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John Glenn (1833 in County Mayomarker, Irelandmarker – January 9, 1886 in Calgary, Albertamarker) was the first documented European to settle in the Calgary, Alberta, Canada area. He settled there in 1873 with his wife Adelaide (nee Belcourt), and built a small log cabin near the confluence of Fish Creek and the Bow River - in today's Fish Creek Provincial Parkmarker.

Early life

John Glenn was born in Mayo County, Irelandmarker in 1833. As a young man he left Ireland and travelled to England. He was homesick for his native country so started to travel back home, however he changed his mind just a few miles from his Father's home and turned around and travelled back to England.

From Liverpoolmarker he took a ship to New York, he was 16 years old. Upon arriving in the United States he decided to travel to Waco, Texasmarker where he took employment on a ranch. In 1861 he was drafted into the Confederate Army, however, as he did not believe in slavery, he deserted and joined the Northern Federal Army. He served during this period under General William Tecumseh Sherman until the end of the Civil war in 1865.

He then traveled around the United States, working in mines and in 1867 he moved to British Columbiamarker and then on to Barkervillemarker (along with James Votier and Sam Livingston - who would later become his neighbours in the Calgary area).

He spent many years as a solitary man, and at the age of 40 he decided, in 1873 to settle down and this is when he married Adelaide Belcourt of Lac Ste. Anne. The marriage took place in the mission in St. Albert (built by Father Lacombe twenty years earlier) and the ceremony was performed by Father Leduc.

They then headed out to find good land to settle on. When they reached Fish Creek they were impressed by the rich soil and decided to make their home there. They built a log cabin in 1873, becoming the first settlers in what is now Calgary. Later he said "I like the climate better than any I have found between the Atlantic and the Pacific; the Rio Grandemarker and the Peace, over all of which Territory I have travelled. There is everything in the country a settler can desire".

The Trading Post

Regular trips by Glenn were made to Fort Benton, to obtain goods to trade, he made one, sometimes two, trips a year in the latter part of the 70's to this end. At the time he had a crew of men. They erected a large dwelling, barn and other buildings, which were completed in 1878-79. This trading post became an established stopping place. Meals were priced at 50 cents each and everyone had to bring their own bed.

During this time Glenn started raising cattle and growing grain. After three years the farm constituted sown with oats and barley, a garden and a hay meadow.

John Glenn's Irrigation System

Glenn sold his original farm and trading post to the government on August 1st, 1879, thus their first property became Indian Supply Farm number 24. Once sold, the Glenn's moved up the creek to set up another farmstead - near the banks of Fish Creekmarker, just east of Macleod Trail.

There John Glenn started the construction of his historic irrigation system — this was 19 years before the Alberta Irrigation Company started their first project near Lethbridgemarker, Albertamarker.

Glenn built an earth and rock dam about a half a mile west of Macleod Trail and diverted water from the creek in to a ditch which diverted the water to irrigate his fields east of the Trail. This irrigation scheme also worked to supply water for Glenn's nearest neighbour, William Shaw, who arrived from England in 1883 as well as water for the Shaw's woollen mills.

John Glenn's Family

John Glenn

Adelaide and John had eight children, Patrick, John, Alfred, William, Edward, Margaret, Eliza and Mathilde, (Eliza and Mathilde both died in childhood).

Patrick was the only one to marry and have children. He married Filomene Hodgson, daughter of George Hodgson, Indian Agent at Sarcee Indian Reserve; they had six children.

Regrettably, the story of John Glenn has an unfortunate ending. It is unclear what happened in late December 1885, shortly after the Saskatchewan Rebellion. One story goes that John Glenn's horses may have been spooked, which resulted in him being thrown from his wagon, which resulted in injury (this is the story reported in the Calgary Herald). Another story goes that he and one of his drivers had a difference of opinion which resulted in a fist fight. Regardless of which is true, He never fully recovered and died of pneumonia on January 9th 1886. John Glenn is buried in the pioneer section of St. Mary's Cemetery in Calgary.

After a full and satisfying life, Adelaide died in her 88th year.

In 1999 the original Glenn home was dismantled by the Archeology Field Studies Team of the University of Calgarymarker - they intended to reconstruct the building in its original site - to date it has not been done and there is no indication when or if this will be done (funding is not currently available).


  1. [1] - John Glenn irrigation scheme
  2. [2] - Glenn Log Cabin (Trading Post)
  3. University of Calgary - University of Calgary virtual reconstruction

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