Town of Grande Prairie fonds. — 1917-1951. — 166 cm of textual records. — 1 maps. — 1 blueprints.
In 1909, Edmontonian W.A. Rae made a visit to the “grande prairie” in the Peace River Country and was impressed by the agricultural and resource potential of the area. A site on the central south of the prairie, with timber to the south and good prairie land to the north, close to the waterways of Bear Creek and Wapiti River and marked with the survey stakes of the Canadian Northern railway appealed to him. He returned to Edmonton and formed the Argonaut Company which eventually purchased 80 acres beside the proposed railway and established the townsite of “Grande Prairie City.”
By 1911, there was a small community at Grande Prairie, with a post office, store, bank, livery barn, two stopping places, two churches, the Royal North West Mounted Police barracks, and the Dominion Land Survey Office. By 1913, this had expanded with the addition of a school, a hospital, two new hotels, the Selkirk Trading Company and a Hudson’s Bay Store. That same year saw the first issue of the Grande Prairie Herald, and the first representative from the community sent to the Provincial Legislature.
The hamlet was incorporated in 1914, and electricity arrived in 1915, courtesy of the Joseph Voz’ Flour Mill. When he could not meet the demand for electrical services, the citizens of the village formed the Grande Prairie Electric Company and purchased a power plant. However, the town was yet without a railroad, and everything had to come in over the Edson or Long Trail. Finally, in 1916, the railway reached Grande Prairie, providing transportation to market for agricultural products and opening the floodgates for settlement.
Growth slowed for a few years during WWI, when the area lost many of its British-born bachelors to the war effort, but tripled in one year after the war was over. By then, many of the amenities of a modern community were available: drug store, jeweler, cigar store, bakery, hardware stores and a barber shop. In 1919 the population reached 1000, sufficient to apply for town status. About this time, Richmond Avenue was extended around the corner into “Carriage Lane”, running along the ridge of Bear Creek (now 102 Street), and fine residences were built overlooking the creek valley.
By the early 1920s, the familiar pattern of “boom and bust” was already in effect. The town was overdeveloped, with too many lots and too many developers when the recession of the early 1920s began. The town seized a large number of lots for failure to pay taxes. Some of those were redeemed from tax sale by their owners, some were sold to new owners, but many were held by the town throughout the 1920s, and gradually sold in the boom during the latter half of the decade. Although the town struggled through the years of the Great Depression to collect taxes on many properties, by the end of the decade progress had been made, as evidenced by the addition of the Library and CFGP radio.
Although far removed from the material devastation of W.W. II, Grande Prairie saw plenty of war action. Its airport was a key link on the American air route to Alaska and Russia, and as many as 500 Canadian and American Air Force personnel were stationed there. In the decade after the war, Grande Prairie experienced a modernizing boom, as did many other Canadian communities. The town was introduced to local natural gas for heating, door to door mail, traffic lights, dial telephones, and television. Once again, construction boomed and people flowed in. By 1958, the population had increased to 8,000 people and the town achieved city status.
The records were donated to the Grande Prairie Public Library, possibly with the Charles Spencer book collection in 1952. How the records came into the possession of Charles Spencer, if this is indeed how the library acquired them, is unknown. In 2008, GPPL passed the records on to South Peace Regional Archives. In 2013, an accrual was donated by the Grande Prairie Public Library.
Scope and Content
The fonds consists of records reflecting some of the activities of the Town of Grande Prairie from 1917 to 1951. The majority of these records are connected most specifically with the office of the Secretary-Treasurer and relate to town governance and finances.
The fonds is arranged in four series: Provincial legislation, Financial records, Tax records, and Correspondence files.
