Explore the History of…

The “Explore the History” series in Telling Our Stories focuses on rural communities that were once more than what they are today. In this age of increasing urbanization and centralization, it is easy to forget that the much of the history of the South Peace Region is found in these places. Settlers arriving through the first half of the twentieth century settled largely in the countryside. They made their living farming or utilizing the natural resources the region offered. Distance, time, and poor roads were often obstacles to travel so, once arrived, people tended to work and play locally. As transportation improved and services centralized, many of these small communities faded into fond memories of their former selves.

Ready to start exploring? Pick a tour, grab your sunscreen (and bug spray), and join us as we explore the history of the South Peace!


Explore the History of Halcourt Ridge (March 2017: p. 12)

Explore the History of South Wapiti (March 2016: p. 12)

Explore the History of Lymburn & Demmit (September 2015: p. 12)

Explore the History of Crystal Lake (June 2015: p. 12)

Explore the History of the Spirit River Settlement (March 2015: p. 12)

Explore the History of DeBolt –Ridgevalley (September 2014: p. 12)

Explore the History of Huallen and the Saskatoon Mountain Radar Base (June 2014: p. 12)

Explore the History of Grande Prairie and Environs ca. 1914 (March 2014: p. 10)

Explore the History of Belloy and Codesa (September 2013: p. 10)

Explore the History Across the Smoky (June 2013: p. 10)

Explore the History of Bezanson (March 2013: p. 10)

Explore the History of the Bear Creek Flats (September 2012: p. 8)

Explore the Aboriginal History of our Place Names (June 2012: p. 8)

Explore the History of White Mountain (March 2012: p.8)

Explore the History of Grovedale (September 2011: p. 8)

Explore the History of the Kleskun Hills (June 2011: p. 8)

Explore the History of Bear Creek (March 2011: p. 8)

Explore the History of Sturgeon Lake (September 2010: p. 8)

Explore the History of New Fish Creek (March 2010: p. 8)

Explore the History of the Burnt River Valley (December 2009: p. 8)

Archives Receives Provincial Recognition for Telling Our Stories Magazine

Last month, the South Peace Regional Archives received provincial recognition for Telling Our Stories magazine.  The Archives Society of Alberta (ASA) presented the Alan D. Ridge Award of Merit (Print) to this “high-quality publication,” published by the South Peace Regional Archives. The nomination stated that Telling Our Stories is “an inspiration to the other heritage institutions in our Network and is what many aspire to achieve.” ASA Board Member Carson Murphy formally presented the award to Archives staff on Friday, May 31st.

Alan D. Ridge Publications Award

Each year, the Archives Society of Alberta “recognizes excellence in the form of research, opinion, analysis, etc. on some aspect of archives studies, records management, the use of records, archival institutions, or the archival profession.” The Alan D. Ridge Award of Merit (Print) recognizes these contributions via print resources such as books, pamphlets, brochures, peer-reviewed articles, etc.

The award is named in honour of Alan D. Ridge, Provincial Archivist of Alberta from 1968-1984. His active involvement in archives and records management in England, Canada, and the United States has provided leadership and stimulation to the archival community in Alberta and beyond.

Telling Our Stories Magazine

Telling Our Stories is a quarterly magazine, published by the South Peace Regional Archives. The magazine highlights content and resources from the Archives’ collections and includes submissions from Archives’ staff, volunteers, and members of the public. First published in 2009, Telling Our Stories began as a newsletter before transitioning to a magazine format in the fall of 2017. Issues in 2018 highlighted “Timeless Love: Weddings of the South Peace” (March), “National Indigenous History Month” (June), “South Peace Fish & Game” (September), and “International Travels” (December). Telling Our Stories is available to the public, free of charge, at the Archives or through our website. Members of the Archives’ Society receive print copies via mail.

ASA Board Member Carson Murphy formally presents the Alan D. Ridge Award of Merit (Print) to Archives staff Alyssa Currie (Executive Director) and Josephine Sallis (Archivist), 31 May 2019.

Bonnets for Easter

The Kentucky Derby hasn’t got anything on these ladies! New clothes for Easter had been a tradition for many families for years. The Just-A-Mere-Ladies Club took that a little bit further with their annual Easter bonnet creations. Seems like something we might to revive.

La Glace Just-A-Mere-Ladies Club group photo featuring their specially made hats. Ladies present include Isabelle Christiansen, Mabel Hagen, Alice Wartenbe, Gloria Cavanough, Glady Maple?, Jean Haakstad

Happy Easter!

We’re sorry to announce that we are closed for Easter Monday. Here’s a little Easter joy to alleviate the inconvenience.

Cards and postcards are wonderful bits of personal correspondence that can shed bits of light on personal history. These two Easter postcards from the Grimm-Vader Family fonds are an example. The first has no correspondence, suggesting good intentions but perhaps a bit of forgetfulness or procrastination on the part of a young man (Ora Grimm). The second was sent to Mr. Ora Grim while he was visiting family in Venus, Nebraska.

“Raven, Nebraska, April 21, 1916

Dear Nephew,

As we got a letter from Ralph telling us you was here from Canada, would be glad to have you Boys both come up or I make up a visit. We are all well. It has been cold and windy now for some time. Drop us a line. With Best Wishes from Aunt Celia & family, Raven, Nebraska, Brown, Co.”

