Depending on who you talk to, the answer to the question of “Who is Calgary’s first resident?” could produce a few different names. However the most popular answer is settler Sam Livingston.
Irish-born Sam Livingston left his home country at the age of 16 for California, drawn by the 1849 Gold Rush. The Irish youngster didn’t make much of his prospecting years as far as gold but he did make many friends and many treks throughout North America.
According to the Glenbow Museum, at the age of 34 Livingston made a commitment to 16-year-old Jane Howse and around 1865 the two were married. The marriage lasted more than 30 years and the couple had 14 children together.
In 1873, the couple moved to Livingston Post, east of Morley, Alberta where Sam exchanged trade goods for buffalo hides.
“He felt sympathy for the Blackfoot, whose lives were being destroyed by whisky traders, some of whom operated posts only a short distance downstream from Sam,” said the Glenbow Museum. “But he also feared the whisky traders so Sam urged the federal government to take action and stop the Bow River whisky trade.”
Recognizing the days of trading were passing and realizing the North West Mounted Police would probably set up at the junction of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, the Livingston’s moved to what would soon become the City of Calgary. The family settled in the Elbow River Valley where they built what is known today as Livingston Cabin in Heritage Park.
“It was down by what was Swift River, but when they dammed it to make the Glenmore Reservoir, they moved the house to higher ground and that’s where it still sits in our Settlement area,” said Barb Munro, communications specialist for Heritage Park. “We do a cooking program at the Park and the Livingston house is one of the homes that we cook in. We only use recipes from the 1880s and use the vegetables from the garden behind the home.”
Into his mid-fifties, Livingston was comfortably settled on his land but remained a squatter, as he didn’t hold a legal title. The settler chaired a meeting of farmers who in April 1885 formed the Alberta Settlers Rights Association to fight for the rights to the land they settled. According to the Glenbow Musuem Livingston gained legal title of his farm in 1891.
Six years later, Livingston passed away and was remembered in a monumental funeral, which included 40 carriages of mourners. The tall, blond Irishmen will live on not only through the remnants he left behind but also for Livingston Lager beer, exclusively brewed for Heritage Park and available in Drew’s Saloon.