New Calgary Park Steeped in Local History

Article excerpt

Bill Peters once remarked "It was the windmill and not the gun that settled the west." Considering the necessity of water for the survival of pioneers and their stock, he is probably right. While the sight of the once common windmill is vanishing along with our grain elevators, Elliston Park is home to an original. Located south of 17th Avenue at 60th Street in east Calgary the 125 acres was farmland prior to being designated parkland in the early 1960s. It was however, inaccessible to the general public until construction of Elliston Park began in 1994.

The park was named after the Shepard Ellis family, early pioneers to the area north east of the park. Their decision to move from a prosperous farming district in Ontario at the turn of the century was sudden and involved the transport of settler effects including livestock by the CPR to Calgary. As with most settlers, they had a vision of a better future for their family and descendants.

The photo shows the original Ellis' in front of their home in the 1920s. The house was moved from a nearby community of Victoria Square that existed around 1911. The community disappeared and all that remains are traces of the railway beds that were installed to instill confidence among buyers that the community would be tied to Calgary. The land reverted to farmland and the present day community of Applewood occupies the site.

Among the Ellis' nine children, Dwight Ellis took over the family homestead and expanded the farming business. A respected and successful farmer, Mr. Ellis offered his time and talent to a number of organizations. Among those was the Calgary Co-op where he was part of the original group of eight who created what was to become the largest consumer cooperative in North America. Mr. Ellis also served with the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Board for many years. There is a memorial trophy presented in his name every year.

One story involving the land surrounding the windmill's original location just east of the park, is about two brothers. In 1901 they decided to give it a go in the `Last Best West' and took up homesteading immediately east of the current-day park. Homesteaders could quality for a 1/4 section (160 acre or 64 ha) grant by paying the federal government a $10 fee. One condition was that they had to live on the land. Ever industrious, these two brothers thought a most practical solution would be to build one homestead on the boundary of the two quarter sections and they would sleep on opposite ends, thereby fulfilling their homestead obligation. …