The New West – Calgary

Calgary is situated in the foothills of the Blue Canadian Rockies, where the snow-capped mountains often look as though they are painted on the sky for an awesome sight when you have your morning coffee.  The weather is moderate.  Although there is a saying in Calgary ‘If you don’t like the weather – wait 10 minutes and it will change.’

Calgary - Voted Cleanest City in the World

Calgary – Voted Cleanest City in the World

Calgary is situated on the clear, clean waters of the Bow River – which runs out of the glacier fed Lake Louise.  It was originally a popular gathering point for the Blackfoot natives.  The Bow River was a  place where the tree branches were material for bow and arrows.  With a chinook that can blow through often, the temperatures could warm and the snow go away at any time, including the winters.Calgary is Canada’s newest city and in my opinion, by far the cleanest city.  With the head-offices for oil companies galore, it has the largest population of Americans outside the USA in the world. Most people share optimism and a desire to work and thrive.

A fort was established in 1875 by the North-West Mounted Police and the original founder – Sam Livingstone – was already settled in the area;  The fort was called Calgary which is Gaelic for ‘swift waters’.

The settlers of the area were mainly ranchers and often those ‘second-sons’ of aristocrats.  The Canadian Pacific Railroad ran through Calgary and created a settlement of what is known as ‘China Town’ now as well as a landmark hotel made of sandstone – The Palliser, which is still in downtown Calgary.

Palliser Calgary Hotel

Palliser Calgary Hotel

Calgary was a small settlement until oil was discovered in the Turner Valley, Black Diamond area and in the early 1900′s the city started thriving. There has been no looking back.  Calgary is a bustling, thriving city where it always seemed to me – about every 10 years, old dirty buildings/areas are torn down and new, clean buildings replace them. Some people don’t appreciate that – but to me Calgarians definitely understand the difference between old junk and real heritage landmarks.  There are old buildings that are maintained of course.

It is a transient city and may be a reason people are so friendly.  My two sons were born in Calgary but that seems to be a rarity. Most people seem to come to Calgary to work.  My romance story One Dance with a Stranger takes place in Calgary.  My romance story Alberta Wild Rose takes place in Calgary’s fascinating surrounding area (the Lost Lemon Mine) and the story I am working on now Seraphim will mainly take place in Calgary.

Cowboys and country - Background for Sophisticated Cowboy

 

The book – Calgary, Spirit of the West by Hugh A. Dempsey is a great book on the history of Calgary.

 

 

 

Here are a few websites with information on visiting Calgary.

Visit Calgary

Calgary Attractions

Heart and Hub of the Canadian West

Kane_Fort_EdmontonEdmonton became the hub for all of western Canada.  It was the ending of the Carlton Trail (the overland route for Metis freighters between the Red River Colony (Winnipeg) and Edmonton.  It was also the western hub for York Factory Express (on Lake Superior) for the Hudson Bay Company and Fort Vancouver by the Pacific Ocean.

In 1795 Fort Edmonton was established by the Hudson’s Bay Fur Trading Company, as an alternative to Fort Augustus, The North West Fur Trading Company established there.

River lots were the first farming settlements established around Edmonton.  Edmonton, became a city in 1904 with a population of 5,000 people.

edmonton-city-panoramic-3-1

Doomed for failure? Lloydminster, Saskatchewan or Alberta

The site of LloydminsteFarm Fence, Big Sky Saskatchewanr was originally decided by Isaac M. Barr, and called the Barr Settlement. It was on the present day Saskatchewan, Alberta border. George Lloyd led the expedition to start the colony.

Both men had visions of a good, solid English settlement rather than the many settlements being created by other European countries, mainly German and Ukrainian.  Unfortunately the settlement was doomed for failure.  Unlike the European immigration who were farmers escaping for religious and political reasons, the English farmers were content and not about to leave their homes in pursuit of the harsh Canadian west.  So, consequently most the settlers were from the streets of London, people escaping poverty.  There weren’t many farmers. It is said that most had to be taught how to harness a horse and had little idea of what farming involved.

The unrest in the area culminated into the Frog Lake Massacre, where eight people were killed. The Frog Lake Massacre was headed by Big Bear and Wandering Spirit and part of the 1885 Riel Rebellion.  Most settlers sold their lands and moved elsewhere.

In my story Paradise on the Horizon, I have my hero and heroine go to the Barr Settlement to escape their pasts – a Russian princess and soldier.  Paradise on the Horizon  by Mary M. Forbes

Fort Whoop-up or Many Ghosts?

Outside Lethbridge

Outside Lethbridge

In the south, near the border, in a bleak setting of dry, prairie grasses and high winds, a few men discovered a way to make money.  It was a dangerous mission, not for the faint of heart.

 

Fort Whoop Up - what it's all about - whiskey traders

Fort Whoop Up – whiskey traders

Moving north in search of gold, prospectors from Montana realized there are different ways to make money.  They set up a fort, a Whiskey Trading Fort, Fort Whoop-up,  in the hills of present day Lethbridge, Alberta.  But the Blackfoot Nation was a powerful nation who didn’t like settlers on their lands. It was truly ‘No Man’s Land’, and with no one to stop them once they assured the natives they weren’t interested in destroying the land, men from Fort Benton, in Montana,  started a lucrative trade with the Blackfoot.  In return for furs, the natives were highly encouraged to exchange for booze, many succumbed.

