The Argonauts Limited fonds. — 1910-1937. — 9 cm of textual records.
The Argonauts Limited company was formed in 1909 by partners Wm. A. Rae, Robert McQuarrie, Charles Spencer, C. Byar, Edwin Simpson, John Sutherland, and W.H. Carter. W.A. Rae, the general manager, was also the secretary-treasurer. He was assisted by Alphaeus Patterson, president, and T.M. Hadman, vice-president. Other shareholders included Henry Roberts, Alfred Marfleet, Job Hamilton, Neil Campbell, Arthur Gill, Allen Parker and Charlie Dunlop.
Late in 1909, Jack Sutherland was sent north to the grande prairie area to determine whether the southern half of the S ½ 26-71-6-W6th, along the Canadian Northern Railway survey, was suitable for a townsite. Upon his favourable report, the company purchased 80 acres of the land, and in 1910 had it sub-divided 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 Arognauts 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 records were donated to the Grande Prairie Public Library with Charles Spencer’s book collection in 1952. In 2008, GPPL passed them on to South Peace Regional Archives.
Scope and Content
The fonds consists of three Counter Sales books and a 1916 Report of the Storage Possibilities of Bear Lake and Power Possibilities of Bear Creek which reflect the activities of The Argonauts Limited. The first of the Sales books, labeled as originally belonging to W.A. Rae and dated 1910-1915, appears to record Company expenses and lot sales, wages, lumber orders for the sawmill, food purchases for the camp and sales of clothing to workers. The second Counter Sales book, dated 1911-1914 and 1922, contains some of the same records as well as Customer Accounts. The third book, stamped The Argonauts Limited, contains similar records for 1915-1917, but also includes insurance sales and insurance vacancy permits for 1936-1937. Since the Argonauts had disbanded by then, this may be the records of Charles Spencer’s Prairie City Agency. The report on Bear Creek and Bear Lake, conducted by the Department of the Interior, includes correspondence directed to W.A. Rae, and 20 photographs of Bear Creek and Bear Lake. .
Title based on the contents of the fonds.
Historical notes from an article written by W.A. Rae, published in the Herald-Tribune Historical Edition, 1934.
1910-1915 cashbook transcribed by Randy Repka, November 2020