The 49th Parallel-Our Southern Boundary
The 49th Parallel as the boundary between Canada and United States, by coincidence follows fairly closely the natural drainage divide. It cuts one of the world's largest homogenous regions, the North American Great Plain. Since the land both north and south of the 49th parallel had not been settled or explored, no one was certain how valuable or desirable the land was, so the logical boundary was a straight line. However, the value of the land was in the soil-which is among the finest in the world. The fertility drew thousands of homesteaders, among them the homesteaders of the Lease country.
The War of 1812 was brought to a formal close by the treaty of Ghent in 1814 with the boundary between Canada and United States declared from the Atlantic Ocean to the Lake of the Woods. It was also declared that a boundary west of the Lake of the Woods must be determined. In a convention of 1818, the boundary was extended to the Rocky Mountains. It reads: It is agreed that a line drawn from the most north western point of the Lake of the Woods along the 49th parallel of north latitude, or if the said point shall not be in the 49th parallel of north latitude, then that a line drawn from said point due north and south, as the case may be until the said line shall intersect the said parallel of north latitude and from the point of such intersection due west along and with the said parallel, shall be the line of demarcation between the territories of the United States and those of his Britannic Majesty and that the said line shall form the northern boundary of the said territories of the United States and the southern boundary of the territories of His Britannic Majesty, from the Lake of the Woods to the Stony Mountains. (Later changed to the Rocky Mountains. )
With the ratification of the Convention in January, 1819, the 49th parallel boundary, and the Alberta-Montana boundary came into being.
In the summer and autumn of 1874, the two surveying parties had reached the west portion of the boundary. One was a British company from the Royal Engineers who had a small group of soldiers with them. The other party was American, who was accompanied by a company of cavalry and two companies of infantry for protection from the Indians.
Appointments to the survey party were made without regard to the qualifications or capacity for work. One man was appointed as cook who was a qualified groom. They had a few encounters with Indians, but most were friendly. They ran out of wood in this area so buffalo chips were used as fuel. The buffalo were plentiful, as were antelope. Several large herds were reported in the Milk River watershed. At one time, they narrowly escaped a buffalo stampede. Thousands of the terrified buffalo swept past them, smothering them in dust. There was no rain for three weeks and the Milk River stopped running. Grasshoppers made short work of the remaining grass. One of their base camps was at the Sweet Grass Hills. Most of the grass was very nutritious but animals disliked a variety which was very distasteful, had a peculiar rounded stem, a sweetish taste like sugar cane and a peculiar odor; hence the name Sweet Grass Hills.
Captain Samuel Anderson was the chief astronomer for the British group with Captain Donald Cameron and Captain Arthur Ward as assistants. The memory of a few of the surveyors has been preserved in place names in Waterton Lakes National Park; Cameron Lake and Falls, Rowe Lakes, Anderson Peak, Mount Galway and Mount Boswell and Mount Campbell in Glacier National Park. Archibald Campbell and William J. Twining were two of the Americans in charge of the other group. One of the North West Mounted Police who was in the area at this time was a son of Charles Dickens.
On August 18, 1874, Captain Anderson of the British party reached the boundary monument which had been placed on the Continental Divide in 1861 when the survey from the Pacific through the Rockies was made. By the end of August, the survey was completed and the 49th parallel was a physical fact. From the Lake of the Woods to the Rockies, 388 monuments were placed. As surveyors came farther west the markers were mounds of stones wherever these could be procured or failing them, mounds of earth. The line as originally surveyed is the official Boundary Line despite discrepancies from 49 to 1200 feet. Only one marker on the line has been proven to be precisely on the 49th parallel.
In 1908, a new treaty was passed to re-examine the entire Canada-United States boundary. All but one of the original 388 markers were recovered. 653 new ones were placed reducing the average distance between markers to one and a third miles. From the Lake of the Woods to the north branch of the Milk River, cast iron monuments were placed. From there to the Akamina summit, aluminum and bronze monuments were placed. The Treaty of 1925 specifies that there be continuous maintenance by permanent commissioners.
