Sally Struthers attended our morning meeting and gave us an update from her perspective as the recently appointed General Manager of Fort Steele.  Sally began her time at Fort Steele on March 13, 2012.She appeared in period costume, and explained to the club that the ladies had to wear the long dresses, hats and gloves in public.  She was only able to take her hat and gloves off if visiting someone that she was very familiar with and in private

Sally gave us a bit of the history of Fort Steele:

Fort Steele was a gold rush boom town founded in 1864 by John Galbraith. The town was originally called "Galbraith's Ferry", named after the ferry set up by the city's founder over the Kootenay River. It was the only ferry within several hundred miles so Mr.Galbraith charged very high prices to get across.  He charged $5 per person and $10 per animal, which was very exorbitant at that time.

The town was renamed Fort Steele in 1888, after legendary Canadian lawman Superintendent Sam Steele of the North-West Mounted Police solved a dispute between a settler who had unjustly accused one of the local First Nations men with murder. This dispute had caused a great deal of tension between the town and the native people. Sam Steele, finding no real evidence against the accused natives, had the charges against them lifted. Both the town and the First Nations people were so grateful that they renamed the town Fort Steele. Much to Steele's dismay, the "Fort" part of the name comes from the NWMP setting up a station in the town, whereas the town itself was never a real fort.

In the late 1890s, Fort Steele was growing rapidly, becoming the heart of the East Kootenays. The Canadian Pacific railway showed interest in Fort Steele. It was decided that a station was to be built. But as the document stating the railway was to go though Fort Steele was on its way to be approved, a gentleman named Colonel James Baker had other ideas. Baker, a member of the British Columbia legislature, owned a small logging camp named Joseph's Prairie. Baker bribed and blackmailed his fellow Members and convinced them to bypass Fort Steele and bring the railway through Joseph's Prairie. This was final after the document stating the railway was to go through Fort Steele was "lost" in the mail. After the railway was completed, Baker renamed the town to Cranbrook. He later sold the people of Fort Steele land. Fort Steele's population quickly dropped as the population moved to the more appealing Cranbrook.

In 1961 it was declared a Provincial Heritage Site.

Many of the buildings are on their original sites.  Including the NWMP Officer's Barracks where school children stay and learn about the times around Fort Steele.  This summer they are expecting about 20,000 visitors in the month of August, and slightly less than that during July.

The annual operating budget for the Fort is $2 million.   There are 12 full time staff members, 100 seasonal and part time as well as the 300 invaluable volunteers.

This year they had  a foul born on May 3rd, and they purchased 6 more Clydesdale horses.   The Clydesdales are entered into competition at the Calgary Stampede (log pulling) as well they will be in the Sam Steele parade, and they will appear in the Heavy Horse Show at Sandpoint, Idaho the weekend of Sep 21st.

They have recently replaced all the water lines in the park.  They have recovered a great number of the seats in the Wild Horse Theatre, which seats 498.

Their special events such as Easter, Halloween, etc were very well attended this year due to the weather co-operating.

The park has about 350 memberships, which this year are priced at $150, which include several things that the previous memberships did not.

President Frank Vanden Broek thanked Ms Struthers for the update and presented her with the famous, 'From The Governor's Table', Rotary cook book.

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