Adams Lake: Officially Recognizing a Long–standing Local Name

Adams Lake (looking west), August 29, 2012, Alberta Geographical Names Program
Adams Lake (looking west), August 29, 2012, Alberta Geographical Names Program

The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation and the Minister of Culture has officially adopted the name Adams Lake for a small lake in Red Deer County (see information bulletin). The lake is approximately 100 hectares (250 acres) in size and located about two kilometres south of Raven and 35 kilometres west of Innisfail. The adoption of this name is significant as it commemorates the Adams family, who homesteaded in the region, and recognizes a name that has been used locally for about 100 years.

David Arthur and Julia Marie Adams, 1902, Photograph courtesy of the Adams family
David Arthur and Julia Marie Adams, 1902, Photograph courtesy of the Adams family

The name commemorates the family of David and Julia Adams. David Arthur Adams was born in Stratford, Ontario. As a young man he met Julia Marie Hedlund, of Chippewa County, Minnesota at a hotel in Lakota, North Dakota. They were married in 1902 and lived for a time with David’s parents in Birtle, Manitoba. The couple soon struck out on their own and lived for a time in Vancouver and Mission, British Columbia and in Calgary, Alberta. Ultimately, in 1912, they settled on a homestead in the Raven District. The homestead, NW2-36-4-W5, was on the eastern shore of a small lake. The lake had been previously noted as “Lake No. 3” in a 1904 Dominion Land Survey Plan of Township 36-4-W5 and it appears unnamed on most federal government maps of the region following that date. It became popular with people from as far away as Spruce View for skating in the winter months and after 1912, it became known to locals as “Adams Lake,” likely due to the family’s proximity.

By the time the Adams’ had settled near Raven, they were raising six children, and four more were born during their time at the homestead. According to David and Julia’s descendents, the land the family was working was not ideal for agriculture and, perhaps for this reason, at the age of 42, David Adams enlisted for service with the 187th (Central Alberta) Regiment during the First World War. Following the war he returned to farming. However, as the older children grew up and left home for farms in the neighbouring districts, and other careers of their own in Spruce View, Bowden, Innisfail and Rocky Mountain House, the farmstead was not sustainable and at some point in the 1920s David and Julia also left the area. David passed away in Calgary in 1942. Julia lived with her children in the Dickson and Kevisville districts and the Pigeon Lake area before also passing away in Calgary in 1966.

Aerial Imagery: Adams LakeAlthough the Adams family remained in the general area for some time, their direct association with the lake was relatively short. However, field research done by the Alberta Geographical Names Program in 1981 and 2012 found that the name Adams Lake was still being used by many local residents and that the name had been in use since at least the 1920s, probably even longer. The lake has also been identified by that name in local publications, newspapers and water conservation reports for the area.

In Alberta, geographical names are adopted after being evaluated against the “Principles of Geographical Naming.” These principles can be found in the Geographical Names Manual. The principles to approve names are based on national and international standards and guidelines and hold that names that have a demonstrated local and/or historical usage should be given primacy when names are being considered for features with no official name. In 2011, Robert Nanninga, a resident of the Raven area applied to Alberta Culture to have the long-standing, but unofficial name given official recognition by Alberta Culture. A considerable amount of information was provided by the applicant and the region’s local history (Grub Axe to Grain…). However, the real breakthrough came when another area resident put researchers in touch with Ken Adams, a grandson of David and Julia. Through him connections were made with Georgina O’Coin, a granddaughter, and Edith Hudson (née Adams), the last surviving child of David and Julia. When these three family members were interviewed in Red Deer in August 2012, Mrs. Hudson was 101 years old. The information given during this interview proved invaluable in firming up the history of the lake and family by providing more details than were included in the local history. It was a true pleasure to be able to meet with the descendents of this homesteading family.

LtoR: Georgina O’Coin, Ken Adams, Edith Hudson (née Adams). Taken at Red Deer, August 29, 2012, Alberta Geographical Names Program
LtoR: Georgina O’Coin, Ken Adams, Edith Hudson (née Adams). Taken at Red Deer, August 29, 2012, Alberta Geographical Names Program

The Adams Lake naming proposal was supported by the Municipal Council of Red Deer County. The Board of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation decided to officially adopt the name during their October 20, 2012 meeting in Banff. On November 19, 2012, the Minister of Culture concurred with the board’s decision and the adoption of the name became official. Notification of the adoption of the name Adams Lake was published in Alberta Gazette on January 15, 2013. Notification of the new official name has been communicated to provincial mapping authorities and to the Secretariat of the Geographical Names Board of Canada for inclusion in the Canadian Geographical Names Database, ensuring that the name will appear on new maps of the region produced by the federal and provincial governments.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator

Location

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 83 B/1 – Markerville

Latitude/Longitude: 52° 04′ 05″ N & 114° 29′ 05″ W

Alberta Township System: Sec. 3 Twp. 36 Rge. 4 W5

Description: Approximately two km south of Raven and 35 km west of Innisfail (town).

Additional Resources 

Additional information about the lake and the Adams family can be found in:

Grub Axe to Grain…: A History of Craig, Dickson, Happy Hill, Heckla, Hola, Markerville, New Hill, North Raven, Raven, Red Raven, Rich Hill, Spruce View (Spruce View: Spruce View School Area Historical Society, 1973). Available from Our Future Our Past: The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project, University of Calgary, http://www.ourfutureourpast.ca/loc_hist/toc.aspx?id=7618.

Andrew

Apparently we can use some kind of built in WordPress web analytics tool to find out which search terms people enter into their web browsers to arrive at RETROactive. Curiously, over the past few days, there have been a number of searches for the origin of the name Andrew, which is a village in east-central Alberta. There is nothing on RETROactive that will provide that information, so I figured I would make the origin of the name of the Village of Andrew the subject of this post. So, anonymous searching person, I don’t know if you are still out there, but This One’s For You!!!

Andrew is a village located in east-central Alberta, approximately 70 km northeast of Edmonton and 45 km NNW of Vegreville. The community is named for prominent, early resident Andrew Whitford, who was a member of the large Métis, Whitford family that resided in the vicinity of Victoria Settlement. The nearby Whitford Lake, Whitford Creek and the hamlet of Whitford are all named for the family.

