Fonds 356 Charles Spencer fonds

Charles Spencer fonds. — 1886-[1950]. — 7 cm of textual records. — 32 photographs. — 9 negatives.


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Biographical Sketch

Charles E. Spencer was born in England, in the old County of Westmorland (now part of Cumbria) in 1869. The 1901 British Census shows Charles in Southampton, where he boarded on Pear Tree Green and worked as a ‘builder and joiner”. Four years later, at the age of 37, he emigrated to Canada. His first residence was in Moose Jaw, where he filed on a homestead, but by 1909 he was living in Edmonton. There he became a partner in the Argonaut Company, and after they established the townsite of Grande Prairie City in 1910, he became a permanent resident here.

The Argonaut Co. Ltd., composed of a group of Edmonton businessmen, was established in 1909 at the encouragement of W.A. Rae. In 1908, Rae had made a trip to the grande prairie with his wife and son, and was impressed with the agricultural and commercial potential of the area. He sold the idea of developing a townsite on Bear Creek. The group opened their headquarters on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, and in 1909 purchased 80 acres of land along the CNR Railway Survey. The named the townsite “Grande Prairie City” and soon a banner proclaiming the new townsite draped their office on Jasper Avenue.

As a partner in the Argonauts, Mr. Spencer was one of Grande Prairie’s first real estate agents. He bought and sold land, and rented out a series of “cottages” as well as an office block . He also formed a partnership with Neil Campbell, another Argonaut, and once again was in the building trade. Charles Spencer designed and/or built many of our early public buildings: the first school in 1915; the large brick Montrose School in 1917, which he designed and supervised without pay; the Grande Prairie Hotel in 1917; the Spencer Block, a complex of offices and suites, in 1919; the first Town Hall, which also included the Fire Hall, in 1920; the new Grande Prairie High School in 1929; and the Donald Hotel in 1937. When the building trade slowed during the 30’s, he traveled around the south Peace building stockyards and loading platforms for the Grande Prairie Cooperative Livestock Association.

It was out of the Spencer Block that Mr. Spencer operated “Prairie City Agency” which sold all lines of fire insurance. In 1936, Miss Ann Philips Roberts, a new graduate of the Grande Prairie Business College, was in charge. An earlier business was the Grande Prairie Electric Light Co. which he encouraged the ratepayers of the town to establish in 1917. They formed a company and sold shares, providing electrical service to the town until Canadian Utilities took over the franchise in 1929.

Besides being a partner in the Argonaut Company and a builder, Charles pursued a number of other interests. As early as 1917, he opened a lending library in the Donald Hotel, cooperating with the Extension Department at the University of Alberta to provide the best possible reading material. Although this library was not in operation long, Spencer continued to promote the need for a public library and was instrumental in forming the first Library Board. He also continued to build his own collection, which was reputed to be one of the most complete in the north. In 1952 he donated his own private collection of 2500 books to the library. They were personally catalogued by the Supervisor of Public Libraries for all of Alberta, who stated that some of the books were of a quality that universities would be proud to have.

The list of public offices Mr. Spencer held included founding member of the Board of Trade, member of the Hospital Board; Chairman and/or Secretary-Treasurer of the Grande Prairie School Distict 2357, Justice of the Peace, Commissioner of the Juvenile Court. In 1934, when he was re-elected to Town Council, he had already served several terms. It was in this capacity that he preserved the Town files, in effect starting one of the first Archival collections.

Not content to stay and do what he could inside the Peace Country, Charles also made trips to Vancouver and Seattle to promote a coastal outlet for products from the Peace River Country. He also made several trips back to England visiting family, but he always returned to the Peace Country. “It does a man good to get away for a while, for the reason that one is then more satisfied with the Peace River…” he commented in 1937.

Mr. Spencer remained in the Peace Country until he died on February 18, 1952, at the Grande Prairie Municipal Hospital after a lengthy illness. As a mark of respect, all stores in the town closed for his funeral. He was buried in the Grande Prairie Cemetery.

The Spencer Block was purchased by the Army and Navy Department Store out of Edmonton, and the building razed. In 1955, a modern new store, Macleods was built on the site.”

Custodial History

The records were donated to the Grande Prairie Public Library with his book collection in 1952. In 2008, GPPL passed them on to South Peace Regional Archives. 

An accrual to the fonds of 2 photographs of Charles Spencer was donated by GPPL on October 15, 2013. 

An accrual to the fonds of 23 images (21 photographs and 9 negatives) was donated by the GPPL to SPRA on October 22, 2013. Prior to this, the images had been housed by the library with the Isabel Campbell collection, in a file labelled “Charles Spencer Collection”. Charles Spencer presumably collected them from a number of sources.

Scope and Content

The fonds consists of various textual records related to Charles Spencer’s personal, business and commercial interests. The contents of the fonds deal primarily with his life and interests after moving to Grande Prairie in 1910, although the material dates from 1886 to 1941. Records include correspondence, notebooks, daily journals, receipts, contracts and agreements, sales and account books, share certificates, photographs and postcards. There are also two blueprints of the 1917 Montrose School which he designed.

The fonds is arranged in three series: Personal papers, Business papers and Photographs.

An order has been established by the processing archivist as original order had been disrupted.

Notes

Title based on the contents of the fonds.
Related records: The Argonauts Company fonds (357); J.H.E. Fitzallen fonds (358); and the Grande Prairie Electric Co. fonds (359).
Accession Number: 2008.07; 2008.55; 2009.74; 2013.80; 2013.84

Table of Contents

Series 356.01Personal papers
Series 356.02Business papers
Series 356.03Photographs

 

Series 356.01Personal papers. — 1886-1941. — 2 cm of textual records.The series consists of a notebook dated 1896 to 1906 with miscellaneous entries including names and addresses, lecture notes, measurements, chess moves, names of books, and to do lists, a 1923 Daily Journal including lists of building materials and costs for buildings and additions and daily activities and happenings, a daily journal of activities and happenings for 1933, and correspondence from relatives in England during WWII and a comrade in 1914.
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Series 356.02Business papers. — [1905-1940]. — 5 cm of textual records.The series consists of the business papers of Charles Spencer accumulated as a result of his personal business activities as well as in his role as a scoutmaster, the chairman of the Grande Prairie School District, a member of the Argonaut Co. Ltd. and a member of the Grande Prairie town council. Although they are included in this series, some records pertain more correctly to the Argonaut Company or Spencer’s personal records. The series is predominantly composed of correspondence and receipts, but also includes forms from his Southampton business, Argonaut Co. stock, material on Toronto British Co-operative Society and Social-Democratic Party, Grain Growers’ Guide representative card, rental contract, lists of building costs, Notices of Assessment, shipping forms, an insurance policy, a bylaw, land transfer documents and a land option agreement, application for telephone service, Independent Order of Odd Fellows Official Certificate, Statements for Registrar of Joint Stock Companies on the Argonaut Company, a Cash Account and General Ledger or Real Estate Accounts Book, a Rink Accounts Book, and a rental sign. The material in the correspondence files was arranged in chronological order (according to date sent) by the processing archivist.
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Series 356.03Photographs. — [1900-1950]. — 32 photographs. — 9 negatives. The series consists of four photographs of Charles Spencer, an enlarged photograph of men in a buggy, a mounted portrait of an unknown girl taken in England, and postcards of Grande Prairie, Bear Creek, Lake Saskatoon, Red Willow River, Mrs. Benson driving the Golden Spike on the E.D.B.C. Railway, the Argonaut office, scenes from the Trail coming to Grande Prairie, construction of the Grande Prairie train station and nearby grain elevator, and a few unidentified settlements.
 

Charles Spencer, [1940]
1 postcard; b & w; 4 x 6 in.
Street shot of Charles Spencer walking down a large city street.
Location: 0356.03.01

Charles Spencer, [1950]
1 photograph; b & w; 5 x 7 in.
Casual portrait of an elderly Charles Spencer sitting in an easy chair.
Location: 0356.03.02

Bridge Over Bear Creek, [1910]
1 postcard; b & w; 3 x 5 in.
Wooden bridge over Bear Creek at an unidentified location.
Location: 0356.03.03

The Point, Lake Saskatoon, [1920]
1 postcard; b & w; 3 x 5 in.
A vegetable garden on the west bank of Saskatoon Lake, opposite of “the point” which extends into the lake from the north bank.
Location: 0356.03.04

Red Willow River, Grande Prairie, [1920]
1 postcard; b & w; 3 x 5 in.
The Red Willow River, south of Beaverlodge, flows into the Beaverlodge River just before they join the Wapiti River.
Location: 0356.03.05

The Last Spike on the E.D. & B.C. Railway, 1916
1 postcard; b & w; 3 x 5 in.
Mrs. Benson driving the Golden Spike when the E.D. & B.C. Railway reached Grande Prairie on March 22, 1916. Rev. Alexander Forbes is beside the spike.
Location: 0356.03.06

Town of Grande Prairie, [1930]
1 postcard; b & w; 3 x 5 in.
The town of Grande Prairie as viewed from the west bank of Bear Creek, just north of Richmond (100th) Avenue.
Location: 0356.03.07

Enlisting in the R.N.W.M.P., 1914
1 photograph; b & w; 8 x 10 in.
A group of six men traveling by horse and wagon from Grande Prairie to Athabasca. Alex Wishart, the teamster driving the horses, is taking the other five to enlist with the R.N.W.M.P. at the beginning of World War I. From left to right they are Harley Conrad, George Balmer, Jack McKenzie, Delmar Pratt, Alex Wishart, and Chester Carman Miller. The five joined the force on September 9, 1914.
Location: 0356.03.08

