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Thursday, 13 October 2011 11:52

Historic trail marker restoration continues

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Southwest Alberta
Bill Dunn is at it again; that is, he’s reviving trail markers that identify the location of the historic Macleod Trail, supply route of the 19th Century.
Dunn explained the Macleod Trail was established between the fall of 1874 and the following spring, guiding bull trains from Fort Benton, Montana northward across the 49th.

“The history was all there. It just needed some attention. The 15 markers we have located were all visible, but Mother Nature wanted to take them back.”

Among his many interests, Dunn committed to preserving the history of the West and is therefore involved in unearthing the location of markers identifying the famous trail.

As to the marker Dunn most recently resurrected, it’s located on Range Road 264 just north of Township Road 100, between Granum and Fort Macleod.

 Dunn started that repair last winter when he repainted the signboard, then got to work on the posts this past spring.

“We finally had a new wheel ready to install on the marker. The previous wheel hub and spokes were so rotted they were literally falling to the ground. I was able to find a suitable wheel to replace it and now we have a shiny new marker.

“It made me feel good to be able to look at the finished work of another restored piece of history.”

In addition to this marker, Dunn repainted another marker west of Nanton in June.

“It looks like this year has been a successful year.”

The retired rancher’s work is not yet done.

“We are still hoping to put a new marker in DeWinton this fall. That is dependent on getting approval from council and beating the frost ... We can’t miss any good day to work outside; the seasons go by so quickly.”

Back in the 18th Century, Dunn explained, goods were shipped as far up the Missouri River as they could go, then transferred to wagons and taken to Fort Benton. From there, bull trains headed north to Fort Whoop-Up along what was known as the Whoop-Up Trail, then on to Fort Calgary all guided by the Macleod Trail markers.

The last coach to use the Macleod Trail did so to deliver the mail to Okotoks in 1891, said Dunn.

The trail had been used extensively by the mail coach hauling royal mail, with Fort Benton serving as the post office.

Since the 1980s, various regional historians and later, the DeWinton history group recognized the value of marking the trail and used various maps to unearth the route.

The first restored marker was placed in 2002-03 and since that time, additional restored markers have been placed between the Mosquito Creek Ranch and Cayley; eight more between High River and Fort Macleod; one west of the John Deere in Claresholm; another west of Granum by Willow Creek and of course, the most recent one mentioned above.

“It has led from one thing to another and now I’m sort of the keeper of the wheels,” said Dunn, who repairs, paints and photographs the markers, and also keeps a log of those activities.

Dunn’s commitment to reviving the markers remains steadfast, and he noted it’s his contribution to his community.

 “I want to provide something for some kid in Grade 3 that says I’m sure glad Mr. Dunn did this.”

Anyone interested in lending a hand to this project can contact Bill at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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