John Paterson and Elizabeth Walker Paterson
Calgary, Alberta, 1883
Submitted by Karen McQueen, December 28, 2023
John Paterson was born in 1832 in Logie-Pert, Montrose, Scotland. He apprenticed as a shoemaker in Keithhall, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Elizabeth Walker was born in Aberdeen, Scotland July 5, 1829. John and Elizabeth were married on November 3, 1855.
Shortly following their marriage, they emigrated to Canada, settling in Toronto. John opened a factory on Jarvis Street, catering exclusively to custom made fine leather boots and shoes, for men and women. Three children were born in Toronto. Georgina Walker in 1856, James in 1858, and Elizabeth Walker in 1860. The business prospered; however, they became homesick and returned to Scotland.
John continued as a shoemaker in Scotland, and three more children were born. John Walker in 1862. William Cameron in 1864, and George Coull Strachan in 1867. Becoming restless, they moved back to Toronto, and he opened a business once again. Their final child, David Martin was born in Toronto in 1871. The family thrived and the children went to church schools.
Feeling restless again, they moved to Winnipeg. The two eldest sons James and John, joined the Hudson's Bay Company, and daughter Elizabeth married there.
John became interested in development in the west. In the spring of 1883, at age 51, he took the rail to the end of the line near Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, and then walked to Calgary. With his goods being transported by wagon, he was then able to set up store out of a tent down by the Elbow River.
It is written that from, "June 5th to July 3, 1883, John took cash receipts amounting to $9000.00, and that he was a manufacturer of the finest boots and shoes in the Northwest". With such prosperity, it is easy to understand why he sent for his two middle sons, William and George. They joined him after taking the rail to the end of the line, and walked the rest of the way from Saskatchewan.
After the CP Rail decided to place the train station on the west side of the Elbow River, in March of 1884, John moved with the rest of the speculators to Atlantic Avenue. He built a store with spacious living quarters upstairs. Once settled his wife Elizabeth, eldest daughter Georgina, and youngest son David, joined them with their beautiful furniture and belongings, including the first piano in Calgary.
An ad for the store says, "J. Paterson, Clothing, Gents Underclothing, Hats and Caps, Boots and Shoes, Groceries and Provisions. Special attention given to the Boot and Shoe branch. Atlantic Avenue, next door to Grand Central Hotel".
They enjoyed Calgary's round of social events, and the Presbyterian Church. The family remained in Calgary until after the 1886 fire. Seeing the fire approaching their store, a group of young men carried the piano and family belongings down the steep back stairs, out of the family premises above the store. Fortunately, the store escaped demise.
Sometime in the late 1880's or early 1890's, the family moved to Okotoks, Alberta, and set up a general store called Paterson and Sons. It sold everything from fine silks and laces, to ploughs and shovels. The store had large living quarters upstairs, and a horse stable in the back. John Paterson, was the postmaster, as were his son's William and George.
Elizabeth Walker Paterson died March 1, 1894 in Okotoks from pneumonia. She was described as a gentle, refined, strong-minded little woman, and although a true pioneer, life was very gracious. She had a beautifully furnished home, and a parlour only used on Sundays and special times. White linen, shining silver and glassware dawned the dining room table.
John Paterson died in Okotoks, on May 2, 1909. He and his wife Elizabeth are buried in Union Cemetery in Calgary. He was described as jolly, pleasant, and friendly to everyone. To his family he was loving and kind, but very firm. In his older years he would eat his lunch and then visit his children and play with his grandchildren. A pillar of the Presbyterian Church and confidante of many. As a businessman he loaned money to others and tided them over with cash and groceries during lean years. He was a member of the Old Timers Association, present at their first banquet in 1901. He was widely known in Calgary and Okotoks with a large number attending his funeral service and internment.sources
A Century of Memories, Okotoks and District, 1883-1983. Essay by Mrs. Elizabeth Smith (Granddaughter)
Calgary Alberta Her Industries and Resources, by Burns and Elliott, March 1885
The Glenbow Museum Archives: Photos
Paterson Family Historical Photos owned by the McQueen Family