Today’s tale is about Nemiskam, the subject of the image featured above. Derived from the Blackfoot term for, “between two coulees”, Nemiskam is what one might consider a “ghost town”, located about seven miles due east of Foremost. According to Place Names of Alberta, Nemiskam is aptly named, as it is situated between Chin Coulee to the north, and Etzikom Coulee to the south.
Like many townsites surveyed along the C.P.R.’s Lethbridge – Manyberries branchline, Nemiskam quickly grew to become a community of some prominence and promise. By the ’20s it boasted an elevator row of five, a pool hall, restaurant and general store, and a modest citizenry of 75 . Like most southeastern towns, Nemiskam dwindled in the drought, but wartime brought a resurgence that lasted well into the ’40s and ’50s. Sixty years on, the elevators and commercial district are gone—the community long-since eclipsed by the also aptly-named Foremost.
While there are few today who call Nemiskam home, what the community is called continues to confuse and confound us all.
According to Dr. Schmitt, all that remains of the “Bow City Crater” today is “a semicircular depression eight kilometres across with a central peak”. However, evidence suggests that a meteor strike within the last 70 million years left a crater that was initally eight-kilometres wide, 1.6 to 2.4 km deep, and produced an explosion “strong enough to destroy present-day Calgary”.
“An impact of this magnitude would kill everything for quite a distance,” stated the professor in a UofA media release. “If it happened today, Calgary (200 km to the northwest) would be completely fried and in Edmonton (500 km northwest), every window would have been blown out. Something of that size, throwing that much debris in the air, potentially would have global consequences; there could have been ramifications for decades.”
In an interview with Calgary Herald’s Colette Derworiz, Dr. Schmitt described the site of the discovery, a vast expanse of grazing lease and farm land about 30 miles southwest of Brooks as: “…probably one of the most boring places. It’s beautiful, but it’s flatline and in that sense it’s quite boring.”
As it turns out, I happened to spend a considerable chunk of my youth living a few miles west of this beautiful, boring and flatline place; on a farm situated in an area formerly known as Kinnondale.
Intrigued, I clicked the link, hoping to read about the old prairie standard: a slab of hamburger dripping with cheddar, dwarfing the obligatory bun and served next to a mound of thick cut fries. Instead, the “prairie cheeseburgers” they were referring to were of the furry and four-legged variety—the black-tailed prairie dog—typically found south of the 49th parallel. Recoiling at the notion of ingesting mouthfuls of fuzzy meat and cheese, the photo included with the piece brought to mind a memorable visit to a roadside diner on the northern fringe of Alsask, Saskatchewan.￼
It’s 2014, and as I’m feeling the need to publish in something the next two weeks, I’m going to be counting down my top 10 Instagram photos of the year, as “hearted” by my devoted legion of followers (all 17 of them). The selections are a mixture of pictures I’ve posted from previous year’s excursions, and others are from more recent forays into the southeastern Alberta outback. If you wish to follow me on Instagram, please don’t hesitate to stop by my page: http://instagram.com/forgotten_alberta
10. Main Street – Hilda, Alberta (2013)
The first of many shots from the 2013 Forgotten Alberta Road Trip. It wasn’t my first trip to Hilda, a tiny hamlet little more than a stone’s throw away from the Saskatchewan border. However, I was surprised to see little had changed since my previous visit eight years earlier; and heartened to see the elevator still standing. The major exception was that the Hilda Hotel no longer seemed to be in business (I may be mistaken about this, please let me know if this isn’t the case). A have posted a few more pics from the visit below:
Albertans have a turbulent relationship with Mother Nature. We live in wonder of her ability to shape our majestic landscape and wide open spaces. Sometimes we wonder why we live here at all, when extreme weather events, like last month’s floods, turn lives upside down.
Over the last century, southeastern Albertans have endured the worst Mother Nature could muster. A fact mostly forgotten, it took decades of trial, many errors, and some tough decisions to transform the southeast into a place to call home.
While June’s floods were fierce and dramatic, the drought that afflicted southeastern Alberta between 1917 and 1939 was a catastrophe in slow-motion. As dust and debt slowly smothered farming communities across the south, the neophyte United Farmers of Alberta party was swept into power to prevent a looming economic, environmental and social crisis. Inheriting a massive debt burden from its predecessors, and without access to oilsands billions, the U.F.A. faced some hard choices to solve its so-called “southern problem”.
Out of the blue, a reader of this column offered me two local histories from his collection, and I was happy to accept. I’d like to express my sincerest gratitude to Frank Horvath of Barrhead, Alberta for his kind donation.
I developed a love of local histories as I learned about my own family, who homesteaded in southeastern Alberta over a century ago. Local histories— compilations of unvarnished recollections and grainy photos of intrepid homesteaders and their descendents—are often the only record that exists of Alberta pioneer families, and the communities that grew and often withered around them.