Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Alberta, Past and Present, Historical and Biographical
Vol 1 - Chapter XIV
Church History in Alberta


Missionary enterprise in Western Canada began with the Jesuit priests who accompanied the expeditions of Verendrye. Fathers Mesaiger, Aulneau and Coquart were the first heralds of the Cross west of the Great Lakes. But it was not until the coming of the Selkirk settlers to the Red River that permanent missions were established. Acting upon a petition from the people of Red River in 1817 to Monsignor Plessis, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Quebec, Rev. Joseph Norbert Provencher and Rev. Joseph Nicholas Dumoulin arrived at Red River in July, 1818, and founded the first permanent mission in Western Canada at what is now the City of St. Boniface.

The Anglican Church followed in 1820. Rev. John West was sent from England by the Hudson's Bay Company and the Church Missionary Society to Red River, to minister to the Protestant settlers of the Selkirk Colony. From the Red River the work begun by these pioneers has spread to the Saskatchewan, the Athabaska, the MacKenzie and the Far North. It was not until 1840 that the Methodist or Wesleyan Church began to occupy the Western field, establishing the first missions at Rossville, near Norway House and at Edmonton, under Rev. James Evans and Rev. Robert Rundle. Eleven years later Rev. John Black, a Presbyterian minister from Upper Canada, founded the Parish of Kildonan, the cradle of Presbyterianism in Western Canada. In a sense the Presbyterian Church may be credited with the first permanent missionary in the West. James Sutherland, a Selkirk settler, who arrived at Red River in 1813, was invested with special authority to administer baptism, solemnize marriage and to expound the scriptures. The three denominations alluded to were well established in every part of Rupert's Land and the Indian Territories before these territories were united to the Dominion of Canada in 1870. The Baptist Church was the next of the principal denominations to establish in the West in 1873. Lutherans, Moravians, Mormons, Congregationalists, Jews and the Greek Church grew up with the settlement of the country after the Rebellion of 1885— an epochal year in the history of the West.

The glowing pageant of the history of Western Canada exhibits many characters who have played an heroic part in laying the foundations of civilization in the Great Lone Land. In that illustrious Procession there are no more fascinating or compelling figures than the early missionaries. For the joy of bearing the message of life to the savages and the Pioneers of the plains, these sainted messengers endured perils and privations inconceivable—perils of travel on the storm-beaten trail, perils of the lake and the river, perils of starvation and disease.

In the paragraphs that follow in this chapter, the men and the achievements of the principal denominations are dealt with in the order in which these denominations became identified with the Province of Alberta.


As we have noted at the beginning of the chapter the first missions of the Wesleyan or Methodist Church in Western Canada were established in 1840. In that year a party of missionaries under Rev. James Evans left Montreal to establish stations at different points in the West from Rainy Lake to the Rocky Mountains. Mr. Evans was an Englishman had spent some time among the Indian missions of Upper Canada. He was invited by the Wesleyan Missionary Society of England to take charge of Wesleyan Missions in Western Canada. At the same time three young men—Rev. George Barnley, Rev. Wm. Mason and Rev. Robert T. Rundle—were sent from England to assist him, under the auspices of the Society, and chiefly at the expense and under the protection of the Hudson's Bay Company. Evans accepted the invitation and brought with him two young Objibway Indians, Peter Jacobs and Henry B. Steinhauer.

The missions established and the missionaries in charge were as follows:

Norway House—Rev. James Evans, superintendent, and Peter Jacobs.
Moose Factory and Abittibi—Rev. George Barnley.
Rainy Lake and Fort Alexander—Rev. Wm. Mason and Henry B. Steinhauer.
Edmonton and Rocky Mountain House—Rev. Robert Rundle.

Rundle was the first missionary to visit what is now Alberta and to establish missions among the Indians of this part of the West. He reached Edmonton September 1st, 1840. He was given quarters in the Fort and supplied with the necessaries of life by the Hudson's Bay Company, a custom followed by the Company throughout its wide territory. In the course of his ministry Rundle visited Beaver Lake, Rocky Mountain House, the Blackfeet on the Bow River and the Stoneys in the vicinity of Banff. He camped for a number of weeks at the foot of Cascade Mountain in 1841, and ascended the mountain that now bears his name. At the Mountain House he met Maskepetoon, the great peace chief of the Wood Crees, and accepted an invitation to visit the chief at the Red Deer. This visit culminated in the chief's conversion. Other notable Indian neophytes of Rundle were Broken Arm, Stephen Kecheyees and Pakan; also Peter Erasmus, a half-breed, still living and long employed as missionary and interpreter at Whitefish Lake. During his periods of residence at Fort Edmonton, Rundle held school twice a day in the Fort.

He established a mission at Pigeon Lake under Benjamin Sinclair, which was destroyed by the Blackfeet in 1845. In that year we find him at Fort Canton where Paul Kane met him. He left the country in 1848, and died in England in 1886.

During his superintendency of Wesleyan Missions, Evans visited Fort Chipewyan, Isle a Ia Crosse, Fort Pitt, Fort Canton and many of the principal fur posts on the Churchill River as far east as York Factory. Endowed with a natural aptitude for linguistic study Evans was the originator of the syllabic system of the Cree language, which has been one of the great factors in the success of Indian missions by all Christian denominations in Western Canada and America. Evans made his first type from lead taken from tea chests and old bullets. carving the letters with his pocket knife. Ink he made from soot; paper from birch bark and with his own hands built a rude press with which he printed the first characters of his hymn collections and Scripture translations. This system is based upon a form of phonetic shorthand and is so simple that by its use it is possible to teach all to read and write his own language in a few weeks. The Methodist Missionary Society saw the great importance of such an invention, and types, paper and press were sent from England to Evans' headquarters at Rossville. The influence of the new learning spread far and wide. The Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches adopted it. It gave an incentive to invent other similar systems for the Athabaskan and Blackfeet tribes.

The labors of this great pioneer missionary in Western Canada had a tragic ending. During one of his trips to a neighboring mission, he accidentally shot and killed his beloved interpreter, Thomas Hassell, an educated Chipewyan. Overcome by grief he left the country and died in England November 23, 1846. His place at Rossville was taken by Rev. Wm. Mason, who had labored there since 1844.

In 1854 Indian missions established in Western Canada by the Wesleyan Missionary Society were transferred to the Methodist Church of Canada, and soon the splendid work inaugurated by Evans was taken up by one who measured up to him in heroism, in adaptability to pioneer conditions, in missionary zeal and power over the Indian tribes. This was the Rev. George McDougall, the father of Methodism in Alberta. Mr. McDougall was commissioned in 1860 by the Methodist Conference of Upper Canada to take charge of Methodist Missions in Western Canada with headquarters at Rossville. He was, by this appointment, chairman of a vast district embracing stations at Oxford House, Rossville, Carlton. Edmonton, Rocky Mountain House, Whitefish Lake and Lac la Pluie.

During the interval from 1854 to 1862 the work in Alberta was carried on by Rev. Thomas Woolsey, and Rev. Henry B. Steinhauer, assisted by Rev. Benjamin Sinclair and Peter Erasmus. Woolsey and Steinhauer arrived at Edmonton September 26th, 1855. Mr. Steinhauer was stationed at Lac la Biche until 1857, when he moved to Whitefish Lake, establishing a mission there, where he labored until his death in the closing days of 1884. Mr. Woolsey made Edmonton his headquarters, being accorded the same privileges as Rundle—a private room and a place at the officers' mess. In 1857 he commenced an outpost mission at Pigeon Lake and during his residence in the territory visited at various intervals the Indians at Old Bow Fort, Rocky Mountain House, Smoky Lake and Whitefish Lake. In 1862 he determined to establish a mission at Smoky Lake, and erected a cabin. Before he left the country he translated a number of hymns and portions of Scripture, with the help of Peter Erasmus and Jonas, one of Rundle's converts of the Mountain Stoneys, for the people of that tribe. His knowledge of medicine gave him a great reputation among the camps. He left the country via York Factory in 1864 for England. Returning to Eastern Canada he continued in the ministry until 1885, when he was superannuated and died in 1894.

