The Town Founder

Lieutenant Colonel Harry Lyon
192nd (Crow’s Nest Pass) BattalionLyon

A most interesting visitor to Blairmore during the week was Mr. Harry E. Lyon, well known by the real old-timers of the town, having been connected with the drafting of the plans of the original Blairmore, being in real estate and later becoming the town’s first mayor, etc…

(Blairmore Enterprise, 27 October 1944, 4)

Henry Edward Lyon was a real estate promoter, mayor of Blairmore, Alberta, and a member of Loyal Orange Lodge No. 2224. Born on 17 December 1874 in Richmond, Ontario, he moved west in 1898 to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway.  He soon established himself as a local community leader. He owned the first automobile in the district, was active in organizing amateur hockey and joined the 23rd Alberta Rangers.

In late 1915, Lyon offered to raise a battalion from the region around Blairmore known as Crow’s Nest Pass. Hoping that the war effort would grow local business throughout the district, the town newspaper declared, “Every citizen will be expected to take an active part in this campaign, so that The Pass may have the honor and distinction of holding the enlistment record of Southern Alberta. It can be done.” The 192nd sailed for England in November 1916.

Military authorities found Lyon “totally unfitted to command and officers generally not soldiers.” The 192nd was broken up but Lyon was permitted to retain the rank of captain and lead an overseas draft.

Largely recruited from the immigrant population that worked in the mines of the Blairmore district, nearly half of the battalion was composed of eastern European-born volunteers. Noting that many eager Austrian recruits had claimed Russian birth to enlist, Alberta Liberal MP James McCrie Douglass argued “So that the charge that these men were not prepared to do their duty and take the full responsibly of citizenship is absolutely unfounded.”

In the context of postwar anti-immigrant sentiment, an editorial to the Blairmore Enterprise reminded readers that the 192nd had been made up of the same class now subject to discrimination: “These men went to fight for us. Did you? And perhaps you were protected by the same foreigners, were you not?”

In 1909, Lyon had contested the Alberta provincial riding Rocky Mountain as a Conservative candidate but lost to Socialist Charles M. O’Brien. During the 1930s, Lyon became involved with socialist politics in British Columbia and established an independent CCF party. In the 1933 provincial election, he received just 1% of the vote in Vancouver Centre. He died in 1959.

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