Author: petermelnycky

Obadiah Place, Amber Valley: Commemorating African American Settlement in Alberta

Willis and Jeanie Bowen at Amber Valley, courtesy of the Black Settlers of Alberta and Saskatchewan Historical Society.

Willis and Jeanie Bowen at Amber Valley, courtesy of the Black Settlers of Alberta and Saskatchewan Historical Society.

In January of 2017 the Government of Alberta officially proclaimed February as Black History Month, recognizing the contributions people of African and Caribbean descent have made to the province. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Black History Month in Canada, a time to celebrate the history and achievements of black Canadians within Canada.

In the spirit of that announcement, RETROactive would like to feature one of Alberta’s historic places, which commemorates African American settlement. The Obadiah Place at Amber Valley was designated as a Provincial Historic Resource in 1990. The following information is adapted from the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

In 1911, a party of black Americans made their way from Oklahoma to seek a new life on lands north of Edmonton. Recent statehood for Oklahoma had brought with it restrictive ‘Jim Crow’ laws and many black (more…)

Christmas at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village 2017

The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is a major open-air museum with the network of provincial historic sites and museums operated by Alberta Culture and Tourism. Located 50 km east of Edmonton, the museum preserves more than 35 historic structures and interprets the lives of Ukrainian settlers in east central Alberta between the years of 1892 and 1930. Based on extensive contextual and site specific research, the museum is an important steward of the intangible cultural heritage of Alberta’s Ukrainian settlers. (more…)

A Portrait of Service and Sacrifice: Nursing Sister Lieutenant Nora Hendry Peters 1910-1944

Shortly before his death in April of 1915 while serving with the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, English poet Rupert Brooke penned the now famous lines of The Soldier. He surmised that should he die during the course of the war, there would be some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England”. In a similar vein, one might consider the ultimate sacrifices paid by Albertans during two World Wars and their final resting places as corners of foreign fields that are for ever Alberta.

During Canada’s two World Wars approximately 127,000 Albertans served in the country’s armed forces, of (more…)

Gathering at Victoria Settlement

Students at Victoria School, circa 1910: Left to right Frank Whitford, Fred Kuzemsky, unidentified, Wasyl Kotyk, Wayne Kozub or Esepenko, teacher Mr. Rowbottom, Demetrius Ponich, Metro Starchuk, David Thompson, Elena Brucenorsky, Wasyl Brucenorsky [in doorway] and two unidentified at far right (Photo: Rev. D.M. Ponich Collection, Alberta Culture and Tourism).

Students at Victoria School, circa 1910: Left to right Frank Whitford, Fred Kuzemsky, unidentified, Wasyl Kotyk, Wayne Kozub or Esopenko, teacher Mr. Rowbottom, Demetrius Ponich, Metro Starchuk, David Thompson, Elena Brusanowsky, Wasyl Brusanowsky [in doorway] and three unidentified at far right (Photo: Rev. D.M. Ponich Collection, Alberta Culture and Tourism).

Descendants of settlers from Alberta’s historic Victoria Settlement district, and enthusiasts of Alberta’s history generally, are invited to take part in a special gathering and genealogical symposium on the 6th of August 2016 at the Victoria Settlement Provincial Historic Site.

The agenda for the day’s events are listed below. An area map illustrating the location of Victoria Settlement Provincial Historic Site can be found below or at the site’s website: http://www.history.alberta.ca/victoria/location/location.aspx

Gathering at Victoria Settlement

Saturday, August 6, 2016

9:00-9:30                     Set up of tents, tables, registration, displays from participants.

9:30-10:00                   Registration – meet and greet.

10:00-10:30                 Ross Stromberg: Program Coordinator, Alberta Culture and Tourism.

10:30-10:45                 Elaine Breadon Peiche: Victoria Home Guard Society.

10:45-11:45                 Peter Melnycky: Historian, researcher, author of 

                                      ‘A Veritable Canaan – Alberta’s Victoria Settlement.’

11:45-12:30                 Linda Collier: President of Historical Society of Alberta; historian and

                                      great-granddaughter of Rev. George McDougall.

12:30-1:00                   Enjoy your picnic lunch and mingle!

1:00-1:45                     Graham Dalziel: Member of Smoky Lake Heritage Board; owner of

                                      historic Riverlot #3 – with a suitcase full of found treasures!

1:45-2:30                     Donna Shanks and John Althouse: Donna is President of Edmonton

                                      branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society. John is a member of E.A.G.S

                                      and Editor of Clandigger.

3:00-3:30                     Steven Bentley: Historian and genealogist with some ‘Whitford’ stories.

3:30-4:00                     Group photo and closing.

4:00                              Carpool to cemetery for those who wish to explore it.

5:00                              Victoria Settlement Historic Site closes.

BONUS: There will be THREE genealogical consultants on site to help with family histories! Steven Bentley plus Bill and Sandy Macdonald.

Please bring your picnic lunch!  AND, your family history, stories, research to share.

Everyone is responsible for their own entrance fee to V.S. ($5.00 per person).

Check the Victoria Settlement website and Plan Your Visit:

http://history.alberta.ca/victoria/planyourvisit/visit.aspx

If you plan to join us, a quick email to victoriasettlementgathering@gmail.com would help us with our planning.

WE CAN’T WAIT TO MEET ALL OF YOU!

