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. 

Museum Musings: April Fools!

by Fred Payton

A week today is April 1st.  We all know what that means.  It’s the day when you are allowed, even encouraged, to pull pranks on family, friends, and neighbours.  Even people you don’t know.  But only until noon time.  According to custom, if you pull an April Fools joke after 12:00 o’clock noon, then you are the fool.

One of my favourite April Fools jokes involved me only peripherally.  The local morning radio show announced to its listeners that at a specified time that morning the railway bridge would be cranked open just like it used to be.  Long term residents of Prince Albert and area will know that, when it was built, the railway bridge was constructed such that a portion of it could revolve.  This would allow for the steamboats, such as the Marquis or the Northcote, to pass through the opening without having their steam pipes ripped off.

A friend of mine, having heard this announcement on the radio and knowing my penchant for all things historical immediately called me and excitedly passed on the news.  Would I drop everything that I planned to do that morning and rush down to the river bank to watch this wondrous event?  “Well, no,” I replied and proceeded to douse the flames of enthusiasm.  “What is the date today?”  I felt quite miserable for dampening all that excitement evident in my friend’s voice.

As frequently happens, my April Fools Day recollection regarding this April Fools Day joke was prompted by an item which I had come across while researching an entirely different matter.  I had read, buried in Dr. F.W. Baker’s history of the Frederick Charles Baker family, a reference to an April 5th, 1889 article from the Prince Albert Times and Saskatchewan Review, a weekly publication operated by J.D. Maveety.

Thomas Horace McGuire, a native of Kingston, Ontario, had practised law in that city until his appointment in 1887 as Judge of the Supreme Court for the District of Saskatchewan.  He travelled to Battleford in June, 1888, to hear a case there.  One year later he moved his wife and young son to Prince Albert from Kingston, where the seat of the District’s Supreme Court was centered.

The following year, there was considerable speculation that Sir John A. MacDonald’s Government might be defeated on a vote dealing with the Jesuits Estate Act.  When the British had defeated the French at the battle of the Plains of Abraham, they had confiscated all the land under French control, including land which had been owned by the Jesuit Society, an order of priests who had been suppressed by Pope Clement XIV in 1774.  The income from the Jesuit lands was eventually segregated from other Crown income and dedicated for educational purposes.  In 1814, the Society was revived by Pope Pius VII, and in 1842 members of the Society returned to Canada where they began to campaign for compensation for the lands which had been confiscated. 

As a result of mediation effected in 1888 through Pope Pius XIII, a bill to resolve the dispute was passed in the Quebec legislature, allowing for financial compensation to the church, to Laval University, and to several Roman Catholic dioceses.  Additional funding was allocated for the Society and for the Protestant Committee of the Council of Public Instruction. 

When a motion was introduced in the House of Commons demanding the overturn of the Quebec bill, MacDonald and the majority of the Conservative Party opposed the motion and, with the support of Laurier’s Liberals, soundly defeated it.

It was this federal matter which formed the basis of the April Fools joke which was perpetrated on the people of Prince Albert in 1889, and which was reported in the April 5th edition of the Prince Albert Times and Saskatchewan Review.

Under the heading “April Fool”, the newspaper reported that “the first of April was pregnant with joy to the greater population of the people of Prince Albert.”  The newspaper went on to report that the president of the local Liberal Association had announced that he had received a telegram, purporting to come from the east, advising that the Conservative government in the House of Commons had fallen by two votes on the issue of the Jesuit question.  The Honourable Justice T.H. McGuire, the Association’s president, announced that no time must be wasted in “notifying the faithful” and that a candidate “of the Grit persuasion” must be found and nominated immediately in order to contest the forthcoming election.

As the Liberals had been “hoping and praying for the defeat of the Government” (according to the newspaper’s report) they were the more readily “gulled than the Tories” as their hopes and desires were so suddenly and unexpectedly realised.  The paper went on to suggest that “we have not heard that any of them went crazy, but fears were entertained during the day that the mental equilibrium of some of them might be unsettled.”

The paper further reported that “our Liberal friends were not the only ones to be taken in by the joke, (but) nearly the whole town was fooled, and some Conservatives wore a look of disgust on their faces.” In fact, so seriously did the people of Prince Albert take Justice McGuire’s announcement, two individuals were immediately encouraged to accept the nomination.

It was further reported that nothing very startling occurred until evening, when about 9 o’clock it became known that it was the first of April and a grand prank had been pulled by the Supreme Court judge.  Quicker than they had emerged in the morning, those tricked returned to the solitude of their homes to await a more distant overthrow of the MacDonald government.

Of one thing we can be certain, no Judge will be pulling a similar trick on us this coming April 1st, as in this day and age judges are not be allowed to hold a position such as president of any political party.  But be warned, as next Thursday approaches, there may be some crafty person lurking in the metaphorical bushes, ready to leap out and prank you much as the Honourable Mr. McGuire did to the citizens of Prince Albert in 1889.

And just a reminder (this is no joke!), the Historical Museum will be open to the public the afternoons of April 6th to 9th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. free of charge.  We will, however, be accepting any donations which our visitors might wish to make.

Join us Tuesday, April 6th, for a scavenger hunt in the Historical Museum.  On Wednesday, April 7th, noted Prince Albert artist, Leah Dorion, will lead us as we explore historic beading patterns.  Then on Thursday, April 8th, test your knowledge of days gone by as we show you artefacts from our collection and ask “what is it?”.  Finally, on Friday, April 9th, get some fresh air and exercise as we take an historic tour on the river bank.  More information on these fun family activities can be found on our Facebook page,

Museum Musings – Writers from Prince Albert

For the first eight years of my life, I lived across the back alley from a house which seemed to me at that young age to be akin to a fairy tale castle.  The house, built for the family of druggist John Stewart, was sold in 1919 to a lawyer, newly arrived in Prince Albert to enter into a practice with S.J.A. Branion.  Stewart had recently purchased the home of George Will (still known to many of us as the Colonial Apartments), whose bank had foreclosed on his mortgage after he went bankrupt due to the La Colle Falls debacle.

The young lawyer, George Braithwaite, was the father of Max Braithwaite.  Max became a teacher, and later an author.  He wrote the books The Night We Stole the Mounties Car and Don’t Shoot the Teacher, but more notably a book, Never Sleep Three in a Bed, written in part based upon the family’s life living in that house.

My thoughts turned recently to writers who, through the years, have lived in Prince Albert because of two items which had been brought to my attention.  First off, poet Douglas Elves submitted a poem from his collection Riverlines to the Historical Society Facebook page.  Spring Breakup in P.A. 1883 was inspired by merchant James Clinkskill’s observations of the breakup of the North Saskatchewan River in the year 1883.  Then, I saw some media attention for a book written by former Prince Albertan Robert Boschman called White Coal City: A Memoir of Place and Family.

