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Museum Musings: The railway comes to Prince Albert


Have you ever been posed a question to which you knew the answer, but then when you came to think about it you started wondering if it was really the correct answer?  I had that happen to me a few days ago.

A friend with deep family roots in Prince Albert and area suggested to me that his father had told him that the first train had arrived in Prince Albert from the east.  I had always thought that the train had come in from the west, and that was what I told him.  He did not argue the point, but suggested that I should try to determine which point of view was correct.

I was certain that I was correct – well, fairly certain.  As far back as I could remember, trains arriving from the south (such locations as Regina, Saskatoon, and Duck Lake) had always come in from the west.  But then, my memory only goes back 70 or so years.

Anyway, the first station was on Third Avenue West at about 16th Street.  So, it made sense that the first train would have come in from the west.  Or did it?

I could see that I would need to do some research if I was to prove which answer was correct – from the east or from the west!  But where to start was the major question.

I knew that the first train had arrived in Prince Albert on Sept. 4, 1890.  The track had been laid for the Qu’Appelle and Long Lake Railway.  I knew that noted local photographer had taken a photograph of its arrival.  I also knew that there had been a woman as a passenger on that train, Ruth Child, who had come from England to work at Emmanuel College.  She was, as a result, the first woman to arrive in Prince Albert by train.

In his book, Prince Albert The First Century 1866 – 1966, Gary Abrams described the scene as being a “colourful occasion” when Joseph Royal, the Lieutenant-Governor of the Northwest Territories drove in the last spike on Oct. 22, 1890.  Abrams goes on to indicate that the Canadian Pacific Railway operated the Prince Albert branch line from its completion until 1906, when the Canadian Northern Railway took it over.  There is no explanation from Abrams regarding the difference between the map he provides in the book (a map which is unattributed) which lists the line as being the Qu’Appelle and Long Lake Railway and his contention that its was the Canadian Pacific which operated it.  Nor does the map provide much information about the rail lines direction into Prince Albert, although it does appear to come in from the west.

So, further research would be required.

Although we have a significant number of newspaper issues from the 1890s, unfortunately we do not have access to a newspaper which covered the arrival of the first train.  So, some other source material was required.

I knew that Lucy Maud Montgomery had come to Prince Albert in August of 1890.  She and her grandfather had travelled by train to Regina, arriving there on Aug. 18 where they were met by her father, Hugh Montgomery.  They travelled as far as Duck Lake by caboose on the new branch line, finishing their journey by buckboard.

I had hoped that the arrival of the train in Prince Albert might have been sufficiently significant for Maud to mention it in her diary, but apparently it was not sufficiently impressive.  I also reviewed her diary to see if any mention had been made about the train’s route the following year, when Maud returned to Prince Edward Island, but she chose to concentrate instead on the emotions leaving her father and friends had upon her.

Having had no success thus far, it was time to turn my attention to the lack of success in Prince Albert’s attempts to attract rail transportation.

The first discussion of a potential rail line into Prince Albert occurred in 1872 when surveyors for the Canadian Pacific Railway began work which suggested that a line would be laid to the young community.  The very future of the Prince Albert district was seen to rest on the arrival of the railway and the communications it would provide to eastern Canada. In 1881, there were no concerns or apprehensions noted as the rail line moved steadily west from Winnipeg towards Moose Jaw; nor were there apprehensions in 1882 as the southern route became a definite direction.  The CPR had already indicated a willingness to lay a branch line from an area near Fort Ellice to the community of Edmonton.

Even if this branch line were to be delayed pending the completion of the southern line across the prairie, by June of 1882 two other railways had received charters to build through the Saskatchewan Valley.  One of these, the Rapid City Central Railway planned to run from Fort Ellice to Fort a la Corne.  The Saskatchewan and Peace River Railway planned to travel through Prince Albert to the Peace River country, thereby enhancing the vision of the local populace to have a line of settlement between Prince Albert and the northwest.

Later in 1882, Hamilton’s Senator Donald McInnes had secured a charter for the South Saskatchewan Valley Railway.  This included a land grant of 3,480 acres for each mile of track.  This was later revised to the standard 6,400 acres per mile.  His company pledged to have track laid between the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers by Aug. 1, 1884, with the completion of the entire line no later than 1889.  Some 50 acres on River lots 65 and 61 had already been chosen for a railway station and rail yards.  By mid-February of 1883 conveyancing of the property had been completed, and terms had been agreed with the farmers occupying six sections of land around the proposed crossing of the South Saskatchewan River and the future townsite of Halcro.  On April 15th 1883, the first contract had been let for construction to start at the north end of the rail line, with 500 men expected on the site by the beginning of June.

It is unclear what happened to the grandiose scheme proposed by Donald McInnes; nor to the other companies which had proposed joining in what had seemed to be a guaranteed success both for them and for the citizens of Prince Albert.  What had happened to the Portage, Westbourne and North-Western Railway, or to J.B. Scarth’s announcement that the CPR would be building north from Regina to Prince Albert?  To where had the Souris and Rocky Mountain Railway gone, or the Wood Mountain and Qu’Appelle Railway?  What is known is that the failure of these companies to meet their announced objectives led to depression and discontent in the town of Prince Albert.

And when, in 1890, the railway finally neared completion, uncertainty continued.  Failing to have learned its lesson after the debacle resulting from the placement of Prince Albert’s telegraph office, the railway officials planned as late as May 1890 to place the station in the east end of the town.

I have been unable to locate irrefutable proof that the first train into Prince Albert came in from the west, rather than from the east.  However, I would argue that it most likely did.  The line ran through Duck Lake, and was therefore on the north side of the South Saskatchewan River, and on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River.  Had it come from the east, it would have meant that the line would have had to detour past the town of Prince Albert and then swung back.  The only other alternative for the line to have come in from the east would have been for it to cross the South Saskatchewan River at some point.  The proposed crossing at Halcro never materialised, and the other crossings would likely have to have been at St. Louis or at Fenton.  The Fenton bridge, a timber bridge, was not built by the Canadian Northern Railway until 1906.  The St. Louis bridge, built for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, was not built until 1914-15.

Although I am certain that my initial belief was correct, as I have been unable to prove it, I am open to any evidence to support either argument.

Museum Musings: The Empress Theatre

Last week, I was pondering the subject of my next column when a volunteer from the Bill Smiley Archives brought to my attention an article from the January 20th, 1921 edition of the Prince Albert Daily Herald.  Ken, who undeniably has the most detailed knowledge of the Archives local photographs, thought I might find it interesting.

The article in question detailed a fire which, between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, had significantly damaged the Empress Theatre, which was located on the east side of 1st Avenue West between 11th and 12th Streets.  According to Fire Chief J. Smith, three calls were received by the fire department virtually simultaneously.  A citizen, C.T. Colville, had used the call box on First Avenue when he noticed the fire while coming down the hill.  Inspector R.R. Tait called the fire in by telephone, as did a member of the City Police. 

A locally produced pantomime had been rehearsing on the stage until about 10:30 on the Wednesday night.  The theatre’s manager, who had been working in his office, had not noticed anything wrong when he left at about 11:30, a little over a half hour before the calls came in at 12:03 a.m. on the Thursday morning.  The fire department managed to contain damage to the roof, the stage area, and the auditorium.  A major portion of the roof was destroyed, and a large crack had occurred on the east wall of the building.

The Empress Theatre had been built in 1911 during Prince Albert’s boom years.  Construction was supervised by the J.A. Burrichter firm of St. Paul, Minnesota.  It was the largest and best-appointed playhouse in the province, and considered to be the best theatre on the Prairies aside from those in Winnipeg and Calgary.  It could seat up to 900 people, including boxes, had an attractive interior design, and had large and comfortable dressing rooms.  A unique feature of the building was a tunnel which connected it to the Prince Albert Men’s club, which was located in the a nearby building.  Men attending functions at the playhouse would often take the tunnel during the intermission in order to have a drink in the Men’s club, or perhaps play a hand or two of cards

As a result, in the early years, theatre productions which played the largest cities in western Canada often came to Prince Albert.  Well-known names such as Lawrence Irving, Maud Adams, Percy Hutchinson, and Lawrence D’Orsay had been seen on its stage, as had groups such as The Dumbells (formed to improve the morale of World War One troops). 

Another actor, William Henry Pratt, honed his skills on the stage of the Empress Theatre.  Pratt met the theatre’s manager, Nelson Morton, in Regina shortly after that city’s cyclone at the end of June 1912.  He had been travelling with a theatre group from British Columbia, hoping to gain theatrical experience when the cyclone hit and put an end to the group’s anticipated performance in the Queen City.  Both Pratt and Morton were involved in the clean-up effort which was required, and Pratt advised Morton about losing the opportunity to gain the experience which he had planned.  Pratt indicated that he would be willing to do anything if he could have another opportunity to gain theatrical experience, even if it meant sweeping the floor of a theatre’s auditorium.  Shortly thereafter, he was in Prince Albert and getting the experience he was seeking.  Pratt would eventually use the stage name Boris Karloff, a name under which he performed both in movies and on television.  Whether he actually pushed a broom at the Empress is unknown!

Originally managed by James McKay, Nelson Morton had purchased the theatre a short time after its construction.  At the time of the fire, the registered owner of the building was The Empress Theatre Company, which was owned jointly by Nelson Morton and R.C. McLean, each owning equal shares.

McLean was the owner and proprietor of McLean’s Departmental Store, a business located on Central Avenue, and which sold everything from groceries to dry goods, boots and hats, millinery and men’s furnishings.  McLean also lived in a suite in the theatre block.

Morton had been the mayor of Prince Albert in 1912 and 1913, and was one of the major promoters of the La Colle Falls project.  As a result of this debacle, he had lost his mock-Tudor house which stood on the brow of the hill at 2nd Avenue and 20th Street West, and he was living with his family in another suite in the theatre block.

Although initially a profitable business, it would appear that the downturn in the local economy, as well as the impact of the First World War, had created some business difficulties.  As a result, a portion of the building had been rented out to various businesses, including the Bank of Montreal when it first established in Prince Albert.  At the time of the fire, a portion of the building was being rented by Miss Skett’s music academy.

The report in The Daily Herald indicated that most of the furnishings and personal possessions from the suites were removed from the building, and that little damage was done to those possessions which could not be removed.

The theatre block had been appraised at between $90,000 and $100,000, but was insured for only $45,000.  As a result, the playhouse was not rebuilt, although the living accommodations which existed in the west end and the east end were salvaged and continued as rental units until 1959 when the city determined that they needed to be demolished.

At the time of demolition, the connecting tunnel which ran from the theatre to the building which had initially been the Prince Albert Men’s club was still in existence.  Each end of the tunnel had been blocked off, one concreted end forming (according to Wes Stubbs, a former Police Chief) and the other end in the basement of what at the time was the Prince Albert Public Library.  (As the library building had been used as the headquarters of the local home of the Provincial Police after the Gentlemen’s club had gone bankrupt, the library thereafter had the distinction of being the only library known to have both a wine cellar and a cell block in its basement.)

The tunnel existed as it had been at the time of the theatre’s demolition until the early 1980s when the city determined that it should be filled in as a safety measure.  Alderman Lee Gisi and his council colleague Marion Sherman witnessed this measure, the final act in the story of the Empress Theatre.

I mentioned that Ken is knowledgeable about local photographs.  The picture he supplied to illustrate this column shows the theatre, but it also shows 1st Avenue West looking south.  If you follow the photo up the hill, you can see the James McKay house (which when I attended collegiate was the Doug Olver house), as well as the turrets on top of Prince Albert Collegiate Institute.

Museum Musings: Newcomers

This past week, the Prince Albert Multicultural Council presented a screening of the documentary “The Newcomers”.  The film would highlight, we were advised, “the stories of Newcomers/ Immigrants in rural Saskatchewan, topics that most newcomers can easily relate to, such as identity, belonging, acceptance, homesickness, challenges and much more” and it would encourage discussion and reflection regarding our history.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend, but the advertising for the event led me to reflect on the history of immigration into Prince Albert and area.  Some of my reflections follow.

The earliest “newcomers” to this area were, of course, the fur-traders.  Arguably, their relationship with the First Nations was symbiotic in nature.  There were, obviously, some negative outcomes resulting from the arrival of these newcomers, but both parties benefitted from the relationship.  Even though it might be considered that the advantage lay with the fur-traders, had the exchange of goods been seen as not being beneficial to both parties, such trade would have been discontinued.  There are also numerous examples, from oral history and the diaries and written reports of the fur-traders, which indicate that both parties shared services with each other.  Notable amongst these services were occasions when the sharing of food precluded one party or the other starving due to a shortage of food, especially during the winter months.

The next wave of newcomers might be considered those individuals, like James Isbister, who were “mixed blood”.  These individuals, most often children of First Nation women and fur-traders of European origin, decided that they wanted to settle on the land which they had come to appreciate and enjoy.  In 1860, James Isbister, along with his brother Adam, his sister and her husband (Olaf Olsen), built houses in which to raise their families, barns in which to shelter their livestock, and planted gardens.  They even grew wheat, which Isbister had to haul to the Red River settlement (now Winnipeg) in order to have it ground into flour.

Shortly after the arrival of people like Isbister, there were newcomers like James Nisbet, reaching out to the First Nation people, wanting to “improve” their lives.  Not all these individuals had the same approach as Nisbet, who was assisted in his approach by Metis persons such as George Flett.  Nisbet’s party concentrated on education rather than proselytising.  The chiefs and elders with whom they dealt were also wise men, and they knew the value of providing educational training to their youngsters.  Although there were vast differences in language, religion, and culture between these newcomers and the First Nation people, they tended to live quite separately from each other, avoiding the difficulties which tend to preclude the problem of belonging and acceptance.

Between Nisbet’s arrival in 1866, in what was to become known as Prince Albert, and 1890, the vast majority of the newcomers to the area were either Metis or British immigrants.  Many of the Metis arrived from the Red River settlement, particularly after 1870 when the province of Manitoba was established.  The British settlers tended to come directly from Great Britain, or from the central Canadian province of Ontario; few were non-English or non-French speaking immigrants.  Their assimilation into the settlement communities was relatively easy, as their language, religion, and customs were very similar to those already existent in these communities.

During these years, both in the Northwest Territories and more especially in Prince Albert, individuals, mostly Protestants from Britain and Ontario, almost exclusively controlled the political, legal, cultural, and educational institutions, setting the parameters and conducting the debate over immigration – believing British principles of government were the apex of both biological evolution and human achievement.

Between 1890 and 1913, an immigration boom occurred on the Canadian prairies.  English speaking immigrants felt almost immediately at home; others, notably from central and Eastern Europe and Asia, found acceptance an uphill struggle – ethnic conflict was intense and stereotypes abounded as people from diverse backgrounds attempted to make sense of one another.

Although In 1892 the Calgary Herald suggested only one question need be asked of immigrants: “are they healthy, industrious and moral living?” newspaper editorials soon argued newcomers should be “stalwart, enterprising” North Europeans closely related to Anglo-Saxons who could attain the accepted level of civilisation.  It was feared that newcomers from other countries would lower moral and intellectual standards and dilute the British racial stock, thereby threatening the character of the new territories.

Most Canadians felt that allowing other than British and North Europeans would result in desirable immigrants refusing to come to Canada and that the non-desirable ones could be easily bribed by irresponsible politicians, that they would want to perpetuate their language and customs, and be out of touch with established institutions and ideals. Few Canadians agreed with J.S. Woodsworth who called Ukrainians “patient and industrious” and said that “the girls make good domestics”.

During this period, the vast majority of newcomers continued to be British.  The Toronto Globe wrote in 1909 “The West is today definitely Anglo-Saxon…The legislators, lawyers, ministers and newspapermen are almost invariably from the (Anglo-Saxon) East and, at this formative period, the West is to them as clay in the hands of a potter.”

However, this immigration boom did not significantly impact Prince Albert and area.  The federal immigration policy established under the John A. MacDonald government continued under Laurier’s Liberals.  Not surprisingly, it encouraged immigration into the western prairies to establish a market for eastern manufactured goods, to provide freight and traffic for the railways, and to secure the West for Canada.

In order to meet this policy, it was important for newcomers to settle near railways, and Prince Albert did not have a railway line until 1891.  Even then, unlike the rail lines across the southern prairies, the railroad companies did not have land bonuses for the land next to, or near, the rail line leading to Prince Albert.  As a result, the railways’ land agents did not encourage immigrants to settle in this area.  Rather, they encouraged newcomers to settle on their properties on, or near, the land they had been given in the south.

Prince Albert did not benefit from the immigration of Asians as did those communities along the southern rail lines.   However, there were a few Asian settlers who did settle locally.  The Broadway Hotel was long managed by a Chinese man named Seto, and the Central Hotel also had an Asian manager.  Often Asians were the owners and operators of laundries and restaurants.  A notable Prince Albert man of Chinese origin was Hoo Sam.  He ran a laundry prior to his partnership on the Saskatchewan Restaurant.  Other settlers often expressed concern about the habit of the Chinese to gamble, and that habit led to Hoo Sam’s eventual downfall.  He was convicted of the murder of one of his partners, whom he believed to be taking money from the business to pay his gambling debts.  Hoo Sam was hanged as a result of the conviction.

Other concerns expressed throughout the Prairie provinces about Asian immigrants were their use of opium, the belief that they were racially and culturally remote, and the fact that they seldom brought their spouses with them.  Apparently, this resulted in concerns that they might wish to consort with the women from other racial backgrounds.  After 1904 when the Laurier government imposed a head tax of $500 on Chinese immigrants, even fewer females came with their spouses. 

The largest non-British group of settlers who came to the Prairies, and made up a significant newcomer group in the Prince Albert area were the Ukrainians.  They tended to maintain their language, their exotic dress, and their traditions.  This made them conspicuous and clearly set them apart from the other settlers in the area.  As a result, they turned inward, avoiding government officials where possible, tried to establish their own schools, patronised their own merchants (or Jewish merchants) whose practices were known to them.  Given the large number of Ukrainian settlers in the Prince Albert area, it was not surprising, therefore, to see so many Jewish merchants established along Prince Albert’s River Street and along the north end of Central Avenue.  Names such as Wasserman, Davidner, Katz, Tadman, and Shnay all did business with the early Ukrainian settlers.  However, as the first generation of these newcomers died off, and the second generation became more comfortable with other business people, the Jewish businessmen found doing business here less attractive and eventually either moved onward or also died off.

American immigrants brought farm skills, capital, and machinery; most came from the mid-western states between 1898 and 1914.  Many of these were originally German immigrants, although others were from Scandinavian countries.  Some of these newcomers settled in areas such as Cudworth and Vonda, Birch Hills and Hagen.  Often Interaction with other cultural groups and intermarriage were rare.  The immigrants tended to live in a world apart, hoping to be left alone, rather than acceptance in the established communities.

Some American settlers were not seen to be acceptable.  During Black History month, I am often asked to supply stories about Black settlers.  These stories are few and far between.  At the time of our early settlement, Blacks were considered inferior, and believed to pose economic, sexual, and cultural threats.  In 1910/11, one thousand Blacks from Oklahoma were fleeing discrimination.  This resulted initially in  informal exclusionary policies on the part of the Federal government.  Then, an Order-in-Council was passed in the spring of 1911 barring Blacks from the country.  This was quickly repealed due to concerns how it would reflect on Canada.  It was replaced by government agents going to Oklahoma advising Black individuals that they would starve or freeze if they came north, that the soil was poor, and they would have trouble crossing the border.

All these barriers posed issues for non-British or northern European immigrants who might wish to relocate to the Canadian prairies, and particularly to Prince Albert and area, in the early years.  Much has changed for the better, but there are still challenges which we should all work towards resolving.

Museum Musings: The Prince Albert Volunteers

I recently received a telephone call regarding an upcoming anniversary of the Prince Albert Volunteers.  The Canadian Forces are anxious to commemorate the anniversary and, at the same time, to rectify what is considered to be an inaccuracy with respect to a memorial headstone which was erected in the graveyard surrounding St. Mary’s Anglican church.

As part of my research I discovered the following from the book The History of the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, written by Charles Pelham Mulvaney, A.M., M.D., published by S.B. Hovey & Co., 10 King Street East, Toronto, Ontario in 1885. 

“On Tuesday, at 2:00 p.m., the funeral procession started for the Church of England cemetery, where it was thought best to lay the nine together in one common grave.  The Prince Albert band led the way playing a funeral march.  Then followed the volunteers, a body of police, and the ministers of the town.  Next came the coffins, the mourners, and the general public.   The Bishop and two of his clergy read the ordinary burial service.  There was no sermon nor address, nor allusion to the peculiar circumstances.  To some it seemed a pity that the order of the Church should be so rigid as to prevent any more honour being done to these brave men brought in from the field of battle, than would be shown at the burial of a newborn child.  The Bishop of Saskatchewan and the Presbyterian minister, however, both preached funeral sermons appropriate to the circumstances on the following Sabbath.”

The headstone, which was erected at some point after 1962, commemorates the nine members of the Prince Albert Volunteers who were killed in March 1885 near Duck Lake.  Of major concern is that the wording on the headstone refers to the Riel Rebellion.  The Canadian Forces wish to have a replacement headstone referring to the Volunteers as having been killed during the Resistance.  Of secondary importance is the fact that, although all nine men were interred at St. Mary’s, three were later exhumed and re-interred in Prince Albert’s South Hill Cemetery, while a fourth was exhumed and re-interred “down east”.

In researching the required changes regarding the headstone, I also discovered that the names of two of the remaining five men had been mis-spelled.

Bill Smiley Archives. The Prince Albert Volunteers headstone.

Having initiated the research for this project, I was led to uncovering some additional history about Prince Albert’s military history. 

The earliest militia units in Prince Albert consisted of three infantry companies, two of which were mounted.  Although organised in October 1879 (the year that the North West Territories was incorporated in the territorial limits of Military District No. 10), these companies did not receive official status until the following year.  Dating from January 16th, 1880, they were:  No. 1 Company, Prince Albert Mounted Rifles under Commanding Officer Captain C. F. Young (formerly a Captain in Her Majesty’s 50th Foot); No. 2 Company, Prince Albert Mounted Rifles under Commanding Officer Captain H.S. Moore; and Prince Albert Infantry Company under Captain Thomas McKay.

Thomas McKay later became Prince Albert’s first mayor, and still later farmed in the Royal district.  Captain Moore brought the first grist mill to Prince Albert and, as a result of a leg wound suffered during the Resistance, had to have the leg amputated.  He later returned to his homeland of Ireland where both he and his wife died.  Captain Young farmed east of Prince Albert and, based upon copies of letters which the grandson of Colonel Sproat has shared with the Bill Smiley Archives, I believe he later moved in the early to mid-1880s further up river to the area of modern-day Edmonton.

Each of the three companies consisted of three officers and 42 non-commissioned officers and men.  They were required to drill a minimum of six days and a maximum of twelve days each year.  Daily drills were of three hours duration.  Each man received fifty cents a day, with those on horseback receiving an additional seventy-five cents a day.

Bill Smiley Archives Photo. The 52nd Prince Albert volunteers.

Little is known about the activities of these units.  Although they were selected to drill in 1881, it would appear that no returns were received.  The Deputy Adjutant-General, in his report on the corps for the year, which also included a company at each of Battleford and Duck Lake, stated: “all the corps in the North West Territories have been selected for drill this year, but not having received any official communication from them on the subject, I am unable to state what progress they are making.  I learn, however, from private sources that some, if not all of them, have been performing more or less drills this season.”

The following year, he reported: “the North West Corps consisting of three Mounted Infantry and two Infantry Companies have never been inspected since their first organization in October, 1879.  In consequence of not yet having received any uniforms, they were relieved from drill this year, by order of the Adjutant-General, dated August 10.  In reference to these corps I may state that it is hardly to be expected that they will give up much of their valuable time and supply their own horses for drilling purposes, or even regard themselves in the light of a properly organized body of militia, until after they have been properly furnished with uniforms of some pattern or denomination.”

Local sources indicate that the Prince Albert Corps did actually drill regularly, but saw no action until March 20th, 1885.  It was on that day that Gentleman Joe McKay rode into Prince Albert with an urgent message from Major L.N. Crozier, the officer in charge of the North West Mounted Police at Fort Carlton.  The Walters & Baker store at Batoche had been raided.  A meeting shortly ensued and, within a few hours of McKay’s arrival, 80 men were sworn in and, armed with short Snider rifles, journeyed along the river trail to Fort Carlton to reinforce the police at Fort Carlton.

On March 26th, Major Crozier with 20 North West Mounted Police and 80 Volunteers left the fort for Duck Lake in order to commandeer any available supplies.  They managed to get within three miles of Duck Lake before realising that they had ridden into a well-planned ambush.  Crozier, with his interpreter McKay, attempted to negotiate with three of those who were opposing them.  Although Crozier was under orders to avoid open bloodshed, the confrontation escalated and, on Crozier’s command, McKay shot one of their opponents.  Thus, Canada’s first and only civil war began.

Losing nine Volunteers in the fierce forty-five-minute battle resulted in the Prince Albert Volunteers being awarded their first battle honours. Surviving members of the Volunteers received the North West Canada medal, and a grant of 320 acres (130 ha) of land, or scrip of $80 in lieu.

The next action seen by the local Volunteers occurred when members participated in the South African (Boer) War between 1899 and 1902.  I recall a local businessman telling me, when I was just a child, that his first memory as an infant was of the celebration when some of our local soldiers returned from that conflict.

Additional action was seen by local men during the Great War.  As a result, battle honours were awarded to the Prince Albert unit in 1929 for their participation in Mont Sorrel, Somme 1916, Arras 1917, 1918, Hill 70, Ypres 1917, Amiens, Hindenburg Line, and Pursuit to Mons 1918.  The colours of the Regiment carry the honours for Somme 1916, Arras 1917, 1918, Hill 70, Ypres 1917, Amiens, Hindenburg Line, and Pursuit to Mons 1918.

At the end of the Great War, over 2,000 men from Prince Albert and area had seen service overseas.

Throughout the years, from 1880 to 1955, the Prince Albert Volunteers were part of a number of different armed forces units, including the Regina Rifles and the Saskatoon Light Infantry, as well as being affiliated with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.  Efforts were always made to ensure that the denomination of Prince Albert Volunteers was continued, either as a Regiment or a Battalion.  The Volunteers are currently a part of the North Saskatchewan Regiment.

Museum Musings: Archives Week

Earlier this month, we celebrated Archives Week.  I realise that this is not something which most people would celebrate, or even of which they would be aware.  However, for those of us who enjoy history and research, Archives Week is far more exciting than Ground Hog Day.

The Province of Saskatchewan established its provincial archives in 1945 when the Legislature passed the Archives Act in March 1945.  This Act was the culmination of work begun by A.S. Morton, begun in 1914 when he was head of the Department of History at the University of Saskatchewan.  Under his leadership, provision had been made for an archives branch of the Legislative Library, but on the death of the archivist in 1924, the impetus to collect documentation ceased.  Rather than collecting and organising the overflow of government documents, batches of paper were directed to the fires of the nearby powerhouse.

Finally, in 1937, the Historical Public Records Office was established at the University of Saskatchewan.   Based on the English Public Records Office, Morton spent the next seven years pursuing inactive federal government records and those of farm organisations with the aim of developing a research facility for prairie history.

The Archives Act formalised the relationship between the Province and the University of Saskatchewan, and established a board which consisted of five members, two of which were to be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor and two by the University’s Board of Governors.  The fifth member would be the Legislative librarian.  A further non-voting appointee would be the Provincial Archivist, who would act as the Secretary of the Board.

A revised Act was passed in 2004, which updated the legislative framework, and ensured that the province’s legislation was in line with that of other provincial archives.  A further change occurred in August 2015 when the Archives and Public Records Management Act was passed.  It was as a result of this legislation that the current name, the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan, became official.

Although the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan is the largest archives in the province, there are numerous other archives in existence.  The Bill Smiley Archives, part of the Prince Albert Historical Society and housed in our Historical Museum, is believed to be Saskatchewan’s second largest collection.    This archive was organised by a long-time resident of the city, and member of the Historical Society, and now bears his name.  After Bill’s retirement from the Society, his leadership was taken over by Jamie Benson.  When Jamie decided to move to New Brunswick (where now he volunteers in their provincial archives), the leadership torch was passed to another long-time volunteer, Ken Guedo.

I have been fortunate to be able to do research in the Bill Smiley Archives, and to have been able to call on the assistance of Ken and the other volunteers who provide research support at the facility.  Other local archives which I have found to be of assistance include the archives of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert.

My first actual research project utilising archival material was in November 1999.  Descendants of Robert Hunt, who was responsible for the construction of Holy Trinity Anglican church at Stanley Mission had been seeking information on their relative, a man who to them was known as having been a missionary to First Nations people in Canada.  Hunt’s great-great granddaughter, Margaret Wynne ha a friend who was on staff at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.  Her friend passed on information found in an Internet search, which led to Margaret obtaining an email address for Dr. David Dice, a teacher at Carlton Comprehensive High School here in the city.  She forwarded an email to him, explaining her connection to Robert Hunt.  In the email, she asked him for information regarding the church at Stanley Mission and any further information which he might be able to provide about her ancestor.

As Margaret notes in a booklet she prepared in 2010, Dr. Dice “replied promptly, saying that he had passed on my message to a school secretary, whose husband was very interested in the Hunt family and in Stanley Mission”.  My wife was the secretary, and I was eventually in receipt of Margaret’s email.  Having obtained my father’s archival material upon his death, I was able to research the material which my father had gathered about forty years previously when he and Canon Bernard Stather-Hunt (a first cousin of Margaret’s grandmother) had carried on a cross-Atlantic correspondence regarding Robert Hunt.

The information which I had in my possession, although more than they had, was limited.  Margaret Wynne and her mother, Nella Lennon, were anxious to further their knowledge.  So it was that in June of 2000, they travelled to Prince Albert where they met with David Dice and his wife, with Verna Adams (former manager of the Historical Society and at the time archivist for the Anglican diocese), as well as my wife and myself.

Margaret and her mother travelled to Stanley Mission and attended a service of Confirmation and Holy Communion and, afterwards shared in a fish fry.  They also visited La Ronge where, at Robertson’s Trading Post they met Alex and his son, Scott, and saw the pulley hanging in the store.  This pulley is believed to have been used in the original construction of Holy Trinity church.

I was also able to take Margaret and Nella to the Diocesan archives and well recall the excitement they experienced when they saw the original baptismal entry for Nella’s great-grandfather (who was Margaret’s great-great grandfather).

Since that initial archival research project, I have found considerable satisfaction in doing research for my own knowledge, but also on behalf of others.  Often, this research is simply to connect individuals with their ancestors, or to provide background regarding an older home that has been purchased.  Sometimes the research has required more work, but has resulted in more reward.

One example of this was the research completed for a woman from Edmonton.  When just an infant, her older brother had died as a result of hanging.  The woman’s older sister had informed her that the police were convinced that their mother had murdered the boy.  She contacted the Bill Smiley Archives to see if we could provide further information.  Through the research we were able to conduct, we were able to discover that the coroner had determined that the young boy had accidentally hanged himself.  The mother had not been responsible for his death.  The woman from Edmonton had travelled to Prince Albert subsequent to this finding, and visited us.  You could see the relief in her tears, knowing after all those years that her mother was innocent and that her sister had been incorrect in her interpretation of the story.

Another example of more in-depth research has been that which I have done with respect to the history of Saskatchewan Penitentiary.  It has often been misrepresented that Prince Albert chose to take the Penitentiary over the University of Saskatchewan.  Documents which I have been able to obtain from Library and Archives Canada clearly demonstrate that the decision to place the Penitentiary here was made long before the decision was made to establish the University in Saskatoon.  The federal government was purchasing land locally in 1907 with the intent to build the Penitentiary.  The decision to locate the University in Saskatoon was not made until April of 1909 and, although people from Prince Albert eventually voted for that site, their vote was not in Saskatoon’s favour until only that city and Regina were the finalists.

If you are interested in learning more about the Bill Smiley Archives, and archives in general, consider attending one of the two archives tours to be conducted at the Historical Museum on Saturday, February 24th.  The first tour is at 1:00 p.m., with the second tour scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

Museum Musings: Saskatchewan’s first female doctor

It is an unfortunate fact that most historical records reflect the lives and impact of men.  Seldom are the women’s contributions properly documented.  So, when I was recently researching the background of the Onion Lake student residence, I was pleased to come across some excellent information regarding Elizabeth Scott Matheson, Saskatchewan’s first woman doctor.  Although much of her life was lived outside Saskatchewan, and it is a bit of a stretch to consider Onion Lake as part of the area included in the Prince Albert Historical Society, I felt inclined to write about Mrs. Matheson.

Born to James and Elizabeth (Beckett) Scott in 1866 near Campellford, Canada West (now Ontario), Bessie (as she was known to her husband) began her education at age four at the Burnbrae school, at which school she continued until the family moved to take up a homestead at Morris, Manitoba, in 1878.  Elizabeth continued her education, and later in Winnipeg where she completed high school and then trained at the normal school, becoming a school teacher at age seventeen.

A few years later, Elizabeth’s brother, Tom, encouraged her to return to Ontario, and arranged for her to take a position with Marchmount Homes in Belleville, a home where orphaned boys and girls from Great Britain were received and learned the rudiments of either farming or housework, dependent upon their sex.  It was the director of the home, a Miss Bilbrough, who encouraged Elizabeth to enter the Women’s Medical College at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.  Miss Bilbrough even agreed to assist in meeting what expenses that Elizabeth could not afford herself.

It was during this year at Queen’s that Elizabeth joined the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, after hearing a talk given by John Raleigh Mott on his tour of eastern universities.  This led to an interview with the Presbyterian Missions Board of Toronto which had missions in central India.  As a result, Elizabeth sailed in November 1888, arriving in Bombay, India, on New Year’s Day 1889.  She had signed a seven-year teaching position but, in her second year she as often fevered, and had little energy.  It appeared that she had contracted malaria, possibly while sailing through the Red Sea.  Although Elizabeth felt that she could overcome the illness, the doctor disagreed, and she was returned to Canada in 1891.

After her return home, Elizabeth was encouraged to visit her sister in Vancouver, British Columbia.  It was while she was in that city that she once again encountered John Matheson.  Much appeared to have changed in Matheson’s life since their last meeting, which had occurred at a party in Manitoba when Elizabeth was nineteen years old.  They had subsequently written to one another, the letters growing more and more infrequent as he openly wrote of his love for her and she tried to dampen his affection.  Elizabeth felt that the difference in their lifestyles, as well as the distance between them, could never result in a relationship ever blossoming.

However, there was a major difference in their age (he was eighteen years older than her), and his lifestyle had always been rather “rough and ready”.  Elizabeth’s sister and her husband were not impressed with the thought of Elizabeth establishing a romantic relationship with him, but Elizabeth appeared to see a much different side to him now than when she had first met him.  He had, in fact, adopted a Christian lifestyle, and was interested in becoming a missionary.

So it was that John Matheson and Elizabeth Scott married at the Presbyterian manse on December 8th, 1891, with none of their family in attendance.  Shortly thereafter, they began looking for opportunities in the field of mission work.

Initially, since Elizabeth had been attached to a Presbyterian mission, they applied to that denomination for whatever posting might be available.  The Presbyterians decided that Matheson’s personal history was unsuitable for a position with them, and denied him right off.  An application to the Methodist church was given consideration, but nothing was immediately offered.  As a result of Matheson’s family connections with an Anglican branch of the family (their mother, a Pritchard, had a very strong family connection, as did Matheson’s brother Edward, who was the first graduate of Emmanuel College in Prince Albert), Bishop Pinkham, second bishop of the Diocese of Saskatchewan and the first bishop of the Diocese of Calgary, decided to appoint Matheson to the Anglican mission at Onion Lake.

The Mathesons left New Westminster in May, 1892, and travelled as far as Winnipeg to visit with his family.  They then took the train back to Saskatoon, a community of “no more than a half-a-dozen houses that were either stores or stopping-places for freighters and stage-coach drivers and such travellers as themselves”.  Aside from the flea-infested bedroom they were to stay in that night, the only lasting memory they had of the community was walking across the railway trestle and back again.  Matheson had been one of the individuals who had, in his earlier years, been involved in the construction of that bridge.

Eventually, after travelling to the Battlefords, where they met and stayed with John’s brother Edward and his wife, they arrived at Onion Lake in August.  The mission house and the church both required considerable repair, and the Mathesons set to work making both buildings far more solid prior to the winter months.  Also, as the snow did not arrive until November of that year, they were able to prepare the garden for planting in the spring, and to repair the henhouse.

Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan photo. Dr. Matheson’s Certificate of Registration with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the North-West Territories, 1904.

Attempts to encourage the local First Nations children to attend school were less than successful, with attendance each day amounting to two or three children, and not the same two or three each day.  Elizabeth thought back to her time teaching in Bombay, and decided that the best approach would be to allow the children to live in the Matheson’s home, and to teach them right in the house.  This was so successful that, by the end of the school year, there were almost 80 students living in the quickly constructed dormitories.  Even the school inspector was impressed with the accommodations provided, and with the curriculum which was being taught.

Things were proceeding well for the Mathesons.  The school was successful, they were accepted by most of the First Nations communities of the area, and their own family was growing.  Bishop Pinkham had visited several times, and had been well satisfied with their work.  Plans were made for him to meet with John Matheson at Duck Lake in 1894 to arrange for his ordination as a deacon of the Anglican church.

It was in 1894 that Elizabeth began to regret that she had not completed her medical training.  Some deaths in the community, the spread of tuberculosis, and a request for an amputation of a man’s foot which she could not in all conscience undertake, resulted in the determination of the two of them that she needed to return and complete her medical degree.  In 1895, she was enrolled in the Manitoba Medical College.  During her term there, she delivered her third baby, a third daughter.

At the end of the term, she transferred to Trinity Medical College in Toronto, where she completed her training in 1898.  She then successfully passed all of her exams, and returned to Onion Lake where her husband had built a three-storey hospital building complete with a surgical room.

Although the Northwest Territories College of Physicians and Surgeons were unwilling to grant Dr. Matheson a license (possibly because she refused to travel to Calgary to complete the necessary interview), she was designated as the district doctor by the government.  Many believed that this came about due to the treatment she provided during the 1901 smallpox outbreak.  Elizabeth was finally going to be paid for her work, at the rate of $300 a year.

After returning to the Manitoba Medical College in 1903 and completing another year of studies, she received a second medical degree.  Even so, it took her husband’s intervention before the College of Physicians and Surgeons would grant Dr. Matheson a licence.

The Mathesons continued working at the Onion Lake mission until the death of the Reverend John Matheson in 1916.  As his health declined, his wife took over his duties as principal of the school, adding that responsibility to her duties as a doctor.  She remained in the community until 1918, when she relocated to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she assumed the role of assistant medical officer for the Winnipeg public school system, a job she held until her retirement in 1941.

Dr. Matheson died in San Antonio, Texas, at the home of her daughter on January 15th, 1958.  She was buried at Onion Lake.

St. Alban’s Girls College and Notre Dame College


Museum Musings

St. Alban’s Girls College and Notre Dame College

My friend Larry from up Second Avenue called the other day.  Both of us having grown up on the West Hill, he was wondering if I had ever considered writing a column on Notre Dame College.  Larry remembered having walked past Notre Dame on his way to Pat’s Place and, especially, he recalled the ice sculptures they used to build in the winter time.

Coincidentally, a short time after Larry’s call, Roger St. Pierre called me.  Roger tried to teach me French when I was in High School and, regardless of my lack of proficiency in Canada’s other official language, we have continued to have a good relationship.  Roger and I have talked about Prince Albert’s past, and I knew that he was well able to recall the days when Notre Dame stood proudly on the hill just across Central Avenue from PACI.  It seemed serendipitous, and I decided then and there that I would make Larry happy and write the column he was hoping that I would write.

Roger’s first response to my question about Notre Dame was to ask me if I knew the background to the College.  I was aware of the building’s origins, but I also knew that there was a lot of history between 1908, when it first opened as St. Alban’s Girls College, and when it became Notre Dame College.  The information which he provided was certainly something of which I was unaware.

Letitia Newnham, wife of the third bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan, was the driving force behind the establishment of St. Alban’s Girls College (often referred to as St. Alban’s Girls School).  The Newnhams had daughters whom they wished to receive what was considered to be a “proper education”, and she was convinced that there were other families who had the same desire.  The aim of the College was to give the girls “a thoroughly sound and modern education based on religious teaching.”  Although founded on the principles of the Church of England, special arrangements were made for girls of other denominations.  The curriculum included the regular subjects to meet the requirements of Junior and Senior matriculation examinations supplemented by music, art, and sewing.  Part of the recreational activity were focussed on the social graces, such as dancing.  Up to 68 young ladies of many denominations were in attendance at the school at one time.

It is likely that the College would have prospered had the owners been more cautious in their plans.  Although the name of the school was that of the Anglican cathedral in the city, originally neither the congregation nor the Anglican diocese had any ownership of it.  It was, instead, owned by a company which was made up of a number of leading members of the Anglican community, as well as a few other local notables including A.C. Howard.

The company were encouraged by the number of young ladies who were enrolled in the College and, as a result, had a local architect, Danish-born Oluf Albrechtsen, design an addition which was built in 1913.  The cost of this addition, at a time when the local economy was about to hit a downturn, resulted in a precarious financial situation.  Families who had enrolled their daughters found they either would have to withdraw them or forego the payment of their tuition.

The situation became so tenuous that by the end of 1924, the company which owned the College entered into an agreement with the Diocese wherein the Executive Committee of the Diocese would lease the building for a period of five years, after which they would have an option of renewal.  The situation did not improve over that time period and, with the refusal of the City of Prince Albert to waive the taxes on the College, it was decided that in December 1930 to transfer the facility to Saskatoon.  The result left the Diocese of Saskatchewan with the building, its maintenance, and the taxes.

Initially, a decision was made to utilise the building as a residence for a training programme referred to as Bishop’s College.  This programme had been implemented to replace Emmanuel College within the Diocese.  Individuals from local communities within the Diocese who were interested in gaining their theological training would take classes in the city, then participate in a parish to get practical experience prior to returning to the college to take further classwork.  A total of 38 men were involved in the programme shortly after St. Alban’s Girls College was transferred to Saskatoon.

This, of course, left considerable space in the building located on the east side of Central Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets.  As a result, boys who were residing at St. George’s College (in the upper levels of the Diocesan Synod Office on Second Avenue West) were relocated to the building.  Even with this use of the building, there was still a drain on Diocesan resources which needed to be addressed.

In August 1939, an answer seemed to have arrived.  The congregation of the Evangelical Church, represented by E.R. Reierson of Minneapolis, and C.D. Sundbo of Weldon, met with the Diocese and offered to purchase the building for use as the Prince Albert Bible Institute and Seminary.  The Diocese was able to pay off the taxes owed to the City, and it appeared that the structure would no longer be a liability.  Unfortunately, the agreement eventually fell through.  At a meeting on Mar. 26, 1942, Mr. Reierson addressed the meeting and was unable to give any assurance that the Evangelical Church would be able to complete the agreement which had been reached in 1939.  He did, however, guarantee that all accounts would be met by his group, and allowed that they would not hinder in any way the Diocese should they be able to sell the property to some other agency or organisation.  Judge Algernon Doak and Mr. J. Daisley moved that the Diocese should accept the quit claim clearing the property of all encumbrances, with an additional motion from Judge Doak and Arnold Agnew that the trustees of the Prince Albert Bible Institute and Seminary sign a letter undertaking to indemnify the Diocese against any claims put against the building by reason of repair.  Both motions were carried.

The Diocesan Executive Committee was once again responsible for the structure first known as St. Alban’s Girls College, and now known as St. George’s Boys College.

A number of options were pursued, including the sale of the land and building to the local Collegiate Board.  It even made representation to the federal government use the building as a student residence for First Nation students, arguing that there were sufficient First Nations communities in the Prince Albert region and that students from these communities would be much closer to home were they to attend school locally, rather than in other communities further away, such as Onion Lake and Lac la Ronge.  However, the Diocese had no success until fires destroyed the Lac la Ronge student residence in 1947.  Suddenly the Prince Albert building was deemed by the federal government to be a useful asset, and a lease agreement was entered into between the Diocese and Ottawa. 

When the Onion Lake residential school burned down in 1950, the students from there were also transferred to Prince Albert.  They were housed in the former army barracks on the city’s west side.  Now, over 350 First Nation students were being housed locally.   By 1952, the two schools were amalgamated in that location, and again the property on Central Avenue sat empty.

Another sale of the property was about to occur. An enterprising family from St. Boniface, Manitoba, the Banvilles, were considering the purchase of the property in which they would establish an hotel. A good Roman Catholic family, they paid a visit to the Bishop of Prince Albert, Bishop Blais, and explained to him what they had planned. At the time, no high school for Roman Catholic boys was available with the exception of an English language programme operating in a few rooms in St. Paul’s elementary school and a few classrooms which had been in existence since 1949 at Sion Academy for French language schooling. Provided with the information that the property was for sale, Bishop Blais suggested that it would be perfect for the establishment of a proper French language boys high school.

Photo courtesy of the Bill Smiley Archives.
Residents admire an ice sculpture outside Notre Dame College in this photo from Feb. 24, 1966.

It is unclear whether the Banville family bought the property from the Anglican diocese and either gifted it, or sold it, to the Roman Catholic diocese, or if they withdrew from their option and allowed the Roman Catholic to purchase it.  Regardless, the property changed hands from the Anglicans to the Roman Catholics.  The building was listed in 1954 as the College de Notre Dame, located on Central Avenue across from PACI, and described as “a boys’ French high school, grades nine to twelve.

My friend Larry remembers the ice sculptures.  I remember the hockey rink (which stood where the Girls College had had tennis courts).  It was on that ice where I met Jacques Plante, goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens.  He was a cousin of Father Jacques Plante, who was a member of the College staff from 1958 to 1961. The goaltender would visit the priest, sometimes accompanied by other members of the team.

