by Donald L. Nilsson
Stirling - Its Story and People" pages 1 - 20
Early and Permanent SettlementThe District of Alberta was named by the Marquis of Lorne, the Governor General of Canada. He named it after his lovely wife, Princess Louise, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, whose last name was Alberta, and her husband preferred Alberta to Louise, thus he called her Alberta and named the province after her.
An Order in Council, May 8, 1882, stated that for the convenience of settlers and for postal purposes, a portion of the North West Territories should be divided into provincial districts. The names of the districts were Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Athabasca.
The name Stirling is after J. A. Stirling, the managing director of The Trusts, Executors, and Securities Corporation of London, England, which owned shares in the Alberta Coal and Railway Co.
When the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Rail- way reached Medicine hat in the early 1880's it opened up other business opportunities in the Alberta territory. Alexander T. Galt, Canada's High Commissioner to Great Britain, conceived the idea of mining coal for a profit at Lethbridge. The railways needed coal for fuel which lead to the building of a spur railway from Medicine Hat to Lethbridge, and in 1890, another from Lethbridge, 200 miles south, to a market at Great Falls.
The railway company was given 6400 acres of land for every finished mile of track, making the Alberta Rail and Coal Company the biggest private land holder in Alberta, with over one million acres.
To turn this large tract of land into money, it would have to be sold. The advertising had been negative; the British government surveyors had labeled it the 'Arid Region' and the 'Sterile Plains,' suitable only for ranching.
The Directors of the Alberta Railway and Coal Company were businessmen with vision and good judgment. They were watching the small settlement of Mormons on Lee's Creek. It had proved that agriculture and irrigation were both possible and worthwhile. The Company had been offering their land at $2.50 per acre, without much success. They then lowered it to $1 per acre with the attached condition of irrigation development by the purchaser.
Apostle John Taylor of the L.D.S. Church had come to Cardston from Salt Lake City, Utah, as a special spiritual advisor to the L.D.S. settlers. Besides being a church leader, he was a businessman and a promoter. He was excited and enthused with the potential of this new land. He envisioned ranches, irrigation projects and oil wells. He and Charles O. Card became active in irrigation development. However, there was one major stumbling block, the land grant owned by the Rail and Irrigation Company consisted of alternate townships. This checkerboard system of land distribution proved an impossibility.
Elliot Galt and Charles Magrath had been making representations to Ottawa to have these holdings solidified with negative results. Then, in 1896, this difficulty was finally removed when the Honorable Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior, and a great advocate of Western expansion, finally arranged to have all Alberta Irrigation Company holdings consolidated into one block.
Quoting Jack Hicken's ThesisIn 1897, the Company ascertained the feasibility and cost of an irrigation system for southwestern Alberta when George Anderson, an irrigation engineer from Denver, indicated the practicality of diverting water northeast from the St. Mary's River to the railroad land. In that same year, with the idea of coupling irrigation canal construction with land settlement, and fortified by the encouragement of the Mormons at Cardston, the Company contacted the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
. . . we approached-with the whole-hearted support of their branch-the heads of the Mormon Church in Utah in the late summer of that year (1897) hoping to work out the basis of a contract with them for the construction of the first section of our proposed canal by settlers brought into the country under their control.
One may wonder today why the Alberta Irrigation Company chose to contact the Mormon Church in relation to constructing its proposed irrigation scheme and to settling some of its lands. To any reader of the settling of western United States, the answer becomes obvious. In Mormonism, the Company recognized one of the finest heritages of pioneering in all America. Only a few generations earlier, the Mormons had trekked to the Salt Lake Valley and had made that desolate reach of the Utah desert live through their ingenuity and irrigation. In Charles Card, the founder of Cardston, Elliot Galt and Charles Magrath saw a son of these early pioneers. In him, they saw a man of "splendid character". They saw his brethren at Cardston as "all eminently fitted for looking after new settlers." They respected Card for his ability as a leader, and for his knowledge of irrigation. They were convinced that Card had the experience and the knowledge to make the project work. They assumed that other Mormons would be like those at Cardston.
