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by Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society

John Eccles was a nearly-forgotten pioneer who spent up to two decades working on ranches in the Lundbreck area.

Eccles was born in Ireland on August 10th, 1841. Although the Dominion of Canada Census for 1901 indicates that he immigrated to Canada in 1883, folklore indicates that he arrived here much earlier. He participated in the Fenian Raid of 1871 and later joined up with the Royal Horse Artillery from which he resigned in 1881. From that agency he received a pension. It was said that he also served for close to twenty years as a member of the North West Mounted Police.

John Eccles arrived on the southwestern corner of the Canadian Prairies in the early 1890s. Since leaving the Mounties he worked as a cook on various ranches in the area. He boarded with ranchers Frank A. and Clement G. Mead.

Eccles passed away at the age of 71 years the evening of Friday, October 18th, 1912. His death occurred at the Memorial Hospital in Pincher Creek following an illness of three weeks. A funeral was held on Saturday afternoon from St. John’s Anglican Church. The Reverend Gretton performed the service. Eccles had been a long standing member of the Church of England, so indicated by his listing in the Dominion of Canada Census from back in 1901.

One of the little known Lundbreck area farmers was the Edmond D. and Mary E. Simister Family. The Simisters originated in England, Mary’s hometown being Lancaster. They immigrated to Canada after their two sons William B. and Edmond D. Jr. were born in Europe in February 1886 and July 1892 respectively. Edmond Sr. was born in September 1856; his wife Mary was just over two years his senior with her birth occurring in July 1854. Mary’s middle name appears to have been Ellen, but she seems to have been popularly known amoung family members and friends as Betty.

The Simisters also had two daughters who may have been born in between their sons. One was Mrs. S. Armstrong who resided in Pincher Creek as of 1908. Four years later she lived in Lethbridge. The second daughter was Mrs. Marchant, who in 1908 lived in Lundbreck, but who had moved to Nanton by 1912.

The Simister family was associated with the Church of England.

The Simisters settled in the Lundbreck area circa 1900 and quickly became established as farmers. Their spread was located in Township 8, Range 2, West of the 5th, just a few miles north of this Canadian Pacific Railway siding also known for its ranching and coal mining connections. Their farming endeavours appear to have gone well for several years, but family disasters struck twice prior to the outbreak of the First World War.

Mary Simister passed away the afternoon of Saturday, December 19th, 1908. Death was due to bronchitis. A funeral, held from the family home the following Monday, was well attended by friends and community members.

Bad luck struck again in early August 1912 when their eldest son, the 24-year-old William, was drowned while fishing along the Middle Fork of the Oldman River. The story goes that he and a friend named Riley had gone down to the river for their outing but had become separated in order to explore the best fishing holes. Riley had caught up with his friend but found him lying in the water. It was thought that William may have had an epileptic seizure, to which he was prone, and accidently fell into the river. His funeral was held from Pincher Creek on Sunday, August 4th, 1912.

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