In 1862 Rev. George McDougall resolved to establish the Indian missions of what is now Alberta, but then known as the Saskatchewan Valley, on a more permanent basis. In that year he crossed the plains, accompanied by his son John, from Winnipeg via Batoche, Carlton and Pitt to Whitefish Lake, established about 1857. Here he met Rev. Henry B. Steinhauer. Several Indian houses had been built around the mission and many of the natives were strongly attached to the place. From Whitefish Lake he proceeded to Smoky Lake, about twenty miles north of the present village of Pakan, on the North Saskatchewan, where he found Rev. Thomas Woolsey. Exercising his authority as chairman of the district, he ordered this mission to be transferred to Victoria, now called Pakan. He then crossed the Saskatchewan at Victoria, taking with him Rev. Mr. Steinhauer and Peter Erasmus, and journeyed into the Battle River country to meet the Wood Crees, under their great chief, Maskepetoon, who, through the labors of Rundle and Woolsey, was able to read the Cree Bible. When Mr. McDougall visited him he was reading the 8th chapter of Romans. Mr. McDougall next visited Edmonton, where he was hospitably received by Chief Factors Christie and Hardisty, and proceeded down the Saskatchewan on September 9th for Rossville, on Lake Winnipeg.

In the following year Mr. McDougall returned to Victoria where, according to his orders, the new mission was established, the Indians moving from Smoky Lake with the mission. This was his headquarters until 1871. During the summer he visited the Stoneys South of the Battle River, going as far as the Big Canyon, on the Red Deer River. Seed was procured from Edmonton and Lac la Biche for the spring crops of 1864 at Victoria. After seeding, McDougall, with his son John, Mr. Steinhauer and Peter Erasmus visited the Stoneys again and proceeded far enough south to meet the Mountain Stoneys. The party returned home via Pigeon Lake, where a site was picked for another mission station, which was subsequently called Woodville. Two schools under the auspices of the Methodist Church were opened this year, one at Victoria and the other at Whitefish. These were the first Protestant schools in the Province. They are still carried on by the Methodist Church, and have (lone a splendid work for the Indian and half-breed children. The first teacher at Whitefish was Ira Snyder. Other teachers in this roll of honor were Miss E. A. Barrett, 1872-1874; Benjamin Sinclair and Edward R. and Robert Steinhauer, and J. A. Youmans.

In the following year the mission at Pigeon Lake was built, and put in charge of John McDougall, who for the next half century occupied a commanding position in the history of the Methodist Church and the Indian affairs of the North West Territories. The timber for the mission was taken out by the younger McDougall in the fall of 1864. He was in charge of this mission until 1869 when he was succeeded by Rev. Peter Campbell, who arrived at Edmonton September 21, 1868, having taken his wife and two small children across the plains from Fort Garry, driving ox carts. Mr. Campbell was one of a party of three young ministers brought out by Rev. George McDougall that year from Ontario. The other two were Rev. George Young and Rev. Egerton R. Young, famous in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The former was the first Methodist minister of Winnipeg.

For the program of the summer of 1869 the principal missionaries of the Saskatchewan Valley organized a big gathering of the Indians on the plains with the object of promoting peace among rival tribes and educating them in loyalty and Christianity. The Indians and half-breeds from Lac la Biche, Mr. Steinhauer and his people from Whitefish Lake,, Rev. George McDougall and the people from Victoria, the Wood Crees, John McDougall with the Wood and Mountain Stoneys, Hudson's Bay Company officers—almost the entire population of Central Alberta at the time—were included. Following the Indians over the plains was a favorite method followed by all the missionaries—before the Indians were placed on reserves—Roman Catholic, Methodist and Anglican, to bring the gospel to the natives and acquaint them with the policies of the Government. But this gathering including so many tribes, was the first effort of the kind and an anxious experiment for Superintendent McDougall and his son John. The big meeting nearly failed owing to the treacherous murder of the Chief Maskepetoon by the Blackfeet in the spring of the year. Maskepetoon visited the Blackfeet camp hoping to arrange a peace. As he was approaching the camp, bearing a white flag- and open Bible, a Blackfoot savage shot him.

Among the chiefs at the hunt were Sayakamat, Chief of the Wood Crees after Maskepetoon's death, Pakan, Samson and Ermine Skin—men who proved their loyalty in 1870 and 1885. Rev. Father Scollen, the Catholic missionary, was in attendance during the hunt, as were also Rev. Peter Campbell and Ira Snyder, the teacher from Victoria. No doubt this successful "summer school" for the Alberta Indians did much to hold them in subjection during the dangerous events at Red River in the fall of that year.

The transition from the rule of the Hudson's Bay Company to that of the Government of Canada was an uneasy period for the missionaries of the plains. Buffalo were becoming scarcer every year in the valley of the North Saskatchewan and the Indians were inclined to blame the white men. Besides there were over seven hundred mixed bloods in the country West of Fort Canton, sullen and restless over the disturbances at Red River (1869-'70). Added to these difficulties was the terrible scourge of smallpox during the winter and summer of 1870 which carried off over one-third of the population. The Government of the North West Territories and the Hudson's Bay Company sent John McDougall on a mission of peace in 1871, for the tribes were gathering at the Hand hills and evil counsel was being spread. Here he met Sweet Grass, Sayakamat, Little Pine and their headmen, and better counsel prevailed. For this service Mr. McDougall was given the status of an officer in the Hudson's Bay Company.

In 1871 Superintendent McDougall (Rev. George) decided to establish the headquarters of the Saskatchewan District at Edmonton. Leaving his son John in charge at Victoria and the White Earth Settlement (near the site of Old White Earth House of 1810), he built a mission house and church outside of the Hudson's Bay Fort, on the site of the McDougall Church of the present day. This was the beginning of modern Edmonton, and Rev. George McDougall was its founder. Next year the District meeting of Saskatchewan transferred Rev. Peter Campbell from Pigeon Lake to Victoria and John McDougall to Pigeon Lake.

During the summer of 1872 the first Methodist Conference held west of the Great Lakes was convened in Winnipeg. All the missionaries from the Saskatchewan Valley attended—Rev. George McDougall, Rev. Henry B. Steinhauer, Rev. Peter Campbell, and Bro. John McDougall. The conference decided to open a new mission for the Mountain Stoneys at Morleyville, named after Dr. Morley Punshon, who attended the conference, and to put Rev. John McDougall, ordained at the conference, in charge. The site of the mission was selected the following spring (1873) by Rev. George McDougall, and building commenced in the autumn of the same year. Materials for the buildings were brought from Font Benton. This has been one of the most successful Indian missions established in Western Canada and is still in operation.

Rev. Lachlan Taylor, General Secretary of the Methodist Missionary Society, visited Alberta in the summer of 1873, with John McDougall as guide, calling at Whitefish Lake, Victoria, Edmonton, where he dedicated the first McDougall Church building, and Pigeon Lake. Continuing his journey southward through the Blackfeet Country, he spent a night at Fort Whoopup, and crossed over to Fort Benton on his way home to Eastern Canada. Next year (1874) Rev. George McDougall visited all the missions in Alberta as far north as Athabaska. Rev. John McDougall was sent by the Canadian Government to explain the coming of the North West Mounted Police to the Blackfeet tribes of Southern Alberta. He visited Fort Kipp, Fort Whoopup and Blackfoot Crossing, where he met some of the famous whiskey traders of the time. Here he met Crowfoot and Old Sun. The announcement was welcomed by the Blackfeet chiefs as one of deliverance and protection from the plundering, murderous whiskey traders, but at the same time it was a poignant realization that the glory of their nation had departed forever. Henceforth they would be wards, not masters in the land of their birth.

