Bragg Creek is named after Albert Warren Bragg from Collingwood, Nova Scotia and his 14-year-old brother John Thomas who homesteaded in the area from 1885. Fire had stripped the land of trees, leaving verdant open land particularly suited to ranching. However, very few of the settlers remained for long; it was a beautiful and unspoiled area but isolation made life difficult, particularly through the winter months.
For the white people who remained, trade with the Nakoda First Nation (also known as the Stoney Indians) was an important part of life. Beaded clothing and furs were exchanged at the Trading Post. In fact, the Bragg Creek Trading post on White Avenue stands on the site of the original trading post.
Oil was discovered in the area around 1913, and drilling took place initially where the picnic tables now stand in Bragg Creek Provincial Park. That well was capped at the beginning of World War I when investment from Britain dried up. Further oil reserves were discovered north of Bragg Creek in the 1920’s at the same time that gas was found. Both fuel sources continue to be extracted in the area today.
From the 1920’s onwards the area became increasingly popular as a weekend and retirement destination, and the first Youth Hostel in North America was established in Bragg Creek at the junction of the Elbow River and Bragg Creek (the creek, not the hamlet) in 1933. Initially a simple tent, a permanent structure was built in 1936 on a near-by site. The building was later moved and sadly burnt down in 1984.
There are still active ranches in the area, although today you are just as likely to find peaceful acreages on former ranch land. And due to its proximity to Calgary, the area is attractive for those who commute to work in the city but long to return to the wilderness at the end of a long day.