In 1967, the local college closed and moved to a new facility in St. Louis, Saskatchewan. By 1968, the property was under development, and in 1969 the apartments of Princeton Place were occupied.

Museum Musings: Craig Brothers

Friends recently dropped by the house for a visit and to toast the New Year.  It wasn’t long before we were reminiscing about the way things were when we were younger (for once it wasn’t me who led the conversation in that direction, but I was quite content to follow along).  We were soon talking about how Central Avenue, and how the stores in the downtown reigned supreme; how we would line up outside Adam’s Book Store and Eagle Stationery, waiting to be allowed inside to by our school supplies, about attending movies at the Strand and Orpheum Theatres, or stopping at Central Fruit and Candy Kitchen for treats.

We men remembered the staff of the menswear stores (the Stag Shop, Miller’s, and Matheson’s), while the women recalled their mothers shopping for clothing at Aaron’s, Savard’s, the CB, and Craig Brothers (usually referred to just simply as Craigs’).  They recalled how the women would get dressed up when they went out, particularly to meetings – a new dress or two-piece suit, gloves, hats, and handbags.  We remembered how Jack Matheson would frown about men who, wearing a sports jacket or suit, would fail to finish it off properly with a tie.  We were definitely more formal in those days.

Matheson’s, now with a third-generation owner, is the only one of those businesses which is still in operation, and still in a downtown location.  The women do not, however, have the pleasure which we men have.

What became clear, as we talked, was not so much about the loss of the women’s stores, but rather they wanted to know background of the businesses.  So, in answer to that question I thought that I could at least provide some background on Craig Brothers.

J.A.M. Craig and his brother, W.C. Craig, opened their first store at Vermillion, Alberta, in 1905. They then opened their second store in Turtleford, Saskatchewan, in 1923, followed by a third store in North Battleford in 1927, before opening Craig Brothers at 905 Central Avenue, Prince Albert, in 1935.

Bill Smiley Archives
Craig’s Dept Store – 907 Central – May 21, 1968.

As president of Craig Brothers, J.A.M. Craig moved to the largest community, Prince Albert.  He became actively involved in local organisations, including becoming the president of the Prince Albert Board of Trade, a director of the Prince Albert Agricultural Society, and a member of both the Rotary and Keewatin clubs.

Craig attributed the success of the company to two things:  a trained, efficient, and courteous staff, and honesty in its relationships which resulted in the establishment of confidence of the public wherever the firm operated.

Craig Brothers grew to be one of the largest, independently owned public firms in Western Canada and, as such, had the advantage of volume buying, not on credit but with cash.  In fact, the firm was instrumental in the formation in 1923 of one of Western Canada’s large wholesale firms which was organised for the benefit of independent merchants.  J.A.M. Craig was one of the original directors of this organisation, remaining in that capacity through the 1930s.

Bill Smiley Archives
John Craig – Sept. 17, 1976.

By 1939, the local firm had expanded, and in November of that year expended $3,000 (approximately $65,000 in today’s money) to enlarge the store and modernise it.  This work included a 40 foot by 50 foot addition to the rear of the store (approximately 12 ½ by 15 metres), which included the ladies’ ready-to-wear department on the main floor, and the children’s wear and shoe departments in the basement.  The removal of a partition on the main floor also allowed an increase in the size of the men’s wear department.  Throughout the store day-light fluorescent lighting was installed to brighten each floor.  A new design for the front of the store, in a modern and sophisticated manner, changed the entrance and display windows which fronted onto Central Avenue.  The latter made “window shopping” much easier.

In addition to the clothing departments previously mentioned, Craig Brothers store carried household goods including towels, sheets and pillow cases, blankets, drapes and curtains, as well as yard goods for those who wished to sew their own clothing.

The store also had a mail-order department.

J.A.M. Craig was still visiting the store on a daily basis into his 90s, even after management of the store had fallen into the hands of a new manager.  I have to admit that he reminded me of television’s Mr. Grace from Are You Being Served, a show based on the store Simpson’s of Piccadilly in London, although he would walk to the store rather than being driven in a limousine by a chauffeur.

Craig Brothers is no longer with us, although it continues in the memories of many, and of course, you can still see the name Craig’s in the entryway mosaic leading into the former store.

Museum Musings: Jacob Beads


One of the pleasures I find when travelling is the opportunity to visit second-hand bookstores.  One never knows what treasures await one in such shops.  I have a favourite such bookstore in Ottawa, located on the corner of Bank and Frank, and on every trip to our capital city I will head into the back corner of the basement to search through their extensive collection of Canadian history and biography books.  One such visit resulted in quite a red-letter day when I came upon two books referencing two individuals who not only played a significant role in Prince Albert’s early history but who are both buried locally in St. Mary’s Anglican cemetery.

Referenced in John Edward Weems’ book “Peary – the Explorer and the Man” is a man of whom I have childhood recollections, George Carr.  In the 1890s, Carr travelled with Admiral Peary on his initial voyage in search of the North Pole.  Although they did not attain their goal during that attempt, Carr’s involvement in the expedition is well chronicled.  It was not until 1912 that Carr moved to Prince Albert, a place he made his home.  Active in many aspects of the life of the city, from business to politics to sporting activities, George Carr’s life is well worth delving into.

The second individual about whom I found information in that Ottawa bookstore was Jacob Beads (sometimes spelled Beeds).  Beads was a member of Dr. John Rae’s 1853 expedition to investigate what had happened to the Franklin expedition of 1845.  Ken McGoogan’s book “Dead Reckoning: the Untold Story of the Northwest Passage” provides information regarding the Franklin search for the Northwest Passage, as well as Dr. Rae’s attempts to locate the ships Erebus and Terror.  Although they were largely unsuccessful in discovering what had happened to the ships and their crews, Queen Victoria was sufficiently impressed with their efforts that she awarded members of the Rae expedition with medals and cash in pounds sterling.  The medals are inscribed “For Arctic Discoverers, 1818 – 1855”.

An expedition had been organised to search for the missing party of Sir John Franklin who had not reported for nearly a decade and was considered to be missing.  The expedition consisted of twelve men under the direction of Dr. Rae, with an Inuit guide.  They left Lake Winnipeg and passed through The Pas, journeying to the Churchill River and Hudson Bay.  Freezing weather hampered the party as they went further north to Chesterfield Inlet (Igluligaarjuk).  Most of the party suffered from snow blindness, and Beads froze two of the toes on his right foot.  Food became scarce and (according to Beads’ family lore), had it not been for Beads and his Inuit guide discovering an Inuit camp, the possibility existed that the entire party might have starved.  Although it took some effort on Beads’ part and that of his guide to convince the Inuit of their objectives, they succeeded in the end and not only managed to obtain sufficient food but also information regarding the Franklin party.  (McGoogan, in his book, tells a somewhat different story in which Rae plays a larger role and Beads a much more minor role).  For the remainder of the winter, the party lived within the Inuit community and, in the spring returned to Winnipeg.  Dr. Rae then returned to England, taking with him the information which they had collected.

Jacob Beads continued to live in Manitoba for a number of years, marrying at the age of 30.  He and his wife moved to Fort Ellis (near the present day Qu”Appelle) where their four children were born. Eventually the family moved to Prince Albert in 1873, and down river to The Forks in 1880.  In addition to continuing to run a grist mill at The Forks, Beads began building river boats for the Hudson’s Bay Company.

An extract from Saskatchewan History, Volume VII, Number 1, Winter 1954 indicated “Mr. Beads was one of the last, if not the sole survivor of Dr. Rea’s (spelling incorrect) Franklin search expedition and survived his commander by a few months”.  The extract goes on to say that Beads “also had the honor of bringing the first grist mill into the district”.

The extract would appear to have been a quotation from the April 6th, 1894 edition of the Saskatchewan Times which carried a story regarding Beads’ death after he passed away peacefully at his residence at the Saskatchewan Forks at the age of 68 years. Again, the article referred to him being one of the last, if not the sole, survivor of the Franklin expedition, surviving his “commander, in terms of whom he spoke in terms of high respect. The story also referred to Beads’ operation of the grist mill which, for many years, did “good service for the earliest settlers under his management”.

Bill Smiley Archives. The Headstone of Jacob Beads.

Beads was described as “remarkable for his kindly disposition” and a man who “preserved in the highest degree that cordial hospitality so characteristic of the old native stock”.

It was noted that while in the employ of the Hudson’s Bay Company, or earlier with his father who was also an HBC employee, Beads travelled extensively throughout the Northwest Territories, but most especially through that portion of the Territories which were mostly unexplored regions.  Beads was noted as being especially gifted with keen observation and a retentive memory, which resulted in his ability to reminisce in later years, providing great enjoyment for those with whom he associated.

As a member of the Church of England (now the Anglican Church of Canada) and holding a high personal regard for John McLean, the first bishop of the Diocese of Saskatchewan, Beads made a handsome present in 1875 of a large portion of ground on which the original University of Saskatchewan (Emmanuel College) was built, and on which St. Mary’s church was constructed and was surrounded by its cemetery.  The story of his passing concluded with the happy thought that Beads should be interred in the consecrated ground which had once “been his own domain”.

Jacob Beads’ actual date of death remains in dispute.  The Saskatchewan Times article suggests that Beads was interred on March 28th, 1894.  However, the letters of administration issued to his daughter in 1913 indicate that his death date was March 24th, 1893.  Beads’ daughter, in an interview with the Prince Albert Daily Herald in 1951, also reported that her father had died in 1893.  Records from the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan indicate that the date of death was March 24th, 1894 and the interment date was March 28th, 1894.

Regardless of the foregoing confusion regarding the date of Beads’ death, the fact remains that two persons who were so involved in the exploration of the Arctic are buried in a small, parochial cemetery near the City of Prince Albert.

Museum Musings: The joys of research

I enjoy being a part of the Historical Society.  It is a pleasure to meet the visitors, lead tours, and share information about the history of the area.  But most of all, I quite enjoy doing research in the Bill Smiley Archives.  You can never be certain, when you arrive in the morning, how your day will go, or what new nugget of information you will stumble across. 

There is a wide variety of resources used to pursue the answers to questions we receive, not only from local people but also from across Canada and throughout the world.  I have to admit that the resource which I most enjoy using is the collection of old Prince Albert Daily Heralds.  Sometimes what I find reinforces just how much the world has changed, while other times I marvel at how ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

I was reviewing newspapers from 1946 last week, and came across a story about what resources the city could employ to provide housing for the homeless over the winter.  Not only were they planning to renovate and open forty units at the air port, but use was to be made of the cabins which existed in the city’s campground.

Other stories certainly pre-date the Privacy legislation which exists today.  In early editions of the newspaper, there was a daily listing of who was registered at each hotel.  Apparently, it was considered in the public interest to know who was visiting in the city, and none of the hoteliers were concerned about their counter-parts knowing just how well (or poorly) their business was doing.

I wonder how many readers remember the Herald printing Who Is Open Tonight?  City by-laws restricted the opening of drug stores and service stations, so the owners of these businesses would rotate evening openings.  The newspaper would list who was open so that if you needed a prescription filled (or your gas tank topped up), you would know just where to go for the necessary service.

I recently came across an interesting item in an early 1960s paper of which I had no knowledge.  Prince Albertans of a certain age will be aware of the acclaim which Jon Vickers and Lesia Zubrack received on the world opera stage.  But I was unaware that another local woman, Carmen Lasky, was also a noted operatic soprano.  Nor was I aware that she had been married for a period of time (from 1959 to 1964) to well known symphony conductor, Zubin Mehta.  After their divorce, Carmen actually married his brother, Zarin Mehta.

Several stories from 1961, about the Prince Albert Historical Society, caused me to think that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Throughout the 1940s and into the 1960s, the Historical Society struggled with a limited membership and without a permanent home.  On June 22nd, 1961, the Herald carried a page three story about the Society’s opening for the summer.  It mentioned that the historical museum, on the main floor of the Court House, would be opened the following Sunday for the first time.  The executive of the Society had decided that they would open the museum each Sunday afternoon over the summer months.  As the Society did not have sufficient funds to hire a curator, members of the organisation would take turns over-seeing the openings.

Ian Collins, vice-president of the Society advised that the hours would be from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and encouraged all Prince Albert citizens to visit the fine display of items “of historical importance”.

Apparently, this story in the Herald influenced some people to visit the museum, as on June 27th (the following Tuesday), the Herald carried a page two story headlines “Twenty-five Visit Museum”.  Arnold Agnew, the Society president, suggested in the story that it was hoped that plans could be implemented to ensure the museum could also be open on week days.

Continued support from the Daily Herald resulted in an editorial on July 3rd of that year.  It opined that, aside from a small minority of local citizens, little serious thought had been given to the establishment of a proper facility in the city in which the city’s history, past and unfolding, could be perpetuated.

Even though most agree that such a facility would be a worthwhile addition to the community, few were willing to go out of their way to ensure a museum’s continued existence.

Rather than a museum being a place where “dead” things could be displayed for the morbidly curious, it would be a place of education for both children and adults, for members of the community and for visitors from elsewhere.

The editorial then went on to quote the province’s Education Minister, Allen Blakeney (later the Premier of Saskatchewan), from a speech he delivered in Regina to the Canadian Museums Association.  In it, he said that a museum is a centre for the gathering and propagation of national knowledge to extend the “frontiers of man’s acquired facts”. A museum is a cultural institution, it was said, and can be regarded as a public utility which enhances the area in which it is located.

A problem encountered by all museums is that of finance.  Throughout Canada, no one department deals with cultural concerns.  At the time, it was expressed that Nova Scotia museums looked to it education ministry for support.  Nationally, the Northern Affairs Department looked after museums of national importance.

Locally, the editorial concluded, much difficulty has been encountered in enlisting sufficient support, both vocal and financial.  The need for action is recognised, but too few were ready to shoulder any share of the work load.

 Over sixty years later, the Prince Albert Historical Society has a permanent home in the Historical Museum on River Street and Central Avenue.  A full-time curator and some part time staff manage not only the Historical Museum but also three other museums (the John and Olive Diefenbaker Museum, the Police and Corrections Museum, and the Evolution of Education Museum).  All four museums are open daily throughout the summer, opening each year the day after Victoria Day until the beginning of September, and in the winter the Historical Museum is open weekdays, while the other museums are open by appointment.  Although there is staff for most tours, we are still reliant on volunteers in the off-season to provide some coverage.

Compared to the 25 people who visited the Historical Museum in one day in 1961, our visitor count up to the end of October has been 10,763, with over 2 million social media hits (something of which the 1961 society executive could never even have conceived).

We are fortunate to receive financial support from the city, as well as from some provincial funding agencies, but much of our programming can be delivered only as a result of grants.  We are still uncertain, from year to year, whether we will be able to continue in the provision of the majority of our programmes, including those we deliver to seniors and to educational facilities.

We continue to be, as Allen Blakeney suggested, a place of education, a centre for gathering and propagating knowledge, and a cultural institution.

Museum Musings: Prince Albert’s War Memorial


The Cenotaph which sits in front of the Court of King’s Bench building, at the top of the Central Avenue viaduct, was unveiled on Friday, the 3rd of June, 1927 in front of a large and patriotic crowd of local citizens.

Nearly nine years had passed since the Armistice had been signed to end the Great War, and there were those who felt that the unveiling of the cenotaph, and the commemoration of those who had made the supreme sacrifice, was long over due. The long wait, however, had its compensations as the monument erected was in every way a worthy memorial, serving to honour our war dead while at the same time as it breathes the hopes and aspirations of the living.

Unique in its design, it is believed that the War Memorial is the first attempt to portray in sculpture the spirit of a Canadian nationality.  Standing over fourteen feet tall (4.3 metres), and costing in the neighbourhood of $10,000 (about $170,000 in today’s terms), it was designed and sculpted by Mrs. Hilliard Taylor of Winnipeg.

Amongst the many messages which the Memorial bears is an expression of our thanks to the loved ones who were left behind by those who answered the call and paid the supreme price.  To our war veterans, it prompts a recollection of the warm hand clasp, the real friendship of those who now sleep peacefully in graves, both known and unknown, in foreign lands.  To those who remain, it issues a call to stand by the principles for which the war dead sacrificed their all, and asks for a continued pledge that these principles will be ever maintained.  And to we the public, it is a reminder of our responsibility to the widowed, the fatherless, and those disabled, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally, as a result of their service to our nation. 

Unveiled by Saskatchewan’s Lieutenant-Governor, the Honourable Henry Newlands, the monument was blessed by the Reverend Canon Walter Burd, canon residentiary of St. Alban’s Cathedral, after which the Honourable James Gardiner, Premier of Saskatchewan addressed those gathered around the Cenotaph.  And what a crowd was gathered around it.  Amongst the dignitaries were women widowed, children who had lost their fathers, and veterans who had lost their compatriots.

Photo courtesy of the Bill Smiley Archives. Residents gather around the newly unveiled Cenotaph in front of the Court of King’s Bench on June 3, 1927.

Elementary school students, both public and separate, had marched in the parade, carrying banners bearing the names of local men who were lost in battle.  A band composed of Boys Scouts, as well as the City Band under the direction of Bandmaster A.F. Wilde, and the bugle band of the Prince Albert Volunteers stirred the crowd with the strains of martial music, as well as “The Last Post”.  Mounted members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police participated, as well as members of the Saskatchewan Provincial Police, and members of the Prince Albert City Police.  Members of the local church choirs, ably directed by C.J. Ferguson, joined together to lead the singing of “O God Our Help in Ages Past” as well as “O Canada” and “God Save the King”.

The afternoon was chaired by Dr. D.P. Miller, acting on behalf of the Honourable T.C. Davis (the Memorial Association’s chairman), and events were directed by Hal Fraser, the secretary of the Association.  It must have been a time of great pleasure for the members of the local Rotary Club, to see the unveiling ceremony bring to a conclusion an effort which they had initiated four years previously.

In his address, Premier Gardiner commented that the returned men who fought for the principles of freedom, truth, and justice are the guarantee to Canada that these ideals will be upheld.  This followed the comments made by the Lieutenant-Governor when he placed a wreath on the Memorial on behalf of His Majesty King George the Fifth.  His Honour made feeling reference to his lengthy associations with the City and the pleasure which it gave him to be present and take an active part in the unveiling ceremony.

When it came time for the unveiling of the Memorial, the only glitch in the afternoon occurred.  The ropes had become tangled and, when pulled by the Lieutenant-Governor, jammed.  Edward Paine Jr., a member of the bugle corps, mounted a ladder, untangled the ropes, and was actually the individual who unveiled the monument.

After the sounding of “The Last Post”, Dr. Miller, on behalf of the Memorial Association, gave the monument over to the custody of the City.  Mayor S.J.A. Branion accepted on behalf of the citizens.  Mayor Branion thanked those who had offered their lives in the service of their country, and congratulated the members of the Memorial Association for their work, and for their acceptance of the design and work of the sculpture.  He indicated how appropriate it was for the Memorial to be unveiled during the Golden Jubilee of the Nation of Canada.

The placement of a number of wreaths, from associations and from private individuals, followed the acceptance of the Memorial by the Mayor on behalf of the citizens of Prince Albert.  The Reverend J.R. Graham pronounced a solemn benediction, after which those gathered closed the event by singing “God Save the King”.

Nothing did more to establish Canada as a nation than the part which its armed forces played in the Great War.  In the forces’ ranks were men who had come from numerous nations, men who followed different creeds, and whose political beliefs were varied.  Yet they lived together in harmony, and fought together in a concentrated effort.  Minor distinctions were forgotten in pursuit of the greater objective.  The greatest lesson of the war to Canadians was the value of tolerance.

It is this message of tolerance that the Prince Albert War Memorial, perhaps one of the finest pieces of art in Western Canada, broadcasts nation-wide.  As we remember all those who have served our country on the battlefields throughout the world, let us focus on the message of our Cenotaph.

As a tribute to our veterans, the Prince Albert Historical Museum, 10 – River Street East, will be open on Saturday, November 11th, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Admission is free.  A short programme highlighting the history of cadet programmes in Prince Albert will begin at 2:00 p.m.  All are welcome.

Museum Musings: Prince Albert Co-operative Store

I wonder how many readers will remember the Mid-West building on 2nd Avenue West, just south of 16th Street.  I recall when it housed Mid-West Hatcheries and, later, Mid-West Fishing Tackle.  In the early 1970s, Dale Yoos had a furniture store in the building.  I am too young, however, to recall the Prince Albert Co-op store being in the building.

The first Prince Albert Co-op store opened for business on 2nd Avenue West on May 1st, 1940.  Located at 1535 – 2nd Avenue West in a little metal-covered warehouse measuring 24 feet long (approximately 7.2 metres) and 16 feet wide (nearly 4.9 metres), it sold gasoline, oil, greases, feed, and flour.  There were 153 members, and the Association president was Thomas P. Mooney.

Just a year later, the Prince Albert Co-op Association opened its new store in the Mid-West building at 16th Street and 2nd Avenue West.  The new store, described in the Daily Herald as “brightly lit”, offered a wide variety of groceries, fruit, flour, feed, and accessories.  Now with nine employees, including two managers, the Co-op was serving more than 1,000 members. 

The previously offered gasoline and oil were still available, but from a separate outlet on the north side of 16th Street.  Where the previous storage capacity had been 6,750 gallons of gasoline (slightly more than 30,685 litres), the new depot had a capacity of 25,000 gallons (slightly more than 113,650 litres).  This outlet also carried some new lines, including coal and twine.

J.D. Howard was in charge of the store, and H.M Ching managed the service station.  The president of the Association in 1941 was Olaf Engebregtson.

At the annual general meeting of the Association in April 1953, it was reported that revenues for the Association had been increasing year by year.  The 1952 revenue was double the previous year, and it was anticipated that they would be triple the 1951 revenues by year end.  Part of this growth was put down to the “modern” facilities opened in 1941, and part of the growth was attributed to the willingness of people to take part in a cooperative economy.

On April 2nd of 1953, Percy Avram, the manager of the Prince Albert Co-operative Association, announced the purchase of a lot, bought through the Bradshaw-Holroyde Agency, on the southeast corner of 14th Street West and Central Avenue, and a plan to build an ultra-modern store there.  The plans for the store were in the hands of the engineers, and work was scheduled to begin no later than mid-summer.  The store would have a 63 – foot frontage (just over 19 metres) on Central Avenue and be 100 feet deep (nearly 30.5 metres) on 14th Street.  The project was estimated to come at a cost of $125,000, which would be born by the 1200 Prince Albert Association members, and would result in a store that would handle groceries, meats, and hardware.  There would also be a cafeteria and a ladies’ lounge.

The Co-op store remained in that location for fewer than ten years, growing in financial strength from year to year.  It was on Tuesday, June 23rd, 1959, that the Prince Albert Daily Herald had a page three headline which read: “Co-op Association to Seek Property for New Store”.  The story beneath the headline indicated that at that evening’s City Council meeting they would receive a request from the general manager of the store, W.C. Glauser, for the purchase of certain city owned property in the area of Central Avenue and 9th Street East, and that a new retail store for the Association would be constructed in that vicinity.

