historic resources of Alberta

“IT THREW A MUSHROOM CLOUD JUST LIKE AN ATOMIC BOMB”: THE LEDUC No.1 OIL DISCOVERY – 70 YEARS AGO

On a bitterly cold afternoon, at 3:55pm, Nathan E. Tanner, Minister of Lands and Mines turned a valve at the Leduc No. 1 oil well as a rig hand held out a burning rag, setting alight a massive column of smoke and flame that roared hundreds of feet skyward. That event took place on February 13, 1947, seventy years ago today and it heralded in a new era for Alberta. An era of rapid development and prosperity fed by the now discovered reserves of oil deep under the province.

p1342

“It flared hundreds of feet” is how tool push Vern Hunter described the lighting of the flare as the Leduc No. 1 oil well was brought in on February 13, 1947. Source, Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1342

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ELIZABETH STREET SCHOOL, MEDICINE HAT – MUNICIPAL HISTORIC RESOURCE

In February 2016, the City of Medicine Hat designated the Elizabeth Street School as a Municipal Historic Resource. In September, a plaque about the school’s history and designation was unveiled. The school is the most recent of Medicine Hat’s historic resources to be listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

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Elizabeth Street School during construction, ca. 1912. The school’s Classical Revival details, notably the cornice at the roofline and the keystone and voissoir details around the entryways, are evident.
Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A10594

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HANNA’S CANADIAN NORTHERN RAILWAY ROUNDHOUSE DESIGNATED A PROVINCIAL HISTORIC RESOURCE

A recent Government of Alberta information bulletin announced a new Provincial Historic Resource. Check it out:

In August, 2015, a rare and important piece of Alberta’s railroading and transportation heritage has been designated as a provincial historic resource.

Exterior of the Canadian Northern Railway Roundhouse, showing the large, double doors, which provide access to the locomotive stalls. The turntable and bridge are in the foreground, September 2014. Alberta Culture and Tourism, Government of Alberta.

Exterior of the Canadian Northern Railway Roundhouse, showing the large, double doors, which provide access to the locomotive stalls. The turntable and bridge are in the foreground, September 2014. Alberta Culture and Tourism, Government of Alberta.

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Pranks and Fun: Social Life at Old St. Stephen’s College

The history of Old St. Stephen’s College spans over a century and while the building itself is unique, it is the people have who have lived and worked here that bring out its uniqueness.[1] In its time as an educational facility, the college produced a large number of graduates who went on to become ministers, employed renowned educators and housed thousands of students. Residents participated in the traditions and customs of campus life and the building became eminent for the pranks that were carried out there. This post will look at the people of Old St. Stephen’s when it functioned as a theological college and some of the stories that illustrate the student’s social lives.

Students using the fire escape slide at St. Stephen's College, October 1940  (Courtesy of the University of Alberta Archives, UAA 72-58-0294).

Students using the fire escape slide at St. Stephen’s College, October 1940
(Courtesy of the University of Alberta Archives, UAA 72-58-0294).

Students were the majority of the building’s inhabitants: up to 150 youths were housed in the college at once and they didn’t spend all their free time studying. After the First World War, the college installed steel spiraled slides, to be used as fire escapes, at the end of each wing. During this time, the college had become a convalescent home for injured soldiers and the fires escapes were meant to evacuate patients as quickly as possible in an emergency. The fire escapes were never used for their intended purpose, but the students made use of them for their own enjoyment. Freshmen were initiated by their fellow classmates, who would dump the unlucky first years down the slides and then chase them with buckets of ice water. This custom continued into the 1970s, up until the fire escapes were removed during the renovations and replaced with ladders. In addition to the pranks and hazing that took place, there were water fights with neighboring residences that highlight the enjoyment of student life on campus. The students had a great deal of playful fun here.

Another tale is from when the Rutherford Library was being constructed in 1948. On the evening of the cornerstone-laying ceremony, the cornerstone mysteriously disappeared, only to turn up behind the college’s west wing fire escape. The stone weighed 700 pounds, and everyone presumed that engineering students were the culprits. However, in 2008, the secret was revealed in New Trail, the University of Alberta’s Alumni magazine. The escapade was actually the work of a group of agriculture students living at St. Stephen’s College. Turns out, the students borrowed a milk cart from the St. Stephen’s kitchen and attempted to haul the stone as far as 109 Street. Being heavier than anticipated, they only made it as far as St. Stephen’s College. To the student’s dismay, the stone was discovered just hours before the cornerstone-laying and the ceremony proceeded as planned.

Old St. Stephen’s College, 1971 (Historic Resources Management Branch, 71-R0001-29).  The tubed fire escapes on the wings of the building were installed in 1920.

Old St. Stephen’s College, 1971 (Historic Resources Management Branch, 71-R0001-29).
The tubed fire escapes on the wings of the building were installed in 1920.

Faculty members would also fall victim to the student’s pranks. The day after Halloween one year, John Henry Riddell, the College’s first principal, saw that his buggy was balanced unsteadily on one the building’s towers. Once again, the engineering students from the University of Alberta were thought to have assisted with this feat. Although no details could be found on who was responsible, it likely would have been worthwhile for the students to see the look on their administrator’s face. Pranks such as these were seemingly all in good fun, and as one former student states, they “built character and helped form fast friendships.”

In addition to pranks, there were Glee clubs, Students’ Council and various intramural activities for students to participate in. Physical recreation played a large role in student life at the college. Friendly sports rivalries were encouraged and the students had access to the tennis courts, a gym for basketball games and even skating parties were organized. Once the college’s ban on dances was lifted in the 1940s, students were able to attend university dances, including the well-known Sadie Hawkins Dance. Dormitory life helped to foster a communal atmosphere spirit among students and many residents have fond memories of their time spent at the college. Even the brochure for the St. Stephen’s Ladies’ College noted that “the social life [was] just delightful.”

Formal group portrait of the members of the Alberta College South Glee Club, 1912-1913 (Provincial Archives of Alberta, A16351).

Formal group portrait of the members of the Alberta College South Glee Club, 1912-1913 (Provincial Archives of Alberta, A16351).

When the building was home for the students of St. Stephen’s College, it was a place where friendships were formed, bonds between students and instructors were strengthened and fun was had. The building has seen thousands of staff and students pass through its hallways and numerous tales have been accumulated. These stories help to illustrate the liveliness of the former college and show us that it is the people who make history come alive.

What can you tell us about your time spent at Old St. Stephen’s College? Let us know your stories!

Written by: Erin Hoar, Historic Resources Management Branch Officer.

Sources:

Alberta Register of Historic Places. “Old St. Stephen’s College.” (Accessed September 10, 2014).

Designation File # 132, in the custody of the Historic Resources Management Branch.

Elson, D. J. C. “History Trails: Faith, Labour, and Dreams.” University of Alberta Alumni Association. (Accessed September 23, 2014).access

Schoeck, Ellen. I Was There: A Century of Alumni Stories about the University of Alberta, 1906-2006. Edmonton, Canada: The University of Alberta Press, 2006.

Simonson, Gayle. Ever-Widening Circles: A History of St. Stephen’s College. Edmonton, Canada: St. Stephen’s College, 2008.

The Caper.” New Trail: The University of Alberta Alumni Association, 2008, 26-28 (Accessed September 13, 2015).

University of Alberta. “University of Alberta: St. Stephen’s College.” (Accessed September 10, 2014).

[1] A note on naming: the institution was initially known as Alberta College South. ACS and Robertson College were amalgamated in 1925 and renamed the United Theological College. The name St. Stephen’s College was chosen in 1927. It became known as Old St. Stephen’s College in 1952 when a new St. Stephen’s was built directly south of the existing college.

Alberta’s First Archaeological Permit: The Nottingham House Trading Post

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.

Alberta Map

Historical Setting

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.

Fig. 90Archaeological Research

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.

Fig. 7The 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.

Examples of gun parts and accessories that were found by Karklins at the Nottingham House archaeological site.

Examples of gun parts and accessories that were found by Karklins at the Nottingham House archaeological site.

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.

What is the Listing of Historic Resources?

Alberta Culture and Tourism is responsible for the examination, preservation and protection of Alberta’s historic resources on behalf of the people of Alberta as mandated by the Historical Resources Act. The Listing of Historic Resources (Listing) is an important tool used in this work. The Listing identifies lands that contain, or have high potential to contain, historic resources such as archaeological, palaeontological, historic or aboriginal traditional use sites. The Listing is also a useful tool for developers, their agents and other regulatory bodies to help determine before development if a proposed project may affect historic resources.

