Kinnondale store and post office
Kinnondale store and post office c. 1912, original photo courtesy of Gordon McKinnon. Mr. McKinnon has identified the individuals as follows: (Left to right) Unknown (Possibly Robert McKinnon), Emily Florence McKinnon, Morley James McKinnon (in pram), Ian Crawford McKinnon, Marie McKinnon, and John Crawford (J.C.) McKinnon.

Located about thirty-five miles southwest of Brooks and twenty-five due south of Bassano, Kinnondale was, for a short time, the hub of what is now eastern Vulcan County.

Kinnondale was named after John Crawford McKinnon of Bruce, Ontario, one of the region’s first settlers. After homesteading in 1908, McKinnon opened the first store in the district and would lend his name to, and serve as postmaster for, the area’s first post office – “Kinnondale”. As settlers continued to pour into the region, the hopeful pioneers of the Kinnondale district petitioned the province for a school. On January 10, 1910, the Kinnondale School District No. 2096 was created by provincial Order-in-Council, with the school opening a year later in February, 1911.

The first settlers of the Kinnondale district were convinced they had laid claim to a land on the verge of greatness. In September, 1910, a correspondent for the Brooks Banner newspaper (later to become the Brooks Bulletin) penned an editorial introducing readers to the Kinnondale district:

…As an agricultural district Kinnondale is going to rank among the very best in Alberta. The soil is perfectly adapted to grain growing. Grain ripens here two weeks earlier than at Lethbridge, Granum or High River, consequently there is little or no danger from frost. Irrigation is unnecessary. Although very little grain was grown last year, it was of excellent quality, and the seed put into the ground last spring made a much better effort to grow than was made in many other districts.

During the last three weeks we have had an abundance of rain. In fact there is sufficient moisture in the ground right now to insure a good crop next year. Everyone who can is now plowing, discing and harrowing, preparing the ground so that seeding can be done as soon as the soil is fit in the spring. It takes more than one dry year to discourage a resident of Kinnondale. Although hard hit this year, no one is grumbling or discouraged, but on the contrary, is full of buoyancy and hope. We can’t sport an auto, but each has his motto; ‘Better luck next time’.

It did indeed take more than one dry year to discourage most residents of Kinnondale. However, with only a bumper harvest in 1915 to show for nearly a decade of backbreaking labour, the optimism of even the hardiest settlers began to wane. Even J.C. McKinnon, founding father of Kinnondale, began to see the writing on the wall. In the dry years following the First World War, McKinnon would move his store south one mile to the more heavily travelled “Bow City Road” (now Secondary Highway 539) where he would construct a hall, which was eventually sold and moved south to the community of Travers. Like most in the district, the enterprising McKinnon eventually gave up on Kinnondale. In November of 1921, McKinnon and his family finally packed it in, moving on to what were hopefully greener pastures in the Rosebud area west of Drumheller. Better luck next time.

8 thoughts on “Kinnondale”

  1. J.C. McKinnon was my grandfather. Much of the information in this article I was unaware of. Do you have more information on my family? I have a few pictures of the family, one a family portrait taken before the Glenbow photo. My father Ian and his sister Marie are in the portrait but Morley is not (the baby in the store doorway). I will provide you with scans if you contact me. I thank you for the article it is found treasure for me.

  2. My grandfather, Ed Lowe, and his brother George, homesteaded near Travers. In his memoirs, Grandpa referred to “two uncles” who preceded him from Michigan to Alberta. I’ve found two Davis brothers, Emery and Gifford Davis (Grandpa’s mother’s maiden name was Davis) along with a cousin Harvey/Harry Davis in Kinnondale. I believe they may have been my grandfather’s uncles: both returned to the US eventually. Any information on these men would wonderful.

  3. I LOVE your blog and the comments your posts often get from relatives of early Alberta pioneers.

    Awhile back I stumbled on the old Botha General Store counter for sale in the “Snack Shak” in Halkirk. I don’t think we’ve traveled through Botha and wondered if the old store is still in the village. Do you know?

  4. My grandparents Anton and Bertha Odegard, got off a train at Bassano and headed south 12 miles from Lomend. They farmed a 1/2 section of land from l909 until 1928. Dry weather from 1915 until then discouraged many farmers. My dad’s birth certificate says he was born at Kinnondale Nov. 18,1909. but a story written by my aunt states he was born at home. This story is in a book “History of Lomend and District’ written after 1958 at Lethridge Alberta.The story she wrote tells in detail the history of that area at that time.

  5. Thank you Bonnie for sharing your story. Your ancestors weren’t alone in leaving Kinnondale during the dry years. In fact, only a few hardy souls remained at the end of WW2.

  6. I would like to give my appreciation for the articles and information on Kinnondale. I would never have heard about this place if it wasn’t for your efforts. I think that you and others who have read your articles know by now that a large swath of territory west of the Bow River downstream of the Bassano Dam was once Special Area 6, this gives you an idea of how inhospitable this part of the country was and how hard hit it was by farm abandonment during the Dust Bowl and depression years.

    Even today, it still seems isolated and desolate, a look at the Southern Alberta Backroads Mapbook shows a distinct lack of grid roads in the area.

  7. Thank you Bill! My family has farmed out there for over a century, so it’s been a bit of a personal mission for me to tell the history of Kinnondale. You’re right about that country being part of Special Areas, the eastern part of present-day Vulcan County, and much of the M.D. of Taber were included in the Bow West Special Area from about 1937 until the early ’50s. The efforts of the PFRA and the Bow River District went along way towards rehabilitating that country, and making it suitable for agriculture. You’re right about the maps, there are still thousands of acres in the vicinity of Kinnondale that were abandoned in the ’20s and ’30s and reverted to crown lease, or were never settled at all. Glorious solitude.

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