Chinook Country Historical Society
Our Story Why We Exist
Imagine a city without public libraries, without parks or a performing arts centre. Who were the driving forces behind making Calgary one of the best places to live? What was their passion? How did this passion and determination change how we live today?
Many of the stories of the prominent people who were instrumental in building our city and province are well documented, but what about the lesser known people in our history like William Reader or Annie Davidson? How did they contribute to our culture?
Imagine a library without any books? Within the first few days of opening Calgary’s first public library in 1912, every single book had been borrowed. Clearly, Calgary was thirsty for knowledge but Annie Davidson already knew that. A 70 year old widow and mother of 10 she understood the value of books and the need for a library in what was a burgeoning city.
Annie Davidson moved to Calgary in 1906 to be closer to her children. She brought with her a passion for reading. It didn’t take her long to find others who loved to read as well and she soon established the Calgary Women’s Literary Club where like-minded ladies would get together to talk about the books they read. However Annie Davidson and the other ladies of the club recognized that most of the books in Calgary were in the private collections of the few people who could afford them. Even the schools have very few of them in their collection. They were determined to make books available to everyone.
But getting the first library built wasn’t easy. In order to get the library approved, they needed to get 10 percent of the people who were eligible to vote to sign a petition asking city council to build a library. Keep in mind that at this time, women were not allowed to vote, so the ladies had to get the men of the community to agree to build the library. Their first attempt was a unsuccessful as they didn’t get enough signatures. Undeterred, they went around knocking on doors a second time and succeeded in getting enough signatures.
By 1908, just 2 years after Ms. Davidson arrived, City Council approved the building of the library and on January 2, 1912, it opened its doors to the public. Within a few days, almost 10 percent of the people in Calgary had registered for library cards. Shortly after the library opened, the shelves were totally empty – all 5,200 books that were there on opening day had been borrowed.
Unfortunately, Annie Davidson never saw her dream come true. She died at the age of 78 in 1910, before the library opened. Her spirit lives on in the Memorial Park Library, the library that was built as a result of her passion and determination.
We strive to make our history relevant to today and the future. We research and tell the inspiring stories of Albertans, including the achievements of Lougheed, Cross, Burns and Edwards, but also the stories of important but less well known individuals such as Davidson and Reader. In literature and presentation, we show how a small number of individuals with a determined spirit and a strong faith in their mission can affect the course of history.
The Chinook Country Historical Society is a chapter of the Historical Society of Alberta which was established in 1907 as one of the first acts of the legislature of the newly created province. Embodying the passion of our first Premier, Alexander Cameron Rutherford the act states, “The object of the Society shall be to encourage the study of the history of Alberta and Canada, to rescue from oblivion the memories of the original inhabitants, the early missionaries, fur traders, explorers, and settlers of the north and west of Canada, to obtain and preserve narratives in print, manuscript or otherwise of their travels, adventures, labour and observations, to secure and preserve objects generally illustrative of the civil, religious, literary and natural history of the country.”
Our Impact What We Do
Each year we showcase history of the Calgary region in monthly presentations from September through May and for 11 days during Historic Calgary Week in late July/early August. We present some 75 programs that explore the diverse culture and history of the region.
Although CCHS organizes and supports Historic Calgary Week, we work with many other local organizations that have an interest in history. Many of these organizations showcase their specific interest in history as part of our overall program. The vast majority of our programs are open to the public at no cost.
This has been a landmark year being the 25th anniversary of Historic Calgary Week. To mark this occasion, we have organized the most comprehensive program yet. In addition to some 60+ regular events, there are several special events including:
- Calgary Remembered - viewing a video of that examines the spirit that built Calgary and followed up with a panel presentation of the visions for the future;
- History Hunt - reviving a feature of the original Historic Calgary Week in 1991, participants will have the opportunity to discover hidden history nuggets throughout Calgary;
- Salute to the Stones of Signal Hill - Take A Pilgrim in this unique centennial commemoration of Sarcee Camp and learn about the sacrifices of our troops in WW I. Learn about the origin of the Stones;
- Children's History Books - a two-volume history of the Calgary region focussing on the people and events that made Calgary what it is today. The books are being written for 8-12 year olds. The books will be distributed free of charge to elementary schools and libraries in the region;
- Historical Crossword Puzzle - the 25th anniversary giant crossword puzzle commemorating this silver anniversary is again part of HCW;
- The Historic Calgary Week Forever Fund - we have a established fund at the Calgary Foundation to provide a fiancial base for future HCW festivals.
Full members of Chinook Country receive the Historical Society of Alberta’s quarterly journal, Alberta History and quarterly newsletters, History Now. Readers have free access to the past 50 years of Alberta History via the University of Alberta’s Peel Collection. Browsing through this University of Alberta site will offer many articles and research tools for your resource needs.
Over 50 titles featuring Alberta’s rich past have been published or sponsored by the HSA’s Alberta Resources Publication Board (ARPB) or the HSA chapters.
Our Programs How We Do It
Chinook Country Historical Society promotes a greater understanding of Canadian and Alberta history in Chinook Country, in part, through:
- A monthly program of presentations of historical interest from September through May;
- The annual Historic Calgary Week, 11 days of walks, talks and tours celebrating the history of Calgary and region. This year the HCW festival will be held from July 23 to August 3;
- Sponsoring books and anthologies that highlight Calgary and Alberta history. Currently, CCHS is in the process of publishing a history book for children aged 8-12 years. The first volume of a two-volume series should be available by December 2015. The book will highlight the stories of the people that resided in and built our province.
Membership fees pay for only a small portion of our programs with donations and grants making up the difference. Our programs are organized by committees reporting to the Board of Directors and are comprised of a program committee for the monthly programs, a committee that organizes Historic Calgary Week and a third committee that is sourcing and editing the material for the children’s books.
Our efforts are almost entirely volunteer run with support from the Historical Society of Alberta.
Our Requests What You Can Do
As a volunteer-run, non-profit organization, CCHS relies on membership fees and donations for the majority of its funding requirements. Our programs are partially supported by government and community grants. Your active participation in bringing our programs to Albertans is vital to achieving our mission.
- Attend a presentation: Join the hundreds of Albertans that come to understand and marvel at the efforts of the pioneers and builders of our province and country by participating in Historic Calgary Week or attending a monthly presentation.
- Research a story: Are you intrigued by the story of a pioneer? Perhaps someone in your family was part of our history. Why not find out more about him or her and write an article for Alberta History magazine or for the CCHS Newsletter? Many interesting and important stories are buried in the archives of Glenbow or Calgary Public Library, waiting for an inquiring mind to bring them to the light of day. Make a presentation at one of our venues.
- Become a Member: Our members are inspired by all aspects of our history: the perseverance and entrepreneurship of our pioneers, our arts and cultural history and understanding how the lessons of the past can benefit our future. Being a member demonstrates to one and all the importance of our history.
- Become a Partner: Volunteer your time to promote a greater understanding of our history and help project the lessons of our rich heritage into the future.
- Buy a Book: Read about the fascinating lives of the people that built our province in more than 50 publications sponsored by the Historical Society of Alberta and CCHS.
- Volunteer for one of our Programs: As a totally volunteer-run organization, CCHS relies on the enthusiasm, energy and input from many dedicated volunteers in bringing our programs to the public. Making connections in the community and experiencing the history of Calgary and region are just a few of the benefits of being a volunteer. Our volunteers are proud of our city and our province and look forward to sharing the history of our region with residents and visitors alike.
- Join our Board: We would be pleased to have new, experienced members join our volunteer board. Contact Donna Zwicker, President, at 403-261-4667.