The following day, the newspaper reported in a front-page story that the Co-op was to build a new $600,000 store, and that all the existent buildings on the east side of Central Avenue from 8th Street to 9th Street would be demolished.  These buildings included the Central Hotel, the Novasad property, a house behind the hotel, the Webster property, and a taxi stand.  Several of these properties were already vacant, with the exception of two of them one being the Novosad home.  Ken Novosad was the proprietor of Western Market, while Lesia Novosad was a teacher at Central School.  The house identified as being “behind the hotel” was the home of Ken Wooton, a barber who worked at Madison Barber Shop.

City Council was required to approve the sale of land owned by the city on the proposed Co-op property, which they agreed to sell for $8,000, as well as to sell the opening to the employees’ parking lot which was situated on 1st Avenue East between 9th and 10th Streets.  This latter property was required in order for there to be sufficient land available for the construction of the new Saskatchewan Liquor Board store.  Previously, this building was to be built on the north side of 9th Street, west of the Minto Arena.

The Co-op would purchase the home of Mrs. M. Boettcher at 905 – 9th Street East and, along with the city property which provided access to the employee’s parking lot, this property would be swapped with the provincial government for the construction of the liquor store.  The land swap would then provide the Co-op with land on 9th Street extending from Central Avenue to the western property line of the Minto Arena.

The new outlet was expected to serve Prince Albert and district with 16,000 to 18,000 square feet (nearly 1490 square meters to 1675 square metres) of floor space.  The store would have a full basement, and there would be a hard surfaced parking lot with space for approximately 175 vehicles.  Gasoline pumps would be installed in the parking lot.

Glauser indicated that the plans for the new store would be drawn up as soon as possible, now that it was known how large a space with which they would have to work.  The store could be designed now to fit the property.  In the meantime, demolition of the old buildings would begin as soon as any present tenants were able to vacate them.  Glauser suggested that this would likely be within a month’s time.  He further indicated that this should result in completion of construction in the summer of 1960.

Glauser’s timeframe was not accurate.  The Daily Herald carried a photograph in the February 23rd, 1960 newspaper of the demolition of the Central Hotel.  His estimated cost of construction was also somewhat low.  In providing forecasting construction expenditures in Prince Albert in the year 1960, the city’s administration listed the estimated cost of the Co-op store in March 1960 as being $700,000.

Today, the Prince Albert and Area Co-op is known as Lake Country Co-op, with over 53,000 members in twenty communities.  The growth which occurred in its early years has continued, and the cooperative movement continues to serve Prince Albert and area in even more ways than it did in 1940.

Museum Musings: The case against Alderman Hill

The year 1953 was a year of considerable growth in the City of Prince Albert.  In the month of April alone, announcements were made with respect to the construction of a new Co-op store on Central Avenue, and a new $250,000 Medical Arts building across 14th Street from it.  The Separate School board was looking to purchase land in the West Flat on which to build St. Michael’s school, while the congregation of Wesley United church began to replace their existent structure with a new sanctuary. On the other side of 11th Street East from Wesley church, for the first time, the Red Cross was to open its own newly constructed building. 

That same spring, City Council received word that the federal government was prepared to provide a $500,000 grant which would be used to provide a hard surface runway at the air port.

In order for the City to be able to make use of this federal money, it would be necessary to extend the runway at the air port and, in order to do so, more land would have to be purchased.  Negotiations were entered into to buy the required land, but the farmer who owned the desired property was unwilling to accept the offer made by the City.  This resulted in a controversial move by the City to expropriate the property.  Inevitably a court case arose from the City’s decision, with lawyer J.G. “Jerry” Crepeau representing the farmer, John Medynski.  The initial argument which Crepeau planned to use was that the City could not legally expropriate land outside its municipal boundary. 

However, Crepeau found another argument, an argument which he must have considered more compelling and therefore standing a greater chance of success.  Information which he had received indicated that a member of Council, William Hill, was employed in the Sheriff’s office as a bailiff.  Crepeau would argue that the province’s City Act (as the Cities Act was then called) precluded individuals serving on council if that person received a salary from the municipality or the province.  These individuals included judges, provincial gaol wardens and custodial officers, sheriffs, and bailiffs.

The alderman in question was William Hill.  Hill was a retired railroad engineer who was serving his fourth term on City Council.  When questioned, Hill indicated that he did not believe that he was sitting on Council illegally but, should it be found that he was, he would resign immediately.

All this seemed fairly straight forward.  But it did raise the question with respect to the validity of all those motions on which Hill had voted as a member of Council.  Would Hill’s vote in support of expropriating Medynski’s land result in that motion being unlawful?

Medynski’s attempt to have Hill removed from Council was brought in front of the Court by Crepeau in June, 1953.  Judge Hanbidge determined that the hearing was to be heard in July. At that hearing, it was decided that the case would be set over to an August hearing.  In August, the hearing was postponed until September.  The rationale for all these postponements is unclear.  However, it is clear that as the summer months passed, it was  more and more unlikely that the weather required for the paving of the extended runway would be available.

On September 2nd, 1953, Judge Gerein of the Humboldt District Court heard arguments with respect to the case.  Jerry Crepeau continued to represent John Medynski, while John Cuelenaere represented William Hill.  Crepeau argued that the City Act precluded Hill from running for, and being elected, to City Council due to his employment as a bailiff.  He also argued that, had Hill not been a bailiff when he ran for Council but had later been appointed to his position as a bailiff, he should have resigned from Council at that time.

Cuelenaere called Sheriff Elliott to the witness stand.  Elliott told the Court that Hill had been appointed to his position by the sheriff (Elliott) and not by the Public Service Commission.  Hill fulfilled his duties as a bailiff for a fee, and depended upon the sheriff for his wage and expenses.  He was not paid by the government.  Hill had not taken any oath, and his employment could be terminated simply by the sheriff no longer calling him to perform any duties.  Hill was not allowed to use any office stationery, and all his services resulted from instructions issued by the sheriff alone.

Crepeau asked whether Hill’s appointment had been advertised in the Saskatchewan Gazette, and Elliott replied that he had not seen any bailiffs “gazetted” during the past six years.  He further responded that bailiffs were generally employed at the time in smaller judicial districts.  In response to a further question, Elliott replied that, after hiring Hill, he had not sought to appoint any other individual.

After hearing the testimony, Judge Gerein indicated that he anticipated providing his decision within a week’s time.  It was, in fact, twelve days before his judgment was released.

Photo courtesy of the Bill Smiley Archives. The King’s Bench Court House where the case against William Hill was argued.

The headline on the front page of the September 14th edition of the Prince Albert Daily Herald read ”Hill Wins Case: Still an Alderman”.

Gerein appears to have accepted John Cuelenaere’s argument with respect to Hill’s employment as the five page decision read in part that “if the legislation had intended to include process servers in the City Act it would have named them rather than cover them with the word bailiff, particularly when a citizen’s right to hold office was at stake.”

It went on “I cannot see how serving processes, interviewing debtors, taking inventory, driving the sheriff, acting under extra-judicial processes can interfere with or in any way affect the responsibilities which attach to a seat on city council.  Nor can an alderman’s duties in any way conflict with a general handyman or process server.”

His conclusion was very clear: “I find, therefore, that the respondent is not a bailiff within the meaning of Section 23 of the City Act and he has therefore not on that account forfeited his seat as an alderman on the city council of Prince Albert.”

Gerein further wrote that his review of the evidence showed that Alderman Hill “was not appointed to an office or specific position, that no notice appeared in the Saskatchewan Gazette, no desk, space, phone stationery or other facilities were set up for Mr. Hill and he was not on the office or public service payroll.”

Later in the autumn of 1953, William Hill, after lengthy and obviously serious consideration, once again ran for City Council.  He received sufficient votes to place fifth in the voting but, unfortunately for him, there were only four aldermanic vacancies.

The necessary land was purchased by the City and, in the spring of 1954, the air port runaway was lengthened and hard surfaced.

Museum Musings: The Mills’ Residence

One of the houses on the recent Central East Hill walking tour has left me thinking about how decisions we make, or decisions made by others, can influence our lives well into the future.  For example, how would my life have turned out had my father taken the transfer he was offered to an Ontario penitentiary when I was sixteen years of age?  After such a move, would I have followed a similar education and career path as the one I have followed here in Prince Albert?  Would I have later, on retirement, immersed myself in the history of Kingston and its surrounding area?

The house in question, 133 – 18th Street East, was home for forty years to Christina Mills.  An original member of the Nisbet party which landed on the river bank near the present-day Historical Museum at the corner of Central Avenue and River Street, Christina married George Mills in 1890.  They had originally started married life in a home which had been built on three lots on the site of the former Central School (now the site of Gateway Mall), later moving to the brow of the hill overlooking what later became the CNR Park, and still later the CNR rail yard.  (We have a splendid photograph in the Bill Smiley Archives of a sports day occurring in the Park in 1925.)

At some point in his life, George Mills made the decision to walk from Fort Garry to Prince Albert, and he chose to follow through on that decision in the summer of 1887.  What went through his mind during that 600-mile walk (over 965 kilometres) we will never know.  How many times he determined to turn back, and why he continued on his way may best be left to our imagination.  However, he did arrive in Prince Albert and, three years later, he was an employee of the town and had married his wife.

In the meantime, young Christina, at the age of 18 months, had very little opportunity to voice her thoughts on the decision made by her parents to move west to establish a Presbyterian mission.  Her mother was a sister of James Nisbet’s wife, and Christina’s parents (Mr. and Mrs. John McKay) had determined that they would work alongside the Nisbets wherever it was determined that they would go.

As for the Nisbets’ destination, even that was out of the hands of the party which set out from Old Kildonan.  James Nisbet had set his sights on establishing his mission further upriver from where he eventually settled, somewhere near Fort Pitt, closer to the present-day Alberta/Saskatchewan border.  However, when the party arrived at Fort Carlton, they were encouraged by three individuals whom they met there to consider a location near the Isbister settlement, somewhat down river from Fort Carlton.  These three individuals included the Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Factor, Lawrence Clarke, Adam Isbister (one of the individuals living at the Isbister settlement), and Nisbet’s interpreter, George Flett.

The three men made a few suggestions as to where the mission might be located and, after reviewing them, Nisbet decided to negotiate the site down river from the Isbister settlement.  After some shrewd negotiation on the part of Flett, permission was granted for the establishment of the mission at that location, and young Christina McKay and her family had a new home, in what was soon to be identified as Prince Albert.

Christina did not remain long in Prince Albert, however, although she did not move so very far away.  Her father moved the family to the community of which Mistawasis was chief.  There he established another Presbyterian mission and there, as she grew into womanhood, Christina became a teacher in the school.

It is unclear how long Christina remained on Mistawasis reserve, although we do know that she was still teaching there in 1885.  In her recollections of her early years, she recalls returning to Prince Albert in 1885 in order to seek refuge in the stockade which had been constructed around the Presbyterian church and manse (now the site of the University of Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert campus).  She also recalls how, at the same time, her father, the Reverend John McKay and the Anglican priest, the Reverend John Hines, gathered the followers of Mistawasis and the followers of Starblanket (Ahtahkakoop) together and brought them to Prince Albert, ensuring not only their safety but also their continued loyalty.

It is unclear exactly what position George Mills held with the town when he married Christina in 1890.  Neither his name, nor Christina’s appears in any of the directories prior to the Henderson’s Northwest Territories Directory in 1900.  At that time, George is listed as the caretaker of the public school.  At the time, schools fell under the town council’s control, and as we know that George and Christina lived in a house on the site of Central School, this provides confirmation of his position.  (Central School was the only public school in Prince Albert at that time.)

In the 1908 Henderson’s Prince Albert directory, George Mills was listed as a bookkeeper living at 133 – 18th Street East.  This is the same brick house in which he and his wife lived out the remainder of their lives.

In the directories of 1909, 1911, and 1914, George is listed as the superintendent of the City market.  Just what this position entailed I have been unable to discover.  My original thought was that he was in the grocery business, as Prince Albert later had a grocery store called the City Market.  But I realised that the new City of Prince Albert must have had such a position as a market superintendent.  I thereafter reviewed the minutes of the City’s Markets and Parks committee, but found little information about the “market” aspect of that committee.  The minutes primarily dealt with “parks” matters, such as boulevards, tree planting, and the cemetery.  The only information which I could cull about “markets” was a reference to amending the Market bylaw to preclude any private person weighing vehicles carrying coal.  This appears to have been confirmed when I discovered in the 1919 edition of the Henderson’s Prince Albert directory the listing for George Mills as being the city weighmaster, a position he appears to have held until at least 1925.

George Mills appears to have retired by 1927, and one wonders whether a health issue might have been a determining cause.  When he died on March 3rd, 1933, it was indicated that he had been suffering from a lengthy illness.  Buried in the South Hill Cemetery from St. Paul’s Presbyterian church, he was mourned by many from across the city who knew that they had lost a long-time resident whose memories of early Prince Albert were now confined to the interviews which reporters had committed to the local newspaper.

Living on another seventeen years after the death of her husband, Christina McKay Mills survived long enough to be able to attend the 80th anniversary services and dinner of the church which had brought her to this community, and in which area she had lived the majority of her life.  She was an honorary president of the Synodical and a life member of the James Nisbet Auxiliary.  She, too, was interred in the family plot in South Hill Cemetery.

Although the Mills left no children, they did have a foster son, Dr. Fred McLean, a member of the Canadian Army.

Museum Musings: North Star Newspaper

Earlier this summer, I came across the mention of a newspaper of which I had never before heard.  None of the other volunteers in the Bill Smiley Archives could remember hearing of it.  Then, towards the end of August, an acquaintance from university days came into the Historical Museum with a batch of newspapers from the early part of the 1930s.  These newspapers, obviously printed by the same firm, were entitled The Farmer and Labour News, and The North Star.

We received only two copies of The Farm and Labor News.  The first copy we received, dated August 31, 1933, indicated that commencing with the next issue the newspaper would be published on Fridays instead of Thursdays.  The second issue we received, dated the following week, was indeed published on a Friday.

There were a number of issues of The North Star included in the package we received from Gordon.  As a result, it was far easier to determine the weekly content of the newspaper, as well as to track the paper’s battle to enlist sufficient subscribers to cover its costs.

And speaking of “battle”, the two newspapers were linked by a letter entitled The Battle which was sent to C.C.F. supporters and signed The North Star Publishing Company.  The letter advised its readers that the gentlemen publishing it were individuals who believed in the C.C.F. movement and wished to assist in the movement accomplishing its goals.

After the failure of The Farmer-Labor News which they deemed to be the only publicity medium supporting the C.C.F. movement (the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, forerunner of the New Democratic Party), these individuals had determined to commence publication of The North Star to fill the void left by the cessation of The Farmer-Labor News.

According to the authors of The Battle, they “took care of the unfinished subscriptions of that paper to create harmony with the subscribers”, and they invested the necessary capital to make possible the publication of The North Star.  They expected, and felt sure, that they would receive the moral support of the C.C.F. Board, but were “sorry to say that this (support) has not been in evidence”.  Rather, they wrote, other publications were “encouraged to obtain circulation in this province, perhaps not officially” but by members of the movement.  “The names of C.C.F. minded people have been sent to a paper outside the province and we have been subjected to opposition and sniping within our own ranks.”  Furthermore, they wrote, no printing jobs had been secured from the party, unless they were prepared to accept orders below cost.

The letter went on to exhort all C.C.F. supporters to take an active part in the drive for subscriptions to the newspaper, suggesting a three-month subscription at a cost of 25 cents.  “We sincerly (sp.) trust that the rank and file will rally to our side and be partners in making it possible to keep news of the movement before the people.”

I was interested in determining who these people were, so started doing some research.  The Northern Saskatchewan Farmer and Labor News was indicated as a Weekly Publication in Sympathy with the Farmer, Labor, and C.C.F. Movement, and was published every Thursday from 31 – 8th Street East (Prince Albert) by The Farmer and Labor News Publishing Company.  The editor of the newspaper was identified on page 2 of each issue as C.T. Anderson.

The 1932 Henderson’s Directory lists Tribune Printers as occupying that address.  The proprietor was listed as J.V. Frawley.  Tribune Printers was further listed in the same directory under the heading Printers – Book and Job.  The directory does not list any C.T. Anderson, which could mean that he arrived in Prince Albert after the canvass was completed for that year’s edition of the directory, or that he lived outside the Prince Albert City limits.

There was no Henderson’s Directory published in 1933, but the 1934 directory lists Tribune Printers at that address, with Peter Diener and Gus Hagen as the proprietors.  A.A. Frawley was listed as a pressman for the company, and as a resident of 31 – 8th Street East, along with Peter Diener.  Gustav Hagen is listed as residing at the Merchants Hotel (formerly the Marlboro and now a Travelodge).  The company is not listed under the directory’s headings of Newspapers and Periodicals, nor under Publishers.  There is no listing for C.T. Anderson.

Once again, there was no edition of the Henderson’s Directory in in 1935, but the 1936 Henderson’s lists Bob’s Repair Shop at 31 – 8th Street East.  There is no listing for Tribune Printers, North Star, Frawley, Diener, or Hagen.  Nor is there any listing under the headings Newspapers, Printers, or Publishers.

Financial survival appears to have been difficult for these two newspapers.  The August 31, 1933 issue has a front page article entitled “Advertising Index” in which are listed those individuals, both business and professional men, who advertise in the paper because “they want to deal with you”.  The list included 36 Prince Albert businesses and professional men, 10 from Kinistino, 2 from each of Regina and Birch Hills, and 1 from each of Toronto and Brancepeth.

The August 31st edition included, amongst other items, a rebuttal to a Daily Herald editorial, an item from the Provincial Publicity Department entitled “Of Interest to our Readers”, and an article entitled “The Mystery of Hitler”.

As previously noted, there was no Henderson’s Directory published in 1935, so it could not be ascertained who owned the Tribune Printers in that year.  Very limited information was contained in the newspaper itself, as not even an editor’s name was included.  The paper itself, however, appears to have taken on new life.  There was a Women’s column and a Youth Column, both of which appeared nearly every week.  The Women’s column was written by a woman from Spy Hill, and the Youth column was prepared by someone in Yorkton.  There was also a column by Grace MacInnis, which reported on happenings in Parliament and the Legislative Assembly.  It is presumed that this was the same Grace MacInnis who was the first woman elected to the House of Commons from British Columbia.

As well as news and views of a provincial and national political nature, The North Star often ran editorials and articles about Prince Albert City Council.  One story which caught my eye, from the May 29, 1935 issue, was entitled City Fathers Are Not Superstitious.  Readers of The North Star were told of a motion presented to City Council by Alderman Dent requesting a reduction in licensing fees (from $20 a day to $10 a day) for those practising the occult sciences.  These sciences included psychology, phrenology, and astrology.  Alderman Sanderson led the opposition to the motion, suggesting that although there might be something to psychology, the citizens of Prince Albert needed to be protected from those practising these arts.  I was sufficiently interested in this story to seek out how the Daily Herald had reported the story, but I was unable to find any report from the pages of that newspaper.

Not all the stories included in The North Star showed the City of Prince Albert in a negative light.  The February 20, 1935 issue noted that the Provincial Ski Meet would be held in Prince Albert the following week.  A subsequent issue of the paper noted the success of the ski meet, and the high regard participants and onlookers received as a result.

The June 19th edition of the paper reported on the local nominating convention held by the party to select the C.C.F. candidate for the federal election.  Six candidates entered their names, including D. Downing, E.L. Bowerman, Tom Johnston, J.L. Phelps, Reverend Robinson, and J.J.F. MacIsaac.  After each of the six were allowed to speak, all but Johnston and Bowerman withdrew.  After the ballot, Tom Johnston of Govan was chosen as the candidate.

It is of interest to note that MacIsaac was later a candidate in this constituency, as was Bowerman.  In 1945, Bowerman defeated MacKenzie King, and was our Member of Parliament until 1949, when the Liberals once again won the seat, with Francis Helme being the successful candidate.

Although there was much of interest in these newspapers, especially in The North Star, there did not appear to be a sufficient financial base.  An early front page editorial suggested that the publishers had left their previous occupations in order to produce the newspaper.  The editorial indicated that “no monetary return has been withdrawn from the paper by the publishers in salary; the mechanics only being paid.”

Another front page report spoke of the termination of publication of The Westerner, published from Moose Jaw, but finding only limited support after only a few weeks of operation.  That story suggested that the Moose Jaw paper was merely a prince, while The North Star was the king.  The story ended with the following:  “The North Star was first in the weekly C.C.F. publicity field.  The Prince is dead (sorrow and regret).  The King Still Lives!  Long Live the King!”

It would be interesting to know how much longer the King lived, as we know that by 1936 The North Star had disappeared.  We are working in cooperation with the Provincial Archives to determine if they have additional information about these two newspapers.  However, if any of our readers have further information, and are willing to share it, we could build on what we currently know.

Coffee and Conversation returns this month.  On Sunday, September 17th, at 2:00 p.m., Harris May will be presenting on Hoo Sam who was convicted of murder and hanged at the Prince Albert gaol.  Plan to attend his talk at the Historical Museum.

Museum Musings: Historical Museum’s championship golf clubs

Were you to ask me what my favourite artefact is on the upper floor of the Prince Albert Historical Museum, I would very probably reply “the golf clubs”.

People who know me would be surprised, as I am anything but a golf enthusiast.  I did try golfing when I was younger (much younger!), but I did not find much enjoyment in batting a little white ball around that green grass.  That was likely because whenever I hit the ball, it tended to land anywhere but on those green fairways.

So, why would I focus on a set of golf clubs as my favourite exhibit?  It isn’t the clubs which attract me, but the man who wielded those clubs, and the places that they have been in the time he played.

Of course, I am talking about Phil Lederhouse’s golf clubs, and Phil Lederhouse himself.  The fact that he took up golf after he lost his eye sight, overcoming an obstacle that would have resulted in most of us forgetting any desire to try playing the game of golf, is simply one of many reasons that I am attracted to his story.

Nor is it the fact that Lederhouse developed into such a successful golfer. I think that his sense of humour is probably the major attraction for me. When challenged by Bob Hope to a match as a charity fund raiser, Lederhouse promptly agreed, suggesting that Hope choose the course while he chose the time. Hope agreed, and chose the noted California course, Pebble Beach. Lederhouse then determined that the match would be played at midnight, a time which would not be a problem to him, but would definitely be difficult for Hope!

When asked whether it was hard for him to hit the golf ball, he replied that he could hit it easily enough.  The problem came to finding it afterwards.

Photo courtesy of the Bill Smiley Arhicves. Prince Albert golfer Phil Lederhouse lines up a shot with help from an assistant in this photo from June 8, 1972.

Lederhouse lost his eye sight when he was 19 years of age.  In order to make a living, he cut firewood in the bush north of the stately river which flows through our city.  During the Second World War, Lederhouse gained employment with M & C Aviation.  A story published at the time by the Prince Albert Daily Herald was headlined “Blind Man Excells in Tricky Operation, Helps Win War With Aircraft Industry”.  His task was one which few sighted people would have been able to accomplish with such success.  He sorted tens of thousands of screws – forty different shapes, sizes, and head types – making so few mistakes that it was considered negligible.

While attending the CNIB Rehabilitation Centre in Saskatoon in the 1940s, he met his future wife, Ruby, who was also blind.  Ruby had read an article about blind golf in a magazine and encouraged Lederhouse to try the sport.  So it was that Lederhouse and his friend, Hubert Cooke, Prince Albert’s golf pro, went out on a Sunday morning to one of the tee boxes at the local golf course, and Lederhouse began hitting his first balls.  Six months later, and Lederhouse, with his coach Hubert Cooke, travelled to Hamilton, Ontario, where he won the Canadian Blind Golfers championship.  Three months later, and Lederhouse, who was a natural when it came to golf, placed third in the International Blind Golfers Championship.

Even though Lederhouse was a natural, he needed help in order to achieve his success on the golf course.  He was able to set up and swing the club on his own, but had to have the guidance of a coach to ensure that he was able to hit the ball in the right direction.  In addition to Cooke, Lederhouse had assistance from among others, Gord Coombs, Jimmy McCubben, Tom Sherman, Danny Jutras, Keith Stieb, and his nephew Dave Leaderhouse.  They would help him to line up in the right direction, gauge the wind, as well as the elevation.  When it came to putting, Lederhouse and his coach together would pace off the distance to the cup before the coach would set up the stroke.

From his first tournament until his death in 1991, Lederhouse dominated in every tournament in which he played.  He won twenty Saskatchewan titles, fifteen Western Canadian titles, five Canadian championships, the British Open Blind Golf tournament, and was runner-up in two world tournaments.  His favourite accomplishment, aside from his family, was likely his hole in one, which he managed at the age of 74. 

His success made Lederhouse a celebrity of sorts.  In addition to the previously mentioned Bob Hope, he met entertainment icons such as Jack Parr and Ed Sullivan, golfer Jack Nicklaus, and Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe.

Photo courtesy of Prince Albert Historical Museum. The famous golf clubs on display upstairs in the Historical Museum.

Lederhouse was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame, and was named Prince Albert’s Athlete of the Year in 1990.

Lederhouse married Ruby in 1952, and raised three children, Grant, Bryan, and Lynda, who all helped them run the hospital canteens in the old Victoria Hospital and the Holy Family Hospital.  When the current Victoria Hospital opened, the Lederhouse family ran the canteen there until the canteen was closed at the end of 2013. 

In addition to his prowess on the golf course, Lederhouse was able to play both the guitar and the piano by ear.

Lederhouse died of a heart attack in 1991.

The Lederhouse family have donated his clubs, spiked shoes, and golf glove to the Historical Society, and they are on display at the Historical Museum, 10 River Street East.  Whether you are a golf afficionado or not, I encourage you to visit the Museum to view them and to spend some time imagining what they could say if only they could talk.

Museum Musings: William McKay Traill

As a result of my involvement with the Bill Smiley Archives, and my connection with St. Mary’s church and cemetery, I am often contacted by individuals seeking information about family members who lived in the Prince Albert area during the early years of its settlement.  Over the past two weeks, I have had the privilege of doing research, quite by chance, on two individuals whose families intersected in the 1930s.

Early in August, I had the pleasure of meeting and exchanging information with the granddaughter of Walter Burd, the sixth bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan.  Burd and his first wife, Elizabeth, are buried in the St. Mary’s cemetery.  After Elizabeth died as the result of a car accident, Bishop Burd married Gertrude Traill.

In the middle of July, I was put into contact with Lakefield Heritage Research, an Ontario group who have been researching the history of Peterborough, Ontario, including the families of Catherine Parr Traill, her sister Susannah Moodie, and Samuel Strickland, all authors from that area.  The family of Catherine Parr Traill had local connections through her son William Edward Traill and his family.

William Edward Traill, father of William McKay Traill, was born in the Peterborough district of Ontario in 1844.  His parents were Thomas Traill, a retired British army officer from the Orkney Islands, and Catherine Parr Traill, an early Canadian writer and naturalist.  He entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company as a clerk in 1864, rising to the position of Chief Trader.  While working under Chief Factor William McKay at Fort Ellice, William Edward Traill married Harriet McKay, daughter of the Chief Trader, in June 1869 before taking up a post at Fort Pitt.  In 1870, he was placed in temporary charge of Fort Carlton, replacing Chief Factor Lawrence Clarke when Clarke had to be absent for reasons of business.  This led to Traill being chosen to establish the Company’s supply farm near the Prince Albert settlement in 1871.

After serving at several other posts, more westerly and northernly, William Edward decided to leave his employment with the Company, and to farm at Prince Albert, a town where several of his wife’s family had settled.  These relatives included Thomas McKay (the town’s first mayor), James McKay (an up-and-coming lawyer), Archdeacon George McKay, and her sister Kate (Mrs. Lawrence Clarke).

At the time of his retirement, the family’s children, including William McKay, were all at home.  The girls all went to school locally, but the boys were sent away to school.  William McKay Traill received his education in Lakefield, Ontario, residing while there with his grandmother.  After completing high school, he made his initial step into the business world, obtaining employment with John Martin’s Sons & Company, a wholesale fur warehouse in Montreal.  (Hawke’s “Saskatchewan and Its People” indicates that the firm at which Traill worked was a furniture warehouse, but the 1890 Montreal City Directory lists the firm as a fur warehouse).

Four years later, the younger William Traill left his employment with Martin’s Sons and joined his father on the farm, which they operated together for several years.  In 1901, he joined the Strathcona Horse and went to South Africa, serving for a year in the Boer War.  He then returned to Canada and acquired a homestead near his father’s, operating it and improving it for three years, before renting it out.  Traill then moved to Prince Albert, working for a time in George Baker’s general store, and then in 1906 obtaining employment with the city as the assistant city clerk.  Later he was appointed as the city assessor, a position which he held from 1908 to July 11th, 1916, when he enlisted for service in the Great War.

On December 15th, 1909, Traill married Miss Nellie Fortescue, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with Archbishop Matheson officiating at the marriage. Mrs. Traill was the daughter of Joseph and Jane (Mason) Fortescue.  Her father was a factor in the Hudson’s Bay Company, having been stationed for many years at Hudson Bay, before being transferred to Ile-a-la-Crosse. 

 Nellie was born at Norway House, educated from the age of eight at the convent school in Prince Albert before being sent to a ladies’ college in Winnipeg, before training as nurse at the General Hospital in Montreal.  In 1900, she went as a Canadian Army nurse, serving throughout the war there and returning to Canada in 1904.

The Traills became parents of two children: a daughter Evadne Frances, and a son John (he died before reaching the age of two months).  In 1910, the Traills built a home on the west hill of Prince Albert.  It soon became a social centre for their many friends.

It was from this home that Traill’s dog, an Airedale Terrier, would follow him to work each morning.  When they reached the City Hall (now the Arts Centre) the dog would curl up in the hallway, where he would remain until noon time, when he would follow Traill home for lunch.  While Traill was serving in the armed forces, the dog would continue his established routine, waiting for someone to open the door of City Hall, and resting in the hallway until noon time, when the janitor would open the door and allow the dog to return home for his lunch.

Traill was sent overseas in May, 1917 with the 243rd Battalion.  However, he was in England for only ten days before he contracted typhoid fever and confined in hospital for several months.  On being returned to Canada, he was discharged and re-enlisted, becoming active in transport service, serving in that capacity from February 1918 until November, 1919.  When Traill received his final honourable discharge, he had attained a captain’s commission.

Traill returned to Prince Albert, resuming his duties as the city’s assessor until January, 1920, when he resigned to accept the position as second Deputy Registrar of Land Titles.  He was a popular and efficient public official, winning many friends in the district.

In his social life, Traill was a member of the Masonic fraternity, holding the office of master of the local lodge in 1911 and 1912.  A fervent tennis player, he is a member of the Prince Albert Tennis Club.  Traill also enjoys shooting.  Like his father, Traill was active in the Anglican church and for many years was a member of the vestry of St. Alban’s pro-Cathedral.

After their marriage and before her death, Mrs. Traill was an active Red Cross worker, a member of St. Alban’s Women’s Auxiliary (now the Anglican Church Women), and a member of the Daughters of the Empire.  She was also an accomplished artist, winning several awards both locally and provincially. The officiant at Mrs. Traill’s funeral was Canon Walter Burd, later Bishop Burd.

Museum Musings: Reunion dinner

I know of several families who have held reunions this summer, as well as a number of organisations and community groups. The summer time is a great time for such events. People take their holidays in the summer, and the weather is usually cooperative (at least as far as travel is concerned).

I recently came across a story about a reunion which occurred in the early spring of 1893. The people who gathered together did not have all that far to travel, as the reunion was a gathering of those settlers who had made their home in the Prince Albert area in, or before, 1879. I gather that the furthest any of the celebrants travelled to attend the gathering was from the Hoey district.

In a discussion with a group of the “old-timers”, it had been Chester Thompson, a brick manufacturer, who had suggested that the “seventy-niners” of Prince Albert and area should hold a reunion of their numbers, when around a “festive board” they could recall the past and review the memories of by-gone days. His idea was considered a good one, and action occurred to bring it to fruition. J. Lestock Reid, the surveyor, was appointed chairman of the organising committee, and J.D. Hanafin, the deputy sheriff, was given the role of secretary, supported by a small committee of other men.

So it was that on the evening of Wednesday, April 5th, 1893, the Old Timers Reunion was held at the Royal Hotel (which stood on the corner of 2nd Avenue West and 12th Street, about where the Gateway Mall parking lot is now located).

Donald D. McLeod had come to Prince Albert in 1891 with a dollar and a half in his pocket. He had worked around town, doing odd jobs, until he had accumulated enough money to rent the building known as the Royal Hotel, a little hostelry when he acquired it. With his business acumen, and a personality which led him to be well liked by the travelling public, he soon had built up a brisk business and was able to enlarge it. In company with a man named Courtney, he is said by John Hawkes to have brewed the first beer ever made in Saskatchewan.

So it was that, under the management of Donald McLeod, the cheerful dining room of the Royal Hotel was the scene of brilliancy when the doors were opened to admit the guests. Numerous long tables were said to groan with the load of tempting viands to tempt the palate of the “old-timers”. At one end of the dining room hung a streamer, bearing the message “Boy, Who are you got freight for? Some for Mr. Captain Moore, a little for Mr. Bettes, and some boxes for J.M. ‘James’ Campbell, T.N. Campbell Ashdown and Agnew, Stobarts and Charlie Mair, and a few other peoples.”

Among the tempting, and traditional, food was Moose Tail soup, followed by Green Lake trout, with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, roast musk ox with red berry sauce, buffalo hump a la NWT, mountain sheep with current jelly, and venison with mushrooms. There was also boiled red deer tongue, beaver tails, and moose nose, baked prairie chicken, ptarmigan, and partridge. All of this was accompanied by potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peas, and beans, as well as pemmican and Bannock. For dessert, there was a choice of (or some of each) apple pie, plum tart, assorted cakes, ice cream, grapes, apples, oranges, raisins, and nuts. It could all be washed down with Ginger Flip, Pain Killer punch, tea, and/or coffee.

The Gateway Mall Parking Lot on the corner of Second Avenue West and 12th Street sits where the old Royal Hotel once stood. Google Street View Photo.

The chair for the evening was occupied by J. Lestock Reid, with the vice-chair being shared by the two MLAs, Mr. Thomas McKay and J.F. Bettes. Sitting around the tables were the following old-timers: J.R.

MacPhail (hardware and tine merchant), T.J. Agnew (hardware merchant), William Miller Sr. (farmer), James Sanderson (lumberman), T.H. Brooks (laundry owner), Richard Gwynne (supplier of wines and liquors), George Northgraves (warden of the Territorial Gaol), T.E. Baker (purveyor of lumber and coal), William Spencer (farmer), Robert Thompson (painter), Dr. H. Reid (medical doctor), Adam McBeath (farmer), T.N. Campbell (stationer), Harry E. Ross (sheriff), J.D. Hamilton, William Drain (farm equipment), George Sutherland (farmer), Alex McBeath (farmer), J.W. Hurd (merchant), and Chester Thompson ( brick manufacturer). Others in attendance, as guests, were: Captain Norman (NWMP), Richard H. Mair (Immigration agent), W.R. Gunn (barrister), and C.R. Stovel (secretary of the Board of Trade).

Including amongst the reminiscences, there were numerous toasts, beginning as was the tradition of the day with a toast to the Queen, in which J. Lestock Reid noted her virtues and wisdom. This was followed by a toast to the Governor-General and the Lieutenant-Governor, to which a response was given by Thomas McKay.

Other toasts included one to “the health of the ladies” in which Thomas McKay mentioned that he was concerned that there were so many bachelors in attendance. He had, he noted, walked 400 miles on snowshoes in order to get married, and he felt that the bachelors of the day were showing weakness in not following suit.

In his response to the toast to the “traders of ‘79”, Thomas Agnew suggested that any further reunion banquets should include the wives. George Sutherland, in responding to a further toast to “the ladies” echoed Mr. McKay’s suggestion. Others, including J.D. Hanafin and T.E. Baker, voiced their support of the suggestion, especially in response to the toast to “our next reunion”.

Many of the toasts were of a solemn or patriotic variety, such as the toast to “home and country”, “the farmers of ‘79”, and “our fellow countrymen”. W.R. Gunn’s toast to “absent friends” recalled many of the early settlers who had “passed into the Great Beyond, including Mr. Nisbet, the Reverend John McKay, Bishop McLean, Father Andre, Dr. Porter, Lawrence Clarke, Mr. Duck, Colonel Sproat, and Chief Factor Belanger.

The mention of Colonel Sproat caused J. Lestock Reid to remember him as a noble, generous, and public- spirited citizen of Prince Albert whose death had left a gap impossible to fill.

But not all toasts, or the responses to them, were of that nature. When responding to the toast to “transport service of ‘79”, James Sanderson responded by talking about his early experiences with ox carts and shagginappi, and suggested that he knew well how effective the mode of transport was in those days as he had walked behind a cart the entire distance from Fort Garry to Prince Albert. And Chester Thompson regaled those in attendance with a story about how he had, one might at a dance, changed the clothing of about a half dozen babies so that their mothers had to spend the next morning trying to locate their own child.

In all, there were at least fifteen toasts to which had to be made and responses provided, and with all the reminiscences, and the musical numbers presented (including a rousing rendition of For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow sung in acknowledgement of an absent D.H. MacDowall), the evening lasted over six hours, ending around 3:00 a.m. the following morning.

It appears to have been a very successful reunion.

If you are participating in a reunion this summer, may it be just as successful!

Museum Musings: Beaver Lake Gold Mine Company

When writing about the years from 1910 to 1913, Gary Abrams, author of Prince Albert:  The First Century 1866 – 1966, stated “In every year many handsome houses were erected, particularly on the west hill which became the choice district it has since remained.”

The Henderson Directory for 1914 referenced Prince Albert as “The City Beautiful of Saskatchewan and of Ideal Homes”.  Slow but steady growth, from 8,000 persons in 1911 to 13,500 residents in 1913, led the Directory to suggest it was “steady and sane” growth.

When leading tours, or talking about the Prince Albert of those years, those attending often ask questions about the apparent wealth of the local residents of the early 1900s, both pre and post World War One.  I have even found information that Prince Albert had more millionaires at that time than in any other community in the developing provinces of western Canada.  So far, I have been unable to substantiate that information.

The lumber industry and land speculation very obviously played a major role in this accumulation of wealth. In 1913/14, the Prince Albert Lumber Company employed over 2,000 men locally and in their lumber camps.  A total of thirty-six real estate agents and companies were listed in the 1914 Henderson Directory, suggestive of the large number of real estate transaction which were occurring.  Fourteen barristers in 10 legal firms existed that year.

One item which caught my eye was an entry for Prospectors and Surveyor’s Supplies.  There were two:  J.B. Kernaghan, and Manville Hardware Company, Limited.  These companies were the likely suppliers of men such as Daniel Mosher, Tom Creighton, Joseph Morrier, and the Dion brothers, men who were chiefly responsible for the discovery of the mineral wealth around what is now known as Flin Flon.

From the early teen years of the 1900s, geologists and mining engineers had been visiting northern and eastern areas of Saskatchewan, and were convinced that the mineral wealth was both vast and rich.  Men like mining engineer F.W. Chalmers, St. Clair Snell, and British Columbian F.M. Wells, a mining prospector near Prince Rupert, spoke publicly and to the media as they passed through Prince Albert on their way to, or from, the Pre-Cambrian Shield.  Others, such as Professor E.L. Bruce, from the Geology Department at the University of Manitoba, later confirmed what they had suggested.

In 1914, Daniel Mosher met up with Daniel Milligan, a farmer from the St. Louis district.  Milligan had been a part of the gold rush in British Columbia in 1900. When he and Mosher joined forces, they decided to set out for Beaver Lake (now known as Amisk Lake, amisk being the Cree word for beaver).  A group of investors from Toronto, who eventually took half of their profits, provided the necessary money to cover their expenses.  It was early in the year, and the two Dans followed the break up of the ice about 400 miles (approximately 650 kilometres) down river from Prince Albert.  When they arrived, they met four other prospectors, Tom Creighton, Jack Mosher, and the Dion brothers.  They decided to join forces, and discovered gold in the milky-white quartz.  Together, on May 14th, they staked out about 300 acres, a claim which was later sold, eventually ending up in the hands of a company known as the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company.

Of note is the sale of the property which was reported in the Daily Herald on May 5th, 1916.  Five claims made by Zed Crittenden and E.R. Cullity were sold for $200,000 (a value of approximately $5,600,000 today).  The Beaver Lake Mining Company property sold for $3 million (about $70, 125,000 in today’s money).  The buyers were a conglomerate from New York, where investment money was more readily available as the United States was not yet involved in the World War.

In July of 1916, D.A. Hall, the MLA for Cumberland, toured the Beaver Lake mining area over two weeks and reported that because of the activity there it could be expected that a railway would be built to service the area.  He was certain that, once built, the operation of the railroad would be based in Prince Albert.  At the time, the gold fields were being financed by two large American companies with unlimited capital.  It was believed that the body of sulphide ore found there was the largest such deposit on the continent.  Three diamond drilling rigs were being operated, one for one company, and two for the second company, and they had revealed the ore was of excellent quality and quantity.  An assay of the ore had shown an average of $12 a ton could be expected, while even if it were only $7 a ton it would be a worthwhile prospect.

Reports from 1917 show just how worthwhile the project was.  That year, copper which was shipped to the smelter at Traill, B.C., amounted to 3,500 tons.  Copper was priced at 25 cents per pound, which resulted in a total of $332,500 ($7,925,670 in today’s funds).  In addition, there were 2,000 tons still stocked on the mine site.  The same year, they shipped 28 ½ tons of gold ore, valued at $81.23, for a total value of $2,323 (approximately $55,370 in today’s money).

Of note is that the advent of the First World War had resulted in delays with respect to the development of the mine.  Money for investment in mining became more difficult to obtain.  In March, 1915, by way of an order-in-council, the Government protected the claim on the property from cancellation.  This order was renewed in 1916, and again in March, 1917.  At that time, the claims were largely in the hands of Prince Albert investors, including lawyer James H. Lindsay, real estate agent James H. Sanderson, surveyor Joseph Morrier, and real estate agent and auctioneer Alfred H. Woodman.  The controller of the mineral lands branch of the Interior Department once again extended the protection on the claim to July 11th, advising the local mining recorder, D.J. Rose, of this extension by telegram.  Local investors were thereby protected from major losses.

Individuals who are interested in learning more about Saskatchewan’s first and only gold rush community, and the Prince Albert connection, might want to take a guided tour of Beaver City on Amisk Lake. The interpretive experience, led by historian Les Ostryk, includes an exploration of the site, views of the remnants of the community, and a discussion of its history. Further information about Prince Albert’s connection to this story is available in the Bill Smiley Archives at the Prince Albert Historical Museum, 10 River Street East.

Museum Musings: Cherry Red Airlines

Harry Holroyde, the secretary of the Bradshaw-Holroyde Agencies Limited, was a Prince Albert entrepreneur in the first part of the 20th century.  In 1929, Holroyde lived in the Bank of Ottawa building on 1st Avenue West, the same building which housed the Bradshaw-Holroyde Agency.  He was, at that time, the president of a short-lived aircraft company, Cherry Red Airlines.  The airline’s story is not only interesting, but had a major role in the early history of aviation in northern Saskatchewan.

On a warm day in May in 1928, a young man named Norman Cherry flew into Prince Albert in an old Pheasant airplane piloted by Alva Malone. They landed in a field between Saskatchewan Penitentiary and St. Mary’s cemetery.

A single-engine, two-seater biplane, it had originally been built in Memphis, Missouri, in 1927. Cherry had paid $2,800 (approximately $50,000 in today’s money) for the aircraft, but after excise duty he had expended $3, 733 (approximately $60,000 today). Fabric-covered, with wire spoke wheels, the biplane had a wing span of ten metres. The V-block engine was glycol cooled, and able to travel at a cruising speed of 135 kilometres per hour. According to a newspaper report of the day, it had taken them fifteen hours flying time to travel from Memphis to Prince Albert.

Norman Cherry had been raised on a farm at Debden.  In 1921, he relocated to Chicago, Illinois, where he ran a garage during the winter.  In 1923, he moved to Florida where he worked in the construction industry.  Eventually he sold his interest in the Debden farm and settled in Culver City, California, building sets at movie studios.  Given the interest in airplanes being shown throughout North America and Europe, Hollywood was producing numerous movies about flying, and the city of Los Angeles was quickly becoming an aviation centre.  The transplanted Canadian was just as fascinated as so many others.

His return to Prince Albert and area was supposed to be simply to visit his parents and renew acquaintances with old friends.  But Cherry and Malone found that there was money to be made by barnstorming the province’s summer fairs and offering rides to adventurous citizens.

Other opportunities presented themselves as a result of newly discovered minerals in the area between Lac la Ronge and Rottenstone Lake.  Prospectors heading into the area were looking for any possible means of transportation available.  Cherry was willing to provide that transportation, but his Pheasant was a wheeled aircraft and landing strips were few and far between in northern Saskatchewan.  Furthermore, the Pheasant was really a single passenger plane, although it could manage two persons if necessary.  And furthermore, it had a limited fuel capacity, which allowed it to fly as far as Lac la Ronge and back to Prince Albert, meaning that passengers and supplies could only be transported halfway to Rottenstone Lake.

This is where Holroyde came into the picture.  Not only was he a businessman, but he had flown in the First World War.  Cherry felt that there could not be a better individual to start an airline company.  Holroyde agreed, and the Cherry Red Airline Limited became a reality.

It was apparent that an airline would need an airplane, and so Cherry was sent to Cincinnati where the partners had a line on a plane called the International.  Unfortunately, when Cherry arrived in the Ohio city, he found that the company had gone bankrupt.  When Holroyde was notified, he sent Cherry a telegram encouraging him to go to New York where a big airplane show was about to start at the Grand Central Palace.  All of the movers and shakers in the aviation industry were gathered there including Fokker, Chamberlain, Levine, Courtney, Amelia Earhart, Frank Hawkes, and many others.  Cherry, Malone, and Holroyde would meet there and determine their next move.