Before the 1870's, the Canadian Custom Services were rendered by the North West Mounted Police. In 1886, Fort Macleod was designated as a Customs Port, with non police personnel. The first port on the boundary was located at Coutts, Alberta in 1889. In 1904, customs ports were located at Wild Horse (between Medicine Hat, Alberta and Havre, Montana) and at Twin Lakes (between Cardston, Alberta and Browning, Montana). Twin Lakes was closed in 1932 and moved to Whiskey Gap in order to facilitate the shipping of American grain via the Canadian Pacific Railway. Whiskey Gap was closed in 1939 and moved to Del Bonita when the road linking Magrath and Cut Bank, Montana was completed.
It is interesting to note that in 1874 staff of the British Commission of surveyors consisted of the following: H. M. Commissioner, Secretary, Chief Astronomer, two Astronomers-Officers of the R.E., two surveyors, one surgeon, one geologist and naturalist; one commissariat officer; one veterinary surgeon; four sub-assistants astronomers; three assistants to the surveyors, and one assistant surgeon.
The last fourteen of these offices were filled by Canadian gentlemen, who were nominated by the Government of the Dominion. There were also in permanent employment of the commission, 44 non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Engineers, one waggon-master, 12 depot keepers, (who were persons qualified to undertake the care of provisions and to issue stores and rations), and 13 officers' servants.
The ration of food allowed to each man was:- 1 1/2 oz. apples (dried) daily; 4 oz. biscuits daily; 16 oz. flour daily; (4 Ibs. of baking powder to every 100 Ibs. of flour); 2 1/2 oz. cheese daily; I oz. oatmeal daily; I/200 gal. pickles, or 1/4 pint of vinegar per week; 16 oz. meat daily; 1/2 oz. pepper daily; 1/3 oz. salt daily; 2/3 oz. soap daily; 3 oz. sugar daily; 1/100 gal syrup daily; I oz. tea daily; 1/2 oz. tobacco daily; I/2 oz. mustard weekly; 4 oz. beans (dried) daily, and matches as required.
All these articles were not issued daily to each man, but these were the relative proportions allowed. The total weight of food per day was about 40 oz.
The early surveyors were among the first white men to see the vast stretches of land along the 49th parallel. It is a tribute to these men that the parallel was so accurately and quickly surveyed.
Excerpts from the Lethbridge Herald The Last Great Land Rush of Southern AlbertaFebruary 9, 1912: Mclntyre Lease cancelled; opens up some fine land, many after it. On May first next, the lease of the Mclntyre Ranch will be thrown open for homestead entry.
The Mclntyre lease is situated south of the Milk River, being that part of Range 20, 21, and 22 between the Milk River and the boundary. The lease which has been held for some years, is a sub-lease acquired about fifteen years ago by the Knight Sugar Co. of Raymond.
It is significant that in closing the lease, the government has withdrawn from the ranching interests one more of the large blocks, which, for years, was considered good for nothing but cattle grazing. At the same time they are cutting into the last resort of the cattlemen of Southern Alberta. The Milk River Ridge, for years has been the home of the last 'big ranchers' in this section of Alberta. Lying side by side along the ridge were the Knight Sugar ranches, the Mclntyre Ranch, and the Eldridge ranch, all of them representing kings in the cattle business.
With over ninety thousand acres of free land for the and hungry, and with a thousand already inquiring for it, and patiently waiting for the time to strike, Lethbridge will see one of the greatest land rushes in its history on May first next.
Lethbridge Herald March 18,1912
Actual Lands Open to Homesteaders May Ist. Description of the Knight Sugar Factory Leases Cancelled Lands Excepted Prospective Applicants Can Now Get Busy Locating Quarters.(Special to the Herald) Ottawa, March 18-It is understood that the lands of the Knight Sugar Co. Iease to be opened for homesteading in May will be as follows, Township 1, Range 20, Township 1, Range 21, south of the river. Township 1, Range 22, south of the river, excepting the N.W. 1/4 of 4, the southeast 1/4 of 5 and the south east 1/4 of 6, all sections 15, 22, 28, 33 and the north east 1/4 of 36.
Township 2, Range 21, south of the river, all west of the Fourth Meridian, excepting those from all Hudson's Bay company's and school lands.
Lethbridge Herald-March 26, 1912
Great Inrush of Settlers Daily Scenes at C.P.R. Yards Resemble Rush Three Years Ago.Southern Alberta is getting the quota of new settlers which have been promised by immigration officers during the winter months. Every day they are coming. and every day they are telling of the hundreds who are yet to follow.
But the settler's rush has barely commenced. Many inquiries are being received every day by different parties in the city from people who are desirous of homesteading on the McIntyre ranch lease, when thrown open on May 1. This will undoubtedly be the last great land rush in the history of Southern Alberta, and will mark an epoch in the history of the south.
April 1, 1912 Will Camp 35 Days to Get a Homestead: Already Crowd is Gathering itor the Big Land Rush: Opens May Ist.One month from today the homestead portion on the Mclntyre ranch lease Iying along the boundary line between Alberta and Montana will be thrown open for homestead entry.
Already forty hungry land seekers are camping at the door of the land office to be on hand for the rush. Every hour adds to the number. Inside the next fifteen days the forty will be increased to nearer four hundred. It is the chance of a lifetime. Certainly it is the best opportunity for the new settler which has been afforded for two years or more.
The night is the worst for the land seekers, for they say Alberta nights carry a sting which easterners are not accustomed to. Improvised tents made with blankets pinned up to the fence are in order. Baskets of provisions line the walk and are carefully guarded, for without the 'grub-stake' of these land prospectors they would fail in their purpose.
Most of the seekers are provided with alternates who carry provisions, who relieve them when they wish to stretch their weary legs, and who keep them informed on the questions of the day in real estate circles.
And there is a woman there, but not alone. Beside her this morning was her little baby, only a few months old, resting in the carriage and taking in the view as philosophically as if looking for land was an everyday task. This lady, however, was merely relieving her husband, who was away regaling himself on ham and eggs after a long night's watch on the corner.
April 8, 1912 Land Seekers are Quiet Lot: Are not a Nuisance and Police are Satisfied.The presence of seventy-five people waiting in line at the Land Office for the opening to homestead entry on May 1, of the Mclntyre lease on the International boundary line, is creating a great deal of comment among the people of Lethbridge, both favorable and unfavorable, and as a result of an agitation to have them removed, the city officials are facing a situation which they will have to use a great deal of tact if it is to be handled successfully.
On Saturday Mayor Hatch, Mr. McKeown and Chief Gillespie investigated and found nothing out of the way, or nothing to complain about in the actions of the patient crowd. They were all standing about peacefully awaiting the day on which they would be able to secure for themselves a choice farm in Sunny Southern Alberta. There was nothing either, of an indecent or unhealthy nature in anything they found.
A spokesman for those standing in line said "I admit the system is wrong, but so long as the precedent has been set, and it has been allowed to stand in other cities, I think the police could control the situation with very little difficulty. However, if the city will issue tickets which will secure our present places for us, I am sure the crowd has enough honor to abide by that decision without making any trouble."
Mayor Hatch is taking the matter up with Hon. Robert Rogers, minister of the interior, and if possible this measure will be put into effect in this particular case. If it works well, a precedent will have been set which will overcome similar difficulties in the future.
Note; Mayor Hatch and city council put the above mentioned plan into effect. The sidewalk was divided into numbered squares. Each person was given a number corresponding to the number on the side walk-and his name and picture were taken. One dollar fee was charged to reserve each numbered place in the line. The people were free to disperse, and come back May Ist to resume their reserved positions.
May 1, 1912 Most Peaceful Land Rush in the History of Alberta: Neither Jostling Nor Dispute-Police in Full Control of Crowd, Over 300 Sought Free Farm in South Alberta.