We come now to the end of the Indian regime on the plains. Up to this period we have been dealing with Indian missions. After the formal entry and taking possession of the country by the North West Mounted Police the way was prepared for settlement. From this date onward Indian missions have been confined to the Reservations. We hear no more of big missionary gatherings of the various tribes during the buffalo hunts. The time had come for permanent missions and settled pastorates.

After a trip among the Crees and Stoneys to prepare them for taking treaty, Rev. George McDougall and his son John visited the Blackfeet late in 1875 to establish a mission among them. A location was chosen at Pincher Creek, but the untimely death of the intrepid missionary delayed the project for two years. It was not until the summer of 1878 that a mission was established among the Blackfeet by the Methodist Church.

The death of George McDougall at the age of 56, after sixteen years of heroic service on behalf of the natives of the plains was a great loss to the Church and to the State. The tragic circumstances of his death made the loss still more lamentable. Word reached Morleyville January (1874) that the buffalo were moving westward. Mr. McDougall, his son John, and three others set out to secure a supply of meat. On the 24th of that month they were camped about ten miles from where Calgary is now. After three days' run they were returning to camp, eight miles away, Mr. McDougall, when within two miles of the lodge, went ahead to prepare supper while the rest brought home the meat. Thirteen days days later he was found frozen not far from the camp. lie was buried at Morleyville. His name and his work will ever be an unfailing treasure of inspiration to the Methodist Church in Western Canada.

His work was taken up by his son John, then, and for many years afterwards, stationed at Morleyville. A church was built at Calgary in 1877, although John McDougall had held services there from the time the Police established Fort Brisbois, the first name given the police post at this point. Next year he sent Miss E. A. Barrett and one of nis daughters to open the first Protestant mission in Southern Alberta at Macleod. Six months later Rev. Henry M. Manning succeeded Miss Barrett, and in the summer of 1880 John Maclean, a student, took UI) the work which he carried on with pronounced success for over ten years. Meanwhile Mr. Maclean completed his theological studies and acquired a wide knowledge of Indian history, languages, manners and customs, which he has given to the world in a number of books. He is now the chief archivist of the -Methodist Church in Canada. In 1881 the mission was moved to Blood Reserve, where it was carried on until 1892, when it was turned over to the Anglican Church.

In 1880 Dr. Alexander Sutherland, General Secretary of the Methodist Missionary Society, made a tour of inspection of Western missions. He came over the Southern plains from Fort Benton to Edmonton, thence by boat down the Saskatchewan to Prince Albert, thence overland to Winnipeg. A new church was built in Calgary in December, 1883, a few months after the Canadian Pacific Railway reached the town, by Rev. James Turner, the first settled pastor. The same year the first Methodist Church in Medicine Hat was built, Rev. Wellington Bridgeman being the first pastor.

When the coal mines were opened at Lethbridge, Rev. John Maclean from the Blood Reserve, held services for the miners on the river bottom before there was a town of that name. These services were held once a month until 1887, when Rev. Wellington Bridgeman of the church at Macleod, took up the work. In 1889 Rev. James Endicott, now General Secretary of the Methodist Missionary Society, was sent there as a young man under the superintendency of Rev. A. B. Hames, of Macleod.

A new Indian mission was opened in 1883 at Lesser Slave Lake, under Rev. E. R. Steinhauer, son of the veteran native missionary of Whitefish Lake. The name of this mission soon disappeared from the yearly reports, and Mr. Steinhauer was transferred to Morleyville. In the early eighties missions were established among the Indians on the reserves on the Battle River. Rev. John Nelson ministered to the Stoneys at Woodville and also visited the reserves at White Whale (Wabamun) Lake and Riviere Qui Barre. Rev. E. B. Glass was in charge at Battle River from 1882. After the rebellion in 1885, Rev. Geo. E. Somerset established a new station at Bear's Hill. After the death of Henry B. Steinhauer at Whitefish Lake (December 29, 1884), Rev. Orrin German, a famous Cree scholar, who had served many years at Norway House, Oxford House and other stations in Northern Manitoba, was sent to Whitefish Lake (August, 1885). He conducted this mission until he was transferred to Battle River and Bear's Hill in 1892, where he labored until his death in ,July, 1905. Rev. Geo. E. Somerset took charge of the missions at White Whale Lake and Riviere Qui Barre (1892), and Rev. E. B. Glass was transferred at the same time to Whitefish Lake. Next year (1893) an Indus- trial School for the training of the Indian youth was established at Red Leer, and placed in charge of Rev. John Nelson and R. B. Steinhauer, B.A., another son of the famous missionary of Whitefish. Next in charge was Rev. Geo. E. Somerset from 1894 to 1903. Then followed: Rev. John P. Rice, 1903-1907; Rev. Arthur Barner, 1907-1913; Rev. J. F. Woods- worth, 1913 to the present time. in 1920 this school was moved to a site a few miles North of Edmonton. It draws its pupils from Louis Bull's Reserve, Samson's Reserve, Paul's Band at Wabamun.

The importance with which the Conference of Manitoba and the North- West regarded its w'ork among the Indians was indicated by the appointment in 1903 of Rev. John McDougall, founder of the McDougall Orphanage and Mission at Morleyville, to the position of Superintendent of Indian Missions for the Methodist Church, and organizing the work among the Indians into a separate department or an Indian District. On Mr. McDougall's retirement a few years later he was succeeded by Rev. Thomas Ferrier, the present Superintendent of this work.

A Galician mission was established in 1901 at Pakan, the new name given to Victoria. The importance of Victoria as an Indian mission had ceased. The country South and North of the Saskatchewan River was filling up with new settlers from Galicia. C. H. Lawford, M.D., who was placed in charge of the new mission, still labors in this field.

The McDougall Orphanage at Morleyville was closed in 1906, and remained closed until 1921, when the institution was reorganized and opened as a boarding school, Rev. E. J. Staley in charge.

The year 1906 brings us to present day conditions. Churches began to spring up in every town. Towns grew as railways were extended. The Methodist Church, following the lines laid down by the Conferences, and directed by the genius of the Superintendent of Missions, Rev. Dr. James Woodsworth, pursued a vigorous and comprehensive policy of establishing its ministry in every town and settlement, and of strengthening its organization to meet the increasing demands. The territory, comprising what is now Alberta, was divided into three districts—Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton—with twenty-five stations in each district. Twenty years before, June, 1883, the first Conference in the West had been organized in Grace Church, Winnipeg. Rev. Dr. Geo. Young, the first Methodist minister in Winnipeg (1868), and then Superintendent of Missions in the West, was elected President. At that time there were only five self-sustaining fields, forty-six missions to White settlers, and seventeen to the Indian tribes in the whole of the North-West.

Conditions were ready for further advancement in the organization of the church in the West. So in 1904 the Conference of Manitoba and the North-West, meeting again in Grace Church, Winnipeg, divided the jurisdiction into three Conferences, namely: Manitoba, Rev. Win. Saunders, President; Saskatchewan, Rev. Hamilton Wigle, President; Alberta, Rev. J. M. Harrison, of Medicine Hat, President, and Rev. T. C. Buchanan, Superintendent of Missions for Alberta.