By the end of the show, Cherry Red Airlines had purchased a Buhl Cabin Aeroplane.  This was a plane which was powered by the first Wright 300 horsepower engine ever in service.  It could cruise at 185 miles per hour.  Prior to that, the most powerful engine in service had been 200 horsepower, which was the engine Lindberg had in the Sprit of St. Louis when he made the first solo trip across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Buhl was a six-seat biplane, with an upper wing span of 40 feet (12 metres) and a lower span of 25 feet (eight meters).  Each wing had a 60 U.S. gallon (230 litres) fuel tank.  The cockpit had large windows, and included a periscope which allowed the pilot to look back over and beyond the top of the plane.  It was also a comfortable aircraft, with upholstered seats, flush-mounted dome lights, heaters, window shades, and ash trays.

The company’s new plane was flown from Mineola Field to Maryville, Michigan, where it had to clear customs.  The necessary red tape which had to be navigated took nearly three weeks, time which was costly for Cherry Red Airlines.  Back in Saskatchewan, Consolidated Smelting had taken an option on the Rottenstone property, and had begun drilling.  Consolidated Smelting was paying $700 per trip into their property, and up to two trips per day were being flown.  Another airline, Western Canadian, sent in a plane flown by H. Hollick-Kenyon, and they secured the business.

The Cherry Red plane finally passed customs, and Holroyde, Cherry, and Malone were once again on their way home.  But yet another delay occurred.  Flying from Winnipeg to Prince Albert, Malone was concerned that his fuel might not hold out.  As a result, he touched down in Kelvington to top up the tank.  When he took off, the plane struck a rock which was hidden underneath the snow, damaging part of the undercarriage.

When the plane finally arrived in Prince Albert in the latter part of March 1929, the company was finally able to get in a few days of profitable flying prior to the river ice melting.  Consolidated Smelting had determined that they would organise their own flying service, but before they managed to do so, Cherry Red got some of the spring business, having put floats on the plane so that they could land on water.  This spring business entailed flying hay into the smelting company’s camp to feed the horse utilised to haul their diamond drill around.  When the ice went out, they were unable to feed the horse, which led to the contract fly in hay.  For each bale, Cherry Red charged $50 per bale.  When Consolidated Smelting’s head office received the Cherry Red account bill from their local manager, the decision was made to shoot the horse.

Later that year, when Malone was flying the Reverend G.N. Fisher, his wife and two children from Christopher Lake to Lac la Ronge, he had engine trouble (the main bearing having burnt out) and found it necessary to land on a small lake, which the local newspaper actually called a slough, about 30 miles south of their destination.   It was due to the pilot’s expertise that no one was hurt during the landing, but the Fisher family chose to not fly again.

With the Rottenstone service failing to live up to expectation, and other aviation business being somewhat limited at that time, due to the New York stock market crash only days after the crash of the Cherry Red plane.  This led to a sudden end to all the mineral prospecting in the north, and the failure of many of the companies which were indebted to the airline.  The decision was made to wind up the company, with shareholders receiving 65 cents on the dollar. When the company was dissolved in 1931, although not a business success, the company was the first and only aviation firm to fly in northern Saskatchewan which had been funded by neither the federal government or big business. 

Cherry Red also pioneered air mail in Canada.  In order to increase their revenue, they established a service allowing customers to have their mail transported on the Cherry Red flights.  The company issued 25,000 of their own air mail stamps.  A ten cent Cherry Red stamp was required for each ounce of correspondence.

The Canadian Postal Service had not yet issued air mail stamps and as a result would keep Cherry Red’s stamps on hand, and anyone living in the north could instruct the Postal authorities to give Cherry Red the mail and have it flown to or from Prince Albert at the stated rate.  Cherry Red stamps are very rare, and sell today for a considerable price amongst stamp collectors.

There are so many interesting Prince Albert stories. I encourage everyone to take time this summer to visit the four museums managed by the Prince Albert Historical Society. Those of you who have children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews will also want to check out the summer camps being held at the Historical Museum. More information can be found on our website and Facebook page, or at the Historical Museum.

Museum Musings: Senator Thomas Osborne Davis

Prince Albert Historical Society

Born in Sherrington, Quebec, on Aug. 16, 1856, and succumbing to death in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, on Jan. 23, 1917, Thomas Osborne Davis managed to fill the years in between with considerable activity which left a lasting legacy both locally and nationally.

Born to Anne and Samuel Davis, B.A. (Trinity College, Dublin), T.O. Davis was educated at home and in private schools.  At the age of 24, Davis arrived in Prince Albert in 1880, a year after settling in Winnipeg, to which he had travelled via Detroit, Chicago, and St. Paul.

Davis himself described Winnipeg at that time day as a “straggling street of shacks and little board houses.  The most pretentious building in the city was the little old Queen’s Hotel.  There were just a few straggling buildings at the back of the Main Street and all back of it was simply like a swamp.”

Davis left Winnipeg and went across the plains to Fort McLeod in Southern Alberta, having hired on to work with a survey party.  Although the party had six or seven ponies and carts, these were loaded with provisions, so he had to walk all the way.  Apparently, Fort McLeod was not to Davis’s liking, as he did not stay very long, returning to Winnipeg with a couple of ex-Mounties.  They travelled with two ponies and two carts, returning to Winnipeg about four months after Davis had left.  The trip totalled about 2,000 miles, all of which Davis had had to walk.

In the spring of 1880, Davis formed a partnership with a man named Joe Curran, and they started a store in Stony Mountain.  In Winnipeg, they purchased a horse and wagon, and a grocery outfit with a tent, as well as buying some goods.  Davis also ran a barber shop in addition to the store that they started.  Even with the two businesses, the partners were not doing sufficient business, so Davis took a pack and started to peddle around the country.  Recognising the situation as being a losing proposition, after about a month Davis sold his share of the business to his partner and returned to Winnipeg.

Hiring on with another party of surveyors, Davis headed out to Fort Ellice.  His ability to speak French resulted in Davis becoming the procurement officer, resulting in him being sent out to buy horses.  The survey crew left for Fort Ellice with seven carts.  Davis was appointed the hunter for the party, primarily because he was the only member with a shot gun.  With this gun, he was able to keep the crew pretty well supplied with ducks.

Travelling through Portage la Prairie to Rat Creek and then on to Pine Creek (now Carberry), they went to Rapid City and on to Shoal Lake, where the local Mounted Police checked their carts for liquor.  Near Birtle, Davis met a man dressed in overalls.  Having left the Mounted Police, with whom he had served for seven years, he was travelling back to Winnipeg to buy an outfit.  To Davis’s surprise, and delight, he discovered that this man was his brother, whom he had not seen for seven years.  Davis managed to get the surveyor to release him from employment and went back to Winnipeg with his brother.  After buying a pair of wild steers, a yoke of oxen, and five carts and wagons, they bought a load of merchandise of all kinds, and joined by another man by the name of Bob Fish, they headed out for Saskatchewan.  Their trip to Prince Albert took nearly two months, and was a continual battle against wet and muddy trails.

Arriving in Prince Albert in November of 1880, Davis indicated that he found that the community had a doctor by the name of Porter, who had arrived from Nova Scotia the previous year, an Anglican church which was the seat of the Bishop of Saskatchewan, John McLean, a hardware store operated by Jimmy Ashdown and Tom Agnew, and a tailor shop owned by a man named Smith.  The blacksmith shop was run by a man named Plaxton, and there was a firm of contractors operating under the name of Bishop & Coombs.  Down on the flat, Charles Mair ran a store, while Bill Dilworth lived further down the flats, and Stobart and Eden ran a trading post.  Sandy McBeath lived in a shack, nearer to the old Presbyterian Mission church, where the Reverend Mr. Severight took services.  Up on the hill stood an old windmill where the farmers ground their grain.  There was a scattering of white people on Red Deer Hill, and to the east on the flats were men such as William Miller and Captain Moore.  Lawrence Clarke was the factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, although at that time he lived at Fort Carlton, and Philip Turner was in charge of the Company’s post in the east end of what is now Prince Albert.

The first winter, Davis lived across the river with a man named Dan Wilson.  They built a shanty and dug a well.  The winter was spent getting out logs and hauling in wood which they traded to the Hudson’s Bay Company.  Some of the logs which they got out were used to build the first Methodist church in Goshen, after which Davis was the soloist in the choir, and Kate Hayes (the governess for the Lestock Reid family) was the organist.

The following spring, Davis hired out with two contractors (Bishop & Coombs) and assisted in building a number of log cabins in the Colleston district.  In June of that year, he purchased a trading outfit consisting of nine carts and oxen, with which he freighted to and from Fort Ellice, driving the nine carts by himself, hitching and unhitching up to five times a day.  On one occasion, due to the oxen having damaged feet as a result of the frozen ground, Davis found that he had to shoe them even though he had never performed that task before.  He made the shoes out of the hoop of an old coal oil barrel, and fortunately he had nails with him with which he could attach the shoes.

In the spring of 1883, Davis bought two teams of horses and freighted supplies to Prince Albert to open his own store.  He also bought two pool tables, the first pool tables in Saskatchewan.  These he set up in a building called the Woodbine. Players paid 25 cents a game to play on these tables.

Davis freighted until 1890, gradually increasing and improving his stock.  As Harry Ross noted at the time of Davis’s death, Davis was always ready for any business which might come his way.  Subsequent to selling his store, he went into real estate and ranching.  He owned considerable property, including houses and apartments, and owned land south of Prince Albert in areas now known as Davis and Osborne.

In the course of time, Davis took an interest in local politics.  He was elected as an alderman in 1894, and became mayor of Prince Albert in 1895.  Then, in a by-election in 1896 which occurred after Sir Wilfred Laurier chose to represent the seat in Quebec-East, which he had won in 1895 simultaneously with winning the Prince Albert seat, Davis was elected to the House of Commons with an overwhelming majority.  Davis was re-elected in 1900, and was appointed as the Liberal whip for the west in 1901, and was summoned to the Senate on Sept. 30, 1904. 

In 1885, Davis married Rebecca Bond Jennings of Prince Edward Island.  They had five sons and three daughters, including Thomas Clayton Davis, who followed his father in politics and eventually became a diplomat.

Early in December 1916, Davis struck his head on a beam in the basement of his home at 305 – 19th Street East and sustained an injury. Shortly afterward, he began experiencing severe headaches. A blood clot on the brain was diagnosed, and a surgeon from Winnipeg operated to remove it. For some days thereafter, Davis’s health appeared to be improving. On January 22nd, 1917, he suffered a relapse and went into a coma from which he did not recover.

Senator Davis was buried from St. Alban’s pro-cathedral and is interred in St. Mary’s cemetery.                      

Museum Musings: Kings’s Bench Court House

Although we have become accustomed to the site of Prince Albert’s King’s Bench Court House overlooking downtown Prince Albert from the top of the Central Avenue viaduct, it has not always had such a grand setting.

Built on a natural rise on the southern-most edge of Victoria Square, it is bounded on the north and south by 18th and 19th Streets respectively, on the east by the north-bound lane of Central Avenue, and on the west by Central Avenue’s south-bound lane.

Photo Coutesy of The Bill Smiley Archives. The Prince Albert Court of King’s Bench. Photo taken in 2017.

In the mid-1880s, Prince Albert’s first major correctional facility, the Territorial Gaol, was built slightly below today’s Court House, nearer the northern edge of Victoria Square.  Court of Queen’s Bench (for it was during the reign of Queen Victoria) facilities were included in that building.  Caretakers of the building included George Northgraves, and John McTaggart and his wife (who was the mother of Hugh John Montgomery’s second wife). 

It was not until nearly ten years after construction that the first long-term prisoners were housed in the Territorial Gaol.  At that time, Hugh Montgomery was appointed warden of the facility, a position he held until his death in 1900.

At the time of the gaol’s construction, Prince Albert was a town in the North West Territories.  Most of its development, including residential properties, had occurred in the river valley.  It was subsequent to Prince Albert attaining city status that individuals began to build their homes along the crest of the hill, especially during the years of growth from 1910 to 1913.

When Saskatchewan became a province in 1905, the Territorial Gaol became a provincial facility.  Prince Albertans, in their search for land on which to develop, came to view the location of the Gaol as an eye-sore and a hindrance to the establishment of a suitable neighbourhood in which to raise their families.  As a result, the City Council submitted a letter of petition to the provincial government in October 1911 to remove the gaol to ‘a less conspicuous and less valuable part of the city’.  The province responded by suggesting that the move would be considered, but that other expenses precluded the gaol’s immediate removal.

By the early 1920s, provincial coffers (or perhaps political expediency) allowed for consideration of the city’s October 1911 request.  A new site for the gaol was determined, and construction begun at a location on 28th Street West between Central and 1st Avenues.  The new facility was completed by early 1923, and all the inmates were safely transferred by March of that year.  Demolition of the original gaol building could begin.  In the meantime, Court of King’s Bench proceedings were being held elsewhere in the city, initially in the former Federal Building at the corner of Central Avenue and 13th Street East (the old Post Office), and after 1914 in the Harphill Block. 

As of 1919, Central Avenue between 15th Street and 18th Street was expected to take on a different look as the Canadian National Railway undertook the construction of an overpass to allow traffic to flow above their tracks.  This construction quickly ground to a halt, however, when the stock market crashed in the autumn of that year, and was not completed until the early 1930s.

Discussion with respect to the construction of a new King’s Bench facility, and the use of the former Territorial Gaol site, continued.  City Council supported the construction of the new court facility on the former gaol site, while members of the local Bar Association advocated for its construction somewhere, anywhere, in the downtown business district. 

We know that the City Council and the provincial government agreed on the choice of the Victoria Square site, and construction of the new Court House began in 1927, opening in 1928.  Designed in the Beaux Arts style by provincial architect Maurice William Sharon (1875 – 1940) of Regina, the contractors were Duncan D. and Donald D. Smith, and John Wilson.

The court house is similar in design to several other provincial buildings designed by Sharon, including those in Yorkton, Kerrobert, Weyburn, and Estevan.  It is a two-storey buff brick, concrete and stone structure with a central entrance on the north front of the building, which includes a small portico with a large arched window on the second storey.  There are three dormer windows in the hipped roof, with a small cupola clock tower.

The cost of construction in1927/28 was $138,212 (almost $2,410,000 in today’s terms).  A restoration project undertaken in 2013, which also updated the buildings essential systems, was completed by RNF Ventures and architect Wes Moore.  The cost of this renovation was $900,000 ($1,172,000 today).

The interior of the building has a large court room on the north side of the upper floor, where lawyers such as John Diefenbaker and Clyne Harradence once conducted defenses for their clients, as well as space for smaller hearing rooms.  There is also a well stocked legal library which was once overseen by John V. Hicks.  Originally also the home to the provincial land titles office, and for a time serving as museum space for the Prince Albert Historical Society, space requirements eventually resulted in their relocation.

As noted at the time of the restoration completed in 2013, the building and its grounds continue to be a place of prominence and grandeur within the community.

Check out the Historical Society’s Facebook page and its Website for information on our latest news and upcoming events.  We are excited by the opening of our Tea Room this week, and invite you to check out what Sweet Stell’s has to offer for your coffee and lunch breaks.  Great food in one of Prince Albert’s most scenic locations!

Also think about registering your youngsters for one or both of the summer day camps.  A great way to provide fun activity for them this summer.

And I will be escorting a West Hill Walking tour, starting from Diefenbaker House, on June 20th at 7:00 p.m., as well as another Talk and Tour at St. Mary’s cemetery on June 26th, also starting at 7:00 p.m.  We will visit 20 grave sites which we have not yet visited during previous St. Mary’s tours.

Contact the Historical Museum at 306-764-4743 for further information, or better still, drop by the Museum, take a tour, and register for some or all of these events.

Museum Musings: Prince Albert and area grist mills

Prince Albert Historical Society

I recently read an article debunking the myth that Louis de la Corne grew wheat at his fur trading post in 1754.  There is considerable literature suggesting that at his fort on the Saskatchewan River, La Corne was the first to grow wheat in what is now the Province of Saskatchewan.  Whichever is true, the article started me thinking about those who grew wheat in the Prince Albert area, and how that wheat might have been ground into flour.

Undisputed is the fact that wheat was grown at Fort Carlton beginning in 1815, and when James Nisbet arrived there in 1866 he was encouraged to investigate establishing his mission down river near the Isbister Settlement rather than heading upriver to Fort Pitt.  He was told that the soil in this area was highly suitable for growing grain, as indeed James Isbister had been growing wheat in what is now the west end of Prince Albert since 1863.  Upon establishing the mission locally, members of the party began growing wheat, and the field where the Arts Centre now stands provided a very bountiful crop in 1867.

In the early 1870s, the Hudson’s Bay Company followed suit and began growing wheat on its reserve land located east of the current 6th Avenue East.

It was thus proven that wheat could be grown locally, but milling that wheat into flour proved to be another matter.

We know that James Isbister had hauled the wheat grown on the Isbister Settlement all the way to the Red River Settlement to have it milled, but this was certainly not sustainable; nor was it profitable.  We also know from the memoirs of Margaret Miller McKenzie that she was often reduced to grinding small amounts of wheat in a hand operated coffee grinder in order to make pancakes.  It is little wonder that she went to that effort as we know that in 1874 her father had to pay $15 per sack of wheat (nearly $375.00 in today’s money) that he bought from the Hudson’s Bay Company.

William McDonald, who arrived at the Prince Albert Mission in 1867, suggested in his writings that the first wheat harvested from the Mission fields was carted to be milled in Springfield in what is now Manitoba.  Again, such a practice was not a good use of resources.  As a result, a small, horse-powered grist mill was purchased for the Mission.  It was, perhaps, a better use of resources, but the nature of the animal harnessed to power the mill meant that it was a rather erratic stop and start business.

With the influx of farmers, and their increasingly cultivated fields, there was a greater production of wheat year by year.  In 1874, William McDonald and George McKay established a partnership and built a wind-powered grist mill, erecting it on or near the property now known as 133 – 22nd Street East.  The machinery was purchased from John Fraser of Kildonan, Manitoba, and transported by wagon and ox cart to Prince Albert.  Although it is undocumented, it is believed that the grist stones were also purchased from Kildonan and transported in a similar manner.

Although situated on the hill in order to best catch the wind, this mill was also sporadic in its output.  Farmers were apt to arrive at the mill with a large load of grain on a very calm day.  As a result, although Jacob Beads, the operator of the mill, was diligent in his duties, grinding wheat continued to be a source of concern.  McDonald eventually sold his share of the business to the Reverend John McKay who, in turn, sold his share to Jacob Beads sometime after Beads had bought George McKay’s share.  Again, it is not clearly documented when the mill ceased operation or where the equipment ended up.  There is some suggestion that Beads moved it to Lily Plain, although this might be confusion with respect to a mill established there by the Hodgson family.  Another suggestion is that Beads sold the machinery on to Mr. Turner at Fort a la Corne who, in August 1884, had a water grist mill operating on his claim.  There is also a suggestion that Beads might have transferred his equipment to the mill which Henry S. Moore built on land supplied by William Miller.

After spending the winter of 1874/75 in the Prince Albert settlement with William Miller, Henry Stewart Moore headed east to Galt, Ontario, where he purchased two runs of mill stones, a saw carriage, a shingle machine, an engine, and a boiler.  The machinery was transported by rail to St. Paul (the nearest rail line end point) and from there by steamer to Winnipeg.  The fact that the equipment was transported to St. Paul has caused some confusion through the years, as some of the old-timers remembered that the equipment had been bought from the United States.

One old-timer remembered that the transportation of the mill machinery from Winnipeg to Prince Albert occurred via eight wagons and fifteen ox carts, while another recounted the story differently.  He was convinced that the machinery was moved in the autumn, and as a result was bogged down in Portage la Prairie by heavy snows.  This meant that sleighs had to be constructed, and that the crew transporting the equipment faced additional obstacles such as extreme cold and a lack of food for both the men and the animals hauling the load.  In his recollection, the equipment stalled once again, in Humboldt, and Moore had to make a trip into Prince Albert where he organised a relief party of farmers from the Colleston district.

Regardless, the machinery was eventually installed, although the structure Moore had built was insufficient to handle the weight of the equipment and therefore the structure had to be torn down and rebuilt stronger.  Moore had hired John McKenzie as the manager of the mill, and he supervised the installation of the machinery.  The mill began gristing flour in the autumn of 1876.

The Moore mill continued to mill both flour and lumber until 1881, when Moore went into partnership with Day Hort MacDowall.  They decided to forego the wheat milling and to concentrate instead on lumber.

Another mill was established in 1880 on Mud Creek near Clouston by Albert Hodgson.  This mill was established as a water-powered mill.  Unfortunately, in 1890, the creek dried up, and Hodgson had to move its operation to Miner’s Creek at Lily Plain.  Again, misfortune struck, the dam on the creek gave way, and Hodgson moved the mill back to the Clouston area where he operated it as a gasoline-powered mill.  The engine had a huge fly-wheel and used a glow plug rater instead of a spark plug.  This, however, proved to be an expensive form of power, and eventually the family moved to Cookson.

Other local mills included one operated in the west end of the town by the man who was to become its first mayor, Thomas McKay.  In November 1882, he was reported to be producing 120 sacks of flour per day.  Another mill was operated by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the east end of the town.  Established on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River at about 11th Avenue, it opened in 1880.  Fire eventually destroyed both of these mills in 1884.

Between 1884 and 1888, Prince Albert had no flour mill, which meant that the farmers were reliant on the Hodgson mill.  In 1885, a man by the name of van Loouvan built a water-powered mill at the mouth of MacFarlane Creek near the site of what became Stanleyville.  At this time, farmers from as far away as Saskatoon were bringing their wheat to be ground in the area grist mills.

In 1887, the Hudson’s Bay Company decided to build a modern mill on the site of their former mill, and they purchased a steam-powered mill from the Allis-Chalmers Company.  George McGillivray was hired to oversee the transportation and set-up of the machinery.  At each of the three transfer points during its transportation, he insisted on unpacking all the parts, erecting the mill, and ensuring that it was in working order.  The mill operated from the spring of 1888 to at least 1914.

By the early 1890s, there were a lack of grain milling facilities in Prince Albert, and the farmers were having difficulty marketing their product.  However, in 1894, with a grant of $5,000 (over $176,000 in today’s funds) from the town, Joseph Kidd as able to construct a modern grist mill at the corner of 11th Street and 2nd Avenue West.  The buildings also included storage facilities.  In one day in 1896, fifty wagon loads of wheat were brought north to Kidd’s Mill from Rosthern.  Although it appears to have ceased operations by 1919, the mill stood at its site until it was demolished to enable the approach to the Diefenbaker Bridge to be built. 

An anecdote connected with Kidd’s Mill is of some comedic interest.  In the Prince Albert Times edition on January 26th, 1897, the following appeared:

“If the young lady who left some of her apparel at the engine room of Mr. Joseph Kidd’s Mill will kindly call and take the petticoats, etc., away, the bachelor mechanics at the establishment will be greatly relieved from embarrassment.”

