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

It Takes a Community

The archives is the proud owner of a wonderful new-to-us map cabinet.

A big thank you goes to Weyerhaeuser for donating it to house our maps.

Getting the cabinet to the archives was no easy feat and we would like to send out thank yous to:

  1. The County for transporting the cabinet to us.
  2. Willie Braun for making the trolley for our cabinet to sit on
  3. Parks for giving us a hand getting the cabinet off the truck
  4. City Transport for their willingness to be here and assist with the off-loading
  5. Tim Moore from the GP Museum for always helping us out

Just like our pioneers who came together to work on big projects the archives appreciates all their friends who help us out when we need it!

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.

Coming Up: The Alaska Highway Road Show

If you like storytelling, don’t miss the Alaska Highway Roadshow on July 6th in the Grande Prairie Museum Community Room at 7:00 PM. Only 100 tickets are available and they are selling fast at $10.00.  Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance from the Grande Prairie Museum (Cash Only)

Performers Bill Dolan, Alison Tubman, and Kathy Jessup have a long family history in the north, and they have created an entertaining look back at the history of the Alaska Highway through research, family stories, music, artifacts, and photographs.

Raised as “highway kids,” they lend an authentic voice to this ninety-minute tribute concert. Audiences will gain an appreciation of why the Alaska Highway deserves to be Canada’s newest National Historic Site and why truckers and all those who’ve called it home over the years proudly share a special bond. The Trail of ’42 is a remarkable story, and as the Highway reaches its 75th birthday, this is the time to tell it!

Spring Cleaning at the Archives

Recently, as part of our Integrated Pest Management program (IPM), the SPRA held its first annual spring cleaning bee. You may be thinking, “Integrated Pest Management! Does the archives have bugs?” No and yes. Technically, most bugs are not true bugs, they are insects. (I know a gardener who takes the terminology very seriously and I do too as a gesture of solidarity). So, no bugs in the archives. But the occasional spider and millipede does get in there. Both eat other insects. Luckily, the spiders like whatever it is they put in the pest traps and the millipedes seem to starve to death so the records remain safe.

IPM is less about dealing with a pest problem and more about preventing a pest problem.

Material coming in is inspected. Any items that look suspicious are quarantined. Pest traps attract wayward critters and give us an indication of what is wandering in. But the most important preventative activity for our IPM is housekeeping.

We regularly clean our working space but the storage shelves are a bit trickier. In both the unprocessed area and the processed storage vault, the shelves are full of boxes. Not something that gets dusted every day. Or week. Or month. It is a big job. Not a job for one or even four staff, only one of whom is here full time. The job needed doing and we needed help so we called in our volunteers. It was a great fun day of dusting, reorganizing, and out with the old.  (Empty boxes only. This is an Archive after all) We followed up all that hard work with a potluck lunch.

A few shelves in the vault still require dusting and a pest spot check in the bottom rows of boxes. It won’t be as exciting now that Meg isn’t here to scare me with, “Oh my gosh! This one is huge!” Thanks, Meg. I  had skipped my cardio that day and needed to get my heart rate up.

While it wasn’t all done, we accomplished a lot. More than just cleaning. It was great to get all the volunteers and staff together. We’re not all in at the same time and catching up helps us bond as a team. Volunteers were able to see more of the archive than they usually do. They are generally very focused on their projects and don’t get to see the other work areas. And last but not least we were able to assure ourselves, by moving around boxes and checking files, that the SPRA really is in good shape. If we ever do encounter a pest problem, we’ll be better able to pinpoint the possible causes and determine solutions because we have limited the possible start time to some time after June 2017.

That is a lot of value for a cleaning bee at the Archive. Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers and staff who made it happen.

by Archivist Josephine Sallis

Upcoming Cemetery Tours

South Peace Regional Archives is hosting two cemetery tours this summer and we’re inviting you to join in!

