The History Of Bragg Creek

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The area of Bragg Creek was occupied primarily by the Blackfoot, who covered most of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan for centuries. The bison were an incredibly important animal for the Blackfoot, providing them with food and supplies for their day-to-day lives.

As Europeans pushed from the east, the Cree would come into Blackfoot territory, sparking conflict that would last until the latter-part of the 19th century.

Due to decline of the bison, the Blackfoot would be forced to sign a treaty to surrender their lands to receive rations and reserves from the Canadian government.

Today, Bragg Creek sits on Treaty 7 land.

Beginning in the 1880s, ranchers and their families would begin to settle throughout the territory of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. They would travel along a route that became known as the Cowboy Trail, which runs along the foothills between the mixed forests of the Rocky Mountains and the grasslands of the Canadian Prairies.

Along the route, various communities would be established including Pincher Creek, Longview, Cochrane and, eventually, Bragg Creek.

Albert Warren Bragg, along with his young brother John Thomas, came to the area in 1894 and homesteaded. They are believed to be the first settlers to homestead in the area of Bragg Creek. According to G.E. Edworthy, who knew Bragg, the man was quite surprised to learn that the creek and district had been named for him. Bragg overall only had a passing interest in the area, described as quote:

“Interesting from a historical point of view.”

Bragg would eventually leave the area to move to British Columbia, and then came back to Alberta to settle in the Rosebud district where he operated a successful cattle ranch.

Another prominent individual who lived in the area was George Livingston, who operated the Saddle and Sirloin Ranch at Bragg Creek. He was the eldest son of Sam Livingston, who was an early trader that met with the first detachment of the North West Mounted Police when they arrived in the Calgary area. Today, Sam Livingston is often called Calgary’s first citizen and his home was moved when the Glenmore Dam was built and now sits at Heritage Park. Livingston was also the first person to bring mechanized equipment for farming to the Calgary area. When he died in 1897 after the birth of his 14th child, his funeral procession was 40 carriages long.

George Livingston developed a love for the area and would often ride alone through the area to enjoy nature. Edworthy would say quote:

“It was then he developed a love for this beautiful foothills area and resolved that some time he would permanently locate on the site of his camp.”

It was there that he would open his ranch, the Saddle and Sirloin Ranch, where he lived until he died in 1927.

The community was established between a forestry reserve and the Sarcee First Nations Reserve, as well as a provincial park.

Its close proximity to Calgary helped the community prosper, all the way up to today.

Today, traveling around when you are young and staying in hostels is something thousands of Canadians do in their own country and abroad. One way they do this is through youth hostels, but the hostel is a relatively new idea. The first ever hostel in Canadian history didn’t pop up in a major city, or in eastern Canada, but right in Rocky View County in Bragg Creek.

It was in 1933 Catherine Barclay came home from Europe where she had used hostels that were set up for hikers. Coming back to Canada, she told her sister about hostels and they would speak with Tom Fullerton, the Fish and Game Warden for the Bragg Creek area. They received permission to set up a hostel on his property. One year later, with the Bragg Creek Hostel proving so successful, the Canadian Youth Hostels Association was set up with hostels established in rural areas of the country and in National Parks.

Margaret Ecker would visit the hostel in 1938 and state quote:

“I had never been inside a hostel before and I was surprised at the compactness and the orderliness. Across the end, facing the door, was a strange deck-like structure that turned out to be a community two-tiered bed, each deck containing six straw ticks. In one corner of the 16×18 cabin was a kitchen as compact as a ship’s galley. A scrubbed oil cloth covered the floor and there was more oil cloth on the long table that would accommodate a dozen or more people. Dry wood was piled high beside the polished four hole stove.”

Unfortunately, the Bragg Creek Hostel would close in 1947 and the original hostel’s location only has parts of the cement rock fireplace still standing. It would not be until 1977 when a second hostel opened, but it would be destroyed by fire. In 2018, Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada unveiled a plaque to honour the creation of the first hostel in Canada. It says quote:

“On May 13, 1933, Mary and Catherine Barclay and a few of their friends pitched a large canvas tent on Ida May White’s property in Bragg Creek. They began to charge young hikers a modest fee for a safe place to stay and soon started a permanent home for the hostel on Thomas Fullerton’s nearby property. Inspired by the youth hostelling movement in Europe, the energetic Barclay sisters founded the Canadian Youth Hostels Association. By the early 1940s, its success had led to the creation of a network of affordable accommodations in Canada, offering opportunities for independent, adventurous travel.”

In 1936, Bragg Creek was hit by a terrible storm that took down telephone lines and was described as one of the worst in recent memory. Thousands of trees were uprooted and broken off and the Bragg Creek was completely blocked by fallen trees. Even the roads were blocked and it would take several days to clear them. Telephone wires were down in dozens of areas. In one section of the village, a swatch of large jack pines were completely wiped out for half a mile along a quarter wide mile route. Several buildings also reported to be damaged.

The Calgary Herald reported quote:

“The highest wind ever known raged for nearly six hours, leaving a mass of debris and destruction.”

Beginning in 1992, one of the most important and influential Canadian television shows began to film in Bragg Creek. North of 60, which was set in the fictional Indigenous community of Lynx River in the Northwest Territories was incredibly popular during its run from 1992 to 1997 on CBC. Most of the characters were Dene, with some non-Indigenous characters. The show explored issues such as Indigenous cultural preservation, Indigenous poverty and alcoholism, as well as land settlements and natural resource exploitation. The show was unlike anything that had been seen on Canadian television, with its strong focus on the Indigenous. It remains a popular show to this day and is watched around the world by fans. Many come out to Bragg Creek to see the filming locations featured in the show as well.

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