Residents of Glenbow Alberta, ca 1911-1913
Doreen Morden Family Archives
We have been helping and, frankly, watching in awe, one of the regular researchers who frequents the local history collection. She is working on a reconstruction of the town of Glenbow, a town that very few people have heard of. It was the centre of a quarry, which provided sandstone for several prominent buildings in the province. The town was five miles east of Cochrane on the north side of the Bow. The land was not really fit for farming as it was on a bench over the river but keen eyes noticed that in the outcroppings were seams of sandstone. Various attempts were made, starting in 1905, to set up a quarry to exploit the resources of the valley but it wasn’t until 1908 when an American, Chester de la Vergne, bought the property. He had wealth that had come from the family’s refrigeration business and soon he had excavated a town site, which eventually included a school. A post office was in operation from 1908 to 1920. De la Vergne loved the area and established the Glenbow Ranche as a home for him and his family. He built a magnificent house on the property.
At its peak, Glenbow quarry was thought to employ 500 men. By 1909 things were looking very good. A grain elevator was built in 1910 on promises that a bridge would be built over the Bow to connect the farm land on the south side with the town on the north side. But by 1912 the boom that had fueled the prosperity of the Glenbow quarry had bust. Building ground to a halt and there was no need for the fine paskapoo sandstone that had made Glenbow’s fortune. The bridge was never built so the elevator stood useless until it burned down in 1915. De la Vergne tried to start a brick making industry in order to give work to his employees, but this, too, was destined to fail. People were forced to leave the town, to look for work elsewhere. Buildings were removed or burned; equipment from the mine was sold as scrap. Three large homes, built by optimistic acquaintances of de la Vergne’s lay abandoned for many years and in the 1970s de la Vergne’s own house, empty for many years, was burned to the ground. Eventually, the Glenbow land was purchased by E.L. Harvie for farming. The land has since been donated to the Government by the Harvie family for use as a Provincial Park, but Glenbow the town has ceased to exist.
Our researcher’s task is to look for information about the town and the people who lived there as part of a volunteer effort to map the old town and quarry. Because there is so little left of Glenbow, the researchers are relying on information gleaned from any resource they can get their hands on. They are searching for the names of people who lived in the town, in hopes of finding as much information as they can. This is where serendipity has come in. (Although, serendipity does come after much hard work J)
Following a clue provided by the information on Glenbow in a local history, our researcher pursued the name of a woman whose child was put up for adoption after she died in childbirth. Using cemetery transcriptions, vital events records, online sources including Ancestry and Rootsweb, she was able to find contact information for a descendant of one of the family members. This person had a photo of some of the denizens of Glenbow standing in front of a building. That is the photo above. What we are hoping is that one of you may recognize someone in this picture. The more people that can be identified, the better chance there is of finding someone who has information. If you think you recognize anyone in this photo, please let me know. I will pass the information on to the researchers. You can post your information as a comment below (or you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you are interested in finding out more about Glenbow, you can check out the local history Acres and Empires either in print at the Calgary Public Library or online through Our Future Our Past. You could also think about attending a talk on February 28 at the Chinook Country Historical Society’s monthly meeting at Fort Calgary at 7:30. Brian Vivian and Susan Caen will be talking about the town site, the quarry and the area surrounding. (Check out the information here - click on 2011-2012 Monthly Program Details)
Land Titles Building (made with Glenbow sandstone)
Land Titles Building (built with sandstone from the Glenbow Quarry)
Postcards from the Past, PC 255