Hardly a ripple of excitement marked the opening of the last great land rush of Southern Alberta, when at nine o'clock this morning the doors of the Land Office were thrown open to admit the 325 land seekers who had gathered bent on securing tor themselves a Sunny Alberta farm of half or quarter of a section of the Mclntyre lease thrown open for entry today. It was the most peaceful land rush in the history of Lethbridge. In fact the rush was almost as quiet as the farming will be when the three townships which were filed on today are dotted with little farms and produce instead of thousands of cattle, thousands of bushels of famous Alberta Red.
When the doors of the land office were thrown open all were in line. So anxious were some of the prospective land seekers not to miss their chance of a lifetime that they had spent the whole night in the vicinity of the land office, lest they might oversleep and so lose out on a good thing. However, the police made good and certain that there was no loitering during the night; and a special detail of four men was told to patrol the district.
On Hand Early: When the chill of the night wore off and the sun began to shine, the homesteaders began to arrive in numbers. Before eight o'clock practically every man was in his place. Some few failed to show up and were not in their subdivisions when nine o'clock came. They lost out and will remember next time that it never pays to be late.
Six city policemen in charge of Chief Gillespie and four members of the Mounted Police Detachment were present this morning to take charge of the crowds. Hundreds of curious citizens were also on the ground to witness the novelty of a grab for free homesteads. The overhead bridge was lined with spectators, the camera fiend being very much in evidence.
But so orderly and good natured was the crowd that those who came to witness an old time land grab went away disappointed.
Doors Opened PromptlyPromptly at nine o'clock the doors were thrown open. An order came from Agent Stafford to allow fifty men to enter. Fifty were told off and filed in. Chief Gillespie stood at the door, and as each man passed him, the lease which entitled him to a place in the line was collected, and being found in order the man was allowed to pass.
Stagg Was No. IT. H. Stagg was the first man up, and in a few minutes he issued from the building, wearing a Sunny Jim smile. He had made himself richer to the extent of 320 acres of the best land in the tract-the south half of section five, township 21. Mr. Stagg will therefore, take up his future domicile on the international boundary.
Little Woman was TwelfthTwelfth in the line was a little woman in black. She disappeared in the door, only to come forth in a few minutes, with a happy smile on her tace, replacing the rather anxious expression which had been noticeable all morning. Down along the line came another lady. Her luck was also good, and now Alberta has two more women land owners who by their pluck have made themselves the possessors of a whole section of the prize, for which men would have risked life and limb to obtain, if such measures had been necessary.
The whole affair passed off just as simply and as smoothly as if it had been rehearsed previously, and by eleven o'clock the whole line had registered.
There were a few little issues, however, which few of the spectators caught. lt is charged that one man coming from the vicinity of Raley was prepared to pay out good money to those in the line if they would file and allow him to cancel their entry later, when he will enter some of his friends on the homestead, thus giving him a large block of land.
No. 24 in the line was seen talking to this party, and the magnificent sum of ten dollars changed hands. Detective Egan happened to catch the transaction, however, and both No. 24 and the boomer were given strict orders to depart in double quick time.
Mayor Hatch's plan worked admirably in every detail. At the last land rush there were two deaths caused by pneumonia brought on by exposure to the bitter cold of February. Not so this time. This plan has proven itself humane, sanitary, and in every way acceptable, and there is no doubt that the department of the interior will thoroughly investigate and work in conjunction with the municipal authorities along similar lines in the land rushes of the future.
How The Milk River Got Its NameOn May 8, 1805, Captains Lewis and Clark when ascending the Missouri River on their famous transcontinental exploration, came to the mouth of this stream, and wrote in their journal: "A peculiar whiteness, such as might be produced by a tablespoonful of milk in a dish of tea induced us to call it Milk River".
Milk River Watershed and International Water AgreementThe land between the Milk River Ridge and the Alberta Montana border once belonged to France, Spain, France again, the United States, the Hudson's Bay Company, and finally Canada.
