This Week in Western Canadian History
August 8 - August 14
August
12
1728

In 1725, Vitus Bering, an officer in the Russian navy, was appointed by Peter the Great the explore the Siberian Coast. On August 12, 1728, Bering sailed through the strait that today bears his name, proving that the continents of Asia and America were not joined.

August
13
1834

First Fort Garry Peter Rindisbacher, the first artist to pictorially record the country west of the Great Lakes, died in St. Louis, Missouri on August 13, 1834. In 1821 the Rindisbacher family was one of several who emigrated from Switzerland to Lord Selkirk's Red River colony in the mistaken belief that they were travelling to Red River, Louisiana, an established French-speaking community in a much warmer climate. Upon reaching the settlement, the settlers, who included pastry chefs, clock-makers and musicians, accepted homesteads and turned their hands to farming the unbroken land. Conditions were difficult, and Peter helped his family by selling sketches and watercolours of the long boat journey to the colony and scenes of daily pioneer life in the infant settlement. Some of his sketches provide the only visual record of buildings and events at the Red River colony. In 1826, after floods and insects destroyed their crops, the Rindisbacher family left the settlement and moved south to Wisconsin. Peter Rindisbacher continued to travel and paint in the United States; today his works can be found in collections across Canada and the United States.

August
14
1877

In 1800, it was estimated that there were as many as 60 million buffalo on the North American plains. On August 14, 1877, the North-West Territorial Council passed an ordinance "For the Protection of the Buffalo" in an attempt to slow the wanton destruction of the herds. The legislation made it unlawful to drive the buffalo into ravines or pits where they could be easily killed, or to hunt or kill buffalo for amusement, or solely to secure their tongues and pelts. It also provided for a closed season on female buffalo, extending from November 15 until August 14 each year. Unfortunately, the legislation proved ineffective and the slaughter continued. Within ten years the buffalo was virtually extinct.

August
11
1883

CPR passenger trainFor the first few years after the North-West Mounted Police built Fort Calgary, the settlement was little more than a way station along the stagecoach trail that connected Edmonton with Fort Benton, Montana. The only permanent structures in the community were the barracks of the police fort and the cabins of the Hudson's Bay and the I.G. Baker trading companies. In 1882, however, the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to build its line following the southern route across the Rocky Mountains through the Kicking Horse Pass. Fort Calgary was the only existing settlement along the way, and it was anticipated that it would become the centre of the supply industry. Entrepreneurs and speculators pitched their tents around the Fort as the railway slowly crept west across the prairies. Finally, on August 11, 1883, the crowds cheered as the construction train puffed its way into the tiny settlement -- the railway had arrived in Calgary.

August
12
1884

In 1881, geologist George M. Dawson made the first discovery of dinosaur bones in the Oldman River district in the southern part of Alberta. In the summer of 1884, Dawson's assistant, Joseph Burr Tyrrell, was searching for dinosaur bones along the Red Deer River. Tyrrell searched the steep river banks for weeks, and discovered and explored one of the largest beds of dinosaur bones ever found. On August 12, 1884, Tyrrell "was climbing up a steep face about 400 feet high. I stuck my head around a point and there was this skull leering at me, sticking right out of the ground." Tyrrell discovered the first skull of an Albertosaurus, a giant meat-eater that once roamed the area. Tyrrell's discovery also launched the era of the dinosaur hunter.

August
12
1903

Senator Matthew Cochrane, the first of Alberta's cattle barons, died in Compton, Quebec, on August 12, 1903. Cochrane made his money in the boot and shoe manufacturing business, owning one of the largest such businesses in Canada. His interest, however, lay in his agricultural enterprises, and he was known for improving the herds on his Quebec estate by importing purebred livestock from Great Britain. In 1881 he formed the Cochrane Ranche Company which was granted a 100,000 acre lease along the Bow River west of Calgary, initiating the era of the big Alberta cattle ranches. Although his ranches were actually run by managers, Matthew Cochrane was the driving force behind the ranch company, and after his death, the lands were sold to the Mormon Church.

August
10
1907

Inspired by the achievements of the Wright brothers, the Underwood brothers of Krugerville, Alberta, began their experiments in the fledgling science of aeronautics. Since they didn't have access to literature on the subject, they tested their theories of flight with kite models, which gradually became larger and larger. On August 10, 1907, John Underwood became the first man in Canada to be lifted into the air by a kite when he spent 15 minutes on a kite tethered 10 feet in the air. As harvesting season got under way, the experiments were put aside until the next spring.

