A Two-Ton Birthday Cake!

24 Sep
English: Photo of Fort Whoop Up National Histo...

English: Photo of Fort Whoop Up National Historic Site, August 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


By 1885 the C.P.R. had pushed its way beyond Winnipeg.  It had passed Pile O’Bones (Regina) and entered Calgary, a “rootin, tootin” cowboy town.

Moving supplies to the workers was a tremendous problem.  There was a lucky break when coal was discovered near Fort Whoop-Up, and a company was formed to mine it.  The C.P.R. then built a branch line from Dunsmore, on the main line, to Coal Banks, now Lethbridge,  and that problem was solved.  The branch line was opened on September 24, 1885.  One year later, Lethbridge had a population of more than 1,000.

One of the most successful suppliers of beef for the construction crews was Pat Burns, the “cattle king.”  He was born at Oshawa, Ontario, in humble circumstances, and went to school at Kirkfield.  Pat and his brother John decided to go out west.  In order to earn money to travel they worked in the bush, but were paid two oxen instead of money.  They slaughtered the oxen and sold the meat, earning more money than if they had been paid wages.

This taught Pat Burns a valuable lesson, and when he reached the West, he gradually developed a business, buying cattle (on time) from farmers, and selling the beef to construction gangs.  He then began his famous meat-packing firm in Calgary.

There are countless  stories about Pat Burns.  It is said that he was one of the few people who never made an enemy while making a million dollars.  One story tells how he was driving in a parade in Calgary when he saw a little pig walking beside a float as a mascot.  It was obviously becoming exhausted so Burns stopped his limousine and took the dejected pig in with him.

Another story tells how he sent men from his Calgary plant to paint his little church at Midnapore.  The new paint made the other church at Midnapore look bad, so Burns said “paint that church too.”

Prime Minister R.B. Bennett made him a senator on the occasion of a testimonial dinner in 1931.  It was Burns’ 75th birthday, and 700 people were there.  A two-ton birthday cake was cut into 15,000 pieces to send to his friends.

Burns died in Calgary on February 24, 1937, at the age of 80.  His nephew John and family were at his side. He is buried alongside his son in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Calgary. An interesting note is that upon his death, he left his estate to his nieces and nephews and many charities. The tax on the estate of the Senator was enough to offset the provincial deficit and balance the budget.  As a result, the Social Credit Party chose to permanently end the Provincial Sales Tax.

To learn more about today’s post, I suggest visiting the Sir Alexander Galt Museum and Archives.


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23 responses to “A Two-Ton Birthday Cake!

  1. hairballexpress

    September 26, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Dude. The human loves your blog.


    • tkmorin

      September 26, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      Give your human a high fie for me, will ya? Thanks! 🙂

      • hairballexpress

        September 26, 2013 at 10:28 pm

        Not sure I know what a high 5 is…but I’ll give her a purr, ok?


        • tkmorin

          September 27, 2013 at 4:55 pm

          Heehee … The fact that you knew what a “high fie” was, you are indeed smarter than any Kathy I know … Though, don’t tell my Kathy that! LOL. 🙂

          • hairballexpress

            September 27, 2013 at 7:18 pm

            OOPS! (he,he)…I won’t tell if you won’t!!


            Shrimp (have a great weekend,dude)!

          • tkmorin

            September 27, 2013 at 7:19 pm

            You too, man! 🙂

          • hairballexpress

            September 27, 2013 at 9:14 pm


  2. Shelli@howsitgoingeh?

    September 25, 2013 at 11:26 am

    A smart, industrious AND generous, kind man!!! The world needs more of those! What a great story, thanks for sharing – I love learning about Alberta history!

    • tkmorin

      September 25, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      Glad to hear it! 🙂

  3. David Stewart

    September 25, 2013 at 8:14 am

    That’s very interesting. Sounds like a model Canadian. 🙂

    • tkmorin

      September 25, 2013 at 8:31 am

      Glad you liked it! 🙂

  4. Michelle Bennetts Heumann

    September 24, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I love not having a provincial sales tax! I wondered why so many things in Calgary were named after Burns…now I TOTALLY understand. 🙂

    • tkmorin

      September 24, 2013 at 11:10 am

      Ha! That’s what I like to hear!! 🙂

  5. L. Marie

    September 24, 2013 at 9:11 am

    It’s nice to see the good guy win.

  6. seeker

    September 24, 2013 at 9:07 am

    What a beautiful story. I can tell the kindness of his heart due to the pig. Oh, Tk. Love this story.

    • tkmorin

      September 24, 2013 at 11:09 am

      Great, I’m glad to hear that! 🙂

  7. Middlemay Farm

    September 24, 2013 at 8:51 am

    I love hearing about good-hearted people! Thanks

    • tkmorin

      September 24, 2013 at 11:08 am

      It is different from some of my posts, but before readers started thinking we weren’t, I sprinkle some of these stories … 🙂

  8. Opalla

    September 24, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Enjoyed reading this post, and I am also looking for the cake! 🙂

    • tkmorin

      September 24, 2013 at 11:08 am

      LOL I should have anticipated this reactiion! 🙂

  9. andy1076

    September 24, 2013 at 8:19 am

    He was an amazing pioneer with a good heart, comes to show that it goes a long ways huh! Now, where’s that 2 ton cake? (Looks around) 😀

    • tkmorin

      September 24, 2013 at 11:07 am

      LOL Maybe I should create a series of hunt clues to find it! 🙂 Yes, he was amazing, I agree.

      • andy1076

        September 24, 2013 at 11:21 am

        Alright! got my Indiana Jones hat and whip! where do I start?? 😉


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