Claresholm began as a railway siding. In the 1880’s the lush grasslands had drawn ranchers to the foothills to the West. Their herds of cattle roamed across the prairie as far East as the Little Bow River. With the construction of the rail line from Calgary to Macleod, ranchers were able to ship their cattle from Claresholm to markets elsewhere. The railway could also bring people here, and the siding would provide the nucleus for the town. In response to an extensive advertising campaign by the government of Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railway, settlers began to flood into this area. Hundreds of families came here from the Northern United States, for example, North Dakota, Minnesota, Oregon and also from Eastern Canada. They came for the free homestead land, and for the opportunity to have a better life for themselves and their families. Businesses flourished, providing the services needed in the area. Claresholm grew rapidly, and was granted town status on August 31, 1905.
Claresholm was incorporated as a town in 1905 and has always filled the role of an important service centre to the surrounding agricultural region. Claresholm provides a wide range of retail, professional and government services. Its location on Highway No. 2 between Calgary and Lethbridge places it on the major transportation corridor and makes it attractive for business and industry.
Second World War
Following the outbreak of World War II, Canada and Great Britain entered into a partnership to train pilots for the air force – the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. A site about 3.5 miles from Claresholm was chosen for an advanced training school, and construction of No. 15 Service Training Flying School began in late October 1940 and continued through the winter.
Operations started on June 9, 1941, with a class of about forty young Canadian men arriving to continue their training. Advanced flying was taught using the twin-engine Avro-Anson and the Cessna Crane. No. 15 Service Training Flying School officially opened on August 16, 1941 with an open house and the first graduation. The subsequent courses of student pilots included young men from Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. By the time No. 15 S.F.T.S. closed in 1945, about 2,000 pilots had “received their wings” here.
Six years later the school was reopened as No. 3 Flying Training School for the purpose of training NATO pilots using single-engine aircraft such as the Harvard. During the 1950’s, there were approximately 1,100 R.C.A.F. personnel stationed in Claresholm, in addition to the many courses of Canadian and international pilot trainees who learned to fly here. The base was officially closed again in 1958. The Harvard Memorial, located in Centennial Park, commemorates the contribution of the men and women of the Royal Canadian Air Force who were stationed here, and also the young student pilots who learned to fly at Claresholm, many on a yellow Harvard like the one on display.
Although the closing of the flying school was a major loss to Claresholm, the air force hangars were subsequently converted to industrial uses and have over the years provided diversified job opportunities for the industrious workers from Claresholm and area.
The modern day Town of Claresholm features an excellent water supply, volunteer fire department, hospitals, medical centre, central parks, public library with access to the Internet (member of the Chinook Arch Regional Library System), senior citizen’s centre, and many recreational facilities such as a year-round agriplex,
18-hole golf course, indoor swimming pool, curling rink, new ball diamond complex, gun range, skating/hockey arena, and tennis courts. Claresholm is close to excellent fishing, hunting and hiking in all directions from town. Our campground is a wonderful facility with a new shower building, playground and spray park.
The friendly small town atmosphere of Claresholm, with its tree-lined streets of comfortable, affordable houses, convenient, competitive shopping, excellent medical facilities, creates the ideal place to live with a high quality of life.