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© 2002 - 2005 AFHS
18 Jul 2002

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Calgary

That there will be another great city in the far west of the Dominion, rivalling Winnipeg, has long been a favorite opinion of old time nor'-westers. Where this city would be was the question which at first was not easily solved, but time has furnished the answer. Calgary, which has already been nick-named the "Canadian Denver," is the embryo from which the future metropolis of the far Northwest is to develop into commercial greatness. Let us see what are its prospects, and if it possesses those conditions with-out which metropolitan greatness cannot be attained.

In the summer of 1875 Fort Calgary, a Mounted Police station, was built under the direction of Colonel McLeod, now one of the Stipendiary Magistrates for the Northwest Colonel McLeod named it after Calgarry in Scotland, though it will be seen that one of the r's" has been dropped in the Canadian orthography, and the accent is placed on the first syllable. The first officer in charge was Inspector, now Superintendent Brisbois. Previous to 1875, Calgary had neither a history nor a name, unless what has been assigned to it by the red man. True, the Montana trader had pushed his way into the territory, but forts "Whoop-up" and "Stand Off" were located far to the south of the Bow River. With the location of Fort Calgary, came from Benton, Montana, the well known American frontier traders, I. G. Baker & Co., who have the honor of being has pioneer traders of the place. Naturally the building of a frontier military post in the west brings with it the nucleus of a frontier town; but Fort Calgary made but little progress until 1881, four years after its commencement. The fort, which was a stockade after the style of western trading posts, first consisted of upright posts sharpened at one end and driven into the ground, forming the stockade. The huts were composed of logs and mud, and the location was selected on the bank of the Elbow where it enters the Bow. The fort was built by J. G. Baker & Co., of McLeod, under the superintendence of D. W. Dans, now of McLeod, who about the same time erected a cluster of log buildings for the purposes of the firm about a quarter of a mile from the fort, to the south of it, on the west bank of the Elbow, many of which buildings are still standing.

At that time there were no buildings on the west side of the Elbow. In the same year Mr. Fraser, of the Hudson's Bay Company, put up a long building on the east side of the Bow River Opposite the fort, and commenced trading for the company. For five or six years Fort Calgary enjoyed the amenities incident to one of old "Uncle Dom's" Mounted Police posts. In 1882 rumors began to come lazily along that the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway was to be changed and that the line would he taken via the Kicking Horse Pass along the valley of the Bow, instead of through the Tete Peune Cache along the. North Saskatchewan.

The following year witnessed the confirmation of these rumors, and before the advanced graders had come within sight of the crossing of the Elbow, Mr. Denny, who pre-empted a tract of land on the east side of the Elbow River, opposite the fort, and shortly afterwards sold it to Col. Irvine and Capt. Stewart, who surveyed it into town lots, and it was here that the town of Calgary was first located.

Tents were erected in no time, and their number exceeded that of the log buildings, giving to the young town plenty of real bustle and activity

The police would permit no one to build on the west side of the Elbow, therefore everything began to centre around the fort and J. G. Baker & Co.'s store, the new comers keeping on the east side of the Elbow. Then for the season were witnessed all those scenes incident to the birth of a railroad town in the west. Tents were erected in no time, and their number exceeded that of the log buildings, giving to the young town plenty of real bustle and activity; But the Canadian Pacific Railway Company and the Northwest Land Company came to the conclusion that in the future Calgary would be no small town but a city of importance, and accordingly in August, 1883, the railway station and freight sheds were located on section 15, the joint property of both companies, and at a distance of nearly a mile west from the old town site. This was the signal for a new edition. The new town site having been surveyed, the first opportunity to purchase lots was given to the people of the town, and city lots were not only "staked for sale" but were again sold above "old Indian graves," and a new era dawned upon the infant city. The men who dwelt in tents were the first to fold them and steal silently away to the west side. In the winter of the following year the balance of the population with their buildings on sleds came over and located on their new lots, and many amusing incidents happened during this exodus. These are often repeated around the fireside, and lose none of their freshness when related by "oldtimers." From this time forward the growth of Calgary has been rapid.

The fort buildings and surroundings have been greatly improved and beautified. The fort is now garrisoned by eighty men, commanded by two inspectors, including Col. Herchmer, superintendent. The inspectors', as well as the men's quarters, are clean and comfortable. The railroad company last year erected a substantial iron bridge across the Elbow, and their station, freight and section houses are neat, commodious, and substantial buildings. The entire amphitheatre in which both the old and new town-sites are situated is a beautiful plateau in which are many pretty bays formed by the serpentine course of both streams.

