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March 31, 2020, The Albertan (consolidated new name including Innisfail Province) (Johnnie Bachusky)

early Innisfail Province paperInnisfail Province ceases
newspaper operations

   In 1904 the town's new pioneer telephone directory was released for 42 residences, businesses and services.
   The telephone number for town hall and police station was 17. The Union Bank of Canada had 23. Six was reserved for the Innisfail Free Lance, a local newspaper since Sept. 2, 1898.
   However, number 1 was reserved for a new newspaper office called The Province, which reportedly was about to buy out The Free Lance and begin operations the following year. S.P. Fream, an auctioneer and real estate agent, became the newspaper's first editor and publisher. His residential telephone number was 2.
early Innisfail Free Lance paper   For the next 115 years the Innisfail Province was the town's number 1 source for news; through the booming good times of pioneer optimism, the hard times of the Depression, two world wars and pandemics, including the Spanish Flu from 1918 to 1920.
   "Some places report the second wave to be more deadly than the first one, while other states the reverse is the case," reported the Province in a 1918 article. "Whether from withdrawal of the mask order, or from whatever cause it may be, there have been several new cases in Innisfail."
   Just over a century later the Province has reported on all the latest developments of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Province's coverage officially ends as the town's longstanding newspaper of record ceases publication, Innisfail's news will now be brought to citizens through the newly branded regional newspaper, The Albertan, and its website.
   Last weekend Anna Lenters, the president of the Innisfail and District Historical Society, nostalgically poured over hundreds of archived pioneer Province newspapers dating back to its earliest years of publication.
   "It was shocking but predictable based on what's happening with our local economy but it was sad still," said Lenters of the newspaper's folding. "It is a passing of a sort."
   "A community relies on a newspaper. A newspaper bonds a community. It tells me when my neighbours had a baby, It tells me when there is going to be a funeral so that I can attend it and honour that person," said Lenters. "The editorials tell me about current events and about things I should be concerned about in my community that maybe I would not have known."
   And it's just not the people in town who will feel the loss. The Province, a winner of countless national and provincial journalism awards, earned respect and admiration throughout Central Alberta.
   "For as long as Alberta has been a province, the Innisfail Province has been a vital part of the community," said Michael Dawe, the leading Central Alberta historian from Red Deer. "It has kept people informed and also supported countless community projects and organizations. It has left a wonderful legacy. It will be deeply missed."
Anna Lenters at Innisfail Historical Village   While Lenters knows that news delivery will still be available for almost everyone thanks to today's digital age, she feels two critically important traditions of newspapering could be missing for the public, accountability and trust.
   "If it is on the internet there is no one for me to hold accountable. You're sitting in an office and if I have taken exception to what you've said or could prove you're wrong I could hold you accountable. There is that and that trust factor, holding you to a standard that doesn't exist on the internet," she said. "I find what I receive on Facebook or whatever way it comes through is one dimensional. It lacks in depth. That relationship is not there, that character is not there. It's cold, cold, one-dimensional."
   Nevertheless, the media industry has experienced dramatic changes over the past quarter century. The COVID-19 crisis has put in sharp focus the public's increased demand for faster up-to-the-minute news delivery. While Lenters is aware most people embrace today's reality there are those who won't, especially many of Innisfail's senior citizens. The town has one of the oldest demographics for communities its size in the province, and seniors, loyal to the tradition and feel of the Province's print edition, could also be saddened and feel inconvenienced by the newspaper's demise.
   Most importantly, said Lenters, is the loss of the personal relationship between community and newspaper, a relationship where both sides respect each other's values and ethics while jointly sharing a sacred commitment to the community.
   "We've had a relationship over the years, the museum with the newspaper, where you've been able to say, 'could you provide me with something?'" said Lenters. "We do our very best to find it but conversely, I've been able to say, 'we've got something coming up that you might want to know about' and you've been able to address that in a timely fashion.
   "That is a personal relationship that goes with the newspaper."
Photos: 1. An edition of the Province from 1906, the earliest newspaper uncovered last weekend at the
  Innisfail and District Historical Village. The Innisfail Province closed operations last week after serving the
  community for 115 years. Noel West/MVP Staff.
  2. An edition of the Innisfail Free Lance from 1904. The Free Lance was Innisfail's first newspaper, beginning
  publication on Sept. 2, 1898 but folding seven years later when The Province began its 115-year service.
  Noel West/MVP Staff.
  3. Anna Lenters, board president of the Innisfail and District Historical Society, looks over archived copies of
  the Innisfail Province last weekend at the Innisfail and District Historical Village. The Province ceased
  publication last week following 115 years of service to the community. Noel West/MVP Staff


