In keeping with public service rules during an election, our social media activity will be limited until after the swearing-in ceremony.
Little Big Towns (or Big Little Towns?)
A few months back, we ran a blog post about the establishment of Alberta’s oil and gas industry at Turner Valley and the two major, and still extant, towns that developed to serve that industry – Turner Valley and Black Diamond. These two places were not the only communities that grew so suddenly and substantially with the discovery of oil in the region. In 1936, the Turner Valley Royalties Company struck oil near Longview Hill (known locally as “The Big Hill”). Oil workers again flooded to the region and numerous new communities were established. Two notable communities were given unofficial, and ironically refined, monikers – “Little Chicago” and “Little New York.”
Royalties (aka “Little Chicago”)
About 15 kilometres south of Turner Valley and Black Diamond along Highway 22 is the former community of Royalties. Little remains there today, but it was once a bustling community. Following the discovery of oil at the Turner Valley Royalties No. 1 well, a collection of shops and dwellings quickly grew nearby. In 1937, a post office opened at the town site and, due to the community’s proximity to and association with the nearby oil well, the post office and town site were given the name Royalties, but most of its residents and other locals did not use that name. Most of them called the community “Little Chicago.”
The precise origin of the name “Little Chicago” is not known, but there are a number of theories. One story is that the many American oil workers in the area ironically compared the frenetic activity of the little town site to the bustling mid-west American city. To further complement the comparison, a small slough near the town site became known as “Lake Michigan.” Another, and even more colourful origin story, concerns Rex Warman, the owner of the first store in the community. According to Rex’s wife Florence, her husband was known locally as “Little Al Capone” or “Little Scarface” due to a scar on his upper lip. Although, she also said that some people felt the store’s prices, marked high to cover transportation costs, were extortionist, which may have contributed to her husband’s Capone-esque nickname – Al “Scarface” Capone, being the legendary Chicago mob boss and rum-runner. It is an easy leap for the store location to become known as “Little Chicago.”
According to the local history Tales and Trails, at its height, Royalties consisted of a Hudson’s Bay store, two oil well supply depots, three trucking companies, a machine shop, three lumber yards, two garages, a furniture store, three grocery stores, many boarding houses, restaurants and a dance hall with a theatre. The boom times in Royalties did not last. As drilling tapered off, people and businesses left the community. The post office closed in 1969 and the sole remaining business, a gas station, shut down a short time later. Today, there is really nothing left on the landscape to show the existence of the community.
Longview (aka “Little New York”)
Located about 15 kilometres south of Turner Valley and Black Diamond (and four kilometres south of Royalties) is the village of Longview. Longview predates the discovery of oil and gas in the region, but the community flourished because of the oil. The name Longview came into official use when a post office of that name was opened in July 1908 in Section 25 of Township 18-2-W5. A number of possible origins for the name have been proposed. The most likely origin is that the name came about due to the location of the post office near the “Big Hill” which allowed one to see for a considerable distance, or have a “long view.” Other accounts suggest the community was named for Thomas Long, a schoolteacher who arrived in the area in 1895 and filed for a homestead on the hill.
Historically, the Longview area had been associated with agriculture (ranching and farming); and today it is well known for its connections to Canadian country music (Ian Tyson shout out!). However, following the 1936 oil discovery, a boom town developed in Section 20 of Township 18-2-W5, about eight miles west of the Longview post office. Like Royalties to the north, the town site was quickly flooded with rig workers, their families and a range of associated camp followers. Mud-clogged or dust-chocked streets, depending on the weather, criss-crossed the community and inexpensive and rudimentary shacks were built practically overnight for use as houses, stores, banks and other services. The level of activity was so frantic that Longview became known, probably with a great deal of tongue-in-cheek, as “Little New York.” A local history of Longview suggests that the community’s residents did not want to be upstaged by “Little Chicago” up the road and did them one better by adopting the larger American city as their unofficial namesake.
In 1937, the Longview post office moved from the hill to the town site and the community became Longview, although it continued to be referred to as “Little New York” for many years. Towards the end of the 1940s, oil boom growth had settled and with it, so did the pace of development in the area. Unlike Royalties, which essentially disappeared, Longview continued to exist as a rather sedate little hamlet. On January 1, 1964, Longview, with a population of 206 was officially made a village.
Through history, many resource communities have been given ironic, unusual and occasionally ribald names. Often these names are not the ones that end up being approved by naming authorities for use on official maps. For many of these communities and places, such as Longview and Royalties, the unofficial names continue to be used by those most familiar with the place and its history. The culture and history of a place can be read through the names on its maps, but sometimes, the names not on the maps can tell us much more.
Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator.
Sources and Additional Resources:
In the Light of the Flares: History of Turner Valley Oilfields, (Turner Valley: Sheep River Historical Society, 1979).
Tales and Trails: A History of Longview and Surrounding Area, (Longview: Tales and Trails History Book Society, 1973).
March 20th marked the first day of spring.
In our family, we have a tradition of celebrating the event by sitting around a special table setting and observing the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator on its way north along the ecliptic! In the Northern Hemisphere, this is known as the Spring Equinox. We call it Norooz literally translating to “new day.” We inherited this tradition from our grandparents and we try to pass it along to our children in hopes of keeping it alive for the times to come.
Similarly, we inherited a traditional doll made by our late grandmother. It is valuable to our family as it reminds us of her and the stories she shared. We make sure to keep it safe until such a time that our children are old enough to care for it.
Both Norooz and the doll are important to me; they are what I would like to preserve for the next generations; they are “my heritage.”
While the doll is cherished only in a small circle of people close to me, my family is not alone in celebrating Norooz. The festivities, which usually last 13 days, are celebrated by more than 300 million people worldwide (including three individuals in the Historic Resources Management Branch). You might see it spelled interchangeably as Novruz, Nowrouz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz, Nevruz or Norooz as it marks the New Year in many regions including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
The doll is an artifact, a tangible object with associative values made by people. It can be physically handed over to the next generations. Norooz, on the other hand, is a cultural practice and an example of intangible heritage.
In 2003, recognizing that cultural heritage does not end at monuments and artifacts, and to emphasize the important role that traditions, social practices, rituals, knowledge and skills have in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The Convention defines intangible cultural heritage as:
Practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills […] that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. […It] is transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity […] Intangible Cultural Heritage is traditional, contemporary and living at the same time; it is inclusive, representative and community-based.
Intangible cultural heritage is manifested in the following domains:
- oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;
- performing arts;
- social practices, rituals and festive events;
- knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
- traditional craftsmanship.
As of May 2014, the Convention has been ratified by 161 State Parties and 314 elements have been inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Norooz promotes the values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families, as well as reconciliation and neighbourliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and various communities. In 2009, Norooz was added to the Representative List.
Looking out the window, I see snow is melting away; trees are waking up; the ground is breathing. I am witnessing a cosmic event. Norooz is my heritage, what is yours? Please share yours with us in the comments.
And by the way: Happy Spring, Happy Persian New Year!
Written by: Alireza Farrokhi, Head of Conservation and Construction Services, Historic Places Stewardship.
Between March 23rd and 29th, museums from all over the world will join together to celebrate culture on Twitter!
#MuseumWeek began in Europe last year and 2015 will be the first time that the cultural event goes global. This event gives museums the opportunity to present their artifacts, secrets and stories to a worldwide audience, while encouraging people to snap and share photos of themselves enjoying a museum visit.
7 days, 7 themes, 7 hashtags is the programme focus for this year. Thematic hashtags allow museums to promote and celebrate their individual history and provide tips, while connecting with communities around the world. On Wednesday, #architectureMW will explore the architectural heritage and surroundings of museums. Friday’s theme, #familyMW, will provide advice for families or schools planning to visit a museum. This is a fantastic opportunity to gain insight into your favourite museum!
A number of Alberta museums and historic sites have signed up to participate in this online initiative including the Galt Museum, Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, Glenbow Museum, Royal Alberta Museum and Royal Tyrrell Museum. A full list of participating museums can be found here.
Written by: Erin Hoar, Historic Resources Management Branch Officer.