The Milk River Ridge, an elevation, Iying between the North Fork of the Milk River and the Saint Mary, is the dividing-line between the waters flowing to the Missouri-Mississippi and those emptying into the Saskatchewan. The distinction between the two systems is very marked. The streams flowing to the south and east, having their sources in the prairie or low down in the foothills, are sluggish in their flow, with a more or less alkaline tendency. The South Fork is particularly noticeable for the milky color of its waters, which gave the name of Milk River to the stream into which it flows.
The valuable resources that Canada and the United States share in many lakes and rivers which straddle or cross the International Boundary have been the subject of prolonged disputes between the two countries. In the 19th century the quarrels concerned mainly fish, while in the 20th they tended to centre on the problem of hydro-electricity. In addition, for many years after the turn of the century, there existed an intermittent quarrel between the Canadian and the United States government regarding the use of waters for Irrigation purposes.
The first attempts at irrigation on the U.S. side came during the 1870's. The settlers built small ditches and began irrigating their fields. Small irrigation canals were constructed but owing to the limited supply of the Milk River, large scale irrigation projects in this region were not feasible at this time.
North of the International Border, irrigation possibilities were first pointed out in 1885. However the actual introduction of irrigation to Canada was left to private initiative, in particular the Mormons who started settling in the region in 1887, and started digging irrigation ditches in 1889. The Mormons had come from an area of the United States where irrigation was necessary, and they brought with them a knowledge of the techniques of irrigated agriculture. They drew attention to the possibility of developing irrigation in Southern Alberta. But this was coolly received by Federal authorities.
It was difficult to receive help from the Federal government due mainly to the lack of knowledge of the area by the men representing the government, and the inability of the two governments to settle the dispute of who should use the water from the St. Mary and the Milk River, and how much should be allotted to each side of the border.
The area generally referred to as the Canadian- American irrigation frontier consists basically of the St. Mary and Milk River basins which are separated only by a low divide of land. Both rivers are international streams and both originate in the eastern ranges of the Rocky Mountains of northern Montana. But the two carry their waters in different directions. The St. Mary is part of the Missouri-Mississippi system. The Milk River returns to the United States after flowing through more than a hundred miles of Canadian territory. In spite of the fact that the basins of these two rivers are separated by a continental divide, the whole area has many common features, and constitutes a fairly well defined geographic unit. The gently undulating grasslands, traversed by a network of deep furrows cut by streams flowing out of the foothills of the Rockies, give the landscape of the region a great deal of uniformity. This uniformity is accentuated by the lack of trees, except in river valleys and gullies. The Chinook winds; dry, warm masses of Pacific air flowing through the mountains, are common to both the Canadian and American portions of the region. The climate is similar, rainfall is unpredictable throughout and fluctuates greatly from year to year.
William Pearce, Department of Interior's Superintendent of Mines in the N.W. Territories after 1885, Sir Alexander Galt and Charles A. Magrath were advocates for the development of irrigation in Canada. They kept this issue before the government and eventually the Boundary Waters Treaty was signed in Washington on January 11, 1909. With it, supposedly, the St. Mary and Milk River irrigation controversy was settled.
Article Vl of the treaty stipulates that the St. Mary and Milk Rivers, and their tributaries were to be treated as one stream for the purposes of irrigation, and that their waters should be apportioned equally between the two countries. In making such division, however, one country could take more from one of the rivers and less from the other so as to afford a more beneficial use to each. The article declared further that: in the division of such waters during the irrigation season, between the Ist of April and 31st of October, inclusive, annually, the United States is entitled to a prior appropriation of 500 cubic feet per second of the waters of the Milk River, or so much of such amount as constitutes three-fourths of its natural flow, and that Canada is entitled to a prior appropriation of 500 cubic feet per second of the flow of St. Mary River, or so much of such amount as constitutes three fourths of its Natural "flow".
The clause's second paragraph assured the United States the use of the Canadian stretch of the Milk River to convey waters from the St. Mary reservoirs to the lower Milk River valley. The third and last paragraph provided for the measurement and apportionment of the water to be used, by the officers of the U.S. Reclamation Service and Canadian irrigation experts under the direction of the agency established by the Boundary Waters Treaty, the International Joint Commission.
