THE MECHANIZED HISTORY of PINCHER CREEK: THOSE EARLY GARAGES
By Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
In many ways, motor garages were the successors to the traditional blacksmith shops.
Pincher Creek Motors was owned by three generations of the Morgan family. Established in 1916 in Pincher City, that settlement clustered around the nearest railway station to Pincher Creek, its proprietor was the astute businessman Richard Walter Morgan (1878 – 1957). He had extensive railway experience early in his working career and opened a grocery store near the CPR depot when he settled in Pincher City in 1907. Tragically the store burned to the ground seven years later but undeterred, this frontier entrepreneur seized the initiative and two years later built a commercial garage. Undoubtedly, this was the first such venture in this settlement. Morgan hoped to cash in on the new era of the horseless carriage and see his business outlet flourish. It served as the sales agency for Chevrolet cars.
Ever the astute businessman, the following January, Morgan moved the business into the larger settlement of Pincher Creek and built up a wide clientele. He constructed a large garage on East Avenue, a central location behind the two banks, across from the Town Hall and at the bottom of the south hill, the route of the original highway heading to Waterton Lakes. This ensured town and district traffic and patronage. Facing east, the garage ran rectangular behind the Union Bank and neighbouring Alberta Hotel and contained several north facing bays where mechanical work on those early motorized rigs was undertaken.
During the 1930s and 1940s, one of the bays was leased out to Boss Zoeteman, the Minneapolis Moline tractor agent in our ranching settlement. This increased the garage’s business traffic. Mr. Alfred Degan, a mechanic who hailed from Edmonton, serviced the farmers’ machinery there for six weeks each summer for two or three years in the late 1930s.
A second floor located towards the front of the building served as family apartments for the Morgan Family.
Some thirty years later, in 1947, the building was purchased by the Pincher Creek Co-operative Association Ltd. which continued to operate it as a garage for another decade, at which point the local Post Office was built on the site.
The Morgan family moved their garage around the corner to Main Street and Bridge Avenue, constructing an archway addition onto the former Gill Block. There was housed the gas station; a drug store and soda bar operated by the Colpman family was featured in the building’s western annex. Located further west was the car lot where both new and used vehicles were sold. The business closed in the late 1970s.
Pincher Creek Motors was owned and operated by three generations of the Morgan family: grandfather Richard Walter, son Jack Sr. (1904 – 1974) and Jack Jr. It represents one of the long-term pioneer family investments in our commercial history. In recognition of the family’s commitment to the General Motors Company, Pincher Creek Motors received the Quarter Century Dealership award in 1942.
Across our dusty Main Street was the early Montgomery and Hart Garage, Pincher Creek’s original Ford dealership. Launched in 1914, it too received its Quarter Century Dealership, this one in 1939. That award is on display here at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village. The business was operated by brothers-in-law Iva Luther (Ben) Montgomery and Charles William Hart. The fellows married the Curtis sisters, Harriet and Lela, who hailed from Spring Hill, Kansas. Montgomery, formerly a homesteader whose quarter located in a pass through the hills south of town resulted in the name of Montgomery’s Gap, lost his arm in an accident. Subsequently, this garage was owned by the Frey family in the 1940s and after 1947, by two generations of the Sorge family. Patriarch Louis Sorge worked closely with his sons Francis and Bud in the garage’s operation.
Other auto repair businesses in Pincher Creek included the Highland Garage west of the Alberta Hotel on Main Street; and the Quinlan Garage situated on the south hill, the present site of the Lutheran Church.