The Alberta Main Street Program members met in Camrose on March 5th for the first quarterly meeting of 2015. After getting an update on the activities of each of the five Main Street communities (Camrose, Lethbridge, Old Strathcona – Edmonton, Olds and Wainwright), we were led on a walking tour of downtown Camrose by the architect and Main Street Camrose member, David Roth. The walking tour concluded with a reconnaissance of the lovingly restored historic Bailey Theatre.
After lunch we were able to connect via Skype with Charles Ketchabaw of the Tale of a Town initiative. Charles and his team are working their way across Canada collecting stories about main streets in advance of the nation’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017. The Tale of a Town ‘story-mobile’ will be visiting Alberta in 2016 and Charles is looking for communities interested in contributing to the initiative. Watch this video to learn more.
A few of the Coordinators are off to experience Main Street, America-style at the 2015 National Main Streets conference being held in Atlanta, Georgia. We look forward to hearing all about it at the next group meeting to be held in Wainwright in May.
And speaking of Main Street, we’d like to remind you that you still have until the end of March to enter Heritage Canada the National Trust’s I Love My Main Street contest.
Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer
“What is the matter with the Calgary Irishmen?” asked a frustrated correspondent to the Calgary Herald in March 1916. The writer, who identified themself as ‘F. Fitzsimmons,’ was complaining about the city’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for St. Patrick’s Day, with no public events planned to celebrate the day. Fitzsimmons conceded that people were likely distracted by the war effort, but lamented that Calgary’s leading Irish citizens had gotten “cold feet” and failed to plan any celebrations. “If all Irishmen were like the Calgary bunch” closed the writer, then “‘God Save Ireland.’”
The language used by Fitzsimmons in this letter is highly suggestive. By stating that Calgary’s Irish leaders had gotten ‘cold feet,’ he/she was implying that they lacked the courage to publicly celebrate their ethnic heritage. Further, ‘God Save Ireland’ was an explicitly nationalist slogan, associated with the last words of three Irish revolutionaries executed by the British in 1867. In short, Fitzsimmons was calling for an open celebration of Irish identity that did not shy away from nationalist politics. What Fitzsimmons saw as a simple issue, however, was much more complex for the majority of Irish people in Calgary and across Alberta. The often turbulent politics of the Irish homeland, and the campaign for Irish autonomy from Britain, raised difficult questions about what it meant to be Irish in Canada in the early twentieth century. Did public expressions of Irish identity automatically imply support for Irish nationalist politics, or could the two issues be separated? Could a person support Irish nationalism and still affirm loyalty to Canada and, by extension, the British Empire? What was the best way to frame St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in such a way as to affirm devotion to both the Irish homeland and Canada? The stakes of these questions were heightened after 1914, as supporters of Irish nationalism were accused of threatening British imperial unity during a time of war, and again after Easter 1916, when Irish nationalists launched an uprising against British rule in Ireland.
The uneasy relationship between Irish politics, identity and citizenship are reflected in the history of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in early twentieth century Alberta. The general picture that emerges is of an Irish population that celebrated its ethnic heritage in ways that emphasized loyalty to Ireland, Canada and the British Empire. At particular times, such as the Great War (1914-18), this balancing act proved to be too difficult, and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations largely disappeared from public view. With the emergence of Ireland as an independent state in the early 1920s, Alberta’s Irish once again organized into associations dedicated to celebrating Irish heritage and St .Patrick’s Day soon emerged as an important event in the province.
The population boom of the early 1900s set the stage for significant St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in both Edmonton and Calgary. The 1916 census enumerated 58,068 Irish people in Alberta, of whom approximately 63% were Canadian-born descendants of Irish immigrants; 25% were American-born descendants of Irish immigrants; and 12% were direct immigrants from Ireland (most of whom had arrived in Canada between 1905 and 1914). The diverse origins of the province’s Irish population were reflected in the decorations chosen for the 1908 St. Patrick’s Day banquet at St. Mary’s Hall in Calgary – the platform was decorated with Union Jacks and American flags, over which hung a silk banner with the phrase “Erin go Bragh” (‘Ireland forever’). Toasts were delivered to ‘The King,’ ‘Canada,’ ‘Alberta,’ ‘The United States’ and ‘Ireland’s Future,’ and the event closed with a rousing rendition of “God Save the King,” leaving little doubt that the guests’ vision of ‘Ireland’s Future’ involved its continued association with the British Empire.