In order to measure water being conveyed through Canada by the north fork of the Milk River, a gauge station known as "At Peters' Crossing" was set up in 1919. The first gauge house was located on the west side of the river and a cable ferry was used to make the measurements. Charles Barnett Sr. was in charge of recording measurements, and continued from 1919 to his death. Then it was carried on by Mrs. Florence Barnett until Yvonne Barnett took it over in 1944. In February 1979, Mavis Barnett took over gauge recording. Thus three generations of Barnetts have looked after this important international service.
When Mr. and Mrs. Barnett Sr. looked after the services gauge readings only were done at the river. In 1951 the evaporation pan was started to measure daily evaporation of river water, and water and rain measurements were taken as well. In 1965 maximum and minimum thermometers for measuring both water and air temperatures, as well as a snow gauge were added.
Now in 1980 the river gauge is on solar, which does an automatic reading. This is picked up by satellite. It is only necessary for Mavis Barnett to go to the river during flood conditions, at which time she marks high water levels. The other equipment is located in Charlie Barnett's yard where air temperatures are read twice daily, and anemometer and water thermometer readings are taken once daily.
The river station consists of a cable car which spans the river, and a river house located on the east side of the river. The equipment for solar measurement of river water is in the river house.
Measurements, and weather records taken at this station are referred to for crop insurance purposes, and drought records.
This is an international service. Measurements of water coming into Canada are recorded here, and another station further east measures water leaving Canada. These readings go to both Canadian and United States waters resources authorities.
The first record Yvonne Barnett has for rainfall is for 1952. The measurements for snowfall, wind and temperature were added in 1965.
Here are the amounts for the years 1952 to 1978 inclusive 1952-8.13 inches. 1953 - 15.14 inches 1954-8.11 inches . 1955-8.76 inches . 1956- 11.18 inches . 1958-9.60 inches . 1959-8.13 inches . 1960-4.50 inches . 1961 - 11.22 inches . 1962-9.28 inches . 1963-9.57 inches. 1964- 14.95 inches. 1965- 14.83 inches. 1966- 12.93 rain and 4.40 snow from April I to December 31st.
rain snow 1967-5.07 - 11.36Jan. I to Dec. 31 1968-10.46- 11.49 Jan. I to Dec. 31 1969-9.52- 3.90 Jan . I to Dec . 31 1970-7.85 -7.31 Jan. I to Dec. 31 1971 -11.03 - 8.16Jan. I to Dec. 31 1972-10.12- 11.44Jan. I toDec. 31. 1973-5.35-4.04 Jan . I to Dec . 31. 1974-7.37-9.94Jan. I toDec. 31 1975- 17 05 - 12.39 Jan. I to Dec. 31 1976- 13.07-3.31 Jan. I to Dec.31 1977- 7.58-5.45 Jan. I to Dec. 31 1978- 16.55 - 8.87 Jan. I to Dec. 31
The snow measurement is moisture content, not actual inches of snow. These records include 26 years of rain and 12 years of rain and snow. According to the records 1975 was the wettest year with 7.14 inches of the rain in June.
The highest temperature was + 99 F. degrees on August 24, 1969. The lowest temperature was -37F. degrees on January 28, 1969 and January 13, 1971. It was -10 F. degrees on April 3,1972 and April 1,1975, which is cold for that time of year.
The Land Survey"The land surveyor was the first white man to see many parts of the prairies and forests of the Northwest; it was his description of soil and topography which guided the farmer and rancher; it was his careful measurements which fixed the bounds of Indian reservations, the routes of railways and highways, and above all which produced that magnificently accurate gridwork of townships and sections which has made the land survey system of Western Canada one of the world's outstanding examples of practical scientific achievement."
From Adventures of a Surveyor in the Canadian Northwest 1880-1883.
The land survey in the area of the High Country was done between 1895 and 1900. The lands of this area lie west of the fourth meridian which is the IIOth degree of west longitude, also the border line between Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The 49th parallel of latitude was used as the base line in surveying the land into townships. Each township was six miles by six miles, and was then surveyed into thirty six sections. Each section was subdivided into quarters, marked by means of a marker, which was either an iron post, a set of four pits with a marker, or a stone mound. The ranges are numbered consecutively-west from each meridian, and the townships are numbered consecutively north from the base line of the 49th parallel of latitude.
