From The Vault Friday: “Looking Ahead” Booklet

Images: Excerpts from “Looking Ahead in the Peace River Country to the Building of a City” pamphlet, written by Ancel Bezanson in 1914. From SPRA 155.01 (pages 1 and 3).

Todays “From the Vault Friday” features a booklet from the Bezanson Family fonds (Fonds 155). The booklet, titled “Looking Ahead in the Peace River Country to the Building of a City” was published by Ancel Bezanson in 1914. The purpose of the publication was to garner interest in the region and encourage homesteaders to move to the “Last West.” It includes a detailed map of the Bezanson town site, several photos of the area, and impressive claims about the future of the region. According to the pamphlet, the Peace River country “is today attracting the attention of Capitalists and homeseekers in all parts of the world.”

Ancel Maynard Bezanson began his love affair with the Peace Country in 1906. That year he traveled throughout the Peace with a camera and a notebook, and shortly thereafter published “The Peace River Trails” to promote the Peace River Country as a place to settle. He was convinced of the agricultural potential of the area, and began promoting the Bezanson townsite with great enthusiasm. However, when the railroad finally came in 1916, it came to Grande Prairie—not Bezanson. The “Townsite” was subsequently abandoned and eventually designated a Registered Historic Resource in 1986.

To view the entire booklet, visit the digitized version available on Alberta on Record.

To learn more about Ancel Bezanson, visit Fonds 155: Bezanson Family fonds.

To learn more about the history of the Bezanson area, visit Telling Our Stories March 2013 (pg 10).

 

From the Vault Friday is a social media campaign that highlights interesting materials from the collections of the South Peace Regional Archives. This project was made possible by an Access to Holdings Grant from the Archives Society of Alberta.

Introducing: A Tribute to Mary Nutting

The South Peace Regional Archives is pleased to announce the launch of a new video series honouring the late Mary Nutting. The series, produced by Grande Prairie Seniors Reading Theatre with support from M3M Marketing, showcases reading performances of A Grande Education: One Hundred Schools in the County of Grande Prairie, 1910-1960.

A Grande Education tells the stories of one hundred one-room schools in the County and features photographs, correspondence, and other documents. This joint project serves to honour Mary’s legacy and share our local community history: “Our hope is to share these videos with the community and most of all with seniors who have been missing family throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We know there are many out there who would appreciate learning and reminiscing about the history of the region” (Seniors Reading Theatre). The Archives would like to thank both Seniors Reading Theatre and M3M marketing for their hard work bringing this project to life.

Catch up on the series below, including the first school featured: Blooming Valley School! New videos will be posted every week on M3M’s YouTube page and shared on the South Peace Regional Archives’ Facebook page.

To purchase a copy of A Grande Education, visit the Archives’ online shop.

Note: Performances have been recorded in-person, over zoom or via voice recording. In-person recordings followed Alberta Government regulations at the time of filming.

Soldier Spotlight: Werner Quassowsky

Image: Coal miner digging at a vein of coal with a pick 350 feet into the earth at a Wapiti Coal Mine, 1937 (SPRA 032.08.07.043)

Werner Quassowsky was born in East Germany (now part of Russia). In 1935, he enlisted in the German army and spent two and half years in training, then returned to his parents’ farm. In 1940, he was called up. Werner fought for 10 days in France and later in Russia until 1945.

Werner was hurt in an explosion and sent by boat to Denmark. When he was sufficiently recovered, he was released and walked back to Germany, first to the English zone and then to the American zone where his parents had been relocated after being expelled from their land by the Russians.

Werner worked first as a farmer and then as a coal miner. In 1953, he immigrated to Canada, landing in Quebec and then taking the train to Rycroft. He found work building highway 49 and had various other jobs. He filed an a piece of land in the Bay Tree area which he homesteaded, using compensation money from the West German government to help clear the land.

In 1977, Werner has a hip replacement. In 1979, he broke the hip and had to give up farming. He passed away in Hythe on December 30, 1990.

Sources: Homesteaders’ Heritage (p. 93)
Hythe Headliner, January 22, 1991

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: Vintage Tractors

Image: A film still from a vintage tractor demonstration (Fonds 605, Paul Pivert 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.

Agriculture is synonymous with the Peace Country. The bountiful farmland is what drew settlers to the area in the early 1900s, and for more than a century farming has played an essential part in shaping the culture and economy of the region. In 2006, the Peace Country boasted a total of 13.5% of Alberta’s cropland – the second largest cropland area in the province.

Early settlers did much – if not all – of the labour on their homesteads by hand or with the help of livestock. It wasn’t until after the First World War that gas-powered tractors began to appear in the South Peace. These early gasoline models (having evolved from steam-powered models known as ‘ground locomotives’) had 20- to 30-horsepower engines. Steel wheels with cleats were the norm for the first few years until rubber wheels were introduced. Comfort was not a priority as early tractor models were being developed; as seen in the video below, even machines in the 1960s did not have cabs. It was in the 1970s that canopies and cabs became more popular.

Comparing these machines to what we see on farms today causes one to marvel at the seemingly primitive resources available to farmers in the first three quarters of the 20th century. Yet to those who had gotten their start with a two-horse team and a scythe, these early gasoline-powered tractors would have been revolutionary.

From The Vault Friday: Snow Plane License

Image: Highway Traffic Board License Registration Certificate, from SPRA 142.

Welcome to the South Peace Regional Archives’ first “From the Vault Friday!” Join us every Friday as we highlight interesting materials from the collections. This project was made possible by an Access to Holdings Grant from the Archives Society of Alberta and will continue throughout 2021.

