Tag Archives: Alderson

#FABTrip17: At Alderson, it’s like they were never here at all

Lilting and rusting, and surrounded by an ocean of tinder-dry prairie,  the last remnants of the long-abandoned farming community of Alderson  (nee Carlstadt) teeter on oblivion, awaiting the one spark, lightning strike, or hot exhaust pipe that will erase them from existence. A fire in 2014 destroyed the last structure in the Alderson townsite, and as evidenced by the destructive wind-driven prairie fires that recently ravaged southern Alberta, the next conflagration could come at any time, without warning.

A peculiar facet of southern Alberta’s pioneer-era history is that there is little permanence to it. While we tend to adhere to an old world bias that history involves a permanent physical and literary record, neither of these exist throughout much of the plains. Much of Palliser’s Triangle was settled and abandoned a century ago, and with the pioneer exodus went the stories of hope and heartbreak, which were quickly forgotten as new lives were built somewhere else and generations passed on. Inevitably, the physical evidence of the homestead experiment is fading, with man and Mother Nature working in consort to set the clock back to zero. In time it will be like they were never here at all.

 

Starr of the Prairies. The Starr homestead, near Alderson, Alberta. Charles F. Starr of Rugby, N.D. arrived at his new homestead in the fall of 1909, a 160 acre parcel on the arid plains near the settlement of Carlstadt, Alberta. According to homestead files, Starr first lived in a temporary shelter, and later a 12 x 12 shack, while he awaited the arrival of his wife, Naomi, from the States. While fulfilling his homestead duties, Starr became one of the community’s early lumber barons, starting “C.F.Starr Lumber Co”. Managed by his son, Verne, Starr Lumber served the Carlstadt (later changed to Alderson) community throughout the first 10 years of its existence. Although dubbed “Star of the Prairies” by early boosters, the village of Alderson was beset by several calamities, namely drought and fires, which by the end of the First World War had initiated a precipitous decline in the village’s fortunes. As drought drove the residents of Alderson and area to greener pastures, Starr looked to the irrigation belt northeast of Brooks for new opportunities, opening a lumber store in the community of Patricia with his son around 1920. Starr even served as the first president of the Patricia Board of Trade, while continuing to farm and operate a lumber store in Alderson for a time. It appears Starr’s patience for life in the drybelt dried up by the mid ‘20s. Charles and Naomi relocated to Calgary by 1925, where he worked as a hotel operator for several years. They would live the rest of their lives in the city. #albertahistory #forgottenalberta #langevin #carlstadt #alderson #alberta #canada #ghosttown #history #mybadlands #explorealberta #fabtrip17 @canadianbadlands @travelalberta @cypresscounty

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Thankfully, the memory of Alderson  (nee Carlstadt) at the peak of the settlement boom was chronicled in great detail by photographers, Chester Coffey in particular. The Starr family seems to have been a favoured subject, and several photographs documenting their presence in the community now existence within the province’s archival collections.

C.F. Starr lumber company, Carlstadt, (later Alderson), Alberta. From the David C. Jones’ Carlstadt / Alderson Photographs collection, Glenbow Archives, Calgary.
Carlstadt (Alderson) views, Starr Lumber Co. (2), and two residences. From the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce fonds, Esplanade Archives, Medicine Hat.
Bumper crop on C.F. Starr farm, Alderson (formerly Carlstadt), Alberta. From the David C. Jones’ Carlstadt / Alderson Photographs collection, Glenbow Archives, Calgary.

“Alderson National Forest”, then and now.

 

Welcome to Alderson National Forest, 2005. #Alberta #canadianbadlands #prairie #desert #Canada

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#MHNews: Bowell road signs destined for the dump

Bowell

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  Collin Gallant, intrepid scribe of the Medicine Hat News, and friend of Forgotten Alberta, dropped me a note yesterday about an item appearing in today’s News:  

End of an era for Bowell as Cypress County votes to have highway signs pointing to hamlet removed

Continue reading #MHNews: Bowell road signs destined for the dump

Globe and Mail: Ghost towns reveal forgotten past

Thanks to Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail for the opportunity to talk about Alberta’s ghost communities, and why it is important to remember them.

Comments from myself and Dr. David C. Jones appeared in the article, “Ghost towns reveal forgotten past”, which ran in the March 1st Alberta print edition of the Globe and Mail.

Mr. Hume has kindly permitted me to reproduce those comments below:

Continue reading Globe and Mail: Ghost towns reveal forgotten past

Historic images of western Canadian towns can be found at Prairie-towns.com


(Hover over image to activate slideshow options – Slides courtesy of Glen Lundeen / prairie-towns.com)

The launch of Prairie-towns.com signals yet another online endeavour to preserve the history and heritage of Western Canadian communities.

Contained within the collection are over 2700 photos, many postcard images, from 400+ communities throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan. Amongst the total is are several pioneer-era postcards from southeast Alberta communities such as Alderson, Chinook, Orion and Suffield (see above) that have withered considerably, or disappeared altogether since the images were captured.

Continue reading Historic images of western Canadian towns can be found at Prairie-towns.com

Update: Alderson up in smoke

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.

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