Joseph Higginbottom Saxon Moss & Elizabeth Shortt

Submitted by David Ballard, grandson of Joseph
Edited by James A.N. Mackie

JHS Moss
Joseph Higginbottom
Saxon Moss

Joseph Moss, born 8 August 1852 at Bedford Leigh, Lancashire England, came to Canada as a young boy, and to Calgary in 1879 to survey the fifth meridian. Elizabeth Shortt, born 16 March 1864 at Napier, Middlesex Ontario, daughter of George Scott and Mary Shields Shortt of Walkerton, Ontario, first came West in 1886 to visit her sister Mary Shortt and her husband John Bell. Joseph Moss married Elizabeth Shortt in Calgary September 5 1888, following which they moved onto his first ranch, which was named the Edge Hill Ranch, located on the south bank of Pine Creek. One hundred and six years later, the Heritage Point Golf Club House was built on the exact site of the Moss home.

By 1902, Joseph and Elizabeth, realizing that the area was getting too crowded with settlers, decided to move to the West Arrowwood Creek area in the North West Territories. They chose open grassland with two flowing wells, a slough area, which always provided fresh green grass, and had the protection of the hills to the West and North. They named it the Long Valley Ranch. He arranged for materials for the house and buildings to be freighted from Okotoks. Elizabeth and the children stayed in Okotoks until a house was finished.

Edgehill Ranch
Edgehill Ranch

Joseph Moss soon completed their new home, which was a sizeable two story, shingled ranch house facing to the West. There was a large kitchen, entry way and storage area across the East End. The west-facing front door was hardly ever used, but if you entered from that direction, there was a living room on your left, a dining room behind it in the opposite corner, and directly in front of you, a stairway leading to the second level where there were four bedrooms. At the back of the house a one-story section had been built, and it was here that the much-used back entrance was found. From this point you could access a back room with a bedroom in front of you, a pantry to your left, and further to your left, an extension of the kitchen. There were long counters where Elizabeth did her baking, rolled out the bread, and prepared the meals. Wooden cupboards were under the counter and hung across a sidewall, along with various open shelves in other areas of the kitchen. The interior walls of the house were covered with boards, which were generously covered with kalsomine. Each window in the living and dining rooms, and the bedrooms were hung with various types of lace curtains. The floors in these rooms were regular floorboards, with the kitchen floor covered with linoleum. A couple of braided rag rugs graced the living room. Coal oil lamps were carried from room to room for lighting.

Long Valley Ranch
Long Valley Ranch

Joseph and Elizabeth and their three children, George, Josephine and Lil trekked with with several wagons and carts, along with all their possessions and animals to this new home. Moving from the De Winton area to this new, open prairie land took a great deal of planning and preparation, especially the food for the trip. Over the number of days it took they camped out each night and moved slowly eastward across the grassland. Settling in kept them busy for the entire summer, with most everything completed by the time of the first snow of the winter.

Joseph and Elizabeth were delighted by the arrival of their daughter, Elizabeth Mary who was born 25 September 1903 at the Long Valley Ranch. This birth was the first in the area for a European family. Her teen-aged brother and her two sisters welcomed Mary in their preteen years.

Joseph and Elizabeth settled into their life at the new ranch. They dealt with the long trips to Okotoks, Blackie, and Gladys Ridge for supplies and mail. Gleichen was a long trip in the other direction, but it became a centre for supplies and access to the railway main line.

Passing through the Blackfoot Indian Reserve. Joseph became noted for his fine herd of horses and cattle that he kept on the open range. His son George, as a teenage youngster assumed the responsibilities of a grown man and was an accomplished rider and horseman. Joseph gained the friendship of David Little Axe who was quite the entrepreneur in the sale of horses from his herd. In fact, Mary's favorite Cayuse was "Fanny" which came from Little Axe's herd. Very early in her life she rode around the ranch and when the time came, to school on the high hill near the ranch. The establishment of a school district and school was a high priority for Elizabeth, and soon after their arrival in the area she was keeping track of the number of children moving into the district. By 1904, Elizabeth organized a new school district which she named Mossleigh created from the surnames of Joseph' parents.

Several years later, when the railroad was built, the town of Mossleigh was established. Change came rapidly to the Mossleigh area, In less than twenty years this ranch land had become farming holdings with the fences and loss of open space.

Elizabeth Mary married Carroll Page Ballard 7 July 1925 at the home in which she was born which was then the home of her brother and sister-in-law, George and Glenna Moss. They had two children. They farmed in the Mossleigh area until 1952 when they retired to Calgary. Carroll died 23 November 1973. Mary died 10 August 2000.