Andrew MapAndrew Whitford was born about 1830. It appears that he worked as a freighter and travelled extensively throughout the North West Territories. In 1885, he served as a scout during the North-West Rebellion, for which he, along with other scouts and militia members, received two adjacent quarter sections of land. Whitford selected the SE and SW quarters of Section 32, Township 56, Range 16, West of the 4th Meridian. He was widely acknowledged as a leader in the community; issues of the Edmonton Bulletin note many instances of his support for local charitable causes and his frequent support for orphaned children and destitute families in the Star/Whitford/Andrew region through the late 1890s. He also served as a founding trustee and later treasurer of the local school district, which was established in 1895 and called, fittingly enough, the Whitford School District No. 393. In the spring of 1901, a small pox epidemic broke out in east-central Alberta. Andrew Whitford contracted the disease and passed away on April 26. A short obituary appeared in the May 3, 1901 issue of the Edmonton Bulletin:

Died, at Whitford on April 26th, 1901, Andrew Whitford, aged about 70 years of small pox and complications. The demise of Mr. Whitford removes from our midst a man of universal respect and an old land mark of the west who could tell many reminiscences of early life between old Fort Gary and Vancouver. He was a trusted and worthy scout of ’85, and saw much of the stirring rebellion. At his death he was treasurer of Whitford P.S.D., April 26, 1901.

Main Street of Andrew, Alberta, ca. 1930. Photograph by Nicholas W. Gavinshuk, Provincial Archives of Alberta, G208.
Main Street of Andrew, Alberta, ca. 1930. Photograph by Nicholas W. Gavinchuk, Provincial Archives of Alberta, G208.

John Borwick, a long-time guide and early settler in the same region, operated a stopping house at NW28-56-16-W4, near the junction of the Winnipeg Trail and the Calgary-Pakan Trail. Following Whitford’s death, Borwick named the stopping house the Andrew Hotel, in honour of his friend and long-time compatriot. Alongside the Andrew Hotel was a store owned by Ed Carey. On March 1, 1902, a post office was established and given the name Andrew. Eliza Borwick, John’s wife, was the first postmaster. A small, but thriving rural community began developing around these three facilities.

In 1928, after much lobbying by area residents, the Canadian Pacific Railway built a line through the region and surveyed a town site at SE32-56-16-W4 on the north side of the tracks. The rural community of Andrew was located mostly on the neighbouring quarter section to the southeast. The Andrew Hotel, the post office, the store and most of the rest of the community moved to the new surveyed town site. Fittingly, the new town site of Andrew was located on one of Andrew Whitford’s original quarter sections. Two years later, on June 24, 1930, Andrew was erected as a village. According to 2011 Census of Canada, the Village of Andrew has a population of 379, down from 465 in 2006.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Place Names Coordinator

Location

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 83 H/16 – Willingdon

Latitude/Longitude:

53° 52’ 42” N & 112° 20’ 07” W

Alberta Township System:

Sec 32 Twp 56 Rge 16 W4

Description:

Approximately 70 km northeast of Edmonton and 45 km NNW of Vegreville.

Additional Resources

More information about the Village of Andrew can be found in:

Andrew Historical Society, Dreams and Destinies: Andrew and District, (Andrew: Andrew Historical Society, 1980).

Cathy Chorniawy, Commerce in the Country: A Land Use and Structural History of the Luzan Grocery Store, (Edmonton: Alberta Culture, Government of Alberta, 1989).

Lee Creek (Or is it “Lee’s Creek”?) – Part 2 of 2

In Part 1, we read about “Lee’s Creek,” as mentioned in Corb Lund’s song “The Truth Comes Out” and how Lee Creek in the Cardston area is named for early pioneer William Samuel Lee.  So, what’s up with the different spelling? Is it Lee Creek or Lee’s Creek? It may actually be both. Confused? Read on for more. 

Even though Lee only lived on the creek named for him for about three years (1867-1870), the name stuck. A map produced by the Geological Survey of Canada in 1884 identifies the creek as “Lee’s Creek.” In 1894, the name “Lee Creek” (without the possessive apostrophe) was recorded by the Dominion Land Survey in the field notes of surveyor Fred W. Wilkins and in the diary of Arthur O. Wheeler (for more about Wheeler see the St. Nicholas Peak post of December 22, 2011). In 1901, the Geographic Board of Canada approved the non-possessive form of the name – Lee Creek – for use on official maps. The portion of the creek south of the 49th parallel remained officially unnamed until 1929, when the United States Board on Geographical Names (USBGN) sanctioned the name Lee Creek for their portion of the water feature.

So why the different spellings of Lee/Lee’s Creek? The use of the possessive form of words in place names is generally discouraged. Some of the rationales for not using the possessive form of names are that geographical features do not belong to a single person or group, but to all people; that place names are not words with a specific dictionary meaning, but are labels to which standard grammatical rules do not necessarily apply; and that the presence of apostrophes cause confusion, particularly when attempting to retrieve names in modern databases, internet search engines and directional software used by emergency services (police, ambulance, fire). There is also a belief (likely apocryphal) that apostrophes were not used on early maps because they were often confused with the standard cartographic notation indicating the presence of stones and rocks.

Lee Creek with a Kainai (Blood) encampment in the distance,
taken near Cardston, 1898.

The USBGN and the Committee for Geographical Names in Australia both have policies prohibiting the use of the possessive apostrophe in the official names of geographical features. Many naming regulatory bodies in the United Kingdom have been eliminating apostrophes from their official names. Canada and Alberta also discourage the use of the possessive apostrophe, however Principle 5(A) of Alberta’s “Principles of Geographical Naming” does allow for the use of possessive forms if it can be demonstrated that form of the name is in long-standing local use.

However, despite all of the official naming standards and policies, local names and forms die hard. In the case of Lee Creek, even more than 110 years after that form of the name was officially adopted the locals still refer to it as “Lee’s Creek. When asked if the Lee Creek on the map was the same as the Lee’s Creek in his song, Corb Lund replied

Yup. Same one. It flows right through our ranch near Beazer. I grew up swimming and fly fishing it. My Grandpa, whose father homesteaded the place, called it “Lee’s Creek.” “Lee’s Crick to be really precise, but I’ve seen it called “Lee Creek.” In my experience, the locals I knew called it “Lee’s” and the book name was always “Lee,” but your mileage may vary…

At the end of the day, whatever the form the name takes, Lee (or Lee’s) Creek, the creek and its name continues to commemorate one of Alberta’s earliest pioneers.

