News articles about heritage in Innisfail that
the objectives of the Forth Junction Heritage Society
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March 31, 2020, The Albertan (consolidated new name
including Innisfail Province) (Johnnie Bachusky)
Innisfail Province ceases
In 1904 the town's new pioneer telephone directory was
released for 42 residences, businesses and services.
The telephone number for town hall and police station was 17. The
Union Bank of Canada had 23. Six was reserved for the Innisfail Free
Lance, a local newspaper since Sept. 2, 1898.
However, number 1 was reserved for a new newspaper office called
The Province, which reportedly was about to buy out The Free Lance
and begin operations the following year. S.P. Fream, an auctioneer
and real estate agent, became the newspaper's first editor and
publisher. His residential telephone number was 2.
For the next 115 years the Innisfail Province was the town's number
1 source for news; through the booming good times of pioneer
optimism, the hard times of the Depression, two world wars and
pandemics, including the Spanish Flu from 1918 to 1920.
"Some places report the second wave to be more deadly than the
first one, while other states the reverse is the case," reported the
Province in a 1918 article. "Whether from withdrawal of the mask
order, or from whatever cause it may be, there have been several new
cases in Innisfail."
Just over a century later the Province has reported on all the
latest developments of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the
Province's coverage officially ends as the town's longstanding
newspaper of record ceases publication, Innisfail's news will now be
brought to citizens through the newly branded regional newspaper,
The Albertan, and its website.
Last weekend Anna Lenters, the president of the Innisfail and
District Historical Society, nostalgically poured over hundreds of
archived pioneer Province newspapers dating back to its earliest
years of publication.
"It was shocking but predictable based on what's happening with our
local economy but it was sad still," said Lenters of the newspaper's
folding. "It is a passing of a sort."
"A community relies on a newspaper. A newspaper bonds a community.
It tells me when my neighbours had a baby, It tells me when there is
going to be a funeral so that I can attend it and honour that
person," said Lenters. "The editorials tell me about current events
and about things I should be concerned about in my community that
maybe I would not have known."
And it's just not the people in town who will feel the loss. The
Province, a winner of countless national and provincial journalism
awards, earned respect and admiration throughout Central Alberta.
"For as long as Alberta has been a province, the Innisfail Province
has been a vital part of the community," said Michael Dawe, the
leading Central Alberta historian from Red Deer. "It has kept people
informed and also supported countless community projects and
organizations. It has left a wonderful legacy. It will be deeply
While Lenters knows that news delivery will still be available for
almost everyone thanks to today's digital age, she feels two
critically important traditions of newspapering could be missing for
the public, accountability and trust.
"If it is on the internet there is no one for me to hold
accountable. You're sitting in an office and if I have taken
exception to what you've said or could prove you're wrong I could
hold you accountable. There is that and that trust factor, holding
you to a standard that doesn't exist on the internet," she said. "I
find what I receive on Facebook or whatever way it comes through is
one dimensional. It lacks in depth. That relationship is not there,
that character is not there. It's cold, cold, one-dimensional."
Nevertheless, the media industry has experienced dramatic changes
over the past quarter century. The COVID-19 crisis has put in sharp
focus the public's increased demand for faster up-to-the-minute news
delivery. While Lenters is aware most people embrace today's reality
there are those who won't, especially many of Innisfail's senior
citizens. The town has one of the oldest demographics for
communities its size in the province, and seniors, loyal to the
tradition and feel of the Province's print edition, could also be
saddened and feel inconvenienced by the newspaper's demise.
Most importantly, said Lenters, is the loss of the personal
relationship between community and newspaper, a relationship where
both sides respect each other's values and ethics while jointly
sharing a sacred commitment to the community.
"We've had a relationship over the years, the museum with the
newspaper, where you've been able to say, 'could you provide me with
something?'" said Lenters. "We do our very best to find it but
conversely, I've been able to say, 'we've got something coming up
that you might want to know about' and you've been able to address
that in a timely fashion.
"That is a personal relationship that goes with the newspaper."
