How Hog Ranch became Parson

By Colleen Palumbo

I am excited to announce the opening of a new exhibit at the Golden Museum and one that many of you may find of interest.

The exhibit, which will officially open to the public on September 12, at 6 p.m. is called “The Evolution of a Hog Ranch.”

It’s the story of the founding of the hamlet of Parson. Here is some of the information we prepared for the exhibit. So come check it out, and learn more about the great gold robbery and learn clues about the stolen treasure.

In 1871, British Columbia agreed to enter into Confederation with Canada. One of the terms of the agreement was that the Government of Canada provide, within 10 years, a transcontinental railway. The railway followed the Kicking Horse River to the spot where it met the great Columbia River and here the settlement known as Golden sprang into being. The inhabitants of this small town came from all over the world and took whatever work they could find. Often, the work was dangerous or illicit. The town was ripe with gamblers and drinkers and the law was kept busy trying to keep the peace.

Building the railway proved difficult with the amount of alcohol that was available to the workers and completion of the line seemed impossible. The North-West Mounted Police drew upon the Canada Temperance Act, and the Public Works Peace Preservation Act to patrol and enforce a corridor of 32 kilometers on either side of the route. Small towns appeared just outside the limit that sold liquor to those determined enough to make the trek there and back.

The Whiskey Trail crossed the mountains from Laggan (Lake Louise), to a point in the Columbia Valley, 19 kilometres south of Golden, and then the trail proceeded along to Hog Ranch, a stopping place for prospectors, hunters, and guides, where a hotel had been built.

A traveller up the Valley reached the hotel the day after a pack train had arrived over the mountain trail and horses and men were having a rest before proceeding to Golden. On being told it was a horse ranch, he looked over the men ly­ing around sleeping off the effects of their celebration after the long trip, and observed that it looked more like a hog ranch. The name stuck, though subsequent visitors wondered why there were no pigs.

Parson got its humble beginnings as Hog Ranch, a name that stuck with it until the completion of the Kootenay Central Railway in 1913. At this time, a fellow named Henry George Parson, an English-born merchant and political figure in British Columbia, purchased land on which the present community of Parson rests. He represented Columbia District from 1907 to 1912 as a conservative member of the Provincial Parliament.

He was born in London, the son of George F. Parson, and was educated there. Parson came to Ottawa in 1883, moved to Banff in 1885, and then came to British Columbia in 1887. In 1889, he married Mary Jane Reid. Parson lived in Golden. He served as president of the Golden Board of Trade and of the Golden Hospital Society. He passed away in Vancouver in 1936.

I hope this interests you and that you come to the opening.

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