The Ghost Dam

by Katherine Gaskell pg 306 Big Hill Country 1977

 One day in the late 1920s two men stood on a high bank overlooking the junction of the Ghost and Bow Rivers. We have been told that one man said to the other, “Let’s build a dam here.” As these men were G. A. Gaherty and G. H. Thompson, both officials and engineers of Calgary Power Ltd., their suggestion was carried out and the Ghost Dam and Power Plant came into being. 

The peaceful site was soon a hive of activity with narrow gauge tracks being laid from borrow pits to the dam site, and small steam engines hauling gravel and clay to build the mile-long earth-filled dam. 

By 1929 one of the units of the plant was in operation, manned by personnel from Seebe. Arthur Postlethwaite was in charge while Warrender Robertson Sr., Bill Carle and Doug Lamont operated. John Guinn and Robert Allen were maintenance men and Dick Sandilands was the lineman who patrolled No. 12 line from the Ghost to Olds. He patrolled the line once a month, summer and winter, riding horseback. 

When the powerhouse was built the roof was sloped to shed water and an ornamental cement wall was built around three sides of the roof with vents for water run-off. In the fall of 1930, a high wind blew waves over the dam. The vents became plugged with gravel and the water not being able to run off, became so heavy the roof collapsed. Tons of water poured into the plant, pushing out a wall and nearly drowning Bill Carle and Doug Lamont; they had to swim for their lives and fortunately escaped with minor injuries. The generators were overhauled, the plant repaired and production resumed again before too long. 

Gordon Milligan was then put in charge and Fred Gaskell was his assistant. 

The small settlement known as “the camp” consisted of Gordon Milligan and his wife Mabel, Fred and Katherine Gaskell, Bill and Bessie Carle, Dick and Rose Sandilands, and Ken and Madge Miller. As the 1930s progressed, children were added to these families until there were nine little hopefuls. 

The single men were sternly but lovingly cared for by Mrs. Nisbet who was the staff housekeeper for seventeen years. The single boys came and went; among the longer residents were Tom Stanley, Harold Hurdle, Chris Ritchie, Kent Carruthers, Andrew Simpson, Bill Braisher, Bill Moore, Roy Boissoneault, Mal- colm Clarke and Dan Lobylynk. 

There were not many changes during the depression years but at the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 some men enlisted and new ones were hired to take their places. Harry Coleman and Bill Hope joined the Company in 1941. Keith Cole and his wife Joyce, Tom Crowder, and his wife Marion were transferred from Seebe about this time and Gordon Milligan was transferred to Edmonton. Fred Gaskell was then in charge. With very few exceptions the above-mentioned are still with Calgary Power or have retired from the Company.

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