The glowing terms used by Galt and Magrath in describing Card and fellow settlers should not be misconstrued as a basis for implying that the Mormons may have been contacted primarily from an emotive point of view by the Company. If anything, these terms were applied only after a hard business approach to the problem of who was best suited for the job. Wilcox's quote from a statement by J. J Head, the British shareholder's representative in the project, reveals the practical reasons which led the Company to choose the Mormons:
- 1. They already have representatives in the country and know the problem.
- 2. They have fifty years of irrigation experience.
- 3. They are organized under far-seeing leaders and will complete what they undertake to do.
- 4. The Canadian Government regards them favorably.
Perhaps a final reason in way of explaining why the Mormons were contacted is inherent in the private evaluation of Mormon character by John Higinbotham, one of Lethbridge's first citizens and businessmen, as he dealt with them in those pioneer days:
I had many conversations with these rugged old patriarchs at that time, and later numerous business transactions. On their work as tree planters, farmers, stockmen and irrigationalists, I need not dwell: their prosperous farms and ranches speak for themselves . . . even in pioneer days, and under difficult conditions, these settlers were never a charge on the community, province or country.
On the morning of September 29, 1897, the First Presidency of the Mormon Church met with a delegation from the Alberta Irrigation Company which was led by C.A. Magrath and introduced by Charles Card. Their reaction to Magrath's proposal of contract for Mormon colonization on Irrigation Company land east of Cardston was generally favorable, but not without reservation. They stated that "they did not wish to take upon themselves any great financial responsibility," and then instructed Card "to join Mr. Magrath in formulating a plan by which the colony desired might be planted upon those lands." On September 30, Card's report concerning colonization was considered by "the Brethern," and early in October, a canal construction and land settlement agreement was signed. On October 7, 1897, the Church announced that C.O. Card had been authorized by the First Presidency to invite settlers to locate on lands in Canada. On April 14, 1898, the final contract terms concerning land distribution and labor were finalized, and the First Presidency signed with Elliot Galt and C.A. Magrath of the Alberta Irrigation Company to bind the agreement.
The reasons which had led the Church to send Card back to Alberta in 1889, were beginning to come into focus. In Utah, there were economic problems for many Mormons living in marginal agricultural areas; in Alberta, there was great agricultural opportunities available at minimal cost. Contracting with the Alberta Irrigation Company was no speculation by the Mormon Church. "It was," as said by Apostle A. O Woodruff, "not a speculation, but a move to assist those who need assistance and are willing to labor for it; it is another case where the Lord is putting Means in our hands; . . . we need to provide labor for the poor who need assistance." In Joseph F. Smith's evaluation, it was a chance to build a solid Mormon reputation which would "add to our influence, and further confidence between us, and those we are coming in contact with." But of more importance, he stressed that the settling was contributing to the "building up of Zion," and that "God had brought the Latter-day Saints here . . . to serve him."
The land was plentiful, highly productive, and inexpensive. The church was already established at Cardston, and there, along the north undulating slopes of the Milk River Ridge, was enough acreage that the emigrants could establish Mormon towns with a minimum of gentile interference.
The contract between the Alberta Irrigation Company and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called for the construction of an irrigation canal and for the settlement of two towns on Company land. It called for the construction of approximately a fifty mile long canal extending from Kimball on the St Mary's River near Cardston to the railroad station of Stirling, some eighteen miles southeast of Lethbridge. It called for the settlement of a minimum of 250 people on each of two townsites which would be surveyed on lands the Church would earn. For the laborers, it provided immediate funds until their lands could become productive, by stipulating that they should receive their wages "half in cash and the balance in land at three dollars per acre." Other directives were that work should begin on the canal no later than September I, 1898, and that by December 31, 1899, the contractors should have earned at least $100,000 in cash and land. The land which they would receive would be located in two equal blocks, as nearly square as possible. One was to be in Township 5, Range 22 West of the 4th meridian west, and the other was to be to the east near Stirling railway station. The proposed townsites were to be laid out in these blocks and populated according to contract by December 31, 1899. They would become the towns of Magrath and Stirling, Alberta.
