Les mauvaises terres. Steveville #Alberta #Canada #canadianbadlands #explorealberta #specialareas

A photo posted by Jonathan Koch (@forgotten_alberta) on

Whenever I swing through the southeast, the road home is seldom the most direct route. Last Sunday was no exception.  On the way back from  balmy Brooks, the brood and I veered north towards the Red Deer River, taking Secondary Highway 876 into the heart of Special Areas #2. We traced the CNR’s abandoned “Peavine” rail spur north from Steveville,  stopping to photographs some ruins and ruminants, before concluding our brief sojourn with a stroll down the breezy boulevards of Sunnynook.

About 10 miles north of the hamlet of Patricia remains the long-shuttered Imperial Colony School. In operation from 1944 to 1959, the school is named for the irrigation colony first settled here in 1920. The colony derived its name from the royal-theme also used to dignify rail sidings and settlements along the CPR’s abandoned “Royal Line”, stretching from Bassano to Empress. According to Tapping the Bow, a history of the Eastern Irrigation District, a number of the colony’s first settlers were returned soldiers from World War I.  However, after a flume constructed to convey water to the colony failed, the first wave alighted, to be replaced by a wave of drybelt refugees from north of the Red Deer River. Many of their descendants remain today.  #Alberta #Canada #history #irrigation #mybadlands

A photo posted by Jonathan Koch (@forgotten_alberta) on


“Imperial Colony School.”

Source: Gross, Renie, and Lea Nicoll Kramer. Tapping the Bow. Brooks: Eastern Irrigation District, 1985.

And here’s the video:

The much photographed stone house of Cessford, Alberta. Sometimes referred to as “Prairie Stonehenge”, this iconic ruin was the last labour of Edward and Elizabeth Turner, whose pioneering family arrived on the open range south of today’s Cessford over a century ago. A native of St. John, NB, Edward Warden Turner had gone to Minnesota in his 20’s, where he married a woman nine years his junior, Elizabeth Hall, in 1880. During the next decade, Elizabeth and Edward, the latter listing his occupations as “farming” and “real estate”, would have five children – Albert, Gertrude, Frederick, Evelyn, and Alice. With Minnesota in the midst of a farming boom, the Turners came north in 1910, in pursuit of a better, and likely a more affordable future for Turner the elder’s legion of dependents. In March of that year, at age of 64, Edward W. Turner filed a quarter section of land (NW 13-23-12 W4) in what was then considered the Steveville or Shandleigh district. The Turners, accompanied by their children, ranging in age from 28 to 22, moved on to the barren plain near the meandering Berry Creek, adjacent the route of the future CNR spur line (“the Peavine”), but miles from any existing rail head. Although the abundance of field stone in the area no doubt hobbled man and beast, and likely did a number on the rudimentary equipment of the age, it provided the family with easy access to an abundance of free building material. By the time the Turner patriarch filed for patent on his quarter section in Oct. 1913 at age 69, a stone house valued at $2000 had been constructed on the homestead, standing out amongst the stick-built shacks that dotted the surrounding plains. Unfortunately, Mr. Turner would not live to receive the patent on his quarter, as he passed away in Nov. 1913, and was interred at what is now Cessford Cemetery. Mrs. Turner joined her husband in the great beyond the following spring, and was laid to rest alongside him. The rest of the family returned to the States shortly thereafter. #Alberta #canadianbadlands #mybadlands #specialareas #explorealberta #history #Canada #pioneer #ruins

A photo posted by Jonathan Koch (@forgotten_alberta) on


“The much photographed stone house of Cessford, Alberta.”


  • Alberta Homestead Records 1870-1940 [Reel 70.313/2906]
  • Findagrave.com
  • “Recensement du Canada de 1911,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV9P-2J9Q : accessed 2016), Edward W Turner, 1911; citing Census, Medicine Hat Sub-Districts 12-70, Alberta, Canada, Library and Archives of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm 2,417,654.
  • “Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949.” Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. County courthouses, Minnesota.
  • “Minnesota State Census, 1895,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MQ6D-KRD : accessed 2016), Edward W Turner, Golden Valley township, Hennepin, Minnesota; citing p. 341, line 20, State Library and Records Service, St.Paul; FHL microfilm 565,774.

Read more about the CNR’s abandoned “Peavine” line:
#WW1: The Hanna-Hat Line withered on the Peavine

The settlement of the #SEAlberta dry belt prior to 1918 caused an explosion in the number of one-room schools throughout the region. However, successive crop failures after #WW1 forced an exodus of families out of the dry areas, forcing the dissolution of dozens of school districts. Faced with the challenge of maintaining an educational system in areas that no longer had the tax base, or the population to continue to operate a community school, the province began consolidating one-room school districts. The Berry Creek School Division, in what is now Special Areas, was the first consolidated school division to be created in Alberta in 1933. Division office was based in Sunnynook until 1995, when Berry Creek School Division No. 1, Neutral Hills School Division, Rangeland School Division, and Starland School Division merged to form Prairie Land Regional Division. The former Berry Creek Division office is now on the block – for a cool $79,900, you can own a piece of Alberta school history. Listing ID: SC0048483 – DM me about commission ; ) Sunnynook #Alberta #Canada #mybadlands #canadianbadlands #specialareas #abandoned #school #history

A photo posted by Jonathan Koch (@forgotten_alberta) on

2 Replies to “Road Trip: Meandering along the “Peavine” (Hwy 876).”

  1. A young man whose family lived in Stevieville, joined the army in 1915 to fight in World War One. Ernest Shaw was killed while serving with the 31st Alberta Overseas Battalion. Ernest was killed the third week of September, 1916 during the Battle of The Somme in France. He has no known grave, his name is on Canada’s national memorial at Vimy Ridge in France.

  2. Ernest Shaw, born April 22, 1889 at Fisher Bay, Manitoba, son of Ambrose and Jane Shaw. Enlisted with the 46th (South Saskatchewan) Battalion on April 06, 1915 at Regina, Saskatchewan, regimental number 426513. Sailed to England with the 46th. Was posted to the 31st Battalion on June 08, 1916, and joined that unit four days later. He was killed in action near Courcelette, France during the battle of the Somme on September 24, 1916.

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