The History Of Dunmore

Play episode
Hosted by
CraigBaird

The community of Dunmore is in the territory of the Blackfoot people. The area was especially important to the Blackfoot, as well as the Cree, as the bison moved through as they migrated to the north and to the south through the year.

Nearby, there is Writing On Stone Provincial Park, which features centuries-old petroglyphs that you can explore to learn more about life before Europeans arrived.

Today, Dunmore sits on the border of Treaty 7 and Treaty 4 land.

Dunmore was born thanks to nearby Medicine Hat, which is only a couple minutes away. The CPR was built through and Medicine Hat was made a divisional point. As such, the Hamlet of Dunmore sprang up.

The CPR itself reached the future site of Dunmore on May 28, 1883 and the site was called Siding #14 at first. Later, the community was named for Charles Murray, the Earl of Dunmore, who was an early benefactor of the CPR.

At the time it was founded, it was predicted to be the largest manufacturing city in the gas belt of Central Alberta. Of course, that would not happen and today it is a hamlet next to the much larger Medicine Hat.

The pioneers of Dunmore came from many different backgrounds, and many were second generation Canadians who had migrated out from Canada. Others were Russians, or from Eastern Europe, looking for cheap land and a better life.

The first settler in the area is believed to be Dan Cavan, who worked for the railroad and liked what he saw so he settled in the area. His son, Henry, was believed to be the first white child born in the area.

In 1886, a narrow gauge railway was built to haul coal from the mines at Lethbridge, which greatly helped the growth of the small community.

At the time of its founding, the main hotel in Dunmore was the Ford Hotel, which was quite extravagant for the small size of the community. It was at this hotel that two men, shackled together as they had been arrested by the North West Mounted Police, escaped out the second storey window and made a run for it. They had been sentenced to five years in prison for stealing horses, but after escaping they eluded capture for two years.

The village quickly grew as more people arrived and soon a store was brought in, run by Henry Stewart. At the time, supplies came from Medicine Hat by cart.

In 1893, the gauge railway was leased by the Canadian Pacific Railway from the North-West Coal and Navigation Company. The railway then rebuilt the line as a standard gauge line. There was no longer a need for the transfer of coal at Dunmore Junction. The station was then moved back up the hill and buildings were demolished or moved to the new site. The station was then renamed from Dunmore Junction to Dunmore, while the post office retained the name of Coleridge because the town had been surveyed in that name. This meant that people lived in the town of Coleridge but the district and the town itself was often referred to as Dunmore.

It would be 50 years before this line of confusion was remedied.

As time went on, Dunmore gained connections to several major communities including Cranbrook, Spokane and others, helping to fuel its growth.

During those early years for the community, the railroad was the backbone of the community and employed nearly every working person.

In 1883, the first church service was conducted in the community and a few years later, the first school was built.

By 1914, the community had a population of 400 people.

The community has not become a major centre, but it is an important bedroom community to the nearby Medicine Hat and definitely worth a stop on any drive through the area.

George Plews, who was born in England and moved to Canada in 1920, would come to Dunmore from Picture Butte and begin his employment at the Alberta Wheal Pool Elevator in Dunmore on Aug. 1, 1929, serving under Norman Nelson. Plews would continue working at the elevator until 1931 when the elevator was closed due to drought and poor crops. Unfortunately, this was one year after Plews married his wife Anna Klaiber. Not a great time to lose one’s job.

The elevator would remain closed for the next six years as The Great Depression was raging through the area. In 1937, the elevator was opened, and George was rehired. He would remain in the position until 1952 when the elevator was dismantled completely and moved to Seven Persons.

From 1954 to 1956, he served as the relief agent for the elevator, as he was posted at Seven Persons. In 1957, Plews would receive a gold-engraved watch for 25 years of service to the elevator. He had a banquet and was given a week holiday at the Palliser Hotel in Calgary.

He would continue to help at the elevator over the years until 1965 when he officially retired. In 1965, Plews and his wife would be honored guests at a dinner dance at the Park Lane Hotel in Medicine Hat to honour his retirement. George was presented with a wardrobe suitcase by Robert Bayer, while his wife received a bouquet of roses and white daisies in a glass container. Several prominent people from the Alberta Wheat Pool were on-hand to celebrate Plews and his life with the company.

Even though he was retired, his love of elevators continued, and he would keep doing relief work when other agents were ill or on holidays until 1972.

Liked it? Take a second to support CraigBaird on Patreon!

Leave a Reply

More from this show

Canadian History Ehx

Recent posts

%d bloggers like this: