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The Big Four

by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

Cover of 1912 Stampede program

The Big Four on the cover of the 1912 Stampede program

The Big Four were the four businessmen/ranchers responsible for funding the dreams of Guy Weadick, who saw the potential for a championship rodeo event and Wild West show in Calgary. He approached four of Calgary’s leading ranchers with his proposal. So who were these guys? Each man was an enthusiastic booster of the city of Calgary and each of them was a living example of the possibilities offered by this relatively new part of the country.

Archie McLean was a cattleman who became a politician. He was Provincial Secretary in the Sifton government and would become the Minster of Public Affairs under Premier Charles Stewart. A.E. Cross was the founder of Calgary Brewing and Malting and the owner of the A7 Ranch, which is still one of the largest ranches in the west and is still held by the Cross family. George Lane was the owner of the Bar U ranch, another large and influential ranch and Patrick Burns was the founder of P. Burns and Company, one of the world’s largest meat packing companies and the owner of the Bow Valley Ranch. Weadick convinced each of them to put up $25,000 to help realize his dream.

The Stampede was an ingenious idea for promoting the possibilities available out here in the west. It was also an exercise in nostalgia. Although the Big Four were all ranchers of one sort or another, Cross and Burns owed much of their wealth to industry, rather than the pastoral life of the plains. Calgary was becoming a metropolis and the Stampede was a nod to the past, rather than a reflection of the present.

The Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library holds a great deal of information about the Stampede and the Big Four. The picture used to illustrate this entry is a scan of the cover of the program for the first Stampede. We have a very good collection of these programs. We also have a history of the Bar U ranch (The Bar U and Canadian Ranching History) as well as other ranching related materials. We also have a great collection of the postcards created from Doc Marcel photographs of the first Stampede. You can find them in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library by using the search terms stampede 1912.

Flores La Due

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 314

Flores LaDue, Champion Lady Fancy Roper of the World, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 314

Women have always been involved in events at the Calgary Stampede. There have been changes over the years, for example, women do not compete in bronc riding anymore, but there have always been cowgirls in Stampede competition.

By far the best known of the cowgirls, in these parts, anyhow, was Flores (sometimes Florence) La Due who was the Champion Lady Fancy Roper of the World. She was also Mrs. Guy Weadick and was a very important element in the first Calgary Stampede in 1912.

Guy met Florence (whose real name, according to her headstone was Grace Maude Bensel) at a Wild West show in Chicago. They were married in Memphis in 1906 and started a partnership that would last for forty five years. This partnership included Guy’s dream of having world championship cowboy competitions in Calgary – a dream that he would promote to four of Calgary’s most prominent businessmen as the Calgary Stampede. In 1912 this dream became a reality. Guy’s involvement with the Stampede lasted until 1932. After that he and Florence retired to The Stampede (or TS) Ranch which they had purchased in 1920 in Eden Valley. The operated a dude ranch there and when times got tough it was Florence who assisted with the family finances by trading in uncut diamonds. It is also said that she taught their neighbor, the Prince of Wales, how to do fancy roping. When the Weadicks left, to move to Phoenix for Florence’s health, the community of High River threw a grand party to see them off. Florence was given a gold wrist watch engraved “To Florence – a real partner” and this is maybe the truth of Florence and Guy. You rarely read an article about Guy without there being a mention of Florence and the important role she played. They seemed to be partners in the fullest sense of the word.

Florence died in 1951 on a visit to High River. She, her father and Guy are all buried in the Highwood Cemetery.

Needless to say, our Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library has a lot of information relating to the Weadicks and the founding of the Stampede. We are also honoured to present professor Max Foran who will speak about Guy Weadick, the founding of the Stampede and the controversial end of Weadick’s association with it. The program will be presented on Friday June 26 at 2:00 PM in the 4th floor meeting room at the Central Library. You can register in person at any library branch, by telephone at 403-260-2620 or online at (click on Programs in the bar at the top of the page).

Canada's Census Records Online

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Census record

You may have seen the article in the Saturday edition of the Calgary Herald that a "forest of family trees" was recently unveiled. That may be a little bit of an exaggeration but what has actually been released is just as exciting. This is the Historical Canadian Census collection which includes all of the census records from 1851 (only a partial census exists for this year) to 1916 (which was a census of the Prairie Provinces only). This is the product of a partnership between and Library and Archives Canada and includes 32 million names.

