I was honoured this past year to be asked to submit several pieces to the recently-released Lomond and District history book. I have written several articles about this are since starting the Forgotten Alberta project, many of which are based on previous compositions and columns now buried within the deepest, darkest recesses of this blog. One such article was the following history of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Suffield Subdivision. Originally a two-parter, I have combined both articles into a single essay, which hopefully is an improvement.
I am also grateful to Jason Paul Sailer, Alberta heritage hero, founder of the Ogilvie Wooden Grain Elevator Society, and editor of the Galt Railway Museum blog, for his assistance editing this article, and for adding the recent history of the both Suffield / Lomond and Kipp /Turin CPR Subdivisions. Read on, and let me know what you think!
Recently, residents past and present gathered in Enchant to reminisce and celebrate a century of community. Revitalized by irrigation in the ‘50s, the hamlet of Enchant was spared the fate of neighbouring Retlaw and Travers, which today are considered ghost towns along the abandoned Suffield branch line. While Enchant endures, irrigation came too late to salvage the community’s attempt at village status, which was undermined by a quarter century of drought and economic depression.
Good news everyone! From the Brooks Bulletin, intrepid scribe Rob Brown informs the masses that the Province of Alberta has approved Vulcan County’s application for a historical marker at the site of the former Village of Bow City (reproduced below).
A big thank you is owed to Liza Dawber and Vulcan County for their work approving and submitting the Heritage Marker application, and the community partners who supported the application.
Bow City getting village status historical marker
Just in time for next week’s 100th anniversary of becoming a village, Bow City has been awarded a historical marker noting the fact.
On July 13, 1914 Bow City was incorporated as a village.
Last week, Jonathan Koch, an avid historian working on the recognition project, said the province notified him a marker is forthcoming.
He says it is important to recognize the past.
“We certainly do run the risk of losing our history if these aren’t marked and people aren’t doing the work,” he says.
Found 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.