Friday, 8 August 2014

Beginnings & Endings of Miss Edith Fanny Kirk

Edith Fanny Kirk began her life in July 16, 1858 in the residence attached to the Crookes Endowed School where her father was the head master (the residence is to the right of the main building, it has a large chimney on the near side). Crookes is now a suburb of the city of Sheffield.  I went to see the area in June 2014 while on a research trip to England.  The current owners of the buildings, St. Thomas Church, generously allowed me to have a brief look inside the school and the residence.  
I stood in the main room of the three room home.  One of the two other rooms was very likely her parent's bedroom and so the room in which Edith was born.  The residence had a yard surrounded by a stone fence in which she and her brother John could play.  After all the years of research getting know Edith through newspaper articles, historical records and her art, it was humbling to actually stand in her first home.
I also visited what is now called Sheffield Cathedral where baby Edith was baptised.  This is located in central Sheffield and is a very impressive High Anglican church.
Edith's mother died when she was only 3 years old and her father moved the family to Altrincham shortly after their loss.  There he remarried to Elizabeth Gresty and a half brother was added to the family unit.
Edith Kirk trained as an artist from an early age and travelled through the United Kingdom and France to paint watercolour land and streetscapes. When she was 46 years old, she emigrated to Canada and lived in several places in British Columbia from 1905 to 1913 where she taught art and continued to create her own art.  After a year's visit back in England, Kirk returned to the east coast of Canada where she spent a couple of years before moving to Lethbridge, Alberta.
In Lethbridge, she was well known for her art and her dedication to teaching young people.  She settled in Lethbridge but didn't stop travelling and having more adventures.  At the age of 60, she joined the Alpine Club of Canada and spent weeks in camps in the National Parks where the spectacular scenery was reflected in her watercolours.  Miss Kirk, as everyone knew her, lived until she was 95 years old.  She died December 30, 1953 and was buried in Mountain View cemetery.
In July this year, just days before her birthday, I visited her last resting place and found her small white headstone nestled at the roots of a line of spruce trees.  Knowing her love of nature and her skill at painting trees I found this to be a perfect place for her to be.  For me, it was like coming full circle in her life.
But my task in learning about Miss Kirk continues as I am still searching to fill in a few gaps in her travels and as I plan an exhibit about her life and write a book about her travels, her art and her teaching. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Real-life Spider-man

We'd like to share with you a rare archival photo of a real-life spider-man...

real-life spider-man
Trick photography: young man with four hands (*IN STUDIO), 26 April 1948
Galt Museum & Archives, 20121093149
This is one of 54 archival photos we have posted in the album “Fort Macleod’s Anonymous” on Flickr the Commons. Most are shot in Fort Macleod, Alberta in the late 1940s. The donor of the photos purchased them at a garage sale in Pincher Creek. Who are these people? What are they doing? Who were the photographers? What are these places and buildings? Please share your knowledge and help us reclaim your community’s history!

Please tell us as much as you can about the people and places by emailing the Archives at, leaving a comment on Flickr or right here on this blog. Please tell us where your knowledge comes from – personal memories, local history research, or grandpa’s tips.
* The CAPITALIZED text in the descriptions was copied from the envelopes in which the negatives were found.
Thank you!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

How One Question Became a Collection and an Exhibit

I love history and I love books. So it was wonderful to be able to curate an exhibit that brought those two concepts together. On March 1 we opened a new exhibit at the Galt called The Literal Truth. 

This exhibit showcases fiction books set in southwestern Alberta. Years back I came across an article in the Lethbridge Herald that stated that the 1st ever book set in Lethbridge had just been published. So I wondered: how many fiction books are set in southwestern Alberta?

I posed that question to people at the Lethbridge Public Library, to friends and family, to strangers (yes, I was that person). I asked people to submit names on Facebook and Twitter. I scanned articles and boosk on the history of literature in Alberta. I ordered in books from far and wide -- the furthest coming from Scotland. Slowly my collection of books grews.

Then at an exhibit planning meeting I raised the idea that the books might make a fun exhibit. And for some strange reason the rest of the staff agreed.

But with 60+ books, how to arrange? This was only going to be a hallway exhibit and needed to be relatively small and compact. I was incredibly fortunate to have the assistance last summer of Kimberly, a summer student in education programs. She went through every book and made a list of quotes about southern Alberta from each book.