Similar scenes played out in Edmonton, where St. Patrick’s Day events were organized by the highly successful Edmonton Irish Association (EIA). Founded in 1909, the EIA grew to approximately three hundred members by 1911. While primarily a cultural and literary organization, the EIA also sponsored a number of sports teams, including the Irish Canadian Amateur Athletic Association, the Hibernian Football Club and the Irish Canadian Baseball Club. A 1911 profile in the Edmonton Capital stressed that the EIA was “non-political and non-sectarian in character,” and had “from the outset avoided the controversial.” This emphasis echoed the celebrations in Calgary, and indeed reflected a broader pattern across the Prairie West, where explicitly non-political and non-sectarian Irish associations emerged in the early 1900s.
With the worsening Home Rule crisis in Ireland in 1913-1914, it became increasingly difficult for Alberta’s Irish to continue to celebrate their ethnic heritage in an explicitly non-political way. In April 1914, for example, the Edmonton Capital advertised a meeting for those interested in forming an “Imperial British-Irish Association,” suggesting that some of the city’s Irish were no longer satisfied with the Edmonton Irish Association. The outbreak of World War One added another layer of complexity, as the British government put Ireland’s political future on hold for the duration of the war. By the end of 1914, the Edmonton Irish Association had dissolved. Similarly, there is no evidence of any Irish fraternal or benevolent societies in Calgary during the war years. Despite the non-political and non-sectarian nature of pre-war St. Patrick’s Day events, there appears to have been little appetite for Irish organization and celebration during the Great War or the subsequent Irish War of Independence (1919-21). The one exception is a short lived organization called the Irish Glee Club, which emerged in Calgary in 1919 to organize small concerts on St. Patrick’s Day. These events, however, were on a considerably smaller scale than those held prior to World War One.
With the end of the Irish War of Independence and the emergence of the Irish Free State in 1922, the province’s Irish citizens once again organized to publicly celebrate Ireland’s patron saint. Potentially awkward questions about how to reconcile devotion to Ireland and loyalty to Canada and/or Britain faded, as Alberta’s Irish honoured both Irish independence and service to Canada during the Great War. At the 1924 St. Patrick’s Day banquet, for example, the St. Patrick’s Society of Calgary celebrated Irish independence, but placed equal if not greater emphasis on Irish service, “loyalty and allegiance” to Canada during the Great War. The evening’s keynote speaker refused to take a political stance on the divisive civil war in Ireland, commenting only that “the Irish had settled the matter for themselves,” and that whether it had been settled “rightly or wrongly” was irrelevant to him as a Canadian. In place of politics, the new St. Patrick’s Society focused on the celebration of Irish folk culture, arts and crafts. A similar situation emerged in Edmonton, with the founding of the new St. Patrick’s Society of Edmonton in 1927. Like its Calgary counterpart, the society emphasized culture and avoided politics – a safely depoliticized way to honour Ireland. By the mid-1920s, Alberta’s Irish had found a comfortable balance between celebrating their Irish heritage and their contributions to Canadian growth and development.
The history of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Alberta thus yields significant insight into the province’s early Irish community. St. Patrick’s Day events represented an important point of intersection between the ethnic community and the rest of the population. It was a holiday intimately associated with Ireland, but widely observed by mainstream society – as such, it offered Irish organizations the opportunity to represent their heritage and their community’s values to a wide and receptive audience. The nature of those celebrations (or the absence of any organized events) is a reflection of what image Irish community leaders wanted to project to the larger population. At times, the tense situation in Ireland complicated those efforts and made it difficult for Alberta’s Irish to publicly embrace and celebrate their ethnic heritage. By the 1920s, such concerns had faded and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations flourished once again.
Written by: Allan Rowe, Historic Places Research Officer.
Cronin, Mike, and Daryl Adair. The Wearing of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. London & New York: Routledge, 2001.
In 1973, the Government of Alberta assumed a central role in the management of archaeological research. In the 42 years since then, the Archaeological Survey at Alberta Culture and Tourism has been busy. More than 9,000 archaeological research permits have been issued and as a result, archaeologists have discovered over 40,000 archaeological sites in Alberta.
