Posted on | October 17, 2013 | No Comments
It can be viewed online at the Post website here.
Posted on | October 10, 2013 | 1 Comment
On October 1, 2013, I was honoured to be part of a dedication ceremony at Taylor Cemetery, located about five miles west of Bow City (which I have written about here and here). A ceremony was performed by Rev. Gordon Cranch of Vulcan; alongside a plinth and bronze plaque that had been installed previously by Vulcan County to commemorate this nearly forgotten pioneer graveyard.
Posted on | October 2, 2013 | 1 Comment
In his day, Carl Axelson was called many things: “socialist”, “communist”, “the Canadian Trotsky”, and a “traitrous [sic] sedition monger”.
But to Alberta farmers facing ruin during the drought and depression of the ‘20s and ‘30s, he was simply Axelson of Bingville: the farmer’s last hope.
Born in Sweden, Carl Henning Axelson arrived in the U.S. as a teen. He came north in 1912 with bride, Kristina, to a homestead at Bingville, 34 miles north of Medicine Hat.
When drought devastated southeastern Alberta after 1916, Axelson grew concerned with the plight of the farmer, scores of whom could pay neither taxes nor creditors. He turned to activism, joining the fledgling United Farmers of Alberta movement.
Posted on | September 4, 2013 | 4 Comments
1924 Department of Interior Map showing proposed route of Hanna-Hat Line, south of the Red Deer River.
Tucked between the Rainy Hills, southeast of Jenner, is some of the driest country in southeastern Alberta.
At the centre of this deceptively dubbed district is Tide Lake. Named for an intermittent slough, the Tide Lake area is sparsely populated but prosperous, situated at the centre of a great grazing and oil and gas empire.
A century ago, farmers here and in surrounding communities—Bingville, Brutus, New Holland, Peerless, Polonia and Tripola—were confident that the semi-arid pasture straddling present-day C.F.B. Suffield had few rivals as a premier wheat-growing district.
In the absence of water, farmers prayed for a flood of railway traffic along the proposed Hanna-Hat Line.
Posted on | August 9, 2013 | 2 Comments
English adventurer and filmmaker, Dominic Gill, and assorted guests, took a spin through Alberta earlier this year on a tandem bicycle, his trip taking him through some of the more isolated outposts of Alberta’s southeast. His adventures are being filmed for a series of online webisodes that will air on telegraph.co.uk, the online site of Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, as well as for a feature-length documentary film chronicling the trip.
See the first two webisodes of “Take A Seat: Alberta” below:
“This has probably been my most relaxed leg of any journey…”
“I actually feel like this is “Rangeland Alberta”: You couldn’t get a more Albertan experience.”
Posted on | July 24, 2013 | No Comments
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”.
Posted on | July 22, 2013 | No Comments
During the late fall of 2011, I was fortunate to have both the Medicine Hat News and Calgary Herald publish an article I had written entitled: “Who are the forgotten dead of Vulcan County?”. (Thanks to Chris Brown of the News for getting the ball rolling, and to Michele Jarvie at the Herald for assistance along the way.)
Not long after it appeared in the Herald, the article was brought to the attention of Vulcan County and their grants and programs coordinator, Ms. Liza Dawber. Ms. Dawber contacted me in early 2012 to inform me the County would be pursuing a government grant to install a cairn at the site. Since then Ms. Dawber has worked tirelessly to see the proposal through, keeping me informed of the progress along the way. She also gave me the honour of composing the wording of the plaque that will honour the memory of those buried at Taylor Cemetery for years to come (see story below).
A few week ago she contacted me again, this time to let me know the application was successful.
I am extremely grateful to Ms. Dawber for making this happen. It is heartening to know the dead of Taylor Cemetery, although still mostly unknown, will no longer be forgotten. Read more
Posted on | July 3, 2013 | 6 Comments
Photos of Suffield courtesy of the Esplanade Archives
As you cruise the Trans Canada between Brooks and Medicine Hat, you’re bound to encounter the hamlet of Suffield. Synonymous with the Canadian Forces Base to the north, the ocean of mixed grass surrounding Suffield hasn’t always been “No-Man’s land”.
Over a century ago, the British-backed Southern Alberta Land Company envisioned a wheatland empire on the open range northwest of Medicine Hat – land once deemed too dry for human inhabitation. The company secured 64,000 acres surrounding a lonely railway siding named Suffield, with the intention of creating the largest commercial grain growing enterprise in Canada.
A townsite was surveyed at Suffield to be the headquarters of the company’s Canadian Wheatlands subsidiary. Looking to lure residents to this isolated outpost, advertisements proclaimed a proposed railway to the west would make Suffield a “desirable business location”. The company’s irrigation canal, meandering eastward from the Bow, would feed “a beautiful lake and summer resort”. Natural Gas for heating and illumination was abundant.
Posted on | June 23, 2013 | 2 Comments
The following videos, taken and narrated by my brother, a farmer in the Bow City district, show the steady rise of the floodwaters along the Bow at the Bow City bridge, downstream from Bassano, starting at around 10 a.m. yesterday morning:
Posted on | June 1, 2013 | No Comments
Universal health care has been called the cornerstone of Canadian society. In the upcoming year alone, Alberta Health will spend $17.1 billion—that’s $47 million a day— to maintain our health care system.
It hasn’t always been that way. A century ago, the total provincial budget was less than $10 million, and Alberta Health didn’t even exist.
For homesteaders arriving on the plains, health care was user-pay, and an almost exclusively urban luxury.
In the primitive conditions of the pioneer era, it was up to intrepid rural physicians to ensure the well-being of Alberta’s fledgling frontier communities. Faced with uncertain pay and a lack of facilities, country doctors were as much pioneers as the people they were dedicated to serving. One of these trailblazers was Dr. Alexander Gladstone Scott of Bassano: renowned as Canada’s first flying doctor.« go back — keep looking »