National Grant Supports Reconciliation Project

Photograph: Beaver Camp on the Beaverlodge River, 1911. SPRA 0024.01.05.01

The South Peace Regional Archives is launching a new Reconciliation project, made possible Library and Archives Canada’s Documentary Heritage Communities Program (DHCP).

The project, called “Renaming the Past, Reclaiming Their Stories: Indigenous Records” will utilize records related to Indigenous peoples within the collections of the Archives. The project will examine records from 56 fonds previously identified by the Indigenous History Committee as containing Indigenous content, in order to provide culturally-appropriate descriptions and contextual information. It will increase access to approximately 300 Indigenous-related archival photographs and paper artifacts through digitization and promotion on social media. Through consultation with the Indigenous History Committee, the project will enable Indigenous peoples to engage in the identification of photographs and paper artifacts from the South Peace Regional Archives.

For more information on the project, or on joining the Indigenous History Committee, please contact Executive Director Alyssa Currie at

This project has been made possible in part by the Documentary Heritage Communities Program offered by Library and Archives Canada / Ce projet a été rendu possible en partie grâce au Programme pour les collectivités du patrimoine documentaire offert par Bibliothèque et Archives Canada

In Memory: Mary Nutting

The South Peace Regional Archives is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our founding Executive Director and dear friend, Mary Nutting. Mary passed away on Monday, April 20, 2020 after a two year battle with breast cancer.

Mary discovered her passion for history after spending a year in England and subsequently discovering the rich history of our local region. After several years of volunteering at the Grande Prairie Museum, Mary completed an initial survey to identify the locations of archival records of the South Peace. In 2000, she became the founding Executive Director of the South Peace Regional Archives, where she worked for the next seventeen years.

One of Mary’s great passions was connecting people to their history. She enjoyed exploring the family collections and helping people in their “treasure hunts” through the Archives. Mary once shared this particularly memorable encounter:

“Not long after the Archives opened in 2000, I received a request to view a particular diary. The visitor was the grand-daughter of the author and had never seen the diary in question. She smiled at me as I handed her the file, but then an amazing thing happened. As her hand touched the cover of the diary, the tears began to stream down her face. She was not just reading about an historical event, but touching her grand-mother in this document that had been so personal to her at a memorable and difficult time. It surprised us both, I think.”

Among Mary’s proudest achievements was authoring and contributing to numerous historical publications, including Olwen’s Scrapbook: A Journey to the Peace Country in 1933 and A Grande Education: 100 Schools in the County of Grande Prairie,1910-1960. Her contributions to preserving local history were recognized by numerous awards through the years. Regarding her work in the Archives, Mary once said:

“The South Peace Regional Archives are all about time. The time that has passed, the time that keeps on passing, but also the time that is given to all of us to create a future for that past time.”

Mary’s time with the Archives created a legacy that will endure for generations. Her tireless work to preserve our region’s history profoundly impacted our organization, and so many others. She will be deeply missed by all who knew her and her impact will be felt by countless others.

Mary’s full obituary is available from Oliver’s Funeral Home.

 Photograph courtesy of Fran Rodgers Photography

Now Hiring: Archivist

South Peace Regional Archives is seeking an Archivist for a full-time, permanent position tentatively beginning 1 June 2020. The Archivist oversees the process of acquisition, preservation and accessibility of archival records. The Archivist works with both the Awareness Committee to develop educational programs and events that enhance public awareness, as well as the Indigenous History Committee to foster Reconciliation efforts in the Archives. The Archivist works with and reports to the Executive Director.

35 hours per week; permanent position
Posting closing date: 1 May 2020
Tentative start date: 1 June 2020

Location: Grande Prairie, Alberta
Salary Range: $42,000 – $55,000

The full job posting and description can be viewed at

Archives at Work

Image: Hard at work behind the scenes like these gentlemen!  Two men take time out for coffee beside their equipment and a campfire, ca. 1942 (Fonds 345 Hanna Kirstien, SPRA 2009.040.14)

Self-isolation and facility closures are stressful for everyone. They can also be opportunities while we give health care professionals, public service professionals, and vital service professionals the space and time they need to help keep our communities safe.

