An Alberta historian and podcaster has featured Crossfield on a series that highlights the history of rural Canadian communities, with a future episode about Rocky View County coming soon.
Craig Baird is the host of the Canadian History Ehx podcast, which he started in 2019 after a 12-year career as a newspaper reporter. His podcast publishes multiple episodes a week and delves into various aspects of Canada's history, from politics to hockey.
Canadian History Ehx isn’t Baird’s only podcast venture, however. Since early 2020, Baird has run a sponsored series that delves into the history of small towns, counties, and villages.
“I feel small towns have a fascinating history that sometimes get ignored,” he said.
One of his latest episodes, released on March 23, is a 14-minute lesson on the history of Crossfield. Some of the events the episode summarizes include a severe blizzard the residents suffered through in 1919, and a trio of fires that decimated some of the community’s buildings in 1924.
The episode also touches on Crossfield’s pre-settler history as an area where members of the Blackfoot Nation frequented, due to a nearby bison jump that could be used for hunting the animals efficiently.
“There are a lot of cool things with Crossfield,” Baird said. “There’s a deep history with the fur trade and the Indigenous history – all my episodes start with Indigenous history and then go from there. A lot of the communities in that area popped up with the rail line going up to Edmonton.”
The episode also provides a brief biography of one of Crossfield’s most famous sons – cowboy Pete Knight, who made a name for himself in the Calgary Stampede and the North American rodeo circuit in the 1930s. The town’s arena is still named after Knight – who died in a rodeo accident in California in 1937 – and an annual rodeo is held in his name in Crossfield each summer.
One of the most interesting things Baird said he learned about Crossfield during his research was that the town hosted an inter-racial baseball game in 1930, to celebrate the opening of a new recreational park for children. To celebrate the park’s grand opening, he said Crossfield invited the Chicago Coloured Athletics baseball team to come play a double-header against a local team.
“That was something that couldn’t happen in the United States at the time because black teams couldn’t play teams with white players on them,” Baird said.
With strong pitching from “Lefty” Brown, the visitors from Chicago ran rampant in the first game, winning 8-1. The Crossfieldians held their own in the second game however, trailing just 4-2 before the fixture was rained out in the fifth inning.
While the small-town history podcast initially focused on communities in Alberta, Baird said the series quickly picked up steam, and he has now profiled roughly 100 towns, counties, and villages across Canada, including communities in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia, and even the Maritimes.
Before he takes on an assignment, Baird said he reaches out to the councils of the communities he would like to cover to see if they would be interested in paying for an episode about their municipality for a $250 fee. He first reached out to Crossfield Town council in summer 2020.
Crossfield Mayor Kim Harris said the episode is a good way to market and promote the community.
“Our history is one of the reasons why residents are connected to and love Crossfield,” she said. “It is important to administration and council to promote Crossfield for growth and to attract visitors. I think the history through the podcast will do just that.”
To research for the episodes, Baird said he starts by visiting a town’s Wikipedia page to get a first impression about the community. He then uses historical resources, such as Library and Archives Canada, Newspapers.com, the Canadian Encyclopedia, history books, and the municipality’s own website or local museum webpage to mine for information.
“I don’t use Wikipedia a lot for the information, but I like to get some key points and then expand on that by going to other places,” he said. “I do a lot with Newspapers.com so I can get first-hand accounts on when events actually happened.”
Baird said Rocky View County council has also sponsored an episode and he is excited to release it, once the County has given it a listen and provided final approval.
The local history buff added he encourages residents of small towns to look into their community’s history and “discover the cool things that have happened there.”
To hear the episode, visit Crossfieldalberta.com or search Canadian History Ehx on Apple Podcasts or other podcast platforms.