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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Feature Article


Written By: Michael Dawe
Published By: Red Deer Express
Article Used with permission. © Copyright Michael Dawe, 2003

One of the most influential people in the development of Red Deer is someone who has generally been forgotten, John T. Moore. His company at one time owned 180 sections of land in Central Alberta. Moreover, he was so extensively involved in local business ventures that he was often referred to as Red Deer’s first capitalist.

John T. Moore was born in a log cabin in Markham Ontario in July 1844. As a student, he first trained as a doctor and then a lawyer. Ultimately, however, he became a chartered accountant.

In 1881, a group of prominent Methodist businessmen decided to invest in Canadian West. They formed the Saskatchewan Land and Homestead Company and appointed Moore to be the managing director. Moore then embarked on an exploration trip of the West, traveling by rail as far as Moose Jaw and then overland to Alberta. He arrived at Red Deer, camped in what is now Rotary Park and rode to the top of Piper’s Mountain. He was so impressed by the surrounding countryside that he had the Company purchase 115,200 acres of land in the area from the Federal Government for $2 per acre.

Moore recruited Rev. Leonard Gaetz, to move to Red Deer to become the local land agent for the Company. Moore also embarked on an extensive series of trips to publicize Red Deer and its settlement potential.

Meanwhile, Moore became active in public affairs in Ontario. He was elected reeve of Yorkville and later became an alderman for the City of Toronto.

In 1901, Moore decided to move his residence to Red Deer. That same year, he secured a federal charter for the Alberta Central Railway. Plans were to make this a "transcontinental" line extending from the Fraser Valley to Moose Jaw with a branch up to the Hudson Bay. Shortage of capital, however, delayed the project for several years.

In 1902, Moore established the Western Telephone Company and brought local phone service to Red Deer, The following year, he established the Western General Electric Company which brought electric power to the community.

In 1905, Moore ran for M.L.A. as a Liberal in Alberta’s first provincial election. He edged out his old associate, Leonard Gaetz for the position. In 1909, Moore ran for re-election, but was defeated by Edward Michener by 161 votes.

In 1910, Moore was finally able to secure enough money to start construction of the Alberta Central Railway from Red Deer to Rocky Mountain House. Such was Moore’s influence and connections that he had Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier drive the first spike.

The next several years were not kind to Moore. In 1911, his wife Annie Addison passed away. In 1912, the A.C.R. ran out of money and eventually had to be taken over by the C.P.R. Moore’s health broke. He moved back to his estate Avoca Vale in the Moore Park subdivision, which he had developed in Toronto. Shortly thereafter, Moore’s mansion burned down.

In 1914, John T. Moore married Alice Rogers Forbes and they moved into a rebuilt Avoca Vale. Moore became a phenomenal grower of roses and at one point had 15,000 rose bushes blooming on his estate.

Moore’s health continued to deteriorate and in June 1917, he passed away. He was survived by his wife Alice, his two sons, Carlyle and William and one daughter Grace Locke.

Moore Crescent in Red Deer is named in honour of John T. Moore, as is Moore Park in North Rosedale, Toronto.

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