All posts by Jonathan Koch

Drawing on over a century of family history in southeastern Alberta, Jonathan Koch chronicles the forgotten people and places of southern Alberta, Canada's Badlands region.

Owner of historic guest book looking for answers

Attention western Canadian history buffs:

Have you ever come across a book like this in your travels?

Forgotten Alberta reader, Mike Rowell, recently sent the following note, asking for details about an old guest book which he purchased recently at a garage sale in Invermere B.C.:

I purchased the book out of curiosity as I … have traveled all over Alberta.  It is full of names of visitors from around the world and comments abut beautiful Alberta

I am trying to find out more information about these books and who made them and used them.

The entries are from the 1950 and 1960 in this book but appears to have refillable sheets inside so might have been used earlier than current guest sign in?

Owner thought is was from her grandfather and [P]arks Canada when people traveled to Banff and Jasper?

 …I have on my coffee table now and will use for my guests visiting me – ha ha

If you have any details on these or similar guest books from days gone by, feel free to drop me a line.

Call for information on Bingo School

I recently received an email from Ms. Catherine McNeely, looking for answers about Bingo School, which operated northeast of Spondin, 45 km northeast of Hanna,  for the better part of forty years.

As McNeely explained, her grandmother, then-Miss Beulah Scott, came to the great brown yonder from Ontario for a teaching contract in 1926. She arrived by stage in Maunders, a post office located near where Spondin is today, and boarded with a family in the community.

(A quick note: Spondin was actually spelled “Spondon” prior to the arrival of the railway in 1931, with the name being attached to another one-room school south of the current townsite. This curious detail is something I will discuss in a  follow-up post.)

“Every day she rode a horse to and from Bingo School, where she taught. She worked there from 1926-1927 and had nothing by great memories of the people and place. Grandma remembers Bingo school being about 10 miles from town,” McNeely added.

There was a school near Spondon once, and Bingo was its name-o.

“Have you ever heard of the school? Have you ever seen a photo of the old school before 1955, when it was relocated to Spondin? I am curious to know what it looked like or when it was built, but I can’t find any information about it online.”

Fortunately, McNeely also contacted the Hanna Herald, who within a day of publishing an article, On the hunt for history, had heard from a relative of the individual who had purchased the school after it was shuttered in 1950. Now that’s small town journalism at its best!

You can also contact contact Ms. McNeely here if you have any information and / or photos to share.

But what about Bingo School? Here’s what I know…

Continue reading Call for information on Bingo School

Welcoming Jason Sailer to the FAB Team

I’m excited to announce that Jason Sailer has joined the Forgotten Alberta gang as a guest contributor!

Possessing deep roots in the rural south, and much love for Alberta’s heritage, Jason is a great addition to the Forgotten Alberta  (FAB) team .

His love of Alberta history is home grown. Raised on a family farm on the northern slopes of the Cypress Hills, Jason possesses a lifelong appreciation for the history and the struggles of the pioneers, many of who were his own relatives, and their quest to settle on the raw prairie at the turn of the century.

Continue reading Welcoming Jason Sailer to the FAB Team

A serious question about Hand Hills L.O.L.

The Orangeman’s loyalty to Great Britain was no laughing matter. Photo submitted by Tamara Harken.

Every so often I will receive an inquiry from somewhere in North America, from someone seeking information on their long-departed ancestors in Alberta.

In late March, I received one such email entitled “question”.

Tamara Harken, a resident of Seattle, Washington, had been looking through her grandparents’ box of memories when a particular photograph captured her attention.

Sepia-toned and a century old, it featured a gathering of stern-faced gentlemen, decked out in suits and saches, posing outdoors on a summer day.

Harken wondered if one of the men in the photo was Anthony Baker, a one-time resident of the town of Drumheller, Alberta.

“I believe my grandfather might be the man kneeling third from the right front row. He lived in Drumheller for sometime, where my father was born,” she explained.

“If it is him,” Tamara added intriguingly, “it would be the last picture taken of him before he lost his arm.”

Inscribed along the bottom of the photo was a curiously contemporary caption, printed in all-caps:

“JULY 12, 1915

FIRST ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF HAND HILL COUNTY

TOBERMORE L.O.L. NO. 2344 DRUMHELLER ALTA.”

“Is there any chance you might have some information on the event noted in this picture?” she inquired.

Continue reading A serious question about Hand Hills L.O.L.

2020 Update

Hi all – just a quick update to let you know the Forgotten Alberta project is alive and kicking, but busy social distancing.

For those who can’t wait for the next installment, there is much in the works behind the scenes, which I’m hoping to share with you later this spring.

In the meantime, for those of you who are interested in catching up, you can find me easily online via: