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Alberta's Irish Legends: Samuel Henry Harkwood Livingston (1831-1897) b. Avoca, Co. Wicklow

Updated: Oct 12, 2023



Samuel Henry Harkwood Livingston (1831-1897)

b. Avoca, Co. Wicklow. d. Calgary

Prospector, trader, farmer, innovator


One of Calgary’s earliest and most remarkable pioneers, Livingston left Ireland for the United States, lured by the California gold rush of 1849. After this first failed attempt at prospecting, he tried his luck in Washington state, then southern British Columbia, and finally near what is now Edmonton. There, he married Jane Howse, an equally remarkable and enterprising Métis woman, and they set up a business trading buffalo skins before moving further south to trade with Indigenous communities and the Northwest Mounted police post in and around Fort Calgary. They also began farming.


Considered the first Calgarian settler alongside George Clift King and fellow-Irish immigrant John Glenn, Livingston used his new farm as a showplace for agricultural innovation: he introduced early examples of mechanized farming equipment to the Calgary area, and experimented with growing fruit trees and raising pigs.


The Livingston family did not only pioneer new farming practices: they also cultivated community. Livingston was one of the first trustees of the Glenmore School district. (Jane and Samuel started the school and boarded some of the early teachers.) Both the school district and what is now the Glenmore Reservoir are named after a valley in Co. Wicklow that was close to Livingstone’s birthplace. Considered squatters on the land they worked, Livingston and Glenn founded the Alberta Settlers’ Rights Association in 1885 (a time when land title was also a pressing issue in their native Ireland). Livingston was also one of the founders and first directors of the Canadian North-West Territories Stock Association (1886) as well as the Calgary District Agricultural Association (1884), the organization that set up the exhibition grounds that would eventually become Stampede Park. He was also a Conservative party delegate.


Looking as if he had stepped out of a Calgary Stampede poster, Livingston, with his flowing beard and hair, Stetson, buckskin jacket, and neck handkerchief, visually embodied the blend of cultures and trades that would contribute to Calgary’s economic and cultural development. When he died suddenly in 1897, he left a large family and an established community to mourn him: his funeral procession included forty carriages.The Livingston family house, built in 1875 on land now covered by the Glenmore Reservoir, was rescued and still stands in Heritage Park along with the original headstone from his grave.


Further Reading

Sam Livingston (1831 to 1897). Alberta Champions Society. (2022, July 30). Retrieved from https://albertachampions.org/Champions/sam-livingston-1831-1897/


Sheilagh S. Jameson, “Livingston, Samuel Henry Harkwood,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed August 9, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/livingston_samuel_henry_harkwood_12E.html.


Ens, M., “Sam Livingston, the Irish and Alberta,” Heritage Park. https://heritagepark.ca/news-stories/sam-livingston-the-irish-and-alberta/

 

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