June 23rd, 2018

Heritage in the Hat: Coronation Street

By Medicine Hat News on March 18, 2017.

Tucked away in Riverside, to the east of Division Avenue up against the CPR tracks, sits a quiet park, little visited except by neighbouring residents. James Hargrave was one of the original settlers of Medicine Hat and initially used the Riverside flat east of Division as a ranch. After moving his herd to the JH Ranch north of Walsh in 1888, he kept a large garden on the block north of Third Street, and grazed his few remaining cows on the hillside where the pedestrian bridge climbs to Crescent Heights today. In 1915, he donated the land known as Hargrave’s Grove to Medicine Hat as a picnic grounds. A newspaper report from the period claimed it was “the coolest and finest picnic grounds in the district” with “hundreds of large trees.” In 1937, a couple of years after the death of Hargrave, the park figured in the coronation celebration of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth when the city unveiled the commemorative stone arch that graces the park today.

The coronation celebrations involved the citizens planting 156 alternating elm and maple saplings along the King’s Highway from St. Patrick’s Church to Division Avenue in honour of the pioneers. Of course, Finlay Bridge was an integral part of Canada’s highway system in those days and the route passed by the church and headed west on today’s Third Street. Organizations were also represented in the mass planting: Scouts and Guides, Rotary, Kiwanis, Kinsmen, Moose, Eagles, Canadian Legion, Knights of Pythias and Sons of England.

Planting his tree, Mr. Cousins, another pioneer, recalled his first drink of water from the South Saskatchewan River. Later, called upon to unveil the arch, Cousins lauded the hard work of the early pioneers and remembered that Hargrave and his partner, brother-in-law Dan Sissons, had first checked out the prospects of Fort Calgary but decided instead to settle in the valley of the South Saskatchewan.

Today, the King’s Highway is called the Trans-Canada and has moved to its current alignment. The sparsely settled Riverside of those days is now a mature community. It was intended back in 1937 to commemorate the Coronation by naming that stretch of the King’s Highway for the event and wouldn’t it be grand if we had today our own “Coronation Street”!

Malcolm Sissons is the Chair of the Heritage Resources Committee.

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