Alexander and Agnes Forbes fonds. — 1914-1925. — 0.5 cm of textual records. — 31 photographs.
Rev. Alexanber Forbes was born in Scotland Feb. 17, 1860. He received his academic training at King’s College, Aberdeen, and the Free Church College. He met Agnes Sorrel originally from Montrose. Scotland, when she came to Aberdeen to work in a Rescue Home for “fallen women”. She attended the same Free Church where Alexander worked as a precentor for the services. They both had a strong interest in missionary work and when they became engaged, they both committed themselves to the Foreign Field Missionary Committee for an appointment. While they waited for their assignment, a Rev. Dr. Robertson and the Rev. C.W. Gordon (better known as Ralph Connor) arrived from Canada, commissioned to find “men and money ” for the work in Canada. They asked Mr. Forbes to come to Canada and within the year, he and Agnes both agreed to come. They came to Canada in 1894 and Mr. Forbes was ordained by the Presbytery of Calgary in 1895. In September, 1895, in the old Presbyterian Church in Edmonton, Mr. Forbes and Miss Sorrel were married by Rev D. G. McQueen. Forbes was appointed missionary to Fort Saskatchewan and he and Agnes served there for fifteen years. In the summer of 1909, the Presbytery asked Rev. Forbes to travel to the Peace country to see what the district looked like as there was much talk about the potential for settlement there. He and Agnes spent the summer travelling with horse and wagon, camping and discovering the new country and its people. The next year, encouraged by Dr. McQueen, moderator of the Presbyterian Synod of Alberta, to set up a mission in the Peace country, Rev. Forbes and his wife Agnes set out again for Grande Prairie. This time they were coming to stay. They traveled with a development company, “The Argonauts”, first by caboose, and then when the Simonette River’s early break-up stopped them, they built rafts to cross the river near Bezanson. They finally reached Grande Prairie in May, 1910. The Forbes established their first home and pioneer hospital at the Clifford’s place on Flying Shot Lake before settling on their own homestead, building a small log hospital in 1911 and a house in 1912. By October, 1911, the McQueen Presbyterian church was built on the banks of Bear Creek and services had begun. Rev. Forbes set about acquiring and building other churches at Spring Creek (Dimsdale), Glen Leslie and A.M. Bezanson’s townsite, as well as holding services in homes at Bear Lake, Kleskun Lake and Sexsmith areas. In November, 1914, a meeting was held to consider building a church at Glen Leslie. A subscription list was drawn up with donations of labor and cash promised. A similar meeting was held in December at Bezanson with similar commitments called for. The logs were to be cut and hauled out during the winter. Two 20’x30’ log buildings were built the following spring with volunteer help and one carpenter, Mr. A Olson. Churches in Glen Leslie, Bezanson and Spring Creek were used as schools for many years.
In 1917, Agnes Sorrel Forbes, who had been faithful to her charitable duties to the end, died suddenly and is buried in the Grande Prairie cemetery. By 1920, the Presbytery of Peace River had been formed and named Rev. Forbes, their moderator. On May 10, 1921, Rev. Forbes married Christine Elizabeth Smith, a nurse with extensive experience in hospitals, with Alberta public health and with the University of Alberta. In 1924, the Presbyterian congregations voted to join the movement with the Methodist and Congrgational churches to form the United Church and Rev. Forbes, strongly opposed to the motion, resigned his post and he and Christine moved to Teeswater, Ontario. He returned to Grande Prairie in 1931 to dedicate a newly erected Presbyterian Church on the corner of 101 Ave and 100 Streeet. He died in 1945 in Paris, Ontario, and is buried in Toronto. Christine Forbes predeceased him, Aug. 18, 1944.
The church records were collected by Ed Leslie, donated to the Grande Prairie Museum in 1992 and transferred to the Grande Prairie Archives in 2000.
The photographs attributed to Mrs. Forbes are contained in an album presumbably acquired by Isabel Campbell and maintained as part of her collection at the Grande Prairie Public Library. The photographs were transferred with the rest of Isabel Campbell’s collection to South Peace Regional Archives in 2013.
Scope and Content
The fonds consists of records of the planning for and the construction of the Presbyterian churches at Glen Leslie and Bezanson and photographs presumably assembled by Mrs. Forbes relating to their journey to the Peace Country and church and community activities, buildings, and people in the Grande Prairie area.
|Series 127.01||Churches. — 1914-1925. — 0.5 cm of textual records.The series consists of records of the planning for and the construction of the Presbyterian churches at Glen Leslie and Bezanson, including lists of materials, names of subscribers to each project, and minutes from planning meetings. Also included is the letter written by Forbes to Ed Leslie transferring the papers to his care. An interpretive summary of the history of these two churches written in 1961 is also included.|
|Series 127.02||Photographs. — 1909-[ca. 1915]. — 31 photographs.The series consists of thirty-one photographs presumably assembled by Mrs. Agnes Forbes into an album. The photographs document the Forbes’ journey to the Peace Country on the Long Trail, building churches and early church societies, the Forbes’ Grande Prairie home, and early pioneers, businesses, and buildings in the Grande Prairie area. The album also includes a 1911 newspaper clipping showing Mrs. Forbes pounding the first spike into the corner of McQueen Presbyterian Church. The album has had a few images removed from it at an earlier date.|