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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 206: Calgary to Morley Trail

The area around Calgary is the site of many historic trails, such as the Calgary to Morley trail.

This was the crossroads of aboriginal people for many centuries. And, according to historian Merrily Aubrey, the region naturally drew fur trade companies, and they built several posts.

An early establishment was the North West Company's Bow Fort, on the north bank of the Bow River, just above the mouth of Bow Fort Creek.

The Bow Fort was established around 1802 and closed 1823 or so, after the merger of the Northwest Company and the Hudson's Bay Company a couple of years earlier.

Nine years later, the Hudson's Bay Company established a wintering post in the same spot. They called it Peigan Post.

The Hudson's Bay Company found that by the 1830s, the American companies on the Missouri were threatening to draw away the trade of the Blackfoot nations, and these are the Blackfoot that would normally trade up at Rocky Mountain House. So in order to stop that they, they decided to build one down by where Calgary is now.

It didn't work out. They decided to abandon it a couple of years later and re-open Rocky Mountain House. And by the time the Palliser Expedition came through 25 years later, all that remained of the Bow Fort post were the stone chimneys.

The locals had scavenged the palisades, and whatever else they could find, and burned it as firewood.

It was several years before another group of people took interest in the region.

1873, the Methodist minister John McDougall and his brother David blazed that trail from Fort Edmonton to Morley, which is now on the Stoney Indian Reserve.

The Calgary and Edmonton trail followed this route to Lone Pine, and it was the Mcdougalls' original route that continued on to Morley. The Methodist mission was located seven to eight miles downriver from the Old Bow Fort, so that gives you an idea of the area.

By 1915 there was an established road from Calgary to Morley, and it paralleled the CPR line. We now know this route as Highway 1A - the Old Coach Road.

The route is an easy drive in modern times. But, in those early days, the trail from Fort Calgary to the mission at Morley was fraught with many obstacles.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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