You have all probably seen them – large blue heritage markers located at highway rest areas or points of interest throughout Alberta. These interpretive signs tell of Alberta’s rich heritage. Come, travel Alberta and read a featured heritage marker:
Alberta’s First Cheese Factory
When the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived at Fort Calgary in 1883, the cattle industry in the region was given a great boost. The CPR also made it possible for homesteaders to settle in the foothills, and a number of small mixed farming operations developed in addition to the large cattle ranches. One of the first homesteads in Springbank was begun by Ebenezer Healy.
Healy was a Nova Scotian who had learned the dairy business on his family’s farm in the Annapolis Valley. He traveled to Winnipeg in 1882, and the following year filed for a homestead north of Regina. Drought conditions there ruined his crops and helped persuade him to move further west to the foothills. Here he filed for another homestead where he could concentrate exclusively on raising cattle.
With Calgary’s growing population, Healy decided that the market for dairy products could be expanded to include cheese in addition to milk, cream and butter. With the co-operation of his neighbours, he decided to build a cheese factory and sent away for the equipment necessary to process the milk from 300 cows. In July 1888, he hauled his first shipment of cheese to the I.G. Baker store in Calgary where it retailed for 20 cents a pound. By 1890 his cheese factory produced 10 tons of cheese. This success encouraged the construction of other cheese factories in the area. Cheese production soon became a viable local industry in the southern foothills.
Heritage Marker Location
South side of Highway 1, one kilometre west of Highway 22.
Alberta Register of Historic Places
If you would like to read more about Alberta’s dairy industry check out these Provincial Historic Resources on the Alberta Register of Historic Places:
Donalda Creamery, Donalda AB
Markerville Creamery, Markerville AB
Prepared by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer