MARY'S GENEALOGY TREASURES
"Whiskey Gap" is what they call the place. There seems to be some
doubt about the whiskey, but the townsite is in a pass through
the Milk River range of hills which suggests the name "gap" at
The whiskey story is that a party of liquor runners in the early
days, hard pressed by the police, cached three barrels of
whiskey on the south rim of the gap, overlooking the present
But no whiskey has ever been found.
The history of the place abounds in tales of that kind, and
many of these are to be recalled when the CBC television
network will carry a National Film Board production entitled
"The Days of Whiskey Gap.
The film includes interviews with such people as 104-year-old
Harry Walden, who was once a NWMP scout, and Mrs. Sarah
Card, wife of the founder of Cardston. These old-timers tell
the story of the early days from their own recollections.
Even the producer of the film is a native of the district. He
is Colin Low, whose father is well known as manager of the
Mormon Church Ranch near Cardston.
But neither natives nor old timers are easy to find in the
Whiskey Gap area. The man now longest resident at
Whiskey Gap itself is J. J. Secretan, who arrived shortly
before the First World War.
Mr. Secretan, of course, has no first-hand knowledge of the
old days, but he can recount a good deal of Whiskey Gap
history from tales the original settlers told. And the place
is alive with history.
Just two miles east of Whiskey Gap is the ford over the Milk
River which was used by the bull team freighters from
Fort Benton. Here a party of North West Mounted Police
camped after crossing into Alberta from Montana (the
boundary is only two miles south) in 1874. Here was a
well-used stopping place on a well-travelled road.
The excitement of the early days gave way to optimism
about a more stable kind of future during the late 20's,
when a railway branch line reached Whiskey Gap, and
a store was established.
Soon wheat was being hauled from a 25-mile radius -
including even part of Montana - to the Gap's three
elevators. In 1938 one elevator handled 364,000 bushels.
But this year that same elevator will not ship 50,000.
For the railway never went any farther. Now the store has
been closed for five years and several houses have been
moved away. A small loading establishment for crude oil
has been partly dismantled.
Train service is reduced to about a one-way freight per month,
or as often as there are half a dozen cars of grain to be
Whiskey Gap's one unchanging claim to distinction is that it
stands on the watershed between Hudson Bay and the Gulf
The Milk River Ford is now occupied by a bridge, and water
metering station. The settler's cabin which stood over a
spring above the road east has disappeared. Only
"possible" vestiges of the once well-travelled bull team
tracks are visible here and there.
The days of Whiskey Gap are gone, and only the colorful
name remains to remind South Albertans of the colorful
past when this sleepy hamlet was on the main road to
everywhere, travelled daily by traders, Indians, police and
Whiskey Gap is alone with its past.
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