The Galts and Business
Elliott Galt was the third generation of Galts involved in land development. His grandfather, the Scottish poet, novelist, and businessman John Galt, helped manage the Canada Land Company and founded the towns of Guelph, Galt and Goodrich in Ontario. Elliott’s father, Alexander, was largely responsible for the settlement of the eastern townships of Quebec.
In 1880, Alexander Galt saw no obvious conflict of interest between his political role and his new role of entrepreneur. He soon enlisted the help of two English publisher friends, W. H Smith and William Lethbridge. Alexander also received support from William Ashmead Bartlett Burdett–Coutts, the husband of Baroness Angela Bartlett Burdett-Coutts. The four men formed the North Western Coal and Navigation Company and commissioned Nicholas Bryant and William Stafford to examine various coal sites in this area. Their choice of a site determined where Lethbridge would ultimately stand. The company officially began its operations in December of 1882, when William Stafford opened the first two drift mines in what is now Indian Battle Park.
It can be said that Alexander and Elliott Galt are responsible for the development of Lethbridge and much of southern Alberta. Not only did they develop a coal industry, but they were also a force behind the building of the railway, the development of the towns in the area, and the development of both dry-land and irrigated agriculture.
Over time, and in addition to the North Western Coal and Navigation Company, their western enterprises included: the Alberta Railway and Coal Company, the Lethbridge Land Company, the Alberta Irrigation Company, the Canadian North-West Irrigation Company, the St. Mary River Railway Company, the Canada and Great Falls Railway Company and an amalgamation of all the others called the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company.
The development of Lethbridge and southern Alberta were primarily the result of Elliott Galt’s efforts. In 1912, Elliott Galt sold the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company to the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was the end of the Galt era.