FRONTIER CONTRIBUTIONS OF A FEW EARLY COWLEY BUSINESSES
by Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
Also slated during the pioneer era as the Eighth Siding, the settlement of Cowley featured a collage of thriving businesses. Part of their success resulted from the vast ranching and farming districts which Cowley served. Another factor was the transportation access provided by the Canadian Pacific Railway. As of 1911, mail was delivered twice daily to Cowley and its Postmaster was Donald R. McIvor.
GENERAL STORE AND BUTCHER SHOP
McIvor operated a general store in Cowley as early as 1909. Stock featured men’s wear including sheep line coats and Mackinnon suits. Gloves, mitts, socks and shirts arrived just in time for Christmas purchases. Every festive season he had “a full stock of staple and Christmas groceries.” Stationary and cards rounded out the merchandize. Under the slogan “Did you Ever”, McIvor vowed to keep his profits under ten per cent, resulting in lower prices for his customers. He was a strong proponent of shopping local. Part of his trade also was selling real estate.
D. R. McIvor was born in Ontario in April 1876. His wife Jennie, also from Ontario, was born in December 1874. The couple had three children: Donald Jr. born June 1907, daughter Margaret in September 1909 and Hector in April 1911. With the family resided Donald R. McIvor’s older brother Alexander R. who operated a local drug store. The McIvors were Presbyterians.
There was an Edward Parker who operated a Cowley area dairy as of 1911. Unfortunately, little is known or if this frontiersman or even if he was related to Henry Parker.
EARLY BUSINESSES AND HOMESTEADING
Near the railway tracks was the retail butcher shop of businessman Henry Robert Eustalia Parker who promoted high quality cuts. The unfortunate pioneer met with a painful accident in mid December 1909 when he fell on a sheet of ice, breaking one of his legs. It took Parker several weeks to fully recover.
Parker also homesteaded on a fraction of the southwest quarter of S34 T7 R1 W5. Its location was at the junction of the North and Middle Forks of the Oldman River, one and a half miles north of Cowley. Even during the frontier period the commute on horseback between the two points often would have been relatively easy travel. One wonders if this is where he secured the cuts for his butcher shop. Parker filed on his homestead on May 7th, 1896, earlier than many of his local agricultural peers. Most of the property was used for ranching as it offered little farming. The first year he raised three head of cattle and three horses. The herds increased slowly annually and there was one imported stallion added in 1898. The following year Parker had 15 horses and 17 cattle. Parker’s 12 by 34 house was valued at 150 dollars. His stable, corrals and water well collectively were valued at 275 dollars. Two miles of fencing was worth one hundred dollars.
Businessman William Clay Robinson had a well established hardware and furniture store in Cowley. Folklore indicates it was well patronized by the local pioneers. As of 1918, his telephone number was R506. Robinson homesteaded the northwest quarter of S18 T7 R1 W5 located one and a half miles west of the village. The land was suitable for both ranching and farming. Improvements included a herd of twenty cattle, six horses and eighty hogs by 1903. He ploughed and seeded nine acres in 1901. Two years later the seeded acreage was fifty. A 14 by 22 foot house valued at 300 dollars was constructed. Outbuildings included a 16 by 24 foot granary valued at 75 dollar and a 16 by 23 foot stable also worth $75. Robinson filed on the quarter April 4th, 1900.
Robinson was born in Restigouche County, New Brunswick on March 14th, 1861. He came west to the Cowley area shortly after the construction of the Crowsnest Branch of the C.P.R. He passed away on August 11th, 1921 in the Fraser Valley B.C. community of Mission. His remains were brought back for burial in the Cowley Cemetery. His widow the former Lillian Adell Beam lived from January 21st 1869 to September 9th, 1936. The couple was blessed with nine children, eight sons and one daughter.
A well-patronized saddlery shop was owned by Charles Arthur Crawford (circa 1862 – circa 1957). Advertizing in the December 3rd, 1909 issue of the Cowley Chronicle noted that he was the “manufacturer and dealer in harness, saddles and all kinds of horse furnishings”. Crawford offered his customers prompt, quality attention to repairs of horse gear.
Crawford also operated a homestead on the southwest quarter of S10 T9 R1 W5. This was seven miles north of Cowley, in the Olin Creek School District. He filed on it on March 13th, 1908. On it he raised a small herd of four horses. Crawford started cultivating the land his first summer there, breaking an initial ten acres. By 1912, fifty acres were cultivated and 35 seeded in crops. He built a 14 by 20 foot frame house valued at 300 dollars. He also had a barn worth $300 and a hen house valued at one hundred dollars. Two and a half miles of fencing worth $125 surrounded the property.
Early in Cowley’s history, the settlement boasted two hotels. One was the Alberta which was located near the C.P.R. depot. Its early December 1909 Cowley Chronicle display ad noted that the hotel offered “good accommodation, splendid dining hall, best attention [and] hotel and cold water”. A livery stable offering accommodation and feed for its patrons’ horses was situated nearby. Eager to market the hotel, Manager F. W. Doubt offered special deals for hunting and fishing parties. A novel service was that the Alberta Hotel had a telephone in its office – alas, its number has been lost to time. Further hotel upgrades were planned the autumn of 1909. Featured was the painting of the building’s exterior.
Nearby was the Cowley Hotel, located directly across the street from the railway depot. This business included a stable for customers’ horses. Hotel accommodation rates were pegged at two dollars per day. It too had a telephone in its office – by 1918, its number was listed in the directory as 1506. Hugh McMillan was its long time Manager.