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.

Prairie Stonehenge

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 #forgottenalberta

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Motoring on the boulevard of Sunnynook

"Last night I had a most beautiful dream. I was motoring on the boulevard of Sunnynook, which was beautified by a row of trees, while on each side, as far as the eye could seem were field of golden grain which were fast being harvested…Looking further ahead I could see a splendid town, with its business blocks, its public buildings and elevators, which stood ready to welcome the visitor, the toiler, the business man, or any law abiding person who wished to enter. As I drew near the town, I passed one of its magnificent parks, a haven of rest for the weary, standing forth on all its glorious splendor. But, alas, my dream ended upon my coming in contact with a passing vehicle, and the next I knew I was in the Sunnynook Hospital, when I heard the Doctor say: "He will live." Now I am back to reality and my mind often reverts to the works of that good old song, "When Dreams Come True." – Excerpt from "Sunnynook", Hanna Herald, May 29, 1919. (Hat tip to the great David C. Jones, Empire of Dust, p.97) @specialareas @travelspecialareas #mybadlands #forgottenalberta

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This is Homestead Coulee

A legacy of the boom years in Alberta is the network of paved highways running through some of the most sparsely populated areas of the province. One of these roads is Secondary Highway 570, which passes by Homestead Coulee, a locality within Special Area #2. A plaque from Alberta’s 75th celebration provides the following history: “We dedicate this cairn to the pioneers who settled the Homestead Coulee area. In 1912 this piece of land located on the NW 1/4 of S-33 T-26 R-15 W-4, was approved by the Department of Education for the building of a one room school which operated until it closed in 1932, due to lack of pupils. In 1960 a modern school was built to replace the old one. In 1975 a community centre and gymnasium was built. Homestead Coulee school was named after the Homestead Coulee, which runs just east of here into the Red Deer River.” @specialareas @travelspecialareas #mybadlands #forgottenalberta

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The Forgotten Dead, remembered.

As any blogger can attest, when you publish content online, you’re never sure where it will end up. Earlier this year, I was pleased to discover several short videos from 2012 (!) that had apparently been inspired by articles published on this site, and on VulcanCountyHistory.com.

Several of these videos, produced by students at the Alberta College of Art & Design, were interpretations of an article I penned in 2011: “Who are the forgotten dead of Vulcan County?”

Who are the forgotten dead of Vulcan County?

I contacted Marion Garden, the Director of Marketing & Communications at ACAD to learn more, and she was kind enough to furnish me with some information about the videos. Ms. Garden forwarded a quick explanation from Kurtis Lesick, Assistant Professor, Media Arts , who was behind the project. He offered the following explanation for the videos:

Continue reading The Forgotten Dead, remembered.

How I wish I could return, for so many reasons…