Friday, July 29, 2016

The N.A.R. Station celebrates 100 years!

The Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway was incorporated by Dominion Statutes 1907. Its purpose was to run north from Edmonton “by the most feasible route, to a point at or near the town of Dunvegan.” Of course those were the days when it was believed Dunvegan would amount to a great centre instead of the iconic crossing we know it as today.

In the early 1900s, railways were the veins of the country. Across them, from coast to coast, steam engines carried the nation’s manufactured, agricultural, and raw materials. Such an efficient system contributed millions to the nation’s economy. It allowed people to travel more frequently and with greater ease, and also opened the way for better national communication systems with the telegraph lines which often ran parallel to the tracks. It was a time when if you were ‘an-up-and-coming town’, a place with a good future and not just ‘any old town’ you were on the railway – it was your link to the outside world, to investors, to product markets, to labour forces. No better example could be found than Peace River and Grouard. Both were small communities that started as service points. Both were of a comparable size, and offered the same sorts of services. However, when Grouard was by-passed by the railway in 1914, and Peace River received its own station, Peace River prospered, while Grouard gradually declined.

The railway made it to Judah Hill in 1915, and passengers and goods could disembark and embark there for trains to Edmonton and Grande Prairie. Railway workers were busy erecting the Heart River Trestle (completed May of 1916) and others the railbed from the Heart River, across Pat’s Creek to where the station is. A spur line was also in the works for the warehouse district near the river. Trains were anticipated to be running to the site of the station as early as the end of July – right around this time of month. The station that was to be erected was meant to “be the largest and best building of the kind erected on the lines of the company.” And was it! It was on par with Grande Prairie’s, McLennan’s and later Fahler and Spirit River. It was expected to be in use by the end of the summer.

The N.A.R. railway station shortly after Northern Alberta Railways
was formed in 1929, awaiting the arrival of Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir,
the Governor General of Canada and his wife. From the Cruickshank
Family fonds, F044.002.103.

The E.D. & B.C. was optimistic in 1916. Surveying crews worked on establishing future routes from Peace River to Fort Vermilion via Battle River (Manning). Can you imagine how different Fort Vermilion might be had they been successful?  

The railway continued west with the completion of the Million Dollar Bridge in 1918, reaching Berwyn in 1921, Whitelaw in 1924, Fairview in 1928, and Hines Creek in 1930 when the railway movement had run out of steam and the Great Depression began. 

The station building was enlarged in the late 1930s, and passenger service ceased in May of 1960. It was designated as a Provincial Historic Resource 29 Apr 1988. Rescued in 1992 and restored to its former glory (and thankfully repainted from the N.A.R. colours) the building is a lasting reminder of our proud railway heritage.  Thankfully Peace River is lucky, and the lovely simple Edwardian building is still with us today to celebrate 100 years. 

Join us for a BBQ, pie and ice cream Saturday Jul 30th from 11 to 2pm at the NAR station in Peace River to celebrate its 100th birthday. Details can be found on the Peace River Museum Facebook page or on the town’s website: . The museum has also issued a series of archival postcards commemorating the community's milestones including the NAR Station, Heart River trestle and the D.A. Thomas – these are available for sale in our giftshop.

The postcard available for sale in the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre commemorating the NAR station's 100th birthday. Drop by and browse our selection of other anniversary postcards.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Witness Blanket

By Laura Love
Using a traditional quilting style, artist Carey Newman not only weaves cedar together with items from residential schools and government buildings, but the memories and stories associated with them. The 887 objects that were found and retrieved from communities all over Canada relay very profound messages; connecting cultures, traditions and histories.  Like the cast off pieces of fabric from old shirts, blankets, and dresses used to make beautiful patchwork quilts, Newman has taken previously used items that became cast off to create a beautiful memorial.

Giving these items purpose again, the symbolism of many of the objects that were discarded and reclaimed have also given the Witness Blanket an alternate way to speak to Canada’s darker residential school history on many different levels.  He has taken the mundane, the everyday, and the innocent and woven them together in such a way to make us think about the people and experiences behind them. Many items hold multiple meanings – where some people may view them one way and others another. The pair of skates speaks to sports and laughter and community to some, while to others these items may reach a different, deeper meaning.  The small statue of Mary may bring comfort to some, and anxiety to others.  The bricks that are affixed to the blanket may symbolise grand old buildings, but may have been sources of intimidation to others, where terrible things happened behind their ‘beautiful’ facades. Some children even carved their name into them as a way of remembrance of who they were…
Braided hair within the Witness Blanket
The physical objects are woven together by photographs, survivor testimony, newspaper articles and legislation. Some are harder to see and read than others, further developing the symbolism of the Residential forgotten story, emphasizing the struggle to see what was happening in our own country. With faded photographs, and the small, almost illegible text on select tiles, Newman has increasingly created a tough narrative to read, but one that piques our need to understand, encouraging us to try to decipher what the items say. As an artist and one whose family experienced residential school history has been able to articulate the increasingly important story of the Canadian Residential School system using artistic interpretation and personal involvement with survivors. The artistic quilting of these objects create and inspire conversation that help us document and share the Residential School story.
Like the traditionally stitched quilt that is passed down from generation to generation, Newman has given Canada a new blanket to appreciate and pass down to future generations.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cecil Thompson - for whom a park is named.

