About the new look at Forgotten Alberta

You may have noticed things look a little different around Forgotten Alberta these days. After five years, I decided to switch to a more mobile friendly version of WordPress, which also allows me to add images from my various excursions through the southeastern Alberta outback to the banner of the site.

So short story long, I’m going to talk about the images featured in my banner over the next few weeks, starting with an extreme close-up from South Railway Avenue in Irvine.

South Railway Avenue in Irvine, Alberta c. 2005

It was an unseasonably warm “Take your girlfriend to Saskatchewan day” back on February 25, 2005. My soon-to-be wife and I were returning from an incredibly uneventful trip to Maple Creek when we stopped in Irvine to snap some pictures and grab a Coke. I shot the picture below of the hotel and what was then the Town office, and some other photos of “downtown” which was pretty quiet at the time:


After several manipulations and much experimentation in Adobe Photoshop, I produced the “watercolour” below:

Irvine, Alberta watercolour c. 2003
Irvine, Alberta watercolour c. 2003

I returned last summer to the hamlet of Irvine, and stayed in the room at the far right, an experience I chronicled here. As you can see from the Instagram below, the hotel is looking sharp these days with a fresh coat of paint:

However, the old town office was looking a little worse for wear. The weeds needed a trim and the brick facade was starting to crack, as evidenced by the image below:

Next: Nemiskam or Nemiscam? That is the question!

Related: Top Instagram Shots from 2013 – #1


Our journey to the beautiful, boring, bowl-shaped structure of Bow City (Kinnondale)

“It’s probably one of the most boring places. It’s beautiful, but it’s flatline and in that sense it’s quite boring.”

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. 

Prime grazing lease - Looking southeast from the Majorville Medicine Wheel towards Bow City. During the early part of the 20th Century, this mixed-grass prairie supported some of the biggest cattle and horse herds in the country.
Prime grazing lease – Looking southeast from the Majorville Medicine Wheel towards Bow City, c. 2010. During the early part of the 20th Century, this mixed-grass prairie supported some of the biggest cattle and horse herds in the country.

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.

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Welcome to Kinnondale. (Not actually Kinnondale)

Kinnondale the epicentre of “massive meteor strike”?

Welcome to Kinnondale. (Not actually Kinnondale)
Welcome to Kinnondale. (Not actually Kinnondale)

Kinnondale isn’t the end of the world, but you can see what it might look like from there.

A media release from the University of Alberta has reported the discovery of “an ancient ring-like structure in southern Alberta”.

Situated “near the southern Alberta hamlet of Bow City“, it is speculated the impact site was struck by a meteorite large enough to leave an eight-kilometre-wide crater.

The impact site was discovered by a geologist with the Alberta Geological Survey, Paul Glombick, and studied by a U of A team led by Doug Schmitt, Canada Research Chair in Rock Physics.

According to researchers from the Alberta Geological Survey and University of Alberta, the impact would have produced an explosion strong enough to destroy present-day Calgary:

“An impact of this magnitude would kill everything for quite a distance,” [said Doug Schmitt]. “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.”

Having picked up various tidbits of info on what has been referred to as the “Bow City structure” over the years, I believe the impact site is more accurately situated in the Kinnondale district, located west of the present-day hamlet of Bow City.

In the days to come I am going to do my level best to seek out the epicentre of the Bow City meteor strike, which may or may not be within sight of Kinnondale, Alberta.

Stay tuned…



Prairie Cheeseburgers and the Post-Apocalyptic Cafe

Furry Cheeseburgers anyone?

The other night I was rifling through my Twitter feed when I came across the following item from Canadian Geographic:

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.

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Exploring Palliser’s Grave

Mark Cogan, an award-winning film maker currently based in Ireland, recently visited the gravesite of Captain John Palliser,  located at Comeragh Church, Briska, Co. Waterford, Ireland.  The Irish explorer whose name adorns the exceptionally brown segment of Alberta’s southeast we call Palliser’s Triangle, was laid to rest well over a century ago in this particularly verdant corner of the Emerald Isle:

Mark, who is no stranger to Palliser’s Triangle, is relocating to our great province in April. With any luck the proprietor of Medicine Hat Films will turn his considerable talent toward documenting the wide open spaces of Alberta’s southeast!

Here are a couple more pictures Mr. Cogan kindly furnished me with from his visit, including a close-up of a plaque commemorating Palliser’s contribution to Alberta’s development, courtesy of the Province of Alberta:

Palliser_grave image

The story of Forgotten Alberta

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.

I would imagine it will go something like this...