While digitized images of various censuses have been available through Library and Archives Canada, this project provides indexing and images which means, of course, easier access to these records. I know that the census was one of the first places I turned to find information about my ancestors and once I had found my great grandmother, living with her family in Ontario, I was hooked. Back in those days, indexes were few and far between and the census was only on microfilm We still have the microfilm here at the Central Library but having indexes and images online is going to be a real boon to researchers and may open the way for new genealogists to get started.

You will need a subscription to to view these records, unless you are a Calgary Public Library member. Then you can access these records at any branch of the public library through our subscription to Ancestry Library Edition. While you may not be able to pull up your entire family tree, you will be able to see the record of you ancestors as they were enumerated throughout the years for the official census.

Maxwell Bates

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 1147

William Stanley Bates Residence, 734 13th Avenue SW

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1147

I was very lucky to have been able to attend the Historical Society of Alberta Conference at the end of May. One of the speakers there was Nancy Townshend who was talking about her ancestor Colonel James Macleod and his homes. This put me in mind of another architectural subject that she had presented to us at a library program. Her topic that night was Maxwell Bates, an often overlooked Calgary artist and architect.
Maxwell Bates was the son of a famous Calgary architect, William Stanley Bates, who was a partner in the firms that designed some of Calgary’s early buildings such as the Grain Exchange, the Beveridge Building and the Burns Building.
Maxwell was born in Calgary in 1906 and started working for his father’s firm when he was eighteen. He attended evening art classes at the Provincial Institute of Art and Technology in the 1920s and then went to England where he worked as an architect and developed his style as a painter. In 1939 he joined the British Territorial Army and in 1941 was captured by the Germans and was sent to a POW camp where he remained until the end of the war. His account of his time in the camp, Wilderness of Days can be found at the Calgary Public Library, both in the Arts collection and the Community Heritage and Family History collection (940.547243 BAT B). Excerpts can be found on the website, which also contains biographical information, other writings and samples of his designs among other things.

Bates returned to Calgary in 1946 and became an architect, while he continued to pursue his art. His most notable contribution to the Calgary skyline is the beautiful St. Mary’s Cathedral, built between 1954 and 1957 and shown in this picture:

AJ 25-10

Entrance to new St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 25-10

If you are interested in Maxwell Bates, there are some excellent resources available at the Calgary Public Library including Ms Townshend’s book Maxwell Bates: Canada’s Premier Expressionist(759.11 BAT T). They can be found in the library catalogue using Bates, Maxwell as a subject search. If you are interested in other architects who worked in Calgary, we have an invaluable resource by Marianne Fedori and Lorne Simpson entitled The Practice of Architecture and Construction in Calgary 1900-1940 (720.9712338 PRA – available in the local history room). If you would like to have a look at some of the buildings designed by these architects, check out the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. The link is to the left.


by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

PC 1375

Calgary Public Market, 3rd Street SE

Postcards from the Past, PC 1375

We are having a Senior's Summer Market at the Central Library on June 5 from 11-3. A number of exhibitors will be here and we will have some of the treasures from our Community Heritage and Family History collection on display in the Local History room on the 4th floor. This market and my recent visit to Heritage Park as part of the Historical Society of Alberta's annual conference this weekend, got me thinking about markets in Calgary.

There had been a public market in Calgary as early as 1885 when a bylaw was enacted to establish a public market and weigh scales. It was generally an open air affair, with no permanent structures until 1903, when a shed was erected.

The building in the above photo is the Public Market which stood at on 3rd Street E. between 3rd and 4th Avenues. This market was conceived by the Women's Consumers' League, which was formed to relieve the financial pressure caused by rising food prices. Annie Gale, who would later become Calgary's first female city council member, was one of the most vocal members of this group. She was appalled at the cost of produce that, in her opinion, would have been fed to the cows in the old country.

The Consumers' League brought in food from local producers to compete with suppliers who brought in their produce from out of province. By 1915, in response to pressure from the Consumers' League and Annie Gale, the Public Market was incorporated as a city utility. Once she was elected to council in 1918, the public market became Mrs. Gale's pet project. The concept of the city being involved in the direct sale of produce at the market was contrary to the beliefs of many members of city council, however, and the proposal for more municipal participation was defeated. By 1920 the public market was a dead issue and, although it languished for a few more years, it was no longer listed as a city utility in the 1925 Municipal Manual. The building was used as a marketplace, housing various vendors through the years. It was purchased by Sam Sheinin and was the location of three of his businesses until it was destroyed by fire on Christmas eve, 1954.

The new Heritage Town Square at Heritage Park recreates the facade of this building.