1857 – 1947
First Mayor of Macleod
John Cowdry was born in York Mills, Ontario, in 1857, and was educated at Upper Canada College. He and his brother Nathanial Cowdry (b. 1849) traveled west in 1883 to homestead near Regina.
In 1885, the brothers moved to Fort Macleod and established the town’s first bank, the Cowdry Brothers’ Bank, in 1886. The opening of the bank was a pivotal event for the town in that settlers could borrow money locally to finance their farms, ranches and businesses. The bank also provided service to surrounding communities, including Pincher Creek, Cardston, Claresholm and Nanton. From 1886 to 1905 the Cowdry Brothers’ Bank was the largest and most dynamic bank serving Alberta. In 1888, Nathaniel returned to Ontario, leaving the bank in John’s control, although they often communicated by telegram.
John was elected the Town’s first mayor in 1893, and re-elected in 1898 and 1899. The Bank was sold in 1905 to the Canadian Bank of Commerce and John began ranching with the Maunsell Brothers, who had been the Bank’s largest client. John eventually moved from Fort Macleod and died in Vancouver in 1947.
Chief Red Crow (Mi’ kiai’ stoo)
1830 – 1900
Warrior, Diplomat and Leader
Red Crow was born in 1830 in the Fish Eaters band of the Blood Nation, part of the great Blackfoot Confederacy, which includes the Blood (Kainaiwa) Nation, Peigan (Piikani) Nation, Blackfoot (Siksika) Nation and Sarcee (Tsuu T’ina) Nation. While a young man, Red Crow was a fierce warrior, waging war against enemies including the Cree, Crow, Assiniboine, Nez Perce and Shoshoni Nations.
After the death of his father from smallpox, Red Crow became chief of the Bloods until his death in 1900. Concerned with the devastating effects of the whiskey trade on his people, he welcomed the arrival of the North West Mounted Police in 1874 and developed a friendly relationship with the Red Coats and Colonel James F. MacLeod.
In 1877 at Blackfoot Crossing on the Bow River, Red Crow became a signatory to Treaty No. 7. With great foresight, Red Crow chose the traditional wintering grounds of his people along the Belly River (south of Fort Macleod), some of the best farm and ranch land in southern Alberta. The Blood reserve is now the largest in Canada.
As the buffalo herds diminished, Red Crow led his people in adjusting peacefully to their new life on the reserve. He was among the first to build a log cabin, plant a garden and begin farming. He also encouraged Christian missionaries and the building of schools.
From fierce warrior to respected Chief and elder statesman, Red Crow guided his people through the difficult transition from a migratory lifestyle to life on the reserve all the while encouraging pride and self sufficiency.