Around Coalhurst the Crowsnest Highway eastbound begins to evince that travellers are approaching a big town. Cyclists particularly notice the shards of truck tire retread, blown off their casings at high speed, laying strewn along the shoulders with odd bits of metal, sparkles of glass, shattered chunks of automotive plastic. In the ditches amid ball clover, white and yellow and mauve and purple, bobbing their heads in agreement with the dictates of the winds, disposable diapers have fulfilled their promise of convenience and are completing their life cycle where the lowering sun glints off aluminum beverage containers and assorted bottles and cans resting on the closely trimmed grasses. The stumps of busted-off signs, evidence that some drivers fail to adequately adapt to winter road conditions, show the Volker Stevin maintenance crews where to plant replacements.
The Highway and the CPRs Crowsnest Line (CNL) travel in close tandem out of Coalhurst, Lethbridge bound, clipping the north-east corner off the 3½-square-mile block that hosts Agriculture and Agri-Food Canadas research station, run from the old quarantine station in the valley of the Oldman to the west. On the left, the ghost of the railroad siding of Lenzie. A little south of here on the CNL was the loading site of the Lethbridge Coal Company. Established in 1918, for its first three years the self-named mine on the edge of the Oldman Rivers escarpment sent its output across the River via aerial tram to be waggoned to the CNL at Lethbridge for sale. In 1921, though, the company laid two miles of three-foot-gauged trackage to the CNL and used a gasoline-engined prime mover to squeal trains of five-ton gondolas across the prairie. Come 1925 the mine had become uneconomical and the tiny line was soon ripped out.
A kilometre or so from Lenzie the busy No. 3 banks from south south-east to south-east to take dead aim at the City of Lethbridge (915m), leaving its former alignment to continue on as Highway 3A, known civically as Westside Drive. Narrow in places and fairly heavily trafficked, Westside follows the CPRs alignment for a kilometre or two, crossing over the main canal of the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District near the location of the old Lenzie Siphon which, when it was built in 1921, used a 24-inch pipe to carry the Canal under the railway tracks on its way to water fields in what is now West Lethbridge. An examination of 2008 Digital Globe aerial images of the site suggests that the Siphon has been modified or replaced by a bridge. Beyond the LNID canal, Westside curves gracefully off to south to arrow into the new and expanding suburban paradise of West Lethbridge. Travellers wishing to complete the 3A adventure must turn left off Westside at Walsh Drive, take the next main left at University Drive which becomes, having overflown the CNL a few furlongs northward, Highway 25. The first right-hand turning hair-pins traffic onto Bridge Drive which dives into a ravine heading down Davies Hill onto the Oldmans bottoms, passes the Elizabeth Hall Wetlands, and rejoins the Crowsnest Highway just before the latter leaps the River on spans of 1967 concrete. Its an interesting loop: one maintains contact with the CNL and passes closely by the derelict workings of the Galt No. 8 mine, the last of Lethbridges main mines to call it quits. Alternatively, travellers staying on Westside or turning right on University Drive are taken farther into the West End to the University of Lethbridge campus and its unique Faculty of Arts building which the avant-garde architect Arthur Erickson burrowed into the scarp of the Oldman in 1969. To get from there to downtown Lethbridge, one locates the major thoroughfare of Whoop-Up Drive which whisks down across the 6th Avenue Bridge and then climbs up into Lethbridge proper.
Travellers that eschew the attractions of the 3A are fated to ride the still-divided Highway which, as if jumping for joy at having shaken off 3A, immediately humps itself over the CPRs tracks on an overpass emplaced in 1967 and offers a good look at the Citys developing skyline.
Geographically, the Highway has travelled a tongue of land licking down from about Kipp, defined by the Oldman River as it carves itself southward for a few miles while digesting the Belly, then meeting the St. Marys River and heading back north in a large loop. West Lethbridge is building on the Tongue, gradually enfolding the University of Lethbridges main campus. South and North Lethbridge, separated by the Railway and the Highway, are on the Oldmans right bank, out of the Rivers loop.
Could the cyclist pedal herself a few hundred metres into the sky to check out the local topography, she might notice, if the light was right, a peculiar phenomenon of this neighbourhood. Chester B. Beaty describes in The Landscapes of Southern Alberta - A Regional Geomorphology (University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, 1975) what he calls aligned coulees cut into the west-facing, sun-exposed, drier valley walls. Normally, one would expect contributing valleys to be more-or-less perpendicular to the master valley, cut by water seeking the most direct route downhill. Not so here. Here the wind rules, and great numbers of the coulees look to have been combed into the valley walls, parallel to each other at about 70º east of North, indicating the direction of the prevailing wind. Suggests Beaty, wind-borne particles of snow and sand cut the initial incisions which were then enlarged by water erosion, ever directed by the relentless wind. Especially in the Oldmans escarpment downstreamnorthwardfrom Lethbridge, these features are quite apparent.
With a 2005 population of 77,000 increasing yearly by 6% in the Third Millennium, Lethbridge is the largest settlement on the Crowsnest Highway. Arrayed on the Prairie beyond the far bluffs of the Oldman about two miles away, it looks up to its job of being Albertas main metropolis south of Calgary. The sun, finishing off its days work, shows the City to good advantage from this view point. Cottonwoods, elms, poplars and alders shade the streets, even raising their glossy green canopy over some of the downtown. Here and there taller buildings rise, most faced in red brick with stone detailing, sheets of cool, shiny glass reflecting both past and present and promising a dynamic future in Albertas third largest city.
Past the CNL overpass a mile, having crossed Lethbridge Northern Irrigations main canal, the No. 3 slips beneath the bridge of highway 25s crippled cloverleaf and begins the long, gentle decent 300 feet down onto the Bottoms of the Oldman Rivers valley. A combination bridge/interchange dedicated on November 8th, 1967, by the Hon. G.E. Taylor, Department of Highways, re-unites the Highway with the 3A before overflying the Oldman. Easing off the Highway on this interchange, the traveller can follow the signs to the privately-owned Bridgeview Campground, less than a good hubcaps roll off the east shoulder of the No. 3. Your intrepid chronicler has never been tempted to try out one of its 89 sites. Since the flood of the springs of 1995 washed their infrastructure away, the owners of the Campsite have completely rebuilt and equipped their enterprise with all the mod-cons: showers, washers, dryers. However, tenters especially will appreciate that the similarly-equipped but slightly more expensive Henderson Lake Campground on the other side of the City is well away from the night-driving trucks bruiting their arguments with the god of gravity on the grades carrying The Highway in and out of the Oldmans valley.
Across the Bridge, those in a hurry to pitch their tents will crank up the Oldmans eastern scarp, dodging the speeding vehicles until their nerves break and they peel off right into downtown Lethbridge, usually at the first exit, the successor to the Macleod Trail that since 1912 has crawled diagonally up the face of the scarp, hooked left between the first and second tower of the Viaduct and deposited travellers on 1st Avenue South in downtown Lethbridge. For what its worth, my advice is to tough it out to the second exit, Stafford Drive, pedal south to 7th Avenue South and turn left, east. Henderson campgrounds are straight on. Dont worry that 7th changes into Parkside Drive when it crosses Mayor Magrath Boulevard, Lethbridges strip. Keep on keepin on and youll soon come to Henderson.1
No matter how travellers have come down the scarp, either via the Highway or the 3A, they will have noticed Lethbridges most remarkable feature; the Viaduct. It simply can not be missed, and in its shadows is lies much history. Those who have time to spare before they need to set up camp or locate a motel room can curl off the Highway at the eastern end of the Oldmans bridge and roll into a convenient parking lot. From there a paved path leads southward along the foot of the scarp. Car-bound travellers will have to don their walking shoes, but cyclists can simply roll towards the CPRs awesome trestle striding across the Valley about a kilometre away.
A word of caution. This is rattlesnake country again, and there are many of them, especially in the coulees and down here in the valley. They can be very unimpressive-looking, the prairie subspecies Crotalus viridis viridis. Small-mouthed, they seldom exceed a metre in length, rarely more than 5 inches in girth. But herpetologists describe them with adjectives like irritable, mean, and occasionally aggressive. Their bite has been compared in toxicity to that of a large wasp: nasty, but rarely fatal to those not allergic to their venom. Ahh; but if you are, your tissues swell, your blood begins to break down and your heart falters, respiration fails, perhaps a fit of giggling, then Death. Fortunately, though the vipers strike with jaws opened almost 180 degrees to stab venom into their target, their one inch long fangs typically only penetrate 8.5 millimetres of flesha third of an inch; not usually deep enough to get much venom below the human dermis. Should you get yourself bitten, however, dont bother stabbing a pair of deep crosses into the centre of each wound and getting someone imbued with a spirit of pioneer adventure to suck out the infected blood: that doesnt work well and youll likely do more damage to yourself with the dirty knife or the shard of glass or whatever than the venom might. Get yourself carried by the speediest conveyance to the nearest medical centre for immediate professional treatment. With luck youll only get giddy and nauseous and retain consciousness enough to suffer the excruciating pain that will make you really wish you hadnt teased the wee beastie despite its buzzing annoyance. Who knew it could dart its head out almost a foot and a half with power enough to drive a fang right through your pant leg and the top of your hi-tec hiking boot to ruin your afternoon? Ee-yowch! Ssunnuva Bitch!
Rattlers aside, this is the scenic entrance to Lethbridge. Rising on the left, the valleys slopes radiate the afternoon suns heat, perfect snake habitat. To the right the tangle of Cottonwood, green alder2, willow and river grass is now a wildlife sanctuary with trails and interpretive plaques maintained by the Helen Schuler Coulee Centre. Toddlers and joggers abound on this popular path, and appreciate considerations extended by cyclists. There are three types of pure Cottonwoods in this copse, and many hybrids. The Black Cottonwood, known also as the Balsam Poplar, stands some 23 metres high at maturity, and some of the old Plains Cottonwoods are enormous, said to reach 30 m in protected conditions. The third, the Narrowleaf Cottonwood is a denizen of the foothills and is at its north-eastern limit hereabouts. It can rise to 15 metres. At the edge of the Viaducts winter shadow in the main Shuler building, an interpretive centre in which one can become acquainted with Lethbridges natural history. Southward from the Centre the woodlands between the path and the river end and, noting for further reference the little sign-plaqued kiosk on the left, travelling cyclists roll past one of the Viaducts mammoth legs. On the right at the Viaducts right-of-way and gives way to the grass swards and bushes of Indian Battle Park3, said to be the site of the last large Indian battle fought in North America.
The Last Indian Battle
From times unknowable animosity had ruled the relations between the Niitsi-tapi, the Blackfoot, and the people they called Asinaa, the Cree, who call themselves Ne:hiyawak. Few Blackfoot hazarded a journey eastward across the wide northern plains to access the HBC trade posts on the Hudson Bay. It was a dangerous undertaking for many reasons, not the least of which was the Ne:hiyawak. When the fur companies eventually extended a line of posts out along the Saskatchewan River to the Rockies by the end of the Eighteen Century, their traders noticed that Cree and Blackfoot did not mix. Having gained power and wealth as intermediaries in the trade game, as soon as they got The Horse somewhere around 1750, the Ne:hiyawak began pursuing buffalo on the Plains, the preserve of the Niitsi-tapi. Conflict was chronic by the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, and was, reports Hugh A. Dempsey in Big Bear: The End of Freedom (Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, 1984), impoverishing of both Nations. In the Fall of 1824 an encampment of 400-odd Niitsi-tapi near Fort Edmonton was eradicated by the Ne:hiyawak.4 In 1826, mentions Dempsey, Niitsi-tapi unknown killed nine Cree near Fort Carleton. How many others died unrecorded on the Whitemans papers in those years will never be known. It was probably pretty much an even contest until small pox came up the Missouri on the American Fur Companys steamer, St. Peters, in June of 1837. Their territory closer to the River, the disease killed some two-thirds of the Kainai and the Piikani. There after, farther and farther out onto the Plains came the Ne:hiyawak and their occasional companions, the Métis, pursuing the dwindling herds of bison. The Niitsi-tapi were desperate to stop this advance: buffalo was Everything to them. In 1849 Niitsi-tapi exterminated a party of 50 Assiniboine hunters. Over the winter of 1864-65, 1100 Niitsi-tapi died from scarlet fever, noted OMI Fr. Albert Lacombe, who began extending missions southward from the Fort Edmonton area at that time. On the following December the 4th, reported Lacombe, 112 Siksikah were slaughtered and many injured when Crees attacked their Battle River encampment in revenge for a killing earlier in the year. An encounter three months later, in March of 1866, at Red Ochre Hill near the Swift Current Creek in what is now the Province of Saskatchewan, resulted in the deaths of 300 members of a Kainai raiding party when their attack went wrong. The tension became intolerable to both sides, with even unarmed women gathering firewood or hauling water liable to be set upon and murdered for no other reason that they were not of the same tribe as their killers. In 1869, writes Sarah Carter in Lost Harvests: Prairie Indian Reserve Farmers and Government Policy (McGill-Queens University Press, Montréal and Kingston, 1990), the Ne:hiyawak sent one MaskepatoonBroken Armon a mission of peace to the Niitsi-tapi. The overture was rebuffed, Maskepatoon never returned. Cree sentiment hardened. Come the autumn of 1869 smallpox revisited the Niitsi-tapi, killing some 630 Kainai, twice as many Piikani, and seriously weakening the Siksikah as the winter wore on.
Apprised of the contagion visited the Niitsi-tapi, the spring of 1870 looked to Chief Payepot of the Cree like the perfect time to avenge Maskepatoons death. The Ne:hiyawak knew that a fundamental change in their relationship with Whites was underway. The Hudsons Bay Company, the nominal owner of the western part of British North America for 200 years, was withdrawing, and a new confederation of British North Americans based east of the Great Lakes, alarmed by the steady deployment of US Army troops farther and farther west below the Line, had designs on western Ruperts Land. From a purely tribal economics point of view, the weakness of the Niitsi-tapi was a golden opportunity for the Ne:hiyawak to occupy a much larger expanse of the bison hunting grounds.
Payepots assessment of the situation won adherents, among them Big Bear, Little Pine and Little Mountain of the Cree, and a few adventurous Nakota (Assiniboine), Anishshina:pe (Saulteaux), and Métis, including Yellow Hair Sutherland and his brother, Curly Hair. In October of 1870 Payepot, despite dreams foreboding of disaster, headed a force of warriors some 800-strong through the Great Sand Hills and into Niitsi-tapi territory. They were unopposed. Further west they came, writes T.W. Patterson in The Last Great Indian Battle (Canadian West #4, 1986), until their scouts told them that they were approaching the coulees of the Oldman River sheltering a camped group of Kainai and Siksikah. Tragically, their scouts did not detect the much larger group of Piikani who were camped out of sight farther up the valley. Amongst these were a sizeable contingent of disgruntled South Piegans who had recently been expelled from the Blackfeet Reservation by the U.S. Army, thus terminating what the Americans call the Piegan War.5 Besides harbouring a towering anger, these fierce warriors had acquired repeating rifles. Write Alex Johnston and Andy Albert den Otter in their Lethbridge: A Centennial History (Historical Society of Alberta, Lethbridge, 1985), the Ne:hiyawak bivouacd on the evening of the October 24th within striking distance of the Kainai camp and planned tactics. That night, however, Payepots sleep was much disturbed by premonitions of catastrophe, and he awoke in a vacillating mood with the result that he and half of the Cree party decided to further ponder the situation. Figuring that they still had more than enough manpower to exterminate the one small camp in the coulees, the rest of the Cree party set out for a dawn attack. The skirmish was going well for the Cree until the commotion brought the Piikani, including the renownd Jerry Potts, to the aid of their confederates. Consensus has it that the mêlée, fought mainly on the brushy flats across which the Viaduct now struts, cost the Niitsi-tapi forty killed and fifty wounded. How many Ne:hiyawak were annihilated remains speculation6, but losses were substantial, 300 being the popular count, including both Sutherland boys. The war party was shattered. Those that escaped slaughter in the river, in the coulees, in the shadow of the ancient tobacco-gifted Medicine Rock mek-kio-towaghs, fled pell-mell eastward to safety, guided by Kanocees of the Touchwood Hills people. The next spring, after suitable restitution was offered, Isapo-Muxika (Crowfoot) of the Siksikah led a delegation of Niitsi-tapi into the Sand Hills and there adopted the Cree chief Poundmaker as his son, thereby instituting a somewhat at times uneasy peace with the Ne:hiyawak which reputedly persists,7 claims Carter in Lost Harvests , into the Twenty-first Century. The Niitsi-tapi in general, however, remained mistrustful of their ancient foes, and when in the spring of 1885 the Cree pressed the Blackfoot to join the Native alliance of their Métis hero, Louis Riel, and beat back the swelling White tide, the Isapo-Muxika and his people declined, and in doing so, possibly saved the West for Canada.
The Interpretive Centre emplaced by the City of Lethbridge at Indian Battle Park is a 19858 replica of Fort Whoop-Up, the most notorious of the whiskey forts that drew the North-West Mounted Police into this region. The original stood some eight kilometres upstream, a few hundred yards above the confluence of the St. Marys with the Belly9 River, todays Oldman. The Centre packs local history into a reasonable hour-long stroll past and through exhibits, with a liberal scattering of heavier artefacts decorating the site, particularly the cannon cast by Horace E. Dimick & Co. in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1846. There is a ferriers and a carpenters shop and tools and sometimes a volunteer demonstrating some arcane art like wheel-righting, there are dioramas of fort life: storerooms, the masters bedroom, and the main trade room. Possibly not authentic is a theatre room where one can sit for a cool while and watch whatever video is running on the big screen.
As related in the chapter on the N-WMP, in December of 1869 Captain John Jerome J.J. Healy and Alfred Baker Hamiltonnephew to the Baker brothers, merchants of Fort Benton, Montana Territoryobtained a federal American permit to conduct a scientific expedition across the Milk River into the extreme south-west corner of what had recently been Ruperts Land, the preserve of the Hudsons Bay Company. It was a territory in transition,10 legally a part of Canada since an act of Parliament made it so on June 22nd, 1869, but very far away from the centre of power Down East. Unlike Montana Territory, there was no presence of Law, no army to restrict a traders entrepreneurial endeavours by prohibiting the swapping with Indians of cheap booze for buffalo hides and robes. As well, the HBC had largely withdrawn from commerce in southern Canada, and the Niitsi-tapi, the target of Healys and Hamiltons gambit, were desperate for trade goods. Tragically, many of the Niitsi-tapi had acquired a taste for booze. Though Healys permit absolutely prohibited trading spiritous liquors to Indians, it did allow for a certain quantity of alcohol11 to be carried for medicinal purposes. Within days of receiving their permit, Healy and Hamilton and their cohorts including Healys brother Thomas, their six Murphy waggons crammed with supposedly legitimate trade goods12 fronted by the Baker brothers, rolled away up the Old North Road from Fort Benton to find easy crossings on the Teton, the Marias, and, finally, the Milk River, the approximate line of the International Boundary. Across the Milk, the party, the main of its waggons loads apparently mysteriously transformed into booze, headed for the confluence of the St. Marys and the Belly, a place long favoured for great winter gatherings of the Kainai tribe of the Niitsi-tapi peoples, the Blackfoot. It was known to the Kainai as akai-nuskwimany diedsince 1837 when the St. Peters small pox epidemic was carried to the clans there encamped. There the associates set up a crude post consisting of 11 log cabins, writes Barry Potyondi in Where the Rivers Meet: A History of the Oldman River Basin to 1939 (Lethbridge, 1992), and began the tricky business of primarily trading a cheap intoxicant a cup at a time for whatever item of worth a Kainai carried through the door, mainly bison hides. Come the spring of 1870 they were back in Fort Benton with some $50,000-worth of hides, a sizeable contribution to the 20,000 collected there in 1870. Appraising the fortune that the Healy expedition had spirited out of the Queens land, the Baker brothers ponyd up $25,000four times the average cost of an outpostto undertake the construction and supply of a permanent post up there deep in Kainai country, fourteen days travel by bull-team from Benton, 160 miles as the crow flies. The 11 huts having been burned by Natives likely in a quest for ferric treasure, Healy and Hamilton engaged the former HBC boat-builder, William Shanks Gladstone, to fashion them a fort on the site of the huts. Permission to cut trees was politely obtained from Iron Collar, a chief of the Kainai, the largest tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy. Built to last, the fort was the classic frontier stronghold. Palisaded with heavy cottonwood logs sunk a third of their length into the soil and sharpened at the top, the outer facade gave no opening but the gate. On two diagonal corners, salient bastions replete with firing loop-holes gave an overview along every inch of the exterior. Grates built into its chimneys added security. It took Gladstone and his crew of sometimes 30 workers almost a year to complete the structure, during which Healy, Hamilton and the Bakers stocked the place with every essential, including two cannons,13 and a raggy flag crudely based on the stars and stripes flying from a bastion. Serious trade began sometime early in 1871. Officially named Fort Hamilton, it was soon dubbed Fort Whoop-Up likely for the number of young Native men who came to get drunk and raise a little hell. Headquarters to some 38 not-so-nice men, it was the most infamous place on the far western Canadian prairies, a place, its said, where an Indian could end up dead just for amusement, a place around which it was common to find human remains. Life was cheap.
To give them their due, Healy and Hamilton supplied the Kainai with more than booze. The Partners likely would have preferred it otherwise, booze being so much cheaper than hardware and dry goods, but many Kainai traders demanded axes and knives, pots, pans, cloth, medicine, repeating rifles and ammunition, tobacco. Ribbon. Beads. The desire for trade goods, however, intensified hunting, putting enormous pressure on the vast herds of bison which migrated at will over the Great Plains of North America, write Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History. Were the Kainai not utterly reliant upon the animal as the staff of their lives, and were it only they and their kin, the Siksikah and the Piikani, predating upon the buffalo, the tribe might have been able to sustain its lifestyle. But the hides of 30,000 animals, for example, were collected at Fort Benton in 1871, 40,000 in each of the next two years. The slaughter was beginning to have an effect: unbelievably, the awesome herds of millions of animals that used to take days to pass a given point on the Prairies, were beginning to melt away.14 With fewer hides to trade, Kainai with The Thirst burning in their throats would swap any material possession for a taste of fire water. Theft and brutality took up residence in the camps, and while Healy and Hamilton, Baker and Powers and their staffs and their suppliers and their bankers, steamboat captains and crews, freighters, waggon-makers, livestock handlers and everyone in between were making satisfying profits from The Trade,15 the Niitsi-tapi were being stripped of their only wealth, the opportunity and ability to hunt and kill bison. The very foundation of their world was cracking.
Increasingly alarming reports of this situation from the proselytizing Christians in the West finally moved Ottawa to form the North-West Mounted Police to both relieve the Indians of the burden of Whiteman, and to put Canadas bootprint on the Territory before the Americans decided it was open country. Their immediate task was to extirpate the whiskey traders. When the N-WMP, with the help of their renown scout, Jerry Potts, finally straggled up to the walls of Whoop-Up on October 9th, 1874, all the traders but D.E. Dave Akers had fled. He, no doubt happy for the company, cordially swung wide the heavy gates that the police had counted on staving in by cannon fire, and invited the officers in to dinner. Appreciating its solid construction and thoughtful appointment, Colonel Macleod offered Akers $10,000 for the fort. Akers refused; the fort was worth much more, especially as it was undamaged by siege. He wasnt, however, averse to renting out a few rooms to the Police for an out-post. A deal was made, and Macleod instructed Potts to lead the Force to the main ford on the Old Man River, some 45 Kay upstream from Whoop-Up, where he ordered the erection of Fort Macleod. Mounties long sheltered under Akers roof, much of their working day devoted to trying to intercept the little gangs of Kainai youths who habitually carried on a tribal horse-stealing contest with their counterparts among the Crow and Gros Ventres in Montana Territory.
Akers, according to Hugh A. Dempsey in FirewaterThe Impact of the Whisky Trade on the Blackfoot Nation (Fifth House, Calgary, 2002), bought the fort and its contents from Healy on July 1, 1876, for $4500. He stayed on at his ranch, cooking a little grub for his renters, growing his garden, grazing his cattle, unconcerned should they stray onto the adjacent Kainai Reserve, whence his wife likely came. He gained a neighbour in 1879 when Joshua Watson homesteaded at the bend of the River. In 1882 Akers began to garden commercially, finding a ready market for his produce at Fort Macleod, the coal banks and, later, in Lethbridge. He eventually had 40 acres planted with potatoes, cabbage, carrots and turnips, winning the respect of the Mounties and becoming a quartermaster sergeant the force. On December 5th, 1888, the Police managed to set their rented barracks alight and much of Fort Whoop-Up went up in smoke. Akers sued and won compensation, and the Mounties abandoned Whoop-Up for a new barracks in Lethbridge. In 1892 Akers, eaten into poverty by his wifes relatives, according to Captain Richard Burton Deane in Deane, Monthly Report, December 1893 (Pioneer Policing in Southern Alberta: Deane of the Mounties 18881914 [ed. Wm. M. Baker, Historical Society of Alberta, Calgary, 1996]), gave the property up for taxes and moved to the Pot Hole, a stream feeding into the St. Marys about five miles up-stream from the latters confluence with the Oldman. Dave, reads Deane, Special Report, 7 December 1893, was gut-shot dead by an old acquaintance, Thos. Lee Purcel, at Purcels range corral on the 3rd of that month in a squabble over the equitable distribution of head in a herd of cattle they mutually owned. Tom got three years in the Stony Mountain pen. The fort was left to crumble, the last vestiges of it washing away in the spring floods of either June, 1902, or in 1915.
The view of the big trestle bridge from the parking lot of Fort Whoop-Up is spectacular, the sun picking out the details of the 12,500 tons of structural steel work black against a clear azure sky. Also called the High Level Bridge, the Viaduct is a truly awesome structure. They say that in the World there are higher trestle bridges, and that there are longer, but that no-where is there a longer, higher trestle bridge. Thats what they say. How long and how high? Fifty-three hundred and twenty-seven point six feet long by 307 feet high is how. Thirty-three towers of riveted steel members marching in a perfectly straight line across the valley and carrying the railbed at a 0.4% slope from east to west16 where the big cut continues the incline, gouging a trench some 25 feet deep into the top of the western escarpment.17 The Biggest Steel Railway Trestle in the World, it takes 3,800 gallons of paint to cover it.
As originally completed in 1885, the North-Western Coal and Navigations old Medicine HatLethbridge line, the Turkey Track, came to an abrupt halt on the east side of the Oldman River in what is now downtown Lethbridge. CP took over its operation in 1893 and four years later, when it resolved to build its Southern Mainline through the Crows Nest Pass and on into B.C.s booming Kootenay mining districts, the Company surveyed a large loop which swung from the east side of Lethbridge away south past the present airport, snaked down suitable ravines to the bottom of the Oldmans valley near the original site of Fort Whoop-Up, teetered across the St. Marys on a 2,933 foot-long trestle 65 feet above the waters to step back up onto the Plains again, ran on across the Kainai Reserve No. 148 to cross the Belly River and continue on to Fort Macleod.18 Grades ran to 1.5%, steep enough to test the skills of a locomotive engineer driving a train in frosty or windy weather.
Maintaining the old route was expensive. It gained and lost elevation in metal-shrieking curves that wore out both rails and wheels. Including the infamous St. Marys crossing, there was nearly 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles) of trestling in 20 separate structures made of 15 million board-feet of timber which, only months after construction, were bone dry and shrunken, rickety with bolts loose and joints gapped, reducing train-speed to a crawl. A fast passenger train took a full two hours to travel the 38.5 route-miles between Lethbridge and Macleod, a freight three hours or more. Fire was a constant threat, either on the deck caused by locomotives, or licking out of the prairie grass to gnaw at the wooden trestle bents. Spring floods undercut footings. Operationally the route was complicated, mentions Don Bain in Canadian Pacific in The Rockies - Volume 4 (The Calgary Group of The British Railway Modellers of North America, Calgary, 1979), for trains had either to back out of, or into, Lethbridge. And to top it all off, the great Kainai reserve was unproductive of business, in CPR-speak, for though there were three sidingsNena, Kipp and Cumtuxlocated on the Reserve by maps of the period, rarely did a train stop. All up, this reach of rails created a very expensive bottleneck in operations. In 1904 the Company decided to eliminate the problem and assigned its Assistant Chief Engineer of the Western Lines department, John Edward Schwitzer, the task. After two years of investigating options, his solution was to run straight west out of Lethbridge, carrying the valley of the Belly19 on an enormous trestle bridge which he calculated would cost the Company $1,065,000. The main concern was the ferocious gales that frequently rip down the valley. With the 1879 Tay Bridge disaster at Dundee, Scotland, still fresh in every engineers mind, and the ghosts of the three navvies killed in the collapse of a partially completed trestle on the old alignment20 still demanding compensation, care would have to be taken to ensure that the Viaduct would have a wide enough stance, and be sufficiently braced so as not to end up as crumpled scrap on the valley bottom.
C.N. Monsarrat of CPs Bridge Department in Montreal headed the group that designed the trestle in consultation with the famous bridge-builder, Chas. C. Schneider of Philadelphia. The City desired greatly that a traffic deck be built below the railway deck in a design similar to the bi-level bridge that CP would complete in Edmonton in 1913. Cost-sharing negotiations with the province lagged, and CP, anxious to get the project under way, finally ceased to entertain the idea. The Canadian Bridge Company won the contract to pre-fabricate the steel work, a project that it started immediately in its yards at Walkerton, Ontario. CPR survey engineer F.M. Young and his crew laid out the four footings for each of the towers in six weeks during the summer of 190721, and that October 26th workers, under the direction of Company employee Blair Ripley and his boss and chief of construction, Frederick St. Clair Farran, began planting the first footing deep into the unstable soil of the valleys right scarp. On the valley bottom, Elliott Galts 20-year old mansion, Coal Dale, was slated for demolition, as it sat right where the surveyors wanted to plant footing No. 34.
It was a time-consuming process, setting the footings, 132 of them in two straight rows marching down one valley wall and up the other side. John Gunn and Sons of Winnipeg won the contract to emplace them. Their labourers dug pits enough to accommodate each footing plus the 2 massive abutments, removing, largely by pick and shovel, nearly 20,000 cubic yards of soil in the process. Into the bottoms of the pits the Raymond Pile Company of Canada drove a total of 1676 concrete-filled metal tubes between 12 and 20 feet long, leaving a foot or so sticking up to engage the bottom of the concrete work. Formwork was built into the pits and filled with concrete mixed in a ratio of one part Buffalo or Exshaw brand cement to two parts sand to four parts gravel with enough water to make the mixture workable. The first yard of concrete was poured in November of 1907: 17,089 yards would follow.
Planting the footings, however, did not go smoothly. Despite Youngs best efforts, some of the footings were positioned above old mine works which, until they were reinforced, began to collapse under the weight of the concrete. The concrete work was about half finished when the Oldman arose in a spring fury to undercut several of the great pads and wash out the coffer dams that the Gunns had emplaced around the sites of the mid-river footing piers. These problems did not, however, long delay the completion of the project.
On April 18th of 1908, work began on the grade of the Cut-off, the new alignment west from the Viaduct. With Fresno scrapers and ploughs drawn by teams of horses or mules, crews of contractors began making the deep cut on the valleys far wall that would gradually lift the trackage up to prairie level from the bridges western abutment. In a wide loop of about 48 kilometres to the north and west, crossing the Oldman River at the half-way point, and skirting the loess dunes on the southern edge of Coyote Flats, the road bed was completed to Macleod and tied into the existing Crows Nest Line, eliminating as it did so 401.5 feet rise and fall in elevation compared to the old alignment.
While the footings, abutments and piers were being emplaced, a 100-man Canadian Bridge crew headed by C.F. Prettie began arriving in April of 1908. They immediately mounted a small crane on a 65-ton flatcar and used it to set three bridge spans on temporary wooden trestling which was later in-filled. A through-truss design in which the deck of the spans was a attached to the bottom of each pair of sheeted trusses was chosen for three reasons: one, to prevent any derailed cars from tumbling off the bridge; two, to shield the rolling stock from the ferocious valley winds and therefore reduce the possibility of a derailment; and three, to facilitate the building of the structure. The first girder was laid, notes the prolific Alex Johnston in The CP Rail High Level Bridge at Lethbridge (Occasional Paper No. 12, Whoop-Up Country Chapter of the Historical Society of Alberta, Lethbridge 1984 ), on June the 24th, 1908. Once the three spans were set on their trestling, the Canadian Bridge crews laid rails of the tops of the trusses and used the crane-equipped flatcar to aid them in the construction of the erection traveller, a huge, 356-ton steam-powered machine with winches and derricks which would be used to lower the prefabricated tower members and spans into position. It would cost, writes R.F.P. Bowman in Railways in Southern Alberta (Occasional Paper No. 36 of the Lethbridge Historical Society chapter of the Historical Society of Alberta,, Lethbridge, 2002 ), $100,000 and would be dismantled when its work was done. Erected on the rails on the trusses to allow flat cars loaded with materials to be run out beneath it to the working end of the beast, the tip of the Travellers main spar speared 60 feet into the heavens and could support a load of 30 tons. It took one month to build.
On August 15, 1908, the Traveller began work, lowering its first piece of steel to the iron workers below who bolted it into position. Carefully, a beam at a time, the first tower took shape. When it was completed, the Traveller swung the first of 68 plate-trusses22 out over the abyss to join the tower to the abutment. A second truss was placed and the deck between completed and railed with 85-pound-per-yard railsreplaced by 100-lb. sometime in the 40s. The Traveller then moved out onto the new span and the process was repeated. Following like a puppy behind the Erection Traveller came the Riveting Traveller, a wood-built machine carrying compressors and spars to dangle scaffolding and hoses over either edge of the bridge so that crews could use 100-pound-per-square-inch pneumatic hammers to mash home the 328,000-odd rivets used in the structure. The project went well, the last span being decked in the morning June 22nd, 1909. Though it is suspected that the engineer of the construction locomotive rolled his unit off onto terra firma at the western end of the structure that afternoon, the first official crossing occurred the next day when Geo. J. Bury, the general manager of CPs Western Division, ceremoniously had his private coach taken over the new span. The Erection Traveller, as soon as it had completed its task the Belly, was fitted onto railcars and moved up the Cut-off to Monarch where the crews of John Kelly and Sons out of Winnipeg were already at work on the sub-structure of the Oldman River Bridge nearby.
Though the Viaductpus-tawn in Kainaiwas standing, it was not by any means complete. Much of it was merely tacked together, and it would take the riveters until August 9th to finish their job. In the meanwhile, inspectors examined every aspect of the Viaduct, stress-testing members and shimming feet so as to make the structure perfectly straight before crews began slathering on the 17,263 litres of paint needed to weather-proof it. Reports The Lethbridge Daily Herald of August 11th, 1909, on the 10th instant a train of sightseers conducted by H. Lewis and engineered by J. Wallwork gingerly eased out across the span. Their contract satisfied, Canadian Bridge turned the Viaduct over to the CPR. It was further tested and adjusted and the painting completed. On October 23rd, writes Johnston in The CP Rail High Level Bridge …, with the completion of the bridge over the Oldman west of Monarch, a short train from Calgary consisting of only an engine and tender, a caboose and the coach Minnedosa crammed with officials chugged across the new bridge.
All totalled up, the Viaduct had cost $1,334,525 and the lives of five workers.23 To the relief of the Kainai who had been long annoyed by the grass fires started by locomotives, the new alignment completely avoided their lands, and to the relief of the CPR, it shortened the route distance between Lethbridge and Macleod by 5.25 miles and halved the travel time, eliminated 1800 degrees of curvature with their wear and tear on trackage and wheels, reduced the gradient by two-thirds, and replaced 2.8 miles of rickety wooden trestling with 1.4 miles of solid steel. Though the Cut-off would not be officially opened for traffic for another two days, the official inauguration of the High Level took place on November 1st of 1909. Was it not sunk below the level of the surrounding Plain, the highest, longest trestle bridge in the world would be an arresting landmark for miles around.
Mr. Sheran: First Coal
Indian Battle Park is bounded on the south by Whoop-Up Drive, a modern expressway that connects old Lethbridge to West Lethbridge across the 6th Avenue Bridge, completed in 1975. In the first ravine downstream from the one that carries Whoop-Up up into West Lethbridge is evidence of the neighbourhoods first commercial mine.
There is still some mystery surrounding Nicholas Sheran. Reports A.A. den Otter in his essential, Civilizing the West: The Galts and the development of western Canada (University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, 1982),24 Sheran either came from Ireland or was born to Irish parents soon after their arrival in New York City. He would admit in later life that he had served in the U.S. Army as a drummer during the American Civil War, maybe joining as a 14-year old. In the aftermath of that tragedy he supposeédly whaled in the Arctic for a couple of years before drifting out West to earn his living as a bull whacker. Tough work and tense, driving waggons loaded with trade goods or pelts on the high plains of Montana around Fort Benton, sitting on a rolling box of wealth, every stranger a danger and often recognized too late. Come the early 1870s Sheran was driving teams of up to 16 spanspairsof oxen to move heavy trains of supplies up the Old North Road 14 days from Benton to Fort Whoop-Up. In between trips, and along the way, Sheran kept his eye open for gold.
Nick Sheran wasnt the first person, of course, to notice the seams of coal peeking out from beneath the glacial till in the bottoms of the river valleys around Whoop-Up. Layered into the sedimentary rock of the Belly/Oldman River Formation laid down as seafloor during the Upper Cretaceous Era a few million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs, the coal was known as sik-ooh-kotoks, black rocks, to the Kainai. The Kainai were well aware that the rocks burned, but tribal taboo forbad the use of them to heat tipis, likely due to bitter experience with warm blankets of CO2 asphyxiating entire families when fires failed unnoticed in the night.25 It made fierce-looking body paint, however, and was collected by the young men for that purpose.
More worldly than the Kainai, Sheran envisioned other uses for the coal. Others must have, too, but he was apparently the first to haul a waggon-load back to Fort Benton to see if could find a market. It being the chilly months of 1872, he did, and for many loads thereafter. It was quickly recognized as superior to Mississippi coal, and was cheaper. Sheran made a good living hauling up and down the Old North Road. By June of 1874 he had built a scow at Whoop-Up and was offering ferry services across the nearby ford that was sometimes too deep to allow North Road / Benton Trail traffic easy passage across what was then the Belly River. Early in October of 1874 the North-West Mounted Police visited Fort Whoop-Up and advised the custodian thereof that it was against law of the Dominion of Canada to provide Indians with liquor, and those who persisted would be prosecuted. The Law had come to the Canadian West and Sheran sensed both a sea-change in the strategy of regional commerce, and a business opportunity. That very month he left off waggoneering and repaired to the bottoms of the Belly, to what was known to the Kainai as sokohotikiplace of black rocksand hacked a mine into the seams. He showed his former compatriots, the teamsters, that they could sell in Fort Benton for up to $20 each ton of the coal hed load onto their waggons at Whoop-Up for $4 or $5.
The enterprise paid everyone a satisfactory profit, everyone except the Kainai. From the bluffs above they impatiently observed the waggons full of sik-ooh-kotoks leaving their territory. No fools; theyd heard of the chikaminmoney rocksof the Ktunaxa to the West, and they knew well that if the Whites wanted the rocks, they must be somehow valuable. The local bison were in disastrous decline, and with them went the Nations whole system of economics. Desperate for a means of survival, the Tribe was jealous of every grain of sand in their lands as they sought items of trade to replace hides. The fact that Sheran had taken to wife a Piikani, White-tailed Deer WomanMary Brown, likely stayed their interference. Perhaps unwilling to constantly negotiate with the Kainai for permission to cut and collect firewood, the N-WMP soon equipped their buildings with suitable hearths and stoves and joined Sherans list of customers. Such was the new demand that Sheran abandoned his upper diggings near Fort Whoop-Up and opened up a better mine at what he called the coal banks, on the left bank of the Oldman across from what is now Indian Battle Park. With Fort Benton booming and demands for Whoop-Up coal increasing, Sheran raised his prices, built a substantial home for himself and his growing family of two boys, Charles and William, hired some help, floated his original ferry scows to a nearby fordSherans Crossingon what was then the Belly River near the site of the present 6th Avenue Bridge,26 and placed another ferry on what still is the Belly, just above its confluence with the Oldman, on the trail to Fort Macleod, near old Fort Kipp.27
The family Sheran for many years made a satisfactory living from what was, in the light of things to come, a very small operation at the coal banks. In 1880, however, the family entertained a guest who was to dramatically change the scale of coal mining in the valley of the Belly.
The Galts Drive a Mine
In the summer of 1880, writes H.B. Timothy in The Galts: A Canadian Odyssey, Volume 2 (McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1984), Elliott Torrance Galt was a well-educated28 29-year-old whose father, Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, had enough sway in Canadian affairs29 to ensure that on June 19th, 1879, his eldest son was appointed secretary and clerk to Edgar Dewdney, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs since 1878. One of Dewdneys main duties was the distribution of treaty monies to the tribes, and it was while he was engaged in this task in the summer of 1880 that his secretary visited the coal banks. The scion of a family of entrepreneurs, Elliott Galt ever had his eye open for opportunities to increase his familys wealth. He recognized the potential of Sherans enterprise, and took samples30 which he likely carried with him when he travelled Down East to visit his family later that autumn. Eventual analysis of the samples revealed the superior quality of Sherans coal, news that was of interest to Sir Alexander who was, by that time, the Canadian High Commissioner to London.31
Besides representing Canada at any treaty tables at which the British permitted him to sit, Galts primary objectives as High Commissioner were to encourage British emigration to Canada, and pique financial interest in the Dominions national dream of a trans-continental railroad linking old Canada to British Columbia. Especially the latter assignment was a tough sell. Report after report had convinced the British that most of the North-West was largely unfit for agriculture, and with slim possibilities for profit, entrepreneurs in London were unwilling to risk capital in a railroad across a desert. In the end Canadians were forced to incorporate a railroad company themselves, and could only attract foreign investment after the Dominion underwrote the companys bonds.
Sometime soon after Sir Alexander took up his London posting, his son apprised him that assays of the Belly River samples had proved the coal was of high quality. The measures were enormous, reported Elliott, the only problem was that the closest point of bulk transport was Fort Benton, 160 miles away in Montana Territory. American protectionism precluded the export thence of industrial quantities of coal, and transhipping it through that country to Canadian markets would be prohibitively expensive. The Canadian trans-continental railroad would, of course, require immense quantities of coal, but in 1880 it was still proposed to run well north of Sherans mine. It looked that the Belly River coal beds were too remote to be attractive to Big Capital.
However, by the end of 1881 the situation had changed.
During the summer of that year the famous Dr. Geo. Mercer Dawson of the Geological Survey of Canada investigated the Belly coal banks. He took samples and would report that the coal was excellent for steaming and coking, and that some 90 million tons lay shallowly buried in level, easily accessible measures. Though his report would not be published for some months, it is not inconceivable the Dawson and Elliott Galt crossed paths that summer. They were of much the same age and social back ground, and, if Speculation is permitted to fabricate a chain of events, it could well have happened that, say, over tea in the Hotel at Fort Macleod, Dawson confided his findings to Elliott Galt who, in turn, apprised his father.
In April of 1881 the CPR hired Major Albert Bowman Rogers to comb the cordillera west of Fort Calgary for a railroad-able pass which would permit a shorter, less hilly route across the Prairies than the one laid out by Sir Sanford Fleming some ten years earlier. Though he wasnt able to confirm it until the following year, within a month of his engagement the major located a promising pass through the daunting Selkirks. This was confidential information, but, if Speculation is again allowed to interpret events, it is imaginable that the well-connected High Commissioner to London, charged with attracting investment to the Canadian trans-continental, would hear rumours of a possible change in route.
There exists no hard proof that either of these two chains of events happened. However, something roused the senior Galts entrepreneurial senses. Imagination can only theorise what arguments he employed that summer of 1881 to convince three pretty astute moneymen in LondonWilliam Henry Smith, the book seller and former First Lord of the Admiralty, Smiths well-heeled friend and business associate, William Lethbridge, and the American expatriate Wm. Lehman Ashmead-Bartlett Burdett-Coutts of Piccadillyto pony up £2,000 each and join him in a syndicate to investigate carefully the coal measures in the North-West. To conduct that investigation the Syndicate contracted Captain Nicholas Bryant of Londonderry Iron Mines in Nova Scotia to travel west that autumn and evaluate several of the measures that Dr. Dawson and the younger Galt had reported.32
When Alexander Tilloch Galt was the High Commissioner to London, the ethics of business were quite different that they are in the opening years of the 21st Century. A man of means was expected to profit from his knowledge and his situation. Mandated to encourage the immigration of people and capital to Canada, Galt, nor any of his peers, saw no reason why he should not personally benefit from his work for the government,33 especially since the private and public aims dovetailed so neatly. Galt was by the end of 1881, however, eager to devote his full energies to rebuilding his fading fortune, and tendered his resignation sometime around Christmas. This Macdonald refused to accept, citing several international matters of some import to the Dominion that required Galts attention.
Bryants report evidently supported those of Dawson and Galt, jr., for on April 25th, 1882, the North-Western Coal and Navigation Company Limited (N-WC&N) was granted incorporation in London under The Companies Act, 1862 to 1880, capitalized to £50,900 in shares valued at £100 each. Its charter permitted the company to build and operate mines, sawmills, boats, build a town with schools, stores, churches, houses and hospitals, and promote immigration thereto. Its principals were those of the Syndicate, Lethbridge being named as president. As president, Lethbridge applied forthwith under Canadas recently revised Dominion Land Act34 to lease 320 acres of land in four blocks: one on the Bow at Blackfoot Crossing, one near the confluence of the Belly and the Bow, and two on the Belly near Coal Banks. A 50-square mile timber berth in the Porcupine Hills near Fort Macleod was also requested. As it awaited approval of its application, N-WC&N sent Bryant and William Stafford of the Acadia Coal Company along with a party of the latters miners out to Fort Benton that May to outfit themselves and proceed to the proposed leases to do further evaluation work. As North-Western Coal and Navigations business plan was, as suggested by its very name, to float coal downstream to wherever the CPR crossed the Saskatchewan River system, a second crew under the command of Missouri riverboat Captain Josephus Todd35 dragged a portable sawmill into the Porcupines and began cutting choice pines for the construction of boats and barges, as well as mine props and for construction of the new N-WMP post at Fort Macleod.
The incorporation of the N-WC&N was fortuitous in its timing, for even as Bryant, et al were recruiting men and buying supplies in Fort Benton, the CPRs newly-hired manager of construction, Wm. Cornelius Van Horne, confident that surveyor Rogers had indeed found a railroad pass through the mountains, announced that he would drive his companys mainline straight west across the Prairies to Fort Calgary and thence through the Kicking Horse Pass into British Columbia. This was gratifying news for N-WC&N shareholders, for it meant that the line would approach the Belly River. Though his resignation as High Commissioner had been rejected, the 65-year old Alexander abandoned his post and returned to Canada that summer, likely learning on his arrival that the cabinet of John Macdonald had that July approved a reassignment of the leases, allowing Wm. Lethbridge, Burdett-Coutts, Smith, and solicitor George Bompas to each lease 320 acres of coal lands with the proviso that mine development commence within two years. The 10 cent-per-ton royalty was waived, as well. With his young son, Alex, Sir Alexander hied himself west to meet with son Elliott, Bryant and Stafford that August and decide where to build N-WC&Ns mine. Though the measures at Blackfoot Crossing were nearly on the proposed line of the CPR and the coal was good, it was decided that the deposits on the Belly were the best. The party dispersed and Stafford, it seems, went back to Nova Scotia to recruit more miners. With a crew of 15 he returned and on October 13, 1882, very near the little simulated mine entry that the Gyro Club of Lethbridge built in the shadows of the High Level in 1967, Stafford and his men began hacking entries into the coal strata at the base of the Oldmans scarp. By December 11th they had built a serviceable mine and began extracting coal. Come the spring of 1883, according to den Otter in his Civilizing the West: , Superintendent of Mining Stafford and crew had pulled out 22,000 tons, most of which was sentone imagines much to Fred Kanouses chagrinto Fort Macleod where the Mounties bought it for $12.50 per ton.
Come the end of the 1882 track-laying season on the Prairies, the focused, hard-headed W.C. Van Horne had driven the CPR steel to an end near what is today Tompkins, Saskatchewan. A crossing on the South Saskatchewan River had already been chosen, at a place that would be called Medicine Hat, nearly 160 serpentine river miles downstream from the coal banks.
In lands as dry as are the western fringes of the Canadian prairies, the Oldman River is an impressive stream, especially when flooded by spring meltwaters. Then, the foreshore flats, the sandbars and snags, even some islands disappear under the surge. Debris moves along smartly, travelling, writes Dr. Stewart Rood of the University of Lethbridges Department of Biological Sciences, an average of 3.5 miles in an hour. However, the River moves some 60% of its water in just 10 weeks, from spring break-up usually in late April, to the middle of July. After that, write Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History, the rivers level drops quickly, its flow dwindles to a languid slowness exposing hazards to navigation. Islands re-emerge. What was carefully navigable becomes a treachery of snags reaching up from the diminishing depths, of sandbars and shallows hiding under myriad riffles on the Rivers face.36 This fact was evidently overlooked or ignored by Sir Alexr in his campaign to attract investors to his coal banks project, but would entirely wreck N-WC&Ns plans to float their produce down to their main buyer, the CPR.
Elliott Galt resigned from the Department of the Interior effective March 15th, 1883 to become N-WC&Ns general manager. Among of his duties was the supervision of the companys three boat-building yards at Fort Macleod, Medicine Hat and what was becoming known as the community of Coal Banks on the river bottom flats near the mouth of the Galt mines. Under the direction of Captain Joe Todd, the sawmill crew had been busy all winter in the Porcupine Hills felling pines and delivering rough-cut lumber to Fort Macleod. There a crew was building four big barges in which to float timber down to Coal Banks where, writes Bruce Peel in The Coal Fleet (Boats & Barges on the Belly ed. Dr. Alex Johnston, Occasional Paper No. 2 of the Lethbridge Historical Society chapter of the Historical Society of Alberta, 1995 ), Captain Todds brother, Nels, headed a team of Ohio riverboat builders constructing a big sternwheeler. The first barge left Fort Macleod on April the 9th and was poled down to Coal Banks with difficulty, some of the lumber having to be rafted part of the way. A second barge departing on May 29th had no trouble, riding on higher water.37 Upon arrival at Coal Banks, the timber was off-loaded and the barges laden by wheel-barrow with 15 to 20 tons of coal each and sent careering down the River in what Dr. Rood estimates to be a 50-hour trip to Medicine Hat, should no impediments be encountered.
In the Coal Banks ship yards the riverboat christened Baroness in honour of the very wealthy, aristocratic philanthropist and investor in the N-WC&N, Baroness Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, rapidly took shape. Flat bottomed, she measured 173 feet from stem to stern with a beam of 30 feet. On the 2nd of July the hull was launched, reportedly drawing but six inches of water. Under the captaincy of Josephus Todd, was drifted downstream to Medicine Hat to be completed. There the upper works were finished, the boiler and a 49 horsepower, twin-cylinderd Rees & Sons engine installed, and the paddlewheel hung. On the 27th of July, reports Professor Timothy in his afore noted The Galts: , she was declared complete, drawing 18 inches of water. Sir Alexander had resigned his Commissionership on June the 1st and been replaced in London by Charles Tupper. Ever a hands-on man of business, he was aboard the Baroness as she made her maiden voyage up the Saskatchewan to The Grand Forksthe confluence of the Bow and the Bellyand back around the 10th of August. Satisfied, Galt had her refuelled, loaded with 70 tons of cargo bound for Coal Banks and Fort Macleod and sent her up stream with the four emptied barges which had come down since spring. She made good time, but burned quite a bit of fuel. At Coal Banks a line of rail which had been laid that August from the mine mouth to the rivers edge permitted donkey-drawn mine cars to quickly load the Baroness with almost 90 tons of coal, settling her two feet into the water. With her barges loaded she headed back down to Medicine Hat, amazing the local Blackfoots to whom she was the is-tee-a-keo-sa-chis. Though the Regina Leader reported that she made the round trip in but 60 hours, the water was very low in the Belly and she was tied up at The Hat until the next spring.
Superintendent Stafford had had a second mine drifted into the Oldmans scarp about six metres from the original and connected to it farther in. Though a shaft had been sunk into the works from above, and a fire maintained on the surface to promote the circulation of air, ventilation concerns limited the depth of the drifts to about 1,000 feet. Rails had been laid into the mine and Shetland and Welsh ponies dragged the coal cars back and forth: coal out, to the weigh scales; timbers in, to prop up the fragile mine ceilings.
The CPR had determined that its locomotives steamed well on N-WC&N coal and ordered 20,000 tons to be delivered to Medicine Hat at $5.00 per ton. The Company expected, however, that the delivery be made in a timely fashion: Van Horne didnt want his locomotives starved of fuel. Though the 22 miners were able to output some 70 tons per day, the Baroness and her barges had been able to deliver only 200 tons to N-WC&Ns coal shed in The Hat, less than 3 days mine output. N-WC&N had to either invest in more carrying capacity, or fold up its tents. Whatever he was rumoured to lack in the diplomatic department,38 Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt was no quitter. Carry coal to the CPR he would.
Sending Stafford and Bryant down to Nova Scotia to recruit more miners and move them and their families out to Coal Banks, the Galts attacked the problem of delivery. Though your author has seen no definite reference, it is likely that teamsters were engaged and sent with heavy freight waggons loaded with coal cursing across the prairies to Medicine Hat.39 This expedient, slow and expensive and increasingly dangerous as winter set in, would have been a stop-gap measure to relieve the CPRs anxiety over coal supplies.40 It had, of course, occurred to all involved that a railroad would be the best method of bulk-transporting coal. A railroad would have no season as did river transport, and could therefore carry much more cargo annually. It would, however, require the investment of much more capital than N-WC&N possessed. Nevertheless, in October of 188341 Sir Alexander applied to Macdonalds cabinet for a lineal grant of land for a right-of-way and several plots upon which to lay out yards and stations. As well, he requested an option to buy 6,400 acres of land for one dollar per acre for every mile of rail laid, plus the privilege, notes den Otter in Civilizing the West: , of purchasing outright 15,000 additional acres of coal lands for $10 per acre. The cabinet forthwith acquiesced to Galts request to present N-WC&Ns application to parliament for approval. Though this was still pending, Galt sailed for London at years end to lay his plan before the N-WC&Ns directorship and recommend that they incorporate a new entity to absorb the presumed N-WC&Ns real estate assets and use them as collateral in raising capital to build the railroad. He estimated that the railroad could be done well for $11,000 per mile, about £22,000 in total, and that the road would return $3.50 of profit for every ton of coal it delivered to the CPR. Fate, however, had ill-timed Galts proposal and it was met with doubt. Notes den Otter, in the autumn of 1883 the share-price of the recently-completed Northern Pacific Railway of Henry Villard began sinking on the New York Stock Exchange, souring investors on all railroad stocks. Galt persisted, however, and on April 9th, 1884, the principals in the N-WC&N, plus Alexander Stavely Hill,42 incorporated the Alberta Railway and Coal Company. Ten days later in Ottawa An Act to incorporate the Alberta Railway and Coal Company was granted royal assent as 47 Victoria Chapter 86. That same day of April 19th, 1884, the governor-general of Canada, the Most Honourable Marquis of Lansdowne, on behalf of the Sovereign signed into law 47 Victoria Chapter 74, An Act to empower the North-Western Coal and Navigation Company (Limited), to construct and work a line of railway between Medicine Hat and the Companys mines on the Belly River, and for other purposes[,] stating in Clause 1 that The Company shall be and is hereby recognized throughout the Dominion of Canada as a body corporate and politic under the name of The North-Western Coal and Navigation Company (Limited) In Clause 2, besides permitted to construct a railway, the company was authorized to extend the railroad to Fort McLeod [sic], and string a telegraph and telephone along the entire right-of-way. The coal acreage was reduced to 10,000. On the strength of these Acts money could be raised, but in the meantime the N-WC&N was forced to return to the Belly for one more season of transportation.
Hoping that 1883 had been a low-water year on the Belly, N-WC&N continued its barge-building programa total of 25 would be constructedand commissioned a second steamboat to be built over the winter of 1883/84 at the companys yards in Medicine Hat. Constructed largely of oak imported from Minnesota, she was the Alberta, even though Medicine Hat was in the District of Assiniboia.43 She was smaller than the Baroness, with a width of 20 feet, a length of 100 feet, and a 30.33hp Rees & Sons engine. Unlike her cousin, the Alberta had a distinct keel, more of a lake-boat design. She was launched onto the high water of the South Saskatchewan on April 15th under the command of Wesley Todd.
Four days later, a third N-WC&N steamer was slid into the Saskatchewan at Medicine Hat. The aptly-named Minnow had been built at Rat Portagenow Kenora, Ontario, on Lake o the Woodsand came by CPR flatcar to The Hat. She was long and narrow73 feet by 10 feetand equipped with a tiny Allen & Company engine that didnt quite output six horse-power. Whereas the Shipping Register of the Port of Winnipeg recorded the gross tonnage of the Baroness as 320, and that of the Alberta as 150, the Minnow weighed in at but 20 tons.44 She was, notes Bruce Peel in The Coal Fleet, more of a tugboat than anything else, though canoe comes to mind, also.
With its corporate fingers crossed, N-WC&N prepared for its second season on the Belly. Operations likely began before high water arrived at Medicine Hat on May the 24th. Come June 28th the water had dropped so far as to make shipping impossible: the season was over and the boats were tied up at The Hat. In eight round trips the Alberta had delivered 4,000 tons45 to Medicine Hat, the Baroness somewhat less in nine trips, her flat bottom making it difficult to steer the pack of barges assigned to her. Tis not noted in what tasks the Minnow was engaged, likely nudging barges up to the off-loading wharf at Medicine Hat.
Though N-WC&Ns coal fleet never carried another lump of coal, neither did the vessels leave company employ. The next year the boats and some of the barges were leased by the Department of the Militia for an astounding $20,00046half the capital cost of the entire flotillato move supplies down the Saskatchewan for the Dominion forces that were engaging Louis Riel and his rag-tag bands of insurgents. When their militia service was over they returned to Medicine Hat for the winter. In June of 1886 the big boats were dispatched to what was by then Lethbridge. The Baroness, laden with farm equipment bound for Fort Macleod, didnt make it, running aground near The Grand Forks. She was eventually worked back down to Medicine Hat where she was savaged by the ice over the winter. In March of 1887 her boilers and engines were removed and carried to Lethbridge to be used at the new Galt No. 3 mine, her hull left to rot on the Medicine Hat river front till washed away in the Great Flood of 1902. The Alberta made Lethbridge on the 24th of June of 1886. She was promptly stripped of her boiler and engine which were used to power the sawmill which had been brought down from Fort Macleod in the spring of 84 and re-assembled on the shore of the Belly/Oldman near the Galt mine mouth. The carcass of the Alberta was dragged partly up on the shore just downstream of the mill to help form a log impoundment, her bell being salvaged to serve the community of Lethbridge as a fire/curfew alarm. The last of her remains were, like the Baroness, carried off by the spring flood waters in 1902, as were many of the derelict barges which had been left tethered along the Bellys shores. The little Minnow, claims Bruce Peel in The Coal Fleet, was sold at The Hat to lumbermen Joseph and François Lamoureux for $750 in the fall of 1887. They changed her name to Minou, converted to screw drive, and used it for years on the North Saskatchewan to deliver small cargoes and herd logs to their mills.47
The Turkey Track
From the little Gyro Club-erected kiosk, its walls adorned with plasticized placards highlighting the history of coal in Lethbridge, the visitor passes yet again beneath the Viaduct and back into the parking lot of the Whoop-Up Interpretive Centre and Indian Battle Park. One must use imagination to erase the Viaduct from the scene and look back to 1884 when upon this level flood plain was scattered the thriving community of Coal Banks, prettily sheltered by native cottonwoods, willows and saskatoon bushes. The most prominent structure would have been the sawmill48 down on the River, the yowl of the saws tearing logs into mine props echoing in the ravines, smoke and steam from its power plant drifting down the valley. A tiny collection of bunk houses huddled close. Across the River was the workings of Sherans mine, owned since Sherans death in the spring of 1882 by budding businessman Fred Kanouse. A few hundred feet upstream was Sherans ferry, taken over by N-WC&N, Kanouse presumably having no interest in running it. A rough roadway connecting the saw mill to the mines cut Coal Banks in two. South of it a respectful distance, according to a map sketched by Wm. Staffords elderly son for Dr. Alex Johnston and included in Boats & Barges on the Belly, was Staffords graveyard. Beside the Staffords grand house near the eastern end of the roadway there was a large company stores building stocked with supplies freighted over the trail from Medicine Hat. Close by was a waggon scale, and a stable for the mine ponies and, presumably, the horses assigned to pull the N-WC&N stagecoach which the company ran between Fort Macleod and Medicine Hat. North of the road, nearer the twin entries of the drift mines, was a big N-WC&N bunk house and a company boarding house whose kitchen staff, like everyone else in Coal Banks, bought their fresh vegetables from Dave Akers of old Fort Whoop-Up. Meat they bought from slaughterhouse owner O.S. Main. In 1885 Henry Bentley would join in the commercial activities when he began selling merchandise out of his tent, the first general store in Coal Banks. Strewn over the flats were shanties and shacks and tents. Chickens clattered in yards, horses and mules protested their confinement in corrals, kids quarrelled. There was no school, no bank.49 Though alcohol was legally banned in the North-West Territories, the Mounties stationed down at old Fort Whoop-Up rarely bothered Joe Hall, brewer and keeper of the local saloon. Hard-working miners, most from Nova Scotia where prohibition was an alien notion, were unprepared to accept constraints on their imbibing or other diversions to be found in the cribs near the saloon. Seeking good relations with men who were of their own race and class, the Mounties, many of the members noted to be appreciative of feminine company and renowned drinkers themselves, tended to turn a blind eye to the shenanigans.
The Oldman failed the N-WC&N, and in its disappointment the company turned its back on the River, looking to salvage its fortunes with a railroad which would terminate on the plain above the mines. A new town was laid out adjacent the train tracks, and Coal Banks became the bottoms with a reputation as a place of dissolution and poverty and violence that nice people avoided. The last of the residences were inundated in the floods of 1953 and were condemned by The City which seven years later designated the area Indian Battle Park.
From the Whoop-Up parking lot a paved two-laner snakes its way narrowly, steeply up the gully between The Point on the south and the Viaduct to the north. At the top is a traffic light: Scenic Drive South. Like most Prairie communities, the greater part of the City of Lethbridge is laid out on a grid rigidly orientated to the cardinal points of the compass. The exception is the old core which, again like many Prairie communities, is laid out square with the original alignment of a railroad. In Lethbridges case, this alignment only slightly skewed the grid from true north-south.
Turning north on Scenic, one passes 2nd Avenue S. extending eastward toward Galt Gardens. These two dismal blocks of sun-baked parking lots surrounding the occasional dilapidated two-storey comprise the remnants of Lethbridges Chinatown. Crossing 1st Avenue, one could continue on, down and underneath the 1979 overpass carrying the CPRs re-aligned Crowsnest Line to the Viaduct, and immediately and carefully cut a hard left into the parking lot of an exclusive seniors residence which, in the autumn of 2006, is almost finished. The property on which it is built formerly hosted the terminus of the North-Western Coal & Navigations railroad and the plant for lifting, weighing and loading coal. Marbled mounds of cinders are all that remain of the former industry.
The CPR had pushed its Mainline across the South Saskatchewan River at Medicine Hat in June of 1883, and was, a year later, willing to deliver thither at a reduced freight rate the equipment that N-WC&N needed to build a line to Coal Banks. Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt applied to the cabinet of Sir John A. Macdonald for railroad charter for the N-WC&N, and while the Canadian government mulled the proposal, he hied himself to London where he finally succeeded in convincing the principals in the N-WC&N to take a further step and from a railway company. On April 9th of 1884 the Alberta Railway and Coal Company (AR&C) was incorporated in England, but it was fated to lay dormant for a number of years. On the 19th, the Imperial Queens representative in Ottawa, Governor-General Sir Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, 6th Earl of Kerry, signed 47 Victoria Chapter 74 into law, granting the N-WC&N permission to lay a line of railroad from Medicine Hat to Fort McLeod via the companys mines on the Belly River.
Still nervous in the wake of the Northern Pacific débâcle, investors shunned Galts initiatives. To reduce the cost of building the line, Galt had applied to Macdonalds Cabinet to consider a reduction in the gauge of the railroad to three feet, and had requested that the land deal6400 acres per mile of trackage laid for $1.00/acrebe deleted and rather an outright grant, in keeping with developing federal practice, of 1920 acres per mile be substituted. On September 27th of 1884 Cabinet approved the gauge reduction, but determined that N-WC&N would pay 10¢ for every acre to a maximum of 1920 acres per mile. Galt negotiated a deal with the CPR to deliver all material and equipment to build the N-WC&N line for $50,000 worth of coal, and in the autumn of 1884 Sir Alexander, in company with the influential engineer, Colonel Casimir Stanislaus Gzowski, was again off to London to persuade reluctant investors. To buy the land, build the road, and expand the mining operations, would require $500,000. News from Canada sweetened the prospectus: rather than having to buy land at 10¢ per acre, N-WC&N would be gifted with 3,800 acres for every mile of railroad built.50 On October 14th the construction contracts were signed: the directors of the AR&C collectively put $225,000 into the kitty with promises of $150,000 more, and the Galts took the $550,000 contract to build the line.
Come October 13th, the day before the contract agreement was inked in London, Elliott Galt had crews staking and grading the first seven miles of the right-of-way west from Dunmore, on CPs Mainline east some seven miles up on the Prairie above the river valley settlement of Medicine Hat, Assiniboia. Temporary dormitories had been built and hundreds of men hired, horses bought and leased. Thousands of ties had been stockpiled and thousands more were on their way. Sidings were being laid, coal-loading and transfer facilities, car shops and an engine house were being raised. The uncertainties of the uprising led by Louis Riel in spring of 1885 caused some delay in the Galts schedule until a contingent of N-WMP, assisted by some Rocky Mountain Rangers who had been tasked with guarding the newly-strung telegraph line51 between The Hat and Coal Banks, could be mustered for guard duty. Under the direction of William D. Barklay, seconded from the CPR, teamsters based at Dunmore and Woodpecker continued working on the grade, finishing by the end of June. With Riels Rebellion resolved in bloodshed that month, N-WC&N crews, bossed by the main contractor, American Donald Grant, laid the 36-inch52 gauged, 28-pound rail 109 miles across the bald Prairie in 4353 working days, the first train, engineered by C.F. McPherson, arriving at Coal Banks on August 25th. Four days later the first train load of Galt coal arrived at Dunmore.54 Fully inspected, the line was officially opened by the governor-general of Canada, the Marquess of Lansdowne on September 24th55 in a grand ceremony in Lethbridge attended by the Galts, John (Saskatchewan Jack) Maclean, the Anglican Archbishop of the southern N-WT, and the General Superintendent of the CPR, J.M. Egan, among others.
According to R.F.P. Bowman in Railways in Southern Alberta, the running of the line was given to a N-WC&N subsidiary, the Northwest [sic] Railway and Coal Company. It was soon dubbed the Turkey Track or Turkey Trail by wags either because in seeking the grade of least elevation change the surveyors had run the lines roadbed thither and yon across the countryside like a game trail, or because the cars swayed from side to side on the poorly-ballasted trackage like a scampering turkey. Though N-WC&N had earned, writes G.H. Buck in From Summit to Sea (Fifth House Limited, Calgary, 1997), clear title to 422,400 acres56 which both the CPR and the Canadian government hoped it would market to settlers, the company seemed prepared to ignore that opportunity. Sir Alexander was convinced that it would be futile for anyone to attempt agriculture anywhere west of Moose Jaw, Assiniboia, and though the N-WC&N professed an intention to populated its lands by even going so far as to hire a Land Agent, the type of rolling stock it acquired belied that intent. Of its 124 cars, 95 were nine- and ten-ton coal gondolas, while 12 were freight cars, six were cattle cars, and only two were passenger coaches. It was, and remained, a resource railroad. Headed by one of the six chuffing, puffing little Baldwin-built Mogul 2-6-0s which the road eventually owned, trains of up to 15 loaded coal gons travelled some 7½ hours across the treeless Prairie to arrive at Dunmore on tracks parallel to, and elevated above, the CPRs. From the gons the coal was then shovelled down trackside chutes into CPs standard-gauged cars.
Reacting favourably to the completion of the railroad and the security afforded the company by the acquisition of 10,000 acres of coal lands at $10/acre from the Federal government, British investors bought up shares in N-WC&N. At Lethbridge, the company invested heavily in infrastructure. A third entry was drifted into the banks at the bottom of the valley.57 To bring coal up to the prairie level, a dual-trackd inclined railway was laid some 750 metres up the escarpment, the scar plainly visible in 2006 just to the north of the Viaduct. Coal was removed from the mine in donkey-pulled cars which were then dumped into one-ton, four-wheeled cars on the inclineds rails. The cars were hitched into rakes of five to seven cars and a cable was hooked to the lead car and wound on winch drum powered by a steam engine, hauling one rake up while lowering another down in about three minutes. At bankhead on the top of the scarp near the air shaft for the mines, the cars in the rake were rolled up on a trestle spanning the rails of the Turkey Track and the coal was dumped into a screen which separated the lump from the slackthe dust and smaller pebbles of coal. The lump was weighed and dropped into the Dunmore-bound gondolas. Near the coal loading trestle was a frame-built, wedge-shaped, seven-stalledsoon expanded to 12 stallsrunning shed for the repair of rolling stock and locomotives, various shops, store houses and a water tank. At Dunmore the company built similar facilities, and at Woodpecker,58 Winnifred and Grassy Lake raised maintenance shops and stations. Water tanks were constructed every few miles along the right-of-way, and coal bunkers. Altogether, notes den Otter in Civilizing the West: , the N-WC&N spent $700,000 on the railroad and attendant infrastructure in 1885. It mined 20,865 tons of coal that year.
The Settlement of Lethbridge
Looking at an aerial photo, or a map of modern Lethbridge, one appreciates that most of the town is laid out on the cardinal square: avenues run due east-west, streets north-south. The exceptions are the cul-de-sacs and crescents of West Lethbridge and the modern southern suburbs, and the oddly skewed street grid of the downtown area. The latter is, of course, the original townsite.
Under its British charter, the North-Western Coal and Navigation Company was permitted to build a town with schools, stores, churches, houses and hospitals, and promote immigration thereto in order to run its business. The main settlement would be near the mines, of course. The flood plains near the mouths of the drift mines was too small and periodically damp to support a community the size envisioned by the company.
Seconded to the N-WC&N by the Hudsons Bay Company, write Alex Johnston and B.R. Peat in their above noted Lethbridge Place Names and Points of Interest (Historical Society of Alberta, Lethbridge, 1987), Montagu Aldous arrived in Coal Banks to survey a townsite on the flat prairie above the mine mouths. It looks like he blew it, Aldous, trying and failing to tie his street grid into the northwest corner of section 31 of Township 8, Range 21 west of the 4th meridian. To be kind, perhaps the Turkey Tracks right-of-way had already been staked and he simply laid his streets perpendicular to that, on a bearing of about 356 degrees on a compass aligned on true north. Whatever, he initially laid out 12 streets and seven avenues south of the right-of-way, each a generous 100 feet wide. The blocks vary in size and configuration, the first two ranges being about 300 feet square, the second two ranges about 300 by 450, the fifth range about 600 feet long, and the last range longer still, with some of the streets no running through. Cut into the middle of the first two ranges was a 10-acre public square, now known as Galt Gardens Park. The survey, report Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History, was completed on the 9th of May. Someone enjoyed a few hours diversion naming the streets mainly for N-WC&N investors and company friends.
In that month of May of 1885, records A.A. den Otter in his Civilizing the West: , 25-year old Charles Alexander Magrath accepted the position of Land Agent for the N-WC&N. Besides doing the companys surveying, Magrath was tasked with identifying possible buyers of the vast tracts of medium-grassd prairies that the AR&C had earned by building the Turkey Track, and pursuing sales. den Otter disagrees with Johnston and Peat, contending that Domn Topographl Surveyor Magrath, himself, laid out the grid, completing the job in July. Perhaps he extended Aldouss survey to the next section line east, todays 13th Street. Whatever; one of Magraths main jobs was to organize the sale of lots on the new townsite, for the N-WC&N did not intend to own the town as did, say, the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company at Fernie, B.C. Properties sold briskly, 70 in May alone to British investors speculating that land values would soon jump. By July all the commercial lots surrounding the square were taken. As lumber from N-WC&Ns mill in the Bottoms was at a premium as the company itself was using most of it to build dormitories for its miners and railwaymen, shops, sheds, and stations, the townsite was a mushroom patch of tents sheltering entrepreneurs and their trade goods, workers and their tools, the occasional family. There was even a canvas hotel complete with a billiards room and saloon. Water was supplied by the N-WC&N who pumped river water up to its shops and sheds and made the surplus available for 25¢ barrel at a stand pipe located on the north-west corner of town. The N-WC&N also ran a thrice-weekly stage to Fort Macleod with connections to Calgary and Fort Benton, and improved the ferry service at Sherans ford. Twice a week a passenger car was added to the coal train bound for Dunmore.
On October 1st of 1885 the Post Office opened a local bureau and on the 15th the town was officially named Lethbridge, after the president of the N-WC&N. By then there were 60 permanent edifices standing, many constructed by builder John Craig. Among them were six stores, five hotels complete with saloons, four billiard parlours and a couple of barbers, a livery stable. Notable businesses were Henderson and Hoggs two-storey ramshackle Lethbridge Hotel on Baroness Road (1St Ave. S) across from the railroad station, John D. Higinbothams drugstore, Harry Bentleys general store59, Botterills hardware store, and J.H. Cavenahs Maple Leaf dry goods and grocery store. Ex-N-WM Policeman E.T. Saunders abandoned his partnership with C.E.D. Wood in the Macleod Gazette and on the 27th of November60 published the first edition of his weekly Lethbridge News, the latest matters of extra-civic import relayed to him via the N-WC&Ns telegraph service. Not long after, Dr. Frank Hamilton Mewburn arrived as medical officer for the N-WC&N, a welcome addition to a Lethbridge well supplied with saloons,61 dancehalls, and brothels already gathering on The Point, with a populace approaching 1,000 consisting mostly of unattached miners with money and little moral guidance. The N-WMP acknowledged the potential for mayhem in the new community by posting Corporal Eli J. Hodder and four men there before the end of 1885, backing them up with the occasional patrol from the Fort Whoop-Up post.
Come the end of 1885, notes den Otter in Civilizing the West: , there were 200 permanent buildings in Lethbridge and, thanks to Turkey Track and its now daily passenger service to Dunmore and the freight that it rolled so easily across the prairies, the new community was rapidly eclipsing Fort Macleod as the commercial hub of south-western Alberta.
Dr. Mewburn was soon ranked with Mr. Saunders, Chas. Magrath, John Higinbotham and Harry Bentley as an enthusiastic booster of Lethbridge, and it was likely that their combined voices supported the decision of the N-WMP to establish K Division in 1886 and post it to the new coal town under the command of62 Superintendent Samuel Benfield Steele, the hero of the East Kootenays. A 14-acre block in the south-east quadrant of the townsite was set aside for the Police and a barracks built thereon into which the Division moved in January of 1887.
Perhaps it was the presence of the Police that encouraged the Union Bank of Lower Canada to join the commercial ranks of Lethbridge with a permanent storefront opened on April 28th, 1886. It would be 11 years before it faced competition in the community.