Work started on the canal in September, 1898 with Charles Card as Church supervisor. To the laborers, the Church contracted the work on the same terms as it had received from the Irrigation Company But immigrants did not flood to Canada from Utah and at first, most of the workers came from Cardston To create interest in this new land, the Church began an extensive advertising campaign which lauded the opportunities available in Alberta. The Deseret News was commissioned to publish pamphlets which would instruct the people in preparing for colonization. Articles were written for the press with luring titles like, "Plenty of Room for Homesteaders- Where Industry Thrives" and, "200 Teams Wanted to Work on Canal." Nearly everything about Alberta was written in positive and glowing terms. Charles Card wrote for the Deseret News in April, 1898, that:
. . . Lands may be acquired . . . for about $3.00 per acre, on the installment principle of ten payments with interest at six percent or may be homesteaded to the extent of 160 acres each by paying a fee of $10 down . . . Only the one fee is required, the government always favoring the honest homesteader .... All even numbered sections except 8 and 26 may be homesteaded by any person who is the sole head of a family, or any male over 18 years of age. The latter is a bonanza for our boys.
Encouragement to settle was constant. The Deseret News kept up its articles with headings like "Homes for Thousands. " The articles called to Latter-day Saints who desired "Good Places to make Comfortable Homes," and "Good Opportunity to accumulate Means to pay for them without Incurring the Bondage of Debt." They called for industrious, able-bodied men to come with teams, to leave families temporarily, to take up the land and opportunities offered. They appealed to all areas of Mormon society:
. . . an industrious able-bodied man with a good team can earn a good farm, town lot and cottage in one year . . . We invite shoemakers, watchmakers, blacksmiths, carpenters, bakers, tailors, cooks, and laundrymen, all trades are necessary to make our towns and hamlets a success. Come along with your capital and build your flouring mills, sugar factories, electric lights, and to aid to establish other industries in a healthy country. Don't forget to secure a good farm adjacent to one of the grandest irrigation systems of modern times.
But when the propagandizing about Alberta proved highly unsuccessful in stimulating voluntary workers and immigrants, and when the Church began to fear the possibility of not being able to fulfill its commitment of contract, it began to call men to missions in Alberta.
Men were called who would be key workers on the canal project and in settling. Men were called to be laborers. Some missions were just for the duration of the project, but others were to immigrate. The call was a serious one. Like other missions, there was a signed release when each man's period of labor was completed. The missionaries then had the option of returning home with their earnings or staying in Canada on the land they had each acquired.
Theodore Brandley of Richfield, Utah, was one of the first called to Canada. His reaction on receiving such a different mission call was typical of those who accepted the calls. "I have never refused a Call the church has made of me and will not do so now." He was to take with him all the livestock, household effects, and machinery which he thought necessary to start a new home in a new land. (End of quote.)
By April 27, 1899, all was ready for the trip north. Brandley had resigned from all his positions, sold his furniture store, and collected what he considered imperative to start a new life. For companions to share his pioneering, he had with him most of the people whose names still predominate in the village of Stirling. They included his prospective wife, Eliza Zaugg, his children Henry, Joseph, Albert, Theodore Jr. and a daughter, Anna, of his deceased wife Marie; Mrs. Katherine Hirsche and sons Alfred and Samuel; Paul Zaugg; Joe Hirsche, a cousin to Alfred and Samuel; Mr. and Mrs. James C. Christensen and sons Alfred, Emron and Gene, and a daughter Dora; Hans Marquardson and son Elmer; Chris Peterson; Gus Ostlund and his brother, Einer; William Christensen; and Joe Peters; Mr. and Mrs. Chris Larson; Herman Gunther and Peter F. Christensen.
