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


Museum Musings

by Fred Payton – Prince Albert Historical Society

As I write this column, we are fast approaching the end of another year.  Like many, it is a time when we look back at what we have accomplished, and those things which have been left undone.  As we did in 2020, the Historical Society again has had to cope with COVID-19 in 2021. 

Remember the old adage about every cloud having a silver lining?  Well, we have found that to be true for us during the pandemic.  When it was problematic for people to visit the museum, we needed to be creative with respect to show-casing our artefacts and archives.  As a result, we were able to engage many more people both locally and in distant communities through Zoom tours, our school suitcase programme, and most notably via Instagram and Facebook.

In fact, our current reach for monthly social media posts is now approximately 1.3 million people.  A comparison of our Facebook base is unrivalled by other communities of our size, and even those which are much bigger.  For example, the Western Development Museum, a provincial museum with locations in Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Yorkton, and North Battleford, has under 5,000 likes and slightly more than 5,000 followers.  The Galt Museum in the Alberta city of Lethbridge, a community with a population of 100,000 people, can boast fewer than 6,000 likes and under 7,000 followers.  We have over 8,670 likes and more than 9,000 followers.

The success of our social media can be attributed to our Museum Educator, a position which the Historical Society determined as necessary and therefore has funded for slightly more than three years.  Our ability to manage the funding is a result of the capable and competent fiscal management of Michelle Taylor, our curator and museum manager.

The Museum Educator initiated such theme days as Trivia Tuesday, Throwback Thursday, and Femme Friday.  Some of the posts which reached the most people this year included a posting showing front page articles from the December 16, 1918 Prince Albert Daily Herald.  Over 43,000 persons were reached by that posting.  Another 26,250 people were reached by the posting on the January 8th Femme Friday posting featuring Dr. Lalita Malhotra, and over 20,000 people were reached with the December 7th posting showing the railway bridge when it was still capable of handling pedestrian and vehicle traffic.  The November 18th posting of Ted Paine skiing down the First Avenue East ski jump caught the attention of nearly 19,800 individuals, while the December 14th posting of a picture showing the band stand being transported from its former place in City Hall Park to its current site on the river bank just west of the Historical Museum (then known as the Heritage Museum) was viewed by over 12,000 individuals.

In addition to the number of individuals reached by these posts, the comments which are attached to them suggest that people enjoy remembering the Prince Albert of the past.

Unfortunately, the Museum Educator position (the name of which will change to Programming and Outreach Coordinator) is currently vacant.  The incumbent of that position, Joanna Wreakes, recently resigned in order to take up a position at Government House in Regina.  We are hopeful to have the position staffed sometime in February so that we can continue to showcase our city’s history through social media.

In addition to our social media outreach, we have to the end of November received 333 requests for information from the Bill Smiley Archives and have hosted 101 researchers.  Again, the feedback we receive from those who use the archives is indicative of the impact that we have on families still living here, as well as those who are now living elsewhere.  An email which arrived a few days before I sat down to write this column is representative of such an impact.  The woman wrote: 

“You were very helpful with my family history search last year.  Just wanted to let you know after all my searching…I did locate one of my dads and auntys living cousins.  She is close to 80 as well and living in Calgary.  My dad was overjoyed with the find.  We are planning a trip to Calgary this summer to catch up (it has been over 75 years after all).  Thank you again so very much for the work you do.  You made an 80 year old man not feel like an orphan.”

Often, in researching responses to the requests we receive, the information we uncover helps us to fill gaps in our knowledge regarding items which we have been researching for other reasons.  For example, in searching for information about material which was donated recently to the archives, I discovered that 1116 Central Avenue was the last building which Samuel McLeod built in Prince Albert.

This column, Museum Musings,  also brings interesting feedback from its readers.  Sometimes it is a note to let me know that my information is incorrect, and sometimes it is someone wanting to let me know that the column has brought pleasure to the reader.  I have heard from relatives of George Will, as well as a woman who attended the same elementary school as me (she responded to my column about the history of CKBI radio).  Again, the comments are often helpful in ensuring that the information we have in the archives is accurate and complete.

If you have received information which has helped you to become more aware of Prince Albert’s past, or if you have received pleasure as a result of the social media posts, or as the result of an archival request, or if you simply enjoy reading about the city, you might wish to make a financial contribution to the Historical Society.  Donations can be made in person, by mail, or by e-transfer ( Donations of $20 or more will receive a charitable tax receipt. On behalf of the Prince Albert Historical Society, it is my wish that you will have a safe and happy Holiday Season!  May the New Year be filled with health and happiness, and hopefully an opportunity for each of you to visit at least one of our museums.

Museum Musings – The National Hotel

By Fred Payton

Most people living in Prince Albert and area are familiar with the National Hotel, even if it is just from driving across the Diefenbaker Bridge and seeing it off to the east.  Fewer people would be able to identify it by its original name, the Prince Albert Hotel (some probably confusing it with the Prince Albert Inn).  Only a very few would know that it was, in the late 1920s, known as the Empire Hotel.

My interest in the history of the National was piqued when I came across an article from the June 2nd, 1904 edition of the Saskatchewan Times.  The article referred to “an interesting ceremony…on Saturday evening last at the site of the new Prince Albert hotel”.  The occasion of interest entailed the town’s mayor, William Gillmor, placing the corner stone for a new building which would replace the original hotel which had burned down in February of that year.

Built, I understand, in 1887, the original Prince Albert Hotel had been a wooden building.  When it caught fire around noon on Sunday February 15th, 1904, it took less than an hour before it was a mere “heap of ashes”.  The hotel’s proprietor, D. Pollock, remained undeterred and within four months was over-seeing the construction of the new brick structure.

Using a silver trowel, presented to him by the proprietor of the hotel, Mayor Gillmor placed a sealer containing various items within a niche provided, prior to the stone being plumbed and set in place.  The sealer contained bills and coins of various denominations of American and Canadian money.  It also contained a history of the hotel and of the town of Prince Albert, as well as documents listing the names of town officials and school trustees, and photographs of the proprietor and his family, a record of wages paid, and the price of materials.  Copies of the most recent issues of the Prince Albert Advocate and the Saskatchewan Times were also included.  

Although it would have been of interest, there was no mention in the article of who might have been amongst those who looked on at this “interesting ceremony”; nor of the weather conditions.  Had the streets been dry and dusty, or had rain brought about muddy conditions?  Were other dignitaries from the town council in attendance besides Mayor Gillmor?  Neighbours of the hotel, including those whose businesses were negatively impacted by the February fire might also have looked on.  It might have been of interest to readers whether Mayor Gillmor, who owned a furniture store in the block to the west of the hotel, might have expected to provide the furnishings required in the new building.  However, none of these matters were addressed in the article, and as a result must remain unaddressed.

Obviously the new building had a deck leading to the front door.  Many of the hotels of the day had such amenities, where guests could sit to enjoy fresh air, the view, and perhaps a beverage.  In the case of the Prince Albert Hotel, sitting on the deck would allow for a view out over the river and the expanse of trees to the north and west of the hotel.  This deck, however, was often crowded with “loiterers” and as a result, Mr. Pollock received a letter dated April 5th, 1906 from the secretary-treasurer of the town council requesting that he remove that “obstruction”.  It would appear that Mr. Pollock acquiesced in this request, as no further correspondence appears to have been sent.  Incidentally, the mayor of the town at this time was John Bradshaw.

Within two years of council’s request, Pollock sold the hotel.  It may not have been council’s perceived interference.  It may simply have been an offer too good to refuse (as noted in a story Joan Champ wrote regarding the Empress Hotel – later the Astro Hotel – after the Canadian Northern Railway arrived in Prince Albert in 1906, construction workers, settlers and their families, and commercial travellers ensured hotel rooms of the day were in high demand).  S W & R Real estate bought the hotel.  Initially, J.D. McLeod managed it, but in 1909 the hotel was under the management of William R. McLeod.  It was during the McLeods’ ownership that a second fire occurred at the hotel.  Fortunately, the building’s brick construction and the community’s much improved fire department allowed this second fire to be contained to the basement, and primarily in the kitchen portion of the hotel.

Exactly how long Samuel McLeod and his family owned the hotel is unknown.  We do know that by 1911 it was being managed by G E Dangerfield, and by 1913 the hotel was under new ownership.  Thomas Herrington and Joseph Peoples were the new owners, although Peoples appears to have sold out his share to Herrington by 1914, and Herrington had sold the hotel to E.H. Biggar by 1919.  Biggar owned it until 1927, and began advertising the hotel as having “Good Fully Modern Rooms, Home-like Surroundings”.

The hotel changed hands again when Biggar sold out to Tom Michas in 1928.  He changed the name of the hotel from the Prince Albert Hotel to the Empire Hotel, likely in the second half of 1928.  He then sold the hotel to Robert Hindes.  Hindes made many changes to the hotel, including improving the lobby.   He then sold the hotel to E.F. Bessette and Victor Colleaux in November 1930.  When they granted an Estevan man, W. Henley, a ten- year lease on the hotel in 1931, the name had once again been changed to the National Hotel.  As well as buying the lease on the hotel, Henley also purchased the contents. Throughout this time, W. G. Tickle had been managing the hotel, as the owners were all absentee owners.

It was also through this time period that the hotel was advertised as having “Good, Fully Modern.  Hot and cold water in all rooms.  Bus meets all trains.”  There are pictures of the vehicles to which this referred.  One is of a 1928 Studebaker “President” straight eight, nine passenger limousine.  Another was a 1938 Ford, eight passenger station wagon.

Henley hired Ernest O’Brien to manage the hotel in 1932, but by 1938 the manager was Thomas Isherwood who continued to manage it.  Benjamin Panar took over as manager in 1943, and began using the advertising tag “Rebuilt & Refurbished.  Rooms with or without showers, bath”.

Harry McKay bought the hotel in the mid-1940s, managing it himself through to the early 1950s.  He continued to use the advertising line about the hotel being rebuilt and refurbished, with or without showers or bath.”

By 1952, Daniel Lutzak had taken over the management.  Ownership at that time was apparently Northern Hotels Limited.  This appeared to have been a company located outside of Prince Albert, and likely included Daniel Lutzak, Richard Lutzak, and Walter Dowhaniuk.

B.T. Laskin and Frank J. Masich owned the hotel by 1956.  They changed the advertising tag to “Newly Renovated Throughout” but still offered rooms with or without showers or bath.  In 1958, they started to advertise that the hotel was “Modern Throughout.  Free Parking” while still advertising rooms “with or without bath”.  Masich, a farmer from Bladworth, appears to have bought out his partner shortly after they purchased the business, and he owned and operated it until his death in 1969.

After that, the hotel was managed by Roger Eggert, Gary Anderson, and Ray Pilon.  It would appear that little effort went into promotions during this time.  That changed, however, in 1981 when Russ Williams and Allan Ferster bought the hotel.  Soon after, the advertising began, offering room rates by the day, week, or month.  More importantly, the advertising suggested that the hotel offered weekly entertainment.  Williams and Ferster remained as the managers until 1983, when Russ’s wife Georgie became a co-manager. Ferster appears to have been bought out.  In 1986, they brought Marilyn Evans in as an assistant manager, and they later added the drive through liquor store, named after Williams’ wife.

When the Williams family sold out, ownership went out of province, and remains there.

Some of the more interesting items regarding the hotel includes the fact that the boiler from the river boat the Marquis, is believed to have provided the heating for the hotel for many years.

Guests who stayed in the hotel included many of the northern bush pilots such as Bill Windrum and Cec McNeil.  Th latter went on to be a pilot for Canadian Pacific Air and was killed in a crash landing in Tokyo, Japan.  Grey Owl and his wife, Anahareo, stayed in the hotel on occasion, and Elmer Diefenbaker, brother to Canada’s thirteenth prime minister, stayed in the hotel on a monthly rental.

In the late 1930s, a glass of beer could be had for ten cents, and a bottle for twenty-five cents.  Deluxe rooms were $2.50 a night, $1.50 for a regular room, and $1.00 for a room on the top floor.

Probably the busiest day in the bar room occurred on January 21st, 1967.  It was a bitterly cold day, but people wanted to get as near as possible to the fire burning in the Astro Hotel down the street.  The cold drove them into the bar, where there was standing room only, and extra staff had to be brought in. That silver trowel which Mayor Gillmor used when laying the corner-stone can be seen in the Historical Museum at 10 River Street East.

Museum Musings: Did the City of Prince Albert choose the penitentiary over the university?


by Fred Payton
Prince Albert Historical Society

Over the summer, I was researching the history of Prince Albert’s river lots.  I chanced on an article which mentioned the sale of one such property to the federal government as part of its land acquisition on which to build the Saskatchewan Penitentiary.  Here, I thought, was a lead which might help me to determine what prompted the decision to build the federal prison in Prince Albert, as well as providing me with further evidence to disprove that long held misconception that Prince Albert had chosen the penitentiary over the university.

As there is considerable documentation available about the selection of the site for the university, I chose to begin there.