Photos: 1. An edition of the Province from 1906, the
earliest newspaper uncovered last weekend at the
District Historical Village. The Innisfail Province closed
operations last week after serving the
community for 115 years. Noel
2. An edition of the Innisfail Free Lance from 1904. The Free Lance
was Innisfail's first newspaper, beginning
publication on Sept. 2,
1898 but folding seven years later when The Province began its
Noel West/MVP Staff.
3. Anna Lenters, board president of the Innisfail and District
Historical Society, looks over archived copies of
Province last weekend at the Innisfail and District Historical
Village. The Province ceased
publication last week following 115
years of service to the community. Noel West/MVP Staff
Sept. 3, 2019, Innisfail Province (Johnnie
Businesses sensitive to loss of art
Wade Harris reached out for over a year to save history.
But in the end the owner of Innisfail Bowling Lanes had to let it
go. The Tribute to the Railroad mural, created more than 15 years
ago but badly faded on the west wall of his business at the
intersection of Main Street and 51st Avenue, was painted over during
the weekend of Aug. 24 and 25.
Harris, who also owns bowling centres in Olds and Drumheller,
contacted Ruth Jepson, the mural's retired Didsbury artist, a year
ago to have her give the fading work of public art a badly needed
upgrade and extension.
But at the age of 85 it was just too much of a physical task for
Jepson to undertake. He also called an aunt in Ontario and a
regional art society but those efforts were also unsuccessful.
"We wanted her (Jepson) to go around the corner with the mural, an
extension. She said she would be unable to do that. It was a shame.
I wish she could have come and touched it up," said Harris.
The exterior wall for his business, once adorned with history, will
instead soon see barn lights and promotional cut-outs for bowling
However, Harris, who adores history, did find a way to preserve the
memory of the mural. He created a full tribute wall in his new
recreational lounge that honours railway history and the art of Ruth
Jepson. The wall includes a large photograph of the mural with the
original mural tribute plaque underneath. He also added about a
dozen historical railway photographs on the wall for his patrons to
"My grandfather was an engineer in the railway and the train mural
and trains are close to my heart," said Harris, adding he hopes his
bowling centre patrons also appreciate the display and the train
heritage of the town.
"I wanted to save history as best I could."
Meanwhile, Nathan Harrington, co-owner of the soon-to-be-opened
Revive Cannabis, said he made every effort to make sure the town
centennial mural that adorned the east exterior wall of his business
near the intersection of Main Street and 49th Avenue was not a
protected historical resource before painting it over. He said the
mural had been vandalized with graffiti.
"We contacted the town and we were told it was not considered a
protected historical piece. I did not want to paint it over if it
was," he said.
Harrington added his company, which is officially opening the store
on Sept. 27, now has new landscaping plans for the bottom of the
wall, along with creating an area for customers to properly secure
their pets before coming into the store.
Photo: Wade Harris, the owner of Innisfail Bowling Lanes, in front
of his tribute wall for the Tribute to the Railroad mural that was
painted over during the weekend of Aug. 24 and 25. Photo by Johnnie
May 21, 2019, Innisfail Province (Kristine Jean)
Celebrating a half century of Innisfail history
House open to public for one day
For the past 50 years the Innisfail and District Historical
Society has been an essential part of the community.
"It's our seasonal grand opening and we are celebrating 50 years of
the Innisfail and District Historical Society," said Anna Lenters,
president of the historical society. "It's an important milestone."
The season grand opening and open house takes place May 25 from 10
a.m. to 5 p.m., but doors will be open an hour earlier for a pancake
breakfast from 9 to 11 a.m.
"It's the 50th anniversary of the society, not this museum. The
museum came later, but it is the society that eventually created
this," explained Lenters. "It is the society we are celebrating and
we are the society today."
Families are welcome to join in the special event that will include
a variety of activities with the price of admission.
"There's a pancake breakfast; you can have a ride on a Model T
Ford," said Lenters.
"We're going to have displays of textiles, ceramics and wood all
throughout the village."
In addition, visitors will have a unique opportunity to learn some
details about some of the operations at a museum.
"We're going to open up where we do the accessioning of the
artifacts and explain the procedure to people," she added, noting it
includes sorting, recording and documenting of historical items.
"I'd like people to learn more about us. I want them to learn more
about artifacts that they may have hidden in their own house," said
Lenters. "Bring it out, we'll identify what it is and maybe help you
to understand how to care for it and how to store it correctly."