Kettering Portrait, [1900]
1 photograph; b & w; 4 x 6 in.
Unidentified portrait of a young woman ca. 1900 taken by Charles Speight in Kettering, Northhampshire, England. Included in the Charles Spencer collection.
Location: 0356.03.09

Argonauts’ Office, 1917
1 negative; b & w; 8 x 6 cm
An exterior view of the Argonauts Limited office in Grande Prairie.
Location: 0356.03.10

Teepee, [ca. 1910]
1 negative; b & w; 6 x 8.5 cm
A man and a boy in the doorway of a teepee.
Location: 0356.03.11

Rest Stop on the Edson Trail, [ca. 1912]
1 photograph and negative; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in. ; 3.25 x 2.25 in.
Boys and animals in a large pile of straw at a rest stop on the Edson Trail. The wagons and boilers in the background are part of the Spencer party.
Location: 0356.03.12

Pulling a Boiler Over the Edson Trail, [ca. 1912]
1 photograph and negative; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in. ; 3.25 x 2.25 in.
Team of horses from the Spencer party taking boiler downhill on the Edson-Grande Prairie Trail.
Location: 0356.03.13

Pulling a Boiler Over the Edson Trail, [ca. 1912]
1 photograph and negative; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in. ; 3.25 x 2.25 in.
Hilltop view of the horse teams and wagons of the Spencer party coming down the snowy Edson-Grande Prairie Trail. Note the heavy boiler they are bringing over the trail.
Location: 0356.03.14

Pulling a Boiler Over the Edson Trail, [ca. 1912]
1 photograph and negative; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in. ; 3.25 x 2.25 in.
Team of horses from the Spencer party pulling boiler up a hill on the snowy Edson-Grande Prairie Trail.
Location: 0356.03.15

Forbes Party at the Simonette, 1909
1 photograph and negative; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in. ; 3.25 x 2.25 in.
The Forbes party on their way to the Grande Prairie crossing the Simonette River at A. M. Bezanson’s. Mrs. Forbes stands on the ice near the raft.
Location: 0356.03.16

Forbes Party at the Simonette, 1909
1 photograph and negative; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in. ; 3.25 x 2.25 in.
The Forbes party on their way to the Grande Prairie crossing the Simonette River at A. M. Bezanson’s. Part of the group is on a raft.
Location: 0356.03.17

Settlers on the Trail, [ca. 1909]
1 photograph and negative; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in. ; 3.25 x 2.25 in.
A group of settlers in a wagon pulled by oxen.
Location: 0356.03.18

Grande Prairie Train Station, [ca. 1916]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
The Grande Prairie Train Station under construction.
Location: 0356.03.19

Grande Prairie Train Station, [ca. 1916]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
The new Grande Prairie Train Station with a grain elevator being constructed behind it.
Location: 0356.03.20

Elevator, [ca. 1910]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
A grain elevator in an unidentified location.
Location: 0356.03.21

Prairie Town, [ca. 1910]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
A distant view of buildings in an unidentified prairie town.
Location: 0356.03.22

Prairie Town, [ca. 1910]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
A distant view of buildings in an unidentified prairie town.
Location: 0356.03.23

Camp, [ca. 1910]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
Several large canvas tents in a camp.
Location: 0356.03.24

Construction Site, [ca. 1910]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
Two men with tools in front of stacks of lumber on what is likely a construction site.
Location: 0356.03.25

E. M. Gregory General Store, [ca. 1910]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
A man sitting on the boardwalk in front of E. M. Gregory’s General Store in an unidentified town.
Location: 0356.03.26

Scandia Restaurant and Rooms, [ca. 1910]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
The Scandia Restaurant and rooms, another restaurant, and a laundry in an unidentified town.
Location: 0356.03.27

Main Street, [ca. 1910]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
Restaurants and shops including the Scandia Restaurant and rooms, other restaurants, and a laundry on the main street of an unidentified town.
Location: 0356.03.28

Working in Main Street, [ca. 1910]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
Men working on the main street of an unidentified town. Restaurants and shops including the Scandia Restaurant and rooms, other restaurants, and a laundry are visible in the background.
Location: 0356.03.29

Working in Main Street, [ca. 1910]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
A man sitting on the boardwalk in front of E. M. Gregory’s General Store in an unidentified town. Other businesses and men are visible in the background.
Location: 0356.03.30

Railway Platform and Town, [ca. 1910]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
A view of an unidentified town from its railway platform.
Location: 0356.03.31

Railway Station and Train, [ca. 1910]
1 photograph; b & w; 3.5 x 5 in.
A crowd of people at the train station of an unidentified town on the Grand Trunk Pacific railway.
Location: 0356.03.32

Charles Spencer, [ca. 1930]
1 photograph; b & w; 8 x 10 in.
A portrait of Charles Spencer.
Location: 0356.03.33

Charles Spencer, [ca. 1940]
1 photograph; b & w; 8 x 10 in.
A portrait of Charles Spencer with a large dog. The photograph was taken out of doors.
Location: 0356.03.34


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