Forward-thinking citizens established the Exhibition Board in 1886.
Though itinerant priests and preachers had been visiting Coal Banks since 1884 in an effort to minister to souls, no church buildings had been established. With a paternalistic view to providing its workers with a moral Christian compass, the N-WC&N offered building lots on the new townsite free of charge to recognized congregations. The first to take advantage of the offer were the Presbyterians who consecrated their Knox Church on February of 1886. Under the guidance of Reverend Bridgman, the Methodists had completed their Wesley Church on the corner of Redpath and Burdett Streets (3rd. Ave. S and 8th St.) come July, leaving the Anglicans and the Roman Catholics to continue meeting in stores and private houses for the time being.
Another area of immediate concern for the families of Lethbridge was the three Rs; readin, (w)ritin, n rithmetic. There had been private attempts to educate the little hooligans of the town, but these had proved not entirely successful, writes den Otter in Civilizing the West: . In February of 86, however, a School District was formed and in April a School Board was organized to administer classes which were convened that month under the tutelage of B.L. Latimer in a cottage rented from the N-WC&N. By the time a purpose-built school was opened on November 27th of that year, Miss Margaret Duff had come to assist Mr. Latimer in teaching some 50 more-or-less eager students.
As denizens of a wood and canvas community settled on prairie grasses which were prone to catch fire at the mere thought of a carelessly emptied tobacco pipenever mind sparks and smouldering cinders from boiler fireboxesconflagration was a major concern for Lethbridgeans. Write Alex Johnston and Ted Bochan in their Lethbridge: A Century of Fire Fighting (City of Lethbridge Fire Department, Lethbridge, 1986), Captain Deane63 helped organize the settlements first fire brigade in 1886, and man it with police volunteers. Big excitement greeted the paddlewheeler Alberta when she arrived for the last time on the Lethbridge waterfront on June 24th, 1886. Her bell was immediately appropriated by the fire brigade and mounted above Higinbothams drugstore to act as an emergency alarm and a curfew signal. Part of the superstructure, remembers James Wallwork in Dr. Alex Johnstons Lethbridge Recollections (Boats & Barges on the Belly), was used to build a house uptown.
Down on the waterfront, near todays Fort Whoop-Up Interpretive Centre, George Harding began running a ferry across the River in 1886. Perhaps the N-WC&N had surrendered or sold its service to him, as it is difficult to imagine that competing ferries would be operated less than eight stones throws apart. On the western side of the River, the trail to Fort Macleod passed by Sherans mine and mounted the scarp via Telegraph Coulee which leads up onto the former Galt No. 8 property.
Defying the trend to move up onto the new townsite, in 1886 Elliott Galt abandoned his lodgings in the N-WC&N offices facing The Square and moved into the bottoms within sight of the drift mines mouths where he had had contractors erect a white-painted house he named Coal Dale. It was a rather plain yet commodious affair, two-storeys under a gabled roof perhaps 40 feet long by 20 wide, the roof-line relieved by a wide, centred, cross-gable element set flush to the front wall and decorated with a bit of fancy facia work. A full-width veranda welcomed visitors. Perhaps old Coal Banks held Galt in a nostalgic thrall, perhaps he just wanted the exercise of climbing the scarp to work most mornings. Maybe he merely liked to ride the inclined railway with his employees.
At old Coal Banks near the waterfront trouble began to brew in 1886. In an effort to trim labour costs in the face of mounting competition, the N-WC&N hired a sizeable contingent of Hungarians64 out of the coal fields of Pennsylvania to replace Nova Scotians in the menial tasks associated with mining. They were a fractious lot, suspicious of authority, ignorant, tumultuous. Isolated by language and custom, they initially gravitated to abandoned hovels in the bottoms where they tended to keep to themselves, working out their problems internally, facing unceasing discrimination, intolerance and hostility especially from the ethnic Brits who they displaced in the colliery. Many a young man who ambled down into Slavtown with his pals searching perhaps for amorous diversion, pugilistic satisfaction, or just a taste of vodka and slivovitz that the Bohunks were famously good at making, ended his evenings adventures in the small, frame-built building up in Lethbridge that was dedicated as a hospital in 1886. The N-WM Policemen were definitely unwelcomed by the Hungarians, the police reports of the times as written up by R. Burton Deane et al in the aforementioned Pioneer Policing in Southern Alberta being studded with accounts of confrontations and vigorous resistance whenever the Mounties sought to impose their authority upon the intransigent Sclavish mob.
It was not just the poor Hungarians who lacked a sense of community. The coal business was seasonal. With the CPR cutting back on its purchases during the winter time when it suspended operations, and with few settlers in the neighbourhood to consume fuel in the in the bitter season, N-WC&N cut back on production beginning in the spring after the summers supply of coal had been mined. Most of the Canadian miners went back to Nova Scotia, regarding Lethbridge as merely a camp in which to make money and get out. With such an itinerant population it was hard to foster civic pride, to maintain organizations like fire brigades, to justify schooling costs, to collect taxes to maintain services.
Added to the mix were Kainai. Since the altercations in Saskatchewan in 1885 they werent supposed to be off their reserve without the written permission of their Agent, the hated and but quasi-legal Pass. Many Kainai, however, hadnt internalized the Whites new rules, nor felt the need to: they were Niitsitapi, rulers of this area for time out of mind, and used to travelling in freedom. Some were just curious as to what was going on at AshsoyemSteep Banks.65 They wanted to witness the odd industry of the New-comers, digging the black rocks out of holes in the ground and taking them away on the iron road. Some wished to visit what the New-comers called the medicine rock to leave a little tobacco for the Spirits.66 Some were desperately hungry, having been for one reason or another not supplied with eatables on their reserve by the notoriously stingy Department of Indian Affairs. Some had a taste for alcohol and were willing to risk everything, trade anything, sell anything for another taste. Ridiculed, despised, cheated, attacked and, maybe worse, pitied, anytime they visited they were usually quickly attended by the Police and escorted forthwith back to Reserve 148A.
Quietly, the small Chinese population went about its business, running eating places and washing the communitys linens in their shops on Laundry Hill, at the west end of Courtland St. (6th Ave. S.) beyond the townsite limits.
On January 1st, 1887, it started to snow. The wind got up and visibility dropped to a few cold yards. Within hours Lethbridge was isolated, the train to Dunmore having stalled on its rails, the trails to Fort Macleod and Medicine Hat buried and lost in the blizzard. Range cattle packed themselves into coulees to die in jumbled masses, cowboys risked death trying to rescue them. Only desperate travellers attempted to leave Lethbridge, and only the foolish tried to come in. For 80 days the storm continued, promoting at least a temporary communal self-reliance.
A test of that self-reliance came on February 12th when fire broke out on Baroness St. (1st Ave. S.) between Galt and Wood St. (Scenic Dr. and 3rd). The bell at Higinbothams was rung furiously to summon the fire brigade, but eight cottages were in smoking ruins before the blaze was extinguished. Finding the response of the brigade wanting, four days later the responsible citizens of Lethbridge organized a hook and ladder brigade which was mandated to buy, store and maintain fire fighting equipment. With no functioning civic administration, however, this initiative gradually fizzled and faded. Its equipment was requisitioned piecemeal for other uses and never returned, its corps disbanded, leaving the settlement uncomfortably vulnerable.
The cold weather inspired local sportsmen to organize one of the first curling clubs in the District of Alberta. In 1887 curling in Lethbridge was an outdoor activity on sloughs and ponds. It would be several years before the Lethbridge Curling Club was able to raise a purpose-build building to shelter its play.67
Sometime in 1887 John Bruce set up a brickworks and it is possible that his materials were used that year in the construction of the first brick edifice to rise in Lethbridge, St. Augustines Anglican Church, a project to which the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, notes Bruce Peel in The Baroness in Boats & Barges on the Belly, had donated $240.68 Also joining the ranks of Lethbridges churches that year was St. Patricks, built on Baroness Road at Burdett Street, the cornerstone set by Father Leonard Van Tighem who had been posted that year to the communitys Roman Catholic congregation.69
The contractor in charge of St. Augustines construction was stone mason David Gibb, Wm. Staffords brother-in-law through his wife. Gibb was also involved that year in raising Lethbridges first all-stone structure, the Union Bank of Lower Canada building.70
In 1888, according to Donald G. Wetherell and Irene R.A. Kmet in Homes in Alberta: Building, Trends and Design, 18701967 (University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, 1991), the first brick-built house arose in Lethbridge. Downtown, the tony Queens Hotel on the corner of Round St. (5th St.) and Dufferin (4th Ave. S.) was opened, perhaps loaning its parlour for the occasional meeting of the Scientific and Historical Society which was founded in October that year. Further east on Dufferin, opposite the new N-WMP barracks that year placed under the command of Captain Richard Burton Deane, St. Patricks Church was completed, parishioners summoned to Mass by the first church-mounted bell in Alberta.
That year, too, Charles McKillop arrived from Ontario to take over the pulpit of Knox Presbyterian.
A fire and brimstone breathing reformer, the Reverend McKillop immediately set his sights on the saloon district in what is now old Chinatown, and The Point, that finger of prairie poking into the rivers valley between Redpath and Dufferin Streets (3rd and 4th Avenues S.) There, west of the line of Macleod Road and therefore off the townsite, the madams and the pimps had gathered their soiled doves into houses of ill repute, pits of dissolution and debasement for the innocent, lonely, well-paid young miners. At the height of the mining season there was maybe 1200 people in Lethbridge, some 800 of whom, mention Johnston and den Otter, were male. And then there was booze. Despite the total Territorial prohibition, the Alberta Brewery, the Lethbridge Brewery and the Miners Brewery kept the community awash in suds. Augmenting the flow were potent homebrews from the clandestine kitchen distilleries. Gambling, another sin, flourished, and many a working man was fleeced of his hard-earned cash in a night of debauchery. How many children and women suffered privation and even violence as a result? a Good Man might wonder. In order to save these strayed souls from eternity in Hell, thundered McKillop from his pulpit, all this lewd, lascivious and illegal behaviour had to stop. Who would help? Van Tighem the Catholic? Surely. The Methodist? Perhaps. The Anglican? Possibly. The up-standing citizenry, of course; but they had not yet organized any kind of administrative council. The N-WC&N? No. Its business gave it no licence to interfere in social affairs beyond the efforts of some of its concerned employees.
Natural allies to his cause, supposed McKillop, would be the North West Mounted Police. K Division was now more than 100 strong, and though many were scattered in outposts all over south-western Alberta, there was still many men stationed in the new barracks right across Dufferin Street (4th Ave. S.) from St. Pats. McKillop, to his indignation, was wrong. The Police, many of them randy lads themselves, agreed with their Captain who wrote in Deane, Monthly Report, July 1894 (Pioneer Policing ) that the professional ladies are orderly, clean, and on the whole not bad looking, suggesting that The Point was a necessary evil in a town of vital young men. Liquor and beer, taken in moderation, of course, would not entirely destroy ones soul. And a considered bet on a fight or a horse race now and then; what real harm? Rather than rousing enmity and riot by trying to enforce ill-considered laws, best just supervise the action and knock the heads of the really bad actors once in a while.
Lethbridge continued to boom through 1889. The coal company was building a railroad to the burgeoning market in Montana, stimulating local construction, drawing more and more people into what was unarguably the regions economic engine. However, though it had out-stripped Fort Macleod in population and commercial importance, come 1889 Lethbridge still had no civic administration, its day to day affairs run by ad hoc committees of motivated citizens. There was, however, little regulation and no enforcement. Every household and business was responsible for the disposal of its own waste, and some were less fastidious about that matter than others. Trash was heaped in vacant lots, animals wandered at large, adding to the mess that the horses left in the streets. Boarded walkways were rare, pedestrians forced to weave a path amid the litter in streets which were often mostly mud and manure. The place stank. No constable rattled commercial doors in the unlighted night to ensure they were still secured; there was no reliable fire brigade. Though the Roman Catholic congregation had organized its own school and invited the Society of Sisters Faithful Companions of Jesus to run it in 1889, life in Lethbridge was still crude and rude. Saunders, however, editorializing in his weekly News, frequently reminded his readers that these circumstances need not necessarily pertain. The prospect that Lethbridge would, with the completion of the rail line to Montana, be an international destination led Bentley, Higinbotham, Magrath, Mewburn, and other forward thinkers in Lethbridge to found a Board of Trade on September 18th of 1889 to promote the community as an attractive place in which to establish businesses and settle families.
Charles Magrath, according to the authors of the Walking Tour of Lethbridge published by Alberta Cultures Historic Site Service in 1981, completed a [re]survey of Lethbridge on June 18th, 1890. A map kindly supplied to the author in May of 2007 by the long-time Archivist at the Galt Museum, L. Gregory (Greg) Ellis, confirms this. The communitys limits are shown extended westward to the right bank of the Belly/Oldman, taking in most of Section 36, Twp. 8, Rge. 22W4; most of the south half of Section 1, Twp. 9, Rge. 22; as well as Sections 31 and 32 of Twp. 8, Rge. 21; and the south half of Section 6 and all of Section 5, Twp. 9, Rge. 21. These bounds were confirmed by Ordinance 24 of the First Legislative Assembly of the N-WT, assented to on November 29th, 1890. They would not change for some 23 years.
The jewel in the layout was the Public Square, a four-block park bounded by Baroness Road (1st Ave. S.), Round Street (5th St.), Glyn Street (7th St.), and Redpath Street (3rd Ave. S.), where teamsters had formerly marshalled their waggons and oxen. The Square remained the private property of the N-WC&N/AR&C, and the Galts decreed that never would buildings be erected upon it, rather it was to be forever used as a public gathering place and a playing field. Lots facing onto it quickly became prime commercial real estate, addresses of the finer hotels and progressive companies.
In 1890, too, the old N-WC&N-operated ferry at the bottoms became obsolete when the Territorial government spent $8,000 on the construction of a wooden-trussed traffic bridge a few yards downstream from the present Crowsnest Highway spans. Like the present spans, the territorial bridge carried the trail to Fort Macleod. It was poorly built, apparently, possibly of uncured timber, rickety. Locals didnt put all their faith in it, and continued to patronize the ferry until 1895, or so.
Under the presidency of Chas Magrath, the Board of Trade convened a Civic Committee to promote the advantages of incorporation. The Committee organized a referendum on July 19th of 1890 to plumb the citizens attitude towards incorporating the community. Incorporation would mean taxation, something the still largely itinerant populace saw as undesirable. Turnout was light, but despite this a petition to incorporate a Town was sent to the territorial capital at Regina for consideration by Lieutenant-Governor Joseph Royal and Council. Order in Council No. 24 of 1890, An Order to Incorporate the Town of Lethbridge, received royal assent on November 29th.71 On January 15th, 1891, the Corporation of the Town of Lethbridge was proclaimed. Elected in February as the first mayor was Chas. Alexr Magrath.
Struggle: The Gay Nineties of Elliott Torrance Galt
As Lethbridge developed, so, too, did N-WC&Ns works. Despite profits reduced by a mild winter in 1885/86 and cut-backs in orders by the CPR which suspended operations on the mountainous sections of its Mainline that season, the Galts continued to invest in infrastructure. More eight-foot wide drift mines were driven into the coal at the foot of the river valley escarpment: there would be nine entries by 1889. Ventilation problems, however, limited the mines reach to about 300 metres. So, despite loses amounting to £4,173 in 1886/87, N-WC&N decided to dig down from prairie level into the thousands of tons laying beyond the reach of the drifts. In 1888, just north of what is now the eastern end of the high-level Viaduct and nearly one mile from the river, somewhere near the little heaps of slag still evident in September, 2006, the company dug the vertical shaft of Galt No. 1 down some 91 metres: a few inches of loess and lacustrine deposits, three layersUpper, Lower, Basalof glacial till totalling maybe 60 metres, ten metres of the Rocky Mountain outwashed Saskatchewan Sands & Gravels, nearly 20 metres of Paleocene and Upper Cretaceous sandstone and shale strata to the top of the Belly/Oldman River Formation wherein resides the Galt Seam, a slab of coal about nine feet thick, including partings.72 When the shaft and its attendant headframe were finished, an industrial elevatorthe skip, or cagewas installed. Because the Seam lays fairly flat, a Legg air-powered coal cutter was set into the new mine to rip deep trenches horizontally into the seam along the floor of the mine. Holes were then drilled into coal face, loaded with explosives and the coal blown down onto the floor of the mine from which it was shovelled into one-ton mine cars and dragged by pony-power along the mines rails to the elevator for a 20 second skip to the surface. Though the coal was fairly volatile and did not lend itself to stockpiling without losing some of its thermal potential, mining it was not particularly hazardous work. The mines were dry, except where the works approached the River where a little seepage was expected. There were few pockets of pressurized gas within the seam to cause blow outs, and as long as the works were carefully vented, gases had little chance of pooling on the floor to await a spark. Overlaying the seam and acting as the mines roof, however, was a strata of tender slate which had to be extensively and expensively propped with timber shoring and supported by enormous pillars of coal left in situ. In his Civilizing the West:
, A.A. den Otter likens a Galt mine to Lethbridges street grid, envisioning the pillars as the blocks of building lots, and the interconnecting rooms from which the coal was removed as the streets. Galt No. 1 was a big producer, out-putting an average of 545 tonnes per day, busily honey-combing the earth beneath Lethbridge until it was shut down on March the 5th, 1897. In 1889 N-WC&N began sinking a second shaft mine, Galt No. 2, about a mile north-east from No. 1, well away from the developing town. The following year, 1890, Galt No. 3 was begun near No. 2 at what is now 9th Ave. N. and 6th St. No. 3, operational by 1892, would prove to be the companys biggest producer, being worked until 1924, out-putting a recorded 5,491,400 tonnes. No. 2 was converted to a ventilation shaft in 1897 to help air out No. 3.
To load the increased out-put, an improved facility was set up at Bankhead which screened the coal into lump and nut sizes, and diverted the screenings, the slack, to separate storage. Trains of empty coal gons were run under the chutes on three sets of parallel tracks, filled with the specified size of weighed coal, and hauled off to Dunmore.
New Mines and the Road to Montana
No sooner had the N-WC&N committed itself to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars building the Turkey Track and expanding its coal production than the CPR began to squeeze the company for concessions. That was the only typical of the cut-throat capitalism of the Nineteenth Century, a game that CPR president and, later, chairman of the board of directors, W.C. Van Horne, and vice-president and, later, president, T.G. Shaughnessy, were adept at playing.73 A prime example was the Canadian Anthracite Company (CAC), organized with the encouragement of the CPR by the mayor of Ottawa, McLeod Stewart, in October of 1886, to mine coal at Bankhead near Banff. Though the anthracite proved poor for use in CPs engines,74 Shaughnessy used the CAC and the threat of importing cheap Pennsylvanian coal as a stick with which to beat down the Galts prices to $2.00 per ton during negotiations in April of 1887.75 In 1892, CP would financially aid the H.W. McNeill and Company to open a bituminous mine at Canmore on the Alberta edge of Banff Park in order to reduce the Companys reliance on Galt coal. On the Medicine Hat to Kamloops, B.C., reach of its mainline the Company would burn McNeill coal, and burn Galt coal between Medicine Hat and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Though happy to burn Lethbridge coal, the CPR would never pay top dollar for it, and because it controlled the Galts only avenue of transportation, it could and did charge the N-WC&N a hefty tariff to ship coal to the few other customers that the Galts could find.
The Galts, capitalists to their cores, of course expected this kind of behaviour from their biggest customer, just as they expected Fred Kanouse at the Sheran mine across the River to try to undercut them in the local market. Sir Alexander, however, had a plan. The metals industry in Montana was booming. In 1883, Copper King Marcus Daly had built his Anaconda Copper Mining Company smelter near the mining town of Butte which, four years later, was to surpass the mines on Lake Superior as the United States main copper supplier. In huge quantities Daly needed coal, and as that resource had not been developed in Montana at the time, he imported pricy Pennsylvanian output. It was, reputèdly, always in the back of Sir Alexanders mind to run a branch of the N-WC&Ns railroad down to this market. The CPRs solicitors, however, immediately drew the Galts attention to 44 Victoria Chapter 1, clause 15: For twenty years from the date hereof [February 15, 1881], no line of railway shall be authorized by the Dominion Parliament to be constructed south of the Canadian Pacific Railway, from any point on or near the Canadian Pacific Railway, except such lines as shall run South West or to the Westward of South West, nor within 15 miles of Latitude 49. Not only could the CPR practically dictate the price it would pay for Galt coal, but it could restrict N-WC&Ns access to other buyers.
Even as the they were pushing the Turkey Track to completion, the Galts were manuvring to cancel Clause 15. Sir Alex had, writes den Otter in Civilizing the West: , convinced the former Minister of the Interior, Sir David Lewis Macpherson, Member of Parliament Walter Shanly, business tycoon Sir Roderick Cameron, and Sir Alexs brother-in-law, Sir William Mitchell Ramsay, to join in an initiative to run a branch of the Turkey Track down into Montana. Opposed was the powerful J.J. Hill of the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway, and George Stephen, president of the CPR, among others. Invoking Clause 15, the CPR derailed the Galts plans in May of 1886 by convincing parliament to vote down Galts proposed amendment to the Clause. Sir Alex was not to be denied, however. He had already obtained the support of Montana merchant concerns I.G. Baker and Company and the T.C. Power Company whose business in the North-West Territories had been ruined by the arrival of the CPR and with it the representatives of Eastern Canadian manufacturers and suppliers. Bakers and Powers wanted to re-establish their commercial presence in the N-WT and could only do so with inexpensive rail transport. They were willing to help finance Galts Montana project.
As the 80s matured, mining and smelting continued to blossom in Montana. At Great Falls, not far upstream on the Missouri River from old Fort Benton, the Montana Mining and Smelting Company would begin processing silver ore in 1888. That year, too, the American Smelting and Refining Company would blow in its large lead smelter at East Helena. Saml Thos. Hauser, a mine owner in Helena, president of the First National Bank of Helena, was a political crony of both leading Democrat William G. Conrad of the Baker company, and Thos. Chas. Power, a leading Republican. As well, Hauser had ties to the Northern Pacific which had built through the territory in the early 1880s, and to him a railroad to cheap Canadian coal looked like a good thing. Attracted to Montanas industry, in 1887 James Jerome Hill would hammer his soon-to-be-renamed76 St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba mainline along the northern edge of the Territory, taking care to connect it to Great Falls and Helena with a branch line. In need of coal and beginning to go toe to toe with the CPR for traffic along the Boundary, he abandoned his alliance with Geo. Stephen and plumped for the Galt plan, committing the Great Northern to buy 200 tons per day of Galt coal. Inexorably, in smoky rooms behind closed doors, the CPR began losing ground in its battle with Sir Alexander. In the early summer of 1887 the Galts once again applied for a charter for line of rail south from Lethbridge. Though this was initially again denied, Galt had found a new ally; the Province of Manitoba. It wanted Clause 15 repealed because it was promoting both the settlement of the rich south-western portion of the province and the building of expeditious railroads. Not yet able to build branch lines into the region, CP refused to permit anyone else to do so. Yielding to the combined pressure of Galt and Manitoba, Ottawa voted to repeal Clause 15, and on the 22nd of May, 1888, 51 Victoria Chapter 32, An Act respecting a certain agreement between Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, received royal assent.77
On March the 27th, 1888, writes den Otter in Civilizing the West: , the Member of Parliament for the District of Alberta, Donald Watson Davis, had introduced a bill to reincorporate78 the Alberta Railway and Coal Company (AR&C).79 This Bill became 52 Victoria Chapter 50 when it received royal assent on March 20th of 1889. The Act allowed AR&C to capitalize itself to $300,000, to acquire or lease any or all of the assets of the N-WC&N and its subsidiaries, and to build a line of standard gauge railway from a point on the railway of the North-Western Coal and Navigation Company, Limited, at of near Lethbridge southerly to the boundary line between Canada and the United States of America, to connect to the railway system in the Territory of Montana: Further, the new company was permitted to purchase, or acquire and hold in trust the shares, bonds, or other securities of the Montana road. A subsequent Act, 52 Victoria Chapter 4, assented to on May 2nd, 1889, allowed the N-WC&N an additional 2600 acres per mile if and when it standard gauged the 109.5 miles of its trackage twixt The Hat and Lethbridge, and enshrined in law an Order-in-Council passed on May 31, 1888, granting the said company 6400 acres per mile of its then-estimated 50-mile branch to the Boundary,80 along with free title to its right-of-way and station sites.
Reports Andy den Otter in Civilizing the West: , getting the N-WC&N shareholders to embrace the idea of building a costly railroad to Montana was a challenge for the Galts, the task falling primarily on Sir Alex. All through 1889 he pursued capital investment from London to New York to Montréal. To reduce the amount of money needed for the project, the dedication to standard gauge was abandoned, along with the extension of the road from Great Falls to Helena and, perhaps, Butte and Anaconda. The Great Northern would serve those centres,81 and it would be fool-hardy to compete directly with the indefatigable James Jerome Hill, especially since he was inclined to buy hundreds of tons of coal, both for the Great Northerns use and for consumers along his lines. Finally, towards the end of 1889, Sir Alexr convinced two influential British banking houses, Baring Brothers and Glyn, Mills, Currie and Company, to back the project, largely on the strength of the 700,800 acres that the N-WC&N earned as a federal grant for the construction of the Turkey Track. For the Montana portion of the line, Galt managed to sign up the Industrial and General Trust, Limited, the Trustees, Executors and Securities Insurance Corporation, and the United States Debenture Corporation.
Doubtless with Samuel T. Hausers assistance, on the 2nd of October, 1889, the Great Falls and Canada Railway (GF&C) came into being in the Territory of Montana as a subsidiary of the AR&C. The Galts ducks were lining up nicely. Galt No. 2 was producing, and No. 3 nearly completed. Total production was forecast to be 1,000 tons per day. On December 31st of 1889 the AR&C leased the N-WC&Ns railroad with an option to buy it within two years. More Moguls were bought from the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and rolling stockconsisting primarily of coal gondolas, but with some passenger coaches, as wellfrom Wells and French Company of Chicago, Illinois. To pull trains of the latter in a sprightly fashion, a few high-wheeled, 4-4-0 locomotives were acquired, as pictured in R.F.P. Bowmans Railways in Southern Alberta. Rails and sundry steel forgings such as frogs, fish plates and spikes were ordered from the worlds biggest steel manufacturer, the Illinois Steel Company of Chicago. One last detail had to be addressed, and 53 Victoria Chapter 85 saw to this when it received assent on March 26th, 1890: An Act to amend the Act to incorporate the Alberta Railway and Coal Company permitted the AR&C to reduce the gauge of its Montana-bound branch line to three feet with no loss of granted acreage per mile built.82 The Act as well permitted the AR&C to buy, lease, acquire, sell and mortgage coal and other mineral lands to a maximum of 20,000 acres.
By January of 1890, W.D. Barclay, the projects chief engineer, had established the line of the railroad between Lethbridge and Grand Forks. Though three major streamsthe Milk in the N-WT, and the Teton and the Marias in Montanahad to be crossed, construction of the narrow-gauged line looked to be straight-forward. As soon as Winters nip was out of the air early in 1890, Saml Hausers Fort Benton Construction Company83 crews got busy laying steel northward from Shelby on the Great Northern mainline some thirty miles to Sweetgrass, on the Boundary. On April the 2nd that reach of the line was opened, and Hauser set his crews a-building southward from Shelby towards Great Falls some 75 miles away. It wasnt until May that crews of the Donald Grant and Company were able to commence construction south-east from Ghentthereafter known as Montana Junctionon the Turkey Track just east of Lethbridge, out by the cattle yards and slaughter house. While workers added five more stalls to the Lethbridge running sheds and raised additional infrastructure, Grants men laboured to complete their 64.62 mile-long part of the project to the Boundary at Coutts84 on October the 1st. On October 24th, Father Van Tighem of Lethbridge drove the last spike, and after the final inspections, the entire line from the Junction to Willard, just outside of Great Falls,85 was thrown open for traffic on December 8th.86
The Galts must have felt a deep sense of satisfaction that Christmas of 1890. They had expended $200,000 of AR&Cs capital on increasing production and building infrastructure. Their mines were now linked to the voracious furnaces of Montana, and since the summer had been working round the clock mining 1,000 tons per day to build stockpiles87 sufficient to meet expected immediate demand. Galt paymasters issued some 850 paypackets to miners, swampers, locomotive and stationary engineers, navvies, steelworkers, carpenters, clerical staff and the dozens of other trades and professions employed by their companies. That September of 1890 J.J. Hill had come through on his promise to buy 200 tons of Lethbridge coal per day. Other Montana consumers, offered coal at $7.25 per tona third of the price of the Pennsylvania commoditywere eager to have their names entered into the N-WC&Ns order book. The first coal train over the new line, rolling out of the N-WC&N loading yards on October 22nd, 1890, had been destined via the Great Northern for the Helena Lumber Company. Come that Christmas, 500 tons per day were rolling down the AR&C rails and into Montana, most of the rest of Galts output going to the CPR. They must have toasted each other, the Galt father and son, for driving their company to the brink of true prosperity. Now 70 years old, his goals reached and feeling, perhaps, the weight of his years, Sir Alex announced his retirement from active participation in the running of the companies, leaving it all in Elliotts capable hands. The taste of the Christmas champagne, however, would soon sour in his mouth.
The Montana line never quite lived up to Elliott Torrance Galts hopes and expectations. In 1891 the great Anaconda smelter, reacting to a glut on the base metals markets, shut down. Other operations slowed their production. J.J. Hill, faced with a radically reduced demand for coal, reneged on his contract, buying no where near the two hundred tons per day contracted. At the same time, American coal companies made sure that the U.S. government maintained tariffs high enough to cripple the N-WC&Ns competitiveness. In Galts own back yard, not only did the CPR cut back on its orders, but it gleefully bought cheaper coal from mines right on its Mainline, notably from the H.W. McNeill and Company and the Canadian North West Coal and Lumber Company, both of Canmore. Desperate for cash, Galt formed the Lethbridge Land Company at arms length in London to buy the mortgages on 45,000 acres of N-WC&N railway land, and 1500 Lethbridge town lots. He sold lands that the construction of his railroads had earned at half their value to pay interest to his bondholders, and he pared his costs to the bone.
The Angst of Labour
In the cut-throat atmosphere of capitalism prevalent in the late nineteenth century before workers had organized themselves into collective bargaining associations, labour was expendable. In a resource industry like N-WC&N/AR&C, when a downturn forced a reduction in extraction, costs had to be cut, and the working man was the first to feel the knife. This first happened to N-WC&N miners in March of 1886, writes den Otter in his Civilizing the West:
. With the federal government seemingly unwilling to defend Canadian coal producers with tariffs against cheap American imports, the CPR informed the Galts that it was halving to $2.50 per ton what it would thenceforth pay for coal. With no other market to turn to, Elliott Galt filled his ten, 100-ton bins at Dunmore to capacity and then shut down his mines, telling the single men that they may as well move on, for when he re-opened, he would do so only with family men. He then told the family men that he would rehire them, but at a 25% reduction in their former wages. There was loosely-organized resistance, but in a virtual company town like Lethbridge a man with little mouths to feed could hold out for only so long. When management so chose, the little trains were again puffing across the prairies delivering 300 tons per day to Dunmore.
In the spring of 1887, after the Turkey Track had been shut down for 79 days due to a blizzard and the CPR was eager for Galt coal, the miners struck for higher wages. Elliott bowed to their demands. In June the miners again downed tools to back demands for a further increase. This time Galt had coal enough on hand that he neednt tolerate Labours shenanigans. He suspended operations and implemented a plan designed to free his works from the extortionate Nova Scotians. In the coal fields of Pennsylvania there was at the time a surplus of eastern European labourers. Desperate for work, these Hungarians would make ideal N-WC&N employees, Galt figured. They had a reputation as excellent workers once they understood what was required of them, and differences linguistic and cultural would prevent them from bonding with the remnants of his recalcitrant workforce. True, he would have to retain some of the highly-skilled specialists, but with the threat of replacement hanging over their heads, there were unlikely to trouble him further. The Schlavs, as N-WMP Captain R.B. Deane called them, were duly imported, and when regular N-WC&N crews tried to prevent them from entering the mines, Galt summoned Deane and his men to escort them, a duty that the average policeman found distasteful. To further undermine the confidence of his traditional workers, Galt began expanding the use of air-driven cutters and drills in the pits, machines that a Hungarian could master as well as any White man.
Playing off one ethnic group against the other,88 one man against his fellows, Galt managed his Labour with an iron fist, prohibiting any type of organization in his shops, struggling to maintain his companys competitiveness.
With alternative sources of coal now available to it, the CPR cut back on its orders from N-WC&N. The flood of settlers which was supposed to have inundated the Prairies in the wake of the CPR had never materialized, and Montana was at best an unreliable market. By 1890 Elliott Galt was left with few buyers for his coal and, therefore, little use for his railroads. His bond- and shareholders were impatient for profits from the enormous investments that Sir Alexander had extracted from them, and his labour was restive. Elliott was forced to cut back all-out production to perhaps two months of the year. For the remaining months he had a reduced staff working mainly the drift mines in the valley bottom for perhaps two days a week. A good month would see 800 tons output, far below the companys capacity of a 1,000 tons per day. A new market had to be found, and quickly.
The father was failing in health and stamina, but his vision had inspired his son. It had been known for years that the alignment of the CPRs Mainline had missed the true mineral wealth of British Columbia: everything worth mining seemed to lay within spitting distance of the Boundary, much closer to the Northern Pacific Railroad than the CPR. This became cause for concern for Canadian nationalists when in the late 1880s reports of fabulous lodes of precious and industrial metals and minerals began filtering out of the area. If the reports proved even half true, the Kootenay was on the edge of a boom. However, the way the infrastructure had developed, this Canadian wealth would be drained away under-taxed into the United States. Elliott Galt seized the opportunity. Early in 1892, the year that his Galt No. 3 finally went into production, Elliott Galt applied to parliament for an extension of his Turkey Track through the Crows Nest Pass and on to Hope, B.C., piercing the heart of the mother lode country. 55-56 Victoria, Chapter 30, An Act respecting the Alberta Railway and Coal Company, accomplished this when it received royal assent July 9, 1892. The extension, however, was distant panacea for his troubles: it would be years before the B.C. mines would be developed to the point that smelters requiring quantities of coal would be built. Galts problems were immediate. In October the CPR further reduced the size of its orders for Lethbridge coal.
On the 31st of July, 1891, reports A.A. den Otter in his Civilizing the West: , the extinction of the North-Western Coal and Navigation Company had occurred. All its assets and debts were transferred to the Alberta Railway and Coal Company.89 With his bondholders expecting to accrue profits sooner rather than later, Elliott Galt began looking to the 1741.2 square miles of land that his companies had earned by building railroads. The initial agreement with the government had been that this land would consist of the odd-numbered sections in a strip of land running 12 miles deep on either side of the railroads. With few individual settlers showing interest in locating on the Canadian Prairies as long as farming land was available in the United States, the checkerboard of sections was not much of an asset to the N-WC&N/AR&C. In the late 80s the Galts had persuaded the Dominion to consolidate some of that land into an attractive block, but when members of the Cabinet discovered that the block was to be sold to adherents to the reputèdly polygynous Mormon sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS), they self-righteously scuttled the plan. Nevertheless Charles Ora Card, the point man for the Sect in the North-west Territories, did purchase 9,690 acres of N-WC&N lands on lands between the then Kootenai (now Waterton) and the St. Marys rivers in 1887, and in December of 1891 Card and John W. Taylor leased on behalf of the Mormons a whopping 1125 square miles of N-WC&N/AR&C land for four years at $12.80 per section, annually, with an option to buy. The $57,600 cash-on-the-barrelhead was doubtless welcomed by Galt, but with his investors insisting on dividends and the Bank of Montreal and the Canada Life Assurance Company demanding at least the interest on their loans, the money could not go far.
Irrigation: C.O. Cards Proposal
The Mormons lease money kindly disposed Elliott Galt and the AR&C to the LDS, and in March of 1892, when the Church, through the office of AR&C land manager Chas. Magrath, broached a subsequent proposal, Galt was interested. The Mormons, experienced irrigationists with a half-century of hard-won expertise in Utah, suggested that they build a main irrigation canal from a diversion that they intended to install in the St. Marys River, and run it out eastward along the Turkey Track to water lands that they would buy from AR&C. The only way that the project was feasible, however, was if some sponsor picked up a considerable portion of the capital costs. The most obvious candidates were the CPR, the federal government, and the AR&C, any and all of whom would benefit from the increased price per acre of reliably watered land.90 Though the CPR, its money tied up in the 28.5 thousand-odd square miles of western lands91 that it had earned by building its Mainline, might have joined in the project, it was still wrestling with the massive debt incurred by building that self-same Mainline. The Conservative federal government, rudderless after the death of prime minister Macdonald, would not commit to the project. With the exception of the supportive Burdett-Coutts, the proposal elicited but a tepid response from Galts shareholders, trending to cold when it was revealed that the costs would be higher than any other initiative yet undertaken by a Galt association. After negotiations in Salt Lake City and London, young Galt et al concluded that he should only undertake the project with a new company, and by 56 Victoria Chapter 69, the Alberta Irrigation Company (AIC) was incorporated.92 Apparently on the strength of this Act, the Mormons forthwith paid the AR&C $125,000 for 100,000 acres with an option to buy 150,000 more in July of 1903.