Finally in 1874 Canada’s Eastern Government sent out a group of soldiers to bring law and order.  The Northwest Mounted Police (now the RCMP) set up their first fort in Fort MacLeod, a short distance from Fort Whoop up.

In the east, the government watched the lawless west unfold and thought of ways to stop the chaos. Fort Whoop-Up threatened the stability of the western plains, and the growing American presence worried Canada’s government.

For many natives especially, it was too late. By now some avoided Fort Whoop-up, calling it Many Ghosts, for all the natives who perished there. Whiskey and repeating rifles were a dangerous combination. Smallpox and whiskey decimated the population, and the repeating rifles rained death on hundreds of Cree and their allies at the great “Battle of the Belly River,” yards away from Fort Whoop-Up.

Fort MacLeod - NWMP and the musical ride

Fort MacLeod – NWMP and the musical ride

I have written a historical in rough called ‘Moonbeam’, about a Metis girl (mixed blood) caught in the trap of troubles plaguing the area at this time.  I hope to have it polished and edited soon.

Why are ancestor’s important? St. Joseph’s Colony, Saskatchewan

St. Joseph’s Colony is a huge part of Saskatchewan.  The settlers were predominantly German. Unlike the east, which is predominantly English and French as settlers, Saskatchewan’s two largest groups of people were the German and the Cree (Natives) in Saskatchewan. St. Joseph’s Colony followed Prime Minister McDonald’s dream of an organized grid of square land plots. Two miles long and one mile wide, then broken into four quarter section plots.  The roads, often dirt and sometimes gravel, made for many roads and it was hard to get lost.

sod-house-gothenburg

Sod House

Old house on farm.

Old house on farm

If you could build a house (often sod in the southern part), dig a well and cultivate 10 acres, the land became yours.  I grew up after the area was settled. Most farmers around now owned at least a section of land.  But it was still wild, still isolated. It was my ‘Little House on the Prairie’ upbringing. Fortunately, our house in the northern part of St. Joseph’s Colony, was not a sod home.  My grandmother, however, didn’t have my good fortune. With a family of nine kids, she lived and raised her children in a sod hut.  When my mother was born, they finally moved into a wooden house.  I have seen a sod hut at Heritage Park in Calgary, and I cringe to imagine living in one.  I doubt many people could actually do it today.

 

 

 

Life Changing Days, follows my ancestry on my father’s side.  It was an eye-opening experience to know the hardships they faced.  I will always be proud of my ancestor’s, tough, ambition and determination as they helped create the west we have today. They were only happy to escape the religious persecution and the uprising communist regime taking place in Russia at the time.

Without them and people like them, we would not have the life-style we enjoy today.  It’s important to know and wonder if we could have accomplished the same.
Life Changing Days by Mary M. Forbes

Canada’s Civil War

Batoche

Batoche

The Metis (part white and part native) were a group of people who started the first settlements in Western Canada.  They combined both cultures very efficiently.  They farmed and they hunted as well.  Again, like most settlers in the west, history books don’t often tell of their part in settling the west.

Their villages, like other settlements consisted of shops, homes and churches. Set along the picturesque slopes of the North Saskatchewan River, the village is set in the park-lands area of Saskatchewan, not the flat south most people are familiar with.

Batoche stands out as where The Riel Rebellion of 1885  took place. Batoche is the site Louis Riel chose to set up the ‘Provisional Government of Saskatchewan’.

In ‘Hawk’s Gift – a western romance, – I go into depth as to the causes that both the Metis and Natives felt as a need to separate from Canada. Even to this day Canada’s west is often overpowered by rules and regulations made in the East. And by people who sometimes don’t understand Canadian Western people.    Hawks Gift by Mary M. Forbes

Why would a group of over 2,000 people march naked across Western Canada’s prairies ?

Settling Canada’s West:

kremlin-russia_104101-1280x800

Kremlin Russia

The largest migration to Canada at one time, (8,000 people) the Doukhobors have been a little known factor in the settling of the west in Canada. When you read and research Canadian history you will discover mainly Anglo-Franco activities that are documented.

The Doukhobors were considered a pacifist group. But they challenged the Czar and the Orthodox Church In Russia and Russia appeared to be happy to let the troublemakers go. Canada opened their doors.  But it wasn’t all kindness on Canada’s part. The Doukhobors were great farmers and well able to handle the harshness of cold winters and isolation better than most.

Vosnesenya_-_Thunder_Hill_Colony

Vosnesenia village, NE of Arran, Saskatchewan (North Colony)

Yet the question is – why did many Doukhobors start marching across the western prairies?  In 1902, 2000 or so Doukhobors –  many naked, calling themselves – The Sons of Freedom marched across the cold prairies.  They were searching for Utopia – the land of milk and honey. The Canadian government reports they marched in protest against having to sign allegiance to Canada (something their religion didn’t believe should be done).  And they were ordered to stake claim to square sections of land – privately owned, rather than share communal lands.  It was probably a reason but why naked?  Many Doukhobors, who didn’t win against the government, moved to British Columbia, where the laws didn’t say they must own the land in individual square parcels.