Although Prince Albert had the two mills (Kidd’s and the Hudson’s Bay Company) in operation, in 1906 a group of business men determined that there was a need for a third elevator and flour mill in the city.  The Farmers’ Milling and Elevator Company was formed and built at 339 – 16th Street West with a 25,000 bushel capacity and a mill capable of producing 150 barrels of flour every 24 hours.

In 1912, this company was sold to a new company, the One Northern Milling Company.  This company operated until 1929.  In 1932 the same mill operated as the Waskesiu Milling Company.  It operated until 1961 under the management of B.J. Allbright, and later R. Marshall Allbright.  During World War II, the mill operated 24 hours a day.  With improvements in transportation, and the ability for increased capacity in larger centres, the need for local flour mills resulted in the milling industry to virtually disappear from the local community.

Museum Musings: Margaret MacKenzie


On the 21st of May, 1954, the Honourable J.H. Brockelbank, Minister of Natural Resources, wrote in care of City Hall to Mr Ian Collins of the Prince Albert Historical Society.  Prince Albert was celebrating its 50th anniversary that year, and Mr. Brockelbank felt that it would be appropriate for the Province to honour the pioneers whose labour and faith had laid the foundations to the development of Saskatchewan at that point.

It was the practice of the Province to name some northern topographical features, such as lakes, islands, and rivers, after prominent and exemplary pioneer citizens in order to perpetuate their names in order that future generations might remember them. The Minister’s letter suggested that the Historical Society might recommend three names of those who had made a significant contribution to Prince Albert and district. He would then consider them on behalf of the Province and make the necessary recommendation to the Canadian Board on Geographical Names in order to have them adopted as official names for such topographical features as might be selected.  Biographical details were to be submitted along with the names, and these sketches would be included in the Departmental records, thereby associating the individual with the named feature.

Mr. Collins forwarded the Minister’s letter to the president of the Society, Richmond Mayson, for the Society’s consideration.  In response, the Society forwarded four names:  Bishop Dr. John McLean, Mrs. Margaret MacKenzie, Mr. Angus McKay, and Miss Lucy Baker.  They also suggested that they ‘would like to see Rev. Mr. Nisbet, the founder of Prince Albert, so honoured too’, although admitting that he already had had the Forest Reserve named after him and were uncertain if, as a result, he would be eligible.

Regular readers of my articles will be familiar with Miss Baker, who was the first woman teacher in the Prince Albert area, and who had provided able assistance in obtaining reserve status for the local Dakota Sioux.

Angus McKay, a member of the very active McKay family, was a brother of Thomas McKay (Prince Albert’s first mayor) and James McKay (a barrister and Member of Parliament).  Angus had served many years in the north with the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Bishop John McLean was the first bishop of the Anglican diocese of Saskatchewan and, with the assistance of his wife, had established and received a federal charter for Emmanuel College, the first University of Saskatchewan.  He was also the first chaplain appointed to the North West Mounted Police.

I did, I admit, stumble over the name Margaret MacKenzie.  I simply could not place her.  So, I asked other members of the archival volunteers, as well as our curator, what they knew about her.  Even here I drew a blank.  Further review of file documentation would be required!

Dick Mayson’s response to the Minister received a follow-up response in which he was advised that Angus McKay had already had a map feature named after him.  Concern was also expressed that Dr. John McLean might also have been similarly honoured.  And Reverend Mr. James Nisbet was not eligible due to the previously mentioned Forest Reserve having been named after him.

However, the naming of Saskatchewan topographical features after Mrs. Margaret MacKenzie and Miss Lucy Baker had been approved by the Provincial Government, and the necessary recommendation was being made to the Canadian Board on Geographical Names in Ottawa.

Mr. Brockelbank noted in his response that ‘the contribution made by pioneer women have (sic) too often been taken for granted, and I am pleased that your Society has included the names of two ladies whose names will be incorporated for all time on Saskatchewan maps’.  Having struggled myself to discern sufficient information to write articles on early women settlers, and female members of the Indigenous communities, I found Mr. Brockelbank’s a pleasure to read.

A further letter from the Minister’s office indicated that Bishop McLean’s name could be used as his name had not yet been utilised to designate a feature in Saskatchewan.  There appeared to be some confusion with respect to the spelling of the name and, although not noted, I have to wonder if Dr. McLean, an Anglican bishop, had been confused with Dr. MacLean, a Presbyterian minister from Manitoba.

Regardless, one can find the name Baker Lake on a Saskatchewan map. Also, on a map of the province, you can find MacKenzie Rapids, rapids of approximately 5 ½ miles duration (between 8 ½ to 9 kilometres) situated in the rocky Pre-Cambrian area of Saskatchewan in the Foster River.  McLean Islands can be found in Black Bay.

Having followed the naming process through to completion, it might be time to provide some information about Mrs. Margaret MacKenzie. 

Upon her death, A.G. Berry wrote a poem, a poem about a lady of kindness; one who endured the hardships of the pioneer, first with her parents and then with her husband, but always with a smile that was reflected in her life.  She was a woman who conveyed to others hope, happiness, and courage.

Margaret MacKenzie was born Margaret Miller, the daughter of William Miller (known as Miller of Miller’s Hill).  With her parents and four siblings, nine year old Margaret travelled from Wroxeter, Ontario to the Northwest Territories in 1870.  Along the way, they were confronted by a number of difficult situations which would be likely to cause travellers of our day to forego their trip.  Her first winter in the west was spent in Fort Garry (now Winnipeg).  The following spring, her family homesteaded at Stoney Mountain, where they remained for two and a half years.  Them in 1873, they packed up all their belongings and moved to the Prince Albert area, a place of which they had heard such glowing reports.  Margaret, now twelve years of age, drove a team of horses the entire distance, approximately five hundred miles (800 kilometres).

Upon arrival in Prince Albert, the Hudson’s Bay Company farm manager showed the Millers a piece of land east of the Company’s Reserve, which is where the Millers settled, first living on the flat but later moving up onto the hill to avoid the spring floods.

Margaret married John MacKenzie of Pictou, Nova Scotia, in 1880, after which they lived in a frame house, the first in the Prince Albert district, which John built for them.  John eventually worked as a fur buyer and for the federal government.  He was the homestead inspector at the time of his death in 1916.  Their union produced eight children, as well as twelve grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren.

Margaret MacKenzie lived in western Canada for nearly 75 years, and had what Dick Mayson referred to as a life filled with great and useful activity.  It was his belief that her name, whether as Margaret Miller or as Margaret MacKenzie, would always be associated with the early events of this region’s settlement.

Along with Miss Lucy Baker, she was one of the first two women honoured in Saskatchewan by having a geographical feature named after her.

More information can be found regarding Margaret MacKenzie in the book ‘Voice of the People’ which is available at the Historical Museum, 10 River Street East.

Museum Musings: armed robbery – Bank of Montreal

Prince Albert Historical Society

Canada’s oldest bank, the Bank of Montreal (originally established in 1817 as Montreal Bank), opened its first branch in the City of Prince Albert on Feb. 25, 1913.  At that time, its premises were in the Empress Theatre building, located on First Avenue West between 11th and 12th Streets.  In 1917, the bank relocated to the Masonic Temple building at 25 – 10th Street West, again in rented premises.  This was its location when the bank became the victim of what was publicised at the time as “the most daring daylight robbery ever staged in Northern Saskatchewan”.

Photo courtesy of the Bill Smiley Archives.
The Masonic Lodge building, shown here in the mid-1970s, housed the Bank of Montreal when an armed robbery occurred on March 15, 1928.

The robbery, which occurred shortly after noon on Thursday, March 15, 1928, was perpetrated by a lone gunman.  Armed with a revolver, he entered the bank on 10th Street West, demanded to know if there was any money in the vault and, receiving a negative response, ordered both the teller and the ledger-keeper into the vault.  He then proceeded to remove a considerable sum of money from the teller’s drawer, and made his escape when he was interrupted by the return of the bank’s junior clerk, who had been out having his lunch.

Information obtained from the teller, Leo Reger, and the ledger-keeper, Norman McLeod, indicated that the robber was short, that he wore a grey cap, a dark grey mackinaw coat, and a brown knitted scarf which partially covered his face.  They also indicated that he appeared literate, and spoke good English.  As he had jumped over the barrier separating the customer area from the employees’ working space, he was also considered to be athletic.

Both Reger and McLeod felt that the robber had a kind heart, as before leaving the bank he asked for the name of the bank manager and his telephone number in order that contact might be made to ensure their release from the vault.

Otto Taylor, the returning junior clerk, had found the bank’s door locked.  He believed that someone had accidentally latched the door, and therefore used his key to unlock it.  Surprising the robber as he actively gathered money from the teller’s cage, Taylor was held at gun point while the theft proceeded.  As the robber fled, Taylor was able to free Reger and McLeod without problem, due to the robber’s failure to throw the bolts on the door of the vault.

Once the two employees were freed from the vault, the police were notified.  However, none of the bank employees had seen the direction in which the robber had fled.  This handicapped the police in their efforts to locate him.

In 1928, the year of the robbery, the City of Prince Albert was still feeling the impact of the La Colle Falls debacle.  Financially, the city was in dire straights.  As a result, effective March 1, 1924, the Saskatchewan Police Force had assumed responsibility for the policing of Prince Albert. Two constables of the Prince Albert police service had been transferred to the supervision of the Provincial Police, although they were still paid for by the city.    As a result of this arrangement, the investigation into the armed robbery was placed in the hands of two members pf the provincial force, Sergeant R.R. Scotney and Sergeant Worgan.  Scotney, in particular, previously had had a very distinguished and successful career with the force, and it was anticipated that he would soon be able to arrest the offender.

The initial step in their investigation included looking to see if there was a connection between this robbery and a previous unsuccessful attempt, a few years prior, to breach the exterior wall of the building.  The police also ensured that close supervision of all rail traffic was maintained, and surrounding towns and villages were notified of the robbery and the description of the suspect.

The day after the robbery, on Friday, Mar. 16, more information regarding the robbery was released.  The police, although claiming to be short-handed, indicated that they had conducted a city-wide search for the suspect but had not been able to locate him.  The bank manager admitted that “over $1,000” had been stolen.  A reliable source advised the Prince Albert Daily Herald that the total amount stolen was $1,600, which in today’s money would be worth approximately $28,250.

All the five and ten dollar bills, which were Bank of Montreal notes, were stolen, as well as the one and two dollar notes, which were Dominion of Canada bills.  (It was not until The Bank of Canada Act, passed in 1935, that the Bank of Canada had the sole right to be the only issuer of Canadian bank notes.)  The robber had also taken all the coins (50 cent, 25 cent and 5 cent) with the exception of the dimes.  It was believed that Taylor’s interruption had precluded him from taking the ten cent pieces.

On this. the second day, the police had an updated description of the robber, who was now described as being 5 foot seven inches tall, dirty and dark complexioned, and wearing “a dirty green mac and dark trousers”.  He appeared to have some knowledge of the bank’s routine, as he had not asked for any information regarding whether anyone else was present in the bank; nor did he search to ensure that the manager’s office was empty.

A further witness, Alexander Watling, had come forward.  Watling, an employee of the CNR’s civil engineering office, had been on Avenue A on his way to the bank when he had seen the man believed to be the robber.  Watling was uncertain, but he thought that the man had been walking in the direction of Central Avenue.

This new information did not appear to be of much assistance to the police.  They continued to interview individuals who were deemed to be suspects, and to maintain surveillance of the railway.  It was reported that over 200 men had been interviewed, including some outside the city.  Tips regarding possible suspects had been received by telegraph, including from as far away as Winnipeg.

On the Monday after the armed robbery, the local detachment of the Saskatchewan Provincial Police reported that they had been receiving the full cooperation of the railways, of the city police from elsewhere in the province, and from all other Provincial Police detachments.  Hundreds of suspects had been interviewed, and the local police had even taken Reger and McLeod to Saskatoon over the weekend to determine whether an individual there might be the man who had robbed the bank.  Still, after all their efforts, the police were no closer to making an arrest.

The newspaper report of March 19, 1928, appears to be the last mention of the armed robbery.  The media, which at that time in Prince Albert primarily consisted of the Daily Herald, appeared to lose interest when there was nothing new to report.

As of midnight, May 31 that year, the Provincial Police were dissolved, and policing in the province was taken over by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Prince Albert’s two municipal police officers were thereafter under the supervision and direction of the Mounties, where they remained until a decision was made a year later to re-establish the municipal force.

As for the Bank of Montreal, it soon after made its third move since opening in Prince Albert.  The bank moved from 10th Street, which had limited traffic, to Central Avenue, where there was considerably more traffic and higher visibility.  The new home of the bank was at 1116 Central, where Royal Lepage Icon Realty is now located.

Did the dissolution of the provincial force result in the failure of those responsible to find the man who robbed the Bank of Montreal?  Or was he simply sufficiently clever, or very lucky?  Whichever the answer, this case is just one more fascinating story from the history of Prince Albert and area.

Fred Payton is the president of the Prince Albert Historical Society.                                                   

Museum Musings: 100 Block 21st Street West

Several years ago, the Bill Smiley Archives received a set of photographs from an archive in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The majority of the pictures in the set were taken from the original Prince Albert water tower, which used to stand just east of Second Avenue West between 22nd and 23rd Streets. The photos had been taken by, or for, members of the Bowler family and showed the development of Prince Albert’s west hill around 1912. From the number of properties which the Bowler family owned locally, it would appear that they were anxious to share some of the wealth which was expected to occur as a result of the construction of the La Colle Falls dam.

It is unlikely that the Bowler family made much profit from their investment in Prince Albert real estate, but their photographs have certainly provided a wealth of information for the volunteers working out of the Bill Smiley Archives.

In the past four months, I have received two requests for information about the homes on the 100 block of 21st Street West.  Using the Bowler photos, as well as other archival material, I have been able to provide as accurate a response as possible to these requests.  Having lived in the neighbourhood for much of my life has also been helpful.

My current residence was the first house built on the block.  The property title lists the house as having been built in 1908, and the Henderson’s Directory lists Andrew Laidlaw, a butcher, as residing in the lone house on the south side of the street.  The earliest address for the Laidlaw residence was 145 – 21st Street West.  This street address remained the same until the mid-1950s when the City was required to renumber it in order to provide house numbers for newer houses which had been constructed as in-fill.  Since that time, the house has had its current address of 159 – 21st Street West.

In the picture provided, you can see our house, but somewhat less spacious than it currently is.  Around 1913 or 1914, the house was purchased by the Canadian Bank of Commerce to serve as the home of their bank manager.  The Henderson’s Directory from 1914 lists the resident as Ernest Fox, the bank’s manager.  It is apparent that the bank wanted a more spacious home for their manager.  A photo taken by William James in 1919, shows the Fox family, including their vehicle and their pet dog, in front of the house. Aside from the front porch and the siding, it looks virtually identical to how it looks today.

Just to the west of the Laidlaw house can be seen out-buildings belonging to 2116 – Second Avenue West, the house in which I lived for the first eight years of my life.  It is likely that 2116 also was built around 1908.  It was occupied by William Fraser, a brick layer.  Whether he worked for Horace Ittner, whose brick factory was west of First Avenue West between 29th and 31st Streets, is unclear.  However, given the proximity to that factory, it is very likely that the house was built with Ittner brick.  When Second Avenue West was widened in the 1970s, 2116 was sacrificed, as was its northerly neighbour.

That house was originally built for the John Stewart family.  Stewart was a druggist and his daughter, Bluebell Stewart, was a published poet who later lived and died in Montreal.  When John Stewart bought the George Will house on the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue and 20th Street West, he sold the house on the corner of Second Avenue and 21st Street to the George Braithwaite family.  Max Braithwaite, one of George’s sons, was also a writer.  The book “Never Sleep Three in a Bed” was primarily based on the family’s time living in that house.

Immediately to the east of the house in which I reside are two houses which were originally the mirror image of each other.  Silas Milligan of the Farmers’ Milling Company, and his family, are the first occupants listed as residing in the house immediately to the right of our house.  Initially listed as 127 – 21st Street West, the house was home to a family including Ella, Clinton, Bertha, Elgin, and Dalton.  Clinton worked as a clerk for Morton-Bartling & Company, a banking firm.  Silas was listed as a grain manager, although by 1914 he was listed as an Indian Agent.  Whether this was a job change which did not last, or an error in the Henderson’s Directory, is not clear.  We do know that Silas was unemployed throughout the early 1920s before once again becoming a grain manager and buyer, and later a timekeeper for the engineering and contracting firm of Hett & Sibbald.  Bertha, who was listed as a student in 1913, was later listed as being a school teacher.

I found it of interest that the second owner of the house was William M. McBeath, likely a descendant of Morrison McBeath who was one of the early farmers in the Colleston district.  Morrison arrived in 1883.  William McBeath worked as an engineer for the Prince Albert Breweries, eventually attaining the position of chief engineer.  Another resident when William owned the house was Morrison McBeath, very likely the grandson of the early settler.

The mirror image of this house had the street address of 125 – 21st Street West.  George Erwin, a blacksmith, was listed as the owner.  Also initially residing in the house were Cleave Erwin of Erwin & Brennan, and Russel Erwin. Russel was a clerk with William H. Rowe, a druggist.  Cleave was a jeweller.  By 1919, George was working as a salesman for Cleave in the jewelry shop.

These two houses continued as mirror images until Francois Lamothe, a dentist, made the initial architectural changes to Erwin house in order to incorporate his dental practice there.  Doctors Susan and Gary Kolar, dentists, are currently residing in the house  with Dr. Gary Kolar still practising dentistry there.

Across the street and slightly to the east of these houses is a home which was known at the time as 120 -21st Street West. Built some time before 1909, Mrs. Anna Lacroix, the widow of Nelson Lacroix, moved into it after her husband’s death.  By 1914, Henry Cook, a farmer was residing there.  Cook later became a clerk at the Post Office.

The next row of houses begins on the left with a three-storey brick house, another of the homes in which I have lived.  When the photo was taken, Archdeacon Dewdney of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan was living there.  Dewdney’s daughter married Arnold LePage Agnew, a long-time member of the Prince Albert Historical Society.  The Agnews were the parents of a local lawyer, Tom Agnew.  Prior to the Dewdneys living in the house, it was the home of Horace Ittner, while he was building his house on the northwest corner of 20th Street and Third Avenue West.  Both houses were built of brick from the Ittner brick factory, as was the brick wall which still surrounds the house on Third Avenue.

Beside the Dewdney home is a two-storey house in which Edward Shannon, manager of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, resided.  It is believed that this house was built late in 1910 or early in 1911.  By 1914, Shannon had left the bank and had become the manager of the Victoria (B.C.) and Prince Albert Syndicate, a land development company.  The fact that he and his family remained in the house when he left the bank resulted in the bank buying and upgrading the house in which I currently reside.

To the east of the Shannon house is the home of Andrew Nelson, a carpenter who worked for the Thomas Baker Company.  Currently owned and operated by the YWCA, a former secretary of the Historical Society, Maurice Yelland and his wife Daeleen operated it previously as a bed and breakfast.

On the corner of the block is a house which no longer stands.  This two-storey house was the home of David Adam, a barrister and partner of the man who lived kitty-corner to Adam’s home.  His partner was James McKay, King’s Counsel and Member of Parliament.  McKay’s brother, Thomas, was the first mayor of Prince Albert.  Adam and McKay once owned the Automotive Building on the northeast corner of First Avenue West and 11th Street.  At that time, it was known as the McKay-Adam Building and an early version of the Prince Albert Club was located in their building.

On the opposite side of the street from the Shannon and Nelson homes, on the corner of 1 ½ Avenue, is the house built by Alfred Wilkinson in 1913.  Wilkinson owned an insurance, loans, and real estate business in the Agnew Block (the former CKBI Building) on 10th Street West. One or more members of the Wilkinson family lived in the house on the north side of 20th Street until the mid-1950s.

With personal knowledge, the assistance of the Henderson’s Directories, and the pictures provided by the Bowler family, it is possible to determine the approximate date of construction of many of the older homes on the West Hill.  That is why at the Bill Smiley Archives we are always appreciative of offers of photos from the past. It is most helpful if dates can be provided, as well as locations and names of people in the photographs.

If families wish to retain the photographs, it is possible to scan them, allowing us that access in the future. 

One final note.  The Historical Society is looking for suitcases, any size, any colour, any age.  So, if you are doing spring cleaning and wanting to rid your house of such items, please contact our Programme and Outreach Officer at  Jeri might be able to use your old suitcase for our Travelling Museum Project.  The suitcases will be used to contain artefacts for programming in schools and seniors’ residences.  You can also call Jeri at 306-764-2992 Tuesday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Museum Musings: The Victoria Hospital


As we await the next iteration of the Victoria Hospital, I thought it might be of interest to look back on its origin and history.  However, in order to fully appreciate the hospital’s beginnings, the earliest history of health care in what is now the province of Saskatchewan needs to be reviewed.

What we now call Saskatchewan was, of course, part of the North West Territories when it became part of Canada in 1870.  At that time, boards of health existed, primarily to combat epidemics.  The clergy and the North West Mounted Police played a prominent role in enforcing the expectations of these boards.

Those of you who have attempted to research the family trees of early settlers will be aware that marriages were first registered in 1877, and births and deaths had to be registered beginning in 1878.  Family bibles and church records are, as a result, of great importance for such searches.

It was not until 1898 that legislation provided for medical health officers and sanitary inspectors. Beginning in 1899, these individuals fell under the supervision and responsibility of the Department of Agriculture. When Saskatchewan became a province in 1905, a provincial laboratory was established, and between 1906 and 1909 the provincial medical officer worked to improve the reporting of vital statistics in order to obtain public support in controlling tuberculosis, to improve water systems, as well as to improve hospitals and standardize nurse training. It was in the latter year that the Bureau of Public Health was established under the Department of Municipal Affairs.

The Town of Prince Albert was ahead of the federal and provincial governments when it came to health care. In 1890, fifteen years before we became a province, a group of Prince Albert ladies displayed their interest in opening a hospital to serve the local district. They organized themselves into a Ladies’ Hospital Aid with the view to raise monies to establish a hospital. By means of concerts, bazaars, excursions, and other devices, these ladies succeeded in realizing $1,244.72, an amazing amount in those years.

However, for reasons which were never documented, interest in opening a hospital dwindled.  It was not until 1899 when the hospital question once again caught the attention of the locals.  After several meetings a decision was reached to establish the facility.  A committee was appointed to take the steps necessary to select a building, and a subscription list was circulated, and a nursing staff was engaged.

The hospital was to be located in a house once owned by Dr. A.E. Porter, a good-sized brick building in the unit block of 12th Street West.  At the time of opening, the house and property were owned by T.J. Agnew, another of Prince Albert’s early settlers.  On November 7th, 1899, the Victoria Hospital of Prince Albert was opened with a Lady Superintendent, a general duty nurse, a servant, and a caretaker.  The hospital had accommodation for seven patients.  That same day, the first patient was admitted and “the Vic” became the second hospital to open in what was to become the Province of Saskatchewan.  Regina was the site of the first hospital.