The British North America Act granted the provinces power over education, so upon the creation of Saskatchewan in 1905 it was up to the new government in Regina to determine the location of the provincial university.  Regina, as the capitol, Saskatoon, Indian Head, Moose Jaw, and several other communities all indicated interest, as did Prince Albert.

This city’s claim to its right as the university city stemmed primarily from the existence of a federal charter, passed by the Dominion Parliament in 1883, establishing the University of Saskatchewan at Prince Albert.  Emmanuel College had immediately become a part of the federally chartered university.  However, as a result of the powers granted by the BNA Act, the provincial government would not admit Prince Albert’s claims wich were based on a Dominion charter.

It was not until 1907 that the University Act came into effect in the province.  It empowered the university’s Board of Governors to determine the institution’s location, with the expectation that its decision would be ratified by the provincial government.

After the decision was made that the College of Agriculture would be a part of, rather than separate, from the university, Indian Head removed itself from consideration. That community was only interested in having the Agriculture college.

Late in the evening of April 07, 1909, the Board of Governors were to make their decision.  The Board consisted of nine members – four from northern Saskatchewan, four from the south, and the President of the University, Walter Murray.

It was determined that the vote would be by ballot, with the community receiving the fewest number of votes being removed from the list after each ballot.  Fort Qu’Appelle, Lloydminster, and North Battleford were given consideration, but did not receive sufficient support.

Prince Albert’s board members made strong representation for the university to be established in our city.

However, when it came down to the final ballot, the two remaining locations were Regina and Saskatoon.  If Prince Albert had a choice, it was a choice between a nearer and a further destination.

The President and the governors from Regina and Moose Jaw voted for the southern city.  The governors from Saskatoon, Prince Albert, as well as those from Wolseley and Maple Creek all voted for Saskatoon.

The decision with respect to the location of the university, as you will see, was made in April 1909.  Yet the federal land acquisition for construction of the federal penitentiary was reported to have been made in 1906.

Further research was obviously worth pursuing.

1913 Saskatchewan Penitentiary Warden’s Residence. Photo Courtesy of the Correctional Service of Canada Museum.

The first public indication that Prince Albert was to be home to the penitentiary can be found in the Saturday, September 8th, 1906 edition of the Winnipeg Tribune.  That newspaper reported that “Prince Albert is going to have the Saskatchewan penitentiary.  Options are being secured on land a mile west of the city.  About 1,200 acres is wanted and options have been secured on 790 acres.  What the land was wanted for has leaked out and the property in the vicinity has gone up in price.”

I have been able to obtain three documents from 1907 and two from 1908 which I believe are of interest.

A copy of an order in council from March 1907 signed by W.E. Gladstone approved the purchase of 183.5 acres of land from an individual named R.S. Cook, the land in question being required in connection with the proposed establishment of a penitentiary for the province.  This land included the fractional south east quarter of Section 7 in Township 48, Range 26 west of the 2nd meridian (about 75 acres), as well as all that part of River Lot 57 of Prince Albert settlement lying east and southeast of the Regina, Long Lake and Saskatchewan Railway (about 42 acres) and the west southerly 66.5 acres of River Lot 58, Prince Albert settlement.  The purchase price of $30.00 per acre was considered fair and reasonable, and Mr. Cook received $5,500.00.  It is unknown at what price he had purchased this land.

However, R.S. Cook subsequently filed a “Quit Claim” deed in favour of His Majesty King Edward VII of all his interest in the property on River Lot 58.  Further documentation suggests that Mr. Cook was, at the time he purchased the property, an employee of the federal Department of the Interior, a position which debarred him from purchasing Dominion lands under Section 14 of the Revised Statutes of Canada.  It would seem that, with inside knowledge, he had made the purchase in the expectation that he would be able to make a good profit when he came to sell the land to the government.  The order-in-council rescinding the sale of the land was signed by no less than Wilfrid Laurier.

It would appear that the Department of the Interior and Mr. Cook had come to an agreement which allowed him to keep a portion of the land he had bought, even though at the time debarred from such purchase, provided he give up to the Crown land which was of most importance for the construction of the federal institution.

An order-in-council, also signed by Laurier but in 1908, approved the sale of land from Mrs. J. Eliza Drever for that piece of land situated on the south side of the Carlton, Saskatchewan, Forks Trail, being that portion of River Lot 57 and containing one acre, which was land to be located within the penitentiary reserve at Prince Albert.  The Minister indicated that it would be most objectionable to have a plot in the heart of the reserve and in the immediate vicinity of the prison buildings which would be owned and occupied by persons not in any way connected with the penitentiary.  Mrs. Drever received $1,000, which was deemed by the “Inspectors of Penitentiaries and the clerk of works of the Department in Regina to be a fair and reasonable price”.

The second order-in-council signed by Wilfrid Laurier in 1908 approved the of purchase of land owned by the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan.  Lots 55 and 56 were necessary to complete the site for the proposed penitentiary.  The Diocese had offered to sell them, less about ten acres which were reserved for the church yard, at the rate of $55.00 per acres.  They also agreed to sell buildings on the land for $5,000.00.  These buildings included those structures which were no longer in use as residences for the bishop, clergy and others, including the residential school which had been closed in June of that year when the federal government failed to agree to provide the appropriate monies necessary to allow the level of education which the church wanted for their indigenous students.  One of these buildings still survives today, after being moved in the mid-1920s to the 700 block of 15th Street West.

These documents make it clear that the decision to establish the penitentiary in Prince Albert preceded the decision to place the provincial university in Saskatoon, and that Prince Albert did not choose the penitentiary over the university.  But no documentation has been found to indicate why the federal government chose to build the prison here.

It is possible that the decision resulted from the previous existence of the territorial gaol in Prince Albert from the 1880s until it became a provincial facility in 1905.  But that is simply speculation on my part.

One other newspaper report which has come my way might suggest why people have been willing to accept the story that Prince Albert chose the penitentiary over the university.  The April 26, 1909 edition of the Saskatoon Daily Phoenix carried a story from the Calgary News.  It read that “The Dominion penitentiary for Saskatchewan is to be built at Prince Albert.  We know that Senator Tom Davis would see to it that some educative institution would be located there, even if the university had to go to Saskatoon.”

Museum Musings: Lucy Maud Montgomery

Fred Payton – Prince Albert Historical Society

There has been considerable activity for the Prince Albert Historical Society since the big front doors closed denoting the end of the summer season at the Historical Museum and the other three museums the Historical Society operates. 

Our Museum Educator has been busy offering a variety of programmes including those for Culture Days, the Free Family programme (held in the afternoon of the second Saturday of each month), as well as the special programming for Remembrance Day and our upcoming opening the afternoon of the Santa Claus parade.

In addition to this, she has hosted school tours with classes from Wesmor, Westview, Arthur Pechey, and some private schools.  There have also been tours of post-secondary students from SUNTEP and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

A downtown tour for a photography class allowed the students to take pictures of historic buildings while learning about the history of the city, while another tour (a bus tour visiting haunted sites) was provided for the Grade Ten English students from PACI.  Students from Riverside School have had access to the “Suitcase” programme, allowing them to see and handle exhibits detailing the history of Canada’s involvement in the two World Wars.

Our Indigenous Researcher has continued her activities locally, but also visited Regina and Saskatoon to access the Provincial Archives and the University of Saskatchewan archives, where she was able to locate considerable information about several Prince Albert and area indigenous families.

In the meantime, our Curator has been preparing applications for additional grants and funding, writing progress reports for funding agencies, and holding meetings with post-secondary educational groups in an effort to arrange further research projects.  Meetings with city staff, and the Northeast Museums Network have occurred, and she was also a presenter to the recent Heritage Saskatchewan Symposium.  All this on top of coordinating the APTN shoot of their programme “The Other Side”, as well as the upcoming Bamboo Shoots mini-documentaries on each of our four local museums. 

There have also been a few non-affiliated groups using the facilities of the Historical Museum, as well as a couple of birthday parties held at the Museum.  These activities have provided more incentive to the planning that the Curator is coordinating with respect to renovations to our office and programme space.

While the foregoing has been happening, I have been considering various topics for my Museum Musings column.  Originally, I had two topics in mind but I am awaiting further information from the National Archives for one of the topics, and hope to arrange an interview to discuss more recent history about the second topic.  A third topic, on which I recently found information that was new to me, ended up becoming my choice for my second November column.

Most of us who are devoted to local history will be able to tell you that Lucy Maud Montgomery lived in Prince Albert for a year from August 1890 until August 1891.  She travelled west by train with her grandfather, planning to live with her father and his second wife (Maud’s mother died in September 1876, prior to Maud’s second birthday).  Maud’s father, Hugh John Montgomery had come west in 1881, settling permanently in Prince Albert in 1884.  His second marriage occurred in 1887.  Maud, who had been in the care of her maternal grandparents, travelled by train with her grandfather to Regina, where after five years she was reunited with her father.  As there were no passenger trains between Regina and Prince Albert, they travelled by caboose to Duck Lake, and from there to Prince Albert by buckboard and wagon.

Maud spent a year in Prince Albert before returning east.  Her diary describes the love she had for her father, and the happy relationship she had with other members of the community.  But it is clear from that same diary that Maud did not have a happy relationship with her step-mother, who appeared to treat Maud as an unpaid nanny for her children, Katie and Bruce (who was born in February after Maud’s arrival in Prince Albert).

For a portion of the year that Maud spent in Prince Albert, she attended school.  The fire which had destroyed the Nisbett Academy in January of 1890 meant that schooling for children such as Maud now occurred in a temporary classroom in the former Royal Hotel.  The building was somewhat run down, and Maud describes how the gaol cells backed onto their classroom, resulting in occasional excitements for the students when the police dragged recalcitrant offenders through the hallway past where Maud and her classmates were studying.  Upstairs in the same building, there was a council chamber for the town, as well as rooms for the use by the community’s Masonic orders.

Amongst her fellow students, Maud established a relationship with Will Pritchard, as well as Will’s sister Laura.  Laura apparently attended the school run by an order of Roman Catholic nuns, which was housed in the former home of Lawrence Clarke.  It would appear that the three young people became very close during the year that Maud lived in Prince Albert.  Laura later married Andrew Agnew, and Maud visited them in Saskatoon on a trip west in the 1930s.  Will, unfortunately, died on April 1st, 1897, after a long and painful bout of influenza.  Maud wrote in her diary how “shocked and grieved” she was after receiving a letter from Laura advising her of Will’s death.

Perhaps the most telling indication of the relationship between Maud and her step-mother was the telegram which Maud received on January 17th, 1900.  Dated January 16th from Prince Albert, N.W.T., it read “Hugh J. Montgomery died today.  Pneumonia.  Peacefully happy and painless death.”  This appeared to Maud to be a cold, blunt announcement, not even referring to him as being her father, and led to several months of listlessness on her part before she was able to once again take up her pen and write.

Aside from her step-mother, Maud had one other unpleasant relationship in Prince Albert.  The school teacher, Mr. John Mustard, took a fancy to her and made several evening visits to her home in an effort to win her love.  This, however, was unsuccessful as Maud found him to be “such a bore” and certainly not marriage material.

Maud did manage to write her first published work while living in Prince Albert.  In December 1890, the Charlottetown Patriot published a poem which she had written.  Prior to her taking her leave of Prince Albert, the Patriot requested she write another poem and subsequently published it, and later a Saskatoon newspaper published an account of her trip back to the east.

But more importantly, according to Ottawa writer Janet Lunn, Maud took back with her vivid images which she was able to incorporate into the books she would later write.  Lunn suggests that Jane Stewart’s Grandmother Kennedy (in Jane of Lantern Hill) and Valancy Stirling’s aunts in The Blue Castle reflected the disagreeable ways of her step-mother, Mary Ann.

Lunn also suggests that the “mustache-curling Mr. Phillips” who made eyes at Prissy Andrews in Anne of Green Gables was based on her teacher and unsuccessful suitor, John Mustard. Maud left Prince Albert on Thursday, August 27th, 1891.  She would return only once, visiting the places she and Will and Laura had haunted during her year in the community.  It is likely she visited the South Hill cemetery, where both her father and Will had been laid to rest.  During this visit, she stayed with a further friend from her local school days, Alexina, and her husband Fred Wright in their home on 23rd Street West.

Museum musings — honouring all veterans

Fred Payton – Prince Albert Historical Society

Most people from the Prince Albert area will be familiar with the name Ted Matheson. He opened a men’s wear store in 1929 which continues in operation today, managed by his grandson. Not as familiar to local residents will be the name Foster Matheson, who was Ted’s younger brother. And yet, this Prince Albert native made a decision which esteemed World War II historian Terry Copps praises as one of the best tactical decisions of World War II’s Normandy campaign.

Born in 1905 and educated locally, Matheson had joined the Prince Albert Volunteers in October 1923.  This decision was prompted primarily by a sense of patriotic duty, but for Matheson there was also a side benefit.  Those who signed up for the Volunteers earned the right to play on a local football field, an activity which was of obvious interest to Foster.  A young man with high school matriculation, and employed in a white-collar job as an accountant, Matheson was immediately commissioned as a lieutenant in the Volunteers.  He was later promoted to captain, became a major in 1934, and by 1935 was a company commander.