 I admit that I have read neither publication.  But they did start me thinking about books written by Prince Albert writers, and I decided it was time for me to include some of them, and their writings, in my column.

Elves’ book brought to mind the fact that Clinkskill, whose name was associated more with Battleford and Saskatoon, had originally settled in this community.  His move to Battleford was made for economic reasons, sometime before 1888.

Boschman writes: “I lived two blocks from the 1885 jail that was built in the aftermath of the Riel Resistance, and two blocks the other side of where I live is a residential school, All Saints, and I’m growing up right there,” said Boschman. 

Given the location of the Territorial Gaol, built in the mid-1880s, was at the corner of Central Avenue and 18th Street, and All Saints Student Residence was west of 7th Avenue West, I felt compelled to locate where Boschman had lived.  Other clues in the media report indicated that he had lived in the back of a launderette and I was able to call to mind that in the time frame of which he was writing, there was such a facility on 2nd Avenue West between 27th and 28th Streets.  The Henderson’s Directory proved that I was correct, listing King Koin Lauderette at 2730 – 2nd Avenue West, which was owned by Willard Boschman.  So, Robert lived approximately two blocks west of the provincial gaol, a facility which was not built until 1923.

Another author who wrote while living here includes one of the most widely read Canadian authors, although she is most famously associated with Prince Edward Island rather than with Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.  Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books lived in Prince Albert in 1890/91.  Her widowed father had remarried and brought Maud to Prince Albert to live with him, his new wife (Mary McRae Montgomery), and a half sister (Kate).  She wrote during her time here and experienced the delight of first having a piece published while living here.  The poem, about the legend of Cape Leforce, was written in November 1990 and printed in the Charlottetown Patriot.  Maud did not, however, get along well with her step-mother, nor with her school teacher (Mr. Mustard) who appeared to have a crush on her, and she left for the east at the end of August, 1891, just over a year after her arrival.

A more recent work by a local author is Connie Sampson’s Buried in the Silence, an examination of the life of Leo LaChance and the inquiry into his death.  Her 1995 book is described as “a thought-provoking examination of racism in Canadian society today” and might provide more recent insights into the “brutal racist place” which Boschman remembers from the 1960s and describes in his memoir.

Another book by a female author details some of the history of Chinese cafes in downtown Prince Albert.  This is a book by former resident Janice Wong.   Chow:  From China to Canada:  Memories of Food and Family is both a cookbook and a fascinating glimpse into local history. Janice writes about her father, Dennis Wong, who opened two Chinese-Canadian cafés in Prince Albert, and introduced countless adventurous Canadian diners to Chinese food. The book includes a collection of more than 50 simple family fare dishes.

Mary-Ann Kirkby also wrote a book with a culinary bent.  The second of her two books, Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen, was a follow up to her award winning I Am Hutterite.  She is currently completing a third book detailing Hutterite history, but does not limit herself to the one topic.  She also wrote and published a children’s book called Make a Rabbit.

Former mayor Dick Spencer incorporated his career as an educator and a politician, when he wrote his two books.   Trumpets and Drums, which contains behind the scenes campaign details of the later John Diefenbaker campaigns, is full of personal knowledge and anecdotes from Spencer’s close personal relationship with Canada’s thirteenth prime minister.  His other book, Singing the Blues: the Conservatives in Saskatchewan, details the party’s history in the Province of Saskatchewan until its near dissolution after the formation of the Saskatchewan Party.

One of Canada’s foremost poets, Earle Birney, referred to John Victor Hicks as “Canada’s most neglected poet”.  Hicks was known as a poet, a musician, and a train aficionado.  Unofficially serving as Prince Albert’s poet laureate until his death in 1999, Hicks’ first book of poetry, Now is A Far Country, was published in 1978.  Other books included Winter Your Sleep and Sticks and Strings.  But Hicks did not write only poetry.  His works included a collection of short essays called Side Glances:  Notes on the Writer’s Craft, which earned him a note of appreciation from American author Stephen King.

For those interested in the fur trade, and the Prince Albert of the first half of the 20th century, I would suggest that you read Harold Kemp’s book The Northern Trader.  When I knew the Kemps, they lived in a house across 2nd Avenue from where the Braithwaite family had lived. Kemp’s book chronicled his years working for the Hudson’s Bay Company and contains considerable information about the early part of the 20th century in Prince Albert and Northern Saskatchewan. 

A retired trapper and fisherman, Auguste Merasty’s book, The Education of Augie Merasty, tells the story of a young First Nations person who endured residential schooling.  Even though he suffered physical and sexual abuse, his poignant story is full of humour, and his warm voice shines through in his words which David Carpenter helps him to tell.  Although normally a resident of Birch Portage, Augie spent many hours in Prince Albert’s downtown core.

Childhood Thoughts and Water, by John McDonald, is a collection of freelance and beat poetry, spoken word, as well as free verse and lyrical poetry.  After growing up on the West Flat of Prince  Albert, and spending five years in the Prince Albert Student Residence (referred to by Boschman as All Saints), McDonald describes in his book how he reconnects with his culture, and the people and experiences which helped to shape him as the person he is today.

I know that there are numerous writers of a multitude of subjects whom I have not covered in this column.  I apologise if you or someone you know has been ignored.  What I have discovered, and what I hope that you will appreciate, is the extensive written word which has been produced by Prince Albertans.  It is part of the responsibility of the Historical Society’s Bill Smiley Archives to preserve this information for future generations.

Museum Musings: Early Prince Albert Fire Department

This photo is of the Number 2 firehall, which was on the site of the current East End Hall.

by Fred Payton

If anyone entering the Prince Albert Historical Museum is unaware that the building was originally a fire hall, it shouldn’t take long to recognise that fact.  Certain visual clues are obvious – the big red pumper truck sitting in its stall, the brass fireman’s pole connecting the main level with the upper level, and the hose tower, in which the old cotton hoses were hung to dry so that they would not mildew.  Of course, the Museum Interpreter would also inform the person that the building served as the Central Fire Hall from 1912 until 1975, and artefacts and photographs showing its history would be pointed out.

What the casual visitor might not get to see, or to hear about, would be some of the more arcane historical items regarding the city’s early Fire Department.

The sod turning for this building occurred on July 20, 1911.  The department took possession on January 20, 1912.  Prior to that, the Fire Department was housed in other facilities.

Initially, Prince Albert had two volunteer fire companies, one in Goschen and one in the Nisbet settlement.  Shortly after its organisation, the Goschen company fought a fire.  Although they lacked much in the way of equipment and lost the building, they saved a neighbouring storage facility which was full of grain.  The fire company hauled buckets of water from the river, which they used to soak blankets on the roof of the storage facility.  By such primitive means, they saved the building and the grain stored within.

