Work in Progress: Bill Turnbull fonds Part 2

It has been a very busy few months meeting people, attending workshops, and researching for the Canada 150 display. Some days I get to be an archivist and work at my ongoing arrangement and description project, the Bill Turnbull fonds.

One of the great things about Bill’s records is that the photographs and files came with a list of titles and dates for sets of photographs. Some of the photographs are individually labeled. This is a dream come true for an archivist. While we do not require that collections be organized before they are donated, we do love when there is an original order we can follow. The arrangement process moves faster for one thing. For another, a discernible original order provides for a better understanding of the context in which the records were created and used. We can be confident we are not messing with the history or contextual information contained in the record.

Sadly, one of the tasks I am spending a lot of time on is carefully scraping sticky residue off photographs. Bill’s photographs are generally in very good condition but a number of them have spent time glued or taped into scrapbooks. It is a bit tedious and I sometimes think, “These photographs are not even that old; maybe this is overkill.” That is my age speaking, though. Some of these photographs are almost forty years old. Not quite as old as me but still old-ish. And with good care, these photographs will be really old someday. Old enough that someone will marvel at the health and vitality of their sixteen-year-old great-grandmother captured in a still image.

That is one reason why we do what we do at the SPRA. Record creators like Bill start the process of preserving evidence of the past by capturing moments and information they feel have value. We help those documents and photographs, and anything else people are generous enough to create and donate, weather the passage of time so they too can become one of the “old-timers” future researchers marvel over.

By Archivist Josephine Sallis

C is for Cornwall

The district of Cornwall, south of Ridgevalley, was named for nearby Cornwall Creek, which in turn was named after “Peace River Jim” Cornwall, MLA for the Peace River District from 1909 to 1913. He was a great promoter of Peace Country and while MLA, he financed a month-long tour of the region to show adventure writers, reporters, agriculturists and geologists the potential he saw in the Peace region.

Cornwall School was built on the banks of this creek, ½ mile south of Twp Rd 705 on Rge Rd 262 in 1936. This was home base for the Cornwall Baseball team, as well as the first meeting place for the Cornwall Mennonite Brethren until a church was built in 1942. The community also had a Drama League, a CGIT troupe, and a Good Neighbours Club which supported the Red Cross, soldiers during wartime, and people in need. The school closed in 1960, and the church evolved into the current Gospel Light Church in DeBolt. The most visible remnant of Cornwall is the Cornwall Cemetery on the Ridgevalley Road, four miles south of the hamlet.

Several children studying outside of Cornwall School, ca. 1941

Northern Tribune ~ October 8, 1942

Northern Tribune ~ March 26, 1936

Northern Tribune ~ July 15, 1943

Northern Tribune ~ April 7, 1938

Soldier Spotlight: Private Fred Blanchard

Portrait of Fred Blanchard in World War I uniform, 1915

Regimental Number: 101077
Rank: Private
Branch: 66th Battalion; 7th Canadian Area Employment Company

During the First World War, it wasn’t uncommon for young men to add a year or two to their age in order to get into the army.  Quite a number of eager Grande Prairie boys lied about the year of their birth so that they could enlist, in spite of being under 18.  Fred Blanchard lied about his age too – except that he made himself out to be younger so that he could join up in July of 1915.

Fred was born in Hampshire, England on March 6, 1862. He joined the British navy in 1878, only 16 years old, and served for nine years. His first military service was in Egypt; in 1882 he was presented a bronze medal for distinguished service by the Khedive of Egypt.  From 1885 until 1887 Fred served with the navy in Burma, where he once again won a medal for distinguished service.  Later in his career Fred was engaged in chasing slave traders along the east coast of Africa on board the HMS Turquoise.  He left the navy with an honorable discharge around 1871 and, for a change of career, joined the Metropolitan Fire Brigade of London.

In 1909 Fred came to the Peace country.  His wife Emily and their children joined him in 1910, and a year later he filed on a homestead at SE 17-72-7-W6, on the east side of Lake Saskatoon.

When fifty Grande Prairie boys left for Edmonton in July of 1915 to enlist in the 66th Battalion, Fred Blanchard was among them.  He was 53 years old.  On his attestation paper, he gave 1870 as the year of his birth and passed himself off as a 45-year-old.  At some point his deception must have been discovered as the March 6, 1917 Grand Prairie Herald printed an article wishing Fred a happy 55th birthday as he celebrated in the trenches.  According to two letters to the Herald from Frank Longair, Fred remained in high spirits and good humor during his military service.  Upon returning to Lake Saskatoon after his discharge in January of 1918, Fred said that “he had helped Old England in every battle for the past decade and he must help her through this one.”

His loyal service was still remembered at the end of his life.  Fred died on March 15, 1930 and was buried with full military honors in the Soldiers’ Plot at Hope, British Columbia.

Sources: Pioneers of the Peace p. 33, 34; Lake Saskatoon Reflections p. 101-103

August 8, 1916 ~ “Fred… never for a moment loses his temper or his inimitable stock of humor.  He is always in good spirits and has proved his right to the title of ‘old war horse.'”

March 6, 1917 ~ 55 and “feeling fine, except for an occasional attack of rheumatism, but was holding his end up on the Somme with the rest of the boys.”

January 17, 1918 ~ “…he had helped Old England in every battle for the past decade and he must help her through this one.”

B is for Bridgeview

1930 Chattel Mortgage

1932 Discharge of Chattel Mortgage

On April 25, 1935 the Northern Tribune carried an article which began, “On Tuesday evening of last week Bridgeview players presented the drama, ‘Dust of the Earth’ in the Masonic Hall here.”

The Masonic Hall mentioned was in Spirit River, and the proceeds of the drama went towards building a community hall in Bridgeview, about 10 miles south on Secondary Highway 731. A one-room country school had been established here in 1929, and a post office and store in 1931.

The people who lived at Bridgeview were mostly homesteaders, and they were a pretty active and social lot. I only found five articles in the paper, but besides the Bridgeview Players, the articles talk about a Young People’s Club, the Ladies Aid, the Bridgeview Hockey Club and an ice rink, a dance sponsored by the Veterans of the community, a box social and dance to raise money for the Christmas concert, the Holmberg orchestra, a skating party, bean supper and dance sponsored by the hockey club, and a wedding shower for a new bride. It always amazes me how much community building went on during the Great Depression.

The community hall was never built, and the school continued to serve as a community gathering place. Later on, ca. 1940, a small white church, the Bridgeview Alliance Tabernacle, was built just south of the school and a cemetery laid out behind the church. You can still see the old school, church and cemetery as the remains of the Bridgeview community, and you can read about the families in the book Memories and Moments: Bridgeview, White Mountain, and Willowvale.

The oldest collection at the Archives came from the Coulter family in Bridgeview. It contains the 1820 Will of Hudson’s Bay Factor John Davis, and, among other documents, this mortgage on the family horses and cows during the depression. This collection can be viewed as the Davis, Hodgson, Coulter fonds on our website.

Northern Tribune ~ April 25, 1935

Northern Tribune ~ December 9, 1937

Northern Tribune ~ February 27, 1936

Written by Executive Director Mary Nutting

UPDATE – Beaverlodge’s First Double-Murder?

Was this case ever solved?

In 1914 Leonard Stephens came to Canada from England. He made his way to the Peace Region and filed on 16-72-10-6 as well as 27-72-10-6 near Beaverlodge. Another Homesteader Samuel Timmins filed on 22-72-10-6.

Both men were trappers and set out together in 1922 to check their lines. Leonard’s family realized that he and Sammy were late on returning and contacted the R.C.M.P.

The R.C.M.P. investigation turned up the bones of the men and a grisly discovery – the men had been killed by bullets to the back of the head.

In 1926 a notice was placed in the newspaper for claimants on the estate of Leonard Alfred Francis Stephens.  It states his date of death as on or about February 15, 1923.

Grande Prairie Herald Sept. 13, 1926

 

Leonard was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Goodfare.

Less is known about Samuel Timmins; I am not even sure where he was buried.

This story was brought to the attention of the archives by a researcher. If you know anything more, let us know and we will share it with the interested party.

 

Today the person interested in this case has informed us that this was not murder after all but a case of men who were inexperienced in dealing with the harsh weather in the area. More information can be found in an article in the Shoulder Strap (a Police publication) July 1940 or by calling or visiting SPRA.

 

Photo: Beaverlodge, 1930

Source: Information on the murder victims was found in Beaverlodge to the Rockies p. 35-36

Written by Researcher Patricia Greber

 

New Photos At SPRA

A collection of photographs is one of the newest donations we have received at South Peace Regional Archives. The photographs date from 1916-1920s, and have been passed down through the Arnold family.

The Arnolds traveled on the first train that came to Grande Prairie, settling in the Bear Lake district. Edward Arnold, along with his wife Sadie, daughter Louise and son Joe, first rented land from the Patrick family and then settled on NE 12-73-8-W6. Louise attended Big Horn School and later worked as a teacher at Currie School. Mrs. Arnold served as the Niobe postmistress from 1918-1919 and sadly losing her husband Edward in December of 1919.

The pictures depict life in the Peace Country in those early days.

L-R unidentified lady, Mrs. Bredin and Louise Arnold at Bredins in 1921.

 

*top photograph – Currie school students with teacher Louise Arnold

Source: La Glace book “Yesterday and Today” p.154 and information provided by the donor.

SPRA looking for New Executive Director

Applications closed May 5, 2017

SPRA looking for New Executive Director

South Peace Regional Archives Society is seeking a resourceful, energetic person with a commitment to preserving local history for the position of Executive Director. The director is responsible for management and leadership in the Archives and supervises three additional staff members.

Qualifications/Abilities:

  • Relevant degree in Business, History or other suitable discipline.
  • Willingness to train in Archival practices.
  • Ability to promote the Archives in the community.
  • Strong organizational and communication skills.
  • Aptitude for independent decision making and acting with initiative.
  • Supervisory and interpersonal skills to motivate staff and volunteers.

 

SPRA is a community archives funded by four municipal governments, and is an institutional member of the Archives Society of Alberta.

Please forward a resume and cover letter no later than May 5, 2017 to director@southpeacearchives.org.

1917 Thoughts on Vimy Ridge

We forget sometimes that those historic events that loom large in our national psyche and have carried such profound resonance over the years, were at the time, only one of the many events taking place in the lives of everyday people.

This article in the 17th April 1917 edition of the Grande Prairie Herald demonstrates the relative importance attached to the assault on Vimy Ridge shortly after the event. Midway down on the right side of the page, the Canadian assault was a smaller news story than the bid for tenders on a new school and the Red Cross Ball held on Friday the 13th.  Still, it was on the front page and shared that space with other news about the war, including the British capture of 13,000 “Hun” prisoners and “World United Against Huns.”

Grande Prairie Herald ~ April 17, 1917

Three days later, April 20 edition of the Lake Saskatoon Journal does not mention Vimy specifically but it does write about the results of the latest Allied offensive on the western and southern fronts by the British and French. This news shares the front page with articles about wheat trade, munition strikers in Germany, new homestead residences for C. Cady and G. Evans, and the marriage of the “Popular Young Couple,” Mamie Moore and Ulia Douglass.  Other war news that day included the story of British subjects in the US being liable for call up, food sources for the Army and Navy, and the return of Private Ralph Witherly to Grande Prairie.

April 20, 1917 ~ This edition of the Lake Saskatoon Journal will be part of our display commemorating Canada’s 150th birthday

By Archivist Josephine Sallis

The Birth of Our Nation: the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

April 9 – 12, 1917

Across the summit of the ridge
The Maple Leaf battalions pour
They’ve carried it in glorious war –
How great has been the privilege.

(excerpt from The Canadian Machine Gunner, a World War I trench newspaper)

This year, in 2017, Canada will be celebrating its 150th birthday. But for quite some time after confederation, our country was still hiding in the shadow of Great Britain. The Great War, despite its atrocities, was the event that allowed Canada to emerge as a nation and gain the respect, and even awe, of the rest of the world. As Brigadier General Ross so famously said when speaking of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, “It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade. I thought then… that in those few minutes, I witnessed the birth of a nation.”

