This Week in Western Canadian History
February 13 - February 19
February
1869

In 1868, writer Charles Mair (known in Toronto as "The Canadian Poet") spent several months on an extended visit to the Red River Settlement. While there, he sent back long, descriptive letters to his friends in Toronto. Unbeknownst to Mair, his friends arranged to have the famous author's letters published in the Toronto Globe. Mair favoured a colony settled by Canadian and British immigrants, and was critical of the role of the Metis in the community. He was especially contemptuous of the Metis women, and in one extremely disparaging letter he criticised wealthy traders for taking Metis women as wives and ridiculed what he saw as the pretensions of the women. Mair didn't realise his letters were being published in the Globe, or that many people in the Red River were subscribers.

In the middle of February 1869, (although the incident was described in several diaries the exact date is uncertain) Charles Mair went into Mr. Bannatyne's store to pick up his mail. Bannatyne's wife Annie, a Metis, was behind the counter. As Charles Mair approached, Mrs. Bannatyne asked Dick, the stock boy, to hand her the horsewhip from behind the counter. Mair left quickly — although not quickly enough — and Annie Bannatyne gave chase. Shortly afterwards, the Globe printed a letter from Mair explaining that his previous letters were half-formed impressions to be shared with friends, not necessarily accurate accounts of the settlement. Mair never changed his personal opinions, and was imprisoned by Louis Riel on the outbreak of the Rebellion a few months later.

February
16
1881

At the first director's meeting of the newly incorporated Canadian Pacific Railway, George Stephen (later 1st Baron Mount Stephen) was elected President. The new directors confirmed that the route would be all- Canadian, and that it would follow a southerly route through the mountains, rather than the northerly one that had been proposed. The contract for construction had been signed, sections of the railroad existed, and other sections were acquired through purchase of smaller lines.

February
13
1882

Thirteen prominent men from Edmonton gathered at the first meeting of the first Masonic Lodge in Alberta. The Lodge held regular monthly meetings, usually on the first Monday following a full moon (scheduled so members could see their way home this was in the days before street lights). The Lodge was active in organising social activities for the community, but because many of the members held jobs which required travel over large distances, attendance at the meetings was erratic and it was difficult to find officers. The Lodge was suspended in 1888.

February
18
1884

Calgary's First SchoolAs Calgary's population approached 500, the need for formal educational facilities became apparent. Calgary's first school opened on February 18, 1884, with 12 students. Local carpenters put together rough tables and benches which served as desks, and the children shared the few books that were available. While school was free, the funds to run the facility were collected by subscription within the community.

February
19
1889

Buffalo Bill ProgrammeGabriel Dumont, Metis leader, was born in the Red River Settlement in December, 1837. As a young man he became an expert horseman, accurate with both bow and rifle. In the summer of 1863, still a young man of 25, he was elected permanent chief of the annual Metis buffalo hunt, and led his people until the virtual extermination of the buffalo in 1881. When the buffalo disappeared and white settlers began to settle the prairies, Dumont recognised that the Metis way of life was changing. He led the campaign for recognition of Metis rights in the Northwest and, when it became evident that the campaign would be unsuccessful, called upon Louis Riel to assist the Metis in their fight. During the North-West Rebellion, Dumont was admired and feared for his abilities as a guerrilla leader of the Metis and native forces. After Riel's surrender, Dumont fled to the United States and joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show as a marksman. On February 19, 1889, Dumont was pardoned for his role in the rebellion, and returned to Batoche. He died of heart failure in 1906.

February
13
1890

Late in the summer of 1875, a mounted police post was established at the confluence of the Bow and the Elbow rivers (in today's southern Alberta) by "F" Division of the North West Mounted Police. When the post was completed, Commander Ephrem A. Brisebois christened it Fort Brisebois, after himself. Unfortunately, Brisebois was very unpopular with his men, with his superiors, and with the traders who formed the community around the post. Because of this, Assistant Commissioner A.G. Irvine cancelled the name, and recommended that the post be called Fort Calgary. Brisebois regarded the order as a slight, and as a comment on his abilities and his future, and left the Force within months. He was appointed registrar of land titles for the federal district of Little Saskatchewan (Manitoba). Brisebois died of a massive heart attack at the age of 39 at his home in Minnedosa, Manitoba, on February 13, 1890. Today, Brisebois is primarily remembered as a street name in northwest Calgary.

February
13
1923

Several prominent Albertans, including Pat Burns and Senator Sir James Lougheed, agreed to address the members of the Westerners' Club of Montreal. The speakers' series was arranged in an attempt to dispel some of the tensions between the two areas of the country and to develop a greater mutual understanding of benefit to both.

February
17
1932

On December 31, 1931, near Fort McPherson in the Northwest Territories, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer who was investigating a complaint about traplines was shot and seriously wounded by trapper Albert Johnson. He became known as the "Mad Trapper of Rat River," escaped into the bush and survived for 48 days in temperatures averaging -40 C. Johnson was finally tracked down by famous Canadian bush pilot "Wop" May and killed in a shoot-out with police.

February
18
1946

Stores in Calgary were prepared for the first sale of nylon stockings since the beginning of the Second World War. Most stores hired extra security and handed out tickets to be exchanged for nylons in an effort to control the crowds. Some local companies allowed their female employees time off so that they could take their places in the lineups. Although most stores ran out of stock within 20 minutes, all expected further shipments by the end of the month.

February
13
1947

Leduc No. 1 WellOn February 13, 1947, Imperial Oil tapped into Leduc No. 1, opening up the vast Leduc oil fields. For 12 minutes, some 500 company personnel and guests watched as, with a sound like a freight train approaching, a roaring column of burning oil and gas shot flames 50 feet into the sky. The event marked the beginning of the modern era in Alberta's petroleum industry.

February
14
1952

An article in Parade magazine described the sad plight of “The Lonely Bachelors of Dinosaur Valley”. According to the writer of the article, there were over 20 eligible young men in the Dorothy, Alberta district who owned prosperous ranches and sizeable bank accounts and who wanted to get married but who were unable to find wives because of the scarcity of marriageable women. After the article appeared, one bachelor received almost two thousand letters from young women as far away as Mexico and Holland. Although several of the bachelors began “pen-pal” relationships, none of them blossomed into romance.

February
15
1965

During the 1963 election campaign, Lester Pearson, leader of the federal Liberal Party, promised that, if elected, his government would ensure that Canada would get a flag of her own. During her history, Canada had officially flown the Union Jack, the Red Ensign and the Canadian Red Ensign, as well as a number of unofficial flags. But as the centennial of Confederation approached, public sentiment was strong for a uniquely Canadian design. Pearson referred the matter to an all-party committee and, after considerable and often abusive debate, the now-familiar red and white maple leaf became the official flag of Canada. On February 15, 1965, our new flag was raised at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

February
14
1988

After years of anticipation and preparation, the XV Olympic Winter Games officially opened in Calgary on February 14, 1988. More than 60,000 spectators watched as the 18,000 km torch relay across Canada ended when the last torch bearer ignited the Olympic flame at McMahon Stadium. Nearly 1,800 athletes from 57 countries came to participate in the traditional sports of winter, including skiing, figure and speed skating, and ice hockey.



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