Soon after that fire, equipment, such as buckets, axes, and ladders, were stored in a fire shed next to the Hudson’s Bay Company warehouse in Goschen.  This shed was built in 1887 at a cost of $104. As there was no method to transport the equipment, the town’s Fire Committee would pay $5.00 to the first team of horses which reached the fire shed and haul the fire wagon to the site of the fire.  The first team to arrive with the water cart carrying two or more barrels of water would receive $3.00.

Eventually, in 1888, two underground water tanks were constructed within the town site for the purpose of fire suppression. Fire crews were able to access this water, rather than waiting for the water tanks, but only if the fire was within close proximity to the tanks.

This photo is of the Number 1 fire hall which stood behind the current Arts Centre.

Although Number 1 Company was established originally in Goschen, and the Nisbet settlement company was Number 2, by 1905 the companies’ designation had switched.  Number 1 Company was now in the main settlement, and Number 2 was in Goschen.  In the autumn of that year, a new fire hall was built for Number 1 Company east of the existent City Hall (now the Arts Centre).  The building was a two-bay facility with living quarters and meeting rooms upstairs.  Horses used both by the city and the fire department were sheltered in the back of the building.

In the spring of that year, J.F. McKenzie, the Fire Captain for Number 1 Company issued notices advising people what they needed to do if they discovered a fire.  First, they should ring the bell on City Hall Square, or tell the owner of the nearest steam whistle, or they should telephone the Telephone Central giving the location of the fire.  In the latter instance, the person should communicate with City Hall and the Electric Light Station.  Owners of whistles included the Hudson’s Bay Company, William Cowan & Company, the Electric Light Station, Golden Lion Brewers, Goodfellow and Son’s Planing Mill, and Sanderson’s Mill.

The community was divided into four Fire Brigade districts, and each district had a distinctive signal.  For example, District 4, which ran from the Catholic Church (or 3rd Avenue West) to the West End of the city, had a signal that was four toots, followed by four seconds rest, followed by four toots, with four seconds rest, repeated as required.

Starting in 1906, all men applying to be volunteer fire men would be investigated and voted upon by the other members of the company.  Members were expected to attend all meetings and practices, and even other activities such as parades.  Missing any three of the foregoing would result in the member being dismissed from the company.  The chairman of the City’s Fire and Light Committee was also provided with the names of the officers elected by the company for approval by the city’s council.

The volunteer firemen had been provided with caps in 1889, with the company’s number embroidered on the cap. In October of 1906 the city gave them the choice of being paid $2.00 per fire call, or being provided with uniforms.  The men chose uniforms which, it would appear, were much more stylish than functional.  Chief Wagner received four bids on the tenders for these “Fireman’s Suits”.  W.A. Johnson, a Men’s Outfitters and Merchant Tailor, the Prince Albert Trading Company, the McLeod-Hamelin Company, and Louis Valade, a Tailor and Haberdasher, all submitted bids.  Valade’s bid of $9.31 per suit was accepted, being “the cheapest and just as good cloth”.  These uniforms were later borrowed by the City Band when they travelled to Regina to perform at the installation of the Province’s Lieutenant-Governor.

In the spring of 1908, the first hat badges (as opposed to embroidered numbers) were received, and accident insurance was taken out on the firemen, covering them 24 hours a day.  Also, the city purchased a team of horses, a new hose wagon, and a ladder wagon for use by the fire department.

Although not the only set of horses purchased by the city, this set in particular was much loved.  Pat and Myrtle served the department until 1920, when they were replaced by two one-ton trucks.  It was said that Pat and Myrtle were so well trained that, when the fire bell rang, they would leave their stalls and run under the drop harness.  If the men were delayed in hooking up the drop harness, the horses would return to their stalls and refuse to move.

A later comment about this in The Prince Albert Daily Herald brought a scathing response from the Prince Albert author of The Northern Trader.  Harold Kemp had been a member of the Department from April 1914 until August 1915.  He maintained that there was never any delay in harnessing Pat and Myrtle because the Fire Chief had trained ‘his men” to such a high state of efficiency, and kept them there by regular “timed practices”, that they would never be delayed!

Although a bylaw was passed by the town of Prince Albert in 1887 to establish the Fire Department, the first Fire Prevention By-Law which I have uncovered was passed in 1913.  This bylaw authorised the Fire Chief, its officers and members “to enter any building in the City of Prince Albert at any reasonable hour in the performance of their duties”.  Buildings were to be inspected as often as necessary, but business buildings were to be inspected not fewer than four times per year, and any other building not fewer than twice a year.  Records were to be kept of such inspections, and the Fire Chief was to ensure that any problems identified were to be remedied within an acceptable time frame.

Business buildings in the bylaw included hotels, lodging houses, stores, office buildings, warehouses, mills, factories, and public buildings.

Other information which a visitor might find of interest with respect to the Fire Department includes that fact that the city bought the Fire Chief a motor cycle on which to get around.  However, due to the rough roads, raised wooden sidewalks, and the speed at which the machine was driven, the front forks and frame were often bent and in need of repair.  It turned out that a motor cycle was not one of the most successful purchases made for the Department.

The other purchase which one might find curious was that of blood hounds.  These were purchased by the Chief in order to track miscreants who had been turning in false alarms.  One of the dogs died within a month, but the other was used to track down escaped convicts from the Penitentiary.  There is no record of either of the dogs catching anyone who turned in a false alarm.

I have been able to use considerable information from a history prepared on the Fire Department by Dori Jardine and her late husband Ross.  This history, entitled Prince Albert Fire Department:  From Then To Now, covers the story of the Department until 1981.  Since that time, much more history has been made by the Prince Albert Fire Department.  It may be time for a further attempt to record that history as they approach their 135th year of serving the community.   The Prince Albert Historical Society will be holding its Annual General Meeting at 7:00 p.m. on March 18th  at the Arts Centre.  All those who hold current membership are eligible to attend.  Members will be able to attend the meeting in person (we are limited to 19 people in person) or via Zoom.  Please let our Curator know if you wish to participate.  You can call her at 306-764-2992, or email her at

Museum Musings: Prince Albert Street Names


by Fred Payton

The term “rabbit hole” is often used at the Historical Museum, especially in the Bill Smiley Archives.  Many is the time I have visited the Archives to research a specific topic and have come home full of some new knowledge of Prince Albert history, but without any new information on the topic about which I had initially planned to research.

I had had every intention of researching Prince Albert street names when I stumbled across the information on neighbourhood names which became the topic of my previous column.  And my idea to write about those individuals for whom existent streets are named (like Agnew, Branion, Cuelenaere, and Davis), will just have to wait.  Because once again, I have fallen down the “rabbit hole”.