The settlers arrived at the Stirling railroad station on May 5, 1899. Their new land spread in vivid contrast to their Utah homes. "There was nothing but endless miles of dry grass gently waving in the breeze with no homes or buildings except the station. They were met by Charles Card, who travelled from Cardston to greet them. That first night they took shelter in the railroad section house.
The following morning, they unloaded their belongings right on the open prairie. Later that day, the Northwest Mounted Police with custom officers inspected their goods and livestock and gave them custom clearance.
President Card helped them inspect their new town site. The town was made up of one square mile, 640 acres. It was then divided into lots of 10 acres. Each 10 acres had a surveyed road around the entire area with a lane running north and south dividing it into two parcels. These were again divided, east and west, making four lots, 21/2 acres each. This would give the residents room to build their homes, barns and shelters for their animals and leave room for a large garden.
The little band chose their lots, moved their goods, equipment and livestock onto it, and then pitched their tents that had been furnished them by the Alberta Government. Theodore brought supplies in from Lethbridge and used one corner of his tent for the first store and post office in Stirling.
It was very important for them and the ones that followed to get set up as soon as possible.
Their contract with the irrigation company called for the canal to be completed this same year. It was to be a year of hard work. The canal had to be dug, they needed houses for the winter, fuel supplies, water and feed for their livestock. At first, water was hauled on the train from Lethbridge and to the tents in barrels and buckets. Later, wells were dug. Some were good and some were not. From the good, water was hauled to the homes.
There was much to be done and Theodore Brandley had the responsibility of organizing this growing town. He was chosen as the Bishop to preside over the spiritual needs of the community.
He would meet the train every day. If the incoming passengers had been called on a work mission, they were given a place to sleep, breakfast and were taken to the work site. If they were settlers, they would choose their lot, set up their tent, get their belongings situated and then go to the work site
By December of this first year, the population had grown from this first little band to 349 people. An article in the Lethbridge news dated October 11, 1899:
"In a recent issue we referred to Magrath as a new town. This week we are pleased to announce another which gives every promise of becoming one of the most picturesque little towns in Alberta. Most pleasantly situated on a ridge surrounded by a small stream, with a splendid view of the hills on two sides and 20 miles from Lethbridge. It has just been christened Stirling.
Only a few months ago there was nothing on that site but the railroad section house. Now some 17 new residences have been erected, and at least 15 more are to be completed by December 1.
On Saturday we had an interview with Mr. Theodore Brandley who has opened a new general store and is also the peoples' respected Bishop. If all settlers are as enthusiastic over the outlook as Mr. Brandley we cannot wonder at the rapid strides this country is taking. He thought it only a matter of time until this part of Alberta would be the most prosperous farming district in the northwest. Mr. Brandley stated it was the intention of all the settlers to go into mixed farming during the coming year. Just at present every available man is working on the canal, there being as many as 100 teams at work on our division, it is expected the contract will be completed by December 1, 1899.
There is nothing slow about Stirling. It already has telephone communications. The present population is 250.
Among the new buildings just completed we noted private residences for William B. Hardy, L. G. and G. W. Hardy, Adam Russell, Andrew Larson, Henry Selk, Peter F. Christensen, Hans Marquardson, S. Fawsett, F. D. Grant, W. T. Ogden and J. Davis. Fifteen more residences are booked to be built. Ten families are still living in tents awaiting the erection of more comfortable quarters.
A pleasant social was held in the new Brandley store recently for the purpose of enabling all new-comers to get better acquainted. Singing and dancing was the order of the evening.
The people displayed wonderful energy. The men worked all day on the canal and then worked on the construction of their new homes as long as they could see. The women took care of the yards, looked after the animals and prepared food for the winter, all under very adverse conditions. They all pulled together and worked very hard to build up the town.
The canal project was completed on schedule during the fall of 1899. Water flowed via Magrath to Stirling on November 14th of that year, and the same day, Clifford Sifton, Dominion Minister of the Interior, officially opened the canal at Magrath. In 1902, Charles Card indicated to the First Presidency of the Church that the colonies were stable and able to stand alone.