Magrath had on October 10, 1891, been elected by acclimation to the Territorial Assembly in Regina. There he encouraged members of the Assembly to lobby Parliament to approve Dominion money for the expensive part of the project: the survey of the land to determine the route of the main canal. Just as a railroad, Magrath argued, a canal would bring settlers attracted by fruitful land. His ally in this was the federally-appointed, Calgary-based Superintendent of Mines, William Pearce, who missed few opportunities to point out the advantages of irrigating the dry west, arguing that settled, tax-yielding fields would better benefit the Nation than empty wastes. With Magrath, Pearce helped found the South West Irrigation League in March of 1894, and was instrumental in seeing 57-58 Victoria, Chapter 30, The North-west Irrigation Act, read into Law on July 23rd, 1894.93 Magrath, notes den Otter in Civilizing the West: , was an admirer of the Mormons and their enterprise, but his was not the popularly held sentiment in the Halls of Power where there was religiously-inspired political resistance to Mormons expanding in Alberta. Observations that there was still plenty of good, naturally-watered land available in the North-West sunk official support, for backing an irrigation scheme would be tantamount to admitting that the region was not the verdant oasis that the government wished the World to believe it was. As a consolation, the Minister of the Interior in Boswells effete Conservative government, T. Mayne Daly, did permit the AR&C to consolidate its land holding into one contiguous block south of Lethbridge and east of the St. Marys River, rather than the alternate sections it had originally been granted. The Church of the Latter-day Saints could not afford to undertake the project by itself, and with a distinct lack of enthusiasm emanating from Galts investors, and with the AR&C itself entering a period of fiscal uncertainty, the irrigation project slipped into hibernation.
The CPR Takes a Toe-hold
The North America-wide economic downturn of 1893 nearly destroyed the AR&C. The small orders from the Boston and Montana Consolidated Copper and Silver Mining Company which began smelting ore at Great Falls that year added little to the AR&Cs bottom line. Elliott Galt ordered the abandonment of the drift mines in the Belly bottoms and shut down the AR&Cs celebrated and expensive inclined railway on May 15th, 1893. According to J.A. Eagle in The Canadian Pacific Railway and the Development of Western Canada, 18961914 (McGill-Queens University Press, Montréal, 1989), as the financial crunch loomed, Elliott Galt and his waning father approached the CPR to lease and run the Dunmore and Lethbridge Railway. On April the 1st, 1893, the same day that An Act to incorporate the Alberta Irrigation Company received royal assent, so, too, did 56 Victoria Chapter 38, An Act respecting the Alberta Railway and Coal Company. In part it reads that the AR&C
may lease, sell and convey to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company
: first, that portion [of railroad] extending from Dunmore to Lethbridge; second, that portion extending from Lethbridge to Fort McLeod [sic]; third, that portion extending from Fort McLeod [sic] through the Crows Nest Pass to the authorized western terminus of its railway in British Columbia
. With money provided by the Canada Life Assurance Company, the AR&C set its crews to relaying the Turkey Track as a much straightened, standard-gauged line. That underway, the Galts and vice-president T.G. Shaughnessy of the CPR oversaw the negotiation of the details. In July, writes J.A. Eagle in The Canadian Pacific Railway
, a deal was struck: CP would lease the standardized DunmoreLethbridge line until December 31, 1897, with an option to buy it for $9,000 per mile until that date. The Company would provide the standard gauge motive power and rolling stock to operate the line. It would kick back to AR&C 40% of the gross revenue earned by the line, and agreed buy 200 tons per day of Galt coal at $2.50 per ton. Further, should the AR&C chose to build an extension to Macleod, the CPR would allow it to tie in with its C&E line. The official papers were signed on November 27th, 1893, and standardization was completed on December 3rd, 1893, with double trackage spiked down from Montana Junction to the Lethbridge tipple to accommodate the AR&Cs narrow-gauged trains.94 The deal gave the Galts some breathing room, and enabled them that year of 1893 to dig out 145,149 tons, making the AR&C by far the largest coal miner in the North-West Territories.
Alexander Tilloch Galt never lived to see the documents signed nor his Turkey Track up-graded. Sadly for Elliott, his sisters Amy (Robt Grant), Annie (W. Harvey Smith), Oneida (Augustus D. Durnford), Lena, Kate, Mabel (Chas. Alexr Magrath), Muriel, and Evelyn Cartier (Arthur R. Springett), and merchant brother John in Winnipeg, Sir Alex died in Montreal on September 19th, 1893.
As the North American recession bit deeper in January of 1894 and the idled Montana smelters cancelled their coal orders, Galt turned again upon his workers to cut costs, instructing Mr. Simpson to lock out all 580 AR&C miners on February 15th and offer to rehire 130 selected married men at 83% of their former wages. With the N-WM Police standing by to protect the works and no firm organization to represent the miners concerns, resistance from the 450 surplus miners was feeble: indeed, noted Captain Deane in Deane, Monthly Report, February, 1894 (Pioneer Policing ), over 100 quickly left town, many to work on the CPR mainline between Dunmore and Gleichen. Come March 10th a docile labour force was at Galts beck and call: he was able to tailor his mines production to demand, merely telling his crews to stay home unpaid when there were no orders to fill. This tactic did not solve his problems, though, and the AR&C slid ever deeper into arrears on the dispersal of dividends to investors and interest payments to creditors, primarily the Canada Life Insurance Company, the Trustees, Executors and Securities Insurance Corporation, and the C.P.R. An indication of Elliott Galts struggles to keep the AR&C afloat was 58-59 Victoria Chapter 45, An Act respecting the Alberta Railway and Coal Company, given assent on June 28th, 1895. Referred to by its short title, The Alberta Railway Debenture Stock Act, 1895, it facilitated the refinancing of the company, and was one of the implements that Galt used to score, according to Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History, a brilliant re-organization coup of the AR&C, arranging his companys finances, staving off bankruptcy. Despite the fact that the AR&C mined 120,000 tons over the year ending in October of 1896, the slow pace of continental economic recovery frustrated Galts efforts to lead his company to financial security. It was doubtless with mixed feeling that he negotiated the sale of his fathers first western railroad to the CPR in September of 1897 for $976,950. On one hand he had given up a key part of his commercial machine, on the other hand he didnt have to shoulder the expense of maintaining a railroad, but he retained the land earned by the construction of the line.
The Town of Lethbridge
On January 15th, 1891, the Corporation of the Town of Lethbridge came into being, many of the solid citizens doubtless celebrating their achievement in the opera house which had been opened the year before. The rest of the 1,478 mostly male members of the populace pretty well ignored the event, many hard at work in the building trades, popping up new houses as fast as they could get lumber. Eager for building materials, one of the noted construction contractors in town, Ben Whitney, even salvaged the oak woodwork from the N-WC&Ns old steamer, Alberta, and used it in some of the houses he was building. He had jobs enough to keep every skilled tradesman he could hire busy from sun-up till last light.
Elected mayor in February of 1891, C.A. Magrath oversaw the writing of a Town constitution which exempted the properties of his employer, the North-Western Coal and Navn Company and its subsidiaries, the Alberta Railway and Coal Company, and the North-West Railway and Coal Company, from every civic tax except school levies for 20 years. Banking on this company concession, one of the Town councils first acts was to sell a debenture worth $10,000 to pay for the construction of a main school, a project which had been underway for some time. Aptly named Central School, the impressive, two-storey brick-built edifice was, according to A.A. den Otter in his Civilizing the West: , opened in January of 1891. In the Autumn of the year, a much smaller school was established in the rag-tag little community generally known as Slavtown which had accumulated beyond the railway tracks near the pit head of the Galt No. 3 mine. On June 27th of 1891, James F. Pierce had legally registered a subdivision of his nearby property and began selling lots cheap in what would become Staffordville.
Rounding out Lethbridges spectrum of educational facilities was a convent for the Sisters of the Faithful Companions of Jesus and school run by them for the Roman Catholic children, dedicated that year by Father Van Tighem.
Addressing another area of community concern, on March the 13th, 1891, the Town Council enacted its 2nd by-law, A By-law for the better protection against fire in the Town of Lethbridge. Under provisions of this law, No. 1 Fire hall was raised95 on property cornered by Ford and Smith Streets (2nd Ave. S and 4th St.) A two-storey, brick-built edifice, besides the fire fighting equipment it contained a small gaol, the town council chambers and administrative offices. Write Alex Johnston and Ted Bochan in Lethbridge: A Century of Fire Fighting, that summer of 1891 the Council spent the considerable sum of $1495 to acquire a No. 2 Linden chemical fire engine to equip the new fire house, and on August 4th, 1891, was relieved to finalize the organization of a volunteer fire brigade to use it. On December 7th, however, fire broke out in a furniture store wherein, noted Superintendent Deane in his Annual Report, 1892 in Pioneer Policing in Southern Alberta, was stored a quantity of hay, dried sea weed &c. A gale-force wind blew the flames from building to building, revealing the inadequacy of the Linden for anything but bonfires. Only a fortuitous change in the winds direction, wrote Deane, saved from destruction all that part of the town lying to the east of the burning buildings.
Potable water was a concern, of course: the river water available in the Galt company standpipe was always suspect. In the spring of 1892, reported Deane, a local company bored a hole down to 717 feet before gas pressure forced a halt to the project.
Responsible for the lack of safe water was the Town Councils reluctance to tax the citizenry, and it was the arrangement that had been agreed between the new town and the AR&C/N-WC&N that was the discouragement. The company was not required to pay municipal taxes for 20 years from the moment of the Towns incorporation. True, the company had donated the land upon which the Town sat, had shouldered the costs of laying out the street grid, and continued to water the Town from standpipes that it had erected for public use. Still, why should the average Joe be expected to pay taxes when the regions biggest money maker was exempt? Council after council was to struggle with this question, and were loathe to pass tax measures even when it could gather a quorum. Complicating the Councils conundrum further, suggests den Otter in Civilizing the West: , was the fact that many properties in Lethbridge were at the time owned by speculators who lived elsewhere and were resistant to the idea of paying money for amenities from which they would never benefit. Coupled to that was the seasonal nature of its sole employers business which ensured that the Town had a high transient population: again, not a solid foundation for a tax structure. Councils, therefore, tended to pride themselves in parsimony, resulting in streets remained unimproved and uncleaned, animals of varying domesticity wandering at large, and the trash that wasnt dumped into Nuisance Coulee near The Point ending up piled in alleys to be dragged off by coyotes and the town dogs.
The people of Lethbridge well realized that theirs was a one-act town, and because they were unwilling to tax themselves, write Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History, they were unable to finance diversification of their economy, remaining entirely reliant on Galt activity. Writes A.A. den Otter in his Civilizing the West: , Th[e] flow [of coal] was the life-blood of Lethbridge and the [dust blackened] surface complex was its heart. When it ceased to pump , Lethbridge stagnated. So it was with consternation that Lethbridgeans learned that in the late spring of 1891 that the AR&C had sold its sawmill to the Mormons who came that summer and took away it lock, stock and barrel to their main settlement, Cardston.
Though their businesses and properties paid no taxes to the Town, the Galts were not insensitive to the needs of the people that made them their money. The company-sponsored Reading Room and Library Society had been established at company expense in 1890, and the company doctors were the only ones in the community. To further aid the work of the medical staff, from his own pocket in 1891 Sir Alexander had wood-framed building raised on Macleod Road at the end of Bompas Street (1st St. and 5th Ave. S.) as a public hospital. Three years later, Order-in-Council No. 39 of 1894, An Ordinance to Incorporate the Galt Hospital, would receive royal assent on September 7th, 1894, naming Elliott T. Galt, Wm. M. Ramsay, John Galt, and the deceased Alexander T. Galt, as directors.
Though the people of Lethbridge might have been reluctant to invest in their Town, the Bell Telephone Company was not, and installed a system in 1891. Likely tied into that system was the McKenzie House, a two-storeyd, multi-dormered, wood-framed hospice that Malcolm McKenzie had built that year down on Baroness Road (1st Ave. S), between Galt and Wood Streets (Scenic Drive and 3rd St.) opposite the AR&C engine shops. Opened towards the end of August of 1891, it long remained a landmark in Lethbridge, eventually changing its name to the Windsor Hotel. History remains silent on whether Bell installed a service in the grand Darling and Curry-designed house that J.D. Higginbotham paid $4,200 to have built for he and his family that year.
In March of 1892 another blaze demonstrated the short-comings of the Linden chemical waggon. Adequate perhaps for chimney fires in cottages, or spot fires in brick-built structures, when faced with infernos such as those resulting when parched wooden buildings explode in flames fanned by a brisk Prairie breeze, it failed, and during the dangerous event that March four businesses were incinerated before Fire could be brought to heel. Apparently it was not just the Linden which was to blame for the spread of the conflagration: a poor or tardy turn-out of fire brigade volunteers must be suspected, for on March 31st the Lethbridge Fire Brigade No. 1 was established. It was still a voluntaryread non-professionalorganization. In the months before William Oliver was elected as chief of the brigade in November, some among its 39 members had sited and supervised the construction of six 15,000-gallon subterranean reservoirs96 preparatory to acquiring a steam-driven water pumping engine. This horse-drawn unit, a Ronald No. 4, soon christened Clanging Billy, arrived in the fall and joined the Linden and a hook and ladder waggon in the new fire hall. On the 19th of September the adoption of By-law No. 31 established the Lethbridge Fire Department. No money was raised to pay wages, however, so the members were still only volunteers. Both the new department and its equipment got a rigorous shake-down on December 28th of 1892 when, down on the bottoms near the ferry, unhappily, Noels Brewery burned up.97
In 1892 the Electric Age arrived in Lethbridge. It had been a long time coming. Back on November 29 of 1890, Order-in-Council No. 23 of 1890, An Ordinance to Incorporate the Lethbridge Waterworks and Electric Light Company had been passed allowing the applicants; Elliott Torrance Galt, Charles Alexander Magrath, Charles Courselles McCaul, Charles Frederick Pringle Conybeare, and John Galt, to do the necessary to supply Lethbridge with the utilities named. The initiative, however, failed: those with money were uninterested in subscribing to the bond issue. In 1892 the company was re-organized, raised dollars enough to buy a stationary steam engine, a pair of generators and build a blast-resistant bunker on a property adjacent the fire station in which the boilers salvaged from the Alberta were installed.98 By the autumn poles had been placed, wires strung, and subscribers connected to the grid. The boilers were fired, the engine engaged and the switches thrown. Never more would Darkness rule the Lethbridge when the Sun retired, at least for a few hours each night at a few places in Town. With the AR&C still willing to supply water at three standpipes in the community, no money could be raised to lay a distribution system, so this mandate of the company was quietly abandoned, reflected by a later change of name to the Lethbridge Electric Light Company.
Culturally, too, Lethbridge was developing. On the 10th of February, 1892, a group of sports-minded citizens made application to the Territorial government to incorporate the Lethbridge Turf and Athletic Association. As can be inferred from its name, the athleticism that the organizers had in mind was of the equine, rather than the human, variety. The Association received its charter and spent $320 to acquire a 40-acre plot south of Town from AR&C. This would become Queen Victoria Park, since trimmed and renamed Gyro Park.
Though it may have galled some of the principals in the AR&C to have to surrender control of their railroad to Medicine Hat to the CPR, it was likely cause for celebration in Lethbridge. It meant Big Business was interested in their Town. The year of 1893 was a bad one for Lethbridge coal miners and all who depended upon them, from school marms to Point madams. On May 5th, in reaction to the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act of 1890 by the congress of the United States, the continental stock markets began their slide towards the edge of recession. On June 27th, led by the New York exchange, they fell into the abyss. Banks closed, credit dried up, factories shut down, primary resource producers suspended operations. The AR&C laid off miners by the dozens. Fewer hammers were heard ringing in Town as construction slowed and buildings fell vacant. The one bright spot on Lethbridges economic horizon was the re-alignment and standardization of the gauge of the old Turkey Track. All summer long navvies worked to lay new sections of track and up-grade the old. Those who came to Lethbridge for a little R & R kept many a Town enterprise from going bust. The project was completed on December 3rd, 1893, with double trackage spiked down from Montana Junction to the tipple to accommodate the AR&Cs narrow-gauged trains. The first CPR locomotive had rolled into Lethbridge on November 28th,99 declaring that Lethbridge was no longer dangling at the end of an oddly-sized resource railroad, but was now part of the expanding CPR system.
The loss of work exacerbated the ethnic tensions that rived the community. The Slavs had been enticed to the community by the Galts seven years earlier with the promise of jobs. They didnt know at that time that they were imported to teach the Galts hubristic workers a lesson in labour relations. Their reception in the pits was not altogether cordial. Above ground, language and customs kept them from integrating into the community, and they gathered to live in Slavtown north of the tracks, a settlement that was politely known as Staffordville after the AR&Cs superintendent of mining, William Stafford. There they pretty well took care of their own needs, as they had done in their homeland for generations uncounted. They did not welcome strangers into their community, just as they, in turn, did not feel entirely welcome themselves, south of the tracks.
It was likely in 1893 that those perspicacious men on the Town Council regretted their pusillanimity when it came to taxation. Had they taxed it is possible that they then would have had money in the Town coffers to pay some of the suffering workers to grade the ruts out of the roads and build sidewalks. They would have been able to offer cash incentives to companies weighing their options as to where to establish operation in the West. So it was with much enthusiasm, especially on the part of the Lethbridge News, that the Town received the news that the Mormons of Cardston and the AR&C were negotiating a deal in 1893 by which water would be channelled to the parched acres of southern Alberta, drawing settlers and businesses and money into the region.
It was a disappointment to the Town of Lethbridge in 1894 when nothing came of the previous years irrigation scheme, doubly so when the AR&C showed real signs of distress as the continent-wide recession settled in. Elliott Galts solution of tailored productionmining only as much as he had a market formight have saved the company, but it was tough on his labour and the merchants and the auxiliaries who relied upon Galt workers.
Socially, Lethbridge rolled along in 1894. Though the AR&C was working sporadically, the mood in Lethbridge seemed to be buoyant, expectant of great things. That year Henry Bentley, a successful young merchant, had helped organize the Chinook Cycle Club to while away leisure time.
It wasnt bicycling, even if it was practiced on a Sunday, that aroused the ire of the hellfire-preaching Presbyterian minister, Reverend Charles McKillop. The sport that really got McKillops goat was that which was practiced on The Point on the western edge of Town. In those dens of iniquity, at a very modest cost, a lonely young man could dull the pain of homesickness and immerse himself in the comforts of feminine company. This wicked sin of weakness, coupled with the damnable relaxed restrictions on alcohol introduced by the Territorial Council on January 25th, 1892,100 condemned many an innocent young soul to an Eternity of degradation and suffering. Since he had arrived in Lethbridge in 1888, McKillop had railed against the sins of the flesh, demanding that someone ought to take responsibility for ridding the community of the blight. He had formed the Moral Reform League and his calls for support were answered by organizations like the Friends of Temperance, the Womens Christian Temperance Union, and the Royal Templars of TemperanceCouncil No. 14, Progressive right there in Lethbridge. The one organization that ought, in McKillops opinion, to be leading the charge, remained decidedly unenthusiastic. Captain Deane and his contingent of N-WMPs were generally of the mind that a man should pretty much be left to control himself when it came to pleasures, especially if the enforcement of poorly considered, wet-blanket regulation led to misunderstanding and unnecessarily elevated tensions between the vital young men dressed in red serge and the vital young men not so dressed. They were, ultimately, all men together on the Frontier, and no one enjoyed a stiff bracer more than your typical Mountie. And they got lonely, too.
Apparently inspired by Reverend McKillops intolerance of immorality, members of the Town Council in 1895 finally demanded that Captain Deane enforce the laws regulating the sale of liquor and do something about licentious activities on The Point and elsewhere in the community. Not one to be pushed by politicians, Deane stormily threatened to completely withdraw domestic policing services from the Town. In response, Council directed their Inspector to enforce order while he went around his usual business of collecting fees and business taxes. This could not have been a happy or healthy addition to the poor mans duties. A mollified Deane, judging by his reports as presented in the afore-mentioned Pioneer Policing , maintained his officers in Town, but continued to enforce regulation at his own discretion. His high-handed attitude earned him few friends on council.
Come 1896 the Town was still leery about taxing itself. Garbage that was not dumped into Nuisance Coulee by civic-minded citizens still ended up stinking in the streets and alleys. Without civic monies from which industry-attracting subsidies could be fashioned, Lethbridge remained, write Alex Johnston and Andy den Otter in their Lethbridge: A Centennial History, little more than a coal mine and a railway town .
The times they were a-changing, however.
It had been ten years since gold had been discovered in the South African Republic and the tensions between Imperial Britain and the independent-minded Boers that that developing bonanza had exacerbated had driven up the price of wheat. In the United States most of the good land had been claimed, and experienced, expanding farming families there began to consider acquiring property in the North-west Territories where dry-land agriculture was now better understood. A combination of private and public investment had built much grain-handling infrastructure across the Canadian Prairies and at the Nations ports. As well, early-maturing cereals were being imported from the far corners of the world and cross-bred in efforts to tailor grains for the Canadian West. Then, on June 23rd, 1896, a vigorous Liberal party led by the charismatic Wilfrid Laurier swept the decrepit Conservative regime from power in Ottawa. Clifford Sifton, a westerner from Brandon, Manitoba, was appointed Minister of the Interior with a mandate to populate the West. Canadian immigration agents were sent roaming across Europe as far as the Urals, distributing brochures in dozens of languages, haranguing crowds on street corners, putting on magic lantern shows, promoting the attractions of the Canadian West how ever they could. Lethbridge rejoiced. Settlers meant commerce and growth, and soon the incessant wind carried the sound of carpenters saws and masons hammers as vacancies disappeared and the Towns builders hustled to accommodate the influx of people and businesses.
Icing Lethbridges cake, on December 31, 1896, the CPR exercised its option to buy the AR&Cs LethbridgeDunmore line with the intention of driving westward through the Crows Nest Pass and into the riches of southern B.C. Heralding Lethbridges transition from an end-of-the-track mining town to a major node on a through-railroad on July 14th, 1897, the silver spade inaugurating the construction of the Crows Nest Line was sunk into the Prairie sod on the bluffs overlooking the river on the west side of town. In its edition of a day earlier, the Lethbridge News had bruited the arrival of the first two construction crews on Monday the 12th, the 140 men, 76 teams and assortment of scrapers and waggons belonging to J. Strevel and to Mr. McArthur. By midnight a canvas village was accumulating on the turf to the north of the yards. The Town was soon packed with navvies and timber workers, engineers and horse handlers. The rail yards were strewn with rails and spikes, timbers and ties, Fresno scrapers, cables and bolts and the myriad other items that railroad construction necessitated. Hundreds of horses were corralled and had to be fed and watered. The Galt mines were working flat out to stockpile coal to fuel the huge project. Work commenced at Lethbridge on July 17th.
Sometime that summer of 1897 C.A. Magrath had an interview with the Minister of the Interior at which he briefed Sifton on the irrigation scheme proposed by the Galts some five years earlier. Unencumbered by conservative distrust of the Mormons, Sifton was more than willing to throw a federal money into the project. Appreciating that the success of the project would draw thousands of settlers into the area and increase its revenues, the CPR kicked in some cash, as well. Captain Deane in his annual report for 1897 averred that, given sufficient moisture, the soil will grow almost anything, and there will be in the mining country a great demand for garden produce of all kinds, in supplying which Lethbridge will have the advantage of being close to the market by means of the Crows Nest Railway. Radishes and lettuces, besides eggs, poultry, and butter, will find a ready sale in the Kootenai.
As 1897 matured, Good Times were definitely infecting Lethbridge. To try and keep a lid on things, sometime that year the council hired Mountie corporal Thomas Lewis to live in Town and, in his spare time, enforce the municipal by-laws. Money from building permits and lot sales was rolling into the municipal coffers enabling the Council to hire crews to effect improvements. Streets were graded and sidewalks laid, trees were planted though, as Captain Deane had found from his experiments at the barracks, they were difficult to keep alive. Adding to the din of industry, all over town carpenters and masons were hard at work raising new homes and commercial buildings. The activity attracted the Bank of Montreal which opened a branch in town on August 14th of 1897, Lethbridges second financial institution.
To celebrate the promising future, on October 5th and 6th the Town held its first fair, the venue being the Turf and Athletic Associations Queen Victoria Park on the southern outskirts of town. this was the first project of the Lethbridge Agricultural Society which had been organized on January 22nd of the previous year, 1896. It was renamed that May 20th with the insertion of and District, reports Douglas C. Card in Lethbridge Seed Fairs 18961988 (Occasional Paper No. 17, Lethbridge Historical Society, 1988).
The Town Council seems to have found its spine in 1898 and appealed to the Territorial Assembly for an ordinance that empowered the former to borrow to build infrastructure and grant incentives to private enterprise to build for the public good. This was No. 41 of 1898, An Ordinance to grant certain Powers to the Town of Lethbridge, assented to on September 19th. When the councillors realized that the St. Marys Main Canal was destined to end 40 miles away, they used their new powers and negotiated to indebt the Town to the AR&C in the form of a $30,000 debenture to ensure that the canal was extended to Lethbridge and laterals dug to water the rich lands south and east of Town.101
Granted a subsidy and a tax exemption, David Crichton and his son that year set up the Lethbridge Foundry on the south-west corner of Macleod and Baroness roads. The industry would remain there for three-quarters of a century102
In the Summer of 1898 the Reverend McKillop intensified his efforts to cleanse Lethbridge of bawdy abandon. Supported by various and sundry moral reform organization, he shamed and goaded the Council into passing several by-laws primarily aimed at crimping business on The Point. It being within the bounds of the Town, Corporal Lewis had authority there, but his boss in the Mounties, Captain Deane, was quite happy with the status quo, especially with the town full of hard working, hard living, edgy young men. Best let them blow off steam on The Point rather than having them seek out diversion and comfort in unforgiving Slavtown. Deanes policy of loose supervision rather than rigid repression , and the Councils inability to have its own directives enforced, muse Johnston and den Otter, increasingly gained Lethbridge the reputation as a wide-open town where anything goes. It would be years before this notoriety would dissipate, long after Chas. McKillop retired from the fray.
An Order-in-Council dated February 10th, 1899, elevated Lethbridge to a chief port. Formerly it had been and out-port of Calgary; henceforth it had out-ports of its own: Coutts, St. Marys and, unhappily for that proud settlement, Macleod. How many additional citizens were attracted by Lethbridges raised status can only be surmised. However, during the last year of The Gay 90s, people and wealth continued to pour into Lethbridge, keeping the Towns leading builder, A.J. McGuire, his 14 on-staff craftsmen, and his competitors, very busy. The Colpman brothers North West Jobbing Company was the Towns big wholesaler.
As of January 1st, 1900, Captain Deane ordered Corporal Lewis to quit moon-lighting as the Town cop and attend full-time to his N-WMP duties. Deane did, of course, maintain a corps of constables in Town headquartered at the Fire Hall, but he still infuriated the Council by obstinately refusing to instruct his officers to enforce certain civic by-laws. It must be noticed, however, that even though the it was developing a solid tax base, the Town thought it un-necessary to hire its own police force.
British imperial designs on the independent Boer states in southern Africa was felt materially in the District of Alberta in January of 1900. Donald E. Graves in Century of ServiceThe History of the South Alberta Light Horse (The South Alberta Light Horse Regiment Foundation, Edmonton, 2005) mentions that recruiting to man the 2nd Battalion of the Canadian Mounted Rifles began that month the District of Alberta. There was an office in Lethbridge, and when the 190 Alberta volunteers entrained for Halifax in late January, men from Lethbridge were among them. As they were sailing for South Africa in February, a second regiment was being raised in Alberta, Strathconas Horse. The famous Sam Steele was in command and his prominence attracted more Lethbridge men to the Colours. By March the 180 Albertans in the regiment were aboard ship, headed for the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek and the erstwhile Oranje Vrystaat.
Though many authors agree that water did not actually reach Lethbridge until September 4th, on July 4th of 1900 G.G. Anderson cranked open the headgates at Stirling and declared the St. Marys Main Canal complete. That summer the laterals were completed and some distribution ditches dug in the Lethbridge neighbourhood, watering approximately 20,000 acres31¼ square miles, over 92 square kilometres. Times were looking good. The policies and advertisement campaigns of the new federal Liberal government were attracting settlers to the prairies and the price of wheat, thanks in part to the hostilities in South Africa, was strong.
Come 1900 the fissure between and mine workers and the rest of the regional Lethbridge populace was becoming a chasm. Isolated by the oddly-hourd shifts and the seasonality of their occupation which rendered them unemployed for part of the year, these men were mutually regarded as residents on the edge of Town society. Many were unmarried, able to pack their bags and move on within hours of being handed their final pay packet. They saw themselves as men doing Mens work as opposed to the limp paper-shuffling of teachers, lawyers, office clerks and salesmen. Even town-bound tradesmen were regarded as effete by the two-fisted, hard drinking men o the mines. The iron-headed railroaders were the only other Blue-collars they tolerated. Consequently, they tended to live apart, making up but 40% of the Towns populace. For convenience, they gravitated to the north ward communities gathered around the pithead of Galt No. 3 where, in a mix of transient shacks, cheap rooming houses, and quaint cottages, they lived, some 70% of the population. Unhappy with the epithet Slavtown and the distain with which they perceived the townies regarded them, the land-owners of what had once been the Pierce property in the north ward incorporated the Village of Stafford on October 31, 1900, named after William Stafford, the Galts first Superintendent of Mines.
A man who was to become a major contributor to Lethbridges tax base arrived in Town in 1901 and, much to the chagrin of Reverend McKillop and his supporters, immediately got to work setting up his business on a plot of land conveniently close to The Point. Fritz Sick said he was from Freiburg in the Grand Duchy of Baden and had come to Lethbridge by way of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Spokane, Washington. He was a brewer by trade and had set up a small operation in Trail in 1896, and a bigger operation with partners G.H. Scott and Adolf Mutz in Fort Steele in 1898. In 1901 he and Mutz had removed the guts of the Fort Steele brewery to Fernie, and while Mutz was getting the operation up and running smoothly there, Sick had decided to go out on his own in Alberta. Lethbridge looked good: lots of thirsty miners and railroad workers, and a fairly relaxed attitude towards quaffing a glass or three. Come the end of 1901 he had the 300-gallon per day Alberta Brewery plant in operation across Baroness Road from Lethbridge Foundry. The operation would prosper and expand and continue as a major employer for nearly a century.103
den Otter in Civilizing the West: reports the population of Lethbridge as exactly 1,462 as of census day, 1901; of whom 80% were British, 16% Slav.104 In Lethbridge: A Centennial History, however, he and Johnston mention 2700, but this is likely an estimation of the metropolitan population including residents in the north ward of Stafford and the Hammersburg Addition,105 where lived 864, about 35% of whom were Sclavish, from somewhere in the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Businessmen founded their Chinook Club in 1901, the year that the Cinema arrived in Lethbridge at Olivers Hall where those who had a few pennies to spare could watch an apparition painted in light flickering on a wall.
It is suggested by knowledgeable writers that the $30,000 debenture that the Towns council sold to the AR&C in order to have the St. Marys Main canal extended to Lethbridge inured the Councillors to the notion of indebting their corporation. Council began taxing residents and businesses with less hesitancy. One of the key issues addressed was the lack of a reliable fire department. It is likely the cumulative pressure applied by insurance companies that compelled the Town of Lethbridge to form a professional fire brigade in 1902. According to Alex Johnston and Ted Bochan in Lethbridge: A Century of Fire Fighting, a contingent of 30 members was raised and paid according to their performance. A mans attendance at drills, alacrity in answering the alarm, general effectiveness was evaluated and rewarded correspondingly. Bonuses accrued to those who acted above and beyond their duty.
Another institution which was founded in 1902 was the Lethbridge Police Department. The moralists great nemesis, Superintendent (Acting) Richard Burton Deane, was sent in ignominy to Maple Creek, District of Assiniboia, that year, and his removal may have had something to do with the Council rehiring Thomas Lewis, who had quit the Mounties, as the Towns first professional policeman. With a cohort, each paid $60/month, Lewis patrolled the streets, responsible for enforcing the Towns by-laws. If, however, the Reverend McKillop thought he that had finally acquired an instrument to vanquish the evil loose on The Point, he was disappointed: arrangements seem to have been quietly made to enable business on The Point to carry on pretty much unrestricted.
In 1902 the old North-Western Coal and Navigations steamboat, the Alberta took its final voyage. For nearly 15 years the gutted wreck had been a breakwater for the sawmill down on the bottoms, and after the mill was removed by the Mormons in the summer of 1891, the hulk was used by local boys as a diving platform. An exceptionally heavy melt in the mountains swelled the Belly and its tributaries that spring of 02, and on July 9th the flood inundated the Bottoms. When it receded, the Alberta was no more to be seen,106 scraps of it washing up on the downstream banks of the River along with the broken timbers of the Macleod Trail traffic bridge which also went a-sailing that day.
While men from the Hamilton Bridge Works Company, Limited, were, at the District of Albertas expense, replacing the Macleod Trail traffic bridge with a concrete pierd and abutted steel structure, the Corporation of the Town of Lethbridge was continuing its investment in infrastructure. In 1902 the Town had consumed 15,000 gallons of water per day from three standpipes. The water was, as it had been for the previous 15 years, supplied by the AR&C. Galt doubtless encouraged the Town at every opportunity to accept responsibility for watering its citizens and thus relieve the AR&C from the burden of maintaining and fuelling its big steam engine-driven pump down on the River. As well, the AR&C pumped run of the stream straight out of the River and served it up unfiltered, untreated. It was often pretty unappetizing. With money steadily rolling into the Town coffers, in 1903 the administration decided that Lethbridge could afford to install a water system and a parallel sewerage system. On October 14 of that year His Worship, Mayor William Oliver, turned the sod on the new project. Sometime in late 1904, about the time the new traffic bridge was opened, tests were completed, and on January the 1st, 1905, the systems were inaugurated. From a huge well dug into deep aquifers down in the Bottoms on the site of the Citys present waterworks facility, two electrically-operated centrifugal pumps capable of supplying 160,000 gallons per day, report Johnston and Bochan in Lethbridge: A Century of Fire Fighting, began forcing water into the network of pipes. Waste water and sewage was simply discharged raw into the River, much to the disgust of downstream water users.
Come 1904 Lethbridge began to look like its citizens really believed that their Town would survive on what had, until the introduction of irrigation four years previously, been regarded as a hostile environment of too hot and too cold and wind never-ending. With increasing numbers of families immigrating to the region surrounding, confidence and enthusiasm, a boom mentality, infused the populace. Concrete sidewalks were poured, main roads levelled and gravelled, water and sewage systems laid, the fire department re-equipped. More and more, contractors were instructed to build with stone and brick, indications that people planned on staying.
Federal bureaucracy, too, evidently accepted that Lethbridge was not destined to desiccate and drift away. In March of 1904 came reports of dourine in horses on the ranch of T.W. McCaugherty in the Belly River valley up-stream from the confluence of the St. Marys, over the highland some seven or eight miles north-west of Lethbridge. The Department of the Interior quickly bought up an 1800-acre property centred on an Hudsons Bay Company parcel as a quarantine station established and directed the Royal107 North-West Mounted Police to oversee the building of a laboratory and living quarters. When all was ready in 1905, the Veterinary Director General appointed Dr. Seymour Hadwen as chief, succeeded by Dr. A.F. Watson in October of 1906. A brick laboratory building was completed in 1913 and the station, much modernized and known at one time as the Dominion Veterinary Research Farm, is extant still in 2007.
By the time that the first issue of the Lethbridge Weekly Herald108 hit the streets on November 8th, 1905, Alberta and Saskatchewan had become Provinces of Canada, the Town of Lethbridge had hired a third policeman to aid Lewis in his efforts maintain order, and the Canadian Bank of Commerce had opened a branchLethbridges third financial institution. In May, attracted by generous tax concessions and the promise of free water, the CPR had turned its back on Fort Macleod and announced that it was moving its Divisional Headquarters to Lethbridge.109 Come the end of the year crews were putting the finishing touches on the first six stalls of the Companys roundhouse, and were beginning the next six. On Monday, November 6th, general contractors Smith Brothers and Wilson began initial work on the Companys110 new $20,000-station. The fancy, turretd core of the structure was designed by the one of the Railways favourite architectural teams, Edward Maxwell and his brother, William. It would rise in local brick and sandstone quarried near Cardston by S.S. Newton. Offices upstairs would be occupied by the divisional headquarters staff. Downtown come the end of the year, the Bentley Company, Limited,111 had completed the Bentley Block for $17,000, report the authors of the Walking Tour of Lethbridge. Brick-built, it was a landmark, a towering three storeys, the highest building in Town in 1905. By the time the Bentley Block was oertopped, Lethbridge had become a city.
Galts Last Years
The nearly $1 million that he and his board of directors extracted from the CPR for the straightened and standard-gauged DunmoreLethbridge line afforded Elliott Torrance Galt a small respite from the cash-flow problems that crippled his Alberta Railway and Coal Company. Presumably some of the cash went to shareholders always impatient for returns, and creditors. Despite these demands, the management of the AR&C was doubtless able to hold some cash back to underwrite some of the development expenses of Galts next project: liquidating the tracts of potential agricultural lands that the AR&C and its predecessor, the North-Western Coal and Navigation Company, had earned from the federal government for building railroads.
Considering the paltry returns that his other rail line, the narrow-gauged Great Falls Railway, had yielded in the seven years of its existence, Galt would likely have bundled it with the old Turkey Track, if the CPR had been interested. The line might yet, however, improve its profitability, for it chugged through the block of land into which the AR&Cs scattered holdings had been consolidated in the early 1890s by an amenable Minister of the Interior.
