Fred Fonds: Elf on the Shelf

Once again, the Archives’ Elf on the Shelf, Fred Fonds, will return from the North Pole on December 1st for another holiday season. Fred has been finishing his quarantine in a top secret location so he can safely explore the Archives.

Follow all of Fred’s adventures on the South Peace Regional Archives’ Facebook page. Be sure to like our page and posts so you never miss an update!

Enjoy this look back on some highlights from Fred’s visit last year.

Soldier Spotlight: Benjamin & Leonard Walton

Benjamin Harold Walton

Regimental Number: 883715; 3205938
Rank: Private
Branch: 187th Battalion; 1st Depot Battalion, Alberta Regiment

Ben was born in Ontario on February 9, 1902; he lied on his attestation paper, stating that he had been born in 1898. He first enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1916 at the age of 14; he was living in Calgary at the time. He served in England, but was sent back to Canada in May of 1917 to convalesce after being ill with scarlet fever, mumps, and measles. Slight deafness in one ear worsened after this illness. Ben was discharged on October 31, 1917. In 1918, he and his twin brother Leonard joined the army without telling their parents, although they were significantly underage (see page 39 of Leonard’s service file). Not surprisingly, their parents wanted the boys sent back home, as they were too young to have enlisted. Ben’s parents had no idea which battalion he was with; they thought he might have joined up under a false name, but he had used his real name. He gave his parents’ names as his next of kin; however, he said his parents lived in Seattle (they actually appear to have been living in Edmonton) on one set of paper work, and requested that communications be sent to a friend’s address. While in Halifax in 1918, he received a knife wound to his left leg. It was the result of a “scuffle”; see pages 111 through 115 for a few different (and entertaining) testimonies concerning what took place. A note in the 1918 service file states that Ben was “not to be dispatched overseas till 19 years of age” (he was 16 at the time). After being discharged, Ben came to the South Peace and filed on the eastern half of 22-77-20-W5. He died on March 19, 1963.

Sources: land records

Leonard Douglas Walton

Regimental Number: 3205620
Rank: Private
Branch: 1st Depot Battalion, Alberta Regiment

Leonard was born in Ontario on February 9, 1902; he lied about his age on his enlistment form, stating that he’d been born in 1898. In 1918, he and his twin brother Ben joined the army without telling their parents, although they were significantly underage (see page 39 of Leonard’s service file). Not surprisingly, their parents wanted the boys sent back home, as they were too young to have enlisted. Their mother wrote a letter dated May 17, 1918, requesting that her sons be discharged. Leonard was discovered to be underage in July of 1918, after he had reached England. He was sent back to Canada and officially discharged on November 24, 1918. In 1920, Leonard filed on SE 27-77-20-W5 and NE 33-77-20-W5. Leonard died on March 8, 1958.

Sources: land records

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Movie Monday: The Edson Trail

Image: A photograph of an Edson Trail caboose, taken from the featured film (SPRA 0001.10.01.17a-b, Fonds 001: Pioneer Museum Society of Grande Prairie & District fonds)

Movie Monday highlights videos from the Archives’ film collection. Every week, an archival film will be featured on our YouTube channel and here on our blog. The Movie Monday project is made possible with the generous funding support of Swan City Rotary Club of Grande Prairie.

Welcome back to Movie Monday! Today’s featured video was created by the Grande Prairie Museum in 1994 with the purpose of educating our community about the Edson Trail – a critical part of our local history. It includes portions narrated by children, which makes it an excellent resource for the classroom.

The Edson Trail includes information about the building of the trail, the towns of Edson and Grande Prairie, preparation for the journey, day to day life on the trail, and methods of travel used by early pioneers. Letters and journal entries are read by various narrators, giving the viewer a deeper sense of stepping into the past and understanding the history from the perspective of those who experienced it.

Before the Edson Trail opened in 1911, pioneers travelled to Grande Prairie via what was known as the Long Trail, which was 800km in length; the Edson Trail was only 250km. But even with the distance greatly reduced, the journey often took months to complete. Most people travelled in what was referred to as a caboose: a covered wagon about 6 feet wide and 13 feet long, with a wooden floor and walls made of wood and canvas. Inside the caboose were beds, a wood stove, and supplies. Homesteaders often packed enough supplies to last a year – the amount of time they expected it to take to become settled and bring in their first harvest.

The journey was an arduous one, but the plentiful land (priced at $10 for 160 acres) was worth the risk for the men, women, and children who braved the trail.

We hope you enjoy this fascinating documentary!

Soldier Spotlight: Fred Darnton

Image: Fred Darnton sits with a small boy on a front step, possibly of a store, 1935 (SPRA 116.09.01.02.022). Cropped.

Regiment: Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry

Englishman Fred Darnton once camped out on the property of David and Margaret Dana near the junction of the Simonette and Smoky Rivers. It was the fall of 1930, and he was only passing through the area. He had nothing but the clothes he was wearing, and stayed overnight by his campfire. After investigation by the family and neighbors, Fred, “the crazy young guy”, soon came to be a close friend of the Danas and was like a son and brother to them. Fred filed on a homestead for $10 (SW2-72-2-W6) on December 23, 1930 and lived in the Goodwin area for the next twenty years. During the Second World War, he enlisted with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and was posted overseas. Fred was severely wounded during the D-Day landings in June 1944 and returned to Canada after the war. Eventually he found a job with the Department of Highways where he worked for 25 years.