The Dominion Land Surveyor or instrument man was the head of each survey party. Two rod men held up long wooden survey rods and moved them as directed by the surveyor to establish straight lines. Two chain men measured distances accurately along these lines and put up temporary stakes. Another group dug the pits, piled up the mounds, and placed the final markers.
Four pits each about four feet square were dug, and earth piled up to form a mound. An iron survey stake was driven on the top of each mound, and attached to it was a metal tag which gave the number of the section and quarter.
One of the surveyor's tools was a transit, a small telescope set on a tripod, or three legged stand, with an attached bubble level. The surveyor's chain was sixty-six feet in length, and had one hundred links. Road allowances were surveyed one chain, or sixty-six feet wide. Today a steel band or tape has replaced the chain in surveying but the term chain is still used.
The area of the High Country about which this book is compiled lies within townships I and part of 2, ranges 20, 21, 22, and 23.
Weather Through the YearsRay Knight used to say, "What we have had in the past we will have again in the future," meaning that wet years, dry years, severe winters, and mild winters will keep on coming in cycles.
This is very true of the climate of the High Country area. One old timer said, "Whatever this country does in the way of weather it does well."
Spring is usually ushered in by a gentle chinook which quickly changes drifts of snow to water. Spring seasons vary. In 1903 on Saturday afternoon, May 16, a gentle rain started falling, and by 9:00 p.m. heavy snow was coming. It kept snowing and blowing for four days. On Thursday, the fifth day the sun shone brightly, and the search for lost cattle, horses, and sheep, began. It was a sickening sight to see fence corners, coulees and river banks full of dead cattle, horses, or sheep. Losses were very heavy that spring, but it was followed by a beautiful summer with marvellous growing weather and excellent crops.
The spring of 1912 was quite mild. In April those who stood in line at the land office were able to sleep on the sidewalk under makeshift shelters. On May I, 1912 the weather was moderate and warm with a high in Lethbridge of 54 degrees and a low of 27 degrees F.
1914 was a very dry summer with poor crops. On October 3 a storm which lasted three days and nights blanketed the country with wet snow. This slowly melted and was followed by mild weather which lasted till after Christmas. Some people were able to break sod till Christmas.
The years from 1929 through early thirties were extremely dry. Several winters were very mild with little snowfall for reserve moisture. Spring seasons were sunny and warm, and summers were dry and hot. Those summers forest fires in northern Alberta and B.C. sent smoke into southern Alberta. The sun rose red in the mornings and remained red till sunset. Winds brought dust storms which were almost like blizzards.
1935-1936 spring was mild and beautiful but another dry summer with poor crops, followed. The winter brought heavy snow fall.
Spring 1936 was mild and promising but the summer was dry and hot. Crops were poor and there wasn't much cattle feed in the country. Winter set in about November Ist and was long and severe. Snow drifted over fence tops and as high as some buildings. It was difficult to keep roads open.
Some feed had been shipped in to Whiskey Gap but was of poor quality. Livestock losses were heavy that winter. Cattle froze to t heir knees while standing out in the cold.
Spring 1937 was mild and warm and was a welcome relief from winter's snow and cold. The summer was warm and productive. Crops were more promising.
1942-1943 was a cold winter with deep snow and blocked roads. Spring was mild and summer was warm and pleasant.
1945 was a wet summer. Crops were good.
1946-47-Summer of 1946 there were some hail storms. The fall of 1946 was wet and some crops weren't harvested till the spring of 1947. The spring and summer of 1947 were mild with average moisture. Fall of 1947 a heavy snowstorm in September blocked roads, and delayed harvest.
1949 was another beautiful spring, followed by a sunny dry summer, and an extremely cold winter.
In 1951 a June rain turned into snow three feet in depth. Summer was cold and wet. There was hail early in October. Crops were swathed and some were combined on top of the snow after the ground had frozen in December. These crops were a better grade than those harvested the spring of 1952. Spring came early in 1952 and people were able to complete the 1951 harvest and seed the 1952 crop before the middle of May.
1967-Canada's Centennial year brought three bad snow storms to the area between April 15 and May 1. These were followed by a mild spring and summer.
1970 was almost an ideal year. Spring was warm with plenty of moisture. The summer was sunny with rains at the right time to produce good hay and grain crops. Harvest weather was ideal.
1979 was another ideal year. The spring season was mild with a mixture of sunshine and rain. The summer was warm with rain when it was needed. Fall weather was ideal for harvest. The winter was open with very little snow.
The spring of 1980 came unusually early. Flowers bloomed early and crops were seeded in good time. The month of May was extremely dry and hot; grass was at a standstill, and hills were brown. Crops and hay were slow. Sunday May 18 the sun came up red as if obscured by smoke. The air was cloudy, and a grey film settled on everything. Mount St. Helens in Washington had erupted after being quiet since 1858. This cloudy dusty condition prevailed for four days and on the fifth day, May 22nd a most welcome downfall of rain came. During the rest of May and June rainfall was away above average. Crops and hay look promising.
This area experiences weather conditions that are sometimes extreme and different from other areas. The southeast wind which occurs in winter seldom reaches many miles beyond Whiskey Gap, but has a biting chill all its own. Sometimes temperatures can be mild with chinook conditions in this area, and it will be -30 degrees in Magrath, or vice versa. School buses have been known to stay home because of blizzard conditions south of the Milk River Ridge while neighboring towns of Magrath, Cardston and Milk River experienced sunny weather.
Another unusual weather occurrence is the rapid change in temperature which sometimes happens within two or three hours. Temperatures have been known to rise from -40 degrees to +40 degrees within a very short time.
In summer no matter how hot the days are the evenings and nights are cool. This condition often helps to save crops and gardens.
Climatic conditions influence the vegetation of the area. When the homesteaders came, bunch grass grew tall. and cured in the fall to provide winter grazing for livestock. There is also a short grass which makes good pasture. Although much of the land has been cultivated there are still pastures and headlands of native grass.
Wild flowers are common to the area and produce an abundance of color in their turn. The crocuses, yellow bells, wild geraniums, shooting stars, wild roses, snow drops or mayflowers, blue lupin, buffalo beans, dandelions, purple and yellow violets, sunflowers or brown eyed susans, blue bells, wild flax, flowering cactus, and sand lily add a touch of color to the country side.
This is naturally a treeless area, but there are wild saskatoon, goose berry, and choke cherry bushes, as well as wild juniper, which grows on river hills.
The area is a refuge for many wild animals. Gophers, thirteen stripe gophers, weasels, skunks, porcupines, red foxes, coyotes, marmot, raccoon, mule deer, white tail deer, antelope, muskrat, badger, jack rabbit, garter snakes and salamanders are some animals of the district. In early days kit foxes and cotton tail were common, but are rarely seen today.
A variety of birds bring cheerful songs as they come and go in season. Goldfinch, doves, orioles, meadowlarks, robins, canaries, red winged blackbirds, red headed woodpeckers, nuthatches, bluebirds, hummingbirds, killdeer, sparrows, swallows, chickadees, snipes, loons, blue herons, pelicans, swans, Canada geese and ducks, horned larks, eagles, horned owls, hawks, snowy owls, seagulls, magpies and crows are among feathered friends.
Cultivation of the area has made possible successful growth of spring wheat, winter wheat, barley, oats, mustard, fall rye, flax and rape. With cultivation has also come weeds such as toad flax, stinkweed, Canadian thistle, Russian thistle, fox tail, tansy and tumbling mustard, buckwheat, cow cockle, and wild oats. Native weeds include stinging nettle, sage brush, wild rhubarb, pig weed or lambs quarter and blue burr. These are kept under control through the use of sprays and cultivation.
This land supports farming, and ranching activities, and is a good place to live and raise a family.
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