Ernest & Alice Silvester

Ernie and Alice Silvester, 1910.
Photo Courtesy of Wayne Hampton.

In today’s Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, sandstone was quarried for important government buildings. At the turn of the last century, the people who came to work at Glenbow were strong, industrious and determined. The Silvester family exemplified these traits.

The Silvesters were a striking couple. Ernest (Ernie) was over 6 feet tall and more than 200 pounds, while Alice was a petite 5 feet 2 inches tall. In spring 1910, they set sail from England, the day after their wedding. They were off to claim an Albertan homestead. Possessing limited funds, they travelled in third class, with its separate male and female accommodations — a less than ideal honeymoon. 

They filed for a homestead and found employment as labourers: Alice in Calgary homes and Ernie at Glenbow Quarry. In the fall, they built a one-room log cabin on their homestead at Kew (near Millarville) and their first baby was born that winter. In spring, the family set up their tent at Glenbow. Alice earned money cleaning the school, while Ernie laboured at the quarry. Occasionally, he also contributed his brawn to the Glenbow football (soccer, as we know it) team.

After another winter on the homestead, they again arrived in Glenbow. Their second child, Albert, was born in their tent in June. That fall, the family took up permanent residence on their homestead. Ernie worked a variety of jobs to support his growing family, sometimes leaving them for extended periods. One summer day, when Alice was alone with her two toddlers, she needed to draw on all her courage and strength. Ernie arrived home the next day to find that she had delivered their third child!

Over the years, Ernie became a successful rancher and Alice had ten more children, many of whom also took up ranching. The Silvesters illustrate the fortitude and resilience of Albertan families, past and present.

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