PIONEER PHOTOGRAPHER HECTOR J. PERRIER
By Farley Wuth
Hector J. Perrier operated his own independent photography studio in this ranching settlement for over a decade from the early 1900s until his departure for Jasper in 1916. His studio, strategically located on the north side of Main Street between the Lebel Store and the Arlington Hotel, was ideal for gathering business. The entrepreneur offered the latest photograph styles and enlargements where the work was done on site. He offered reasonable prices on all his services and products. In a spring 1909 attempt to diversify his business base, Perrier also sold post cards, sheet music and musical instruments, the latter of which included Bell and Gerard-Heintzman Pianos. Display ads regularly featured in the Pincher Creek Echo helped market his place of commerce.
Perrier is well-remembered for his studio work where he took portraits of local individuals and families plus community groups such as the Pincher Creek Fire Brigade. Images of members of the Piikani First Nation at Brocket were one of his specialties. He also was instrumental in photographing a series of Pincher Creek business, church and residential structures in the early 1900s which were published in a promotional booklet entitled Souvenir of Pincher Creek, Alberta, N.W.T.: A Western Town and Its People. A copy of this booklet and many of Perrier’s priceless images now are housed in the Archives of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village.
Perrier was born and raised in Nipissing, Ontario. His birth may date back as early as July 18th, 1877, although the 1911 Census lists the event as taking place in July 1880. Perrier’s parents were Arthur and Gelineau born on April 28th, 1848 and March 10th, 1851 respectively. Hector had a younger sister Ada who was born on May 24th, 1885. Although the elder generation was born in Quebec of French heritage, they resided in Ontario for many years. The family was affiliated with the Catholic Church.
Visually recording a chapter of Prairie Canada’s frontier growth caught the early twentieth century interest of Hector Perrier, then a budding photographer, and facilitated his move to Pincher Creek. It was here that he started his own family. His wife Nellie, born in July 1884, also had Ontario roots. Her ancestry was Irish and she too worshiped with the Catholic faith. The couple’s eldest son Arthur was born in Pincher Creek in February 1910.
Hector Perrier first resided as a boarder in the Arlington Hotel, just down the street from his studio. He lived here in 1906, prior to his wedding to Nellie a short time later. The following November, the new residence of Hector and Nellie, located in town, was completed but was rented to Mr. and Mrs. H. Owen. This entrepreneurial venture allowed the couple to earn extra income.
Perrier was active in the Pincher Creek community by serving on its Fire Brigade and participating in its Baseball Club.