In anticipation of the division of the territory, the Conference of 1903 authorized the organization of Alberta College at Edmonton as a preparatory and collegiate institution under the Methodist Church. Accordingly, Alberta College was opened December 3, 1903, with Rev. Dr. J. H. Riddell as principal. Dr. Riddell held the position until he took over the principalship of Alberta Theological College (now Alberta College South), when that institution was opened on the campus of the University of Alberta. Rev. F. Stacey McCall succeeded Dr. Riddell as principal of Alberta College North. In 1918 Dr. Riddell accepted the principalship of Wesley College, Winnipeg. Rev. D. A. S. Tuttle then became principal of Alberta Theological College.


In dealing with Roman Catholic Missions, a general review of the subject will be given applicable to the whole of the North West Territories, followed by a history of the several parishes and churches founded in Alberta.

The Roman Catholic Church began its permanent establishment in Western Canada among the Selkirk settlers, the French Canadians and Half-Breeds. As already noted, that was in 1818. Over half a century was to pass before the Hudson's Bay Company surrendered the country to the Dominion of Canada. During that time there was little settlement of the country. It belonged to the Indians and the Hudson's Bay Company. The principal work, therefore, during that period was among the Indians. As the work spread among the numerous tribes the demands became so great that Bishop Provencher eventually realized that the great task of Indian missions could not be successfully carried on by secular priests alone. It became increasingly difficult to get young men from Lower Canada to man the Western fields. He met with that same disappointment that Dr. Robertson met with when the great Presbyterian superintendent complained forty years later that the young men of the East heard the call only where the beds were soft and the meals palatable and good.

After twenty-five years of heroic endeavor Provencher had only four priests to carry on the work of the Church in the vast diocese comprising Rupert's Land and the Indian Territories. The good bishop turned to the great religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church. He first approached the Jesuits, but finally entreated the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to undertake a foundation of their order in Western Canada. The Oblates were an order of missionaries founded by Rt. Rev. Charles J. E. de Mazenod, Bishop of Marseilles, in 1816. They were the first missionaries to enter Canada after the conquest and had achieved wonderful success among the country parishes of Lower Canada. The coming of the Oblates solved the problem of securing men for the Indian missions. For the next fifty years scores of young priests, many of them scions of fine, old, aristocratic families of old and new France, bade everlasting farewell to home and friends, and became martyrs of the cold amid Arctic snows, endured hunger and all the hardships and dangers of nomadic life among Crees and Blackfeet, with no reward except to raise the moral and material condition of the savages of the land we live in so peaceably and prosperously today. The story of Alberta missions is linked with the Western Crusade of the Oblates. Although the first Roman Catholic missionaries to Alberta were secular priests, the great names associated with Alberta and the West - Taché Grandin, Faraud, Clut, Lacombe, Grollier, Petitot, Grouard and Legal—were all Oblates. In 1881 there was only one secular priest in the whole of Alberta—Father Bellevaire, at Battle River.

The first Oblates to arrive in Western Canada were Father Aubert, from France, and Brother Alexander Taché, a young novice of the order from Lower Canada. They reached Red River in August, 1843. Brother Taché was a descendant of Verendrye, the first white man to see the Red River. A few weeks after his arrival, Taché was ordained and began a wonderful career of fifty years' service, first as itinerant missionary, next coadjutor to Bishop Provencher, then Bishop, and finally Archbishop of the metropolitan See of St. Boniface, the largest ecclesiastical province of the Roman Catholic Church in the world.

Archbishop Taché is the greatest name in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in the West. During the fifty years of his ecclesiastical reign he was called upon to deal with all the big problems that have faced the Church in Western Canada—Indian missions, demands of the settlers and half-breeds respecting the monopoly of the Hudson's Bay Company, the troublesome incidents arising out of the Riel Rebellions in 1870 and 1885, amnesty for the insurgents, the use of the French language, separate schools according to Roman Catholic standards and practice, the neglect of the Indians by the officials of the Indian Department after being put on their reservations, and the indifference of the Government of Canada with respect to the general administration of Indian affairs. Some of these issues were decided against the Roman Catholic Church, but the reason was not due to any want of ability, tenacity and consummate statesmanship on the part of the Archbishop of St. Boniface.

On the death of Bishop Provencher in 1853, Taché, at the age of thirty years, succeeded him to the See of St. Boniface, having been appointed his coadjutor in 1850, with right of succession. At that time the See of St. Boniface counted few new parishes and missions—St. Boniface, St. Francis Xavier, on White Horse Plains. Of missions there were Lac St. Anne; Nativity, on Lake Athabaska, at Fort Chipewyan; St. Joseph's at Ile a la Crosse and Our Lady of Seven Dolours at Fond du Lac. Three of these missions were in what is now Alberta.
As new men arrived and new missions were established, Taché, though the youngest bishop in the world, asked the hierarchy in Canada to petition the Pope to grant him a coadjutor, leaving the choice to the Superior General of the Oblates, Biship de Mazenod of Marseilles. The Superior General nominated Rev. Vital J. Grandin, who had arrived at Red River in 1854, from France, and who was to give forty-eight years of fruitful labors in the West, almost equal to the achievements of Taché himself. Father Grandin was appointed Biship in December, 1857.

The Cathedral of St. Boniface, the cathedral with the "turrets twain," of Whittier's poem, built by Provencher in 1844, was burned to the ground on December 14, 1860. Taché visited Canada and Europe to raise funds to build a new cathedral, and to have his plans for a division of the immense diocese of St. Boniface approved by proper authority. His plans were approved, the diocese was divided into two, the dividing line being the famous Methy Portage. Rev. Father Faraud was appointed Bishop of the new diocese—the vicariate apostolic of Athabaska-Mackenzie—in May, 1862, with headquarters at Fort Providence, on Great Slave Lake, established by Bishop Grandin in 1861.

In 1864 Father Vandenberghe was sent from France to inspect the Oblate missions in Rupert's Land. In company with Bishop Taché, he visited He a la Crosse, Cold Lake, Lac la Biche, St. Albert, Edmonton, and Fort Carlton.

Just now the Roman Catholic missionaries were meeting strong opposition from the Anglican missionaries in Athabaska-Mackenzie district at Fort Simpson. Bishop Faraud consequently appealed for a coadjutor. Father Clut, in charge of Nativity at Fort Chipewyan, was, by special permission, chosen at a conference of Oblates of the diocese held at Providence, January, 1866, making the fourth Roman Catholic bishop in the country.

A second division of the See of St. Boniface was decreed by the eleventh chapter-general of the Oblates, held in France August, 1867. In consequence, Bishop Grandin was named vicar of Saskatchewan missions, with jurisdiction separate from Bishop Taché. He is better known as the Bishop of St. Albert. The new diocese included the basins of the Saskatchewan and Churchill rivers, and the valley of the Athabaska River as far as Lesser Slave Lake. In this vast territory there were six mission centres, namely: Lac St. Anne, St. Albert, Lac la Biche, lie a la Crosse, St. Paul of the Crees (the present Brosseau on the Saskatchewan River), and St. Peter on Lake Caribou. To carry on the work of these stations among the Indians were eleven priests, ten lay brothers and nine nuns. St. Albert now became the episcopal residence of Bishop Grandin, due to the destruction of the entire establishment by fire at Tie a la Crosse in May, 1867.

The fourth Provincial Council of Quebec met in May, 1868, and decided to elevate the See of St. Boniface to the dignity of a metropolitanate. Naturally Bishop Taché was nominated by the Council as Archbishop of the new ecclesiastical province. This act was ratified by the Supreme Pastor of the Roman Catholic Church in 1871, and Archbishop Taché was invested with the pallium in June of the following year.