Here at the South Peace Regional Archives, while we are closed to the public and suspending our outreach, staff is tending to some long overdue projects. Some are big, some are small. We have a couple of large arrangement projects that we can dedicate substantial amounts of time to in order to finally complete them. Our library shelves need rearrangement to accommodate growth both in the size of our collection and the increase in Indigenous themed texts. And the dreaded cataloging can be tackled.

Work on our quarterly magazine never stops. Our next issue is for the birds. We will be pecking through the records for interesting fonds, photographs, and paper artifacts related to our feathered friends. If you have any suggestions for articles about birds, bird watchers, or bird catchers, please let us know.

This is also a great time for us to plan. We have a number of potential grant project coming up this year. Preparatory work for the new, temporary hires is underway. While we are not currently conducting outreach, we can still prepare for them. Our outreach program continues to grow into the communities outside Grande Prairie. Our popular City cemetery tours are being expanded into the county this year. Last year’s displays at the MD of Greenview community barbecues and the Grande Cache 50th Anniversary celebrations met with great success and this year we hope to find a venue for displays at Birch Hills County and Saddle Hills County.

In some cases, it is not just Archives staff hard at work. Volunteers on our Awareness committee, Indigenous History committee, and the Future Planning committee are conducting research to support outreach, Reconciliation, and the growth of the South Peace Regional Archives. Our reference file volunteers are still busy clipping away to keep information current.

Last but not least, this is a great time to declutter our desks. All those things-to-do lists, quick research notes, box locations, and I’ll-get-to-that-tomorrow piles can all be gotten to. Finally.

Despite all the work we have to do, we are still available to provide some remote research assistance. Our website is a rich resource for anyone looking for something to do while schools and other facilities are closed. Our online researcher guide can be the start of your journey through South Peace history. Explore by topic or person.  A browse through the online photographs on Alberta on Record can be entertaining and informative. Just type in a single word search and see what comes up. You never know what you might find.

Stay safe, everyone.

Archives Closure

Update Tuesday 17 March 4:00 PM:  The Board of Directors has voted to postpone the Archives’ Annual General Meeting, originally scheduled for March 28th, until further notice. Details regarding the rescheduling of the AGM will be communicated as soon as they are available.

Effective immediately, the South Peace Regional Archives is closed to the public for an indefinite period. We will not be accepting any visitors for donations or research requests, and all volunteer work is paused. For those who wish to carry out research, our web page is an excellent resource for information on local history. We respectfully request those with remote research requests to allow us this week to assess how we will address the situation as events at home and around the world unfold. Updates on our services will be made available on this blog or Facebook. Thank you for your patience.

Soldier Spotlight: Private Cyril “Hector” Botten

Image: A bird’s-eye view of the Grande Prairie Army Training Centre, including several “H” huts and part of the hockey rink, ca. 1941 (SPRA 2011.44.41)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new 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.

Regiment: Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps (R.C.O.C.)
Regimental Number: M56296
Rank: Private
Force: Army

Hector Botten came to Canada from Portsmouth, England around 1929. He and his friend, Johnny Coates, sought adventure and were especially interested in owning land in the Canadian frontier. Hector filed on a homestead in Sylvester area (near Elmworth). He became friends with Mr. and Mrs. Bob Frame of Elmworth, and he lived with their family for 12 years, helping with the farm chores. When World War II broke out, Hector was determined to join the army, and was delighted to be accepted in February 1942. He was at the Grande Prairie Military Training Centre only 2 months when he contracted pneumonia, and sadly he died on April 14, 1942. It was the first death at the training centre. On April 16 Hector was given a military funeral, and was buried at the Grande Prairie Cemetery. Hector’s mother and brother were still in England. According to Bob Frame, Hector was a “man of highest principles” and of “cheerful disposition”. Mrs. Frame kept in touch with Hector’s mother for many years afterwards. In 1974 Hector’s brother came from England to visit Mrs. Frame, who was living in Hythe at the time, to thank her for making a home for Hector.