August
11
1911

Tram en route to Bowness Park In 1908, John Hextall, an Englishman, purchased land along the Bow River just west of Calgary with the intentions of developing the property into an exclusive residential community, Bowness. Sales were slow, however, and Hextall realised that future development required easy access to Calgary. He made a proposal to Calgary City Council under which he would give the city the islands of Bowness Park in exchange for the extension of the municipal streetcar line to his development. On August 11, 1911, the city commissioners toured the property and immediately accepted Hextall's offer.

August
12
1911

The first bill passed in Oklahoma's state legislature in 1907 restricted blacks to separate schools, railroad cars and separate seating on streetcars. The legislation was challenged but upheld, and many blacks immediately began searching for a way to leave Oklahoma. Attracted by the aggressive advertising campaigns of the government and the railroads, some turned to western Canada and Alberta. In 1910, blacks were denied the right to vote in Oklahoma and more expressed interest in immigration. Concerned by the numbers, the Alberta government refused to provide information on settlement to prospective black immigrants, and then attempted to use health regulations to deny entry. When these tactics failed, several local civic organizations pressured the federal government to curtail black immigration to Canada. On August 12, 1911, the federal cabinet passed an order-in-council that prohibited black immigration to Canada for a period of one year. The legislation was never acted upon and was repealed in October, 1911.

August
14
1914

The volunteers of the Princess Patricia's Own Light Infantry left Calgary for the European front on August 14, 1914, the first contingent from Western Canada to do so. Calgary Member of Parliament (and future Prime Minister) R.B. Bennett helped to finance the regiment as a gift to the Empire. Emotions ran high as the train carrying the troops pulled out of the railway station. Along with the excitement and cheering came the sobering knowledge that not all of the young men would return.

August
11
1915

Alberta's support of the Empire remained strong as the province led the way in the drive to recruit troops. Over 14,000 men, or 3.73% of Alberta's total population, had volunteered to serve in the military services. Most of the recruits were British-born immigrants, many recently arrived.

August
10
1927

Stephan G. StephansonOne of the leading figures in Icelandic cultural life, poet Stephan Stephansson died on August 10, 1927. Born in Iceland in 1853, Stephansson, immigrated with his family to Wisconsin in 1878, and then to Alberta in 1889, where he secured a homestead. He farmed all day, but in the evening, writing only in Icelandic, he composed long narrative poems telling of Iceland and its history. He also paid tribute to the Icelandic pioneers and the new home they found in Alberta. In Iceland he became known as "Klettafjallaskadid," the Poet of the Rocky Mountains. Today his home near Markerville, Alberta, is a provincial historic site.

August
10
1936

Several military nurses, who had served during the First World War, were among those in attendance at the annual services to honour English nurse Edith Cavell. Cavell was working at the hospital in Brussels, Belgium, when German forces invaded. She concealed many Allied soldiers who were trapped behind enemy lines and helped smuggle them to safety. In 1915 she was caught, convicted of treason by the German authorities and executed by firing squad. In 1916 a mountain in Jasper National Park was named for her and each year a simple service was held at the foot of the mountain to honour her sacrifice.

August
13
1941

The Canadian Women's Army Corps was established on August 13, 1941, to provide much needed manpower for the Canadian Army and to answer the demands of Canadian women who wished to volunteer for official uniformed service. All CWAC positions were noncombatant. Initially most of the jobs were clerical but, in time, various technical trades became available. Over 21,000 women served as CWACs before the Corps was dissolved in 1946.

August
9
1952

After a week of feverish activity, one of the greatest claim-staking rushes in modern history seemed to be slowing down in Uranium City, Saskatchewan. Over 600 uranium claims were staked and recorded in the week since the land was opened to prospectors -- 450 of which were in the first two days alone.

August
9
1988

An era came to an end in Edmonton, Alberta, as Wayne Gretzky, "The Great One," was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings. Television programming across North America was interrupted as the "trade of the century" was announced at a tearful news conference. In Edmonton, reaction to the trade and to Oilers' owner Peter Pocklington was swift and overwhelmingly negative as the city -- and indeed hockey fans across the country -- mourned the loss.



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