Before addressing the topic of street names, I had to contend with a question to which I have been unable to find an answer.  Early local histories clearly identify two distinct and separate communities in what we now call Prince Albert.  There is Prince Albert, and there is also East Prince Albert.  Prince Albert was clearly the settlement formed around the mission established by James Nisbet near the corner of the present-day Central Avenue and River Street.  East Prince Albert was just as clearly the settlement on the Hudson’s Bay Company land, also known as Goschen.  A 1912 map of Prince Albert clearly shows the two communities as one, with streets having been re-named to align to match up with each other.  Yet a 1913 Hudson’s Bay Company map continues to show the original names of the streets in Goschen (or East Prince Albert).  When did the two settlements become incorporated as one?  It is presumed that this had occurred by 1904, when Prince Albert was incorporated as a city, but so far extensive efforts by the archives staff have been unable to determine a specific date on which that amalgamation occurred. 

In his book commemorating the 100th anniversary of the arrival of James Nisbet, Gary Abrams refers to Goschen as being the settlement of the “elite”.  A first attempt to incorporate Prince Albert as a town, occurred in 1883, but failed when the people of Goschen were excluded from all discussions.  A further attempt in December of that year proposed the town boundaries extend from River Lot 68 (the present 12th Avenue West) to the western edge of Colville Street (now 12th Avenue East).  Once again incorporation failed, this time apparently over the “bugbear” of taxation.

Regardless, at some point incorporation occurred, and the necessary alignment of streets occurred.  Since the Saskatchewan River had a bend in it prior to passing through Goschen, 1st Street in that settlement was further north than 1st Street in the Prince Albert settlement.  This meant that when amalgamation of the two communities occurred it was necessary for what had been 1st Street in the Nisbet settlement to become 11th Street, and 3rd Street became 13th Street in order for the streets to be named appropriately.  Thus, the property which Laurence Clarke sold to the Faithful Companions of Jesus on 3rd Street in the Prince Albert settlement ended up becoming St. Patrick’s Orphanage on 13th Street West in the amalgamated settlement.

The settlement of Goschen (named after a governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company) was somehow translated by the town bureaucrats to Goshen (as in the Bible).  It has remained spelled in that manner ever since, even though efforts have been made to have it corrected.

Streets in Goschen, now avenues, began with Albert Street, running from the river along a line similar to the present 7th Avenue East.  One can presume that Albert Street was named after Victoria’s consort.  The other streets leading from the river were named in order Stafford, McTavish, Clarke, Grahame, Colville, Brydges, Bissett, McFarlane, and Hardisty.  They were all named after senior Hudson’s Bay Company staff of the day, and correlate now with avenues numbering from 8th Avenue East to 16th Avenue East (roughly the north/south portion of McIntosh Drive).

Eden Colville was the governor of the Company from 1880 – 1889.  Stafford Northcote was governor from 1869 – 1874, and was also the man after whom the river boat was named.  Charles Brydges was the Company’s Land Commissioner from 1879 – 1889, and was responsible for attempting to get an agreement to build a joint northern railway to the Hudson’s Bay Company property in East Prince Albert.

Other streets were named after James Grahame, the Company’s Chief Commissioner (1874 – 1884), James Bissett, the Chief Factor in Montreal (1872 – 1880), Roderick McFarlane, the Cumberland District’s Chief Factor (1889 – 1893), and Richard Hardisty, Edmonton’s Chief Factor (1871 – 1883 and 1885 – 1888).  McTavish Street would appear to have been named after one or more of the MacTavish family members who were senior members of the Company working primarily in what is now the Province of Manitoba.

In the Nisbet settlement, street names similarly reflected the heritage of the founders.  Lorne Street (now 5th Street East) obviously came from the Marquess of Lorne, Governor General of Canada from 1878 to 1883.  His wife, Louise, was celebrated in the name of the next street south, (6th Street East).  Nesbit Street (8th Street East) and Selkirk Street (10th Street) reflected the Red River origins of the founding party.  Main Street, also referred to as 3rd Street, is now 13th Street (and continues to be a major east/west thoroughfare).  Saskatchewan Avenue, also known as Broadway, was the location of the Broadway Hotel (15th Street).

Wellington Avenue (6th Avenue East) formed the easternmost boundary between Prince Albert and Goschen.  McDonald Avenue (5th Avenue East), McKay Avenue (1st Avenue East), and Sinclair Avenue (4th Avenue West) reflected the Scottish origins of many of the early settlers.  If you lived at the corner of what would be the present day 16th Street and 1st Avenue East, which preceded the arrival of the railway and the current rail yards, you would have lived on the corner of McKay Street and McKay Avenue.

Central Avenue was known as Church Street.  To the west of it was King Street (1st Avenue West) and Government Avenue (2nd Avenue West).  Other street names included Sarah Street (7th Street East), Parkman (17th Street), Spencer Street (18th Street), and Barker Street (20th Street).

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Prince Albert’s street names, current or original, consider stopping by the Historical Museum on the corner of River Street and Church Street (River and Central).  We are open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday until the Victoria Day weekend.  Ring the bell at the east door to gain entrance.

On Family Day and the week days thereafter (February 15th to February 19th) we will have special programming each afternoon from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., so called ahead to ensure that we will be able to accommodate you within the Public Health guidelines.

On Monday we will have a session on family trees.  Tuesday will allow for a “behind the scenes” tour.  Wednesday there will be a session on hand weaving a coaster, and on Thursday you will be able to “ask the curator”.  The Friday session will be on notebook making.  On all five afternoons you will have an opportunity to tour the Historical Museum and find out what opportunities exist for involvement there as a volunteer.

We look forward to seeing you!

Museum Musings


by Fred Payton

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time when, at the Nov. 30, 1965 meeting of City Council, they approved a recommendation from the Centennial Committee to impose eighteen neighbourhood names in the City of Prince Albert.  Let’s face it, although there were a few names which could be considered to be imaginative (Goshen and Hazeldell, for instance), neighbourhood names such as East Hill and West Hill, West Flat and East Flat are pretty mundane.

With the exception of three years during which I lived on the East Flat in a neighbourhood commonly called Midtown, most of my life has been lived in four different houses on what has always been known, to me and to others, as the West Hill.  So, it came as some surprise to me when I discovered that this motion had been passed by City Council.  It would have designated the area of the city in which I lived at that time, and in which I currently live, as Buena Vista.  Moreover, one of the West Hill houses in which I lived would have been part of the Brentwood neighbourhood, while the neighbourhood in which I lived in Midtown would have been known as Riverside.

As mentioned, these neighbourhood designations had been recommended by the Centennial  Committee of the City of Prince Albert as part of the celebratory plans for Prince Albert’s 100th anniversary, held in 1966.  Council approved the item at the November 30th, 1965 meeting.  So what has happened to these names, and why am I not currently living in the Buena Vista neighbourhood?