Todays “From the Vault Friday” features a snow plane taxi & ambulance license from the Harold Peebles fonds (Fonds 142). The license was issued to Harold Peebles c. 1947. It cost $21.00, which is approximately $265.29 in 2021 currency. Harold used the snow plane to run a taxi and ambulance service. The snow plane worked well in the winter months, when few Peace region roads were ploughed.

Harold was born in Flinton, Ontario on August 14, 1899. He came to the Peace Country with his family in 1912. In 1915, Harold and his father George enlisted in the Canadian Army, followed by his younger brother Arthur near the end of the war. During WWII, Harold operated a canteen for the Legion.

For more information about Harold Peebles, visit Fonds 142: Harold Peebles fonds.

For more information about Peebles’ WWI service, visit the WWI Soldiers Memorial.

Soldier Spotlight: Sapper Rowland George Absolon

Image: Rowland’s letter asking for assistance to purchase glasses (National Archives of Australia)

Regimental Number: 6211
Rank: Sapper
Branch: 16th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force; 4th Field Company, Australian Engineers

Rowland was born in Hanley, Staffordshire, England on June 15, 1879. He and his wife Polly (nee Batkin) were living in Trayning, Western Australia at the time of his enlistment in 1916. Rowland was wounded in May of 1918, but remained with his unit. In July of 1918, was absent without leave overnight. In 1929, Rowland requested a replacement for his discharge certificate as his had been lost and he needed the documentation in order to file on a homestead in the South Peace. He was successful, and filed on NE 13-74-13-W6 in 1929. Rowland’s vision was poor, however, and he struggled to succeed as a farmer. He and Polly moved to Vancouver, and in 1938, he contacted the Australian government asking whether there was any assistance available for returned Australian soldiers living in Canada. Rowland’s vision and hearing were failing, so he was having difficulty finding work and providing for himself and his wife. He hoped that government assistance might enable him to get his eyes treated and purchase glasses (view page 17 of his service file for more details). Rowland died in Vancouver on February 25, 1962.

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 Life

Image: A film still showing Chuck and Linda Stojan posing on a haystack with a German shepherd (SPRA 0253.01.14, 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 on Movie Monday we are revisiting the Stojan family. In this film, smiles abound as the children – and the rest of the family – enjoy the simple pleasures of farm life.

Jerry Stojan was involved in raising registered quarter horses in the 1960’s and won many trophies and blankets; in this home movie we see him passing his fondness for equestrianism on to his children, as Linda rides around the yard and older brother Chuck leads the pony. Horses are also seen at the beginning of the film, where several adults appear to be taking a rest while on a trail ride.

In addition to horses, the Stojan family also seems to have been quite fond of dogs; various dogs appear in their films. In this particular video, there are scenes of Linda playing with a litter of puppies, and Chuck frolicking with a German shepherd on a friend’s haystack.

The film is dated as having been taken in 1961. However, judging by the age of the children, it is possible that it was filmed earlier.

Soldier Spotlight: Agnes Anders

Agnes Anders was born in 1920 on the homestead near La Glace/Sexsmith. At age 23 she enlisted in the Navy as a WRN . She was posted in Sydney, NS where she worked most of the 3 years, but was also posted to Ottawa, and Victoria to get discharged in 1946. In 1950 Agnes married Eric Carlson. They had 2 children: Valerie and Renny, and they moved to Fort St. John BC. Agnes taught school in BC. She moved to Sundre, AB for retirement in 2006.

Force: Navy – Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS)
Source: La Glace – Yesterday and Today p. 101
Sundre Round – up Interview by Patricia Riley Nov. 5, 2013

Agnes Anders, SPRA

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: Historical Buildings in Grande Prairie

Image: A film still showing the Pipestone Creek Store (SPRA 0001.10.01.04, 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.

This Movie Monday features a look at various historical buildings around Grande Prairie. Some of them are still standing in their original locations more that one hundred years after their construction. The video is narrated by Alice Fortier and was filmed in January of 1992.

The tour begins at the William Innes homestead on what is now 102nd Street. The log barn on this property was built in 1910, and the log house in 1912. These structures remain on their original site and are two of the oldest buildings in the city.  A portion of the land was sold to the city in the 1980’s in order to expand Muskoseepi Park.

Another building of great significance is the Forbes’ home. Reverend Alexander Forbes and his wife Agnes built Grande Prairie’s first hospital in 1911. It was a log structure and still stands today. In 1912, they built a two-story home, called Montrose House, adjacent to the hospital. The Reverend Forbes Homestead and Pioneer Hospital has been beautifully restored and welcomes visitors to tour the home and hospital.

The video continues with a look at the Heritage Village at the Grande Prairie Museum, and concludes with scenes of Muskoseepi Park.

Soldier Spotlight: Private James Walter Aylesworth

Image: Students in front of Flying School Lake School, 1918. Their teacher was Margaret McDonald, later Mrs. Adams of Long Beach, California, 1918 (SPRA 032.08.08.0938)

Regimental Number: 256387
Rank: Private
Branch: 1st Depot Battalion, Saskatchewan Regiment; 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion; 15th Reserve Battalion

James was born on April 2, 1883 in Odessa, Ontario. He was drafted near the end of the war and settled in Flying Shot in 1921. James loved young people, and one Christmas he knit and hung 500 pairs of mittens on the tree at the Flying Shot Lake School for the children of the district. He died in Grande Prairie on January 7, 1964.

Sources: Along the Wapiti, p. 135 & 411

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.