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Elevators in Spring Coulee

Pinepound Reflections
A History of Spring Coulee and District
pages 103 - 105
by Gerry Ripley

The first elevator was built in 1905 by William L. Thompson with a capacity of 18,000 bushels. Tom and Lester Morrow were among the first operators. It burned down in 1914 but was later rebuilt. For a time it was known as the Bawlf Elevator but Clara C. Thompson bought the Bawlf interest in the company and it became the Thompson Elevator. For many years the farmers hauled their grain to town using grain tanks pulled by a team of horses but by the late thirties these were replaced by trucks. The Thompson Elevator was not equipped to handle the large trucks so it was eventually torn down.

The Alberta Pacific Grain Company built an elevator in Spring Coulee about 1906. Many years later it was torn down and replaced with a larger elevator, annex and coal shed. Over many years they sold coal and shipped hogs (Thursday was hog shipping day.) In 1968, Federal took over the Alberta Pacific Elevator for a short while, then it was purchase by the Alberta Wheat Pool.

The Ogilvie Elevator was built around 1907. One of the early operators was Nick Brunsdale. It was taken over by the Alberta Wheat Pool in 1929.

The following history of the Alberta Wheat Pool was submitted to Mrs.T Beswick on October 26, 1962 by E. Patching, superintendent of Publicity Department.

"In April, 1929, the Alberta Wheat Pool purchased the Ogilvie elevator in Spring Coulee and for the first time Pool members in the area were able to deliver their grain to their own facilities. Prior to that, they had to market their pooled grain through the facilities of the other elevator organizations. Over the intervening years Pool elevators at the point have handled just over 2 1/2 million bushels of grain.

The Pool's first elevator, which had been built in 1925 with a capacity of 45,000 bushels, was destroyed by fire on August 12, 1931. Rebuilding began right away with Voss Brothers of Calgary the contractors. In 1940, a 22,000 bushel annex was built and in 1956 a 41,000 permanent balloon annex was built, giving the Pool a total capacity of 103,500 bushels.

G.O. Risvold was the first Alberta Wheat Pool agent in Spring Coulee but remained there for only a little more than a year before being moved to Connemara. W. H. McCougherty followed him for a few months and he in turn was succeeded by A.E. Hobbs, who remained for about a year. H.B. Evans was next in line , he operated the elevator from 1932-1936, when he transferred to Coutts. W.H. Kabeary took charge of the elevator in August 1937 and stayed until March 1945, when Ted Johnson was made agent. He moved to Nanton 1952 and on July 15 that year the present agent Dean Nelson took over.

The Alberta Wheat Pool is democratically controlled by its members through the 70 delegates they elect. Over the years three delegates have represented the Spring Coulee area. J.A. Johansen of Woolford, was the first delegate in 1923 and was followed by Chris Jensen, of Magrath for four years. Mr. Johansen then served for another 16 years before retiring in 1942 when he was followed by present delegate, Lester Lee, also of Woolford.

Directors from the southwestern section of the province have been: Chris Jensen, from 1923-1945: A.T. Baker, of' Nemiskan, and now General Manager of the Alberta Wheat Pool, from 1945 to 1953; and Nelson Malm of Vauxhall from 1953 to the present.

The price of wheat reached the lowest level ever recorded in Western Canada on Friday December 16, 1932. The open or speculative marketing system, which was then in effect, had become completely demoralized in the face of world depression. On the fateful day, the machinery of the open market ceased to function to all practical intents and purposes. The following are prices for the main grades on that day at a shipping point with the same freight differential as Spring Coulee.

Wheat--------cents/bus.
I Northern---19 1/2
2 Northern---17 1/2
3 Northern---16
4 Northern---I 3
No. 6--- I 1 1/2
Feed---8 1/2

Oats----- cents/bus
2 C.W.---7 1/2
3 C.W.---4 1/2
Ex I Feed---4 1/2
I Feed---3 1/2
2 Feed---2 1/2

Barley
3 C.W.---II
4 C.W.---8
5 C.W.---6

Flax
I C. W.---46
2 C.W.---42
3 C.W.---30

It has been more difficult to ascertain the high price for wheat but it appears to have been reached in September, 1920 when the price of Northern at Fort William - Port Arthur rose to 1.85 5/8 per bushel. I am not sure whether there was a rail line at Spring Coulee at that time so I cannot give you the actual price paid to the farmer in the area. It would likely be 20 to 25 cents below the Fort William price mentioned above.

Spring Coulee Elevator Burns Complete Loss

From Lethbridge Daily Sept 12, 1914

The W. L. Thompson grain elevator here burned to the ground last night, with a loss of about $10,000.00. The fire, the cause of which is unknown, started about 2 o'clock this morning and before the flames could be controlled, had practically destroyed the entire plant, together with 10,000 bushels of wheat and 4,000 of oats in storage. The fire spread to a car on the side-track near the elevator and burned it with contents, wheat ready for shipment, to the car tracks.

It is expected that about 10% of the grain will be saved, as the leak occurred on the windward side.

The insurance of the building amounts to about $2,000.00, but there was no insurance on the grain.

The elevator was owned by Mrs. W. L. Thompson, operated by H. Thompson and managed by C. H. Kelley.

Believe Germans Burned The Elevators At Spring Coulee

from the Lethbridge Herald Sep 16, 1914

Three large elevators, a flour mill and several hundreds of tons of hay have been burned in the Magrath and Raymond districts in the past few weeks. The latest conflagration, the burning of the Thompson elevator at Spring Coulee has alarmed the natives, and the suspicion that German incendiaries are at work, is broadcast in the south.

In giving the account of the burning of this elevator to the Herald, the informant stated that it was the general opinion that the fire was started by the careless throwing of match ends in the vicinity of the building. A social was in progress the night of the fire, and it is thought that some who had their teams hitched to the building might have thrown matches nearby while unhitching their horses at a late hour.

The following is what the Magrath correspondent of the Calgary paper has to say on the subject: "It is hardly probable that the wheat would ignite spontaneously at this time of the year, and under careful watch, and the belief is growing that German sympathizers may be doing the work. Recently several large stacks of hay were set afire in Raymond, just following the blaze in which the large Ellison mill at Magrath was destroyed.

There had been a number of Germans in this section for several months, especially one mysterious character who worked at the Knight Sugar Factory. Your correspondent can vouch for his complete knowledge of Southern Alberta, together with charts, maps and data concerning the topography of the country from Saskatchewan to the mountains. This information he always kept under lock and key. He is known to have received much mail, many of the letter bearing official seats, and to cap the climax, he disappeared the morning war was declared."

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup