Updated: December 10, 2001
Native groups had occupied parts of the Fish Creek and Bow River Valleys for over 8000 years before John and Adelaide Glenn arrived at the confluence of the Bow River and Fish Creek in 1873. The Glenns, among Alberta's first settlers, set up their farm and trading post two years before the arrival of the North West Mounted Police. John Glenn helped build Fort Calgary and later the settlement which surrounded it.
JOHN GLENN'S EARLY LIFE
Glenn's early life remains rather shadowy . He was born in County Mayo, Ireland in 1833 and immigrated to the United States at 16. Eventually, Glenn turned up as a resident of Waco, Texas in 1861, and became a confederate soldier in the American Civil War. He soon deserted because he opposed slavery and joined the Northern Federal Army serving under General Tecumseh Sherman until the end of the war. Following his military service, Glenn headed north toward present day British Columbia and began prospecting. He searched for gold in Rock Creek and Barkerville before finally ending up in the Peace River Country. From there he followed the eastern slopes of the Rockies, mining as he went, until he reached the settlement of St. Albert on the North Saskatchewan River in 1870. In September of 1873, Glenn married a Metis woman named Adelaide Belcourt.
LOOKING TO HOMESTEAD
Shortly after their marriage, Glenn and his wife headed south. They stopped at the mouth of Fish Creek and constructed a crude shelter with a mud roof, stone fireplace and chimney. The following spring, Glenn travelled to Montana to secure a load of trade goods to barter with the natives for furs and buffalo hides. While Glenn went south, his wife returned to Lac St. Anne to stay with her parents. He returned in time for the birth of his first son, Patrick, in June.
The Glenns only stayed at their Fish Creek house for a few days before proceeding back to Montana were they exchanged their furs for more goods. The return trip to their Fish Creek site brought an unexpected reward. Near the present site of Lethbridge, Glenn encountered the North West Mounted Police force which was completing its famous march through the territories. He guided them to the site of Fort Macleod, where he assisted with the construction of the post and then sold the troop his entire stock of trade goods at an inflated price.
The following spring, the Glenn family was again at Fort Benton, Montana to secure a load of trade goods. Glenn used some of his Fort Macleod windfall to purchase a cook stove, a milled door, some windows and related hardware for installation in a more substantial house at Fish Creek.
Later, when the North West Mounted Police constructed Fort Calgary, Glenn again helped to build the stone chimneys at the post as he had done at Fort Macleod. He also sold the troops hay for their horses. In 1876, Glenn shared the distinction with Sam Livingston of being the first to cultivate cereal crops in the district. As this was still subsistence farming, Glenn continued to augment his profits with labouring and making annual trips to secure goods for trade.
ROAD HOUSE BEGINNINGS
As the traffic flow increased between Fort Benton and the settlement of Fort Calgary, Glenn established a combined stopping house and trading store operation on his farmstead. It became a popular stop for weary travelers. In 1879, when Glenn sold his improvements to the Dominion government for use as an Indian Supply Farm. He moved a few miles west, where Macleod Trail currently crosses Fish Creek. There he built a farm that became something of a local showplace. Examples of his farm produce were exhibited in major trade shows and western settlement exhibitions. The glowing description of Glenn's irrigation farm as published in the Marquis de Lorne's travelogue of the area may have directly influenced such other settlers as Sam Shaw.
By this time, the Glenns had six children and had established themselves in the Midnapore community. Glenn became the first purchaser of lots in the new townsite of Calgary, was the vice-president of the Calgary and District Agricultural Society and an organizer of the Alberta Settlers Rights Association. He and his son Patrick donated the land for the two small churches that stand together east of Macleod Trail in Midnapore.
Glenn died in the winter of 1885/86. After a fist fight with one of his employees, Glenn was left badly injured and unconscious on the side of the road near Calgary. He never fully recovered from the incident and died shortly afterwards of pneumonia.
The Glennfield picnic area in Fish Creek Provincial Park is named in memory of John and Adelaide Glenn, two rugged pioneers who left their mark in the history of the Fish Creek Valley in Calgary.
WHERE IS GLENNFIELD?
You may enter the Glennfield area off Macleod Trail via Banister Road. There are picnic sites, washrooms and three large shelters.
For more information regarding Fish Creek Provincial Park, please contact Park Office.