Forgotten Alberta is coming to Medicine Hat’s PechaKucha Night (V.2)

I imagine PechaKucha going something like this...
I imagine PechaKucha going something like this…

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.

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Four S.E. Alberta heritage projects get funding

The Canadian Pacific Railway Station at Empress, as viewed from east of the 4th Meridian (2005).

Congratulations to heritage preservation projects in Empress, Medicine Hat, Redcliff and Taber that will split over $80,000 in grant funding from the province (details below, with project descriptions from Alberta Culture). A total of 58 projects across Alberta received provincial funding this time around. Still no word on whether the application from Vulcan County for the installation of a heritage marker at the village of Bow City was successful, but I remain hopeful.

Update: Good news everyone! No decision yet on the Bow City heritage marker, expect work one war or the other in June.

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What is the future for southeastern Alberta’s past?

PrairiePostLogoFound alongside abandoned railways and down dusty roads, forlorn ghost towns dot the Alberta landscape. Every year “ghosttowners”, geocachers and the generally disoriented trek to out-of-the-way locales like Retlaw, Winnifred, Chinook and Nemiskam to capture a glimpse of Alberta’s disappearing past.

The most prominent of southeastern Alberta’s ghost communities is surely Carlstadt (a.k.a Alderson); situated within the vast void separating Brooks and Medicine Hat. Conceived just over a century ago, Carlstadt sprouted from a lonely railway siding named Langevin in 1911, becoming a village of 200 within a few short years. Dubbed the “Star of the Prairie”, booming Carlstadt was renamed Alderson in 1915. Its fortunes shifted shortly after when drought doomed the village and surrounding countryside.

Today, anyone making the pilgrimage to Alderson will find the townsite reclaimed by nature. What remains is mostly a collection of rusting refuse and collapsing cellar holes scattered amidst the mixedgrass. The story of the village itself might have been lost were it not for the 1987 publication of Empire of Dust by Calgary professor, David C. Jones.  The award-winning tome, which focusses on Carlstadt / Alderson, chronicles the environmental and economic catastrophe that obliterated Alberta’s southeast during the ’20s and ‘30s. Along with Jones’ companion publications, We’ll All Be Buried Down Here and Feasting on Misfortune, Empire remains the only recent scholarly work dedicated to chronicling the southeast’s drybelt disaster.

Despite the professor’s past efforts to draw attention to “the unknown sorrow of southeastern Alberta”, getting Albertans to value their own history has proven a constant challenge. In an interview prior to Christmas, Dr. Jones explained it was a minor miracle Empire of Dust was published in the first place.

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Forgotten Alberta in the Prairie Post is on hiatus

The End?
The End?

Just a quick note to the readers of the Forgotten Alberta column in the Prairie Post, and of my blog and MedicineHatNews.com, that I will be posting my last regular column in the Prairie Post East and West online tomorrow.

I am truly grateful to Rose Sanchez and Ryan Dahlman at the Prairie Post for the opportunity to publish 25 columns over the space of two years and one month. It has been a privilege to be able to spread the word about Southeastern Alberta’s forgotten history to readers in southern Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan during that time. The column has also opened the doors to towards more substantial efforts towards preserving our heritage in partnership with Vulcan County, including the Taylor Cemetery dedication; and the installation of a heritage marker at the site of the village of Bow City (still pending provincial approval – fingers crossed!). For this I am very thankful.

Unfortunately, I have run out of time and material to keep the column going on a monthly basis, so a break is in order. Once I reload, I intend to start publishing again, focussing on southeastern Alberta’s ghost communities, with the goal to slap it all in a book, one day. In the meantime, keep reading the Prairie Post, and watch for the occasional guest column from yours truly.

Many thanks to those who have furnished me with content and photographs for the site over the past two years, including:

  • The Esplanade Archives, Medicine Hat (special thanks to Kim Unrau for her assistance)
  • Wheatcrest Farms, Lomond, Glen and Marie Logan
  • Jay-Dell Mah, Western Canada Baseball – www.attheplate.com
  • Janet Sandau and the E.I.D. Historical Park
  • Merv Scott
  • Patricia and Paul Marck,  Beryl McManus and Bob McManus
  • Rev. Jakob Pillibeit and the Ibbestad Lutheran Church, Enchant
  • And of course, the Koch family

Meanwhile, the good news is the Forgotten Alberta blog (and Twitter and Instagram) will live on. Over the next weeks and months, I will revisit some of my more popular blog entries, and update with new content whenever possible.

Thanks as well to my readers for all of the kind words and wonderful stories you have shared with me over the past few years. Keep ‘em coming because they keep me going!



Sights and Stories of the Southeast