Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jewel of the West - Mountain Mill

In 1879 "just five years after the arrival of the Mounted Police in the West the Indian Department sent John Keene out from Ontario to establish a mill for sawing logs and grinding grain on Mill Creek, just eight or so miles southwest of the small settlement of Pincher Creek.... It was thought that this would encourage the Indians to build homes and turn to farming.  And so began the first activity west of town."  In 1881 the mill was sold to Senator Peter McLaren who sent William Lees out as manager.  From then on it was a big business factor in the life of the village of Pincher Creek, "and many of our prominent citizens first came west to work there."  [The original blacksmith shop still stands on the site today in 2011.-ed.]  Across Mill Creek to the west "The NE 1/4 of Sec.12-6-2-5 was filed on by Ben Short, stepson of the late Fred Pope [in] 1900.  He failed to prove it up and this left it open for Alex White who proved up on it and lived there until 1920.  [...Alex was quite a horseman...a cowboy at Mountain Mill for many years and then moved to Pincher Creek.]  He sold it sometime later to Thomas Hughes, a retired coal miner, another bachelor [who] lived there until his death in 1950.  This land is now owned by Ken Gamache."  In 1977 it was sold to Dave and Mary Balfour.  The old farmhouse was destroyed in a septic gas explosion in 1979.  (Quotations and basic facts from Prairie Grass to Mountain Pass by The Pincher Creek Historical Society, 1974.)