Watering the Garden: the St. Marys Diversion
The AR&Cs block was, to quote A.A. den Otter in Irrigation in Southern Alberta18821901 (Historical Society of Alberta, Lethbridge, 1975),
a territory blessed with fertile soil and a warm climate, but cursed with periods of insufficient rainfall112 and hot, dry winds. [R]ainfall was always too scarce to permit the growth of trees but sufficient to prevent desert conditions. Members of the Mormon sect of the Church of the Latter-day Saints had been familiarizing themselves with the terrain of southern Alberta since their arrival here in 1887 and had proposed an irrigation scheme for AR&Cs block. Xenophobia and politics had scuttled that scheme, but it was a New Day in Ottawa with the election of Wilfrid Lauriers Liberal in June of 1896. On October 7th the new government granted responsible government to the citizens of the N-WT under Frederick William Aplin George Haultain as Premier, Attorney General and Territorial Treasurer. In the World, the prices of comestible commodities like wheat were rising as gold declined in value thanks to expanding production in South Africa. In North America, available farmland in the United States was becoming scarce, and homesteading eyes looked north where the booming Kootenay mining region of B.C. promised an eager market for eatables, especially should the CPR, as was rumoured, extend a line of rail thither through the Crows Nest Pass. Additionally, note Zola Bruneau and Carol Turman Low in Highways 1 and 3: Saskatchewan to Lethbridge (Historic Trails Society of Alberta, Lethbridge, 1987), much bulk grain-handling infrastructure had been build along rail lines and on the coasts and navigable lakesgrain could be cheaply sped anyway in the world where there was a market. To demonstrate just what a little water could do for AR&C lands, Galt donated a plot upon which a model farm was created. The results were impressive, and both the federal government and the CPR began expressing support for the AR&Cs irrigation project. On November 17th of 1896 Laurier appointed Clifford Sifton of Brandon, Manitoba, as Minister of the Interior. When approached in the summer of 1897 by AR&C Land Manager Chas. Magrath on the matter of the Mormon irrigation proposal, Sifton was enthusiastic, promising up to $50,000, states A.A. den Otter in Civilizing the West:
of federal money in rebates for surveying the Main canal. As the project moved towards commencement, the CPR, believing that settled, productive farming communities would increase greatly rail traffic in the region, pledged 15% of the revenue from the LethbridgeDunmore line to a maximum of $100,000 over ten years towards the project.113
Galt had already distanced the AR&C from the venture by arranging that, as one of his last duties as the governor-general, Sir John Campbell Hamilton Gordon, 7th Earl and 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair had, on April 23rd, 1896, signed into Law on behalf of Victoria Regina, 59 Victoria chapter 44, An Act to revive and amend the Act to incorporate the Alberta Irrigation Company. Significantly, Charles Ora Card, the Mormon sects local strongman, had been added to the board of directors114 of the revived AIC which would be the instrument employed to develop the project. Now, in 1897, irrigation expert Geo. G. Anderson of Denver, Colorado, was contracted to finalize the plan of a main canal and oversee its construction following the general route that John Stoughton Dennis, the Chief Inspector of Surveys of the Topographical Surveys Branch of the Department of the Interior, had had roughed out in 1895. Magrath, AICs general manager of the Project, and Card for the Mormons slowly worked out a deal which would see the Mormons construct the Main for $75,000 in cash and two tracts of watered land totalling 25,000 acres and valued at $3.00 per acre. With the CPR driving its Crows Nest Line into the Kootenay, the agreement was signed on July 9th, 1898, and on the 26th of August, records A.A. den Otter in his Civilizing the West: , C.O. Card, himself, ploughed the ceremonial first furrow inaugurating the Project. For two soggy years men and animals strove to build the St. Marys Main. Beginning at a diversion works sunk into the St. Marys Rivers stream near Kimball, the Canal snaked back and forth across the landscape, generally east north-east and then north-west, using existing stream channels where feasible, cutting through higher ground, fluming over ravines. In all, an estimated one million tons of earth was shifted, mostly by brawn and a Fresno scraper. No one counted the number of trees that died to make the trestle-work for all the flumes. With the additional 20 miles paid for by the City of Lethbridge115 to bring water to 20,000 acres in the environs of the metropolis, the Canal measured some 115 miles. It was declared complete on July 4th, 1900, although water did not reach the Lethbridge area for exactly another two months.
The Project brought water to 200,000 acres of land. Charles Magrath, land manager of the Canadian North-west Irrigation Company (CN-wI) since the passage on July 10th, 1899, of 62-63 Victoria Chapter 93116, sharpened his pencil in anticipation of swift sales. He was disappointed. Southern Alberta was enjoying a period of abundant precipitation117 and settlers that were arriving tended to chose dry lands at a fraction of the cost of irrigated acreage. Probably in anticipation of lagging sales, Galt et al had moved to sweeten their offering by laying 55 miles of three-foot gauge railroad diagonally south-west across the irrigated lands from the settlement of Sterling on the LethbridgeGreat Falls line, through Magrathfounded, like Sterling, in 1899 by Mormonsand farther to Spring Coulee on the St. Marys River. Passed on the 14th of June, 1900, 63-64 Victoria Chapter 79, An Act to incorporate the St. Marys River Railway Company had capitalized the organization to $500,000 and named Elliott T. Galt, Charles A. Magrath, Peter L. Naismith, William H. Ramsay, and Alexander Ferguson as directors. Ottawa granted it a construction subsidy of $2500/mile. Its likely that construction had anticipated the assent to the Act by some months, for the narrow-gauged line was opened that November 28th, in conjunction with an energetic publicity campaign advertising the advantages of Galt lands.
The prognosticators had been right: a little water added to the Dark Brown Chernozemic soils of the area caused prolific plant growth. As engineers searched for the easiest crossings on the St. Marys River and Lee Creek so the St. Marys River Railway (St.MRR) could be pushed on to Cardston,118 CN-wI was in negotiations with the Mormon entrepreneur, Jesse Knight. Sugar interested Knight, and on July 10, 1901, he and the CN-wI signed an agreement which obligated Knight to build a sugar extraction factory at Raymond on the St.MRR 15 miles from Sterling, which he would operate for 12 years or forfeit a $50,000 bond. In exchange, Knight got 226,000 acres centred roughly on Raymond. Ephraim Ellison completed construction of the plant in February of 1903.119
Since the CPR had taken over operation of the Dunmore Lethbridge line in 1893, the AR&C had steadily increased traffic on its Great Falls line. Passenger services had been instituted and short trains of tiny coaches swayed across the Prairie behind high-stepping locomotives. The narrow gauge, however, was a hindrance to increased profits, and in December of 1900, writes den Otter in Civilizing the West: , Galt proposed that the line be standard-gauged. His board of directors balked at the expense, and it wasnt until Jim Hill agreed in the spring of 1901 to buy and standardize the American end of the lineGreat Falls and Canada Railway Company120that the AR&C began rebuilding the Canadian reach of the road to 5' 8½".121 Soon after, writes Ron Bowman in Railways in Southern Alberta, the AR&I in conjunction with the Great Northern, began offering overnight sleeping car service between Lethbridge and Great Falls.
Despite lagging land sales, in 1902 the CN-wI had purchased a consolidated block of a half-million irrigable federal acres south of Lethbridge and began a renovation project to double the St. Marys Mains capacity and extend it to the north-east. The gamble paid off, for in 1903, the year that the St.MRRs rails were pushed to Cardston, the climate began to dry and Charles Magrath, still the Galts primary land agent, was kept busy answering enquiries.
In 1904 the St. Marys River Railway built a 15 mile-long spur down through Woolford and on to Kimballon the St. Marys River at the intake for the St. Marys Irrigation Canalfrom Raley on the mainline 11 miles north-west of Cardston.122 With their empire expanding, Galt and his associates thought it prudent to gather their south Alberta assets under one roof and applied to incorporate a new company. Into its portfolio they proposed to include, note Alex Johnston and B.R. Peat in Lethbridge Place Names and Points of Interest, the Alberta Railway & Coal Company (1884), the Lethbridge Land Company (1888), the Alberta Irrigation Company (1893) / Canadian North-west Irrigation Company (1899), and the St. Marys River Railway Company (1900). On June 6th, 1904, 4 Edward VII Chapter 43, An Act to incorporate the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company, and to provide for the amalgamation therewith of the [AR&C, the CN-wI, and the St.MRR], received royal assent and was constituted under the laws of Canada.123 It wasnt until that October 4th, claims den Otter, that the AR&I was inaugurated. The companys charter of incorporation stated that it was to be capitalized to $3.25 million in shares worth $100 each.124 The board members, of course, subscribed to blocks of shares, as did the CPR, and Wm. Miller Ramsays associate, Bank of Montreal manager Edwd. Seaborne Clouston. In a prospectus issued in 1905 by chairman E.T. Galt lists AR&Is assets: 65 miles of standard-gauged rail line from Lethbridge to Coutts, a 54 mile-long branch thereofthe St.MRR, irrigation canals and laterals totalling 150 miles aggregate length, 943,995 acres of land (170,000 acres of which were irrigable), and various and sundry mortgages, etc, like the $30,000 City of Lethbridge debenture. The Toronto-based financial firm of Osler, Hammond and Nanton evidently like the potential of Galts new venture, and began quietly buying up shares on the open market. So voracious were they in their acquisitions that come June of 1905 they had amassed sufficient to have Augustus Meredith Nanton installed as the AR&Is managing director. Headquartered in a 3-storey, clock-towerd brick building facing Galt Park at the corner of Glyn St (7th St. S.) and Ford Street (2nd Ave. S.), AR&I began extending its irrigation network to 290 miles by 1911, spending more than a million dollars to water 47,000 acres, some 750 farms.
Angst of Labour, continued
Underpinning these ventures into irrigation and railways was, of course, the productivity of the Galt mines, particularly No. 3, located near Stafford. Brought into production in 1890, its output contributed the bulk of the 120,000 tons that the AR&C mined in 1896. The company closed Galt No. 1 on March the 5th, 1897, and in 1898, from No. 3 alone, came 168,000 tons, 154,000 in 1902, 230,000 in 1903, 270,000 in 1904, and, notes den Otter in Civilizing the West:
, between 220 and 223 thousand tons of coal in 1905.125 The CPR had, however, reduced its consumption of Galt coal, throwing the companys fortunes on the domestic market, which was, of course, seasonal. Because Lethbridge coal began losing volatility as soon as it was released from the seam, this fluctuating market meant that it was more economical to shut the mines down in the summer time than to mine coal for which there was no market. But for a favoured maintenance staff the men were dismissed and the machines shut down. For some miners, this was ideal. Farmers, they simply went home and hitched up the plough. The machinesthe very expensive machinescould be serviced during the down time and be ready for the winters work ahead. The only two groups that couldnt benefit from the summer break were the capitalists for whom no mining meant diminished dividends, and the specialized miner who had no other vocation to which to turn. Of these two groups it was the working man, obviously, who suffered most. Rather than merely foregoing grilled salmon for breakfast every other day or so as might a rich man, the laid-off working man might well be obliged to kiss hungry children good night. The situation was leading to hard feelings.
But two generations from being a mere serf at the beck and call of a master, the miner who came to work for the Galts in the 1880s was a fairly docile employee. Likely from Nova Scotia, he at least spoke the language of North American capitalism, even if he couldnt read it. And as he was listening, he began hearing questions like who owns of the means of production? and what real justification is there for the chasm between the income and lifestyle of the Owners and that of the Workers? Didnt the capitalist need workers and their skills as much as the workers needed him to organize enterprise and commerce? The Capitalist could not manipulate the Means of Production unaided, and it was time come the later-80s that Labour be recognized as the true Creator of Wealth: no fat lord with a few spare inherited bob to risk on a venture ever actually created anything. Did he. ? What that Nova Scotian and his brethren were realizing that if they organized themselves so that the capitalist could not simply hire replacements for workers that downd tools in a dispute, they could win concessions. Aborting the creation of such organizations immediately became the main focus of Capitalism. The Law was required to condemn such heinous deeds so that heads could be legally bashed by policemen just doing their duty, bustin up rallies and parades. Such treatment ensured that workers became increasingly radicalized as they plumbed the depth of the ruling classs resistance.
Not even with his Nova Scotians did the Galts enjoy peaceful labour relations. Working in virtual isolation on the frontier, deprived of the stabilizing effect of family and sweethearts, Galts men were miserably employed and quick to recognize their value and demand commensurate compensation. Struggling to cut expenses during a downturn, in March of 1886 the Galts laid off their entire workforce and announced that they would hire back only family men, at a 25% reduction in pay. To reduce dissent, the company imported surplus Hungarian labourers from the Pennsylvania coalfields to replace as many of their obstinate, expensive Nova Scotians as possible. Should any former employees vent their frustrations near company property, the N-WMP stood obediently by to maintiens le droit. Using the dissention among its workers for leverage, the Galts were able to ignore the grievances of their workers and frustrate their attempts to organize. In February of 1894, in the depths of the continent-wide recession that had depressed commodity markets for months, Elliott Galt, resorted to the same expedient as had he and his father eight years before, locking out all 580 of his workers and rehiring but 130 at a wage reduced by 17%. This economic brutality finally drove the miners of Lethbridge to call out to their American brethren for help.
The Western Federation of Miners (WFM) was born of the strife in the metal mines of Colorado and formed at Butte, Montana, in May of 1893. Its successes were noted by the hard-rock miners in Rossland, B.C., who invited the WFMs president, Ed Boyce, to come and help them organize the Rossland Miners Union No. 38 in July of 1895. Though No. 38 wasnt an unqualified success, it did win concessions enough for its membership that two years later, striking in opposition to further wage cuts, the men of the Galt mines summoned the WFM to aid them. Though apparently advised to stay home by the N-WMP on behalf of the Government of Canada, a union delegation from Sand Coulee, Montana, arrived in Lethbridge in October of 1897 and proceeded to form some 60 Galt miners into the Lethbridge Miners Union. The Union did not attract all the miners, however, and Galts adopted the tactic of favouring some men with permanent, year-round employment, and contracting the bulk of the jobs as needed. This, Galts calculated, would rot the Union. The test came in 1899.
Presumably with the blessing of Galts, in 1893 Charles Magrath had supported a bill the Assembly of the North-West Territories which became Ordinance No. 5 of 1893, An Ordinance to make Regulations with respect to Coal Mines, assented to by Lieutenant-Governor Joseph Royal on September 16th, 1893. It made English the working language in Territorial mines, addressed issues dealing with safer working conditions in the N-WTs mines: ventilation,126 records keeping, shot preparation and firing, supervision of mine safety.127 The Ordinance did not address the length of an underground working day, a limit for which miners had been long agitating: ten hours underground was normal, 12 common, and more when the company required. To the working family man with a home to return to, eight hours a day underground hacking at coal in the bottom of a hot, dark hole was quite enough of his life thus spent. The Territorial Assembly repealed Ordinance No. 5 of 1893 with Ordinance No. 9 of 1898128 which again failed to set working hours, but in Section 20 barred boys under the age of 12 years and all women and girls from any working mine. In 1899, however, in Section 1 of Chapter 4 of An Ordinance to amend Chapter 16 of the Consolidated Ordinances 1898, intitled [sic] An Ordinance to make regulations with respect to Coal Mines, repeals Section 4 of No. 9 of 1898 and substituted 4. No person shall be employed underground in any coal mine in the Territories for more than eight hours in every twenty-four exclusive of the time taken descending to and ascending from the mine [, and] (2) No boy under the age of twelve years nor any woman or girl of any age shall be employed or be permitted to be in the workings of any mine. In complying with the law, Galts expected to reduce wages commensurately, something to which the miners were adamantly opposed. Though it did not command the loyalty of many AR&I workers, the union called a strike for November 11th, the first such action in the N-WT independent of the railwaymens union. The rot in the ranks caused by AR&Is tactics proved fatal to the initiative, however, and 1899 is noted by historian A.A. den Otter in Civilizing the West: as [t]he year Elliott Galt broke the miners union. After a few months of confusion, the Territorial Assembly thought better of eight-hour section in Chapter 4 of 1899 and used Section 1 of Chapter 3129 of the Ordinances of 1900 to strike out the provision for an eight-hour working day.
By 1900 the working men of the Galt mines were disaffected with the Western Federation of Miners with its bellicose politics and reputationwarranted or notfor violence. Most, too, were resigned to what den Otter in Civilizing the West: calls Galts cycle of seasonal production: the coal could only be sold in the wintertime and could not be mined much in advance of sale as Lethbridge coals volatile hydro-carbons evaporated in storagethe sooner it was fired after it was mined, the better the burn. This meant, writes den Otter, that 400 workers laboured six days a week during peak mid-winter demand period to meet the increasingly heavy domestic demand as farming families in their thousands moved onto Prairie homesteads. As Spring began to awaken, mining was scaled back and layoffs began until only a cadre of about 200 loyal, full-time AR&I men remained to work the two or three days in the week it took to mine coal enough to meet immediate demands. Come August the AR&I ramped up production.
The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had been founded in Columbus, Ohio, in 1890, and its successes, primarily the large part it played in winning the 8-hour day for American miners in 1898, attracted the attention of western Canadian miners. At Fernie, B.C., on November 9th, 1903, the Union enchartered District 18 encompassing much of western Canada. The 3,293 members elected F.H. Sherman as president, and his capital S socialist aims of democratically seizing legislative power and substituting a co-operative commonwealth for Capitalisms wage-labour defined the UMWAs early philosophy.
In 1905 Galts output 220,000 tons of coal. Its irrigated land was selling well, and even some of the dry lands were being settled by optimists who could not believe that they had moved onto a semi-desert. Though it had no access to AR&Is books, the UMWA suspected that the company was paying out handsomely and could well afford to better remunerate its workers. On February 21st of 1906 the Union formed Local 574 to represent the Galt (and Ashcroft) miners, and opened an office in Lethbridge. By then Osler, Hammond and Nanton had acquired controlling interest in AR&I and had installed Augustus Meredith Nanton of Winnipeg as managing director, with Peter Lawrence Naismith as general manager on site. The AR&I did not oppose the UMWAs recruiting drive which attracted 360 of its workers. However, neither did it recognize the existence of the Union, and when the Union announced that the AR&I needed to increase miners wages, Nanton and Naismith refused even to discuss the issue. On March 9th the Local called on its members to down tools and walk out, leaving 25 men to maintain the works. In all, 524 left the mine.
In truth, AR&I was doing well, but; though demand for coal had risen dramatically with the tremendous influx of settlers into the area, the mining end of the business was operating on slim profit margins. In the minds of AR&Is management, the company could not afford to increase the miners wages, and damnd if it would. The Union had to go. Falling back on its tried and true tactic of hiring scabs and calling on the RN-WMP130 to protect them, Nanton and Naismith re-opened the works towards the end of May with about 80 workers. The union was prepared for this eventuality, and every day the replacements had to run a gauntlet of cursing strikers and sometimes their wives. Scuffles broke out, the Police whacked skulls. The dispute spilled into the streets and alleys of what was by then the City of Lethbridge, the average citizen of which, informed by the conservative Lethbridge Herald, generally favoured the company and a mans right to work. By mid-July 160 replacements were defying the union men. On August 13th the dispute took a nasty turn when a weak bomb blew windows out of the abode of a scabs. A second blast did less damage to another residence. Amazingly, calm ensued as the citizenry held their collective breath.
On October 22nd AR&I representatives were in Canmore, Alberta, to involve their company on the ground floor of the Western Coal Operators Association in an effort to stymie organized labour. Positions were lithifying and the situation in Lethbridge was deteriorating as many Mounties, never entirely comfortable in their role as AR&I goons, had begun to resent their duty. With the Season of the Cold approaching and not nearly enough coal coming out of the mine to satisfy demands, a disaster looked to be in the offing, especially as the coal miners in the Crows Nest Pass were restive, as well. Neither Ottawa nor the new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan wanted broadcast around the World any suggestion that farm families were freezing in the Canadian West, so Wilfrid Laurier assigned his chief arbitrator, Deputy Minister of Labour William Lyon Mackenzie King, to settle the issue. A capable, determined manas he would prove in his stints as Prime Minster 20 years laterKing was able to force a compromise. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, reports den Otter in Civilizing the West: , King met with the president of the UMWA who conceded that independent miners could work alongside Union men in the Galt mines as long as the AR&I recognized the Unions legitimacy and stop discriminating against its members. To this the AR&I grudgingly agreed, though it refused to collect union dues on behalf of the UMWA. In return for a 10% pay-raise, the right to bargain collectively and a limited say in working conditions and procedures, the union men resumed work on December 6th. The AR&I succeeded in mining only 90,000 tons in 1906, only slightly more than a third of the 260,000 tons out put in 1907.
With 1906 Chapter 25,131 An Act to make Regulations with respect of Coal Mines, the Province of Alberta had assumed responsibility for the industry within its jurisdiction. Though it confirmed many of the provisions and regulations enacted by the Territorial government such as sex and age barriers, mandated safety precautions and worker inspections, it did not address the issue of the eight-hour day. Rather, it declared that miners would be paid by verifiable weight of coal mined.132 It wasnt until Alberta Lieutenant Governor Bulyea signed 8 Edward VII Chapter 17133 into law on March 5th, 1908, that miners were restricted to an eight-hour workday underground.
The Industrial Workers of the World had formed in Chicago in June of 1905 and doubtless some Galt workers were excited by its Marxist philosophy of labour-owned means of production. It was, however, the UMWA which guided Galts workers actions for the next decade and a half of conflict. On June 1st, 1907, the UMWA and the AR&I agreed to a contract which expired on the last day of March, 1909. In what had become an expected sequence of events, a strike was necessary to force bargaining. This pattern pertained in 1911, 1919, 1922, 23, 24, though most of these work-stoppages were of much shorter duration than the 1906 action.
Despite the occasional bout of labour unrest in the works, AR&I went on developing its businesses, expanding its irrigation network, opening more mines, rationalizing its rail system by pulling the St.MRRs WoolfordKimball branch in 1907. It also came under new guidance, mentions J.A. Eagle in The Canadian Pacific Railway and the Development of Western Canada, 18961914, for by 1908 the CPR had amassed some $2 million-worth of shares to win controlling interest in the company.
In December of 1908 the AR&I dropped Galt No. 5 down to the coal beds about 2 miles north of No. 3, and in 1909 opened what would prove to be its most prodigious producer, No. 6, on the edge of the Bellys scarp some 2200 yards from No. 5. The little community of Hardieville, named after the landowner and future mayor of Lethbridge, W.D.L. Hardie, bloomed. No. 6 would become the companys main lifting shaft, the works powered by a new, six-furnace boiler room. In 1912, while No. 3 was out-putting 500 tons per day, No. 6 output 800. By then, however, Elliott Galt could have cared less, for at the end of 1911 the AR&I, lock, stock and barrel, passed into the CPRs portfolio.
The Days of the CPR
Into the Kootenay
The CPR acquired a commercial interest in Lethbridge, according to J.A. Eagle in his afore-mentioned The Canadian Pacific Railway
, when, in the throes of the recession of 1893, Elliott Galt and his aged father approached the Company to lease and run the Dunmore and Lethbridge Railway. 56 Victoria, Chapter 38, An Act respecting the Alberta Railway and Coal Company, received royal assent on April the 1st of 1893, and reads, in part, that the AR&C
may lease, sell and convey to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company
: first, that portion [of railroad] extending from Dunmore to Lethbridge; second, that portion extending from Lethbridge to Fort McLeod [sic]; third, that portion extending from Fort McLeod through the Crows Nest Pass to the authorized western terminus of its railway in British Columbia
. As the AR&C standard-gauged the Turkey Track to make it more attractive, the Galts negotiated its lease to the CPR using James Jerome Hill and his Great Northern as a bargaining chip. An agreement was reached, according to Eagle above, that July, and officially concluded on November 27th, 1893. CP would lease the standardized DunmoreLethbridge line until December 31, 1897, with an option to buy it for $9,000 per mile until that date. The Company would provide the standard gauge motive power and rolling stock to operate the line, agreed buy 200 tons per day of Galt coal at $2.50 per ton, and would kick back to AR&C 40% of the gross revenue earned by the line. Eagle reports that the first standard-gauged locomotive to pull a train into Lethbridge arrived there November 28th, though standardization was not completed until December 3rd, 1893, with double trackage spiked down from Montana Junction to the Galt Lethbridge tipple to accommodate AR&Cs narrow-gauged equipment.
Galt was able to save the AR&C from bankruptcy in the aftermath of the 93 Recession, but the slow pace of continental economic recovery forced him to liquidate assets. With J.J. Hill still talking like he might just buy up the old Turkey Track as a weapon to attack the CPRs monopoly in western Canada, CP concluded negotiations with the AR&C in September of 1896 by paying $976,950 for the line. On December 31st the 108.5 miles of the DunmoreLethbridge line became CPR property.
The share-holders and directors of the CPR had been chagrined to realize that the alignment of their Mainline in British Columbia was far from the rich mineral lodes in the province. Everything worth mining seemed to be buried within a 100 miles of the Boundary, and getting at it from the Mainline with shortlines and steamboats was just not economic. Alarming the CPR, B.C. merchants and revenue-starved governments at all levels, American entrepreneur Daniel Chase Corbin had completed a line of rail up from Spokane on the Northern Pacific and Great Northern mainlines to the fabulous Silver King at what is now Nelson in 1893, and was draining the cream of that ore body away into the United States. As the last weeks of 1896 approached, Corbin was well on his way to driving another Spokane-connected road, the Red Mountain Railway, into Rossland and its wealthy mines. CPsand Canadasfear was that the Companys implacable foe, James Jerome Hill, would take over Corbins lines,134 integrate them into his Great Northern network and rob B.C., the Dominion, and the CPR of their rightful profits from Canadian ore. Not only was B.C.s natural wealth at risk, but all supplies and machinery necessary for developing mines were, to the ire of Canadian merchants, brought in from the United States. Too, that machinery and the smelters built at or planed for Marysville, Nelson, Pilot Bay, Trail, Grand Forks, Greenwood and Boundary Falls, would require enormous quantities of coal. The carboniferous bounty underlying Lethbridge and both sides of the Crows Nest Pass135 was a natural fit for these enterprises: coal into the Kootenay, ore and refined metals out.
Come 1896 William Van Horne and Thomas Shaughnessy, president and v-p, respectively, of the CPR, had managed to work a little cash into the Companys coffers and could now afford to build into the Kootenays. The Company had already acquired some trackage in that region and was negotiating to buy the charters of several railroad companies, notably the British Columbia Southern, which owned a permit to build deep into the West Kootenay from the western slope of the Crows Nest Pass. Under its charter47 Victoria Chapter 74and a subsequent amendment55-56 Victoria Chapter 30, North-Western Coal and Navigation and its successor, the Alberta Railway and Coal Company, was permitted to build all the way from The Hat to Kootenay Lake and on to Hope, B.C. With this necessary permit in its pocket, the CPR prepared to build into the Kootenays.
Building a line of railroad though any part of the North American cordillera was an expensive proposition, as the CPR well knew, and as its surveyors were roughing out a route into the Kootenays, the CPR approached the new Liberal government of Wilfrid Laurier for a cash subsidy. Negotiations were intense, but on June 29th of 1897 60-61 Victoria Chapter 5, An Act to authorize a Subsidy for a Railway through the Crows Nest Pass received royal assent. It permitted CP to acquire the B.C. Southern with its provincial subsidy of 20,000 acres of land per mile, and bestowed a federal subsidy on the Line of $11,000 per mile to a maximum of $3.63 million, provided the Line was completed to Kootenay Lake by the end of 1898, and to Nelson within two years after. For its largess, the federal government obtained CPs guarantee that it would never raise the freight rates on flour, wheat, farm goods and agricultural implements and supplies to and from the Prairies, and the right to approve rates on the Companys entire B.C. network south of the Mainline. The fine details were hammered out and what was dubbed the Crowsnest Agreement was signed on October 6th, 1897.136
With its charters in its pockets, CP began to build into the Kootenay. Preliminary surveys had located the line of the trackage by March of 1897, and the tote roadthe track-side supply trailwas under construction. Michael J. Haney had been engaged as the project manager, and Haneyville had been established near Macleod as the main materiè:l marshalling yards. The Oldman River had been bridged at West Macleod to allow the Calgary and Edmontons rails to reach the Yards where workers were soon busy pre-fabricating Howe trusses and trestle bents and braces and balks for all the wooden bridging that would be needed, some 2.5 miles of it, notes George Buck in From Summit to Sea, in the 38 or so route-miles west from Lethbridge. On July 14th of 1897 the sod was ceremoniously turned at Lethbridge on the project, and work commenced on the 17th. It was not feasible at the time to span the mile-wide valley of the Belly at the western edge of the AR&I yards, so a switch was dropped into the Dunmore line just west of Montana Junction and a roadbed now occupied by Magrath Boulevard was run southward to make its way across what is now the northern edge of the airport property and snake down into the Bellys valley near the Rivers confluence with the St. Marys. The latter was bridged by 2,933 feet of trestling hanging 65 feet above the shallows of the stream. This was a difficult job and dangerous, exacerbated by the ready availability of booze at the jobsite. Death by misadventure was not uncommon, with four perishing on the 7th of April, 1898, when a gale threw down one of the spans. Cutting though the bluffs was nearly impossible, the clay stiffly resisting both machinery and explosives. Opined Captain Deane in his report for 1897, the contractor would loose his shirt should the CPR hold him strictly to his bid. As crews hammered the 56-lb. rail eastward from Haneyville across the vast Kainai Reserve in the week of April 12th, 1898, the bridging crews of McGilvary and Leeson were racing to get their work done. It was not completed by the 26th, according to the Cranbrook Herald of that date. It soon was. Captain Deane noted that six million board feet500,000 cubic feetof timber were used in the trestling between Lethbridge and Macleod. C.W. Bohi and L.S. Bohi, Canadian Pacific’s Western Depots: The country stations in Western Canada (South Platte Press, David City, NA, 1993) offer that the substantial type 6 station that the CPR had built near the trestle was removed in 1909.
Crews built the CNL both west and east from Haneyville. By January 6th of 1898 steel had reached westward to the chasm of the Pincher Creek at what is now Brocket where bridging crews had been busy since the previous November. Before the tracklayer finally crossed the Creek on February 2nd, grading crews had pushed the roadbed miles into the distance and teamsters had hauled building materials to other bridging crews working on crossings at Elko and Wardner in B.C. J.L. Davidson was still collecting information for his article to be published in the May, 1899, issue of Railway and Shipping World when, reported the Lethbridge Herald, Mrs. Haney and her children settled themselves in Superintendent N. John Niblocks private car on May 4th, 1898, and rolled out of Lethbridge in the first passenger train to depart westward from that fair Town. They likely only travelled as far as Haneyville to visit Michael J., as the line had not been completed much beyond the Continental Divide, 101 route-miles from Lethbridge. In fact, it wasnt until June 15th, notes John Eagle in The Canadian Pacific Railway , that the LethbridgeMacleod section was turned over to Operations, with the whole Crows Nest Branch to Kootenay Lake turned over on November 14th.
Judging by the dearth of references to its activities in Lethbridge after the completion of the Crows Nest Branch, the CPR focussed its attention elsewhere. Haneyville/Macleod had been chosen as the divisional headquarters for the Alberta reach of the Branch, and Lethbridge remained, as far as the Company was concerned, merely a secondary source of coal, now that the vast measures in the Crowsnest and Elk valleys were being opened up. Proud Macleod, however, had not enjoyed the most cordial relations with the CPR, its citizenry stubbornly clinging to their townsite when the Company had expected them to abandon it and move lock, stock and barrel across the Oldman and some three kilometres west to West MacleodMekastoeat the end of the C&E when CP completed that line in 1892. The animosity twixt Macleod and the Company, local mythology has it, deepened over the years, and merely to spite the Town, the CPR established its prefabrication yards for the Crows Nest Branch and the attendant depôt at an inconvenient distance from Macleod. Five years later, when the boosters on the Lethbridge Town Council began suggesting that their Town was a much better location for a divisional headquarters and backed the suggestion with large tax and land concessions, CP turned its back on Macleod and moved.137 The decision was announced in May of 1905 and the move officially completed on November 24th, according to Alex Johnston in The CP Rail High Level Bridge at Lethbridge. The erection of the first six stalls of what, when the final six were added in 1923, would be a 24-stall roundhouse, was likely already underway. Navvies began expanding the marshalling yards into an enormous complex. On November 6th, crews commenced construction of the fine, Maxwell brothers-designed stone and timber station house that, with its 1908 addition, still stands on 1st Avenue South.
CP added wedges of six stalls each to its Lethbridge roundhouse in 1906 and 07. As it did so it was buying blocks of shares in the AR&I. Its ultimate goal early on seems to have be the acquisition of the company. AR&Is directorship, themselves, had paved the way by petitioning parliament to pass what, with the affixation of governor-general Sir Gilbert John Elliot-Murray-Kynynmounds signature on May 23rd, 1901, 1 Edward VII Chapter 45,138 which allowed the Galt company to convey any or all of its assets to the CPR.
Come 1911 the CPR owned enough shares in the Galt company that it controlled the board and made application to parliament to take formal control of the AR&I. Writes J.A. Eagle in The Canadian Pacific Railway , an Order-in-Council passed on December 28th, 1911, ratifying the arrangement allowing CP to lease all of the AR&Is assets for 999 years. The deal was effective from January 1st, 1912. One asset that was not part of the transaction was the vast tracts of land139 that the Galt companies had earned by building railroads. According to A.A. den Otter in Civilizing the West: , CP bought the lands from the AR&I to obviate the stipulation that the any unsold AR&I land would revert to the Crown in 1917. As well, the five dollar/acre maximum sale price imposed upon the AR&I by Ottawa was negated. That January the CPR created a Department of Natural Resources headquartered in Calgary and under the direction of John Stoughton Dennis, formerly of the Department of the Interior. A Land Branch in the new Department was tasked with disposing of the Companys lands, including those formerly held by the AR&I, and arguing with governments about how much money the Company owed them since its lands lost their tax-free status in 1912.
The Coal Business
Along with land and railways, the CPR acquired coal mines when it took over the assets of the AR&I. Galt No. 3, opened in 1890, was still a prolific producer come 1912. No. 6 had been started in 1908, began producing in 1909, but didnt achieve its full output for a couple of years. In 1912 Galt No. 7 was completed as an auxiliary access to the No. 6 mine. With the mines, CP, of course, inherited AR&Is labour problems. There had been strikes in 1909 and 1911. In March of 1919, as the world economy slipped into free-fall with the cessations of hostilities in Europe, a general meeting of western labour unions was convened in Calgary to throw off the yoke of the Eastern-orientated Dominion Trades and Labour Congress. The radical notions of the One Big Union movement appealed to the delegates and a motion was passed to embrace Unions militant attitude in negotiating the ownership of the Economys means of production with the capitalist classes. When the UMWA pulled its District 18 members out of the mines in May of 1919 to protest wage reductions, the OBU members seized the moment to usurp leadership of the strike. The brutal suppression of the Winnipeg General Strike in late June only forewarned the striking miners of the narrowness of official intolerance. The Western Coal Operators Association, the management union formed in 1906 to organize the response of the company owners to their workers demands, resolved to break the OBU by agreeing to increase the wages of the dues-paying UMWA members. The tactic worked. Desperate for a wage, many Galt miners abandoned the OBU and returned to the UMWA. The fragile unity that Labour had momentarily achieved was shattered so that efforts to gain general wage increases by stopping work in 1921 were weak. The strike from April 1st through to August 24th of the next year, 1922, gained the miners nothing but hunger. Write Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History, there followed by a disruption in 1923 and a bitter seven month walk-out/lock-out in 1924 when, regretting their generosity of 1919, writes W.J Cousins in A History of the Crows Nest Pass (The Historic Trails of Alberta, 1952, 1981), and suffering losses due to low coal prices, the Western Coal Operators unilaterally rolled back wages and locked out their workers to emphasize their position. Powerless in the throes of the Recession and hounded by both government and business, Labour crumbled, forsaking the last adherents to the OBU.
For the CPR, the actions of 1924 may have hastened the abandonment of Galt No. 3 which, having yielded nearly 5½ million tonnes, was shut down in that year.
By the early 20s King Coal was feeling the competition for Big Oil. Railroad companies, especially those in the United States, were converting their steam-powered engines to burn petroleum and were closely monitoring the experiments with internal combustion engined locomotives. In the fields the huge old steam traction engines were being rapidly replaced by gasoline engined tractors. Ominously for Lethbridge coal producers, too, was the pipeline that Canadian Western Natural Gas, Light, Heat and Petroleum Limited began laying in July of 1912 from its field near Bow Island, completing it to Lethbridge in October, giving domestic, industrial and commercial consumers an alternative to the mess and inconvenience of coal.
On October 29th, 1929, the already-volatile New York stock exchange suffered a precipitous decline in share values from which it could not recover, plunging the economies of North America, and indeed the World, into the Great Depression. Less than a year later, on the 16th of June, 1930, the U.S. Congress adopted the Smoot-Hawley tariff act which slapped a 75% surcharge on all coal imported into their country from Canada. Despite this admittedly minor consideration,140 and competition for Prairie customers by the developing Saskatchewan mines around Estevan, and undiscouraged by the mild winter with its slow domestic sales that followed, CPs mining managers began looking to locate a new mine to replace No. 6 which was finally reaching the economic limit of its measures. Write Alex Johnston, Keith G. Gladwyn and E. Gregory Ellis in the 20th Occasional Paper of the Lethbridge Historical Society, Lethbridge: Its Coal Industry (Lethbridge, 1989), the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company had intended to open a mine on the western side of the Belly/Oldman as soon as the Viaduct was completed. Delays in that project, however, forced the company to sink Galt No. 6 at what became Hardieville, on the eastern side of the Valley and north three-odd miles from old No. 3, connecting it to the CNL by extending that line of rail that ran roughly parallel to what is now Stafford Drive North from the main yards at Lethbridge to the No. 3. With less than a year left in the life of No. 6, in September of 1934, about a half-mile from the western end of the Viaduct, CP began sinking Galt No. 8. The shaft was quickly dug down through 102 metres of glacial till overburden and coal was reached on December 26th. No. 6, having output nearly 4.6 million tonnes, was shut down on March 14th of 1935. Various pieces of still-useful equipment were scavenged from the site, the largest of which was the Link Belt tipple, after which the rails to the No. 6 were removed.
