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Although there had been some ranching in the district as early as the late 1880s, Pincher City really came into its own as a settlement in 1898 with the construction of the Crowsnest Branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The railway conglomerate chose to avoid building through Pincher Creek, located three kilometers to the south, as the creekside terrain required too much elevation change for a transportation system wary of steep inclines. Pincher City’s site avoided such topographical challenges and also let the CPR establish its own townsite whereby it could encourage real estate development & add to company coffers in exchange for building the railway.
The settlement boomed during the pre-World War One era, particularly as a marketing centre for local ranchers & farmers. Its success resulted in the community being named locally “Pincher City”. Several new local agricultural ventures were established in the district after 1898. Railway commerce was further enhanced at Pincher Station as all passengers & freight out of Pincher Creek itself was channeled through there. Its population peaked in 1911 at 150 people. Nearly half were ranchers & farmers. The rest were connected to the rail industry, local businesses & the area’s country school. Places of commerce served the agricultural, business, & railway nature of the community, and were composed of four different general stores operated by Hatfield & Co., Wm. Laidlaw, Richard Morgan, & Walsh Pickett & Co., clothier & millinery shops operated by W. C. Hartfield & Mary A. Gunn, two blacksmith shops under the proprietorships of Otto Larum & Charles Vent, W. J. Kemp’s harness making shop, J. B. Carlson (Jeweler) & Mah Chong’s popular restaurant. Local landmarks included the Pincher City branch of the Merchants’ Bank Of Canada & the impressive 3 &1/2 story Alexandra Hotel.
Pincher City also was a thriving educational & social centre. The Pincher City School District No. 1725 was established in the early 1900s. The school house, a rectangular building with both a front entrance & a rear porch, was constructed by William Henry Read (1851 – 1939). The Fred Robbins Family boarded many of the teachers at a monthly cost of $25. Classes continued until 1946.
A community hall was constructed ca. 1913. Both it & the school were used extensively for social & community events. During the 1920s & 1930s musical entertainment often was provided by Jake & Beatrice Ankill and by Andrew Nie. Its usage after the Second World War declined & the building was dismantled & moved to Pincher Creek where it saw further public service adjacent the Memorial Community Centre on Main Street.
A Post Office operated at Pincher City for nearly half a century, from 1906 to 1954. A full dozen pioneers held the postmaster position during these years, the first being James W. Knight. The office usually was housed in various businesses.
During the 1910s & 1920s, Pincher City operated as its own Village. Since then, it has been an integral part of the rural municipality.
Source: Researched & Written by Farley Wuth, Curator, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society.