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Early History Of The
Spring Coulee Area

Pinepound Reflections -
A History of Spring Coulee and District - Pages 11 - 15

by Leland Stanford

The Blood Indians were noted for their ferocity and kept all white invasions to a minimum until early 1870's when a terrible smallpox epidemic, deliberately spread by American whiskey traders using infected blankets, broke their spirit. The buffalo were fast disappearing and their ways of survival were essentially gone forever. By 1887 the N.W.M.P. were struggling desperately to feed 7000 starving Bloods at Standoff with meager funds.

The first known settlement at Spring Coulee, was a small temporary "summer trading post" built 1/2 mile west of the present town in 1872 by Abe Farwell, owner of a much larger trading post in the Cypress Hills. Farwell is infamous for his part in the May 1873 massacre of Assiniboine Indians near his Cypress Hills Post, resulting in the N.W.M.P. under Col. Macleod being sent this far west, finally settling at Fort Macleod in 1884. The Spring Coulee post was built in the bottom of Pinepound Coulee near a large spring. The large bottomless spring was said to occasionally spout like a small geyser. The present well at the new town site flows 800 gallons a minute and supplies the town without a pressure pump. This well is 60 feet higher than the spring so it is not unlikely that the original spring did spout. The name Spring Coulee has stuck to the area ever since although, the actual town was forced to move up the hill to its present site in 1900 when the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company laid their narrow gauge track 1/2 mile East. In 1904 the Galt's amalgamated all their railways, widened the Spring Coulee section and finally extended the track to Cardston.

The first white settler in the area was Walter Ross who shipped 400 shorthorn cows from Ontario to Medicine Hat on the C.P.R. and herded them west, finally stopping 13 miles south and 5 miles east of Spring Coulee. He set up his head quarters in a wide grassy valley on the south edge of the Milk River ridge near a small lake, now called Ross Lake. He suffered terrible losses in the bad winter of 1906-7 and again in the 1919-20 winter. After losing 3-4000 cows he gave up much of his lease and moved 80 miles east to Ghost River where his family are still prominent ranchers. His grandson Geo. Jr. once wrote that his father started out poor, died poor, but blazed a lot of trails for the rest of us.

The Mormons led by Charles Ora Card arrived at the present site of Cardston on Oct. 24th 1886. By 1890 much of the better land in the Spring Coulee area had been bought from the Galts for $3.00 per acre, 1/3 down and easy terms on the balance. Card himself, owned 50,000 acres north of Spring Coulee. It was probably bought for speculation. Other Mormons with large land holdings near Spring Coulee before 1890 were: McCarthy's whose holdings started 3 miles south and extended over the ridge, including 30,000 acres. (probably Card's early holdings). By 1902 McCarthy opened a hotel in Raymond and Eldridge had taken over the ranch. Walter H. Brown was reported to own 3/4 of a township west of Spring Coulee, probably mostly for speculation. In 1892 Emmanuel Brown still owned 1652 acres west of Spring Coulee. He had a 1/2 way house at the old Spring Coulee, location. It was a stage stop and post office with a very small store. Brown log post office and store was still going strong when Ralph Thompson arrived in 1903. Walter and his brother Manley hauled the lumber for the first houses built in Magrath. In 1893 a telephone line was built between Cardston and Lethbridge and ran by Brown's place. Card, in his diaries, often repairing this line as he went back and forth to Lethbridge. Another early Mormon rancher was C.T. (Tot) Marsden with six sections, who settled at a wonderful spring 3 miles south one mile east and two miles south of present Spring Coulee. Card's diaries record Marsden driving Billy Mclntyre around the ridge in his buggy for 4 or 5 days in 1891. Mclntyre ended up building 5 miles south and 12 miles east and 2 miles south of Coulee, his holdings extended west to the Spring Coulee area. Bill Kircaldy and other Mormons had holdings in the Spring Coulee area before 1890.

Andrew Peterson arrived in the Spring Coulee district in 1898 and later moved to a farm in Magrath. He broke much of the sod between Spring Coulee and Magrath.