(Sources: Peace River Remembers; Turning the Pages of Time, a History of Nampa and Surrounding District;; Mosquitoes, Muskegs and Memories, a History of Wesley Creek and Three Creeks)

By Beth Wilkins,

A man who came to Alberta from Nova Scotia on a Harvest Excursion in 1926 liked it so well, he stayed. That man, Cecil Vicars Thompson, raised on a farm near Fort Lawrence, an archeological site on the side of the Missaguash River brought with him the farm knowledge he learned on the family farm, as well as the that which he picked up from graduating in the first class of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.


Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre 2009.014.418 – Cecil Vicars Thompson standing with the Peace River in the background. Although his health is failing, he looks fit. The park in Northern Sunrise County near the County offices bearing his name is stocked with fish and entices ducks to visit.
A duck exercises on the fish-stocked pond at the Cecil Thompson Park adjacent to Northern Sunrise County buildings.

On his arrival in Alberta, he worked for George Craddock at Carbon, a village 41km west of Drumheller. When that work was done, he worked on building roads and playing semi-pro baseball and hockey. It was while doing this, he “grew to love to love Alberta”, according to daughter Ann Wood.

The same George Craddock from Carbon bought property between Nampa and Peace River in the Rosedale District of Northern Sunrise County, which has come through a couple of name changes since then. Cecil later bought the farm from George, but in those days as today, it was usually necessary to supplement one’s income. This, he did by hauling wood to town.

Eventually, the Thompson farm became a mixed farm – cattle, grain and clover seed were raised. Horses were a work necessity and Cecil took pride in his animals – horses and beef cattle. He also had dairy cattle from which he supplied the U. S. Army in 1942, when they were camped in the Jack Pine area while working on the CANOL Project (pipeline from Norman Wells to Whitehorse with Peace River the starting point of a temporary highway into the North). “Each morning, a huge truck would arrive at the farm, and drivers would come in for coffee. Many of these fellows were from the Deep South and found the winter here very cold, indeed,” writes Ann.

The Thompsons, Martha and Cecil, continued to produce milk during the next few years, delivering to the hospital and the Victory Hotel, as well as the Northern Alberta Dairy Producers (N.A.D.P.)

Cecil didn’t stay stationary too long. He bought cattle throughout the country, sometimes accompanied by Jim Millar from Judah and sometimes by Henry Jerry, owner of Peace River Meat Co. There were times when Henry couldn’t get away that Cecil did his buying for him.

Cecil was not all work and no play. Certainly not. Play was a large part of his life. Sports of all kinds were an attraction, including hunting and fishing, but especially baseball and hockey. In 1953, he was manager of the local baseball team. That was the same year, he sold the farm to the Companion Society from Quebec – a co-operative group of farmers, who settled here. They started out with the Thompson and Joe Walker farms and expanded to include the surrounding area, which evolved into the hamlet of St. Isidore.

Cecil’s health failed over the years, so once the farm was sold, he and Martha moved to their summer home in Peace River – on the corner of 101 Street and 104 Avenue. Winters were spent in southern California.

Cecil died February 24, 1969.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Colourful fish prints

David Walty has lived in Peace River and worked as a fisheries biologist and wildlife manager for over 40 years.  Art has been a part of his family and his life since he was a young boy.  “I would say, I have always dabbled with various media, often connecting my profession and love of nature with art.”

He has drawn and painted fish for over 20 years, most of his earlier works were very stylized pen and ink, pencil or water colour profiles of Alberta fish. The designs were strongly influenced by aboriginal and particularly west coast art.

 His “fish pressing” all started during an ice fishing trip a few years ago.  Good friends Claire and Brian Lucko took him and his wife Maureen to their ice fishing hut on Lesser Slave Lake. Claire and David took some water colour paints along and after a few fish were caught, decided to put away the fishing rods and do a little art work. That was the beginning of fish pressing. Since then David has tried to improve his techniques and spends considerable time fishing for subject fish and experimenting.

The technique involves painting the fish, then pressing the paper over the fishes’ body and fins to get a complete impression of the fish. That may seem easy, but to get a complete print of the fish, is quite challenging. Different paints and colours adhere to the fish in different ways making impressions vary, but often leading to pleasant surprises. The stretching and mounting of the rough paper pressings transforms the imprint into an attractive art form.
Individual fish by themselves produced a somewhat static picture whereas with the addition of minnows (small fish) to the print, the fish comes to life. View this new art exhibit and see if the fish come to life for you.

Ice fishing cabin
Painting the fish before preparing it for a delicious supper!