Copithorne, a true Alberta builder

by Belle and Allan Hall

Clarence Copithorne was the youngest son of Richard and Sophia Copithorne. Clarence was born in the little brick hospital in Cochrane on Nov. 12, 1920. He received some education at the Little Jumping Pound School, then attending Olds Agricultural School for three years, graduating with a diploma in agriculture. Clarence’s first public office was that of secretary-treasurer of the Jumping Pound Forestry Grazing Association. 

Clarence, along with Percy and Frank Copithorne, was at the official opening of the Shell plant at Jumping Pound in 1951. The Hon. N.E. Tanner, minister of mines and minerals was in attendance also. Clarence Copithorne was a member of the Masonic Order and the Oddfellows Lodge in Cochrane. In 1946 he married Irene Robertson, eldest daughter of Don and Yvonne Robertson, who were the proprietors of the English Shop in Calgary. The Clarence Copithorne’s had six children. In 1967 Copithorne was asked to run in the forthcoming provincial election. He was elected with a small majority to represent the riding of Banff-Cochrane as an Independent. Clarence took over from F.L. Gainor who had retired. In April 1970 Clarence turned Conservative to run in his second election. Peter Lougheed was premier and when Copithorne was elected for a second term, he was appointed minister of highways. 

Building the Fort Vermilion bridge was one of Clarence’s major projects as highway’s minister. This is the largest, most northerly bridge in North America. It crosses the Mighty Peace River, is nearly 2,000 feet long and is linked with the road from Slave Lake, which Copithorne was also able to complete. In four years his department was successful in paving 14,065 miles of new road in Alberta. Twelve new major bridges were built in the province, graded 2,000 miles of new road, oiled 4,000 and gravelled 2,400 miles. 

Clarence was largely responsible for the forming of the Cochrane Ranche Park as a historic site. Copithorne’s health had failed and was flown by helicopter to the opening of the park. He passed away a while after the park had been opened. 

Cattle drive on the Copithorne Ranch - Flickr

from A Peep into the Past Vol. II by Gordon and Belle Hall

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