Feb 1, 2013

Saamis: The Medicine Hat Book

One of my early sources of inspiration for researching the history behind my Around the Hat photo series came from this very dated publication, Saamis: The Medicine Hat. Written by Senator F.W. Gershaw, the book chronicles the history of Medicine Hat from its inception to just after World War II. The challenge in uncovering local history is something that I've struggled with (and I have the Internet), but this is what was written in the book's preface:   

An attempt has been made in the following pages to to outline briefly the history of the area up to the years following World War II. It has been difficult to to get reliable information on some subjects but the records have been searched and the few remaining pioneers have freely given an account of events as they are remembered. There may be errors and certainly there are persons, places, events, and organizations worthy of mention that are not included.

Saamis The Medicine Hat Book
Saamis The Medicine Hat BookGoing through archives and finding specific dates for locations in Medicine Hat has been a significant challenge for me, and it's made me realize how rare some of our history actually is. This book is important, not just because it's one of the few books that actually focuses on Medicine Hat, but because it summarizes a number of otherwise undocumented stories. Some of it is speculation, but it's framed as a plausible account of what happened.  

Conflicting accounts of certain events, or stories about the Medicine Man losing his hat and how the city got its name are also fascinating, and relate a lot to my own frustrations in trying to lock down facts of what is true. I can't tell you how many archival images I've looked through from varying sources that have conflicting dates for the same image, or a date that I know is wrong because that building wasn't built yet, etc. However, the efforts that went into this book can't be understated for how much it details the pioneering years of this region.  

This book was a centennial publication for Canada's 100th birthday in 1967 and was popular with locals when it came out. I say that because I was given a copy from my mom that belonged to my Grandpa Bjork, and I was also given the copy that belonged to my Grandma Fandrich. Both sides of the family had one, and I wouldn't be surprised if others have it tucked away in their basements or attics as well. If you're a Hatter ask around about it. It's an interesting read.    

Saamis The Medicine Hat Book

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