Sept. 3, 2019, Innisfail Province (Johnnie Bachusky)
Businesses sensitive to loss of art
   Wade Harris reached out for over a year to save history.
   But in the end the owner of Innisfail Bowling Lanes had to let it go. The Tribute to the Railroad mural, created more than 15 years ago but badly faded on the west wall of his business at the intersection of Main Street and 51st Avenue, was painted over during the weekend of Aug. 24 and 25.
   Harris, who also owns bowling centres in Olds and Drumheller, contacted Ruth Jepson, the mural's retired Didsbury artist, a year ago to have her give the fading work of public art a badly needed upgrade and extension.
   But at the age of 85 it was just too much of a physical task for Jepson to undertake. He also called an aunt in Ontario and a regional art society but those efforts were also unsuccessful.
   "We wanted her (Jepson) to go around the corner with the mural, an extension. She said she would be unable to do that. It was a shame. I wish she could have come and touched it up," said Harris.
   The exterior wall for his business, once adorned with history, will instead soon see barn lights and promotional cut-outs for bowling and billiards.
   However, Harris, who adores history, did find a way to preserve the memory of the mural. He created a full tribute wall in his new recreational lounge that honours railway history and the art of Ruth Jepson. The wall includes a large photograph of the mural with the original mural tribute plaque underneath. He also added about a dozen historical railway photographs on the wall for his patrons to appreciate.
   "My grandfather was an engineer in the railway and the train mural and trains are close to my heart," said Harris, adding he hopes his bowling centre patrons also appreciate the display and the train heritage of the town.
   "I wanted to save history as best I could."
   Meanwhile, Nathan Harrington, co-owner of the soon-to-be-opened Revive Cannabis, said he made every effort to make sure the town centennial mural that adorned the east exterior wall of his business near the intersection of Main Street and 49th Avenue was not a protected historical resource before painting it over. He said the mural had been vandalized with graffiti.
   "We contacted the town and we were told it was not considered a protected historical piece. I did not want to paint it over if it was," he said.
   Harrington added his company, which is officially opening the store on Sept. 27, now has new landscaping plans for the bottom of the wall, along with creating an area for customers to properly secure their pets before coming into the store.
Photo: Wade Harris, the owner of Innisfail Bowling Lanes, in front of his tribute wall for the Tribute to the Railroad mural that was painted over during the weekend of Aug. 24 and 25. Photo by Johnnie Bachusky/MVP staff.


May 21, 2019, Innisfail Province (Kristine Jean)
Celebrating a half century of Innisfail history
Sinclair House move to Innisfail Historical VillageSinclair House open to public for one day

