McNaught Homestead

 

The McNaught Homestead near Beaverlodge was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2003. In order for a site to be designated a Provincial Historic Resource, it must possess province-wide significance for either its history or architecture. To properly assess the historic importance of a resource, a historian crafts a context document that situates a resource within its time and place and compares it to similar resources in other parts of the province. This allows staff to determine the importance of a resource to a particular theme, time, and place. Below is some of the historical information used in the evaluation of the McNaught Homestead.

In the spring of 1909, a group of excommunicated Methodists from Ontario known as the Christian Association (or Burnsites after their leader, Nelson Burns) made their way in convoy to the western edge of the Grande Prairie in northwestern Alberta and began to carve out homesteads.  The district along the lower Beaverlodge River was just being surveyed, and this group of 31 settlers came to constitute what would become the first successful attempt at group settlement in the Peace River Country.  They were soon joined by other settlers from Ontario, some of them Christian Association members, some not.  Among the latter was Charles McNaught who, with his wife Eliza, arrived in the district in June, 1911 to visit his brother, Sam, who had settled in the area two years earlier. 

Taken by the country, Charles and Eliza also decided to try establishing a farm there, taking two quarter-sections of land off the Beaverlodge River on NE15 and SE22 TP71 R10 W6 with half-breed scrip, and one on NE25 TP70 R11 off the Red Willow River by homesteading.  They decided to reside on NE15, and so they constructed a log dwelling, a barn, and other structures, and proceeded to work the land.  In 1914, they received title to both NE15 and SE22.

Being at some distance from the more heavily settled areas of the south Peace River Country, the settlers around the Beaverlodge constituted a tightly knit group, most of whom were members of the Christian Association.  Many non-members participated in Association activities.  Though the Association itself would eventually go into decline, due partly to the lack of any formal church structure, the community remained closely connected, with many families inter-marrying.  The children of Charles and Eliza McNaught would remain on the family homestead for years, becoming strong pillars of the community.  Indeed, three of them came to serve as local schoolteachers.

Of all the McNaught children, Euphemia would become the most famous.  She was born in Glenmorris, Ontario, and traveled to the Beaverlodge district in a covered wagon with her family in 1912.  Like her sisters, she enrolled at the Calgary Normal School and, upon graduation, took up teaching as a profession.  Her proclivity for painting had been noticed however and, upon encouragement from instructors at the Normal School, she enrolled in the Ontario College of Art from where she graduated in 1929.  Among her instructors were J.E.H. MacDonald and Arthur Lismer.  Her work received favourable criticism and she was able to finance her way through college with several scholarships.  Upon graduating, she taught art at Mount Royal College and the Ontario Ladies College at Whitby but soon returned to the family homestead near Beaverlodge.  The environment of northwestern Canada soon became her principal subject, and she was able to sustain herself largely though the sale of her paintings and by conducting art classes for local residents. 

When she returned to her home near Beaverlodge, Euphemia stayed with her parents and sisters on their original homestead, residing at the time in the dwelling constructed in 1914.  Before long, an old school building was brought in and made over into a studio for her.  She was soon recognized throughout northern Alberta for her art, and, in time, she gained something of a national reputation as well, with paintings being acquired by the Alberta Art Foundation and the National Gallery.  In 1977, she received the Alberta Achievement Award and, in 1982, she became the first recipient in art of the Sir Frederick Haultain Award.  In 1992, she was the focus of a special National Film Board video.  In the years that followed. her work was the subject of special exhibits by the Edmonton Art Gallery and other galleries throughout the West.  She passed away in 2001 at age 99.

Today, several buildings constituting the McNaught Homestead have survived, including the 1914 dwelling, a 1930s barn, and the old Appleton School, used as an art studio.  In 2003, they were designated a Provincial Historic Resource.

Visit the Alberta Register of Historic Places and read the McNaught Homestead Statement of Significance.

Written by: David Leonard, Historian

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