A quick note for any and all who are interested: I will be speaking about topics related to history in the Brooks area on October 5 at the Brooks Public Library.
I will also be airing my latest project, Above and Beyond, a short documentary about Bassano’s flying doctor, Alexander G. Scott, for all in attendance.
Many thanks to the Alberta Genealogical Society, Brooks and District Branch, for asking me to stop by and to ramble a bit about my old stomping grounds.
“Here on these prairie plains I stay,
Wanting nevermore to stray,
The winter days will come once more,
And north winds whistle ’round the door.
For always in my heart I sing
The song of a wondrous prairie spring,
And the melody to me so dear,
Is only this – My home is here.”
– An excerpt from “My Home Is Here.” by Lydia Montallan of Carseland.
Originally published in the June 1947 issue of Canadian Cattleman, “My Home Is Here” appears alongside an article about Otelie Lund in “The Piegan Country”, a 1966 history of the Maleb area of S.E. Alberta. Natives of Norway, Ms. Lund (b. 1880) and her husband, Lars, settled in what was known as the Glen Banner district in 1909. The Lunds built a two-storey home in 1917, a local landmark which still stands to this day on a hilltop five miles north of present-day Orion (pictured).
The hardships were many for Ms. Lund. Widowed when she was 70, fifteen years later she was still feeding cattle, chopping wood, hauling coal, and living without electricity. A 1965 article in the Medicine Hat News celebrated her as a “living example of true pioneer spirit and courage”:
“Mrs. Lund, who did not have a family to raise, has not seen a relative since coming to this country in 1909. She had left behind in Norway a large family of sisters and brothers when she came with her new husband on the new venture. Perhaps all her dreams weren’t realized, but building a new life in a new country has brought many satisfactions to Mrs. Lund as she now looks back on it all and treasures each precious memory of old times, old days, old friends.”
Ms. Lund passed away ten years later at the age of 95.
Since it’s early days, the community of Nemiskam has been spelled with both a “c” and a “k”, and both are considered correct, I guess. It would have saved us all a lot of trouble if they had stuck with the community’s original name: Bingen.
According to J. Derek McNaney in the 1975 local history, Shortgrass County, a group of German Russians escaping religious and political persecution settled just south of the present townsite, beginning in about 1911. Place Names reports the surrounding community was christened “Bingen” after a town in Germany, and by 1913 a post office of the same name had been established. Then in a patriotic (and somewhat ironic) twist, the growing community dispatched its Germanic namesake in 1916, adopting the less-threatening Nemiskam- a First Nations word meaning “between two valleys”.
Or was it Nemiscam?
A war of wording ensued, and the question of Nemiskam v. Nemiscam has remained unsettled for over a century, and it seems unlikely that a resolution is coming anytime soon. For one thing, all three levels of government would have to agree on a common spelling. The province and the federal government are on one side, generally spelling Nemiskam with a “K”. On the other hand, Nemiskam is located within the County of Forty Mile No. 8, and the local municipality routinely spells Nemiskam with a “c” on county maps, online and on signage around the county. Adding to the uncertainty is the C.P.R., who allegedly caused all of this confusion in the first place. A spin through Alberta Land Titles confirms that the original C.P.R. townsite survey plans spell Nemiskam with a “c”. However signage formerly located alongside the uprooted tracks of the abandoned C.P.R. Line heralded ones arrival in “Nemiskam”, not “Nemiscam”.
While we can remain hopeful that the Prime Minister, the Premier, and the Reeve of 40 Mile will put all pressing business aside to come to an agreement on the contentious issue, we may be waiting some time before the Nemiscam / Nemiskam Accord becomes a reality. In the meantime, whether you choose to spell it Nemiscam or Nemiskam, one thing remains certain: They should have stuck with Bingen.
The road less travelled. Wrentham, Alta.