The Argonauts’ 1910-1915 Cashbook

Above: Argonauts Limited office on the new townsite of Grande Prairie. Argonauts Limited was organized in Edmonton to develop the town of Grande Prairie at Bear Creek, alongside where the Canadian Northern Railway had survey stakes. 1909 (SPRA 2001.01.201)

Although we have not yet been able to welcome our volunteers back to the archives, many of our volunteers are continuing to work on projects at home. Just this week, volunteer Randy Repka finished transcribing the Argonauts’ 1910-1915 cashbook; the digitized cashbook and Randy’s transcription are now both available on the Argonauts Ltd. finding aid.

The Argonauts Limited company was formed in 1909 by partners William A. Rae, Robert McQuarrie, Charles Spencer, C. Byar, Edwin Simpson, John “Jack” Sutherland, and W.H. Carter. Late in 1909, Jack Sutherland was sent north to the South Peace to determine whether the southern half of 26-71-6-W6th, along the Canadian Northern Railway survey, was suitable for a townsite. Upon his favorable report, the company purchased 80 acres of the land, and in 1910 had it subdivided into town lots by Dominion Land Surveyor Walter McFarlane. These were promoted and sold by the Grande Prairie Townsite Company, of which W.A. Rae was also secretary.

When the Argonauts Limited secured its charter in 1910, the partners decided that they should also take in a sawmill. The procession of twelve teams carrying a steamer and all the equipment needed for the mill started from Edmonton on February 12, 1910 and a month later had made it as far as the Simonette River. Here they were stranded by early break-up of the rivers until they could raft it up the rivers. The mill was finally set up in the virgin timbers of the Wapiti River valley to provide lumber for the first buildings in Grande Prairie City.

Grande Prairie City grew rapidly, attracting other developers on parcels of land surrounding the original townsite. The village was incorporated in 1914, and by 1919 had the requisite 1000 residents for a town. A few years later, in 1922, The Argonauts disbanded. A great number of their lots were still unsold, and these were distributed to the shareholders on the basis of three dollars worth of property for each dollar of capital shares held.

The early spring in 1910 resulted in rivers breaking up before the expected date. Incoming settlers, such as the Forbes and Argonaut party seen here, were forced to make rafts for transporting effects down river to the Grande Prairie townsite. 1910 (SPRA 2001.01.192)

A page from the Argonauts’ cashbook

Soldier Spotlight: Flight Lieutenant Donald Caldwell

Image: The Herald-Tribune, November 15, 1945

Regiment: 168 (Heavy Transport) Squadron
Regimental Number: J/11098
Rank: Flight Lieutenant (Pilot)
Force: Royal Canadian Air Force

Born in 1913, Donald Caldwell was one of 9 children of parents Bert and Bessie May Caldwell from Valleyview. A teacher by profession, he taught in Rio Grande area, Itipaw, and Millerston AB. Donald was married to Margaret Isobel from Ottawa. During the Second World War he enlisted with the RCAF in 1941 in Edmonton, became a pilot, and served for 4 years. After the war Donald and 4 other pilots volunteered to fly penicillin from Canada to war-torn Warsaw, Poland. Tragically all five crew members of the RCAF Flying Fortress were killed when their plane crashed near Muenster, Germany, on November 4, 1945. Poland awarded these five service men the Golden Cross of Merit for “their outstanding heroism while on a mercy flight.” Donald was 32 years old, and he was buried in the Muenster Heath War Cemetery in Germany. The Grave Reference is 4.F.18

Source: Where the Red Willow Grew p. 303 (Name in Roll of Honour), pp. 63-64 (photo p. 64) – Note: this source states that there were 5 crew members killed.
Herald Tribune Nov. 15, 1945 p. 1 c. 7 – Note: this source states that there were 4 crew members killed.
Commonwealth War Graves Commision

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.

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.

The Sawdust Fusiliers: Veterans of the Canadian Forestry Corps

Image: William J. Noll on horseback leaving to join the Canadian Forestry Corps, 1917 (SPRA 2014.061.014c)

The upcoming issue of Telling Our Stories focuses on forests and forestry in the South Peace.  To give you a sneak preview of an article highlighting the Sawdust Fusiliers and the role they played in the First World War, here are the names of some local men who served in the Canadian Forestry Corps.  For biographies of these men, visit the World War I Soldiers Memorial.

Private Andrew Bennett

tripped while on parade in 1916, which led to doctors discovering a cyst on his knee

Private John Blonke

jaw was fractured when he was assaulted by a civilian in Scotland

Private Walter Bowen

was badly gassed in 1917 and also suffered from flat feet, which led to his transfer to the Forestry Corps

Private Leonard Broomfield

served with No. 11 Company in France, where they were engaged in aerodrome construction

Private Fred Burrin

was appointed ‘logcutter’ and given a raise in pay, but reverted to Private at his own request

Captain Robert Campbell

was made second in command of No. 41 Company in August 1918

Private Frederick Chiverton

was transferred to the Forestry Corps due to recurring heart trouble

Sergeant Henry Connery

three of his four sons also joined the army in WWI

Lieutenant Harlie Conrad

enlisted in the RNWMP in 1914 as a way of getting into the army

Private Ernest Constantin

had been hard of hearing since childhood, but condition was worsened by army life

Private Jerry Cronin

had a cataract in his right eye, due to having been struck in the eye with the end of a whip

Private John Cummins

worked as a logger before joining the Forestry Corps

Private Frank Dundas

medical examination states that he was missing the tip of a finger

Private Omer Dupont

while serving in England with the Forestry Corps, he married an Englishwoman

Private Joseph Duszinski

was shot in the arm in May 1916 at Ypres

Private Thomas East

was a widower with eight children when he enlisted

Private William Fair

after being wounded in June 1917, a large piece of shrapnel remained embedded near his shoulder blade for six months

Private Isaac Frazee

his left hand was paralyzed after receiving multiple shrapnel wounds in May 1916

Acting Sergeant Robert Gerow

he and his son both served in the Forestry Corps

Private Robert Gerow

served in France with the Forestry Corps for a short time before falling ill and being sent to hospital in England

Private Henderson Graham

was blind in his right eye, and therefore not fit for active service at the front lines

Sergeant Charles Hastings

due to a mining accident in 1903, one of his legs was shorter than the other

Private John Kneafsey

while in the Forestry Corps, he was thrown off a truck; his clavicle was fractured and he had a concussion, which led to dementia

Private Chester Lowe

was only 15 years old when he enlisted

Private Gordon McCullough

suffered from dementia, likely due to shell shock; died in 1924 as a result of having been gassed during the war

Private Robert McDonald

in January 1918 he was sent to the School of Farmery to receive training for cold shoeing

Private Charles MacGregor

lied about his age by ten years in order to enlist

Private George MacGregor

worked as a cook during his time in the Forestry Corps

Private Henry Moss

after the war, a miscommunication led to his wife and family believing him to be dead, and it was decades before he was reunited with them

Private William Noll

when he left to enlist in 1918, he pinned a poem to his door stating that he would not be returning to the area

Private Lorne Nowry

after serving in the Forestry Corps, he came to Grande Prairie and bought a sawmill

Acting Corporal Jacob Orman

before being transferred to Forestry Corps, he was attached to the Russian Embassy in London

Private Raymond Pellerin

was wounded at Vimy Ridge before being transferred to the Forestry Corps

Private Thomas Rice

when he slipped on ice, his foot became jammed between a log, the carriage, and the skidway

Private Mike Rostalski

was shot in the leg in May 1917, after which he was transferred to the Forestry Corps

Private Herbert Stewart

after being injured at the front lines, he was transferred to the Forestry Corps; in 1918, a log fell from a wagon onto his leg, causing severe damage

Private Peter Stuart

worked as a lumberjack before the war

Private George Tate

injured his shoulder during training and as a result he remained in England with the Forestry Corps for the duration of the war

Private Robert Tilt

dyed his hair in an unsuccessful attempt to look young enough to enlist in World War II

Acting Sergeant Spencer Tuck

was gassed at Ypres in August 1916, losing partial function of his right eye

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.

SPRA’s 2019 Annual General Meeting in Review

On Saturday, March 30, the South Peace Regional Archives board of directors, staff, volunteers, and members of the public gathered for SPRA’s 2019 Annual General Meeting.  Reports from president Jan Shields, executive director Alyssa Currie, and treasurer Gail Prette highlighted the successes, achievements, and challenges of the past year.

Three volunteers received awards to mark milestones they had reached in their work at the archives. (not pictured: Mary Nutting, 250 hours)

Meg Archer has dedicated over 250 to researching and writing biographies for the soldiers on our WWII Soldiers Memorial

Leita Askew has volunteered more than 1500 hours, working on clipping files, newspaper indices, and many other projects.

The Beth Sheehan Award recognizes individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the goals of gathering, preserving, and sharing the history of the South Peace region. Recipients of the award become Honorary Members of the South Peace Regional Archives Society.  This year, the award was presented to Mathew Wozniak and the Beaverlodge Area Cultural Society.

Alyssa Currie presenting the Beth Sheehan Award to Catherine Gabriel of the Beaverlodge Area Cultural Society

In 2018, the Beaverlodge Area Cultural Society donated over 20 boxes of archival materials, amounting to one of the most significant material donations of the year. This donation documents the community and culture of the Beaverlodge area and includes textual records, maps, pamphlets and over 1000 photographs. Shortly after the records were donated, the community of Beaverlodge was inundated by floodwaters, including the location where the records were previously stored.

Mathew Wozniak

Mathew Wozniak has been an avid supporter of the Archives since 2007: as a donor, advocate, volunteer, and magazine contributor. From 2007-2015, Mathew donated several accruals to the Wozniak family fonds. These records document the family’s immigration from Poland during the interwar period and settlement in the Wanham area. His volunteer involvement at the Archives began in 2012, with the transcription and translation of his family’s records from Polish. Since then, he has contributed over 600 hours to the Archives doing transcription and translation work.

To close the meeting, attendees heard presentations from a panel of community members who put archival records to work.

Maxine Maxwell of the Grande Prairie & District Branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society discussed the importance of archival records in genealogical research.

Charles Taws of the Grande Prairie Museum shared how he uses the Archives when preparing exhibits and programs.

Breanna Gouschuk of the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association discussed how she has used Archives photographs in social media.

Anna Ladwig shared how the Archives had contributed to the Glen Leslie Church restoration project.

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 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

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)