#FABTrip17: At Alderson, it’s like they were never here at all

Leaning and rusting, and surrounded by an ocean of tinder-dry prairie,  the last remnants of the long-abandoned farming community of Alderson  (nee Carlstadt) teeter on oblivion, awaiting the one spark, lightning strike, or hot exhaust pipe that will erase them from existence. A fire in 2014 destroyed the last structure in the Alderson townsite, and as evidenced by the destructive wind-driven prairie fires that recently ravaged southern Alberta, the next conflagration could come at any time, without warning.

A peculiar facet of southern Alberta’s pioneer-era history is that there is little permanence to it. While we tend to adhere to an old world bias that history involves a permanent physical and literary record, neither of these exist throughout much of the plains. Much of Palliser’s Triangle was settled and abandoned a century ago, and with the pioneer exodus went the stories of hope and heartbreak, which were quickly forgotten as new lives were built somewhere else and generations passed on. Inevitably, the physical evidence of the homestead experiment is fading, with man and Mother Nature working in consort to set the clock back to zero. In time it will be like they were never here at all.

 

Starr of the Prairies. The Starr homestead, near Alderson, Alberta. Charles F. Starr of Rugby, N.D. arrived at his new homestead in the fall of 1909, a 160 acre parcel on the arid plains near the settlement of Carlstadt, Alberta. According to homestead files, Starr first lived in a temporary shelter, and later a 12 x 12 shack, while he awaited the arrival of his wife, Naomi, from the States. While fulfilling his homestead duties, Starr became one of the community’s early lumber barons, starting “C.F.Starr Lumber Co”. Managed by his son, Verne, Starr Lumber served the Carlstadt (later changed to Alderson) community throughout the first 10 years of its existence. Although dubbed “Star of the Prairies” by early boosters, the village of Alderson was beset by several calamities, namely drought and fires, which by the end of the First World War had initiated a precipitous decline in the village’s fortunes. As drought drove the residents of Alderson and area to greener pastures, Starr looked to the irrigation belt northeast of Brooks for new opportunities, opening a lumber store in the community of Patricia with his son around 1920. Starr even served as the first president of the Patricia Board of Trade, while continuing to farm and operate a lumber store in Alderson for a time. It appears Starr’s patience for life in the drybelt dried up by the mid ‘20s. Charles and Naomi relocated to Calgary by 1925, where he worked as a hotel operator for several years. They would live the rest of their lives in the city. #albertahistory #forgottenalberta #langevin #carlstadt #alderson #alberta #canada #ghosttown #history #mybadlands #explorealberta #fabtrip17 @canadianbadlands @travelalberta @cypresscounty

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Thankfully, the memory of Alderson  (nee Carlstadt) at the peak of the settlement boom was chronicled in great detail by photographers, Chester Coffey in particular. The Starr family seems to have been a favoured subject, and several photographs documenting their presence in the community now existence within the province’s archival collections.

C.F. Starr lumber company, Carlstadt, (later Alderson), Alberta. From the David C. Jones’ Carlstadt / Alderson Photographs collection, Glenbow Archives, Calgary.
Carlstadt (Alderson) views, Starr Lumber Co. (2), and two residences. From the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce fonds, Esplanade Archives, Medicine Hat.
Bumper crop on C.F. Starr farm, Alderson (formerly Carlstadt), Alberta. From the David C. Jones’ Carlstadt / Alderson Photographs collection, Glenbow Archives, Calgary.

“Alderson National Forest”, then and now.

 

Welcome to Alderson National Forest, 2005. #Alberta #canadianbadlands #prairie #desert #Canada

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