“This village is being disorganized”

Bow City c. 1917. Note the Big Bow Bar U ranch on the river flats along the north bank of the Bow.
By September 1916 officials in Edmonton had opted to pull the plug on the village of Bow City. In a letter dated September 8, Deputy Minister Jno. Perrie asked A.D. Fidler to “go into the matter with the ratepayers sometime before the end of the year so that the necessary arrangements can be made for the disorganization of the Village which seems the only thing that can be done”.
As winter set in on the glorified coal camp, not all news emanating from Bow City was doom and gloom. The Lomond Press reported a “great rush” was on at the Prairie Coal Company mine in November, and advised travelers to come early to avoid the rush. Indeed, the hustle and bustle of the mine must have fuelled the hopes of the remaining ratepayers that there was still a chance they would become the Pittsburg of Canada.
This was evident on December 29, 1916 when the residents of Bow City met at the request of Municipal Affairs, and voted unanimously in favour of continuing village operations for another year. In conveying the village people’s decision to the Deputy Minister on January 8, 1917, Fidler wrote:
“They no doubt are still living in hopes of a railroad coming through which would develop their coal mines and build up their village, I suppose that no great harm will be done by allowing them to continue as a Village for this year…”
Mother Nature turned its back on the settlers again in 1917. Infestations of gophers and cutworms, and severe weather in the form of hail and dust storms exacerbated a situation already made desperate by dry weather. Wheat yields per acre across the southeast would on average drop by half in 1917, and this trend would be duplicated over the next two years as drought conditions lingered long into the future.
While residents attempted to continue their efforts to bolster the war effort, more and more southeastern Alberta farmers were themselves becoming dependent on feed and seed relief from the province. The resolve of the farmers in the region was wavering, as opportunities elsewhere in the province beckoned the drought-wary settlers.
As the year drew to a close, the official census numbers for the province told the true state of affairs in Bow City. The village had registered an official population of only six residents in 1917, with Bow City’s entry on the census summary accompanied by the footnote: “This village is being disorganized.”
Nearly ten years to the day after Bow Centre Collieries Ltd. first staked its claim along the banks of the Bow, the village was informed on December 21, 1917 it was to be disorganized at the earliest possible date.
Following a decade of boosting, and of blind faith in a city in name only, villagers finally threw in the towel. After failing to elect a village Council in January 1918, the province appointed A.D. Fidler as Reeve of Bow City to be nominally in charge until April 17, 1918. On this date the village of Bow City was official disorganized by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and its lands added to Improvement District No. 156.

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