So where did it all begin? The first archaeological research permit in the province was issued to Karlis Karklins in 1973 by Alberta Culture, Youth, and Recreation. The permit was for his research at Nottingham House, a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post near Fort Chipewyan, as a part of the Western Fur Trade Research Programme. The programme was initiated by Parks Canada in 1968 to explore the history and archaeology of the fur trade in the Athabasca region. As part of that project, Karklins began researching Nottingham House in the early 1970s.
Nottingham House was a fur trade post established by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in 1802. The HBC hoped to compete with the North West Company (NWC), who held a 20 year monopoly on the famed fur-rich areas of the Athabasca region. Peter Fidler, an experienced HBC surveyor, along with his Swampy Cree wife, Mary, their children and 17 other explorers arrived at Fort Chipewyan in late 1802 to set up the new trading post, Nottingham House. In the style of competitive exploration that characterized the fur trade in western Canada, Nottingham House was erected less than a mile from Fort Chipewyan, a successful NWC trading post established in 1788.
Despite the best intentions of the HBC and Fidler’s crew, Nottingham House was not a successful trading post. The NWC at Fort Chipewyan took every chance to sabotage trade at Nottingham House, even going so far as to burn HBC canoes and to have individuals that were known to trade with the HBC beaten. In their first year, the HBC at Nottingham House generated a return of only six bundles of fur, which did not come close to covering the costs of their expedition. Fidler and his company remained at Nottingham House for four years, during which they struggled with dwindling trade, starvation and increasingly aggressive attacks from the NWC. On June 9, 1806, Nottingham House was abandoned and the HBC traders moved on to other posts.
The Nottingham House archaeological site was excavated by Karklins, an employee of the National Historic Parks and Sites Branch of Parks Canada during the 1970s. Karklins and seven others began their first 14-week excavation season in June 1972, returning for a lengthy field season each summer until 1977.
The archaeological crew unearthed just over 1,072 square meters of the site, revealing the remains of several buildings and work areas. The main house, measuring about 15 meters by 5 meters, was made up of four rooms with fireplaces, storage pits and a cellar. The site surrounding the main house included a storehouse, a provisions shed, a garden and several outdoor working areas, storage pits and trash pits. The structures were made from the locally-available wood, stones and clay. Most of the structures showed evidence of burning, which suggests that the NWC may have burned the camp after the HBC abandoned it in 1806.
The archaeology crew also uncovered 5,707 complete artifacts and a further 1,006 broken fragments of artifacts during their field seasons. The artifacts are typical of a fur trade post from that era. Most artifacts were personal items that would have been used by those living at the post or were kept as items for trading. These included beads, combs, mirrors, books and glass and ceramic containers.
The other artifacts reflect what would be needed to construct and maintain a fur trade post in undeveloped territory in 19th century Boreal Forest Alberta, such as tools and hardware (axes, nails and saws), hunting and fishing gear (gun parts and ammunition) and household items (cookware, furniture and sewing supplies). The historical record suggests that the HBC crew relied on a protein-rich diet, consisting mostly of animals and birds such as moose, bison, caribou, dog/wolf, snowshoe hare, swans, ducks and cranes that were traded from the local Aboriginal population. Other animals identified from the faunal remains included Arctic fox, muskrat, marten, wolverine and lynx, all of which were hunted for their furs and may have been eaten as well. The crew was also able to fish in Lake Athabasca and grow potatoes and turnips in their gardens.
Karklins’ research in the 1970s served to build a better understanding of the economy and material culture of the Nottingham House fur trade post. The site has not been excavated by archaeologists since the 1970s, but Karklins’ research has proved valuable for other archaeologists and historians studying the fur trade in western Canada, and especially in the Athabasca region of Alberta. The archaeological site of Nottingham House remains protected by the Historical Resources Act as an Alberta Significant Archaeological Site.
References and Figures: Karklins, K. (1979). Nottingham House: The Hudson’s Bay Company in Athabasca, 1802-1806 (Doctoral dissertation, University of Idaho).
Written by: Colleen Haukaas, Archaeological Permits & Digital Information Coordinator.