Introducing Donna Richards – SPRA’s New Archives Technician

Hi! My name is Donna Richards and I am the new Archives Technician at South Peace Regional Archives.

I was born in Grande Prairie and have spent most of my life in the Peace River regions of Alberta and British Columbia, except for four years when I attended the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Education degree, I was offered my first teaching position with Peace Wapiti School Division #76 at Sexsmith Elementary School. Three years later I transferred into Grande Prairie. I taught at Harry Balfour School, which was only two shorts blocks from my childhood home, for three decades. After 33 years in the teaching profession I retired in 2014.

After retiring, I felt I needed to keep myself active and engaged. The past three plus years I’ve been busy substitute teaching at local schools and facilitating student teachers from Grande Prairie Regional College. Now I can add Archives Technician to the list! I am thrilled to be given this opportunity and look forward to learning and working at South Peace Regional Archives.

The South Peace Goes to War

The South Peace Regional Archives has curated a new exhibit for the Community Room at the Grande Prairie Museum. The new exhibit features ten photographs from the SPRA collection that tell the story, “The South Peace Goes to War.” The ten photographs were chosen by SPRA staff from a variety of collections, including the Edward Heller fonds, Turner family fonds, and Harry Tuffill family fonds.

Beginning with the first enlistments of 1914 making their way down the Smokey on the Beaver to the celebration of war’s end at Bear Lake, these ten photographs lead the viewer on a journey through the social history of the Great War. Below is a brief description of the exhibit. For more information, feel free to visit the exhibit in person.

OFF TO WAR

The Beaver Carrying Freight and Men To Enlist, 1914.

The Beaver river boat is carrying freight and men who are going to enlist. Three men are sitting on the bow of the boat, another is poling and the rest are standing on the boat.

SPRA 024.01.09.28 Holroyd Drugs Photograph Collection 024

 

FOREIGN SERVICE

French Troops in Camp, 1914 ca.

World War I French troops in camp, with soldiers, officers, horses and wagons in the background.

SPRA 0164.02.10 Gabriel Basly fonds 164

 

RECRUITING

Recruiting, 1915.

Five men in World War I uniforms standing on the main street (100 Avenue) of Grande Prairie. Businesses visible in the background include the Crown Café, a pool hall, and a confectionary.

SPRA 555.04 Edith Mair fonds 555

 

TRAINING FOR BATTLE

WWI Soldiers on a Break, c.1917.

WWI soldiers at rest with their saddles, buildings in the background.

SPRA 589.04.14 Donald Gordon Morrison fonds 589

 

FORGING FRIENDSHIPS

Charlie T.M.Turner and Army Friend, ca. 1915. [Charlie Turner may be the man standing]

Chas. T.M.Turner and his army friend during WWI.

SPRA 2011.44.05 Turner Family fonds 478

 

LIFE AWAY FROM HOME

Soldiers Playing Cards, 1914 c.

Harry Tuffill playing cards with a group of World War I soldiers.

SPRA 0056.01.075-3 Harry Tuffill fonds 056

 

TRENCH WARFARE

WW1 Troops Sitting in a Trench, 1916.

The photograph shows soldiers, some injured, sitting in mud behind a trench wall. One is holding a stretcher, two men each have one arm in a sling.

SPRA 0194.02 Edward Heller fonds

 

NO MAN’S LAND

WW1 Troops Trudging Across a Muddy Field, 1916.

The photograph shows soldiers in the distance walking along a wired barricade through a very muddy field.

SPRA 0194.03 Edward Heller fonds

 

MEDICAL SERVICES

WWI Convalescent Hospital, 1918.

Patients and staff at “The Larches,” a WWI convalescent home at Paignton, Devon, England. Note on the back reads: “Shattock with best wishes from K.C. Gauney September 14, 1918.”

SPRA 1969.59.331

 

WAR’S END

Great War Veterans Picnic, Bear Lake, Alberta, 1920

Postcard showing a people gathering at Bear Lake for a picnic in honor of the Great War Veterans.

SPRA 0112.02.23 Croken-Tomshak family fonds 112

Battle Report: Archives Week and the Great War Gala

This week, the South Peace Regional Archives is celebrating Archives Week 2017: Alberta and the Great War.

The Archives staff have been hard at work curating a new display for the community room of the Grande Prairie Museum. This display features documents and photographs from the Archives collections and represents many aspects of the war, from recruitment and enlistment to discharge and celebration. It will adorn the community room for months to come and enhance the educational programming provided by the Grande Prairie Museum staff.

Meanwhile, Archives staff and Friends of the Archives volunteers are also busy preparing the finishing details of the upcoming Great War Gala. Archives staff created ten different displays featuring reproductions of archival records from our collections. Friends of the Archives volunteers designed tabletop decorations and silent auction displays. Both staff and volunteers are  looking forward to the musical performances from GPRC’s Fine Arts students and faculty, including: Kristina Alexander (mezzo-soprano), Jeremy Thielmann (piano), Brad Luna (trumpet), Breanna Girvan (soprano), Mackenzie Lowen (soprano), Kyle Friesen (baritone), and Mark Woodman (tenor).

Don’t miss out on your chance to celebrate with us; purchase your tickets for the Great War Gala today!

Unraveling the Past

Our most recent Telling Our Stories features the article, “Embroidered Cards: Unraveling the Past.” The article touches upon the history of these lovely and very personal mementos soldiers from the trenches of the Great War sent to loved ones back home. The three postcards from our collection are from two different soldiers but all of them are addressed to the same person – “Jeannie.” While we were able to determine that the two soldiers were most likely Private Robert Bruce Leslie and Lieutenant John Pringle, we could not figure out who was their “dear little friend, Jeannie.”

Luckily, good friend of the SPRA, Margaret Bowes, was able to tell us. “Little” Jeannie was Margaret’s mother, Jean Emilie Alexander O’Brien. Jean was born in 1906 and was one of five surviving children of William Alexander (originally from Scotland) and Emilie Dannhauer of Pembroke, Ontario. Jean was only ten when her mother died of Bight’s Disease and shortly after, watched as friends and family, including Bob Leslie, walked away from the family farm to enlist in the war. Jean later told her children, “My memory is one of sadness.” She knew she’d never see her friends again and she never did.

Little Jeannie became a teacher, married and had three children. Widowed at a young age, she taught at Appleton until 1942, when she moved to Grande Prairie. She then continued her career at Montrose School and the Grande Prairie Composite High School until retiring in 1975. Jean was also very involved in the Grande Prairie music festival and served as church organist for the United Church for many years. She died in 2001 and is buried in the Grande Prairie Cemetery. You can find out more about her and her family in the family papers held at the SPRA in the Alexander Family fonds 572. You can read more about the postcards in the September issue of Telling Our Stories, available on our website.

Thank you to Margaret Bowes for passing this information on to us, as well as a transcript of a letter from Jack Pringle to Bill Alexander (from The Trenches, Sept 12, 1915), and an explanatory Addendum written by Jeannie’s youngest daughter,  Erin O’Brien Woolley.

Top image: An embroidered card from World War I, “To my dear little friend Jeannie from Bob Leslie with best wishes for a merry Xmas and Happy new year.” (SPRA 1996.5.3)

This card was sent to Jeannie from Jack P. (John Pringle) in France, 16 February, 1916. According to the message on the reverse, on October 2, 1916 word reached Spirit River of his death in action. (SPRA 1996.5.1)

An embroidered card from World War I. This card was sent from Belgium on 1 July , 1916, “with best love to Jeannie from R.B. Leslie” (SPRA 1996.5.2)

Mystery in the Archives

Researchers often look for documents to help them answer their research questions. Often though, documents raise more questions than they answer. The 1820 Will of John Davis is an example. Most genealogy websites or historical websites that write about John Davis, HBC Factor and Master from 1803 to 1824, state that he and his wife Nancy (or Ann) had five children: Ann Nancy, Francis (Elizabeth?), Mathilda, Catherine, and George. And yet, in his will, John Davis writes;

“And my will and desire is that in case of the death of my wife or the death of one or more of our children the interest or annuity arising from the above mentioned money shall be applied as aforesaid for the use of the survivor or survivors of my children and further my will and desire is that on the death of all my aforesaid children then and in that case I give and bequeath the whole of my money aforesaid to the issue of my two sons John and William and to their heirs forever.”

The question is – who are these two sons and why are they the last on the list of heirs? Davis names them as his sons but not as one of “our children” (his and Nancy’s). A historian from Winnipeg has been researching the Davis-Hodgson families for several years and notes that HBC records indicate that a William Davis arrived at Portage des Chats in 1818, possibly as a clerk. This was the home town of John Hodgson, John Davis’s father-in-law. Of John Davis the younger, we currently have no clues.

This is only one of many questions this document raises. To hear more about this document and others curated from the records at the South Peace Regional Archives, come out to our presentation at the Grande Prairie Public Library Friday, 15 September 2017 at 1200 noon in the Rotary Room.