She noted all artifacts, buildings, equipment and items at the
village originate from Innisfail and surrounding areas, some of them
dating back to the turn of the 20th century.
"Our oldest building is from 1890. The first floor of the Sinclair
House was built in 1888."
Lenters said that while the Sinclair House itself will not be open
to the public this season, it will be open for (guided tours) only.
"It's not quite ready to let somebody in there by themselves," she
said, noting ongoing renovations. "It's a safety issue. It'll be a
matter of one of our staff members taking groups through and making
sure that they're safe.
"We're still renovating, but there will be free guided tours that
day," she added, noting it will be the first time that the public
has a chance to see inside the historic Sinclair home.
"We'll be touring the first and second floor," said Lenters. "I
want people to see what we're doing and what's involved in the
restoration (of the Sinclair House)."
Tickets for the season grand opening are $3 per person or $15 per
For more information contact the Innisfail and District Historical
Village at 403-227-2906 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: An aerial view of the Innisfail and District
Historical Village in December of 2017 as the Sinclair House
was moved onto the site. There will be a guided one-day tour on May 25 of
the Sinclair House, which is going
through ongoing renovations, for the historical society's 50th
Photo by Noel West/MVP staff.
April 23, 2019, Innisfail Province (Kristine
Continuing family legacy at the
of first curator now manager
Family history has come full circle at the Innisfail and District
Twenty-eight-year-old Kayla Godkin, who hails from Central Alberta,
was recently chosen as the new museum manager.
Her grandmother, Dr. Margaret Godkin, was the museum's first
curator 50 years ago. Godkin and her husband were veterinarians in
"It kind of feels a little bit like grandma wanted me to work
here," said Godkin, noting she never had the chance to meet her
grandmother. "My dad always used to tell me how much I reminded him
of her, so I have a little bit of a special connection there."
Godkin officially began her new role on April 15.
She wasn't chosen for the position by chance, and in fact was asked
by historical village board president, Anna Lenters, for an
"I was looking for work and actually applied for a different job in
the area and somehow Anna got a hold of my information," said Godkin,
who is a full-time student at Red Deer College. "She contacted me
out of the blue and (asked to speak with me)."
Godkin has several years of museum experience and brings extensive
knowledge of the industry to her new role.
"I've actually been working in museums since I was 19 years old. My
background is in museums and hospitality so this is my familiar
territory," she said, noting her employment with the Danish Canadian
Museum in Dickson, the Ellis Bird Farm and Stephansson House.
"I'm really, really pleased with being on board. It was something
that was never really on my radar but when I heard about the
position, I was really excited for it," said Godkin.
Lenters said she and the board are just as happy to have Godkin a
part of the team.
"It was destiny. Kayla is a gift and we are very pleased to have
her here," said Lenters. "I'm feeling very good about this (decision
to hire Kayla). She has our support."
Filling her grandmother's shoes and following in her footsteps
seemed to be a twist of fate, noted Godkin.
"My dad always used to talk about being at this place and coming to
visit when he was young," she said. "Driving by you have no idea the
amount of history that this site holds. I'm really excited to learn
all about those little things (and about the historical village),"
Photo: Kayla Godkin is the new manager at the Innisfail
and District Historical Village. She is the granddaughter
of the first curator, Dr. Margaret Godkin. Photo by Kristine Jean/MVP
Dec. 12, 2017, Innisfail Province (Johnnie
Sinclair House will be the pride of Innisfail
There are a few citizens who have reportedly wondered why many
others in town have chosen to turn hard-earned money into the
restoration of the Sinclair House.
The 125-year-old home was finally brought to the Innisfail and
District Historical Village last week, and it was quite an emotional
moment for village officials when this relic was moved onto its own
It was the culmination of a two-year roller-coaster ride that
included near heartbreak a year ago when historical society
officials were forced to consider a motion to cancel the project
because they could not come up with $17,000 to match a provincial
But the public answered the call, and that is just one very big
reason why this project is so important to each and every
Innisfailian. There is no other project, with the possible exception
of the enhanced playground project at the Innisfail Schools Campus
in 2015, that best illustrates what the heart of the town looks
like. And that is commitment, generosity, hard work and a newfound
yearning to save the past no matter how difficult the obstacles may
The scribbler says "newfound" because we must remember there were
prior opportunities to save vital historical monuments but those
were missed. The town lost all its classic pioneer wooden grain
elevators, and we still cannot forget the water tower controversy
more than a decade ago. That too is gone forever.