Some of the names, including Westview, and Crescent Heights, have lasted as neighbourhood names to this day.  Others, such as Hazeldell and Goshen, already existed and have remained as part of the nomenclature for areas of the city.  But names such as Pinedale, Parkhill, Westmount, and Homewood are names that you will have never seen on any recent city maps.

The response to Council’s November 1965 decision was immediate, and tended to be negative.  In the December 3rd edition of the Prince Albert Daily Herald, it was made clear that the print media was vehemently opposed to the changes.  An editorial entitled “Will Get New Names” noted the existence of some of the proposed names, such as Normandy Park and Victory Place, but ridiculed the idea of anyone having to address a letter to, for example, 159 – Buena Vista.  The editorial was, perhaps, a little unsound, but it certainly left no doubt as to the stance of the newspaper.

At the following City Council meeting, a letter was received from Eric Langland of the Prince Albert Real Estate Board in which it was held that the name changes would “confuse the issue rather than accomplish the aim for which it was intended”.  It was suggested that the Board approved in principle the naming of areas, but believed that the manner in which the areas were to be divided resulted in areas which were too small.  They should be “larger and encompass greater numbers of people in each neighbourhood.” 

It was pointed out that the East Flat would be divided into six neighbourhoods, far too many to reflect the neighbourhood’s size.  The letter also pointed out that the names of areas should more closely reflect Prince Albert’s history and area.  “…while Buena Vista, Mount Pleasant, and Westmount may be picturesque and suitable for some cities or countries, they reflect nothing of Prince Albert’s history, culture, or of our North Saskatchewan setting.”

Alderman Jim Sanderson weighed in on the issue, indicating that he had tried to determine if the city had the right to change existing designated names of the various neighbourhood areas and that he had discovered that it did not.  “The city has no power to pass any such bylaw to change existing names of the areas.  It can only be a matter of custom, and that’s all.”

In response, Alderman Marion Sherman indicated that the majority of the names chosen had been taken from a 1912 Prince Albert survey map.  A copy of the map to which she alluded does include Park Hill, Hazeldell, Westmount, and Mount Pleasant.  Also appearing on the map is the name Crescent-Wood, in an area similar to the location of the current Crescent Heights.  However, many of the names included on the 1912 map, such as The Bronx, Riverdale Park, Princeton, and Ruskin Place, are not included in the 1965 place names.

Some names, such as Bestland, Bouckfield Gardens, and Kensington Heights are land locations which are not included even within today’s city limits.  All are within the R.M. of Prince Albert, with Bestland and Bouckfield Gardens south of the city, and Kensington Heights west of the city towards the Lily Plain district.

The discussion concluded when Mayor Barsky suggested that whether change was to be made by council resolution or by bylaw, the suggestion to adopt the new names of neighbourhoods would require that the city “get the feelings of the people”.  Obviously, he felt, more discussion was required, and he moved that the entire matter be laid on the table.

A matter tabled at Council must have been dealt with at a later date, but so far my research has been unsuccessful in determining when this occurred.  The fact that I still live on the West Hill and not Buena Vista would suggest that when the matter was dealt with, the decision taken was definitely not in the affirmative.

Museum Musings: My most memorable Christmas


by Fred Payton

Given the unique manner in which Christmas had to be celebrated this past December, the Prince Albert Historical Society made the decision to provide an opportunity to for the people of Prince Albert and area to submit articles describing their most memorable Christmas.  Ach of the submissions were to be entered into a draw for a prize, and the stories submitted are going to be retained in the Bill Smiley Archives for the enjoyment of future historians.

We were not overwhelmed with submissions, but those which were received were all worthy of retention.  As president of the Society’s Board of Directors, I was asked to draw the winning entry, which I did on the eve of the Epiphany (also known as Ukrainian Christmas Eve).

When I had drawn the winning entrant, I asked to read the author’s submission, and was left with the belief that I could not have done better if I had read and judged the entries based on content.  Here, then, is the entry submitted by six year old Milion Kifley, as told to his adult friend, Morley Harrison:


I remember last Christmas was fun.  There were so many presents.  All my family was there.  There are 10 in my family.

We hung our stockings on the wall, and Santa filled them up with candy.

My best present was two watches.  I liked them both.

It was fun because we had Christmas Crackers that sparked and snapped.

I hope that it will be funner this Christmas, ‘cause my new aunt will come from Africa.  It will be funner.”

Thank you to Milion for taking the time to submit his favourite Christmas memory.  We certainly appreciate the effort.  We hope that this Christmas was even better than last Christmas, and that his family was able to celebrate it with his new aunt.

Milion and his family will be able to visit the Society’s four museums (the Historical Museum, the John and Olive Diefenbaker National Historic site, the Rotary Museum of Police and Corrections, and the Evolution of Education Museum) with the family pass which he won for submitting his story.  We hope that his new aunt will be able to join them on their visits, and that we will be able to get photographs of them to accompany his submission in the Bill Smiley Archives.

Museum Musings: Payout of Lacolle Falls mortgage


by Fred Payton

Fifty-five years ago today, the City of Prince Albert finally paid off the debt which had been a drain on its growth and progress for over forty years.  It was on December 31st, 1965, that the last payment was made on the La Colle Falls debt.

Between 1910 and 1913, Prince Albert was booming.  More land changed hands in the newly created city in one week in March, 1910, than in the previous two years.  Excitement abounded with news that the Hudson Bay and Pacific Railway had let contracts for placing the first fifty miles of it line through Prince Albert and, on the evening of April 29, 1911, real estate deals totalling one and a half million dollars were made.

Although the Hudson Bay and Pacific slowly faded away, other rail construction continued to give Prince Albertans high expectations, including the Grand Trunk Pacific branch, the C.P.R., and the Canadian Northern. Underlying all the railway growth were thriving farming and lumber industries.

As a result, the residents of Prince Albert were open to welcoming the idea of the establishment of a potential source of cheap energy which would not only power residential development but myriad industrial properties.  Not only would the city be able to provide its own power through the project, but it would be able to sell power to numerous other communities in northern Saskatchewan.

Harnessing the power of the North Saskatchewan River, by building a lock at a set of rapids east of the city, appeared to be the answer.  With financial assistance from the federal government, which was responsible for the control and upkeep of inland waterways, it appeared sensible that an hydroelectric dam made powerful sense.

At first, the federal government appeared to be in agreement, but like the Hudson Bay and Pacific Railway, it slowly faded out of the picture, even though a Toronto engineering firm had made a good case for the project.  Even so, a tender was advertised in 1911, funds were raised by selling municipal bonds, and the project looked ready to proceed.

