LINEHAM, JOHN, businessman and politician; b. 21 March 1857 in Mitchell, Upper Canada, son of Thomas Lineham and Barbara McIntyre; m. 21 March 1894 Mary Elizabeth Martin in Collingwood, Ont., and they had two daughters; d. 21 April 1913 in Calgary.
According to family tradition, John Lineham’s father, a native of Yorkshire, England, was one of the first engineers on the Grand Trunk Railway. In 1878 John moved to Manitoba, where about two years later he reportedly obtained a subcontract for work on the main line of the transcontinental railway west of Winnipeg. In 1881 he turned to carrying freight, transporting goods on Red River ox-carts from Brandon to Edmonton. He abandoned freighting in 1883 and moved to the raw frontier settlement of Calgary to breed horses. Always one to exploit new opportunities, in 1886 he joined Matthew Dunn in buying A. P. Samples and Company’s butcher business in the town. Their firm soon expanded into dealing in cattle. As in other western urban centres, economic development in Calgary was hampered by serious shortages of capital, but since theirs was a profitable business Dunn and Lineham were able to obtain from the Imperial Bank of Canada the short-term credit they required.
Over the next two decades, Lineham became heavily involved in commercial construction in downtown Calgary, investing profits from his other enterprises. He built several business blocks, including the Leeson-Lineham Block on 8th Avenue, and the Empress Hotel. This activity contributed to the boom in construction which provided numerous jobs in the city and helped pump money into circulation. The Calgary Brewing and Malting Company, which he joined in establishing in 1892, helped provide opportunities for that money to be spent.
Meanwhile, in the late 1880s Lineham had decided that there was more profit to be made in the lumber business at Okotoks and High River than in the butcher trade at Calgary, and he withdrew from Dunn and Lineham. He obtained timber leases from the Canadian government on Sheep Creek (Sheep River) and the Highwood River and in 1891–92 erected lumber mills in Okotoks and High River. In 1892 he brought down his first big run of logs to the mills. Increasingly he relied on his yards to provide his construction projects in Calgary with materials. He also turned to them for the Lineham Block and other buildings in Okotoks, the village which became his home after his marriage in 1894.
Lineham, in addition to pursuing his lumber and real estate interests, was active in public affairs. In 1888 he was elected to the North-West Territories Legislative Assembly in Regina, and he served until 1898. Lineham’s position played an important role in the territorial government’s positive attitude toward economic development. He also became a figure of note in Okotoks. In 1909, for example, he was elected mayor and he served in this capacity for two years, promoting the growth of the small community.
In the lumber business Lineham quickly developed a reputation among customers for quality products. Between 1892 and World War I, the mill was the principal industry in Okotoks, often employing over 100 men. It manufactured and sold, wholesale and retail, boards, shingles, laths, drop siding, flooring, and shiplap, as well as firewood. By 1892 John Lineham had taken his younger brother, William Donald, into business with him as a junior partner. The financially vibrant Lineham Lumber Company, together with profitable real estate ventures in Calgary and Okotoks, allowed the two brothers and their families to live well. Their growing success required new fields for long-term investment. By the turn of the century, John and William owned more than 6,000 acres of land on which they ran Hereford and Shorthorn cattle. There were two ranches, and the one on the north fork of Sheep Creek also served as headquarters for log drives down the creek. The strategy of integrating their real estate, lumber, and cattle interests was a significant factor in the success of the Lineham businesses. It lends weight to historian David H. Breen’s observation about ranching in the Canadian west: “On perhaps no other frontier were cattlemen so much a part of the urban environment.”
John Lineham was also a pioneer in the oil business. In 1901 he and two partners began drilling in what is now Waterton Lakes National Park with equipment hauled in from Fort Macleod, the nearest railway stop. The first producing well at Oil City, as the project was named, began flowing the next year at 8,000 barrels a day, but by 1904 so much equipment had been lost or broken in it that its output was down to 40 barrels a day and it was soon abandoned. Not until 1936, when Robert Arthur Brown* drilled successfully in the Turner valley, was there demonstrable evidence of Alberta’s petroleum wealth, and only in 1947, when the Imperial Oil Company brought in Leduc No.1, did the province become a major producer. Lineham’s part in the story is commemorated in the names of a chain of lakes, a creek, and a mountain in the Waterton Lakes area.
Declining health marked Lineham’s last year. He visited California for several months in the hope of a cure, but he died at his Empress Hotel in Calgary in 1913. He left a fortune worth $436,000. Thereafter his brother directed the Lineham enterprises for a number of years.
Calgary Surrogate Court, Estate files, 26 June 1913. GA, M928, letter-books, 3: 257. High River Times (High River, Alta), 16 May 1912, 24 April 1913. D. H. Breen, The Canadian prairie west and the ranching frontier, 1874–1924 (Toronto, 1983). A century of memories: Okotoks and district, 1883–1983 (Okotoks, Alta, 1983), 5–11, 361–73. Dusters and gushers: the Canadian oil and gas industry, ed. J. D. Hilborn (Toronto, 1968). Max Foran with Edward Cavell, Calgary: an illustrated history (Toronto, 1978).