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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.

Museum musings: Miller’s Hill

Fred Payton
Prince Albert Historical Society
I wonder how many of the readers of this column will remember Miller’s Hill? Of those who do recognise the name, I would be curious to know how many might be aware of from where the name came.
William Miller arrived in Prince Albert in July 1873. Born in Berwickshire, Scotland in 1832, he was the second son of Richard and Margaret Miller. He emigrated to the Genesee Valley, New York in 1853, and in November of that year moved to Upper Canada, living in the Wroxeter area of what is now Ontario. He married Jessie Ann Hume in 1859, after having established a flax mill on the Maitland River in Huron County.
When the mill was destroyed by fire, Miller, his wife, and five children moved west, seeking a new life on the land which he had heard was fertile farm land. They settled at a place which became known as Rockwood, near what is now Winnipeg.
After farming there for a few years, Miller realised that many of the settlers from the area were moving to the Saskatchewan Valley. A family by the name of McBeth, who were not only neighbours but also friends, were moving to Prince Albert, so Miller sold his farm and joined them in the move.
In the book, “the Voice of the People”, Mrs. Margaret MacKenzie, Miller’s nine year old daughter at the time of their move from Wroxeter to Rockwood, provides a vivid description of the original move to what is now Rockwood, and the move from there to Prince Albert. She tells of being warned off by four men who were “sent by Riel” prior to their arrival at Fort Garry during the 1870 uprising which led to the creation of Manitoba. She also tells of the difficulties they experienced in trying to cross the fast flowing south branch of the Saskatchewan River with their livestock, and of their meeting with Chief Beardy, who demanded payment for the passage of their party through the lands he claimed to control.
William Miller and his family settled on land just to the east of the Hudson’s Bay Company reserve. They were, in fact, squatters, as there was no land registry available to the local settlers at that time. Miller’s original home was built on the river flat, near the North Saskatchewan River. However, after a sudden flood two years after they had built their home, he determined that he should move up the hill and build a new house in a safer location. Mrs. MacKenzie describes the effects of the flood, as well as the tragic results for others, in her narrative previously mentioned.
In 1879, Miller’s wife, Jessie, died, leaving him with nine children, a tenth dying at about six weeks of age soon after the death of its mother. William Miller married his second wife in June 1882. She had come from Scotland in 1881. They had seven more children, many of whom continued to reside in the Prince Albert area.
The house on Miller’s Hill was known as a gathering place, and Miller was known for being sociable and as a friend to many a newcomer. One account, prepared by an anonymous person, described the Miller house on New Year’s Eve. All were welcome, he wrote, and the house would be filled by eight or nine o’clock. Dancing occurred until eleven o’clock, when a lunch would be served. Then, time would be spent in recitations and singing, always with plenty of laughter. William Miller always insisted that any guest who had come from a distance should stay for breakfast before starting for home.
Miller was also very active in public affairs, participating in anything which was considered to be for the benefit of the community. Active in the Presbyterian church, he ensured that his children always went to Sunday School. One daughter, Mrs. A.E. (Georgina) Freeborn, recalled how on Sunday nights her father would take out the family Bible, have each child read a verse, and then would read a prayer from the prayer book. After the Knox Presbyterian church was built in Goschen, the family were regular attenders.
As a result of the lack of proper land registration, many settlers had their developed property turned back to the Crown when a proper survey was finally completed. With no federal representation available to them, members of the farming community organised a Settlers’ Rights Association in 1883. Given his ability to articulate their problems, Miller was elected president of the committee.
In 1884, at the urging of William Miller, the Lorne Agricultural Society was established. Not only did it function as an organisation concerned with farming, but it became a local council with access to government authorities.
When the Prince Albert East School District was organised, it was William Miller who was elected president, a position which he held until his death in 1904. He was also one of the four men who were responsible for the construction of the first school in the community.
The lower land which Miller had originally farmed, and on which he had built his first house, was eventually given to Captain Moore on which to build a steam driven flour and lumber mill. The fifteen acres which Miller provided were later sold to the Prince Albert Lumber Company.
As noted, William Miller died in 1904. His second wife lived until 1930. However, their accomplishments continue to live on, and are remembered in the memorial park, Miller Hill Park, named for him.
Happy New Year everyone!


Museum Musings: A busy week

The offices for the Historical Society are located in the Historical Museum. Some weeks the building is busier than others, especially in the summer. But what we refer to as the “Winter Season”, the time between when we close after the Labour Day weekend and re-open following the Victoria Day weekend, often can have much busier weeks than those in the summer. Partially this is because we do not really close over the winter. We simply close the front doors of the building and require people to enter through the east door.
Museum visits and tours are available and occur all year round, not only at the Historical Museum, but also at the three other museums which the Society operates (the John and Olive Diefenbaker Museum, the Rotary Museum of Police and Corrections, and the Evolution of Education Museum). We also continue to provide programming throughout the “winter” months, including during Culture Days, on Remembrance Day, during the Winter Festival, and during Archives Week. There are also administrative activities which are conducted during this time, such as budget preparations and presentations.
The week of Nov. 21-25 brought to mind just how busy the Society and the museums can be.
Before the Monday morning meeting of the Programme and Exhibits committee meeting, our Manager/Curator, Michelle Taylor, had met with our Financial Manager and the Outreach and Education Coordinator. She had also met with me, the president of the Society. During the Programme and Exhibits committee meeting, attended by a half dozen people, I took a telephone message from a woman in British Columbia who was researching family history for a friend.
I had booked an appointment on Monday afternoon for some archival research by another person. When the researcher arrived at the Museum, he followed a group of more than thirty students and teachers into the building. The students had come from Riverside School to view the exhibit which had been prepared for our Remembrance Day opening. They were still asking questions when the researcher left, taking with him the information which he had required.
On Tuesday morning, preparations swung into full swing for the unveiling of the plaque which Parks Canada had prepared honouring the significant contribution to Canadian history which had been made by James Isbister. Although the Historical Society was not responsible for this project, we were asked to provide the venue for the event. Visitors who attended in the afternoon included representatives from Parks Canada, the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan, the City of Prince Albert, and noted historian Bill Waiser. Participants in the ceremony included Metis Elder Effie Kuziar, Metis musician Donny Parenteau, and musician Barry Mihiliewicz.
Another tour of the Museum occurred later on in the afternoon, with five people in attendance.
Wednesday, thankfully, was a quieter day. The Manager/Curator met with individuals to discuss the relocation of some of our stored artefacts from the Gateway Mall to storage at the SHARE facility. Then, she spent the majority of her day ensuring the appropriate artefacts were in place for the grand opening of our new Indigenous exhibit. While she was doing that, our Outreach and Education coordinator, along with one of our Board members, attended the Municipal Culture Action Plan meeting.
When I had free time each of the first three days of the week, I was preparing for a meeting Thursday morning with a student who is researching the Nisbet party arrival in Prince Albert, as well as details for a talk I was giving on Thursday afternoon about George Carr, who was a member of the Peary expedition to the Arctic Circle in 1893/94.
It was during my research on George Carr that I found a photograph of the Carr family which we did not have in our photo archives. The photo, supplied by members of Mabel Carr’s family, fortunately included the identification of each person in the photo. This discovery allowed me to resolve a conundrum. Some of the information which we have in our archives indicated that George and Mabel Carr had three daughters and two sons, while other information suggested that they had two daughters and three sons. As only George, Mabel, and one son are interred in the family plot at St. Mary’s cemetery, I could not determine which information was correct. The photo provided the answer: there were two daughters and three sons.
Also, during my research on the Nisbet party, I found some information which I wished I had had earlier in the autumn. A researcher from Muskoday had been in the Historical Museum and had asked about the possibility of a young girl accompanying the Nisbet party as a servant. I had never heard that story before. Unfortunately, the researcher received a telephone call at that point in our conversation and was called away without being able to provide further information. On Wednesday, while sorting through documents which discussed the matter of how the Nisbet’s arrived in Prince Albert (whether by river or across country), I came across a letter written by Canon Waite to Richmond Mayson, a stalwart of the Historical Society in the 1930s and 1940s. In his letter, Canon Waite writes of a woman he had met on Muskoday Reserve who claimed that she had come s a servant of the Nisbet family. The woman, whose maiden name suggests that she was of French background, later married a Philip Bear from Muskoday. This letter does not prove the story the researcher provided me, but it could provide clues which can provide proof.
As noted, I had a busy day Thursday, with the student researcher in the morning and early afternoon, and the talk on George Carr in mid-afternoon. Michelle also had a busy day, meeting with the Building committee members regarding renovations which would start on the following Monday, and over-seeing four individuals who were installing information panels for the new exhibit.
Friday, all day, would bring more hustle and bustle, as excitement mounted with respect to the opening. Michelle and I met to discuss our respective speeches, last minute preparations were undertaken, and yet another tour group arrived at the Historical Museum.
When Friday evening arrived, nearly sixty people also arrived. They were treated to an event which I believe was without precedent in the history of the Historical Society, and certainly the most significant since the grand opening of the Historical Museum in what had once been Prince Albert’s Fire Hall. For such divergent groups to have managed to agree on an exhibit which reflects disparate cultures in such a meaningful manner shows just how well reconciliation can occur when the members of these communities choose to work together.
The week ended with the Historical Museum opening for the Santa Claus parade. Another sixty people, over half of them children, visited the museum over the four hours during which we were open. For the majority of them, it was an opportunity to warm up, see the exhibits, and allow the children to do a Christmas craft. Hot chocolate, courtesy of the accounting firm Grant Thornton was also available.
Check out our Facebook page for future activities at the Historical Society, including our Christmas High Tea on December 18th, and the next Coffee and Conversation on December 29th. Drop by the Historical Museum Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to check out some novel Christmas gift ideas in our shop, or give us a call at 306-764-2992 if you wish to book a tour of any of our four museums.


Museum musings — McLeod Hotel rules


Occasionally, people will come by the Historical Museum and drop off photo albums, scrap books, and assorted similar items. These can be invaluable sources of information, especially if the names of the people involved, and the dates of the events recorded, form part of the information contained in these documents.
One such item, donated by the family, is a scrapbook put together by Alma Hegland. It is obvious from the book’s contents, taken from a variety of newspapers and magazines, that Mrs. Hegland was anxious to preserve knowledge of our area’s history, and to pass on that information to future generations.
This scrapbook served such a purpose earlier this month when the two times great-grandson of James Nisbet visited the Historical Museum. I was able to pull that scrapbook of the shelf and share some of the articles on Nisbet which had been clipped and saved for posterity.
Before putting the scrapbook back on the shelf, I flipped through it and discovered the followed whimsical (at least I hope they are whimsical) set of rules from McLeod’s Hotel:
• Guests will be provided with breakfast and dinner, but must rustle their own lunch.
• Spiked boots and spurs must be removed at night before retiring.
• Towels changed weekly. Insect powder for sale at the bar.
• Crap, Chuck, Stud Horse Poker and Black Jack games are run by the management.
• Special rates to “Gospel Grinders” and “Gambling Perfesh”.
• Every known fluid (water excepted) for sale at the bar.
• Two or more persons must sleep in one bed when so requested by the proprietor.
• Baths furnished free down at the river, but bathers must furnish their own soap and towels.
• No kicking regarding the quality or quantity of meals will be allowed! Those who do not like provender will get out, or be put out
• Assaults on the cook are strictly prohibited.
• Quarrelsome or boisterous persons, also those who shoot off without provocation, guns or other explosive weapons on the premises, and all boarders who get killed will not be allowed to remain in the House.
• When guests find themselves or their baggage thrown over the fence, they may consider that they have received notice to quit.
• Jewelry and other valuables will not be locked in the safe. This hotel has no such ornament as a safe.
• The proprietor will not be accountable for anything.
• In case of FIRE the guests are requested to escape without unnecessary delay.
• The BAR in the Annex will be open day and night. All Day drinks 50 cents each; Night drinks $1.00 each. No Mixed Drinks will be served except in case of death in the family.
• Guests without luggage must sleep in the vacant lot, and board elsewhere until their baggage arrives.
• No Cheques cashed for anybody. Payments must be paid in Cash, Gold Dust, or Blue Chips.
• Meals served in own rooms will not be guaranteed in any way. Our waiters are hungry and not above temptation.
• All guests are requested to rise at 6 a.m. This is imperative as the sheets are needed for tablecloths.
• No tips must be given to any waiters or servants. Leave them all with the proprietor and he will distribute them if it is considered necessary.
• Everything cash in advance. Board and Lodging – $50 a month, with wooden bench to sleep on or $60 a month with bed to sleep on.
As indicated, these rules were headed as McLeod Hotel Rules. The date attached to them would suggest that they were posted in the Royal Hotel, although it is possible that they might have been “rules” for the Prince Albert Hotel. We know that Donald McLeod, the brother of Samuel McLeod, bought the Royal Hotel in 1891 and operated it until he moved to Moose Jaw in 1894. The Royal Hotel was located on the southeast corner of what is now Second Avenue and 12th Street West.
We also know that S W & R Real Estate (a firm belonging to Samuel McLeod and his family) bought the National Hotel in or around 1906, owning and operating it under the name Prince Albert Hotel until shortly after 1910.
Given Mrs. Hegland’s hand-written notation which accompanied the article in the scrapbook, I am of the opinion that it was Donald McLeod’s hotel from which the rules were taken.
The Royal Hotel started life as a one-story house which was converted into the first Prince Albert Club sometime after the Resistance of 1885. Harry Ross, in an article written about the club, described the members as being “middle age, sedate men”. Numbering between twenty and thirty members, they did not have sufficient finances to sustain the club. As a result, they sold the building to Owen Hughes, the retired sheriff, and he rented it for a short time to the Indian Department. When that lease expired, Hughes sold the building to what Ross refers to as “a hotel company”, who added two stories to the building.
We have information which shows that in 1890 and 1891, the hotel company was renting space in the building to the town of Prince Albert for their administrative office, as well as to the Masonic Lodge for their meeting rooms. Also in the building, in addition to police cells, was the classroom which Lucy Maude Montgomery attended from September 1890 to February 1891.
Who owned and operated the hotel after Donald McLeod left Prince Albert in 1894 is unknown. By 1908, Fred Hunter was the proprietor, and William G. Tickle was the manager. This partnership lasted until 1911, when William A. Hunter took over as the proprietor. More change occurred in 1913 when James Boulton and George Stalker owned the hotel. However, in a statistical report submitted by the City in October 1917, the Royal Hotel was not mentioned. This would suggest that the hotel was vacant at that time, and according to the Henderson’s Directories it is known that the hotel remained vacant until at least to mid-1920s.
Hattie Callaway (sometimes spelled Calloway) was the owner of the hotel from 1925 until 1934, with the exception of 1929 when ownership was listed as Madge Kennedy. One can only speculate why Hattie Callaway transferred ownership to Madge Kennedy for that year. It is noted that from 1929 until 1934, the Royal Hotel became known as the Royal Rooms and was listed as a boarding house.
In 1936, Peter Harmes and George Camche took over ownership of the building, changing its name to the Grand Hotel. George Camche appears to have left the partnership after the first year with Harmes managing the hotel until 1943. By 1945, the building was vacant, and it sat vacant from them until 1950, after which it was demolished. The City used the space for a time as a tennis court, but more recently it has been a parking lot for the Gateway Mall, as well as additional parking for the E.A. Rawlinson Centre for the Arts.

