Tag Archives: Ghost town

Alderson: Up in smoke?

Greg, a devoted reader of Forgotten Alberta, recently visited the Alderson townsite, and provided us with the following update:

Spent a day there lately. A fire had recently burnt all of the grass and any remaining crumbling wood structures. The landscape was as powdery fine as the suface of the moon, punctuated by fresh new grass which shows that nature keeps its course, despite the follies of mankind.

An erie spilling and scattering of nails lay about foundations where crumbling roofs and walls recently stood. The fresh ground allowed me to find a number of artifacts, including a couple of “Dog Tax 1913″ and 1914 tags. The British were nothing if not organized.

I also found a Merry Widows condom tin, which on it stated that three lasses named Agnes, Beckie and Mable were possibly going to be conquested by some enterprising male.

Thanks, Jon, for your writing. It spurred me to “motor along the boulevards of Carlstadt (Alderson). Well, walking along them, in any event. I could picture the home guard whirling and about facing with vigour, as so eloquently stated in “Empire of Dust” by David Jones. I cannot pass by on the number 1 highway without thinking of the poor souls who bought the hucksterism of the early 1900s hook, line and sinker.

While approaching the town along Range Road 104, I could not help but notice the stone piles that early homesteaders created. Each quarter section had its own little pile along the road, something that is actually pretty rare to see on the prairie nowadays, at least in such close proximity to each other. The land there is so poor that it seemingly couldn’t even grow rocks well, or maybe the glaciers had pity on the land, knowing that future humans would struggle on it as it was without them being further burdened by glacial till.

I am saddened that my first trip to the town was after all of the structures had been burnt down. That being said, it was a unique and perhaps not to be repeated opportunity to see things like an old leather slipper poking thru the dirt, or any number of other items that would be lost to the eye because of the thick prairie grass that usually inhabits the townsite.

In keeping with the theme of letting life flourish where so many hopes died, I extended a burnt board into an old brick well where a garter snake had found itself, without hope of getting out. I was pleased to see that when I looked later, it had found a way to extricate itself from certain death. In that sense, it echoed the lives of many former human inhabitants of those environs, who found that life was possible where it seemed hopeless. All they had to do was move the hell away.

According to some accounts online, the fire seems to have occurred around August 15 following an extended period of hot and dry weather. Lending some credence to this timeline is this report of several grass fires west of Redcliff on August 14, caused by a lightning storm that passed through the area.

It’s interesting to note this was far from the first time fire had gutted Carlstadt and Alderson. Fire had visited the village on occasion during the years following incorporation (1911); culminating in the great fire of 1919.

On August 25, 1919, a fire tore down Alderson’s business block west of Broadway, causing about $75,000 in damage. For a village already in the doldrums due to drought, this calamity accelerated its irreversable decline. David C. Jones describes the events of the day in Empire of Dust. The image above is a screen capture from the August 28, 1919 edition of the Medicine Hat News.

Events such as this underscore the urgency to experience and preserve southeastern Alberta history before it’s gone. Nature seems intent on wiping the memory of Alderson from the earth.

Related:

Alderson: The past remains

At Alderson, a former village along the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline, northwest of Medicine Hat, time and freight roll on – but the past remains.

To echo the thoughts included within the preface to Empire of Dust (see below), it should be a historic site. There are stories to be told there.

Split personality. 

X” marks the spot.

Looking southeast down Bowell Street, Alderson

Related:

Prairie Post: Former Bow City site to get a heritage marker

PrairiePostLogo

A great article below from the August 1, 2014 edition of the Prairie Post by Rose Sanchez detailing the contributions of many towards a successful heritage marker application for the village of Bow City.

Former Bow City site to get a heritage marker

The former site of what was meant to be a metropolis — Bow City — will be remembered for years to come with an Alberta heritage marker.

Vulcan County officials were successful in seeing their application approved. It was submitted to the Heritage Markers Program at the end of January.

The program is meant to support the installation of markers that “promote greater awareness of the historic people, places, events and themes that have defined the character of the province.”

Jonathan Koch, who operates the Forgotten Alberta website which showcases history of the southeast corner of the province, was instrumental in helping pull the application together, along with Liza Dawber, grants and program co-ordinator for Vulcan County.

Vulcan County officials have become more aware of the history in their area since starting the municipal heritage partnership project in 2011.

“This is a very cool, interesting story,” says Dawber, about Bow City. “We’ve become much more aware of some of the very interesting stories that happened throughout time in Vulcan County.”

Click here to read the rest of the article

Related: Bow City – the village born unlucky.

Bow City getting village status historical marker

Good news everyone! From the Brooks Bulletin, intrepid scribe Rob Brown informs the masses that the Province of Alberta has approved Vulcan County’s application for a historical marker at the site of the former Village of Bow City (reproduced below).

A big thank you is owed to Liza Dawber and Vulcan County for their work approving and submitting the Heritage Marker application, and the community partners who supported the application.

Bow City getting village status historical marker

Just in time for next week’s 100th anniversary of becoming a village, Bow City has been awarded a historical marker noting the fact.
On July 13, 1914 Bow City was incorporated as a village.

Last week, Jonathan Koch, an avid historian working on the recognition project, said the province notified him a marker is forthcoming.

He says it is important to recognize the past.

“We certainly do run the risk of losing our history if these aren’t marked and people aren’t doing the work,” he says.

Continue reading Bow City getting village status historical marker

Happy 100th, (former) Village of Bow City.

Bow City: the panoramic view on the eve of incorporation, 1914.
Bow City: the panoramic view prior to incorporation, 1913-14.

Notice is hereby given, in accordance with the provision of the Village Act in that behalf that, by order of the Minister if Municipal Affairs in the following area; namely: North-east quarter of Section 9 and the west half of Section 10 in Township 17 Range 17 west of the Fourth Meridian has been erected a Village under the name of the Village of Bow City of the Province of Alberta.

Dated at Edmonton this Thirteenth day of July 1914.
JNO. PERRIE,
Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs

With the above notice, which appeared on p.692 of the 1914 Alberta Gazette v. 10, a collection of domiciles, shacks and commercial establishments scattered across 800 acres of barren prairie was organized into the Village of Bow City.

Effective July 13, 1914, Bow City’s incorporation as a village, for a brief time, offered hope for boosters and believers alike that their schemes and dreams centred around a coal mine in the dried-out middle of nowhere would be realized.

Although the village hung on for over three-and-a-half years, its fate was in question within weeks of the above proclamation. Undercut by the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, and unable to secure a railroad, the Village of Bow City never stood a chance.

What did Bow City look like on the eve of incorporation? The following images provide a glimpse into the village born unlucky:

A map of the community of Bow City as it existed in May 1914. Click on image to view larger map.
A map of the community of Bow City as it existed in May 1914, based on files from the Dept. of Municipal Affairs. (Click image for larger view)

Continue reading Happy 100th, (former) Village of Bow City.