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© 2002 - 2005 AFHS
18 Jul 2002

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The Provincial District of Alberta

In a small pamphlet before us the Provisional District of Alberta is thus described: "This district comprises an area of about 100,000 square miles, bounded on the south by the International Boundary; on the east by the district of Assiniboia; on the west by the Province of British Columbia, at the base of the Rocky Mountains; and on the north by the 18th correction line before mentioned, which is near the 55th parallel of north latitude."

This description is undoubtedly terse. It has also the merit of being very correct, even if it is somewhat indefinite.

The northern and eastern boundaries of Alberta are, however, conventional and liable to be changed when the district is erected into a province. This possibility is not to be overlooked though such a contingency is likely to result to the advantage of Alberta, because these boundaries are more likely to be extended than contracted.

It is in the matter of climate and mineral resources that Alberta is bound to take the foremost position among this future quartette of provinces.

Of the four provisional districts which comprise the organized territory of the Canadian Northwest, viz: Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Athabasca, Alberta is undoubtedly the "banner" district of the four. As area is no measure of the richness or resources of a district, it does not follow that Saskatchewan with its 114,000 square miles, and Athabasca with its 122,000 square miles are superior to Assiniboia with its 95,000, or Alberta with its 100,000 square miles.

It is in the matter of climate and mineral resources that Alberta is bound to take the foremost position among this future quartette of provinces.

It is now an established fact that the country situated south of the 55th parallel of north latitude and near the base of the Rocky Mountains enjoys an exceptionally mild winter climate, compared with the country lying to the east and extending far beyond the Red River of the north. The vapor-laden winds which blow through the various passes of the great rocky chains, and which even pass over the tops of the mountains, at intervals, during the winter months, and the influences of which extend a short distance east of the 109th meridian of longitude west from Greenwich, have a most ameliorating effect upon the otherwise cold atmosphere of the great prairie which stretches eastward to the valley of the Red River. These winds which are expressively termed "Chinooks" or "Sou'-westers," are even more marked in their effect south of the Bow River valley than in it or north of it. In the latitude of Fort McLeod, which is situated 100 miles south of Calgary, the effects of the "Chinook" are more distinct and consequently more felt than they are in any other part of the district. The temperature during the prevalence of these winds, even in midwinter, will ascend to fifty and even seventy degrees above zero and the snow will disappear with great rapidity while they last.

These warm winds are not experienced except rarely in Saskatchewan, Central or Eastern Assiniboia, and in Manitoba they are unknown. In the district of Athabasca they are frequently felt in the southwestern portion of it near the 55th parallel, but in no portion of the Northwest are they more marked and certain in their visitations than in the valley of the Bow and in the great stock country lying south of the Canadian Pacific Railway and extending to the International Boundary Line on the south, and comprising within their scope and influence an extent of country varying from 200 to 250 miles in width east of the mountains.

The fact that they break up the winter and disarm it of much of its severity, besides being a boon to man and beast alike, is one which the old resident of non-chinook occurring portions of the Northwest must fully appreciate.

To the old resident of the other portions of the Northwest the mere mention of these softening winds must have a welcome sound. The fact that they break up the winter and disarm it of much of its severity, besides being a boon to man and beast alike, is one which the old resident of non-chinook occurring portions of the Northwest must fully appreciate. But if these warm midwinter winds laden with the warmth of old ocean's currents are especially agreeable features in the climate of Alberta, let it not for a moment be supposed that they have to blow over a region whose only other boast is that of a fertile soil.

Nature has not been satisfied with leaving the district of Alberta in possession of a fertile soil only. That she has undoubtedly bestowed, and its chemistry in this respect is without fault, but in addition to this bounty she has freely treasured up under this fertility inexhaustible supplies of coal of varying quality from the crude lignite to the fixed carbon. Professor Dawson, Dominion Geologist, in his report, speaking of the quantity and quality of the coal in this district, says

"The quantity of coal already proved to exist is very great. The distances for which the outcrops of certain seams have been traced have been mentioned. Approximate estimates of the quantity of coal underlying a square mile of country in several localities have been made with the following results:

"Main seam, in vicinity of Coal Banks, Belly River, coal under "lying one square mile, 5,500,000 tons. Grassy Island, Bow River (continuation of Belly River seam), coal underlying one square mile, 5,000,000 tons. Horse-shoe Bend, Bow River, coal underlying one square mile, 4,900,000 tons. Blackfoot Crossing, workable coal in seam, as exposed on Bow River, underlying one square mile, 9,000,000 tons."

