Soldier Spotlight: Captain William Claxton

Image: Grande Prairie Herald, May 20, 1919

Rank: Captain
Branch: No. 41 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

William was born in Gladstone, Manitoba on June 1, 1899. He enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps on his eighteenth birthday. William received the Distinguished Flying Cross in the summer of 1918. The citation read as follows:

“This officer at all times shows fine courage and disregard of danger. He has accounted for six enemy aeroplanes and one kite balloon, three of the aeroplanes being destroyed and three driven down out of control. On a recent occasion, having destroyed a hostile balloon, he pursued an enemy scout ten miles and eventually drove it down; he was then attacked by five enemy triplanes and other scouts, but managed to return to our lines, though his machine was riddled with bullets.”

In September he received a Distinguished Flying Cross bar:

“This officer is conspicuous for his courage in attack. Recently in one day he destroyed six enemy aeroplanes—four in the morning and two in the evening. In thirteen days he accounted for fourteen machines. His utter disregard of danger inspires all who serve with him.”

He also was awarded the Distinguished Service Order:

“Between 4 July and 12 August this officer destroyed ten enemy aeroplanes and one kite balloon, making in all thirty machines and one “kite balloon to his credit. Untiring in attack in the air or on the ground, this officer has rendered brilliant service.”

On August 17, 1918, William was shot down and taken prisoner. He suffered a serious head wound, but his life was saved by a German surgeon and he was repatriated on December 1, 1918. William had the sixth most victories of all Canadian fighter pilots in the First World War. After the war, he came to the South Peace and filed on SW 4-72-1-W6 and SW 9-72-1-W6 in 1919. William died on September 28, 1967.

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

Movie Monday: Riverboating and a Trip to the Mountains

Image: A film still showing the preparation stage of a riverboating trip (SPRA 253.01.08, Fonds 253: Jerry Stojan family fonds)

Movie Monday highlights videos from the Archives’ film collection. Every week, an archival film will be featured on our YouTube channel and here on our blog. The Movie Monday project is made possible with the generous funding support of Swan City Rotary Club of Grande Prairie.

Today’s Movie Monday is an introduction to the Stojan family. Louis and Bessie Stojan came to Grande Prairie from Czechoslovakia in 1926, bringing with them their four young sons – Louis Jr., Charlie, Jerry, and Frank. Louis Sr. worked at Thompson Motors for three years before moving the family to a homestead near Goodfare. After six years, they returned to Grande Prairie where he opened his own service garage. In 1939, the family moved to Ontario, but following the Second World War, sons Charlie and Jerry returned to the South Peace. They settled in Sexsmith and bought the Sexsmith Garage, following in the footsteps of their father.

Charlie eventually took over the garage, while Jerry became involved in a number of outdoor pursuits, such as raising quarter horses and becoming a big game guide. The Jerry Stojan family fonds includes many 8mm films that depict the outdoor activities of the Stojan family; several of them will be highlighted in the Movie Monday series.

Today’s film features a riverboating trip undertaken ca. 1956, likely by Jerry Stojan and family members or friends, though our records do not identify the people in this film. Later in the film, we are treated to mountain views, which may have been a part of the riverboating trip, or were perhaps part of a later expedition.

Keep following along with Movie Monday to see more of the Stojans’ adventures!

A New Fonds is Available

In 2018, our Archives Assistant (student), Sonya, started processing the Vader-Grimm Family fonds. Unfortunately, she didn’t have time to complete the processing before her time at the Archives ended. Since the pandemic began, we’ve had more time to dedicate to processing and turned our attention back to this fonds in order to get it finished and available for all to see and reference. We are so pleased to announce that we have now completed processing the Vader-Grimm Family fonds!

The Vader-Grimm Family fonds consists of 27.5 cm of textual material, 835 photographs, 692 photographic negatives, and 2 oral histories. The Vader-Grimm Family fonds tells the story and history of two separate families, the Vaders (from Spirit River) and the Grimms (from Rycroft), which came together with the marriage of Ora and Edith in 1943. The textual material consists of family history and genealogy books, estate and funerary paperwork, newspaper clippings, correspondence, and account books from running the family farm among other records. The photographs depict farm life and work, family life, schoolchildren, WWII training, and landscapes in and around the Peace Country.

This fonds will be available for in-person consultation once we open the Archives back up to the public. In the meantime, the finding aid is available to look through on our website: Fonds 676 Vander-Grimm Family fonds, and a selection of digitized photographs are viewable on Alberta on Record.

Photo: Three Adolescents with Baseball Gloves (SPRA 676.03.03.09.078)

Movie Monday: Harvest with Hand Implements

Image: A film still showing a demonstration of harvesting with hand implements (SPRA 0001.10.02.02, Fonds 001: Pioneer Museum Society of Grande Prairie & District fonds)

Movie Monday highlights videos from the Archives’ film collection. Every week, an archival film will be featured on our YouTube channel and here on our blog. The Movie Monday project is made possible with the generous funding support of Swan City Rotary Club of Grande Prairie.

Today’s featured video was created in 1996 by Harry Lehners and Steve Evanchuk with the purpose of demonstrating how harvesting was done by hand before the introduction of machines. As Mr. Lehners says in the video, harvesting machines brought about “the end of an era”.

Most early settlers in Alberta were of European descent, and those who had been farmers in their homelands brought along their native tools. In this video, we see tools from countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria. Harry explains the differences between these European tools and their American counterparts, and also describes the variations of tools used for different types of crops.

With the implements shown in this video, approximately one acre of grain could be cut in a day, and two acres could be tied in the same amount of time. Often, two men would operate scythes while a woman would follow behind, tying the felled grain in bundles. Harry shares an extraordinary story of a woman near Bear Lake who, in the 1910’s, cut four acres by hand while her husband was working with a threshing crew in southern Alberta. When her husband returned, he threshed the grain she had cut “and then he sold it in Clairmont for No. 1 Northern. Farming most certainly was – and still is – a team effort.

Birthday Surprise!

Earlier this year, the Archives’ volunteer and Vice President Gail Prette, celebrated a special birthday milestone! As a result of the ongoing pandemic, she was forced to cancel her birthday plans and find a new way to mark the occasion. Gail turned to social media, where she asked her friends and family to make a donation to the Archives in lieu of attending a party. Over the next several months, donations were made on Facebook (through Giving Fund Canada) in Gail’s name. The Archives recently received a cheque for $475 for Gail’s birthday fundraiser. Additional cash donations made in Gail’s name brought the total to a whopping $585! Gifts such as these help the Archives continue our mission of gathering, preserving, and sharing the historical records of the South Peace. We are incredibly thankful for these generous donations, and to Gail Prette for her continued support of our organization.

Happy Birthday, Gail!

Soldier Spotlight: Private Gordon Moyer

Image: The Moyer family on their way to the celebrations in honour of Gordon’s crop successes held in Beaverlodge. Gordon is at far right. 1951 (SPRA Fonds 422, 2008.068.07)

Regimental Number: 3210631
Rank: Private
Branch: 1st Depot Battalion, Alberta Regiment

Gordon was born in Breslau, Ontario on September 25, 1894. He came to the Elmworth area in 1915 and filed on NE 15-70-11-W6 and 14-70-11-W6. In September of that year, he and two of his neighbors, Hubert and Harry Black, walked to Grande Prairie to enlist. Harry was accepted, but Hubert was turned down for being too slender and Gordon for having flat feet; this was ironic, as he had just walked forty miles to enlist. He was later drafted in May of 1918, then struck off strength on September 14, 1918. On August 31, 1929, Gordon married Edna Small. He died of a heart attack in Elmworth on May 23, 1953.

Sources: Pioneers of the Peace p. 324, 325; Edson to Grande Prairie Trail p. 187; Beaverlodge to the Rockies p. 330; HT May 28, 1953

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

Movie Monday: Family Growing Up (Part 1)

Image: A film still showing two of the Foster children playing outdoors (SPRA 449.01.03, Fonds 449: Foster Family fonds)

Movie Monday highlights videos from the Archives’ film collection. Every week, an archival film will be featured on our YouTube channel and here on our blog. The Movie Monday project is made possible with the generous funding support of Swan City Rotary Club of Grande Prairie.

Today’s film features the children of the Foster family. Raymond Foster married Iva Carrell in 1945 and together they had four children: Janus (1946), Ben (1948), Dwain (1949), and Ruth (1955). The family farmed 24-73-6 W6 and S 25-73-6 W6, the land that Raymond’s parents had originally homesteaded in 1911. Interestingly, this is the land on which the town of Sexsmith now stands.

The Foster family did an excellent job of documenting their daily life and special events through the medium of home movies. In this particular film, we see vignettes of various activities that Janus, Ben, Dwain, and Ruth enjoyed during their early childhood years (1950-1956). These activities included things such as birthday parties, picking flowers, horseback riding, and skating.

Stay tuned and follow along with Movie Monday, as we will be featuring more of the Foster family in the future – including another film entitled Family Growing Up, created in 1957-1965.

Soldier Spotlight: Matthew Chrenek

Image: Male members of the Sexsmith Legion. One photograph identified as Edgar Henning, Stanley Kulicki, Jock Thomson, Adam Grotkowski, ?, George “Knobby” Clark, Joe Shannon (seated), Fred Bohn, Charlie Stojan, Andy Innes, Danny Rycroft, Gordon Mates, Matt Chrenek. C. 1960. (SPRA 644.01.13)

Matthew F. Chrenek (Jr.) born in 1922 in Bankhead AB, was the son of Matthew and Mary Chrenek (who originally came from Czechoslovakia). For the first 4 years the family lived in nearby Luscar, and in 1926 moved to Lulu Island, BC. In 1927, they moved to the Sexsmith area where Matthew Sr. had purchased a farm. Matthew and his sister Cecile attended the Mount Star School. At the age of 20, Matthew enlisted in the army, taking his basic training in Edmonton. From there he went to Camp Borden ON for advanced training. In 1943 he was posted overseas, and after taking further training in England, he served in France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. He was discharged in Calgary in 1946. Matthew married Josephine Rombs in 1951 in Fairview. They had one son, Charles. Starting in 1956, they raised purebred Herefords, and have won many first and second place prizes. One of their bulls won Grand Champion in the Fairview Show in 1975. In 1977, Josephine and Matthew traveled to Europe for the unveiling of the Cairn at Buron, France where Matthew’s regiment was on “D” Day (June 6, 1944). They also attended a ceremony at an all-Canadian cemetery. Over the years, Matthew was an active member of the Legion, being president for several years, while Josephine was active in the Ladies Auxiliary to the Royal Canadian Legion. Matthew died at age 89 in Grande Prairie AB in 2011.

Source: Wagon Trails Grown Over p. 1149 (Name in Roll of Honour), p. 1155 (photo), pp. 163-167

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

Movie Monday: Eaglesham School Tour

Image: A film still showing students hard at work in Eaglesham School (SPRA 0137.03.02, Fonds 137: Donaldson family collection)

Movie Monday highlights videos from the Archives’ film collection. Every week, an archival film will be featured on our YouTube channel and here on our blog. The Movie Monday project is made possible with the generous funding support of Swan City Rotary Club of Grande Prairie.

Welcome to the first installment of Movie Monday! Because the school year has just begun, it seems only fitting that the subject of today’s video should be a school: more specifically, the Eaglesham School.

The first classes held in Eaglesham were taught by Mary Pilon (Peterson) in 1936. At that time there was no school building, so lessons took place in the Catholic Church. In 1937, a log school was built half a mile west of the hamlet, where five more teachers would preside over the one-room schoolhouse in the nine years that followed. It wasn’t until 1952 (after a six year interval where all students were bussed to Fox Creek) that a centralized school was erected in Eaglesham, serving Grades 1-9 in its opening year.

By the time this school tour was filmed (ca. 1995), Eaglesham School had added specialized spaces such as a science room, computer room, and a library, and the school catered to students from Kindergarten through Grade 12.

Narrated by Chandra Rooney and filmed by Renee Thibeault, this video will take you through the entire Eaglesham school, beginning with the kindergarten class and ending with the computer lab – an obvious source of pride for the community.

 

2020 Annual General Meeting

The South Peace Regional Archives Society is pleased to invite our members and the public to our 2020 Annual General Meeting.

The AGM will be conducted virtually on Zoom, 26 September 2020 at 10:00am. The agenda for the meeting will include:

Archives Updates

Election of Board Members 

A Special Resolution to Repeal the Existing Bylaws and Accept Rewritten Bylaws

and

Volunteer Recognition

Presentation of the Beth Sheehan Award

Meeting details and documents, including Zoom join details, will be made available at SouthPeaceArchives.org/2020AGM in advance of the meeting.