Equal parts oral historian and detective, Shari Peyerl is bringing her exhaustive research on the little town of Glenbow to Cochrane for a presentation this Saturday.
And though the village has disappeared, the colourful storylines of Glenbow live on.
The Bergen-based archaeologist doesn’t claim to be Alberta’s answer to Indiana Jones (though his story does have connections to Glenbow). Nor does she claim there are any Hollywood connections (though a Glenbow descendent has been linked to actor Warren Beatty). And while there were no spies working in the tiny quarry hamlet, there is a connection to the founder of what became today’s Central Intelligence Agency.
All of these ‘teasers’ would be worthy of a movie trailer, but they are actually gleaned from the pages of Peyerl’s recently published book on the intriguing history of the area, Alberta’s Cornerstone: Archaeological Adventures in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. The Glenbow sandstone quarry inspired the title of her book.
The author’s talk on June 3, entitled 'If These Walls Could Talk' will be the subject of the third presentation in a series on local history, sponsored by the Cochrane Historical & Archives Preservation Society. Peyerl’s talk will get underway at 7 pm at the Frank Wills Hall.
Peyerl promises she will be presenting stories not previously revealed – either in her book or otherwise – so those familiar with her work will be learning something new about the ghosts of Glenbow if they attend on June 3.
That means she will not be talking about the embezzler whose story made it into the book, but she did say there could be a whole novel about him.
An example of what she will be talking about would be the story of the unidentified woman who stepped off a moving train in Glenbow. As the story goes, the woman was travelling eastbound from Vancouver to Winnipeg with her sister in 1912 when she made her unscheduled stop.
“She basically sleepwalked off the train in her nightgown and had all these injuries, managed to crawl to a nearby building – in March, so it was cold – and she lost consciousness,” Peyerl said.
The patient was discovered in the morning by a railway worker and transported to hospital in Calgary.
But when Peyerl tried to trace the details, she found a discrepancy between hospital records and other sources. The details couldn’t be reconciled, so there is no official agreement on who the woman was.
According to the newspapers, 38-year-old Ethel Uphoff was born in Chicago, trained as a nurse, walked off the train in Glenbow and then disappeared. According to hospital records, it was an Anna Uphoff who was discharged after a month, never to be seen again.
Near the turn of the 20th century, there were often correspondents in small towns who submitted stories to the newspapers in larger communities, like the Calgary Herald and the Cochrane Advocate.
The ‘reporter’ who was sending stories to The Advocate and the Herald from Glenbow was, according to Peyerl, known for being a Glenbow booster. That didn’t always sit well with Cochranites, especially the editor of The Advocate.
“They didn’t like that he was making Glenbow more important, so the Advocate editor would rebut,” she said. “He would put Glenbow back in its place.”
A Glenbow resident who worked as a printer at The Advocate frequently clashed with the editor, which eventually led to fisticuffs and he was fired from his position. The editor went to court and eventually had to pay a $5 fine.
Peyerl will discuss more about that antagonistic dynamic during her talk.
Peyerl’s fascination with Glenbow began when she volunteered at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park in 2009. The trained archaeologist and oral historian became obsessed with digging into the history of the people of the former village after she listened to a series of cassette tapes of interviews dating back to 1973.
She wrote in the introduction to her book that as she tracked down descendants, she became haunted by the tales. Her book was published in 2022 and will be available for purchase at the presentation (a limited number). They can also be purchased at Cochrane’s Found bookstore, the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, Indigo stores, or online.