An ancient trail that was once a major thoroughfare for Aboriginal people has been recognized by the Calgary Heritage Authority.
On Jan. 24, the Old North Trail, now know as Spiller Road in south east Calgary and is a major route through the Ramsay area, was recipient of a plaque.
“The plaque program not only allows us to recognize and celebrate the unique, historical character of places throughout Calgary, but it also allows us to share the stories of places so Calgarians can establish stronger connections with their communities and the city,” said Scott Jolliffe, CHA chair.
Sites are chosen biennially by the CHA for recognition based on the significance of the architecture, history and context of the sites.
The site was proposed for recognition by Beth Carter, a Ramsay resident and former Glenbow curator, said Art Matsui, vice president external for the Ramsay Community Association.
In a Ramsay community newsletter, Carter traced the history of the Old North Trail which led to an important ford at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. When the North West Mounted Police built Fort Brisebois (Fort Calgary) in 1875, a section of the Old North Trail became Macleod Trail, the main supply route between Fort Calgary, Fort Macleod and Fort Benton further south in Montana.
In 1896, Piikani leader Brings-down-the-Sun said of the trail, “There is a well known trail we call the Old North Trail. It runs north and south along the Rocky Mountains. No one knows how long it has been used by the Indians. My father told me it originated in the migration of a great tribe of Indians from the distant north to the south, and all the tribes have, ever since, continued to follow their tracks. The Old North Trail is now becoming overgrown with moss and grass, but it was worn so deeply by many generations of travelers that the travois tracks and horse trail are still plainly visible.”
The first settler in Ramsay and Inglewood, a Métis man named Antonie Godin, lived at the end of the trail. He homesteaded this land in 1876. In 1880, the land was sold to Louis Roselle, a Métis buffalo hunter and HBC employee. He built four “dwelling houses, two stables, a corral, and a warehouse and broke up and cropped about three acres of land,” as he stated in a letter to Sir John A. MacDonald, at that point the minister of the interior. In 1883, when the Canadian Pacific Railroad came to Calgary, the land was sold for $10,000 to an agent for Wesley Orr.
The Old North Trail, in whole and in part, has gone through a number of names including Macleod Trail and Orr Trail. In 1967, it was named Spiller Road after Edward Vincent Spiller (1878-1970), a man devoted to the Boy Scout movement in Calgary. The northern section of the trail was renamed 8th Street to match the modern grill pattern in the city.
Also recognized with plaques were the Mission Bridge and Bridgeland-Riverside Vacant Lots Garden.
Photo Caption: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi (second from left) and Calgary Heritage Authority chair Scott Jolliffe (far right) present the plaque commemorating the Old North Trail as one of Calgary’s historically significant sites to members of the Ramsay Community Association (from left) president Lexie Shmyr, vice president external Art Matsui, director Wendy Macrae, and vice president internal Josie Casale.