When the Canadian Pacific Railway began to survey a grade west from Lacombe to Kerrobert, Saskatchewan in 1904, a number of prospective farmers began to apply for homesteads on land just off of the rail grade. By 1906, interest began to subside, for the line had not gotten east of Stettler. In the spring of 1909 however, the government of Alberta announced lucrative bond guarantees for the extension of branch lines, and, during the following summer, construction activity was intense throughout the province. This included the CPR line east from Stettler to the Beaver Dam Creek. Here, at the end of steel, a station was erected and a townsite subdivided called Castor, the French word for Beaver. As the agricultural hinterland instantly filled up with settlers, the community of Castor became an agricultural boom town. In November 1909, it was incorporated as a village, and, in June of the following year, it became a town with over 500 people, holding all the commercial and social facilities required of a farming center.
Among the necessities for such a town were grain elevators. As early as June 1910, it was announced that the Alberta Pacific Grain Company was building at Castor, Halkirk and Tees. The 35,000 bushel structure at Castor would be completed later that fall. During the winter of 1910-11, local farmers were able to market their grain. In an unusual move, the elevator was located on the same side of the railway track as Main Street. In 1913, the rail line was extended eastward past Coronation, eventually reaching Kerr Robert. This gave Castor a direct line to the grain terminals at the Lakehead. As a result, three other elevators were soon built, and Castor soon began to benefit from the high grain prices of World War I. Indeed, by 1917, the original Alberta Pacific elevator was proving too small, and so the Company constructed a larger one, designed to store upward to 45,000 bushels.
Although Castor soon began to decline as a community, its population dropping to 625 by 1941, the elevators continued to survive, being in the center of such a rich agricultural district. In 1967, The 1917 Alberta Pacific structure was taken over by the Federal Grain Company, and, in 1972, by the Alberta Wheat Pool. Its most recent owner/operator was the United Grain Growers, which closed it down in the mid 1990’s in favor of a larger and more efficiently run concrete structure in the district. The structure survived however and was eventually acquired by the Castor & District Museum Society, which is attempting to undertake its restoration.
The historical significance of the Alberta Pacific Grain Elevator in Castor lies in its provision of structural evidence of the method of storing and marketing grain in rural Alberta during most of the 20th century. This structure is particularly important in that it dates from 1917, a period in time when crops were bountiful and the demand for wheat was high because of the war in Europe. It is important also for the role it played in the development of Castor, a community which sprang to life in 1910 with the arrival of the railway, and continued to serve a large agricultural hinterland, the existence of which depended upon the marketing of grain.
Written by: David Leonard, Historian
Visit the Alberta Register of Historic Places to learn more about the heritage value of the Alberta Pacific Grain Elevator. In order for a site to be designated a Provincial Historic Resource, it must possess province-wide significance. To properly assess the historic importance of a resource, a historian crafts a context document that situates a resource within its time and place and compares it to similar resources in other parts of the province. This allows staff to determine the importance of a resource to a particular theme, time, and place. Above, is some of the historical information used in the evaluation of the Alberta Pacific Grain Elevator.