   For the past 50 years the Innisfail and District Historical Society has been an essential part of the community.
   "It's our seasonal grand opening and we are celebrating 50 years of the Innisfail and District Historical Society," said Anna Lenters, president of the historical society. "It's an important milestone."
   The season grand opening and open house takes place May 25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but doors will be open an hour earlier for a pancake breakfast from 9 to 11 a.m.
   "It's the 50th anniversary of the society, not this museum. The museum came later, but it is the society that eventually created this," explained Lenters. "It is the society we are celebrating and we are the society today."
   Families are welcome to join in the special event that will include a variety of activities with the price of admission.
   "There's a pancake breakfast; you can have a ride on a Model T Ford," said Lenters.
   "We're going to have displays of textiles, ceramics and wood all throughout the village."
   In addition, visitors will have a unique opportunity to learn some details about some of the operations at a museum.
   "We're going to open up where we do the accessioning of the artifacts and explain the procedure to people," she added, noting it includes sorting, recording and documenting of historical items.
   "I'd like people to learn more about us. I want them to learn more about artifacts that they may have hidden in their own house," said Lenters. "Bring it out, we'll identify what it is and maybe help you to understand how to care for it and how to store it correctly."
   She noted all artifacts, buildings, equipment and items at the village originate from Innisfail and surrounding areas, some of them dating back to the turn of the 20th century.
   "Our oldest building is from 1890. The first floor of the Sinclair House was built in 1888."
   Lenters said that while the Sinclair House itself will not be open to the public this season, it will be open for (guided tours) only.
   "It's not quite ready to let somebody in there by themselves," she said, noting ongoing renovations. "It's a safety issue. It'll be a matter of one of our staff members taking groups through and making sure that they're safe.
   "We're still renovating, but there will be free guided tours that day," she added, noting it will be the first time that the public has a chance to see inside the historic Sinclair home.
   "We'll be touring the first and second floor," said Lenters. "I want people to see what we're doing and what's involved in the restoration (of the Sinclair House)."
   Tickets for the season grand opening are $3 per person or $15 per family.
   For more information contact the Innisfail and District Historical Village at 403-227-2906 or via email at idhs@telus.net.
Photo: An aerial view of the Innisfail and District Historical Village in December of 2017 as the Sinclair House
  was moved onto the site. There will be a guided one-day tour on May 25 of the Sinclair House, which is going
  through ongoing renovations, for the historical society's 50th anniversary celebration.
  Photo by Noel West/MVP staff.


April 23, 2019, Innisfail Province (Kristine Jean)
Continuing family legacy at the
historical village

Granddaughter of first curator now manager

   Family history has come full circle at the Innisfail and District Historical Village.
   Twenty-eight-year-old Kayla Godkin, who hails from Central Alberta, was recently chosen as the new museum manager.
   Her grandmother, Dr. Margaret Godkin, was the museum's first curator 50 years ago. Godkin and her husband were veterinarians in Innisfail.
   "It kind of feels a little bit like grandma wanted me to work here," said Godkin, noting she never had the chance to meet her grandmother. "My dad always used to tell me how much I reminded him of her, so I have a little bit of a special connection there."
   Godkin officially began her new role on April 15.
   She wasn't chosen for the position by chance, and in fact was asked by historical village board president, Anna Lenters, for an interview.
   "I was looking for work and actually applied for a different job in the area and somehow Anna got a hold of my information," said Godkin, who is a full-time student at Red Deer College. "She contacted me out of the blue and (asked to speak with me)."
   Godkin has several years of museum experience and brings extensive knowledge of the industry to her new role.
   "I've actually been working in museums since I was 19 years old. My background is in museums and hospitality so this is my familiar territory," she said, noting her employment with the Danish Canadian Museum in Dickson, the Ellis Bird Farm and Stephansson House.
   "I'm really, really pleased with being on board. It was something that was never really on my radar but when I heard about the position, I was really excited for it," said Godkin.
   Lenters said she and the board are just as happy to have Godkin a part of the team.
   "It was destiny. Kayla is a gift and we are very pleased to have her here," said Lenters. "I'm feeling very good about this (decision to hire Kayla). She has our support."
   Filling her grandmother's shoes and following in her footsteps seemed to be a twist of fate, noted Godkin.
   "My dad always used to talk about being at this place and coming to visit when he was young," she said. "Driving by you have no idea the amount of history that this site holds. I'm really excited to learn all about those little things (and about the historical village)," Godkin concluded.
Photo: Kayla Godkin is the new manager at the Innisfail and District Historical Village. She is the granddaughter
  of the first curator, Dr. Margaret Godkin. Photo by Kristine Jean/MVP Staff.