To read Part 1, click here.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator 

Location: 

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 N/09 – Hector Lake

Latitude/Longitude:

48° 59’ 53” N & 113° 36’ 02” W (at US/Canada border) to

49° 13′ 25″ N & 113° 15′ 59″ W (at confluence with St. Mary River)

Alberta Township System:

SW ¼, Sec 6 Twp 1 Rge 27 W4 (at US/Canada border) to

SW ¼, Sec 23 Twp 3 Rge 25 W4 (at confluence with St. Mary River)

Description:

Flows generally north-easterly from the border for approximately 65 km (35 km straight line) until it joins the St. Mary River just north of the Town of Cardston 

Additional Resources: 

More information about and images of Lee Creek and William Samuel Lee can be found in:

C. Drain, “Lee, William – The Pass was his Bull Run,” Crowsnest and its People, 2nd printing, (Coleman: Crowsnest Pass Historical Society, 1980), 662-663

Lee Creek (Or is it “Lee’s Creek”?) – Part 1 of 2

The inspiration for some of these blog posts comes from the darndest places and some have extremely long gestation periods. Such is the case with this one.

William Samuel Lee, ca. 1900

Place names have a long history of being used in popular music. While American references abound, finding songs that mention Alberta, or even Canadian places or names are much harder to find. It seems that people would rather leave their heart in San Francisco than in Sangudo or spread the news about New York rather than New Sarepta. But if you look hard enough, there are examples of Alberta place names used in songs.

It was early January 2012. I was desperately trying to get the once enjoyable, but now overplayed and cloyingly sentimental tones of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole from running through my head like the soundtrack to some never-ending, slightly demented holiday television special. So, I popped one of my favourite CDs into the player and the wonderful sounds of Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans started emanating from my speakers. The disc eventually came around to Track 8, “The Truth Comes Out.” Now, the house is pretty quiet, and I am listening to the lyrics much more closely than I otherwise might, and I hear:

You gotta’ look out for bear when you’re fishing on Lee’s Creek

They come ‘round the bend and they’ll make your knees weak

There’s grizzlies where there was no grizzly bears before.

Now, I know that Corb Lund is from southern Alberta and even though I am the names guy, I am not all that familiar with the southern reaches of the province. After mulling over the song for awhile, I start to wonder if there really is a “Lee’s Creek.” So, I fire up the old Alberta Geographical Names Database and sure enough there is a “Lee’s Creek,” or more properly there is a Lee Creek (more on that in a moment) in southern Alberta. It is a substantial creek with an interesting history.

Lee Creek is located in south-western Alberta. It rises within Montana’s Glacier National Park and flows generally north-easterly, crossing into Canada about 16 kilometres west of the Carway, AB / Peigan, MT border crossing. It continues to meander generally north-easterly for about 60 km (35 km as the crow flies), passing through the Town of Cardston before joining the St. Mary River in Section 23, Township 3, Range 25, West of the 4th Meridian (approximately 60 km south-west of Lethbridge).

The creek is named for William Samuel Lee. According to a local history of the Crowsnest Pass region, Lee was born in England at about 1830. As a young man, he migrated to the United States and worked in New York and Ohio before making his way to California hoping to make his fortune in the gold rush. Like most prospectors, Lee’s hopes of quick wealth in the gold fields were disappointed and he headed north to Fort Benton, Montana District to try his hand at fur trading. In 1867, Lee crossed the border into Rupert’s Land where he came upon a well-used ford across a substantial creek. He established a small trading post beside the ford (just west of present-day Beazer). The creek soon became known as “Lee’s Creek.”

Lee did not stay long on the creek named for him; he moved to the Pincher Creek area in 1870 and began ranching. He squatted on land along the shores of a lake (Lee Lake, go figure) about three km south east of present day Burmis. A few years later, Lee was evicted by the Hudson’s Bay Company and he moved his ranch, buildings and all, to a site north of Burmis. Lee is an important figure in the history of the Crowsnest Pass. He is considered to be the first non-native resident of the Pass; he discovered sulphur springs near present-day Frank; opened a boarding house; and built the region’s first school. William Lee spent the rest of his life in the Crowsnest region; he died of pneumonia in 1896.

Curious to learn more? Check out Part 2.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator

Location:

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 N/09 – Hector Lake

Latitude/Longitude:

48° 59’ 53” N & 113° 36’ 02” W (at US/Canada border) to

49° 13′ 25″ N & 113° 15′ 59″ W (at confluence with St. Mary River)

Alberta Township System:

SW ¼, Sec 6 Twp 1 Rge 27 W4 (at US/Canada border) to

SW ¼, Sec 23 Twp 3 Rge 25 W4 (at confluence with St. Mary River)

Description:

Flows generally north-easterly from the border for approximately 65 km (35 km straight line) until it joins the St. Mary River just north of the Town of Cardston 

Additional Resources: 

More information about and images of Lee Creek and William Samuel Lee can be found in:

C. Drain, “Lee, William – The Pass was his Bull Run,” Crowsnest and its People, 2nd printing, (Coleman: Crowsnest Pass Historical Society, 1980), 662-663

Zama

Aerial View of Zama City, looking south. Photograph courtesy of Curtis Johnston.

Much of Alberta’s natural resource wealth is found in the northern parts of the province, but despite the importance of our northern reaches, many of us do not often think about the north until we are somehow forcibly reminded to do so. One of these moments occurred on Thursday, July 12, 2012 when much of north-western Alberta was blanketed with smoke. People in Edmonton awoke to hazy skies and the unmistakable smell of smoke in the air. So, where did this smoke come from? Most were surprised to hear that it came from a massive forest fire near Zama City, about 700 km north.

News reports about the fire and its location had people asking “Zama City? Where is Zama City? And what kind of name is that anyways?”

Zama refers to a place and a few geographical features. These names are presented in order of their official adoption.

Zama River

The Zama River rises in the wetlands around Bootis Hill about 30 km northwest of Zama City and flows generally south for approximately 85 km before entering Hay Lake. The river was named by Ernest Wilson Hubbell of the Dominion Land Survey. Hubbell was born in Brockville, Canada East (later Ontario) in 1862. He joined the military and served as a Lieutenant during the Riel Rebellion, following which he attended the Royal Military College in Kingston, graduating in 1881. A few years later, he was employed by the Dominion Land Survey.

As chief of a survey party, Hubbell traveled extensively throughout western Canada. He recorded the name “Zammah River” in his 1921 field notes. That same year, Hubbell drew a map of Hay Lake. On this map he notes the “Zamah River” being on average two chains wide, four feet deep, having a current of two mph and flowing through muskeg and swamp. He also notes an “Indian trail” on the river’s west side. In a letter dated  21 March 1922 to the Geographic Board of Canada (GBC), Hubbell noted that “[d]uring the season of 1921, I traversed Hay Lake, Northern Alberta, and named rivers … being unable to identify those streams with any others previously recorded.” He further explained that the name “Zammah [is] the transliteration of the name of the Slavey Chief whose trail follows up this river.” The GBC accepted the name during its 4 July 1922 meeting, but altered the spelling to Zama River; no explanation being given for the alteration.

Other surveyors have also commented on the river, notably B. M. Rustad in 1965, who noted in Section 34 of Township 116-7-W6, that the Zama River was 13 feet wide and flowed through “gently undulating country well stocked with Poplar and Spruce to 12 inches diameter, Willow and Alder.” The Dene Tha’ people (formerly known as the Slave or Slavey Indians) identify the river by the traditional name Kólaa Zahéh, which translates as “Old Man River.” There is some thought that this may be a reference to Dene chief Zamba or Zammah referred to by Hubbell, but it is more likely to be a reference to First Nations spirituality and creation stories.

Location

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 84 L/15 – Habay

Latitude/Longitude:

59° 15’ 11” N & 119° 10’ 58” W (approximate location of head waters) to

58° 31′ 38″ N & 118° 50′ 13″ W (at point of entry to Hay Lake)

Alberta Township System:

Sec 18 Twp 118 Rge 7 W6 (approximate location of head waters) to

Sec 31 Twp 113 Rge 5 W6 (at point of entry to Hay Lake)

Description: Generally south for approximately 85 km (47 km strait line) until it enters Hay lake about 50 km NE of the Town of Rainbow Lake and 105 km WNW of the Town of High Level. 

Zama Lake

Zama Lake is located about 50 km southwest of Zama City. The lake also appears to have been named by E. W. Hubbell, DLS. Oddly, the Zama River does not directly enter Zama Lake; Zama Lake and Hay Lake are connected by a substantial wetland. Although the name for both the river and lake were recorded in 1921, the name Zama Lake was not officially adopted until November 6, 1944. The Dene Tha’ do not use the name Zama Lake, but use traditional names to identify the lake. Some of the Dene Tha’ use the name K’ah Woti Túé, which translates as “Main Blind Lake” (referring to a hunting or duck blind). The Dene around Assumption on the Hay Lake Reserve identify the lake with the name Tulonh Mieh, which translates as “Where the Water Ends.” This is thought to be a reference to the lake being the western-most of the Hay-Zama Lakes group.

Location (approximate centre of lake)

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 84 L/11

Latitude/Longitude: 58° 45’ 00” N & 119° 05’ 00” W

Alberta Township System: Twp 112 Rge 7 W6

Description: Approximately 25 km NE of the Town of Rainbow Lake and 115 km WNW of the Town of High Level.

Zama Lake Indian Reserve No. 210

The Zama Lake Indian Reserve No. 210 is an irregularly-shaped, 2,307 hectare (5,700 acre) reserve located just west of Zama Lake. The reserve is one of seven administered by the Dene Tha’ people. The Zama Lake reserve was created by provincial Order-in-Council No. 547/50, which was signed on May 15, 1950. To “enable Canada to fulfil its obligations under the treaties with the Indians of the Province” the order set aside the land, and transferred title to the Dominion of Canada, to be known as the Zama Lake Indian Reserve No. 210. This transfer was confirmed by Order-in-Council 594/50, which was signed on May 22, 1950. There are no official or permanent settlements on the reserve and it is administered from the band office at Chateh on the Assumption reserve about 30 km to the east.

Location (approximate centre of reserve)

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 84 L/11

Latitude/Longitude: 58° 44’ 12” N & 119° 14’ 27” W

Alberta Township System: Twp 112 Rge 8 W6

Description: Approximately 23 km NE of the Town of Rainbow Lake and 115 km WNW of the Town of High Level. 

Zama City

Imperial Oil Seismic Crew in the Zama Lake/Rainbow Lake Region, Summer 1950
Glenbow Archives (S-236-46) .

Zama City is a hamlet administered by Mackenzie County. It is located approximately 115 km in a straight line (150 km by road) northwest of High Level. It is a service centre for the Zama oil field, which is possibly the largest oil and gas field in the province. According to the 2011 Census of Canada, there are 93 permanent residents in Zama City, but the hamlet often supports a transient workforce population approaching 4,000 people.

The oil fields of the Zama region were discovered between 1965 and 1969. It is unclear exactly when the community was founded. The 1:250,000 NTS Map for the region (Bistcho Lake) produced in 1963 shows the nearby airfields, but no town site. A local history of the High Level area, Notes of the North,published in 1977, suggests that a small community had been established by 1968. It may have been originally known as “Cameron Corner” after an early oil company, but soon became known as Zama City, after the nearby lake and river and the oil field it depended on (It is assumed the “city” was intended as irony). The name of the community was officially recognized as Zama City on September 10, 1980. Although still a relatively isolated northern outpost, Zama City boasts most of the services and facilities one would expect to find anywhere in the province.

In mid-July, 2012, a massive forest fire near Zama City threatened the community, coming within 10 km of the hamlet. Residents of Zama City were evacuated on Wednesday, July 11. The fire was held off and the evacuation order was lifted on July 20, allowing residents to return to their homes.

Location

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 84 M/02 – Moody Creek

Latitude/Longitude: 59° 09’ 09” N & 118° 40’ 50” W

Alberta Township System: Sec 7 Twp 112 Rge 4 W6

Description: Approximately 115 km NE strait-line of the Town of High Level (150 km by road).

 Hay-Zama Lakes Wildland Provincial Park

The Hay-Zama Lakes Wildland Provincial Park is a large park that encompasses the wetlands surrounding Hay Lake and Zama Lake. The park is 486 square kilometres (188 square miles) in size and is made up of a complex network of rivers, creeks, lakes, floodplains, and muskeg. The wetlands are on three of the four major duck migration roots and are a significant habitat for numerous other types of waterfowl and furbearing mammals. The park is also serving as a re-introduction site for wood bison. In 1982, the Hay-Zama Lakes wetland was recognized as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which has been promoting wetlands conservation since 1971. The Hay-Zama Lakes Wildland Provincial Park was created by Order-in-Council 202/99, which was signed on May 5, 1999.

Location (approximate centre of park)

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 84 L/15

Latitude/Longitude: 58° 45’ 56” N & 118° 58’ 53” W

Alberta Township System: Twp 112 Rge 6 W6

Description: Approximately 37 km NE of the Town of Rainbow Lake and 105 km WNW of the Town of High Level.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Officer

Additional Resources: 

More information about these Ernest Hubbell and the Zama group of geographical features and places can be found at:

Alberta. Tourism, Recreation, Parks & Culture, “Alberta Parks: Hay-Zama Lakes Wildland Park,” [document] available from http://www.albertaparks.ca/media/2661/HayZama_web.pdf.

Alberta Land Surveyors Association, “Ernest Wilson Hubbell,” Alberta’s Land Surveying History,available from http://www.landsurveyinghistory.ab.ca/Characters/Hubbell_EW.htm.

Mackenzie County, “Communities: Zama City,” available from http://www.mackenziecounty.com/index.php/about-us/communities.

Taking Initiative!

The Clear Hills Watershed Initiative’s Lake and Creek Names Research Project 

The Clear Hills Watershed Initiative is working on a research project to uncover the local, historical and traditional names used by area residents to identify the creeks and lakes in their region. The Initiative is concerned with water use and quality, and educating the residents of the region about the local water supply. The Initiative believes that researching the names of their creeks and lakes and disseminating that information will raise the profile of these creeks and lakes and will increase the pride and value that people place on these resources.

Volunteers of the Clear Hills Watershed Initiative naming project  making research notes on maps of the region. Eureka River Hall, March 31, 2012.

The Alberta Geographical Names Program was first approached by the Clear Hills Watershed Initiative in 2010 when they were seeking information on having new geographical names officially adopted. The group has been actively interviewing many of the older residents of the region, with particular attention to the trappers, First Nations people and the men and women who have lived and worked in the backwoods of that section of northern Alberta. What the researchers are discovering is that although many of the creeks and lakes in Clear Hills County are not officially named on maps, there are numerous local and historical names used to identify them. The researchers are also discovering the origin stories behind some of the existing official names. These names are often descriptive of the feature’s physical characteristics or commemorate original settlers or trappers that have worked in the area. In all these, local and historical names shed some light on the history of the Clear Hills region.

Sherri Larsen, organizer of the group and a driving force behind the naming project, invited me to attend a meeting of the Initiative’s naming group and to speak at a community supper held at the Eureka River Community Hall on March 31, 2012. What I saw when I arrived was a group of people who are proud of their heritage and who are dedicated to uncovering as much of that heritage as they can while the sources, many of whom are senior citizens, are still able to relate their knowledge. People with knowledge of the region’s back country and waterways are identified and interviewed. Notes are taken about the names they use to identify water features and these names are then annotated on the appropriate 1:50,000 NTS Map Sheets for the region.

At the community dinner these maps were laid on large tables for viewing. As people came into the hall, a number of them drifted over to the map table and made comments on what was named and what wasn’t. Spirited discussion often followed about what such-and-such a creek or lake was named and who had had their trapping cabin on it or which forestry road went by.

Following dinner I gave a short speech to the assembled residents focused on the importance of geographical names as navigational aids and reminders of our heritage. However, with all of my degrees and experience the importance of the Clear Hills Naming Project was succinctly summed up by a junior high school student, who presented a school project about his favourite place in the county. For him this was “Stoney Lake” (officially named Montagneuse Lake). He remembered important gatherings of family and friends and other members of the community at the recreation area on this lake and that lake and those events made him feel connected to his community. He also said that he was able to get most of his information about the lake from his grandfather.

That in essence sums up the role of place names – they are more than navigational aids and points on a map. They represent our community values and history. The knowledge of many of these names and the origin stories behind them lie with many of the older members of our community.

Following the speeches, even more people found their way to the maps and more comments were made, more creeks were identified and more stories were exchanged. As with most community-based heritage, people often believe that they do not have any knowledge of any value or interest; that nobody wants to know what it was like so many years ago. However, it is usually the people who believe that they have nothing interesting to tell that possess the most valuable information of all. It is important for this knowledge of the past to be passed on to the next generation. The volunteers working on the Clear Hills Naming Project are seeking to record this naming and community heritage while the opportunity is still there.

As the Clear Hills Watershed Initiative uncover more historical and local names for their creeks and lakes, they hope to submit them to the Alberta Geographical Names program to be officially adopted. Keep checking this blog, there should be many more interesting names and stories coming out of Clear Hills County in the near future.

Since the March meeting, the Naming Project has acquired the services of a researcher, Dallas Bjornson. Dallas will be spending most of the summer talking to people and recording their stories about the water features in the area. If you can assist the volunteers of the Clear Hills Watershed Initiative in their geographical names research, they would be pleased to hear from you. Contact information can be found at the Initiative’s website under the “Naming Our Creeks and Lakes” link on the website’s main page.

To learn more, visit the Clear Hills Watershed Initiative website.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator

The Big Four (Part 3 of 3)

The 100th anniversary of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede came to a close this past Sunday, July 15, 2012. Today’s blog post will complete the short series about the Big Four and the geographical features named for them. The Big Four were the ranchers and businessmen that funded Guy Weadick’s 1912 wild west show and rodeo, which grew to become today’s Calgary Stampede. Part One of our series was posted on July 10, 2012 and featured Stavely area rancher George Lane and Lane Creek; Part Two was about A. E. Cross and Cross Creek. Today’s post will feature Calgary-based rancher and industrialist Patrick Burns.

Pat Burns: Rancher, Businessman, Industrialist and Senator 

Senator Patrick Burns

Pat Burns is arguably the most successful and well-known of the Big Four. Pat Burns was born and raised in the Lake Simcoe region, near Oshawa, Canada East (later Ontario) in 1856. He migrated west in 1878 and tried his hand at homesteading in Manitoba. While homesteading, he acquired some oxen and hired himself out as a freighter. He also dabbled in livestock trading. Encouraged by the Canadian Pacific Railway, which wanted to prove the viability of long-distance livestock shipments, Burns bought six carloads of hogs and had them shipped east; the venture was profitable. Seeing greater opportunities in livestock trading, Burns abandoned the homestead in 1885 and began trading cattle full-time.

In 1887, Burns was contracted to provide meat to railway construction camps, and within two years he was supplying camps from Maine in the east to Calgary and Edmonton in the west. He established a slaughterhouse in Calgary in 1890 and established a ranch, the first of many, near Olds the following year. In 1902, Burns acquired from William Roper Hull a chain of retail stores and the associated the Bow Valley Ranche (now a Provincial Historic Resource) on Fish Creek south of Calgary. Burns’ company, P. Burns and Co., soon became one of Canada’s largest meat-packing companies, with production facilities and retail stores across the west. It also maintained up to 45,000 head of cattle on numerous ranches in central and southern Alberta, including the Bar U and the Flying E, which were acquired following the death of George Lane in 1927. Burns diversified his company’s investments by successfully expanding into dairy production and fruit and dry goods distribution and, less successfully into the American dairy market and into coal and copper mining and oil and gas exploration.

Burns was active in the community and was a noted philanthropist, providing funding to schools, hospitals, orphanages, old-age homes and widows’ funds. He was also known to send train loads of food to disaster stricken areas. Burns, a supporter of the Liberal Party, was appointed to the Canadian Senate by Conservative Prime Minister, R. B. Bennett; Burns sat as an Independent from 1931 until 1936, when he retired due to health reasons. Pat Burns died on February 24, 1937 at Calgary.