The Listing is reviewed and updated twice a year by Alberta Culture and Tourism’s Historic Resources Management Branch (HRMB). The Listing does not include all lands that may contain historic resources. As previously unknown historic resources are discovered, their locations are added to the Listing. The locations of historic resources that have suffered substantial degradation due to human activities or natural forces may be removed from the Listing.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Special Place Provincial Historic Resource, near Fort Macleod (Historic Resources Management Branch, June 2002).

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Provincial Historic Resource and UNESCO World Heritage Site, located near Fort Macleod (Historic Resources Management Branch, June 2002).

Each land parcel included in the Listing has been assigned a Historic Resource Value (HRV) ranging from 1 to 5. The highest level of significance, HRV 1, is given to lands that have been designated under the Historical Resources Act as a Provincial Historic Resource. HRV 1 is also used to identify World Heritage Sites and lands owned by Alberta Culture and Tourism for historic resource protection. Other HRVs are defined as follows:

  • HRV 2: designated as a Municipal Historic Resource or Registered Historic Resource under the Historical Resources Act.
  • HRV 3: contains a known and significant historic resource that is of great significance and will require avoidance or assessment.
  • HRV 4: contains a historic resource that may require avoidance or assessment.
  • HRV 5: has high potential to contain a historic resource.

Each entry in the Listing also includes a letter notation that describes the primary historic resource category of concern, as follows:

  • a: archaeological
  • c: cultural
  • gl: geological
  • h: historic period
  • n: natural
  • p: palaeontological

A parcel of land may be assigned HRVs from more than one category if different types of historic resources have been recorded on or in the vicinity of the property.

Due to their inherently fragile nature, historic resources are susceptible to the effects of time and damage caused by modern activities. Any proposals to develop lands included on the Listing are assessed by the HRMB for their potential to affect the resource. The assessment is comprehensive. For example, any activity for a parcel listed as a “p” (for palaeontological resources) may also be assessed for potential archaeological sites. The staff of the HRMB work together to evaluate what effect the proposed development or activity may have on any historical resources in the area.

The Listing of Historic Resources is employed, in conjunction with other information resources, to ensure that the opportunity for enhancing that knowledge is not lost under the pressures of development. For more information on the Listing of Historic Resources, please see our website.

Written by: Pauline Bodevin, Regulatory Approvals Coordinator

The War Years at (Old) St. Stephen’s College

The faculty and students of Old St. Stephen’s College were not immune to the impact of war. When the First World War broke out in 1914 and the Second in 1939, a number of the college’s own enlisted, while many others assisted on the homefront. The war years were a difficult period for the people of Old St. Stephen’s, but there are several accounts of compassion that emerged during this time. Two people in particular, Nettie Burkholder and Cylo Jackson, showed that those who were affected by the wars were not forgotten.

This article will look at the St. Stephen’s building that converted space to accommodate soldiers, veterans and nurses and the people who stepped in and offered their services when it was needed the most.

A soldier wearing a gas mask in Front of the Alberta College Building (now Old St. Stephen’s College), ca. 1917.  (City of Edmonton Archives, EA-63-115).

A soldier wearing a gas mask in Front of the Alberta College Building (now Old St. Stephen’s College), ca. 1917.
(City of Edmonton Archives, EA-63-115).

Throughout most of its history, St. Stephen’s College functioned primarily as a teaching facility and a dormitory for students.[1] This changed during wartime. Injured soldiers returned home from the First World War in large numbers and space for convalescent homes became vital. In 1917, the Military Hospitals Commission set up a hospital within the college to care for some of Alberta’s wounded soldiers. The converted hospital housed up to 300 soldiers and for the next three years, the hospital treated soldiers who were physically injured or afflicted by nervous diseases from the war. According to one veteran, the convalescent hospital was “second to none in the whole of Canada.” Throughout this time, the college continued to operate by offering courses, although much of the classwork was moved to Alberta College North or to other buildings on the University of Alberta campus.

There are stories that indicate the compassion of the college’s educators and show the close ties that formed between students and staff during the wars. Nettie Burkholder was the principal of the Alberta Ladies College, which was located in the north wing of Alberta College South and served as a residence and teaching college for women. During the First World War, she corresponded with the students who went overseas; soldiers stationed overseas sent over 302 letters and cards to Nettie from the battlefront. Nettie also led the college’s initiative to send comfort packages to the soldiers, which were carefully packed with soap and vermin powder, along with treats. The extent of Nettie’s care shows the strong relationships that she maintained with the students of the college and the compassion she demonstrated during wartime indicates her dedication to the school and to the war efforts.[2]

Nettie Burkholder, c.1888 (Courtesy of Whitby Public Library, 23-000-043).

Nettie Burkholder, c.1888 (Courtesy of Whitby Public Library, 23-000-043).

In the early 1920s, the college made the decision to commemorate the students and instructors who served in the Great War with two plaques. The names of more than 80 students and graduates from the Methodist College who enlisted to fight in the war, as well as the eight who died in battle, are inscribed upon it. A second plaque is dedicated to the eight students of Robertson College who lost their lives. These plaques were erected in the college’s chapel where they have remained to the present.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, enrollment and residency declined as more students enlisted in the armed forces and departed for overseas. This created plenty of extra space in the building and St. Stephen’s College offered the use of their northern wing to students in the Canadian Officer Training Corps, who used it as a barracks. The college also leased a portion of the building to the University of Alberta hospital as a dormitory for their nurses. In 1943, Principal Aubrey Stephen Tuttle allowed an additional 45 nurses to room in the building’s west wing, resulting in the number of resident nurses to surpass resident students. Many of the male students who resided at St. Stephen’s College at this time said that there was no issue in sharing the residence with the nurses. D. J. C. Elson, a former Dean of the college, noted that an unusually high number of United Church ministers married nurses around the time of the Second World War and shortly thereafter.

Commemorative plaque in the Old St. Stephen’s chapel, 2014 (Photo by Erin Hoar).

Commemorative plaque in the Old St. Stephen’s chapel, 2014 (Photo by Erin Hoar).

By early 1941, five pupils from the college’s theological program had enlisted in the Second World War. The first student casualty was Royal Canadian Air Force Observer, Flight Sergeant Alexander Granton Patrick. Patrick was killed on January 28, 1942, at the age of 22. Just days later, the college held a memorial service for the fallen soldier in its chapel. The death of a student impacted the members of the college, as shown in the correspondence between Dean Cylo Jackson and Patrick’s mother. Jackson wrote that Patrick was “a kindly lad, upright with a directness in his look and speech which made him engaging…I am very sorry for the loss which the church sustains in his passing.” The Dean’s personal words indicate the relationship that existed between staff and students, which was clearly visible during a time of tragedy.

Throughout both of the wars, when news of casualties reached St. Stephen’s, it affected the students and staff. Wartime proved to be a difficult period, but also illustrated how the people of St. Stephen’s College stepped up and supported their fellow Albertans. The college gave their space, services and whatever else they could to contribute to the war efforts. The stories of compassion from Nettie Burkholder and Cylo Jackson demonstrated how strong the bonds between students and instructors could be. The history of the college during the war years highlight an important era in St. Stephen’s history.

For more information on the history of Old St. Stephen’s College, refer to the previous post: The First Heritage Landmark Built on University Grounds.

Written by: Erin Hoar, Historic Resources Management Branch Officer.

Sources:

Designation File # 132, in the custody of the Historic Resources Management Branch.

Elson, D. J. C. “History Trails: Faith, Labour, and Dreams.” University of Alberta Alumni Association. (Accessed September 23, 2014).

Schoeck, Ellen. I Was There: A Century of Alumni Stories about the University of Alberta, 1906-2006. Edmonton, Canada: The University of Alberta Press, 2006.

Simonson, Gayle. Ever-Widening Circles: A History of St. Stephen’s College. Edmonton, Canada: St. Stephen’s College, 2008.

University of Alberta. “University of Alberta: St. Stephen’s College.” (Accessed September 10, 2014).

University of Alberta. “University of Alberta: University Facilities, Departments, and Faculties During WWII.” (Accessed January 29, 2015).

[1] A note on naming: during the First World War, the institution was known as Alberta College South. ACS and Robertson College were amalgamated and the name St. Stephen’s College was chosen in 1927. It became known as Old St. Stephen’s College in 1952.

[2] Special thanks to Adriana Davies for providing the information on Nettie Burkholder. For further information on Nettie, refer to Davies’ essay “The Gospel of Sacrifice: Lady Principal Nettie Burkholder and Her Boys at the Front” in The Frontier of Patriotism: Alberta and the First World War, edited by Adriana A. Davies and Jeff Keshen, that is soon to be released.