This short piece of correspondence helps us build a picture of an extended family with a foothold in two countries. Luckily, we have more than this to go on for the Grimm-Vader family. Processing for this fonds is nearing completion and will soon be ready for researchers. It includes almost a thousand photographs, postcards, and two extensive family histories.

We are very grateful to Nora and Ray Grimm for sharing their family history with the Archives. It will be a wonderful treasure for years to come.

Making History Accessible, One VCR At a Time

Image: some of the technology we use to help preserve and make media records accessible at the South Peace Regional Archives.

The South Peace Regional Archives collects a wide variety of documentary materials as part of our mandate to acquire, preserve, and make accessible historical records related to families and organizations in the South Peace Region. A collection of relevant older media technology is an important component of the “make accessible” part of our mandate.

Older (working) media technology makes it possible for us to digitize reel-to-reel film, cassettes, beta tapes, and VHS. For those items not yet digitized, the old VCRs, cassette, players, and beta machines allow researchers to view and listen to stories they would not have the opportunity enjoy.

We have a good collection of film projectors and even a couple of beta machines that help us make film, video, and audio recordings accessible to researchers. Oddly enough, we have no working VCRs or cassette players. If you have one of these precious media gems gathering dust in your abode, we would love to hear from you. The SPRA has a growing collection of VCR materials that document several families and organizations in the South Peace Region. You and your old machine can help make those records accessible.

You can contact us at info@southpeacearchives.org or call us at 780-830-5105.

Wooden Valentines

While Beth Sheehan collected history and photographs from the Peace River Country, she also collected physical objects, including samples of wood.  In her collection here at the archives, we have a story and photographs of wood samples collected by Beth in the local area and in her travels. In 1954, her husband Everett gave her a wooden Valentine he made while camping on the desert in Arizona. She thought it so lovely that together they made more. Everett made boards approximately 1/4 inch thick with a band saw. Beth traced heart shapes on the boards, then cut them out with a coping saw. She filed and sanded them meticulously, making them into three-dimensional hearts. Oiling brought out the natural beauty and grain of the wood. On the back of each heart was noted the name of the wood, where it was from, the year, and in some cases, who gave it to her. She didn’t make duplicates. She also took pictures of polished wood and some wooden jewelry. Arthritis in 1985 made it too difficult to hold and work on the small pieces, and no more were made, though many pieces had been prepared.

Beth’s Wooden Valentines

SPRA Abroad

Above photograph from Where the Red Willow Grew, page 235

The archives recently received a query from a researcher in Germany.  Jürgen kindly gave us permission to share some of his family’s story on our blog today.

“My paternal family lived for several generations until the Second World War in a small village west of the town of Lutsk in Volhynia, now Ukraine. They were descendants of German colonists who had left their homeland in the 18th century to seek a better life in the East. Almost all of them were farmers.

At that time, life there was really not easy and people had to work very hard to make ends meet. In the late 1920s, the population in the villages had grown so much that there was not enough land left to feed all of them. Therefore, many families decided to leave Volhynia. They emigrated to distant countries like Brazil, Argentina, the US and Canada.

A few of my relatives sought their fortune overseas. One of my father’s oldest cousins, Alvina Reichert (Mundt), emigrated together with her husband Arnold and their children to Canada in 1929. In the first years, they maintained contact with their relatives left behind in Volhynia, but after the end of the Second World War they certainly lost touch.

I have already been researching my family history for several years and one day, I wondered how the life of Alvina and Arnold had gone further after they had arrived in Canada. Unfortunately, I did not know exactly where they had settled in Canada. So I started looking for any clues of them on the internet. Finally, I discovered this wonderful website of the South Peace Regional Archives. There I found the names of my relatives listed in the database “Compiled Community Book Names Index”. Then I contacted the archive by email and I asked for assistance. I was surprised to receive an answer to my request the same day. The staff were extremely friendly and they helped me a lot in my search for information about my relatives. Really amazing!

I am very happy to have found this website and I recommend it to anyone who wants to do research in this region.

Many thanks and kind regards from Germany!

Jürgen M.”

(French) Project Volunteer Located!

We thank everyone for their interest in this project. We have now located a volunteer to complete this. However, if you are interested in completing similar projects, please do not hesitate to let us know! The Archives collections include many records in French that we would be delighted to have translated and transcribed.

The Archives is currently seeking a volunteer with knowledge of the French language to transcribe and translate a short speech by Pierre Lozeron, to be included in the next issue of Telling Our Stories.

Pierre Lozeron was born in 1887, in Auverern, Canton of Neuchatel, Switzerland. Pierre arrived in the South Peace in 1912, having walked over the Edson Trail to settle in this area. Like many immigrants in the early 20th century, Pierre rarely saw his family, but corresponded with them regularly. In 1959, Pierre traveled back to Switzerland to visit his family. During this visit, he presented a speech on his pioneering life in Canada. We are interested in showcasing this speech in our special travel themed issue of our magazine. It is four typed pages long, and written in French. According to Pierre: “Je suis agriculteur. Je ne suis pas orateur.” (I am a farmer. I am not a public speaker).

If you, or someone you know, would be willing to transcribe and then translate this speech, please contact info@southpeacearchives.org


Last Chance for Cemetery Tours!



South Peace Regional Archives is hosting a cemetery tour next week and we’re inviting you to join in!

The tour takes place on Wednesday, August 8 at 7:00 PM. Join us at the Grande Prairie Cemetery (84 Avenue and 112 Street) to discover the rich history of Grande Prairie and area through the stories of its people.

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