On October 1st of 1930 the Dominion of Canada had finally relinquished ownership of the natural resources of Alberta141 and Saskatchewan, transferring them to provincial control. Perhaps to address that change in administration, on April 1st of 1935 the CPR incorporated Lethbridge Collieries Limited into which it folded the mining assets of the former AR&I, the Galt No. 8, the Federal Mine at Lethbridge, Cadillac Coal Company Limiteds Standard mine in the Pyami Coulee at Shaughnessy, and the Royalties and Share Corporation Limiteds Imperial Mine at Coalhurst. The new company was operated, mentions J.A. Eagle [op cit], by the Coal Mining Branch of CPs Department of Natural Resources under the direction of Peter Lawrence Naismith, formerly of AR&I. Lethbridge Collieries was still in the process of consolidation when an explosion in the Imperial142 on December 9th, 1935, killed 16 miners underground, many resident in Lethbridge. It was the worst single disaster in the regional coal fields, and resulted, after the public tears and the funeral precessions marching their mournful way over the ten miles between Lethbridge and Coalhurst, in the abandonment of the mine.
Report Johnston, Gladwyn and Ellis in Lethbridge: Its Coal Industry, the No. 8 was a difficult mine to work. The floor of the mine was a stratum of bentonite clay which heaved and crept, throwing trackage and roof supports out of alignment. The former was an inconvenience, but the latter was injuriously dangerous for the ceiling of the mine was of poorly consolidated material and the weight of 102 metres of overburden sought constantly to squeeze the mine closed. The mine was converted to electric operation in 1937 in order to minimize the hazards of sparking a replay of the Imperial tragedy. By that year No. 8 was capable of outputting 1100 tons per day and ordinarily worked a four-day week.
Unsettled relations with its workers continued to dog Lethbridge Collieries. During the Depression the miners that were able to hold their jobs counted themselves lucky and their union kept a fairly low profile. The Union was, though, compiling a wish list to present to management when better times returned. Those times returned in the early 1940s when War demanded fuel. Lethbridge Collieries, under the on-site management of Christopher S. Donaldson from 1943, was eager to supply that demand. War also demanded that each man, woman and child do his and her patriotic duty, and labour actions were unpopular to the point of being regarded as subversive. After the War and into the 50s it was economic Good Times for North Americans, miners included. Concessions were won by the mere threat of stoppages for a few years. However, the availability and popularity of cheap propane for domestic use was rapidly destroying Lethbridge Collieries only remaining marketrailroads had been an insignificant consumer of Lethbridge coal since the 1890s. On February 8th, 1957, Lethbridge Collieries closed the No. 8. During its 23-year lifespan, the works had out-put some 3.2 million tons. The staff was cut back and most were dispersed to operations in Saskatchewan and the Standard mine which was soon renamed Galt No. 10. CanPac Minerals Limited was apparently called in to dismantle the equipment, sending some to the No. 10 at Shaughnessy and the tipple to Saskatchewan. In January of 1965 miners struck the No. 10. It was the last straw for the CPR and its Lethbridge Collieries. On February 4th the mine was shut down and, but for one small mine that would work for another four years, the Lethbridge coal fields fell silent. On January 31st, 1976, Lethbridge Collieries, Limited, was dissolved.
Running the Railroad
Transportation remained, of course, the CPRs main business in Lethbridge. With the completion of its fancy new station in 1906, the Company was ready for an increase in passenger service. Since the Crows Nest Line had been completed in 1898, local trains such as the popular Ding Bat had chuffed their way from Medicine Hat to Lethbridge and onward to Cranbrook, BC, stopping at every little station. On July 1st of 1907, however, in conjunction with the Northern Pacific in the United States, CP inaugurated its Soo-Pacific Train de Luxe, locally called the Spokane FlyerMinneapolis to Seattle via Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Medicine Hat and Spokaneand for the next seven years Lethbridge welcomed three trains per day in each direction. The station was almost doubled in area in 1908 as arrivals to Lethbridge increased and the Viaduct neared completion. This amazing structure was opened for traffic on October 23rd, 1909, eliminating the troublesome reach of rail across the Kainai Reserve between Lethbridge and Macleod. In 1911 the Aldersyde subdivision from Monarch to Aldersyde on the C&E south of Calgary was completed. In 1912, when the Company began offering daily passenger service to from Lethbridge to Calgary along the Aldersyde, it rapidly became the favoured route. In 1912, too, daily-except-Sunday return passenger services were inaugurated from Lethbridge to Coutts, and from Lethbridge to Cardston.
The year that the Spokane Flyer was discontinued, 1914,143 the CPR re-organized some of its divisional boundaries, creating new divisions where warranted, renaming others. In August the Lethbridge Division was created. The first superintendent was F. Walker who, with his staff in the refurbished upper storey of the station, was tasked with maintaining all trackage east of the Great Divide in south-western Alberta, some 565 route-miles, notes former superintendent Bowman in Railways in Southern Alberta. In 1917 a line was completed from Sterling east some 130 kilometres to Manyberries and, in 1923, extended to the end of the existing steel in Govenlock, Saskatchewan.
On June 1st, 1919, the first Kootenay Express departed Lethbridge westbound on the CNL for Vancouver. With its sister train, the east-travelling Kettle Valley Express, this daily passenger service was to be among the most popular of CPs offerings. Designated the No. 11 and the No. 12, respectively, these comfortably-appointed trains averaged 39 hours to chuff the 961 route-miles between Lethbridges fancy station and the imposing waterfront station on Hastings in downtown Vancouver. Probably to handle the extra maintenance work, the CP raised the final six stalls of its Lethbridge roundhouse in 1923.
Around that time, too, the first consignment of a most notable shipment of freight passed through Lethbridge: flat-cars laden with Kootenay Lake granite destined for the Mormons imposing Alberta Temple in Cardston. Train-loads of the gleaming grey rock would continue rolling through for years. During the same years that granite moved southward though Lethbridge, another commodity was moving north, recalls R.F.P. Bowman. Trains of oil-stained tank cars from the fields in Montana squealed over the rails in the Lethbridge yards on their way primarily to refineries in Calgary and Edmonton. This traffic decreased precipitously and soon halted altogether after Imperial Oil Companys Leduc No. 1 blew in near Edmonton on February 13th, 1947, ushering Alberta into the Age of Oil.
With modifications, passenger services continued to offered from Lethbridge though into the 50s. In 1931, on the old AR&C line south to Coutts and on the St.MRR,144 passenger trains were reduced to 3 a week, and two years later, in the depth of the Depression, dedicated passenger trains were discontinued and the passenger cars were added to freight trains for travel southward. In 1948, records Bowman in Railways in Southern Alberta, skunksgas/electric self-propelled carswere introduced on the southern runs on a daily-except-Sunday basis to deliver passengers, mail and light freight to Coutts, Sterling, Cardston and points in between and, in the case of Glenwoodville (note 143, above), beyond. These cars, an example of which is to be found on page 19 of D.M. Bains aforementioned Canadian Pacific in The Rockies - Volume 4, were built by the Ottawa Car Manufacturing Company in the early 30s, based on designs by the Electro-Motive Corporation in Ohio and earlier models imported from the Saint Louis Car Company. They were equipped with Westinghouse electrics. The fumes from the 400 horse-power Winton gasoline engines used to power the cars apparently offended the noses of those used to the bouquet of steam engines, hence their nickname. They were also called doodlebugs and the service was generally known by the ever-popular Galloping Goose sobriquet. In 1955 Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDC) Dayliners were introduced on the LethbridgeMedicine Hat, the first one rolling into Lethbridge on April 24th. They were also assigned to run between Lethbridge and Calgary on both the Aldersyde Sub. and via Fort Macleod on the old C&E trackage.145 Two years later, in January of 1957, Dayliners were sent growling along the CNL to Nelson and onward to Hope, replacing regular passenger trains. This was a short-lived gambit on CPs part, however, for the last Budd travelled the Southern Mainline on January 17th, 1964. Seven years later, on July 17th, 1971, after its application to do so was approved by the Canadian Transport Commission, CP suspended all passenger service in Alberta south of the Mainline.
Visitors so inclined will, in the early years of the Third Millennium, search in vain for Lethbridges rail yards. They will find the stationhouse, though since 1987 it has been occupied by the Chinook Health Region. To the east of it, on a nicely terraced berm, an ancient cedar-sided caboose rests in retirement. Parked behind the station, where the passenger quay used to be, CPR N2A 3651, a Montreal Locomotive Works 2-8-0 erection of July, 1910 (rebuilt at Montreal in August of 1927), and its tender, both now fully restored in gleaming black since the accompanying photos were snapped in 1993.146 Attached to the Station and built out to the north where once lay a diamond of a couple of dozen sidings, is an extended care home and parking lots. West on former Railway property where once a knot of tracks led into the maintenance complex of roundhouse, coaling dock, water and sand towers, the post-modern architecture of the Park Place Shopping Centre shelters a selection of all the usual froufrou shops and frilly boutiques, proof-positive of the feminization of North American culture. Gone is the noise and stink and danger of heavy industry, the evidence of a transportation giant that made the West. The only grudging recognition of the former occupant of the land was M602, a bashed, steel-wheeled 1938 Chevrolet Master DeLuxe147 used into the 60s by CPR superintendents as an inspection car. Chained to a carefully cleaned length of track in the Centres main atrium, the alien intruder was tolerated for a few years before being returned to the care of the Galt Museum.
Pulling up Stakes
The CPR began to fade out of Lethbridges economy in early January of 1952. Though the Lethbridge Division had been sending skunks out on its branch lines since the mid-40s, most railroaders never suspected that the steam power would be completely displaced until a Fairbanks-Morse C-Liner diesel locomotive arrived from the east on a chilly day that January pulling a train of freight. Efficient and unromantic, the diesel engine was changing the business of railroading continent-wide. A year and a half later, on June 26th, 1953, when train No. 11, the crack Coast-bound Kootenay Express, hummed into the station behind another C-Liner, even Mayor Shackleford was on hand to greet it. Soon the panting, smoking beasts that had powered the Company since its inception in 1881 were a rarity in the Lethbridge yards. Their demise killed the need for the many mechanics and maintenance shops required to keep them in running order. By January of 1959, when the last steam-drawn train arrived into Lethbridge, locomotive servicing was simply a matter of pulling up to a fuel pump and filling up the tanks. The great, black-timbered coaling dock was dismantled, the water tower pulled down, and the warren of the brick roundhouse was reduced to a rump, only the six newest stalls being spared.
In 1970, with the suspension of all passenger services on the immediate horizon, Marathon Realty, the CPRs real estate arm, announced that the Company was planning on relocating its yards. The City, desirous of halting the rot that was consuming its core, had had likely hinted that a modern city just didnt have a dirty old industry banging and crashing its equipment around so close to city hall. The Yards were identified as the kernel of the blight, and their removal would result in a peaceful downtown ambience. Perhaps miffed, CP decided that the first step should be a re-organization of its divisional boundaries which, on December 31st of 1971, saw the amalgamation of the Lethbridge and Medicine Hat divisions and the headquarters of the resultant Alberta South Division established in Calgary. Negotiations to remove the Yards were begun with the Company, the City, and the Province sitting at the table. The 95 acres of land upon which the yards sat was worth big bucks. While appointees to the Lethbridge Railway Relocation Study were searching for a site suitable for the new yards, negotiators determined that Lethbridge should shoulder 40% of the costs of the move, with Alberta picking up the remainder. The Study eventually determined that Kipp, about 12 route-miles from the western end of the downtown yards, was the ideal location. Construction there began in 1981 and was reported complete in the Lethbridge Herald of September 16th, 1983. The old yard rails were ripped up, the remainder of the servicing facilities pulled down, and a new alignment of the CNL was looped far to the north of the original trackage and hidden behind a noise-deflecting berm. The first revenue train on the new railsa mile and a half of grain cars hauled by a brace of SD40-2s and what might be a GP38-2crept eastbound over the Viaduct and around the loop on July 26th, 1984, supposedly driven by Mayor Andy Anderson. The entire project cost over $31 million.
The Other Coal Mines
The Galt mines did not have the Lethbridge coal fields to themselves. In fact, a quick peek into the Alberta Energy and Utilities Boards on-line offering of their Coal Mine Atlas: Operating and Abandoned Coal Mines in Alberta, reveals dozens of mines registered in the Lethbridge field. Few were long-lived or produced on a commercial scale, but combined they represent a significant extraction from the field and kept many a home and shop warm at the expense of the big players.
Mention has been made of the Sheran operation in the early days in a little gully cut into the right bank of the Oldman near the present 6th Avenue S./Whoop-up Drive bridge. After Nick Sherans untimely death on May 27th of 1882, the mine was likely operated by his sister, Marcella, from her home on the Pioneer Ranch near Fort Macleod. After she died in 1896, Fred Kanouse apparently took a turn running it, and it passed from hand to hand over the years, the various owners maintaining an aerial tramway across the River to transfer coal to the City side, and a series of thrilling suspension bridges for their workers. Federal Coals Limited took over the works on June 16th, 1917, and commenced to sell their output under that brand name. On November 16th of that year, write Johnston, Gladwyn and Ellis in Lethbridge: Its Coal Industry, the company acquired the old Pioneer148 mine across the River where 1st Avenue S. bends under the Viaduct149 and renamed it Federal No. 2, the Sheran pit becoming the No. 1. Though the works closed for a few months beginning July 1st, 1919, when the United Mine Workers of America (District 18) pulled their members out on strike, the companys principals persevered with their business plan. However, having invested considerably in the development of the mines, the owners were doubtless disappointed when fire of suspicious origin consumed their powerhouse on June 25th, 1921. They sold out that October to Christopher S. Donaldson, a former AR&I employee and owner of the Lethbridge Standard mine located somewhere in the coulee that now leads 3rd Avenue S. down into Indian Battle Park. In bringing the mines to profitability, Donaldson won the notice of Sir Mortimer Barnett Davis, the wealthy Montreal-based founder of Imperial Tobacco Company, and together they seemed to have formed the Cadillac Coal Company. Perhaps the continuing problems with black damp finally discouraged Donaldson and Davis, for Cadillac focussed its attention elsewhere, quitting the No. 2 on March 11th, 1928,150 and the No. 1 on November 27th. Attempting to continue operations at the No. 2, bicycle shop owner John K. Hamilton, who had pulled 9100 tonnes out of the McNab under The Point from 1919 to 1926, earned a reputation for being mentally abnormal for his tactics in persuading mining regulators to approve the mine. When he finally gave up in 1932, the CPR acquired the property. The Hamiltons151 evidently had better luck with Sherans mine, and worked it under the banner of the J.J. Hamilton Coal Company until September 15th, 1941, when, after seeing some 500,000 tons of coal exit the mine, the entrance was sealed.152
The elsewhere that Cadillac Coal focussed its attention was the Pyami Coulee near the settlement of Shaughnessy, some 16 kilometres due north of downtown Lethbridge, but on the other side of the Oldman. Having examined the Diamond mine east of Coalhurst for a few months in 1919 and three years earlier dug around on a pair of leases in Pyami neighbourhood, C.S. Donaldson was experienced in the lay of the land on that side of the River. In April of 1927, able to reach into Sir Mortimers famously deep pockets, he bought the coal rights to two sections and, according to Ron Watmough in his article Shaughnessy in Coyote Flats: Historical Review 19051965 (Coyote Flats Historical Society, 1967), drove an adit into an exposed seam on August 19th. He was soon into a goodly measure of the highly volatile bituminous coal typical of the Lethbridge field and named his mine Silkstone Collieries. The property was transferred to Cadillac in 1928 and was completely electrified and well developed by the early 1930s. Early on, Cadillac convinced the CPR to run a short spur onto the property from its Coalhurst-Diamond City-Turin line. Sir Mortimer had died in 1928, and CP proposed an alliance sometime in the early 30s. Negotiations were successful, for Donaldson amalgamated Cadillac with CPs holdings to form Lethbridge Collieries in 1935. As one of the directors of the new entity, he continued managing the what henceforth was known as the Standard mine at Shaughnessy until he retired. In the late 40s, $200,000 was spent on new British and American mining machinery. As previously mentioned, the Standard became the Galt No. 10 in 1957 with the closure of Galt No. 8, itself closing on February 4th, 1965, having output 3.5 million tonnes during its life. The area continued to be of interest, however, with Fording Coal coming to the Pyami in 1980 to haul away a sample for analysis.
In the Kipp chapter of the Coalhurst page, mention is made of the Chinook Coal Company, Limited, of Commerce, Alberta, which worked between 1910 and 1924 to haul 895,600 tonnes to the surface. Nearby at Diamond City, the Diamond Coal Company dug nearly 320,000 tonnes over 21 years of on-again, off-again operations beginning in 1909. The ill-fated Imperial mine at Coalhurst output 7,774,600 tonnes from 1910 until the disaster of December, 1935, ended its working life. Some three miles south-east of Coalhurst the Lethbridge Coal Company pulled around 131,000 tonnes from its self-named works in seven years beginning in 1918, pulling it over to the Crows Nest Line on a three-foot-gauged toy railroad that the company laid in 1921, a tiny gasoline-powered locie working trains of miniature five-ton gondolas. Ceasing operations in 1969 and notable only because it was the last commercial mine working in the region, the Diamond mine of A.G. Addie Donaldsons C.S.D. Coal Company, Limited, extracted 7,000 tons from the far north-east corner of the Lethbridge field since it began working in 1965. Though pitifully small, that tonnage dug by Addies Diamond added up with that of all the other mines to total an estimated 24 million tons of coal removed from the Lethbridge field.
On the eastern side of the Oldman, the City #1 was opened by the City of Lethbridge in 1909 to feed the civic power plant down in the valley bottoms. By the time the plant was converted to natural gas in 1941 a recorded 345,400 tonnes had been removed from beneath The Point and the western fringes of the Citys central business district making overall weight a major consideration for any architect designing a building for the area.
On a map showing the workings of the coal mines in the Lethbridge area, the vast extent of the Galt/CPR Mine Nos. 0003 and 0003/1Galt No. 3 and No. 6 can be truly appreciated. Together, they have undermined some six square miles northwards from the Viaduct along the eastern side of the River, yielding over 10,000,000 tonnes, combined. As enormous as these figures are, Galt/CPR did not monopolize the field. On the far northern tip several mines worked over the years.
In modern Lethbridge, 13th Street cuts through the Citys northern suburbs to break out onto the level prairie lands that stretch away eastward from the Oldman. To the west, the CPR spur to the Galt No. 6 mine wanders across the fields about half-a-mile away. On the edge of the urban sprawl in 2007 is the old Hardieville School, and a quarter of a mile farther, opposite on the west side of 13th, is the compact eight-plus blocks of Hardieville itself, established during World War One to house the miners working the nearby No. 6. About a kilometre north of that a twisty little road leaves 13 Street to follow a coulee westward down about a mile onto the river-bottom and the Citys Pavin Park. Here equestrians are resigned to sharing their red shale trails with mountain bikers and bird-watching strollers tired of pitching horseshoes in the pits at the Jeanne Sauvé Picnic Area. Visitors would not necessarily realize that they are near a mine site until they read the placards in the picnic area. So important was the mine that in 1909 the CPR laid a 5½-mile spur up what is now Lethbridges 26th Street N. to get to the Riverview mine that Royal Collieries opened five years earlier, the eponymous mine of the New Barnes Coal Company which commenced in 1909 about a mile north of the Riverview, and Standard Lethbridge Collieries self-named mine a couple of miles east, opened and abandoned in 1905. Where the Royal spur right-angles west to get to the mine on the bluffs of the Oldman, a little settlement variously known as Coal City, Royal City, and the Village of Royal View sprang up, a proud five streets wide and three avenues tall. In 1910 it apparently had a respectable 400 souls: by 1917 it no longer appears in Hendersons Directory. Royal sealed the Riverview in 1922 after having pulled up 64,500 tonnes. By the time that the New Barnes was deemed to have given up the last of its economically-mined 39,000 tonnes in 1925 and been abandoned,153 J.C. Cy Chester had been working in his Royal for two years, attacking the proven measures of the Royal Collieries from the bottoms at Pavin Park. Chester had been the manager of the Riverview, and it is suggested that he only owned the Royal between 1925 and 1928, after which he reverted to the managerial role again154 for one or more of the multiple owners who operated the Chester until it began taking on water from a breach into the works of the Galt No. 6 on January 5th, 1951. The breach could not be repaired and that February, after producing 355,700 tonnes, the mine was sealed.
Just up the valley from Chesters mine, in 1923 Fred. Lund and Partners began their Royal View. Called Swedes informally because Lund and his associates were all Scandinavians of some hue, the mine was sunk to seams of coal some 15 metres below the surface of the Oldmans waters. This caused continual problems, especially as the mine was worked only seasonally, allowing seepage to accumulate in the works when the pumps were not operating. The Swedes persevered, however, mining 140,400 tonnes before the seep suddenly cracked irreparably open on October 17th, 1942. Within a month the shafts were filled and the headframe and other useful bits of equipment were sold to the J.J. Hamilton Coal Company working the Federal on the western side of the River and up and mile.
The other mine of note in this neighbourhood was the Lethbridge Gem opened in 1925 just south of the Riverview on the eastern side of the Royal Collieries measures. The Lethbridge Social Credit Co-operative Mines Association used a provincial grant of $10,000 to re-activate the mine in 1937. An initial public offering of shares at $10 was viewed with suspicion, and rightly so, it turned out, for investors were soon left holding worthless paper. Having produced 62,700 tonnes, the project was probably written off in 1942, though the EUBs on-line Coal Mine Atlas: Operating and Abandoned Coal Mines in Alberta dates the Lethbridge Gems closure to 1946.
The City of Lethbridge: the Early Years
Lethbridge matured on May 9th, 1906, the day Geo. Hedley Vicars Bulyea, the lieutenant-governor of Alberta, assented to 1906 Chapter 64, An Act to Incorporate the City of Lethbridge. Assuming city status meant that the community had greater borrowing power, not altogether a good thing for a corporation like the Lethbridge of the day. The tax concessions that industry had wrung from the council for establishing their businesses in the settlement, combined with the debt incurred to build infrastructure had left the Corporation of the Town with cash flow problems. These continued to weigh upon the City. Adding to the burden was the construction of the two-storey, brick-built Westminster School which had opened in the North Ward that January.
Though they received no tax concessions from the Town and the City, the keepers of the bawdy houses on The Point nonetheless benefited from the Citys predicament. As tax payers, they were a valued civic resource, and were therefore tolerated in a city that was even in 1906 beginning to lean to the conservative Christian right. Since the late 1890s Mormon men had been coming up to Lethbridge to work in the Galt mines when winter suspended farming activities. Some families settled,155 the men finding employment in and around the City. In 1906 the builder of Jesse Knights sugar mill at Raymond, Ephraim Ellison, began raising his wood-framed Ellison Milling and Elevator Company, Limited, plant in much the same place that the modern mill stands. By the time it was finished in 1907 and was grinding its first loads of grains, the Taylor Milling and Elevator Company had built its plant nearby. Scraping the sky, these two structures were by far the tallest things for miles around.
On April 6th, 1906, Alberta Senator L. George DeVeber announced that the Department of Agriculture would establish a Dominion Experimental Station156 and farm at Lethbridge. The Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company donated free irrigation water and the south half of section 2-9-21W4 just to the east of the City where it had established its model farm in 1901. On August 1st Wm. Harmon Fairfield, a specialist in irrigation from Colorado by way of the University of Wyoming and since 1901 the director of the Model Farm, was appointed superintendent of the Station. One of Fairfields notable successes on the Farm was, according to a short biography of the man printed in the Edmonton Journal of 2005/05/26, the discovery that the excellent forage crop alfalfa could be grown in southern Alberta after fields had been inoculated with soils imported from Wyoming containing Rhizobium bacteria. One of his first projects on the Station was to determine which fruit-bearing trees and bushes were adaptable to the region. Because some of the land in the region was irrigated, Fairfields workload and the that of his staff was almost doubled as they sought to identify and introduce two sets of species; one tailored for dry-land farming and the other for artificially-watered soils. Experimenting with techniques and technologies, selecting and propagating species tolerant to prairie weather, Fairfield managed the station until 1945.
Come 1906 the Western Transfer Company had established icehouses in Lethbridge157 and had the exclusive contract to supply the CPR. That year the Hudsons Bay Company finally opened a store in the City, providing some stiff competition for general merchandisers such as the Bentley Company, and A. Macdonald and Company, the Winnipeg concern which operated a grand general store in Lethbridge. George Rogers ran a lumber yard and sold Massey-Harris implements on the side: J.W. McNicol managed the Enterprise Lumber Company, Limited, and sold waggons and buggies. The Lethbridge Woollen Company had established a mill. C.W. Grey was The Hardware Merchant, and G.H. Johnson supplied men and boys with clothing. W. Henderson was in competition with himself as the proprietor of both the Lethbridge and the Balmoral hotels, and with H.E. Miebach of the Windsor. The Hotel Dallas ran a modest ad. in the Herald claiming to be advertised by our satisfied friends, and the Palace was conveniently located on Baroness Road across from the station: Stephens & Rockendorf, proprietors. J.W. Kean & Co. was the place to buy fresh vegetables, strawberries and cherries, bananas, oranges, and lemons. Their ice cream sodas and sundaes were celebrated as delicious.
Above ground, but for the angst suffered by the City administrators over cash-flow problems, things were flourishing in Lethbridge. Underground, however, it was a different story as miners began to appreciate their economic power. Radical philosophies propounding that the Working Man was the foundation of prosperity and was being cheated of his rightful due by corrupt Capitalism trickled into the Galt mines. For years an atmosphere of confrontation had soured relations between the workers and management, and when Galt and his staff refused to recognize the miners affiliation with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), on March 9, 1906, the men walked out. Galt fired every man of them and commenced hiring replacements. On May the 28th the new men headed into the mines, escorted by RN-WMP to minimize assault. The strike dragged on through the summer and into the autumn. Bombs exploded and people got hurt. Working men themselves, many Mounties sympathized with the union men and increasingly resented their task of escorting the scabs to work. Political pressure finally moved Ottawa to despatch the Deputy Minister of Labour to meet with the UMWA president and hammer out a compromise. An unhappy deal was struck and on December the 3rd the union miners returned to the pits.
January of 1907 was a month every rancher in southern Alberta would remember. Early on, a fall of wet, heavy snow smothered the countryside. Then, over the mountains, an arch of blue sky appeared, getting wider and wider as the warm winds cleared the cloud away. The temperature rose and the snow began to melt. The famous Chinook weather phenomenon had people unbuttoning their coats and opening their windows, smiling. Suddenly, over night, an Arctic high blew down and swept the warmth away. The mercury dropped. And dropped. Many thermometers were not calibrated to indicate the -60 degrees that the temperature quickly reached. The half-melted snow froze solid, sealing the range grass under inches of impenetrable ice. Days accumulated into a week and then another. Starvation stalked the range. Cattle huddled hungry in coulees and smashed their way into buildings seeking shelter from the killing cold. At every ranch in the region tough cowboys saddled up their most reliable mounts and rode out to find the herds, hoping to drive some of the animals to fodder. Some they saved, but most refused to budge, instinct telling them to pack together for warmth. Instinct failed them, and come the spring the land was littered with the frozen bodies of animals. Hardware stores in every settlement ran out of knives as people spread out over the range in an effort to salvage what they could before the thaw putrefied the meat and ruined the hides.
A disaster for the ranchers, the Freeze of 1907 aided sod-busting settlers by clearing the land of free-wandering herds of cattle. Land sales since the Liberal government of Wilfrid Laurier took power in 1896 had been increasingly brisk, and now they exploded. Greatly encouraging the immigration of farming families to the West was the introduction of an early-ripening cultivar of wheat by the Dominion Experimental Farm service. In May the of 1907 the Service sent to its western test fields seeds of the now-famous Marquis that had been developed by Charles Edward Saunders. The harvest of 1907 proved that not only did the Marquis mature earlier than established strains, but grew less straw and, most important, proved superior in the bakery. Come 1908 Marquis seed was made available to private farmers on a limited basis. As stocks of seed rose, Marquis spread throughout the western grain belt, becoming the overwhelming choice of growers after one Henry Holmes won first prize with a sample of it at the 7th International Dry Farming Congress held in Lethbridge in October of 1912.
As 1907 opened, CPR workers finished off the second set of six bays at the round house and commenced a third set which they would see completed before the year was out. That year the Galt miners would output a staggering 260,000 tons, and the Railway would need well-maintained rolling stock and motive power to move the coal to market, albeit a local market of rapidly-increasing numbers of settlers. CP itself preferred its own fuel. Demands on the CPRs services so increased that the Company moved a crew of its brick-layers over to Lethbridges new Union Station where in 1908 they built a 40-foot addition on to the west end to accommodate freight. At the west end of the yards, over-looking the Belly, engineers had already measured distances and sampled sub-soils, and in the summer of 1907 they began constructing the awesome Viaduct across the Valley.
North of the tracks, near Stafford and Hammersburg, where the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company, the successor to the AR&C, was digging its Galt No. 6 shaft, the subdivision of Perry was established in 1907.
The spike in population meant, of course, more children of school age. Westminster School had addressed that problem in the North Ward, and in 1907 the Board of Trustees, according to the writers of the Walking Tour of Lethbridge, engaged M. Rolfson to design a two-roomed kindergarten. Smith Brothers and Wilson won the construction contract, and the single-storey, 720 square-foot wood-framed building arose on Coutts Street (Stafford Drive) across from the RN-WMP barracks.
Corruption began to gnaw at the credibility of the Lethbridge police force in 1907. The problem was the Citys tolerance of The Point. The businesses there were money-makers, drawing sex tourists into town and enriching the City through taxes. The trickle down effect pleased local merchants. Everyone but the moralists seemed happy with the status quo. The spread of disease was a worry, though, and in 1907 the physician attending the City gaol began examining and treating the inmates of bawdy houses who found themselves gaoled for one offence or another. That year, too, according to Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History, the rumour began spreading that some civic policemen were charging the operators of houses of ill-repute a $50/month protection fee.
In January of 1907 the chief of the fire department had quit in disgust over the state of the equipment that the City expected his men to fight with, and the decaying state of the Hall. His resignation eventually spurred the Council into action, and in June of 1908, note the authors of the Walking Tour of Lethbridge, architect J.A. MacDonald was engaged to design a new Hall. The old Hall was dismantled and around 85% of the materials salvaged for use in the new Hall. With a bid of $30,225, Smith Bros. & Wilson won the contract to erect the new structure on the site of the old. The company began work in September. It was a wonder, the new Municipal Public Building. Quoting from the aforementioned Walking Tour , [t]he new building accommodated the mayors office, city council chambers, city engineer and waterworks offices, police quarters, male and female jail wards, and the fire department facilities including a 41 by 46-foot garage (for fire equipment) with cedar block floor, stalls for nine horses, a 30 by 47-foot gymnasium on the reinforced concrete second floor, dormitories, and a third floor recreation gallery. The first floor ceiling was 18 feet high, and a mezzanine floor existed over the stable to provide room for horse feed and workshops. The building was steam heated throughout. An interesting feature was the bell and hose drying tower. The edifice was declared complete on January 15, 1909, and though it hasnt been used as such for decades, in 2007 it is the oldest surviving brick-built fire hall in Alberta.
In September of 1908 the Galt family deeded the Square downtown to the City with the stipulation that it never be built upon.158 That month, too, according to Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History, the first in a series of a regional real estate booms echoed in the streets of Lethbridge. Great tracts of farm land near the City had finally been surveyed and thrown open. Settlers by the thousands arrived in the area to claim homestead lands, looking to Lethbridge for the tools and implements and lumber and seed and livestock that they would need to farm. Underlying the drive to break new lands for farming was the gold rush in Australia which drove up the prices of commodities, eatables like wheat ranking high among them.
The City roared, its amenities and advantages bruited far and wide by developers imbued with the booster mentality. Best! Brightest! Biggest! Bring your money and watch it grow in the City of Lethbridge! Everybody come! Everybody except Chinks, that is. Or Wogs. Or, Heaven forbid, native Indians. If you were Chinese and happened to slip into the City, you had to live pretty much where Chinatown is now, and God help you if you offered to employ a Caucasian, especially a woman.
Building lots in Lethbridge were at a premium as new construction in-filled many a gap in the Citys streetscapes. With the demand for electric power increasing rapidly, that year the City Council thought it a wise investment to pay $130,00 for the Lethbridge Waterworks and Electric Light Companys power plant adjacent the Fire Hall. Almost immediately plans were drawn up to establish a larger plant down in the Bottoms on the site of the extant (in 2007) water treatment plant. Seeming to bite the hand that fed it, the City, rather than buy Galt coal for its new power plant, decided to supply its own, and in June of 1909 began mining under the southern exurbs of Lethbridge, and would do so until October of 1941 when the power plant was modernized and converted to burn natural gas.
Nineteen-09 saw the completion of the CPRs Viaduct in June and its inauguration on November 1st. Now Lethbridge was no longer a bottleneck on the Railway, but booming commercial node poised to profit as a supplier to other communities on the Crows Nest Line. To the north of the City, the mighty Galt No. 6 Mine came into production and began to disgorge thousands of tons of coal into the burgeoning western markets. The promise of prosperity attracted more businesses to Lethbridge and over the course of the year many more buildings arose in the downtown district. On Ford Street (2nd Ave.) west three blocks from Galt Park the Castle Hotel was completed that September. Three storeys high and faced with brick probably from the Lethbridge Brick and Terra Cotta works located on the lip of the Bellys scarp just north and east of the CPR roundhouse, it was billed as a first class hotel in every way.159
Between the Castle and the Park, Ford Street was rapidly becoming Chinatown, welcoming in 1909 the addition of what was soon to be the Kuo Min Tang160 building. A few blocks away, on Redpath Street (3rd Ave.) facing the south-east corner of the Park, the attractive Sherlock Block was built by Smith Brothers and Wilson in the sky-scraper manner after a design by Ernest E. Carver featuring reinforced concrete pillars and slab floors. Its outside walls were laid in brick imported from a Calgary yardpossibly the Peel and Sparrow works on the Elbow south of the Mission districtand decorated with Bedford limestone from Indiana, U.S. of A. Completed to three storeys in 1909, an additional two floors were added in 1911. Further west on Redpath, the brick-built and Italianate-styled Acadia Building was also completed in 1909.
Though R.E. Sherlock touted his now-demolished block as fire-proof, and many of the other downtown buildings were being built with non-flammable materials, conflagration was still a major concern of the citizens of Lethbridge. Those who could afford the premiums insured their structures against such disasters, drawing the attention of the underwriting companies to the capabilities of the Citys fire department. Come the beginning of 1909 the Department was still a pretty casual organization, with chiefs drawn from the company. One such chief was Lemuel H. Fowler, appointed, note Johnston and Bochan in Lethbridge: A Century of Fire Fighting, on January 1st, 1909. He was a long-time volunteer with the Department, and had served as the part-time chief since 1907. His expertise did not satisfy all parties concerned, and on August 13th of 1909 the Citys first professional chief, Thomas Peter Kilkenny of Winnipeg, assumed the office. By December Kilkenny had hired a 12-man cadre of dedicated firemen who lived in the fire hall and were permanently on call. Aiding them was a 10-man crew of volunteers who were only paid for their attendance at an incident. Embarrassingly, on the last day of 1909, the former Lethbridge Waterworks and Electric Light Company power plant right next door to the fire hall burned to the ground.
In 1909 a second hospital opened in Lethbridge, the Van Haarlem, a private facility owned and operated by Mrs. Maria Elizabeth Van Haarlem, a nurse by training. She had begun taking out-patients into her home around the time Lethbridge became a city, and come 1909 she found it necessary to open a dedicated care home. So essential did her hospital become that in 1911 she was obliged to move to a larger building, and in 1913 leased the Wimpole Private Hospital.161
Council declared on September 20th, 1910, that the Citys colourful old street names were passé and invoked the present street/avenue numbering system. Lethbridge Sash and Door opened for business in 1910, possibly contributing materials to the construction of the new Galt Hospital and nurses residence on the grounds of the old Galt that year. By 1907 Lethbridges dramatic increase in population had revealed the inadequacies of the old hospital. Once again the Galt family had stepped forward and agreed to split the estimated $60,000-cost of a new public hospital with the City. As well, the Galts agreed to fund operating costs from the profits of their companies.162 It took over two years to finalize the plan and build, but on September 1st, 1910, prime minister Laurier was on hand to open the brick-built edifice.
Downtown, the fire hall was enlarged in 1910 to accommodate the expanding bureaucracy of the City. In celebration, the Fire Hall was officially renamed the Municipal Public Building and was known as such until 1917 when the City departments moved out. Possibly in an attempt to maintain the dignity of the Building, or possibly from out-right racist malice, in November of 1910 council passed a by-law creating a Restricted Area for Chinese business men that, until it was repealed in 1916, concentrated their mainly laundry enterprises along what was by then 2nd Avenue South west of 4th Street, across from the Municipal building which occupies still the south-east corner of the intersection. Diagonally across the central business district from The Area, Anglicans completed what in 2007 is old St. Cyprians in 1910163. Nearby, the Presbyterians finished their Knox church.
By 1910 Lethbridges promoters were looking forward to hosting the 7th International Dry Farming Conference scheduled for October of 1912. The first order of business was to acquire a venue upon which to build and exhibition park and install infrastructure. In March of 1910 the City bought Slaughter House Slough and the surrounding lands at the eastern edges of the City from Alberta Railway and Irrigation. Landscapers were engaged to enlarge the Slough into what is now Henderson Lake and lay out a surrounding park. To move the anticipated 5,000 delegates and the visitors in an efficient, modern manner, Council began taking tenders on the construction of a street railway system.
Reportèdly there were ten financial institutions in Lethbridge by 1911, serving a population of 9200. At the eastern end of the City, Slaughterhouse Slough, cleaned up and renamed Henderson Lake, was filling to its current 91-acre expanse while work continued on completing grandstands and buildings at Exhibition Park. The high point of the year for many came on 1445 hours on Friday, July 14th, when the famous birdman, Eugene Burton Ely, launched his Curtiss bi-plane from the infield of the nearly-finished racetrack at The Park. He made two flights for the wildly appreciative crowds, in what was, reported the Lethbridge News of the day, the first heavier-than-air craft ever to sail the skies above the City.164 The annual agricultural fair that fall was sort of a dress-rehearsal for the big event of 1912. The Lethbridge News exhorted the citizens to attend and boost the reputation of their city as a progressive, vibrant community worthy of investment. A spur from the AR&I trackage had even been laid into the grounds for the convenience of the livestock exhibitors.