But today we have seized the Sinclair House, as decrepit as it may
now look, sitting battered but proudly in the southeast corner of
the historical village.
In three to five years, following even more dedication and hard
work from village officials, the Sinclair House will shine as a
brilliant beacon for all proud Innisfailians knowing many people
cared enough about the past to ensure it will always be there for
locals to use and enjoy as a community meeting place. Most
importantly, it will be a venue for folks to learn more about the
people who braved the pioneer days when there wasn't even running
water in homes, no telephones, no radios, and barely any evidence at
all that the decision to settle here, like David and Isabella
Sinclair did, was the correct one.
We all truly know it was. Look at Innisfail today with its
boundless spirit and optimism, a town of almost 8,000 citizens that
have every convenience and opportunity before them. It is a
community that is the envy of any other.
And that is why the good and forward-thinking folks tossed their
money into saving the Sinclair House. They were looking to save the
past to remind them of the gratitude they need to show today, and to
give greater meaning for future generations.
It is the greatest gift any community can receive.
Dec. 5, 2017, Innisfail Province (Johnnie
Sinclair house is finally coming to town
A year ago the future of the pioneer Sinclair House appeared grim.
The Innisfail and District Historical Society had all but given up
trying to save the 125-year-old home due to insufficient restoration
But the community rallied after the project's plight became known
through the media. Private funding began to pour in. Tradesmen
offered their services for free. The town even approved a grant to
And sometime later this afternoon the pioneer house of Isabella
(Bella) Sinclair, the first Caucasian female to settle in Central
Alberta, is expected to arrive at its new forever home at the
Innisfail and District Historical Village.
The two-storey log structure is being hauled 13 kilometres from the
Thomson acreage west of town by Warkentin Building Movers, a company
based in Calmar, Alta., that painstakingly prepared and secured the
dilapidated pioneer relic over three days last week.
John Thomson, who donated the pioneer home to the historical
village and is paying the $30,000 transportation cost, could not be
"I am relieved," said Thomson, who endured several delays over the
past two years to finally see the house being delivered to Innisfail.
Thomson, 84, grew up in the two-storey log home many decades ago
after his family acquired it from the Sinclair family.
"They have been digging a lot of dirt and pushing beams underneath,
generally getting things lined up," said Thomson, noting the pioneer
home has been unoccupied since the late 1980s. "They will lift it up
and put the dolly wheels underneath the beams and lift it out of the
While Thomson was watching Warkentin movers prepare for the move,
Lawrence Gould, the treasurer of the historical society, was equally
ecstatic, photographing every detail of the move's preparation.
"It is finally happening," said Gould, adding the house still had
today's four and a half hour journey before any full celebration
could take place. He said the home will first be transported about a
mile east at about 30 to 35 kilometres per hour, turn north on a
range road for another kilometre and then east again until reaching
Highway 54. The journey will then head south for several kilometres
until reaching 42nd Street on the far west side of Innisfail. The
house will then be transported east again until it arrives at the
historical village at 51A Avenue. The Sinclair home will then be
placed on a recently built foundation at the southeast corner of the
historical village. Along the way, FortisAlberta is helping by
ensuring up to nine power lines are not blocking the move.
Wayne Warkentin, the moving company owner, said while he has moved
historical structures in the past, the Sinclair House had its own
unique issues for both preparation and transporting.
He said the age of the structure and the rot of the original wood
presented a special challenge, noting the floor joists are not
really joists but pioneer era logs. He said the structure had to be
extensively braced and secured with outside cables, including steel
bracketing at the four corners of the structure.
"We've done everything we can to help and now we will lift it and
play it out to see how much rot comes with it or not come with it,"
he said. "We do everything extra. We put extra cross beams in, put
in extra shimming, extra bracing in and brackets along the outside.
A lot of guys don't.
