Glen Leslie Church, near Bezanson

In the summer of 1909, Dominion Land Surveyor Walter MacFarlane subdivided 17 townships on the Grande Prairie in northwestern Alberta into quarter-sections for land settlement. In the spring of 1910, the townships were thrown open of homesteading, and, during the next four years, there were 2,675 applications made for land on the Prairie, with 1,854 of them (69%) being proven up. One of the districts to receive considerable attention was that of Glen Leslie, just south of Kleskun Hill, where 144 settlers took out land. In all, these settlers made 164 applications for land, with 86 of these being proven up.

One of the homesteaders in this district was Thomas Leslie from Roslin, Ontario, who filed for and proved up NE26 TP72 R4 W6. His sons, Bruce and Norman, filed for land close by. With so much settlement in the area, Thomas applied to be the district postmaster in August, 1914.  His application was granted, which was natural as his homestead was already serving as the district store. The name proposed for the post office was Glen Leslie, which reflected Leslie’s Scottish heritage.  Leslie’s home also facilitated church services conducted by the Presbyterian minister Alexander Forbes from Grande Prairie.

In November 1913, Leslie and Forbes jointly applied for ten acres of SW6 TP72 R3 W6 in order to build a church and plot ground for a cemetery. The land contained a substantial bog and was not suitable for cultivation. The land granted, and, during the winter of 1914-15, logs were cut by local volunteers for a church building. Construction began on the structure that would become known as the Glen Leslie Church the following spring, with Alf Olson as the coordinator. The building committee consisted of Dan Minchin, Alex Milne, Lewis Fowler, and Bruce and Norman Leslie.  The total cost, born by local fundraisers, turned out to be $468. The first service was conducted by Reverend Forbes in October, 1915. In the meantime, a cemetery was plotted just to the north

The population of the Glen Leslie district was interdenominationally Protestant, and so attendees at the Glen Leslie Church were not exclusively Presbyterian. The church building was maintained by local volunteers and was made part of the new United Church of Canada in 1925.  From 1918 to 1928, it also served as the Glen Leslie School. Many other social events were held there.

In 1928, the cemetery was taken over by the Municipal District of Grande Prairie. When church services were curtailed in 1964, the County of Grande Prairie took over the church building as well. Having been well maintained, the structure was still useful for social events. It was provided with a foundation in 1970 and re-shingled in 1976. Special events continued to be held there, and, on 6 October 2011, the church was designated a Provincial Historic Resource.  Its significance lies in its provision of structural evidence of the small community of Glen Leslie, one of the many districts on the Grande Prairie, from 1915 until today.  The structure is important also in providing structural evidence of an early Presbyterian church in northwestern Alberta.

Visit the Alberta Register of Historic Places to learn more about the heritage value of the Glen Leslie Church. In order for a site to be designated a Provincial Historic Resource, it must possess province-wide significance for either its history or architecture. 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 Glen Leslie Church. 

Written by: David Leonard, Historian

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