After years of provincial prodding, in 1911 Lethbridge finally completed installation of a sewage treatment plant in a project which saw the water works expanded at the same time. As work progressed on the tram line, the administrators of the Village of Stafford vowed never to amalgamate with Lethbridge if the City failed to lay a line to the Village. As this was being negotiated, the community of Vair, adjacent Stafford, quietly came into being.
Downtown on 3rd Avenue facing Galt Park, the marble-faced Burns Building was finished in 1911, joining the Acadia and the Sherlock buildings. On the same block the fancy Hick-Sehl Building was rising toward completion the following year, 1912. East of the City a couple of miles, the fort of the Lethbridge Provincial Gaol165 was opened with facilities to house 168 inmates in 110 cells, set like a crude jewel in a setting of 480 acres of fields and pastures.
In his Lethbridge Municipal Railway 19111947 (Passenger Transport Enterprises, Vancouver and Lethbridge, n.d.), P.F. Freigang states that mayor George M. Hatch and Council approved Lethbridges street railway system sometime early in 1912. From the Preston Car and Coach Company in Ottawa ten cars were ordered, five 31-foot car balanced on single Taylor trucks, and, first to be delivered, five twin truckd cars measuring 41 feet in length. All were powered by 550-volt direct current motors. On August 16th the system was opened with seven miles166 of trackage operational. From a main node on 3rd Avenue South at 5th Street at the south-west corner of Galt Park, the lines radiated out onto City streets. First to be completed was the Blue Line which ran up along 13th Street, across the CPRs tracks and on into North Lethbridge. By the time that the system was officially inaugurated that September, the White, or the Belt, Line circled the City clock-wise, while the Redthe ParkLine, clanged eastward out to Henderson Park and the Exhibition Grounds and back. The short-lived Orange Line looped around the downtown core until it was discontinued in 1917, a victim, write Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History, of the recession which crashed the Canadian economy in the lead-up to World War I.167
The Bowman Manual Arts Training School was completed on the north-west corner of 5th Avenue South and 9th Street (now Stafford Drive) in 1912, its cornerstone, according to the authors of the Walking Tour of Lethbridge, being laid by the Hon. John R. Boyle, the Minister of Education, on August 21st, and officially opened on October 10th by the governor-general of Canada, HRH Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, 1st Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. The first such institution in the Province of Alberta, it was designed by architects H.M and W.A Whiddington, and cost $40,000 to build, $20,000 to equip. Initially offering night classes in adult education and manual arts training for grades six through ten, its curriculum was soon radically altered. It is likely that the army sponged up most of the mature potential students for sacrificial offerings on the bloody alter of The Great War, and in 1915 the building was converted to a high school.168
Very near the Bowman, another structure worthy of Lethbridges rising status was begun in 1912. On September 14th, wrote the ever-informative authors of the Walking Tour of Lethbridge, the Niven Brothers Limited were awarded the contract to construct a new post office building. Completed in 1916 in the Edwardian or Beaux Arts style with a copper-clad mansard roof decorated with alternating arcd and gabled dormers designed by Winnipeg-based architectural sculptor, David E. Jones, it can quite properly be termed an edifice. Its public façades are clad in Manitoba tyndal stone while the back and south side reveal the rough brick work of its core construction. The interior features marble and terrazzo décor. The fancy tower, cappd with Joness final contribution, was the last element to be raised and was equipped with a clock works by the English firm of W.F. Evans and Sons. Originally accommodating the Customs Office on the second of its four floors, it continues as a postal bureau in 2006.
In a gambit seen by many as akin to carrying coals to Newcastle, on July 17th of 1912 the Canadian Western Natural Gas, Light, Heat and Power Company of Calgary completed a pipeline from its field near Bow Island some 60 miles to the east to offer natural gas to customers in Lethbridge. Tellingly, perhaps, earlier that year the Galt family and their associates had sold the last of their concerns, the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company, to the CPR, signed over the hospital to the City,169 and had left Lethbridge forever.
As note-worthy as the departure of the Galts was, the big news in Lethbridge in 1912 was the 7th International Dry Farming Congress which ran from October 21st to the 26th. With the slogan Coal City in the Wheat Country, Lethbridge welcomed the five thousand delegates and dignitaries which increased by half the Citys population.170 It was a great success, spotlighting the region, putting the City on the international map. Of course, it had all cost money. Much money. Borrowed money, to pay for installing the tram system, building the Exhibition Grounds and associated Henderson Park and Lake, sprucing up the downtown core by, among other things, completing the landscaping of Galt Gardens Park,171 promoting the event far and wide, paying for the obligations of hosting in the way of accommodations, banquets, and souvenirs. But it was a free-spending era, money was cheap. People were flooding into the region, setting up farms and villages. Railroads were expanding, new factories were opening and industries being established, demand for agricultural products was steadily increasing. Civic revenues were increasing and there was no foreseeable reason why the City would not be able to quickly lay off its debts.
However, on May 1st of 1912, write Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History, the last of the surveyed tracts in Lethbridges hinterland had been thrown open for settlement. There had been a series of openings in the region since September of 1908, attracting thousands of people and millions of dollars. There was more land to be offered in southern Alberta, but no longer would men stand in patient lines outside the doors of the Lethbridge land office to file claims for home quarter. The Citys business community could no longer look forward to hundreds of new customers fresh to the area with long lists of goods needed to set up a farm. The last echoes of the building boom that for years had had suppliers and contractors working flat out were fading. Money would be harder to come by.
On the last evening of 1912, after the last, lingering delegate to the Dry Farming Congress had left town, the City police descended upon the Point. Whether the payments that the madams rewarded the police to protect their interests had been neglected, or whether the Moral Reform League organized by the Reverend McKillop finally shamed the City in the presence of the Delegates, the police rounded up the Ladies of the Evening and their keepers and hangers-on and banished them from the City. It was a fitting end to a wide-open era.
Though the citizens could not know it, as the police hammered their nightsticks on the first brothel door that New Years Eve, Lethbridge was on the brink of catastrophe. In 1910 the Great Powers of Europe had spent £288 millionwell over 1,000 million Canadian dollars at the timeon weapons in anticipation of an all-out war. Commensurate amounts would be spent in every following year, rising to £397 millions in 1914. The result was that money available for loans in North Americaindeed, much of the developing worlddisappeared up as cash was sucked back into Europe to underwrite these expenditures. Risk became anathema to investors. The downturn began to bite into Lethbridges economy in May of 1913 with the bursting of the real estate bubble. Investments were liquefied at fire-sale prices, projects ground to a halt, paycheques declined in worth and number. Tax revenues shrunk and the thousands of corporations which had over-estimated their ability to repay their debts were left scrambling to find money to avoid bankruptcy. The City of Lethbridge was one of those corporations, and as its income dwindled, it cut back on expenditures, which affected income in an ever-steepening downward spiral into recession.
The teens and The War to End all Wars
The second decade of the Twentieth Century was a wild roller-coaster ride for Lethbridge, as it was for most communities in Western Canada. It opened in prosperous tranquility and ended in shocked sorrow. As 1913 approached, Lethbridge was building towards a peak in real estate prices and sales, in farmers settling on surrounding homesteads, in new industry and businesses opening up, in construction, in optimism. Rumours circulated that the famous William Mackenzie and Donald Mann intended to push a branch of their Canadian Northern Railway into Lethbridge from southern Saskatchewan. The International Harvester Company had recently opened up a regional headquarters in Lethbridge, indicative of the demand for its machinery. To plagiarize Johnston and den Otter in their Lethbridge: A Centennial History, by 1913 Lethbridge had been transformed into a distribution and agricultural centre, with coal as a valued economic component rather than the underwriter of prosperity. The 7th International Dry Farming Conference which had run from October 21st to the 26th, 1912, had been a markéd success, drawing new businesses to the City. In 1913 a macaroni factory was built to take advantage of the regions protein-rich, early ripening Marquis wheat which, since its introduction in 1908, had conquered the West. The Purity Bottling Works opened in 1913, and in 1914 Hygienic and Crystal Dairies began operations.
With credit beginning to tighten, carrying the debt that it had incurred with the emplacement of infrastructure in advance of the Farming Conference began to cripple Lethbridges administration. A change was proposed, accepted by the electorate and a private members bill was presented in the legislature in Edmonton. On March 25th, 1913, 4 George V 1913 Chapter 22 An Act to incorporate the City of Lethbridge received royal assent. The Council was eliminated, and it its place three commissioners elected for three-year terms would manage civic affairs: the Mayor would act as the Commissioner of Finance in concert with a Commissioner of Public Works and a Commissioner of Public Utilities. Terms in office were to be staggered so that every year one of the commissioners came up for re-election. The new charter became effective on January 1st, 1914, with mayor William Duncan Livingston Hardie calling the first meeting to order on January 5th. Though modified in 1922 with the addition of three advisory commissioners to dilute the triumvirates power, this system would survive for 14 years until accumulated debt and revenues reduced by uncollectible bills forced yet another rejigging of the administration. On October 7th of 1927 a plebiscite confirmed that an application for yet a third charter should be sought from the Province. 18 Geo. V 1928 Chapter 75 duly received assent on March 21st, 1928, stipulating that seven councillors be elected who would then chose the mayor from among themselves. It was not until 1961 that the citizens of Lethbridge would again directly elect the mayor, a privilege that they retain.
The HBC Athletic Association built their nine-hole golf course at Henderson Lake in 1913, the foundation of the current course there. Alberta 1913 Chapter 65, An Act to Incorporate the Lethbridge Country Club received royal assent on March 25th, of 1913. For those whose recreational tastes ran more to the sedentary, plays and the new-fangled movies could be enjoyed downtown at the Opera House, or at one of the theatres: Empress, Colonial, Phoenix, Starland, Eureka, and the opulent Majestic. Addressing the needs of less frivolous consumers, two church congregations commenced constructing in 1913. On June 17th, the Methodists laid the cornerstone of Wesley Church, the project largely completed by 1914.172 After years of postponement, the Roman Catholic community set the cornerstone of St. Patricks on August 24th. One month later, on September 24th, 1913, in the partially-completed basement, the first mass was said.173
Since the Turn-of-the-Century 48 additions and sub-divisions had been surveyed and platted, making Lethbridge, at least on speculators maps, a metropolis rivalling Toronto in expanse.
However, disagreements in the far-away Balkans turned deadly, and nervous British share-holders sold out of their Canadian investments in anticipation of catastrophe. Lethbridges economy faltered as people lost confidence. Then, in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on Sunday the 28th of June, 1914, 19-year-old Serbo-Bosnian patriot Gavrilo Princip shot to death Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir-apparent to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his morganatic wife, Countess Sophie. For a month the diplomats and warriors of Europe penned ultimatums and honed their sabres as Empires slid inexorably towards the Abyss. On August 2nd, reports Donald E. Greaves in Century of Service: The History of the South Alberta Light Horse (The South Alberta Light Horse Regiment Foundation, Edmonton, 2005), Great Britain demanded that Germany stand by its agreement to guarantee Belgian neutrality. It had until 2300 hours Greenwich Mean Time on August 4th to comply or Britain would declare war. Monday the 3rd was a holiday in Alberta, and a crowd gathered at the offices of The Lethbridge Herald where the latest news off the telegraph was printed and posted in the windows. Excitement built. On Tuesday the swelling mob moved to the bandstand in Galt Park whence the latest bulletins were disseminated. A rumble rolled through the crowd as it was reported that Germany had failed to answer Britains demand. At five minutes to 11 in Ottawa a telegram arrived from King George V in Buckingham Palace informing the British Empire that it was in a state of war. According to David Fromkin in Europes Last SummerWho Started the Great War in 1914? (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2004), the brother of the king, His Royal Highness Prince Arthur Wm. Patrick Albert, 1st Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and governor-general of Canada since 1911, immediately issued a confirming royal proclamation to his Canadian subjects. The news flashed across the nation. In Galt Park the crowd roared its approval, for the sentiment in Europe and the British Empire was that a good war was needed to relieve the political tensions that had been building for decades, to answer once and for all the question of who would dominate Europe and, by extension, the World.
On August 6th, the eccentric Minister of Militia and Defence, Colonel Sam Hughes, commanded the units across Canada to begin recruiting men between the ages of 18 and 45 for an expeditionary force to Europe. Lethbridge obeyed with a will. The 25th Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery had been organized in the City on April 1st, 1908, mostly to fire salutes for visiting dignitaries and on auspicious occasions.174 Anticipating and, in doing so, helping to precipitate, the blood bath that was soon to be unleashed upon the World, the Department of Militia and Defence (DMD) had re-equipped the Battery with impressive 13-pounder guns in June of 1914. In August of 1914 its recruiting office was swamped by the youth of Lethbridge eager to prove their valour and escape the worsening economy. A training camp was staked out on the Exhibition Grounds. In the autumn of 1914 instructions from the DMD to the Calgary headquarters of Military District 13175 bade the District to raise the 31st Alberta Battalion, and the 3rd, 12th, and 13th Mounted Rifle Regiments. When the Lethbridge recruiting office was opened at 0700 hours on November 16th, it was over-run by volunteers. By the end of the day 101 new men were in camp on the Ex grounds for basic training before being sent to Medicine Hat, Pincher Creek, or Camp Sarcee near Calgary. The camp at Lethbridges Ex was shut down, replaced by an interment camp which, writes David C. Carter in POWBehind Canadian Barbed Wire (Eagle Butte Press Co., Elkwater, Alberta, 1998), officially opened on September 30, 1915, and closed on November 7th, 1916, after many escapes. Overseas the War ground on, chewing up young lives at a horrific rate. By the closing weeks of 1916 the public pressure on fit young men to enlist was intense. Lovely young women prowled the streets armed with white feathers which they pressed upon any man they suspected of shirking his duty to Crown and Empire. When even public humiliation failed to fill the thinning ranks, in June of 1917 the Conservative government of Robert Laird Borden introduced the Military Service Bill which a conflicted parliament passed on July 24th. It received royal assent as the Military Service Act (MSA) on August 29th and so rent the Nation that the governing and opposition parties in parliament formed a Union government and went to the people for approval of the MSA and other measures on December 17th, 1917.
By the time the carnage ended at 1100 hours on the 11th day of November, 1918, 66,000 young Canadians had perished.176 Of those, 261 were from Lethbridge, ten percent of those citizens who had volunteered,177 which, according to Faye Reineberg Holt in Alberta: A History in Photographs (Altitude Publishing, Canmore, 1996), was 20% of the Citys population, the highest percentage of any community in Canada. As they started to trickle back into civilian life, the veterans of the Great War bethought themselves to organize a grand club to preserve the camaraderie established during the campaigns and advocate on behalf of the injured and the families of the casualties. In Lethbridge the first meeting took place in January of 1918. On July 2nd a meeting attended by 35 ex-servicemen elected a slate of officers of The Great War Veterans Association. At a national organizational meeting in Winnipeg in 1926, the Lethbridge Association became Branch No. 4 of the Canadian Legion, British Empire Service League. The Branch would survive to welcome a new crop of vets as World War II ground to its sorrowful halt in Europe and the Far East on May 8th and August 15th in 1945, respectively. In 1951 the Lethbridge branch became the General Stewart Branch No. 4 of the Canadian Legion, BESL, and in 1961 Royal was prefixed to Canadian Legion and British Empire Service League was dropped.
Not only did a record number of Lethbridgeans volunteer, but the City made other sacrifices, as well. Sadly for Historians, one of them was all the old narrow gauged rolling stock and a lone surviving locomotive, No. 16, with which the Galt companies gifted the City as keepsakes commemorating the agency which founded the City. Unfortunately, few appreciated the historic value of these little toys, and since they were donated after the end of narrow-gauged operations on the St.MRR in 1909, they were left at the Exhibition Grounds to rot in the weather and suffer the attentions of local vandals and souvenir hunters. In 1915, when procurers canvassed the countryside for scrap steel which industry could reshape into killers of young men, with no ceremony and less thought the City patriotically hurled the relics into the maw of destruction.
From the festering trenches of Flanders, soldiers brought home another gift besides Victory in The Great War: Disease, specifically, the Spanish Influenza, Spanish flu. Quoting from Lois Simmies The Secret Lives of Sgt. John Wilson - A True Story of Love & Murder (GreyStone Books, Vancouver, 1995), Spanish flu was a misnomer. China, France, the United States and Britain all experienced the deadly form of the flu before it broke out in Spain in May 1918. But countries at war censored their press, and Spain, a neutral country, was the first to address it in a cable to London: A strange form of disease of epidemic character has appeared in Madrid.
Influenza, so named because of the medieval belief that disease was influenced by the stars, was not new; the nineteenth century saw six major epidemics. Usually it affected the old and the very young, but this new strain was different; it attacked mostly those between twenty and forty years of age, a tragedy of catastrophic proportions to a world that had lost so many young men to war.
The worldwide epidemic, or pandemic, struck in the spring and the fall of 1918 and the early months of 1919. Its believed that American soldiers brought the disease to the trenches with them. In those cold, wet trenches of Germany, France and Belgium, chilled, underfed, exhausted soldiers on both sides succumbed by the thousands: in October 1919, 180,000 cases were reported in the German army.
When [the war] was over, thousands [of soldiers] headed for home incubating the germmany men survived the horrors of war only to be struck down by Spanish flu. Fatalities on troopships were twice that on land . The flu arrived in eastern Canada by one such troopship. Returned men fanned out on trains across Canada, sometimes carried off before their destination. And so it spread. And spread. Nothing in human historyno war and no other plaguekilled so many so quickly. Worldwide, more than twenty million died[,] and of those, 129 died out of 2,578 who sickened in Lethbridge after the flu reached the City in late 1918.
On January 1st, 1913, Lethbridges Finest were still rounding up all those associated with recreational activities on The Point and banishing them from the environs. The moral reformers had won, the depravity of buying and selling sex had finally been expunged from the City. It was a red letter day for the Rev. McKillop and his ilk. But, among the businessmen of the community, the cheering soon died. Profits were declining. Drastically. Prostitution, it turned out, had been a powerful economic engine. It had created a variety of service jobs, had enticed visitors to stay that extra day, spend those extra dollars. Sweeping the objections of the moralists aside, the City Commissioners set up a Segregated Area, report Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History, centred on the old Restricted Area of Chinese businesses, but expanded to include the blocks bounded by 1st and 5th avenues, and 1st and 4th streets. The effect on downtown business was immediate and positive as sex tourists returned to Lethbridge with their dollars. The police, evidently, were among the gainers, upping the price for their protection services to $350 per brothel per month by 1915. The Area remained notoriously wide-open through the 10s, 20s, 30s and into the 40s. For a community that had so well furnished itself with churches sheltering congregations tending towards the conservative side of the political spectrum, Lethbridge was remarkably tolerant of its soiled economy,178 consistently choosing money over morals, its citizens abroad able to face with aplomb the denigration of their Citys reputation. However, as the British Commonwealth Air Training Program swung into full operation in the early months of WWII, thousands of young men from throughout the Empire stepped off the trains at the CPR station and headed into The Area at the first opportunity. Sensitive to criticism that the war effort was crippled by graduates of the Program in Lethbridge infected with a dose of the clap or worse, finally, in the autumn of 1944 the Alberta Department of Health demanded that the City of Lethbridge eradicate the brothels. Apparently, the city police were so unenthusiastic about the task that Council was forced to hire a new Chief. He was installed on November 1st and by Christmas the Areas eight main whore houses were closed and the 50 or so practitioners of the sexual arts dispersed.
Staunch moralists and others worried about influences on children had long regarded the word Belly as an awkward word, referring as it did to a part of the human anatomy that, in polite circles, was simply not mentioned, thank you. That it was the name of the main stream flowing by Lethbridge was just inappropriate. Since as far back as 1909, various Boards of Trade and community organizations of the settlements along the River had been agitating for a name-change. The Alberta River was the popular choice. The powers that be, however, found that renaming a river to placate a small number puritans of was not high on their lists of priorities. Hydrology, however, came to the rescue. Stream-flow measurements proved that it was the Oldman River, Not the Belly, that was the main tributary to the stream at Lethbridge. To reflect this finding, and with the general approval of those who cared, on August 4th, 1915, the entire River downstream from the confluence of the Belly and the Oldman was renamed after the latter.
March 1, 1917, was a remarkable day in Alberta. The RN-WMP had long been suspected of enforcing federal law to the detriment of provincial law. The force was, after all, funded by Ottawa. That fact, coupled its members reputation for hard drinking and cliquish sentiments, led the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta to constitute their own police forces and relieve the Mounties of their local duties.179 It was a co-option, of sorts, for many Mounties merely transferred to the Provincials. Saskatchewan made the switch to a provincial force on January 1st, 1917, followed by Alberta exactly two months later. In Lethbridge180 was stationed D Division in the basement of the courthouse under the direction of Inspector R.D.C. Munsly. Munslys command consisted of two sergeants, two corporals, two detectives and 28 constables, only eight of whom were assigned to city affairs, the rest scattered across a broad southern swath of the province. Though there were advantages to paying for its own police, as the Depression bit deep into provincial coffers, Alberta was convinced to return policing powers to Ottawa and on April 1st of 1932 the APP was absorbed into what had by then become the RCMP.
In one of the bleakest periods of The War, mid-summer of 1917, when telegrams of condolences from the Department of Defence rained down upon the households of Canada as the Battle of Passchendaele ground out its stalemate in the bloody mud of Flanders, the people of Lethbridge were relieved by the first chautauqua to ever venture into Canada. A mixture of vaudeville with a stiff dose old-fashioned religion and maybe a little education, chautauquas started in the United States in the 1870s and proved extremely popular in rural America. Sort of a circus atmosphere permeated the air of, presumably, the Exhibition Grounds when the one-day event took place on August 7th. It is imaginable that the Fire Department used the occasion to show off the La France motorized pumper that it had acquired the previous month.
Too, in 1917, money was found to expand the Citys waterworks and add a long overdue chlorination plant to treat drinking water. Communities upstream like Macleod were as negligent in treating their sewerage as was Lethbridge, which dumped overflow raw into the River on the occasions when the 1911 treatment plant was overtaxed.
Come 1920, G.R. Marnoch, president of the Lethbridge Board of Trade and chairman of the Irrigation Development Association, could boast that there were now eight chartered banks doing business in the City.
The Inter-war decades
The famous aviatrix, Katherine Stinson, having flown the first airmail in western Canada from Calgary to Edmonton on July 9th of 1918, touched her Curtiss Special down on the infield of the Exhibition Grounds whence E.B. Ely had launched his aircraft to bring Lethbridge into the air age almost exactly seven years earlier. The date, records T.M. McGrath in History of Canadian Airports (Lugus Publication, Toronto, 1992 [2nd edition]), was July 27th, and she thrilled the throngs of fair-goers with two daring flights. Stinson was one of the last pilots to land on the infield. The Great War had spawned a new generation of airplanes: bigger and heavier and much more powerful than Elys gossamer kite, and it was thought prudent to cease tempting fate by landing at the Exhibition Grounds.
It was on a more-or-less level field near Lethbridge Collegiate Institute that Captain Ernest Charles Hoy, D.F.C., landed The Little Red Devil, his Curtiss JN-4 Jenny at 6:22 in the evening of August 7th, 1919. Flying machines might have been old hat to Lethbridgeans by then: the Great War was over and the skies were full of surplus airplanes. No aeronaut, however, had done what Hoy did that day, winging over the entire breadth of the western Canadian cordillera. He was already a hero, having destroyed ten German aircraft in a one-month stint on the Western Front in August of 1918, but now his fame would be immortalized. From the infield of Minoru Park in Richmond, B.C., Hoy had gunned the 90 horse-power Curtiss V-8 and his fuel-laden Jenny clawed itself aloft at 4:13 that morning. Refuelling at Vernon and at Grand Forks, he had overflown Nelson and, to save time getting to his final refuelling stop at Cranbrook, had dared the treacherous air currents in the Crawford Pass through the Purcells, ever mindful that the little Jenny had a maximum ceiling of but 7,000 feet. Lunched and fuelled, he had departed Cranbrook at 1535 hours to challenge the Rockies, following the trackage of the CPRs Crows Nest Line through the windy Pass and on to Lethbridge. Bumping to rest to the cheers of the 5,000 who had gathered in welcome, Hoy hefted a sack of mail into waiting hands and extracted a letter for Mayor William Duncan Livingstone Hardie from his counterpart in Vancouver, Robert Henry Otley Gale. Having received a suitably engraved silver cigarette case as a souvenir of Lethbridge and his record-breaking flight, Hoy headed off for Calgary where he landed at dusk having flown 870 air miles in 16 hours and 42 minutes.
Even as Hoy was wowing the crowd out at the aerodrôme, in the core of Lethbridge in the Restricted Area, what would become the Baan An Tongtranslated as Good Health Medicinebuilding was being constructed. With investment money still tight and the post-war recession destroying businesses though out North America and, indeed, the World, it was, if one could find the cash, a good time to build. A Market glutted with almost every manufactured good, raw material, and labour made construction cheap. The Baan An Tong would be purchased by the Leong family in 1926 and would enjoy a colourful career as both a pharmacy and a gambling den, surviving into the present day as a specialty Oriental products store.
Captain Hoys exploits and the thrill of having the lovely Katherine Stinson drop in probably galvanized Captain John Jock Ender Palmer and Lieutenant Hugh Hervey Harry Fitzsimmons into forming the Lethbridge Aircraft Company, Limited, (LAC) on March 24th, 1920. On May the 20th, by rail from the Curtiss factory in Toronto, the partners first airplane arrived; a JN-4 Canuck, the Canadian version of the famous Jenny. The next day, states Bruce W. Gowans in Wings Over Lethbridge 19111940 (Occasional Paper No. 13 of the Whoop-Up Country Chapter of the Historical Society of Alberta, Lethbridge, 1986), LAC was granted incorporation. The canvas covering of the Jenny begged an artists attention, and soon Welcome to Sunny Southern Alberta blazed on both sides of the fuselage aft of the cockpit, The SkyBoeshoboes of the sky. Get it?decorated the vertical stabilizer. Every other surface normally visible from the ground proclaimed the desirability of Sicks Brewery products. On July 13th, while awaiting a fine-quality camera with which to take aerial photos, Jock and Harry put on a memorable demonstration of trick flying during which Harry walked the wing. The camera came and in August and LAC won a contract to photograph the vast holdings of the Noble Farms Foundation north of the Oldman River. Writes McGrath in History of Canadian Airports, on the 28th of August LAC obtained licence #35 for the Jenny from the Department of Transportation which registered the craft as G-ABX. On September the 15th, having passed tests and demonstrated his abilities to Major Hobbs of the Canadian Air Force, Palmer was issued Commercial Pilot Certificate #64, records Gowans. LAC obtained a Post Office contract to carry mail, and were into business and on their way to Ottawa two years later when Palmer cracked up the Jenny in Minot, North Dakota, on June 25, 1922.
The partners were airplane-less until Fitzsimmons bought a Standard J-1 in May of 1924. He and Palmer had formed Southern Alberta Airlines (SAA) and it was to this new outfit that the J-1 was registered as G-CAEO on June 15th of that year. Palmer was SAAs chief pilot, and it was in the shaky little Standard that he flew Mayor Hardy to the Town of Macleod to help celebrate that communitys Golden Anniversary that July 1st. Trying to earn money, palmer and Fitzsimmons inaugurated a sight-seeing service to picturesque Waterton Park on August 3rd. The venture lasted ten days. It wasn’t that Palmer was a particularly bad pilot: his wreck in Minot was caused by an automobile zooming out onto the landing field at the wrong moment. At Pincher Creek, landing for fuel on the way back from Waterton, Palmer had the misfortune to stick one of the J-1s wheels into a badger hole on the field. He said. Whatever; the Standard was destroyed, putting Palmer and Fitzsimmons out of business.181 This seems to have been the last straw for Fitzsimmons,182 for Palmer subsequently hired on as chief pilot for Charles B. Charlie Elliott who formed Lethbridge Commercial Airways (LCA) in 1927, the main asset of which was Elliotts new J-1, registered as C-CAHU on August 22nd.
The landing field upon which Hoy had alighted left something to be desired, so Palmer and Fitzsimmons had laid out a simple airstrip on a 600 x 800-yard plot south of the Exhibitions Grounds. It, too, had proved unsuitable, and SAA had been instrumental in developing a proper aviation harbour on a City-owned tract in the sub-division of Fairmont, north of the CPR tracks and east of Stafford. A landing strip had been levelled, the badger holes filled, a windsock hung, and a rudimentary airplane shelter built. On September 23rd, 1927, the City of Lethbridge was granted a Customs Air Harbour Licence for the facility.
On March 13th, 1928, Emil Sick, the son and partner of brewer Fritz, formed his Purple Label Airline Limited. By the 24th Jock Palmer was working for him, based in Calgary and sharing duties piloting the companys purple Stinson Detroiter with Frederick Robert Gordon McCall, for whom Calgarys commercial airport would be named in 1939. By the end of 1928, Sick, McCall and perhaps Palmer had formed Great Western Airways, Limited, to absorb Purple Labels assets and were proposing a CalgaryGreat Falls route with a stop over at Lethbridge.
According to Gowans in Wings Over Lethbridge …, Charlie Elliott likely assumed management of Lethbridge Commericals affairs as Palmer was gallivanting around the skies of southern Alberta. Under his direction LCA completed a hangar capable of accommodating an entire aircraft without having to remove its wings on June 14th, 1928. Then, true to form, Palmer wrecked the companys new Standard on Bowness Field near Calgary nine days later. It was likely a fortuitous event, as the J-1s design was obsolete and were reportedly not nearly so forgiving a craft to fly as were their contemporaries, the Curtiss Jennies. Elliott was not discouraged by the accident, however, and formed Southern Alberta Air Lines, Limited, (SAAL) in Lethbridge on May 1st of 1929, hired Joe Patton as chief pilot183 while he, Elliott, struggled to learn how to fly, and acquired a de Havilland Gipsy Moth which he registered as CF-ADJ. This little ship was damaged severely by a whirlwind while on a promotional visit to Medicine Hat on July 27th. Southern Alberta was exceedingly hard on the aircraft of the period, made mainly of wood and canvas with perhaps a bit of aluminium worked into the frame in acknowledgement of modern metallurgical advances.
Palmer and Fitzsimmons and their associates financed their high-flying lifestyle by barn-storming, ferrying sight-seers and businessmen to various regional destinations, speeding bits of machinery to remote locations, taking aerial photographs, and training pilots. One of the most enthusiastic graduates was local rancher, George Graham Ross. In 1929 he formed an alliance with Vance Air Service of Great Falls, Montana, from whom he bought a Curtiss Robin. That October 28th Ross bought into Southern Alberta Air Lines and helped the outfit acquire two more Robins. On April 17th of 1930 SAAL sent one its new pilots, Zebulon Lewis (Lewie) Leigh to Medicine Hat with a Gipsy Moth to offer flying lessons. Probably as a publicity stunt, on June 29 the company flew an air show over Lethbridge with the Gipsy Moth, a Robin and a leased WACO. SAAL suffered disaster on July 16th, writes Gowans in Wings Over Lethbridge, when a Robin burned at Barons an the under-carriage of a Gipsy Moth was damaged whilst landing. On the 24th Leigh was recalled from Medicine Hat as he had not been able to attract much business, and his Gipsy Moth was needed at the companys home field. Leigh evidently disagreed with the decision, quit SAAL and returned to The Hat to form Leigh Air Services, flying Waco CF-AOI.
By January 15th, 1930, the Postmaster General of Canada, Peter John Veniot, had approved Lethbridge as an airmail point of call in the Offices newly-inaugurated WinnipegCalgary Prairie Air Mail Service. This necessitated improvements to the field, and together the City and the Federal government ear-marked $100,000 to effect these. By the time the City bought the new hangar at the field on October 1st of that year, a revolving beacon flashed and boundary lights had been installed to aid pilots landing at night. A radio beacon was installed. An illuminated perimeter fence kept livestock and wildlife from wandering onto the field, and a telephone connection had been established with the City. All the improvements were completed come November 2nd when an armada of aircraft buzzed into the skies above the City; the first Alberta Air Tour consisting of seven different types of aircraft, including a Ford Tri-Motor, was amazing crowds all across the province, and spared Lethbridge only one day of awe before flying off to Pincher Creek and points north.
According to the Lethbridge Herald of April 28th, 2000, it was on the improved field that Herbert Hollick-Kenyon184 landed his east-bound, mail-carrying Canadian Airways Fokker F.XIV monoplane, CF-AIK, on the 15th of January, 1931. The next day, west-bound, Harold Farrington landed his Boeing 40B-4 mail plane, CF-AIM. Canadian Airways liked Lethbridge, so much so that on August 15th of 1931, it leased the City-owned hangar and on the 20th made the City a divisional point in its service, transferring personnel thither from Calgary and Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and stationing two new Boeing mail planes, CF-AMP and CF-AMQ, at the Lethbridge field from that November. For 15 months Lethbridge was a main airmail hub, and then, on March 31st, 1932, proved uneconomic, the Service was cancelled.
Looking back from the relatively sophisticatedat least as far as air travel is concerned&$151;vantage point of 2008, it is hard to imagine what a Big Deal flying was in 1931. Most folks in the Lethbridge area had seen an airplane by then, but very few had ridden in one, many even believing that it was un-naturalif God had meant Man to fly, He would have given him wings. To have your city designated a hub on an airmail route was the acme of technological achievement, putting you on par with a citizen of Toronto or Vancouver: what the heck; say Chicago. It was a point of pride, something for the mayor to boast about when he gathered with his peers.
Nineteen-31 was the break-year for Southern Alberta Air Lines. Lethbridge suffered its first air fatalities in the companys Gipsy Moth CF-ADJ when pilot I.F. Thomson lost control attempting a landing on February 1st. He died, as did his passenger, Don McKenzie. On April 18th SAAL sold its last airplane, Gipsy Moth CF-AGJ, and wound up its business.185 Lethbridge wasn’t long left without a flying school, however. On April 26th Chinook Flying Services of Calgary opened a school with Joe Patton instructing. To announce its arrival, Chinook on May 24th put on a little air show during which Patton parachuted from Ernest Joseph Boffas new WACO, CF-AQU. More thrills awaited Lethbridgeans that summer, for from June 26th through the 29th the All-Canadian Air Tour landed in the City, followed on July 19th by the Trans Canada Air Pageant.
With the end of Canadian Airways Prairie Air Mail Service on the last day of March, 1932, and the deepening of the Depression, air activity above Lethbridge tapered off. Looking for some way to employ his WACO, Ernest Boffa had local artisan Terrance Ingolsby craft a system for the aerial distribution of grasshopper poison and mount it to CF-AQU. On April 26th, 1935, Boffa demonstrated the device. Two months later, on June 7th, local farmers got another demonstration of a similar device mounted on a big Ford Tri-motor, G-CARC. This event might have been sponsored by the Department of Agriculture and hosted by Dominion Experimental Station and Wm. Harmon Fairfield, its director.
On November 2nd of 1936 the Federal Government amalgamated the Department of Marine and the Department of Railways and Canals into the Department of Transport (DoT) and charged its Air Services Branch with establishing an airway, a highway in the air, in Canadian airspace. Major airports with passenger and servicing facilities, navigation aids and meteorology stations would be established every 100 or so miles, with two intermediate landing fields in between. The most practical route over the mountain ranges of B.C. followed the path of the Trans-Provincial Highway, the fore-runner of the No. 3, the Crowsnest Highway. That put Lethbridge smack on the Airway, as well as the north-south air corridor that followed the ancient Old North Road.
Come 1936 Canadian Airways apparently again laid plans to implement a trans-national air mail route and expressed interest in returning to the field at Lethbridge. The City was enthusiastic, spending money that July to clean up the field and ensure that the beacons were in working order. On August 27th CAs brand new Lockheed 10A Electra, CF-BAF, touched down on a tour of inspection. Problems were identified. didnt like what it found. Aircraft such as the Electra and the popular Douglas Commercial 3 were bigger and faster and required longer runways than had their predecessors of even ten years earlier. The aero-drôme didnt measure up. As well, in October of 1931 the federal government had opened its towering, million-dollar concrete grain terminal on the CPR tracks just to the south of the aerodrôme. For modern aircraft it was judged an aviation hazard, as was the civic water stand pipe further to the west. The conclusion was that Lethbridge needed a new airport. This the City set about to build.
According to Gowans in Wings…, on July 31st, 1937, possibly to confirm CAs concerns, the Department of Transport L-12A CF-CCT landed at Lethbridge to evaluate the facilities. Though the Branch doubtless expressed concurred with the need for a new facility far away from the hazards impairing the utility of its extant air harbour, it concluded that the old field could, with care, be used by the Governments new pet, Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA), which had been created on April 10th of 1937 as a subsidiary of Canadian National Railways. TCA officially flew its first aircraft on September 1st of that year, and landed CF-TCB, an L-10A, at Lethbridge on the 12th of October, on its way to Vancouver. On November 8th, writes Gowans, TCA leased the old airfield for eight months and on December 13th posted some air engineers to Lethbridge. Two days later, on the 15th of December, TCA CF-TCC, another L-10A, landed on an evaluation flight of the new air ways.186 By then the City was well into the construction of a new airfield.187
Early in 1937 the City bought a 730-acre property on its southern outskirts from the CPR and that June, with advice and financial assistance from DoT to the tune of 33% of the total costs, construction began on a new airfield. By October 1st of the next year, 1938, when Trans-Canada Airlines began regular service out of the new field, the two hard-surfaced runways, 1050 x 45 metres, had been laid down in a Y shape188 and Austin Construction Company was completing a hangar-cum-terminal for TCA, for which Hollick-Kenyon was then flying. The DoT issued a licence to operate the facility on October 8th. Weather, night-lighting, and radio communication equipment were installed. In February of 1939 Lethbridge Flying Training School, Limited, moved into quarters on the site, forcing the Winnipeg-based Flying Associates, who had opened a school in Lethbridge sometime in 1938 under instructor A.J. Currie using the little CF-BLW Luscombe 8, to fold in May. On April 1st, 1939, TCA commenced regular passenger service, though what had been named Kenyon Field was not officially declared open until June 7, 1939. On the 19th it became an international port when Inland Airlines of Wyoming was granted landing rights.
