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Macleod Trail Cultural Landscape

Okotoks

Other Names:
Old Macleod Trail

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Macleod Trail cultural landscape comprises of a consolidated parcel of lands north of the Elma Street lane and south of Mountain Street; and the lands east of the Transportation Utility Corridor (Highway 2A) and the lands directly north of Elk Avenue where it intersects with the Elma Street lane. These lands, once used for the movement of settlers, travellers and goods from Fort Macleod to Calgary is today a natural undisturbed escarpment with a southeast to northwest diagonal pedestrian footpath through a vegetated gully. The cultural landscape includes the bottom of the escarpment, the gully, vegetation, a natural pedestrian footpath, and a plateau area at the top of the escarpment. Surrounding the cultural landscape is residential development that is set back at the top with a pedestrian pathway and street and at the bottom by the Elma Street lane. The Macleod Trail cultural landscape is within the community of Heritage Okotoks, north of the downtown, and north of the Sheep River.

Heritage Value
The Macleod Trail cultural landscape possesses activity value for its association with the movement of people and goods through Okotoks in the late19th century reflecting the settlement and growth in the town of Okotoks. The Macleod-Calgary Trail was part of the original wagon route from Fort Benton, Montana through Fort Macleod and onto Calgary and Edmonton. The route crossed the Sheep Creek near the present-day railway bridge and passed at a diagonal through the town, along the current North Railway Street, by the MacMillan stopping house to the Okotoks United Church and then up a gully through the escarpment. The original trail through the town branched out into two trails heading into Okotoks from the south. The other route passed Kenneth Cameron’s stopping house at the foot of the escarpment where both trails merged as they went through the gully northwesterly. The Macleod Trail was the only horse, wagon and stagecoach route available to connect Fort Macleod with northern destinations before the availability of railroad service in Western Canada in the 1880’s. Cart traffic on the Macleod Trail declined with the introduction of rail service, while the town became a new form of transportation hub when a train station was built in Okotoks in 1892.

The town’s early settlement within the river valley and Macleod Trail route was reinforced by the MacMillan and Cameron stopping houses. During the two to three-day journey between Fort Macleod and Fort Calgary it was necessary to rest or change the animals, giving rise to establishments called stopping houses. The location attracted Okotoks’ earliest settlers to also provide a welcome resting place there. John MacMillan established his stagecoach stopping house (non-extant) in the early 1880’s. Soon after, in 1882, settlers Alexander McRae and Kenneth Cameron built cabins nearby, and Cameron began operating his cabin as another stopping house (non-extant, believed to be located to the east of the Macleod Trail cultural landscape and near Elma Street West). By 1884 the Okotoks post office was located in the MacMillan stopping house, and these early buildings became the nucleus around which Okotoks would develop.

A short segment of trail within Okotoks remains as an undeveloped cultural landscape. This parcel is one of the last remaining undisturbed and consolidated lands of the Macleod Trail in southern Alberta and provides information value for its potential to answer research questions, in whole or in part, from any subsurface artifacts and the natural environment pertinent to human activities that took place on the lands including the indigenous movements in creating trails, the early whisky traders and North West Mounted Police usage of the trail in the late 1800’s. Local lore suggests that Indigenous Peoples traveled this pathway for 10,000 years while moving on the Old North Trail between the Yukon Territory and New Mexico.” Major deliveries at that time were made by bull trains comprised of multiple strings - each string having numerous oxen pulling several wagons - chained together. Stagecoaches were operated on the route by several companies including: IG Baker with service between Forts Benton, Macleod and Calgary from 1882; ranchers Stewart and Christie’s Concord coach; and the line run by Frank Pollinger for Levasseur and Stedman which departed Fort Macleod each Monday and Wednesday. The lands have been undeveloped, and no archeological digs have taken place. The natural escarpment topography, gully with prairie vegetation, evidence of the trail depression and its width at a gradual slope provide a natural environment that influenced the movement activities of numerous people through the town.

The Macleod Trail cultural landscape is symbolic of the distinctive visual and sentimental connection of the Sheep River valley and surrounding escarpments. The movement of settlers and travellers through the river valley and diagonally up the gully shaped the Macleod Trail cultural landscape. The pedestrian footpath continues to move people and connect the history with the present usage of the area. The cultural landscape became Lineham Park in 1993. In 2012, it was recognized with the placement of the Old Macleod Trail wagon wheel marker connecting it to other locations along the Macleod Trail route in southern Alberta.


Character-Defining Elements
Character-defining elements of the Macleod Trail cultural landscape include, but are not limited to:

- Prairie topography of the Sheep River valley, escarpment and flat prairie at the top;
- evidence of the Fort Macleod to Fort Calgary trail depression, and width at a gradual slope up the escarpment gully;
- view shed at the top of the escarpment where the trail reached the flat prairie; and
- prairie vegetation within the gully.


Location



Street Address: 33 Mountain Street
Community: Okotoks
Boundaries: Lot 41ER, Block 4, Plan 2011159
Contributing Resources: Landscape(s) or Landscape Feature(s)

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
2011159
4
41 ER


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
50.727184 -113.978089 Digital Maps NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Local Governments (AB)
Designation Status: Municipal Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2020/09/28

Historical Information

Built:
Significant Date(s) 1873 to 1891
Theme(s) Peopling the Land : Migration and Immigration
Historic Function(s): Transport - Land : Traditional Trail or Trading Route
Current Function(s): Environment : Nature Element
Transport - Land : Pedestrian Way
Architect:
Builder:
Context:

Additional Information

Object Number: 4664-0450
Designation File:
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File:
Website Link: http://www.okotoks.ca/culture-heritage
Data Source: Town of Okotoks, Laserfiche, Internal Repository - Adopted Bylaws. 5 Elizabeth Street, Okotoks, AB T1S 1K1
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