Museum Musings
Citizens’ Rehabilitation Committee

The first three years of World War II were dark and terrible. There were times when it looked like the Allies would be unsuccessful in defeating Hitler. However, in 1943, after the stubborn defense of Stalingrad and the successful invasion of North Africa, prospects became increasingly better for a second front being opened in Europe. Hopes were raised that some day the terrible war would end in an Allied victory. People began to look forward to a new and better Canada. The Marsh Plan for our nation was widely publicised and discussed. People began to think about and plan for victory and about the return of our troops.
In Prince Albert, Brigadier General Ross and Major McKay addressed the local citizens regarding the problems which could arise when our troops returned. This led Mayor George Brock to empanel a Reconstruction and Rehabilitation committee of ten individuals under the leadership of Mr. Harry Mitchell to address these concerns. The committee prepared a lengthy report on public, municipal, and district development projects. The report was submitted initially to the provincial government, and eventually to Prime Minister MacKenzie King.
In January of 1943, under the chairmanship of Walter Whelan, the Rehabilitation Committee met to determine what could be done for the veterans returning from the war. The federal government had found it necessary to establish a Department of Veterans Affairs which would be responsible for Rehabilitation and Pensions, but many of the problems of aiding the discharged veterans would have to be addressed by the citizens of the communities to which they were returning. So, the local committee set to work with nothing to its credit but the good will of the community and the cooperation of its members.
The first problem would be a reception for the returning men and women when they arrived at the railway station. It was determined that this could only be handled by building a “welcome hut” at the railway station. The City donated 150 dollars, and various merchants donated materials, while others gave of their labour. Johnny Puckett, a veteran of World War I, was secured as the hut supervisor, and the hut was officially opened by Mayor Brock on Sept. 25, 1944. Thereafter, the hut operated daily. Three times a day trains were met, and tokens of appreciation were given out. This welcome package consisted of cigarettes, a meal ticket, a theatre ticket, and a chocolate bar. Transportation to the returnee’s home in Prince Albert was also offered. This was no minor matter, given that gasoline rationing was still in existence. No matter the weather, the time of the train’s arrival, or the number of returning veterans, be it a single person or a large group, the train was met, and any help required was provided.
For those returning to homes outside of Prince Albert, the committee established the Beaver Lodge, utilising accommodation available in the former Immigration Hall which stood a short distance from the station across 15th Street. Beds, bedding, and furniture were obtained, and the Lodge was officially opened on May 24th, 1945 (although it had often been utilised before that date). The Lodge also offered men a bath and an opportunity to clean up after their journey home. Arrangements were also made for the returning women, who were accommodated at the Y.W.C.A. on First Avenue West and 14th Street.
Between September 1944 and August 1946, over 3,000 men and women were welcomed at the hut. Most of these men were greeted by Johnny Puckett, but no one arrived without being greeted. More than 1,600 men were accommodated and taken care of at the Beaver Lodge. Clean linen and hot water were always available. Mr. Archie Davidson, the building’s caretaker, supervised these lodgings, and his wife made up the army cots as required, even when they were required late at night or early in the morning.
Personal services were provided to many returnees and members of their families. Over 700 letters were written alone by the chairman, Walter Whelan, on their behalf.
Other work completed by the committee included preparing and submitting resolutions to the federal government regarding the need for a local Veterans Affairs office, a vocational training school, a military hospital, and a variety of other concerns such as housing, farm machinery requirements, civil service preferences, superannuation, and pensions.
As we near the annual commemoration of our nation’s participation in wars and conflicts around the world, once again each of us should take the time to reflect on the tremendous sacrifice that so many Canadians have made to protect our liberties and freedoms. Although our country’s men and women have continued to serve in military conflicts through the years since the middle of the 20th century, there is a tendency for us to focus on the sacrifices made by Canadians in the First and Second World Wars, and to a lesser degree in the Korean conflict. Whether this is due to the numbers of Canadians who served in such great numbers during these wars, or due to some other reason, I am uncertain. But as we take time on Nov. 11 to honour those who have served, let us remember all the Canadian service men and women who have given of themselves throughout the years, including those who have served more recently.
The Prince Albert Historical Society encourages you to join with us in honouring the men and women who have served in our armed forces. We will be open during the afternoon of Remembrance Day from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. There is free admission that afternoon. You are all welcome to join us.

Museum Musings – North of Prince Albert

During one of the Downtown Food Walking Tours a few years ago, Terra Lennox-Zepp and I were asked about the history of North Prince Albert – Hazeldell and Nordale. I had to admit that I knew very little about that history but inwardly determined that I would remedy that.

Recently I received a request from a Hague couple who had purchased a property in Hazeldell. They wanted to know both the history of their property and of the area. This renewed my determination and encouraged me to put together my limited knowledge of the area, knowledge that has been gathered in a piecemeal fashion during the years since that initial request.

That knowledge suggests to me that North Prince Albert evolved in three distinct steps. First, there was Hazeldell, a community nearest the river. This was followed by development in what we now call Nordale and the area in and surrounding the current Little Red River Park.

Unlike land on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River which is surveyed in river lots, land on the north side of the river has been surveyed in the more traditional manner, dividing the land into sections. It would appear that the early settlers, many of whom came from the Red River settlements where river lots were the survey of choice, chose the south side of the river to establish their farms, while leaving the north side of the river free from settlement because it was there where the trees and medicinal plants grew. The trees were, of course, needed for both firewood and for the logs from which their homes and barns were built. Plant life was used as the basis of the medicines which the First Nations and Metis people utilised for healing.

With the vast majority of the people settling on the south side of the river, there was limited need for travel to the north side of the river. An early ferry was established at the foot of what is now First Avenue West. This provided access to the north side during the late spring, summer, and early autumn. A second ferry was operational in the years 1912 and 1913, crossing between the north side and a location near 8th Avenue East. Some people, including the members of the Dakota Sioux who established their community in what is now the Little Red River Park, used canoes and boats to cross between the north and south side of the river. In the winter, of course, crossing was much easier as one could walk across the ice.

By the early part of 1910, the area of the city north of the river consisted of a few tents and shacks. There were three houses on Oxford Street, two houses under construction on Riverside Drive, and no dwellings at all on Cambridge Street. The area was inhabited mainly by lumberjacks, Metis, and First Nations families from communities north of the city.

Between 1911 and 1912, during the period of optimism encouraged by the La Colle Falls boom, land north of the city was surveyed and sub-divided. Land from two miles west of the railway bridge as far as the site of the current air port was laid out in sub-divisions. Some of these sub-divisions included areas reserved for industrial development in the anticipation that Prince Albert would grow equally on both sides of the river. It was during this era that North Prince Albert was referred to as “Little Chicago”.

I found it interesting that, in this two-year period, Prince Albert’s city council appears to have been uncertain as to development on the north side of the river. On December 30th, 1911, council passed Bylaw 38 petitioning the Lieutenant Governor in Council to enlarge the city limits by annexing property north of the river. This included land now encompassing the Little Red River Park, as well as the two numbered islands which lie in the river immediately south of the park. This bylaw was passed in order to ratify an agreement with the land owner, J.R. Stewart.

Then, on February 12th, 1912, the new council indicated that they did not agree with that bylaw. However, they did not consider that it was proper to revoke the agreement the previous council had entered into, and chose to allow the provincial government to deal with it based upon its merits.

Of the nine members of the previous council, six remained as members of the new council. Only the previous mayor (Andrew Holmes) and councillors Coster and LaCroix were no longer serving on council.

Some industries actually did begin operation in North Prince Albert during that period. This included a sandstone and brick factory owned and operated by Chief Justice Horace MaGuire and his son, headquartered in the Bank of Ottawa building and with a factory at 4th Avenue and 7th Street North. A business called the Great West Wood and Chemical Company also operated briefly in 1912. Oil drilling was carried out at a site a half mile north and a quarter mile east of the railway bridge, but it is apparent that nothing came of that project.

One business which did have a longer shelf life was a cold storage plant further to the west of North Prince Albert. Opened in 1912, it lasted until 1921. A newspaper story dated October 27th, 1913 was headlined “Work Begins on the Construction of New Abattoir on North Side”. The cold storage building, Prince Albert Produce, was managed by Frank Woodring. According to the newspaper story, a company known as Saskatchewan Abattoirs Ltd. planned to build their plant next to the cold storage unit and to begin taking in stock by November 15th. Unfortunately for farmers in the area, this abattoir was little more than a pipe-dream.

It was also in 1912 that William Gladstone and Mrs. Everest registered the plan of their land in what is today known as Nordale. It would appear that they were more concerned in land speculation, as they quickly sold the land. Gladstone is noted as residing at 1826 1 ½ Avenue West in 1914.

Also in 1912, the Danish architect Olaf Albrechtsen built the first house in Nordale. Known as Parkhill Bungalow, it was of an advanced design and constructed at a cost of $15,000. The house remains standing to this day. Albrechtsen, who came to Prince Albert in 1908 and remained here until he joined the armed forces in 1915, was the architect of many local buildings including the Orpheum Theatre, the Holy Family Hospital, the Windsor Hotel, and St. Augustine Roman Catholic church in Humboldt.

In a 1917 letter between the Northern Prince Albert Townsite Company and the City Council, development was also occurring in what is now known as Little Red River Park. There was one house east of the Little Red River, and a second house under construction. Due to the excellent sites on the high banks on the east side, it was anticipated that a large number of houses would be built within a year or two. The Northern Prince Albert Townsite Company had been established by the above-noted J.R. Stewart.

In the same year, the Public School board bought property in Hazeldell situated between the CNR right of way, 2nd Avenue West, and Riverside Drive. However, records indicate that it was not until 1923 when classes were held with Letetier Treen as the teacher. Although the building remained standing until at least 1938, it would appear that classes were held in it for just the one year.

By 1921, several additional houses had been built north of the river, and in 1923 the Scandinavian Silver Fox Company had been organised and its operations commenced with ten pairs of foxes. William R. McLeod was acting as president of the operation, which had approximately 300 shareholders. The company shipped breeding stock across Saskatchewan and to points as far away as Sweden, but by 1934 there was no longer any markets for pelts and the company discontinued operations. In 1935, the property’s caretaker, Fred Johnson, bought the remaining fifty foxes. He continued in business until 1948 when he sold the property and fox farming in North Prince Albert came to an end.
During the 1930s, North Prince Albert became an attractive site for low-income families. It was a good area in which to grow fruit crops such as raspberries and strawberries, and the zoning allowed for raising chickens and cows. Lots which had reverted to the City due to failure to pay taxes could be purchased inexpensively. City taxes remained low throughout this period and until after World War II. As there were no building restrictions, small, inferior dwellings were constructed, many of which were considered unfit for human habitation. It was not until the early 1940s when wages brought greater purchasing power that living standards improved in the area. This included the opening in 1940 of Riverside Grocery, owned and operated by Gertrude Hodgson.

By 1950, the community was changing, but not rapidly. More homeowners were working as employees of firms such as the box factory, the railways, Burns meat packing, and Waskesiu Mills. Some remained self-employed as carpenters, truckers, or as a lunch counter proprietor. Although this brought about a change in the nature of the dwellings they occupied, out of 111 homes, 42 were still classified as log shacks and 29 were seen to be frame shacks. Many of the homes were overcrowded. The average floor space of homes in the district was 430 square feet, while the minimum standards recommended by the Central Housing and Mortgage Corporation indicated that any family housing unit should have an area of at least 750 square feet. Of 42 homes viewed during a tour of the area in June 1951, only 20 had full basements while the rest had cement foundations. The end result of this survey, while showing promise of the community’s progress, resulted in the conclusion that North Prince Albert had a lack of adequate housing resulting in poor health and social problems.
In December 1954, the city began a drive to improve the housing standards in North Prince Albert. A headline in the December 4th Prince Albert Daily Herald reported that a campaign would be run to “alleviate housing conditions constituting fire and health hazards in North Prince Albert”. The story indicated “that about two dozen homes had been condemned by the health region as unfit for human habitation from the health standard point of view”.

The history of North Prince Albert is, in my estimation, fascinating. It can be tied to the disappointments arising from the failure of the La Colle Falls debacle, to its early history of providing homes for lower income individuals, and to the lack of attention paid to it by the power brokers and politicians who drove Prince Albert’s development in its early years. It really is remarkable how this area of the city has developed through the intervening years. The community spirit of its residents is exemplified in the attractiveness of their properties, and can be an example for all the neighbourhoods in the city.

Museum musings: Prince Albert’s breweries

Konrad Wittemann, who opened a brewery in Prince Albert in 1895, is quoted as having written “When we came here there was hardly any demand for beer in the country, everybody drinking whiskey; but since we started the brewery the sale of beer has increased right along, and the taste here will be cultivated.”

Whether Wittemann was accurate in his assessment of the drinking tastes of the early settlers of the district is likely open to question.  Given the prevalence of rum distributed by the fur traders, a taste for whiskey might not have ranked as the drink of choice.  Although, the preponderance of individuals of Scottish ancestry might have resulted in whisky being the choice of many settlers.

A meeting held in March, 1879, which had been called to discuss the erection of a brewery resulted was reported by the Herald with the following result:  “the majority of the people thought that they could get along very well without (one), and accordingly voted (it) down.

The earliest probable brewery in the Prince Albert area was likely one established by John Wymerskirch  who moved to Prince Albert from Humboldt in 1881.  The Saskatchewan Herald made mention of his arrival here in their newspaper of November 26th of that year.  In November of the following year, the Saskatchewan Times ran an advertisement for The Gable House, which suggested that they had the “best beer, and cigars of the finest brands, always on hand”.  Although no information can be found to provide actual proof that the beer available at The Gable House was brewed in Prince Albert, the fact that Wymerskirch was a known brewer, and was the proprietor of that establishment would suggest that it was brewed locally.

Two advertisements appearing in 1888 would indicate that Prince Albert had two breweries in the community.  One advertisement referred to the Caledonia Brewery which was located in the east end of Prince Albert at what is now 12th Avenue and River Street East.  This brewery was said to produce a pure and sparkling “Saskatchewan (Hop) Ale, delivered to all parts of the town”.  A receipt for the delivery of their ale to a private address exists in the Bill Smiley Archives at the Historical Museum.  In the advertisement, Charles Woodman was identified as the proprietor of the Caledonia Brewery.  In the alphabetical listing contained in the 1888 McPhillips’ Saskatchewan Directory, he is listed as a salon keeper resident in Prince Albert’s east end.

It would appear that Woodman moved his brewery to the East Hill in 1892, where he operated it until 1901.  In that year he sold the brewery to J.R. Downes.  Downes operated it until 1902 under the name British and Bavaria Brewery.

Another advertisement states that the Prince Albert Brewery on 3rd Street (now 13th Street and 1st Avenue East) produced an “Amber (Hop) Ale of superior quality.  It, too, could be delivered to any part of town by its proprietors, McIntosh and Gerrond.  The McPhillips’ Directory lists James McIntosh as a brewer who is resident on Third Street in Prince Albert.  James Gerrond is listed as “of McIntosh & Gerrond, brewers, r, Third-st.”  James McIntosh appears to have lost interest in the brewery business because by the following year, 1889, the ownership of the brewery was reported to be the Gerrond Brothers.  The second brother was likely to have been William Gerrond who was listed in the McPhillips’ Directory as a teacher in Halcro, a community about twelve miles (twenty kilometres) south-east of Prince Albert.

Newspaper reports from August, 1895, kept local residents updated on the construction of the Wittemann Brewery.  Andrew Holmes had secured the contract, with a man by the name of Congdon sub-contracted to complete the foundation and basement.  By the end of October, that work was completed, and Holmes was making rapid progress with the joiner work.

Prior to the arrival of the machinery for the new brewery, malting had begun with sixty bushels of barley being put to steep as a starter.  When the machinery did arrive, at 36,000 pounds and a cost of over $400.00, it was the heaviest train car to arrive in Prince Albert.  Included in the machinery was the boiler and engine, barley cleaners, vats, tubs and innumerable items required for the brewery’s operation.

The construction of the brewery, begun in August 1895, was completed in October of the following year.  The beer being produced, called Bavarian Lager, was said by connoisseurs to rank amongst the best on the continent.  Trial orders shipped by rail resulted in repeat orders for which the brewery was unable to keep up.  As a result, a new cooler was added to the plant which reduced the process from a month to a few days.

In the meantime, on October 1st, the Wittemanns had purchased the Queen’s Hotel, with the expectation that the two businesses would complement each other.  Management of the hotel changed, however, on February 2nd, 1897 with Gladstone and Stalker taking over.

In May, 1904, news reports indicated that one of the highest real estate transactions in the town of Prince Albert had taken place.  It involved the purchase of the Wittemann Brewery by local merchant F.C. (Fred) Baker, contractor Thomas Baker, and brewer Gustave Wagner.  The value of the sale was stated to be $60.000.

The title for the brewery was thereafter transferred to the Golden Lion Brewing Company, with the company’s first advertisement appearing on April 11th, 1904 in the Prince Albert Advocate.  The business operated from the north side of River Street in the original location of the Wittemann Brewery until a fire in March, 1913 resulted in the need to rebuild the brewery.  The new construction was on the south side of River Street on land now a part of the Riverside School grounds.  By 1914, the brewery’s equipment was considered to be outdated, and sales and profits began to drop.  The local prohibition ballot in Prince Albert resulted in the brewery’s last day of operation occurring on December 30, 1916.  The Golden Lion company folded in June, 1916.

Another brewery which was open in 1895 was one owned by Joseph Courtney.  Also located near the river, this brewery was actually on the Hudson’s Bay Company reserve, slightly to the east of the town’s Electric Light Company.  The brewery was located in a three story, 40 foot by 36 foot building.  Courtney employed six staff, and purchased his supplies from local area farmers for cash.  The water, considered to be the most requisite article for a brewery, was obtained from a 57 foot well which was 26 feet below the level of the river.  Courtney sold the building in 1902 to G.R. Russell.

In April 1921, Hiram Fletcher made an application for a brewer’s licence to sell beer to drug stores.  His small brewery was located at 2317 – First Avenue East, and housed a 16 gallon mash tun, two 40 gallon kettles, a 30 gallon cooling vessel, and three 140 gallon fermenters.  When Fletcher ordered 500 pounds of malt from The Canada Malting Company, he was advised that they would only ship orders for 2,000 pounds.  As a result, he decided that he would build a larger plant at 59 – 17th Street West.  A brewer’s licence was issued in 1930 in the name of the General Breweries Ltd. (later renamed the Red Wing Brewing Company).  By this time, the company’s directors were Omer Demers, a farmer from the Debden area, and A.J. Hanson, the local sheriff.  Red Wing’s brewer was George Kiewel, whose father had started in the brewery business in 1882, and whose family had breweries in Minnesota and Manitoba.

