This Week in Western Canadian History
July 11 - July 17
July
17
1771

On July 17, 1771, Samuel Hearne descended the Coppermine River to its mouth on the partially frozen Arctic Ocean. He was the first European to reach the Arctic overland.

July
15
1811

Fur trader and explorer David Thompson reached the mouth of the Columbia River (in today's Oregon) on July 15, 1811. His intention was to build a North West Company trading post there, but to his disappointment he found that traders from the American Fur Company had already opened a post called Fort Astoria.

July
17
1860

A party of three American astronomers battled high winds, strong currents, and mosquitoes on a difficult two-week canoe trip to northern Manitoba to view a total eclipse of the sun. Unfortunately, clouds completely obscured the event, and their scientific instruments were useless. The scientists obtained many specimens of fish, insects, and fossils, so the trip was not a complete disappointment.

July
15
1870

Under the Manitoba Act, which came into effect on July 15, 1870, all British North America between Ontario and British Columbia became part of the Dominion of Canada. Despite Prime Minister John A. Macdonald's reluctance, Manitoba entered the Dominion as Canada's fifth province and not as a territory.

July
14
1896

Jerry PottsMounted Police scout and interpreter Jerry Potts was born in 1840 to a Blood mother and a white fur trader and learned to move easily between the two worlds. He was hired as a guide and interpreter to the first contingent of the North West Mounted Police and his frontier skills and detailed geographical knowledge of the plains proved invaluable. In the fall of 1874, Potts arranged the first meeting between Assistant Commissioner James F. Macleod and Blackfoot leaders, and gained the respect of both as he contributed to the development of friendly relations between the two groups. In 1877 he participated in the discussions that led to the signing of Treaty Seven, and in 1885 assisted in convincing the Blackfoot to remain neutral during the Rebellion. As the country became more settled there was less need for Potts' skills, but he remained with the Mounted Police until his death from tuberculosis in Fort Macleod, Alberta, on July 14, 1896.

July
17
1906

Officials in the Yorkton district in central Saskatchewan were trying to identify young couples who were "married" by a Ukrainian Orthodox priest. One groom disputed the $4 charge for the ceremony, and during the ensuing investigation it was discovered that the so-called priest purchased a document which supposedly allowed him to conduct marriages. (The document was purchased from a defrocked ex-Bishop of the church.) No religious or civil body was prepared to recognise the validity of the priest's qualifications or the marriages he performed. It wasn't determined how many couples were affected.

July
16
1916

Prospective immigrants to Western Canada from Britain were warned to be careful of the promises of employment and housing made by some of the emigrant societies. The Trades and Labour Council of Canada warned that most western cities already had more skilled tradesmen and mechanics than could find employment. A typical case was that of 60 miners from Durham who arrived in British Columbia only to find they were imported solely as strike-breakers.

July
17
1924

Filling Station The increasing number of automobiles was causing difficulties for municipal officials in Calgary. City councillors complained that they were inundated with applications to construct new gasoline filling stations although there were already 61 within the city. The major problem, according to the city commissioners, was that the oil companies were prepared to finance small dealers, but only if the dealer agreed to supply just that brand of gasoline. The result was a multitude of stations, each with only one or two pumps.

July
17
1936

A number of "prospectors" tried their luck at the Victoria Park fairgrounds following the Calgary Stampede. Armed with magnets attached to long sticks they raked through hundreds of tons of garbage, searching for dropped coins. The most popular, and profitable, site was directly under the ferris wheel where nickels and dimes were found in abundance.

July
15
1940

A local Calgary newspaper criticized the "wedding stampede" that took place in the city over the weekend. In the previous week, the federal government announced that single men would be required for 40 days of military training for home defence purposes only. But men who were married before July 15 were exempt. Although exact numbers weren't available, staff reported that the city's registry office was crowded with young men "hiding from military training behind a wedding ring."

July
14
1954

A union spokesman said that thousands of jobs were disappearing as Canadian railways switched to diesel engines. Hardest hit were the men who serviced the locomotives which needed considerably more maintenance than the diesel engines. According to the union, steam engines required about 8 hours out of 24 in the roundhouse. Diesels on the other hand, could run 22 out of 24 hours and needed a roundhouse check once a month instead of once a day. Diesels could also do more work than steam engines and so fewer crews were needed. Railway towns such as Revelstoke, British Columbia, were in danger of becoming ghost towns as railway workers left in search of other jobs. The switch to diesel also affected traditional mining towns in Alberta's Crowsnest Pass, for example, as the need for coal decreased.

July
16
1981

The 530 million-year-old fossil deposit known as the Burgess Site was dedicated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site is about 74 kilometres west of Banff, Alberta.

July
13
1986

Riding her 10-year-old chestnut gelding Mr. T., Edmontonian Gail Greenough became the first Canadian, the first woman, and at age 24, the youngest competitor to win the World Show Jumping championship in Aachen, Germany. She completed four rounds on an eight-obstacle course with no faults and no time violations.



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