Tag Archives: Carlstadt

#MHNews: Bowell road signs destined for the dump

Bowell

A photo posted by Jonathan Koch (@forgotten_alberta) on

  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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Alderson: Up in smoke?

Greg, a devoted reader of Forgotten Alberta, recently visited the Alderson townsite, and provided us with the following update:

Spent a day there lately. A fire had recently burnt all of the grass and any remaining crumbling wood structures. The landscape was as powdery fine as the suface of the moon, punctuated by fresh new grass which shows that nature keeps its course, despite the follies of mankind.

An erie spilling and scattering of nails lay about foundations where crumbling roofs and walls recently stood. The fresh ground allowed me to find a number of artifacts, including a couple of “Dog Tax 1913″ and 1914 tags. The British were nothing if not organized.

I also found a Merry Widows condom tin, which on it stated that three lasses named Agnes, Beckie and Mable were possibly going to be conquested by some enterprising male.

Thanks, Jon, for your writing. It spurred me to “motor along the boulevards of Carlstadt (Alderson). Well, walking along them, in any event. I could picture the home guard whirling and about facing with vigour, as so eloquently stated in “Empire of Dust” by David Jones. I cannot pass by on the number 1 highway without thinking of the poor souls who bought the hucksterism of the early 1900s hook, line and sinker.

While approaching the town along Range Road 104, I could not help but notice the stone piles that early homesteaders created. Each quarter section had its own little pile along the road, something that is actually pretty rare to see on the prairie nowadays, at least in such close proximity to each other. The land there is so poor that it seemingly couldn’t even grow rocks well, or maybe the glaciers had pity on the land, knowing that future humans would struggle on it as it was without them being further burdened by glacial till.

I am saddened that my first trip to the town was after all of the structures had been burnt down. That being said, it was a unique and perhaps not to be repeated opportunity to see things like an old leather slipper poking thru the dirt, or any number of other items that would be lost to the eye because of the thick prairie grass that usually inhabits the townsite.

In keeping with the theme of letting life flourish where so many hopes died, I extended a burnt board into an old brick well where a garter snake had found itself, without hope of getting out. I was pleased to see that when I looked later, it had found a way to extricate itself from certain death. In that sense, it echoed the lives of many former human inhabitants of those environs, who found that life was possible where it seemed hopeless. All they had to do was move the hell away.

According to some accounts online, the fire seems to have occurred around August 15 following an extended period of hot and dry weather. Lending some credence to this timeline is this report of several grass fires west of Redcliff on August 14, caused by a lightning storm that passed through the area.

It’s interesting to note this was far from the first time fire had gutted Carlstadt and Alderson. Fire had visited the village on occasion during the years following incorporation (1911); culminating in the great fire of 1919.

On August 25, 1919, a fire tore down Alderson’s business block west of Broadway, causing about $75,000 in damage. For a village already in the doldrums due to drought, this calamity accelerated its irreversable decline. David C. Jones describes the events of the day in Empire of Dust. The image above is a screen capture from the August 28, 1919 edition of the Medicine Hat News.

Events such as this underscore the urgency to experience and preserve southeastern Alberta history before it’s gone. Nature seems intent on wiping the memory of Alderson from the earth.

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