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Alberta, Past and Present, Historical and Biographical
Vol 2
William Oliver


William Oliver of Lethbridge has made valuable contribution to the development and progress of Alberta through his success in dry farming and his demonstration of what can be accomplished in this way. With a cash capital of five dollars, when he reached Brandon, Manitoba, he started upon his business career here and has steadily untilized his opportunities and strengthened his powers until he is today one of the successful agriculturists and property owners of this section of the province. He was born in Oxford district, Ontario, December 26, 1860, and is a son of William and Margaret (Hogg) Oliver, both of whom were alsd natives of Ontario, the former born near Gait, while the latter was born in the district of Oxford. They spent their lives in Ontario, where the father engaged in business as a contractor in early life and later gave his attention to farming. He was a Liberal in politics and both lie and his wife were members of the Presbyterian church. The family numbered ten children, seven of whom are living. William Oliver is the eldest of the family. The father was active in community affairs for a considerable period and served as school trustee and as a councilor for several years. He was of Scotch descent, his father having been John Oliver, who was born near Edinburgh, Scotland, and who came to Canada about 1822, settling near Gait, Ontario, where he continued to reside until called to his final rest. In the maternal line William Oliver is also of Scotch lineage, his mother's father having been George Hogg, who was born near Edinburgh and in 1818 took up his abode at Hamilton, Ontario. He purchased two hundred acres of government land in the district of Oxford— a timber tract in the midst of which he hewed out a little clearing and there erected a cabin without doors or windows. This he occupied for three years. The first bushel of wheat which he raised oil farm he carried on his back to Hamilton, sixty miles distant. As the years passed, however, his labors wrought a marked change in conditions and his once wild timber land was converted into a rich and productive farm, on which he continued to reside until his death, which occurred when he was eighty-six years of age.

William Oliver pursued his education in the public schools of Oxford district, Ontario, and started out in the business world as the assistant of his father in building operations, spending three years in that way. He came west in 1882 with a kit of tools which his father had given him, and made Winnipeg his destination. There he remained for four weeks, after which he proceeded to Brandon, Manitoba, which was then the terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. He worked on various jobs for different contractors during his stay at that place from April until July, and then left Brandon in company with a companion, traveling by ox team to the present site of Regina, although there was no town at the time. There he homesteaded and remained for three years until he received his patent and during that period he did considerable building through the country and in the town of Regina, which was founded about that time. He helped unload the first car of lumber oil town site. After a time he had seventy acres of his land broken and under cultivation but lost his first crops through dry winds. Later he obtained work on the Indian Reserve near Lethbridge, putting up some houses for the Indian department. In 1884 he took UI) his abode in Lethbridge and entered the employ of the Alberta Railway & Coal Company in the shops, building snow Plows, in the spring he engaged in house building for the company, erecting houses for their miners. He worked with that corporation for two years and then turned his attention to brick manufacturing, which lie followed for three years. lie next began contracting on his own account and built many houses in Lethbridge, remaining an active factor in building operations in this city until 1909, when lie sold his business and went to the coast, where he remained for a year. In the meantime he had made investments in property and is now the owner of considerable city realty as well as farm lands. He devotes his time to farming and to the Supervision of his personal interests and his success has caused him to be regarded as an authority upon many subjects relating to agricultural life, especially to dry farming. He has a small stock farm that is stocked with pure blooded Berkshire hogs and Percheron horses, he has made wheat his principal crop and has demonstrated what can be accomplished in a country where rainfall is comparatively slight.

In 1889 Mr. Oliver was united in marriage to Miss Amelia Oliver, who was born in Eastend, Ontario, and there pursued her education. They became the parents of three children: William, who is conducting a garage at Coalciale, Alberta; John, who works for the Northern Irrigation Company in Lethbridge; and Mrs. Gladys Helen Shonts, a widow, residing in Vancouver. She has three children: Glen, Cecil and Bettie. Mrs. Oliver passed away in 1912, in the faith of the Presbyterian church, of which she was a consistent member. Mr. Oliver afterward married Margaret Cyntha Cossaboom, who was born in Nova Scotia, and they have become parents of a son, Robert Wilfred, who was born September 1, 1916.

Mr. and Mrs. Oliver hold membership in the Presbyterian church, in the work of which the latter takes a very active part. Mr. Oliver also belongs to the Masonic fraternity and to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, having been a member of the latter for thirty-five years and passed through all of the chairs in the local lodge. For an extended period he gave his political support to the Liberal party but is now a Progressive. He has filled many positions of public honor and trust. He was on the city council for a number of years and was alderman when Lethbridge became a city. He filled the office of mayor from 1901 until 1904 and was instrumental in introducing many improvements, including the establishment of the first waterworks and sewerage system. He was a member of the city council for several years after retiring from the office of mayor and has long been active in civic affairs, his influence ever being on the side of progress and advancement. His labors have indeed been far-reaching and effective as factors in progressive government and at the same time he has wisely and carefully managed his business affairs, thereby winning the substantial measure of success which is now his.


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