On Tuesday, July 4 and Friday, August 25 at 7:00 PM we will be hosting our annual cemetery walking tours.  Join us at the Grande Prairie Cemetery (84 Avenue and 112 Street) to discover the rich and interesting history of Grande Prairie and area through the lives and stories of its people.  Our tour will highlight the lives of those who served in the two world wars.  Please note that this will be the same tour that was given last summer.

Call the Archives at 780-830-5105 to register (limit of 25 participants per tour)

D Is For Dimsdale

On September 23, 1924, an announcement appeared in the Grande Prairie Herald, that a new town had been created on the western extension of the Edmonton, Dunvegan, and British Columbia Railway. It would be called “Dimsdale”, after Henry George Dimsdale, a locating engineer for the railway.

The original name of the district was Spring Lake, after the small spring-fed lake which is now Dimsdale Lake. As fertile farm and prairie land, it was snapped up for homesteads as soon as it was surveyed in 1909. By 1912, there was already a school on the south shore of the lake, first named Greystone and then Wapiti School District when it was moved 1 ½ miles west of the current hamlet.

In 1926 the railway was built and the townsite laid out next to the railway track. Rapid development followed. Besides the railway station, there was two stores and some residences. Ramsfield’s Store contained the post office, opened in September 1927. The United Grain Growers elevator was also built that year and boasted it had “been taking in wheat steadily; that is, when it was not too full to take in any more. Three times it has been filled to capacity and over 100,000 bushels have been received.” Eventually there were three elevators, as this Herald-Tribune newspaper photograph from November 1970 shows.

In the mid-1930s, a badly-needed community hall was built, and in the 1950s, a curling rink. There was also the Hystad Bros. Planing Mill—they drilled the first community water well across the tracks from the store.  In the country near the hamlet were the Spring Creek Presbyterian Church and Cemetery to the south, and Wapiti School to the west.

There were many active community organizations such as the United Farmers Association and United Farm Women, and the Dimsdale Women’s Community Circle whose records are archived at SPRA.

Wapiti School District was centralized to Wembley in 1955, but the school, converted to a home, is still on its original site.  The post office and store also closed in 1967, and the Dimsdale Hall is the only active community building remaining in the hamlet.

If you have records or photographs of Dimsdale that you would like to archive, please give us a call.

By Executive Director Mary Nutting

September 23, 1924

November 18, 1927

November 18, 1970

Soldier Spotlight: Hedley Johnson

Regimental Number: 7793
Rank: Private
Branch: 7th Canadian Mounted Rifles; Reserve Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery; 1st Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment

According to the Canadian War Museum, some 619,636 Canadians enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, approximately 424,000 of whom served overseas.  With such high numbers, one would expect that there were often soldiers with the same, or at least similar, names and initials.  Sometimes these similarities resulted in cases of mistaken identities, which was never more distressing than when an incorrect name appeared on the casualty lists.  Such was the case with Hedley Johnson.

Hedley was born in Brantford, Ontario on November 30, 1887. He came to Grande Prairie in October of 1910 and filed on a homestead at NE 34-71-5-W6. Hedley enlisted in February of 1915. On June 24, 1915, he married Carmelia “Carrie” Macklin in England. Hedley served only in England and Canada because of his flat feet and bouts of rheumatic fever. In June of 1915, there was some confusion as an H. Johnson was reported to have been killed in action. It turned out to be a H. Hugh Johnston (possibly referring to Norman Johnston, who is also listed on our memorial), and corrections were printed in the Grande Prairie Herald a week later. Hedley and Carrie arrived back to the homestead in February 1919, where they continued to live until they moved into Grande Prairie in 1928. In 1946, they moved to Rocky Mountain House. Hedley died in Edmonton on February 23, 1973.

Sources: Smoky River to Grande Prairie p. 215; Pioneers of the Peace p. 178-179; Grande Prairie Capitol of the Peace p. 70

June 8, 1915

June 15, 1915

June 17, 1915

February 11, 1919