Then, further cost estimates were received, and the price of the project was raised not once, but twice in the summer of that year.  Another engineering firm subsequently raised the cost estimates even higher.  Yet the city signed a contract with a Montreal firm for the construction of the dam, a lock, and intakes.  Construction started immediately, but delays crept in.  Construction continued over the winter of 1912/13, employing over 300 labourers.  The expectation of the citizens of Prince Albert were being achieved, as industry was being attracted to the city

Shortly after the excitement had peaked, disaster struck.  A financial crisis occurred, which by 1913 found that the city had run out of money.  City bonds plummeted as European financiers lost confidence in western Canada.  Prince Albert stopped paying its bills, while continuing to borrow more money.  The La Colle Falls project was suspended on August 29th, 1913 when it was estimated that it would cost $1.8 million to complete it.  Even then, engineering firms reported that the venture was not feasible, and neither the provincial nor federal governments were willing to assist the city, especially after the Imperial Bank refused to provide it with any further loans.

A total of $1.2 million had been expended by the city on a useless chunk of concrete which spanned a mere third of the river.  No electricity would ever be produced, while the city was left with its credit rating in tatters, and a lack of municipal services such as sewers and water mains without attracting any sustainable major industries.

Through the years, efforts were made by local leadership to have the dam project completed.  In 1927, Hugh Sibbald was president of the Board of Trade.  He met with a Montreal company which strongly supported the completion of the project.  In concert with the completion of the project, the company encouraged the construction of a pulp mill near Prince Albert.  But the spokesman for the company was perceived to be too pushy by members of the City Council, and on April 30th, 1928 they rejected his proposal.  A month later, however, the company came back with a further offer which the Council accepted.  Due to provincial legislation passed earlier that year, which impacted power production in the province, the deal fell through.  Again, in 1930, the Montreal firm was involved in negotiation with the city and the province to finish the La Colle Falls project, but the province refused to participate in the venture.  In the long term this was likely of greater benefit to the city and province than if they had proceeded in a project which, from an engineering stand point, was not feasible.

In 1946, under the leadership of Mayor John Cuelenaere, negotiations were entered into which resulted in revised terms for the city.  Those negotiations resulted in the cancellation of nearly $7.16 thousand, leaving a balance of over $2.775 million.  News reports from December 1965 suggested that between 1946 and the final payment on the debt interest alone cost the taxpayers of Prince Albert about $1.5 million.

It was a jubilant Mayor Allan Barsky who joined with the City Commissioner, Joe Oliver, and the trustees to sign the cheques on December 21st 1965 at the trustees’ final meeting.  The trustees at the meeting were Ned Pickering and E.T. “Teddy” Bagshaw.  All at the meeting agreed that Bagshaw, who had been the city’s auditor, as well as an alderman, through the years would be the perfect person to light the fire when the mortgage was to be burnt early in 1966, Prince Albert’s centennial year. 

For more background on the La Colle Falls fiasco, why not visit us at the Historical Museum.  We will re-open on January 4th, and will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. week days.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Museum Musings – Chinese Cafes in Prince Albert


Ed. Note:

Most early Chinese residents have their roots in the Canadian Pacific Railway. They came to the country in 1880, and were told to go home, with many discriminatory policies put in place to try to chase them away. The Chinese Immigration Act required newcomers to pay a head tax of $500 by 1903 — the only group in Canada faced with such a charge. Faced with discrimination and violence, most immigrants resorted to opening laundries and cafés. They were forced out of many other professions by anti-Chinese sentiment, and at one point had to receive a special licence in order to hire white women in their shops. In 1923, Canada passed the Chinese Immigration Act, barring Chinese from entering the country and controlling those already here, and remained in place for 34 years. It wasn’t until after the Second Word War, where the two countries were allied, that things started to change. Legislation was withdrawn in 1947, and attitudes began to shift as well. Between 1971 and 2001 the Chinese population in Saskatchewan doubled, from 4,605 to 9,280. According to the 2001 census statistics, the Chinese community represented the largest visible minority group in Saskatchewan. Today, the community has diverse cultural, professional and social backgrounds and is integral to our communities, and it’s important to remember that many misconceptions about the community, and unsubstantiated claims of ties to gambling and drug dens, are rooted in historical discrimination.

  • Source: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan and Government of Canada.

by Fred Payton

Often people chat with me about the Chinese cafes and restaurants we used to have on Central Avenue.  At the Historical Museum, former residents drop by to ask about the Wings Café, or to recall fondly their experiences eating toasted tea cakes at the Lotus Café.

I recall wending my way to the back of the Deluxe Café for luncheon meetings with one committee or another, or attending a special celebration in their banquet room.  Do you recall the table top juke box selectors in the PO Café, or early morning coffee at the Wings?  I once felt that Janey and Hope at the Princess Café were like family, as I had coffee there regularly when I was employed at the Stag Shop.

Aside from Janice Wong’s family history in her cook book “Chow:  From China to Canada:  Memories of Food and Family” I know of little documentation about Prince Albert’s Chinese community and their restaurants and cafes.  If any more information exists, even personal recollections, I would enjoy reading or hearing them.

If I have mis-named any persons, I apologise.  I had to rely on information in which Chinese names may have been misspelled by the Caucasian people recording them. 

Let me be clear.  I heard rumours through the years about the frequent change of ownership of these restaurants as a result of gambling debts, but that’s not what I found.  I have found that most of the cafes had very stable ownership.

The first indication which I could find of a Chinese presence in Prince Albert was gleaned from the 1908 Henderson’s Directory.  It should be noted that the Directory in those early years provided pretty skimpy information.  There were no street addresses provided, possibly because at the time street addresses were non-existent in Prince Albert. 

Three eating establishments were listed for 1908:  Charles Boyles’ City Restaurant, Joe Calkins’ Maple Leaf Restaurant, and S.H. Thom’s New England Café.  All were on River Street, whether east or west is not indicated, but likely all were on River West.  None appeared to be Chinese.  However, the Directory did contain a listing for the ill-fated Hoo Sam, who was identified simply by name and the word “restaurant”.  Presumably he worked for one of the three restaurant owners.

By 1909, Hoo Sam owned his own restaurant, the Canadian Restaurant in the 1000 block of 1st Avenue West.  He was also a partner with Mark Ying (could this be a mis-spelling of Mark Yuen or Mark Yin?) in the Prince Albert Café at 831 Central Avenue.

By 1911, Prince Albert was home to at least five Chinese run eateries.  These included the Alexandra Restaurant, run by Jim Jockbin in 1909, but now operated by Lee Sing.  The Canadian Restaurant was now operated by Tom Wing, while Hoo Sam had moved across 1st Avenue West to open the Saskatchewan Café (the site of the infamous murder of his partner).  The B.C. Restaurant (Lee Mark) on River Street, and the Prince Albert Café on Central Avenue were also Chinese operated.

