How a swamp was transformed

September 11th, 2020 2 Minutes

George John Spreull graduated Law at Glasgow University, Scotland, and arrived in Cranbrook in 1918. He set up a legal practice with Alan Graham that lasted until 1945, with Mr. Spreull becoming part of the King’s Council in 1936.

The youngest of three daughters, Elizabeth, was born in Cranbrook at the family home at 203-14th Avenue S. The family was outdoor-oriented and loved to skate on a small slough just south of Cranbrook.

Described by his daughter as “not a practical man,” Spreull bought a rowboat construction kit. Following his wife’s death in 1934, he laboured through the dark lonely nights on his boat.

Withdrawing socially, Spreull kept an interest in environmental issues, focusing on the skating slough near the South Ward School.

He tried to get the provincial government of the day to make the “swamp” into a conservation area and marshland for migratory birds but was unsuccessful. According to his daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Hogg, Spreull’s next step was “so out of character for the law-abiding, straight-laced dour Scotsman that he must have spent hours working with his conscience.”

Fearing that some contractor would drain the area to build houses, Spreull enlisted the help of the Game Warden, Mr. Rauch. Spreull hired a contractor to dam up the south end of the pond and then placed a primitive sluice at the outlet with Rauch. The construction was carefully watched and regulated so that the water level in the “swamp” gradually rose, and the “swamp” became a “marsh.”

When Elizabeth got her learner’s license in 1938, part of her training was to drive her father to the Marsh to view the sluice and the gradual rise of the water. When Spreull’s rowboat was finally finished, he and Elizabeth took it to the Marsh and launched it. With a bottle of pop, they christened it the “Tizzy-Liz.”

Sometime later, Mr. Spreull and Elizabeth went for a late drive around Cranbrook, with hammer, nails, and several signs stashed in the car. At the Marsh, the vehicle was driven down a dirt track and round a small bend. Elizabeth hammered the signs onto various trees. They all read “Elizabeth Lake” and in the left-hand corner “BY ORDER.” One of the signs was placed near the road. The signs were never taken down, and no one disputed them.

Spreull’s later comment was that the Marsh “was named after the Queen, but Know, and you know that it was named after my youngest daughter, Elizabeth.”

The history of this piece of ground is still lobbied today by the Rocky Mountain Naturalists to protect and preserve its unique heritage.

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