Dec. 12, 2017, Innisfail Province (Johnnie Bachusky commentary)
Sinclair House will be the pride of Innisfail
   There are a few citizens who have reportedly wondered why many others in town have chosen to turn hard-earned money into the restoration of the Sinclair House.
   The 125-year-old home was finally brought to the Innisfail and District Historical Village last week, and it was quite an emotional moment for village officials when this relic was moved onto its own foundation.
   It was the culmination of a two-year roller-coaster ride that included near heartbreak a year ago when historical society officials were forced to consider a motion to cancel the project because they could not come up with $17,000 to match a provincial grant.
   But the public answered the call, and that is just one very big reason why this project is so important to each and every Innisfailian. There is no other project, with the possible exception of the enhanced playground project at the Innisfail Schools Campus in 2015, that best illustrates what the heart of the town looks like. And that is commitment, generosity, hard work and a newfound yearning to save the past no matter how difficult the obstacles may appear.
   The scribbler says "newfound" because we must remember there were prior opportunities to save vital historical monuments but those were missed. The town lost all its classic pioneer wooden grain elevators, and we still cannot forget the water tower controversy more than a decade ago. That too is gone forever.
   But today we have seized the Sinclair House, as decrepit as it may now look, sitting battered but proudly in the southeast corner of the historical village.
   In three to five years, following even more dedication and hard work from village officials, the Sinclair House will shine as a brilliant beacon for all proud Innisfailians knowing many people cared enough about the past to ensure it will always be there for locals to use and enjoy as a community meeting place. Most importantly, it will be a venue for folks to learn more about the people who braved the pioneer days when there wasn't even running water in homes, no telephones, no radios, and barely any evidence at all that the decision to settle here, like David and Isabella Sinclair did, was the correct one.
   We all truly know it was. Look at Innisfail today with its boundless spirit and optimism, a town of almost 8,000 citizens that have every convenience and opportunity before them. It is a community that is the envy of any other.
   And that is why the good and forward-thinking folks tossed their money into saving the Sinclair House. They were looking to save the past to remind them of the gratitude they need to show today, and to give greater meaning for future generations.
   It is the greatest gift any community can receive.


Dec. 5, 2017, Innisfail Province (Johnnie Bachusky)
Sinclair house is finally coming to town
   A year ago the future of the pioneer Sinclair House appeared grim. The Innisfail and District Historical Society had all but given up trying to save the 125-year-old home due to insufficient restoration funds.
   But the community rallied after the project's plight became known through the media. Private funding began to pour in. Tradesmen offered their services for free. The town even approved a grant to help.
   And sometime later this afternoon the pioneer house of Isabella (Bella) Sinclair, the first Caucasian female to settle in Central Alberta, is expected to arrive at its new forever home at the Innisfail and District Historical Village.
   The two-storey log structure is being hauled 13 kilometres from the Thomson acreage west of town by Warkentin Building Movers, a company based in Calmar, Alta., that painstakingly prepared and secured the dilapidated pioneer relic over three days last week.
   John Thomson, who donated the pioneer home to the historical village and is paying the $30,000 transportation cost, could not be happier.
   "I am relieved," said Thomson, who endured several delays over the past two years to finally see the house being delivered to Innisfail. Thomson, 84, grew up in the two-storey log home many decades ago after his family acquired it from the Sinclair family.
   "They have been digging a lot of dirt and pushing beams underneath, generally getting things lined up," said Thomson, noting the pioneer home has been unoccupied since the late 1980s. "They will lift it up and put the dolly wheels underneath the beams and lift it out of the hole."
   While Thomson was watching Warkentin movers prepare for the move, Lawrence Gould, the treasurer of the historical society, was equally ecstatic, photographing every detail of the move's preparation.
   "It is finally happening," said Gould, adding the house still had today's four and a half hour journey before any full celebration could take place. He said the home will first be transported about a mile east at about 30 to 35 kilometres per hour, turn north on a range road for another kilometre and then east again until reaching Highway 54. The journey will then head south for several kilometres until reaching 42nd Street on the far west side of Innisfail. The house will then be transported east again until it arrives at the historical village at 51A Avenue. The Sinclair home will then be placed on a recently built foundation at the southeast corner of the historical village. Along the way, FortisAlberta is helping by ensuring up to nine power lines are not blocking the move.
   Wayne Warkentin, the moving company owner, said while he has moved historical structures in the past, the Sinclair House had its own unique issues for both preparation and transporting.
   He said the age of the structure and the rot of the original wood presented a special challenge, noting the floor joists are not really joists but pioneer era logs. He said the structure had to be extensively braced and secured with outside cables, including steel bracketing at the four corners of the structure.
   "We've done everything we can to help and now we will lift it and play it out to see how much rot comes with it or not come with it," he said. "We do everything extra. We put extra cross beams in, put in extra shimming, extra bracing in and brackets along the outside. A lot of guys don't.
   "You can't add extra after. You have to do it beforehand," he added.
   When all the preparation was done to secure the structure, Warkentin and his crew then carefully lifted the pioneer house about five feet from the foundation and secured it for its journey to Innisfail. The crew then left the site for a few days before coming back this morning for the big move.
   "They (historical structures) are more time consuming because you have to be super, super careful with them," said Warkentin. "There is more challenges and you have to be a lot more patient with them. You have to change your frame of mind and do everything you can with them."
Photo: The pioneer Sinclair House is finally coming to Innisfail. The historic structure is expected to arrive at the Innisfail and District Historical Village early this afternoon (Dec. 5).


