C.P. (Hotch) Hotchkiss

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The engineer with the lofty name was known to his friends simply as “Hotch.” Born in 1891 in Brantford, Ontario, his family moved to Detroit, Michigan, and then back to Canada, and then to southern Alberta. Why all the moves? Hotch’s father was a railroad man and travelled widely in Canada and the U.S., probably trolling for opportunities.

While in Detroit, Hotch’s father, Charles, was involved in the newspaper business. Charles moved the family to Claresholm, Alberta, to start that town’s first newspaper, the Claresholm Local Review Advertiser. Charles also had a ranch, and was a well- known Liberal. Charles’ work required him to spend time in Edmonton, and there he bought a house, right where the Legislature Building now stands. Charles’ son Hotch enrolled in applied science at the U of A on the first day of classes in September, 1908.

Hotch focused on civil engineering and surveying and his grades were solid. He excelled at sports and was a star in both rugby football and basketball, playing both sports alongside his classmate Max Fife. Hotch was president of the Athletic Society and a member of the executive of the Students’ Council, making three of the five first engineers members of the SC Executive.

War erupts. Hotch has graduated, and has been awarded his Land Surveyor’s Certificate by the University Senate in 1916. He has been admitted to the six-year-old Alberta Land Surveyors’ Association, and is now impatient to get to the front. (Note: According to Alberta Land Surveyors' Association records, Hotch was licensed as an Alberta Land Surveyor on January 16, 1922; he likely became a Dominion Land Surveyor in 1916.) He does not wait for a battalion to form. Instead, he enlists with the “engineers’ draft” as a sapper, headed to Europe with the 19th Alberta Dragoons, Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. “I got tired of waiting around for a post,” he said, “and so am enlisting and leaving Saturday for the headquarters of the unit at St. John’s, Quebec.” Hotch trained in England, and then headed to the front. He came out of the war without a scratch.

Back in Alberta after the war, Hotch married and took up land surveying. He was renowned for his work in surveying the Battle River area, under the legendary Irish surveyor J.T. Atkins. The tiny community of Hotchkiss and the Hotchkiss river stream, near the Town of Manning in northern Alberta, are named after Hotch. (He was also responsible for the naming of Adams Landing, Donnelly Island, Lawrence River and Ward Lake. He suffered a debilitating injury building a bridge in Alberta, moved first to Ottawa, where he worked for the Dominion Fuel Board Mines Branch and then to Toronto, where he was western manager of the F.P. Weaver Coal Company.

Hotch always remembered the school that enriched his life and the lives of so many others. In 1968, four years before he died and 55 years after he graduated, Hotch made a $50 donation to the university. Why? Why, so many years later, did one of our first five send this gift?

Here is a guess: There is a story from the earliest days of our university about an unnamed student (now, quite conceivably Hotch), who broke a surveyor’s transit. Founding president Tory, remember, had struggled through his mission to raise enough money to buy the equipment required to provide students a full four-year engineering program. It is said that the student in question was either expected to or felt obliged to make good on the cost, which amounted to $50. This was a lot of money— more than one student could come up with as an unplanned expense, so the entire group of students took the hit, each chipping in what they could to make up the cost.

Months turn into years and years pass into decades and Hotch, if it was he who broke the transom, wants to pay back his fellow students in the only way he can, by giving it to the university.

Of the first five, Hotch was the last man standing. He passed away in 1972 at the age of 82.

Source: U of A Engineer Magazine, 100 Years Later: Our First Five Engineers, Fall 2013