A Rich History

Print
Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option
In 1883, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) stopped to build a bridge across the South Saskatchewan River and a tent town was born. With the arrival of the railroad came the Northwest Mounted Police. They maintained law and order among the railway workers and First Nation’s people of the area and made Medicine Hat a law-abiding town.
In the CPR’s search for water, their drills accidentally struck gas west of the town, heralding the exploration that mapped out one of the largest gas fields in North America. In the latter part of 1903, City Council embarked on a program to supply all residents with gas, the beginning of a City-owned utility. In 1906, Medicine Hat was incorporated as a City.


Did you know? 
Since the turn of the century, Medicine Hat's own gas fields have supplied the traditional gas lamps that continue to light the historic downtown district. 

Other Historical Highlights

In 1905, Alberta was incorporated as a province and Medicine Hat was the largest community in southeastern Alberta. Its residents were using natural gas as an inexpensive source of energy.

The Medicine Hat Regional Airport’s current configuration was initially established by the Department of National Defence. It was originally set up as a Commonwealth Air Training Base and opened March 14, 1941. The #34 Service Flying Training School trained over 3000 airmen during the three and a half years the school was in operation. In 1947, the Department of National Defence transferred ownership of the airport to the City of Medicine Hat and continues to be owned today.

City of Medicine Hat Flag
City of Medicine Hat FlagOn April 1, 1974, City Council accepted Medicine Hat's current city flag.

It is a deep blue, with a white and blue circle in the middle containing "City of Medicine Hat, Alberta" around the famous Cree native man. Permission was asked and received from the Medicine Hat News for use of their copyrighted 'Indian Head' on the City flag. For more information on the City's flag, contact City Clerk.

The Legend Behind 'Medicine Hat'

Medicine Hat inherited its name from the native word "saamis" which means medicine man's hat. A number of legends tell the story of how this city was named. One of these legends is beautifully depicted in a sculptured brick mural at City Hall.

Brick Mural of Medicine Hat Name Legend

The legend tells of a winter of great famine and hardship for the Blackfoot nation. The elders of the Council chose a young man to save his tribe from starvation. Setting out with his new wife and favourite wolf dog, he journeyed down the ice-bound South Saskatchewan River. After many arduous days they made their way to the “breathing hole” an opening in the ice, located on the river between what is now Police Point and Strathcona Park in Medicine Hat. This location was a sacred place to the First Nations’ people: a place where the water spirits came to breathe.

They made camp and summoned the spirits to appear. A giant serpent rose from the misty waters and demanded the sacrifice of the woman in exchange for a “Saamis” or “holy bonnet” which would endow the owner with special powers and great hunting prowess. The young man tried to trick the serpent by throwing the body of his dog into the river, but the serpent was not fooled, and finally reluctantly, the woman was thrown into the frigid waters.

The man was told to spend the night on the small island (Strathcona) and “in the morning when the sun lights the cut-banks, go to the base of the great cliffs and there you will find your Medicine Hat”. And so aided by the magic of his Saamis, the young hunter located the much needed game, saved his people, and eventually became a great Medicine Man.