I hear it a lot. “Calgary has no history,” they say. And they say it with conviction. Locals and visitors and transplants and émigrés.
How does a proud Calgarian respond? “Sure we do.” I’ll say, “You just need to look around.”
Calgary’s got a pretty awesome backstory. One-of-a-kind. It seems almost like an underdog story. Like we had to beat the odds just to be here.
Imagine coming here in the 1870s. Long before Alberta became a province. A century before +15s. Before health care and hospitals. It would take a cowboy kind of attitude to stick it out.
The first Calgarians were hard-ass people. They were innovators and entrepreneurs. Adventurers like Sam Livingston, the plucky Irish gold prospector who settled on the banks of the Elbow in 1876. He introduced new farming technologies to tame the frontier, and fought for his rights as a settler. Soldiers like Colonel MacLeod, who brought law and order to the West and gave Fort Calgary its name. And whisky traders like D.W. Davis, who gave up his illicit sales to become a respected cattle rancher and part-owner of the Calgary Herald. They all left their mark.
And there’s so many more. They struggled, survived and thrived here. They built a city from nothing. When it burned in 1886, they built it again. Names like Weadick, Deerfoot and Lougheed. Bad Black White Man, the Sundance Kid and the Hitman. The Big Four and the Famous Five. The CPR and the HBC built the 403. The YYC.
Calgary’s got plenty of history. It’s in the buildings, the streets, the parks and landmarks. Everywhere you go, someone went there before and left a story. You just need to look around.