FLASHBACK: Jan. 27,1927- On Wednesday night fire of unknown origin completely destroyed the barns and contents on the Marsden Brothers ranch, about 5 miles north of Spring Coulee. The losses included four head of horses, nine cows four calves, 47 hogs and several tons of hay, as well as 14 sets of harness and three saddles.

Life on the frontier was very rigorous. Hugh B. Brown, son of Manley Brown and Mormon Church official, tells of arriving at Spring Coulee with his mother and six brothers and sisters in a snow storm in October 1899. The two room log house was only partly finished and the boys slept in a tent all winter. Every day they would ride west and push their cattle back from the Blood Indian reserve where the starving Indians were slaughtering them. Farming was even worse, they only raised one good crop in the first four years. The crops either froze, were hailed out, dried out, or were plundered by large herds of roaming cattle. In 1904 Manley Brown traded his holdings at Spring Coulee for a house in Cardston and some land nearby so his large family could go to school.

Some interesting entries from C.O.Card's diary in reference the Spring Coulee area:

Wednesday, April 6th, 1892. Visited our sheep camp at Spring Coulee had lunch and went back to Cardston. Card had 4-6000 sheep at the time.

Friday August 26th, 1892 - Card loaded two scrapers and a walking plow on his wagon and with two hired men, Ernest and Alma Kimball proceeded to St. Mary River at Kimball where C.O. Card plows and the men scrape, starting the canal that will run 1/4 mile east of Spring Coulee and will irrigate over 200,000 acres when the project is completed.

October 7th, 1898 canal completed to Pinepound coulee where it will flow part way to Magrath before being used for irrigation.

November 12th, 1898 Card takes stage from Lethbridge to Cardston, stopping for dinner at Brown's Halfway house in Spring Coulee. They arrived in Cardston at 6:00 p.m.. In addition to the driver there were 3 men, 3 women and 5 children on board.

November 26th,1898 - Card stays over night at Brown's halfway house because his team had played out in heavy snowfall.

Sunday March 26th, Card visits the Saints in Spring Coulee at Brown's store. 26 souls present, organized Brown's Branch with Homer Manley Brown as president.

September 1899, Card buys lumber at Kalispell @ $13.75 per 1000 to build houses in Magrath. Spring Coulee Browns were to haul it.

February 22nd, 1900 Card sends two teams to Spring Coulee to get coal he had ordered to be delivered on the new Galt Railway. It didn't arrive and the wagons returned empty.

October 22nd, 1901 Card gets off train at Spring Coulee dined at Walter Brown's for 25 cents, gets on the stage for Cardston pays the driver Mac Tourville $ 1.25 for the trip. It will be 1904 before the railway makes it to Cardston.


1900 finds a few new homesteaders and speculators. John C. Thompson has sections 33 and 28 adjoining the new Spring Coulee town. One mile north on section I and 2 is J.W. Thompson. Three miles east and one mile south is E.E.Thompson with six sections, so he is a speculator and eventually settled in Brant. McCarthy Ranching has 10 sections two miles south of Spring Coulee. Other land holders near by are: Mrs. Emma Lee, R. Pilling, John Wolfe, Joe Marsden, Leah Moon, Felix Maninel, and a Mr. Goodenough.

In 1903 when Ralph S. Thompson arrived there were only a few in the village. Mr. Wurtz the station agent, Geo. Gygi the section foreman and Mrs. Joe Hall was operating a restaurant. Other new farmers that had arrived since 1900 were Delbert and A.O. Shoemaker, the Hatch family, S.M. Dudley, Truman Bone and Robert Tait. In the next few years settlers began to stream in.

1903 to 1905 brought Wm. N. Matson, Roy and Wm. Matson, H.A. Walter, Geo. Culp, Frank Brown, Joseph Greenwood, Frank Crimson, Jos. Workman, John N. Barrus, Pearl Springer. Emil Runquist, Henry Rice, Thos. Morrow, Edward French, J.E. Sherman, Wm. Wood, Hon J.S. Nelson, J.A., H., and Chas. Kelley, Elmer Beswick, Herman Johnson, E.S. Lane, F.M. Bingham, Henry Ernst, Leo Chapman, Amos Peterson and L.H. Jelliff who was later a Member of Parliament.. South of Spring Coulee was Clarence Eldridge. This large ranch was sold to George Malmberg and sons in 1918. 1905-1910 saw Smith and Over and Horace Darby start breaking their land.

Among the settlers who came during these years were Harry Jolliffe, Roscoe Brown, Charles Marsden, Wm. Sevier, Harry Bishop, Bill Blance, L.P. Baptiste, Frank Feldman and Austin Bennett (who owned land here but lived in Magrath).

In 1905 W.L. Thompson built an 18000 bu. grain elevator. In 1906 Alberta Pacific Elevator Company built an elevator. Ogilvie Flour Mills built an elevator and four warehouse, soon after. It was bought by Alberta Wheat Pool and hit by lightning and burned. It was rebuilt with two large annexes and is still in use. Thompson elevator burned in 1914 and was rebuilt and enlarged.


(from the Lethbridge Herald -1909)

A Young Town with a Bright Future - Immense Wheat Fields With Heavy Yields Better Mail Service Needed

("From the Herald's Travelling Correspondent")

This thriving little burg has hopes of yet becoming quite a town. It has three elevators. Grain cheques must be cashed. There is a branch of the Bank of Montreal here. It is under the supervision of the manager at Magrath. The Spring Coulee branch only opened on September 20th, but business has already been better than expected.


The Spring Coulee Trading Co. has a well stocked store. They also have the post office but Spring Coulee does not yet get daily mail. Its business certainly warrants it and especially so when the daily mail train passes by only a few yards from the door. At present there is mail only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with two sacks from Lethbridge, one from Stirling, one from Raymond, one from Magrath and one from Cardston. It will not be long before a mail clerk will be needed on the A.R. & I. trains so mail can be posted on the trains. A locked box has been placed on the car, but this box is often chuck full. If these were sorted enroute it might help the congestion at Lethbridge.


The Latter Day Saints hold their services in the school house. But there is a Presbyterian church with a congregation of rather a union character for there are other denominations besides Presbyterians. In fact, the union spirit seems to be marked for it is much the same people who attend both the Mormon and Presbyterian church services.

The townsite has been surveyed this fall, and lots will be placed on the market in a very short time.

S.M. Dudley has been successful in securing plenty of water for the townsite from a spring with a steady flow that will fill a four inch pipe.

A town at the coulee is known as Spring Coulee because of the springs in the coulee. At the Thompson farm is a natural spring yielding a steady flow with even temperature all the year round.

S.M. Dudley will move to the farm recently purchased from Shoemaker Bros. and he expects to make this one of the best places in Southern Alberta.


Spring Coulee school is only about two years old. The trustees are: I.A. Shoemaker, George Culp and J.C. Thompson. There is attendance of about 30 in Standard I to IV, with a school library of 50 volumes. Miss Creighton is the teacher in charge.


There is a barb wire telephone system for about eight miles from Spring Coulee. Spring Coulee also has a government telephone connection. But extensions of rural lines are needed, and will no doubt come in due time.

Spring Coulee has a blacksmith shop with up-to-date equipment run by a gasoline engine owned by Herman Lephold, who is one of the best mechanics in the country.

THREE GRAIN ELEVATORS There are three elevators at Spring Coulee. The Alberta Pacific has a capacity of 30,000, the Norris elevator a capacity of 30,000 and the Thompson elevator has a capacity of 20,000. Besides there is a loading platform, from which some farmers ship their grain direct by the carload. There were eleven threshers busy at one time this fall. That gives an idea of the grain business in the Spring Coulee district.

Fall wheat averaged 30 bushels, but some wheat went as high as 40 to 45 bushels to the acre. The grading ran from No. I to No. 4, but most of it graded No. 2 and No. 3.

A large portion of the land is already broken so there was no much breaking done this year. However, about three steam plows, and one gasoline plow were operating in the Spring Coulee district this year.

The total wheat crop of the Spring Coulee district will be about 250,000 bushels and possibly 300,000 bushels for it is hard to estimate what grain is still in the farmers' granaries. The Thompson estate alone has 150,000 bushels of wheat this year, S.M. Dudley 26,000 bushels, Smith & Co. 19,500 bushels of wheat, French 20,000 bushels of wheat. It is estimated that the total for both wheat and oats will be close to 500,000 bushels.

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Mary Tollestrup