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This artefact belongs to : © Sir Alexander Galt Museum and Archives
Charles Alexander Magrath, 1860-1943
Between 1891 and 1900, 19th century or 20th century
Silver salts on paper
9 x 12.5 cm
This artefact belongs to : © Sir Alexander Galt Museum and Archives

Keys to History:

Several events created pressure on Ottawa to change its approach to irrigation and settlement on the southwestern prairies. The government of the Northwest Territories, spurred on by assembly member Charles Magrath (1860-1949), formed an Irrigation Committee with Magrath as chairman in 1891. The committee wholeheartedly supported the development of irrigation and made their opinions known to Ottawa. The Mormons had built two small irrigation projects near Cardston that proved irrigation was practical. Drought had come to Lethbridge and area. The Liberals had come to power, and Minister of the Interior Clifford Sifton was far more receptive to irrigation than his Conservative predecessor had been. Finally, the American government was actively working on a plan to divert water from the St. Mary's and Milk Rivers for use by farmers in Montana. All of these events contributed to the resurrection of the 1891 irrigation scheme, although in a modified and reduced version of the original.


This photograph of Charles Alexander Magrath was taken between 1891 and 1900.


Among his local and regional accomplishments, Magrath assisted in surveying the townsite of Lethbridge. He also hired William H. Fairfield to establish an Experimental Farm at Lethbridge. The farm has since become the Agriculture Canada Research Station, the largest in Canada.


Magrath arrived in Lethbridge in July 1885. He quickly established himself as a community leader, becoming the first President of the Board of Trade in September 1889 and first Mayor of Lethbridge by acclamation on February 2,1891.


Magrath came west from Ontario in 1878 as a young surveyor and remained in that occupation until 1885, when he received an offer from Elliott T. Galt to become the land agent for the North Western Coal & Navigation Company.

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