Welch House

The Macleod Trail was the single connection between Calgary and Fort Benton, Montana prior to the arrival of the railway in Western Canada. It crossed the Sheep Creek in Okotoks near the present railway bridge and then passed diagonally through through the town.

The modern day Macleod Trail in Calgary is located approximately where the old cart path used to etch out an existence in the prairie grass.

Kenneth Cameron and John MacMillan were two of the first homesteaders in the Okotoks area. Cameron and MacMillan each established stopping houses to serve travelers on the Macleod Trail. A 1892 map shows how the trail branched off into two trails heading into Okotoks from the south; one homestead to the north of the Sheep River flowing through Okotoks and one to the south. Cameron's stopping house became more popular over time as Cameron had five daughters.  East of Okotoks, the two trails joined again to continue on to Fort Macleod and southern destinations.

John Lineham came to southern Alberta in 1878. For 25 years, his sawmill was a mainstay of the local economy. At one time it employed 135 people, producing an average of 30 000 feet of lumber per day, partly to satisfy the CPR's demand for railway ties. One of the oldest remaining buildings in Okotoks today is the Lineham Lumber Mill on Riverside Drive constructed in 1897.

Okotoks modernized in 1929 with the removal of wooden sidewalks and hitching posts from main street. A coal mine opened briefly on South Railway Street in the 1940's, and was joined by the Chinook Flour Mill that opened in Mahon House. The mill closed at the end of the War, but the house continued on, claiming the prize for the first indoor plumbing in a house in Okotoks.

1925 to 1950 in Okotoks was a period of ups and downs - mostly downs. The Oil boom was over and the need for supplies dwindled. Men left to fight in World War II, and many did not return. Okotoks was not immune to the Great Depression.  The economy forced shut downs of the businesses.  The population declined to 600 hopeful people.

It was not until the late 1970's that Okotoks boomed again when people searched for a small town way of life as an alternative to City living. Okotoks gained popularity as a desirable bedroom community of Calgary.  Okotoks now has a population of 21,000 and is continuing to grow.

Although Okotoks currently has a population cap of 30,000 residents, growth pressures, combined with projected population rates, are causing the town to take a second look at its policy on new residents. The municipal alliance known as the Calgary Regional Partnership is sketching a land-use plan that envisions 80,000 to 100,000 people living between Okotoks and Calgary's south border by 2070.

Around Okotoks