ALBERT BOWMAN ROGERS
The reputed discoverer of Rogers Pass through today's Glacier
National Park, Major A.B. Rogers (1829-1889), was an American who gained his military title during the
Sioux uprising of 1861.
An engineering graduate of Brown University and Yale, Rogers earned a solid reputation for railway survey while
engaged by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. He was known to the St. Paul railway promoter, James J.
Hill, and in 1881, when Hill became a member of the new syndicate known as the Canadian Pacific Railway, Rogers' name
came up. Hill and the new general manager of the CPR, William Cornelius Van Horne, had become convinced that the
railway should take a more southerly course through Calgary and along the Bow River, rather than through Edmonton and
the Yellowhead Pass. Rogers was hired to see if a route could be found through Kicking Horse Pass, west of the great
divide, and through the southern Selkirk Mountains. The man had never seen the Rockies before.
Rogers seems to have been more interested in fame than in financial return. This obsession undoubtedly explains much
of his reputation. The name of "Hells-Bells" Rogers was enough to drive fear into the hearts
of many a railway labourer. He was notorious for his profanity and parsimonious use of supplies in the field. Van
Horne quickly moved to correct Rogers' attitude on food rations!
By 1883, Rogers had mapped out a detailed line from Calgary to the Columbia River. At the same time, another skilled
surveyor, Charles Aeneas Shaw (1853-1942), had been plotting the line west from Winnipeg to Calgary.
In March of 1883, Shaw reported to the Winnipeg office of the new Chief Engineer, James Ross, and was told to prepare
the detailed survey for the completion of the line from Calgary to the gap near present day Canmore. Since the age of
19, Shaw had worked on various aspects of the CPR survey, and he had developed a good reputation as a leader of men
in the field and for engineering economies, very desirable traits in the views of the cost-conscious
syndicate members. In Calgary, Shaw was shown a large map of Rogers' final route location. After inspecting the plan,
he claimed he could get a far better line than that, and save the company at least half a million dollars. Unknown to
Shaw, Rogers was in the room and became very angry upon hearing Shaw's offer. Despite Rogers' fit of temper, James
Ross hired Shaw, who offered not to take any wages if he could not deliver the more economical route. Reportedly Shaw
saved the company about a million and a half dollars, particularly with his discovery of a way around Tunnel Mountain
Much later, after Shaw had been sent further west to inspect the route Rogers was working on through the Selkirk
Mountains, the two men met on the banks of the Columbia River. Once again, Shaw said he did not think much of Rogers'
route along the Columbia. His response to Rogers' burst of cussing was to leap from his horse and threaten to throw
Rogers into the river.
Apparently the two got on better after this episode, and went off to inspect the Rogers Pass section together.
However, to the end of his days, Shaw held that Rogers Pass was actually discovered by Walter Moberly and his
associates, a view not endorsed by published histories.
Source: Government of Canada.