On September 14, 1900, a group of government dignitaries were going to Magrath to officially open the canal headgates and let the water flow through the complete canal. They travelled from Lethbridge by train to Stirling, where they met the townspeople at the Church. A chicken dinner and a special program was prepared for them. They were then taken to Magrath by horse and buggy.
The Government representative was the Earl of Minto. While in Stirling, he spoke to the group assembled in the hall. Reference to the day in the Public Archives of Canada simply stated:
"Stirling is but a small Mormon settlement, of about 400 souls, who emigrated here some 13 months ago, from the Salt Lake Valley. We arrived in time for a meeting at the village chapel, where a number of residents are gathered to welcome Their Excellencies.
The personal appearance of these Mormons is very striking, most of the men being of good education and of strong, independent character, and it is a small wonder that, as colonists, they are admittedly so satisfactory and successful."
The first winter, like all winters, was long and cold . Some of the settlers and their families spent that first winter in tents. When spring arrived land had to be prepared, crops planted and more land broken for next year. It was all hard work and with the canal contract being completed there was no money being earned and this was creating a real hardship.
The railroad between Stirling and Cardston was being built. A portion of Theodore Brandley's diary reads:
"I took a contract to build 12 miles of railway on behalf of our people in order to raise some cash. I had to give a bond to the railroad company for the sum of $50,000. We did the work on the co-operative plan. Each one being payed equal for the number of days he worked.
I, as the responsible party received no more than the rest, being payed only for what my teams carried. Thus it gave us means for our sustenance for the coming winter.
The first church was built and also served for a time as the schoolhouse. School was taught by J. U. Allred.
Irrigation ditches were being surveyed and dug to bring water to the farms and town lots. Some of the residents dug cisterns and filled them with water from irrigation ditches, thus having better water for household use.
Settlers continued to come into the district. There is a report of about 50 arriving in Stirling on April 23, 1903, from the Mt. Pleasant, Utah area. Their arrival was to more hospitable surroundings. The business section of the town was made up of a store and post office owned and operated by Theodore Brandley, two well-stocked lumber yards, one operated by C. W. Tillack, the other by F. D. Grant, and a store owned and operated by Anderson and Sons, later sold to Jess Hardy. The Hotel was owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Seely.
Albert Brandley operated the first dray business, hauling goods and passengers to and from the railroad station. It was later taken over and operated by Henry Selk.
Many of the new settlers who sold their holdings in Utah used the money to purchase property around Stirling. Others took advantage of the Government offer to homestead.
Homesteads were available in the Wrentham, Tyrell's Lake, Barnwell, Taber and the Claresholm and Stavely districts. Many of the new settlers stayed in Stirling just long enough to make arrangements for their homestead and to build a house on it, then they moved on.
It started to rain on May 15, 1905, the year of the big blizzard. It soon turned to snow, and a blizzard raged for three days. The cattle were on the range, there were no fences and livestock drifted for miles. Thousands died from exposure and hunger. Ali Bennett had a roan team which he found in Shelby, Montana.
The people that had settled in the north had the idea that Southern Alberta was an arid region in which a lot of foolish people who had settled there would be starved out by the first dry season that came along. Another impression held by Northerners was that Southern Alberta was an insignificant corner of the country without much to it anyway. This idea was shared by some members of the Government.
So it was in the fall of 1906 that the Government of Alberta decided to tour the south. The tour consisted of Lieutenant Governor Bulyea, Premier Rutherford, Honorable W. H. Cushing, Senator Talbot and the rest of the Alberta Parliament. They spent time at Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. The following is their account of the stop at Stirling:
This morning a stop was made at Stirling. Fifteen teams met the party and drove them to the schoolhouse where an address was presented to His Honor and party. The Lieutenant Governor replied. A party of prettily dressed children sang the Maple Leaf. All members of the party were presented with a large bouquet of flowers picked from the many beautiful gardens in full bloom about town.