An announcement was printed in the local newspaper on May 16th, 1924 indicating that The Star Brewery would begin construction the following Monday.  It was to be licenced under the name of Prince Albert Brewing Company, and was to be run by the Sicks’ family from Lethbridge.  Fritz Sicks bought Fletcher’s licence, and the construction of the brewery began on a site near 17th Street West and 6th Avenue.  The new brewery was to be managed by R.J. Chiswick.

On January 2nd, 1936, the Red Wing Brewing Company was acquired by the Prince Albert Breweries Ltd.  The Red Wing manager, George Kiewel became the joint manager of the Prince Albert Breweries along with Bill Quinn.  Between 15 and 20 employees and three brands were absorbed from the Red Wing firm into the Prince Albert Breweries operation. The site of the Red Wing Brewery re-opened as the Central Cold Storage Company (now the business premises of Charles’ Repair).

During the Depression, sales of beer fell back.  However, of the eleven breweries in existence in the province in1932/33, the Prince Albert Breweries Limited ranked first in the order of sales and the Red Wing Brewery ranked sixth.

Prince Albert Breweries name change occurred to Sicks in 1944, and then in 1964 it became Sicks’ Bohemian Brewery Ltd.  The plant was acquired by Molson Breweries in 1958, although the name of the plant was not changed to Molson Prince Albert Brewery until the 1970s.

Bohemian Lager was the only krausened beer in Canada.  Krausening (or self-carbonisation) involves two natural fermentations followed by a lengthy aging process.  The Prince Albert beer won the Gold Medal for Excellence at Brussels in 1967 and 1968.  In 1968 it also won the Gold Medal at the Seventh World Brewing Olympics held in Germany.  The brand accomplished over 50% of provincial sales, and coupled with sales of its provincial partner from Regina, Sicks’ total sales exceeded 70% provincially.

Molson Prince Albert Brewery had its final packaging shift on April 4th, 1986, after which the bottling of Saskatchewan’s Molson products was shifted to the Regina plant.  Until recently, Prince Albert has been without a licenced brewery.  It currently has only one brewery, the Prince Albert Brewing Company, located on 6th Avenue East.

Lund Wildlife Museum


As the summer season comes to a close, it reminds me about the closure of another museum which once graced the banks of the North Saskatchewan River.
Frank Lund was born in Sackville, Nova Scotia, and began his trek west in 1904. It was not until 1910 that he arrived in Prince Albert, determining that it would be his final destination. He established himself as a blacksmith, first at 1121 – 2nd Avenue West, and then at his residence at 839 – 4th Street East. Lund also brought with him his love of, and skills in, taxidermy. By 1914, according to the entries in the Henderson’s Directory, his blacksmith business appears to have taken a back seat to that of taxidermy.
Lund’s interest in taxidermy resulted not from a desire to make money, but apparently from parental influence. Like them, he was proud of Canada’s great natural treasure, the country’s wild life, and he felt that the best way to promote it was through a display of properly conserved animals exhibited in carefully crafted facsimiles of the habitat in which they could be found.
Lund travelled across the Prairie provinces in order to find the best examples of the animals he wished to exhibit. He travelled to Wainwright, Alberta, in order to find what he considered to be the best example of a bison, viewing the herd for five days before he found the one he considered to be perfect.
He also travelled extensively, including to Omaha, Nebraska, to take further training in taxidermy, and to upgrade his skills. This led to the use of a secret formula, which Frank developed, to help moth-proof and preserve hides from cracking and drying. Often Frank and members of his family would go to work on the hide in the field immediately after the animal had died. In order to make the specimens as life-like as possible, the bodies were sometimes frozen to keep them fresh.
The art of taxidermy which Frank Lund had learned was much different than the manner in which taxidermists work today. Unlike today, when taxidermists are apt to use fibre-glass forms and papier mache, Lund utilised a cast of sculptured plaster of the body and face, using the animal’s skeleton after the bones were thoroughly cleaned. When plaster was not utilised, parts of the hide would be filled with excelsior, a very time-consuming process.
For many years, the Lund exhibit had no official home. During the mid-1920s, Lund showed his artefacts at the Prince Albert and Saskatoon summer fairs, as well as at the Regina exhibition. In 1933, at the World’s Grain Exhibition in the Queen City, the exhibit won international acclaim. As a result, many offers from fair boards, circuses and museums were received, including from Cleveland, Ohio, and New York city, but Lund refused to sell his exhibits into ownership outside of Canada.
From 1936 to 1938, Lund’s exhibit was on display at Waskesiu in the Prince Albert National Park. When the Parks Department determined that the exhibit would no longer be accepted as a display in the park, there was a tremendous outcry from the local tourism industry.
Frank Lund’s exhibit was placed in storage, where it remained during World War II. Unfortunately, it was in storage when its creator, Frank Lund, died in August, 1941.
It was not until the newly elected CCF government was looking for ways in which to improve the province’s tourism industry that the Lund family received any further encouragement from any level of government.
Frank’s son Gordon, who had been trained in taxidermy by his father, was able to convince Lachie McIntosh, Prince Albert’s member of the Legislative Assembly, of the viability of having the wild life exhibit on display. In the summer of 1946, McIntosh announced the willingness of the provincial government to assist the Lund family to find a facility capable of displaying it. A month later, the Honourable John Sturdy, Minister of Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, announced that the province would move an “H” hut from the air port to River Street onto a site donated by the city to house the wild life museum. Arrangements had been made for the city to supply the light and water to the building. The city had also agreed for the building and property to exist tax-free.
In order to overcome the concern that the museum would be an eyesore, the building was to be painted white and green, ensure an attractive entrance be built, and be professionally landscaped by the City.
Moving the “H” hut from the air port was part of a larger project undertaken by the city in March 1947. Parts of the buildings were to be used at the city yards, while others were to be used at the new Memorial swimming pool. Still others were to be utilised at the Exhibition Grounds in conjunction with other Agricultural Society buildings. A structure 24 feet wide and 240 feet long was to be placed on the river bank, on the north side of River Street at 1st Avenue West for use by the Lunds.
It was reported in the March 13th, 1947 edition of the Daily Herald that twenty-two city workers, two bulldozers, one tractor trailer, and five men from Saskatoon’s McKee Cartage, together with telephone and electric company employees were employed in the project.
The official opening of the museum occurred in May 1947, with Prince Albert’s mayor, John Cuelenaere, and the Honourable John Sturdy from the provincial government in attendance.
Through the years, the Lund Wild Life Exhibit was visited by thousands of people. Not only was it considered to be a good tourist draw, but it provided an educational experience for many Prince Albert and area students.
Unfortunately, the tremendous draw which such exhibits had been in the 1920s through the 1950s became less of a draw in the 1980s and 1990s. The maintenance of the building became progressively more expensive, and the 1930s structure began to deteriorate. By 1993, it became apparent that a new building would be required if the exhibit was to remain viable. But the estimated cost of a replacement was in the neighbourhood of $280,00, a sum the city could not sustain; nor was there a Lachie McIntosh or a John Sturdy available to provide the necessary impetuous to move such a project forward.
As a result, in 1996, the Lund family chose to close the local museum. The rotting floors and leaking roof meant that the exhibits were in danger of deteriorating. A move to Nanaimo, British Columbia was made, but the arrangements there proved unsuitable. The exhibits were moved into storage and, aside from being exhibited for a short period of time in 2016 when Mayor Greg Dionne showed an interest similar to McIntosh and Sturdy, they have remained in storage ever since.
Reminiscing about the Lund’s museum makes me realise just how fortunate the Historical Society is to be able to continue operating throughout the winter season. With the aid of grants and funding from various agencies and levels of government, a couple of dedicated staff members, and a tremendously energetic group of volunteers, the Prince Albert Historical Society remains available to local citizens and tourists alike throughout the entire year . If you wish to make use of our services, to tour one of our museums, to take a walking tour, or to access the Bill Smiley Archives, give us a call at 306-764-2992 or email us at You can also follow us on Facebook or on our website.

Museum Musings — Act Amateur Hours

I recently received a telephone call from a Melfort resident who reads my Museum Musings column. She told me that back in the mid-1930s, her grandfather (Joseph Woodman), a member of the Prince Albert chapter of the Associated Canadian Travellers, had been involved in that organisation’s decision to raise funds for the Saskatchewan Anti-tuberculosis League. Not only had he been involved in organising fund raisers, but he had also participated as a performer when the Amateur Hours were broadcast annually from the Saskatchewan Penitentiary.
I recall as a youth listening to the Amateur Hours, but had very little background information with respect to them. When I asked what information the caller could provide, she responded that she only had her own vague memories and some scanty information which she had obtained previously from the Bill Smiley Archives. Still, it was a story which I decided needed to be told, and I started searching for what I could find.
It was in 1934, in southern Saskatchewan, that Dr. George Ferguson, the Director of Medical Services and General Superintendent of the Saskatchewan Anti-tuberculosis League, had a fortuitous meeting with a group of travellers who were representatives of the provincial Associated Canadian Travellers organisation. He explained to them the need for support in the fight against tuberculosis, and they agreed to join the battle. As a result, ACT organisations across the province began coordinating the fund-raising campaigns, selling anti-tuberculosis Christmas seals, holding dances and raffles, and doing whatever they could to raise funds in the fight against tuberculosis.
The Prince Albert chapter quickly joined in the provincial fund raising campaign, doing what it could in a province which, very much deep in the midst of the depression, had little cash to spare. The local fund raising took a dramatic turn when Joseph Woodman, along with other local ACT members like Dick Dewhurst and Percy Dickinson, met with Bill Hart, an announcer with CKBI radio. They agreed that they would conduct weekly dances on Saturday nights for the young people of Prince Albert to attend. A small donation would be asked of each of them, and a portion of the evening would be aired over the radio station, ensuring that the listening audience would be made aware of the fact that these young people were doing their part in the fight against tuberculosis. To attract further attention, some of the young people were given a chance to go on air with a song or some other form of entertainment. In amongst the dance music and the entertainment, there would also be commentary calling attention to the fact that the disease could be fought only by educating the public and through an injection of money from the listeners.
To the surprise of all those involved, within weeks the broadcasts had become extremely popular and the station was receiving requests to broadcast similar shows from the halls and auditoriums of numerous smaller towns and villages throughout CKBI’s listening area. Once these broadcasts became a part of CKBI’s Saturday night programming, ACT Amateur Hours were soon broadcast on four other radio stations in the province.
The first CKBI broadcast of an out-of-town Amateur Hour was held in the village of Parkside, about 60 kilometres from Prince Albert. A princely sum of $50, more or less, was raised by that broadcast, but this first fund raiser led, through the years, to a contribution of $1.39 million to help fight tuberculosis and to assist regional hospitals in getting much needed equipment for their intensive care and respiratory units.
The Parkside show, taking place in the month of winter, meant battling icy roads and drifting snow. The crew started from Prince Albert in cars, but ended up resorting to travel by way of a railway jigger; nor would it be the only time that transportation would be an issue. Yet week after week, year after year, the ACT Amateur Hours would hit the air waves throughout the autumn and winter months.
The concept for the shows was really quite simple. Local talent was identified, given an opportunity to perform on radio, while friends, family, and supporters would be encouraged to call in with a donation for their favourite performer. In addition to providing the talent, the local community would provide the hall and a meal for those helping to produce the show. Those helping would include the emcee from the radio station, the engineer handling the technical side of things, and members of the ACT (and their wives) who would man the telephones and ensure that the donations would be recorded and announced. Aside from the meal provided, all the transportation and manpower were volunteered freely, meaning that all the donations would go to the fight against tuberculosis.
The shows were always truly amateur in nature. No rehearsals were ever held, and no adherence to a schedule was maintained. Performances would begin in the community’s auditorium or hall at 8:30, and then go on air at 10:30. Those in attendance would be canvassed for funds and, once the show went on the air, telephone donations would be received. The show would continue until finally the performer requested by the last donour had performed one more time.
Perhaps the only show which might be held to some sense of a schedule would be the annual broadcast from the Saskatchewan Penitentiary. Serving inmates would be given a chance to help in the fight against tuberculosis each winter when the annual Amateur Hour originated from within the walls. For the most part, the inmates provided all the talent (although we know that Joseph Woodman was also given a chance to perform), and the emcee would usually be an inmate. Inmate Trust Fund money would often be contributed as well, and this broadcast had an especially large listening audience each time it occurred.
For over 40 years, the ACT Amateur Hours filled the air waves on Saturday nights throughout the autumn and winter months. The last show, staged as part of Saskatchewan’s 80th birthday celebration, was broadcast from Wakaw and originated with CKBI radio. It was heard on eight radio stations across the province on Saturday, October 26th, 1985.


On September 4th, 1890, a large crowd of excited people were clustered around what is now Third Avenue West and 17th Street. Amongst the crowd was a young man, not yet twenty years of age, and newly arrived in the community. While the other members of the crowd expected to carry the memory of the day’s events in their minds, the young man planned to capture it more permanently. William James, having developed an interest in amateur photography, would use his camera to record permanently the arrival of the first train to come to Prince Albert.
That first picture would be followed by several thousand more, taken over the course of half a century, in a community and area of the province for which William James had an inordinate love. Between the local Bill Smiley Archives and the Saskatchewan Archives Board, between 3,600 and 4,000 of his prints and negatives have been collected, catalogued, and stored (over 1,000 of them in our archives).
James had been born December 23rd, 1870 in Howick Township, Huron County, Ontario near the town of Fordwich. His father, William senior, and his mother, Maria, were both Irish Protestants. Originally residing in Perth, Lanark County, William senior was a blacksmith and ran a machine shop where he designed his own tools. It is possible that the creativity shown by William the photographer may have been inherited from his father. He may also have developed his penchant for embracing new ideas, business ventures, and gadgetry as a result of his father’s approach to life.
The elder James had “come west” when he enlisted in Lord Wolseley’s Red River Expedition in 1870, the year following Riel’s Red River Resistance. For his services, he had received a service medal and a land grant. He either declined or traded the land grant, returning to his Ontario home shortly before the birth of his son. William senior then opened a wagon and carriage-making establishment which, according to data contained in the Dominion Census, was a successful independent small business. But, given the family’s future endeavours, some spark for life in the west must have remained, only waiting to be kindled anew.
Little is known of William James’ early life. It is known that he had worked as a teenager in a sawmill in Fordwich. What prompted him to move west when he was nineteen years old is unknown. Family members later suggested that it was simply “an itchy foot that took over from time to time throughout his life.” As to why he chose Prince Albert, again it is merely supposition on the part of those who knew him. His experience in a sawmill, and the fact that Prince Albert had a lumber industry, seems to have been the deciding factor.
James appears to have settled well into Prince Albert. He gained employment at the James Sanderson sawmill and, when his family chose to follow him west in 1893, William senior also obtained employment there. Although the son soon found other employment, his father remained working at the sawmill until his death in 1911.
That first photograph taken in Prince Albert was considered by those who knew these things to be a very professional shot. It caused people to question whether James had received some training prior to leaving Fordwich. Had he been apprenticed to a photographer in Fordwich? However, as there were no photographers in that community, it would appear to have been impossible. Perhaps it was merely beginner’s luck!
When and why James became determined to make a living through his photography hobby is still one more unanswered question. On being questioned about this, family members could only respond that “he was noted for being a bit of a gambler and he wasn’t afraid of taking a chance.”
By the mid-1890s, James was working with an itinerant photographer by the name of W.J. Jackson. In 1894 they opened a studio on Nisbet Street (later the unit block of what became 8th Street East and now part of the parking lot for Plaza 88). Their images were issued under the name of James and Jackson. Interestingly, their advertising suggested that the building was intended partly for a photographic gallery and partly for a barber shop. This partnership lasted only briefly, as Jackson left the business and the community in 1895, a departure which was lamented in an October 1895 issue of the Saskatchewan Times.
James’ career as a photographer ebbed and flowed with the economy of the Prince Albert community. If the economy was booming, his services were in great demand. When there was a downturn in the economy, his business would falter. As a result, James found the need to resort to being an itinerant photographer himself. He would travel to the Battlefords by steamship, to Saskatoon and Regina by train, and to other locations via horse and carriage (the latter likely constructed by his father). At one point he had branch studios on Saskatoon, Rosthern, Duck Lake, and Battleford, as well as one in Indian Head which was likely managed by his brother Alfred.
Although these trips to other communities were profitable for James, it took a toll on his local Prince Albert business. As a result, in September 1900, James returned to the business he had once shunned. He established the Phoenix Barber Shop and Bath House in a small shop adjoining his studio. Here his previous amateurish barbering skills were to be advertised as “hair cutting and shaving second to none” and “patronized by the best people in town”. With the studio beside this business enterprise, James was able to ensure people were well presented when they sat for their photographs.
This did not seem to resolve the income issue, however, and James found it necessary to rent his premises to the large Winnipeg photography firm of Steele and Company who were attempting to build their business by branching out to other western communities. Their interest in Prince Albert did not last long, however, and they soon disappeared from the local scene.
This led James to form another partnership, this time with Theodore Charmbury who was, at the time, serving a photographic apprenticeship in Aldershot, England. By February 1901, Charmbury had arrived in Prince Albert and was working with James. He brought with him the latest techniques and art applications, as well as being able to manage the local business while James travelled to his other studios. From James, Charmbury learned the business of itinerant photography. Although the partnership soon ended, the two photographers had become, and remained, good friends. Eventually Charmbury moved to Saskatoon, where he established himself in an impressive career.
Too old to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War I, James concentrated on photographing members of the Canadian forces. After the war, with the increased taxes imposed by the nearly bankrupt city, the business climate in Prince Albert was such that James found it necessary to sell his business. He turned to work as a travelling salesman to support his family, selling everything from men’s suits to jewelry, keeping his hand in the photography business by taking photos in the communities he visited.
Throughout his photographic career, James concentrated on two main types of photography. Like his first local photograph of the first train into Prince Albert, his pictures were of a documentary nature. He recorded, unaltered and accurately, places and events. Such photographs were desirable as a keepsake for the people who were there, and remain to this date a record of events of historic importance.
Secondly, James earned a reputation for his portraiture. Like all nineteenth century portraits, they were directed and posed. But James’ work had a quality which captured and revealed the character of the person sitting for him. With children, he used puppets to relax them, and these photographs showed great spontaneity.
James also used the Cirkut 8 camera to take panoramic photographs. Some of these, which measured eight inches high and as long as eight feet, are treasured by collectors, archivists, and those who are intrigued by the past.
James was only one of two Saskatchewan photographers who produced stereo photographs. Used with a stereo-picture viewer, these photographs can provide a three dimensional image for people wanting to get a good idea of views from the past, particularly scenic views.
James had married Maudie Rebecca Courtney in 1904, and it is likely that she influenced him to remain in Prince Albert, rather than relocating when business fell off. Together, they had four daughters, one of whom (Norma) worked closely with her father when he returned to the local photographic scene in 1927. She also took over the business when he retired in 1935, running it until 1957.
James died of a heart attack on September 9th, 1944, and was buried with full Masonic rites at St. Mary’s cemetery. Here he lies next to the graves of his father and mother. Maudie Rebecca joined him there twelve years later.