After the transfer of Rupert's Land to the Dominion of Canada, the proportion of the Catholic population of Western Canada steadily declined. When the Province of Manitoba was incorporated there were 5,452 Catholics, 4,841 Protestants and 1,935 of unknown religious faiths in the Province. The proportion was still greater in the North West Territories in favor of the Roman Catholics. But the tide of immigration soon indicated that Manitoba and the North West Territories would be overwhelmingly Protestant and English speaking. To cope with the problem that inevitably faced his church, Archbishop Taché initiated a current of Roman Catholic immigration to the West. Many of the first settlements in Alberta were established as a result of this policy. The migration of the Half-Breeds of the Red River after the rebellion of 1870 to the North and West rapidly decreased the preponderance of Catholics in Manitoba. Special immigration agents working in Eastern Canada, and among expatriated French Canadians in the United States were successful in directing thousands of their co-religionists to Western Canada, and especially Alberta.

The control of Catholic higher education, as well as the control of missionary enterprises had been under the Oblates since Archbishop Taché arrived at Red River in 1845. It had long been his wish to hand over the permanent control of the College of St. Boniface to his own congregation. But the Oblates are a missionary order and not a teaching order like the Jesuits and it was decided to place the college under the Jesuits. The transfer was made August 13, 1885. Among the priestly professors of the new order was Rev. Father Lewis Drummond, afterwards known in Alberta as a professor in the Jesuit College at Edmonton, and a scholar of great piety and learning. In 1887 the Cathedral begun by Taché in 1862 to replace the cathedral built by Provencher in 1833 and destroyed in 1862, was completed and consecrated.

The first Provincial Council of the Province of St. Boniface was held in 1889 on the 71st anniversary of the arrival at Red River of Provencher and Dumoulin. This Council asked for the division of the diocese of St. Albert and issued eight decrees on the following subjects: The sacraments, education of youth, Indian missions, sanctification of the Lord's Day, episcopal jurisdiction, ecclesiastical properties, secret societies and Christian mortification. Indeed such a council of the Western hierarchy was a necessary preliminary to declare the unchanging position of the Roman Catholic Church and strengthen its influence in the conflict that was about to break against it.

Clouds were looming over the horizon. In 1890 the Manitoba legislature abolished separate schools and the use of the French language and two years later similar legislative action was taken by the Assembly of the North West Territories. Archbishop Taché and his bishops protested vigorously against the action of the legislature of Manitoba, first on the ground that it was unconstitutional, and second that it was a violation of assurances given by Premior Greenway and Attorney-General Martin in 1888. The equal rights agitation in Eastern Canada fanned the flames in Manitoba and battles, legal, polemical and political, clouded the closing years of Taché's life. The result was a defeat, but not a surrender for the Venerable Archbishop of St. Boniface. The Privy Council decided the Manitoba law was intra vires. The pledge given by the Greenway Government could bind only while it held office. Consequently the Government felt safe, though it could not have felt conscience-clear, in breaking the pledge. The issue was bound to arise and to be settled by the Protestant majority, as it was settled by the legislature of 1890.

Bishop Faraud, owing to growing infirmities resigned his charge of the vicariate-apostolic of Athabaska-Mackenzie early in 1890, and died in September the same year. He was succeeded by Father Grouard who had come from France in 1860 and had served at several missions in the North. Grouard used a printing press in work, printing books in the native dialects for the Indians of the Athabaska and Mackenzie. Bishop Grouard was consecrated at St. Boniface June 4, 1891. In the same year the diocese of St. Albert was divided and a new bishop appointed, Bishop Pascal, consecrated in France April 29th. 1-us diocese included part of Alberta and extended to Hudson Bay.

In 1894 the Superior General of the Oblates, Rt. Rev. Louis Soullier, visited Canada oil tour of Western missions. In the same year Archbishop Taché died (June 22, 1894). When he arrived in Red River 49 years before, there were only four Roman Catholic priests between Lake Superior and the Rocky Mountains. At the time of his death within the same territory, there were five bishops, over one hundred and forty-seven priests, and over 150 sisters. Tie was succeeded by Archbishop Langevin, who was consecrated March 19, 1895.

It has been said of Langevin that he not only succeeded Taché but he filled his place. The truth of this estimate of his ability was tested and proven in his negotiations with the Government of Canada in 1896 in the settlement of the contentious school question arising out of the famous Remedial Bill of that year, and again, in the battle that was waged over the school clauses in the Alberta and Saskatchewan Acts of 1905.

With the establishment of a Metropolitan See in Alberta in 1912, under Archbishop Legal, St. Boniface lost its importance in the church policies of Alberta, and we arrive at a convenient date to close the general summary of the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Alberta.


The oldest Catholic parish in Alberta is Lac St. Anne, founded by Rev. Jean Baptiste Thibault in 1842. The first priests of any denomination to perform religious services in Alberta were Fathers Blanchet and Domers on their way to British Columbia in 1838. They passed through Edmonton and erected a cross on the site of the Parliament Buildings.

In 1841 Peeche, the guide of Sir George Simpson on his trip of 1841, arrived at Red Deer to beg for a missionary for Edmonton. In the following spring Bishop Provencher sent Father Thibault. He left St. Boniface April 20, 1842, reaching Fort Edmonton via Fort Carlton on June 19th. Spending the summer at Fort Edmonton, he returned to Red River in October. Next year he returned and founded a mission at Lac St. Anne, or Devil's Lake as it was called by the Hudson's Bay Company's men. He chose this route rather than Fort Edmonton to be out of the fighting zone of the Blackfeet and Crees. In 1844 he was joined by Father Bourassa. Next year Father Thibault visited the Chipewyans at Lac Ia Biche, He a la Crosse and Cold Lake, while Father Bourassa visited the Beavers at Lesser Slave Lake and the Grande Prairie and Peace River country. In the early days of 1846 the good Fathers were surprised by an illustrious visitor. This was the Jesuit missionary, Father de Smet, who, corning along the Foothills passed through Edmonton, Lac St. Anne, and Jasper 1-louse, looking for the Blackfeet to press them to make a treaty with the Flatheads on the American border. Father Thibault, worn out by hardships, returned to St. Boniface in 1852, and was followed the next year by Father Bourassa. Father Lacombe, yet a secular priest, took charge of the mission in 1853 and was soon joined by Father Remas, an Oblate, arrived the previous year from France. Here the two priests labored for five years, making journeys to the Indians at Lac la Biche, Lesser Slave Lake, Jasper House, and following the Plains Indians on their buffalo hunts. They were visited by Bishop Taché on March 27, 1854, then on a tour of inspection of the various missions in the Saskatchewan and Athabaska regions. During this period Father Lacombe joined the Oblates, completing his novitiate in September, 1856.

The Grey Nuns established at Lac St. Anne in 1859, the first being Sister Superior Emery, and Sisters Lamy and Alphonse. Other priests in charge of Lac St. Anne have been: Father Leduc, 1867 to 1868; Fathers Andre and Bourgine, 1870 to 1871; Fathers Blanchet and Dupin, 1871 to 1874; Fathers Scollen and Grandin, 1883 to 1884; Father Lizee, 1886 to 1896; Father Vegreville, 1897, when Father LIzee was again placed in charge until 1908. Next the mission was under Father Portier and then Father Beaudry until 1917.

In 1889 Father Lestanc, Superior of St. Albert, began the customary pilgrimages to St. Anne, which take place each year on the Wednesday nearest the Feast Day of St. Anne.