In 1913, Finley McLeod opened the Thistle Café at 1117 2nd Avenue West.  Although with the name McLeod it is not likely to have been a Chinese restaurant, The Thistle was the fore-runner of the Canada Café, run successively by Joe Mark (1919), Mack Hing (1923), and Hong Kee (1925) before later becoming known as the Ireland Café (Mack Tom) in 1925.  Other owners through the years included Annie Chester (1929) and Bill Mack (from 1941).  In 1947, it was run by Kim Yee and known again as the Canada Cafe.  By 1949, Jack Wing had taken it over.  He ran it until 1954, when Mack Wah became the owner, later changing the name to Mac’s Café.  Mack Wah ran it until the late 1960s, when Jack Ma bought him out.

For most of its existence, this café sat west of 2nd Avenue West, just south of River Street.  When the Diefenbaker Bridge was built, and the routing of 2nd Avenue was changed, the building was demolished, and the business was moved to the northwest corner of 14th Street and 2nd Avenue West where it operated until 1981.  Jack Ma ran it until then when the business was closed for good.  A new building was erected, and now houses Flames Pub.

Other Chinese cafes in Prince Albert in 1913 included the Canadian Restaurant, King’s Café (owned by the future owner of Mac’s Café, Mack Wah), and the Newfoundland Café (owned by Fred Doo Suey).

The following year, the number of Chinese restaurants had grown to twice the number.  King’s Café and the newly opened Victoria Café were located on Central Avenue, while Tom Mack’s Café (the Saskatchewan Café) was one of four cafes located on River Street West.  Of these, two others were Chinese cafes.  They included the Paris Café at 79 River West, and the Riverside Café at 73 River West.  Other competitors in the Chinese restaurant business included the established Canadian and Alexandra Restaurants on 1st Avenue West, the previously mentioned Canada Café on 2nd Avenue West, Jem Mack’s Western Café on 8th Street East, and the Royal Restaurant on 13th Street East.  The latter two restaurants were within a block of Central, but were the first Chinese restaurants to locate off a major street.

Having survived the economic down-turn of the First World War, in 1919 the Alexandra Restaurant and the Canada Café were still in their previous locations.  King’s Café had been moved off Central by Yuen Bow and become King’s Tea Rooms.  The Victoria Café was now the Empire Café, run by Tom Mack.  Tom Mark’s Saskatchewan Café at 47 River Street West had become the Queen Bess Café, and the Riverside Café was now owned by Mrs. L. Howell.  Art Lee opened Billy’s Café at 700 Central Avenue, while the Post Office Café had been opened by Mark Lem.

Often referred to as the P. O. Café, the Post Office Café sat next to the local post office.  Through the years it had fairly stable ownership, with Mark Lem (sometimes referred to as Mark Lem Fun) owning it until the 1930s.  At that time, it was purchased by Mah Jung who owned it in whole or in part through to the mid-1960s.  The only exception was in the late 1940s and early 1950s when a consortium owned it.  Mah Jung was back in the ownership position by 1952, although at that time as a member of a consortium.  The P.O. was bought in the late 1960s by Jack Ma, who maintained ownership of it until 1978 when it closed.  By 1980, Hope Chow had moved the Princess Café from its location at 1210 Central Avenue to the former premises of the P.O. Café, where it is to this day.

The Princess Café was opened in 1929 by S.H. Thom, who had owned and operated the New England Café on River Street in 1908.  Thom operated the café at the corner of Central Avenue and 12th Street East until 1944, at which point William Seto bought the café.  In 1947, a conglomerate including Mah Jung, Bing Chow and Charlie Wong purchased the business.  They operated the Princess until 1950 when Bing Chow appears to have established sole ownership.  In 1955, Chow appears to have been joined in the business by Jack and John Chow, Joe Moore, and Jack Quong.  This partnership lasted, as best we can tell, until 1958, when Bing Chow once again had sole ownership for a year.  In 1959, he and the previous owners were joined in partnership by Robert Chong.  By 1963, Jack Quong owned the Princess, but by 1964 John Chow had taken over.  He retained ownership until 1970, when Mrs. Hope Chow (Jane) became the owner.  Hope and Janey ran the business together until 1993 when they left the restaurant business.  They were responsible, however, for the aforementioned move in 1980 from 1210 Central Avenue to 1226 Central Avenue.  After they left the business, Kenny Leung was installed as manager. The 1210 Central location is now the site of The Bison Café.

The Lotus Café did not open until the mid-1950s.  Cecil Mar and Dennis Wong were partners in this enterprise, from its opening until 1963.  At that time, Dennis Wong owned the business on his own, although Cecil Mar did appear as an owner again in 1970, remaining in the business until 1976.  Prior to retiring in 1980, Dennis Wong sold part of the business to Art Gee in 1979.  Art Gee continued as the owner of the Lotus until 1985, when he took Mee Gee into a partnership which lasted until 1997.  After that, the Lotus was owned and operated by Kam and Kwan Holdings.

Another Chinese restaurant with stable ownership and management was the Airways Café.  The Airways Café opened at 1112 Central Avenue during World War 2.  It was owned and operated by Kim Mah until 1962 when he sold it to Bing Chow.  Chow renamed the restaurant the Corona, and ran it until 1964, when he sold it to Arthur Chung, who renamed it the Deluxe Café.  When Chung left the community in 1970, he sold it to Robert Chow.  Chow partnered with Jack Quong in 1972, and ran the café thereafter either by himself or in partnership with Quong until 1978 when Chung Chi Luk and Chung Shing Luk took over the business.  In 1980, Frank Lai and David Kwok bought the Deluxe Café, although it would appear that Lai ran it by himself from 1981 until 1984, when Kit Lai became a partner.  They continued to run the café until its closing in 1995.  Through the years since, the site has been home to a number of eateries.  Currently, it is the home of Crown Pizza.

Two other restaurants deserve some mention.  One is the Rose Café, which opened in 1992.  Norman Quong ran it initially, but Kenny Yeung took it over in 1993.  When he left to manage the Princess, in 1993, Vince Leung took over until its closure in 1998.

The first mention I found of the Wings Café was in 1941.  Tony Kwan owned the restaurant.  By 1945, Cecil Mar had assumed ownership, and he appears to have owned it until 1955.  Denny Wong joined him in partnership in 1954, and in 1955 Howard Yip joined them.  The Wings ownership remained in the Mar family from 1956 with Terry, Douglas and Mark Mar assuming ownership along with Howard Yip.  In 1959 the Wings was owned by Douglas, Terry and York Mar, along with Howard Yip.  By 1963, control had passed to Ben Dong, Jack Quon, and Fred Quon.  They were joined by Sam Quon in 1964.  A further change in ownership had occurred by 1966 (Sam Quong, Allan Quong, Shew Dong, and Ben Dong) who maintained ownership until 1970.  Allan Quong left the business by 1971, and the remaining three ran the cafe until 1976.  In 1977, Clarence Kwok opened WK Kitchen in the former premises of the Wings Café.  Delicate Petals is the current occupant of the site.

All that’s left of those in the downtown core is the Princess Café.  What a difference a couple of decades can make!

Museum Musings — decolonizing history


Fred Payton

The Museums Association of Saskatchewan, commonly referred to as MAS, develops policy and provides direction for programmes and services to benefit all Saskatchewan museums. As a member of MAS, the Prince Albert Historical Society benefits from that policy and direction.

This past year, MAS sent us a publication entitled “Museums and Sustainability: Decolonizing the Museum”.

 The basic tenet of the publication was that museums are a colonial institution. As such, if we wish to be representative of our community’s history we need to ensure that we present the community’s history not from the time of the arrival of the European settlers, but from the time when the first people began to congregate here. 

It is important that the museum be more than a place espousing the colonial history of the community.

 In other words, we must try to decolonise the museum.

I take some pride in the fact that the management and staff of the Prince Albert Historical Society has been ahead of the game when it comes to decolonizing our Historical Museum.  Our curator, Michelle Taylor, started meeting with Indigenous Knowledge Keepers in late 2016, with the first formal consultation to begin the decolonization process occurring in early 2018.

We recognize that there have been people in the Prince Albert area extending back 11,000 years, and know that our history has been shaped not only by them, but also by what was left behind by the ice age. 

Looking around the Historical Museum, it was recognized that we have done a good job of presenting Prince Albert’s history beginning in 1866, but have been less effective presenting its history during that period encompassing the fur trade. 

And quite honestly, we have not been very successful with respect to the time prior to the arrival of the Europeans and the Metis people.  Little information has been presented about how this area has been a meeting place for hundreds of years, visited by various tribes each year to trade goods, interact socially, and to exchange their culture.

Using funding provided by the Northern Lights Community Development Corporation, local Knowledge Keeper Dr. Leo Omani of the Dakota First Nation helped Ms. Taylor to identify knowledgeable, educated and respected members from the Dene, Swampy Cree, Woodland Cree, and Plains Cree communities to assist us in identifying the provenance of the artifacts and archival materials which had been donated to us, and to add to their history where possible. 

These Knowledge Keepers also helped to guide us with respect to the handling, display, and storage of artifacts considered to be sensitive and sacred.

A similar process was used to identify Metis Knowledge Keepers, with whom we are working to determine how best to identify who is Metis, their role in the fur trade, their relationship with the First Nations people, and their impact on the settlement and development of Prince Albert.

A start has occurred with respect to the development of a room which will exhibit our Indigenous history.  As well as providing assistance with our artifacts and archives, the Knowledge Keepers have made suggestions regarding how best to display their history and contributions. 

A Mural Project, involving both First Nations and Metis artists, resulted in murals representing what is important to them. 

This helps us to show the impact of the Indigenous people on the development of Prince Albert. It enhances the knowledge of our visitors regarding the First Nations and Metis peoples of the region, but also strengthens the pride of our Indigenous citizens by displaying their adaptability and ability to change their lifestyles based upon how cultures have changed over time.

In addition to the benefits accruing to the Historical Society, our work with the Knowledge Keepers has given us an opportunity to work with the City of Prince Albert and the Downtown Business Improvement District to promote the Indigenous history of our area, providing a cornerstone for developing and improving relationships amongst the City, our Downtown businesses, the First Nations people, and the Metis people.

 It has even resulted in the Prince Albert Historical Society earning an award from the Museums Association of Saskatchewan for the community Mural Project, as well as that same project being named one of twenty-five finalists in the Governor General’s national history competition.

Museum musings: Nisbet Church and blockhouse


Fred Payton, Prince Albert Historical Society

In May, 1932, the Prince Albert Historical Society met in the City Council chambers (now the Prince Albert Arts Centre).  The major focus of the meeting centred around their future plans for the establishment of a museum in the recently re-built Mission schoolhouse at Bryant Park (now Kinsmen Park).  A committee of five persons, chaired by Fire Chief J.N. Smith, was directed to take the necessary action to implement this idea.

On December 5th of that year, the City Council approved a request from the Historical Society to donate to the Society the old blockhouse which was situated behind the home of Dr. C.M. Finlayson, who resided at 103 – 12th Street West, a location which now encompasses the Margot Fournier Centre.  The City had obtained clear title to the blockhouse, and was more than willing for the Society to take it off its hands and to move it to the “historical corner of Bryant Park” to save this relic of the past.

The Mission schoolhouse referred to was built by the Reverend James Nisbet, who had settled in the area in 1866.  Not only a missionary wishing to bring Christianity to the First Nations people, Nisbet was also a trained and skillful carpenter.  He erected the log schoolhouse in 1872 to serve as a combined school and church, providing the basics of education and agriculture as well as religious instruction.

The blockhouse was originally constructed by Archie Ballantyne as a stable for William Maclise, Prince Albert’s first lawyer, who had arrived here in 1881.  During the 1885 conflict, concerns were expressed that Prince Albert might be attacked, and the stable was converted to a blockhouse, housing military equipment and providing a place of defence.  Gun slits were cut into the walls, and what was previously a stable became a part of the fortification around the Presbyterian church and its manse.

The Society’s plans to utilise the two buildings as a museum came to fruition in the summer of 1933 and the “historic corner” of Bryant Park became a tourist attraction for the City.  However, space was limited, and the lack of amenities, such as heat and water, resulted in it being a warm weather facility only.

These two buildings, the oldest surviving buildings within Prince Albert city limits, stood for nearly 75 years on that corner of the park.  When more appropriate facilities became available to the Historical Society, the basement of the Provincial Court House in 1955, and the current location in the City’s former Fire Hall, the Mission schoolhouse (The Nisbet church) and the blockhouse were utilised as storage for some of the Society’s larger and more cumbersome artifacts.

But time, and the northern Prairie weather, took its toll on the buildings.  The shingles on the roofs started to rot and disappear, allowing squirrels and other creatures access to the buildings, and the lower logs began to rot.  It became apparent to the Society and to the City that efforts were going to have to be initiated in order to save them, or the buildings would be lost.

It was finally decided that the buildings should be taken apart, piece by piece, numbered and stored, until they could be restored as nearly as possible to their original construction.  As their original sites are no longer available, it was determined to re-locate them to the river bank, near the Historical Museum.  This not only places them close to their original locations, but places them on a site near where the Nisbet party originally landed.  Once they are located on the river bank, it will allow for easier programming and displays that reflect their separate functions. 

With new roofs and logs replacing those which had rotted from age, and set on new concrete flooring, these two buildings which were locally dove-tailed and square hewn, will reflect the look of Prince Albert in its earliest days.

To accomplish this task, the Historical Society needs to raise $200,000.  If you, your business, or your organisation is interested in helping us to rebuild a piece of our history on the river bank, where Prince Albert began, please check out our website ( or contact us at 306-764-2992.

Museum Musings is a biweekly column from Historical Society member Fred Payton