"You can't add extra after. You have to do it beforehand," he
When all the preparation was done to secure the structure,
Warkentin and his crew then carefully lifted the pioneer house about
five feet from the foundation and secured it for its journey to
Innisfail. The crew then left the site for a few days before coming
back this morning for the big move.
"They (historical structures) are more time consuming because you
have to be super, super careful with them," said Warkentin. "There
is more challenges and you have to be a lot more patient with them.
You have to change your frame of mind and do everything you can with
Photo: The pioneer Sinclair House is finally coming to Innisfail.
The historic structure is expected to arrive at the Innisfail and
District Historical Village early this afternoon (Dec. 5).
Nov. 25, 2017, Red Deer Advocate (Lana
Historical society to relocate
pioneer's log home
House from 1890 will be moved next month to historical village
The log home of one of Central Alberta's first indomitable female
pioneers is about to be moved to Innisfail Historical Village.
"Our boys and girls need to believe that they can do anything" --
and Isabella Sinclair's story underlines this, said Anna Lenters,
president of the Innisfail and District Historical Society.
"Bella" -- considered by some to be the first white woman settler
in the area -- was an Ontario resident of Scottish stock, who was
also on board the first passenger train that stopped in Calgary in
Crossing the country unaccompanied was extremely brave, since it
was a potentially scandalous journey for a Victorian woman, added
Lenters. But Sinclair was determined to come West at age 16 or 17 to
keep house for her two brothers -- even if it meant initially living
in their sod-roofed home, or "soddie."
Five years later, Isabella (whose maiden name was Brown) married
David Sinclair. She resided for a few years in a moveable rail car
with her trestle-bridge builder husband, until the young couple's
first child was born.
In about 1890, the Sinclairs moved into the peak-roofed log house
that David had been completing on his homestead.
It's this home that will be moved to the Innisfail and District
Historical Village by a Red Deer company early next month.
The project has been a long labour for area volunteers --
especially resident John Thomson, who lived in the Sinclair's
wood-clad log home as a child. He remembers visiting Mrs. Sinclair,
"a quiet old woman" who served him and his mother tea.
Since the deteriorating house sitting on Thomson's rural property
has been empty since the 1950s, Thomson first pushed the idea of
saving it about 20 years ago. But it took a series of charitable
teas, bake sales and fashion shows to raise the $55,000 needed to
remove asbestos from the two-storey structure, and move it onto a
new foundation, said Lenters.
Seeing the white-washed house finally installed in the park will be
a thrill for 84-year-old Thomson.
"After all the years of planning, it seems surreal," added Lenters,
who plans to raise more money to turn the house into an interpretive
museum that tells Isabella's life story.
An early Women's Institute member, Sinclair raised five children
(among her grandchildren was the late William Sinclair, former Chief
Justice of the Alberta Supreme Court). Isabella and David were
involved in establishing education in the district, and lived in
their rural house until they moved to town in 1929.
"They were community-minded people at a time when the community was
just getting on its feet," said Lenters.
David passed away in 1949 and Isabella died a year later. Both are
buried in the local cemetery.
Photo: The log home of one of Central Alberta's first
indomitable female pioneers is about to be moved to
Innisfail's historical village. Contributed photo.
Sept. 19, 2017, Innisfail Province
Site nearly ready for Sinclair House
Preparations for the arrival of the Sinclair House at the Innisfail
and District Historical Village are nearing completion.
With the house expected to be moved sometime before the end of
September, the foundation at the village for the new addition was
set to be filled with sand last week.
Lawrence Gould, treasurer of the historical society, said last
Monday (Sept. 11) that work had just finished on the foundation. The
foundation includes cement footing at the bottom of the hole, with
wooden walls reaching seven feet high.
"What we're building is not a basement, it's a foundation," Gould
Work started in August on the foundation for the pioneer house of
Isabella (Bella) Sinclair, the first Caucasian woman to have settled
in Central Alberta. Lots of work has already been done on the
126-year-old house, including clearing it of asbestos, to prepare
the home for its six-kilometre journey from its original acreage
west of town to its new site at the village.
The move will bring an end to a two-year-long effort to arrange the
move, including fundraising.
