Construction, Builders and Contractors

pg 31 More Big Hill Country 2009

Gravel Pits 

Andrew Clarke bought some land south of Griffin Road and east of River Avenue from which they operated a gravel pit. This was originally the Want homestead. His company A. Clarke and Sons started out with a contract to build the old bridge across the Bow River in 1927. Later on, Norman and Laura Kells purchased the gravel pit from Clarke’s and ran it for a number of years. This property is now the Burnco site. 

Building Contractors 

The Pedeprat Brothers were known for their axe work on logs and built many of the houses and outbuildings in the area. Most men built their own homes and out buildings often with help from their neighbours. In 1905, stonemasons started work on C.W. Fisher’s home, now Mt. St. Francis Retreat. One of the Stonemasons was Oscar Sundstrom. James Andison, brother to William, was a carpenter and built the Weedon School which is now in Heritage Park. In 1910, the Chapman Brothers started their construction company and in 1911, Mr. Hewitt joined them. That same year Sid Chester got into the building business and in 1915, William Camden, a stonemason came to Cochrane to add an addition on to the Fisher home. Some of the other builders in Cochrane were Bob Beynon Sr., Hector McDowell, Lambert Brothers, Charlie McDonald, Frenchy Suel, and Roy Buckler. Then larger firms like Dutch Construction came in to Cochrane and building became a large industry with several companies employing many workers. At one time a carpenter built the whole house, doing the plumbing, electrical and gas fitting but as construction became more complicated, sub-trades appeared. Now it is not uncommon to have a General Contractor, a framer, a drywaller, a painter, an electrician, a plumber, a heating and furnace man, a window and door man, a flooring installer, roofing and siding or stucco contractors. These jobs are all done by different people plus inspectors come in to check the work. We sometimes wonder if life has become simpler? 

Paper Hanger, Painter, Decorator

G. Cruickshank, advertised services for home decorating in 1915. Others that offered services for home improvements and painting were Robert (Bob) Beynon Sr. and Norman Elliot. 


When machinery became available for excavating one of the first in Cochrane to have this type of business was Jack Steel. Later some of the others to take on this business were Dave Bryant operating as A&B Construction, Norman and Joe Kells operating as Kell’s Active Excavating, Grimstead Construction and Roy Genung and Son Excavating. Today there are many companies in and around Cochrane offering this service such as Kelly Harbidge and L. Want and Sons. 


When Calgary Power made electricity available to the rural area and smaller towns in Alberta it opened up a new business opportunity and electricians started to set up shop. The first known electrical business came into Cochrane in the late 1940s. Bow Valley Electric was started in 1947 by John Raboud, who sold it to John Stuart in 1952. They advertised “Fully Licensed for Rural and Domestic and Commercial Wiring. In the early 1960’s it was taken over by Mike Stapleton. In the 1970’s Rowan Electric and Les Cowan Electric opened businesses. 

Cochrane Electric Services 

This business was owned and operated by Fred Reid. He fixed Radios etc. and sold television sets in the mid 1950’s. Many of the first television sets to occupy Cochrane living rooms came from this little shop. It was located on Main Street between the Telephone Exchange and the Esso Service Station. In 1960, Fred’s wife, Bernice opened a dressmaking shop in the back of his building. She also owned and operated the “Old Timer” newspaper from this shop. As electric lines were made more readily available with few houses not having this service, the demand for electricians grew. Several small businesses began operating in and around Cochrane. One of these being Ferris Electric which is still in business today (2008). 


Plumbing, Heating and Gasfitting 

Renown Sheet Metal was owned and operated by Don and Sheila Wigton. Moving to Cochrane in 1960-61, Sheila did the books and Don did the installations. He took on apprentices and helped them get started in the business. Two of his apprentices were his sons Bruce and Bob. Don was always available to help solve problems with your furnace, appliances and water wells, and stock waterers. He was willing to come immediately, day or night to make sure his clients were to get by until proper repairs or replacement parts were available. Often Sheila was out helping him pull a pump to get water running to a house or for stock. Many of the older residents in and around Cochrane dreaded the day Don would retire. His son Bob has taken over the business. 

Industrial Plumbing and Gasfitting was operated by C.D. Quance and began operations in Cochrane in 1955. Trim Plumbing was operated out of the Whittle building on First Street West in 1966. Modern Plumbing Heating and Gasfitting was opened by Gordon Hinther. His shop was the old meat market on First Street near MacKays General Store. He ran a coin-operated laundromat out of his building and in the 1970’s also had Mr. Soft Drink – Pic-a-Pop operation on the premises. 

Deep Dive

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