Category Archives: Places

#FABTrip18: Ronalane revisited

 

It is at Ronalane where the “Big Ditch”, what is now the Bow River Irrigation District main canal, empties back into the Bow River. Back in 1914, the plan was for water to be conveyed eastward from the main canal, across the Bow river, and up the river bank to the irrigation works on the other side. The problem with this idea was that the east bank of the Bow river rises nearly 200 feet above the canal, meaning water would have to be carried up the steep and meandering coulee bank to the earthen main canal at the top. As Ella Cora Hind’s explains in her 1912 account of the Southern Alberta Land Company project, “The Story of the Big Ditch”, engineers proposed the construction of a 6,550 feet syphon, consisting of continuous wood stave pipe, which would have carried water across the river “on five 120-foot riveted steel spans on concrete piers and with heavy frame and pile trestle approaches.” Hind explained: “This syphon has an internal diameter of 8 feet, the water goes through with a head of 186 feet and to withstand this the pipe is banded with iron 7/8 and 3/4 inch thick, these bands throughout the entire 6,550 feet are never more than 9 inches apart and where the pressure is greatest are only 2 1/8 inches apart. The bridge on which this syphon rests, will be a public highway and in addition will be strong enough to carry the heaviest interurban electric car.” Although Hind wrote at the time as though the syphon was a fait accompli, the project ran into one obstacle it could not overcome: a lack of funding. With a bridge and spine of concrete cradles complete and awaiting installation of the syphon, the project went into receivership in 1914, halting any further construction. When work on the irrigation project resumed three years later, the entire section east of the Bow river was abandoned, and the syphon was never constructed. A century later the ruins of Ronalane, including the concrete cradles for the siphon, remain scattered across the plains. Without irrigation, the east side of the Bow remains as dry as ever. (Adapted from a 2017 post) #FABTrip18 #forgottenalberta #mybadlands @gregfarries

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In 1906, the Southern Alberta Land Company, an Anglo-Canadian consortium, began construction of a half million-acre irrigation empire in southern Alberta. Stretching 200 miles from Carseland on the Bow, to Bowell south of Carlstadt, its capital was to be “Ronalane”, situated high atop the east bank of the Bow, an hour west of Medicine Hat. The company surveyed a townsite here, naming it for Major General Sir Ronald Lane, chairman of the board. According to a 1912 company publication, a bridge built below the townsite was designed to support a siphon conveying water from the main canal, across the river, and over the steep east bank. “The bridge on which this syphon rests,” the company prospectus added, “will be a public highway and in addition will be strong enough to carry the heaviest interurban electric car.” Rail arrived at Ronalane in 1913, but as debt ballooned, and investor confidence flagged, the coming of war in 1914 sunk the Southern Alberta project. Water eventually flowed through the canals and spillways west of the Bow, known today as the Bow River Irrigation District. To the east, plans and proposals were floated for half a century to re-start the derelict development from Ronalane to Redcliff, but to no avail. Today what remains of Ronalane is in ruins, a name synonymous with unrequited dreams of empire, a scattering of abandoned earthworks, bridges, and forgotten foundations, left to endure the ravages of nature and time. The original bridge, constructed in 1911-12 was destroyed by fire in 1937, and the replacement structure was damaged by fire twenty years later; however, it still stands today, as pictured, although it has since been replaced and is closed to all traffic. (Modified from 2017 post). #fabtrip18 #forgottenalberta #mybadlands @gregfarries

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In 1906, the Southern Alberta Land Company, an Anglo-Canadian consortium, began construction of a half million-acre irrigation empire in southern Alberta. Stretching 200 miles from Carseland on the Bow, to Bowell south of Carlstadt, its capital was to be “Ronalane”, situated high atop the east bank of the Bow, an hour west of Medicine Hat. The company surveyed a townsite here, naming it for Major General Sir Ronald Lane, chairman of the board. According to a 1912 company publication, a bridge built below the townsite was designed to support a siphon conveying water from the main canal, across the river, and over the steep east bank. “The bridge on which this syphon rests,” the company prospectus added, “will be a public highway and in addition will be strong enough to carry the heaviest interurban electric car.” Rail arrived at Ronalane in 1913, but as debt ballooned, and investor confidence flagged, the coming of war in 1914 sunk the Southern Alberta project. Water eventually flowed through the canals and spillways west of the Bow, known today as the Bow River Irrigation District. To the east, plans and proposals were floated for half a century to re-start the derelict development from Ronalane to Redcliff, but to no avail. Today what remains of Ronalane is in ruins, a name synonymous with unrequited dreams of empire, a scattering of abandoned earthworks, bridges, and forgotten foundations, left to endure the ravages of nature and time. The original bridge, constructed in 1911-12 was destroyed by fire in 1937, and the replacement structure was damaged by fire twenty years later; however, it still stands today, as pictured, although it has since been replaced and is closed to all traffic. (Modified from 2017 post). #fabtrip18 #forgottenalberta #mybadlands @gregfarries

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Motoring on the boulevard of Sunnynook

"Last night I had a most beautiful dream. I was motoring on the boulevard of Sunnynook, which was beautified by a row of trees, while on each side, as far as the eye could seem were field of golden grain which were fast being harvested…Looking further ahead I could see a splendid town, with its business blocks, its public buildings and elevators, which stood ready to welcome the visitor, the toiler, the business man, or any law abiding person who wished to enter. As I drew near the town, I passed one of its magnificent parks, a haven of rest for the weary, standing forth on all its glorious splendor. But, alas, my dream ended upon my coming in contact with a passing vehicle, and the next I knew I was in the Sunnynook Hospital, when I heard the Doctor say: "He will live." Now I am back to reality and my mind often reverts to the works of that good old song, "When Dreams Come True." – Excerpt from "Sunnynook", Hanna Herald, May 29, 1919. (Hat tip to the great David C. Jones, Empire of Dust, p.97) @specialareas @travelspecialareas #mybadlands #forgottenalberta

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This is Homestead Coulee

A legacy of the boom years in Alberta is the network of paved highways running through some of the most sparsely populated areas of the province. One of these roads is Secondary Highway 570, which passes by Homestead Coulee, a locality within Special Area #2. A plaque from Alberta’s 75th celebration provides the following history: “We dedicate this cairn to the pioneers who settled the Homestead Coulee area. In 1912 this piece of land located on the NW 1/4 of S-33 T-26 R-15 W-4, was approved by the Department of Education for the building of a one room school which operated until it closed in 1932, due to lack of pupils. In 1960 a modern school was built to replace the old one. In 1975 a community centre and gymnasium was built. Homestead Coulee school was named after the Homestead Coulee, which runs just east of here into the Red Deer River.” @specialareas @travelspecialareas #mybadlands #forgottenalberta

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#FABTrip17: The hidden history along Alberta’s highway 25

Highway 25 north of Lethbridge is mostly known for one thing: cows. This is heart of “Feedlot Alley“, the highest concentration of intensive farming operations in Alberta, which produces over half of the beef consumed in Canada. While industrial farms dominate the landscape today, the area’s roots are deep underground, in the rich coal seams that run along the Oldman River. Underneath silage pits, cattle pens, and pivot tracks lie a rich heritage of boom towns, ghost towns, and a pioneer history dating back over century.

 

A smoky shot of the C.P.R. Station at Diamond City. As you may have guessed, Diamond City derives its name from mining, albeit coal not diamonds. The present townsite overlooking the Oldman River Valley, just to the northwest of Lethbridge, was developed to serve the growing numbers of people who had come to work in the mines and haul the “black diamonds” from deep within the ground. In operation for over 20 years, the Diamond City mine closed in 1927, although its economic fortunes were bolstered for several years after with the growth of irrigation. As for the station, it is a private residence, moved to its present location from High River to be renovated and restored. Sources: Coyote Flats : historical review, 1905-1965. Volume 1, @thelostcanuck on Flickr #FABTrip17 #explorealberta @southwestalberta @canadianbadlands @travelalberta

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In late 1910, the first shaft was sunk in what would become the Chinook Coal Mine, northwest of Lethbridge. In quick fashion, a community grew up around the mine, incorporating as the village of Coalgate in 1912. A post office was established in 1913, and for some reason was named “Commerce”, causing all sorts of confusion. With the post office having put its stamp on the community, the village soon changed its name to Commerce, which by the end of 1913 was nearing a population of 300. Increased wartime coal demand continued to boost the village’s prospects, and by the end of 1914, over 400 people lived in Commerce, most of them miners living in company accommodations. A private railway spur line was extended from Kipp, along the Canadian Pacific line west of Lethbridge, to the Chinook Mine; and an Ellison grain elevator was established trackside in 1915-16. At its peak, the community boasted a modest commerce sector, including a general store, grocer and pool hall, boarding house, and hardware store. As is the story of so many mining towns, the prosperity wouldn’t last. According to “The History of Diamond City and Commerce”, the mine closed in 1924, and its various parts were poached for use in other mines throughout the area. The spur line shut down, and the elevator moved to Diamond City shortly after, using a technique called the “Deadman Pully”. As for Commerce, it was a dead village walking. As tax revenue dried up, and being unable to meet its debt obligations, the village disintegrated, and was disorganized by provincial Order in Council in February 1930. #mybadlands #explorealberta #albertahistory #forgottenalberta #alberta #canada @southwestalberta

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The Turin district was named after a prolific Percheron stud horse, imported in the early years by eight area farmers, shareholders in the Coyote Flats Percheron Horse Co. As T.C. Noble wrote in the history of Coyote Flats, the citizens of Turin weren’t horsing around when they chose this strapping stallion to be their community’s namesake: “The raising of good draft horses proved to be a very profitable venture for those who had good range and the knowledge and patience to train horses for farm work. The Percheron was the most popular breed. Good stallions such as the one called “Turin” and from which the Turin district was named were purchased and did much to improve the local work horses of the district. The horse must certainly be recognized and given rightful prestige in the developing of our country.” @southwestalberta @canadianbadlands #fabtrip17 #forgottenalberta #albertahistory #alberta #canada

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Big loss for Orion: Stevens Hardware destroyed in Christmas Day blaze

Sad news coming from Orion, Alberta this morning.  I have received word from a  few friends of Forgotten Alberta that the pioneer-era hardware store operated by prairie icon, Boyd Stevens, burned to the ground on Christmas Day.

A video posted on Facebook by Logan Biesterfeldt shows the store already completely engulfed, as locals scramble to contain the fire on a frost Xmas morning. 

Comments  on Facebook and elsewhere online indicate that Boyd is safe, but I will post confirmation and further details once they become available.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have stopped by Stevens Hardware on a few occasions in during sojourns through the south, and had the privilege of conversing with Boyd about his life and times in isolated Orion, Alberta. Visitors to Stevens Hardware  were assured of great conversation, and came away knowing the intimate details of the history of the region. Hopefully Boyd made it through okay, and his family’s legacy will continue.

 

Boyd Stevens: Storekeeper & Orion #Alberta icon. #FABTrip14 @prairiepostalta

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Boyd and the store were subjects of a video short by director, Sean Thonson, of Travel Alberta fame (“Remember to Breathe”) calledPassing Orion“.