In Paradise on the Horizon my heroine escapes Russia, by joining the Doukhobors migration.

Paradise on the Horizon by Mary M Forbes

Gateway to the West

Settling Canada’s West:

Assiniboine River

The Assiniboine River

Two rivers, the Assiniboine and the Red River meet at the spot presently known as Winnipeg in Manitoba.  In the early 1800’s, British aristocrat Thomas Selkirk tried to create a new colony in Canada’s harsh mid-west. He bought land from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1811 to begin settlement.

 

There were many factors that caused its’ demise. Harsh winters and settlers, ill-equipped to handle the cold caused starvation to become a reality. The Hudson’s Bay Company was still fighting with the Northwest Fur Trading Company for dominance. The Métis and various native tribes also felt this colony would lead to losing their hunting and fishing grounds.

There was much fighting including the Seven Oaks Massacre of 1816 when a group of Métis killed 21 men when both parties intercepted each other accidentally. It was the first time Canadians heard of Louis Riel. At that time he was a young man. This was a massacre that was the result of rivalry between the British-owned Hudson’s Bay Company and Canada’s North West Company. The settlers abandoned the site and the land was sold back to the Hudson’s Bay Company.

In 1869 the Federal Government of Canada bought the lands. They started settling Canada’s vast western land.  Once the Canadian Pacific Railroad was built it opened the doors to mass migration to Canada’s west.  Winnipeg was born. In 1870 Manitoba became a province.

 

Winnipeg 1893

Winnipeg in 1893

Finding Fridays – The legend of the Lost Lemon Mine

A little History of the Canadian West 

Somewhere in the Canadian Rockies, probably in or around Crowsnest Pass there is rumored to be more gold than was found in the Klondike of the Yukon.

Two men, Blackjack and Jack Lemon, found it and decided to go register their claim.  That was before Jack was struck with gold-fever.  In a fit of greed, Jack killed his partner, splitting him open with his ax.

Lost Lemon Mine

Two Indian braves, from the Blackfoot tribe of Southern Alberta, witnessed the gruesome killing.  They rushed back to tell their chief.  The Chief placed a curse on the gold. ‘Whoever touches (some say finds it as well) the gold will suffer dire consequences’.

Sure enough, the curse was real.  Many men, including Jack Lemon, who became a maniac wandering around the prairies, searched for the mine and those men were found dead, burned to death or were driven mad. To this day, no one has found that gold of the Lost Lemon Mine and lived to tell the story.

Alberta Wild Rose, first a romance, takes place with a group trying to find this legendary mine including my sheltered heroine – Alberta Rose.

Alberta Wild Rose by Mary M. Forbes

Finding Friday – The Settlers in the west

A little history of the Canadian West

Saskatchewan Anglican

Before settlers arrived in any numbers, the Canadian government set up Northwest Mounted Police forces in forts scattered throughout the west.  It is a tribute to them that settling the west was done in a mainly law and orderly fashion.

It was then the government started recruiting farmers who mainly came from Europe to escape persecution.  My grandmother talked of being on a ship crammed into the ships’ holds for over a month, then put on a train for a few thousand miles –  to step out into a wilderness I doubt we can imagine.  Nothing – absolutely nothing with many places having no trees as well. They often settled in groups as English was not their first language.  My grandparents learned English very fast though.  Schools were set up to teach only English as well.  People were assimilated very quickly into Canadian society at that time.

For building a dwelling, digging up 10 acres and digging a well within a year, families were given 160 acres (1/4 section) of land. All their implements and livestock was purchased. The land was plotted into squares (which if you recall was one of the reasons the settlers – mainly Metis – were not happy).  My grandparents with ten children lived in a sod hut. When my mother, the youngest was born, it was that year they moved into a wooden house.  They lived in Southern Saskatchewan and my grandfather took his grain to elevators over forty miles away by horse and hay-rack.

The largest single group of people were the Doukhobors.  8,000 came from Russia when allowed to leave.  They settled mainly in Manitoba or Eastern Saskatchewan.  But again the government’s square section idea wasn’t liked by the Doukhobors either.  Many moved to British Columbia to avoid that rule.

Indian Head

The other migration was mainly from Northern Europe – Germans, Ukrainians, Swedes, Norwegians, Polish but some migrated from the UK as well. Most of these were not farmers but people trying to escape their meager life in the cities.  They actually had signs saying – Englishman need not apply.  But those were different times than now.  In my research I discovered that when someone like Barr tried to set up an all English settlement, chalk diagrams of how to harness a horse were given as well as the inability of many not understanding their livestock needed feeding.  They often kept the horses tied up on a short rope so they weren’t able to graze.

But it is amazing to see what those farmers accomplished in a short period – from building schools, churches and hospitals (usually without government assistance) to turning our west into the bread-basket of the world  and especially helping us to have the life-style we enjoy today. Communities paid for their own doctors, teachers and ministers.  Winter moon