...the entire district is one vast coal field containing an undeterminable quantity of coal which underlies a soil of great fertility. But if nature has been lavish in the item of coal supply, she has been equally bountiful in the treasures which she has stored up in the mountains within the district where the precious and valuable metals are being worked by enterprising capitalists.

In point of fact, our geologists have determined that the entire district is one vast coal field containing an undeterminable quantity of coal which underlies a soil of great fertility. But if nature has been lavish in the item of coal supply, she has been equally bountiful in the treasures which she has stored up in the mountains within the district where the precious and valuable metals are being worked by enterprising capitalists. And yet this does not exhaust the list. Of the hundred thousand square miles which comprise the area of the district of Alberta fully fifty thousand are especially adapted to the raising of stock in other words, grazing lands. The greater portion of these pasturage lands lie south of the Bow River but practical ranchmen who are engaged in the business in the district and who have travelled as far north as the Peace River in Athabasca, declare that the country along the base of the Rocky Mountains, the whole distance, is splendidly adapted to the raising of cows and sheep.

Between thirty and forty thousand square miles of the district are admirably suitable to mixed farming, a branch of agriculture which can be pursued with great profit owing to the shortness and comparative mildness of the winters and the excellent grasses. Vast timber forests stretch to the north and north-west of Edmonton, and the rivers contain the purest waters abounding in the choicest fish. And yet the list is not complete, for from the banks of the Red Deer River, but one hundred miles north of Calgary, on the Bow River, crude petroleum oozes into the river, and stands in pools in the depressions of the ground. This is no mere assertion, for a powerful company, with a capital comprising $1,500,000 are about to work the resources, thus proving faith by works. It is not to be doubted that large quantities of petroleum gum and pools of petroleum oil on the surface of the ground abound in unlimited quantities on the before named river, and that the coming summer will witness most extensive works in the vicinity of these oil reservoirs.

In what other district of the Northwest we may ask are there so many crude treasures awaiting the enterprise of the capitalist and the labor of the maker.... The five thousand Albertians of to-day will be fifty thousand in five years.

In what other district of the Northwest we may ask are there so many crude treasures awaiting the enterprise of the capitalist and the labor of the maker as there are in Alberta? Will not population flock rapidly to the district and unlock these teeming granaries? Most certainly! These treasures cannot long lay untouched. The five thousand Albertians of to-day will be fifty thousand in five years. The great national road will be completed in less than four months, and with it will come "the first low rush of waves where soon will roll the human sea." Great is the future of the proposed province of Alberta for within itself it possesses everything that can make a state rich and powerful.

To the west of it lies the great Pacific province of British Columbia, joined to it and to the other members of the Canadian confederation by the iron bands of travel and commerce, while to the north lies the almost unexplored district of Athabasca, which though far to the north, must one day be heard from as a rival in the field for provincial organization and prosperity. Let the reader examine the map of the Canadian Northwest Territory and see the advantage of position which Alberta occupies compared with her sister districts.

The three principal towns of Alberta are Calgary on the line of the Canadian Pacific Railway at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers (latitude 510 n.); Edmonton, in about 53o 30' n., and Fort McLeod somewhat south of the 50th parallel.

Edmonton is situated on the north branch of the Saskatchewan in the center of a rich farming district, and McLeod is situated in the center of the rich grazing country before described. Of these towns Calgary is the only one incorporated, but it is not unlikely that both McLeod and Edmonton will seek incorporation during the present summer, and be connected with Calgary by a branch road running north and south and opening up the rich farming and grazing country which is now inaccessible, save to the Red River cart or the more cumbersome wagon of the settler.

We may safely and conscientiously say that no district in the Canadian Northwest offers better inducements to the poor man as well as the man of capital, than does this banner district of Alberta. For mixed farming it cannot be excelled, for we have seen that these climatic conditions, wanting in the more eastern portions of the Northwest, and which are so necessary to stock-raising, are supplied in Alberta.

THE WINTERS ARE SHORT, NOT LONG; THE WINTER CLIMATE IS COMPARATIVELY MILD, NOT SEVERE; BLIZZARDS ARE UNKNOWN; AND STOCK WINTER IN THE OPEN AIR AND COME OUT FAT AND IN GOOD CONDITION IN THE SPRING. These statements are not to be gainsaid; an industry that promises to assume vast proportions in Alberta is sheep-raising. Last year several thousand head were brought in from Montana and so far they have done well, though the present winter was exceptionally cold, but the duration of the cold snaps was comparatively short. Only once did the thermometer register a very low temperature, but the period was exceedingly brief, and it was followed by very mild weather accompanied by welcome chinooks which swept away every vestige of winter along the parts over which these remarkable winds travelled.