the Quigley Brothers. In 1911, Beynon was operating the Livery and George Raby and Son operated it for a couple of years when Benton Denny took over in 1917. W. Crowe took over in 1918 and ran the business until 1922. As the motorcar began to take over the Livery Stable’s use diminished and the Murphy Livery Stable was torn down and some of the lumber was used to construct the Nelson Cabins. 

Cochrane Livery Stable

This business was located on First Avenue West, today the site of the present Telus Building. Charles Burnham operated here followed by W. Tempany in 1909. Charlie Mickle took over and then in 1913 George Bevan ran the livery stable. In 1915, H. Johnson was running it and it later became the site of Sibbald Motors. This was also the site of C. Linds Barbershop and Pool Room. 

R.A Webster Livery Stable 

Webster’s Livery Stable was situated north of the Cochrane Hotel and was added to the Feed and Flour Mill. 

Cochrane Taxi

 When cars were first introduced into Cochrane you could hire a car and driver from one of the Livery Stables to go to Calgary. In the 1950s Harold Callaway had a taxi service that he operated out of Hart’s Drug Store. Later in 1972, Bob Standen started a taxi service. Les Wigemyr took over the business and ran it for fourteen years and in 1999 Raymond and Donna MacDonald bought the business and ran it until 1994. In 2007, Cochrane Taxi is owned by Ken Wilson and at least two other taxi companies have started up. 

Harness Repair

 Though most livery stables did some repair to harness and other equipment, Mr. Fisher offered repairs in the early days and then in 1924, Nick Cosis, the shoemaker also did harness repairs until the 1950s. Roy Fenton has done a lot of harness work and repair when needed into the 1980s. 

Blacksmith Shops 

George Pitter opened his Blacksmith before moving to Bottrel to operate a Webster owned a Blacksmith Shop in Milne was the “Smithy” also S. Christi from the Morley area where he had a blacksmith shop and bought a shop in Cochrane in 1911. Some of the men who worked for him over the years Fenton, Scotty Allen, George Hope and Geo George “Geordie” Hope then bought the shop from Mr. Christianson in 1916 and operated it until he George Bunney in 1919. Geordie bought the business back in 1922 and ran it until 1928. Dave bought and ran the business until he sold it in 1952. Bob Cudmore operated Pioneer Blacksmith out of the old Murray building. Blacksmith shops have given way to welding shops. Today the only blacksmith work being done is by a farrier or individual farmers or ranchers doing their own. 


 An original welding shop existed in the old Murphy Brothers livery stable owned by Scotty McConachie. In 1955, S. Wilkinson purchased a portable welder and had a mobile business. O’Neill’s Welding was also in existence in the 1960s. Oatway’s Welding was located across the railway tracks and southeast of the Texas Gate Restaurant. Also, the 1970s saw Town & Country Welding come into town. Garney Baker and his dad started EGB after he had worked for Spray Lake Sawmills. They now service all the welding needs of their customers. 

Automobiles and Repairs 

 Henry Ford and his Model T started a business that allowed nearly everyone to own a car. Cochrane was no exception as Tom Quigley opened a Ford dealership and repair garage on Pope Avenue which was built by  Chapman Brothers in 1911. This replaced the horse and buggy days, which even featured a stagecoach from Cochrane to Bottrel and by George Raby and son William. This usually involved hauling the mail.

 In 1918, Chapman Bros. built their own garage on Main Street, operated by Robert Chapman. He sold Chevrolet vehicles. This business was sold to Marshal Baptie in 1935. Baptie Motors, owned and operated by Marshall Baptie was located on Main Street between 3rd and 4th Avenue. Marshall continued to sell Chevrolet vehicles and later sold Dodge vehicles with BA Gas. In 1950, he was also the dealer for Case Farm Machinery. He operated this garage until the 1960’s when he sold it to his nephew Bob Baptie. Later this business was sold to Bill Thomas and renamed Big Sky Service. The building still exists on 1st Street West and houses Cochrane Valley Automotive. 