Nov. 25, 2017, Red Deer Advocate (Lana Michelin)
Historical society to relocate
pioneer's log home

House from 1890 will be moved next month to historical village

   The log home of one of Central Alberta's first indomitable female pioneers is about to be moved to Innisfail Historical Village.
   "Our boys and girls need to believe that they can do anything" -- and Isabella Sinclair's story underlines this, said Anna Lenters, president of the Innisfail and District Historical Society.
   "Bella" -- considered by some to be the first white woman settler in the area -- was an Ontario resident of Scottish stock, who was also on board the first passenger train that stopped in Calgary in 1883.
   Crossing the country unaccompanied was extremely brave, since it was a potentially scandalous journey for a Victorian woman, added Lenters. But Sinclair was determined to come West at age 16 or 17 to keep house for her two brothers -- even if it meant initially living in their sod-roofed home, or "soddie."
   Five years later, Isabella (whose maiden name was Brown) married David Sinclair. She resided for a few years in a moveable rail car with her trestle-bridge builder husband, until the young couple's first child was born.
   In about 1890, the Sinclairs moved into the peak-roofed log house that David had been completing on his homestead.
   It's this home that will be moved to the Innisfail and District Historical Village by a Red Deer company early next month.
   The project has been a long labour for area volunteers -- especially resident John Thomson, who lived in the Sinclair's wood-clad log home as a child. He remembers visiting Mrs. Sinclair, "a quiet old woman" who served him and his mother tea.
   Since the deteriorating house sitting on Thomson's rural property has been empty since the 1950s, Thomson first pushed the idea of saving it about 20 years ago. But it took a series of charitable teas, bake sales and fashion shows to raise the $55,000 needed to remove asbestos from the two-storey structure, and move it onto a new foundation, said Lenters.
   Seeing the white-washed house finally installed in the park will be a thrill for 84-year-old Thomson.
   "After all the years of planning, it seems surreal," added Lenters, who plans to raise more money to turn the house into an interpretive museum that tells Isabella's life story.
   An early Women's Institute member, Sinclair raised five children (among her grandchildren was the late William Sinclair, former Chief Justice of the Alberta Supreme Court). Isabella and David were involved in establishing education in the district, and lived in their rural house until they moved to town in 1929.
   "They were community-minded people at a time when the community was just getting on its feet," said Lenters.
   David passed away in 1949 and Isabella died a year later. Both are buried in the local cemetery.
Photo: The log home of one of Central Alberta's first indomitable female pioneers is about to be moved to
  Innisfail's historical village. Contributed photo.


