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

The commercial history of Pincher Creek is dotted with the activities of many intriguing businesses, which at the turn of the twentieth century offered a wide selection of pioneer products & services to the frontier ranching settlement. These were essential to the economic well being of Pincher Creek, and spoke to the expanding business role which the community played in the surrounding ranching industry.

By the year 1900, there was a vast collage of business operations in Pincher Creek itself, whose population boasted 300 people. Many of these businesses had been in operation since the mid 1880s, and were well connected with the community. Several, such as the Hudson’s Bay Company and the old T. Lebel Department Stores, are well remembered from the pages of our local history. But let’s now highlight those commercial outlets now less well recalled but nevertheless which still made significant contributions to the economic well being of Pincher Creek nearly a century and a quarter ago.

In the centre of the dusty business section stood the old Union Bank, which had been in business locally since 1898. Housed in a small partially log structure, it was managed by Henry E. Hyde, one of Pincher Creek’s first businessmen. Hyde went on to become Pincher Creek’s Mayor from 1917 to 1920. Business boomed for the bank, and by 1904, it expanded into a large two storey sand stone structure it had constructed at the corner of Main Street and East Avenue. This impressive eye catcher was a local landmark for over sixty years.

Henry Hyde also operated a large lumberyard located near Main Street. This business boomed due to the expanding farming immigration and the expansion of the town, which took place following the arrival of the local Canadian Pacific Railway line in 1897-98. Hyde’s original local business venture, which was a partnership involving local entrepreneur James Schofield, comprised of operating the settlement’s first general store dating back to 1883, also had been an economic success.

In 1900, local pioneer Alex R. Dempster operated a shoemaker’s establishment, located near the west end of the business core. His business was located in the Wm. Berry & Sons Hardware Store located at the corner of Main Street and Christie Avenue. The building had been constructed and business originally operated by Tom H. Hinton. Dempster’s business flourished too – soon it included a harness & saddle repair shop. At one point, he worked in close conjunction with G. E. Gilmours, another pioneer who was adept in leatherwork.

At the corner of Main Street and Bridge Avenue stood the Gill Block, an impressive business block constructed and owned by Mr. G. W. Gill. Its location was ideal as at that time, Bridge Avenue provided the northern entrance into the community. Several businesses occupied various parts of the black in 1900, one of which was a Jewelry Shop operated by F. Lindsay. Like other adventurers of the era, Lindsay had originated in eastern Canada, and had come west to seek his fortune. Gill’s success as a local businessman also was ensured in that he also operated a flour nd feed agency, and a wholesale liquor business, both of which were his own business block.

Retired North West Mounted Police officer Charles Kettles remained a prominent Pincher Creek businessman till his passing in 1923. One of his success stories in 1900 was that of his butcher shop, which flourished due to the expanding ranching and farming industries. He also was one of Tim Lebel’s business partners. Kettles served on both on the Town Council, shortly after Pincher Creek’s incorporation as a Town in 1906, and on the early School Board. He represented the type of continued commitment to their new settlement possessed by many of the N.W.M.P. members who had started the Mounties’ Horse Ranch here in 1878: they remained here after their official retirements, and became active in business, political, and educational affairs. Ex-N/W/M/P/ Members William Reid, A. H. Lynch-Staunton, Pete McEwen and David Grier all had Pincher Creek or Cowley connections for significant portions of their retirements.

Another turn of the century business with even further historic connections with the community was that of E. J. Mitchell’s Drug Store. Established some fourteen years earlier, it was located on the south side of Main Street mid way between what were to become Christie and East Avenues. This early commercial outlet boosted a stock of prescriptions, fancy goods, stationary, books, toys, and film supplies. The store also had veterinarian supplies in stock which, given the expanding agricultural industry, were in great local demand. Mitchell’s frame building was considered very modern, and featured picture windows, an inset entry door, and a picteuresque shed addition on the east side of the business which allowed for more space for the increased trade. E. J. Mitchell continued to operate the drug store till his passing in February 1911.

These were but a few of the thriving businesses which operated in Pincher Creek in 1900.

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