St. Albert:—The next important mission in Alberta was established at St. Albert in 1861. Bishop Taché selected the spot and placed Father Lacombe in charge. Next year Father Lacombe started work on the buildings, including one for the Orphanage, that has been carried on ever since by the Grey Nuns, who moved from Lac St. Anne in 1863. The new mission attracted a great number of half-breeds, who settled on farms and founded one of the largest settlements in the West at the time. From 1865 Fathers Tissot and Andre continued the work while Father Lacombe founded a new mission, St. Paul of the Crees, on the North Saskatchewan River where the village of Brosseau is now situated. Father Leduc succeeded to the charge in 1868, and in the same year Bishop Grandin established his palace at St. Albert, a log building 16 feet by 30 feet. The ceiling in the chapel was so low that the Bishop could not officiate without catching his mitre in the joists. He entered St. Albert October 26th, escorted by a cavalcade of half-breeds, having arrived from St. Paul of the Crees, where he was met by the eight priests of his diocese—Fathers Lacombe, Leduc, Remas, Vegreville, Moulin, Gasté, Andre and Legoff.

In 1870 a cathedral was built 84 feet by 72 feet, which purpose it served until 1906, and is still used as a Concert Hall and Assembly Room for the town of St. Albert. That same year St. Albert was raised to the dignity of an episcopal See, Bishop Grandin being the first Titular Bishop. Previously he had been only Vicar of Saskatchewan and coadjutor to Bishop rfaché The new dignity gave him increased jurisdiction.

Father Lestanc followed Father Leduc in 1874 and remained for three years, when Father Leduc returned. In 1878 a number of white settlers arrived and gave an impetus to the material progress of the community. Next year the mission erected a grist mill and a sawmill. Father Leduc remained ten years, when Father Merer succeeded, continuing until 1914. Father Legal who had spent sixteen years among the Blackfeet of Southern Alberta, was appointed coadjutor to Bishop Giandin in March, 1897, and in 1900 the Apostolic Delegate for the Dominion of Canada came purposely to St. Albert to visit the aged Bishop. In the same year a Diocesan Seminary was inaugurated. In 1902 the saintly bishop died and was succeeded by Bishop Legal. Apostolic Delegates have visited St. Albert on two occasions since—Msgr. Sbaretti in 1902 and Msgr. Pelegrino Stagni in 1910.

The progress of Roman Catholic missions in all parts of the Province required the erection of another diocese, the Diocese of Calgary, in 1912. At the same time the diocese of St. Albert was raised to the dignity of a Metropolitan See, under Archbishop Legal. The growth of Edmonton to a modern city induced the Pope to order the establishment of the cathedral and archiepiscopal residence at Edmonton instead of the town of St. Albert, and the archdiocese named the Archdiocese of Edmonton. The venerable archbishop died in March, 1920, and in December, 1920, His Grace Archbishop O'Leary was appointed in his place.

With the appointment of the present Archbishop the number of secu- lar priests in the Province will increase. For eighty years the Oblates governed and manned the diocese of what is now Alberta. In their long and honorable history here and elsewhere in Western Canada they have amply justified the hopes of Provencher and Taché, and their great sacrifices and achievements will never be forgotten by the people of the West.

St. Joachim's, Edmonton:—As we have seen, Fathers Blanchet and Demers passed through Edmonton in 1838 and Father rrhibault was there in 1842. For the next fifteen years the priests from St. Anne often visited Edmonton. The Journals of the Fort frequently relate arrival and departure of Fathers Lacombe, Remas and Bourassa, but as yet there was not a permanent priest. For example, there is an entry in the Journal of March 10, 1856, as follows: "Messrs. Moberly and John Sinclair, accompanied by Abraham Satois, went on a jaunt to Lac St. Anne to bring back some carts left there last fall as well as to confess their sins." Rev. Robt. Rundle was often a visitor to the fort in those days. In 1857 a mission was begun at Edmonton. Chief Factor William Christie gave permission for the establishment of a chapel within the walls of the fort, and a house for the use of the missionary. One of the priests either of St. Albert or Lac St. Anne were in charge until 1865, when a school was built and Father Scollen took charge. Eleven years later (1876) the chapel was removed outside of the fort. Mr. Malcolm Groat, ex-employee of the Hudson's Bay Company, donated nine acres in what has been since known to the people of Edmonton as the "Groat Estate." Here another chapel was built from the materials of the old chapel. Rev. Father Blanchet was put in charge, but resided at St. Albert. In 1883 a new chapel was built on the present site of St. Joachim's Church, and Father Grandin, a nephew of the bishop, became the parish priest, lie remained until 1890, and was followed by Fathei' Fauquet, who was succeeded by Father Lacombe. The good father longed to go back to his hermitage at Pincher Creek, and gladly gave up his charge at St. Joachim's to his old friend, Father Leduc. During Leduc's pastorate the present St. Joachim's Church was erected. Father Jan, who had assisted Father Leduc for a number of years, succeeded to the charge in 1904. Then followed Fathers Hetu and Therien, 1906; Father Naessens, 1907; Fathers Lemarchand, Merer and Tavernier.

The congregation of the Faithful Companions of Jesus founded a boarding school beside the mission in 1888 and in 1895 the Grey Nuns established a hospital, the nucleus of the splendid hospital on Victoria Avenue today. They were followed in 1901 by the Sisters of Mercy of the Misericordia Hospital.

The original parish of St. Joachim's has been divided several times as Edmonton increased in area and population. The first parish was the Immaculate Conception organized in 1905 by Father Hetu; then Sacred Heart to accommodate the English speaking parishioners of the Immaculate Conception, in 1911. A new church was built for the purpose in 1913. It is interesting to observe that Father Roque, incumbent of the Immaculate Conception, was the first secular priest in Edmonton. The parish of St. Anthony (Strathcona) was founded in 1895, and served from St. Joachim's until 1901, when it became independent. Priests in charge have been Father Nordmann, 1901-1905; Father McQuaid, 1906; Father Jan again, 1907; Father McQuaid 1908-1911; Father Lernarchand, 1912-1914; Father Torquinet.

St. Francis of Assisi:—In 1909 the Franciscan Fathers established a mission at North Edmonton, the industrial portion of the city. The previous year they had come to Our Lady of Lourdes at Lamoureux, opposite Fort Saskatchewan, but decided to locate at North Edmonton. Here their monastery has been built. Father Berchmans was the first superior. Father Xavier-Marie followed Father Berchnians in 1911. By 1914 the parish had grown so that it became necessary to divide it, one for the French speaking Catholics, the other for the English speaking and other nationalities.

Other parishes in the City of Edmonton manned by priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, assisted by the Ursuline Nuns, are: St. Edmund (Calder), St. Francis Xaverius, under the Society of Jesus, with a college founded in 1912, Father Iludon, Society of Jesus, principal; and Holy Rosary (Polish).

Mission at Lac La Biche:—This point had been visited by Father Thibault in 1844, Father Bourassa in 1851, by Bishop Taché in 1852 and Father Lacombe, but it was not founded as a permanent mission until 1853. Here Father Remas took up his residence that year. He was visited by Father Vegreville next year, and was sent to Lac St. Anne in 1855. Fathers Tissot and Maisonneuve, who then took charge, put the mission on a permanent footing. They opened a road from Fort Pitt to Lac La Biche in 1856, and brought in supplies by ox-carts, raised barley and potatoes, making the place self-sustaining and a source of supply for other missions of the North. Next year several buildings were erected under the supervision of Brother Bowes, one of the most famous of the Oblate Brothers, and who built many missions in the North-West during his lifetime. They burned limestone and built stone buildings.

In 1862 a colony of nuns was established at Lac La Biche, with Sister Gunette as superior. The Fathers built a small mill and the Sisters made bread for the mission.

In 1875 Bishop Faraud established his episcopal palace at Lac La Biche. Father Vegreville was priest in charge of the mission. Two years later the mission was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Vicar Apostolic of Athabaska and Mackenzie because of its advantages as a base of supplies. When Bishop Faraud took up his residence at Fort Providence in 1889, the mission, which had long rivalled St. Albert, lost much of its importance and became an outpost of half-breed settlement. In 1898 the Sisters moved to Saddle Lake, though in 1904 Father Grandin, then in charge, succeeded in establishing another community of Sisters at the mission.

