Edmonton’s River Valley: The Glitter of the Gold Rush

Every summer around this time of year, I look forward to checking out the sights and sounds of Edmonton’s local exhibition formerly known as Klondike Days. Its very name conjures childhood memories full of non-stop carnival rides, piping hot corn dogs and the sweet smell of freshly spun cotton candy. The name Klondike Days was originally brought in by exhibition organizers in the 1960’s and the Klondike gold rush theme was enthusiastically embraced by the public. I’ve always wondered what our local historical connection to the gold rush really was. Is there really gold to be found in the river valley?

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Man washing gold at Edmonton, 1890. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, B5280

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Paleoindian Archaeology, Pleistocene Extinctions and Mongolian Use of Space: An Interview with Dr. Todd Surovell

The University of Alberta Association of Graduate Anthropology Students will be hosting the 24th Annual Richard Frucht Memorial Lecture Series from March 2-4, 2016. The distinguished speaker for this year’s conference is Dr. Todd Surovell of the University of Wyoming. I had a chance to interview Dr. Surovell about his research ahead of his upcoming visit to Alberta and he offered some fascinating insights into North American colonization, the extinction of North American megafauna, and his observations of household space use by Mongolian reindeer herders as a means to inform archaeological interpretations.

Dr. Todd Surovell at the Barnes Site, Hot Springs County, Wyoming (Photo: Todd Surovell)
Dr. Todd Surovell at the Barnes Site, Hot Springs County, Wyoming (Photo: Todd Surovell)

How long have you been doing archaeology? What got you interested in it?

I have been doing archaeology for about 23 years. I got interested in archaeology somewhat by accident; I always thought I would be a biologist, zoologist, or ornithologist as I was an avid bird-watcher, but I registered for a course called Introduction to Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin and the teaching assistant was advertising an archaeology field school in western Wisconsin. I did the field school and fell in love with field archaeology. Read more

Hangar 14 and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) is considered to be Canada’s primary contribution to the Second World War. Although the Plan was only in existence from 1940 to 1945, it left a lasting impact on Alberta and Canada as a whole. One of the most visible results of the Plan was the building construction that boomed during this time. There are examples of buildings produced during the BCATP period that are still in existence and the historical significance of these structures is evident today, one of which is Hangar 14, located at the former Blatchford Field and Municipal Airport site in Edmonton. This post will look at the foundation of the BCATP and summarize the distinct features of Hangar 14 that demonstrate the building’s significance as a provincial historic resource.

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Hanger 14, the home of the Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton.
(Erin Hoar, 2015)

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Metis Week in Alberta

Photo Credit: Travel Alberta
Photo Credit: Travel Alberta

Events are taking place across the province this week in honour of Metis Week, from November 15-21, 2015. This week provides an opportunity to celebrate Metis people, their culture and their contributions.

Louis Riel Day was celebrated on November 16th, the date that marks the anniversary of Riel’s death in 1885. Riel was a Metis leader who fought for the recognition of Metis people and their rights. He is also credited as the founder of the province of Manitoba. Commemorations and events took place in both the Edmonton and Calgary areas.

Many other events are taking place across the province to celebrate Metis week and it’s not too late to take part! For a full listing of events, click here.

Remembering Beverly’s War Dead: Alberta’s First Great War Memorial

Canada is in the midst of marking the centenary of the Great War of 1914-1918. The war which engulfed the Dominion of Canada was to have dramatic effects on the young, barely decade-old province of Alberta. By 1914 Alberta boasted a greatly expanded population of 470,000 of whom more than 49,000 served in Canada’s armed forces. Of that number over 6,000 died and another 20,000 suffered non-fatal casualties.

On the eastern boundary of Alberta’s capital City of Edmonton the coal mining community of Beverly was incorporated as a Village in 1913 and elevated to the status of Town in July of 1914. Just prior to Canada’s entry into the Great War, Beverly had a population of 1,200, attracting residents from across Read more

Haunted Heritage

In Alberta, autumn is the perfect mix of sun-soaked days and brisk star-filled nights. Our trees are coloured all sorts of stunning shades of sunburst, heralding the changing seasons. As the winds snatch away the golden foliage, only bare lonely branches are left swaying eerily in their place, it’s the perfect time for telling tales of ghosts and spooky places. From haunted hotels to spooky schoolhouses, Alberta has a rich history rife with ghostly tales. It’s no wonder we love to share local tales of the paranormal.

Here’s our top 5 list of the spookiest heritage sites:

1. The McKay Avenue School: Built between 1904 and 1905, the McKay Avenue School is an early twentieth-century, three-story building situated in the heart of Edmonton’s Downtown district. The building has a red-brick façade with sandstone trim, round arches over the windows, and imposing columns flanking the main entrance. The building hosted the inaugural session of the Alberta Legislative Assembly. It’s also connected to early educational institutions in Edmonton and is an example of stately Richardson Romanesque architectural style.

McKay Avenue School circa 1913, Edmonton (photo courtesy of Provincial Archives of Alberta)
McKay Avenue School circa 1913, Edmonton, said to be haunted by spirits of children and a worker who fell from the roof to his death (photo courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta).

The school is now home to the Edmonton Public Schools Archive and Museum run by the Edmonton Public School Board. Tales abound of possible paranormal activity in the building including objects mysteriously moving around, water taps found running, and lights being turned off and on by Read more

Labour Day Weekend at Alberta’s Historic Sites, Interpretive Centres and Museums

If you’re looking for some family fun this Labour Day weekend, consider visiting one of Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites, Interpretive Centres or Museums. There is a lot of great programming that offers something for everyone – from strolling through gardens and learning about 1920s fashion, to carriage rides, guided hikes and tours, and getting your hands dirty and bellies full at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum Harvest Festival! Many of our sites, centres and museums are open year round but several others will be closing for the season after Labour Day. Don’t miss your opportunity to visit these sites before they close for the year!

In Southern Alberta, the Brooks Aqueduct and Leitch Collieries Read more

Flint Knapping with the Archaeological Society of Alberta

The Archaeological Society of Alberta (ASA) is an amateur organization of over 400 members who are dedicated to promoting, protecting, and preserving Alberta’s heritage. The society regularly holds events that allow the public to actively experience archaeology in the province.

In March the Strathcona chapter of the ASA held a flint-knapping and tool-making workshop in Edmonton. The ASA workshop allowed members to get first-hand experience making the stone, or lithic, tools that are among the most common artifacts found in archaeological sites in Alberta. Prior to the arrival of metals with Europeans in North America, First Nations people created tools such as blades, knives, axes, and projectile points, by knapping stones. Knapping technology is not unique to Alberta, but was used by humans and our ancestors in all parts of the world beginning as early as 3.3 million years ago in Africa. Today many archaeologists practice knapping to better understand the material culture recovered from archaeological sites. Knapping is also a common hobby among archaeologists and non-archaeologists alike.

Creating Stone Tools

First, cores of lithic raw material are precisely broken using hammerstones (stones and antler) to produce large, flat flakes. At the workshop, participants knapped obsidian and dacite, two types of stone that are easy to use for beginners. When knapping, safety is always top priority. Striking stones such as obsidian produces tiny shards of the material, which tend to scatter and can easily cause injury. To prevent accidents, knappers use hand and eye protection, and always have plenty of bandages at the ready. The scattered waste flakes produced when knapping are called ‘debitage’ by archaeologists.

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ASA participants using hammerstones to produce lithic (stone) flakes and debitage.

Next, smaller flakes of stone can be worked into tools. Instead of striking the stone, smaller flakes can be removed by applying consistent force in a process called pressure flaking. In the picture below, a knapper is using a copper pressure flaker to work the edge of a projectile point.

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A knapper using a copper pressure flaker to work the edge of a projectile point.

Finally, the knappers were able to haft their new tools onto wood or antler shafts and handles. The stone tools were affixed into the wooden handles using pine pitch, and then fastened using animal sinew and hide glue. In archaeological sites the organic shafts, handles, and fastening materials have usually decayed, leaving only the stone tools behind.

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Some of the tools created at the ASA Flint Knapping workshop

Becoming a good knapper takes a lot of patience and practice, and it helps to have a good teacher. If you are interested in learning how to knap stone tools, there will be two knapping events in Alberta this year in July and September.

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Written by: Colleen Haukaas, Archaeological Permits & Digital Information Coordinator.

The 1909 Rutherford Cup – The Start of an Alberta Sporting Tradition

With the onset of spring, the attention of many Canadians turn to the perennial quest for the Stanley Cup, the storied challenge trophy, emblematic of hockey supremacy. Few realize that in Alberta one of Canada’s oldest sporting challenge trophies was established in 1909 by then Premier, Alexander C. Rutherford and is competed for until the present day. The history of the Rutherford Cup is as old as that of football’s Grey Cup and senior hockey’s Allen Cup all of which were established 106 years ago.

Alexander Cameron Rutherford, Alberta’s first Premier [1905-1910], distinguished himself not only as a legislator but also as an active participant in many aspects of Alberta’s developing society. Sporting activities featured prominently among Premier Rutherford’s many interests. He held executive positions with baseball, curling and football (what we now call soccer) clubs in Strathcona and established competitive trophies for the Strathcona Curling Club and the Strathcona Football Club. In 1909 Rutherford also established a challenge trophy to be vied for by senior high school soccer teams in central Alberta. The first competition for the cup culminated on the afternoon of Saturday October 16, 1909 at Edmonton’s Diamond Park in a match between Edmonton High School and Red Deer High School.