Matheson became a full-time active soldier on June 1st, 1940, as a member of the 1st Battalion of the Regina Rifle Regiment.  Within days of signing on, he had recruited 300 other men from Prince Albert.

Initially, this group trained at the base in Dundurn before moving to Truro, Nova Scotia, from where they were transported to England before embarking on the Normandy invasion on June 4th, 1944.  By this time, Matheson had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Three days later, on June 7th, Matheson began his day at 3:00 a.m. in a meeting at the headquarters of the 7th Brigade.  He was ordered to move his troops forward to seize the high ground on the Caen-Bayeux road at Bretteville where his battalion was the first Allied troop to meet their D-Day objective.  Later that day, with his confidence growing, Matheson countermanded an order to pull back.  As a result, it meant that the German tanks were unable to traverse the Caen-Bayeux road with impunity.  It was this decision which Copps later praised. Even though over the next three days the Germans mounted an intense infantry and tank assault, they eventually had to withdraw their tanks on June 9th.  Matheson and the Regina Refiles had held their position.

Shortly thereafter, Matheson was visited by General Bernard Montgomery, commander of the Allied forces in Normandy. Montgomery advised him at that time that he would be awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his actions in battle.  When he received the citation, it read:

“The Regina Rifle Regiment carried out the initial assault on 6 June 1944.  They reached the brigade objective on 7 June 1944 and from that time onwards until 11 June have fought off many counter-attacks.  The fighting spirit, tenacity and high morale of this unit can be ascribed to the cool-headed and inspiring leadership of Lieutenant-Colonel Matheson.

On particular on the night of 8/9 June 1944, when the Battalion Headquarters was attacked by PZ KW Mk V tanks and infantry, the colonel himself led the defence resulting in knocking out five tanks.”

Matheson continued this inspiring leadership of the battalion until returning to England on November 13th, where after a brief period of leave he assumed responsibility for training at Aldershot barracks.

After 2,088 days in the army, he left in December 1945 as a full colonel, returning to civilian life as the assistant manager of a Prince Albert creamery.  Matheson later moved to Saskatoon, where he worked as an investment banker, and served as commandant of the Corps of Commissionaires for northern Saskatchewan, as well as on that community’s City Council, and later manager of their Chamber of Commerce.  He died of a heart attack in 1967.

This is but one of many stories which can be found in the Historical Museum and Bill Smiley Archives about the brave men and women from Prince Albert and area who have served their country in uniform.  We invite you to join us to share these stories, as well as to add to them.  If you have photographs we can copy, mementoes you wish to donate, or simply anecdotes to share, we would be delighted to speak with you.  We are open most days Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. On Remembrance Day, in order to allow us the opportunity to participate in the Commemoration to be held in Memorial Square, we will be open from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Come and join us as we honour our veterans and all who have made sacrifices in an effort to allow so many people the chance to live lives of freedom.

Museum Musings: 900 CKBI Radio


“Knock, knock.  Who’s there?  It’s the Happy Gang!”

Those of us of a certain age and who are life-long residents of Prince Albert and area may recall listening to the syndicated “Happy Gang Show” on CKBI radio.  Other syndicated shows included Mos and Andy, Lux Radio Theatre, and Fibber McGee and Molly.

In the 1960s, you may have listened to Larry Christie broadcasting from his hospital bed in the old Victoria Hospital during ratings week, or Canada’s “oldest living teenager”, Harold Mallwitz, and newscaster Merv Samborski.  Or, if you are older, how about the comedic Bob Hildebrandt who used to do the evening show until sign-off?

You may also recall listening to George Prosser’s “Mixing Bowl” on morning radio.  His Saturday morning children’s show was popular with the youngsters, especially those who were asked to join him in the studio to read their favourite short story.

Bud Dallin eventually took over that show, at about the same time that he used to do the “Saturday Night Barn Dance”.  I wonder if you might be one of the frustrated individuals who drove east of Prince Albert looking for that non-existent big red barn?

Radio has, since the early twentieth century, been an important form of communication.  Listening to your transistor radio, or perhaps your car radio, helped keep you informed during power outages.  Remember Helga Reydon and Harold Reid on Northern News?  The programme would seem quirky in these days of social media, but northerners relied on that programme to pass on messages to their families about important matters, such as the health of hospitalised individuals or when and where to meet them when they returned home.

I had never really considered the history of Prince Albert radio until recently when I came across a newspaper clipping dropped off by a friend who now lives in Saskatoon.  The clipping told the story of Bill Hart, an early member of the CKBI family, and his work raising money for charities on the ACT Amateur Hour.  Although not old enough to have known Bill Hart, I do recall J.J. Cennon hosting the show on Saturday nights when I was a youngster.

The clipping provided some background about the history of the radio station, but not enough to satisfy me.  What it did do, however, was encourage me to search for more information.  I admit that what I found surprised me.

The birth of radio in Prince Albert occurred just prior to the first World War.  Spark transmitters broadcast dots and dashes, and young men with names such as Taylor, Agnew, Pickering, and White would sit listening through earphones attached securely to their ears.  But with the advent of the war, the government found it necessary to confiscate those few sets which existed in Prince Albert.

Although during the war radio communication was eliminated in the local community, advances in technology brought on by the war made it increasingly accessible after the war.  Radio tubes – audions – facilitated the transmission and reception of radio signals, and the improved technology and, as well the reduced prices for it, resulting in more people at greater distances being able to send and receive the sound of voices through the air.

Individuals such as Ralph Leadbetter, Ted Grimes, Bill Hart and Harry Davys grouped together to form a local radio club with a 15-watt transmitter in W.A. Johnson’s store at 907 Central Avenue where a DeForest broadcasting set was installed.  The Prince Albert Radio Club received its licence in 1925, and officially went on the air.  Bill Pickering sat at the microphone for their first broadcast which was heard as far away as Minnesota.  This handful of radio enthusiasts provided hours of entertainment each week to Prince Albert listeners.

Canadian 4BC, initially located in the old Legion club rooms, eventually moved to the Burns plant, and then to a studio in the Empress Hotel at the corner of 11th Street and 1st Avenue West.  The transmitter was relocated to the Leadbetter residence on the 300 block of 20th Street West.  By this time, the station was known as 10BI.  Its power had increased, the quality of its tone had improved, and its signal was being heard even further away.

Eventually the excitement and the commitment of the radio club members dissipated, and the club went out of existence.  But the equipment was still available, and its management was taken over by public spirited citizens such as Milt Lundlie, a farm implement dealer, a feed and seed dealer named J.A. Klein, and Ralph Leadbetter, a farmer.  Unable to sustain it, these individuals sold the equipment and licence to Lloyd Moffat and Bob Price in 1929 for $500.  Moffat, who had been an operator at the Orpheum Theatre, was to be the chief engineer.  Price, who had been the janitor in the Canada Building, became the business manager. They made an application for a commercial licence which, when granted in 1933, led to the change in the call letters to CKBI.  New equipment was purchased from Northern Electric and installed under the direction of Pete and Walter Dales.  At the same time, the transmitter was increased to 100 watts with a new operating frequency of 1210 kilohertz.

Initially, Moffat and Price established their studio in the Canada Building, but in 1937 moved it to the Sanderson Block.  At the same time, the transmitter was boosted to 250 watts.  Further changes occurred in March,1941 when CKBI was moved to 900 kilohertz, and in July of that year power was increased to 1,000 watts.  At the same time as the transmission site was moved from the corner of what is now 2nd Avenue and Marquis Road to a site south of the city.  A new technician, Tom van Nes, arrived in August of that year, the start of nearly 35 years of dedicated service to CKBI and the Prince Albert community.  Van Nes would be responsible for the ongoing maintenance and development of the radio transmitter and equipment, as well as establishing the television transmitter and control room facilities.

Lloyd Moffat had become the station manager when, in 1942, it was chosen as Canada’s top station by Billboard magazine.

By the time that Central Broadcasting Company bought the station in 1946, the transmission power had increased to 5,000 watts.  Hugh Sibbald, the city’s former mayor, was president and Ed Rawlinson, a local chartered accountant, became managing director. Rawlinson moved the station out of the Sanderson Block to the new $75,000 studios on 10th Street West in 1955, and in 1957 the station had yet again increased its power to 10,000 watts, becoming Saskatchewan’s most powerful private station.

By 1957, Ed Rawlinson owned 51% of the company and became president.  Sibbald owned 33.4%, and Ed’s brother, Frank owned 15.6% and was named manager of the station.  The following year, a survey group found that the station was heard by 93,344 people every day.

The Rawlinson family continued their ownership and management of CKBI through the 1960s into the new century.  In 2002 ownership came firmly into the hands of Ed’s son, Gordon, through Rawlco Radio  Ltd. and Lobstick Investments Inc.

The Rawlinson connection to CKBI, begun in 1946, ended when approval was given in December 2014 for the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group to purchase the station along with Rawlco Radio stations in four other communities and associated transmitters throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Museum Musings: Dennis Kelly and the Saskatchewan Smoke Jumpers


As recent municipal and provincial government announcements have suggested, Saskatchewan’s forests are one of our most valuable resources.  This renewable natural resource, properly managed, can provide economic benefits for individuals working in tourism, logging, and manufacturing.

During its first term in office, the CCF government recognised the need to ensure our forestry resources were being properly managed.  As a result, they called for a Royal Commission on Forestry which, when it reported in 1946, raised concerns indicating that drastic measures were required to preserve those valuable provincial forest reserves, including especially protecting the northern and remote forests from the ravages of fire. One of the suggestions for providing such protection included the use of smoke jumpers, similar to those being used in the United States.

As a result of this recommendation, the Fire Control Supervisor, E.J. Marshall, and Ansgar Aschim, assistant supervisor, both with the provincial Forestry Services, visited the U.S. National Forest Service in Missoula, Montana. Their report to the Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable J.L. Phelps, resulted in a decision by the provincial government to establish the Saskatchewan Smoke Jumpers, Canada’s first aerially deployed fire suppression team.

 Having arrived at the decision, it was incumbent upon the Department of Natural Resources to implement a plan to hire and train a team of men to combat the problem.  One individual, already employed by the department, stood out as being the person to lead this innovative team.

Dennis Kelly, the son of Forrest and Elise Kelly, was born in Prince Albert on November 20th, 1926.  Growing up on the east hill, he attended King George School and Prince Albert Collegiate Institute, and early on in life displayed a love for physical activity and the great outdoors.

In his sixteenth year, Dennis followed his older brother Raymond into the Canadian army.  He became one of the first group of individuals willing to volunteer for the 1st Paratroop Battalion.  As a result, Kelly was required to travel to Fort Benning, Georgia to take special training at the paratroop training base there.

This training prepared Kelly for his role in World War II, parachuting into enemy territory.  He was soon promoted to sergeant, and became the battalion jump master, as well as taking on the role of physical training instructor.  Like another Prince Albertan, Tommy Settee, during his military career Kelly was an active and proficient boxer, participating in and winning many in-service fights.

After the war, Kelly returned to Prince Albert and joined the Department of Natural Resources, where he was working at the time of the establishment of the Smoke Jumpers in 1947.  His war time experience made him the ideal candidate for the position as the team’s first Jump Master.  Not only did Kelly train the recruits, but he also helped to establish the procedures for fighting fires in areas where there were no roads to provide access.

Kelly was known as a precise and demanding instructor, but was highly regarded as he would not expect any trainee to do anything which he himself was not willing and able to do.  The recruits were required to become physically very fit before being considered ready to serve.  Kelly’s instruction, a six week course, included the packing of parachutes, and the theory of jumping (including avoidance of tall trees and escaping them if one failed to do so).  As well, the recruits were taught how to fight fires, and the basics of first aid.  Rolls when landing were practised at the Prince Albert air port, both from the back of moving trucks and from a 9 metre tower.  Later, after the team relocated to La Ronge for their summer duties, they continued their training and practice in the muskeg north of the town site.  Rolls of toilet paper were often used in their training in order to measure wind direction, a matter of vital importance for the safety of the jumpers.

Kelly’s tuition was so successful, as was his supervision of their actual jumps, that the Saskatchewan Smoke Jumpers became known world-wide for their safety record.  They recorded no deaths and only a few broken bones, of which only one was considered to be serious.

In 1958, after successfully training up dozens of men as smoke jumpers, and expanding the crew from four teams of four men to eight teams of four men, Kelly chose to resign his position as Jump Master.  His love of the north and its outdoor life style led him into ownership of two fishing camps, North of La Ronge Camp and Reindeer Lake Trout Camp.  He later owned Reindeer Airways with a fleet of two Cessna 180s.

Unfortunately for Kelly, his wife Gladys, and their seven children, Kelly’s life came to a sudden and sad end on Saturday, June 24th, 1961.  The fit and active man, who so enjoyed the outdoor life in the north country, died as a result of an airplane accident.

Reports indicate that, while flying to a newly opened camp on Great Bear Lake, Kelly misjudged the height of his air craft on a glassily smooth lake and crashed the plane into its icy cold waters.  In an attempt to obtain assistance, Kelly chose to swim to shore.  Although a strong swimmer, he was overcome and drowned.  His body was never recovered.  As a result, no funeral was held but a memorial service was conducted at Prince Albert’s St. George’s Anglican church on October 21st, 1961.

