Historical Photos from Exshaw, Alberta

The Bow Valley was occupied for thousands of years before European explorers stumbled upon the New World. According to Chiniki Elders from the Stoney Nakoda Nation, the area around present-day Exshaw contains many sacred mountains that were used for vision quests. Deeply spiritual pictographs, that were drawn by the ancestors of the Stoney Nakoda People, can still be seen in various locations within the same area. This part of the Bow Valley was used regularly as a seasonal camp for hunting, fishing, and collecting medicinal and sacred herbs and berries. Some of these plants were, and still are, used for smudging ceremonies. The Stoney name for this area is Chânh pay Oda, which means ‘many stumps’. The name comes from the numerous tree stumps that were left by the Stoney who harvested Douglas fir trees in the early 1900s. They were employed by cement plants located around Exshaw to harvest the wood and cut it into six-foot lengths. The wood was transported to these plants, where it was used as fuel to heat the rocks, which were then crushed to make cement.

Construction of Cement Plant, Alberta, 1906

Exshaw was named by Sir Sanford Fleming after his son-in-law, E. William Exshaw, who along with Fleming helped establish the Western  Canadian Cement & Coal Company in 1906. That cement plant would become the most innovative and modern plant in the world. The Exshaw site was chosen for its abundant quantity and quality of limestone, as well as the availability of nearby power sources, and its proximity to the CPR’s rail line. The original plant was located further west than its modern-day replacement, which is now owned and operated by LaFarge. Since that time, two other industrial operations began mining in the area. The Baymag magnesium oxide plant is located to the west of Exshaw, while the Graymont lime and limestone plant is situated to the east.

Canadian Pacific Railway station, Alberta, 1906

At one time, Exshaw was actually inside the boundary of Rocky Mountains National Park, now known as Banff National Park. The original park gates were located just a couple of miles east of the hamlet. Today, Exshaw is the largest of five hamlets (the others being Lac des Arcs, Harvie Heights, Benchlands, and Dead Man’s Flats) that are located within the Municipal District of Bighorn Number 8.

Crew at Exshaw, Alberta, 1906
Carpenters with the Western Canada Cement and Coal Company, Alberta, 1906
Canadian Pacific Railway track, Alberta, 1886
Exshaw, Alberta, 1906
Hotel Portland and store, Alberta, 1906
Store, Alberta, 1906
Railway station, Alberta, 1906
Stoney people, Alberta, 1906
Royal Canadian Mounted Police, transport wagons near Exshaw, Alberta, 1920
Picnic near Exshaw, Alberta, 1907-1910
Road near Exshaw, Alberta, 1907-1910
School with bell tower, Alberta, 1908
Church, Alberta, 1908
Office of Western Canada Cement and Coal Company, Alberta, 1907-1908
Robert D. Hassan residence, Alberta, 1907-1908
Canadian Pacific Railway, Alberta, 1910
Exshaw, Alberta, 1915
Exshaw, Alberta, 1910
Exshaw, Alberta, n.d.
Fairholme and Pigeon Ranges, Alberta, 1930s
Cycling in the Bow River valley, Alberta, 1940s
Bow River Valley, Alberta, 1930-1937
Dam near Exshaw area, Alberta, 1930-1937
Walt Disney cameramen Jack Couffer and Ray Jewell on the set of “Nomads of the North”, south of Exshaw, Alberta. With bear cub and sled dog. The show was released in 1961 with the title Nikki, Wild Dog of the North, 1959
Alaskan Virginia Bacon, trainer on Walt Disney movie “Nomads of the North”. Standng with a timber wolf, 1959
On the set of Walt Disney movie “Nomads of the North”. First Nations actors walking past tipis and stockade in winter, 1960
Girls skating on Exshaw Lake, 1963
Canadian Pacific Railway passenger train “The Canadian” near Exshaw, Alberta, 1972

For additional stories and historical photos from the Bow Valley, please see these previously-published posts: Historical Photos from Canmore and the Bow Valley, Enter the Rat’s Nest: Caving in the Bow Valley, and Wild Jobs: Cave Guide.

Cars at eastern gate to Banff National Park. Sign on entrance arch: “Gateway Rocky Mountains Park”. Name changed to Banff National Park in 1930. Circa 1910s

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. 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. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.

About Tyler Dixon 222 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.