I was then able to take all of these quotes and when I reviewed them I realized there were a few large themes -- the landscape itself, the Crowsnest Pass (the one area of SW Alberta where the MOST books are set), Lethbridge, wind (you knew it had to show up) and the Mounted Police (a perennial favourite among writers though the portrayal has certainly changed over the years).

The cases are set up around those themes. Thanks Brad for putting it all together and making it look great.

I still haven't answered the question of how many books are set in southwestern Alberta. I keep finding or am told about even more books. And then, of course, people are continuing to write books set in this area.

In fact, one thing I would most like to come from this exhibit is that it inspires people to write more books, comics, stories focused on our area. We have put up a "Story Starter" on our website where you can submit stories or beginnings of stories if you choose.

I would also like to encourage people to read some of these books set in this area. There is a brochure that gives you a list of books (or a bookmark with the children's books on it). You can also have a set and flip through some of the books. You can also see a list of the books on our Flickr page. It's your chance to try judging a book by its cover.

One of my favourite things in the exhibit is we have a magnetic board up and some interactives. You can move them around and tell your own story. So here's to The Literal Truth and southwestern Alberta in literature.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Entrepreneurs and Innovators - Part 8

The Entrepreneurs and Innovators exhibit officially closed yesterday. This exhibit at Galt Museum & Archives celebrated southwestern Alberta businesses, inventors and researchers. Entrepreneurs and Innovators featured photos from the Galt Archives's holdings, and can be seen in the lower gallery, outside the archives. This blog post is the eighth and final installment in a series based on the exhibit.

Be sure to check out the upcoming exhibit in the lower gallery, Treasure Maps, featuring maps from the Galt Archives cartographic collection. Treasure Maps opens on February 7th and runs until April 30th.

This post features the business of the namesake of the Galt Museum & Archives, Alexander Galt and the difficulties he had in getting coal to market from Lethbridge in the early years of his mining operations here.  This post also features the Knight Sugar Company, that arranged for development of land with the Galts' interests, providing irrigation and a mill to process sugar beets locally.

North Western Coal and Navigation Company

The Alberta at Medicine Hat, 1885. Galt Archives 19738150000.

In 1879, the mine of Nicholas Sheran at present-day Lethbridge was seen by Elliott Galt, who soon interested his father Alexander, then Canadian High Commissioner in London, in the possibilities of coal mining in western Canada. The Galts soon formed the North Western Coal and Navigation Company, and began mining at Coal Lease No. 4 with Elliott as general manager. Though the area was rich in coal, little infrastructure existed to get the coal to market. In 1883 the company commissioned three riverboats – the Alberta, the Minnow and the Baroness – to transport coal to Medicine Hat. However, the Belly (later called the Oldman) River proved unsuitable to navigation due to its many sandbars and a strong current. During 1883 only 180 tons were transported and in 1884 they managed 2,278 tons. After these two seasons, it was clear that the only viable solution to transporting coal to market was by rail. Galt’s company completed a narrow gauge railway to the main CPR line at Dunmore, near Medicine Hat, in 1885.  


Knight Sugar


In 1901, Utah mining magnate Jesse Knight sent his sons Oscar Raymond and Jesse William to investigate land available for purchase in Southern Alberta. They acquired 30,000 acres and set about putting the land to work. Jesse soon entered into a contract with the Canadian Northwest Irrigation Company and the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company to purchase an additional 226,000 acres. In exchange, Knight was obligated to build a sugar mill for the 1903 harvest and keep it in operation for at least twelve years. The town that emerged around the mill was named Raymond, in honour of the son that Jesse Knight’s older son that had put in charge of the operation of the mill and his ranch. The introduction of irrigation to the area and success of the sugar factory soon brought 1500 residents to the town. Raymond Knight sold his interest in the company in 1917 to help his father manage his growing interests back in Utah.

Exterior of the second Raymond Sugar Factory, ca. 1930. Galt Archives 19740030000-056.

By Sven Andreassen

Sven Andreassen is a recent graduate of the University of  British Columbia's Master of Archival Studies program. He volunteered in the Galt Archives in 2013  and curated this exhibit.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Entrepreneurs and Innovators - Part 7

On now until February 2, the Galt Museum & Archives presents an exhibit celebrating southwestern Alberta businesses, inventors and researchers. Entrepreneurs and Innovators features photos from the Galt Archives's holdings, and can be seen in the lower gallery, outside the archives. This blog post is the seventh installment in a series based on the exhibit.

Black Horse's coal mine 

Black Horse with his wife. Provincial Archives A1551.

