Friday, April 22, 2016

Celebrating 50 years of the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society

Historical Society volunteers in 1973
Front row (l-r): Gladys Taylor, Millie Cox, Laura Freebairn, Fred Huddlestun, A. L. (ScottyFreebairn, and Margaret Bastian. Back row: Myrtle Marcellus, Nellie Godfrey, Jean Tucker, Mabel Sykes (sister of Millie Cox), Carl Bastian and Earl Ward 

Farley Wuth, Curator, Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village

Community enthusiasts and local history buffs are encouraged to mark their calendars. This year – 2016 – marks the Golden Anniversary of the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society. Exciting opportunities abound over the next several months for our friends in the Pincher Creek area and tourists alike to recollect our recent chronologies and to participate in a series of community events honouring that milestone in local historical preservation. Stay tuned for our innovative plans and details.

George "Kootenai" Brown

While it was half a century ago back in September 1966 when the Historical Society, which runs the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village (KBPV), was officially incorporated under the Societies Act, interest in spawning a museum and promoting our local past actually dates much further back. The origins of the museum idea in the Pincher Creek area go back to 1962 when a number of history enthusiasts, many of them of pioneer ancestry, began collecting artifacts of local significance and storing them in their own houses, root cellars and out buildings. An editorial published in the Pincher Creek Echo advocated the establishment of a local museum. These events capitalized upon earlier local interest in our own history including the writings of such local historians as Scotty Freebairn and Freda Graham Bundy and the gatherings of the Pincher Creek Oldtimers Association, particularly active in the 1940s and 1950s as a social organization for descendents of area pioneers.

Grounds circa 2012

Much of the success of the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society in preserving our local history for future generations to enjoy has been through the partnerships it has set up since the 1960s. One of the more important partnerships has been with the descendents of our local pioneers who have contributed a great deal with artifacts, volunteer contributions and historical knowledge. Without their unselfish help and of those who came later, our museum would not have achieved its success. We truly appreciate their kind contributions. The charter President was Ken McDowell, a ranch from the Beaver Mines area. He was succeeded by veterinarian Clarence Smith and later by Aileen Rhodes, a pioneer with Waterton Lakes connections.

Many other community minded individuals also volunteered here throughout the history of the Historical Society. One couple whose names come to mind were Reg and Mildred Beere. Mildred was a sister of Clarence Smith and she helped with special events as well as the original edition (it was published in 1974) of our local history book Prairie Grass to Mountain Pass. In fact, it was Mildred who came up with the very descriptive name for the book. A retired high school teacher, Reg dedicated many years to being our Secretary-Treasurer. Another early volunteer was retired rancher Art Kyllo who too hailed from the Beaver Mines district. He could recite the names of early pioneers, who lived where and how the local creeks, hills and mountains were named from memory. His recollection of local history, like many others of his generations, was fantastic! These individuals provided unique and highly informative and entertaining tours of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village.

Attached (at the top of this article) is an archival photo of a set of our Historical Society volunteers who gathered in 1973 in the Kootenai Brown cabin on the museum grounds. Front row left to right: Gladys Taylor, Millie Cox, Laura Freebairn, Fred Huddlestun, A. L. (Scotty) Freebairn, and Margaret Bastian. Back Row left to right: Myrtle Marcellus, Nellie Godfrey, Jean Tucker, Mabel Sykes (sister of Millie Cox), Carl Bastian and Earl Ward (in the early 1970s, Earl donated the family Ward Cabin built in 1897 to the Historical Society). This photo is from the archival collections of the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society.

Another of our great partnerships over the years have been with the Town of Pincher Creek and with the Municipal District of Pincher Creek both of which have helped us in many administrative and marketing capacities. School groups have utilized the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village based upon unique educational programs and we appreciate these young visitors as well as our community members and tourists from afar who oft take that trip down memory lane here.

KBPV Curator and author Farley Wuth

The uniqueness of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village is interwoven throughout its history. Its mandate to preserve and promote the unique frontier history of the Pincher Creek area is legendary. Highlighting the pioneer eras through the 1950s, special emphasis is placed upon the early chronicles. One of Pincher Creek’s claims to fame is that it was established as a North West Mounted Police Horse Ranch back in the late summer of 1878. Corporate and family ranches abound along with farming, railway, coal and lumber development and an array of rural one-room schools with the growing settlement of Pincher Creek serving as the region’s commercial centre were the pivotal developments. The Village’s presentation of that history – now a selection of 25 heritage buildings tastefully arranged on six acres of land and housing over 20,000 eye-catching artifacts, each with a tale to be told – also is unique. Most rural museums are contained in only one or two structures yet with our venue there are many opportunities for exhibits, programs and trips down memory lane. The first heritage building to be moved on site was the rustic 1883 three-room log home of Waterton Lakes founder John George “Kootenai” Brown. This iconic flagship arrived here on Halloween Eve 1970, hence the name Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village. The Father Lacombe Hermitage, the Ward Cabin of 1897, the 1894 Fishburn School and the Kootenai Outpost of the N.W.M.P. all followed in quick succession, each flanked by a traditional wooden boardwalk that truly bespoke of pioneer transportation.

Bank of Commerce/Turcott building
Recent additions to our complex feature the massive Bank of Commerce/Turcott building, the expanded commercial history exhibits in the Reg and Mildred Beere Exhibition Hall and the garage and bakery with their old time looks from the 1920s. More exciting developments are just around the corner. There will be a series of block buster anniversary events at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village throughout 2016 so please stay tuned for all of the fascinating plans! For more info watch this space or give us a call at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village at (403) 627-3684.

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