Sept. 19, 2017, Innisfail Province
Site nearly ready for Sinclair House
   Preparations for the arrival of the Sinclair House at the Innisfail and District Historical Village are nearing completion.
   With the house expected to be moved sometime before the end of September, the foundation at the village for the new addition was set to be filled with sand last week.
   Lawrence Gould, treasurer of the historical society, said last Monday (Sept. 11) that work had just finished on the foundation. The foundation includes cement footing at the bottom of the hole, with wooden walls reaching seven feet high.
   "What we're building is not a basement, it's a foundation," Gould said.
   Work started in August on the foundation for the pioneer house of Isabella (Bella) Sinclair, the first Caucasian woman to have settled in Central Alberta. Lots of work has already been done on the 126-year-old house, including clearing it of asbestos, to prepare the home for its six-kilometre journey from its original acreage west of town to its new site at the village.
   The move will bring an end to a two-year-long effort to arrange the move, including fundraising.
   There were some concerns aired last week about the way the foundation is being constructed, with Albert Hannah of the Citizens for Innisfail group questioning the use of sand.
   Hannah said he spoke to the engineer and gained a better understanding of the process, but blamed CAO Helen Dietz for not allowing a concrete foundation.
   "I didn't ever run across anybody doing anything like this," he said of digging a hole and filling it with sand for a foundation. He speculated the general public wouldn't understand why a hole was dug and then filled.
   He did acknowledge the work done is good.
   Gould said the agreement between the town and the village was that no basement would be constructed, corroborated by town documents like the development permit issued in June.
   Last May, town council unanimously approved an administration recommendation to give the historical society $10,000 immediately after the Sinclair House is successfully moved to the village. The town also told society officials that no full basement was allowed at the planned site immediately east of the Bowden train station, noting the shallow depth of utilities, and that the property is owned by the town and if for any reason another development was necessary in that area it did not want to deal with the onerous task of removing a full basement.
   "There's no surprises here," Gould said.
   The sand was to be added to the inside and the outside, which Gould said provides lateral support for the foundation.
   Last week, Frank Colosimo, the town's director of operational services, said he visited the site and said the historical society was satisfactorily meeting all development and building requirements set by the town.
Photo: Lawrence Gould, treasurer of the Innisfail and District Historical Society, and president Anna Lenters at
  the foundation site for the Sinclair House last week. MVP staff photo.


June 24, 2014, Innisfail Province (Johnnie Bachusky)
The reawakening of Poplar Grove
   A three-year dream to restore a relic that predates Innisfail's earliest days is finally a reality.
   The old Poplar Grove log cabin, used as a trading post by pioneer Napoleon Remillard and built more than 125 years ago on a homestead near what is now called Napoleon Lake, is lovingly restored and finally open for public viewing at the Innisfail and District Historical Village.
   The plan to preserve the relic for future generations was spearheaded by former curator Dean Jorden, who was passionately determined the old cabin should have a forever home at the village.
   "It is the earliest artifact of Poplar Grove we have. There is very little left from that time," said Debbie Becker Matthie, the village's museum manager. "We are grateful for the collaborative effort from the people who made it possible for the building to be here."
   How the cabin survived the rigours of time and the elements for so long is a mystery.
   Before previous owner Howard Milligan agreed in the fall of 2012 to have the village take it off his corner lot property at the intersection of 50th Avenue and 57 Street, the relic was used for storage for about a quarter century. Milligan acquired the property and cabin from the estate of the late Cecil Bioletti, a bachelor and former Town of Innisfail public works employee who was known to be an avid artifacts collector. It is not known how or when Bioletti came into possession of the cabin.
   But what is known is that Remillard first journeyed to the area from Montana in 1886. Along with about a half dozen other early pioneers he helped create Poplar Grove, a settlement that existed in the area before Innisfail was even conceived.
   Within a few years Remillard left and went to British Columbia. After the railroad came through the area in 1891 the CPR renamed the growing community Innisfail. Poplar Grove was no more. Within a few years every trace of the original settlement had either disappeared or was forgotten - except Remillard's cabin, which eventually caught the eye of Jorden and village officials in 2011.
   After an agreement was worked out with Milligan, village officials, with the generous support of many volunteers, moved the cabin to the village in the fall of 2012. Eighteen months later, after countless hours of more volunteer help, the cabin was fully restored to look the way it did more than 125 years ago.
   Becker Matthie said volunteers, including Jorden and inmates from Bowden Institution, built a cement pad for the structure and restored the structure's existing logs. The interior was fully renovated and then adorned with artifacts from the village's existing collection.
   "There were very few items from that era that came with cabin. We used artifacts from what we already had to make the interior as historically authentic as possible," said Becker Matthie, adding Jorden created storyboards to add historical context. "We are going to remove the existing electrical wiring because it was not originally there. We want to take this structure back to the time it originally looked."
   The restored cabin includes the Poplar Grove signage that was on it when it was moved from Milligan's property, as well as Remillard's signature on the interior log wall.
   "The work is pretty much done, except maybe some more sidewalk blocks to make it more accessible, especially for the handicapped," said Becker Matthie, adding she's convinced the old cabin will be a big attraction for heritage enthusiasts. "There are some historically valuable buildings in town we can move and some we can't. This one we could, and we have to promote as much history as there is available to us."
Photo: Innisfail Historical Village's Poplar Grove cabin plays host to visitors during the busy summer while
  teaching history.



