Update: Alderson up in smoke

An update on Alderson, the past remains of which appear to have gone up in smoke. It appears a prairie fire swept through the area around August 14-15, leveling what little was left of the former village.

Following up on his comment in an earlier post, Forgotten Alberta reader, Greg, has forwarded a number of pictures depicting what he found when he visited the former village a few days ago.

As he mentioned in his comment, much of what is left resembles a moonscape; although I am struck by the site of green grass in late September, a rarity itself in southeastern Alberta. The state of Alderson today also stands in stark contrast with what I found there in late July, when abundant overgrowth had overtaken and obscured the entire townsite.

With the bones of this bygone village now exposed, I sincerely hope it will not be besieged by pickers and plunderers, rooting for souvenirs within the newly scorched earth. In my opinion, the value of this site extends far beyond being a place to be plundered for period trinkets and souvenirs.

Scrolling through the images below, I can’t help but wonder how the former village of Alderson is any less significant than any number of the 12,500 historic places listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places? Curiously, the site of Canadian Pacific Langevin Number 1 and 2 Gas Wells, listed as the site of the discovery of natural gas in Alberta (and possibly Canada), was recognized in 1981, and the cairn commemorating this event is literally across the road from the Carlstadt / Alderson townsite.

It seems a glaring and obvious oversight that the subsequent settlement was not included, especially considering the circumstances of its decline, and the historic value of this community as an illustration of the collective history of southeastern Alberta’s homestead period. Of course, this designation preceded the publication of Empire of Dust, without which we might have already forgotten about this forsaken village long ago.

To me, there are many reasons for seeking some sort of protection and recognition for this site, and the recent prairie fire underscores the need even further.

The experiences of the people here helped shape our province. As a descendant of southeastern Alberta pioneers, this place is sacred to me.

It deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

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4 thoughts on “Update: Alderson up in smoke”

  1. I came upon your website while searching for a long lost relative that moved to Canada between 1910-1920. He is allegedly buried at one of the Foremost Cemeteries.

    I didn’t find him, but after looking at your photos, videos and reading your stories, I may have found why he moved to Canada.

    You are gifted and your talent is appreciated. Please keep sharing your stories and your findings.
    Best wishes to you and yours.

  2. Thank you so much – I appreciate the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the site, there’s more to come on the Foremost area in the coming months. Best to you and yours as well. 🙂

  3. My Great-grand parents, Ashley and Margarete Guyett moved to the Alderson area in 1910, leaving their adult son, my Grandfather, in Minnesota with his family. They were both originally from Quebec and were granted a homestead (Section SW27 & NW21, Township 17,Range 9,Meridian 4), I think this is about 12 miles north of Ralston.
    Reading your article about the cancellation of irrigation projects due to WWI helps explain why they left Alberta shortly after Margarete died in Nov, 1916. You have her tombstone featured in the article about the Alderson cemetery.
    My wife and I plan to visit the area this May. I suspect it will be her first visitor in nearly 100 years. Is there anything we need to know about finding the cemetery and navigating the area?

  4. Hi Mark, thanks for reading and for your comments. Also, thank you for sharing those details about your family’s connection to Alderson. The most direct route to Alderson cemetery is south on Range Road 104 from the Trans Canada Highway (https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zzFqYSBQUeAw.kZ8k7htURNh4). All told, it’s about 19 km west from the hamlet of Suffield. The road to the cemetery will be gravel, as are all the roads once you get off the beaten path. They should be in good shape, although the gravel gets a little greasy if it rains. (“If” being the key word). The cemetery is about 1/4 mi. east of the Alderson town site, and you’ll have to cross the Canadian Pacific Railway main line to access it. It’s an uncontrolled crossing, but this country is very flat, so there will be no issue seeing the trains. That country is also known to have rattlesnakes, so keep an eye open, especially around the gravestones. They like the shade, although it may still be a tad cool for them in May. I think that’s about it. Good luck on you travels – and keep me posted on how your visit goes!

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