The running expenses for the hospital that first year, after crediting the sums received from paying patients, averaged $110 a month.  Prince Albert town council provided a $500 grant, while the Ladies’ Hospital Aid transferred the monies which they had raised.  They also assisted in equipping the wards with bedding, linen, and other furnishings, as well as contributing an extra $400 cash.

Efforts to find a photograph of this building proved difficult.  The only picture which I was able to locate showed only a portion of the roof line of the house, which was located immediately east of where Anderson Motors was once located, and is now the site of Surplus Furniture and Mattress Warehouse, immediately across the street from the former Prince Albert library.

With the number of patients utilizing the hospital, it was identified very quickly that a larger facility would be required. When the opportunity presented itself, the former Nisbet Academy property, twenty lots across from the Territorial Gaol, was purchased for $300. A brick building was built to accommodate twenty patients. The purchase of an additional small building allowed room for the seven staff members, including a matron, three nurses, and three other employees, to be accommodated in the new facility.

This purpose-built facility was heated by a furnace which provided a combination of hot water and hot air, and was later extended south and used as a maternity ward, a general ward, and a residence for staff, including four graduates and ten students.  It was the responsibility of the night nurses to stoke the furnace, and to watch the water gauge. 

In 1912, electricity was installed in the hospital and in 1914 an Isolation Hospital was built. I believe that this replaced the former “Pest House” which had stood on 2nd Avenue West between 22nd and 23rd Streets. The new facility was divided into four separate sections in order to segregate different kinds of infectious diseases. Later, a laundry facility would be installed in the basement of the building.

Submitted photo. This post card shows an early version of the Victoria Hospital grounds from around 1912.

An x-ray machine was used in the hospital for the first time in 1922, and in 1926 a quartz-lamp, fracture table, and oxygen equipment were purchased, ensuring that the Victoria Hospital could provide the latest medical assistance.  With the addition of a second storey to the main building in 1928, an elevator became essential.  That same year, a nurses’ residence was connected to the main building by way of an underground link.

Between 1928 and 1941, the original x-ray machine was replaced, an iron lung, and other pieces of life-saving equipment were purchased for the hospital.  A second underground link was completed, linking the Isolation hospital to the main building.  In 1947, the sixty-four bed ward which the Department of National Defence had built during the Second World War, was purchased by the Hospital Board.  This brought the hospital’s total number of available beds to one hundred forty-four.

A 1957 addition allowed for more beds, particularly for children, with the provision on the second floor for laboratory facilities which provided service for 910 beds in hospitals scattered throughout northern Saskatchewan.  The 1959 addition, under the Union Hospital administration, made available more hospital beds, new administrative offices, dietary facilities and an outpatient area.  The bed capacity was now 180, with 17 bassinettes.  Further renovations occurred in 1960 to update the 1904 section of the hospital.

A resolution of council dated August 18th, 1919 directed Mayor Samuel McLeod and Alderman E.T. Bagshaw to meet with the hospital board “to take up the advisability of forming a Union Hospital District” and report back to Council.  However, it was not until 1958 that the surrounding municipalities entered into such an agreement, and the hospital became the Victoria Union Hospital.

The next major decision of the Union board occurred in 1963 when they elected to present to the provincial government a master plan which would establish Prince Albert as a Regional Health Centre.  This led to the purchase of the land on which the current hospital sits, and its opening in 1969.

MUSEUM MUSINGS: Early Prince Albert Newspapers

The Canadian North-West Historical Society once produced what they called ‘Chapters in the North-West History Prior to 1890 : : Related by Old Timers’. This past Christmas, I received Vol. I, No. IV, Pt. I from 1928. That edition was called ‘The Story of the Press’. It included articles on such newspapers as The Nor-Wester (Red River Settlement, 1859), The Saskatchewan Herald (Battleford, 1878), and The Prince Albert Times, as well as newspapers like The Calgary Herald (1883) and The Regina Leader (1883).

At the time these newspapers were being published, there was no such thing as radio or television, let alone the internet, so this printed material was the source of information upon which most people relied for news of what was happening in the world around them. And the information which they received depended primarily upon the owner of whichever newspaper was available to the reader.
Mrs. D.J. Rose was the author of one of two articles about the Prince Albert Times contained in the aforementioned pamphlet. Mrs. Rose was the wife of the book-keeper of the News Publishing Company. She wrote that the history of the press in Prince Albert dated back to 1882 when Thomas Spink and J.D. Maveety began publishing the Prince Albert Times.

The Times was a strong advocate of conservative principles, and its pages (between four and six) were published weekly. It was styled as ‘the only first-class newspaper in the Saskatchewan District’.

Maveety was an experienced newspaper man from Toronto. He had been working as a poorly paid reporter in Toronto when he decided to come west in 1882, arriving in Winnipeg in the month of February and beginning employment for the Manitoba Free Press. Shortly afterwards he was convinced by Prince Albert resident Charles Mair to come to this community, along with Thomas Spink, a practical printer.
Their newspaper was a two sheet weekly, printed entirely in Prince Albert on a hand press. Mrs. Rose indicated that the printing office was in a log house located on River Street East. Whether this was also the newspaper office was left unclear. The Times printed occasional editorials written by local men who, according to Mrs. Rose, were anxious to see the newspaper survive, but the majority of the printed pages were filled with advertising and local news, much of which was contributed by Harry E. Ross, a North West Mounted Police officer who later held the position of sheriff before becoming the assistant inspector for the federal Weights and Measures department.

Spink did not last long in Prince Albert, moving on to Vancouver in 1883. This left Maveety as the sole proprietor of the newspaper. The printing office was soon moved from River Street to Maveety’s home on 3rd Street West (now 13th Street West). The 1888 McPhillips’ Saskatchewan Directory advertised The Prince Albert Times and Saskatchewan Review which was published by J.D. Maveety at his office on Third Street. A year’s subscription could be obtained by payment of $2.50 in advance, while single copies were ten cents each. Transient advertisements were ten cents a line for the first insertion, and five cents per line for each subsequent insertion. No contracts were to be entered into under three months, and no advertisement could be inserted for less than $1.00.

The Times was not the only local newspaper in the 1880s. The Bill Smiley Archives has a copy of another paper called The Hustler. In this edition, dated March 4, 1889, the newspaper was advertised as being published on Mondays at a cost of ten cents a paper. Another paper, known as The Fool, was published on alternate Mondays by R. Buckley. Single copies sold for ten cents, while a quarterly subscription could be purchased for fifty cents. Neither of these newspapers appeared to last for long.

One which did provide some competition to The Times was a newspaper called The Critic.
Mrs. Rose recalled that the Prince Albert Critic began publishing in 1886, although W.H. Newlands indicated that the paper was initially published in 1887. The proprietor/editor of the newspaper was Alec Stewart, who wrote the paper with a stylograph pen, laying the original copy on a jelly-like substance. This enabled him to make several copies at one time (something similar to the use of carbon paper). The Critic was published with a Liberal bent, the party’s followers believing that Prince Albert should have a newspaper supporting the political views of the town’s Liberal representative in Ottawa, the Honourable David Laird.

Contributors to The Critic included John Stewart, a local merchant, and A.L. Sifton, a lawyer practising at that time in Prince Albert. Henry William Newlands, later the province’s fourth lieutenant-governor, was also a contributor. The Critic eventually became a news sheet called The Advocate, with Andrew Stewart serving as its editor.

In an edition of The Critic from March 28, 1889, readers were encouraged to send letters to N.W. Newlands, managing editor. Subscriptions to the newspaper would be obtained for $1.00 per year, or fifty cents for six months. Single copies sold for five cents. Local businesses could buy advertising for fifteen cents per line.

In an edition of the newspaper, after it became The Advocate, the advertising rates included prices for professional cards (not exceeding one inch) which could be bought for $10 a year. Casual or transient advertisements were ten cents for the first a line for the first insertion, and five cents a line for each additional insertion. A yearly subscription could be had for $1.00, payment in advance.
There appears to have been some confusion between Mrs. Rose and Newlands with respect to the history of the two major Prince Albert newspapers. Mrs. Rose claimed that The Times was taken over by Dr. Jardine, a former Presbyterian minister, who ran the newspaper from rooms over the J.O. Davis store on River Street (now the home of Elim Café). Newlands indicated that Dr. Jardine had taken over The Advocate. As The Advocate was the Liberal paper, it is most likely that it was that newspaper which Jardine took over. It is highly unlikely that J.O. Davis, a strong Liberal, would have allowed a Conservative paper to be produced in rooms belonging to him.
Further information, provided by Maveety’s daughter Gertrude, suggests that Maveety subsumed the rival newspaper, The Saskatchewan, and changed the paper’s name to The Saskatchewan Times.

Museum Musings: The first winter carnival

With the 59th Winter Festival heating up this week, I decided to look back on the first such festivities held here in Prince Albert. I was surprised to find nothing of substance within the files of the Bill Smiley Archives, but I certainly found much of interest as I searched the archives of the Prince Albert Daily Herald!

Although we have known it as a Winter Festival since our current frosty celebration was originated in 1965, the original activity was known as a carnival. I assume there must have been some preliminary meetings, but the first publicised meeting was held in City Hall chambers on Thursday, January 7th, 1926. A story headlined “Is Prince Albert To Promote Dog Derby Carnival?” was published in the January 5th edition of the newspaper. It indicated that Mayor S.J.A. Branion would preside over a public meeting, and that a pro-tem committee would present a report. If agreed to by those in attendance, the idea of holding such an event would be further pursued.

Although some criticism of the proposal was raised at the meeting. It appears that some of those in attendance suggested that the proposed event might lead to “doubtful and perhaps injurious publicity” for the city. But the majority of those in attendance felt determined to pursue the matter further. Based on the report of the pro-tem committee, the estimated cost of such an event was $3,500, with estimated receipts of $1,500. This led to the appointment of a further committee to canvass the community in order to try to raise financial guarantees amounting to $2,000 from the community. Members of this committee included individuals such as Henry Lacroix, Alderman Mark Musk, Dr. R.L. King, Eddy Connolly, and R.D. Brooks.

The January 11th edition of the Daily Herald carried a headline that read: “Winter Carnival In Prince Albert Is Now Assured”. The committee appointed to seek guarantees had been successful in achieving their goal (and more), and a further meeting to be held on January 12th would elect the necessary officers to complete the formation of the Winter Carnival Association.

At that January 12th meeting, Eddy Connolly was unanimously chosen as the Carnival manager, while Henry Lacroix was elected president. Lacroix was the president of Lacroix Brothers, an electrical supply firm as well as vice-president of the Curling Club and chairman of the Collegiate School trustees . Dr. R.L. King, president of the local Liberal association, was selected as first vice-president. J.P. Curror, the secretary of the Prince Albert Board of Trade, was elected as the secretary of the organisation. The members of the newly established finance committee were left to appoint the treasurer of the organisation.

In addition to the executive, a number of committees were identified, including Carnival Queen, Finance, Advertising, Dance, Reception, Transportation, Decoration, Hockey, Dog Derby, Auditor, and Community Entertainment. Membership of these committees included many prominent Prince Albertans including the CNR divisional engineer Leonard Daynes (who sat on the transportation committee); the Dominion Tax Assessor Percy Ralls; the manager of McDermid Lumber, John McDermid; Jack Sanderson; Fred Shnay; P.W. Mahon; J.B. Kernaghan; Fire Chief John Smith; and Hal Fraser.

On the 14th of January, it was announced that the Winter Carnival would be held from March 1st to March 4th. This announcement came just one short week after the first public meeting, and a mere month and a half before the Carnival was to be held.

On the 18th of January, the committee announced that the purse for the dog derby race would total $1,200. This would be the largest dog derby purse in Canada. As a result, the competitors were expected to be the pick of the best from races held in The Pas, Banff, and Quebec. Fifty-mile heats would be held on an oval track on each of the four days of the Carnival. Given the layout of the track, the dog teams were expected to be easily viewed by the spectators for the majority of the race.

Two couriers were also visiting the towns and villages along the rail lines leading to Prince Albert with the intent of identifying young ladies to participate in the Carnival Queen competition. Each Queen candidate would be provided with books of tickets to be sold and, based upon the number sold, they would receive points which would determine their placing in the competition. The Queen would receive her choice of a set of silverware or a diamond ring. Each of four princesses would receive a pearl necklace. The Queen and her princesses would be driven from event to event at the Carnival in a closed car, a novelty in those days.

Announcements about the Carnival were being released every day or two. On the 20th, it was announced that there would be a dance held at the Armouries on each of the four nights of the Carnival. The Art Harmony Six, a renowned western Canadian jazz band from Saskatoon, would play on the Monday and Tuesday evenings, while a local band called the Sheiks would play on the Wednesday night, and another local band, The Night Hawks, would play on the Thursday night.

Daily hockey games would be held to determine the Northern Saskatchewan championship, with the winners receiving the Dunning Cup. The following day, it was announced that the T.C. Davis Cup would be awarded to the winners of the broomball tournament, and on February 26th, an announcement was made that the J.G. Diefenbaker Cup would be awarded to the winners of the ladies’ hockey tournament.
The Canadian National Railway announced that they would provide special rates for travellers on their rail line. Those attending the Carnival could travel return from Humboldt, Totzke, Saskatoon, North Battleford, Big River, or locations in between at 1 1/3 the cost of a regular ticket, provided that they travelled between February 27th and March 5th.

William Wolman, a local fur merchant, donated a gift of a regal robe for the Queen to wear on ‘state occasions’. The cloak was specially made from white rabbit fur, trimmed with fox. The Queen would also wear a crown manufactured locally by Annie Sellar, a partner in the millinery firm of Lundlie & Sellar.

In addition to the Queen contest, there was to be a beauty contest as part of the Carnival. A former member of the Northwest Mounted Police, Charles Levey, had returned to Great Britain when he had left the force. Levey continued to be a strong promoter of western Canada, and of Prince Albert in particular, and he had donated a silver trophy, as well as a gold medal for the winner of the competition and silver medals for the two runners-up. Miss Helen Robertson, along with William Durlish and William James were to be the judges for this event.
As well as the four dances at the Armouries, evening events included a performance of ‘The Chimes of Normandy’ by local actors and musicians. Mrs. C.R. Webb conducted the orchestra, with vocal performances by Mrs. F. Kisbey, Mrs. T.J. Conroy, H.W. Davy, Alex Horne, C.J Ryley, and A. Howard.

Transportation to each of the evening dances at the Armouries was provided via sleighs from pick-up points throughout the city, including the Collegiate, the Fire Hall, and the Patriote office. One thousand people attended the Monday night event, with several hundred each of Tuesday and Wednesday evening, and two thousand in attendance on Thursday evening. In addition to the dancing, there were demonstrations of the Charleston and of the French waltz. The ladies of St. Alban’s Cathedral provided the supper served at each of the evening dances.

Those who attended the hockey games were entertained not only by the play of the participating teams, but also by music supplied by the Prince Albert City Band, which had won the 1923 provincial shield at the Saskatchewan music festival. Between periods, entertainment was also supplied by Mr. Howe, a barrel jumper.

Aside from the many competitions for the trophies which had been donated, there were many events in which youngsters could participate. I noted that the winners of the Human Rooster Fight were Maxwell Carment and Jack Kilpatrick. Other events for the boys were Pulling a Girl on a Sled, Catching the Greasy Pig (made the more difficult because the competition was on the river ice), the Rolling Snowball Race, and the Hot Dog Race. Events for the girls included Finding the Marked Boy (which was won by Joan Thompson), the Snowshoe Race, and the Pulling a Boy on a Sled (won by Margaret McKilligan).

Bertha McCarl won the Queen competition and received a cabinet of silverware. The princesses were each awarded a prize of a $75 value of their own choosing. Topsy Valade was deemed the Carnival’s beauty queen, and was awarded the Charles Levey Cup. The Princess Royal was Kathryn Flynn (also of Prince Albert), who received a gold medal, and Florence Kraeling of Melfort received a silver medal as the princess of the pageant.

The Premier King Trophy for the dog derby was won by Ross Moxley of The Pas. He also received $700. First runner-up was Big River’s Verner Johnson, who received $300, with the second runner-up, Harvey Olensky (of The Pas) receiving $200.
The C.A. Dunning Cup, emblematic of Northern Saskatchewan’s hockey championship, was won by the Prince Albert Senators. They defeated Kinistino 1-0 on a goal by Joe Woodman.

The J.G. Diefenbaker Cup remained in Prince Albert as the ladies’ hockey team from the Collegiate beat Melfort 2–1. Lucy McBeath and Lillian Wade scored for the Collegiate, while Melfort’s loan goal came from the stick of Mary Sefton.
The Hon. T.C. Davis Cup was won by the Penitentiary, who beat the Sally Anns by a score of 2-0 in front of the largest crowd ever to witness a broomball game in Prince Albert history.

The winner of the Boys’ Derby and the CNR Athletic & Social Association Cup, was Cecil Wade.
At the end of March 1926, an audited statement for the Carnival indicated that a profit of $3,218.22 had been made. It became clear that the City of Prince Albert, as well as the surrounding communities, had made the first Winter Carnival a great success.
SUBHEADLINE: Corrections and updates

I recently received an email from the grand-daughter of Ella Muzzy. She had read the column which I wrote about Prince Albert’s first woman member of our City Council. She pointed out that, although I had indicated that Mrs. Muzzy had died in 1948, she actually died in 1961. She also indicated that I had suggested that Mrs. Muzzy had had two daughters when, in fact, she had had three daughters (Winnifred, Vera, and Helen).

Ella Muzzy’s story was one which I felt needed to be told, and the column was based upon the information which is held in the Bill Smiley Archives. That information was limited, and obviously inaccurate, especially with respect to Mrs. Muzzy’s life after she left Prince Albert and moved to Saskatoon.

I am grateful to receive these corrections. It adds to the information base which we hold at the Bill Smiley Archives, and allows us to correct the on-line column which from this point will contain correct information.

Museum Musings: Jimmy Forrest, Prince Albert’s Robbie Burns

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Robbie Burns Day. A tune or two on the bag-pipes. A wee dram, or two. The haggis cut and served once more.
It is likely that James Mowat Forrest was amongst the most Scottish of all the Scots who walked the streets of Prince Albert. Born Apr. 2, 1892, in Keith, Scotland, he came to live in the Prince Albert area in October, 1934. Forrest became entrenched in the community, and he left a large void in our community when he died on Sept. 1, 1975 at the age of 83.
Growing up in his home community of Keith, the second of twelve children, Forrest was never a good student. He left school at the age of eleven, having attained no higher an education than grade three. Ever a leader even at that early age, the staff of the school considered that when there was ever mischief to be done, “Jimmy” would be at the centre of it. The school, they felt, would certainly function better without him.
Given the size of his family, and the need to earn money, young Jimmy would spend the next five years working on farms near his home. Then, at the age of sixteen, he emigrated to Australia, where once again he worked as a farm labourer, while attending night school in order to earn his grade ten.
Learning from relatives who had come to Canada that a 160 acre homestead could be bought in southern Saskatchewan for $10.00, Forrest left Australia for New Zealand, traveling and working there and then in Fiji, and then moved on to Hawaii, prior to reaching Vancouver in 1912. He worked his way to Mankota, Saskatchewan, where he filed for a homestead.
As a result of the need to earn money to make the necessary improvements to his homestead, Forrest went to work for a man in Strongfield, undertaking the necessary improvements to his newly acquired property as his cash and time allowed.
In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, Forrest returned to Scotland, where he joined the Gordon Highlanders, with whom he remained until the end of the conflict. While still in Scotland, Forrest married a fellow native of Keith, Agnes (Nettie) Bell. They subsequently came to Canada and settled on the homestead in Mankota.
The early years were good years for the Forrest family, which now included five children. But the “crash” of 1929, and the subsequent drought years of the early 1930s resulted in their move north.
In October, 1934, the family, now with six children, packed up and traveled to the community of Cloverdale, where Jimmy had rented the Bachelor farm. By 1935, Forrest was able to buy his own farm through the Soldiers’ Settlement Board. This time, the family moved to Wheatley, a community about three miles west of Spruce Home. The Forrests remained on the farm until 1939, when they moved into a rented property in Prince Albert.
In 1940, during the Second World War, Forrest joined the Veterans’ Home Guard of Canada. He was assigned to guarding German prisoners-of-war in camps located in various places in Ontario and Alberta.
Upon being discharged from the army in 1945, Forrest joined the staff of the Prince Albert Jail. Buying a home on the corner of First Avenue East and 27th Street, which was near his place of work, Jimmy and Nettie became active in many community activities.
First employed at the Jail as a guard, Forrest was promoted in 1947 to the position of gardener, in which capacity he remained for the remainder of his career. Even after his retirement, Forrest was re-hired each spring for several years in order that he could put in the Jail’s garden. The gardens for which Forrest was responsible included vegetable gardens, as well as the multitude of flowers which adorned the front of the Jail along 28th Street between Central and First Avenues West.
Although known and respected for his gardening skills, Forrest was also noted for his ability on the bag-pipes. During World War I, he was a piper for the Gordon Highlanders. Later, when living in Mankota, he taught a few pupils to play, and the pipe band played at picnics and events around the district.
Later, when living north of Prince Albert, Forrest was contacted by some individuals who wanted him to start a girls’ pipe band. They practised in the fire hall, and played mostly at local civic events, as well as occasionally in outlying communities. Perhaps the greatest moment for the girls and their instructor was in 1939 when they were asked to play for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Forrest taught the local band until 1940, when he joined the Veterans’ Guard of Canada. While serving with them, he was once again called upon to organise a pipe band, this time within the 28th Company. The band headed many parades for a variety of army functions, but also played for non-military functions, including for efforts promoting the sale of Victory bonds.
After his discharge from the army, Forrest continued to play the bag-pipes, mostly for Legion events and, of course, at the Robbie Burns festivities.
Burns was, for Forrest, a hero. He enjoyed Burns’ poetry, and in turn he wrote his own poetry. A number of his poems were gathered in a collection entitled “Rhymes of the Wandering Piper”. Included in this collection are “A Nicht Wi’ Burns”, a poem which was also published in The Western Producer.
In a Western Producer article, Mark Inch wrote about “A Nicht Wi’ Burns” that “in our estimation it’s one of the best we’ve seen.” And in Jim Aitken’s opinion “Jim’s work was up close to Robbie’s own high standard”.
Having met Jimmy Forrest through his poetry, having read about his life, I will always think of him whenever Jan. 25 rolls around.

Photo courtesy of the Forrest family.
James and Agnes Forrest pose for a photo. James Forrest was known and respected around Prince Albert for his gardening skills, and his ability on the bag-pipes.

The first week of February is Archives Week. The Historical Society will be commemorating the week with an event on Saturday, Feb. 4 when, at 2:00 p.m., volunteers from the Bill Smiley Archives will be conducting a tour of the archives and telling stories about some of the interesting (and more mundane) activities which they perform. Anyone interested in archival work, or in the history of Prince Albert, is welcome to attend.