Nov. 13, 2012, Innisfail Province (Johnnie Bachusky)
Last Poplar Grove relic is saved
   Brian Rice moved backwards in the present to save the past for Innisfail's future.
   With a forklift, Rice, the 54-year-old founder of Innisfail's Red Willow Welding, drove in reverse on Oct. 24, almost a kilometre and a half through the streets of town to transport an ancient relic to its forever resting place at the Innisfail and District Historical Village. After 30 minutes the coveted historical artifact successfully arrived at its new rightful forever home.
   Rice's delicate task was the crowning moment for a remarkable journey by village officials and the community at large that began 14 months earlier.
   Since the summer of 2011, historical village officials were seized on the opportunity to acquire the one-room Poplar Grove log cabin, believed to have been built in 1887 by pioneer Napoleon Remillard.
   "It will go down in history as a marker of time," said Lawrence Gould, a member of the board of directors for the Innisfail and District Historical Society. "It is a priceless artifact, as important as The Spruces stopping house."
   Remillard and Arthur Content first journeyed to the area from Montana in 1886. Along with about a half dozen other early pioneers the pair helped create the new settlement of Poplar Grove. The log cabin, originally located in the Napoleon's Lake area, is believed to have been a trading post and the home of Remillard, as well as the first mail stop located on the C & E Trail.
   After the railroad came through the area in 1891 the CPR renamed the growing community to Innisfail. Poplar Grove was no more. Within a few years every trace of the original settlement either disappeared or was forgotten.
   The log cabin, meanwhile, was moved from its original location. The date and place of its next location is a mystery but what is known is that the Poplar Grove cabin eventually came into the possession of Cecil Bioletti, a bachelor, avid artifacts collector and former Town of Innisfail public works employee, some time before 1973. About 25 years ago, the cabin was acquired by Howard Milligan. For the past quarter century, until Oct. 24, the ancient relic sat almost unnoticed and unappreciated on  Milligan's corner lot at 50 Avenue and 57 Street.
   Dean Jorden, the curator of the historical village, did notice. He took special note of Remillard's signature etched on wood inside the cabin. In August of 2011 he approached Milligan, who said the historical society was contacted 20 years earlier about the cabin but there was little interest.
   In 2011, however, the historical village was very interested. The province was contacted. Heritage officials came to Innisfail to see the cabin. Yes, the relic is of great historical significance, said the province, but it does not qualify for heritage designation as it is no longer on its original site. As well, the cost to move and restore the building appeared to be out of reach.
   But that did not deter Jorden, the society, nor the community. With unprecedented commitment and sense of civic duty the community rallied.
   "It became a total community project," said Jorden. "It was done without any government grants and with volunteers -- volunteer machinery and volunteer labour."
   Milligan donated the cabin. Financial contributions were secured, including $1,200 from Jackson's Pharmasave and $500 from the Royal Canadian Legion Innisfail Branch 104. Howell's Excavating donated its time and machinery to prepare the site at the historical village. LaFarge Canada provided cement. For the move, Innisfail Co-op lent bin mover wheels. A team of inmates from Bowden Institution volunteered on Oct. 22 and 23 to brace the cabin's interior with wood.
   And of course Rice volunteered his time on Oct. 24 for the big move. After the cabin was braced and blocked by the Bowden inmates, and steel beams welded, set and tied with chains underneath, Rice pulled out backwards with his forklift to the historical village.
   "I always wanted to help out," said Rice, who has previously moved grain bins and utility sheds. "It is neat that people want to restore it, instead of burning it to the ground."
   Today, Napoleon Remillard's old log cabin, which still has its Poplar Grove sign, sits just west of the train station at the historical village. Although it is in remarkably good condition, more restoration needs to be done, notably to the interior and roof. It will ultimately house exhibits, homestead maps and storyboards from the time Remillard first arrived in the area.
   "Everyone was pleased with the move," said Jorden. "It was a community project. We are glad it went that way."


