Written by: Fraser Shaw, Heritage Conservation Advisor
Recently, I visited the Maccoy Homestead in High River after seven long years of flood repairs and conservation. Nestled in Sheppard Family Park near the south edge of High River, this was the farm and home of well-known local resident Ruth Maccoy for over 70 years. Upon her passing in 1995 and at her bequest, the farm became Sheppard Family Park with the homestead as its nucleus.
The home is a charming 1883 whitewashed log building, the earliest structure on the site, with a frame addition and porch built by her parents in the 1920s and surrounded by a garden and picket fence lovingly tended by Ruth Maccoy over the years. Behind the house are a garden shed, a small guesthouse, and a root cellar set into an embankment, while the garage is located nearby. A path leads west through the trees to a footbridge over the Little Bow River, usually a shallow creek, to the historic water source in a natural spring.
One of High River’s first municipal designations, the Sheppard/Maccoy House was designated as a Municipal Historic Resource in 2009 by the Town of High River for its association with Ruth Maccoy and early settlement in the area. An exceptional example of an early farm, the site also exemplifies the contribution of women’s labour to homesteading and agriculture in rural Alberta and was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2015. The site is a good example of how complementary municipal and provincial heritage values tell a richer story and was the subject of a RETROactive post earlier this summer.
Sheppard Family Park was unfortunately in the crosshairs in June 2013 when the Highwood River surged through town and across the drainage divide into the Little Bow River, submerging the Maccoy Homestead and Sheppard Family Park in over a metre of water. This post won’t revisit those difficult days and months; instead, this is a short photographic retrospective of a seven-year journey that began with assessment of the damage and initial recovery work, and continued with securing of funds from many sources, work plan development, and many hours of coordinating and carrying out the actual conservation work. The restoration is now complete thanks to the perseverance and dedication of many individuals with the Town of High River, Sheppard Family Park Society, Museum of the Highwood, contractors, consultants and volunteers. Their hard work makes it possible for us all to celebrate this milestone in the site’s ongoing history!