So many people to thank for this terrific honour. Thanks to @gregfarries , Rose & Ryan at the @PrairiePostAlta , Liza Dawber & Vulcan County, and of course my wife and best friend, Amanda. This couldn't have happened without your support. #ABheritage #ABforum14 #canadianbadlands #Alberta #history
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.
At Alderson, a former village along the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline, northwest of Medicine Hat, time and freight roll on – but the past remains.
To echo the thoughts included within the preface to Empire of Dust (see below), it should be a historic site. There are stories to be told there.Split personality. X” marks the spot. Looking southeast down Bowell Street, Alderson
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.
As you may have read on this very blog, the University of Alberta announced on May 7 that a team led by Dr. Doug Schmitt had discovered the “roots” of a crater—a “bowl-shaped structure”—theorized to have been left by a massive meteorite strike just west of Bow City, Alberta.
View Bow City Crater in a larger map – Source: University of Alberta
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.
Area pioneers and their descendents have long been aware of the existence of “an ancient ring-like structure” north of Kinnondale. Referred to by the locals as “the sundial”, and others as “Canada’s Stonehenge”, the Majorville Medicine Wheel has been studied extensively by academics and mystics alike.
However, the revelation there was yet another “ancient ring-like structure” at Bow City (Kinnondale), hidden in plain sight for longer than anyone could remember, caught the community by surprise.
As a fan and chronicler of boring places across the southeast, especially ones close to my childhood home, I felt the need to investigate.
The other night I was rifling through my Twitter feed when I came across the following item from Canadian Geographic:
— Canadian Geographic (@CanGeo) March 26, 2014
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.￼
On March 14, I was privileged to join a diverse lineup of presenters at Medicine Hat’s Esplanade Heritage and Cultural Centre for the second Pecha Kucha Night of 2014.
It was an interesting and informative night for all involved, and I’d like to thank Pecha Kucha organizers for inviting me to present.
For those who missed it, or who are looking to kill roughly seven minutes, I’m happy to present the Story of Forgotten Alberta.
Clear your calendars Medicine Hat!
On March 14, I will be joining some of the southeast’s most creative and interesting people at the second PechaKucha Night of 2014, taking place at the Esplanade Studio Theatre, start time 8:20 p.m.
As one of a dozen presenters on the evening (details below), i will be talking about the Forgotten Alberta blog, and why it is poised to change the course of world history, or something like that.
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:
Photos courtesy of the Esplanade Archives.
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”.