In October of 1916, Canadian battalions began arriving in the Vimy sector in northern France, and by December, all four Canadian divisions (100,000 men) were gathered together in one place for the first time in the war. Months of reconnaissance, planning, and digging lay ahead of the men. Private George Wesley Bass, a South Peace man, spent those six months leading up to the battle working with the Canadian Engineers, laboring in the extensive maze of underground tunnels. These tunnels would be exploded at ‘zero hour,’ and men would pour out of them onto the battlefield. Subterranean subways were also built to transport supplies and wounded soldiers. When going over the top on April 13, 1917, Private Bass was wounded in his side and his arm.

The notorious Vimy Ridge is an escarpment approximately seven kilometers in length. It rises gradually on the western side, and drops more quickly on the eastern side. With an elevation of 145 meters above the Douai Plains, the ridge provides an unobstructed view for tens of kilometers in every direction – which explains why the British and French had tried (and failed) to capture it numerous times earlier in the war.

The attack on the ridge was originally planned for April 8, but because of poor weather it was postponed until April 9, 1917 (Easter Monday) at 5:30am. General Arthur Currie, in command of the 1st Canadian Division, had these words to say to the troops headed into battle: “… To those who fall I say: You will not die, but step into immortality. Your mothers will not lament your fate, but will be proud to have borne such sons. Your name will be revered forever and ever by your grateful country…”. General Currie was promoted to commander of the Canadian Corps shortly after the battle, a tribute to its great success.

By nightfall on April 10, the only objective not taken was ‘the Pimple.’ Many different roles must be played for a battle to be so decisively won. One such role was mopping up, the duty of the 49th Battalion, of which many men from the South Peace were a part. Mop-up parties were responsible for following assault parties in order to kill any remaining defenders. They also cared for wounded men on the battlefield and performed other more ‘lowly’ tasks. David Barr was a private in the 49th Battalion and was killed on the first day of the battle, April 9. Following the battle, his battalion received many telegrams and messages of thanks for their enormous and crucial contribution during the attack.

Of the 100,000 Canadians involved in the battle, 3,598 were killed and 7,004 were wounded by the time the last objective was reached on April 12. Some men, like Private Benjamin Gray of DeBolt, were wounded so severely that they were sent home for the duration of the war. (Private Gray lost his arm due to an injury sustained at Vimy Ridge). His Majesty King George V said to Field Marshall Douglas Haig, “Canada will be proud that the taking of Vimy Ridge has fallen to the lot of her troops.” And I do not doubt that the folks here in the South Peace region felt that pride every bit as keenly as the rest of the nation, even as they waited for their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons to return.

It is said that when having learned of the victory at Vimy Ridge, a French soldier declared “C’est impossible!” but upon learning it was the Canadians who had won, he exclaimed “Ah! Les Canadiens! C’est possible!”

That is our legacy.

researched & written by Kaylee Dyck

Sources:

for biographies of George Wesley Bass, David Barr, and Benjamin Gray, visit South Peace Soldiers Memorial

The Canadian Machine Gunner (see pages 18 & 27)

Preparing for the Attack on Vimy – Veterans Affairs Canada

Canadian War Diaries

Battle of Vimy Ridge – Wikipedia

Historica Canada

Dave Barr – Canadian Virtual War Memorial

Serendipity at the Archives

At SPRA we often come across donations that intersect, a photograph or document in one collection can help tell the story about a completely different collection or seemingly unrelated person. An occurrence of this happened last week, I happened to glance over to see what Karen was working on when a photograph caught my eye. It was the same photograph of two men playing chess that I had posted to our Facebook page, with the hopes of learning the player’s names.

 

Karen was working on a donation of records from the Grande Prairie Golden Age Centre and voila, here were my chess players pictured in their scrapbook fully identified, my questions answered.

Karen Burgess processing the Grande Prairie Golden Age Centre scrapbook

 

To put this in perspective, donations can sit on our shelves for 2-3 years before we get to them and add in the coincidence of looking to identify a picture from a separate collection, then there is the fact that processing started on a collection containing the same photograph, and lastly noticing the photograph while Karen was examining the scrapbook. Definitely one for the books!

So now I am happy to report that the names of the people in the photograph are Frank Rennie, Soren Frederickson with Dorothy Tarrant watching. In the back ground is L-R Reg Eyres, Harry Rogers, Fred Towns and Bary Eyres.

By Researcher Patricia Greber