I’m heartbroken to hear about this beautiful place burning down. This past Sunday afternoon I decided to take my motorcycle for the first somewhat longer ride of the season to Canmore, Alberta. Somewhere along highway 1A between Calgary and Canmore was the site of this church, the oldest protestant church in southern Alberta. In summer, I enjoy taking this less busy road to avoid the Trans Canada highway. I stopped at the church many times over the past years to take the photographs, and at one point even was allowed to play one of the old, and horribly out of tune, pianos inside the church.
Built in 1875, this church was once a part of Morleyville, the oldest pioneer settlement in southern Alberta and home to its first herd of breeding cattle. The church was founded by Methodist missionary George McDougall and his sons John and David.
John McDougall and his wife began their work by constructing a two room log shack with a sod roof for themselves and a small church. David McDougall later joined his brother John at Morleyville and helped to found the Indian Trading Post. In its early days, about seven hundred First Nations visited the post to barter animal skins for food, blankets, stockings, and other supplies. The outpost became a hub for settlers coming into the Bow Valley and reached a population of over two hundred at its peak.
George got lost and died in a blizzard while on a buffalo hunt – just a few miles from home, near what we now know as Calgary, Alberta.
I’m sorry to see this landmark wiped from the scenery. According to CBC there have been attempts of arson and breakins at the site (seriously, who does such a thing?). Given it’s quiet location it was a vulnerable piece of history, and history is something Canada doesn’t have quite enough of – yet. I know Canada is celebrating it’s 150 birthday this year, but in the grand scheme of things that’s relatively young, and it’s a shame this old building is no longer part of it. I hope, with the memories and photographs I have from the place, to make a contribution to keep it alive.
Inspired by Western Canada? I invite you to travel along with me as I explore the awe-inspiring beauty of Alberta and British Columbia in my book “A View to Take Home”.
“Wilko captures the different aspects of the life he found when he explored these provinces as a “fresh off the boat” immigrant from Europe. He brings his findings in stunning, high-resolution images directly to the reader.”
Flipping through the pages of A View to Take Home, you’ll feel as if you are riding alongside me as I explores my newly adopted homeland on his motorcycle.