Two geographical features in Alberta are named directly for Patrick Burns, although four features bear his name (Confused? Bear with me).

Mount Burns

Mount Burns is an approximately 2,940 metre (9635’) mountain on the north side of the Sheep River about 40 km west of Turner Valley. In the 1910s, coal had been discovered in Sheep River Valley below this mountain and, in 1913, Pat Burns invested in a coal mine alongside the river. According to historian Grant MacEwan, Burns visited the mine site frequently. The Geological Survey of Canada recommended that the mountain be named Mount Burns, due to the nearby mine and its association with the Calgary businessman. The name was officially adopted by the Geographical Board of Canada On May 2, 1922 and began appearing on federal government maps, such as the 1926 Calgary Sectional Sheet, soon after that.

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 J/10 – Mount Rae

Latitude/Longitude: 50° 38’ 39” N & 114° 51’ 40” W

Alberta Township System: Sec 26 Twp 19 Rge 07 W5

Description: On the north side of the Sheep River Valley, approximately 40 km west of The Town of Turner Valley

Burns Creek

Burns Creek flows off the eastern slopes of the Mount Rae/ Mount Arethusa massif. The creek flows south-easterly off the mountain face into the northern end of a small, high altitude lake (Burns Lake) approximately 1.7 hectares (4.25 acres) in size. The creek exist the south side of the lake and proceeds south-east and then north-east until it meets Rae Creek to form the Sheep River. The creek is approximately eight km in length.

Not much is known about the naming of Burns Creek. The creek is named on the 1926 Calgary Sectional Sheet and it is most certainly named due to its association with the nearby mountain and coalmine. Mountains often lend their names to associated geographical features, such as creeks and lakes. Typically, these creeks run directly off the mountain. For example, Storm Creek runs off Storm Mountain and Warspite Creek runs off Mount Warspite. However, in the case of Burns Creek, the creek is not directly associated with Mount Burns, but is located on the opposite side of the sheep River Valley.

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 J/10 – Mount Rae

Latitude/Longitude: 50° 37’ 00” N & 114° 57’ 58” W (approximate location of head waters) to 50° 37′ 25″ N & 114° 53′ 25″ W (at confluence with Rae Creek and Sheep River)

Alberta Township System: SW ¼, Sec 19 Twp 19 Rge 7 W5 (approximate location of head waters) to NS ¼, Sec 22 Twp 19 Rge 7 W5 (at confluence with Rae Creek and Sheep River)

Description: Flows off the east face of Mount Rae and Mount Arethusa for eight km until it meets Rae Creek to form the Sheep River about 45 km west of the Town of Turner Valley. 

Burns Lake (1)

Burns Lake is both fed and drained by Burns Creek. It was not officially named until the 1980s. In the mid 1980s, Alberta Fish & Wildlife made plans to stock this lake with fish. Information about the lake would be published in the stocking program’s reports and possibly in tourist and angling literature. A Fish & Wildlife officer familiar with the region recommended that the name Burns Lake be officially adopted. This proposal met with the approval of the Citizens’ Action Committee on Kananaskis Country on March 5, 1985 and by the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation on November 14, 1986 and by the Minister of Culture on May 5, 1987.

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 J/10 – Mount Rae

Latitude/Longitude: 50° 36′ 16″ N & 114° 56′ 38″ W

Alberta Township System: Sec 29 Twp 31 Rge 27 W5

Description: On the south side of the Sheep River Valley, approximately 47 km west of the Town of Turner Valley. 

Burns Lake (2) 

The second Burns Lake in Alberta is located near the Town of Olds. It is approximately 22 hectares (54 acres) in size. It is located in the County of Mountain View, about 25 km south east of the Town of Olds and 22 km east of the Town of Didsbury. Pat Burns operated ranches in the general vicinity of this lake. In 1922, S. L. Evans of the Dominion Land Survey recorded the name of the lake as Burns Lake on the plan he drew for Township 31-27-W4. The name was officially adopted by the Geographic Board of Canada for mapping purposes on January 20, 1955.

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 P/12 – Lonepine Creek

Latitude/Longitude: 51° 41′ 13″ N & 113° 48′ 09″ W

Alberta Township System: SW ¼, Sec 17 Twp 19 Rge 7 W5

Description: In Mountain View County, approximately 25 km south-east of the Town of Olds.

 Additional Resources:

 More information about Senator Pat Burns can be found at:

Elofson, Warren, “Burns, Patrick,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, edited by John English and Réal Bélanger, Vol. XVI, available from http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?id_nbr=8428&PHPSESSID=bcpbd4hg2slsgaa1bkv04sukr5.

“Senator Patrick Burns”, Calgary Business Hall of Fame, , available from http://www.calgarybusinesshalloffame.org/bio.php?page=laureates/2009/PatrickBurns.php.

MacEwan, Grant, Pat Burns, Cattle King, (Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1979)

Archie McLean

You may have noticed that this is a series about the Big Four, yet there were only three parts, George Lane and Lane Creek; A. E. Cross and Cross Creek; and Pat Burns and Mount Burns, Burns Creek and two Burns Lakes. What about the other member of the Big Four?

The other member of the Big Four that funded the Calgary Stampede was Archibald “Archie” McLean. McLean was arguably just as successful as his three contemporaries, he was a successful rancher in the Taber and Fort Macleod regions, was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in 1909, 1913 and 1917. However, unlike his three contemporaries, there are no geographical features named for Archie McLean. A bridge on Highway 864 crossing the Oldman River just outside of Taber is named for him (49° 48’ 48”N & 112° 10’ 15”W) and there is a small lake just east of Lethbridge that is locally known by some as “McLean Lake” (49° 41’ 47” N & 112° 45’ 22” W).

For information about Archie McLean can be found on a recent blog post by Lethbridge’s Galt Museum & Archives, which can be accessed at:

http://galtmuseum.blogspot.ca/2012_06_01_archive.html.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator

The Big Four (Part 2 of 3)

The Big Four with HRH Edward, Prince of Wales at the EP Ranch, 1923
LtoR: Pat Burns; George Lane; Edward, The Prince of Wales; Archie McLean; and A. E. Cross.
(Provincial Archives of Alberta, A2658)

During the Centennial year of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, we are posting a short series about the Big Four and the geographical features named for them. The Big Four were the ranchers and businessmen that funded Guy Weadick’s 1912 wild west show and rodeo, which grew to become today’s Calgary Stampede. Part one of our series was posted on July 10, 2012 and featured Stavely area rancher George Lane and Lane Creek.  Today’s post will feature Nanton area rancher and Calgary brewer A. E. Cross and Cross Creek.

