Carstairs was named after a town in Lanarkshire, Scotland. The early settlers of the village were ranchers due to the abundance of hay in the area. The Sam Scarlett Ranch was the stopping point for the stagecoach from Edmonton to Calgary from 1881 to 1900. With the arrival of the railway from Calgary in 1889, the settlers came to Carstairs in large groups. In 1901 the first school and church of Presbyterian faith were built. Early storekeepers in the village were the Fraser Howe Brothers, M.R. Shantz and Son, J.T. Musgrove, Scott's Grocery Store, R. Sterling; R. Budgeon operated the first blacksmith shop in the early 1900s. Simon Downie operated the Carstairs Land Company. Dr. Robinson was the first resident doctor and Dr. H.L. Large was the first dentist.
By the 1900s, Carstairs was stirring as settlers began arriving in great numbers. The railway station - as it was the only building - was a busy centre of activity. It was used for church and mail service. E.W Stone was Carstairs' first businessman and first citizen. In 1901, he built a general store and then the Albion Hotel. With the abundance of settlers in the area, a livery barn was established by Big and Little Jim Murray near the post office. Perspective land seekers rented horse and buggy often to explore the surrounding area. Carstairs was incorporated as a village in 1903.
Heritage Trails #112 Sheck Dugout Near Didsbury
A pit dwelling built at the turn of the century. This was common among Ukrainians to make semi-subterranean living quarters but the dugout on the sheck dugout was fully subterranean. The layout of the building and assumptions are made about the ventilated pit.
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In 1904, the population was 101 people. In 1905, Dr. Thomas Hays, a medical doctor from St. Louis, Missouri, arrived to assist his brother Dan in real estate. He established a dairy ranch, married and fathered eight children, one of whom was Harry Hays, born on Christmas Day, 1909. Harry settled on a dairy farm south of Calgary, which later became Haysboro, a district of Calgary. He was mayor of Calgary, federal agricultural minister, and later appointed senator. Also in 1905, another famous Albertan (as a member of the United Farmers of Alberta) Henry Wise Wood established a ranch at Carstairs. Pat Burns Ranches of Calgary had established a finishing steer-feeding camp on land south-east of town around this time.
In 1906, 20 businesses were built and about 30 homes. Businesses included the Rosebud Creamery, a lumber company, two implement dealers, a flour and feed store, the Methodist Church, the United Church, the Merchant Bank and a $10,000, four- room school. More grain elevators were added in later years. On September 7, 1906, an editorial appeared in The Carstairs Journal - "Wives Wanted in Carstairs", plus "Grand Clearance of Bachelors" with a list of names. There is no information available as to the success of this venture! Fire equipment was purchased for the village in 1908.
In 1910, the Albion Hotel burned to the ground. Sam Scarlett sold his herd as open range was negligible. Grain and dairy farming was added to the ranching around this time. Businesses continued to multiply until WWI (1914-1918).
Edited By Jim Symon, Roulston Museum
WWII and After
The local women raised money, sewed for the Red Cross and organized concerts, dances, and teas. The Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (a women's charitable organization working to improve the quality of life for children, youth, and those in need, particularly women and veterans) arranged contests to raise money to buy wool and other materials needed for socks, mitts and scarves for soldiers. They also collected books and old clothing items. The Women's Institute sent old library books to the Calgary Army Camp. The local post office sent the books at no charge. Knitters were desperately needed. The Canadian Women's League and Junior Ladies Aid organized plays, quiz contests, bridge tournaments, bake sales and fashion shows.
The registration for ladies between the ages of 16-65 was required. They were to list their talents and capabilities that might help the war effort. After the lists were completed, training course lists were tabulated. Women were also taking nursing courses in London and training as military cooks.
The young men involved in the war took on roles such as wireless operators in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), torpedo squadron, Field Ambulance Unit school, Forestry Battalion, Navy and Royal Air Force.
An officer training school was conducted in the Carstairs school. Recruits were wanted for non-permanent active militia, not for active duty overseas. They were needed to serve in the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, 2nd Corps Transportation Patrol Unit and as inspectors of army equipment. Truck drivers, auto drivers, mechanics, motorcyclists and clerks were needed. Carstairs had the detachment of the 14th Reserve Army Tank Regiment train.
A notice was posted that all aliens, Italians naturalized since 1929 and any American citizens visiting or living in Canada were to report to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and that all firearms and ammunitions had to be surrendered to the RCMP.
Any wheat donations to the war effort were not charged against a person's quota. There were salvage drives for any steel, wheels, machinery that was needed. It was illegal to have more than 500 pounds (226.8 kilograms) of iron or old unused machinery around. There were rations on gas and the Canadian government was selling Victory Bonds. The RCAF continually came to Carstairs to recruit members. The Department of Munitions and Supplies declared that lumber and logging were essential industries. The speed limit on highways was set at 40 miles per hour (65 kilometres per hour) to conserve both gas and tires.
The United Farmers of Alberta petitioned to have military men released to help with the late harvest. If farmers required help at harvest, they were requested to register with the Board of Trade. Farmers and farm workers were needed in the off-season in the bush, sawmills, base metal mines and coal mines.
After the war, an honour roll list was completed along with a quilt for anyone who volunteered for active service. A clothing drive was organized for the needy people and wartime victims in Europe. One individual received the Order of the British Empire, the order of chivalry of the British democracy.
War brides began arriving from areas such as Belgium. A Legion was established, a community service providing services to veterans, ex-service persons, seniors, youth and numerous community-based charities. Women volunteered at the Salvation Army and YMCA canteens.
Water and sewer systems were installed in 1952 and natural gas, supplied by the Canadian Western Natural Gas Company, was installed in 1956.
Carstairs served as an agricultural area that was largely devoted to the production of grain and cattle. The importance of livestock, especially cattle and wheat increased. A group of oil companies headed by Home Oil Company Limited constructed an absorption plant in 1959 in the Carstairs gas field which was located 5 miles (eight kilometres) west of the town. The sale of gas from this field was in 1960 to Trans-Canada Pipe Lines Limited.
The Carstairs gas plant was (and still is today) located 7 miles (11.3 kilometres) southwest of the village of Carstairs and was constructed during 1959-60. High-pressure gas was gathered from four wells in the Carstairs Elkton Field and transported to the plant by pipelines for processing. The conditioned gas was then delivered to Alberta Gas Trunk Line for eventual delivery to Trans-Canada Pipelines at the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. During 1961 the field gathering system was extended to pick up gas from two additional wells in the Carstairs Field and about eight wells in the Crossfield Elkton Field. The plant was enlarged during 1961 to process additional volumes of Carstairs gas for sale to Alberta and Southern Gas Company Limited.
Present-Day Carstairs - “Working Together for a Better Living”