The history of Calgary, named after Calgary, a place on
the Isle of Mull in Scotland. In Old Norse, the name can be interpreted to mean
cold garden, while in Gaelic it may be “clear running water.” Either of these
names implies that the area is beautiful and tranquil. But what is the history
of Calgary and does it have as peaceful of a history as its name may suggest?
Before any Europeans managed to settle the area, Calgary was
inhabited by the pre-Clovis people for nearly 11,000 years and they were
succeeded by various tribes of the First Nations, including the Blackfoot and
Peigan tribes, all of whom belonged to the Blackfoot Confederacy. In 1787, a
European cartographer found his way into the graces of one of the Peigan bands
and spent his winter with them while mapping out the area.
Nearly 100 years later, the first European settler made his home
in Calgary. His name was John Glenn and he settled the area in 1873. With a
settler in town, the next logical move was to establish a western plains branch
of the North-West Mounted Police to ensure that the western plains were
traversed safely and law-abidingly. Their fort, established to protect
Canadians from the American whisky traders and to protect the fur traders, was
originally called Fort Brisebois until 1876, when Colonel Macleod mercifully
renamed it Fort Calgary.
Calgary experienced growth in 1883 when the rail systems finally
reached that far west. In 1884, having grown big enough to be considered a
town, Calgary elected its first mayor, Mr. George Murdoch. Calgary became known
as The City of Calgary in 1894 as part of the North-west Territories. After a
fire in 1886, a law was set that limited materials that could be used to build
big buildings in downtown Calgary to prevent another horrible accident.
Due to the increase in people moving west and into Calgary,
industry and commerce boomed, most notably the cattle and meat-packing
industries. This came as a result of the completion of the railroad and the
leasing of grazing areas. Around the same time, the Hudson Bay Company
established one of its “original six” department stores in Calgary. Due to its
status as a cattle center, the now world famous Calgary Stampede was started in
1912 and has become known as the “greatest outdoor show on earth.”
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a new industry began
to lurk underneath the soil of Calgary. Oil had been found in Alberta, but it
would take almost 50 years to become a viable industry that could support
Calgary. Population in Calgary expanded quickly during the oil boom, as well as
the infrastructure of the downtown area. Skyscrapers can now be seen reaching
towards the skies, most of which came about due to the discovery and exploitation
of the oil industry. this boom lasted until oil prices dropped, collapsing
Calgary’s one trick economy. The economic downturn continued until the 1990s.
During the 1980s, Calgary realized they needed to diversify, both
in terms of culture and economy. The city could no longer simply rely on oil
and gas as their main sources of economy. And so, Calgary grew from its midsize
city status to diverse metropolis. The world took notice and the Olympic
committee decided that Calgary should host the 1988 Winter Olympics. Luckily
for Calgary, the games were a raving success and truly put the city of Calgary
on the map.
The city has also prospered from various tourist attractions
either in or around Calgary. Tourists hitting the ski resorts tend to stop by
for a night or two and bolster the economy in their own ways. the city hosts
numerous festivals and unique attractions that also bring repeat visitors in
for a weekend or week at a time. And of course, Canadians flock into town for
hockey games throughout the winter months as the Calgary Flames embark on their
yearly quest to obtain the Stanley Cup.
Calgary has endured numerous hardships in its formation as one of
the major cities in North America. Between dealing with the fire that burnt the
town down, the economic downturn that crippled the city for some time, or the
flooding that happened in 2013, Calgary is nothing if not resilient and has
overcome all of those obstacles to remain a viable tourist destination.