Great Bear Lake is approximately 1,370 kilometres north of Edmonton, and is the largest lake fully contained within Canada.  It has a maximum depth of 446 metres, and its average depth is nearly 72 metres.  Temperatures in June have an average range between lows of 4 degrees and highs of 11 degrees.  It is not unusual for the lake to be covered with ice into the month of June.

For further information on the Saskatchewan Smoke Jumpers, you might wish to visit the local Historical Museum to view our exhibit about them.  We also have copies of Hope Pederson’s book on the Smoke Jumpers for sale in the Museum’s Gift Shop.  The Museum is open Monday through Friday (except holidays) from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.  Access is through the east door.  Just ring the door bell.

Museum Musings: some local election history


by Fred Payton

Well, that’s done and dusted.  Canada’s 44th General election is in the rear-view mirror.  Not that Prince Albert and area has had the option to vote in all 44 elections; nor was this election conducted under the same terms as the first Canadian General election.

An act conferring on women the right to vote on the same basis as men was passed in 1918, and the Dominion Elections Act was passed in 1920.  This Act of Parliament consolidated the elections process which previously had allowed for elections to be conducted in each province according to the regulations applicable in the individual provinces.  Not only did the Act of 1920 result in an assurance that elections would be conducted in the same manner everywhere across the country, under the newly created position of a Chief Electoral Officer, but it also allowed for advance voting in each constituency.  As a result, the election of 1921 was conducted under the same rules in each electoral district, and women were able to vote in every constituency.

Although women had the right to vote, it was not until 1953 when a woman would allow her name to be on the ballot in Prince Albert.  In that year, Phyllis Clarke ran for the Labor-Progressive Party, garnering 1.3% of the total vote, as opposed to the 44.1% obtained by the victorious candidate.  She later ran in Toronto-Davenport, losing to Liberal Walter Gordon in 1962, as well as unsuccessfully for the Toronto Board of Control.  Clarke was described in her 1988 obituary as a devoted socialist, trade unionist, feminist, community activist, and teacher.

Although people in Prince Albert are quick to point out that it was John Diefenbaker, the Man from Prince Albert, who ensured in 1960 that all registered First Nations persons had the right to vote, that right had been conferred on the Inuit in 1950.

Teens were able to vote for the first time in 1972, after the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1970, and inmates serving less than two years were allowed to vote beginning in 1993.  As of 2002, all inmates were allowed to vote.  As a constituency with so many correctional facilities, it likely came as a relief to some to realise that inmates’ ballots would be counted in their home community rather than in the Prince Albert electoral district.

When Canadians first voted, the people of Prince Albert and area were not even Canadian citizens.  Local people did not become Canadians until July 15th, 1871, when the country of Canada officially purchased Rupert’s Land, including Prince Albert and area, from the Hudson Bay Company.  Even then, they did not become electors of Canada. It was not until 1881 when our citizens had elected representation.  It was that year when they were able to vote in the Lorne District for a representative on the North-West Council.  Our first elected representative was Lawrence Clarke who, in the election held on March 23rd 1881, defeated Captain Henry S. Moore by a count of 250 to 143. 

Clarke was well known, having been a Chief Factor with the Hudson Bay Company and a strong supporter of development for the Prince Albert settlement.  Moore, who had opened the first steam grist and sawmill in Prince Albert in 1877, was also a strong community supporter, and was later responsible for the establishment of the ranching industry in this area when he imported over 200 cattle from the Bow River.  He was also later responsible for the leadership of one of Prince Albert’s volunteer cavalry units which were established as protection in response to the 1885 Resistance.

In 1883, Day Hort MacDowall was elected locally to the North-West Council, serving until 1885. Interestingly, although a business partner of Captain Moore (who had run as a Liberal), MacDowall ran as a Conservative. Owen E. Hughes, a general trader, was elected in 1885 and served until 1888.

The Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories was established in 1888, and Prince Albert was represented in that Assembly by several well-known individuals, including J. F. Betts, William Plaxton, Thomas McKay, J. Lestock Reid, T. J. Agnew, and Sam McLeod.

Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier arrives in Prince Albert. Submitted photo.

In 1887, Prince Albertans had their first opportunity to vote for a member of the House of Commons.  D. H. MacDowall served from that first election until 1896.  In the election that year, Wilfrid Laurier ran in Prince Albert in an effort to establish a western Canadian Liberal presence, but although he won the local seat by a margin of 44 votes, he chose to represent the Quebec-East seat which he had also won. Electoral rules in those days allowed individuals to run in more than one electoral district.  The by-election which resulted due to Laurier’s decision resulted in the election of Thomas Osborn Davis, who served from 1896 until 1904.  Prince Albert returned another Liberal, J. M. Lamont in 1904, who served until 1905.  Lamont was followed by G. E. McCraney (1905 – 1908), and W. W. Rutan 1908 -1911, both Liberals.  In 1911, James McKay was elected, and he sat in the Commons until 1914.

Sam Donaldson, who had served as mayor of Prince Albert. replaced McKay as the Conservative candidate in the 1915 election and was victorious. In 1917, he was defeated by the Unionist candidate, Andrew Knox, who was again elected in the 1921 election when he ran as the Progressive candidate.  Knox, a popular farmer from the Colleston district, had been a district director of the Saskatchewan Grain Growers Association, although he displayed his greatest strength in the city, while Liberal candidate, Samuel McLeod, was strongly supported in the French-speaking settlements and the culturally mixed towns such as Wakaw, strength that continued for them until the election in 1945.

The next General Election, which was held in 1925, led to a major change in Prince Albert’s influence nationally, although the impact was not seen until the following year.  Charles McDonald, who had served as Prince Albert’s member of the provincial legislature, had chosen not to seek re-election provincially, but rather to seek the local federal seat for the Liberal party.  He won a clear majority in the 1925 election, gaining more votes than Knox and John Diefenbaker combined.

But the Liberal leader, William Lyon MacKenzie King, was defeated in his riding of York-North.  McDonald agreed to forego his seat in the House of Commons in order for MacKenzie King to run in Prince Albert.  The Liberal leader made several promises to accommodate this decision.  This first of these was the establishment of a national park in the vicinity, while the second was to ensure McDonald be given some preferment for his withdrawal.  The first promise was met when Prince Albert National Park was opened in August, 1928.  The second promise took some time to fulfill, but in 1935 McDonald was appointed to the Senate for the province of British Columbia.  Unfortunately for McDonald, by this time his health was poor and he died before he could be sworn in as a member of the Red Chamber.  He is the only Canadian elected to the House of Commons, appointed to the Senate, while never having taken his seat in either.

MacKenzie King served Prince Albert as its Member of Parliament from 1926 until 1945.   His re-election in the General Election held in June of that year was expected to a certainty.  But the local people had become impatient with the low wages and poor working conditions brought on by the war time controls of the Second World War.  The local C.C.F. candidate, a Shellbrook farmer by the name of E. L. Bowerman, touted the promises of his party which promised social security, medical care, and a national housing plan.  Although King led the polls on election night, when the ballots of the servicemen serving overseas were counted, Bowerman had won by 129 votes.

Four years later, in the next General Election, the Liberals were able to re-take Prince Albert once again.  Francis “Frank” Helme, an implement dealer, defeated Bowerman in the Liberal landslide victory of that year.  It would not be for another fifty years that the Liberals would win a Prince Albert and area riding.

In 1953, a coalition of party supporters encouraged John Diefenbaker to seek the Progressive Conservative nomination in Prince Albert.  His success in that election was the first of a string of ten electoral victories for Diefenbaker in Prince Albert.  Diefenbaker served as Prime Minister of Canada from 1957 until 1963, and was still the sitting member for the constituency when he died in his suburban Ottawa home in Rockcliffe on August 16th, 1979.

The by-election required as a result of Diefenbaker’s death was won by the New Democratic candidate, Stan Hovdebo, a local educator.  He went on to two successive General Election victories in Prince Albert, from 1979 to 1988.  When the riding was re-distributed prior to the 1988 General Election, Hovdebo chose to run in the Saskatoon-Humboldt riding where he was again victorious.  He retired from active politics prior to the 1993 General Election.

As a result of a change in electoral boundaries prior to the 1988 General Election, the Prince Albert constituency became known as the Prince Albert-Churchill River constituency.  Rather than its boundaries running east and west, the constituency ran north and south.  Five candidates contested the riding, with the New Democrat candidate, Ray Funk, winning the seat by a margin of over 9,600 votes over the second place Progressive Conservative candidate.

In the 1993 election, the Liberals managed to win the seat in a contest which featured eight candidates, including two independent candidates.  Gordon Kirkby, who had been the mayor of Prince Albert, received slightly more than 2,500 more votes than the incumbent, Ray Funk.

The Prince Albert riding was re-created from the Saskatoon-Humboldt and Prince Albert-Churchill River ridings in time for the 1997 General Election.  Derek Konrad represented the constituency for the Reform and Alliance Parties from 1997 until 2000.  Brian Kirkpatrick won the nomination for the Alliance Party prior to the General Election in 2000, and held the seat until 2008.  From the 2008 election until the 43rd Parliament was prorogued, Prince Albert was represented by Randy Hoback of the Conservative Party.

I have met all of our Members of Parliament from John Diefenbaker on, although I knew some of them better than others.  Although I did not agree with each of them on everything they stood for, I recognise that they all had a desire to make Canada a better country.  They all felt that they could make the lives of Canadians better.  For that, I can respect them.

Museum Musings – Prince Albertans on stage and screen

We recently hosted a focus group at the Historical Museum to look at the progress which the City has made over the five years since the Municipal Cultural Action Plan was established.   We were asked to consider our understanding of Prince Albert’s culture, how it has changed through the years, and how we could assist in moving it forward.

Long before this area became aware of European culture, the Indigenous peoples were sharing their culture on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River.  In fact, not only was it known to the Cree as kistipananick (a meeting place), but also soomawin (a dancing place). It was not until recently, however, that we settlers have begun to feel comfortable allowing the First people to publicly perform and share their culture with everyone.  It is well worth experiencing, and I am thankful that I have been a part of this enlightened approach.

Also within my lifetime, Prince Albert and area has seen the arrival of many more cultures, including African and Asian culture.  I recall once being asked by Marj Nainaar, founder of the Prince Albert Multicultural Council, what I most liked about multiculturalism.  My immediate response was “the food”, although I must admit that upon reflection, I should have said the music.  Yet how can one talk about the music without thinking of the cultural dances and clothing?

Since attending the aforementioned meeting my mind has been revolving around my experience of Prince Albert culture.  I have already admitted that I find the food culture very attractive and, although I am not talented in the visual arts, I do enjoy and own the work of several local artists including Myles McDonald and Andree Martinson.  What really intrigues me, however, is Prince Albert’s contribution to dramatic arts.

Those of you who have been visitors to the Historical Museum in the past will likely be familiar with our community’s claim to cinematic actor Boris Karloff.  Our claim of Karloff being from Prince Albert may be somewhat tenuous, but I think that this community does deserve some credit for his successful career.

Like Archie Belaney, the Englishman who came to this area and established himself as Grey Owl, the man known to us as Boris Karloff came to Canada from England in 1909.  His real name was William Henry Pratt.  He worked his way across the continent, doing whatever odd jobs he could find in order to scrape together his livelihood.  In 1912, he saw an advertisement in Billboard magazine for a theatrical agent in Seattle.  Pratt introduced himself to the agent, Walter Kelly, and intimated that he had acted in numerous plays – in fact suggesting that he had acted in every play which he had ever seen.  He told Kelly that he had suffered ill health, forcing him to move to Canada, but that now his health had improved so that he could resume his acting career.  A few months later, while employed cutting trees in British Columbia, Pratt received an offer through his agent for employment with the Jeanne Russell Stock Company in Kamloops.  He felt fortunate to be taken on as an apprentice, and was soon traveling with the company across western Canada.

When the company arrived in Saskatchewan, poor attendance at its plays in Saskatoon and Regina resulted in the company going bankrupt.  Pratt was left unemployed and virtually penniless.  His fortune changed, however, when Regina was hit within days by a tornado.  Pratt found work with a company which was cleaning up the tornado’s aftermath, and during that time he met Henry St. Clair, whose company was touring the Queen City from the Empress Theatre in Prince Albert. Pratt managed to gain an offer of an apprenticeship with the company provided he was willing to come to Prince Albert.  He was soon doing what every good apprentice of the day had to do, like sweeping the floors of the theatre and working the ticket booth, and in a matter of months he was a permanent member of the troupe.

It was in Prince Albert that Pratt was able to use his stage name – Boris from the cold weather, and his mother’s surname Karloff – for the first time on a theatre billing.  In later years, Karloff would credit his work with the Henry St. Clair Players in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, as giving him his basic training as an actor.

Another famous Prince Albert son, a man who was born and raised here, was operatic tenor Jon Vickers. The sixth son of eight children, Vickers was born on October 29th, 1926 to William and Myrle (Mossop) Vickers. Vickers sang in his church choir and, although he had planned to study medicine at university, his leading lady in a semi-professional opera taped him and submitted the tape to The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto where he was awarded a scholarship. After studying there, he sang professionally across Canada from the early 1950s until his first international performance at Covent Garden in London, England in 1957. Other performances followed, not only at Coven Garden but at the Metropolitan Opera and the Paris Opera, among other notable opera houses.

Operatic tenor Jon Vickers got his start singing in a church choir in Prince Albert, but planned on studying medicine instead of music. That changed when he received a scholarship from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Submitted photo.

Vickers died in Ontario from Alzheimer’s disease at age 88 on July 10th, 2015.

It has not been only men who have gone on from Prince Albert to fame on the stage and screen.  In the late 1960s, representatives of the Provincial Youth Drama came to Prince Albert to conduct auditions for their drama school.  Two of my classmates asked me to assist them in their auditions by playing opposite them when it was their turn to audition.  One of these young women went on to an active career in drama in Vancouver, while the other, Janet-Laine Green, went on to a highly successful career in the performing arts.  This should not have been a surprise as her grandfather, Bill Halsey, had managed a theatre troupe in Weyburn back in the early part of the 20th century prior to moving to Prince Albert.  His acting genes were obviously passed on to his grand-daughter!   

Many of you will remember Janet-Laine in television shows such as She’s the Mayor, This is Wonderland, The Beachcombers, Seeing Things, and Chautauqua Girl.  You may not know that she has also voiced such animated shows as Jacob-Two-Two, Franklin, Little Bear (as the mother), and The Care Bears (the voice of Wish Bear).  She has also been a director, producer and teacher.

One other local product who is not as well known was Rick Ducommun.  Born in Prince Albert in 1952, as Rick Dukeman he hosted the television video show Rockin’ America, was Tom Hanks’ next door neighbour in The ‘Burbs, played the villainous monster Snik in Fred Savage’s Little Monsters, and was the barfly in Bill Murray’s comedy Groundhog Day.  His list of credits included many more movies such as Spaceballs, Die Hard, The Last Boy Scout, and The Hunt for Red October.

Beating out Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas for the part in The ‘Burbs, Ducommun was considered by its director, Joe Dante. to have “knocked it out of the park.  “Lots of the funniest stuff he says was totally ad-libbed” according to Dante.

As well as being an actor, Rick was a stand-up comic, a writer, and a director.

Ducommun died due to serious complications from diabetes in Vancouver on June 12th, 2015 at the age of 62.

Our local museums have information about so many Prince Albertans who have made their mark in so many different fields of endeavour.  Why not stop by to find out more about them?

Museum Musings – Who Was George Flett?

by Fred Payton
Prince Albert Historical Society

Earlier this spring, I listened to a conversation with a visitor to the Historical Museum about the arrival and settlement of the community which we call Prince Albert.

James Nisbet, it was explained, arrived here 155 years ago on July 23rd.  He negotiated with the First Nations leaders who were camped in the area, won their acceptance, and established his mission.

Thinking that I could be helpful in furthering the discussion, I said, “Don’t forget George Flett.”  In return, I was asked, “Who was George Flett?”  Although he played a significant role in the location of the Nisbet mission, Flett and his importance appears to have been forgotten.

George Flett was the son of an Orkneyman, also George Flett, who was a fur trader with the Hudson Bay Company.  His mother, Peggy (Cardinal) Whitford, was a Metis woman and the sister of Michael Cardinal, a man who fathered six remarkable chiefs, all of whom played significant roles in Canadian history, with at least three of them signators to major treaties.  This parentage resulted in Flett being fluent in Cree, and very knowledgeable about First Nations characteristics and customs, which greatly increased his influence with the First Nations people.

Flett was a brother-in-law to the Reverend John Black and, prior to joining Nisbet’s mission, worked as an interpreter for the Hudson Bay Company and farmed near the Isbister Settlement in what is now the west end of Prince Albert.

In 1866, as the Nisbet party began its trek from the Red River Settlement, Flett left his employment with the Hudson Bay Company at Victoria (near Fort Edmonton).  The expectation was that he would meet Nisbet on the trail prior to their arrival at Fort Carlton.  It is unknown how or why Flett was persuaded to leave his lucrative job with the Hudson Bay Company to become an integral member of the mission party.  We know that in 1854, when he had previously been asked to join a mission, he had been very forthright in his refusal.  On that occasion, he was adamant that missionaries would have to forego competing with each other for First Nations souls before he could bring himself to participate in missionary work. 

It may have been Flett’s experience working as a translator for a Methodist missionary at Victoria which prompted his change of mind.  Flett, in a letter to Nisbet sometime after 1854, had expressed his admiration for that missionary and the work that he was doing with the First Nations people.  Regardless of the reason for his decision, he decided to join Nisbet and rode to meet him.

Flett, with his wife Mary and accompanied by two others (likely Adam Isbister and Oliph Olson), eventually met up with Nisbet’s party about a day’s drive from Carlton House, just as the Nisbet party was crossing the South Saskatchewan River.  The two men accompanying Flett were from the Isbister Settlement and they invited Nisbet to settle near them on the North Saskatchewan River, near that settlement.

Flett and Nisbet appeared to be in agreement with each other about the function of a mission.  It would be a secure base from which to travel to the First Nation camps, which tended to be quite mobile.  The mission should be a training place for the First Nation youth where they could learn farming and how to live a settled existence.  Both Flett and Nisbet were aware that the bison were becoming scarce, and felt that there was a need to assist the First Nations people to look toward a future with such scarcity.  

Nisbet had identified five prospective locations where he might establish his mission.  The site that he most favoured was near Fort Pitt on the North Saskatchewan River.  Flett considered each of the sites, and eventually suggested just two locations, neither of which included Fort Pitt

As they traveled to Fort Carlton, Flett advised Nisbet of his suggestion that they consider these two specific locations.   Personnel at Fort Carlton, especially the Chief Factor Lawrence Clarke, agreed with Flett regarding his suggestions.  Flett took Nisbet to see one of the two sites, a place identified as Whitefish Lake.  It offered a number of advantages, but had one very serious disadvantage.  Prior to settling the site, a road would have to be cut through the forest.

The second site, about fifty miles down river from Fort Carlton, was considered to be equally suitable. Nisbet and Flett went to inspect the proposed site and found it highly suitable to their needs.  But the First Nations people camped nearby were unwilling to support their plans, fearing that a mission would attract settlers and drive away the bison.  Flett, after two days of negotiation, was able to convince the leaders to let the mission have the site.  He did so by speaking to them in their native language, telling them that he was born near the site (at Moose Lake, near Cumberland House on the Saskatchewan River), that some of the prairie chiefs were his cousins, and that his mother had important native relatives.  In claiming a share in the land, Flett used the same arguments that the First Nations people themselves used, and he therefore was able to win the argument.

Nisbet had brought the necessary supplies with him for the establishment of their settlement, including livestock.  Once the decision had been made to settle in the recommended location, Flett started to drive the stock overland from Fort Carlton, arriving at the Isbister settlement shortly before the rest of the Nisbet party, who were traveling by river.  According to a letter written by Nisbet, it was 8:00 o’clock on the morning of July 23rd when they met together at the chosen site.

After the mission was partially organised, Nisbet and Flett traveled further up river to visit Hudson Bay Company forts and other First Nations camps.  Flett was the ideal companion for Nisbet on this trip since he could speak the language and knew the country well.  It was obvious, as they traveled, that he was familiar with the way of life which the locals lived.  His willingness to spend the time talking with them allowed Flett and Nisbet to receive respect and support from the First Nations people. 

Flett stayed only a short time at the Prince Albert mission.  Publicly, it was suggested that he left because his wife needed medical treatment which could only be acquired at the Red River.  However, a review of private correspondence between the two made it clear that Flett and Nisbet were not as much in agreement regarding the running of the mission as it had initially appeared.  Flett wanted to spend his time talking to and educating the First Nations people, making connections with them.  Nisbet wanted him to labour towards establishing the mission as a farming enterprise and a model farm.

Flett wrote to Nisbet that his chief reason for not returning to Prince Albert was that Nisbet “wanted me to work all day at something or other”.  He went on to say, “I thought I would be a useful man for the mission as long as I could speak or at least as long as I had health; but you are so determined to make me work that I am obliged to leave the work of God that I was so delighted with.”

A few years after returning to the Red River, Flett was ordained as a missionary.  He began his work at Fort Pelly, eventually supplying six pastorates.  At the time of his death in 1897 at the age of 80, he had spent 31 years of his life in the North West Territories, 21 of those years as a missionary to the First Nations people. So, who was George Flett?  In reality, he was responsible for the establishment of this community in its current location.  Had Nisbet had his way, it is possible that Prince Albert would have been established further north and west, closer to Fort Pitt.

Museum Musings: Treaty 6

by Fred Payton
Prince Albert Historical Society

Many local groups and organizations have adopted the tradition of prefacing their agendas, minutes, and meetings by making reference to the fact that we are resident on Treaty 6 land. This is a way for them to honour the Indigenous peoples who have lived here since time immemorial.

Although I grew up in Prince Albert, and have travelled and visited extensively throughout the northern part of our province, I was never really educated with respect to Treaty 6. As many of you have, I have gathered some understanding of the contents of the Treaty through discussions with First Nations friends and acquaintances and by following media reports. My knowledge and understanding were basically, well, very basic.

On a trip to Ottawa last October, I visited a second-hand bookstore where I found a three volume publication containing all the treaties (and adhesions) negotiated between the Crown and the First Nations between 1680 and 1902. Included in the seconded volume is a copy of Treaty 6. Much of what I thought that I knew of the Treaty was reinforced, but there were a few surprises along the way.

I had always thought that Treaty 6 had been signed at Fort Carlton, with representatives of the Crown and the chiefs of the various First Nations gathered around a camp fire, smoking a pipe, and exchanging gifts prior to settling on the terms of the treaty. It therefore came as a surprise to find out that two separate gatherings occurred, the first at and near Fort Carlton between August 23rd and August 28th 1876, and the second near Fort Pitt on September 9th 1876. These meetings laid out the basics of the treaty, while further signings occurred on August 9th 1877 at Fort Pitt, at Edmonton on August 21st 1877, on September 25th 1877 at Blackfoot Crossing on the Bow River, and August 29th 1878 at Battleford. Additional signings occurred on September 3rd 1878 at Fort Carlton, at an unknown location on September 18th 1878, and finally at Fort Walsh on July 2nd 1879.

I was intrigued to see who had participated in each of these signings. The initial signing at Fort Carlton was led by Alexander Morris, the Lieutenant-Governor of the North West Territories, accompanied by W.J. Christie, a Metis who had served as a commissioner at the Treaty 4 negotiations at Fort Qu’Appelle, and James McKay, a lawyer and member of the prominent Prince Albert Metis family. Seventeen additional witnesses to this event included such notable individuals as Isadore Dumond (Dumont) and Peter Hourie. Amongst the chiefs negotiating were chiefs Mis-ti-wa-sis, Ah-tuk-uk-koop, John Smith, and James Smith. They were supported by councillors including Sah-sah-koo-moos, Benjamin, Pee-ay-chew, William and John Badger, James Bear, and Bernard Constant. In total, there were 36 councillors present.

A secondary signing occurring near Fort Carlton included the Willow chiefs and headmen. The document was first read and explained to them by James McKay and Peter Erasmus, and then signed by Chiefs Meh-cha-aw-asis, See-see-quan-ish, and Wee-tee-koo-wee-kah-maw-oo who were supported by nine of their councillors.

Alexander Morris and James McKay also attended the first Fort Pitt signing, with sixteen witnesses including Bishop J. Vital, Peter Pambrun, and Peter Erasmus. Eleven chiefs signed the Treaty on this occasion, with 18 councillors supporting them. The chiefs included James Seenum, See-kahs-kootch, Kee-ye-win, and Kin-oosay-oo.

Subsequent signings were read and explained to the chiefs and their councillors by either Peter Erasmus or Peter Ballendine, with the exception of the final signing which was read to them by Edgar Dewdney, who was the Indian commissioner.

Treaty 6 was negotiated primarily as a result of the Dominion Government’s desire to open up to settlement the lands occupied by the First Nations peoples. The intention was that “there may be peace and good will” between the First Nations and the settlers, and that the First Nations “could be assured of what allowance they are to count upon and receive from Her Majesty’s bounty and benevolence.”

“The Plains and Wood Cree tribes” and all others inhabiting the district described would “hereby cede, release, surrender and yield up to the Government of the Dominion of Canada for Her Majesty the Queen and Her successors forever, all their rights, titles and privileges, whatsoever, to the lands included…”

The lands are clearly defined and delineated in the treaty, and rather than include the detail at this time I would encourage those interested to review the treaty. Suffice to say, it runs west in Saskatchewan from Cumberland Lake to the Beaver River, and then into Alberta to Red Deer Lake and to Jaspar House and the main source of the Red Deer River and on to the south branch of the Saskatchewan River. Its southern boundary is the northern boundary of the lands identified in Treaties 4 and 5. All rights, titles, and privileges situated in the North-West Territories, or in any other Province or portion of Her Majesty’s Dominions situated within the Dominion of Canada were also included. The total area comprised within Treaty 6 territory amounted to approximately 121,000 square miles (or roughly 313,400 square metres).

