One persons view on the importance of local history

Cochrane Historical & Archival Preservation Society (CHAPS) recently received a very moving thank you from Marilyn Downey for the work of the volunteers in producing Big Hill Country, More Big Hill Country, the operation of the Cochrane Historical Museum, and other projects. CHAPS’ goal is to save and educate about the history of Cochrane and area.

by Marilyn Downey

I received my copy of More Big Hill Country in August 2022. Thank you for checking with me.

 This gives me an opportunity to write and thank CHAPS for providing me with an immense amount of information regarding my heritage. My father was born in Cochrane to Thomas Quigley and Florence Quigley (Webb). My father’s grandparents were James Quigley and Annie Quigley (Lawson) and William Henry Webb (Henry Webb) and Mary Jane Webb (Elkin).

 In the ‘Big Hill Country’ and ‘More Big Hill Country’ books I have found many stories and references regarding my grandparents, great-grandparents, grandaunts, and granduncles. I really can’t read more than ten pages or so in either book without finding a story or reference regarding one of my ancestors. I have spent many enjoyable hours looking at all of the photos on CHAPS Facebook pages. Many of the photos and some comments have references to the Quigley or Webb family. I enjoy reading every post on CHAPS and learning about the early history and the growth of Cochrane. It is so wonderful to often see an ancestor’s name, a sentence, a story, or a photo in the books and email posts. For instance, the post from January 2023, titled, ‘2022 Top Stories Part 1’ includes three stories with Quigley and Webb family references. I was also pleasantly surprised with the most recent email sent January 25, with a photo of Thomas Quigley’s garage and an article about delivery of Ford cars. The next photo was of my grandfather, Thomas Quigley with my great grandparents, great granduncle and great grandaunt. This photo is better than my photo in the Big Hill book which has a print blemish on one of the faces.

I was able to visit Cochrane in 1956 and in 1998. In 1998 my mother, brother, my youngest son and I stayed 2 days in Cochrane. We were invited into the Anglican Church. We were shown some photos and the framed trowel that my great-grandmother used for the cornerstone. There was a church bazaar in progress and one of the ladies told us she remembered Annie Quigley. We visited MacKay’s Ice Cream and met our second cousin, Rhona MacKay. We saw Thomas and Florence Quigley’s home on 1st St where my father lived until the family moved to Vancouver in 1920. My memory of James and Annie Quigley’s farmhouse and its location was so vivid during my 1956 visit at age 9, that I was able to go directly to the location in 1998.

 I knew very little about my grandparent’s past. My grandfather died when I was 1 year old. I do have one nice short memory of him. I have great memories of my grandmother. My grandmother talked about day to day events. She didn’t like to talk about the past and told me very little, despite my questions!  My father had very few photos of his childhood and no family photos of life in Cochrane. One cousin that I lost contact with has some old photos. I don’t think many existed. One of my aunts sent me a photo of three of the Quigley children in the front yard of the Quigley house on 1st street. I need to send a copy of the photo, some stories, and documents that CHAPS may not have.

To give an example of how many times I find information about my ancestors from CHAPS posts and books, here is a small sample from the ‘2022 Top Stories Part 1’. Three of the five stories have information about my ancestors.

 Hall Story

 From this story, I learned that my brother’s passion and talent for music, and my father’s love of music came from not only the Quigley side of the family but also the Webb side of the family.

“There was often a box social at Cochrane Lakes or Weedon School. Gordon and Doris, along with Earl Speers and Harry Webb, formed an orchestra, ‘The Night Owls.’ When a collection was taken we would end up with perhaps fifty cents apiece, but we played for fun, not money.”

Harry Webb-my granduncle                                  

Anglican Church in Cochrane

 “About 1962, Mrs. Sara Robinson, who was living with her daughter Annie in Banff, invited a few older Cochraneites in for tea. I gleaned some interesting bits of the history of the church from this group.”  

Mrs. Sara Robinson (Quigley)-my grandaunt

 “The cornerstone was laid in October 1908, by Mrs. James Quigley, and the trowel she used was framed and hung by the door inside the church. While she was laying the cornerstone, Billie Wright dropped a coin under it just for fun. In 1934 Mrs. Quigley was given the honor of burning the church mortgage.” 

Mrs. James Quigley-my great grandmother

 “The earliest history of the Ladies’ Aid is scarce. Mrs. Sarah Robinson said, “I joined it before I was married, going to it with my mother” (Mrs. James Quigley). “I was married in 1902. Members she could recall were: Mrs. Adam Baptie, Mrs. Bruce, Mrs. McEwen, Mrs James Quigley and herself, Miss Sara Quigley.” 

 “The earliest superintendent the Quigleys could remember was Mrs. Morophy, the blacksmith’s wife. Incidentally, their blacksmith shop was located where Jimmie MacKay’s store now stands. Alex Quigley said, ‘Mrs. Morophy was so religious she would peel her potatoes, and do all the other work she could do on Saturday instead of on Sunday.’ ” 

Jimmie MacKay-my first cousin once removed.

Alex Quigley-my granduncle

William Robinson Family

 I love this story! It has so much information and insight about the families and the times my ancestors lived.

 The following section regarding the flu epidemic and my great-grandmother is a story that has the most impact and is very significant to my life!

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

Grandma Annie Quigley-my great grandmother

 One of those family members was my father. He was just 2 years old in early 1919 when he was struck by the epidemic and became critically ill. My parents told me many times of my father’s grandmother going from home to home nursing all the family and only because of her knowledge and nursing skills my father survived!

 “My mother, Sarah Quigley, was born in Westville, Nova Scotia, and came to Cochrane in 1885.

Dad was persuaded to stay at Cochrane and work at Uncle Tom Quigley’s sawmill, as a millwright. Mother was cooking at the mill and it was here that she met Dad.”

Sarah Quigley-my grandaunt, Tom Quigley-my grandfather

 “I was born in the old Quigley house at the east end of Cochrane (Barnharts live there now).”

Mr. and Mrs. James Quigley Heritage house-my great grandparents

 “Dad and the Chapman brothers built our house just across the road from Grandpa Quigley. Edna was born in the old Quigley house, and my brother Jim was born there too, but it had been made into a hospital by the time Jim was born. Jack was born in Grandpa’s little brick house (Sibbald house).” 

Grandpa Quigley-my great grandfather


“We have many happy memories of our parents’ parties, Quigley reunions and picnics at Big Hill Springs. One time I took the dance crowd home because it was too cold in the Orange Hall. Mother and Dad got up and made lunch for all of us. Our friends were always welcome at our house. Mother often spoke of the Cochrane races and the one thing that she recalled was the oranges and bananas. She said they looked forward to the races because that was the only time they could have such fruit.”

Although this letter is very long, my intention is to explain just how much I value and appreciate CHAPS and all of the volunteers that contribute to keeping the history of Cochrane alive!

 If there is an online research project, I would be happy to participate. I live in California, so, except for online research, I am unable to participate as a volunteer.

 I thought this photo is interesting with Charlie Webb, my granduncle and Johnny Boothby, most likely related to you.

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