Museum Musings: Archie McNeil’s Will

I will admit that one of the pleasures I experience as a researcher in the Bill Smiley Archives is the opportunities presented to review old legal documents. Perhaps my favourite such documents are the wills of individuals who once had an impact on the Prince Albert area but have long been deceased.

One of the wills which I enjoyed reading was that of a former resident who was very generous to the Historical Society. Obviously that generosity brought pleasure when I read it, recognising in its terms how my predecessors in the Society had impacted this woman. But what I found the most enjoyable was the terminology used when she “remembered” her nephew. “To my nephew,” read the will, I leave one Canadian dollar”. For him to receive such a pittance, he had obviously blotted his book somehow, at least in her mind, but to insist that he receive a mere dollar, and a Canadian dollar at that (at the time, the Canadian dollar was probably trading at about three-quarters the value of an American dollar) meant that she wanted him to realise just how far from her favour he had fallen.

That will, however, recently fell into second place on my list of favourite wills when I read the will of Mr. Archie McNeil. Drafted on his behalf within two years of his death by his lawyer, A. Cyril March of Prince Albert, the will was proved and registered in the Judicial Court of Prince Albert on the fifth day of December 1939.

Originally, Archie McNeil appointed two co-executors; the first being Superintendent James A. Wood of Prince Albert, and the second being the Toronto General Trust Corporation. They were to pay as soon as convenient all his just debts and testamentary expenses, and thereafter convert into Trustees investments all of his estate.

The will further stipulated “in recognition of extreme courage shown by my one-time companion” and “in spite of the unfortunate developments which have taken place” Mr. McNeil requested that his executors keep informed from time to time, without her knowledge, of her whereabouts and condition and if at anytime “while living separate and apart from any man, she is found in extreme need, illness, or distress” the executors were to provide financial assistance from the Trustees investments. In other words, he wanted his “one-time companion” to be looked after, provided she was not in a relationship with another man.

From the Trustees investments $100 per month was to be set aside to ensure the maintenance and education of his daughter, such education to be provided in “a Catholic Convent School”. This maintenance and education fund was expected to grow and, upon the daughter reaching the age of 25, or at her marriage, she was to receive whatever monies were available in that fund. Should she achieve the age of 30, she was to be provided with all the income from the estate’s investments. Further provision was included in the will providing for any children born to, or legally adopted by the daughter, and in the case of the daughter’s death without issue, any funds remaining would be used for conservation work.

The original will was executed on November 4th, 1936, with a codicil added on the 31st of December, 1936. The codicil declared that Archie McNeil had married since his last will and testament had been drawn up, and he wished to leave one half of his estate to his daughter and one half to his new wife, Yvonne. Yvonne was, as well, named as a co-executor of the will.

You may, at this point, be wondering who this Archie McNeil fellow is.

Some of you will recognise the name Archie Belaney. Most of you will be familiar with the name Grey Owl. Archie Belaney and Grey Owl were one and the same. Archie McNeil is the name Belaney used when he was passing himself off as having been born in Mexico, the offspring of a Scottish father and an Apache mother. Archie McNeil was the name he gave to Matthew Bernard, the father of Belaney’s future “one-time companion”.

The “one-time companion” was, of course, Anahareo; the daughter was Shirley Dawn. Anahareo’s birth name was Gertrude Bernard. Anahareo was a diminutive given her by Belaney based on the name of her great-great grandfather, Naharrenou.

What is included in this will is interesting, but what is not included is also of interest.

As far as I can determine, Archie Belaney was married five times. It is uncertain how many of these marriages were legal and registered, and whether or not a legal divorce occurred to end any of the marriages.

I have found only one marriage certificate, and that was for a marriage dated August 23rd, 1910, to his first wife Angel (or Angele) Aguena. From this marriage, at least one child, Agnes, was born in 1911. Angel had a second child, Flora, who was born in 1925. This second daughter is not likely to have been Belaney’s child, as by that time he was separated from Angel (and had been “married” twice more).

The first of these further unions was to Marie Girard, sometime in 1913 or 1914. Marie had a son, John (Jimmy) Jero, born in the autumn of 1915. Marie died in the autumn of 1915, perhaps when giving birth to this infant. I have found no information regarding this union in Belaney’s biography or the book written by Anahareo.

In 1915, Belaney joined the Canadian army and served overseas with the 13th Montreal Battalion (now known as the Black Watch). He was wounded in France, as a result of which he lost a toe on his right foot. He also inhaled mustard gas, resulting in some recurring lung issues. While recuperating in hospital in England, Belaney was reunited with a childhood acquaintance, Ivy Holmes, also known as Connie. Ivy was an actress and, although they soon married, it quickly became apparent that their lifestyles were incompatible. There were no known children born to the couple. It is possible that a divorce occurred in this case, as it was discussed when Belaney was being returned to Canada by the army, but there is no mention of an actual divorce in the biography written by Belaney’s publisher, Lovat Dickson.

It was not until the summer of 1925 that Belaney met Gertrude Bernard. Their relationship was blessed in a ceremony conducted by Chief Nias Papate at Lac Simon in 1926. This relationship lasted for over ten years, terminating on November 15th, 1936 when Anahareo left their home on Ajawaan Lake. Anahareo points out in her book Devil in Deerskins that she did not marry again until after Belaney’s death “because a divorce is unknown among the Lac Simon Indians, and I considered Papati’s marriage ceremony legally binding”.

Anahareo delivered a second daughter, Anne, in 1937 and a third daughter, Katherine, in 1942. There is no question that Katherine was the daughter of Count Eric von Moltke, whom she married in 1939, but whether von Moltke or Belaney was the father of Anne is uncertain.
Regardless, only Shirley Dawn, Anahareo, and Silver Moon (Yvonne Perrier) whom Belaney married in Montreal in December 1936 were mentioned in his will. None of his other wives, nor the offspring of those unions, were mentioned.

A very interesting will indeed.


“What can you tell me,” asked the visitor to the Historical Museum, “about a zoo west of Christopher Lake?”

After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, the start of this year’s summer season has been much busier and more interesting than the last couple of years. More people are visiting our museums, and as a result, we are being challenged to provide answers to interesting questions about Prince Albert and area’s past.

Throughout the pandemic, the Bill Smiley Archives has been receiving and answering all kinds of questions, but mostly these have been submitted electronically. This year we have seen more researchers in person, looking for various information including about the soldiers’ land settlement, early women missionaries, and family information. This past week alone, we had someone who had driven to Prince Albert from the Halifax-Dartmouth area, as well as someone from Vancouver Island. Basically, from sea to sea.

Our summer interpreters enjoy displaying artefacts in each of our four museums, and providing the background information on some of the more interesting items. At the Historical Museum, they are often asked about the chicken plucker; at the John and Olive Diefenbaker Museum questions might surround the other two Prime Ministers elected locally. This year in particular, visitors to the Rotary Museum of Police and Corrections have been asking about the October 1970 incident at MacDowall; and more and more each year at the Evolution of Education Museum, people have difficulty imagining how anyone ever learned anything in a one room school house.

We also have special visitors this week. Homestead Aerial Farm Photos will be displaying their archival library on Thursday in the Historical Museum’s Serjeant Room. Their archive includes pictures dating from 1953.

We don’t just provide snapshots of our past in our museums. Terra Lennox-Zepp and I have done one downtown walking tour, food stops included, and look forward to leading another one on July 23rd when the Downtown merchants will be holding another Sidewalk Sale.
Terra enjoys introducing participants to the owners of some of our food establishments, and I get an opportunity to pass on some interesting stories about Prince Albert’s past while we get a coffee from The Bison or nibble on a home-made chocolate from Funky Fresh. People get fed and learn which building was Samuel McLeod’s last project, or where CKBI radio was located in 1938.

I have plans to lead another talk and tour at St. Mary’s cemetery the evening of July 20th. If you don’t know, you will learn who was the last family to live in the warden’s house at Saskatchewan Penitentiary, which Prince Albert mayor was a member of Canada’s national basketball championship team in 1913 and 1924, or who rode Willie Bird’s horse in his funeral cortege from St. Alban’s Cathedral to the cemetery in 1938.

A new programme this summer is our Museum Camp. This is being conducted in conjunction with the Mann Art Gallery’s summer camp and will be a great way for youngsters to spend a week of their vacation while learning a little of our history. The first programme will run in the afternoons of the week of July 18th to 22nd. The second programme will be held the week of August 2nd to 5th.

Each afternoon of the camp will include a theme, with a tour and related activity. Mondays will focus on the Pumper Room; Tuesdays will include river boats and the La Colle Falls dam; Wednesdays will highlight our indigenous display (pre-settlement); Thursdays will focus on home and kitchen (furnishings from the early days); and Fridays will include a walking tour.

If you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, give the Historical Museum a call (306-764-2992) for more information.
Given all the activities ongoing with our museums, there should be no chance of anyone being bored this summer.

Oh yes, the Park Gate Zoo. Our visitor had a vague memory of the zoo, as did I. But so far my research efforts have failed to turn up any significant information. So, if you have any information, or know where such information might be located, I would love to hear from you. Call (306-764-2992) or email the Historical Museum (, or email me at Any information would be appreciated.

Enjoy your summer!

Museum Musings: Lt. Col Alexander Sproat

John Weichel, in his 2001 publication “Forgotten Lives”, noted that “One can only ask in dismay how Lt. Col. Alexander Sproat’s life and accomplishments, both in Southampton and later in Saskatchewan, have been so completely forgotten.”

I admit that, personally, when I read this quotation I could not have told you much about Alexander Sproat. I had obviously come across his name while researching various matters of local interest. When we were developing the 2022 Historical Society calendar, which features historic Prince Albert homes which have been demolished, I had found that the house featured for the month of July (and which had been known to me since childhood as the Kernaghan house) had originally been built for Lt. Col. Sproat and his family. I also knew that some of the floor boards which had been removed when the house was demolished in 1989 had ended up on the floor of a house in the 300 block of 20th Street West.

Otherwise, the name Sproat was, for me, simply a name from Prince Albert’s early history. Neither, it seemed, did it mean much to our City leaders. There are no streets or parks named after Sproat, nor is the name commemorated in any other manner. Who, then, was Alexander Sproat?

Alexander was born in 1834 near Milton, Upper Canada (now Ontario), a second son to his father, Adam Sproat. With the likelihood of his elder brother inheriting the family farm, Alexander completed his schooling locally, attended Knox College in Toronto, and then, at age 16, headed off to Kingston to attend university, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts at the age of nineteen.

From information provided by his great-nephew, Paul Sproat, Alexander Sproat moved to Southampton, Ontario the following year (1856), where he gained employment as a provincial surveyor. Weichel tells us that he laid out the Southampton cemetery, and he worked on engineer’s staff for the Grand Trunk Railroad. Then, somehow, Sproat ended up as an agent for the Commercial Bank of Canada. In 1861, he married Eliza McNabb, the daughter of Alexander McNabb, the local land agent and the agent for the Bank of Upper Canada (thus putting Eliza’s father and husband in competition with one another).

In 1867, Sproat was elected in North Bruce to sit in the House of Commons as part of the first Parliament of Canada. He won the seat by a narrow major, a mere ten votes. In the second election, held in 1872, Sproat lost his seat by thirteen votes.
The Sproat family arrived in Prince Albert in 1880, Alexander coming in March of that year, and his family following in August. In the interim, Sproat had managed to establish a home for his family on River Street. Sproat had been appointed by the federal government as the Registrar for the District of Prince Albert, a position which the McPhillips’ Directory indicates he had previously held in the community from which he came.

In the 1888 McPhillips’ Saskatchewan Directory, Alexander Sproat is listed as having a residence on River Street, and employed as the Registrar. His son, Adam (also known as Bruce), is listed as living on River Street (more than likely in the parental home) and as a clerk with the Hudson’s Bay Company.

In the same directory, under the heading “Some Old and New Settlers” Alexander is described as being “deservedly popular among all classes of citizens”. His “merit and long service as one of Her Majesty’s volunteers” entitles him to write “Lt.-Col.” before his name. Sproat is further described as taking a prominent part in very local movement for the advancement of the interests of the community. He had “always given liberally of his means in aid of every good cause without respect to religion or nationality”. One of the movements in which he participated was the establishment of the Anglican church’s Emmanuel College, even though Sproat himself was a strong Presbyterian.
Sproat’s community involvement also included the founding of the Curling Club of Saskatchewan, an organisation in which he served as its first president. He also organised and served as the first lodge master of the Loyal Orange Lodge, No. 1506. But his most significant volunteer work occurred at the time of the 1885 Resistance, when he took a prominent part in perfecting the defences of the town of Prince Albert.

On the night of April 26th, around midnight, couriers brought information to Prince Albert to advise that, due to the neglect of the federal government, Riel’s supporters had become involved in conflict with the federal forces. This after considerable correspondence had been forwarded to Ottawa indicating that the local people had serious concerns with the manner in which they were being treated by the federal government. Some of that correspondence had come from the pen of Alexander Sproat, that government’s appointee.

Having been a colonel of a volunteer company while living in Ontario, it was natural for Sproat to join with the community’s leaders in determining the safest refuge for the citizens. It was agreed that the church and manse belonging to the Presbyterian church, as the only two large brick structures in Prince Albert, would be the most appropriate. The women and children were moved there, and between midnight and nine o’clock the next morning a barricade of cordwood was erected to surround the two buildings.

According to a boy who later became an Anglican priest, the Reverend Archibald Sinclair, Sproat identified the outdoor skating rink as being a place where the “rebels” might take cover, so he sent men out to knock it down. Archibald also described how Sproat had been standing at the opening of the cordwood barricade, encouraging people to get inside the fortification as quickly as possible so that he could close the gates.

Sproat carried out the duties of swearing in the men of the Prince Albert Volunteers before they participated in the campaign. Included in those sworn in were his son, Adam (Bruce), his brother-in-law Alexander McNabb, a farmer from the Colleston district, and his best friend, Captain John Morton, a resident of Colleston. McNabb was wounded at Duck Lake, and Morton was killed.

Morton was shot during the fighting, and his body lay for two days on the battlefield. Sproat eventually recovered it, taking it home to prepare it for burial, a burial which occurred at St. Mary’s Anglican cemetery. Morton’s widow eventually had the body exhumed, and then reburied in the Presbyterian cemetery (now the South Hill Cemetery).

Sproat had managed to acquire considerable real estate in Prince Albert and area, and prior to 1890, he and his family had moved into a substantially sized brick house on the brow of the hill (originally located on the unit block of 18th Street East, but after the lot was sub-divided it became 54 – 19th Street East). Sproat resided there until his sudden death at the age of 56 on August 17th, 1890. He was buried from St. Paul’s Presbyterian church, and interred in the Presbyterian cemetery (the South Hill Cemetery). His casket was transported from the church to the cemetery on a gun carriage, and a three-volley military salute was fired. It was in this manner, the Prince Albert Times reported, that “Alexander Sproat was laid to rest, his grave by loving hands made beautiful with a profusion of flowers”.

