The Bragg Creek Heritage Festival has become an annual event, much to the credit of the Bragg Creek Historical Society and its supporters. Compared to eastern Canada, which was first settled in the 1600s, the west doesn’t have a long history. But, pioneers across Canada and across the centuries faced daunting challenges when they left the relative comfort of their homes in Europe, or later eastern Canada, to settle in this wild land. Intrepid explorers, fur traders and devout Christian missionaries came first along with the North West Mounted Police. Then pioneers like the Fullertons and Connops came to till the soil and raise cattle. That occurred at the end of the 1800s. But, most of the “history” of Bragg Creek took place during the beginning of the 1900s. At the time, the area was mostly barren due to wildfires that burned the forest and left open land. Most of the mature forest around here is about 100 years old. Those early pioneers set about planting crops and developing homesteads. But as any modern day gardener will tell you, producing edible crops is next to impossible. One early settler is reported to have said, “You can’t feed your family on scenery”. But you can’t deny that the scenery is alluring and we continue to be drawn to it. Someone along the way described Bragg Creek and the foothills as “The Stairway to Heaven”.
The first settlers in the area built a mission. In 1872 lay helper Alexis Cardinal built a crude log cabin on a site north and west of the Highway 8 traffic circle. There is a monument there. Thus began the mission of Our Lady of Peace in the country of the Blackfeet, it was the first church in southern Alberta and was occupied by Father Constantine Scollen. (see below)
The first settlers in Bragg Creek were located near what is now St. Francis Stables, formerly the Saddle and Sirloin Ranch. That’s where A.O. Wheeler, a Dominion Land Surveyor, came across John and Albert Bragg in 1894. They were 12 and 17 years old at the time. They stayed for a couple of years then returned to their home in Nova Scotia. Albert returned to live and farm in B.C. and Alberta where he lived and raised a family. (see below). Sam Livingston, a pioneer of the California and Caribou gold rushes as well as many other pioneering achievements owned a farm there as well.
The first school was built with the help of the Fullertons. (They were involved in many firsts in Bragg Creek) It was a classic one-room schoolhouse where all children of all ages learned the three “Rs”- reading, writing and arithmetic. It was located on the corner of the West Bragg Creek Rd. (Township Rd. 232) and Range Rd. 52. Old timers know it as the Sugar Shack. When the school closed, it was sold to a man, a bachelor, who used to lure women into his lair with candies and sweets.
The first store in Bragg Creek was built by the “Spike” Robinson family and was later operated with a post office by John and Mary Wilson from 1927 to 1929. At the same time, a general store and tea room, was owned by Jake Fullerton and operated by Guy Coates who, later, built the Upper Elbow Trading Store which is now the Trading Post. Jack Elsdon bought the store and renamed it in 1940. His daughter, Barb, still owns and operates the store.
Ida May and Harry White (White Avenue) set up a store and post office in what is now the Country Cottage ice cream store in 1916. They operated the post office for 23 years, on and off. Their home, the Wake Siah Lodge, is still standing nearby. That is where they allowed Mary and Catherine Barclay to open the first Canadian Youth Hostel on July 1st, 1933. It was the earliest such facility in North America.
It may not be a long history, but it is rich with colourful characters, hardship and triumph.
Our Lady of Peace
This text is taken from the monument (with annotations). In 1872, lay helper Alexis Cardinal built a crude log cabin surrounded by a cross on a site (north of the Elbow River and west of Highway 22, near the Volker Stevin garage). Thus began the mission of Our Lady of Peace in the country of the Blackfeet. It was the first church in southern Alberta. Father Constantine Scollen, OMI, took up residence there in 1873. A zealous servant of God, he ministered to the dwellers of the plains during the hard times that saw the passing of their old way of life. His name is affixed to Treaty No. 7, signed by the Blackfoot Confederacy in 1877.
Our Lady of Peace was moved to the junction of the Bow and Elbow Rivers when the North West Mounted Police built Fort Calgary there in 1875. This old mission was used infrequently until 1882 when it was abandoned.
Our Lady of Peace mission was designated a registered historic site on 26 March 1976, by the Honorable Horst A. Schmid, Minister of Culture, commemorating the courage and determination shown by Alberta’s missionaries in the early days of this province.
Albert Warren Bragg
The namesake of Bragg Creek was a rancher who eventually retired to Calgary and lived for three years in Elbow Park, at 3802 7A Street. Albert Warren Bragg had been born in Truro, Nova Scotia around 1868. After spending a short time in the dairy business, he came west sometime between 1886 and 1892, and tried homesteading in the area that now bears his name. Finding it difficult to keep cattle due to the relative wetness and early frosts in the area, he left after only a couple of years and went to British Columbia. Returning to Alberta, Bragg started a successful ranch in the Rosebud area. Ironically, by that time several large and successful ranches had been established near his first homestead. Around 1920, he sold his own ranch and retired, working part time as a farm manager for a law firm that owned land around Rosebud. After living in Elbow Park from 1918 to 1921, he moved to North Hill, where he remained until his death in 1948. His wife Mary, whom he married in 1901, died before him in 1937. They had one daughter, Mabel, and a son, Earl, who became an executive for an Edmonton insurance company.
This was from research on Elbow Park in Calgary by Mary Lynn.
Mary Lynn tied the Albert Bragg story to her father’s experience. He bought a lot in Elbow Park on the cusp of Mount Royal. It was farmland then – 1951. A man named Harkney, who was one of the originals who created Saddle and Sirloin, lived a block and a half south on Sifton. She and her sister grew up riding Don Sanders’ horses out in West Bragg Creek in the 1960’s. Her mom used to beg her father to buy at Saddle and Sirloin. She worked her whole life to settle there. It was neat to learn of the connection to the Elbow Park lot her dad bought and owned until he died and the fact that the Braggs were connected to his neighbourhood.
The honky tonk songwriter Tom Phillips’ dad also was a co-founder of Saddle and Sirloin – Tom has neat stories to tell of old Bragg Creek as well. So many connections.