“Dad” Worden was the speaker at Tuesday’s Rotary meeting, telling the story of his life and the trials of a pioneer in Western Canada. A summary of his address appears below.
Postmaster Harris was a guest of the club and got a glimpse of what Rotary means to the community. Jack Delany worked the stunt part of the programme, which took the form of guessing the combined weight of the assembled members. Sully was the successful contender, coming within ten pounds of the correct weight of the eighteen members in attendance, for which he received a hand-painted bean pot.
“Dad” Worden’s address, in part, follows:-
Chairman Frank and Fellow Rotarians:- Sam Porter said at one of our luncheons that every Rotarian was supposed to respond to any request from the chair, and if he could not make a speech he could tell something about his own life. Now I shall endeavour to give you in as few words as possible some of the happenings of my career.
My great grand parents were English and came to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. Grandfather had two daughters and four sons, of which my father was the youngest. Grandfather owned about two miles of river frontage on the St. John river, 30 miles from the city of St. John. On this farm he had two dwellings and as each son got married he had the privilege of living in this extra residence for a time only. Father being the last to marry he fell heir to this home and later to the old homestead.
Father and mother had four children, two of whom survive, an older brother in Calgary and myself. I was born on the 4th of October 1868, the date of the big Saxby gale. When I became of school age I had to walk 3 ½ miles and after school would carry in the wood for my grandmother, for which I received these three dollars, the first I ever earned. At the age of eleven I lost the best friend any boy ever had, my mother. It was my ambition to study law, but my education finished in the course of three or four months.
Soon after this, when I mentioned I was going to leave home and make my own way in the world my people laughed at me. However, I said nothing, fitted my self out and went to St. John where I procured a job carrying parcels for a grocer, at the enormous salary of 50c per week, which position I held for three years or more. In this time I saved $30.00.
At the age of sixteen an opportunity to come west presented itself and before leaving, my father gave the following business advice: “Never endorse any man’s note unless you have enough money to pay it. Your word given to any man should be as good as your signature. If you have $3.00 you can afford to go in debt one.”
I travelled from St. John to Calgary on a half fare tourist ticket, landing in Calgary after a 12 days journey, on the 24th of May 1884. The railway had been completed to that point only a few weeks previous. I saw two stacks of hay where the Calgary court house now stands, for two or three years in succession. I procured a job driving a milk cart and our cows ranged over the district now known as East Calgary.
In 1885 when the Louis Riel Rebellion broke out, I quite well remember being in church one Sunday evening when the minister received a telegram which he read at the close of his sermon. This telegram was from the Blackfoot reserve and stated that 2000 Indians were on the war path and would reach Calgary about midnight. The women and children were hurried to the mounted police barracks where they put in a very uncomfortable night, the men being organized for defence. But the Indians never came. When Riel was captured all the Indians in the surrounding district who had not taken part in the rebellion gathered together in front of the N.W.M.P. barracks and asked to be rewarded for their good behavior. So all the provisions that were not used at the front were distributed amongst them. This celebration ended with one big pow wow.
These were the days of the real West. The stage coaches made a trip from Fort Benton to Fort Calgary, as it was called in those days, once a week, carrying mail and passengers. These coaches were drawn by eight horses. The only stopping places between these two points being Pincher Creek, Fort McLeod and High River. The freighting was done by ox teams owned by the I.G. Baker and Hudson Bay companies. These teams were made up of 50 yoke of oxen in one string. Their load comprised from 10 to 15 bull wagons each carrying an ordinary box car load. These teams were driven by men on horseback and following in their train were 50 or more extra oxen to take the place of any which tired out or got disabled.
Arriving at Fort Calgary we put up at the Calgary House, the main hotel, situated where the East Calgary fire hall now stands. Our old curling rink would compare favorably with this building. At night you picked your spot and spread your blankets, unless you wished to join the Black Jack game operated by Buckskin Shorty, The Sheek Creek Dude and Charlie Cracker Box, which ran night and day. The table around which the players sat was in the centre of the big room. And on it sat the pail of what was called new milk. This drink consisted of 12 cans condensed milk, 6 plugs of chewing tobacco, water and enough red ink to give it color; for those were the days of the Scott Act.
The freighting from Fort Calgary to Edmonton was mostly done with ponies and Red River carts, each cart carrying about 800 lbs. They were unable to take heavy loads owing to the bad conditions of the roads and many times during the year of the rebellion, when the freighters had to be accompanied by a guard, the provisions would be almost used up before arriving at destination. They would then be forced to visit the government commissary to procure food for the return journey to Fort Calgary.
After the rebellion Calgary began to grow quite rapidly and what used to be our cow pasture in East Calgary was taken into the city and subdivided into city lots. In 1897 I went to Slocan City, B.C. and engaged in draying and ore hauling from the Ottawa and other mines. The mountain roads were so steep that breaks on our sleighs were not sufficient to hold our loads, so we trailed raw hides behind which were rough locked. This method of transporting the ore was much more expensive and slower than the present method now used by the Sullivan Mining Company. The contrast between these methods of transportation which I have described and the present day fast train, motor truck and even aeroplane service is evidence of the great stride made in this line of business during the last 30 years.
In September, 1904 I landed in Cranbrook, and among the first contracts I received was the excavation of the Cranbrook Hotel and the Fink Mercantile basements, and during the 18 years I have been in business in Cranbrook I trust I may have been of service to the public in general, and hope by the carrying out of Rotary principles to reach the stand of our motto – He Profits Most Who Serves Best.