Jimmy Simpson was born in England in 1877 and emigrated to Canada in 1896. After landing in Winnipeg and farming for awhile, Simpson left town by stowing himself away on a westbound train. He was discovered somewhere near Castle Junction and was kicked off the train, leaving him to hike the 30-some-odd kilometres to Laggan, which is now known as Lake Louise. Being a hard worker and having an adventurous spirit, it didn’t take Simpson long to find work. He learned the outfitting business from the legendary Tom Wilson and the renowned ‘Wild’ Bill Peyto.
Sometime in 1898, while working for Wilson, Simpson landed on the shores of the spectacular Bow Lake. The group camped along northern edge of the lake where it was reported that Simpson proclaimed, ‘I’ll build a shack here sometime.’ It wasn’t until 1922 that Simpson proved good on his word, erecting a log cabin near the same location that they had camped all those years ago. When the Icefields Parkway was completed in the late 1930’s, the Bow Lake area was open to increased tourism, leading Simpson to build a small guest lodge. Simpson christened the lodge with the Indigenous name ‘Num-Ti-Jah’, meaning Pine Marten.
Num-Ti-Jah Lodge underwent a major expansion project in the early 1940s in an attempt to keep up with demand. The renovation increased the guest rooms from six to sixteen. Simpson moved into the original lodge after the expansion was complete and lived there, in what became known as the ‘Ram’s Pasture’, while still operating his guiding business. The end of World War II also signalled the end of Simpson’s guiding career, leaving his son to take over. Two years after his death in 1972, the peak to the northwest of the lodge was named Mount Jimmy Simpson in his honour.
Today, Num-Ti-Jah has a group of new owners who are, ‘committed to the preservation of the property’s history and the surrounding environment’. They are currently in the process of renovating the main lodge and upgrading its infrastructure and utilities. They hope to open the main lodge in the summer of 2023 but their long-term plans include additional accommodation, which would replace ones that were previously demolished. Their goal is to create an amazing experience for their guests while providing a deep understanding of the natural and human history of the area.
You may have heard that Num-Ti-Jah Lodge is now known as The Lodge at Bow Lake. Here’s the rationale for the name change as printed on their website.
“Formerly known as Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, The Lodge at Bow Lake honours the deep history of the property and individuals who built it while seeking to reconcile transgressions of the past. In working with Indigenous consultants and an Elder from the Stoney Nakoda Nation, it was determined that “Num Ti Jah” was not officially gifted to Jimmy Simpson. Therefore, at the Elder’s recommendation, the new stewards of The Lodge decided to remove it from the name.”
The new owners ensure the history and legacy of the previous name will still be celebrated in some fashion, along with that of the Simpson family.
*The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives and the Provincial Archives of Alberta. If you’re interested, additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on the photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. If you search the object number that can be found in the photo captions, you will find additional information about the photographs on the Provincial Archives website. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.