Source: Grande Prairie Herald Tribune April 23, 1942 p. 1, c. 7 and p. 5, c. 3
Beaverlodge to the Rockies Supplement p. 151
AGS Obituary Index
Canadian Virtual War Memorial
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

South Peace Regional Archives 2020 Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the South Peace Regional Archives is taking place Saturday, March 28th at 1:00pm. Join us at the Archives (10329 101 Ave, Grande Prairie) for light refreshments and:

Archives Updates

Election of Board Members

Special Resolution to Repeal the Existing Bylaws and Accept Rewritten Bylaws


Volunteer Recognition

Beth Sheehan Award

 This year, the AGM special presentation will highlight local filmmakers who have made use of the Archives in their craft. We hope you can join us for this exciting afternoon!

Soldier Spotlight: Private William Atkinson

Image: A page from William’s service file (Library & Archives Canada).  “GSW rt hand Nov 14 1916.  Index finger slightly stiff, not as strong as before.  Good grip in that hand.  Complains that his glasses do not fit him.  Says he has pains in head.  Sleeps badly.  Heart rapid but action good.  Lungs negative.”

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new 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.

Regimental Number: 472536
Rank: Private
Branch: 46th Battalion; 5th Battalion Canadian Railway Troops; No. 7 Canadian Stationary Hospital, Canadian Army Medical Corps

William was born on March 11, 1885 (1886?) in Keswick, England. He came to Canada around 1910 and at the time of his enlistment in 1915 was living in Saskatchewan. William received a gunshot wound to his right arm at the Somme, and an wound to his scalp as well; he was seriously ill for some time after these injuries. After his recovery, William joined the Railway Troops. In 1917 he was gassed. William was granted permission to marry Doris on Sept. 21, 1918 and on October 1 his pay started going to his new wife. He was discharged on May 1, 1919. William, along with his wife Doris and daughter Joan, moved to Valhalla from England in 1929 and filed on a homestead at NE 33-75-9-6. They didn’t farm much, but raised Persian cats for sale. He died in the Grande Prairie Hospital after a long illness caused by war injuries on January 29, 1939.

Sources: Pioneer Round-Up Volume II p. 436; La Glace Yesterday & Today p. 92; Cemetery Record

The Sawdust Fusiliers: Veterans of the Canadian Forestry Corps

Image: William J. Noll on horseback leaving to join the Canadian Forestry Corps, 1917 (SPRA 2014.061.014c)

The upcoming issue of Telling Our Stories focuses on forests and forestry in the South Peace.  To give you a sneak preview of an article highlighting the Sawdust Fusiliers and the role they played in the First World War, here are the names of some local men who served in the Canadian Forestry Corps.  For biographies of these men, visit the World War I Soldiers Memorial.

Private Andrew Bennett

tripped while on parade in 1916, which led to doctors discovering a cyst on his knee

Private John Blonke

jaw was fractured when he was assaulted by a civilian in Scotland

Private Walter Bowen

was badly gassed in 1917 and also suffered from flat feet, which led to his transfer to the Forestry Corps

Private Leonard Broomfield

served with No. 11 Company in France, where they were engaged in aerodrome construction

Private Fred Burrin

was appointed ‘logcutter’ and given a raise in pay, but reverted to Private at his own request

Captain Robert Campbell

was made second in command of No. 41 Company in August 1918

Private Frederick Chiverton

was transferred to the Forestry Corps due to recurring heart trouble

Sergeant Henry Connery

three of his four sons also joined the army in WWI

Lieutenant Harlie Conrad

enlisted in the RNWMP in 1914 as a way of getting into the army

Private Ernest Constantin

had been hard of hearing since childhood, but condition was worsened by army life

Private Jerry Cronin

had a cataract in his right eye, due to having been struck in the eye with the end of a whip

Private John Cummins

worked as a logger before joining the Forestry Corps

Private Frank Dundas

medical examination states that he was missing the tip of a finger

Private Omer Dupont

while serving in England with the Forestry Corps, he married an Englishwoman

Private Joseph Duszinski

was shot in the arm in May 1916 at Ypres

Private Thomas East

was a widower with eight children when he enlisted

Private William Fair

after being wounded in June 1917, a large piece of shrapnel remained embedded near his shoulder blade for six months

Private Isaac Frazee

his left hand was paralyzed after receiving multiple shrapnel wounds in May 1916

Acting Sergeant Robert Gerow

he and his son both served in the Forestry Corps

Private Robert Gerow

served in France with the Forestry Corps for a short time before falling ill and being sent to hospital in England

