News articles about Central Alberta heritage that supplement and complement
the objectives of the Forth Junction Heritage Society
1, 2017, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
shaped immigration to region
The merits of Central Alberta were obvious to aboriginal people for
thousands of years.
It was not until the relatively recent past that the first European
immigrants arrived and began to leave their imprint on the area.
"A lot of it was shaped by what was known as the Saskatchewan Land
and Homestead Company," said Red Deer City Archivist Michael Dawe.
"It bought 115,000 acres of land in and around Red Deer so that had
a really major impact on who settled here."
That company, which was started up in the 1880s, had Methodist
Church roots and not surprisingly used their network to encourage
other Methodists, from Ontario and the Maritimes, and as far as
Great Britain and the U.S.
Rev. Leonard Gaetz was both a Methodist and the local agent for the
In the 1890s, you started seeing large numbers of Scandinavian
settlers coming into this area, mainly settling west of Red Deer.
Sylvan Lake became home to a number of Finnish families, and
Estonians among others were also drawn here.
Many had first settled in the U.S. before moving to, what they
hoped, were better prospects further north.
Beginning around 1897, a cold, dry spell that had plagued
agriculture eased. As well, the Klondike Gold Rush led to general
In Central Alberta, the growth of mining in the Kootenays created
ready markets for grain and other products, which fed the local
The Great West Lumber Company and the Roman Catholic mission on the
North Hill attracted a significant number of French-speaking
immigrants. Scandinavians were also attracted by the lumber jobs.
"People ask why do people come here? Well, they come because there
are jobs," said Dawe.
Immigration stalled during the First World War, but then picked up
in the years after when many moved here from the British Isles,
where social unrest and hard economic times led the government to
"One of big schemes was to bring Scottish Hebrideans, first to Red
Deer and then from Red Deer they disbursed."
Gaelic speaking, the Hebrideans found enough local people who knew
their language to get by, but it wasn't easy for the new arrivals.
"The big disadvantage for the Hebrideans is they weren't farmers,
they were largely fishing people."
Immigration slowed to a trickle during the Great Depression and the
Second World War. Following the war, many Dutch people sought out a
new home in Canada, a nation they credited with liberating them.
Many were skilled farmers and dairy producers and Central Alberta
county maps are still full of Dutch names.
"We had a very large influx of Dutch-Canadians to Red Deer and
Lacombe and places like that," he says.
"Post World War 2, the economy was bad in Britain so a lot of them
moved to Canada, where they hoped prospects would be better," he
said. There was a noticeable influx in residents from the British
Isles in that period.
Strife also led to a number of other waves of immigration that had
an impact in Central Alberta. The Hungarian Revolution in 1956 saw
some make their way here and unrest in South America around the
1960s and 1970s saw many look to Canada.
The Vietnam War also led thousands of the so-called "Boat People"
to make their way to Canada and Central Alberta.
Also in the 1950s and '60s, immigration restrictions were relaxed
for Asians and there was an influx from China and South Asian
countries such as India and Pakistan. Now, the largest visible
minority communities in Alberta are South Asian, Chinese and
Red Deer has continued to welcome newcomers from other countries
who are looking for a brighter future. Most recently, Syrian
families escaping the civil war have found peace in Red Deer.
Statistics Canada's annual census provides a snapshot of the city's
According to the 2011 census (the ethnic breakdown numbers aren't
available yet from 2016) the most populous groups with roots in the
Americas came from the U.S., El Salvador, Colombia and Mexico.
Europeans were led by the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany,
Poland and Russia. African immigrants came mostly from South Africa
and Nigeria with others spread among the many nations throughout the
Those originally hailing from Asia were led by Filipinos, Chinese,
Indians and Vietnamese.
Photos: 1. Yung Hing Fong with his children Joyce, Herald
and George at the Canadian Pacific Railway's Station
Park in Red Deer, Alberta.
2. Hebridean (Scottish) immigrants arriving at the Red Deer (CNR) train
station in 1923.
3. School children in Spruce View "people pass" a Vietnamese refugee boy
4. Families of Chilean refugees welcomed in Red Deer in 1976. All
Nov. 19, 2013, Innisfail
Province (Johnnie Bachusky)
with new book
Historical society works more than two and half years to
preserve its hamlet's history
Alex Benedict remembers a time in Wimborne when Friday night was the
special time of week when the Central Alberta hamlet came alive with
the passing of the train.
"Friday night was the busiest night of all. There was as many people
there as in Innisfail," said Benedict. "The train brought in the
supplies, like all the groceries. There were two grocery stores in
Benedict, 74, has lived in the Wimborne area his entire life. His
father came to the area in 1929, the year the rail line came
through. It was supposed to go all the way to Red Deer but that
Even still the railway gave the hamlet its life -- bringing people,
supplies and serving the country grain elevators.
