This Week in Western Canadian History
July 4 - July 10
July
9
1811

At the junction of the Snake River and the Columbia (in today's southern Washington State), David Thompson, a trader and explorer for the North West Company, raised the Union Jack and claimed the area for Britain. The territory remained British until the Oregon Treaty of 1846 awarded it to the United States.

July
8
1874

Fort Whoop-upEstablished in 1869 by two Montana men, Fort Whoop-Up was the most notorious of the American whisky posts located in southern Alberta. Located at the junction of the Oldman and St. Mary rivers near present-day Lethbridge, Alberta, the illicit whisky trade with the native peoples of southern Alberta flourished in the unpoliced area. On July 8, 1874, the North-West Mounted Police began their march from Manitoba to Fort Whoop Up. The whisky posts were abandoned with the arrived of the police, and Fort Whoop-Up served as an outpost for the force.

July
4
1884

Chinese Work GangAs various sections of the trans-Canada railroad were completed, thousands of Chinese construction workers were discharged -- generally without any other prospects for employment. A few found jobs setting explosives in the coal mines, but were accused of taking away employment from the Irish and Welsh miners. As the problem became more and more apparent, public opinion -- in British Columbia especially -- turned against the Chinese. Provincial legislation was introduced to control Chinese immigration to British Columbia and to register those who were already there. The legislation was rejected by the federal government, but on July 4, 1884, Sir John A. Macdonald appointed a commission to investigate Chinese immigration in British Columbia. Beginning in 1885, Chinese immigrants were required to pay an entry fee, or "head tax" of $50 for entry into Canada. By 1900, as immigration continued, the amount was raised to $100 and then to $500. Finally, on July 1, 1923, on a day known to the Chinese community as "Humiliation Day," legislation was passed which virtually suspended all Chinese immigration to Canada.

July
5
1902

Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson, one of the best-known figures of her time, travelled across Canada giving readings dressed in traditional Mohawk clothing. In the summer of 1902, as she made her way to an engagement in British Columbia, Johnson gave performances in several communities across the prairies. As her train left Medicine Hat, Alta. on July 4, the crew received word that two bridges on the main line had been washed away by torrential rains. All rail traffic was brought to a complete halt. Over 600 passengers from three Canadian Pacific Railway trains were detained for two days in Gleichen, Alta. -- the heart of the Blackfoot Reserve. In an article she wrote as "special correspondent" for the Toronto Globe Johnson described a visit to the Blackfoot village that "made a picture beyond the limitations of the artist's brush or pen," and told of the passengers' disappointment when a temporary bridge was constructed and traffic resumed.

July
8
1908

One evening in the spring of 1908, two railway engineers were shunting their engine along the tracks west of Medicine Hat, Alta. when they saw the lights of another train rushing towards them on the same track. Before they could jump, the approaching train veered away, and with its whistle blowing, sped past on their right although at that point there was no track there. A month later the same thing occurred the lights, the whistle, a glimpse of passengers and a friendly wave from the crew before the train seemed to switch to another track that didn't exist. On July 8, it appeared to happen again, but this time it was all too real. The Spokane Flyer and the local train met head-on. Eleven people were killed, including the engineers who had first seen the phantom train which seemed to foretell the tragedy that was to come.

July
5
1909

Calgary Street Car Although Calgary had experimented with public transit in the form of a horse-drawn "caravan," and an early bus service, the lack of paved roads made both systems uncomfortable, unpopular, and, inevitably, uneconomical. In March 1907, city residents voted to borrow money to construct a street railway, and in March 1909 a bid was accepted for the construction of track, overhead wiring, streetcars, etc. Amazingly, just four months later, the first streetcar of the Calgary Municipal Railway made its inaugural run between Calgary's downtown and the grounds at Victoria Park, three miles away. On the first day an estimated 9,000 passengers rode the streetcar to the annual exhibition in Victoria Park. By the end of Exhibition week, more than 35,000 people paid the nickel fare to ride to the grounds and the municipal railway was off to a secure start.

July
7
1920

Arthur Thibaudeau walked through Calgary, Alberta. Normally, this wouldn't have been a newsworthy item, but this 25 year-old French Canadian had been walking around the world since 1912. Thibaudeau answered the challenge of the Revall Athletic Association of Paris, France, which promised to award $100,000 to the first man to cover 65,000 miles on foot, and 35,000 miles by alternate transportation. At the time of his visit to Calgary, Thibaudeau had walked 62,000 miles and travelled 24,996 miles by other transportation. He expected to reach his goal in May 1925.

July
9
1923

Chuckwagon RaceThe chuckwagon races, one of the most exciting events at the Calgary Stampede, were first introduced at the 1923 Stampede. Guy Weadick persuaded six local ranchers to risk their wagons and horses in what became known as the "half mile of hell." According to Weadick, the wagons were supposed to line up adjacent to the barrels along the track. Then the outriders dismantled the tent-fly, gathered the branding irons and loaded the stove into their team's wagon. The wagons would make a figure eight around the barrels, round the track and head for the finish line. The outriders then dismounted, unhitched the horses, set up the tent canopy and the stove and lit a fire in the stove. The first outfit to get smoke emerging from the chimney won the race.

