This Week in Western Canadian History
July 25 - July 31
July
31
1874

The first group of Russian Mennonites arrived in Winnipeg, Manitoba on July 31, 1874, travelling down the Red River from the United States on the steamer International. Many Mennonites left Russia when the government in that country revoked their exemption from military service. The Canadian federal government passed special orders-in-council which guaranteed the new immigrants the freedom of religion, exemption from military service, and the right to conduct their own schools.

July
26
1885

On the afternoon of July 26, 1885, Father Lacombe welcomed five teaching sisters from the Sisters Faithful Companions of Jesus to Calgary. The sisters had been trapped in Batoche by the events of the Riel Rebellion, but eventually made their way to Calgary, Alberta. In September, the sisters enrolled 22 pupils in what was to become Roman Catholic School District Number One.

July
31
1885

Louis Riel's TrialDespite his objections, Louis Riel's lawyers hoped that he would be found not guilty of treason by reason of insanity. Those hopes were doomed on July 31, 1885, by Riel's eloquent and ultimately tragic address to the jury. In it he said he had been blessed by God with a mission to help the Indians, the Metis, and the whites of the North West, but he repudiated any suggestions of religious insanity, and wanted to be judged solely on the political elements of his case. He was found guilty.

July
26
1889

A Catholic mission had existed at Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta, since 1843, but by 1887 the mission buildings had collapsed and the small community was abandoned. In 1889, on a visit to Ste. Anne's shrine in France, a parish priest from St. Albert saw a vision of the Saint. She urged him to return to Canada and build a shrine there dedicated to her. On his return, he persuaded his bishop to build a new church at Lac Ste. Anne. On July 26 - the feast day of Ste. Anne - over 100 people made a pilgrimage to the lake and began a tradition that continues today.

July
29
1900

White Pass RailroadIn 1898, at the height of the Klondike gold rush, work was begun on a railroad to connect Skagway, Alaska with Whitehorse, in the Yukon. The steep and difficult route of the White Pass and Yukon Railway line was hacked out of the rock by men, many of them disillusioned gold seekers, using only picks, shovels and blasting powder. Much of the work was done in the winter, in bitter cold and fierce snowstorms, and under constant threat of avalanches.White PassThirty-five men were killed during construction. The summit of White Pass was reached in February, 1899, and the last spike was driven at Carcross, Yukon Territory on July 29, 1900, after the gold rush was over. The railroad remained active, however, carrying freight and passengers until it finally proved uneconomic and ceased operations in October, 1982.

July
28
1914

A.W. DingmanA.W. Dingman gave their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Connaught a tour of the Dingman discovery well in southern Alberta. On his order, the valve on the well was turned on and a jet of gasoline rose an estimated forty feet into the air. Although some of the party found the noise deafening, Princess Patricia found the sight beautiful, admiring the way that the iridescent drops of gasoline fell to the earth. Mr. Dingman requested that everyone extinguish their smoking materials but reassured the party that they were quite safe and should only begin to run if they saw him do so.

July
28
1921

Forestry officials in northern Canada were enthusiastic about the purchase of several airplanes that already resulted in considerable savings for the forestry industry. The recently acquired planes patrolled the northern forests so fires were spotted quickly before they consumed valuable timber. Transporting fire-fighting crews was also more efficient and fire-fighters reached fires within hours instead of days.

July
28
1925

The Alberta representatives at the Alberta-Montana Sunshine Trail highway convention confirmed that highway construction was on schedule, and predicted that by 1928 there would be a gravel highway forming the main artery of motor traffic from the American border to Edmonton. The representatives from Montana were considerably less optimistic about progress in their state, noting that government authorities there were not convinced of the economic potential of tourist traffic. The convention delegates acknowledged that some sections of the road south of the border (such as Logan Pass in Glacier Park) would present significant engineering and construction challenges but encouraged the Montana contingent to continue their efforts to convince the state administration of the long-term benefits of the project.

July
28
1937

A Calgary commission recommended that landlords set aside one room in their buildings as a community refrigerator (the landlords refused to provide refrigerators in individual apartments). The commission was investigating the illness of children who drank contaminated milk. The city's medical officer reported that children who lived in tenement housing were frequently ill in the summer because there was nowhere to keep the milk so that it would not spoil in the heat.

July
27
1942

According to the provincial game warden, the creature dubbed the “Rocky Mountain Terror” was most probably a ling cod. The monster had been spotted in central Alberta rivers several times over the years. In the most recent sighting, several boys who had seen it described the creature as “an ugly grey beast, about 15 feet long, with huge red rimmed eyes and horns and a wide mouth big enough to swallow a small boy”. The warden agreed that lings often grew to a great size – usually 2 to 3 feet but sometimes up to 8 or even 10 feet – and confirmed that they were indeed “extraordinarily ugly”.

July
31
1957

As the Cold War of the late 1940s and early 1950s persisted, Canada and the United States recognised their vulnerability to a Russian attack from the far north. To provide early warning of an attack, the first radar line in Northern Canada was completed in 1954. After the USSR exploded its first hydrogen bomb, the line was upgraded. But it was recognised that an arctic early-warning system was imperative. On July 31, 1957, the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW), financed by the United States and operated by Canada, went into operation. Developments in missile technology made the Line obsolete almost as soon as it was completed.

July
30
1962

Vancouver became a lot closer to Calgary on July 30, 1962, when the Rogers Pass section of the TransCanada Highway was officially opened. The route through the Pass eliminated 100 miles of dusty, gravel road from Golden to Revelstoke, and saved travellers several hours of driving. Cars, trucks and buses formed a line 13-miles long, as drivers waited to become one of the first to travel the new road.

July
30
1975

During the world oil crisis of the 1970s -- even though Canada possessed significant reserves of oil and gas -- the country was still vulnerable to the pressures of the international petroleum markets. In 1973, the federal government announced the creation of Petro-Canada, a Crown Corporation which was given a broad mandate to develop Canada's petroleum resources and secure a stable energy supply from imported sources. After months of acrimonious debate in Parliament, the Petro-Canada bill received royal assent on July 30, 1975. In 1991, as new economic pressures emerged, the federal government began a programme of privatisation and today approximately 80 percent of Petro Canada is under private ownership.

July
31
1987

On July 31, 1987 - a day that became known as "Black Friday" - a tornado struck the eastern part of Edmonton, Alberta, claiming 27 lives and leaving over 400 homeless.



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