Sproat’s wife, Eliza, left Prince Albert in the 1890s, moving to Winnipeg to live with her son Adam (Bruce), thereby ending the family’s presence in our city.

Museum musings: Samuel McLeod

The name Samuel McLeod is arguably one of Prince Albert’s best known names. Prince Albert businesses vie annually for awards presented by the local Chamber of Commerce and named after McLeod. The Chamber of Commerce website references his pioneering spirit, civic leadership, entrepreneurial ability, and unfailing faith in Prince Albert aspects of which the successful businesses need to display before they deserve being named the winner of the Samuel McLeod Business Award.
And few Prince Albertans will be unaware that Samuel McLeod was responsible for building Keyhole Castle, one of Prince Albert’s National Historic Sites.
Yet, what more do locals know about McLeod? When I ask local residents if they can identify the trade in which this famous entrepreneur was trained, I seldom get anything more than a blank stare.
One of eleven children, McLeod was born to Donald Archibald McLeod and Isabella Nicholson McLeod on November 13th, 1852 in Bradalbane, Prince Edward Island. Although his siblings eventually scattered across North America, he appears to have been close to two of his brothers, both of whom eventually joined him in Prince Albert before relocating to the more southerly cities of Regina and Moose Jaw.
McLeod took his public school education on the Island, after which he completed a commercial course, which would appear to have impacted greatly on him in his later years. He then trained, at the age of sixteen, as a shoemaker, a business in which he worked for others before establishing his own business.
In 1881, the call of the west lured McLeod off the Island, and he settled in Winnipeg. Here he was employed for two years at Dodd & Company making, selling, and repairing shoes. During this time, McLeod it is likely that he established a close friendship with William Shannon, another shoemaker. The two men agreed to move further west, coming to the young community of Prince Albert. Here they established themselves in partnership, working together for about five years. The 1888 McPhillips’ Directory of Saskatchewan lists McLeod as being employed in the manufacture of “boots and shoes…formerly in the hands of Shannon & McLeod, as a firm, is now divided between those gentlemen as independent prosecutors of that trade.” McLeod is described in the same volume as “having recently established himself on the corner of River and King streets” before going on to say that McLeod is “a good business man and well known” and should therefore not fail to succeed.” River Street, of course, remains the same. King street is now known as 1st Avenue West.
The directory describes Shannon as having arrived in Prince Albert in company with Samuel McLeod in 1882 (other documentation suggests that it was more likely 1883), and that they had entered into, and carried on, business under the firm of Shannon and McLeod, “until last fall”. Yet the directory still lists Shannon & McLeod as being the firm in which William Shannon was a partner. Other documentation, such as Volume 2 of The Story of Saskatchewan and it’s People suggests that the partnership was not dissolved until 1888 when McLeod determined that he wished to work independently. This he did for another ten years. Not only did he move back into mercantile business, but he also ventured into lumber manufacturing. It is likely that at this time he joined with his brother Malcolm in opening a retail clothing store, but also placing Malcolm into the position of foreman at the Prince Albert Lumber Company, a business which he may have sold to Will Cowan and Company.
Malcolm appears to have been suited to the retail clothing business, although when he moved to Moose Jaw in 1907, he sold the store to Hamelin (also spelled Hamlyn) Brothers. Malcolm maintained an interest in both the Prince Albert and Moose Jaw stores which operated under the name of McLeod-Hamelin. The Manville family later bought the store and the business, and it continued operating as a clothing store after the Craig family purchased it and operated it as the CB Store.
Sam’s other brother who followed him to Prince Albert was Donald. In 1891, he bought the Royal Hotel, operating it until he moved to Moose Jaw in 1894 (where he owned and operated the Windsor Hotel). Donald later moved to Regina, where he bought the Windsor Hotel, operating it until it burned down. He continued living in Regina, investing heavily in real estate, and running an insurance business.
His brothers’ business ventures may well have determined Sam to sellout his local business ventures. This he did, in 1898. Information suggests that he managed to offload his store and lumber interests in one week. But McLeod could not settle into retirement and was soon engaged in insurance and financial activities, taking his son William into the business. He became president of the Commercial Trust Company, owned the Prince Albert Hotel for a period, as well as several business blocks and other properties. His last foray into building was the construction of the block now occupied by Royal Lepage Icon Realty in the 1100 block of Central Avenue.
Rumour has it that this building, the exterior of which is faced with bricks from the International Clay Company, contains materials which were looted from the La Colle Falls site. Although it is likely that some materials came from there, the rumour does not account for the fact that the Prince Albert City Council had determined that the City should sell off unused materials from the site in order to recover some of the costs lost by the failure of the project. Based upon the willingness of Samuel McLeod to personally underwrite the costs of opening Prince Albert schools in the years subsequent to the La Colle Falls project, I believe that any materials used in construction on his projects would have been purchased legitimately.
McLeod was married twice. The first time he married was in February 1874 to another Prince Edward Islander, Elizabeth Biggar, who was born on May 10th, 1857. Their three children, all sons, were born on Prince Edward Island. John was born about 1875. He later moved from Prince Albert to British Columbia. Frederick was born on April 5th, 1879. He remained in the Prince Albert area, where he farmed. William was born on September 4th, 1880 and, as previously noted, was taken into his father’s business.
After Elizabeth died in 1901, Samuel married Winnifred Biggar in Winnipeg in September, 1902. Winnifred had been born in 1882. The remains of both wives were eventually placed in a mausoleum which McLeod had constructed in Prince Albert’s South Hill cemetery in 1915. A fifteen square foot, nine foot high construction, it houses the remains of eight members of the family, including a grand-daughter (Winnifred Wilson), who died in 1989. The mausoleum was sealed at that time.
As well as being active in the local business world, McLeod participated in volunteer activities throughout his time in Prince Albert. He was a member of the Board of Trade, serving as its president in 1888 and vice-president in 1910. He was also an active member of the Presbyterian church, and of the International Order of Foresters and of the Rotary club. During the 1885 Resistance, McLeod was a member of the Prince Albert Volunteers.
An active Liberal, he served as a town councillor in 1894/95, as mayor in 1896 and as a city alderman in 1905, 1911/12, 1915, 1916, and 1917. He again served as mayor in 1919 and 1920.
McLeod was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories from 1898 to 1902, and appointed to the Half-breed Scrip Commission in 1900, serving alongside N.O. Cote. He also served as a provincial magistrate for twenty years.
Leading such a busy lifestyle, it was important that McLeod had some recreational activities which would allow him to relax. He was known to enjoy running, jumping, and baseball.
Not only was McLeod responsible for the construction of the Queen Anne Revival style Keyhole Castle (at a cost of $43,000), but he also built the house at 2006 – 1st Avenue East. This is where his son, William, resided.
Samuel McLeod died January 16th, 1929.


Recently noted in the obituaries of paNOW was the following: “The family of Dr. Frederick William Baker announces his death in Canmore, Alberta on May 11, 2022 at the age of 90.” When I noticed it, I wondered how many people would make the connection to the history of Prince Albert and area, dating back to the 1885 Resistance and beyond.
Dr. Frederick William Baker was the grandson of Frederick Charles Baker, an early merchant whose business included a store across the South Saskatchewan River from Batoche, as well as a second store on River Street West near where the Diefenbaker Bridge connects to 2nd Avenue West. Dr. Baker was born in Prince Albert, and did much of his elementary and high schooling in the city before graduating from Prince Albert Collegiate Institute and heading off to university in Saskatoon, where he attained a Bachelor of Arts before attending the University of Alberta, from which he graduated with a doctorate in medicine. Although he never again resided in Prince Albert, it was always his home, his Saskatchewan family roots extending from the early 1880s when his grandfather, Frederick Charles Baker, opened a store near the Metis community of Batoche .
Frederick Charles Baker was born in Belleville, Upper Canada (now Ontario) on February 14, 1858. Fred did his schooling in that community, and worked with his father in the family business, a carriage factory. On April 11, 1880, Fred received a diploma in Commercial Education from the Ontario Business College after successfully completed a course there. His diploma read, in part, that he had “a full and thorough Course of Study in the different Branches pertaining to a Commercial Education and that he has sustained his Examinations in all the Departments and Graduates with Honor.”
Late in the autumn of 1880, Fred left Belleville for Chicago, where he worked for a very short time, and then proceeded to Winnipeg where he lived and worked for two years. As a result of the land boom which was occurring in Winnipeg while Fred was there, he learned to buy and sell land. This knowledge was to stand him in good stead in future years.
But Winnipeg was not to be Fred Baker’s permanent home. He had met a fellow Ontarian there who had also gained some business knowledge and experience. Fred Baker and Harry Walters agreed to form a partnership with Harry, who was one year older than Fred, assuming the role of the senior partner.
It was on the west side of the South Saskatchewan River, across from Batoche, at the junction where the Carlton Trail branched off to Prince Albert, known as Fisher’s Crossing, where Walters and Baker established their first store. The pair were obviously successful businessmen, because by December of that year Fred Baker had moved on to Prince Albert to open a branch store in a building recently occupied by J.O. Davis and Company. By February of 1883, they were advertising themselves as Walters and Baker, General Merchants, Prince Albert, N.W.T. Their advertising subsequently would read Walters and Baker, General Merchants, Prince Albert – Batoche.
Three years after leaving home, Fred Baker was well established in “the West” and was financially independent.
Part of the reason that Walters and Baker were so successful stemmed from their ability to supply the needs of the federal government’s treaty obligations to the First Nations people. However, the community of Prince Albert and the surrounding area was receiving increasing numbers of immigrants, many of them who were turning to farming, and Walters and Baker became adept at supplying their needs in addition to the requirements of the First Nations and Metis who already populated the area of the Saskatchewan River basin. Both Walters and Baker made trips east for supplies, and to visit friends. Harry Walters continued to run the store at Batoche, and Fred Baker ran the Prince Albert store.
Even the events of the 1885 Resistance did not cause the set back which could have affected the business greatly. At the beginning of the conflict, their store at Batoche was raided by the supporters of Louis Riel, and Walters was taken prisoner, held first in the basement of the store, and then in the Batoche church. Three days after being moved to the church, Walters was released, and travelled to Prince Albert where he and Baker joined the Volunteers.
In the meantime, the Riel forces utilised the store as their headquarters. This led to heavy damage caused by the barrage fired at the building by the Canadian forces. As a result, after the Resistance was quelled, the store was closed and the partnership continued to do business from its Prince Albert branch only.
By 1889, possibly due to varying business ideas, Baker had bought out Harry Walters, becoming the sole owner of the business. He retained ownership until 1907 when he sold it to his friend, George Russell. It is widely believed that Fred was involved in so many other business and personal matters that he no longer felt capable of running the business at a level with which he was comfortable.
Also in 1889, on September 2nd, Fred Baker married Katherine Cunningham in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Katherine was the sister of Mary (Cunningham) McGuire, whose husband sat on the bench in Prince Albert. Although the marriage occurred in a Roman Catholic church, Baker had indicated that he intended to remain committed to his Presbyterian roots. Family history suggests that Mary’s husband, Judge Thomas H. McGuire, had intervened with the bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese to smooth the waters so that the marriage would be allowed.
Fred and Katherine eventually had six children, five of whom lived into their adult years.
By 1892, Baker had accumulated sufficient financial resources that he was able to begin using the real estate skills which he had learned during his two years in Winnipeg. This interest in real estate lasted for the remainder of his life, although after the La Colle Falls debacle, his own real estate portfolio was greatly reduced.
Fred had been elected as a manager of St. Paul’s Presbyterian church in February, 1885 and had, as previously noted, enlisted as a member of the Prince Albert Volunteers during the Resistance. Another community activity in which he participated was on a panel of judges for the poultry competition at the fourth annual exhibition of the Lorne Agricultural Society.
In 1891, Baker was elected to Town Council, a position he held for five years. In 1896, he ran for mayor, but was defeated by Samuel McLeod. Two years later, he was successful in winning the mayor’s chair, and continued to serve on Council until 1906.
Fred also continued to serve as a volunteer within the community. Prior to the family’s move to Vancouver in 1907, he was feted for his services to the board of the Victoria General Hospital for his involvement as a director and the board’s chief officer. The Board of Trade, on which he was serving as vice president, also noted his involvement.
Shortly after his arrival in Vancouver, it was noted in the Vancouver Province that two “millionaires”, recent arrivals from Prince Albert, had purchased a hotel on Cordova Street. The New Fountain Hotel had been bought from its previous owners by J.H. Sanderson and F.C. Baker. How long these two former Prince Albertans owned this hotel, and when and to whom they eventually sold it, is unknown.
Baker and his family stayed in Vancouver for a mere six months before returning to Prince Albert, and to the house which they had left behind. It is unknown why they returned, but it is interesting to note that their family home had never been put on the market before or after their move to the west coast.
Fred transferred his house and property to his wife in August 1914 which likely protected the family from the disaster which could have occurred given the money which he lost in the La Colle Falls debacle. Whether luck or astute business practice, this allowed the Baker family to remain living in Prince Albert for the remainder of both Katherine’s and Fred’s lives.
Katherine began suffering ill health that same year, and never really recovered. She died in July, 1927, and her body was interred in the old Roman Catholic cemetery.
Fred remarried in Calgary in December 1929. His second wife, Margaret Pettigrew, was a former resident of Belleville, Ontario, but she had resided in Calgary for several years before the marriage. She died May 1st, 1935 at the age of 74.
Fred remained resident in Prince Albert until his death, likely from stomach cancer, on August 27th, 1940. He was buried from St. Paul’s Presbyterian church, and interred next to his second wife in the oldest section of the South Hill cemetery.
The father of Frederick William Baker, Victor Harold Baker, was the fifth born (and fourth of the surviving adults) of the marriage between Frederick Charles Baker and Katherine Cunningham. He was educated in Prince Albert, and attended one year of law school at the University of Saskatchewan before returning to the city where he was employed at the Prince Albert Creamery. After moving to Victoria, Victor returned to Prince Albert in 1941, establishing a real estate business which was later purchased by R.J. “Bob” Casey. He died in Saskatoon on September 6th, 1974, buried from Sacred Heart Cathedral, and interred in the South Hill cemetery.
Victor had married Muriel Soole on August 29th, 1929, a teacher from Carman, Manitoba. Muriel had also taken some nurses’ training at Winnipeg General Hospital, but never practised as she married before graduating. Frederick William was the elder of two children born to them. He married Yvette Sylvestre of Willow Bunch in 1957, who predeceased him in 2015. The second child born to Victor and Muriel, a daughter named Catherine, was born in Prince Albert in 1933, and married Harold Tomiak in Edmonton in 1957. She was widowed in August, 1978, and died herself in Kelowna in December, 1989.