Calgary (Our Lady of Peace):—Alexis Cardinal, Father Lacombe's famous and intrepid guide, built a house on the Elbow River, some twenty- five miles above the junction of the Bow and Elbow rivers in 1872. Next year he gave the house to Fathers Scollen and Fourmond, and in 1874 a larger house was built. This was the beginning of the parish. When the North West Mounted Police established a police post at the junction of the Bow and Elbow, the two priests moved to the vicinity of the police barracks and built a chapel there in 1877. Father Doucet was the first priest in charge. In the spring of 1881 Bishop Grandin visited the mission while on an episcopal tour to the Blackfeet tribes of Southern Alberta. In 1883 Fathers Lacombe and Doucet filed on two quarter-sections within the City of Calgary, which were eventually acquired by the Church. In 1885 twelve Companions of Jesus arrived (July 26th), Fathers Leduc and Andre in charge, visiting Gleichen, Pincher Creek and other posts around. Beginning was made on a stone church, Our Lady of Peace, under Father Leduc, and it was opened in 1889. The Grey Nuns of Montreal established Holy Cross Hospital in 1891. As the city grew other churches and parishes sprang up—Sacred heart in West Calgary, St. Anne's in East Calgary, and the Ruthenian Parish of St. Stephen's in 1911, St. Joseph's, 1915, as well as several separate schools, and St. Mary's high school for boys. The Ursuline Nuns, chiefly devoted to nursing and education of girls, erected a foundation of the order in Calgary in 1921.


After the Indian tribes had taken treaty and were placed on their several reservations, it became comparatively easy to establish missions thereon—much easier than when the missionaries were compelled to follow the tribes in their nomadic life on the Plains. The Roman Catholic Church showed remarkable energy in establishing missions at nearly all the reservations, though it should be borne in mind that both the Methodist and Anglican Churches have also carried on a splendid work on the reservations.

It is a significant fact that though the Indians of the North-West have been described as savages by almost every writer of the last century who traveled in this territory, the missionaries of every denomination have been invariably treated with kindness and respect by the natives. In the long history of Western missions only four missionaries have suffered death from the hands of the Indians—Father Aulneau at St. Charles, 1736; Father Darveau at Lake Winnipegosis, 1844, and Fathers Faford and Marchand in 1885 at Frog Lake. To this list may be added the name of Brother Alexis Raynard, O.M.I., the factotum of Northern missions, who was murdered at House River in the summer of 1875 by an Iroquois companion. The outrage at Frog Lake was the work of non- treaty nomads, incited by Riel's emissaries.

In 1882 Father Faford established a fine mission at Frog Lake, where a large number of Indians were settled. At Onion Lake, another reserve a few miles away, plans were in progress for a mission in the spring of 1885 by Fathers Merer and Marchand. But the rebellion intervened and Faford, Marchand and seven other whites were murdered by Big Bear's band, and the buildings destroyed by fire (April 2, 1885).

In 1886 Father Merer was sent to rebuild Onion Lake mission. After the completion of a fine church in 1871 a solemn service was held by Bishop Grandin on September 15th, in connection with the burial of the martyred priests—Faford and Marchand. Their remains were borne from their temporary resting place at Frog Lake to the vault of the chapel at Onion Lake. A school was opened on the reserve and put in charge of the Reverend Sisters of the Assumption. The first nuns arrived with Bishop Grandin, 8th of September, 1891. Since that period, until the present, there has been naturally many changes. The mission has been one of the most successful in the Province. An excellent boarding school is maintained and attended by 75 children.

After the unhappy crisis of 1885 the Indian Department gathered the Indians at Victoria (near Pakan), and south of the Saskatchewan, principally around Whitford Lake (then Egg Lake) and placed them on the reserve at Saddle Lake—near Whitefish Lake and Good Fish Lake reserves. These Indians were under Chief Pakan, an ardent Protestant, but to minister to the Catholic members of the tribe Father Merer established a mission here in 1888, that has flourished ever since. It is said that the last pagan Indian was baptized by Father Leduc on this reserve in 1897. He was the Indian who unintentionally shot Chief Sweet Grass in 1876. In 1898 the boarding school at Lac La Biche was, on the advice of the Indian Department, transferred to Saddle Lake, where it is still carried on. Father Baiter who took charge in 1906 published for many years a small monthly journal, "The Sacred Heart" in Cree, using the syllabic characters.


Duhamel:—Some of the Catholic missions have been established especially for the benefit of the half-breeds, as most of these people in the West belong to this church. Such were Duhamel and St. Paul de Metis. In the late seventies, a number of half-breed families settled on the banks of Battle River, about thirty miles east of the present City of Wetaskiwin. This was known as the Selvais or the Laboucan settlement. A special survey was made in 1883, and the plan of river lots, so popular with the half- breed settler, was adopted. As a mission Duhamel dates from 1881, when it was first visited by Father Beillevaire. The founding of the mission and the introduction of the river lot surveys attracted a considerable number of half-breeds. In the summer of 1883 a priests' house and church were erected and the place named after Archbishop Duhamel of Ottawa. By 1900 a school was added to the establishment. Though a small parish still exists under Father Beillevaire, through the advance of settlement, the half-breeds have gone elsewhere. The country has been opened up by various classes of new settlers. The opening of the country by railways took away the favorite vocation of the half-breed, freighting, and the old mission now consists of immigrants of various nationalities.

St. Paul de Metis:—The mission at St. Paul was the idea of Father Lacombe, who loved the Metis or half-breeds and understood their weaknesses and the dangers they would be subjected to by the settlement of the country by white men. The good Father conceived the plan of gathering the half-breeds into one settlement as far from the path of settlement as possible and placing them under the paternal care of the Oblate Fathers. In cooperation with the Department of the Interior four townships were secured under a grant of twenty-one years to the episcopal corporations of St. Albert, St. Boniface and Prince Albert, and a plan worked out for the redemption of the half-breeds. Father Lacombe, with the assistance of Father Therien, chose a beautiful tract of country lying between the North Saskatchewan River and Cold Lake. It was surveyed in 1896 and Father Therien sent by Bishop Grandin to lay the foundations of the half-breed colony. The first harvest was reaped in 1897. The flour and sawmill at Lac la Biche was removed to St. Paul. A school was opened that year, and two years later the Sisters of the Assumption, who already had a convent at Onion Lake, arrived and took charge of the day school. A boarding school was erected to accommodate one hundred, for children who lived too far from the mission to attend day school. Meanwhile Father Therien visited the United States to acquaint the half-breeds in that country of the colony at St. Paul. As the work increased it became a heavy tax upon the resources of the Oblates, and applications were made to other orders. Father Lacombe went to Europe for this purpose, and applied to the "Salesians" and the Premonstratensian Fathers of the Abbey of Grimbergen, Belgium. The latter sent an agent, Father Van Wettin, to investigate the project, but after the report the Premonstratensian Fathers refused to take over the mission. Resort was had to the charity of the parishes of Quebec. A new church 104 feet by 42 feet with a sacristy 42 feet by 22 feet was built in 1904. The colony suffered a severe blow in 1905 (Jan. 15th) when the boarding school was burned to the ground. But scarcely had new buildings been erected when a notable transformation of the country began. There is no place in the North-West that is immune from the invasions of the ubiquitous settler. By 1908 settlers were filling up the vacant lands around the Half-breed Reservation. It was apparent the scheme as originally planned in segregating the half-breeds in an isolated colony was doomed. It was therefore resolved to bring in a selected class of settlers and Rev. J. A. Ouellette, parish priest of Beaumont, was appointed colonization agent for this work, assisted by Father Therien. As settlers poured into the districts, new parishes were formed with St. Paul as a centre—St. Vincent, Bonnyville, St. Louis. In 1909 the reserve was thrown open for homesteading and the unique experiment was a thing of the past.

Similar missions are carried on at Heart Lake, Cold Lake, 1874, Riviere Qui Barre, 1877, Hobbema (formerly Bear Hills), 1881, Stony Plain, 1885. In 1874 Emile Joseph Legal, a professor of mathematics from Nantes, was ordained to the priesthood, lie came to Canada in 1881 and was appointed to missions among the Blackfeet, especially the Bloods and Peigans. Here he labored for sixteen years until he was appointed coadjutor to Bishop Grandin in 1897. He carried on successfully the work begun by Father Lacombe, a quarter of a century before.

Father Lacombe is the great Roman Catholic missionary of the Blackfeet—the black-robed voyageur of the plains. He visited them as early as 1857, with his faithful Alexis, and again in 1859. After several years among the Crees he again returned to the Blackfeet in 1871, intending to devote himself entirely to winning this warlike nation over to Christianity. Bishop Grandin, however, had other plans for Father Lacombe which kept him from his beloved mission until 1881, when he returned and spent several years among them, rendering valuable service in pacifying Blackfeet tribes during the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Rebellion of 1885.


A list of the most important French-Canadian parishes and missions established in Alberta, with appropriate notes concerning each, is given as follows:

Notre Dame de Lourdes (Lamoureux, P. O.), founded in 1875; chapel built by Father Blanchet, 1877; Father Dorais in charge from 1891-1908, the year of his death; present church completed 1903; Father Berchmans, 1909; Father Pilon, 1909-1912; Father Normandeau, 1912-1914.

St. Emerence, Riviere Qui Barre, founded 1893.

St. Jean Baptiste, Morinville; founded by Abbe Morin, 1891. Father Harnois, first parish priest, 1892. Daughters of Jesus from Kermaria, Brittany, established a convent in 1903; present beautiful church dedicated by Bishop Legal, March, 1908.

St. Vital, Beaumont; founded 1892 by Abbe Morin. First priest, Father Perrault, O.M.I., 1893; Father Poitras, 1894-1896; Father Beauparlant, 1897; Father Ethier, 1898-1902; Father Bouchard, 1902-1905; Father Ouellette, 1905-1907.

Other parishes: St. Pierre, Villeneuve, 1900; St. Emile, Legal, 1899, named after the Bishop of St. Albert; Spruce Grove and Egg Lake, 1900; Sion, 1911; Brosseau. 1905; Bonnyville, named after Father Bonny, the first priest, 1910.

When the railway was built from Edmonton to Calgary and south to Macleod, in 1891 and 1892, Catholic churches sprang up in every important town. The same happened when the Canadian Northern was built into Edmonton in 1905; and when the Grand Trunk Pacific was built in 1910. The names of the parishes may be designated by the names of the various towns and villages along these lines. These parishes are composed of all nationalities of the Catholic faith, differing in this respect from those described in the remainder of this chapter on the Catholic Church in Alberta.


The Galicians, Bukowinians, Rumanians and other foreign nationalities from Central Europe who settled in Alberta from 1892 to the end of the century belonged to three great categories of religious denominations: Roman Catholics, Greek Ruthenian Catholics or Uniates and Green Orthodox. The Catholics of these groups had no resident priest among them until 1898. They had been visited frequently by Fathers Dorais, from Lamoureux, and Nordmann, who could speak German. In 1900 a Polish priest, Father Olczewski, was ordained by Bishop Grandin and commissioned to carry oil work among these nationalities, situated principally in the country East of Edmonton, and South of the Saskatchewan River. He established his headquarters at a point since called Krakow, where he built a church in 1907. Under his auspices missions were founded, 1904, at Skaro, Beaver Lake, on the Little Vermilion River, between Edmonton and Athabasca. At Skaro some Polish young ladies established a convent in 1904, and were consecrated by Bishop Legal under the name of "Auxiliaries of Apostolate." Later the sisterhood extended its work to Krakow and Edmonton.

Father Olczewski was soon joined by Fathers Albert and William Kulawy, both Oblates, and sent to Canada to look after the welfare of Ruthenian and Polish, missions, and in 1903 a third brother, Father Paul Kulawy, was sent to reside at St. Albert. Next year he established a parish for these nationalities at Round Hill and built a church there, which was dedicated by Bishop Legal in July, 1907.

A Ruthenian mission was established at Rabbit Hills, eighteen miles southwest of Edmonton, in 1903. The church was dedicated with beautiful and pious demonstrations on the feast of Corpus Christi, June 2, 1904. A procession escorted Bishop Legal with banners, ikons and lighted tapers to the church through arches of foliage and flags of the national colors of Galicia—yellow and blue.

St. John Nepomuck, another mission of this nationality, was established in a Polish community fifteen miles North of Daysland by Father Kulawy in 1009.


Among the foreign nationalities of Alberta mentioned above, reference has been made to the Galicians of the Greek Ruthenian rite or Uniates. They submit to the jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome. The liturgy of their church is not in the Greek but in the Ruthenian language. In Galicia there is a separate Ruthenian hierarchy distinct from the Latin hierarchy in the same territory, with jurisdiction only over the members of its own rite.

Before these people in Alberta had been visited by Bishop Legal or any of the priests under his jurisdiction, some of the Galician settlers secured a visit from two priests of the Greek Orthodox Church who tried to induce the Greek Catholics to forsake their mother church. This was in 1897. In September of the same year, Father Demytrow, a Uniate priest, visited the district and was granted the right by Bishop Legal to exercise his priestly ministry among the Galician people. Steps were taken at once to secure priests of the Greek Ruthenian rite through the Propaganda at Rome. In the spring of 1898 the Metropolitan of Galicia sent Father Tymkiewitcz to Alberta. This young priest seems to have been of the class that favored soft beds and good meals, for in less than six months he left the Province for the United States. Before he left he succeeded in inducing Bishop Grandin to vest the church property at Star in a committee of three, known as trustees or syndics of the mission. The trust created by this act gave rise to one of the most protracted and memorable lawsuits in the history of the courts of Alberta—the famous Star Church lawsuit (Zacklinski vs. Polishie, 1908 A. C. 65). After the departure of Father Tymkiewitcz, Father Zacklinski took his place in 1900. In order to obtain a regular supply of priests for the Galician settlements, Father Lacombe visited Vienna and Lemberg in 1900. In response to this appeal the Archbishop of Lemberg sent Father Basil Zoldak to Alberta to survey the situation. He arrived in Edmonton in 1902 (February 15th), and returned to Galicia in May, accompanied by Father Jan, to secure more priests. Accordingly three Basilian Fathers, a lay brother and four sisters, "Servants of Mary," were welcomed at Edmonton in October of that year.

The three priests, Fathers Filas, Dydyk and Strozky, established new missions at Monaster, Star, Edmonton, Rabbit Hill, and went on periodical visits to Lethbridge and the Crow's Nest Pass. Father Filas was appointed to the vacant episcopate of Stanislow in Galicia in 1906, and Father Dydyk became the Superior of Ruthenian missions in Alberta. He was later transferred to Winnipeg. He was succeeded by Fathers Filipow and Tymocko, with headquarters at Mundare. Father Tymocko died in 1909. His place was taken by Father Kryzanowski. In 1910 a fine church, of Muscovite style, was built at Mundare, the first of all the Ruthenian churches in Alberta. In the same year this church was dedicated by the Metropolitan of Lemberg, who had come to Canada and the North-West and spent some time in the Galician settlements. Three years later (1913) Bishop Budka was appointed Bishop of the Greek Ruthenian Rite, with jurisdiction over all Ruthenian Catholics in Canada.


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus