George "Daddy" Houk


There is something interesting about rogues and rascals – we don’t necessarily want them as family members or neighbours, but they do make for interesting conversation. And George Houk certainly made for some great gossip in his day.

Born in Newcastle, Pennsylvania, in 1840, Houk was from the old west before trains, settlers, and rules. He has the distinction of being the first white man to set foot on what would become Lethbridge when he visited the site in 1864 with a prospecting party. Houk spent time in the navy in the American Civil War, served as both a sheriff and deputy sheriff in Montana, rode for the Pony Express, drove stage for Wells Fargo Express and reportedly met Mark Twain on a steamer, spending hours in conversation with him.

Houk came back to southern Alberta and became involved in what could easily be described as the wholesale liquor business (was it his fault that hard alcohol was illegal at that time?). This business repeatedly got him into trouble with the law. He also ranched and mined 15 miles south of Lethbridge on the St. Mary River. His wife, Victoria, was Kainai, and George was active in getting the Blackfoot people involved in the Lethbridge Exhibition and parade, often leading the Blackfoot portion of the parade himself. He was also a supporter of baseball and his team, Houk’s Savages, won the Alberta Championship one year.

In 1908 George was responsible for the Pemmican Club supper. He had prepared large pots of pork and beans with hard tack biscuits that were at least 6 inches by ½ inch. Though the biscuits were impossible to chew, George replied that this was the type of food pioneers ate and it was good enough for a pioneer dance. Most people ate somewhere else that night.

Anine VonkemanComment