Table of Contents
|Series 450.01||Provincial legislation|
|Series 450.02||Financial records|
|Series 450.03||Tax records|
|Series 450.04||Correspondence files|
|Series 450.01||Provincial legislation. — 1927-1929. — 1 cm of textual records.The series consists of a copy of “The Town Act, 1927,” which was enacted by the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and assented to on April 2, 1927; and a 1929 amendment to the Act, which was assented to March 20, 1929. The Act would have been referred to by the town council and secretary-treasurer in the course of governing the town.|
|Series 450.02||Financial records. — 1917-1919. — 1 cm of textual records.The series consists of a Waterworks Management ledger in use from 1917-1919. The ledger enumerates waterworks material, labour, sewer, water line, engineering, street work, water main, fire apparatus, and debenture costs.|
|Series 450.03||Tax records. — 1920-1924. — 9 cm of textual records.The series consists of one book of Tax Certificates dating from 1919-1928, one book of Certificates of Redemption dating from 1920 to 1922, and five books of Tax Sale Certificates issued on October 10, 1921, October 31, 1921, November 14, 1921, and November 26, 1921. The Tax Certificates are carbon copies of Tax Certificates issued to property owners certifying taxes paid and listing those taxes still due. Each certificate is signed by J. Fitzallen, Secretary-Treasurer of the town. The certificates are arranged in numerical order from 1 to 49, which corresponds to chronological order. Certificates 52 and 53 are typed on a separate sheet of paper which has been inserted in the back of the book. The Certificates of Redemption are carbon copies of thirty Tax Sale Redemption Receipts issued by the Town of Grande Prairie to property owners who had paid to redeem their land from tax sale. Each receipt is signed by the Secretary-Treasurer of the Town, J. Fitzallen. They are arranged in numerical order, which corresponds to chronological order. The Tax Sale Certificates were to be used to transfer ownership of property after it had been seized by the town for arrears of taxes. The certificates are filled in with the legal description of the lots, the sum of arrears owing and the date of transfer. Most of the certificates are not signed and both the original white copy and the pink receipt copy are still in the books indicating that the land was taken over by the town, but not actually sold to another purchaser. The certificates which are signed and the white original removed have been sold by the town for tax arrears. The certificates are arranged in numerical order from 6 to 223 although some pages have been removed. Additional forms and correspondence relating to certificate 77 and dating from 1922 and 1924 are also included. An accrual to the series in 2013 consists of Tax Appeals for 1920 and some originals of the above carbon copies, dating from 1919-1922. These are organized in order of Lot, Block, and Plan Number in files labeled by Plan Number. As an accrual, they are physically stored in a separate box.|
|Series 450.04||Correspondence files. — 1918-1951. — 155 cm of textual records. — 1 maps. — 1 blueprints.The series consists of records created, received, or collected by the Secretary-Treasurer of the Town of Grande Prairie between the years 1918 and 1951. The majority of the records are the result of the activities of Secretary-Treasurer Robert Keys (those from ca. 1922-1951), while others reflect the activities of his predecessors, Secretary-Treasurers John H. E. Fitzallen (ca. 1919-1922) and Helen G. Ford (ca. 1922). The activities of the Secretary-Treasurers also reveal the range of responsibilities and activities undertaken by the town, for which the Secretary-Treasurer acted. The majority of the records contained in this series consist of correspondence with other levels of government, other Secretary-Treasurers and municipalities, town boards including the school and hospital boards, town employees, business owners and prospective business owners, property owners and taxpayers, citizens, and companies offering products. The records cover a wide variety of topics including tax assessments and appeals, property, purchase offers on land owned by the town, public notices and announcements, town expenses and work, tenders, utilities, provincial laboratory water analysis reports, the airport, child welfare, mother’s allowance, indigent relief, old people’s home, town committees, government programs, job applications, product orders, law enforcement, fire brigade, and health inspections. This series also contains records other than correspondence which also fell within the responsibility of the Secretary-Treasurer. These records include estimates of town expenditures, financial statements, income tax records, monthly statements on a variety of topics, police reports, nominations, oaths of office, petitions, voters’ list applications, water meter readings, applications for trade licenses, and a few maps and blueprints relating to city projects. The files in this series are arranged in a combination of alphabetical and chronological order. The alphabetic order in the letter files is determined by the name of the sender or receiver. Other files are divided by category and the title of that category inserted in the proper alphabetic position between the letter files. There are several separate groupings. The first group is a set of seven letter files dating from 1920. Next is a group of eight miscellaneous letter files of various dates from 1920 to 1930. Next is a large group of letter and category files. Within this group, but interspersed, are two relatively distinct subgroups dating from ca. 1923-1930 and 1931-1936 respectively, although some files overlap both these date ranges. The final group of nineteen files dates from 1947-1951 and is composed primarily of letter files, although some subject files are also included. Within all of these groupings, original order has been maintained within the files. The original file names have been kept in most cases, although some have been amended when large files were divided due to their size or, in the case of obvious mislabeling, corrected to better reflect the contents of the file. The original order of the files has been maintained for the most part, although some files have been moved to better fit the overall chronologic and alphabetic order. Because of the doubtful custodial history of this fonds and the high probability that original order had already been disrupted by former custodians, it was felt that such moves were acceptable in this case.|