Turner Valley – What’s in a Name?
In the early 1880s cowboys began trailing big herds north from Montana and Idaho. Much of the area from Bragg Creek all the way south to the Porcupine Hills, including the Turner Valley area, was the final destination of these huge herds – some of the finest ranching country in North America.
Named for the first settlers in the area, John, James and Robert Turner, Turner Valley is located in a valley of the same name.
Turner Valley is best known for its rich oil and gas history. It all started when a farmer, Stewart Herron, saw gas bubbling up alongside Sheep Creek in 1911. Herron bought up property and brought investors on board, including Senator James Lougheed, R.B. Bennett and A.E. Cross, to finance the Calgary Petroleum Products Company, which drilled its first well in 1913.
On May 14, 1914, the Dingman #1 well blew, forever changing Alberta’s economic future. For 30 years, the Turner Valley Oilfield was the largest oil and gas producer in the British Empire.
The discovery was not crude oil, but more a gasoline product called “unrefined condensate,” but there was also natural gas and oil production at well sites in the years to follow. Wells soon dotted the valley, and the petroleum activity was a bright spot in the otherwise bleak economy of Alberta in the 1930s. The field was depleted by the time the focus shifted to Leduc after WWII.
The rich finds in the area prompted the development of the Turner Valley Gas Plant, the first petroleum processing facility west of Ontario. Through three separate stages of development, between WWI and the late 1940s, the natural gas processing plant at Turner Valley served as the largest in Canada’s oilfield.
While overshadowed by the arrival of Leduc No. 1 in 1947, the Turner Valley field continued to produce oil and gas. Today, it produces more than it did 50 years ago. The Plant itself continued to operate, until 1985. Alberta Culture acquired the Turner Valley Gas Plant In 1988, and in 1989 it was designated a Provincial Historic Resource. In 1995 it was also named a National Historic Site.
Turner Valley was incorporated as a town in 1930. The 2015 municipal census pegs the town’s population at 2,511.
By: Janet Kanters
To see how Sundre, Rocky Mountain House, and Drayton Valley got their names visit ExperiencetheCowboyTrail.com/name