The first race was mass confusion. Clem Gardner from Pirmez Creek managed to get smoke rising, but his rig was facing the wrong way and he was disqualified. The outriders of another rig, trying to get more speed out of their team, whipped the horses and caused a bucking pile-up of men and horses in the middle of the track. A favourite trick to get the stove going was to stuff the 100-pound stove full of hay soaked in kerosene and toss a match -- this practice was soon outlawed. Despite the near fiasco, both participants and spectators enjoyed the event, and Weadick had no trouble recruiting wagons in 1924.

July
6
1934

On July 6, 1934, Charles Bedaux left Edmonton, Alberta, on an automobile safari through the Peace River district to the Alaska Panhandle. There were no roads in the area, but Bedaux, immensely wealthy because of his work as one of the world's first efficiency experts, and self-described as "a nut who likes to do things first," left Edmonton with five Citroen half-tracks that were built especially for the journey. The first part of the route followed a muddy, unpaved road for over 500 miles to Fort St. John, in northern British Columbia. The summer was one of the wettest on record, and the gumbo of the Peace River soil soon clogged the engines of the vehicles. When one tractor bogged down in the mud, Bedaux tossed out 100 pounds of survey equipment rather than unload any of the expedition's supplies, which included champagne, fine French wines, caviar, truffles and candied fruit. After leaving the road behind, the overloaded vehicles were frequently stuck in muskeg, swamps and creeks, but Bedaux insisted that the expedition continue.

In August, it was agreed that the tractors could go no further and would have to be abandoned. Bedaux had arranged for the journey to be filmed, and two of the vehicles were driven over a precipice in a spectacular, though staged, movie sequence. Another was deliberately sunk in the rapids of a local river (another stunt for the cameras). The party transferred to horses and struggled towards the Rocky Mountains. Soon the horses developed hoof rot, caused by constant immersion in damp and mud, and several were destroyed. Although necessities such as ammunition were left behind, the surviving animals were loaded with delicacies for Bedaux's table. The expedition struggled on until the end of September. With food running low, and not enough horses for people to ride let alone to carry supplies, Bedaux agreed that it could not continue. The group boarded power boats at Whitewater, British Columbia, and returned to Pouce Coupe. Back in civilization, Bedaux blamed the failure of the expedition on appalling conditions caused by the weather, and admitted that the Citroen vehicles were inappropriate. Although this venture was a grand failure, Bedaux made other expeditions to India, Tibet and Persia. During the Second World War, he was accused of fascist sympathies, and in 1943 was arrested and charged with trading with the enemy. In February 1944, Charles Bedaux took an overdose of hoarded barbiturates and died in an American prison.

July
8
1938

In 1937, Alberta's Social Credit government passed the Alberta Press Act, legislation which would have forced newspapers in the province to disclose their sources to the Alberta Social Credit Board and publish the government's rebuttal to any stories critical of it or its policies. In a hard-fought and often bitter struggle, the newspapers -- led by John Mills Imrie of the Edmonton Journal -- appealed to Canada's Supreme Court and to Britain's Privy Council. On July 8, 1938, the Privy Council (at the time the final court of appeal for countries of the British Empire) ruled against the Alberta government in its efforts to gag the press. In recognition of its role in the struggle, the Journal was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 1938, the only newspaper outside the United States to receive such an award.

July
5
1940

A Calgary Highlander's officer appealed to families to "adopt" one of his soldiers. Many of the men faced the prospect of serving overseas without family or friends to write or to send the occasional package from home. A prior campaign resulted in over 80 individuals and groups agreeing to be responsible for at least one soldier for the duration of the war, but many more young men were still waiting to find a pen pal.

July
6
1949

In an address to the Rotary Club, a Calgary man complained about the number of "washboard weepers" (soap operas) broadcast over the radio. In the old days, he said, mothers spanked their children for reading "penny dreadfuls and dime novels." Now those women spent their days listening to a spoken version of the same type of literature.

July
5
1957

Charles Sherwood Noble was a young man of 30 when he left North Dakota and settled in the Claresholm district of southern Alberta. Within a few years he bought more land further to the southeast. By his 40s, he owned the largest wheat farm in the country. In 1922 by the time he was 50, he was broke. Several years of drought, poor harvests and low prices for grain had forced him into bankruptcy. Noble started on the long road back. First he leased, then bought, some of the home farm, the house, then more land. By 1930 he had bought back 8,000 acres, just in time to see his soil blow away in the infamous black blizzards of the dry and dusty thirties. Again, Noble did not stand by. On a trip to California in 1935, he watched a farmer use a surface blade to lift up and cut the heads off sugar beets. Noble realised that the blade could be modified to pass under the soil so it would not only kill weeds, but also leave them behind as a cover to protect the soil from the wind. He had a prototype made by a California blacksmith and brought it back to Alberta where it proved so successful that he had to build a factory to keep up with the orders. Charles Noble died on July 5, 1957, but for many years Noble Cultivators continued to be manufactured in the Nobleford factory.



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