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Mountains, Mountain Parks, and Foothills Region

In August of 1858, while Palliser was identifying the border between Canada and the United States for the Boundary Commission, Hector, Bourgeau, and Blakiston set out to ford the Bow River leading to the Kananaskis Pass. They traversed the territory of modern-day Banff en route to the region south of a craggy knob called the Devil's Head (page 69). This was also the area known to the natives as "the Mountain-where-the-water-falls" or, as we know it, Cascade Mountain (page 42). Further on toward the pass that Sir George Simpson had discovered, Simpson Pass (page 225), they discovered the mountain named by Hector for Bourgeau. Through the valley of the Bow River, the group observed what Hector called Castle Mountain (page 43), since the rock formations gave it the appearance of towers and bastions of a castle.

Hector and his followers continued on through a wide valley then called "Little Vermilion," now unnamed, which contained Altrude Creek (page 5). The valley took them about 162 metres above the Bow River and about 1500 metres above sea level. The creek flows east into the Bow and Saskatchewan rivers. To the south-east, Hector named a large snowcapped mountain for John Ball (page 13), Palliser's friend and former Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies.

In September of 1858, Hector was determined to make his way to the North Saskatchewan River by travelling up the Bow River to its source. This trip took his party past the Waputik Mountains and Hector Lake (page 112) (named later by Dawson). They passed Bow Lake (page 28), which was fed from the Wapta Icefield. In the distance to the east was a huge mountain, which Hector called Mount Murchison (page 174), after his patron and the head of the Royal Geological Society. As Hector and his party progressed, they named mountains after people they had known on the trips, such as Henry John Moberly (1835-1931), a native of Penetanguishene, Upper Canada, a clerk in the Hudson's Bay Company and Chief Factor at Jasper House from 1855-1861, and W.J. Christie, a Chief Factor at Edmonton. Their trip up the valley of the Pipestone Creek led them to a mountain resembling a large tooth, which they called Molar Mountain (page 168).

The trip was long and arduous for all concerned, but the importance of their discoveries more than compensated for the hardships. On 22 October 1859, Palliser wrote the new Secretary of State of the Colonies indicating that the expedition was completed.

With Canadian Confederation and the 1870 acquisition of the West came increased Canadian interest in development, beginning with a transcontinental railway. The government launched a full-scale search for a southern route through the "Great Mountain Barrier," or what we call the Rocky Mountains. The Canadian Pacific Survey (C.P.S.) commenced in the summer of 1871, under the supervision of the government's chief engineer, Sandford Fleming. Fleming held that position until he retired in 1880, when the government turned the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) project over to a private syndicate.

Sandford Fleming (1827-1915) had emigrated to Canada in 1845 after studying science and engineering in Scotland. He participated in and supervised several railway projects before assuming responsibility for the C.P.R. in 1871. Fleming quickly proved himself to be Canada's pre-eminent railway surveyor and construction engineer and later attained worldwide recognition as a distinguished inventor and scientist. He developed a universal system of standard time, was in charge of laying the Pacific Cable to Australia in 1902, and designed Canada's first postage stamp, the three penny beaver. In 1897, he was created a Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George (K.C.M.G.).

The C.P.S. was an enormous undertaking and brought to the fore a wealth of information regarding vast tracts of uncharted territory throughout the Dominion of Canada. Of particular interest here is the information derived from those explorations carried out in the mountain regions of Alberta during the first six years of the survey. As far as can be determined, Fleming took no interest in the naming of geographical features. Fleming neither named anything after himself, nor has his name been affixed in a commemorative sense to any feature, at least officially, in Alberta. There are many features in British Columbia named for Sir Sandford Fleming, namely, Sandford Island (1965), Sir Sandford Glacier (1912), Mount Sir Sandford (1912), Sir Sandford Range (1912), Sir Sandford Pass (1965), Fleming Peak (1910), Fleming Bay (1879), and Fleming Island (1934); however, there is not one feature that commemorates Sir Sandford Fleming in the study area covered in this volume. He stood out as an exception among the many explorers, surveyors, and alpine enthusiasts who readily and indiscriminately "donated" their names, or those of their fellow countrymen, in their search for some form of immortality. From Fleming's "Ocean to Ocean" trek in 1872 and steady C.P.S. work, however, came maps, reports, and diaries that have since provided vital information for generations of alpine enthusiasts, explorers, and surveyors about the territory beyond the realm of contemporary Canadian civilization.