But all that has changed. The rail track was pulled out years ago.
The grain elevators are long gone. And Wimborne, which at one time
had 75 citizens hopeful for boundless prosperity, is now down to
"The town is disappearing," said Benedict. "For farmers like
ourselves we have 25 miles to haul our grain when I used to only
have a mile.
"This is the modern way," he said, noting Wimborne is centrally
located in the region -- 30 kilometres west of Trochu, 45 kilometres
southeast of Innisfail and only 50 kilometres northeast from Olds.
"Once the roads got better these poor little stores in town couldn't
exist because the big ones take over."
But the train no longer comes to Wimborne. The last of the hamlet's
four elevators was toppled more than a dozen years ago. The grocery
stores have long been closed, as have the hamlet's school, meat
market, print shop, and pool hall.
"They are gone. The only thing we have now is one garage and a post
office," said Benedict. "Our kids don't know much about the town
because it is down to a ghost town now."
But Benedict and others in the community have recently made sure
that the young will never forget Wimborne and the promise it once
Earlier this year the Wimborne and District Historical Society
launched its history book, the first one ever written about the
community and the surrounding area.
The 592-page book contains more than 320 family histories with
accompanying photos. As well, there are 230 pages of general history
covering the past 112 years, including the hamlet's businesses,
schools, sports and organizations that made Wimborne a locality of
Benedict was the "finder" on the 20-member historical committee that
diligently worked for two and a half years on the project, putting
in endless hours to contact former residents, researching, writing,
editing and proofing.
In 2005, he and his wife Sharon went to the provincial archives in
Edmonton and obtained the school records of all the kids in the
Wimborne area from 1929 up to when the school closed in 1979.
"The idea for a history book had been thrown around the community
for quite a while, about 10 years. I have to say Dorothy Weimer, the
last teacher here at the school, bit the bullet, and said, 'OK,
let's get at it," said Benedict.
"There is not many people older than me left in the area, and that
is why we decided that we had better get something down on paper
because my kids don't know where the restaurant was. They don't know
where the pool hall was.
"There was a curling rink and a skating rink and all that kind of
stuff but now there is nothing," he added. "You have got to get the
stories and history of the town written down."
The committee initially printed 1,200 books, which are now selling
for $40 each. Since the summer 700 have been sold.
"With this book we are trying to let people know what was here. It
is all about awareness," said Benedict. "If you don't then there is
going to be nothing left."
Photo: Roy and Cordella Scarlett selling the book.
July 17, 2013, Red Deer
Heritage projects share grant funding
Several Central Albertan heritage projects are among the 71 that
received a portion of the $1.3 million in grant funding from the
Alberta Historical Resource Foundation heritage grants.
The Canadian Northern (Meeting Creek) Historical Society received
$24,940 to help with the conservation of the Canadian Northern
Railway Station and Roundhouse in Big Valley.
"The pride Albertans take to preserve our colourful history is a
result of the efforts of many individuals, organizations and
municipalities," said Alberta Culture and Community Spirit Minister
Heather Kimchuk. "By conserving our historic sites and landmark
buildings, and documenting the province's journey through time, we
preserve the legacy of those who came before us and help build the
cultural capacity of communities across the province."
In Nordegg, the historical society received $43,575 for the
conservation of the Nordegg/Brazeau Collieries Minesite.
The Stettler United Church received $34,820 for the conservation of
The Delburne Futures Committee got $5,000 for historic walking trail
Three Hills got $3,290 for the Anderson Park Information sign.
The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation assists Alberta Culture
in promoting public awareness and enjoyment of Alberta's heritage
and is Alberta's primary window for heritage preservation funding.
January 9, 2013, Red Deer Express (Michael Dawe)
The history of the Village of
The year of 1912 was a very exciting one for Sylvan Lake.
The community was enjoying one of the greatest booms in its history.
Two railroads, the Alberta Central and the Canadian Northern
Western, were building rail lines through the area on their way to
the rich coalfields west of Rocky Mountain House.
All of the rail construction meant that there were lots of good
paying jobs. Farmers had a great local market for their hay, produce
New settlers began to flood into the community to start new farms
According to a news report of the time: "The clatter of hammers is
most deafening. You can see piles of lumber anywhere you look which
is soon tackled by carpenters. The next time you look, you see a new
building going up. The place is full of tradesmen, merchants and
manufacturers of all kinds looking for one of Sylvan Lake's best
spots. With hardly an exception, they say they believe that Sylvan
Lake is destined to be one of the principal cities of the northwest
in the near future."