A. E. Cross: Rancher, Politician, Oilman and Brewer 

Alfred Ernest Cross was influential in many aspects of Alberta’s economy. Cross was born in 1861 at Montreal. He trained as a veterinarian and came to the North West Territories in 1884 where he was employed as a veterinarian at the Cochrane Ranche (now a Provincial Historic Resource). He left the Cochrane about a year later and started his own operation, the A7 Ranche, on Mosquito Creek, just west of Nanton. For health reasons, Cross returned to Montreal for a time. During this period, he maintained control of the A7, but he also apprenticed as a brewer. He returned to Calgary in 1891 and founded the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company and established a chain of brewery-owned hotels across Western Canada. He was active professionally and socially in the Calgary region, being a founding member of the Ranchmen’s Club, the Calgary Board of Trade and the Western Stock Growers Association. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the North West Territories in 1898, representing East Calgary. Cross contributed to numerous charitable causes and was a noted philanthropist in southern Alberta. He was also instrumental in establishing Alberta’s oil and gas industry; in 1912, he was a founding partner of Calgary Petroleum Products, which would discover gas at Turner Valley a few years later. Despite all of these accomplishments, Cross’ lasting legacy is in the ranching sector. By 1919, the A7 Ranche had grown to control over 25,000 acres and was one of the largest ranches, possibly even the largest, in Alberta. A. E. Cross died in 1932. The A. E. Cross House in Calgary is a designated Provincial Historic Resource. As of 2012, the A7 Ranch continues to be operated by the Cross family.

Cross Creek, a tributary of Mosquito Creek, is named for A. E. Cross. The creek flows generally north and enters Mosquito Creek in Section 15, of Township 16-1-W5, about 20 km west of the Town of Nanton. The creek flows through land that was owned and operated by A. E. Cross.

Historical recordings of Cross Creek are difficult to trace. Although a number of surveyors with the Dominion Land Survey (DLS) record the presence of a small spring fed creek in the general vicinity of Cross Creek, the creek does not appear on the DLS plans for Township 16-1-W5. However, on the plan for Township 15-1-W5, there is a feature noted as “Willow Creek” that corresponds partly to today’s Cross Creek. The name “Willow Creek” was likely abandoned in order to avoid confusion with the more substantial Willow Creek a short distance to the south.

In July 1938, a series of memos were sent between various officials and representatives of the Geographic Board of Canada (GBC) regarding the approval of names in the Stimson Creek region of southern Alberta. One of these memos concerned Cross Creek; F. P. DuVernet (a member of the federal topographical survey) suggested that the creek be named Cross Creek after “the well known family in the locality who owns or controls the land through which the creek flows.” The suggestion met the approval of the GBC, but concerns were expressed about getting the consent or opinion of the Government of Alberta. Alberta had not sent a representative to the GBC for most of the 1930s. The records of the Alberta Geographical Names Program do not include any communication with provincial officials in the 1930s, so it is not clear whether Alberta’s opinion or consent was ultimately secured. However, the name Cross Creek was officially adopted at the December 12, 1939 meeting of the Geographical Board of Canada.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator

Location 

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 J/08 – Stimson Creek

Latitude/Longitude:

50° 15’ 50” N & 113° 59’ 30” W (approximate location of head waters) to

50° 20′ 36″ N & 114° 03′ 30″ W (at confluence with Mosquito Creek)

Alberta Township System:

NE ¼, Sec 13 Twp 15 Rge 30 W4 (approximate location of head waters) to

SS ¼, Sec 15 Twp 16 Rge 1 W5 (at confluence with Mosquito Creek)

Description:

Flows generally northerly for approximately 21 km (10 km straight line) until it joins Mosquito Creek about 20 km west of the Town of Nanton. 

Additional Resources

More information about A. E. Cross and the A7 Ranche can be found at:

“Alfred Ernest (A. E.) Cross”, Calgary Business Hall of Fame, , available from http://www.calgarybusinesshalloffame.org/bio.php?page=laureates/2007/AECross.php.

“A. E. Cross: Rancher and Jolly Brewer 1961-1932,” Trailblazers, available from http://www.cowboycountrytv.com/trailblazers/aecross.html.

“About the A7 Ranche: History of the Ranche,” A7 Ranche, available from http://www.a7ranche.com/about/

The Big Four (Part 1 of 3)

On the morning of July 6, 2012, the 100th Calgary Exhibition and Stampede roared into life. On the west side of Stampede Park, rising from the seething mass of carnival rides, concession stands and humanity that is the Stampede midway is the Big Four Building. This building is named for the Big Four – the four Southern Alberta ranchers and businessmen who funded Guy Weadick’s proposed rodeo and wild west show in 1912. Intended to be a one-time event, the show and rodeo grew to become the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. To say that the Big Four influenced Calgary’s popular culture would be a great understatement.

The Big Four with HRH Edward, Prince of Wales at the EP Ranch, 1923
LtoR: Pat Burns; George Lane; Edward, The Prince of Wales; Archie McLean; and A. E. Cross.
(Provincial Archives of Alberta, A2658)

However, the legacy of the Big Four extends beyond the boundaries of Stampede Park. They left their mark not only in Calgary, but on the geography of the Province of Alberta.  Today’s blog post is the first in a short series that will look at the Big Four – George Lane, A. E. Cross, Archie McLean and Pat Burns – and the places named for them.

George Lane: An American in Calgary 

George Lane was born in 1856 just outside of Des Moines, Iowa. From there his life story reads like an adventure novel. As a teenager he and his father searched for gold in the Montana Territory. He then worked as a scout for the United States Army and as a ranch hand before coming to Canada in 1884 as a foreman at the Bar U Ranch (now a National Historic Site). He left the Bar U three years later and set himself up as a cattle trader, often working in partnership with the Winnipeg-based cattle company Gordon, Ironside & Fares. Lane acquired a number of ranches in the Porcupine Hills region of southwest Alberta, including the Flying E Ranch (previously named the Victor Ranch), the YT Ranch and the Willow Creek Ranch; in 1902, Lane and his partners acquired the Bar U Ranch. Lane became known as one of the most successful cattle traders in Western Canada and at one point was raising nearly 20,000 head of cattle on these ranches and adjacent leased crown lands.

Unlike many of Alberta’s ranchers, who saw the arrival of homesteaders as a threat to their way of life, George Lane saw the shifting agricultural frontier as an opportunity. He experimented with irrigation and raised herds of draft horses for sale to the west’s new farmers. Most notably, he switched large parts of his land holdings from cattle range to grain farms, becoming, by 1915, one of Alberta’s two top grain producers.

Lane served a short stint as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, elected as a Liberal in 1913, but quickly resigning to make his seat available for a defeated cabinet minister. In 1919, Lane entertained Edward, Prince of Wales at the Bar U. The Prince was so taken with the region and the lifestyle that he soon purchased a neighbouring ranch, which became the E P Ranch (now a Provincial Historic Resource). In his later years, George Lane continued to promote settlement and investment in Alberta and occupied himself raising his prize winning Percheron horses. George Lane died at the Bar U Ranch on September 24, 1925.

Lane Creek, a tributary of Willow Creek, is named for George Lane. The creek flows southerly and enters Willow Creek in Section 6, of Township 14-29-W4, about 23 km west of the Town of Stavely.

In 1883, John Francis of the Dominion Land Survey, surveyed the Township 14-30-W4. In Sections 13, 24 and 25 he recorded a spring fed creek that was approximately six feet wide and contained about eight inches of water. Francis did not name the creek. The first official recording of the name Lane Creek appears to be on the 1902 edition of the Macleod Sectional Sheet (No. 74), printed by the Government of Canada. The creek flowed through a substantial part of the land controlled by George Lane. The section where Lane Creek joins Willow Creek was co-owned by Lane and his partners Gordon, Ironside & Fares.

Although in use for over half a century, the name Lane Creek was not officially recognized as the name for that stream until May 1957.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator

Location 

National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 I/04 – Claresholm

Latitude/Longitude:

50° 14’ 22” N & 113° 58’ 52” W (approximate location of head waters) to

50° 08′ 28″ N & 113° 57′ 04″ W (at confluence with Willow Creek)

Alberta Township System:

SW ¼, Sec 7 Twp 15 Rge 29 W4 (approximate location of head waters) to

SW ¼, Sec 6 Twp 14 Rge 29 W4 (at confluence with Willow Creek)

Description:

Flows generally southerly from the for approximately 20 km (11 km straight line) until it joins Willow Creek about 22 km west of the Town of Stavely. 

Additional Resources 

More information about George Lane and his partnership with Gordon, Ironsides & Fares can be found in:

Evans, Simon M. “Lane, George,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, edited by John English and Réal Bélanger, Vol. XV, available from http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?BioId=41957&query=.

McCullough, A. B., “Winnipeg Ranchers: Gordon, Ironside and Fares,” Manitoba History, No. 41 (Spring/Summer 2001), accessed 9 July 2012, available from http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/mb_history/41/winnipegranchers.shtml.

The Butte Stands Guard: Stavely & District, Volume 1 (Stavely, AB: Stavely Historical Book Society, 1976), pages 14-20, 231-234.

 

The New Geographical Names Manual: Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger!

Hot off the virtual presses is the revised and updated Geographical Names Manual. It is now available on the Alberta Geographical Names Program website.

What is the Geographical Names Manual? 

The Geographical Names Manual is the guiding document for naming geographical features in Alberta. It contains a brief history of geographical naming in Canada and Alberta; it identifies and describes the legislation covering geographical naming; and it outlines the roles and responsibilities of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation and the Alberta Geographical Names Program in geographical naming matters. It also outlines the research done by the Geographical Names Program and attempts to demonstrate the high standards of research and evidence that are required before names are adopted for use on official maps in Alberta.

Most importantly, the manual contains the “Principles of Geographical Names.” These principles are used by the Alberta Geographical Names Program to evaluate proposed names for geographical features and proposed changes to existing names before presenting naming proposals to the Foundation for consideration. The Principles are largely based on those used by the Geographical Names Board of Canada, which in turn are based on long-standing, international naming policies and procedures. These international standards have been developed since regulatory bodies were first established to oversee geographical names, more than a century ago.

Why do we need the Manual and its Principles and Standards?

Standardized principles and procedures for the adoption and revision of official names were developed to ensure a high a level of consistency in land-marking and map-making over time and across jurisdictions and cultures. Maps, whether paper-based or electronic, are an essential navigational tool. For this reason it is essential that the names that appear on these maps are accurate and consistent so that navigation is efficient and free of confusion. However, as human beings, it is also natural for us to want to name our surroundings, thereby affirming our place amongst our geography, identifying features important to us and commemorating our history and our evolving cultural values. The established standards, principles and procedures that have been developed over time are an attempt to balance the need for consistency with our desire to name the landscape.

Most people are unaware that there are naming standards and a process for the adoption of official names. The intention of the manual is to make the standards, principles and procedures available to the general public in a format that is accessible and understandable.

People considering making an application to have a new name adopted for a geographical feature or proposing a change to an existing name are encouraged to read the Manual, particularly the “Principles of Geographical Names” section. An understanding of the Principles can save substantial effort and make the process much clearer and easier to understand.

Why was the Manual updated?

The Geographical Names Manual was first published in 1987 (reprinted in 1989). A second revised edition was published in 1992 and a third edition in the early 2000s. Since the publication of the third edition, some of the basic information, such as the Department/Ministry name, Government of Alberta logos, etc. had become significantly outdated. As these details needed to be updated, the opportunity was ripe to give the entire Manual an overhaul. Revisions included:

  • Enhancing the format and style, making the document more attractive and interesting by taking advantage of current word-processing tools;
  • Expanding the Introduction section to include answers to some of the frequently asked questions about naming;
  • Expanding the History section to provide more context of how place naming in Canada and Alberta has evolved;
  • Minor editing of the “Principles of Geographical Names” to improve readability;
  • Expanding the Standards of Research section to provide more information about the importance of sources of evidence and to provide links to other guides and information;
  • Revising the Procedures section to better reflect the path taken by naming proposals from receipt of application to official rejection or adoption of the proposed name.

The most significant change was the addition of sections explaining naming procedures in areas where the Government of Alberta shares jurisdiction over naming matters – National Parks (with Parks Canada), Canadian Forces Bases (with the Department of National Defence), and Indian Reserves (with the Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada and the affected First Nations tribe, band or community). Also added were sections explaining the naming procedures for features that lie on or cross an inter-provincial boundary into Saskatchewan, British Columbia or the Northwest Territories or for features that cross the international border into the state of Montana.

So, there it is. The new and improved Geographical Names Manual is available as a PDF on the Geographical Names Program website.

We hope that all Albertans interested in our province’s naming heritage will find this revised edition of the manual useful, interesting and educational. In the near future the Geographical Naming Application form and the webpage itself will also be updated.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator