Wednesday, 26 April 2017

                                                       St. Julien School District #3578
In 1918 The St. Julien Community, south of Esther, Alberta held a meeting and decided to build a school for all the children in that community. A site was chosen, it was central to all the residents on the NW corner of 34-30-2W4 at the base of a hill known as Starvation Butte. The school was open in 1918 and remained open until 1955 when a new school in Esther was built and the students were taken there by school bus. One of the early teachers was Beryl (Robarts) Thurston, pictured above, she taught there in 1942 and 1943. The old school is still standing today, being used for grain storage as many of these old schools ended up doing. The St. Julien School Corner is still a landmark for many of the locals and also for those of us who used to live in the area. It has been used as a reference point for many lost travelers.

Monday, 10 April 2017

As I travel in north central Alberta I have noticed many old homes and barns with dovetail log construction and then covered with a coating that is a mud and straw mixture. I notice that often times the coating has partially fallen off but due to the dovetail construction of the actual building, they still stand straight and tall. I can only imagine the many hours of work that was involved in the precision cuts with not so precision tools, that it takes to construct these homes and barns. I have a great admiration for our pioneers in their talents when it comes to building construction. There are massive barns and homes constructed on the prairies without the aid of all the mechanical lifts we have available to us today.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

 While traveling this great province, you will be surprised at some of the histories. On one of the trips my friend Dale and I took to the far reaches of South Eastern Alberta we came across a gentleman cutting grass on his farm driveway so we stopped to chat. The above shack was one of the first buildings on the original homestead. His grandparents came from Minnesota in 1906 to Warner and then traveled by horse and wagon 80 miles southeast to the homestead. Today Norm and Barb Finstead live in that same community called Pendant d'Oreille and with their son and grandchildren, they ranch 35000 acres and raise over 400 head of cattle. The grandchildren travel 45 miles to Foremost to school and back every day. The Sweetgrass hills are very close to the ranch, it is a beautiful part of our province. That is the road less traveled.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

                                             Ryerson Polytechnical Insitute, "Jorgenson Hall."

Fred Jorgenson from New Brigden, Alberta has a very distinguished life story, After training at the Calgary Normal School, Fred taught locally at Wenger Heights School, Oyen Public School and Olds Agricultural School.  In 1956 he was appointed Principal at SAIT and was there for 10 years. He was then offered the Presidency of Ryerson Technical Institute. Fred stayed in Toronto for 3 years and then returned to SAIT. While Fred was in Toronto Ryerson built a large building and named it "Jorgenson Hall," an amazing tribute to an incredible man.

Monday, 3 April 2017

                                                        Sunday School by Post.

In the early 1900's the Anglican church developed the Sunday School Post, it was a means of reaching out to the young people of their congregations. Lessons were mailed once a month to all the families who enrolled.
The Sunday School by Post Van was a welcome sight when it arrived in Loverna yearly, traveling across the Diocese bring books to the community and holding summer classes where organized Sunday Schools were not active. I don't remember the Van but I do remember Archdeacon Hasell who was the Anglican Minister in the area, in fact, he married my Mom and Dad at my Grandparents farm south of Esther.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

                                                             Distinguished Cattleman.

Local Sibbald Rancher, Murray Huston, added to the Canadian Hereford Honor Roll for his many achievements developing the Hereford Breed in Eastern Alberta. Murray, Jean and their family raised some of the finest Hereford Cattle in Western Canada and were renowned for their many awards throughout the industry. In 1981 Murray was inducted into the East Central Alberta Hall of Fame, for his contributions to the development of East Central Alberta. I had the honor of traveling with this distinguished gentleman to many Masonic Lodge functions and no matter where we went Murray was always received honorable. Murrays family still resides on the ranch at Sibbald raising Hereford Cattle.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

                                                                  Esther, Alberta Namesake.

 By 1912 most of the area between Loverna and the Sounding Creek had been settled, after a devastating prairie fire destroyed everything in its wake in 1910. The Olsens and several other families arrived and settled along the creek. At that time the mail came as far as (Bideford) which is now Altario. Shortly after that, the rail came through to Loverna and a Post Office was established in the Olsen home, a half mile north of the what is now Esther. The townsite was chosen by the local settlers, Anna Esther (Olsen) Landreth was the youngest child in the community and the town of Esther was named after her. A few years later the Olsen family moved to Lloydminster area. The yard where the Olsen's lived is now the Esther Recreation Park and is used for Homecomings, Family gatherings, and ball games.

Monday, 27 March 2017

                                                          Growing up on the Prairies!!

The house I grew up in had some interesting history, In 1912 a family, The Shorts's came from Ontario to Loverna by train and then traveled by horse and wagon to this homestead on the NW1/4-31-2-W4. They built this house and lived there until 1947. My Mom and Dad were married in 1947 and they purchased this farm and moved into this old house. My family lived there until 1962 when Mom and Dad built a new home a few feet to the west of this one. The old house was sold and moved from its original location. Part of it went to George and Phyllis Pratt where it remains today. Part of it was sold to Bruce and Ann Pratt and moved on skids behind several tractors 6 miles to where it also remains today. I have many fond memories of our times living in that old house.

Thursday, 23 March 2017


                                                 Historic Kiskatinaw Bridge

The Historic Kiskatinaw Bridge is located about 30 km north of Dawson Creek BC. 
Construction of this historic bridge began in late 1942 by Dow Construction, it was one of 133 permanent bridges constructed to replace temporary crossings used by the US Army to build the pioneer road. This three-span timber truss bridge has an amazing nine-degree curve, designed to accommodate the highway's steep change in grade on the west end and the need to land at a notch in the cliff on the east end. At this time it was the first wooden curved bridge to be built in Canada. In later years the development of the oil and gas industry resulted in the need for a new bridge, to handle wider, heavier and longer loads, as a result the Alaska highway was rerouted in 1978 bypassing about 10 km of the old highway and historic bridge. The bridge is now a promoted tourist attraction due to it's history. wooden deck, scenic setting and unusual design.

Bill Dalton on the right was one of the early pioneers of the Esther District. Bill arrived with his family, William Sr. who was a Congregational Minister, his mother and sisters, Lucy, Evelyn, Ethel and Fanny.
In 1938 Bill was asked to become the Alberta Wheat Pool agent in Esther where he remained for 14 years. In 1939 Bill and Dorothy (Harley) were married. Dorothy and Bill raised their family of two boys and three girls in Esther where they worked in various capacities from store manager to postmaster and mistress. Their oldest son Bill Jr. still lives in Esther with his wife Madge and for many years they also ran the general store and post office. The other gentleman in the photo is Tom Short who lived 5 miles east of Esther, he retired and sold his farm to my Dad. These two gentlemen were pioneers of the great community that I grew up and lived in for many years. 

Sunday, 19 March 2017


                           Oil & Gas Well Site Remediation

It is important for the general public to understand what happens when a gas or oil well is drilled in remote areas.
The wells are typically drilled in the winter time so that the trucks, rigs and other support equipment can get onto the lease with minimum disturbance to the ground. Only the required amount of trees are cut down in order to make room for the lease. It is typically left for a couple years in order to let the trees that have been cut dry out and decay. Once this takes place crews will come in and remediate the lease, add the topsoil back and crunch the trees to use them for both natural fertilizer and prevent soil erosion. The lease is remediated and reseeded with native grasses, then the tree planters will come in and plant trees on the lease except for the area required to use to service the well. The above photos are a lease that I remediated in the Fox Creek, Alberta area in 2007. Picture one shows when we arrived and picture two is the finished product, seeded with native grass

Saturday, 18 March 2017

                                                            Hudson Heights School

Hudson heights School is also in the Esther area, a few miles south of St. Julien. It was opened in 1918 and was strictly for high school. I remember my Mom telling about having to ride a horse to Hudson Heights from the farm where she grew up, it was about 3 miles from school. She would go early in the morning and light the fires in the winter time so the school was warm when the rest of the students arrived. Due to better roads and school buses, the school was closed in 1954, purchased by a local farmer and was turned into grain storage for many years. The school is still standing on its original site and is in reasonable good condition.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

                                                                "John Deere Green"
For every farmer, it is always an exciting day when that first new tractor arrives. One of our neighbors, George Newton, in the picture is sporting his new John Deere D with a big old smile on his face. I remember often going past the Newton farm and the whole lineup of machinery was that beautiful John Deere Green.

Monday, 13 March 2017

                                                          Afternoon Delight.
Sometimes on a summer afternoon, a fella has just got to enjoy the spoils of a new shipment. The gentlemen above are doing just that. Some of these boys lived in the Esther Community and some of their descendants still do. Four that have been identified for me are Angus Bingeman, Joe Blaise, Nelson Bingeman and Allen Mao.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

                                                              Progress on the Prairies.

In 1924, after much deliberation, the AWP decided to build an elevator in Esther, Alberta. The railroad tracks only came as far west as Loverna, Saskatchewan and the elevator was slated to be completed and ready for business in 1925. CNR then started to extend the rail line west of Loverna. Above are a couple of the young locals who worked hard and long at building the track bed with horses, slips and shovels. the two young men in the photo are William Holmes from New Brigden and Ray Muzzy from Esther.

Friday, 10 March 2017

                                                         Beautiful old School
In one of my travels to Oyen to visit family, I had the opportunity to photograph this beautiful old school. Farming Valley School is located near a farmers yard Northeast of Oyen, Alberta. It is a very unique design, not typical to Alberta. Unfortunately, there is only one of the students who went there left and a person who supervised correspondence at this school. I have not been able to track these two down yet to get further information on the school. That will have to be a supplement to this blog one day soon.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

                                                   Dedicated Hereford Breeders.

In August of 1956, ten Hereford breeders in the area met at Murray and Jean (Beynon) Huston's home and formed what became well known around the world as the East Central Purebred Breeders Association. The first sale was sponsored by Reimen Auction and held in Cereal, Alberta. The members of the Association attended the Calgary Bull Sale which in turn led to International sales for one of the members. In 1977 the Association became strictly for Hereford cattle and became known as the East Central Hereford Association. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

                                                              "Unique Fence"
As I was driving towards Rocky Mountain House, this unique set up of fence lines caught my eye. A farmer has used antique tractors for fence going east from his yard and threshing machines going north from his yard. After some research, I found out this collection was started some 50 years ago, a few of the tractors were driven to their resting spot under their own power. There is about 1/4 mile long line of tractors amounting to almost 200 units. I am sure I am not the first one to photograph this interesting yard but I thought it was kind of cool and wanted to share it.

Monday, 6 March 2017

                                                      "I Have Two Hometowns."

When you live close to two towns, they can both become your hometown. Loverna Saskatchewan was only 8 miles from our farm and was part of our social life growing up. We would go there to Sports Days, dances, music lessons, and curling. I played fastball with the Loverna ball team for several years and I think of Loverna as my other hometown, many of my good friends still actively farm in the Loverna area. This summer a group of photographer friends and I will be in the area doing a detailed still photo and video on small towns and surrounding areas. Esther, Loverna, Hoosier and Fusilier will be on the agenda.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

                                                       The Old and the New.
For many years the small hall served as a gathering place for dances, foul suppers, Christmas concerts, and weddings. In 1956 the Esther Community decided it was time to build a new community hall. A community hall board was formed and Frank Pratt was elected President and Raymond Cartwright was elected secretary. With donations from various clubs and private investments, the project went ahead as planned. In 1958 the Grand Opening was held with a turkey supper and dance to follow. In 1959, materials for a hardwood floor was ordered and with a lot of hard work from community volunteers, the floor was laid. A ladies bathroom was also installed at the south end of the hall just off the stage, it was a wee tad chilly in the winter time but was better than going to the outdoor facilities. The first wedding dance held in the new hall was that of May and Bob Bamber in June of 1960. 1969 was the year Disking was first introduced to the community and is still active today. Disking is similar to floor curling. In 1974, it was decided that the community would build an addition to accommodate the upcoming Homecoming in 1975. A kitchen, coatroom and two bathrooms with running water was constructed. In 1983, 84 and 85 the interior of the Hall was completely renovated with new suspended ceiling and new walls and furnaces, the original building was heated with two coal stoves, one at each end. Similar to other small communities, it takes a lot of local volunteer time to keep these buildings operating and this one is still going, Good Job Esther.

Friday, 3 March 2017

                                                            Music on the Prairies.

When you live far from the big city, you make your own entertainment. Music has always been a part of my life, my Dad played several instruments and as kids, we took piano lessons and went dances in the local community halls. I remember as a young kid listening and dancing to all of the above old time orchestras that were local people. The J's, the Jorgenson family from New Brigden, The OK Orchestra, Ernie and Eva Warwick and friends from Oyen and Sibbald. The Leftovers Sylvia Ellis, Nelson Bingeman, Jim Newton, Audrey Roswell from Esther and Loverna rounded up the entertainment groups. They would play until the wee hours of the morning and then we would all sit around and have coffee and sandwiches, then go home. Those fantastic memories are all part of growing up in a small farming community.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

                                                                    "A Special Gift"

 Witching for water is not something everyone can do successfully. Marilyn Flaht has that special gift. She uses both a willow branch and rods, each has its own unique way of telling her what is happening below the ground in water streams. Marilyn has witched many wells for farmers in the area and is well known for her gift. Marilyn says that with a willow she can determine where the underground streams are, how deep they are and is able to determine the edge of the stream. With rods, she is able to determine the direction of the streams and follow them. She has a 90% success rate in finding good water. Marilyn is another one of the many talented residents of the Esther Community.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

                                              Small Community, Huge Undertaking!!
In the spring of 1990, the Rush Centre Women's Institute ladies in Esther took it upon themselves to initiate the making of a Community History Book, the above photo shows the executive of the history book. There had been one done years before and it was a very small pamphlet type of book. These ladies decided this one was going to be much more in-depth information about the history of Esther and surrounding School Districts. My mother, Olive Parks was elected Editor of the project and off they went. For those of you who knew Mom, you knew this thing was going to get done and done right. Well, it turned into a colossal event for a small community. The actual stories and photos started coming in almost immediately after the announcement and it snowballed from there. By November of 1990, the final draft was shipped to Friesen Printers in Winnipeg. As per usual, there were a few minor changes but eventually, it was ready to go to print, 1200 pages and I am proud to say we did it with only one spelling error. The books were delivered to Esther the morning of the Homecoming in June of 1991, celebrating 80 years as a community. I still pick this volume up and scan through it and a lot of my blog information comes from this book. I am very proud to say I AM FROM ESTHER, ALBERTA.

Monday, 27 February 2017

                                                              Colorful Characters

 John Heaney was born in Ireland in 1830, one of 16 children. He immigrated to the USA with his brother and uncle and during his time there he was a Pony Express Rider during the Gold Rush in California and associated with the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickock and the infamous James Brothers. He then moved to North Dakota and married a widow and Stephen and Mary were born there. In 1911 the family moved to the Esther area and farmed a few miles Northwest of Esther. His son Steve and grandson Lawrence farmed and raised cattle on the homestead for many years. John passed away in 1938 at the age of 108 years.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

                                                              Tribute to a great teacher!
Betty Rumohr, was one of my first teachers and I will always remember that wonderful smile. She was a kind person and was passionate about teaching as she was about us all learning to the best of our ability. She taught in both the Esther Country School and the Esther Town School. The Esther Town School was originally Excelda School and when it closed because of small attendance and its location, it was in the middle of a pasture close to where my Dad grew up. I will always remember Betty, she was the only teacher I ever had that consistently called me Ronald, it is my name but most called me Ron.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

                                                                    " The Orchard"

Yes, there really was an Orchard in the Esther Community. A gentleman by the name of Allan Stewart traveled from Ontario with his sister and filed a homestead on the NE 1/4-14-31-2W4. He had difficult times making a go of growing grain and surviving on a 1/4 section of very light land. He joined up with a friend and they traveled the harvest circuit in Montana and states east. When he came back to Esther he decided he needed to protect his shack from the winds so he started planting a shelterbelt. Inside the shelterbelt, he started planting fruit trees, small apples, and plums and they flourished in that type of soil. Everyone in the community would go to the "Orchard" in the fall to pick and purchase fruit from Mr. Stewart. I remember him very well as his place was only a half mile east of our farm. In 1954 Mr. Stewart fell ill and went back to Ontario, he sold the property to my Dad. To this day I believe there are still apples growing there even tho no one is there to look after them. Just imagine an "Orchard" in the middle of the prairie.

Friday, 24 February 2017

                                                                  From a Shack to a Mansion

In 1911 Fred Beynon Sr. came to the Esther area to the homestead he had filed the year before while teaching school in Duboc Sk. The first thing he had built was a barn for some cattle and horses and being constructed with a straw roof, it caught fire and burned. He later had a large hip-roofed barn built and the Frenchman that built it looked out the top window after it was done and said " Bonne Vue" thus the farm name, this grand old barn has recently collapsed and the wood is being recycled by Mr. Beynons Great Grandson. In 1919 he built a small house for his new bride and himself, they honeymooned to Banff in a Model A Ford car. In 1928 they built the Grand two story house which still stands today on the original homestead.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

                                                  "Rockin the old Curling Rink"

The old Esther Curling Rink was always a hub of activity during the winter months. There was square draw curling, open bonspiels, women's bonspiels, men's bonspiels and school curling. My Dad was one of the caretakers of the rink so I was the resident rink rat. I always remember the big boiler full of coffee, the homemade stew, soups and best of all was all that homemade pie. One winter during the ladies bonspiel, My Dad (Don Parks), Robert Brockman, Bill Dalton Jr. and Elvin Person dressed up as ladies and entered the women's bonspiel. They got lots of hoots and hollers and had a whole lot of fun. Growing up in a small community, gave us all great opportunities to participate in the community events and learn to volunteer to keep the community working smoothly. My mother was always involved in the community and as I got older I participated and now my daughters and granddaughter are volunteers in their respective communities.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

As time goes by, progress in the way cattle feed is put up. In the early days, many farmers used what was called a Header/Barge. This unit was pulled with horses and in later years with a tractor. The machine cuts the grain like a swather, instead of leaving the grain in a windrow it elevated it into a large wooden box called a barge. When the barge was full it was dumped in a pile. The piles were later hauled into the yard for threshing, feeding or sometimes left in the field where the cattle fed on them during the winter. This particular unit belonged to the Schroeder family who lived about 3 miles northwest of Esther, Alberta.

Monday, 20 February 2017

                                                               Where it all started!
The big old barn and a fine herd of horses are where the Big Bend Ranch got its start. Knut and Frida Westerlund moved from Sweden to Esther via Regina and several other stops along the way in 1925. In 1940 Len (Knut & Frida's son) and Marjorie purchased 3 cows and 3 heifers from Cecil Habberfield and the following spring their boys Douglas and Lloyd each bought a heifer from Fred Beynon Sr.. The cattle were all of Wincott breeding and this was how the Big Bend Hereford Ranch became to be. The barn still stands today and is home to some of the ancestors of those first cows and heifers. The ranch is operated by great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren of Knut and Frida. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

                                                                       Calthorpe Siding
In the early years, there was a railroad siding about a mile and a half east of where my farm was, called Calthorpe. It was halfway between Esther and Loverna. For some reason, AWP decided in 1928 to build a grain elevator at this siding. The picture shows a couple old timers loading a box car with pails before the elevator was built. In 1938 it became apparent that there was no need for this elevator so it was torn down board by board and hauled to Mayerthorpe, Alberta and reconstructed.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

                                                              School on the Move.
Last week one beautiful afternoon, we decided to take a quick drive east to see if we could find some unique photo ops. We made our way over to Kingman, Alberta and this old school caught my eye. It appeared to be part of the town landscape so I took a photo of it and posted it on the Abandoned Alberta site. A gentleman, who's mother had actually taught school in Kingman in 1947 gave me the actual history of this school. It was the original Dinant School, between Kingman and Camrose, the school was closed and moved to Camrose for storage and then in 1979, it was moved once again to Kingman. As we travel around the countryside there are so many old buildings that catch our eye and it is so nice to get the actual history on them. Thank you to Larry Flemming for his input on this one.

Friday, 17 February 2017

                                                                  "The H-Train"
As we travel the roads about this beautiful province of ours, we see so many variations and combinations of truck and trailers hauling freight. We have single trailers and we have B Trains, Super B-Trains and Triple Trailers, moving our goods to the end users. Well back in the day, we had several variations also, we had horses, the main source of power and then we had the single carriages, buggies, single wagons and as shown above the ultimate freight hauler of the era, the "H-Train." This is one of the locals hauling coal and supplies from the end of the rail at Alsask north to his destination in the Esther Community, a distance of about 35 miles, all in a days work.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

                                                                 Clowning Around.
57 years ago some of the boys from the Esther School under the guidance of our teacher, Frieda Brockman, dressed up as clowns in costumes made by our mothers. We performed part of our tumbling act for the community at the Christmas Concert. Mrs. Brockman instructed us in our tumbling during the physical education class in school. Earlier in the school year, the tumbling group traveled to Red Deer and did our complete routine on CKRD television. That was a big deal for a bunch of kids from Esther.
The group above are;
Front Row: Left to right, Dennis Trevor, Clayton Foot, Manfred Schroeder and William Foot.
Back Row:  Left to right, Ron Parks, Wilfred Pratt, Cameron Stouffer, Murray Pratt and Richard Nelson.