Private Henderson Graham

was blind in his right eye, and therefore not fit for active service at the front lines

Sergeant Charles Hastings

due to a mining accident in 1903, one of his legs was shorter than the other

Private John Kneafsey

while in the Forestry Corps, he was thrown off a truck; his clavicle was fractured and he had a concussion, which led to dementia

Private Chester Lowe

was only 15 years old when he enlisted

Private Gordon McCullough

suffered from dementia, likely due to shell shock; died in 1924 as a result of having been gassed during the war

Private Robert McDonald

in January 1918 he was sent to the School of Farmery to receive training for cold shoeing

Private Charles MacGregor

lied about his age by ten years in order to enlist

Private George MacGregor

worked as a cook during his time in the Forestry Corps

Private Henry Moss

after the war, a miscommunication led to his wife and family believing him to be dead, and it was decades before he was reunited with them

Private William Noll

when he left to enlist in 1918, he pinned a poem to his door stating that he would not be returning to the area

Private Lorne Nowry

after serving in the Forestry Corps, he came to Grande Prairie and bought a sawmill

Acting Corporal Jacob Orman

before being transferred to Forestry Corps, he was attached to the Russian Embassy in London

Private Raymond Pellerin

was wounded at Vimy Ridge before being transferred to the Forestry Corps

Private Thomas Rice

when he slipped on ice, his foot became jammed between a log, the carriage, and the skidway

Private Mike Rostalski

was shot in the leg in May 1917, after which he was transferred to the Forestry Corps

Private Herbert Stewart

after being injured at the front lines, he was transferred to the Forestry Corps; in 1918, a log fell from a wagon onto his leg, causing severe damage

Private Peter Stuart

worked as a lumberjack before the war

Private George Tate

injured his shoulder during training and as a result he remained in England with the Forestry Corps for the duration of the war

Private Robert Tilt

dyed his hair in an unsuccessful attempt to look young enough to enlist in World War II

Acting Sergeant Spencer Tuck

was gassed at Ypres in August 1916, losing partial function of his right eye

Soldier Spotlight: Private Archibald Setter

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new 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.

Regimental Number: 736480; 101051
Rank: Private
Branch: 66th Battalion; 8th Battalion

Archie was born in Battleford, Saskatchewan on May 4, 1892. In 1914, he filed on NW 1-77-5-W6, near Spirit River. He enlisted in the Canadian Army in July of 1915, though he was absent without leave (still in Canada) from August 30, 1915 until April 9, 1916. In spring of 1916 Archie enlisted and was sent overseas. A letter Archie wrote was printed in the February 20, 1917 Grande Prairie Herald:

Northumberland War Hospital

Dear Friend,

I suppose you will be quite surprised to hear from me; however, as I am living in my bed at the above hospital I thought I would write you a few lines. We arrived in Liverpool on the 7th May 1916 and there went to a place called St. Martin’s Plains and from there I was drafted in to the 8th Bttn. and went to France in June. I was in the battle of Ypres in June and also was at the Somme when I got hit in the left ankle, and I have finally lost my left foot, it is cut off about 5 inches above the ankle, so my chances are pretty good for getting back to Canada once more. Well Bill, you people have no idea of the war, but I can tell you that it is simply hell.

I suppose Grande Prairie is a big place now since the railroad is there.

Dean Hodgins was in the same Bttn. as me, I wrote to him a few times since I got wounded, but I have got no answer so I don’t know what has happened to him.

My leg is not quite healed yet but I am improving greatly. I think it will be some time yet before I will be able to use an artificial limb.

Well, Bill, this will be all for this time and if you don’t answer this letter please tell Mr. Rae that I want some papers.

I remain your friend,
Pte. A. Setter
No. 101051 No. 5 Ward, 8th Canadians

Archie had accidentally shot his foot while cleaning his rifle on September 10, 1916. His medical records state that he “was struck by rifle bullet in ankle accidentally by discharge of his own rifle. Foot was badly shattered. Wound became very septic requiring amputation which was performed Oct. 21, 1916.” It was later reported in the Grande Prairie paper that Archie came back to Canada and was working as a postmaster in Saskatchewan. Archie died on May 2, 1975.