Bert Sibbald Garage

Bert Sibbald Garage

 In the 1920s Quigley’s Garage was moved to Mountain Street which formed part of the main highway through town. C.E. “Bert” Sibbald operated this service garage called the Regal Service Station. It was sold in 1938 to Clem Colgan. Soon after Imperial Oil, along with Colgan, built across the street on the site of the present Royal Bank. Robbie Webb and John Milligan bought this station in 1940. They sold Esso Gas and Ford cars, Ford Tractors and Farm Machinery to compliment their business. The first car wash was built ” the corner named “The Car Wash” and was a real novelty for the customers. Most residents of the time washed their cars at home using their garden hose and a bucket. Today, times have changed as it is against the law as the dirty water drains into the Town’s sewer system contaminating the rivers, streams and aquifers that supply our freshwater to our homes and businesses. Currently, there are two car washes in town, one of which has a Dog Wash attached. Webb and Milligan sold their Service Station and Garage to Wayne Hilland and Mel Holland in 1966 and they operated it for many years as Bow Ridge Motors. Wayne and Mel switched to selling Datsun (Nissan) cars. A few years later, Ski-doos, Polaris Quads and other recreational vehicles and services were offered until the land was sold to the Royal Bank. Bow Ridge Motors Limited relocated to River Avenue and Griffin Road where it currently operates Bow River Motors and Bow River Sports. 



In 1930, Texaco built a service station at the west end of Main Street which was operated by Alvin and Maggie Nelson until 1934. Graeme Broatch arrived from Saskatchewan to manage the station and eventually bought it. He operated under the name Cochrane Auto. 

Service and sold Plymouth, Dodge and Fargo Vehicles. Graeme also operated full mechanic services for over 40 years. In 1939, Graeme added tourist cabins to his business. 

Imperial Oil had an Esso Bulk Plant operated by Charles Grayson in the 1940s. In 1946, Charles sold to Ed Raby, who operated the business until about 1958. Ed sold the business to Lorne Helmig and he operated it delivering bulk fuel to the many farms and ranches in the Big Hill Country. 

Whittle Implements had been selling International Trucks as far back as the 1940s, including the four-wheel-drive Scout. This business closed in 1978. Eventually, the car dealers separated from the gas stations and Tire Shops, Autobody Repair, paint shops, repair garages and gas bars with convenience stores emerged. 

Restaurants and Cafes

Elite Café 

George A. Bevan built this building and ran a confectionery and fruit store. Jack Beynon took over the building, made it longer and started a restaurant, serving meals but also maintaining the confectionary. Jack’s wife Annie did the cooking. Jack left to join the war efforts in 1915. There is mention of a Cochrane Restaurant in 1918 operated by Charley Sing and in 1924 there was a Club Café. These may have been in the same building as Jack Beynon’s restaurant. The Braucht family came to Cochrane in 1925 and they were operating the Elite Café when the Fisher Block burned down and almost took the café with it. This family also mentions they had the Rose Café in Cochrane after 1930. In the 1930s the Kwongs ran the Elite Café and in 1946 it was purchased by Bill Sinclair. The Elite Café was a family affair advertising “the Biggest Ice Cream Cones in Town, Take-out Fried Chicken Dinners and Deluxe Hamburgers.” The building was then sold to Gordon Hinther and run as a Chinese Restaurant “Seven Stars”. In the late 1960’s R.E. Moore purchased the café and old butcher shop, demolished them and added an addition to his Modern Supermarket. 

Elite Cafe

White Café 

Stanley and Ruth Waters came from Calgary to Cochrane in 1920. They rented a business section in the Chester Block (Howard Block) and started the White Café. Ruth stated, “We were busy from the first day.” They also enjoyed the Cochrane Races and ran a refreshment booth there. 

Mrs. Allan’s Tea Room 

In 1924, Sam and Marion (Minnie) Allan took over the Tea Room and Confectionary from Ruth Webster that was located in the Cochrane Hotel and later they moved the Tea Room to a Building right next store and to the west of the Hotel. (presently the Hotel Parking Lot). They advertised “Lunches Put Up For Tourists”. They operated Mrs. Allan’s Tea Room until 1942 when they sold it to Enid Gammon. She sold the business to the McCurdy’s in 1949 who in turn sold it to the Steinmetz family in 1955. The Steinetz’s renamed Allan’s Tea Room, the “Chinook Café – Home of Fine Foods.” They also made the café larger when Mr. Brodie sold them his barbershop space that was in their half of the building. The Chinook Café was then run by Ellen Bryant in the late 1950s. 

Range Grill 

This café was located behind the Cochrane Hotel and the building is still standing. It was built by Eustace Bowhay and he sold it to the Sailors in 1945. Later Laura Kells purchased the business and ran the Coffee Bar. Yvonne (Blow) Callaway worked for Laura and in 1952 Yvonne’s mother Mabel Blow ran the business while renting the building. Laura returned to operate the business in 1958 and renamed it the Range Grill. It was a popular place for teenagers and Laura was a wonderful mentor to them. Then the Fraser family ran the café for a short while. Laura sold the business to Gus Graff in 1966, who in turn sold it in 1967 to the Veselic Family and the restaurant was renamed the “Ponderosa”. 

Cochrane Café 

“Charlie’s” Café was located on Main Street on the west side of the Kerfoot and Downs Hardware and in the 1960s – 1980s it was a very busy place. Charlie Quon and his family operated this café until the early 1980s. Their son Harvey graduated from Cochrane High School. Later it was sold and expanded to the west and is presently called Cochrane Café. 

Kissin Kuzzin’s 

When the Cochrane Valley Centre was built in the late 1970s a lovely restaurant called the Kissin Kuzzins was located on the top floor. It had a lovely view and Banquet Rooms. It was a different kind of restaurant for Cochrane and much enjoyed by all. It remained for quite a few years and then was sold and became the Pheasant Plucker Restaurant. In the 1990’s it was closed and the area became the Cochrane Fitness Business. 


The Home Quarter Restaurant 

In the former Foodmaster Store Joan and Clarence Longeway opened the Home Quarter Restaurant on 1st Street. It was a great asset to the dining experience in Cochrane. It welcomed families with children, the day time coffee clubs and the afternoon tea crowd as well as opening early in the morning and catching the breakfast crowd. In about 1991, Joan and Clarence renovated the Home Quarter and added a Fine Dining Area to their already very popular restaurant. Saturday night roast beef and their great homemade pies were a favourite. The Dining Room was also booked for many weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. This restaurant is now HQ Coffee Emporium. 

With the increase of people moving to Cochrane due to the Jumping Pound, Petro Fina gas Plants and Spray Lakes Sawmills, the town of Cochrane businesses expanded. The 4th Avenue Mall added a new Drug Store and Dry Cleaners among other needed businesses and the Cochrane Valley Shopping Centre held a new supermarket the IGA, a Dress Shop and many other permanent businesses so that much of the shopping in the Town and surrounding districts could be done in Cochrane. 

A1 Drive Inn 

The first Drive In to come to Cochrane, the A1 Drive-In was opened in 1968 by Irene and Bill Hawes. It was a great novelty for the high school kids to leave campus at noon and go down and get a hamburger for lunch or even stop in after school. Take out was a new thing for the residents of Cochrane and area and very popular. The Hawes’ operated the Drive-In for a short time before selling it to Joan Wong in the early 1970s. Joan is still operating in 2008 on 6th Avenue and the highway, across from the IGA. Today there are numerous places to get a fast-food fix. A&W, Dairy Queen, Tim Hortons and most Gas Stations have food to go. 


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