History of Cochrane

Land Acknowledgement

We recognize and acknowledge that, for time immemorial, long before the European settlers arrived, thousands of Indigenous people lived full, rich and imaginative lives on and near the very lands upon which we are situated. They had hopes and dreams, loved their children, protected and served their communities, prayed to their Creator, and held deep knowledge about and respect for the natural world upon which they depended for their livelihood.

We recognize and acknowledge that when European settlers came to these lands, they were welcomed and supported to establish themselves. Eventually, a treaty was signed, which we now know as Treaty 7, between the Crown and the people known as the Iyethka peoples of the Chiniki, Bearspaw and Goodstoney Bands; the Tsuut’ina; the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) peoples of Siksika, Piikani and Kainai Bands, and home to North West Métis, Inuit and other Indigenous peoples living within these traditional lands.

We gratefully acknowledge that where we live and work is within Treaty 7 lands, we are grateful for the many contributions Indigenous people of these lands have made and continue to make to the wellbeing and prosperity of the community and the country.

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Early Cochrane

In 1881, Senator Matthew Henry Cochrane established Cochrane Ranch, later to become the Town of Cochrane. The Canadian Pacific Railway granted the town site in 1885, naming it in honour of Senator Cochrane. Despite the surrounding ranch population, few people called Cochrane home at this time.

It wasn’t until 1903 that the hamlet of Cochrane became a village, with a population of 158 in 1906. Shortly after, Cochrane saw a small population boom, with 395 residents by 1911. At this time, before the First World War, Cochrane was home to a stone quarry, a sawmill and four brick plants. Skilled artisans in the community combined their talents with local products to construct buildings of quality and individual style, giving Cochrane a unique and special character.

Cochrane's growth

Following the First World War, Cochrane’s growth slowed. Economic issues meant that local industries shrunk due to a shortage of workers. While many residents left Cochrane during the war years, the Town continued to act as a service hub for rural populations. 

Cochrane remained a stable but small village until after World War II. By 1971 the population grew to over 800 people, and Cochrane was incorporated as a town. This was coupled with a general economic boom in the 1970s. New residents meant a burst of construction impulse. This period of expansion also started a process of modernization that saw the demolishing or resurfacing of many older structures. 

Cochrane today

Today, Cochrane is known for its western heritage, unique buildings and popular main street. In 2003, the Town celebrated its centennial with a completed downtown revitalization, helping make Cochrane a popular tourist attraction. As of 2023, Cochrane boasts a population of approximately 35,825 residents.

This historical record is courtesy of the Cochrane Historical and Archival Preservation Society (CHAPS).