In return, the First Nations peoples were to receive reserves for farming lands, with due respect being given to such lands which were currently cultivated, and other lands for their benefit which would be administered and dealt with by Her Majesty’s Government of the Dominion of Canada. This land was not to exceed one square mile per family of five, proportionately provided for larger or smaller families. The location of these lands was to be determined in consultation with the First Nations so as to ensure its suitability. A provision was included, however, to allow Her Majesty’s representatives to deal with any settlers within the bounds of reserve lands as deemed appropriate, and that they may sell or otherwise dispose of such land for the benefit of the First Nations after consultation with them.

As they located to the lands reserved for them, each man, woman and child was to receive a payment of $12. As well, schools for instruction were to be maintained on the reserves of land if desired by its members.

No liquor was to be allowed within the confines of the reserves, and all laws currently in force, or thereafter enacted to protect the residents from “the evil influences of intoxicating liquors” were to be strictly enforced.

Rights to pursue the First Nations’ avocation of hunting and fishing throughout the surrendered tract were to be protected, although this was subject to such regulations as may be promulgated by the Dominion Government, or on such tracts of land as may be taken up for settlement, mining, lumbering or other purposes duly authorized by the Dominion Government.

Museum Musings – Prince Albert Bands

by Fred Payton
Prince Albert Historical Society

My friend Larry from up 2nd Avenue, stopped by to chat about Prince Albert bands. As a youth, he had played French horn in the Lions Band.  Some of you might remember their bandmaster, Frank Nunas.  He and his family lived on 13th Street West, almost across from Dent’s Little League Ball Park.  Frank worked at Eaton’s, when it was on Central Avenue (where the First Nations University of Canada is now located).

Back in those days, the Lions Band practised in one of the buildings the city used for recreational purposes.  These buildings, once part of the army barracks on the west hill, had been moved down near the Memorial Swimming Pool, served amongst other purposes as the change rooms for those using the pool.  I don’t remember the band practising there, but I do remember changing in one of them when our school class went swimming.  That, of course, was before they built the Rec. Centre (now the Margo Fournier Centre).

Anyway, my friend Larry remembers what a great teacher Frank was, and he still recalls their uniforms – the capes and the hats, known as shakos.  He recalls them as being purple and gold which, I think, were probably Lions club colours.

When Larry first indicated that he wanted to talk about Prince Albert bands, I couldn’t help teasing him a little.  “Bands like the Cottonpickers,” I said.  “Or how about the Ragsmen” (later known as Third From the Sun).  Lew Bell, Baldwin Malec, Wes Stubbs et al had been quite popular with the older generation when I was young.  And Bill Lamb, Jon Rowthorne, Chuck Olver and Keith Brown were the local band which really packed them in at teen dances at the East Hill hall and the Rec. Centre (now the Margo Fournier Centre).

“Or there were others”, I suggested:  the Distinguished Seven, a Tijuana Brass type band from Riverside Collegiate.  I know Bob Twyver is still around, and their drummer, Don Povey, is living in Regina.  Another local musician living in Regina is Brian Sklar who, along with individuals like Connie Amyotte, played some pretty good country and western music and entertained at places like the Cloverdale Hall.  I still recall standing in the basement of Eaton’s Department Store on Central Avenue and watching Brian pick up and play instrument after instrument.  It didn’t matter what it was, Brian appeared capable of making music with each and every instrument.  Maybe his impromptu performances were a good advertisement for the department that Frank Nunas supervised.

Actually, when I come to think about it, there was a lot of local talent about whom I could write.  But Larry pointed out that what he really wanted to talk about was bands like the Lions Band and the City Band.  Concert bands and marching bands.

The first Prince Albert band to which I have found a reference was a brass band formed in 1883 under the leadership of Louis St. Louis.  He was a clerk, working for general merchant W. R. Fish.  How large a band, or how long it lasted, is unknown, although it was still worth a mention in the McPhillips’ Saskatchewan Directory of 1888.

I think that it was in 1910, when George William Brown was installed in Regina as this province’s second lieutenant-governor, that the local City band next received some positive attention.  Our mayor (Andrew Holmes) and our Member of the Legislative Assembly (John Ernest Bradshaw) had accompanied the band for their performance at this ceremony.  The members of the band performed in uniforms which they had borrowed from members of the fire department, and received such widespread acclaim that upon their return to Prince Albert the politicians insisted money be found to fund them.  Fortunately for all involved, this request was made during a time when the city was entering into a period of economic expansion, and the Council was able and more than willing to expend the money.

 By 1914, Prince Albert boasted two bands.  The City Band was attached to the 52nd Regiment (Prince Albert Volunteers) and had a band room within the armouries at 151 -12th Street West.  The bandmaster was A.C. Scroggs, and its executive consisted of a president (William M. Angus, clerk at Manville Hardware), vice-president (John H. Hallam, manager of the One Northern Milling Company), and secretary-treasurer (Arnold Taylor, clerk at the Imperial Bank).

The other band, the White Coal City Band, met and practised in the band room of the Old Skating Rink on 3rd Avenue West.  Jacob Thompson, a contractor, was the president, while Joseph Parker was the secretary.  The bandmaster was Fred Maddison, who was a clerk with a real estate and investments firm.  The drum major, whose name remains unknown, died on August 9th of that year.

After the war ended, the city was back to a single band.  They practised in the band room above Pasco Signs at 50 – 9th Street East.  Arthur Wilde, a checker with Grand Trunk Pacific freight, was the bandmaster.  The president was W.E. Bristowe, the secretary of One Northern Milling.  Fred Coates, a clerk with the Forestry branch, was the vice-president, and Sydney Blake, a letter carrier with the Post Office, was the secretary-treasurer.

In 1923 and through until at least 1925, the City Band continued to practise in the same building, although in 1923 the business on the main floor was the Gardiner Machine and Motor Company.  Arthur Wilde, now an assistant foreman for the CNR, remained as the bandmaster.  The executive now consisted of president Fred Watkins (a shipper for Codville Company), and secretary-treasurer J.D. McArthur.  Whether by default or design, the position of vice-president was vacant.  It would appear that by 1925, the main floor tenant had moved out of the building, which may have had something to do with the City Band looking for another home.

By 1929, the band had found a long-term home in the basement of the Central Fire Hall (now the Prince Albert Historical Museum).  The president was George L. Cross, an employee of the CNR, but the secretary-treasurer and the bandmaster remained the same as it had been in 1923.

Wilde continued to be the bandmaster for the City Band until the mid-1930s, when William Lamb took over.  By that time, Sydney Blake, who had become the supervisor of the Post Office’s letter carriers, was continuing to serve as president.  Blake and Lamb appeared to make a good pairing, as they remained in their respective positions until the late 1940s.

In 1950 the band, now under the leadership of acting bandmaster George Robinson, was practising in City Hall (now the Arts Centre).  William Lamb was back as bandmaster by 1952, and Robinson was filling the role of assistant bandmaster.  This arrangement continued until the mid-1950s when…

As so often happens when my friend Larry stops by for a chat, his cell phone rings, and he has to head back to work.  I will have to wait to tell him (and you) more, including about Dave Monette and his pipe and drum band.  Now that is a well travelled and award-winning band! In the meantime, why not stop by the Historical Museum and check out the old City Band tuba in the Lestock Reid Room.  From now to the end of August we are open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Our staff is following Saskatchewan Health Authority regulations, and we would ask that you follow them as well.  Stay safe, and stay healthy!

Museum Musings – Prince Albert Police Service – further instability in the early years

by Fred Payton

In my last column, I discussed the initial instability which plagued the establishment of the Prince Albert Police Service.  The citizens of the community and the individuals who filled the position of town constable often had very different expectations of the duties which should be performed, and the lack of a formal job description exacerbated the situation.  Also, initially, each member of the town’s council felt entitled to provide direction to the constable, often resulting in that person receiving mixed messages.  By 1900, appropriate bylaws and the establishment of a three person police committee had helped to improve the overall situation.

By the time that Robert Jones was appointed Chief of Police at the beginning of the 20th century, in addition to the Chief the town was being policed by four constables, a special constable, and a scavenger.  The latter person was responsible for the removal of manure from the streets, filling potholes, and other duties which were assigned to the police simply because the bylaws which had been passed by Council made them their responsibility.

Although improvement in the overall direction of the police force was evident, the citizens of Prince Albert were not always impressed.  There were still enough citizens who did not appreciate the laws of the town being enforced where they were concerned.  As these people were voters, the members of the police committee could be swayed by the citizens’ concerns.  After a particular decision made by the committee, with which Chief Jones disagreed, he resigned.  The committee managed to persuade him to remain in his position until his replacement could be hired in order to provide some stability to the police service.  They then chose not to advertise for a new chief.  As a result, Jones’ resignation was eventually determined to be null and void and he remained in his position until his retirement in 1906.

When Jones retired, the new chief, Alex Forsythe, made it quite clear that the existent police accommodation was far from acceptable.  He led a tour of inspection by the police committee, which led to the Town Council expending some money to make improvements.  Forsythe also worked to obtain uniforms and other necessities for his constables, which led to improved working conditions.

Citizen concerns were also addressed during his term as chief, including reducing theft within the community, and working with the North West Mounted Police to control prostitution.

Forsythe was eventually appointed Crown Prosecutor in the Police Magistrate’s Court, and resigned from his position as Chief of Police in May, 1909.  He was succeeded in that position by B.J. McDermott.

McDermott also found the condition of the police station to be unacceptable.  Like Forsythe, he led a tour of inspection by the police committee, who again reported to Council (now a City Council).  Again, money was made available to improve the conditions, but they still remained less than salubrious,

McDermott was considered to be a progressive leader of the police service.  He reorganised the force, reducing it in size and hiring new members. By 1910, the chief only had an assistant constable and two constables serving under him, along with a special constable.  He also established a Cooperative Police Commissary through which his staff could purchase certain equipment, including batons.  In addition, from his budget he was able to purchase new clothing and equipment for the constables, including four sets of summer uniforms, winter uniforms, overcoats, waterproofs, caps and fur hats, as well as summer and winter boots.  He also bought a cap and a fur hat for himself as chief, and two pairs of handcuffs.

Although a bylaw precluded the carrying of firearms within city limits, McDermott arranged for the sale of small revolvers through the commissary, and he allowed his staff to carry them while on duty.

The improvements which the chief managed to make for his constables did not, however, result in greater stability.  It would appear that the majority of the constables had been hired more for their physical abilities than for their mental capability.  Conflicts arose between the police and some citizens, and between the constables and their chief.  McDermott was also prone to cursing in public places, contrary to a city bylaw.  As a result of one particular public occasion, he was censured by the police committee.  McDermott resigned, and refused to rescind his resignation even though the committee attempted to convince him to retain his position.

McDermott’s replacement, Arthur Edward Danby, had been his assistant constable.  Born in England on October 11th 1871, Danby had joined the Rotherham County borough police force at the age of 18.  He rose to the position of chief constable, Bedford borough, but resigned from that position in 1909 before moving to Canada.  Danby was a member of the CPR railway police in Montreal before joining the local police as the assistant constable, bringing with him training from Scotland Yard in the use of fingerprinting, as well as knowledge of criminal law and magisterial procedure.

Like his predecessors, Danby took the members of the police committee on a tour of the police facilities, pointing out how inappropriate they were.  Either he was far more persuasive than the previous chiefs, or the members of the police committee were more willing to listen.  Immediate plans were made for a new station, and by 1913 the police service was fully moved into the new building, a building for which the architect won a national award for its excellence of design.

It was a three-story building, with police offices and cells on the main floor.  Above was the magistrate’s court and an apartment for the police chief.  The upper floor was initially used as barracks for the constables, although in later years it too became apartments.

Danby must have considered himself fortunate to have been able to have managed to have a purpose-built police station constructed.  His timing could not have been better.  The council of the new city was in the midst of a boom period, and anxious to show the outside world just how progressive and modern a community Prince Albert had become.  But the expenditures entailed, including the construction of its new fire hall and police station, were soon to pale in light of the money poured into the construction of the La Colle Falls dam.  How unaware Danby was of the effect that that project would have on the stability of the police service.  But that would not be for a few years yet.

In the meantime, the usual complaints filed by those who felt the police were unfairly targeting them led to what was considered by the police and the police committee to be a smear campaign.  Ultimately, it led to the establishment of a judicial enquiry into the police service and its chief.  Although numerous allegations were brought forward, each was found by the appointed judge to be completely without foundation.  When the enquiry did not result in the action expected by the malcontents, a petition demanding the chief’s resignation was circulated.  However, a further petition supportive of the chief and the police service appeared to have considerably more backing.  The politicians of the day maintained the status quo.