May 10, 2010, Innisfail Province (Michaela Ludwig) 
New exhibits call Historical Village home  
Two new exhibits at the Innisfail Historical Village tell more about Innisfail's founding years. As a 40-year anniversary project, the Innisfail and District Historical Society set about restoring the Village's Bowden CP Rail station. And through the doors of that old station, visitors will find several displays depicting Innisfail in its early years and what the railroad meant to central Alberta. Scaled-down model trains chug along the tracks (more)


May 10, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley) 
'Sleeper' village grand opening set 
Innisfail Historical Village has been a bit of a sleeper among Central Alberta attractions. Curator Dean Jorden and other members of the Innisfail and District Historical Society plans to use their 40th anniversary celebrations to change that. To draw more people to the society's impressive collection of historic buildings, vehicles, equipment and other artifacts in the middle of Innisfail, a project to restore the 1904 Bowden CPR rail station has (more)


May 10, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
Business was good when Innisfail's
first store opened

   The first day of business at George Washington West's general store went well on that summer July 1st day in 1891.
   He sold five pounds of apples at 25 cents a pound and four pounds of brown sugar went out the door for another 36 cents.
   And then a Mr. Miller came in to check out Innisfail's first store. He walked away with a red handkerchief, according to a ledger preserved at Innisfail Historical Village. Once-mundane entries in an account book now offer a fascinating glimpse into life in rural Central Alberta, many years before the province got its name.
   The ledger and dozens of other historical items are located in a general store mock-up created as part of a 40th anniversary project by the Innisfail and District Historical Society to restore the village's 1904 Bowden CPR rail station and update its exhibits.
   George Washington West was Donna Chadwick's grandfather and her family ran that store in Innisfail until Christmas Eve 1968, an unbroken 77-year run.
   Many of the items in the store came from her collection, including the sales ledger, so carefully preserved in oilskin that the pages remain white 109 years later.
   Her grandfather was a teacher when he moved out West from Prince Edward Island. He followed the railroad as it creaked from Calgary to Innisfail, lurching north so slowly that he got out and walked much of the way.
   When he reached the end of the line, he found a small farming community until recently known as Poplar Grove that had no general store. George Washing (West) -- the reason for the salute to American patriotism a family mystery -- decided to change that.
   A sepia-coloured photo survives showing a space crowded with tins, boxes, tack, tools, a large pickle barrel and hundreds of other turn-of-the-century household essentials.
   Chadwick points to an alcove lined with shelves almost hidden in the corner of the picture. "Up here there was a pail. Any cash they had -- which wasn't much -- they put it in the pail."
   Most sales were bartered. A chicken here for some oats there. Eggs for sugar, and so on. It didn't matter to her grandfather.
   "He didn't let anybody go hungry."
   West, know to all as G.W., soon became the conduit to get goods from farms in the area to markets as far south as Texas. In one memorable deal, he bartered two train carloads of frozen jackrabbits for meat and other groceries from meat packing magnate Pat Burns, the man behind the P. Burns & Co., later Burns Foods.
   Originally built on the north side of the tracks, the store was moved to the south when the railroad decided to move the town. It eventually sat across from the present theatre, where an Alberta Treasury Branch now sits.
   Chadwick, who was born in Innisfail in 1928, remembers well working in the store. At one time, the family business had included a fur exchange and a lumber yard. But as times changed, so did the store. It became more of a department store offering full lines of men's, women's and children's fashions.
   When the business closed, its history was thankfully not lost. A cash register, scale, cheese cutter, cheque-making machine, poster maker and other tools of the trade had been squirreled away.
   "My dad was a keeper and so was I," she said.
   Now, those items have been preserved at the train station, which was moved to Innisfail in 1976 to save it from demolition.
   When the store finally closed, people from farms and small communities all over Central Alberta made their way into town to make one last purchase.
   "It really was an institution is what you would call it now."
   And of the hundreds of sales made that day, she still recalls there was not a single NSF cheque.
Photo: In the recreated General Store.


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