A city in name only

While the civic fathers remained confident that the village of Bow City would rise like a Phoenix from the scorched prairies, by 1914 most had tired of the empty promises of a railroad and prosperity. With the arrival of the Suffield subdivision branch line to the prairie south and west of the village, new communities named Retlaw, Enchant, Travers and Lomond offered opportunities, and a link by rail, that the isolated village could not compete with.

Almost immediately after the last spike into Lomond was pounded in 1914, the exodus from the village of Bow City began. In 1914, the Travers district southwest of the village welcomed the Grahams, former owners of a meat shop in Bow City. The following year, Tom Vickers, founding father of Bow City, baker and village councilor moved his building and all to Travers, where he would be re-born as a grocer.

In 1915, Lomond would poach the Paisley Brothers and their feed and livery business from Bow City, while the pool hall also would be purchased and moved to Lomond. The first meat market in Lomond was opened by the father and son Frownfelters, who moved there from their homestead at Bow City.

Cook and Newton, owners of the Bow City Supply Company, would close up shop in 1915, moving their business south to Retlaw. Other town fathers like Colonel Sam Armstrong, Ed Herrick and the LaRosee family, who operated a mine for a brief time at Bow City, would also make their way to Retlaw in the years to follow.

For those waiting for irrigation, the opening of the C.P.R.’s Irrigation Project north of Bow City would also prove an irresistible lure for many settlers along the south bank of the Bow in the years to come.

Bad luck and bad timing continued to plague Bow City well after the community’s incorporation. On the eve of the village’s Dominion Day celebration in 1915, the Bow City Hotel burned to the ground.  While the party would go on, with the enactment of prohibition later that month, the owners opted to leave the City’s most prominent landmark an ashen heap.

In another testament to the village’s bad timing, just as virtually all of the community’s commercial sector had up and walked away, farmers in the area were experiencing an unprecedented agricultural bonanza. Unusually high amounts of precipitation in 1915, which contributed to the flooding of the mine that summer, also led to bumper crops throughout the region.  Wheat yields in the newly settled Enchant district to the south of Bow City reached an unheard-of 42 bushels to the acre, the highest in southeastern Alberta. Close to 4 million bushels of grain would be marketed along the Suffield line in 1915-16, making it one of the top producing areas in the region. Add to that wheat prices that were hovering around a dollar a bushel, and it finally appeared that the faith in the land had been justified.

Unfortunately, while the fortunes of the surrounding community rose, Bow City continued to falter.  With the population dwindling to 54 by the end of 1915, the village council was left to carry out only the necessary functions in what had become a city in name only.

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