Forgotten Alberta

Sights and Stories of the Southeast

Bow City – The village born unlucky

Posted on | February 3, 2012 | No Comments

Many thanks to the Historical Society of Alberta, and the legendary Mr. Hugh Dempsey, CM, for the opportunity to share a decade’s worth of research on the former village of Bow City. Below is a brief excerpt from my article, followed by the piece in its entirety, which appears in the Winter 2012 edition of Alberta History:

Bow City is an unlikely spot for a metropolis.

Situated about 20 miles southwest of the city of Brooks, this curiously named community is comprised of a well-maintained park and a scattering of acreages perched atop the north bank of the Bow River. Once a bustling coal mine camp during the ’40s and ’50s, today’s hamlet no longer even merits a dot on the provincial road map.

Bow City owes its continued existence to the bridge that traverses the Bow River at this location. It owes its origins, however, to a rich deposit of coal, situated west of the hamlet, embedded deep within the towering south bank of the Bow.

The discovery and promotion of this abundant reserve fuelled a sub-bituminous bonanza in the decade prior to World War I. In just a few short years, a village materialized on the barren, treeless prairie south of the Bow; the offspring of rampant speculation and frenzied boosterism. At its peak, many predicted Bow City would become a “Pittsburg” on the prairie. Isolated and exposed, the village born unlucky was cursed by drought, world conflict, bad timing, and just plain bad luck.

Bow City Alberta History


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    Drawing on 100+ years of family history in southeastern Alberta, Prairie Post columnist Jonathan Koch highlights the region's almost forgotten pioneer-era people and places.

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