There were some concerns aired last week about the way the
foundation is being constructed, with Albert Hannah of the Citizens
for Innisfail group questioning the use of sand.
Hannah said he spoke to the engineer and gained a better
understanding of the process, but blamed CAO Helen Dietz for not
allowing a concrete foundation.
"I didn't ever run across anybody doing anything like this," he
said of digging a hole and filling it with sand for a foundation. He
speculated the general public wouldn't understand why a hole was dug
and then filled.
He did acknowledge the work done is good.
Gould said the agreement between the town and the village was that
no basement would be constructed, corroborated by town documents
like the development permit issued in June.
Last May, town council unanimously approved an administration
recommendation to give the historical society $10,000 immediately
after the Sinclair House is successfully moved to the village. The
town also told society officials that no full basement was allowed
at the planned site immediately east of the Bowden train station,
noting the shallow depth of utilities, and that the property is
owned by the town and if for any reason another development was
necessary in that area it did not want to deal with the onerous task
of removing a full basement.
"There's no surprises here," Gould said.
The sand was to be added to the inside and the outside, which Gould
said provides lateral support for the foundation.
Last week, Frank Colosimo, the town's director of operational
services, said he visited the site and said the historical society
was satisfactorily meeting all development and building requirements
set by the town.
Photo: Lawrence Gould, treasurer of the Innisfail and
District Historical Society, and president Anna Lenters at
the foundation site for the Sinclair House last week. MVP staff photo.
June 24, 2014, Innisfail Province (Johnnie
The reawakening of Poplar Grove
A three-year dream to restore a relic that predates Innisfail's
earliest days is finally a reality.
The old Poplar Grove log cabin, used as a trading post by pioneer
Napoleon Remillard and built more than 125 years ago on a homestead
near what is now called Napoleon Lake, is lovingly restored and
finally open for public viewing at the Innisfail and District
The plan to preserve the relic for future generations was
spearheaded by former curator Dean Jorden, who was passionately
determined the old cabin should have a forever home at the village.
"It is the earliest artifact of Poplar Grove we have. There is very
little left from that time," said Debbie Becker Matthie, the
village's museum manager. "We are grateful for the collaborative
effort from the people who made it possible for the building to be
How the cabin survived the rigours of time and the elements for so
long is a mystery.
Before previous owner Howard Milligan agreed in the fall of 2012 to
have the village take it off his corner lot property at the
intersection of 50th Avenue and 57 Street, the relic was used for
storage for about a quarter century. Milligan acquired the property
and cabin from the estate of the late Cecil Bioletti, a bachelor and
former Town of Innisfail public works employee who was known to be
an avid artifacts collector. It is not known how or when Bioletti
came into possession of the cabin.
But what is known is that Remillard first journeyed to the area
from Montana in 1886. Along with about a half dozen other early
pioneers he helped create Poplar Grove, a settlement that existed in
the area before Innisfail was even conceived.
Within a few years Remillard left and went to British Columbia.
After the railroad came through the area in 1891 the CPR renamed the
growing community Innisfail. Poplar Grove was no more. Within a few
years every trace of the original settlement had either disappeared
or was forgotten - except Remillard's cabin, which eventually caught
the eye of Jorden and village officials in 2011.
After an agreement was worked out with Milligan, village officials,
with the generous support of many volunteers, moved the cabin to the
village in the fall of 2012. Eighteen months later, after countless
hours of more volunteer help, the cabin was fully restored to look
the way it did more than 125 years ago.
Becker Matthie said volunteers, including Jorden and inmates from
Bowden Institution, built a cement pad for the structure and
restored the structure's existing logs. The interior was fully
renovated and then adorned with artifacts from the village's
"There were very few items from that era that came with cabin. We
used artifacts from what we already had to make the interior as
historically authentic as possible," said Becker Matthie, adding
Jorden created storyboards to add historical context. "We are going
to remove the existing electrical wiring because it was not
originally there. We want to take this structure back to the time it
The restored cabin includes the Poplar Grove signage that was on it
when it was moved from Milligan's property, as well as Remillard's
signature on the interior log wall.
