Originally published on August 4. 

Heroes, Hustlers and Horsemen is a five-part podcast series from CBC Calgary about real people who lived in southern Alberta around the time of confederation and a few decades beyond. 

The stories aren't of the Heritage Minute variety. These are the whisky-soaked, down and dusty, gun-slinging kinds of stories they leave out in school.

We'll meet rogues and rebels, bold visionaries with big blind spots, the notorious and the opportunistic, the people who gave rein to their ambitions and passions and those who chose to buck the herd.

You can stream the episodes below or download them here for offline listening.

Episode 1: How the legend of Deerfoot rallied Calgary — and ruined the man

Deerfoot foot races

Foot races were a popular sporting — and gambling — event in the late 19th century and Deerfoot, a Blackfoot runner, was a major draw. (Glenbow Archives)

The story of a Blackfoot runner who was considered the "Fastest in the West."

His name was Api-kai-ees.

But, on the track, he was known as Deerfoot.

Robbed of his greatest victory by a shady gambling ring known as The Syndicate, Deerfoot's career brought out the best and the worst of early Calgary.


Episode 2: 'Diamond Dolly' and the brothels of early Calgary

Calgary Brothels

One of Calgary's red light districts in the early 20th century was found in the hills around Nose Creek. The prostitution business was booming in the 1910s, and so too were the police busts. (Glenbow Archives)

The story of a notorious madam who ran brothels in early Calgary.

Around town, she was known as Diamond Dolly.

She had bulit a booming business but, one July night in 1910, the Mounties set out to shut her down.

At least, that was their plan.


Episode 3: Meet Jerry Potts: The warrior, tracker, trader, hunter and horseman who shaped Alberta

Jerry Potts

A plaque near the grave of Jerry Potts describes him as 'a colourful hero loyal to both the North West Mounted Police and to his Native heritage.' (Glenbow Archives)

The story of a sharp-shooting scout with Blackfoot and Scottish heritage, who came to the aid of the North West Mounted Police when they first arrived southern Alberta.

He was a deadly foe on the battlefield, but also a diplomat behind the front lines.

He bridged two cultures that often clashed.

He was Jerry Potts.


Episode 4: From the life of a slave to a living legend: How John Ware left his indelible mark on Alberta

John Ware

John Ware was freed as a slave at age 20 and made his way to Alberta in search of a new life. (Glenbow Archives)

Growing up, the life of a slave was all John Ware knew.

But his world changed in 1865, when slavery was abolished, and he was freed from a cotton plantation in South Carolina at age 20.

Ware headed west, in search of a new life — one he built, against all odds, in Alberta.

And he never looked back.


Episode 5: Master of re-invention: How this American soldier and whisky trader became Alberta's first MP

D.W. Davis

D.W. Davis was an American whiskey trader who became Alberta's first Member of Parliament. (Glenbow Archives)

The story of an American civil war solider turned whisky trader who built an empire in Alberta.

To the Blackfoot people of the area, he was known as Spit-ayna or Tall Man.

He could be ruthless.

And he was a master of re-inventing himself — D.W. Davis would go on to become Alberta's first member of parliament.


Heroes Hustlers and Horsemen with Female face