School History

School Patron

Biography of John W. Costello by Kay Blanchfield (great granddaughter).

John William Costello was born in Kerry County Ireland on February 14, 1842. He grew up in Ireland, was educated in Ireland, was a schoolmaster in Ireland prior to immigrating to Canada. He left Ireland to join an uncle in Eastern Canada in 1862 and was followed shortly after by his brother William N. Costello.

They joined hands and opened a retail establishment "The Costello Brothers" but when it went bankrupt John William returned to teaching in Renfrew, Ontario. John William married an Irish lassie in 1874 who also was a immigrant from Ireland.

Early in 1883, John William ventured to Calgary to check out Western Canada (Calgary) and having decided it was to his liking, sent word back east for his wife and five children and his brother (wife and children to follow). His brother, their pregnant wives and ten children arrived in Calgary August 1883. What a train trip that must have been!

On November 17, 1883 his brother's wife gave birth to the first white child born in Calgary and appropriately named him John Calgary.

In December, 1883 John William and his wife became parents to the first white girl born here (Elizabeth Lillian - their sixth child). After Elizabeth, John and Elizabeth had three more Calgary children, but sadly they all died before age three.

Early Calgary was a wonderful place for youngsters. There was no shortage of exciting things to do and interesting places to go. At first there was no school to interfere with the pursuit of fun. The situation didn't satisfy some adults - All play and no work makes Billy a dull boy.

February, 1884 a collection was taken up among citizens and a private school was started - Bayton Hall, a small log cabin on what was then the prairie on 2 Street S.E. between 7th and 8th Avenue. It began with locally made benches and desks and whatever books could be borrowed from the citizens. John W.Costello was the first teacher with approximately 17 students. He was paid

$50.00/month. He only taught one year as the funds ran out. John William then became an inspector of weights and measures.

John was a positive thinker and possessed a good sense of humor . John and his wife were devout Catholics, attended Mass on a daily basis and without fail recited the rosary daily with their whole family and anyone else who dropped in. John was a patient, generous, kind man but somewhat reserved in that he seldom let his left hand know what his right hand was doing. Because of his great charities, financial assistance and help from the Grey Nuns at the H.C.H.presented him with a beautiful engraved plaque containing the relics of saints. He also assisted the Providence Nuns to open (staffed Lacombe Home in 1910). This was a home for the aged and orphans. Lacombe Home was established by direct donations by individuals and by the oblates. Inthe early days Lacombe Home received no help from the government.

Papa Costello was adamant about the importance of education and felt it very necessary to incorporate religious teaching at the same time and worked toward this goal. The Separate School District of the N.W. territories was established November, 1885 and was called Lacombe Catholic Separate School District #1. This was the beginning, allowing Catholic children to be taught Catholic Dogma and be influenced by Christian Principles and Behavior. Prior to this Separate School District, a Catholic School had been opened September, 1885 in the convent of The Sisters of the Faithful Companions.

For many years following John William was a trustee of the Separate School District followed by Chairman of the Board 1899 - 1904.

In summation John was Calgary's first teacher, fathered the first white girl born in Calgary and was also the father of two medical doctors, an aldennan and mayor of the City of Calgary (1914 - 1918).

John W. Costello died in 1917 leaving Calgary a much better place. Several of his great grandchildren are now teaching in the Catholic School System in Calgary and elsewhere including my own son at St. Gregory. The most important thing in John's life was God, Church, Family, Catholic Education and being a good example. The same four things that should govern us all today.

Standing: (L.R.)Mary Josephine (Molly)(later Mrs. S.A. McDonald) Tom Costello M.D., Katherine Mary (Kate)(later Mrs. Thomas A. McManus), Michael Copps Costello, M.D. (Mayor of Calgary)

Sitting: (L.R.) John William Costello, Elizabeth Lillian (later Mrs. Cory), Elizabeth Copps Costello, William (Bill) Costello

Just for fun, here's the 1903 Telephone Directory for Calgary - Bell Telephone Company of Canada, Ltd.. John Costello's phone number is... ready for it... '44'.