"The work is pretty much done, except maybe some more sidewalk
blocks to make it more accessible, especially for the handicapped,"
said Becker Matthie, adding she's convinced the old cabin will be a
big attraction for heritage enthusiasts. "There are some
historically valuable buildings in town we can move and some we
can't. This one we could, and we have to promote as much history as
there is available to us."
Photo: Innisfail Historical Village's Poplar Grove cabin
plays host to visitors during the busy summer while
Nov. 13, 2012, Innisfail Province (Johnnie
Last Poplar Grove relic is saved
Brian Rice moved backwards in the present to save the past for
With a forklift, Rice, the 54-year-old founder of Innisfail's Red
Willow Welding, drove in reverse on Oct. 24, almost a kilometre and
a half through the streets of town to transport an ancient relic to
its forever resting place at the Innisfail and District Historical
Village. After 30 minutes the coveted historical artifact
successfully arrived at its new rightful forever home.
Rice's delicate task was the crowning moment for a remarkable
journey by village officials and the community at large that began
14 months earlier.
Since the summer of 2011, historical village officials were seized
on the opportunity to acquire the one-room Poplar Grove log cabin,
believed to have been built in 1887 by pioneer Napoleon Remillard.
"It will go down in history as a marker of time," said Lawrence
Gould, a member of the board of directors for the Innisfail and
District Historical Society. "It is a priceless artifact, as
important as The Spruces stopping house."
Remillard and Arthur Content first journeyed to the area from
Montana in 1886. Along with about a half dozen other early pioneers
the pair helped create the new settlement of Poplar Grove. The log
cabin, originally located in the Napoleon's Lake area, is believed
to have been a trading post and the home of Remillard, as well as
the first mail stop located on the C & E Trail.
After the railroad came through the area in 1891 the CPR renamed
the growing community to Innisfail. Poplar Grove was no more. Within
a few years every trace of the original settlement either
disappeared or was forgotten.
The log cabin, meanwhile, was moved from its original location. The
date and place of its next location is a mystery but what is known
is that the Poplar Grove cabin eventually came into the possession
of Cecil Bioletti, a bachelor, avid artifacts collector and former
Town of Innisfail public works employee, some time before 1973.
About 25 years ago, the cabin was acquired by Howard Milligan. For
the past quarter century, until Oct. 24, the ancient relic sat
almost unnoticed and unappreciated on Milligan's corner lot at
50 Avenue and 57 Street.
Dean Jorden, the curator of the historical village, did notice. He
took special note of Remillard's signature etched on wood inside the
cabin. In August of 2011 he approached Milligan, who said the
historical society was contacted 20 years earlier about the cabin
but there was little interest.
In 2011, however, the historical village was very interested. The
province was contacted. Heritage officials came to Innisfail to see
the cabin. Yes, the relic is of great historical significance, said
the province, but it does not qualify for heritage designation as it
is no longer on its original site. As well, the cost to move and
restore the building appeared to be out of reach.
But that did not deter Jorden, the society, nor the community. With
unprecedented commitment and sense of civic duty the community
"It became a total community project," said Jorden. "It was done
without any government grants and with volunteers -- volunteer
machinery and volunteer labour."
Milligan donated the cabin. Financial contributions were secured,
including $1,200 from Jackson's Pharmasave and $500 from the Royal
Canadian Legion Innisfail Branch 104. Howell's Excavating donated
its time and machinery to prepare the site at the historical
village. LaFarge Canada provided cement. For the move, Innisfail
Co-op lent bin mover wheels. A team of inmates from Bowden
Institution volunteered on Oct. 22 and 23 to brace the cabin's
interior with wood.
And of course Rice volunteered his time on Oct. 24 for the big
move. After the cabin was braced and blocked by the Bowden inmates,
and steel beams welded, set and tied with chains underneath, Rice
pulled out backwards with his forklift to the historical village.
"I always wanted to help out," said Rice, who has previously moved
grain bins and utility sheds. "It is neat that people want to
restore it, instead of burning it to the ground."
Today, Napoleon Remillard's old log cabin, which still has its
Poplar Grove sign, sits just west of the train station at the
historical village. Although it is in remarkably good condition,
more restoration needs to be done, notably to the interior and roof.
It will ultimately house exhibits, homestead maps and storyboards
from the time Remillard first arrived in the area.
