CHRONICLES OF PINCHER CITY FROM THE EARLY 1910s
By Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
The pre-First World War era was a boom era for Pincher City, the railway station settlement two miles north of Pincher Creek. It was so much of a boosterism time period that the Canadian Pacific Railway had given the community this intriguing name as an attempt to attract additional settlers and commercial outlets.
RAILWAY AND BUSINESS OPTIMISM
Promotional literature dating New Year’s 1911 extolled the virtues of investing in Pincher City. One of the settlement’s selling points was its perceived role as a railway divisional point. In addition to the Crowsnest branch of the C.P.R. established more than a decade earlier, plans were in the works for several other rail lines to converge at Pincher City. Featured were the Pincher Creek, Cardston and Montana and Canadian Northern Railways. Mapped to the southwest was a loosely termed “Beaver Creek Railway” which turned out to be the Kootenay and Alberta Railway to Beaver Mines, the only non-C.P.R. line ever completed in this area.
It noted that the Village of Pincher City was installing its own water works system. By 1911, the pumping station and reservoir had been completed with the water main still facing winter construction. The previous autumn a drilling outfit had been hired by the Pincher City Village Council to secure adequate water flow. The system was promised to have 65 pounds of water pressure which was to give the settlement excellent fire protection. Pincher City already had faced fire perils. One Friday afternoon the previous April quickly spread north of the railway depot. Nearly a hundred local settlers were called to action by the R.N.W.M.P. to fight the blaze.
Pincher City business lots sold for 200 to 400 dollars apiece. Residential properties were listed from 75 to 175 dollars each. All properties were surveyed at 25 feet by 150 feet. The community boasted several businesses which featured two grain elevators, three general stores, a meat market/butcher shop, two hardware outlets, two machine shops, a coal yard and a blacksmith shop, the latter operated by the Norwegian born Otto Larum. He immigrated to Canada at the age of 21 years in 1909. The Alberta Livery’s proprietor was F. H. Robbins. There also was a lumber yard known as the Taylor Lumber and Grain Company with Frank Homes as its manager. W. J. Kemp was the local harnessmaker. Mrs. M. A. Gunn operated a millinery. W. A. Chase and Company specialized in tailors and in men’s furnishings. Each business was located on the north side of the tracks.
One of those Pincher City business ventures was a branch of the Merchants’ Bank of Canada which officially opened for business the morning of Monday, 09th October 1911. Located on the north side of the tracks, it was adjacent Richard Morgan’s General Store. A Mr. A. F. Franklin who hailed from Wetaskiwin but who largely remains a mystery figure from our local history was appointed the branch’s manager. According to the 1911 Census, Franklin was born in Ireland in March 1883 and immigrated to Canada at the age of 20 years. The bank’s opening created quite a stir in the district as it offered the first banking services in Pincher City. It was the 161st branch of the Merchants Bank from across the country and remained in local business until part way through the First World War.
The eye-catching Alexandra Hotel cost 12,000 dollars to construct. For over three decades this Pincher City landmark served as a popular gathering spot. Nearly annually during the early 1900s Robbie Burns’ celebrations entitled “Burns’ Nicha” were hosted there. In late January 1910, a large crowd attended its social evening and dance. It was congenially organized by William P. and Margaret Laidlaw whose family operated for several years a nearby general store.