It was not until 1917 that the fall-out from the city’s extravagance really impacted the police service.  City Council passed a motion on October 15th of that year which would result in the dismissal of all members of the force effective December 31st.  Based on support from the community, council rescinded the motion on December 28th

The financial pressures facing the city did not, however, disappear.  As a result, by 1918 the force was reduced to six members, including the chief.  The manpower level was not increased until 1920, when two additional constables were approved.  Another constable was added in 1921, but in 1922 Danby was denied any further manpower.

By October of 1923 the force consisted of seven persons, including the chief.  The police committee, feeling the financial pressures of the city, decided that one constable would have to be released from employment, but transferred the licence inspector back to the force as a constable.  This resulted in Danby having to resume duties as the licence inspector.  Danby felt overwhelmed by the situation and submitted his resignation effective January 31st, 1924.  The city could not afford to hire a new chief, and the police service was made the responsibility of the sergeant, who resigned his position on February 13th.  A constable was then given the responsibility of managing the community’s policing, but this arrangement lasted only until February 28th.  Effective March 1st, 1924, the Saskatchewan Police Force assumed responsibility for the policing of Prince Albert.

Two constables of the Prince Albert police service were transferred to the supervision of the Provincial Police, although they were still paid for by the city.  A third constable was transferred to the position of licence inspector, and returned to working out of City Hall.  The city’s police vehicle was rented to the provincial force.

The Saskatchewan Police Force was already headquartered in the former Prince Albert Club on 12th Street West.  As a result, the purpose-built police station now housed the Prince Albert Board of Trade, the Agricultural Society, and the city’s Health Department.  Hugh Sibbald and F. Lawrence occupied the apartments on the upper floors.  By 1929, the building had become known as City Park Apartments, still home to Sibbald but also to Stanley Sinclair and W.L. Loomis.  By 1932, it had returned to use as the Prince Albert Police office, and the Juvenile Court, but still housed the Agricultural Society and the Board of Trade, as well as the Saskatchewan Motor Club, the Keewatin Club, and two apartments.  Even into the 1940s, long after the policing of Prince Albert had once again become the responsibility of the city force, the building retained the title City Park Apartments.

The Saskatchewan Provincial Police remained responsible for enforcing the law in the city until they were disbanded in 1929, at which time the RCMP assumed responsibility until such time as the city could reorganise and fund its police service.  This reorganisation was completed by mid-March of 1929 when Frank Leslie assumed the role of Chief of Police.

If you are interested in further information about the Prince Albert Police Service, I invite you to visit the Rotary Museum of Police and Corrections.  That museum, as well as the other local museums, are now open for the summer.  We have incorporated all of the requirements of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, so you can safely visit any of the museums between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. any day of the week between now and the end of August.  We look forward to seeing you!

Museum Musings: Early Prince Albert Police Service

by Fred Payton
Prince Albert Historical Society

After assuming control of the former Rupert’s Land in 1870, the Dominion government was not overly interested in encouraging the establishment of municipal governments within its new territory.  It was not until 1885 when communities such as the newly incorporated town of Prince Albert were able to elect a representative council.  Consequently, the first election of a town council did not occur in the Nisbet settlement until November 18th, 1885.

It goes without saying that there was considerable business to be addressed by the new council, but many of the issues which concerned residents were not addressed effectively.  One of the major issues which the residents felt had been inadequately addressed included the need for effective policing of the new town.  There was still a small detachment of North West Mounted Police located in the community, but they were mostly concerned with enforcing liquor laws.  The people of Prince Albert were more concerned about controlling the animals which ran at large in their community.  Packs of dogs, pigs, and cows not only threatened the safety of citizens, but were responsible for damaging and even destroying the community’s gardens.  The newly elected council, determined to deal with the concerns of the electorate, chose to appoint a town constable who was expected to restrain the dogs, impound wandering pigs and cows, and remove manure from the streets.  William Dilworth was appointed as Prince Albert’s first constable on December 7th, 1885.

There was, however, a small glitch in this response to the community’s expectations.  Well, actually, there were two.  First of all, there was no bylaw precluding those concerns which the constable was expected to address.  That left him trying to “sweet talk” the locals into abiding by a non-existent law.  Secondly, even had there been a bylaw to preclude dogs, pigs, and cows from wandering at large, there was no pound or pound-keeper where these miscreant animals could be enclosed.

Dilworth lasted two weeks, after which Prince Albert’s first constable resigned.

It did not take long for the town to replace Dilworth.  On December 14th, 1885, the town hired another constable, a man named Scotty Westwood.  He gladly (and perhaps glibly) declared his willingness to assume the duties required by the town council, although he expected “a wee extra price” for restraining dogs and impounding cattle and pigs.  But he felt that his first priority should be to deal with the lawless and unsavoury characters who would pass through town, and to keep drunks off the street.  All these individuals, he declared, would be escorted to the North West Mounted Police guard room.

The locals were not, however, impressed with Westwood’s priorities.  Drunks and unsavory characters were not their concern.  What they wanted Westwood to do was to take the animals, dogs and pigs and cattle, off the street.  They also wanted the transient traders to be controlled.  These were the citizens’ priorities.  When Westwood was confronted by council regarding his previous promises, he responded in the same manner as William Dilworth.  He, too, resigned.

The council thought there would be no problem replacing Westwood, but soon discovered their error.  When no one took on the job, disturbances became common place, and more and more transient traders were coming to Prince Albert.

The council decided that the Dominion government should be called upon to step in to assist.  A request for 200 Mounties was therefore forwarded to Ottawa.  The quick response was that the small local detachment existent in the community should be capable of handling the town’s problems.  No additional Mounties would be sent.

In April 1886, a third man was appointed to the position of constable.  W.A. Giles assumed the role but, he too, resigned within a month.  His replacement was William Dixon, the caretaker of the newly constructed building in which the constable’s office was housed.

Given the instability which plagued the town and its attempt to provide a level of policing acceptable to its citizens, it must have been a relief when the newly elected council, under Mayor James McArter, passed a bylaw to restrain and regulate dogs.  The bylaw required dogs be licenced, and that they be muzzled and leashed when amongst the public.  A further bylaw authorised the construction of a pound and the hiring of a pound-keeper.  Now the constable had the right to impound dogs and, if they remained unclaimed, to destroy them.

The town council passed another bylaw more in keeping with the type of duties a constable might expect.  It allowed him to arrest individuals for maliciously breaking windows, shutters, or blinds, for defacing signboards or participating in acts of graffiti on buildings, walls, or fences.  Other offences for which the constable could arrest individuals included destroying bridges and sidewalks, throwing stones, being drunk in public, cursing, or causing a fight.  Trees planted for shade or ornament could not be destroyed; nor could a person cause a disturbance in or near a church.  Persons involved in prostitution could be locked up for a maximum of 90 days, unless willing to pay a fine.  Finally, the bylaw allowed the constable to detain any person seen to be indecently exposed, including bathing within town limits.  One presumes that this meant bathing (or swimming) in the river or any other body of water, but did not preclude a person taking a bath within the confines of his or her own home or other habitation.

In September 1886, with these bylaws in place, Prince Albert’s first constable, William Dilworth, applied for and was once again hired to fill the position. He also assumed the position of pound-keeper, officially became the licence inspector, and was assigned to report unsafe conditions in both private and business establishments.  He was also required to fill holes in the roads, and to remove manure from the streets.

In 1887, a further bylaw was passed, this time creating the positions of health, street, and fire inspectors.  A pound-keeper was hired, but Dilworth was still required to capture and transport animals to the pound, and he continued to destroy unruly dogs.  The constable was also expected to act in the position of the other inspectors when those positions were vacant.

Eventually Dilworth and the members of the town council became disenchanted with one another when he refused to explain his whereabouts one evening when several thefts occurred in the town.  Dilworth left the position, and he was replaced by yet another constable, this time David Williamson.  Williamson soon left the position over a disagreement regarding who was entitled to the licence fees which he collected.  Reluctantly, the North West Mounted Police took over policing the town, and displayed their displeasure by fining a number of the local saloon keepers for failure to hold the appropriate licences.

Again, the town hired a new constable, John Offord, but he soon resigned when he realised that his duties conflicted with those of the Mounted Police.

In June 1888, the town council finally attempted to properly define the constable’s duties, and in September of that year they hired Peter Robinson on a three-month probation.  He proved to be capable in providing the policing which the citizens expected of him, but the divide between the town constable and the Mounted Police grew wider.  Robertson was taken into custody by the Mounties one night when he was trying to break up a brawl outside the Queen’s Hotel.  Threats were made to sue the Mounties but, as the town realised that they would require the Mounties to provide policing should their constable’s position become vacant, no further action was taken after the town received a letter from the commanding officer promising the Mounties would no longer interfere in the town’s policing unless requested to do so.

In 1890, after the arrival of the railroad, there was a rise in criminal activity in the town.  This led to a period of cooperation between the Mounties and the local constable.  Things apparently ran smoothly, and Robertson made monthly reports to the town council.  However, in 1893, the council decided to place the constable under the direction of a committee controlled by a group of aldermen.  The committee was called Fire, Light, Water and Police.  The constable’s responsibilities were increased to include a number of duties, such as eradicating weeds, inspecting and repairing sidewalks, culverts and drains, overseeing the piggery, and removing dead horses and dogs from within the town’s limits.  Robertson saw this as a regressive step, and resigned.  Once again, the Mounties policed the town, this time until 1895.

In that year, a special police committee was established, removing the constable from the previous amalgamated committee.  Three men, a chief constable, an assistant constable, and a special constable were hired.  This ensured that policing would be stable, as when one man resigned, the next in line would step up.  A fourth man was hired, another special constable, who acted as the town’s scavenger, responsible for removing dead animals and clearing manure from the streets.  All four men were accountable to, and directed by, the police committee.

In 1900, Robert Jones became the first man to be hired in the position of Police Chief.  Although the Police Service had become more professional, the citizens were not happy.  They expected the police to enforce the bylaws against transient traders and crooks, but felt that they themselves should be left alone.  When two constables were asked for their resignation, Jones submitted his resignation.  Council accepted the resignation on the condition that Jones remain until he could be replaced.  He agreed, but the town never bothered to advertise for a replacement.  Eventually his resignation was withdrawn and he remained in the position until 1906, when he retired.

Alex Forsythe and B.J. McDermott followed Jones in the position of chief, and in 1910 A.E. Danby was hired and appointed chief of police.  He brought years of experience and considerable knowledge to the position, and during his leadership the Service’s first dedicated building was erected.

The earliest years of the Police Service were made unstable as a result of bureaucratic mis-steps.  In my next column, we will follow it through its most unstable period, a result of the poor state of Prince Albert’s finances.

Museum Musings: Central Avenue and 18th Street

by Fred Payton

Winter, like the pandemic, just doesn’t seem to want to let go of us.  So, I have been trying to take advantage of fine days when they come along.  On one particularly sunny, warm day with little wind, I went out to check on the location of some homes which I want to include in a new walking tour of the Central Hill area.

It is not always easy to be exact as to who lived where.  Until 1909, buildings in Prince Albert did not have a street address.  So, prior to that year, the house now known as 159-21st Street West would have appeared in the Henderson Directory as “south side” 21st Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue West.  Further complicating research is the decision by the city in the mid-1950s to re-number buildings to allow for the in-fill which was occurring on many city streets.  As a result, that same street address was, prior to 1955, 145-21st Street West. 

That several large lots, particularly residential lots, were sub-divided through the years, complicates matters further.  For example, the Russell house at 235-18th Street East became the Russell house at 236- 19th Street East when the property was divided.  The front door became their back door, and their back door became their front door.  What had been an odd number house address became an even number street address.

As I approached the corner of Central Avenue and 18th Street, I recognised a familiar face, camera in hand, obviously photographing the Queen’s Bench building.  As we exchanged greetings, he told me about a request he had received from a cousin who was putting together a photographic exhibit of court houses across Canada.  The cousin had planned to come to Saskatchewan to take his own photographs but, due to the pandemic, he had asked for assistance from his relative.

My acquaintance knows that I have a love of local history and asked me if I could provide any background information about our Queen’s Bench court building.  Never one to waste an opportunity to pass on local history, I was delighted to enlighten him.

In the infancy of our province, from 1905 to the early 1930s, Saskatchewan actually had an office of the provincial architect.  This position was held by an architect and engineer by the name of Maurice Sharon between the years 1916 and 1930.  Our Queen’s Bench court house, built in 1927, was one of ten such court buildings designed by Sharon, with other communities including Melfort, Weyburn and Estevan having similar structures.

These court houses were built in the Colonial Revival style.  The Prince Albert court house differed only slightly from those built in Yorkton and Kerrobert, being distinguished by its unique central cupola incorporating a clock.  I pointed this out to the photographer, as well as noting the dormer windows and the columned main entrance.  He ensured that all of these featured in his photographs.

We then talked about the Cenotaph which stands in the parking lot to the north of the court house.  It was also erected in 1927, originally as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the Great War although a plaque was added to commemorate our contribution to World War II.  Designed by Marguerite Judd Taylor, it is believed to be the first sculpture to personify Canada as a nation.  As a result, more pictures were taken, this time of the Coat of Arms and the maple leaf coronet. 

As we looked out across the downtown vista, mention was made of the viaduct, which my friend called a Dirty-thirties make work project.  Like many Prince Albertans, I had long thought that the viaduct had been such a project. I had been surprised when I discovered that it had actually been a Canadian National Railways project begun in 1929, and suspended when the depression hit.  It wasn’t until 1938 that construction was resumed, with the viaduct opening in 1939.

Talk of the viaduct led quite naturally to the house standing on property on the western edge of it.  Built in 1911, this was originally the home of Louis Valade, a local tailor and purveyor of fine men’s clothing.  Valade’s daughter, Topsy, was long considered one of Prince Albert’s most beautiful women.  She was runner-up in the Winter Festival Queen competition, and winner of the Miss Prince Albert competition in the mid-1920s.

I then started to talk about some of the buildings which had once stood near that intersection.  Perhaps the most significant was the territorial gaol, built in the mid-1880s.  It housed the Superior Court of the Northwest Territories when it opened in 1886 and had cell blocks to house the men sentenced to custody.  It was not until 1895 that inmates were actually housed in the gaol, so the position of warden, variously held by Hugh Montgomery (Lucy Maud’s father) and the parents of his second wife (the John McTaggarts), must have been very easy to manage.

When Saskatchewan became a province in 1905, the territorial gaol became a provincial facility.  The first hanging to occur there was in 1911.  As there was no facility in the gaol in which hangings could occur, they were held out of doors on the west side of the building.  The timing of the hangings often coincided with recess at Central School, and eventually the principal of the school requested of the warden of the gaol that a change be made with respect to the timings so that the children were not subject to viewing the sight.

The provincial gaol was eventually demolished after the “new” gaol was opened on 28th Street between Central Avenue and 1st Avenue West.  It is noteworthy that an indoor room for executions was built into the new facility.

Two other buildings of note were discussed, the first of which was the two storey, red brick building which was named the Nisbet Academy.  Incorporated by an Act of Parliament in May, 1888, the cornerstone was laid in June of that year.  In December of that year, the school was opened.  Miss Lucy Baker taught subjects such as French, and Miss Hall taught music, art, and dramatics.  Unfortunately, a fire in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 1890, destroyed the building.  Included in the loss was a piano valued at $7,500 and a quantity of artefacts belonging to the fledgling Prince Albert Historical Society.

Later, the Victoria Hospital was built on the site of the Academy.  Opened in rented property on 12th Street Westin 1899, and incorporated in 1900, the hospital eventually occupied a brick structure west of the territorial gaol in 1904.  Included on the property was an isolation ward, which was expanded in 1918 to accommodate cases suffering from the Spanish Influenza.  A further expansion, built in 1959, is currently an apartment block known as the Courtview Apartments.

Our conversation had lasted longer than I had anticipated, but we had covered a lot of ground.  My friend went on his way much more knowledgeable about this part of the city, and the role it has played in our history.  And I went off trying to determine who lived where and when in the Central Hill area.

Museum Musings: George Will

by Fred Payton

My wife’s maternal grandmother used to reminisce about her early days in Prince Albert, when she was a student nurse at the Holy Family Hospital.  She would often tell the story about Sunday drives in a horse drawn carriage, checking progress on the construction of a big house on the west hill.

As a child attending elementary school at Queen Elizabeth School, I had at least one teacher who lived in that big house.  The grandeur of the house, which by that time had been converted from a single-family residence into apartments, has since those school days always fascinated me. 

Many of you will be familiar with the Colonial Apartments.  The house still stands on 20th Street West near 6th Avenue.  Based on the questions and comments directed our way at the Historical Society, I suspect that the house still holds a certain allure for local residents and for people visiting Prince Albert.

The late Phil West would occasionally lead walking tours of the west hill, and a number of years ago my wife and I joined Phil on one of those tours.  As luck would have it, the owner of the building allowed us to visit one of the suites during the tour, and we will never forget its beauty, character, and the height of the ceilings!

I recently had an opportunity to chat with a descendant of the man who built that big house on the west hill, and to my delight our conversation confirmed much of the information which I had discovered doing research on the house, and on the man who had built it.

As I talked with the descendant of the man who had had the house in question built, she recalled going on a bus tour of Prince Albert’s historical sites.  I wasn’t quite sure what her feelings were when she mentioned that as they passed her great-grandfather’s home the tour guide said “the man who built this house had more money than he knew what to do with”.

The man responsible for the construction of the house was George Will, a name not unfamiliar to those of us who have lived in Prince Albert and studied its history.

George Will was born a New Year’s baby in 1866, in Aberdeen, Scotland.  He came to Canada at the age of 19 years, and for two years farmed in the Peterborough, Ontario region.  Whether he found farming to be too difficult, or was attracted by the mystique of the North West Mounted Police, he joined up on April 9th, 1888.  Will was posted to ‘F’ Division (now Saskatchewan), where he served for ten years, seven of which were as a sergeant.  He resigned from the force effective January 1st, 1898, and settled in Prince Albert, where he opened a book and stationery store.

Will lasted in that business for two years, before selling out (likely to John Merritt, who eventually sold to L.S. Parrott, who in turn sold to Fred Adams).  After selling his book and stationery store, Will went into the real estate and insurance business, opening first in the Masonic Temple on 10th Street West, and then moving to the Bank of Commerce building, the McDonald Block, and later to the Imperial Bank Building.  In later years he used his homes as his place of work, including the Carlton Apartments at 300 River Street West, 110-21st Street West, and 109-20th street West.

Around the turn of the century, from the 19th to the 20th, the Will family lived at 119-14th Street West, across the street from the former Central School.  At that time, there was a lot of money to be made in real estate in Prince Albert and area.  Will advertised that his firm carried “Improved Farms and Wild Lands” as well as City Lots for sale.  Through the years, he was the agent for land companies from Winnipeg, Toronto, New York, Glasgow, and London, including such businesses as the Canadian National Railway and the Hudson’s Bay Company.  He handled insurance for the Great West Life Insurance Company, Car and General Insurance Company, and Confederation Life Insurance.  In later years, he was also the District Director for Empire Life, at which time his son Duncan was an agent and his daughter Emily was the stenographer.

Will had married Robena McGregor in 1894.  Robena had been born in Ontario, but obviously moved to Prince Albert with her family.  Prior to, and at the time of her marriage, Robena was a teacher.  Will and Robena had three children, George, Emily, and Duncan.  It has been suggested that Emily was courted by a young lawyer, John Diefenbaker, but he did not meet with the approval of the family as a suitor and the relationship was terminated.  Suffering from a debilitating illness, Emily never did marry, and died at a relatively young age. 

George Junior married, and later lived in Melfort with his wife and family.  Duncan married twice.  He had three children with his first wife (George, Agnes Robena, and Mary Lou) and a son with his second wife (Duncan).  Duncan Junior later followed his grandfather into the Mounted Police, enlisting on January 3rd, 1964, and serving until June 1st, 1993.  Duncan achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant, and was a well-known drill instructor at Depot.

Like many residents of Prince Albert, Will invested heavily in the La Colle Falls project.  Also like many others, he lost a considerable amount of money.  As a result, Will had to sell his house on the hill, and moved into a home at 25-11th Street East.  Within a few years, he had recovered sufficiently so that he could move his residence to 2006-3rd Avenue East.  This was later followed by a move to the Carlton Apartments on River Street West, and then back to homes on the central west hill.

Known as a motorcar enthusiast, Will was one of the first residents of Prince Albert to own a motor vehicle.  He was a strong supporter of education, and served several terms on the Public School Board.  A founding member of the Prince Albert Outing Club, he was the treasurer for that organisation for several years, owning property at Round Lake from 1913 and having a cottage built there in 1918.  Will also served as president of the NWMP Veteran’s Association.

Will retired from business in the mid-1940s, but continued living in Prince Albert.  In September of 1949, he travelled to Pine Falls, Manitoba, to visit his son Duncan, after which he joined his son George in Melfort.  He remained with his son and daughter-in-law until January 1st, 1950, at which time he was taken ill and transferred to hospital in Saskatoon.  Predeceased by his wife in 1948, and his daughter, George Will died in hospital in Saskatoon on February 16th, 1950.

Will had been a member of the Masonic Order (Knights Templar and Shriner), and he and his family were members of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church.  It was from that church that his funeral was conducted by Hart Caslor in February 1950.  The Masonic service was conducted by W.E. Bristow, Worshipful Master , Kinistino AF & AM.

Museum Musings – 818 River Street West

by Fred Payton

With the coming of the Spring weather, a walk along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River can be very appealing. 

It had been a while since I had walked the Rotary Trail west of the Historical Museum, and when I came upon a bench I hadn’t seen before, I was glad that I had taken that direction.

Apparently the bench was placed there last October.  It is placed so that one can sit on it and look out towards the river.  When I was there, the ice was thinning, but still very much in place.  The bench itself, I realised, had been placed there in memory of someone who was dearly loved; in memory of someone who dearly loved the location, of someone who had for many years watched the river from that location, watched the ice thinning in the spring, the river flowing in the summer, and the water freezing over in the autumn so that it was solid ice throughout the winter.

Fanciful, perhaps.  But one of the pleasures which I get from my involvement in the Historical Society is making connections.  And this bench made me want to make connections; connections with the house, with its history, and with the people who had lived there.

If you are like me and have visited that bench, you will know that it is located on the site of the former house at 818 River Street West.  It memorialises the location as being the home of Charlie and Irene Dent.  Without searching any further, I knew that these people loved living in that house.  I could tell that once it was demolished, they would have missed living there.

The Dents bought the house in 1965.  They maintained it, a job which would not have been easy (nor inexpensive) as their home had been built in 1895.  In 1975, they added a garage, with a roof-top deck to allow them a better view of the river.  They planted a garden, grew flowers, and generally beautified the property.  And they cherished its history.

I mentioned that the house had been built in 1895.  A well-known Prince Albertan, James Sanderson built the house, immediately west of his business, the Sanderson sawmill.  The mill itself had been opened in the mid-1880s, when Sanderson and his partner, Sam McLeod, bought and salvaged the equipment which remained after a fire destroyed Thomas McKay’s mill slightly further up the river.

The Sanderson mill became known not only for the lumber it produced, but also for the stair treads, bannisters, and newel posts which were milled there.  The staircases in most of the early Prince Albert and area homes were likely to have come from the Sanderson mill, including the two staircases in the home at 818 River Street West.  I am told that the newel post for the front staircase was magnificent, and that of the back staircase wasn’t too shabby either!

Sanderson did not live in the house for more than ten years.  He found it advantageous to sell out to a competitor, the Prince Albert Lumber Mill, and his mill became their “B” yard.  Sanderson moved on to involvement in a lumber mill in British Columbia, before returning to Prince Albert at a later date. 

In the meantime, the house was either rented or sold.  By 1909, its occupant was George Exton Lloyd, an Anglican priest who was at the time best known for having completed the settlement of the Barr colonists in the community which became known as Lloydminster.  Lloyd later went on to become the fourth bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan, a position he held from 1922 until 1931.  Occupancy of 818 River Street West was assumed in 1913 by the Reverend James Taylor, who had come from Battleford to take on the role of secretary-treasurer of the Diocese.  It is unknown whether Lloyd had bought the house and then sold it to Taylor, or whether the Diocese had bought the house or, perhaps, was renting it from the Sanderson family.  All we can determine is that these two clergymen lived in the house.

What we do know is that by 1919 the Prince Albert Lumber Company had removed its business and assets to The Pas and, as a result, Robert Gilmore had bought the sawmill buildings and the house.  Gilmore was running his business, The Gilmore Ice Company, from the former mill buildings, and was living in the house.  The company would cut ice from the river in the winter time and sell it to families and businesses so that items could be kept cold.  Gilmore continued living there until his death in 1943, after which his wife lived in the house for two years.

In 1945, the manager for Gilmore Ice, William Gauk, became the resident of the house.  Gauk managed the company, and lived in the house, until the Company closed in 1964.  By that time, uses for ice cut from the river had become limited and the business was no longer a profitable one.  The Gilmore Ice Company was closed, and Gauk put the house up for sale.

So it was that in 1965 Charlie and Irene Dent bought the house, which was well situated for them as it was near the grocery store which they operated in the 800 block of 13th Street West.  Later, when corner grocery stores began to go into decline, Charlie went into the real estate business, and Irene eventually opened a beauty salon within the house.  Although their employment changed, their love of the house was undiminished.

Shortly after the turn of the 21st century, the Dents realised that it was time to move into a smaller, more manageable residence.  The house they loved so dearly, and in which they had raised their family, would have to be put up for sale.  But for reasons which are not particularly clear, they found that they were unable to sell the house.  It might have been connected to the establishment of a local river authority, similar to the Meewasin Valley Authority in Saskatoon, or it might have been as a result of the 1-in-500 years flood plain plan imposed by the provincial government.  Whatever the reason, the only viable alternative for the Dents was to sell the property to the City.  Once the sale was concluded in 2008, the City demolished the house, destroying a history which spanned over 110 years.

But although the house is gone, the memories remain.  One can still visit the site, sit on the bench, and watch the river.  Whatever the mood of the river at that time.