Having dealt with a multitude of administrative details, gathering information, and dispensing supplies, Fleming was ablerto dispatch his first surveying parties in June 1871. By mid-summer, almost 800 men were in the field, and this number would rise to 2,000 the following year, including engineers, surveyors, levellers, assistants, axemen, boatmen, and packers. Unfortunately, a good number of these men were incompetent political appointees and party hacks, for whom work had to be created. This was one of the greatest problems Fleming faced on a recurring basis. After the first year in the field, he reported that it was almost impossible to obtain "the class of men required," resulting in considerable delays and difficulty in completing the work. Although this remained a major concern for Fleming, land to the extent of 74,000 km was reconnoitred from 1871 to 1876. A large percentage of this total was in the mountain regions of Alberta, as the search for the best route through the mountains continued. During this same period, an army of surveyors, engineers, and assistants charted, foot by foot, a total of 19,300 km, including the route Fleming had tentatively selected as early as 1871.

Fleming's unusual resistance to naming features throughout Alberta's mountains and foothill regions remains unexplained. Whether Fleming was under orders from the federal government not to assume the authority to "lend" his name to features, or whether he actually held certain beliefs and principles on the subject, is a purely speculative question. A passing reference is made to Sir Sandford Fleming's humble nature in a letter dated 2 February 1909 from A.O. Wheeler (Topographer) to Mr. Whitcher (Secretary, Geographic Board of Canada): "... with regard to Mount Sandford, I may say that I gathered from Sir Sandford Fleming that he preferred not having the "Sir" put in, although personally, I think it would make it more definite in whose honour the peak was named, and would be a greater compliment to Sir Sandford Fleming. It is probably due to his modesty that he wished it left out."1 It is also possible that Fleming never even thought of naming features or of the implications of such an act, for there is no direct mention of the issue in any of his reports, speeches, or letters.

The only reference applicable to this issue is a short, indirect passage from the diary Fleming kept on his 1872 trek. The statement is actually that of Valad, one of Fleming's principal Metis guides who travelled with the expedition from Lac Ste. Anne to the ford on the Fraser River. The comment was made as Fleming's party discussed their route up the valley of the "River Myette" [sic], Fleming noted Valad's words, "He mentioned the old local titles of the mountains on this side, but every passer-by thinks that he has a right to give his own and his friends' names to them over again." Fleming may have noted this conversation in his diary because he was concerned with the naming of geographical features, or out of dismay over the white man's disregard for native heritage.

Fleming's journey preceded the creation of the Geographic Board of Canada (now the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names), by more than twenty-five years. Not until 1897 was a governing body deemed necessary and were guidelines established to put a halt to what the Geographic Board considered to be abuses. One of these was the replacement of well-established local names, many of which derived from native culture. Interestingly enough, the concern expressed by Valad over 100 years ago has become one of the prominent guiding forces in the development of the principles and procedures of the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names.

Sir Sandford Fleming's diary, reports, and maps from his journeys, and those of the C.P.S., provided vital topographical, geological, and geographical information, including distances between features, for generations of explorers and surveyors that followed. Among them were the men of the Dominion Land Survey (D.L.S.) created in 1869. Within a few decades, the future provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta were almost completely surveyed into townships and sections. The survey of the boundary between British Columbia and Alberta was begun in 1913 and continued through 1924 with the careful placing of cairns, brass bolts, and officially surveyed monuments marking the division of the territory. People such as J.N. Wallace, the Dominion Land Survey Commissioner, R.W. Cautley, Alberta's Commissioner, and British Columbia's A.O. Wheeler emerged as new actors in Alberta's history.

The eastern boundary of British Columbia was established as early as 1863 by an Act of the British Parliament. The eastern boundary of the British colony, later the Canadian province, from "the Boundary of the United States Northwards," was declared to be the "Rocky Mountains" and "the one hundred and twentieth Meridian of West Longitude." Because the border between Alberta and British Columbia was made up of a natural topographical feature and a straight unalterable line, there was no urgency to survey and mark the boundary on the ground, even after British Columbia joined Canada in 1871. However, in the 1910s, several factors made surveying necessary and advisable.

The discovery of valuable coal deposits required licensing and the collection of royalties, both of which were made difficult by the lack of an officially marked border. The growing value of the forest reserves required strict determination of the jurisdiction of surveyors, timber lessees, fire wardens, and game guardians. A need for knowledge of the passes suitable for wagon roads and pack trails also increased the necessity of a survey. In addition, geographers needed precise border locations to draw accurate maps.


1.'Geographic Board of Canada Microfiche, Geographical Names Programme, 0133, 3C10.

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