Early homes of importance which were demolished

When we were putting together our 2022 calendar for the Historical Museum, we had to make some difficult decisions. Each month in the calendar features an early Prince Albert home which has since been demolished. We tried to feature a home of interest, either because of its architecture, or because of who had lived there. Some of the homes we considered could not be included because we did not have a photograph or because the photograph could not be reproduced in a manner which would be suitable.
One such house was situated on River Lot 79 at what became 217 River Street East. It was the first brick house built west of the Red River settlement (Winnipeg) in the Northwest Territories. Built in 1879, it was the second brick building in what is now Saskatchewan. A government building in Battleford, built in 1877, preceded its construction by two years.
The bricks for the house were hand-made, rather than machine moulded. They were yellow in colour, apparently from clay dug from a pit on the north side of what is now Eighth Street East, about midway between the present Fourth and Fifth Avenues. Hand moulded bricks have one advantage over machine moulded bricks. They can be sliced, or cut, in any direction desired, whereas machine moulded bricks or pressed bricks can be broken only in one direction.
Thomas Baker, a carpenter working in partnership with Hurd, likely framed the house. Henry Peard, a bricklayer from the firm Peard and Brown situated on River Lot 80, is believed to have manufactured the bricks and laid them.
There were five other homes built of similar brick, all in the general area south of River Street and north of Eighth Street, between Central Avenue and Sixth Avenue East. One home, used by Thorpe Brothers Plumbing and Heating as a warehouse in the 1970s, was originally the home of George McKay.
Prince Albert’s first brick house was demolished in 1978. The last residents of the house were Charles and Pat Haylor. Through the years, it had been occupied by several other people, including Christian Oster (a labourer), Annie McLeod (widow of the late Alex McLeod), Albert Eyberson (a painter), and Phillip Morgan (owner of Voldeng’s Studio).
Unfortunately, although the house was significant, and had been occupied by persons of note, the quality of any photographs possessed by the Bill Smiley Archives is very poor.
Two other Baker homes made it into the 2022 calendar. The first was located at 1324 – First Avenue West. The Bakers lived there until 1906. It was later the YWCA residence, but was demolished to make way for the construction of the Gateway Mall. The other house was at 1915 – First Avenue West. The Bakers lived there until 1929. It was demolished in May 1968 and is the current site of the Hillcrest Apartments.
A second house which might have been included in the calendar was known locally as the Charles Mair house. It was located on River Lot 68 and had the street address of 1128 River Street West. Information garnered from a book celebrating the first 100 years of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan indicates that the house was originally the home of Phillip Turner of the Hudson Bay Company. When the first Bishop of the Diocese of Saskatchewan, John McLean, came to Prince Albert, he stayed in the house as a guest of the Turners.
Charles Mair moved to Prince Albert in 1876 and took up residence in the former Turner home. At the time, the house was constructed in something similar to a “t” configuration. Situated on a large piece of property opening onto the North Saskatchewan River, Mair named it Holmewood.
Due to his previous negative experience in the Red River settlement in the late 1860s and 1870, Mair felt it would be in his best interests to leave Prince Albert when it appeared that similar trouble was once again looming, this time in the area between the Saskatchewan rivers.
After the Resistance of 1885, Mair moved back to Prince Albert and once again became a businessman as a general trader. He remained active in both the business and social community until, in 1899, he left to participate in the negotiations for the Peace River Treaty.
According to a long-time resident of Prince Albert, Art Loucks, there were two reasons for Mair’s decision to accept the federal government appointment. Based on information which Mr. Loucks obtained from one of the last people to live in the house, Mair’s family had suffered two serious incidents which prompted the decision.
The first reason had to do with the house. One spring the river rose and flooded the land surrounding it. As a result, part of the house, the north leg of the “t” washed away. The second, and more devastating reason, resulted from an accident involving their daughter. She was riding a horse and as she rode into the barn she struck her head, killing her.
John E. McDonald, a livery man and teamster, initially rented the house from Mair, and later purchased it. Members of the McDonald family lived in the house until about 1956. John’s son Colin McDonald, a veteran of World War I, started as a watch-maker at 15 River Street West in 1923. In 1928, he moved his business to 811 Central Avenue, expanding it to include jewelry sales as well. The store later moved to 19 – 11th Street East, where it remained until it closed in1985.
Colin continued to own the house on River Street West until the City decided to demolish it in February 1960 due to its dilapidated condition. Colin’s brother, who suffered from ill health and was unable to work lived in it until 1958, when it was occupied by Neil Bekker, the proprietor of Neil’s Machinery.
As Charles Mair was, to say the least, a controversial individual, a decision was made to not include his house in the calendar. Yet the early ownership by Phillip Turner, and finally by Colin McDonald, makes this home one of interest and importance.
Other homes which were considered, but did not appear in the calendar, included the Presbyterian manse at 48 -12th Street East, which was sold to Gordon Kirkby Sr. and later demolished in 1974 when he constructed a new office block.
The residence of Charles McDonald, druggist and owner of the McDonald Block at 1103 Central Avenue, was not included. McDonald and his family owned a brick house at 1327 – Second Avenue West. The house remained occupied until early in 1961, when it was demolished in order for Mac’s Café to be constructed.
Finally, the house at 2116 – Second Avenue West was not included. Another brick house, it was built prior to 1914 and demolished in 1975 when Second Avenue West (Highway 2) was widened. It was the house to which I came home as a baby after Hilda Harvey carried me out of the Victoria Hospital’s maternity ward.

Prince Albert’s first female alderman

From the 1996 YWCA fund raising calendar, called Y’s Emerging Women, for the week of August 3rd to 9th: “Ella Muzzy broke ground for women in Prince Albert when in 1937 she became the first woman to be elected to City Council. She served on a number of standing committees including Health and Relief, and Markets and Parks.

Ella Muzzy was an outgoing and controversial person who was interested in the welfare of children. She was very involved in activities that furthered their welfare, particularly summer programs for children. Her efforts were the beginning of youth summer programs in Prince Albert.

Ella was responsible for the building of the first children’s paddling pool at the corner of 13th Street and 1st Avenue West, just north of the old YWCA. The existing paddling pool in Kinsmen Park is named in her honour. Ella Muzzy was an intelligent and determined lady.”

Born in Port Huron, Michigan, Helen “Ella” Muzzy came to Prince Albert from Brainerd, Minnesota in 1906. She and her husband Galen, who died in 1931, raised three daughters, one of whom (Winnifred) was a teacher at the Prince Albert Collegiate Institute while another (Vera) became vice-principal of the 9th Street School. The third daughter was named Helen. In 1909, Galen was the foreman of the Prince Albert Lumber Company, and he continued to work in the lumber industry into the 1920s. Between 1924 and his death, Galen worked primarily as a farmer, while continuing to reside within the city.

From the date of her arrival in Prince Albert, Ella had been prominent in many church and social organisations. She was a life member of the Women’s Missionary Society of the United Church and held several positions in that organisation. At the time when the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was first organised in Prince Albert, she was the first president, an office she held for several years. She also served on the executive of the Children’s Aid Society, and on the executive of the Victorian Order of Nurses. Even after her election to Council, Mrs. Muzzy continued to work towards the advancement of women when she organised the local Women’s Civic League.

Ella Muzzy made her first attempt at gaining a Council seat in the November 1935 election. Although her vote tally was respectable, she was not successful. However, this did not deter her, or her supporters. At the time, half of the aldermen were elected each year, and the mayor was elected every second year. When nominations opened for Council seats in the 1936 election, Mrs. Muzzy’s name was once again on the ballot.

Ella Muzzy was nominated by Alexander Duncan, a local pharmacist and owner of Duncan’s Drug Store, and by Thomas J. Morgan, the manager of Morgan’s Ladies Wear. At the Labour Council’s candidates’ meeting, Mrs. Muzzy indicated that she has always been successful in whatever she had attempted, and that she would make every effort to succeed if she was successful in the election. At the Candidates’ Forum, she told those in attendance that she had always endeavoured to live by Christian principles and would carry those principles with her if elected to Council. She desired to work with the male aldermen for the mutual benefit of all the residents of Prince Albert. She felt that the city needed to elect a woman to Council so as not to lag behind other communities. Promotional material advertising Mrs. Muzzy’s candidacy indicated that she was an “independent candidate”.

The Prince Albert Daily Herald referred to the election held in November 1936 as the “Petticoat Election”. Ella Muzzy ran for City Council and was elected. Mrs. Mary Brodie sought election to the Collegiate board and was successful, while Mrs. Blanche Mitchell was returned by acclamation to the Public School board. The only unsuccessful female candidate in the election was a woman who had allowed her name to stand for the Separate School board.

Throughout her years on Council, Ella Muzzy was a member of the Assessment board, the Health and Relief committee, the Markets and Parks board (later the Parks board), and chaired the Fire board. As noted in the YWCA calendar, she was particularly interested in developing local programming for children. This led to several heated debates with other aldermen, particularly with Alderman Jack Sanderson. Mrs. Muzzy wanted to spend money on the development of parks and recreational opportunities for the youth of the city, while Mr. Sanderson was concerned with ensuring the city’s infrastructure, and the Daily Herald frequently reported on their debates.

The summer recreation programme of today had its foundation in the position which Mrs. Muzzy took. The first paddling pool established in the city, located on the southeast corner of 13th Street and 1st Avenue West, was the result of her firm stance with her Council colleagues. It had been demolished by the time that I was a youngster and replaced by a parking lot (known as the Muzzy parking lot), and is now situated within the Gateway Mall.

As noted in the YWCA’s calendar, Ella Muzzy was a controversial person, but the positions she took on Council must have been shared by the majority of Prince Albert’s electors. After her first election, she was returned to office in each subsequent election in which she ran.
At a meeting of City Council on October 20th, 1942, Mrs. Muzzy as chair of the Fire committee, indicated that as a result of concerns expressed about the safety of where wood piles were located in the city, she had spoken with the fire chief. Alderman Muzzy indicated that she would sponsor a bylaw to cover the placement of such piles and other materials.

However, at the Council meeting the following week, members of Council paid tribute to the retiring Lady Alderman. Deputy Mayor P.W. Mahon stated that “Our first lady alderman has served well and faithfully.” He went on to say “Alderman Mrs. Muzzy had always had only one thought in mind during six years of service on the Council and that was what would be best for the citizens and the city.”

Alderman C.S. Lacroix, referred to as “the dean of the councillors” due to his length of service, declared that Council was “particularly glad to have Alderman Muzzy on Council during the depression years when she took over much of the burden in this respect.” He advised that the citizens of Prince Albert certainly appreciated her work, and expressed best wishes and happiness to her on behalf of the councillors and official staff.

It was further reported in the Daily Herald on the 7th of November 1942 that Mrs. E. Muzzy, Prince Albert’s only woman councillor, having left the city to reside in Saskatoon would not be seeking re-election in that month’s municipal election.

Ella Muzzy passed away in 1961.

Editor’s Note: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated Ella Muzzy’s date of death, and the number of children she had. The article has been updated with the correct information. The Daily Herald apologizes for the mistake.

Museum Musings: Prince Albert and women’s suffrage

The Bill Smiley Archives receives many different types of requests, but probably the most frequent type is for information about family members.  “What can you tell me about my grandfather?” or “Where can I find my great-aunt’s grave?”  “Where did my half-brother live, and what did he do when he lived in Prince Albert?”

I was researching one such request, about a woman who had lived and died in Colleston, when I came across the following headline in the June 2nd, 1916 edition of the Daily Herald:

Noted English Suffragist Touring in Aid of Serbian Relief”

Now this was quite a coincidence!  Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst was, you will recall, the leading English suffragette campaigning for the women’s right to vote.  The woman about whom I was conducting my research had been raised in the home of Captain Richard and Mrs. Deacon, whose daughter Johan just happened to have founded Prince Albert’s chapter of the Equal Franchise League.

Johan, a school teacher, had married Colonel James Wilson (who was employed in the Land Titles office) in Prince Albert on the 16th of September 1901.  She called and addressed the first meeting of the League in Prince Albert, and helped to organise the Equal Franchise League in Regina.  She addressed meetings both there and in Melfort.

The June 2nd story went on to relate that Mrs. Pankhurst had been “secured for a speech” on June 16th.  It reported that she was making a Canadian tour in the interests of Serbian relief and other “patriotic funds”, and that it was through the efforts of the local Equal Franchise League that she was to come to Prince Albert.

Mrs. Pankhurst was to speak at the Empress Theatre (on 1st Avenue West, which was located just south of what is known today as the Harlon Building), the largest venue of its kind in the city.  That theatre had already been booked for the viewing of the special documentary, Britain Prepared, a ten-reel film produced for what could only be called propaganda purposes.  Mrs. Pankhurst was to speak for about an hour during a break about halfway through this presentation.  A quiet, convincing speaker, Mrs. Pankhurst was known as one of the leading speakers of her day, capable of holding the attention of her audience whether it was on an open-air square or in a crowded clubroom. 

Amongst those making the announcement of Mrs. Pankhurst’s travel to the city were Mayor William Knox, Mrs. D.J. Rose, president of the local Equal Franchise League, president R.H. Hall of the Board of Trade, and Mrs. D.W. Adam, president of the Red Cross society.  They advised that arrangements were being considered how best to entertain her during her stay in the city, including the possibility of a luncheon or banquet.

A further story from the Daily Herald, this one dated Monday, June 6th, suggested that Mrs. Pankhurst might speak on one of four topics during her stop in Prince Albert.  These included: Patriotism and the Needs of Men; Women’s Part in the Great War; How Women Have Helped in the War; and, Ideal of National Service.

The story went on to suggest that Mrs. Pankhurst had helped a great deal in the war and was so well in touch with matters as to be an exceptionally interesting speaker.  But it further cautioned that, at the outbreak of the war, she had called for a truce in the militant agitation of suffragettes, intimating that those in the audience expecting her to demand votes for the women may be left unhappy with her presentation.  She could be expected, however, to call vigorously for the national service of both men and women, to encourage the adoption of orphaned babies, call for the opening of a war service register for women, and to advocate for patriotism, self-sacrifice, and a vigorous prosecution of the war as had been suggested by the Women’s Social and Political Union.

Although Mrs. Pankhurst might not address women’s suffrage directly during her visit to Prince Albert, her Canadian tour still resulted in considerable talk about the topic.  The Toronto Globe, in an editorial, had noted that although women had been granted the right to vote in municipal and provincial elections, legislation passed by the Alexander MacKenzie government in 1875 (during which the territories now known as Alberta and Saskatchewan had been given a greater role in federal affairs), would still preclude women in the two newest provinces the right to vote in federal elections, even though women in British Columbia and Manitoba had the right to cast federal ballots.  Other editorials suggested that the effective service women had rendered during the ongoing war gave them as much right to vote as “any other class of the community”.

Speaking in Calgary at a meeting a few days prior to coming to Prince Albert, Mrs. Pankhurst suggested that the allied nations must continue their fight against Germany until such time as that country had abandoned its idea that Germany was called directly “to enforce its form of civilization upon the world”.  As a result, Mrs. Pankhurst called for compulsory military training for all Britishers, and issued a plea for even more recruits.

All of this coverage, and the controversy arising from some of her stances, ensured a sold-out audience at the Empress Theatre for the night of Friday, June 16th.  Given the movie to be shown, whereby the citizens of Prince Albert would be encouraged to display their patriotism, and the anticipated emotional appeal which Mrs. Pankhurst would provide, no one would willingly miss this event.

Mrs. Pankhurst was to arrive by train a short time prior to her star performance, and would be met by the leading women and men of the City of Prince Albert.  Due to the short lead time, it would not be possible to hold a banquet that evening, but on-going discussions were occurring in an attempt to have her stay overnight in order to hold a luncheon honouring her the next day.

However, it was to no avail.  Mrs. D.J. Rose, the local president of the Equal Franchise League, received a telegram from Mrs. Lawton, the provincial president, on June 16th, the day Mrs. Pankhurst was scheduled to speak in Prince Albert.  Mrs. Pankhurst, it read, had incurred a sudden illness which required that her Prince Albert speech be cancelled.  She would be unable to travel to the city according to the arranged schedule.

So, the excitement of having Mrs. Pankhurst entertain and enlighten the local populace came to nought.  No information has been found as to what her sudden illness was; nor was any indication found of attempts to re-schedule her visit.

As for my attempt to find information on the woman who lived and died in Colleston, we later discovered that the information we had received was inaccurate.  Rather than her death occurring in 1916, we found out that she had died in 1910.

