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.
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.
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 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. "
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 traveller who for the first time visits Calgary cannot
help ejaculating: "Oh what a beautiful valley I What
a pretty town site. "
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:
- E. Redpath 16
- Geo. Murdoch 202
- 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. 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.
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