MARY'S GENEALOGY TREASURES
Home     Email     Canada     Databases     England     Ethnic/Religious    FamilySearch.org    Ireland/No.Ireland  
L.D.S. Websites     Research Helps     Scotland     United States     Wales     World Databases 

George Washington Houk

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Pages 343 - 345

George was born Jan. 21, 1840 in Pennsylvania. While in the United States, he had ridden the Pony Express with Buffalo Bill, drove stage for Wells Fargo Express, and served as Sheriff of Choteau Country, Montana. He is believed to be the first white man to set foot on the present site of the city of Lethbridge. All he saw was miles and miles of grassland. There were trees in the nearby river valley but none at all on the windswept prairie.

George Houk settled in the Pot Hole district, a mile or two north of Pot Hole Creek, where he ran cattle. He had married a Blood Indian woman in Montana and lived happily with her until she died, predeceasing him by many years. He knew the Indians intimately and spoke their language fluently, and, although, in later life, he had a home in Lethbridge, he lived for the most part with the Indians. He could always be depended upon to lead the parade of Indians at the annual Exhibition and Fair.

George died May 27, 1928. The Pemmican Club erected a stone cairn in Mountain View Cemetery honoring the "Squaw Man". The 1935 Jubilee Issue of the Lethbridge Daily Herald carried the following story.

George Houk --AT WHOOP-UP IN 1864, TEN YEARS BEFORE THE MOUNTIES CAME

Believed to be the first white man to set foot on the present site of the city of Lethbridge, George Houk, liquor trader, squaw man, cowboy, and keen baseball supporter, is remembered by old timers of Lethbridge as one who contributed generously to this city's future. His colorful career began in Newcastle, Pennsylvania, and he was self-styled a "Pennsylvania Dutchman " He passed away in Lethbridge on May 27, 1928 at the age of 81 years.

George Houk was one of the oldest, if not the oldest old timer in the southern part of the province. He first arrived in what is now Alberta as early as 1864, ten years before the Royal North West Mounted Police, with whom he went as guide when they ferried across the Belly River close to where Lethbridge now stands.

Houk knew that the arrival of the "Mounties" spelt the end of the whiskey trade. But he unselfishly gave an open hand to the representatives of law and order and gave them his fullest co-operation thereafter.

Centre of Houk's early dealings with the "fire water" craved by the Redskins was old Fort Whoop- Up. He clearly remembered its construction in 1869 and explained the system of barter. For one bottle of whiskey, worth 80 cents when smuggled in without duty, Houk and his fellow traders received one buffalo skin which sold in New York for six dollars. In the U. S. he rode the Pony Express with Buffalo Bill and drove stage for the Wells Fargo Express Co.

But all that ended with the arrival of the Police and Houk turned his attention to more legal means of earning a living. But he did not sever his connection with the Indians. He had married a squaw in Montana and lived happily with her until she passed away, predeceasing him by several years. He knew the Indians intimately and spoke their language fluently. His love for his Indian wife was touching, and after he was deprived of her companionship he lost much of his interest in life and soon began to decline.

Houk, survivor of another day and another picturesque generation, turned to cattle raising for a livelihood. He lived for the most part with the Indians and could always be depended onto lead the parade of Indians in connection with any Lethbridge festivities. The annual exhibition and fair always featured the squawman riding at the head of the braves in all their plumes and war paint. On such occasions he was clad in doe-skin surtout, slouched hat and bandolier. Even when an old man he bore himself proudly on his steed, a veritable centaur, a man used to the saddle.

Cherished Possessions

To his dying day the colorful old man cherished two weapons -- a rifle and a revolver. The former, a Winchester 1873 model, aimed with the clear eye of its owner, spelt doom to hundreds of buffalo in the foothills country. The side arm a beautifully engraved.44 calibre weapon, was presented to him by the "boys" when he was sheriff of Choteau county, Montana. It was from that state that he made his way to Alberta, although the boundaries were by no means as well defined then as they are today.

Baseball in Lethbridge today would not have experienced its advancement had it not been for George Houk. Always a keen supporter of the diamond game, he organized Houk's Savages, a simon-pure club that one year won the Alberta championship. Despite his age and infirmities towards the close of his career, he seldom missed a ball game and helped many an aspiring young player with his comment and encouragement.

Long past his allotted three score years and ten, George Houk passed the quietude of his evening of life in his home in the city on a spot where the buffalo once roamed. He suffered from rheumatism which at times caused him great pain but his mind was ever clear. He lived much in the past and his memory was ever vivid on the "good old days" before the coming of civilization.

The article was accompanied by this picture with the following caption:

He came to this country, it is said, in 1864 for the first time from Montana territory. He helped build Fort Whoop- Up in 1867, trading with the South Alberta Indians in those days when nobody knew or cared where the 49th parallel was located, and who in his later years was rancher, businessman, sportsman and raconteur of Old Time tales to the populace. He died a few years ago, one of the best known figures in Lethbridge.

Return to Individual Histories
Home     Email     Canada     Databases     England     Ethnic/Religious    FamilySearch.org    Ireland/No.Ireland  
L.D.S. Websites     Research Helps     Scotland     United States     Wales     World Databases 

Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup