Banff senior honours pioneer mother in Stampede Parade
Everybody, they say, loves a parade.
For Banff’s Ralphine Locke, the July 6 Calgary Stampede Parade marked a very special day. She rode in an historic horse-drawn carriage not only as a representative of the Southern Alberta Pioneers and Their Descendants group, but also in honour of her mother, who rode in the first Stampede Parade in 1912.
Locke’s mother, Bessie Brewster, was just 17 when she rode her palomino in the inaugural Stampede Parade. Bessie was the daughter of James Irvine Brewster, the first member of the pioneer family to visit the Bow Valley in 1881, and who later settled near Bowden. Bessie’s mother, Mary Jane Boyd, was sister to Elizabeth Ann, the first white woman to live in southern Alberta as the wife of Revered John McDougall, who established a mission at Morley in 1872. James Irvine’s brother, John, arrived in Banff in 1886, where he established a dairy. John’s eldest sons, Bill and Jim, started Brewster Brothers Outfitting in 1900, launching several Rockies hospitality businesses still run today by their descendants.
Bessie Brewster married Ralph Harvey, superintendent of the Brewster Transport Company, and raised three daughters, Maryalice, Helene and Ralphine, who was born in 1925 in Lake Louise.
Weeks away from her 87th birthday, Locke said she was thrilled to represent the pioneers group and especially to remember her mother. Locke rode in the parade once before, as SAPAD president in the early 1980s. In the lead-up to the 2012 centennial parade, the SAPAD put a call out to members who had a direct connection to the first parade, which Locke answered.
“They were enthused, so I was on my way,” Locke said. “It’s so nice to have a chance to do this.”
Members of the group, formed in 1901, must be descendants of pioneers who arrived in southern Alberta prior to December 31, 1890. The group collects and preserves information on the early settlement of the province, paying recognition to the risks, hardships and achievements of those pioneers.
For Linda Chudey, the long-time coordinator of the group’s Stampede Parade entry, having Locke on board helps celebrate the Stampede’s 100th anniversary. Other participants include descendants of Jimmie Mitchell who judged horses at the first Stampede and competed in and won the relay race on his horse, Skeeter; homesteader Alfred Sidney McKay, who quarried the sandstone to build his home in the centre of Calgary’s Point McKay on the Bow River and Alexander Fleming, the C.E.O. of Percheron Stock of the Bar U Ranch.
Chudey selected Locke, the oldest woman of the pioneer descendants, as the perfect representative to ride in the very same horse-drawn carriage that led the 1912 parade with Mrs. William Roper Hull aboard.
Appearing in the Pioneers section of the parade, the carriage, known as the Hull Surrey, was made available by its private owners. Roper Hull, a local cattleman, entrepreneur, philanthropist and land developer who played a prominent role in Western Canada’s early economic development, presented the carriage as a wedding present to his wife, Emmaline Mary Banister, in 1907. With just one seat designed to accommodate a driver and one passenger, the stylish carriage was built in 1871 in Surrey, England.
Mrs. Hull led the first Stampede parade and many more until the mid-1930s, in the surrey.
“The carriage is like a lady’s runabout,” Chudey said. “The minute I met Ralphine, I thought she’s perfect for this vehicle. She happens to be the oldest pioneer lady, plus she’s an elegant, charming lady. I’m really grateful she’s representing the pioneers in the parade.”
For her part, Locke rode in the carriage dressed in pioneer fashion.
“They’ve got some great outfits; mine was an orange print, with a hat to match. And its fits - I’m pretty tiny,” the famously diminutive Locke said with a laugh.
Members of Locke’s own family, including her son, Harvey, founder of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and a grandson and granddaughter who live in Calgary, were to view the parade from a clear vantage point.
An impressively energetic octogenarian and active community volunteer, including serving on the board of the Eleanor Luxton (a distant cousin) Historical Foundation, Locke said she’ll have to rely on Skype to share her story with her two-year-old great-granddaughter who lives in England.
“My mom was such a wonderful mom, it’s nice to honour her this way,” Locke said. “And my kids are delighted.”
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