Source: Across the Smoky p. 347 – name in Roll of Honour; p. 24; p. 140-141

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Movie Monday: Riverboating

Image: A film still showing three men in a boat (SPRA 253.01.03, Fonds 253: Jerry Stojan family fonds)

Movie Monday highlights videos from the Archives’ film collection. Every week, an archival film will be featured on our YouTube channel and here on our blog. The Movie Monday project is made possible with the generous funding support of Swan City Rotary Club of Grande Prairie.

It’s Movie Monday! Today we are passengers on a riverboating expedition. Jerry Stojan was an avid outdoorsman and so this film gives us an excellent look at how he spent much of his time. This particular riverboat excursion could have been part of a hunting or fishing trip, but is more likely to have been a leisurely outing, as it was filmed circa 1954, before Jerry became a guide.

The name and location of the river are not recorded, but mountains – presumably the Rocky Mountains – can be seen at various points in the film. The river’s increasing proximity to the base of a mountain, and the fact that several rest stops are depicted, indicates that this may have been a lengthy journey. An Indigenous family is shown offering hospitality to the men along the way.

Wildlife is seen along the shores, as are horses grazing tranquilly in the meadows. The presence of young foals with their mothers proves almost certainly that this film was taken in spring or early summer.

Remembrance at the Archives

The South Peace Regional Archives will be closed on Wednesday, November 11th for Remembrance Day. Do you want to commemorate Remembrance Day at home? Explore these related resources from the Archives.

Poppy Bunting Display

This year’s marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. To commemorate this important event, the South Peace Regional Archives and Grande Prairie Museum have partnered with Wapiti Meadows District – Girl Guides of Canada to create a poppy bunting display.

Over the last two weeks, local Girl Guides have been learning about WWII female veterans and war brides from the South Peace, as well as the symbolism of the poppy. Members from fourteen local units were then given the opportunity to create a poppy flag that was used to decorate the Remembrance Day display at the Grande Prairie Museum.

The joint Archives-Museum Remembrance Day display is an annual event and will be up in the Military section of the main exhibit gallery for the month of November. The Grande Prairie Museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00am to 6:00pm and 12:00pm to 6:00pm on Saturday and Sunday.  On Remembrance Day, the Museum will be open 12:00pm to 5:00pm.  For more information on Museum hours and exhibits, please call 780-830-7090.

Soldiers Memorial 

The South Peace Regional Archives is creating an online memorial to the soldiers from the South Peace area who were involved in defending our country. We have over 1,100 WWI soldiers and over 2,300 WWII soldiers listed on this site so far, and the list is growing. As we gather information about each soldier, it will be added to the memorial. This important work is completed by volunteer researchers and members of the community. Love the idea of our project? You can help! We will welcome the general public to pick a soldier from our list to research. Contact us for more information.

War Brides Collection

Between 1942 and 1948, nearly 45,000 War Brides accompanied by 21,000 children came to Canada from Britain and Europe to join their husbands. Entire departments of government were devoted to bringing the war brides home.

In 2007, the South Peace Regional Archives collected autobiographical stories from 18 World War II brides who came to the Peace Country after meeting their Canadian husbands in Britain and Europe during the War. The War Brides Collection includes audio taped interviews and photographs documenting these women’s lives and journeys. Brief biographies and a selection of photographs are available to view online.

Soldier Spotlight: Clarence & Mercy Flint

Rank: Lieutenant
Branch: 56th Battalion; 49th Battalion

Clarence was born in Claremont, Ontario on November 1, 1881. In 1907 he moved to Edmonton and served as a supervisor of physical instruction in local schools. In 1909 Clarence filed on a homestead near Beaverlodge (NW 31-71-9-W6). In 1910 he married Mercy Elizabeth Grant. When Clarence joined the Canadian army in May of 1915, Mercy went with him to serve in England as a nurse. However, she returned to Canada when Clarence was sent to the front lines in France. Clarence was awarded the Military Cross while serving overseas. According to the Circumstances of Death Register, Clarence was hit in the stomach by an enemy machine gun bullet and killed instantly during an advance in the vicinity of Cambrai on September 29, 1918 .

In 1929, Mercy married Arnold Christie of Grande Prairie. She died in 1960.

Note: Follow the “War Diaries” link below. Clarence is mentioned on the following pages on 28 and 29 September, 1918:

p. 18: Commander of “A” Company
p. 20: Reported “A” and “B” Companies at 11:50 PM
p. 21: Company Commanders of both the “A” and “B” Companies were killed in action at 8:00 AM.

Source: Pioneers of the Peace p. 40

Lieutenant Clarence Flint (SPRA 002.01.03.193)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Movie Monday: Miscellaneous Activities

Image: A film still showing some puppies (SPRA 1974.74.22N, Fonds 138: Griff James fonds)

Movie Monday highlights videos from the Archives’ film collection. Every week, an archival film will be featured on our YouTube channel and here on our blog. The Movie Monday project is made possible with the generous funding support of Swan City Rotary Club of Grande Prairie.

