Isabella (Brown) Sinclair




Life and Work

Isabella Brown arrived in Calgary from Glasgow, Scotland in 1883, the only woman on one of the first trains to arrive there.

Her brother Jim acquired land west of Innisfail and she kept house for him in a log shack with a dirt floor. Isabella tentatively greeted passing hunting parties of Stoney Indians. They showed her their prayer books signed by the Reverend John McDougall to assuage her fears.

Despite her homesickness, there were good times. Isabella had a fine voice and sang at parties held in The Spruces, a stopping place on the Calgary-Edmonton Trail. At gatherings for Scottish dances and songs, since Isabella was the only woman, half the men would tie handkerchiefs around their sleeves so dancing partners could be chosen.

In 1886, Isabella married David Sinclair at Kananaskis and had five children. David built bridges in the mountains for the Canadian Pacific Railway, but the next year they moved to a homestead in the Little Red Deer district west of Innisfail. The farm, named Willowbank, became renown for its prize-winning Shorthorn cattle.

Isabella died in Innisfail in 1950 at 83 years of age.