In addition to all the new residents moving into the community, the
number of summer tourists surged as well. New cottages were
constructed in Upper and Lower Camps. New lakeshore subdivisions for
further cottage developments were created at Jarvis Bay, Northey's
Point and Whitewold Beach.
The community boasted a large new hotel, the Alexander, which had
all the modern conveniences including gasoline lighting.
The older Sylvan Lake Hotel underwent extensive renovations and
several more rooms were added. Soon, there was also a local opera
house, two public halls, two pool rooms and a number of restaurants.
There was talk of a large moving picture theatre being built. There
was even talk of the C.N.R. constructing a mammoth summer hotel,
similar to the ones which had been built by the C.P.R. at Banff and
With the free-wheeling pastimes often associated with a summer
resort, Father Henri Voisin, the head of the Roman Catholic Priests
of Ste. Marie of Tinchebray, wrote that "The time had come to
enliven the completely materialistic atmosphere by the salutary
presence of a church."
Consequently, Sylvan Lake's first church, Our Lady of the
Assumption, was constructed in the summer of 1912.
Attention was also paid to the educational needs of the growing
number of children in the community. Previously, children on the
east side of Sylvan Lake went to the Finland School, while those on
the west side went to Kuusamo School.
Now, a new school, Sylvan Dell, was constructed in the burgeoning
hamlet. When the school opened on Sept. 23, 1912, there were 27
students listed on the register.
As the fall progressed, there was increasing consideration given to
having the community incorporated as a village.
A petition was circulated and sent to Edmonton. Approval for
incorporation was granted by the Provincial Government on Dec. 30,
The start of 1913 was celebrated with a large New Year's Eve dance
at Heenan's Opera House. Despite bad weather, the hall was packed
and the evening was judged an outstanding success.
The first elections for the village were held on Jan. 20, 1913. Earl
Grimson was elected mayor with Alexandre Loiselle and Albert A.
Godden as councilors. R.P. Jones acted as both returning officer and
the first secretary treasurer. Jones had also been both the first
secretary treasurer of the Sylvan Dell School District and the first
passenger to ride on the new C.N.R. train into Sylvan Lake.
By March, Sylvan Lake acquired its first newspaper The Sylvan
Lake Times. Because of the large numbers of Francophones living
in the community, The Times was published half in French and
half in English.
Feb. 3, 2010, Red Deer
Advocate (Paul Cowley)
County heritage project
Red Deer County is credited with being the first rural municipality
in Alberta to take a systematic approach to identifying its heritage
sites and complete a detailed management plan.
County council unanimously approved in principle a Heritage
Management Plan on Tuesday that is designed to identify, preserve
and protect historical buildings and sites.
Councillor Jim Wood expressed his support for the initiative, which
has been in the works for several years. It is a tragedy that some
communities have already lost important historical buildings that
were torn down, he said.
Bob Buckle, of Heritage Collaborative Inc., said the plan offers a
clear process for identifying potential historical sites and judging
whether they should receive special designation.
As part of the background work, 88 potential historical sites were
surveyed and 27 have been included in an initial inventory.
The main goal for the county is to create a register of municipal
historic resources. The county has already designated two sites: the
Holy Trinity Anglican Church at Pine Lake, and the Markerville
Lutheran Church. A number of other sites, such as the Markerville
Creamery and Dickson Store, have been designated by the province as
historic resources and could be added to the municipal list.
Local historian Michael Dawe offered his expertise as an informal
adviser to the county project and gave the municipality credit for
being a provincial leader on the heritage management front.
"I think the County of Red Deer has a long history of showing very
strong support for heritage identification and preservation," he
said. Dawe said the county is taking a systematic approach to
protecting its heritage resources. "They are showing the way for the
province, and a very good way to do things. I'm very impressed with
what they've been doing."
Taking a step-by-step approach to surveying the sprawling county,
identifying potential historic sites and creating a process to
review them will create a solid plan, he said.
"It will really pay off for them because as issues come up in the
future they have not only done their homework but they've also put
in a strong system to ensure that things are dealt with carefully
Among the consultant's recommendations is one to create a heritage
advisory board. A staff person could also be designated as heritage
officer to oversee the plan.
The county could also look at designating historical special zones,
for areas such as Markerville, which has three provincial and
municipal historic resources.
articles about the vision and progress of the Forth Junction Heritage Society
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heritage of Central Alberta
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transit, biking and high speed rail
News articles about recent
rail-related development projects in Central Alberta
News articles about related regional heritage,
history and culture
News articles about regional destinations, tourism
and miniature worlds