In 1921 there were counted 11,100 residents in Lethbridge. The talk of the town that April was the conflagration of mysterious origins that razed two of the four big old whorehouses that had stood vacant on The Point for a number of years. In June another one went up spectacularly and, as the decade progressed, The Point gradually became a car-wreckers yard. What became of the 4th house of scarlet love, or the isolation hospital which had kept the kept the whore houses company for at least 20 years, is unknown. On December 24th, the Columbia macaroni factory suffered $30,000 in fire damage.
In 1921 the City finally completed a project that had endured a long period of planning: a library. Since 1890 the only repository of communal reading material in Lethbridge was the Alberta Railway and Coal Company Employee Reading Room and Library. In 1911, report the authors of the Walking Tour of Lethbridge, the Carnegie Foundation had gifted the City with a $25,000 grant to build a proper library, but the project was postponed. Come the end of the Great War, Recession tore economies apart, driving down the price of materials and labour. It was a good time to build. Restless men bitterly resented the dearth of opportunity for gainful employment after half a decade of eating Flanders mud and cowering in water-logged trenches wincing at the shriek and thud of artillery shells and the subsequent screams. To get at least some men off the street, the City redeemed the Carnegie money and, recalling that the Galt family had always intended to gift the community with a public library on the Galt Gardens property, staked out a site there upon and set to work. The edifice cost $34,000 to raise, and was opened on January 24th, 1922, under the proprietorial eye of Hazel Bletcher, the Citys librarian since March of 1920. With a 1950 addition, the old edifice served until the present library was finished in 1974. In 1976 the Carnegie building was re-opened as the civic art gallery, a function it continues to fulfill in 2007.
In April of 1923, the old 1886 N-MWP barracks on the Police Reserve in central Lethbridge burned and were evidently not much missed, the RCMPs presence having been reduced by the organization of the provincial police. In 1939 the Mounties donated the reserveBarrack Squareto the City,189 keeping only a small portion on which, in 2007, their regional headquarters is located.
Possibly compromising air traffic safety, in 1923 the Artic [sic] Oil refinery began operations, closing after five years. In 1923, too, the CPR added six stalls to its roundhouse, bringing the total to 24. Therein were serviced, among others, the little locomotives that hauled the Ding Bat, the local mixed train that shuttled daily between Lethbridge and Cranbrook.
In 1924 the recently-formed Chinese Freemasons raised a brick building in the former Restricted Area. Like the Chinese National League, the Freemasons, too, used their building to preserve their culture and language.
Lethbridge counted 12 churches come 1925, the year that the Alberta Coal Commission deemed housing in Lethbridge fair, but noted that the City was plagued with water and sanitation problems, report D.G. Wetherell and I.R.A. Kmet in Homes in Alberta: Building, Trends and Design, 18701967. That January 9th those with crystal sets tuned to the right frequency heard the first commercial radio broadcast to emanate from the City. In April of 1926 Jock Palmer the airplane pilot diversified his interests into commercial radio, obtaining a licence for CJOC and its tiny 50-watt transmitter. In 1928 one of Palmers partners, H. (Harold) R. Carson, bought control of CJOC, doubled the wattage and commenced to broadcasting from the penthouse of the Marquis Hotel, studios that the station would occupy for many years.
By 1928 Galt Gardens was an attractive green space, cottonwoods and elms maturing, sheltering a lawn cut with beds of flowers, a fitting site for the Coal Miners Memorial dedicated that June. That year the sod was turned on the site of the new St. Augustines Church.
In 1929 the Sisters of St. Martha bought Maria Van Haalems private hospital and renamed it St. Michaels while the order built a new St. Mikes which opened in 1931. The year previously, with the completion of an addition to the 1910 Galt Hospital, the old wood-built Galt, built in 1891, was demolished.
Lethbridge, like all Prairie communities, suffered during the Great Depression. As industries shut down, the need for coal evaporated and the regions mines slowed production, trimming their workforces. In south-western Canada, the economic woes were exacerbated by a fierce drought that drove some 5,000 families from their farms in southern Alberta alone. Those that managed to hang on had precious little cash to spend on anything but Lifes basics. People made do with what they could raise, the monotony of their diet punctuated by meals of dried, salted fisha delicacy that most farm wives had no clue as to how to make ediblethat was sent west by the boxcar-load by the generous folks in The Maritimes. Many merchants extended credit until they, too, heard the wolf at the door. Spending on new construction ceased, men rode the rods from town to town seeking any kind of employment, any kind of sustenance. New political parties with new philosophies were formed, old ones resurrected. In 1931 the resurgent Communists had celebrated May 1st with parades and demonstrations throughout western Canada, notably in Lethbridge. Though founded in Calgary in 1932 with sitting Independent Labour Party MP James Shaver Woodsworth elected as its first president, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation shifted its field of endeavour to Saskatchewan when it adopted the Regina Manifesto in 1933. On August 22nd, 1935, Bible Bill William Aberhart led his Social Credit party to power in Alberta with the promise of social dividends to every family. In 1937 a tease of moisture fell on parts of southern Alberta and some families were able to pull in meagre crop for which there was barely a market. In the spring of 1939 the rains returned and harvests that fall were generally bountiful.
Circumstances were slightly different in Lethbridge, however, thanks to irrigation, increasing demand for sugar beets, and the clear skies of sunny southern Alberta. In 1930 some 12,000 acres of sugar beets had been harvested to feed the re-opened plant south-east of Lethbridge some 16 miles at Raymond. With another plant opened by B.C. Sugar at Picture Butte 12 miles due north on October 4th, 1936, acreage dedicated to the beet jumped to 21,500 by 1939. It was money generated by this crop, claim Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History, that insulated Lethbridges economy from the worst of the Great Depression.
On September 1st, 1939, German troops stormed into Poland. Two days later, on the 3rd, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced via the BBC that Britain, along with its ally, France, was at war with Germany. In 1914 Britains declaration of war on that same enemy automatically threw Canada, as a member of the British Empire, into the hostilities for King and Country. By 1939, thanks to the Statute of Westminster of 1931, the relationship between London and Ottawa had been fundamentally changed, requiring the consent of the Canadian parliament to involve the Dominion in a war. Though his cabinet ordered the mobilization of Canadas armed forces on September 1st, William Lyon Mackenzie King, the long-time Prime Minister, hesitated to declare war, perhaps merely asserting Canadas independence, perhaps hoping that Britain would not require Canadas support, perhaps playing for time in which to purchase war matériel from the United States.190 On September 10th, however, Parliament voted Canada into the war.
Lethbridge didnt respond to this second world war as it had to the first when hordes of eager young men lined up at the recruiting stations for the opportunity to cover themselves in glory. The stuttering machine guns, trench mortars, barbed wire, flesh-rotting diseases and earth-shattering mines had destroyed forever the romance of war. Those who returned unaffected from combat were few. The lucky bore scars both physical and emotional for the rest of their lives. The unlucky never came home. So it was with a distinct lack of enthusiasm that the citizens of Lethbridge heard the declaration of September 10th. The City did its duty, for sure, sending some 1177 of its sons and daughters off on active service by 1943. Some added their names to the memorial in Galt Gardens. But it was on the home front that Lethbridge made its most notable and long-lasting contributions. On December 17th of 1939 the federal government involved the Nation in the The British Commonwealth Air Training Programme (BCATP). Six days later, on December 23rd, Kenyon Field was designated a military installation and the firm of Bennett and White Construction Company was engaged to raise more hangars, a control tower, barracks and ancillary buildings under the over-all supervision of Shoquist Construction of Saskatoon. Writes Patricia A. Myers in Sky Riders - An Illustrated History of Aviation in Alberta 19061945 (Fifth House Ltd, Saskatoon, 1995), Palex Painters of Calgary painted everything, while Doncaster Construction of Edmonton laid more runways. Overseen by the Royal Canadian Air Force,191 the Lethbridge Flight Training School managed by Robert Wilkinson of the Calgary Aero Club began running the No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School in March of 1940. The Department of Transport leased the Field on September 27th, 1940, and operated it as a civilian facility despite the military presence. Ultimately, the wild wind conditions at Lethbridge caused such a high attrition rate among the novice pilots that on June 20th of 1941 No. 5 was moved to High River. It was replaced at Kenyon on November 8th, 1941, by the No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery School whose huge concrete firing abutment remains standing in 2007. Rounding out the BCATP presence was No. 133 Fighter Squadron and No. 124 Ferry Detachment.
With the beleaguered German nation close to collapse, No. 8 B&G School ceased operations on December 1st, 1944. On May 8th of 1945, Germany surrendered, followed by Japan three months later, on August 31st. In the aftermath of the War, the City of Lethbridge declined to take over administration of Kenyon Filed, preferring to leave it in the capable hands of the Department of Transport. DoT lengthened192 the Y-shaped runways in 1947, and the next year installed an instrument landing system. In 1967 the DoT bought the airport, and on October 19th, 1979, hosted the then Alberta premier, Peter Lougheed, at the dedication ceremony for a new, $4 million brick- and aluminium-sided terminal building.
Occupying offices in the Terminal was Time Air, organized by Walter R. Stubb Ross in 1966 following the lead of his father, George Graham Ross, the founder of the short-lived Ranchers Air Line in the 30s. When Air Canada withdrew its services from Kenyon in 1967, Time was well placed to take over, eventually extending its reach all over Alberta, the Prairies, and west to The Coast. By April of 1993 Canadian Regional Airlines had completed its acquisition of Time, and was in turn merged into Air Canadas Jazz service in 2001, so that Air Canada again flies into Kenyon Field.
The old BCATP hangars surviving on Kenyon Field are in 2003 the domain of manufactories, mostly of holiday trailers. Fire claimed one of these stalwarts on October 23rd, 2007, the main factory of Triple M Housing, Limited. In the industrial district of Lethbridge, to the north-east of downtown on the site of the old concentration camp, Pratt and Whitney operate a small depot, more evidence of the industry that a major airport can attract. The Kenyon Field Armouries is on airport property, and there the successor to the Canadian Armys old 25th Field Battery, the 18th Air Defence Regiment, shares its headquarters with the Alberta Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps.
Besides contributing men and women to the war effort, and hosting and enormous training facility, Lethbridge also served the Allied cause by guarding the largest concentration camp in Canada. Around 638 acres in the middle of the old aerodrome north and east of town the Ministry of Defence built a soaring barbed-wire fence overseen by search lights in watch towers guarded by armed soldiers. On the compound within the wire barracks were built, a mess and an infirmary. On November 28th, 1942, Internment Camp No. 133 opened. Soon it was crowded with some 12,500 German prisoners,193 many from the Afrika Corps, who were daily dispersed into neighbourhood fields to help with the farm work.194 Isolated in the middle of the continent, the camp proved remarkably secure, suffering few escapes before Victory Europe Day in May of 1945. Slowly the erstwhile combatants were repatriated, the last trainload of prisoners departing on the 22nd of December, 1946. Not a few former prisoners returned to the Lethbridge area to pick up where they left off when the camp closed.
Another unwelcomed population Lethbridge received during WWII; contingents of the 23,000 ethnic Japanese displaced from their homes mainly in Vancouver by the B.C. Security Commission in early 1942, mere weeks after the Japanese armed forces mauled Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. The Lethbridge area had had long experience with Japanese, the first coming to the neighbourhood in 1908 to work in the Knight Sugar factory at Raymond and surrounding sugar beet fields some 30 kilometres south of Lethbridge. Though Knight failed in 1914, come 1920 there were some 600 Japanese IsseiPioneersworking in the region on farms, CPR crews, in mines, particularly in the Galt No. 6 at Hardieville. Diligent labour even at the abusively low wages that they were paid enabled some to buy a garden plot or two, perhaps a house. They were not well accepted by the Regions White pioneers who feared all Orientals as unsanitary and just plain weird with their bizarre writing, ambiguous religious practices, and mimickable accent. When the Mormon-owned Utah-Idaho Sugar Company began operations at Raymond in 1925, it attracted many Japanese to their labour force. When B.C. Sugar bought out the operation in 1931, it retained as many of the hard-working Japanese employees as possible, considering the times. Come the spring of 1942, the authorities in B.C. had the problem of removing 23,000 resentful, fearful people away from their homes and possessions, and keeping them at least 100 miles away from The Coast for the duration of the War. Big camps such as the notorious Tashme in the Sunshine Valley above Hope, and old mining towns like Greenwood and New Denver in the Slocan, were occupied as camps. Family structure was preserved in that men only were encouraged to volunteer to work in a remote camps building roads or felling timber. Criminally little money was spend maintaining any Japanese internee, and families had to work in a generally hostile environment to survive. In April of 1942 a contingent of Internees was dispatched to the failing community of Coalhurst, AB, to find work. Soon 2,250, mentions David B. Iwaasa in The Mormons and their Japanese Neighbours (Alberta History, Vol. 53, No. 1, Winter 2005, ed. H.A. Dempsey, Calgary) were in southern Alberta, pariahs stripped of essential human rights, competing fiercely for the most menial, poorly paid, sometimes dangerous jobs, desperate for their childrens futures. Many gravitated to the sugar beat fields where they laboured, stooped over the rows, thinning and hacking weeds for hours in a day. From Lethbridge, write Johnston and den Otter in their Lethbridge: A Centennial History, the Japanese were barred except to scuttle in and out of the City on some officially countenanced errand.
Come the end of the War and the Japanese were gradually released from their confinement, only to find that most of their possessions on The Coastcars, fishing boats, houses and furnishingshad been sold by the B.C. Security Commission at fire-sale prices to its friends, and the collected monies mostly stolen by government minions. Most Japanese left the Lethbridge area when released, but a few remained, expanding the gene-pool of the pre-War population. Lingering racism and discrimination made life difficult, but the experience perversely triggered a sentiment among the Japanese that led to the creation of one of Lethbridges premier tourist attractions, the Nikka Yuko195 Centennial Gardens. From a suggestion by a visiting Buddhist monk, Abbot Otani of Kyoto, local activists formulated a plan. Beginning in 1963 under the direction of Masami Sugimoto, native plants were collected from within 100 miles of Lethbridge and installed with imported Japanese rocks in a traditional garden at the western end of Henderson Lake. Bridges and decks, the tower and buildings, were hand-crafted in Japan and re-assembled on site. No nails were required, the tower being stabilized by the weight of its bell. The Garden was completed as a Centennial project and was officially opened on July 16th, 1967.
In 1946 some 16,500 people lived in Lethbridge: five years later, in 1951, this figure had skyrocketed to nearly 23,000, an increase of almost 40%. Much of this was the natural result of servicemen and women finally returned to their spouses with an imperative to start a long-delayed family. The area, however, enjoyed a high rate of immigration with many Dutch, Poles and Italians, note Johnston and den Otter in Lethbridge: A Centennial History, who came to care for the sugar beat fields formerly worked by interned Japanese. Ironically, many former P.O.W.s returned to the place of their incarceration, eager to renew friendships that had transcended the barbed wire of Camp 133. In Lethbridge, to accommodate this boom, houses and more houses were built on subdivisions newly laid out. Schools and churches were erected, stores and service businesses opened. It was a time of calculated renewal with pioneer structures downtown unsentimentally ripped down to make way for new construction. The Old was bad and bloody and painful of memory; the New was bright and hopeful. When floodwaters soaked the old homes down on the Bottoms in the spring of 1953, residents, who had been under civic pressure to vacate for three years, were refused the right of return and the bedraggled structures were bull-dozed.
The last of the old street car lines was extirpated in 1947 and fleet of GMC diesel omnibuses was soon staining the air. A new bridge on the to carry the Macleod Trails increasing traffic over the Oldman was opened by Premier Ernest Charles Manning on January 11th, 1949, and the Green Acres Drive-In Theatre flickered its first movie on April 27th, 1950. The gravelled streets were metalled with asphalt as time and money permitted. Water and sewer service had finally been extended to Stafford in 1941,196 and to the adjacent P.O.W. camp in 1942. In the post-war era, as the City expanded southward along the bluffs of the Oldman and eastward, mile upon mile of piping was laid and power and telephone wire hung. In 1958 the 300,000-gallon water tower at Magrath Boulevard and 2nd Avenue S. was completed.197
In 1952 All Saints Roman Catholic Parish finally celebrated the completion of the grand St. Patricks Church after nearly 40 years of work. Nearby, in 1955 Anglicans began worshipping in a new St. Augustines, deconsecrating the neighbouring 1910 St. Cyprians for use as a hall. On June 14th of 1955 the Jewish community turned the sod on the construction of a new synagogue. The old Galt Hospital became an ambulatory care facility when on May 25th, 1955, the Lethbridge Municipal Hospital opened, preceded in 1951 by St. Michaels.198 A branch of the YWCA was organized in 1951 and a grand old mansion on 8th Street S. purchased and converted into a 35-bed residence.
As Lethbridge became ever more important in provincial affairs as the 1950s matured, forward-thinkers began to suggest that it was time that halls of higher education were constructed for the Citys students. On April 17th, 1957, the first public institution of its type in the province, Lethbridge Junior College, opened its doors to offer, among an abundance of technical and clerical courses, first year classes accredited by the University of Alberta. Soon finding its campus inadequate, after seven months of construction the college officially dedicated a new building on Tuesday, May 7th, 1963. As a reward, the U of A permitted the college to teach second year university classes. In 1967 the University of Lethbridge was established at the College and soon was soliciting bids for the design and construction of a separate campus. The winning architect, the notable Arthur Erickson, was inspired by the Viaduct and the result of a steady two years work beginning with a ceremonial sod-turning on September 5, 1969, was the unique first phase, the thousand-foot-long, nine-storey-high University Hall. Nearly 40 years later, the Campus in the Coulees has in-filled the slopes below huge parking lots on prairie level behind The Hall.
Gazing across at their City from the grand glass gallery of University Hall, sophisticated Lethbridgeans were affronted by what was on display on the bluffs below their City. One of the ravines was appropriately named Nuisance Coulee, though likely still not in official use. Through the vapour rising from the Citysthankfully natural gas-fired power plant at the Rivers side below, the ratty end of Mountain View Cemetery mooned the campus. Odd chunks of concrete stuck out of the detritus cascading down some slopes reminding Kainai that the new-comers had stolen away their ancient Medicine Rock and lost it. The Point was covered with wrecked autos, rusting, leaking, occasionally burning. Though winter steam from the power plant and the brewery would occasionally rime the Valley into a magical Jack Frost Land and wreathe the blacked Viaduct in garlands of scintillating white, the View was typically dismal enough that it galvanized political will and in the early 1970s a movement developed to it clean up. Besides, with plans afoot to build a subdivision on the university side of the River and the gracefully concrete deck of the new 6th Avenue bridge on schedule to welcome its first traffic in 1975, lots of folks would be living in West Lethbridge. Long used to building away from the nasty old Belly River and its sad Bottoms, Lethbridge began to embrace what is a beautiful natural corridor filled with all sorts of interesting plants and animals and history. Plans were laid to develop Indian Battle Park and Elizabeth Hall wetlands in the Bottoms with Fort Whoop-up and the Helen Schuler Coulee Centre. The wrecks were removed from The Point and some of the least savoury of the neighbouring buildings demolished. Since 1955 when most of its patients and staff moved over to the new Municipal Hospital, the old Galt Hospital Building had stood pondering its fate. It had finally been acquired by the City in the mid-60s and renovated to house the Sir Alexander Galt Museum. Opened in 1967 and soon out-grew the space. It was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1976, making it eligible for some government largess. Come the end of that decade an expansion was being promoted, culminating with the opening in 1984 of an addition faced with a cliff of glass overlooking the valley.
The urge to cleanse the Citys core of any reminders of the industries that for so long under-pinned the local economy extended beyond the removal of the rail yards in the early 1980s. Located near the Exhibition Grounds at the east end of Henderson Lake, the stockyards had long been a sore point for the residents of the up-scale neighbourhoods south of the Lake. In 1984 the yards were removed. In 1991 the famous House of Lethbridge brewery, which for a generation had perfumed the downtown with the aroma of roasted malt and fresh beer, was razed. The Citys desire to distance itself from industry had even extended to its Lethbridge Electric Light Company power plant in the valley, sold in May of 1974 to Calgary Power, now TransAlta Utilities Corporation.
All the vacant lots created by the removal of the decrepit structures begged new construction. Among the first of the new buildings was the Lethbridge Centre, opened in 1975 nominally on the corner of 4th Avenue and 5th Street South. Care, however, has to be exercised when planting structures anywhere west of Fifth: total live weight has to be very carefully calculated. Twenty-four millions tons of coal were removed from the Lethbridge field, with a few thousand tons coming from beneath the Oldmans eastern bluffs as far back as 3rd Street S., mined by the City itself to fire the power plant. Though numerous pillars were doubtless left in situ to support the roof, the distinct possibility of subsidence concerns engineers. The hotels and civic edifices that have risen on 2nd Street since the 1990s have had to be very precisely located and supported.
The Galt Museum expanded a second time in the early 21st Century, grandly re-opening on the 6th of May, 2006. From the vast glass façade of its foyer, the viewers eye naturally follows the rigid line of the Viaduct westward to the ruins of the Galt No. 8 infrastructure on the far side of the broad valley. It is a bit of a mystery how these relics managed to survive the urban renewal mania that has dictated the removal of so many elderly structures since the 1970s. The property is now owned by the cement manufacturer, Nord International, Inc., which has set up by the entrance road a cast concrete sign declaring that fact and prohibiting trespassing. The Galt #8 Mine Site Society still has designs on the plot with the laudable intent to set up mining museum in the old buildings.
Not all early structures shared the fate of the grand 1890 Opera House which was demolished in 1966. After standing empty for many years on the north-west corner of 2nd Avenue at 3rd Street, the 1909 Castle Hotel narrowly escaped the wreckers ball when it was bought by a couple of entrepreneurs and refurbished as an apartment block. North one block and east, at the corner of 1st Avenue and 4th Street, the rough-trade Bridge Inn hides the three storeys of its classic brick construction with sandstone lintels and sills under a coat of white paint with green detailing. East another block and back up on the south side of Second Avenue, the 3-storey Lethbridge Hotel in grey with green and yellow trim faces Galt Park. Two blocks south past check-cashing shops, gaudy thrift stores, and a few beautifully-restored facades, stands the grand Alec Arms, empty at the end of 2006, awaiting judgement.
As in many prairie cities, Lethbridges efforts to resuscitate its downtown core have not yet come to fruition. Dedicated to the low-density, suburban model of the North American city, Lethbridges CBD is deserted when the offices are closed. Generously proportioned, the streets appear empty. Few businesses remain open, and the area becomes the haunt of people with nowhere else to be. These are typically the folks disenfranchised, and come a sunny Sunday in September, a visitor taking photographs of the old Carnegie librarynow the in Southern Alberta Art Galleryin Galt Park may well be gently importuned by someone down on luck. It is only in the darker hours of the evening, when the few remaining bars and pubs are supplying their inimitable entertainments, that a stranger unprepared to risk altercation would be advised to be elsewhere.
Better preserved is the residential area south-east of the downtown core were the adoption of an Area Redevelopment Plan has barred property-eating apartment complexes from the neighbourhood of single family dwellings mainly raised just prior to The Great War.
Third Millennium Lethbridge
For those who prefer evenings of action, down around Galt Park there are a few old time three-story hotels which dont count on pernoctating guests to make their profits. Money comes in through the bar room door and if they do accept guests over night, they are guaranteed a restless night of urban core cacophony. For those who qualify, the YWCA on 8th St. S. offers accommodations in the building it built in 1983. Days Inn and the Lethbridge Lodge on Scenic Drive on the western edge of the downtown are brand new structures.
Downtown Lethbridge is not, however, where most visitors chose to stay. Third Avenue S. eastbound carries travellers away from the core past pizza joints, car washes, and the Ellison Milling Companys towering silos199 a block to the north, to Mayor Magrath Boulevard, the 99-foot-wide right-of-way of the CPRs Crows Nest Line before the Viaduct was completed in 1909. This is Lethbridges strip. Southward posh motels and up-scale hotels shoulder their frugal rivals, pancake houses and interesting ethnic eateries for frontage. Traffic on Mayor Magrath is heavy with urban four-bys; the road hosts impromptu drag-races in the witching hours.
Folks wishing to settle at Henderson Campground would turn east off Magrath at the baseball stadium and follow richly-shaded North Park almost a mile past the homes of the well-to-do on the left facing Henderson Lake on the right. At the end of the Lake, where North Park is deflected east south-east by the Fair Grounds, is the Campground. In the mid-1990s it cost a single tenter $11 to set up on an aster and lilac-shaded lawn in close proximity to the well maintained shower houses. Since then the philosophy of the management has changed. Pulling a page from the American manual on how to ruin a good thing, it has bowed to the demands for more pull through sites from the owners of fat-assed RVs who dont want to be bother backing their monsters up. Most of the lilacs and asters have been uprooted and gravelled pads installed in their stead.
Even though it might have rained a bit during the night, it is likely that the morning finds the sky clear and blue here in southern Alberta. There are no cafés near to the Henderson Campground, so with a granola bar purchased from the convenience store in the office to sustain her, the bikie is off to check out Lethbridge. From the Campgrounds entrance, she can either turn south-east and follow Parkside to the paths that wind through the golf course which borders the south side of the Lake to come back to Mayor Magrath, or she can backtrack west on North Park to the ball park. Either way, she can easily get to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens and its neighbouring Rose Garden tucked between the Boulevard and the lake shore, plus investigate the breakfast possibilities at the Golf Course clubhouse. Though the Lake was ceremoniously stocked with some 60,000 trout on April 27th, 1968, a prudent bikie would consider that golf courses are notorious for their liberal use of pesticides and herbicides and fertilizers, and leave any surviving fishies to the hardy herons and mergansers which must have built up an immunity to the Lakes toxins.
Paying the Nikka Yukos modest entry fee, visitors can wander the paths which wind amid the artful arrangements of native North American vegetation, stone lanterns and hump-backed bridges hand-crafted in Japan. Though beautiful and unique, some of the charm evaporates when one remembers the circumstances under which many of the Japanese responsible for Garden came to, and lived in, the Lethbridge area.
Ploughing south-east through Lethbridge suburbia, Mayor Magrath heads for the airport, changing into Highway 6 when it crosses the city limits, and ends up at the Town of Magrath some 35 Kay away. Theres a newer shopping centre in the area with burger joints aplenty. In the neighbourhood, on a brand new campus, the Lethbridge (Junior/Community) College is doing quiet well, thank you, since it was forsaken by the U of L all those years ago. The intersection of 24th Avenue South is important because west from there it is known as Scenic Drive South, cutting along the lip of the escarpment running back into downtown Lethbridge. Eastward 24th is intent on crossing the City Limits to become Highway 4 and run with the old Alberta Railway and Coal Company line down through Sterling past the rescued Coutts Station / Customs House and on to Coutts on the Boundary. The south-east corner of the Intersection was formerly landmarkd by the Green Acres Drive-In. Kitty-corner is the Chinook County Tourist Information booth thereof in the parking lot a massive wind-gauge resides that has been known to indicate 122 kilometres per hour gusts, and doubtless would have announced the maximum wind ever recorded in Lethbridge, 168 kmph on November 19th, 1962. Like locals everywhere, Lethbridgeans delight in telling visitors other weird weather facts, for instance the 82-degree Celsius annual temperature range enjoyed in these here parts: -42.8 to +39.4. Dont let them tell U that that can happen in one hour or even one day.200 It cant. They are just funnin. Two days? Well .
Savants call this area of North America a weather factory where strong, dry westerly winds mix warm, moist Gulf air with frigid Arctic outflow.Youll hear about the Chinook Arch in the west that heralds one of these dramatic rises in temperature. Super-heated, dry Pacific air breezesor shrieks out of the mountain passes as a Chinook wind and Lethbridge goes from Winter to Spring in hours. They happen on average 11 times a year, and are, of course, most noticeable in winter. Though dismayed with an average high temperature of only 12.1ºC, Lethbridge boasts of 2400 hours of sunshine per year.
The real story of Lethbridge weather is climatic: though an average of 15.2 inches of precipitation soak the Dark Brown soils here-abouts, an average of around 23.2 inches of water will evaporate from an insulated, naturally-replenished gauge over the course of the year. Lethbridge suffers a net deficit of eight inches of precipitation during the course of a year. Without irrigation nor the natural prairie sod cover that Nature developed over the millennia in response to this reality, this country would quickly become an arid waste. Climate change and the rapid disappearance of the glaciers that spawn the rivers in this part of the World are immediate concerns of the people of southern Alberta.
Lethbridge is fun to explore on a bike. And aerobically strenuous. The City is expanding the network of bike paths that patrol the ravines and poke through the Bottoms. There are robust statues and rock carvings tucked in here and there. A beautifully curved structure cantilevered from the downstream side of the Whoop-Up Bridge in 2003 lofts pedestrians and cyclists and sk8rs over the Oldman and positions them to attack the scarp to get back up to prairie level on paths isolated from road traffic. Once on the western side and having surveyed the U of L, a rail buff might want to get over into Heritage Heights on Heritage Boulevard West, at the far eastern end, where the pathway leads out onto the Oldmans western bluffs. The long length of the valley opens up on the right, the south, the view fenced off northward by the mighty Viaduct.
Out here one can get a better view of the City. Federally it is in the Riding of Lethbridge, provincially it is divided between Lethbridge East and Lethbridge West. It is in the County of Lethbridge No. 26, and civically it is split into three large wards of nearly equal population since Hardieville was annexed on December 1st, 1978: North Lethbridge to the north of the Crowsnest Highway; South Lethbridge, and West Lethbridge with most of its neighbourhoods named something Heights. There are 77,000-odd folks in Lethbridge, and in 2006 the Chinook Health Region was the biggest employer with 1830 on staff. The U of L claimed but five fewer, and the City itself was 3rd with 1375 workers. Alberta government 4th, Lethbridge College 5th and the Lethbridge School District and Holy Spirit Catholic Separate Schools 6th and 7th. St. Michaels Health Centre employing 360 was 8th. Canada Post had merely 100 employees, ten fewer than the Lethbridge Iron Works Co. Ltd, for goodness sake. Pratt & Whitney, out in the north-east where, coincidently, the old aero-drôme was located, was able to find work for 130. Frito-Lay, Maple Leaf Pork, Maple Leaf Potatoes, McCain Foods Canada, and Sunrise Poultry employed well over a thousand, combined. Centred on the Airport, Triple M Housing, Southland Trailer Corporation, and Regent Home Systems, Inc., each specialized in some sort of manufactured housing both on-wheels and off, and were large employers. the Lethbridge Research Centre, CP Freight and the Braman Furniture International were prominent in the statistics. That noted patron of the University, Palliser Distillers201 was not. Nor was Ellison Milling with its enormous rail-side plant, one of the several seed crushers in the City. There was even an aluminium extruder somewhere in the City.
The best time to see the few older buildings that Lethbridge has seen fit to preserve is on a summer evening. With the tiring sun gilding the metal work and window panes, rouging brick walls and softening hard colours with a touch of warm pink, structures put on their best faces. Even the rigidly imperial façade of the post office seems to relax, the copper crown of the buildings tower humbly tarnished. The enervating wind has usually died away, radiant heat from façades and pavements staves off chill, and there is less traffic to worry about as a tourist rubber-necks along. One can pick up a copy of Alberta Culture Historic Sites Services Walking Tour of Lethbridge from the tourist office located at Scenic Drive and First Avenue South. It will educate and entertain, introducing the visitor to both the Southern Alberta Art Galley in Galt Park to the Sir Alexander Galt Museum as it strolls by the surviving old buildings and through Chinatown. Dont it always seem to go, you dont know what youve got till its gone, and if there is one thing with which Lethbridge has amply supplied itself, Joanie, its parking lots. If U happen by Barrack Square by the Library, U can learn that the Lethbridge Twinning Society has taken the City international since 1988, establishing reciprocated links with Towada, Aomori, Japan, Culver City, California, U.S.A., and Timashevsk, Krasnodar, Russia. North, across 4th Avenue S. and facing the Square, the office building of the County of Lethbridge,202 opened on March 1, 1976.
Wrote Superintendent Richard Burton Deane in his report for 1892,203 I have satisfied myself that planting trees here is a waste of time and energy. The wind is fatal to them, the bark becomes discoloured, cracks and curls up, and that part of the tree is doomed. I have hardly one tree living that I planted three years ago, and it is certain that the wind is the drawback, because some small ashes that were planted in the spring of 1890 on the lea side of the barrack room building have survived. The subsoil there is not so hard as in other parts of the barrack inclosure [sic], but the main point is that the trees are sheltered from the prevailing wind .
There has been good deal of effort put into sheltering and nurturing trees in Lethbridge over the last century, and the effects are astounding. Lethbridge is a city of trees. From the native Plains Cottonwood in the gut of the Oldmans valley, to the elms, ashes, and poplars whose barren limbs and twigs break the winds of Winter and, loaded with leaves in the summer, shield the streets from the Suns direct inspection. Let a traveller come in the autumn for a real eyeful.
Eastbound cyclists usually leave Lethbridge in the morning. Those whove stayed at Henderson Lake Campground could either roll out of the grounds west along the Lake and turn right onto quiet 28th Street which will T into the Crowsnest Highway at the big Government Terminal, or they could turn south-east out of the grounds and follow Parkside Drive to its end at South Parkside Drive where turning east will soon get one to 43rd Street, designed to be the Citys major north-south connector on the east side. Going north across the tracks of the old Alberta Railway and Coal line to Coutts and past the doughnut and coffee shops, 43rd eventually intersects the Highway.
Eastbound travellers who have not camped at Henderson should get onto Mayor Magrath Boulevard and head for the No. 3. The intersection is thoughtfully high-lighted by the billboard-clad water tower restaurant, Rics Grill. Magrath coming south out of North Lethbridge lets underpasses the CPR and offers travellers the option of going west on the Crowsnest Highway, or underpassing it, as well, to turn right on 3rd Avenue S. and ride back towards downtown to 19th Street, turn right and turn right again onto the Highway. Travellers coming northbound on Magrath will find the entrance to the Highways access begins a block south and diverges to lead to either west or eastbound lanes. Eastbound, by the time the access joins the Highway, the latter has lost many of its freeway characteristics that it employed to whisk itself through the Oldman River valley and by-pass Lethbridge, be that The Travellers wish. To the left, the massive Government Elevator has dominated the local landscape since 1931, so tall it must sport aircraft warning lights. Having crossed the old Alberta Railway and Coal rail line peeling away south-eastward from the Elevator and the CNL, the Highway runs through a light-industrial/sales neighbourhood of car lots and shops with boiled coffee in Styrofoam cups. Bending east north-east, the Highway intersects 43rd Street, the Citys eastern boundary in 2008. Crossing it, one is back into the provincial Electoral District of Little Bow. If one chooses, rather than following the Highway at its bend, one could continue on to cross 43rd at right-angles and head out along the old highway, now numbered 512, passing Agriculture and Agri-Food Canadas experimental farm on the north, and, on the south, the Lethbridge Correctional Institution in its 1200 acres of paddocks and pastures defended by leagues of coiled razor wire festooning chain-link fencing. It is a nice ride, this route, but eventually one must get back to the Highway on any one of the good-looking grid roads running due north.
Negotiating 43rd Streets busy intersection, the No. 3 Highway, still divided and pretty swift, bridges the St. Marys Main Canal at km 77 as it steps out diagonally across the two sections of land that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and its bureaucratic predecessors have acquired since the Department of Agriculture established a Dominion Experimental Station in 1906 on 320 acres donated by the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company, centred on the latters model farm and the Canal. At that time this was the end of the canal which began diverting water from the St. Marys River at Kimball in 1900. In the post-WWII years analysts public and private concluded that the Canal could be extended far eastward to irrigate some 300,000 acres. A more reliable source of water was needed, however, than just the run of stream of the St. Marys. It was decided to dam the St. Marys near Spring Coulee, some 50 kilometres downstream from Kimball, and build a new intake on the resultant reservoir. The project was kicked off in 1946 and on July, 16, 1951, the dam was declared completed, officially opened by the Honourable James Garfield Jimmy Gardner, the federal Minister of Agriculture. As the reservoir filled, the Main Canal was dug eastward until it presently contours 312 kilometres across the face of the land to dribble its polluted runoff into the South Saskatchewan River just up-stream from Medicine Hat. The funny little garden plots patching the Stations land are experimental crops. Beside it to the east, a scrap yard chews up car bodies and whatever else it can masticate: a spur from the CNL curves through its southern fence. Opposite, on the south side of the Highway, the super-sized Victory Christian Fellowship Church occupies a valuable quarter-section between AgCans land and the Lethbridge Correctional Institutions propertys half-mile of Highway frontage. A half mile away, on the old Highway, the main buildings scowl at passers-by through ranks of fences wreathed in razor wire. Half-way to Coaldale, on the left, is Broxburn, a siding on the CNLs mainline where, until it attracted the attention of an arsonist on the evening of June 8, 1977, stood an elevator. It was never rebuilt, and now the place is home to Broxburn Vegetables and Café.
Travellers with an eye for geography have already noticed how level lies the land north-east of Lethbridge, and concluded correctly that this is the bed of Glacial Lake Lethbridge, finally drained perhaps 8,000 years ago. Cyclists who have whisked by Lethbridge, intent on extending their mileage on a long summer day, will have noticed a remarkable change in the quality of the air from the west side of Lethbridge to the east. Moisture transpired by acres of greenery, evaporating directly from lateral canals and blown into the wind by nozzles on the irrigation equipment, bathes the nasals in the aroma of growth. Big Plains Cottonwoods, quick-growing and popular except in the spring when in their sexual frenzy they shower everything with a sticky goo, rise to 30 metres above farmsteads and along roadways. Ahead, Coaldale awaits.