"Everyone was pleased with the move," said Jorden. "It was a
community project. We are glad it went that way."
May 10, 2010, Innisfail Province (Michaela Ludwig)
New exhibits call Historical Village home
Two new exhibits at the
Innisfail Historical Village tell more about Innisfail's founding
As a 40-year anniversary project, the Innisfail and District
Historical Society set about restoring the Village's Bowden CP Rail
station. And through the doors of that old station, visitors will
find several displays depicting Innisfail in its early years and
what the railroad meant to central Alberta. Scaled-down model trains
chug along the tracks
May 10, 2010, Red Deer
Advocate (Paul Cowley)
'Sleeper' village grand opening set
Innisfail Historical Village
has been a bit of a sleeper among Central Alberta attractions.
Curator Dean Jorden and other members of the Innisfail and District
Historical Society plans to use their 40th anniversary celebrations
to change that.
To draw more people to the society's impressive collection of
historic buildings, vehicles, equipment and other artifacts in the
middle of Innisfail, a project to restore the 1904 Bowden CPR rail
2010, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
good when Innisfail's
first store opened
The first day of business at George Washington West's general store
went well on that summer July 1st day in 1891.
He sold five pounds of apples at 25 cents a pound and four pounds
of brown sugar went out the door for another 36 cents.
And then a Mr. Miller came in to check out Innisfail's first store.
He walked away with a red handkerchief, according to a ledger
preserved at Innisfail Historical Village. Once-mundane entries in
an account book now offer a fascinating glimpse into life in rural
Central Alberta, many years before the province got its name.
The ledger and dozens of other historical items are located in a
general store mock-up created as part of a 40th anniversary project
by the Innisfail and District Historical Society to restore the
village's 1904 Bowden CPR rail station and update its exhibits.
George Washington West was Donna Chadwick's grandfather and her
family ran that store in Innisfail until Christmas Eve 1968, an
unbroken 77-year run.
Many of the items in the store came from her collection, including
the sales ledger, so carefully preserved in oilskin that the pages
remain white 109 years later.
Her grandfather was a teacher when he moved out West from Prince
Edward Island. He followed the railroad as it creaked from Calgary
to Innisfail, lurching north so slowly that he got out and walked
much of the way.
When he reached the end of the line, he found a small farming
community until recently known as Poplar Grove that had no general
store. George Washing (West) -- the reason for the salute to
American patriotism a family mystery -- decided to change that.
A sepia-coloured photo survives showing a space crowded with tins,
boxes, tack, tools, a large pickle barrel and hundreds of other
turn-of-the-century household essentials.
Chadwick points to an alcove lined with shelves almost hidden in
the corner of the picture. "Up here there was a pail. Any cash they
had -- which wasn't much -- they put it in the pail."
Most sales were bartered. A chicken here for some oats there. Eggs
for sugar, and so on. It didn't matter to her grandfather.
"He didn't let anybody go hungry."
West, know to all as G.W., soon became the conduit to get goods
from farms in the area to markets as far south as Texas. In one
memorable deal, he bartered two train carloads of frozen jackrabbits
for meat and other groceries from meat packing magnate Pat Burns,
the man behind the P. Burns & Co., later Burns Foods.
Originally built on the north side of the tracks, the store was
moved to the south when the railroad decided to move the town. It
eventually sat across from the present theatre, where an Alberta
Treasury Branch now sits.
Chadwick, who was born in Innisfail in 1928, remembers well working
in the store. At one time, the family business had included a fur
exchange and a lumber yard. But as times changed, so did the store.
It became more of a department store offering full lines of men's,
women's and children's fashions.
When the business closed, its history was thankfully not lost. A
cash register, scale, cheese cutter, cheque-making machine, poster
maker and other tools of the trade had been squirreled away.
"My dad was a keeper and so was I," she said.
Now, those items have been preserved at the train station, which
was moved to Innisfail in 1976 to save it from demolition.
When the store finally closed, people from farms and small
communities all over Central Alberta made their way into town to
make one last purchase.
"It really was an institution is what you would call it now."
And of the hundreds of sales made that day, she still recalls there
was not a single NSF cheque.
Photo: In the recreated General Store.
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