Mother Fulham's House, 612 6 Avenue Sw, circa 1960
Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 0132
I have just returned from a relaxing visit to my sister’s farm on Vancouver Island. She has a lovely little spread in the Cowichan Valley. In fact, the surroundings are so beautiful that people are buying up the agricultural land for residential use. Right at the bottom of her field, where she keeps the hens and is planning to keep her pig, a neighbour is erecting a palatial three storey home that will have magnificent views of the livestock. I think I see trouble brewing.
This little episode of "Green Acres" did, however, bring to mind a character from Calgary’s past, Mother Fulham, who kept pigs and a cow in the city, approximately where the Tim Horton’s is across the street from the courthouse. She drove her horse and democrat from hotel to hotel collecting garbage for her pigs. We have a picture of her house in the Alison Jackson Photograph collection (see above). She is also one of Calgary’s mavericks, as celebrated in our One Book One Calgary selection, Mavericks: an Incorrigible History of Alberta. Caroline “Mother” Fulham was an interesting character, her garbage-picking aside. It was said that she was the only woman who would drink in the male-only enclaves of the city and she did enjoy her drink. Sometimes too much, and it was this that landed her in the courts. She was also in the courts on the other side of the matter when her “prize” cow Nellie was killed by a CPR train. Bob Edwards loved Mother Fulham stories and was only too glad to publish them in the “Eye Opener”. The story of Nellie the cow and Sir William Van Horne was particularly relished. It seems that when Nellie was killed, Mother Fulham pursued compensation with her usual vigor, but got nowhere. When she heard that the president of the railway was in town, she appeared at his railway car and presented her case. Van Horne is reported to have said, “Your cow should not have been on the tracks, you know, we have signs forbidding entrance to the right-of -way”. To which Mother Fulham replied, “Ye poor damn fool. What makes ya think my pore ole cow could read?” (from Eye Opener Bob by Grant MacEwan.)
So, Mother Fulham’s problems had very little to do with the fact that she kept livestock in the city. That was not uncommon. It was logical, I suppose, when you consider that the horse was a major means of transport. Heck, the building in which I am sitting right now, the Central Library, was once the site (or very close to it) of the Elk Livery stable. People were actually able to keep chickens in Calgary until 1953, when the bylaw governing poultry in the city limits was changed. That bylaw has been in the news recently as supporters of the urban chicken movement have been challenging the bylaw. One of the ex-candidates for mayor was a proponent of the backyard chicken coop. I, myself, find chickens charming. I’m just not sure how I would feel with a piggery next door.
If you would like to read more about Mother Fulham, she is discussed in several books we have in our collections. Use her proper name "Caroline Fulham" as your search term in the catalogue to read more about this maverick Calgarian.