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, 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 –
  • 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!



Planning for Palliser’s future: Will perspective trump politics?

Captain John Palliser – Wikimedia Commons




What will Southeastern Alberta look like in 50 years? It’s anybody’s guess.

The Alberta Government is taking a stab at it, having recently wrapped up consultation for the South Saskatchewan (River Basin) Regional Plan. The plan’s stated purpose is to establish a “long-term vision” for the region, setting the stage for “robust growth, vibrant communities and a healthy environment” within Southern Alberta over the next half-century.

The plan is ambitious—the task monumental—but will drafters be any more successful than previous prognosticators?

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Extra! Extra! The archives of the Brooks Bulletin are now online!

Volume 1, No. 1 of the Brooks Bulletin, from Early Canadiana Online, produced by
Volume 1, No. 1 of the Brooks Bulletin, from Early Canadiana Online, produced by

In what is the closest thing to breaking news you’ll ever find on this site, I’m happy to note that the archives of the Brooks Bulletin are now available for free online.

The whole shebang, starting with the 1910 edition, can be found at

Happy hunting!


Top Instagram shots from 2013 – #1

1. Scenes from Irvine, Alberta (2013)

A popular choice amongst my Instagram followers, the photo above was taken while I stood on the train tracks at Irvine, Alberta on July 24, 2013, on day one of the 2013 Forgotten Alberta road trip. The photo underneath was taken on a stroll around the hamlet, as I looked southward across the C.P.R. mainline towards Irvine’s historic South Railway Avenue. To the left is the Irvine Hotel, where myself and U of L alumnus Greg Farries stayed for the night, and whose rustic digs provided much fodder for Twitter as the evening progressed:


Good times!

Top Instagram shots from 2013 – #2

2. Historic Bassano, Alberta (2013)

Bassano has a proud history, and nowhere is this more evident than in the architecture found in the community. I grew up 30 minutes from here, and I had no idea until this summer what a collection of heritage buildings there were to be found in town. This is odd considering a year earlier we stayed at the Imperial Hunter Hotel, an old C.P.R. hotel chock full of historic artifacts from the days of Sam Whiting when Bassano was “the logical and recognized centre of Canada’s great inland empire“.


Sights and Stories of the Southeast