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Olds, Settlement

In 1890, settlement began at what was then known as Sixth Siding. These early settlers contributed determination, hard work and a united effort in helping develop the Olds district into a prosperous farming area. Four of the first settlers to arrive before the railroad were W. J. Urquhart, Galvin Hamilton and the Copley brothers. In 1891, the first homestead was taken out by James Marshall, who built his home from logs, drawn by oxen from the nearby bush. David Shannon was the first resident of the community of Olds and contributed significantly to the development of the town. A native of Ireland and experienced at railway construction, Shannon built living quarters for his family and established squatter's rights to a section of land in the area. J. W. Silverthorn moved in right behind Mr. Shannon, to open a post office and general store in 1891.

Before the railway reached Olds, the district had the appearance of a parkland - strands of poplar and willow trees dotted the country with stretches of prairie reaching in all directions. Several small lakes in the area were visible then, but became extinct during the dry years from 1890-1901. During those early years, money was scarce and much bartering was done. Wildlife was plentiful and buffalo trails were still visible at that time. Many First Nations bands would hunt and trade throughout this area while enroute from Morley to Hobemma. A number of settlers squatted in the area because they were attracted to the soil of heavy black loam and the availability of water.

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) reached Olds in 1891 and homesteads were acquired rapidly. CPR officials, who were in charge of selecting names for the points along the railway, suggested "Shannon". This request was declined by David Shannon and the town was then named after J.C. Olds, a CPR traffic manager. Olds worked for a number of railways in Canada and the United States and in 1886 he returned to Canada to join Canadian Pacific as a traffic manager.

In 1891, George Bathe opened the Bathe House, Olds' first hotel located on the present site of the Victoria Hotel. It was not long before Olds was serviced by the Merchants Bank of Canada, followed by the Canadian Bank of Commerce.

Land was cleared by hand and brush cutters, axes and plows. Early attempts were made to cultivate the land and in 1891, the first four acres produced wheat. It was only in 1893, when a large party of settlers from Nebraska arrived with farm equipment, that rapid progress was made towards cultivation. In 1900, the hamlet of Olds was incorporated as a village in the North-West Territories (before the province of Alberta was inaugurated). The dry years up to 1901 were difficult for the settlers; these times were referred to as "Rabbit Years," when only rabbits and gophers were in abundance. Prairies fires caused considerable damage and every precaution had to be taken to protect homes and livestock.

In an interesting resolution passed by the taxpayers on April 12, 1901, "the Overseer (A.J. Brumpton) was asked to use his own judgment in regards to the levy of taxes up to 10 mills." The method of voting was relatively open; people signed their names under the words "Favour of" or "Against."

The children of the district began their schooling in the home of Mrs. James Marshall in 1891 and she acted as the teacher. The roll call contained names such as Rose and Florence Silverhorn, Nettie Webster, and William and Anna Everett. In 1892, the school was moved to the Immigration Building and in 1893, a building was purchased for $300 and converted into a school. By 1902, the community was able to build a brick public school, which was replaced in 1930.

In 1902, a rush of settlers came in from Iowa. On January 1, 1905, the village was incorporated as a town. In 1913, the Olds School of Agriculture and Home Economics was built. Students took courses in agriculture and home economics to train themselves into future farmers and homemakers. A school farm was maintained and made available vegetable, meat, milk and egg supplies for dormitory and livestock teaching purposes.

Other interesting highlights include: John Bush was the Postmaster for Olds for 43 years, in 1898 Dr. J. R. A. Paisley was the veterinarian, the first census was taken in 1901 by H. A. Samis, the first Justice of the Peace was Charles Taylor, the first baby born in Olds was Mami Shannon, and the first burial was in 1900, Mrs. W. Dean.