VS_map2

A New Window for Canadian Historical Images: The New York Public Library Digital Collections

Researchers, bloggers and casual internet searchers will be interested in exploring a new source of historic images available to the public, many with relevance to Alberta and Canada in general. The New York Public Library Digital Collections includes over 674,000 items, featuring prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts and streaming videos. More than 180,000 of the items are in the public domain and available for downloading without charge, by the public, directly from the Digital Collections website in high resolution.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. "Sculptured lion in front of N.Y.P.L." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/620a3d58-fe41-dc81-e040-e00a18060f0c

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “Sculptured lion in front of N.Y.P.L.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/620a3d58-fe41-dc81-e040-e00a18060f0c

Browsing through the collection, researchers will find numerous images illustrating Alberta’s rich history, including remarkable images from the Blackfoot reserve in southern Alberta.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. "Indian camp at the foothills of the Rockies, Alberta." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4569-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Indian camp at the foothills of the Rockies, Alberta.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4569-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. "Indian camp, Blackfoot Reserve, Alberta." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4568-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Indian camp, Blackfoot Reserve, Alberta.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 10, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4568-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Many of the images posted on the site are also contained within the collections of such institutions as the Glenbow Museum and Archives, the Provincial Archives of Alberta and the Library and Archives of Canada. Due diligence is always a wise course of action when considering using any image, and the New York Public Library collection is no exception. Some image captions such as the one identifying the first train to arrive at (more…)

Remembering Beverly’s War Dead: Alberta’s First Great War Memorial

Canada is in the midst of marking the centenary of the Great War of 1914-1918. The war which engulfed the Dominion of Canada was to have dramatic effects on the young, barely decade-old province of Alberta. By 1914 Alberta boasted a greatly expanded population of 470,000 of whom more than 49,000 served in Canada’s armed forces. Of that number over 6,000 died and another 20,000 suffered non-fatal casualties.

On the eastern boundary of Alberta’s capital City of Edmonton the coal mining community of Beverly was incorporated as a Village in 1913 and elevated to the status of Town in July of 1914. Just prior to Canada’s entry into the Great War, Beverly had a population of 1,200, attracting residents from across (more…)

Alberta’s Victoria Settlement: Still a Special Place after 150 Years

The year 2012 marks the 150thanniversary of Alberta’s Victoria Settlement. In 1862 Methodist minister George McDougall established a mission at the “Hairy Bag” a buffalo feeding ground north of the North Saskatchewan River which was a favourite meeting place and camping site for Aboriginal peoples for thousands of years. The mission was named Victoria in honour of the reigning British monarch. The Hudson’s Bay Company soon noted the activity of free traders in the vicinity and the large numbers of Aboriginals gathering at the mission and established Fort Victoria in 1864, a post which operated for more than three decades.

Clerk’s quarters and trading shop at Fort Victoria, c. 1890. Provincial Archives of Alberta B.2406.

The mission and trading post attracted several hundred English-speaking Métis (historically known as Mixed-bloods) from the Red River Settlement, in what is now Manitoba, who established a permanent river lot settlement at Victoria. The river lot system was based upon the seigneurial system of New France. It consisted of long narrow river-front lots that provided all settlers river access for transportation and agricultural needs. Combining agriculture with the traditional buffalo hunt, a prosperous community of missionaries, fur traders, settlers and Cree hunters developed. In 1887, when the community established its first post office, it was named Pakan in honour of local Cree chief, James Seenum or “Pakannuk”, in tribute to his leadership during the 1885 Rebellion. During the 1890s, settlement in the district expanded as hundreds of Ukrainian and other European settlers took up homesteads. The community thrived as a commercial and service centre until 1918 when the Canadian Northern Railway line was established north of the settlement at Smoky Lake.

Fort Victoria was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1976, ensuring that Victoria Settlement’s historical ties to Alberta’s First Nations, Métis and Ukrainian settlers and it’s associations with the fur trade, mission and homestead history are conserved for the benefit of all Albertans. This site is interpreted as the Victoria Settlement Provincial Historic Site. It includes the Hudson’s Bay Company Clerk’s Quarters built in 1865, Alberta’s oldest structure remaining on its original location and the 1906 Pakan Methodist Church.

In 2001, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada commemorated the area as the Victoria Settlement National Historic Site of Canada. Its highly visible and physical attributes represent an exceptional illustration in a concentrated area of major themes in Prairie settlement including the development of the fur trade, the establishment of the Métis river lot system, the arrival of missions, Prairie agricultural development and the establishment of eastern European immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century. The national designation along the old Victoria Trail includes the Lobstick Settlement to the west, the Victoria (Pakan) Settlement to the east, and a Ukrainian settlement area to the north.

Main (Free Trader’s) House at River Lot 3, Victoria Settlement Provincial Historic Resource

Historical points of interest in the National Historic Site include the site of the McDougall Mission, the McGillivray House originally located on River Lot 7 but currently found on River Lot 3, which is also designated as a Provincial Historic Resource and the Anderson House, a Municipal Historic Resource on River Lot 14 of the Lobstick Settlement. Other resources from the Settlement have been moved: the Erasmus House is currently displayed at Fort Edmonton Park, while the Sinclair House which for many years functioned as the Pakan Museum on the Mitchell property at River Lot 7 is currently displayed at Metis Crossing along with the Cromarty House from River Lot 12.

Written by: Peter Melnycky, Historian


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