Lost & Found

South Peace Regional Archives’ oldest documents met up with some of their youngest ‘descendants’ Friday, 4 August. Judy, along with her two granddaughters, stopped by to look for records related to John Davis. Davis, they recently discovered, is a long-lost ancestor. As luck would have it, a copy of the will is currently on display in the Village as part of the SPRA’s History of the South Peace in Ten Documents. We brought out the Davis, Hodgson, Coulter papers, including the original will, for her see. Judy shared family history with her granddaughters as they examined the documents in the file. Besides the will, the collection includes calling cards, photographs, and mortgage papers. Judy also filled us in on some of the family history, including identifying family members in the image below. As luck would have it, she has the same photograph at home. It was a remarkable day for the archives and for the family.

Photograph: L-R. Douglas Alexander Currie; Mary Harriet Louise Davis Currie; Robert Davis Currie; George Currie, as recently identified by Judy. Mary and George Currie are her grandparents. Robert is her father and Douglas is her uncle.

~Archivist Josephine Sallis

Work in Progress – Bill Turnbull “Weaving Lives”

Still at this project. In my defense, it is a huge collection. Bill was a teacher for over 40 years and active in the running community. An avid photographer, he produced thousands of photographs that remind me of this quote: “Every person’s story weaves in and out of another person’s story.” The photographs I’m describing now which depict the Brian Harms Memorial Run are a touching example of this.

Brian Harms began running in 1976 and became one of the top runners in provincial track and cross- country. He switched to road running in 1980 and competed in the first Jasper-Banff Relay that year. Brian Harms was also a founding member of the Wapiti Striders Road Running Club of Grande Prairie. At the time of his death in November 1986, he was the club president.

In his honour, the club changed the name of their 10-mile road race to the Brian Harms Memorial Run. It is touching to see friends and family running and walking in his memory year after year, with new names cropping up as time goes on. Young and old alike are enjoying an activity with a group Brian was instrumental in forming. He touched so many lives then and continues to do so today.

I feel very privileged to be able to work with these records and witness how peoples’ lives intersect. There are some great people and stories waiting here at the South Peace Regional Archives. Hopefully, yours will be here one day waiting for someone to find you again and marvel at all the lives you touched.

By Archivist Josephine Sallis

South Peace Regional Archives Welcomes New Executive Director

The South Peace Regional Archives is pleased to welcome Alyssa Currie, who has taken over the role of Executive Director this week. Currie succeeds Mary Nutting who retired from her post.

Currie was born and raised in Dawson Creek before attending the University of Northern British Columbia where she completed her Bachelors of Arts in English and History, then going to the University of Victoria, where she is currently completing her Masters of Arts. Her previous experience includes working as an Assistant Curator at the Pouce Coupe Museum, Student Archivist at Library and Archives Canada, and as a Recruitment Officer at the University of Victoria.

Currie will draw upon her previous work and academic experiences, as well as her personal connection to the area. “I look forward to bringing the history of the South Peace region into the present and the future,” she remarks, stressing that “this work would not be possible without the generous support of the Archive’s municipal partners, donors, and community members.”

The South Peace Regional Archives continues its commitment to gathering, preserving, and sharing the historical records of the region. The archives enrich people’s lives by increasing their understanding and appreciation of the past.

For more information, please contact:

Alyssa Currie, Executive Director
780-830-5105
director@southpeacearchives.org

Surprise Party at the Archives

On Thursday, June 29, staff and volunteers surprised South Peace Regional Archives’ founder and executive director Mary Nutting with a potluck luncheon, celebrating her achievements in preserving the history of the South Peace.  We’ll miss Mary’s presence and expertise at the archives after her retirement, but we know she’ll continue to support the archives and pursue her passion for history.

All the best, Mary!

A gift of Depression glass and flowers for Mary from the museum

Karen Burgess presenting Mary with her gift from the archives staff

“A party without cake is just a meeting.” ~Julia Child

Hythe Homecoming Collection on SPRA Website

A new collection from the Hythe Homecoming committee has been uploaded to our website.  The collection consists of photographs and documents that were collected by Grace Wideman for the Memory Lane at the Homecoming. The pictures truly tell the story of Hythe through the years 1927-2007, including photos of students, businesses, sporting events, community buildings, and much more.

Six kids on bikes on Main Street Hythe, Alberta, l-r: Gary Reid, Jane Inkster, Brenda Smith, Vernon Mutch, Brock Smith and Jim Moody. Dixon & Hill Store and 2 cafes in the backgroumd, one being the U.N. Café.

Visit Hythe Homecoming 2016 fonds on our website to read more about the collection and enjoy as you tour through Memory Lane.