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Premier Alexander Cameron Rutherford with Edmonton High School team, winners of the inaugural Rutherford Cup, 1909. Source: City of Edmonton Archives EA-10-18

As reported by the Edmonton Bulletin, the first half of the inaugural championship match was fast and close with neither side scoring, but was marred by an unfortunate accident at the 15 minute mark. Red Deer full-back and team captain Carswell “came into violent collision” with an Edmonton forward while trying to prevent a shot on goal and broke his leg. The injured player was attended to by Dr. McGibbon and dispatched by ambulance to the Misericordia Hospital. Edmonton played an aggressive first half, giving the Red Deer goal keeper Hewson “plenty to do.” Half-back McLean played a strong game for Red Deer while on the forward line Krause and Slade “showed up well.” Hicks and Keffer starred for Edmonton, while Dean’s running and Hepburn’s shooting on goal were features of the game. Hepburn scored the game’s only goal for Edmonton after ten minutes of play in the second half with a very difficult shot. Red Deer was reluctant to concede defeat and pressed strongly in the last minutes of play with the final result “in doubt until the whistle blew for full time.” A reception was held that evening at Queen’s Avenue School with a short program of games, songs and recitations along with “dainty refreshments served by the girls of the school.” Brief addresses were given by Edmonton High School Principal William Rea, and Superintendent James McCaig, the trustee of the Rutherford Cup. Red Deer spokesman McLean stated that although defeated, his team was prepared to challenge for the trophy again and “contest its possession with the present holders.”

Determined to avenge its loss, Red Deer honed its skills during the spring of 1910 in preparation for a rematch with Edmonton. The Edmonton Journal announced that the Red Deer squad was coming to Edmonton to try to “lift the Rutherford Cup,” this time “much strengthened” and “confident of success”. The grudge match was played on Saturday April 23, 1910. The Red Deer squad was indeed much improved, the Journal noting that in the loose game they worked well together and back checked quickly. They appeared “to have had much more practice than the local boys,” were heavier and “knew how to use the weight.” Krause at centre was his team’s star, scoring the game’s solitary goal after only four minutes of play. Edmonton’s left winger Dean made spectacular individual rushes, bringing the ball down the field repeatedly, only to have the centre field man fail to score. Full-back Gillespie also played a “brilliant” game, working his position well and punting strongly, his quick checking preventing Red Deer from running up a much larger final score. Although attendance at the match was small. “fair co-eds were out in large numbers and cheered lustily for the Edmonton boys.”

The Edmonton press lamented the result of the match with partisan headlines: “Red Deer Grabs Rutherford Cup E.H.S. Pigskin Chasers Are Defeated by Students From the Half Way City.” The City of Red Deer celebrated that their boys had successfully journeyed to Edmonton and “annexed the handsome Rutherford cup” on the strength of Krause’s “doing the needful.” The Red Deer Advocate noted that the boys were “deserving of high praise for their clever play” and paid tribute to Edmonton’s hospitality. Following the match the competitors were royally received at a banquet hosted by Col. Robert Belcher, whose son captained the losing side.

Archbishop O’Leary High School, Winners of the Rutherford Cup, 1994. Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism.
Figure 2 Archbishop O’Leary High School, Winners of the Rutherford Cup, 1994. Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism.

Since its inception in 1909 the Rutherford Cup has been competed for almost annually, making it perhaps Alberta’s oldest athletic competition. Until 1988 senior soccer teams from the Edmonton Public and Separate (Catholic) Schools Boards challenged each other for the cup. When these two boards discontinued their joint athletics board, the competition lapsed and since then only senior schools of the Separate system have competed for the cup within the Metro Edmonton High School Athletic Association which currently includes 51 member high schools from the Edmonton and Metro Edmonton area.

To follow the annual progress of play for the Rutherford Cup check the Metro Edmonton High School Athletic Association website at: http://metroathletics.ca/index.php.

The original version of this article appeared as “1909 Rutherford Cup – The Start of an Alberta Sporting Tradition” in Alberta Past, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring, 1995.

Written By: Peter Melnycky, Historian, Historic Places Stewardship Section, Alberta Culture and Tourism.

Speakers’ Studio – Doors Open Edmonton

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Time: 1pm

Location: Prince of Wales Armoury, Edmonton – Jefferson Room.

Ever wonder how the Government of Alberta evaluates places to determine if they are historic? I’m giving a talk on how historic places are evaluated in Alberta as part of the Edmonton Historical Society’s Historic Festival and Doors Open Edmonton Speakers’ Studio. If you’d like to learn more about heritage value, statements of significance and the heritage inventory process come down to the Prince of Wales Armoury on Saturday July 7th. The talk begins in the Jefferson Room at 1pm.

The Prince of Wales Armoury (which is a Provincial Historic Resource) is located south of the Royal Alexandra Hospital at 10440 – 108 Avenue, Edmonton.

Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer