Fish Creek Provincial Park is one of Canada’s largest parks within a city’s boundary covering 1,348 hectares. Located in south Calgary, it’s a wilderness haven for many species of animals and birds. You may be wondering why I decided to create a post about a provincial park, well for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as you know, I love history and this area has deep roots in our ranching community. Secondly, it’s our hidden oasis in the middle of a metropolis of one million people, plus it beautiful in any season. Today I will be focusing my attention on the Bow Valley Ranche, which encompasses the east entrance of the park. Oh, so did I find out why it was called Fish Creek – no, but I did find an abundance of other information.
The original settler to this area was named John Glenn who was born in Ireland and immigrated to the southern states when he was just 16 years old. After deserting the Confederate Army, he moved north to British Columbia in search of gold and then moved eastward into Alberta. After marrying in St.Albert, Alberta he and his new bride, Adelaide, decided to move south to the Fish Creek area to build a new homestead surrounded by fertile land; this move made him the first European settler in southern Calgary. Over the years his little homestead grew and grew and he was soon supplying the Mounted Police with hay for their horses. His bride, Adelaide may have been a farmer’s wife, but she was also the midwife for this area and soon dawned the nickname “Grandmother of Midnapore”. John passed away in 1886 and his land and remaining buildings were purchased by William Roper Hull along with his brother John Roper Hull later in 1892.
William Hull was a very well respected gentleman known for his numerous business propositions, which included: rancher, entrepreneur, and real estate developer. Hull was also part owner of the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company, which also made him very popular! However, his main venture was ranching and supplying the Mounted Police with fresh beef. Later he would build Calgary’s first opera house and the Grain Exchange Building – the sandstone skyscraper of 1909, which still stands today at the corner of 9th Avenue and 1st Street SW. However, the Bow Valley Ranche house was his jewel, his home, the place where he held numerous functions, a testament to his wealth and success. When the house was built in 1896, the cost was a staggering $4000 and gained the reputation as one of the finest homes in the Territories. Then in 1902, Hull and his wife moved into another mansion within the city and sold the Bow Valley Ranche and surrounding land.
The new owner would be Senator Patrick Burns, a well-known name around the city of Calgary. The Bow Valley Farm would be the centre of operations for the Burns cattle empire which spanned 450,000 acres and would become the largest meat packing business in the world at that time. Until 1970, various members would live in house. Then in 1973, the Alberta Provincial Government would purchase the land for the Fish Creek Provincial Park expansion.
Today, the Ranch House still stands on its original plot of land and like the by-gone years, it still hosts numerous functions every year and has an outstanding Sunday brunch for the whole family to enjoy. Adjacent to the house are numerous buildings and a visitor/interpretative centre outlining the history of the ranching community and surrounding area.
Categories: Calgary History