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No. 212: MacLeod to Calgary Trail: Part Two

The trail between Fort MacLeod and Fort Calgary was well travelled in the early days, by traders and by the mounted police, who were intent on keeping peace in the region.

And as historian Merrily Aubrey notes, the Canadian Pacific Railway built a branch line between 1891 and 1892. It closely followed the route of this historic trail.

The trail north from Fort MacLeod skirted the foothills. In a north - northwesterly direction, it followed the east side of Willow Creek, passing some stations two or three miles distant.

Some of the station names were based on individuals' names, and these included: Mikasto, Nolan, Woodhouse, Claresholm, Stavely, Nanton, Cayley, DeWintin and Turner. Some were landowners, and some were railway officials.

The crossing on the Highwood River was renamed High River. Azure took its name from the surrounding blue skies. And Okotoks, in the Blackfoot language means "Big Rock," a description of the glacial remains in the area.

Three more stops along the route were named after places in other countries.

Konamyer, after an area in Ireland, and Midnapore, after a place in India.

Midnapore, now a part of Calgary, was the name of a post office established in 1884. Local lore states that the name was provided by Griffith Bointon, and he was an early landowner, who lived within a mile of the post office.

Colonel Bointon had served with the British army in India, and may have been inspired by the landscape there. Midnapore is located near Calcutta, on the banks of the Kassai River.

The third and final stop was Calgary. The name was chosen by Lieutenant Colonel James Farquharson MacLeod, when he established a new fort for the North West Mounted Police in the late 1870s.

On the Isle of Mull, off Scotland, Colonel MacLeod's sister through marriage was related to a family who owned a small castle. Now James MacLeod had visited years before, and it obviously had impressed upon his mind.

What the word Calgary means has been the subject of a great amount of debate. For decades people relied on the explanation found in a letter from Colonel Irvine to the deputy minister of Justice, Bernard, dated February 29, 1876:

"Colonel MacLeod has suggested the name of Calgary, which I believe in Scotch means clear running water, a very appropriate name, I think."

In 1976, however, the Glenbow Museum published a pamphlet which offered a different definition for Calgary, meaning, "in close pasture by the bay," or, "bay farm."

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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