The whole party was driven six miles to Raymond, through fields of ripening grain, both wheat and oats. Our friends, the Northerners, have been and seen with their own eyes. They went through a country overflowing with grain, cattle and all the products of the farm. A country as thickly settled and as prosperous as the north and in many districts more so. A great tribute to an industrious people.
The town continued to grow. Stirling was the stopping place for many. Some used it only as a temporary stopover-others liked what they saw and bought land or started a business.
James Christian (Shoemaker) Nielson built a home and operated a boot shop from it. He repaired shoes, made shoes and boots, specializing in riding boots. The Davis Cafe was started by Rawl Davis, a barber shop by Ralph and Fred Davis, a butcher shop by Mr. Withers, and Earnest Schaffer Sr. and Jr. Owned and operated a harness shop. Dr. Kiellor practiced medicine and had an office in town. In 1909, the first bank opened its doors. J. T. Brandley and A. E. Fawns both had machinery agencies in town. They were good years.
In 1910, Jess Hardy sold his store and moved back to Utah. A group of citizens organized a co-op and re-opened the store under the name of The Stirling Trading Company. It was operated by A. E. Fawns.
An article in the Lethbridge Herald 1912, under the heading "Stirling A Town With A Future, " stated that Stirling was the fourth largest district south of the Crowsnest Pass with 120,000 acres, part under irrigation and 48,640 acres under cultivation, 40,000 being used exclusively for growing wheat. It also stated that a million bushels should be harvested that year. One field of barley yielded 75 bushels per acre. The area had from 25 to 30 steam and gasoline engines in use.
Stirling was Alberta's home for alfalfa. In 1911, 2000 tons were produced. Sugar beets were being raised on a commercial scale. All types of livestock were raised. There was no better horse country in the world.
Stirling had four general stores, a confectionery, an up-to-date harness shop, a drug store, a butcher shop and one of the finest brick hotels in this part of the country. It had a 40,000 bushel elevator, the Taylor Milling and Elevator, with J. H. Grey as agent, five machine companies, and The Union Bank of Canada with A. F. Schimnouski as manager.
She was justly proud of a 14 piece brass band led by George Oler, and one of the best basketball teams in Alberta which, at that time, held the championship of Southern Alberta.
Stirling had a beautiful public school built at a cost of over $10,000 and made out of bricks that were produced in Stirling by her own citizens. They had a teaching staff of five. There was also a high school department .
Around 1913, Dell Kiddle built and operated a store, a garage and had a machine agency. It was located on the corner where the A. G. T. building is now located.
Listed in the 1914 Henderson Directory was John S. Wray-Drugs and Physician, Stirling.
In 1914, the world became embroiled in war, a war that had its effect on the whole world. Stirling did not escape. Nineteen of her boys went into the services .
In 1918, Stirling residents were stricken with influenza. The school and church closed down. Anyone having to go out wore a thick gauze mask sprinkled with eucalyptus drops. In some cases, whole families were ill. The Relief Society ladies and school teachers were organized to go into these homes and assist as much as possible.
(Information from Nora Gillete). It seemed as though some of the businesses changed hands often. One was the butcher shop. We have a list of owners and are only speculating on the order of ownership. They include Peter F. Christensen, Mr. Withers, Turner and Spidel, and Theo Brandley Jr. Theo cut and delivered meat in the morning, then operated his blacksmith shop in the afternoon.
Owners of the barber shop included Ralph and Fred Davis, Jess Hardy, Jim Peterson, Oscar Pierson and Ed Kiddle.
The Cafe has a long list and again order of ownership is speculation-Rawl Davis, Bob Oler (1 Year), Harold and Myrtle Christensen (6 Years) and John Manser. He and Bulah ran the cafe, a trucking business and at one time operated a bus service. Cafe owners were Laura Hirsche; Harold Nilsson (owner, and operated by Boyd and Grace Nelson); Julius and Lulu Larson; Howard Hardy family; Kamitomo Family; Quon Family; John R. Poole and there may be others.
T. A. (Fred) Spackman operated a butcher shop and farmed a /4 section of land. He bought the Brandley store in 1927, and had his butcher shop in conjunction with it. He then built a garage and a lumber yard. The store was known as the Red and White Store. He had the John Deer Agency, sold Plymouth and Chrysler cars and sold Red Head gas and oil products.
In 1927, Elgin Peterson bought the Dell Kiddle Store and garage and moved them to the present sight of Canadian Groceries. Elgin operated the store, a butcher shop, the garage, Maple Leaf gas and oil products and the Massey-Harris agency. He was later an agent for the Calgary Power Company.
A post office was built next to this store and it was operated by Harold and Elodia Christensen.
The Stirling Knitting Company was owned and operated by Alfred Romeril. Overalls were made. It was bought by G. W. G. and the equipment moved out.
Nineteen twenty-eight was a banner year for Stirling. On March 25, the Calgary Power turned the switches and Stirling had its first electric lights.
Most of the farmers now used tractors and many of them drove cars. Times were good and had been since the war.
In 1930, the Great Depression hit. Many families were effected in the same manner as the account given by Ray Hardy.
"We could only get 30 cents a bushel for our grain. There was no money to pay our $1.50 minimum power bill so the power was taken out of our home. Out of 20 telephones in Stirling, all were taken out but two. Cars were put on blocks because we couldn't afford license or gas. We lived on what we raised and traded our surplus butter and eggs for groceries."
About the time things started to get better, the Second World War started. Before this, you couldn't afford to buy anything, and after the war started, you couldn't find anything to buy. Food and gas were rationed, and you had to get special permits to buy car tires. Many of the young people went into the services.
The farmers in the area couldn't buy new machinery, they had to make do with what they had. Many became very adept at making worn-out implements continue to run.
The Peterson store was rented to Dave Bingham and he and his good wife ran it for years. Old age forced them to quit. In 1948, Mr. Peterson sold the store and half interest in the machine business to Leland Holman. The following year, 1949, he sold the rest of his interest in the machine business to Hubert Marquardson. Later, there was a fire in the store and Mr. Holman never reopened it. He sold his interest in the machine business to Hubert Marquardson and he and his wife moved away. Mr. Marquardson also bought the lumber yard buildings and property formerly owned by Citizen Lumber Co. of Winnipeg.
In 1948, T. A. Spackman sold his store to his son-in-law, Quinn Jensen. He operated it until 1952, closed it down and moved back to Utah. The buildings have been dismantled and it is now a vacant lot.
The years following the war saw many of the young people move away from Stirling to find employment. There was a significant decrease in the population, but the town never looked back as life went on as usual. The church was here, the school was here and the families of the pioneers were here and they knew the people would return.
In 1949, Stirling celebrated her Golden Jubilee: 50 years since Theodore Brandley and that little band of settlers unloaded their worldly possessions at Stirling and called it home. William Hogenson was the Mayor and celebration was held on Monday, July 25, Pioneer day to all Mormons. Many of the former residents came home to join in the celebrations.
On March 16, 1951, a big blizzard blew in. High snow drifts blocked roads and made life very uncomfortable. The weather then got very warm, and on March 25, the whole area was flooded. People couldn't get in or out of town and only time could take care of it.
In 1954, the Lions' swimming pool was finished. It had been on the planning board and some funds had been raised 25 years before. The Lion's Club took the project over and got it off the ground. One of the local boys, Clinton Pierson, was awarded the contract and did a fine job. On June 25, it was officially opened.
Another historical year was 1955. Our town got natural gas. The days of chopping wood, carrying in coal and carrying out ashes were over. One more of life's conveniences had been added.