A coal mine on the Blood Reserve began along the St. Mary’s River in 1890, under the operation of Heavy Gun. The first work was accomplished by pick and shovel, but Soon a tunnel was opened with a rail for cars to bring coal to the surface. By 1894, when Black Horse took over, the mine produced 200 tons for the Agency, boarding school, and settlers in the Macleod area, with an additional 100 tons of reserve being sold to the Galt mining company. The small-scale operation provided employment and remained competitive with other coal producers due to its proximity to Fort Macleod until the late 1930s. At this point the federal government forced its closure due to pressures from non-native competitors.



Charles Noble

Noble's first production facility on his farm, 1930s. Galt Archives P20001076475.
In 1903, Charles Noble bought land north-west of Lethbridge in the area that would become Nobleford. The Noble Foundation was incorporated in 1913 to operate his interests, which grew to six farms equalling totaling 10,000 acres by 1916 and soon tripled in land holdings. However, low wheat prices and drought forced the foreclosure of the Foundation in 1922. Undaunted by these difficulties, Noble rebuilt his farm with a renewed focus on dry land farming techniques. He invented the Noble Drill in the late 1920s, a seeder that minimized soil disturbance. In 1936 he invented the Noble Blade, which was a blade that dug under the surface of the ground that and cut the roots of weeds without burying the stubble. The advantage of this implement was that it minimized soil erosion by leaving “trash” cover. By 1941, a factory was built in Nobleford and Noble promoted his products so successfully that as demand grew and a larger facility was built. Charles Noble passed away in 1957, and the company he founded was sold to Versatile Manufacturing Ltd. In 1982.

By Sven Andreassen

Sven Andreassen is a recent graduate of the University of  British Columbia's Master of Archival Studies program. He volunteered in the Galt Archives in 2013  and curated this exhibit.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Last Will & Testament of a 12 year old

Imagine being twelve and writing your last will and testament. What circumstances would lead a girl to do this? While we may not know the answer, what we do know is that Dorothy Charlotte Bentley of Daysland, Alberta could read and write, and that she possessed a lot of things, including a savings account. We know this because we have the document in the Galt Archives (19931010000)... and thanks to our fabulous volunteer Audrey Peters, who transcribed it verbatim, you can have a read for yourself:

The last Will and Testement                
of  Dorothy Charlotte                             
Bentley   aged 12 yearsold                   
Daysland, Sep 20                  
 I bequeath to my darling Mumsie all my dresses & petticoats and red shoes and stockings.  And I bequeath to Lettice the rest of my clothes and all my dollies on the bargain not to give one away and my little pearl necklace with just the two strings of pearls on them.  and I bequeath to my best chum Pearl Dumont my necklace with the three strings of pearls on them. and I bequeath to darling father my books called American Indian Fairy tales, Cast up by the Sea, Rip Van Winkle. and I want father to get my money out of the bank and to keep 40 cts of it, and I want Mumsie to have 85 of it and Sidney to have 15 cts and Lettice to have 15 too.  and I bequeath to Sidney my blue cup and saucer with  the dark blue edge round it and the flowers on it & Mumsie my little red cup & saucer with the gold in side it & Lettice my dollies dishes & the plate that matches her little cup.  & I bequeath my cup with love the giver on it & to Sidney my little corner & Grims fairy tales in the green cover & Helens Babies & Gullivers travels & the little lame prince.

image source
I bequeath to mother Ozma of Oz & the Wizard of Oz and the Marvelous land of Oz & the little book in the white box in the book case and the Whispering winds & the last of the Huggermuggers & read them mummy cause I loved them. & I loved and I bequeath to darling Nunny my little daysland maple leaf pin and my picture with the green paspeartout [passe-partout] round it and the four little kittens in it and my and the verses under it and I bequeath to dear grandma my picture of kittens with the gilt edge my little wee bible and I bequeath to Effie my middle bible and the long panneled picture of cats in it.

I bequeath to Jean my book called kidnapped and my picture & I bequeath to Pearl my little pearl pin & my picture & I bequeath to every one of my great friends my picture.  I bequeath to matter my little old old plate and I want mother to divide all my other things between whom she thinks would like them & to keep most of them for our family.


I want these things done just as I saeid.

We've also searched high and low with the help of Audrey for the books Dorothy refers to, and believe these may be representative of her own collection:
image source
image source
image source





image source
image source
image source

image source

image source

image source