William Cameron Paterson
Calgary, Alberta, 1883
Submitted by Karen McQueen, December 28, 2023
William Cameron Paterson was born on September 27, 1864 in Midmar, Aberdeen, Scotland, to John Paterson and Elizabeth Walker Paterson. He emigrated to Toronto, Canada with his family in 1873. William grew up attending church schools with his six siblings.
The family moved briefly to Winnipeg where three of his older siblings stayed. His two older brothers joined the Hudson's Bay Company, and one of his older sisters married there. The family attended many social functions and the younger siblings attended school.
In the spring of 1883, William's father John Paterson caught the Go West fever. He took the train to the end of the line, at Maple Creek Saskatchewan, and then walked the rest of the way to Calgary. Once there he pitched a tent near the Elbow River and started a general store. He then called for his sons William and George to come and meet him. William and George Paterson, walked from the end of the rail line in Saskatchewan to Calgary, where they spent the winter. The following spring they helped their father build a store in the new settlement in Calgary, on Atlantic Avenue.
Although their store survived the 1886 fire, the family eventually moved to Okotoks in the late 1880's, or 1890. Father John, and sons William, George, and eventually David, became partners in a general store called Paterson and Sons in Okotoks.
John, William and George all became postmasters.
William married Clara Wilson, on December 26, 1900. Clara was born in Shipdham, Norfolk on December 6, 1880, to John Haddock Mendham Wilson and Elizabeth Pease Wilson. The Wilsons emigrated to Canada in 1887. They initially settled in Toronto, but came west and were settled in Okotoks between 1888 and 1890. The 16 year age difference was not unusual at the time, and William and Clara's marriage was a love match.
William built Clara a lovely home up on the hill, overlooking the store in Okotoks. He brought in beautiful furnishings from Toronto for his bride. Three children were born there.
Young people back then enjoyed a full life at church suppers and socials. They fished in the streams, partied and danced at various homes. They would gather around the piano and sing songs from the old country and Canada. They would go to Calgary on invitation to the "Balls". They brought all of their traditions from the old country, engraved invitations, dance programs, lovely gowns, and gleaming carriages from the livery stable. These were stately dances—the woman's gowns were outstanding, and the men were handsome in their beautifully tailored suits. They always wore gloves. Calgary was a frontier town, but it maintained tradition.
There was a group of English affluent people who settled south of Okotoks. During the winter especially, they would have lively parties. The young people from Okotoks would travel by cutter, the horses wearing tinkling bells on their harness. Since William played the violin he would be pressed to fiddle for the dances. This sometimes irked Clara as she would miss dancing with her husband. In the summer they would play polo as they had in England, and William and his brothers enjoyed this very much.
In 1904, William left the firm and bought a general store in Innisfail, Alberta. Two children were born there. Walker Wilson, who died in infancy, and Georgina Walker. The business prospered and the family lived in a house that later became the Innisfail Hospital.
In 1910, William sold the business and moved the family to Oak Bay, Victoria and was in partnership with his brother James, and younger brother David. Their youngest daughter Helen Irene was born in Victoria. Later William worked with the Nabob wholesale firm, and was with them for many years.
After retiring William and Clara moved to a ranch in Vancouver in 1928. William died in October of 1949, and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver. Clara died in 1964 and is buried with William.
A Century of Memories, Okotoks and District, 1883-1983. Essay by Mrs. Elizabeth Smith (Granddaughter)
Calgary Alberta Her Industry and Resources, By Burns and Elliott March 1885
Glenbow Museum Archive Photos
Paterson Family Historical Photos owned by the McQueen Family