Another great announcement was to come two years later. The contract was let on June 27,1957, for the construction of a new eight-roomed school with a large auditorium at a cost of $200,000. The original school would have to be dismantled and moved away. The old original chapel and cultural hall, that was built in 1899 and later sold to the school, would meet the same fate. The newer two-roomed school was to remain and be used for a home economics and shop class.
Also in 1957, the grocery store was going to open again. The Quon Family had been operating the cafe and pool hall since 1952. Now they purchased the store, cleared away the burned out areas and reopened it. They are still serving the public today from that store. The cafe has been closed for some time and the pool hall just recently.
The town was certainly moving ahead, progress was steady, and the improvements were of a lasting nature. In February, 1965, the approval of a winter works project was announced. Stirling would be spending $191,000 for installation of a water and sewer system. I'm sure the town officials knew that now they had gas and water, it would only be a matter of time before the people would start moving back.
In Canada's Centennial year, 1967, Stirling's Community Centennial Park was officially opened. The honor of cutting the ribbon was given to Henry Brandley, the oldest pioneer resident of the town, and one of the original pioneers to arrive with the first group.
As improvements came into the town, the rural people were not left out. In 1951-52, they received both telephone service and Calgary Power. Later, in 19;75, with natural gas service, the farmsteads had all the conveniences offered in the cities.
Businesses have opened and closed in town. Dave Siewert operated a service station and a bulk fuel station for a time. Joe Spackman operated a service station and a machinery business from the same sight. Charles F. Perrett bought the machine business that had been owned and operated by Hubert Marquardson and changed the name to Chuck's Farm Service.
The Mertz Garage is the oldest one-owner business still in operation. It was started by Carl Mertz on the Coutts Highway, 1935 as a garage, service station and welding shop. Today it is operated by his son, Alvin. They have made many friends during their years of operation.
For years, Sam Oka operated a green house in town. Bobby Zaugg built and operated a new garage known as Stirling Motors. He now operates the family farm. The garage has been rented to Keith Dixon who operates it under the name of Auto Power. Joseph Kajari built and operates a honey plant in town.
Jerry and Bonnie Soltys built and operated a store called Stirling Market Place. They sold it to Frail's and it is now operated as Frail's Luncheon and Confectionery.
W. Visser operates a chicken farm on the northeast end of town. Stirling boasts an excellent taxidermy shop owned and operated by Neil Courtice.
I am sure there are many who have had businesses in Stirling and district that have been missed and have not been brought to our attention or we have inadvertently overlooked them, for which we apologize.
Our town is growing. Many young couples have moved in and are raising families. The town is providing facilities to meet the demands of a growing community. A new swimming pool has been built; the school has a new addition and another is being planned. Facilities are being prepared in hopes new businesses will be starting up. Present Population 685.
On April 23, 1903, a group of emigrants arrived from Mt. Pleasant, Utah. Included in the group was the J. O. Meiling family. They bought the Samuel Fawcett residence (the old teacherage and later the library). They lived here for three years then moved away. Their son, Owen now lives in California. He has been back to Stirling several times.
Now with the writing of this history book, he has written several letters full of information and memories, but hardly anything about his family.
He closes one of his letters with a thought that should be shared by all.
"Memory oft-times escorts me back to Stirling, back to the little town on the prairie, where I relive mentally some the pleasures of the long, long ago. Stirling still possesses her old time charm and alluring features, heartily extending her "Come on Home" welcome to me. These characteristics have lured me back there repeatedly, an enduring influence that reminds me of the following from ''Sir Thomas Moore's Farewell." "Long, long, be my heart with such memories filled, Like a vase in which roses have once been distilled, You may break, you may shatter the vase, if you will. But the scent of the roses will hang round it still."
And so it is with Stirling. It is seventy-four years since my residential connection there was shattered, but there is still a "sweet fragrance" clinging to the recollection of my three year sojourn there.
We wish to thank Jack Hicken for making his Thesis material available to us. Much of the material in this section was taken from his book, "Events Leading to the Settlement of the Communities of Cardston, Magrath, Stirling, and Raymond, Alberta."
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