Today’s Movie Monday features a second film from the Griff James fond. This film was taken circa 1965 and includes footage of a man and woman playing with puppies, riverboating (and the loading of a boat), a cabin being built, races at Wapiti Ski Hill, and fishing.

Griff James recorded many of his activities and interests on 16mm film. This type of film was introduced with the Eastman Kodak Company’s amateur movie camera, the Cine-Kodak, in 1923. The camera was bulky, boxy, and cranked by hand, but it made filmmaking accessible to hobbyists and professionals alike. What made the Cine-Kodak special was perhaps not the camera itself, but the width of the film it employed. Rather than the usual 35mm film (which was alarmingly flammable), it used 16mm film made of noncombustible plastic. Amateur filmmaking flourished, and 16mm film continued to be widely used by hobbyists until the 1940’s. At this point, professionals still preferred the 16mm film, but amateurs were turning to the less expensive and more portable 8mm film.

The invention of 16mm film, and subsequently 8mm film, changed the way memories were preserved. Together with journals, letters, and photographs, home movies became a way of documenting both the ordinary and extraordinary moments in the life of a family or individual. Today, these film collections are a treasure trove for archivists, researchers, and history enthusiasts!

The Argonauts’ 1910-1915 Cashbook

Above: Argonauts Limited office on the new townsite of Grande Prairie. Argonauts Limited was organized in Edmonton to develop the town of Grande Prairie at Bear Creek, alongside where the Canadian Northern Railway had survey stakes. 1909 (SPRA 2001.01.201)

Although we have not yet been able to welcome our volunteers back to the archives, many of our volunteers are continuing to work on projects at home. Just this week, volunteer Randy Repka finished transcribing the Argonauts’ 1910-1915 cashbook; the digitized cashbook and Randy’s transcription are now both available on the Argonauts Ltd. finding aid.

The Argonauts Limited company was formed in 1909 by partners William A. Rae, Robert McQuarrie, Charles Spencer, C. Byar, Edwin Simpson, John “Jack” Sutherland, and W.H. Carter. Late in 1909, Jack Sutherland was sent north to the South Peace to determine whether the southern half of 26-71-6-W6th, along the Canadian Northern Railway survey, was suitable for a townsite. Upon his favorable report, the company purchased 80 acres of the land, and in 1910 had it subdivided into town lots by Dominion Land Surveyor Walter McFarlane. These were promoted and sold by the Grande Prairie Townsite Company, of which W.A. Rae was also secretary.

When the Argonauts Limited secured its charter in 1910, the partners decided that they should also take in a sawmill. The procession of twelve teams carrying a steamer and all the equipment needed for the mill started from Edmonton on February 12, 1910 and a month later had made it as far as the Simonette River. Here they were stranded by early break-up of the rivers until they could raft it up the rivers. The mill was finally set up in the virgin timbers of the Wapiti River valley to provide lumber for the first buildings in Grande Prairie City.

Grande Prairie City grew rapidly, attracting other developers on parcels of land surrounding the original townsite. The village was incorporated in 1914, and by 1919 had the requisite 1000 residents for a town. A few years later, in 1922, The Argonauts disbanded. A great number of their lots were still unsold, and these were distributed to the shareholders on the basis of three dollars worth of property for each dollar of capital shares held.

The early spring in 1910 resulted in rivers breaking up before the expected date. Incoming settlers, such as the Forbes and Argonaut party seen here, were forced to make rafts for transporting effects down river to the Grande Prairie townsite. 1910 (SPRA 2001.01.192)

A page from the Argonauts’ cashbook

Movie Monday: Family Growing Up (Part 2)

Image: A film still showing the Foster children in front of their home (SPRA 449.01.04, Fonds 449: Foster Family fonds)

Movie Monday highlights videos from the Archives’ film collection. Every week, an archival film will be featured on our YouTube channel and here on our blog. The Movie Monday project is made possible with the generous funding support of Swan City Rotary Club of Grande Prairie.

Welcome back to Movie Monday! Today we are revisiting the Foster family. We first met the Fosters in September, in a film also entitled “Family Growing Up”. The first film was taken between 1950-1956 and focused largely on the activities of the children; today’s film continues the documentation of the children’s growing years, taking place between 1957-1965.

It is quite unique to see home movies that tell such a comprehensive and cohesive story. Over the course of these two films, we see the Foster children grow from toddlers to teenagers, and see the family itself grow from a family of five to a family of six. The film contains footage of innumerable activities. A few special events such as birthdays and vacations are shown, but in large part the film focuses on simple, everyday happenings – from rowing and swimming, to walking on stilts and playing dress-up. The children’s antics are amusing and heartwarming, and the films are an excellent memento not only for the Foster family, but for anyone who wishes to slow down for a few moments and remember the simplicity and sincerity of childhood.

It is films such as this one – and many others in our collection – that enable the Archives to preserve a more complete history of the South Peace. Our goal is not only to remember the significant events that feature in history books, but to tell the stories of the individuals and families who are the South Peace.