Monday, August 3, 2015

KBPV to host historical re-enactments at Cowley Community Cemetery

C. Davis photos

Farley S. Wuth, Curator, Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village

There are many historical tales to be told from the frontier days on the Canadian Prairies. Intriguing stories of the early pioneers from this unique corner of southwestern Alberta abound. Each founding family has coveted chronicles to share with others. They tell us what life was like a century or more ago and how the challenging years on the frontier were dealt with. Here is an exciting chance to re-visit those bygone days highlighting the late 1800s and early 1900s.

New Moon Tour

Mark your calendars for the evening of Friday, 14th August 2015. This is the new moon night for this month and this is when the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society is hosting its annual historic cemetery tour. This year’s event will be held at the Cowley Community Cemetery. The program begins at 10 p.m. right at the cemetery. Those who are interested in coming out for this step back into time can meet at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village by 9:30 p.m. that evening for car pooling out to the site.

Admission to the evening’s program is only ten dollars per person and includes a guided tour, historical presentations and light refreshments. Pre-registration is encouraged by contacting us at the museum – our street address is 1037 Bev McLachlin Drive in Pincher Creek and we are open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The phone number is (403) 627-3684 and the email contact is

Located only a few kilometers northwest of the Village of Cowley along the south banks of the Crowsnest River, the Cowley Community Cemetery has a commanding view off to the north. There are the impressive vistas of the Porcupine Hills, the sweeping North Fork district and the Livingstone Range to the west. This coveted location provides a pristine setting for a cemetery which honours not only our pioneers but also our more recent passings. Most of the people interred here have long time links with Cowley or such nearby rural districts as Burmis, Beaver Creek, Fir Grove, Lundbreck, Mountain Mill, North Fork, Tanner and Tennessee. These areas all speak of our rich agricultural heritage.

Our popular event offers historical re-enactments of many of the pioneers who are buried here. This re-enactment tour is conducted in a dignified and respectful manner honouring the history and contributions of those early settlers. Historical Society staff and volunteers will be conducting readings at selected headstones which chronicles those frontier times.

Chronicling the past

Highlighted here are a few of the selections for the upcoming event. Ellen and Thomas Madden were well recalled as the first proprietors of the Windsor Hotel in Lundbreck, a coveted landmark which was one of the centres of this settlement’s business community for nearly sixty years. Old photographs depict this two-storey building also housing a dining room and bar surrounded by large windows. Yet most local history buffs recall the hotel’s most unusual building feature – its exterior outhouse that was also two-storey. The outhouse’s second floor was publicly accessible via a wooden bridge from the upper level of the hotel itself. This provided hotel guests with secure access to the privy.

Buried here is one of the earliest people from Pincher Creek, Mountain Mill and Cowley itself – that of Peter McEwen. This pioneer was one of the nine North West Mounted Police officers who established the Mounties’ Horse Ranch along the Pincher Creek in the late summer of 1878. Following his retirement from the Force, he established a homestead at Mountain Mill, the home of the first logging operation in this area. Also working as a freighter, he later established a livery stable in Cowley which flourished in the 1910s and 1920s due in part to the Crowsnest Branch of the CPR whose depot was featured at what also was called the Eighth Siding. McEwen’s biography is closely linked with those frontier days of our local history.

The arrival of the railway also featured in the lives of Doris and George Edward Baines – Doris was a daughter of Peter McEwen. Her husband was the second generation of CPR workers at Cowley. George’s father Arthur Edward Baines was the Section Foreman at this railway depot for sixteen years starting in 1903. Son George continued that railway tradition and his tenure as the Cowley Section Foreman was one of several railway appointments. Yet his first work was as a stable hand for A. C. Cooper Johnson, an early Lundbreck medical doctor. The Baines family had immigrated to western Canada from England within six months of the Frank Slide tragedy.

Our cemetery presentations promise to be truly a step back into the frontier days of Prairie Canadian history. Here we can glance back into those bygone days. Mark your calendars for the event – Friday, 14th August at 10 p.m. (as we say, please meet us at 9:30 at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village should you wish to travel together out to the cemetery). We thank everyone for their support and interest in our history!

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