LUNDBRECK’S EARLY ATTEMPTS AT VILLAGE INCORPORATION
by Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
One of the intriguing yet little known aspects of Lundbreck’s political heritage was its attempts to incorporate as a Village. Three concerted efforts – the first from November 1905 to May 1906, the second briefly in May 1909, and the third from March 1911 to June 1912 – dominated the community’s political agenda during the pre-First World War era. These efforts provide glimpses into the nature of frontier life in a rural settlement.
Lundbreck pioneers were eager to see their locality incorporated. Not only was it a source of community pride but it reflected the growth associated with the early ranching and farming eras. A collage of corporate and family ranches adjacent the Middle Fork of the Oldman River dated back to the 1879 establishment of the Garnett Bros.’ operation. Coal mines including those of Mart Holloway, Mr. Galbraithe, and Messrs. Lund and Breckenridge dotted the landscape for more than half a century as of the 1880s. With the coming of the Crowsnest Line of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1897-98, a railway siding and depot were constructed at Lundbreck. The settlement flourished as a district commercial centre with close to a dozen well-patronized businesses in place prior to 1914. Its population reached an estimated one-hundred souls that year.
Political conditions therefore were ripe for community requests for municipal incorporation. However, there were a series of complex legal and political issues that had to be dealt with. A recurring one in all three campaigns was geographic, the need to specifically define the legal land description of what was to be included in the proposed village.
A flurry of correspondence between local ratepayers and Province of Alberta officials illustrated the issue’s debate. In the first campaign, the issue zeroed in on whether or not to only include the southeast quarter of Section 26, Range 7, Township 2, West of the 5th Meridian, the site of the existing settlement both back then and today. There was some argument that the rest of Section 26 and possibly Section 27 should be included in the proposed Village. The rationale, although never totally spelled out, could have been to allow for future growth. The 1909 campaign, short as it was, concentrated upon the geographic parameters of the existing settlement.
The debate two years later boiled down to the fact that most incorporations under the Village Ordinance Act had to be geographically one-quarter section or less in size. Only in special circumstances where the settlement covered larger areas could more territory be included. In support of their application, Lundbreck ratepayers of 1911/12 sent to Edmonton a Dominion Land Survey of the settlement depicting its five streets from Railway on the north to Fourth on the south, as connected by Wood, Robinson, Breckenridge, Hamilton and Garland Avenues (these were all named after early Lundbreck pioneers), which were not only all south of the existing C.P.R. line but situated on that southeast quarter. Obviously interested in seeing a tangible result of their municipal lobbying efforts, local pioneers were willing to concede a larger area.
A related issue was one of building occupancy and population which depicted the settlement patterns on which Lundbreck was based. Provincial authorities pointed out that only occupied lands specifically used for residential purposes could be included within Village boundaries. Agricultural lands and structures not permanently inhabited were to be excluded from the Village. In fact, it was on this basis that two of the coal mining companies with economic and resource interests in the Lundbreck area formally protested the requests to have the settlement incorporated.
The Lundbreck-based Galbraith Coal Co. Ltd., and the Spokane, Washington-based Alberta Coal and Coke Co. Ltd, which both had holdings in west half of Section 25 and the east half of Section 26, objected to having their properties included in the new municipality as there was no housing within half a mile of the coal operations. Geographically, the issue appeared to be a bit confusing but folklore indicates that the request also may have been made in fear that property taxes could have risen for the corporate entities if village status went ahead.
Lundbreck pioneers were quite enthusiastic about the proposals for village incorporation. Four widely circulated petitions – one dating May 10th 1909 during the second campaign, and three dating March 20th, April 3rd and May 23rd, 1911 during the final campaign – saw many of the locals sign on in favour of the settlement’s proposal. Thirty-two ratepayers signed the original document while twenty, twenty-seven and eighteen signed the second, third, and fourth documents respectively.
Their signatures read like a who’s who of early Lundbreck. Among the signatories were Lundbreck Trading Co. owners H. H. and W. G. Rogers, A. H. Knight and his son Walter, the organizer for the initial effort William Addie, Arthur Densmore who was one of the organizers for the 1911-12 effort, Windsor Hotel proprietor Thomas Madden, medical doctors James Donald and A. Cooper Johnston (Johnston appears to have been the 1909 organizer), C.P.R. construction worker W. A. Bolton, W. G. Green, and a host of others who had commercial, ranching or residential roots within the community. Municipal autonomy obviously struck a local accord.
A lawyer of note involved in this issue included Thomas B. Martin whose Frank, Alberta law firm acted on behalf of the Lundbreck ratepayers in 1905 and 1906.
Village incorporation, however, was not fated for the settlement of Lundbreck. History had a different destiny. Stringent economic conditions brought on by the Great War of 1914 – 1918 put an early end to those political efforts.
Originally part of the Local Improvement District, Lundbreck became an esteemed community in the Municipal District of Livingstone No. 70 which saw a quarter century of local government service from just after the Great War to the midst of the Second World War. At that point, Lundbreck became a part of the Municipal District of Pincher Creek Number Nine.