The English Colony and ‘Ready-Made Farms’ in Alberta

Written by: Allan Rowe, Historic Places Research Officer

On March 25, 1910, a party of emigrants embarked from Great Britain to settle on 24 “ready-made farms” in the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Irrigation Block in Alberta. The farms were clustered together in a colony located approximately 50 kilometres east of Calgary, in an area that came to be known informally as the “English Colony” (officially named Nightingale in 1911). While the English Colony was not a long-term success—the majority of the original immigrants had moved on by 1912—the history of the colony offers a fascinating window into different aspects of early agricultural settlement in Alberta.

The story of the English Colony begins in 1904 with the CPR’s acquisition of nearly three million acres of land in Treaty 7 territory between Calgary and Medicine Hat (south of the Red Deer River and north of the Bow River). While this area had generally been viewed by settlers as too dry for farming, the CPR believed that irrigation would transform the land and make it suitable for agriculture. In the language of the time, irrigation would, “make the desert bloom.” The company began construction on the irrigation system in 1904, which diverted water from the Bow River just east of Calgary and delivered it to a reservoir (now Chestermere Lake). From there water was distributed through a series of secondary canals and ditches to farms throughout the western third of the Irrigation Block. By 1910, the CPR had already sold nearly 70,000 acres of irrigated land in the western section.

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Fighting the 1918 influenza crisis with household chores

Editor’s note: This blog post is small taste of a recent article by Suzanna Wagner: “Households Large and Small: Healthcare Civilians and the Prominence of Women’s Work in the Edmonton Bulletin’s Reporting of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic” published in the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association (vol. 32, no.2, 2022). Published with permission of the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association.

The banner image above is of Oliver School in Edmonton, which served as one of the headquarters for neighbourly help. The blackboard here listed names of women who were willing to take in children whose parents were ill, and the kitchens in the home economics department cooked soup to send out by automobile to households with the flu. Image courtesy of Prairie Postcards Collection, Peel’s Prairie Provinces.

Written by: Suzanna Wagner

March is Women’s History Month. What does that mean? What’s unique about women’s history? Isn’t it just regular history, but about women? Well, sort of. Studying the experiences of women in the past has some specific challenges: the ordinary parts of historical women’s lives have a tendency to get ignored, glossed over or just plain forgotten. Why? Often, it is because there are few records that preserved the everyday realities of women’s work and lives. Other times it’s because the everyday substance of historical women’s lives was considered unimportant, uninteresting or inconsequential and not worth examining closely.

And yet, when we dive deeply into the history of the 1918 influenza epidemic in Edmonton, we see not just how desperately important “women’s work” was, but how, in a rare historical moment, the details of women’s work were carefully recorded and published in the newspaper.

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The Archaeological Survey in Numbers – 2021 Update Part Two

Written By: Colleen Haukaas, Archaeological Survey

This week’s post highlights archaeological sites recorded in 2021 under archaeological permits issued by the Archaeological Survey. Part One of this post discussed archaeological permits, archaeologists, and archaeological field activities from 2021.

More than 40,000 archaeological sites have been recorded in Alberta, and archaeologists record 500-700 new sites per year. Sites can include a few artifacts or complex, multi-site areas like Áísínai’pi/Writing-on-Stone. Most sites in recent decades are recorded by archaeologists working in the cultural resources management (CRM) industry. CRM archaeologists work with developers to avoid potential impacts to known or potential archaeological resources in Historic Resources Impact Assessments. Sites are also recorded by researchers at universities, museums, and other institutions, who tend to conduct detailed research at the same sites year-to-year. Site records are managed and archived at the Archaeological Survey’s Alberta Archaeological Sites Inventory.

You can explore previous Survey in Numbers to compare statistics year over year.

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Stage and screen: Black entertainment history in Alberta 1900-1920

Written by: Jeremy Kuipers-Witten


The changing landscape of mass entertainment between 1900 and 1920 was just as evident in Alberta as it was anywhere else in North America. February is Black History Month and when one examines Alberta’s entertainment history from 1900 to 1920 through a Black history lens, numerous interesting stories emerge. During this time frame, the popularity of minstrel shows and vaudeville theatre was beginning to diminish. Recorded music and film emerged as new markets for mass entertainment. Black actors and musicians who had formerly appeared on theatrical stages began to appear on recorded media that could be mass produced and shipped all over the world. Additionally, even though the popularity of minstrelsy and vaudeville was dwindling, a genre of black musical performance called jubilee singing remained popular throughout the teens and twenties. Still, despite the fact that African-American and African-Canadian musicians between 1900 and 1920 were participating in all genres of music, the recording and entertainment industries of the time mainly relegated these performers to stereotypically “Black” genres — namely the 19th century genres of minstrelsy and jubilee singing and the new 20th century genres of jazz and blues.

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