The traveller who for the first time visits Calgary cannot help ejaculating: "Oh what a beautiful valley I What a pretty town site. "

The traveller who for the first time visits Calgary cannot help ejaculating: "Oh what a beautiful valley I What a pretty town site. " These and many similar expressions are naturally evoked by the situation and surroundings, and they afford an emphatic contradiction to the saying that "God made the country and man made the town." Of course, the explanation is that Calgary is a happy exception.

The progress made by Calgary in the year 1884 cannot be recorded, except very briefly, in a graphic sketch. On the new town-site there are now upwards of 180 buildings of all descriptions, exclusive of the fort buildings and the old cluster belonging to J. C. Baker & Co., which, though situated on the west side of the Elbow River, are not on the new survey. These buildings comprise many large stores and fine residences; but, of course, the great majority are small, and western in their style; yet, when it is remembered that the transformation has taken place in a little more than a year, a sufficient idea of the marvellous progress Calgary has made will be realized.

About a year ago the first efforts were made to have the town incorporated. Those who took an active part in promoting incorporation were George Murdoch, Esq., the present Mayor; Mayor Walker, one of the pioneers; Dr. Henderson, Captain Stewart, and several other prominent citizens, whose names are mentioned in another part of this work. Very little progress was at first made in getting the town incorporated; but the Civic Committee had persevering members in Messrs. Murdoch and Swan, who, in spite of delay and obstruction from certain property-owners, finally carried their point. The proclamation incorporating the town, which extends on both sides of the Elbow River, was issued last November, and the first election for Mayor and Councillors was held in Calgary Theatre Hall on Thursday, December 3rd. Mr. George B Elliott was the first Returning-officer. The election was a spirited one, and the following from the Nor'-wester, then edited by Mr. Elliott, shows the result:

For Mayor

  • E. Redpath 16
  • Geo. Murdoch 202

For Councillors

  • S. J Hogg 183
  • J, H. Millward 170
  • N. I. Lindsay, M.D. 179
  • S. J. Clark 147
  • A. Grant 52
  • S. N. Jarrett 56
  • I. S. Freeze 52

The present Council comprises George Murdoch, Mayor; and Messrs. Hogg, Millward, Lindsay, and Clark, Councillors.

The new Council set to work immediately to organize a code of bylaws and regulations for the government of the town. The work before them was no easy task.... subject to much interference from arbitrary sources of authority.... The three-cent economist and the fogy and the citizen who delights in obstruction soon began to draw gloomy pictures of taxation and debt, and the local scribbler, whose time was hanging heavily on his hands, found congenial employment in absurd criticisms and alarming prophecies.

The new Council set to work immediately to organize a code of bylaws and regulations for the government of the town. The work before them was no easy task. Municipal government in the Northwest being in its infancy, and subject to much interference from arbitrary sources of authority, the town rulers soon found that their work was not an easy one. The three-cent economist and the fogy and the citizen who delights in obstruction soon began to draw gloomy pictures of taxation and debt, and the local scribbler, whose time was hanging heavily on his hands, found congenial employment in absurd criticisms and alarming prophecies. But the Council, with Mayor Murdoch at their head, have not heeded these false alarms, nor the ungenerous indictments which have accompanied them. They have kept steadily ahead, passing the necessary bylaws, and completing the work of local self-government which their successors, as well as the electors, will no doubt fully appreciate. The good work of the councillor is not too often valued; and there is a mass of testimony which goes to prove that, let a public man do his best, he will not be appreciated; but this refers to the few, not to the many. The great majority of the people have their hearts in the right place, and when the proper time comes they are not slow to show their estimation of good works honestly and capably performed. As a town grows-as it increases in size, wealth, and population-so must it enlarge its boundaries. Though it is only natural that the centre of trade in a railway town must rally around the railway depot, yet it is nevertheless true that a metropolis must possess various centres of trade. The old town-site, though to some extent temporarily abandoned, is not permanently deserted. Many beautiful residences will be erected on the east side of the Elbow during the coming summer: that of Mr. Bleeker's, which is now in course of construction, is only the beginning of many such edifices that will soon dot the property which belongs to Captain Stewart. Being beautifully situated, it must sooner or later prove a " bonanza" to its enterprising owner.