This Week in History


It's Good To Be Alberta Bound

This story was originally published in 2007

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

Alfred Ernest Cross
Alfred Ernest Cross
© Glenbow Archives / NA-165-4
At an early age, Cross had an interest in moving West and having his own cattle ranch. After completing studies in England and in Montréal, he attended the Ontario School of Agriculture in Guelph, Ontario, and then the Montreal Veterinary College, where his desire to go West deepened. At age 22, Cross's dream came true: he was sent to Cochrane Ranche in Alberta (owned by one of his professors) as a veterinarian and treasurer-manager.

In 1886, Cross established his own ranch, which came to be known as the A7 Ranche, situated south of Calgary near the town of Nanton. Although the A7 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 the A7 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, but without circus-type entertainment. Intrigued, Cross and the others enthusiastically supported the idea, and provided $25,000 each to back its creation. 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, but gained popularity with the years.

Cross continued to be involved in day-to-day operations of the A7 Ranche and of the brewery 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 western hospitality.

Alfred Ernest Cross was designated a National Historic Person in 1971 and the Calgary Stampede was designated a National Historic Event for its 100th anniversary in 2012. To learn more, read The Calgary Stampede: Saddle Up! in the This Week in History archives. 2015 is the Year of Sports! Celebrate by visiting the Stampede grounds from July 3 to 12, 2015.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada. Also, click here to learn more about the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

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