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.

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…

#FABTrip17: At Alderson, it’s like they were never here at all

Leaning and rusting, and surrounded by an ocean of tinder-dry prairie,  the last remnants of the long-abandoned farming community of Alderson  (nee Carlstadt) teeter on oblivion, awaiting the one spark, lightning strike, or hot exhaust pipe that will erase them from existence. A fire in 2014 destroyed the last structure in the Alderson townsite, and as evidenced by the destructive wind-driven prairie fires that recently ravaged southern Alberta, the next conflagration could come at any time, without warning.

A peculiar facet of southern Alberta’s pioneer-era history is that there is little permanence to it. While we tend to adhere to an old world bias that history involves a permanent physical and literary record, neither of these exist throughout much of the plains. Much of Palliser’s Triangle was settled and abandoned a century ago, and with the pioneer exodus went the stories of hope and heartbreak, which were quickly forgotten as new lives were built somewhere else and generations passed on. Inevitably, the physical evidence of the homestead experiment is fading, with man and Mother Nature working in consort to set the clock back to zero. In time it will be like they were never here at all.

 

Starr of the Prairies. The Starr homestead, near Alderson, Alberta. Charles F. Starr of Rugby, N.D. arrived at his new homestead in the fall of 1909, a 160 acre parcel on the arid plains near the settlement of Carlstadt, Alberta. According to homestead files, Starr first lived in a temporary shelter, and later a 12 x 12 shack, while he awaited the arrival of his wife, Naomi, from the States. While fulfilling his homestead duties, Starr became one of the community’s early lumber barons, starting “C.F.Starr Lumber Co”. Managed by his son, Verne, Starr Lumber served the Carlstadt (later changed to Alderson) community throughout the first 10 years of its existence. Although dubbed “Star of the Prairies” by early boosters, the village of Alderson was beset by several calamities, namely drought and fires, which by the end of the First World War had initiated a precipitous decline in the village’s fortunes. As drought drove the residents of Alderson and area to greener pastures, Starr looked to the irrigation belt northeast of Brooks for new opportunities, opening a lumber store in the community of Patricia with his son around 1920. Starr even served as the first president of the Patricia Board of Trade, while continuing to farm and operate a lumber store in Alderson for a time. It appears Starr’s patience for life in the drybelt dried up by the mid ‘20s. Charles and Naomi relocated to Calgary by 1925, where he worked as a hotel operator for several years. They would live the rest of their lives in the city. #albertahistory #forgottenalberta #langevin #carlstadt #alderson #alberta #canada #ghosttown #history #mybadlands #explorealberta #fabtrip17 @canadianbadlands @travelalberta @cypresscounty

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Thankfully, the memory of Alderson  (nee Carlstadt) at the peak of the settlement boom was chronicled in great detail by photographers, Chester Coffey in particular. The Starr family seems to have been a favoured subject, and several photographs documenting their presence in the community now existence within the province’s archival collections.

C.F. Starr lumber company, Carlstadt, (later Alderson), Alberta. From the David C. Jones’ Carlstadt / Alderson Photographs collection, Glenbow Archives, Calgary.
Carlstadt (Alderson) views, Starr Lumber Co. (2), and two residences. From the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce fonds, Esplanade Archives, Medicine Hat.
Bumper crop on C.F. Starr farm, Alderson (formerly Carlstadt), Alberta. From the David C. Jones’ Carlstadt / Alderson Photographs collection, Glenbow Archives, Calgary.

“Alderson National Forest”, then and now.

 

Welcome to Alderson National Forest, 2005. #Alberta #canadianbadlands #prairie #desert #Canada

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