MUSEUM MUSINGS: The Hill Grocery

In his book about Prince Albert’s first century, from 1866 to 1966, Gary Abrams writes in the chapter White Coal City about the years 1910 to 1913. He notes how the “stores, shops, and trim blocks” were turning Central Avenue into a “bustling, modern main street”. He also refers to the many “handsome homes” being built, particularly on the brow of the hill.
A number of these homes to which Abrams referred were being built in, or near, the central hill area (on 18th Street to 20th Street and between 2nd Avenue East and 2nd Avenue West). These homes belonged to such notable citizens as Samuel McLeod, Joseph Kernaghan, George Baker, Algernon Doak, H.A. Lestock Reid, Dr. Frank Fourney, Thomas Baker, and James McKay.
Taking advantage of the City’s new found economic wealth, a newcomer to the community built and opened a grocery store in 1913 (called at the time Mann’s Grocery) on the north-east corner of Central Avenue and 20th Street. Wilbert W. Mann maintained ownership of the store until the early part of the 1920s. During the early years of its operation, Mann had as an employee Gilbert McKay Junior, a nephew of both Thomas McKay (Prince Albert’s first mayor and later Member of the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories) and the afore-mentioned James McKay (Member of Parliament for Prince Albert). Older residents of Prince Albert might recall Gilbert’s sister Mary, who worked for many years as a stenographer at City Hall, as well as his other two sisters, Jean and Catherine, both of whom taught school locally.
When the store was sold by Mr. Mann to Julian Garrish in 1921, the store became known as the Hill Grocery. It again changed hands in 1925 when it was purchased by W.D. ‘Bud’ Coombs, who retained the store’s name. Coombs, obtaining employment at Baker’s Department Store, sold the business to Steve Jasper in 1927. It was at this time that George Whitter first became an employee of the store.
Jasper, in partnership with John Harrison, had opened Magnet Grocery at 912 Central Avenue in 1925 when they bought the business from Mrs. J. Cassie. Jasper and Harrison had previously worked together as staff members at McLean’s Department Store on Central Avenue.
In 1929, Steve Jasper obtained the local franchise for Safeway Stores and the two groceries, the original Magnet Grocery in the 900 block of Central Avenue and the other at 1930 Central, were renamed and branded as Safeway stores. Jasper also opened a Safeway store at 900 Central Avenue, and one on the west side of the 1300 block of Central Avenue (currently housing H & R Block). Harrison, his partner, is believed to have sold his share in the business at this time and taken up farming. In the 1929 Henderson’s, George Whitter was listed as a department manager for Safeway.
By 1932, the Safeway store at the top of the hill had relocated to a newly constructed building immediately north of the original Mann’s Grocery. On September 15th of that year, George Whitter, their former department manager re-opened the Hill Grocery in competition to Safeway. Whitter was apparently successful, as the neighbouring Safeway store was closed by 1940. The new building sat vacant until 1945 when it became home to Campus Confectionery. (It was later known as Pat’s Place, 3D Confections, and is currently JP’s Convenience.)
By 1934, Steve Jasper had left the Safeway chain, and had opened another grocery store, once again called Magnet Grocery, at 914 Central Avenue. Gordon Barlett had taken over management of the Safeway stores at 900, 1213, and 1928 Central Avenue.
When he bought the building in which Wilbert W. Mann first opened his grocery store, Whitter established a business which would be staffed by three generations of his family. The Hill Grocery, sometimes called Whitter’s Shop-Rite, would serve not only the immediate area but much of Prince Albert. Telephone orders would be delivered across the city, first by horse and wagon as well as by bicycle, and later by motor vehicle.
Unlike grocery stores of today, in the early years the Hill Grocery carried items in bulk, including biscuits, candy, tea, coffee, beans, and cheese. Products would be displayed in barrels and tubs, and the staff would place the items chosen by the customers in appropriate packaging. When the store was first opened, many of the customers were coping with the depression of the early thirties. As cash was hard to come by, fresh farm goods, eggs, vegetables, poultry, and butter were often exchanged for food and household items which could not be produced in the customers’ gardens, and the $2.30 relief ticket was commonly used. Wages could be as low as $5.00 a week, and eggs at that time sold for ten cents a dozen. Three pounds of sausage could be obtained for twenty-five cents, as could three loaves of home baked bread.
In the early 1940s, Doug Whitter, George’s nephew, was attending P.A.C.I. He asked his uncle if he could work in the store. This was the beginning of an involvement which ended nearly fifty years later. Doug came to work when his school day ended, and during his summer vacation. Aside from a ten-year hiatus in the 1950s, when Doug attended post-secondary education and began his ordained ministry, he played an active role in the Hill Grocery until it closed in 1990.
As a result of his employment with Shelly Brothers, George eventually moved to Saskatoon. Shelly Brothers owned and supplied the ShopRite grocery chain. Stock lists would be checked over, and orders for what was required would be sent by STC bus to Saskatoon for delivery when the trucks next travelled to Prince Albert.
With George’s move, ownership of the Hill Grocery changed again in January 1960 with Doug buying the business from his uncle. It was after this change in ownership that the popular Friday Hotline on CKBI radio was initiated. Every Friday morning at 11:35, George Prosser would do a live telephone call with the staff at the Hill Grocery, and the weekly special would be announced. Randy still remembers how popular the specials were, recalling the number of times they had to scramble to try to fill the orders as they often exceeded the supplies which the store had on hand. On one memorable occasion, the deal was ground sausage. Although they had prepared a hundred pounds in advance, Randy recalls that they received orders for several hundred pounds of sausage meat for that Hotline special.
Special items were often brought in for various holiday occasions. For example, at Christmas, the store would sell mince meat. This was brought in in barrels weighing 500 pounds. Five or six men would be required to unload it from the truck and place it in the store. One Christmas, for a reason lost in the mists of time, two barrels of mince meat were delivered to the store. No one expected to be able to sell such a large amount of the product but, when the store closed on Christmas Eve, both barrels had been scraped clean!
Doug was ably assisted by his wife Signe in his early years of ownership. His children, Randy, Wendell and Brenda, all worked in the store. Randy and Wendell continued to play a major role in the store as they hit adulthood, with Randy’s wife, Carol, becoming responsible for keeping the books.
Some of the part time and full-time staff who worked in the store are still fondly remembered by the Whitter family, as well as by their customers. Some of these include Dan Paulsen, Arvid Aanvag, Phil Gaudet, and Gary Vennard.
As more national grocery chains located in Prince Albert, the Whitters made changes to the services they provided. They stocked items which became the first delicatessen in the city. These included pastas, sea food, and a large variety of cheeses (at one time, fifty different cheeses). They began to serve hot foods, including chicken, ribs and potato wedges. Many customers would buy such items for a special weekend meal, and Randy recalls parents establishing cash accounts for lunch time meals for their family members who were attending classes at P.A.C.I.
Yet even with all the changes they implemented, including the addition of the catering service called the Meating Place, the Whitter family had recognised by 1990 that they could no longer compete with the big national grocery chains. As a result, the Hill Grocery was closed that year. Sadly, after nearly sixty years, the Whitter family would no longer be providing groceries to Prince Albert families.
Fortunately, Randy Whitter continued to provide food services through the Meating Place, and even today continues to cater to public and private events, as well as providing food and drink to people at My Place in the Victoria Square.


Fred Payton
Prince Albert Historical Society

“The prosperity that followed the second World War put increasing pressure on adding to the infrastructure of the City, which had remained relatively unchanged since 1914. The West Hill expanded and in 1959 Crescent Heights was opened up and in 1961 Goshen place was begun. Staff increased and was unionized and room had to be found for a Coffee room. Larger quarters for the Welfare Department and the Engineers were needed. Space was rented in the Herald Building and later in the old Bank of Ottawa Building. Two attempts were made to build a new City Hall. One, where Marquis Towers stands, had reached the stage where the land was ready and the cost established at less than half a million dollars. It was defeated by the Civic Affairs Association led by Frank Chester. Another attempt by a local businessman to use the City Hall park site for a mall of shops with the City Offices upstairs never got off the ground.”

When I was doing my research for my last column, Prince Albert’s Town Hall, I came across the above quotation in a file in the Bill Smiley Archives. The speech was filed with other documents pertaining to the ceremony held in 1990 when our Arts Centre was officially designated as a National Historic Site. Although no name is attached to this original typed copy of the speech, evidence within the speech itself, as well as external evidence, strongly suggests that it was a speech delivered by a former City Commissioner, Joe Oliver.
It is not surprising that I did not remember these failures to secure a new City Hall as at the time I was not yet in my teens. But even older members of the Historical Society, some of whom who were employed by the city in the 1960s, were unable to recall these events.
The first mention I could find with respect to “the mall of shops with the City Offices upstairs” occurred in a Daily Herald article on October 20th, 1961. The story was headlined “Propose Unique Plan For A New City Hall”. On behalf of four unidentified investors, all said to be local businessmen, a representative of the John S. Fowlie Limited realty company brought the plan to City Council. It was suggested that the City should sell the area occupied by City Hall, the City Hall park, and the police station (then located across Avenue B from the designated site) to these investors. They would then build a mall (or arcade) on the site which would house stores and other commercial outlets on the ground floor, and provide “sufficient and suitable areas for the requirement of the city administration” which would be rented to the city on a lease basis. The parking requirements for City Hall, at least for staff if not necessarily for visitors, would be provided in either an underground or overhead parking lot.
This arrangement, according to the proposal, would require no capital expenditure on the part of the City, thereby allowing them to concentrate on the provision of other identified City needs such as a new police station, a new fire hall, and a community centre.
According to the proposal, paying an estimated $40,000 a year for rent and $5,000 for maintenance would result in savings for the City amounting to $27,400 annually. There would also be an immediate injection of $110,000 in capital as a result of the sale of the property which, if invested, would earn $1,450,000 in twenty years. There would also be increased property taxes and business licence income from the new businesses which would locate in the mall.
It was also suggested to Council that the proposed building, anticipated to cost $1,500,000, would generally improve the entire downtown, and would increase the flow of traffic from River Street to Fifteenth Street.
Council, which had already paid out $37,000 for a land assembly between River Street and 8th Street from Central Avenue to 1st Avenue East (for a potential new city hall), decided to table the proposal in order to allow for additional in-depth consideration. At a further meeting on November 8th, the Council discussed inviting the businessmen behind the proposal to address them in Council Chambers. But although there was considerable discussion (both for and against) in the city, no further formal discussion occurred until January 25th, 1962.
That night, R.J. ‘Bob” Casey represented the realtor company John S. Fowlie Limited at the Council meeting. In addressing some of the opposition which had been mooted by citizens, he indicated that the City would pay $40,000 per year in rent in the proposed building. He further suggested a city did not need to own its own civic administration building in order to retain its civic pride. It was, according to him, readily apparent that the current facility was not adequate, and that if approved the proposed building would meet the City’s needs without it having to expend considerable capital funds. When pressed, however, Casey refused to identify the four businessmen behind the proposal, although he did indicate that they were all local, and that they were prepared to reveal their identities once the proposal received the City’s approval. Finally, Council was advised that the local Chamber of Commerce encouraged the Council to give the proposal careful consideration.
A motion to vote to ‘receive and file’ the proposal was supported by Aldermen Spencer, Hogeweide, and Turner. It was defeated. A further motion to refer the proposal to the Finance committee and the Centennial committee received support from Aldermen Reed, Allbright, Sherman, Beaton, and Wyllie. Mayor Cuelenaere made sure that everyone understood that the City Act precluded the sale of City Hall Park without an affirmative vote by the City’s taxpayers.
It was two months later when Council’s decision with respect to this proposal was made public. Alderman Marshall Allbright, Council’s representative to the Chamber of Commerce, addressed that body at their March meeting. He advised them that the Council was determined to erect a city-owned facility. The building, he said, would cost $370,000 which, borrowed over twenty years at 6% interest, would cost $37,000 a year. After twenty years, the depreciated value of such a city-owned facility would be $200,000. This suggested that the annual cost would be reduced to $15,500 net. Allbright indicated that Council’s decision was based on the desire of not only the present council but also that of previous councils. It was not, he averred, a plan developed as an alternative to the proposal presented on behalf of the four businessmen.
Having disposed of this plan to provide the City with a new administrative building, Council decided to move ahead with a second plan, the one mentioned by Alderman Allbright in his speech to the Chamber of Commerce. A further reference by Alderman Allbright occurred in a speech he delivered nearly a year later. On March 18th, 1963, he was quoted as saying that “a new city hall is quite likely to be built on the River Street triangle which has already been allocated as its site.”
As previously mentioned, $37,000 had been expended by the City to purchase property on the north end of its downtown. At a meeting in June 1963, approval was given to purchase “the final piece of property for the site of a new city hall”. Buildings on the property at 46-8th Street East would be allowed to stand until such time as construction of the new city hall was slated to begin.
It was around this time that a group of local residents formed an organisation which became known as the Civic Affairs Association. One of the organisers was Paul Voros. He informed the media that there were “a number of things going on in this city we don’t like.” He went on to say that the group did not feel “City Council is acting in our interest as ratepayers”. The group included Frank Chester, Dr. Adelman, Tony Houle, Mrs. Paul Voros, and Mrs. A. Berkech. Voros indicated that they intended to run a number of candidates in the municipal election in November.
The Civic Affairs Association had identified a number of objectives which they felt needed to be addressed, including the new west hill water reservoir, high taxes based on land assessment, the actual need for traffic lights, and the winter works project. They eventually concluded that more than anything they needed to abolish what they termed “commission government”, i.e. government led by the Mayor and the City Commissioner, whom they felt had far too much influence in the decision making process.
When Council decided to submit its request to the ratepayers to borrow the money to build the new city hall, the Civic Affairs Association was handed the issue it required to gain momentum. The group of about twenty-five grew to a group of over five hundred members by the time that the election was held.
The City needed ratepayer support to borrow the money required to build the new city hall. It was going to cost $525,000, and the City planned to borrow $350,000 from the federal municipal development and loan fund. One quarter of this money would be forgiven if the building was completed by March 31, 1966, meaning that the cost to the City would be $437,500. The first payment would not fall due until 1966, after the La Colle Falls debt had been retired.
The Civic Affairs Association suggested that the proposed expenditure was both needless and extravagant, and that the City would have to raise taxes in order to pay for it. This, they proclaimed, would result in businesses and residents leaving the city, resulting in even higher taxes for those who remained. Such an unnecessary expenditure would likely result in a failure to be able to build the new fire hall, the new police station, and the new recreation centre, all of which were considered to be greatly needed. Locating the city hall so far from the centre of the community, it was said, would result in a divided city, and it was even suggested that the location on River Street would result in the building sliding into the river.
The Council did themselves few favours in trying to sell the new city hall, failing to provide adequate arguments to refute those put forward by the Civic Affairs Association. Then, they ended up changing the wording of the plebiscite to read “$400,000 for the purpose of paying part of the cost of construction of a new city hall” (I bolded the wording). This led Mr. Chester and company to immediately charge that the cost of the building was likely to soar to a million dollars or more.
When the vote was held on November 6th, 1963, the plebiscite was defeated with 2,549 voting against it, and only 1,055 voting in favour. Although none of the other candidates supported by the Civic Affairs Association were elected, Frank Chester led the polls, garnering over one hundred more votes than his nearest competitor.
Although the Civic Affairs Association lost much of its momentum after the 1963 election, its impact on the City was felt for several years afterwards. Starting in 1966, the city administration was required to begin renting space in the Herald Building and the former Bank of Ottawa building due to a lack of space in City Hall, and in 1969 a lease was entered into which resulted in City Hall being removed to 6th Avenue and 15th Street West, the former nurses’ residence for the Holy Family Hospital. It was not until 1984 when the new City Hall was opened that it returned to the centre of the community.

Museum musings – Prince Albert’s town hall

Prince Albert Historical Society

An article in the Fall 2021 issue of Prairie History: The Journal of the West stirred some discussion within the local Historical Society.  The article, detailing restoration carried out on Calgary’s original city hall, indicated that “It is the only surviving city hall from its time in western Canada”.

What definition the author used for “western Canada”, and what “from its time” was meant to suggest may make invalid our assertion that Prince Albert’s original city hall is older.  But I cannot feel that the article was somewhat misleading, especially as Prairie History is published in Manitoba, suggesting to me that “the West” is inclusive of the three Prairie provinces, as well as the province of British Columbia.

It is fairly common knowledge that what is now known as the Prince Albert Arts Centre was originally constructed in the early 1890s as our town hall and opera house.  Prior to the completion of the facility, the town council had been meeting in the long since demolished Royal Hotel (the same building in which Lucy Maud Montgomery attended school in 1890 and 1891). Incorporated as a town in 1885, and finding there was a need for a town hall owned by the Corporation, the town council hired the Hamilton architectural firm F. J. Rastrick and Son to design a building which they could call their own.  The architect, adhering to the trend of the day in which buildings housing local councils were designed as multi-use buildings, designed Prince Albert’s town hall in a manner to enhance the status of the local government and the community’s pride as an important territorial centre.

Although there were definitely some operas performed in the new building, to suggest that the town hall was also an opera house may be a bit of a stretch.  It really fulfilled a role similar to the current day E.A. Rawlinson Centre for the Arts, which hosts a variety of artistic performances, and where meetings and gatherings are held.

To strengthen my position regarding the age of Prince Albert’s town hall, I delved into the remarkable holdings of the Bill Smiley Archives.  Here I found two very interesting pieces of information.  The first was a nine-page contract, dated January 16th, 1892, between the Town of Prince Albert and the contractors chosen to build the town hall.  The 8 ½ x 14-inch pages, in neat copper-plate writing, outline the expectations which the town fathers had regarding the construction of the building.  The signatures appended to the contract were, on behalf of the town, H.J. (Hugh) Montgomery (father of the aforementioned Lucy Maud Montgomery) as the chairman of the Board of Works, and A. (Andrew) Goodfellow and W.B. (Willard) Goodfellow, contractors.

The contract covered all aspects of the building’s construction, from the excavation and foundations, to the trim on the architrave.  Examples of the town’s expectations include the requirement for the timber to be of “sawed dry pine” and the bricks of “first quality in uniform cherry red”.  The mortar was to be composed of “wet-screened clear grit sand, well slaked lime with sufficient quantity of cow’s hair thoroughly mixed within”.  Perhaps it is no wonder that the building has now stood for almost 130 years!

The second document which I uncovered in my research was contained in the Saskatchewan Times, dated June 2nd, 1893.  “Work on the Town Hall is progressing satisfactorily.  Plasterers are engaged putting up the second coat while the carpenters are keeping their share of the work up well.  Contractor Goodfellow expects to have everything completed for Dominion Day.”

The total cost of construction for this picturesque building, which gained status as a City Hall in 1908 when Prince Albert achieved city status, was $13,178. 

Upon completion, the Town Hall was an impressive site.  The lot on which it sat was raised from the street, a common practice at the time to enhance the building’s perceived size, and was situated within a yard planted in trees and shrubs. The building’s grand scale and formal detailing offset the restrained design of the exterior with its two-storey rectangular massing including the side bell-tower. The wood-frame construction had brick facing, and the building’s three-bay front façade used classically inspired motifs including a bracketed portico surmounted by a wrought-iron railing, pedimented front entry flanked by evenly spaced segmentally headed windows, the side bell tower, and the opera-house façade which included high round-headed windows with a porte-cochere, as well as a bracketed cornice, and pediment which provided evidence of its interior layout and finishes.

Inside was a soaring space two stories high, with three windows (about twenty feet high) in each of the north and south walls.  The east and west walls had arched openings, one being the proscenium and stage, while the opposite one had the balcony.  Quite truly, it was later noted, the building clearly displayed itself as an outpost of the British empire and the culture of its most prominent settlers.

Inside the building, on the main floor, the two front offices served as office space for the mayor and city commissioner, as well as their staff.  In the basement, the town constable had his office, as well as a couple of holding cells.  The constable was required not only to enforce the law, but also to stoke the furnace and provide any maintenance that the building may require. 

The opera house/theatre, beyond the front offices, was two stories high, with balconies on each side of the upper level.  During daylight hours, the light which filled both levels as a result of the windows on both the north and south sides was enhanced by a skylight.  It is unknown what the evening lighting was like, although around the end of the 19th century or early into the 20th century the town attained a fairly reliable source of electricity, and the Town Hall was provided with electric light.  Wood stoves were replaced by a steam heating plant at about the same time.  When the police office was moved to its new headquarters across Avenue B, to the south and east of the then City Hall, a steam pipe was run from that building under the road to the City Hall, and it received its heat from a furnace in that building.

The bell tower, part of the Italianate style predominate in the building, was primarily used in its early years for curfew purposes, to call fire fighters, but also to advise the citizens of special events and council meetings.  Bell towers on public buildings derived from the Italian campaniles which began to assert the ascendancy of secular governments over ecclesiastical authority.

As the city expanded, it became obvious that additional space would be required for the additional staff required to service the city.  Around 1920, a floor was added between the open space in the theatre area and the main floor.  This destroyed much of the internal architectural detail of the building, but provided a larger council chamber and more office space.  Although the problem may have been resolved for the time being, this was a temporary solution, not a permanent one.

In addition to welcoming three Canadian prime ministers to Prince Albert at this building, it has been the location of the community’s welcome for four Governors-General (the Duke of Connaught, the Earl Tweedsmuir, Lord Alexander of Tunis, and Lord Byng of Vimy.  It was also to be the site of a banquet for the Governor-General, Lord Minto, in September 1900, but he was unable to attend.  Other events which have been hosted in the building include a Citizens Band Concert in July 1896, a reception in 1906 for the members of the first Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, a Masonic concert in 1907, as well as numerous conventions.  World famous guest artists, including the peripatetic soprano Madame Albani, performed in the theatre in its early years.

The Town Hall, later the City Hall, has also housed the Board of Trade and the Lorne Agricultural Society, as well as the city’s public library from 1919 until 1937.  Suitably, the library was situated in what is now the John V. Hicks Gallery.

Several influential Prince Albertans have polished their political skills while debating in the Council Chamber of the original City Hall.  These include T.C. Davis, mayor of Prince Albert for four years before becoming a Member of the Legislative Assembly, and later became a Canadian Ambassador.  Dave Steuart served as an alderman and mayor before becoming a Member of the Legislative Assembly where he served in the ministries of Health, Finance and as Deputy Premier.  He was later appointed to the Senate of Canada.  Former mayor John Cuelenaere served in the Legislative Assembly as Minister of Natural Resources, while other members of Council, including J.H. Lamont, J.E. Bradshaw, H.J. Fraser, and L.F. McIntosh were also elected to the provincial legislature.  Charles McDonald was a Member of the Legislative Assembly, was elected to Parliament (a seat he resigned to allow MacKenzie King to run in Prince Albert) and was later appointed to the Senate.  McDonald is the only Canadian to be elected to Parliament and appointed to the Senate without having taken his seat in either House.

On Tuesday, February 20th, 1990, the old Town Hall, designed by F.J. Rastrick and Son, and built by the Goodfellow brothers, was officially designated a National Historic site.  Today, it continues its service to the city’s residents as a community oriented centre.

Fred Payton is president of the Prince Albert Historical Society

Lucy Margaret Baker


She stood five foot three inches tall, spoke fluent French with a Parisian accent, and loved silk and lace.
You likely wouldn’t expect an early Prince Albert settler to be described in this manner. And yet we have some of her belongings in the Historical Museum including her Bible, her portable organ, as well as an oil painting of the lady in question. We also have some fine examples of beadwork presented to her by the residents of the Wahpeton Dakota Nation. This beadwork represented the high esteem in which they held her.
Lucy Margaret Baker was born in Osnabruck Township, Stormont County, Upper Canada (now Ontario), in 1835. Her parents were Benjamin Baker and Barbara Ann Warner Baker. Lucy was baptised in Trinity Anglican Church, Cornwall. As happened all too frequently in those days, Lucy’s mother died when Lucy was still very young. Arrangements were made for her to be raised by an aunt (her father’s sister, Lucy Baker Buchanan) in Dundee, Lower Canada (Quebec), a community very near Montreal. It was there she received her initial education, prior to receiving higher education in Fort Covington, New York.
From her early years, Lucy had always shown a desire to learn and to impart knowledge. So it was that she became a teacher, and when she arrived in Prince Albert in late October 1879, she already had considerable experience as an educator. Her career to that point had involved teaching at a school in Dundee, at a school for young ladies in New Jersey, and along with a cousin being co-proprietor of a similar ladies’ school in New Orleans. With the onset of the American Civil War, Lucy determined to return to Canada, experiencing considerable difficulty getting through the blockade established by the warring parties. When she managed to make it back “home”, she found employment at a private school in Lancaster, Glengarry County.
By this time in her life, Lucy Baker was attending the Presbyterian Church, and the minister in Lancaster was the Reverend Donald Ross. When the Foreign Missions Committee appointed Ross to succeed the Reverend Peter Straith at the mission in Prince Albert, aware of Miss Baker’s capabilities and her adventurous spirit, Ross asked the Foreign Missions Committee (with her agreement) to appoint her as the mission’s teacher. Unfortunately, although Ross, his wife, and Miss Baker set out together to travel together to Prince Albert, they got only as far as Winnipeg before the ill health of both Mr. and Mrs. Ross resulted in him having to give up his appointment. Miss Baker, however, was determined to continue on and, after joining a party of people bound for Edmonton via Prince Albert, she proceeded onward, travelling in a Red River cart. Miss Baker wrote of the journey, describing the wooden conveyance as being made “entirely of wood which kept up a continual screeching. But they were good in a way, as they served double purpose. On coming to a stream which could not be forded, they were taken apart and formed into rafts.”
Miss Baker wrote in her letters of the barrenness of the land, largely uninhabited except by the occasional gopher or coyote. The air was cold, so she appreciated the buffalo coat with which she had been provided, as the collar covered her head, and it was sufficiently long to cover her feet when she slept at night. After six weeks of travel, the group arrived in Prince Albert on October 28th, 1879. The temperature which greeted them was minus 28 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 33.3 degrees Celsius).
As there were no available boarding houses in Prince Albert, Lucy Baker ended up living on her own in the mission building until a small house which had been the home of Nisbet’s interpreter could be renovated for her. This took seven weeks, but Miss Baker spent them without complaint, although she was very thankful when she could move into the house and once again enjoy “a warm corner”.
Initially, the student population was comprised of children of mixed parentage who spoke Cree. It was anticipated that these children would eventually become the teachers and workers in the government’s Indian Department. However, the settler community in Prince Albert also chose to send their children to the school, so that the classroom numbers increased. The proportion of Indigenous students was further reduced when the local Cree community withdrew to the land reserved for them 75 miles away (Mistawasis First Nation). Although Lucy Baker’s work at the school was well received, and the Foreign Missions Committee had made her position permanent in 1880, by 1882 there were only fourteen First Nations students on the register of seventy students.
In 1884/85, when the settler community established a high school as part of the mission school, the Foreign Missions Committee extracted a guarantee that Indigenous children would be educated for free. Still, very few attended and, upon her return from furlough in 1887, Lucy Baker became a regular staff member of the Nisbet Academy, the building on the crest of the hill just west of the Territorial Gaol. This school was destroyed by fire on New Year’s Day, 1890, resulting in the end of education in the first high school in the North-West Territories.
Although it is not clearly spelled out, it is a possibility that the furlough which Miss Baker took resulted from the efforts she expended during the Resistance of 1885. At that time, she had turned her house over to the government authorities for use as a hospital, and Lucy herself provided nursing aid and care for the sick and wounded. Although offered compensation by the government, she refused to accept any compensation. Like much else in her life, she saw it as being simply her Christian duty.
It was at about the same time as she assumed teaching duties in the public high school that Miss Baker decided the old mission house was becoming dilapidated, and so determined that she would have a new house built, one which would be her own. Once she had her own home, she began taking in pupils as boarders, adding to her many other duties. In addition to being matron, teacher, and cook, she was a steady influence of a Christian example, displaying patience, sympathy, cheerfulness, and selflessness.
More than anything, Lucy Baker displayed a sense of refinement. Always careful about her dress, she never forgot the niceties that her own tastes and training demanded. With only her young female boarders, untutored as they were in ladylike ways, she was always particular about the setting of the table, the serving of the meal, and the manners of all in the party as though company of the greatest importance were present. It is said that she changed for dinner every night at 8:00 p.m.
Everything which Lucy Baker did and accomplished in the first ten years of her residency in Prince Albert was notable. But her greatest achievement occurred in 1890 and thereafter.
In the 1870s, several groups of Sioux had arrived in the Prince Albert area. Refugees from what was termed at the time as the American-Indian wars, they were not allowed homesteads in Canada because they were Indigenous people. Some of the men had taken heavy labour jobs in the town, on farms, or in the forests, and the women were willing to accept work of the rougher kind in the town’s households. But they were not accepted as other than violent savages.
Lucy Baker took it upon herself to work in their community, located north of the river at a site near where the former sanitorium stood. Initially, she was seen to be unacceptable by the “medicine men and women”, and shunned by the other members of the community. But she persevered, making an effort to cross the river most days to speak to the people, and to earn their trust. Eventually, she was able to have a small school built within their community, and to gather the younger members around her to be educated. Her willingness to teach, to educate, and to nurse the sick and injured resulted in increasing numbers of the community showing acceptance towards her.
Miss Baker taught the band members, made clothes for the children, nursed the people when they were sick, and taught the women and young girls how to knit, sew, make quilts, and so many other home-maker activities.
Baker worked with the band to encourage the federal government to provide them with a reserve, and finally in 1894 gained a place for them about thirteen miles northwest of their camp on the north side of the river. At the time it was called MaKoce Waste, which meant “good land”, and Round Plain Reserve, but we know it today as the Wahpeton Dakota Nation (Wahpeton having a meaning similar to “camping in the leaves”).
Eventually a mission house and log school house were built in the new community, and Miss Baker lived and worked among the people, who would come to her for advice with all sorts of problems at all hours of the day and night. No matter the object of their visit, they never left her home without hearing the Christian gospel. If they were old, she spoke to them in Sioux. The school children would hear advice in English, and the French Metis would receive their advice and guidance in French.
Sadly, in 1905, ill health forced Lucy Baker to retire. She lived in the town of Prince Albert for the next two years, but eventually moved back east to Quebec where she died in the Royal Victoria Hospital on May 30th, 1909. Lucy Margaret Baker was buried in the church yard of Zion Church, Dundee.

Museum Musings: Unit Block 10th Street West

My wife recently shared with me an item which had popped up on her social media.  A local educator was reflecting on an incident from his Prince Albert childhood.  He had been asked by his uncle, the manager of the Saan Store, to “star” in a commercial.  As part of a promotional package the store had brought in what they deemed to be the world’s largest pair of blue jeans.  As the “star” of the commercial the young boy was required to climb down a ladder placed inside the jeans and come out the bottom of the leg.  This he accomplished, although not without some difficulty when he became trapped momentarily inside the jean leg.

According to the author of this story, the incident occurred sometime around 1969 or 1970.  That means that it occurred over fifty years ago.  There is no longer a Saan Store in Prince Albert.  Prior to leaving the city, it was located for a brief time in the South Hill Mall, but most of us will recall its location on 10th Street West, part way between the CKBI Building and the National Hotel.  So much has changed in the 50 years or so years since that commercial was shot, so why not join me as I pour myself a second cup of coffee and mentally take a walk along that block.  Those of you who lived here at that time will, I hope, experience some nostalgia, while others who are newer to the city can decide whether or not progress has been made.

Let’s start our journey at the corner of Central Avenue.  On the north side of the street stands the same building which was there in 1970.  Now the site of an outreach ministry, it was the CB Store in the year we are remembering.  The CB Store faced Central, but there was a door on the south side which led to the upper floors where there were apartments.  Most of the people living there at that time were single and senior citizens.  Also, on that side of the building was one of the downtown’s major bus stops for the city’s transit system.

Across 10th Street, on the south side, there is a noticeable change.  Now the site of the Prince Albert campus of the University of Saskatchewan (previously the Forestry Centre), in 1970 Rowe’s Rexall Drug Store #2 faced Central Avenue.  It was located in what had once been the Imperial Bank of Canada building until that bank’s amalgamation in the 1960s with the Canadian Bank of Commerce.  At the time of amalgamation, the Bank of Commerce moved in with the Imperial Bank while the Commerce Bank was demolished and a new Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce was constructed on the corner of Central Avenue and 12th Street East.

Snug up to the west end of the drug store, on the east side of Avenue A, is Bradbury’s Hardware, managed by George Lee on behalf of Jack Bradbury’s widow, Caryleen (better known to me as Holly).  Originally owned and managed by Jack’s father, Kerwood Bradbury, the store had been in that location since the early 1940s.

Crossing Avenue A to the west, we arrive at the Masonic Temple. A dry goods store, The Remnant Shop, and other businesses (including Prince Albert Photo Service and Ace Television and Radio Repair) had separate addresses within the building.  In addition to the various Masonic lodges, it was home to two law firms (Fraser Evasiuk and Sanderson, and William Tennant) as well as a real estate company owned by Charles McIntosh.  Even with all these tenants, there was still room for five or more apartments on the upper floors.  I can still recall as a member of the junior Masonic order, DeMolay, being warned that when climbing the outside stairs on the south of the building it was wise to watch out for falling objects.  Apparently there was an elderly lady on the uppermost floor who would toss her garbage out of the window in order to save having to walk down all those stairs and climb them again.  Whether this was true I do not know.  I never saw any falling garbage.

Across the street, an alley separates the CB Store from the CKBI Building, which was originally the Agnew Hardware store.  The Agnew Block became the Baker Block in 1929, and that name remained until 1955 when the radio station relocated there.  In addition to housing Central Broadcasting’s radio operations, and later its television studios, the Prince Albert local of the International Brotherhood of Pulp Sulphite & Paper Mill Workers had their office in the building, and 25 individual apartments or suites were home to various people, including Ted Paine.  Those who follow the Historical Society’s social media will have seen pictures of Ted skiing down the old ski jump.  Living in the building also helped ensure that Ted was always the first to contribute to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Appeal every year.  He often made his contribution in July, just to ensure he was able to continue this long-standing tradition.

Where now there are vacant lots, in 1970 the CKBI Building had several neighbours, including the Kent Block, which housed the aforementioned Saan Store (Eugene Phaneuf, manager), Prince Albert Mimeographing, and the Prince Albert Business College (the latter two both owned and operated by Nancy Kent).  Other businesses on the north side of the street included John’s Shoe Repair Shop (john Welykij), Modern Market grocery store (Robert Karasiuk, manager), the Club Café, and the Television and Radio Repair Shop (John Nicholson, manager).  

Perhaps not the most salubrious eatery in town, the Club Café used to be the restaurant of choice for Jack Cennon after he announced that it was “five minutes to eight”.  As we take our walk in our minds, in 1970 the building is vacant.  Jack Cennon is now crossing that alley between the CKBI Building and the businesses on Central Avenue and joining Denny Wong at the Wings Café while the sports, news, and weather are reported to CKBI’s listening audience.

On the south side of 10th Street, west of the Masonic Building, there were additional businesses.  These include Hicks Automotive (Elmer Hicks, manager) and next to it Sonic Supplies (Marshall Allbright, manager).  Now Flaminio Ceilings and Wall Systems, there were fifteen apartments above Sonic Supplies. McGavin Toastmaster Limited (Wally Sopp, manager) was the last building on the south side of the block facing 10th Street.  Built in the early 1920s, it was originally Taylor Consolidated Bread Company and later became Canadian Bakeries Ltd before being bought out by McGavin Toastmaster.  Unfortunately, the building is no longer standing, although its demolition has allowed for some old advertising, painted on the wall of the Flaminio building, to be visible.

The only building still existent west of the CKBI Building on the north side of the street is the current home of Checker and Family Taxi.  In 1970, it was the home of Blue Cab, as it had been since 1964. Across the alley from the cab firm and on the corner of 10th Street and 1st Avenue West, the National Hotel still stands.  

Peter A. Abrametz now owns the last building on the south side of the block (which faces 1st Avenue West).  Now housing his law office on the main floor, it originally housed the Royal Bank of Canada.  In 1970, it was an apartment block called the Empire Apartments.

So, what became of the Saan Store? A fire in December 1989 destroyed its space in the Kent Block, resulting in the need for the business to move to the South Hill Mall before leaving Prince Albert for good. Nationally, the Saan Stores chain went out of business in 2008.

Fred Payton

Prince Albert Historical Society