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"It's Good To Be Alberta Bound"

For the week of Monday June 25, 2007

On June 26, 1861, one of Calgary’s prominent citizens, Alfred Ernest Cross, was born in Montréal, Quebec. Cross brought prosperity to the frontier town with the construction of a brewery, the establishment of one of the largest ranches in Western Canada and the founding of the Calgary Stampede.

Alfred Ernest Cross
Alfred Ernest Cross
© Glenbow Archives / NA-165-4
At an early age, Cross showed interest in moving West and having his own cattle ranch. After completing studies overseas in England as well as in Montréal, Cross attended the Ontario School of Agriculture in Guelph, Ontario. He subsequently attended the Montreal Veterinary College, where his desire to go West deepened. At age 22, his dream would come true: Cross was sent to Cochrane Ranche (owned by one of his professors) as a veterinarian and treasurer-manager. However, difficulties arose shortly after his arrival and, in 1885, Cross left.

In 1886, Cross would establish his own ranch, which came to be known as the a7 Ranche, south of Calgary near the town of Nanton, Alberta. Though the ranch kept him occupied, he found time, in 1892, to establish the Calgary Brewing & Malting Company. In 1899, Cross was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the North West Territories, only to resign in 1904 to focus on the expansion of his ranch and his brewery, as both of these operations had become quite successful and profitable.

Program for the 1912 Calgary Exhibition and Stampede
Program for the 1912 Calgary Exhibition and Stampede
© Glenbow Archives / NA-604-1A
In 1912, Cross and three other successful ranchers and cattlemen (known as the “Big Four”) were approached by a young American rodeo entertainer named Guy Weadick. Weadick proposed the creation of a rodeo to celebrate frontier life without circus-type entertainment. Intrigued, Cross and the others enthusiastically supported the idea, and provided $25 000 each to back the creation of the show. That September, the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede was held for the first time. It promoted western heritage and showcased much of what the West had to offer. It wasn’t, however, a runaway success that first year, but it gained in popularity in the following years.

Cross continued to be involved in day-to-day operations of the a7 Ranche and of the brewery up until his death in 1932. His sons then took over. Though the brewery was later sold, the a7 Ranche still exists today. The Calgary Stampede continues to draw more than a million visitors every year with its warm western hospitality.

Alfred Ernest Cross was designated a National Historic Person in 1971.

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