Chapter One: Early Settlement
Title page, preface, dedication etc. p.i
poem, A-misk-wa-chi p.1
The Origin of Tofield’s Name p.3
Pre-Pioneer Era of Tofield Area p.6
The Development of Tofield p.11
Star Twinkles Only Once p.17
The Tofield “Blowhard” p.17
Early Days at Tofield (public speech) p.20
Pre-Pioneer Era p.26
Letter to the Editor p.27
An Old-Timer, William Rowland, Is Gone (1907) p.29
A Short History of Tofield As I Remember It p.34
Tales of Tofield
Published in 1969
The Tofield Historical Society
Grace A. Phillips
The Leduc Representative
Lynard Publishers Ltd.
History offers something of very great practical value and citizens cannot afford to ignore it. Only when they have knowledge of the problems and successes and failures of other years are they in a position to plan wisely for the future.
And history can be charming as well as useful. It can be a companion as well as a guide. One of the good things to come from Canada’s Centennial Year was a fresh appreciation of the nation’s rich and exciting history. Westerners may be so bold as to conclude that the most fascinating part of Canadian history concerns their area, so recently occupied exclusively by Indians and fur traders. The achievements of one hundred years provide one of the greatest success stories in the western world.
Local or community history is a segment of the whole. Every district has a story of struggles and hardships and achievements. Best of all, it is a story of vigorous pioneers and great personalities. The record should be preserved. Happily, Centennial Year saw the preparation of many such local histories and the result will have lasting value.
The Tofield Historical Society, recognizing the community’s rich heritage, has done well to gather the threads which will now appear as a lasting cultural fabric. Those whose imagination and effort went into the preparation of Tales of Tofield are to be congratulated and thanked.
[signed] Grant MacEwan
Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta
—- the pioneers of the Tofield area who with courage and gallantry laid the foundations of our community
—- the residents of contemporary Tofield who are building a progressive community on those foundations
and most especially
—- the youth of Tofield in whose hands the future lies,
—- this book is lovingly dedicated.
Tofield Historical Society
This book is the outcome of an idea conceived many years ago by interested citizens of Tofield. It is the story of the growth of this area over the last nine decades.
Eulogies are often looked at askance, but in this instance it is not possible to thank sufficiently all the people who have striven to make this book a reality.
The Tofield Historical Society would like to voice a special word of gratitude to: J. R. Francis for providing, through his photographs, a pictoral record of the past and for his untiring efforts in compiling and checking facts relevant to this book; to Grace Phillips for much research and for writing the articles which vividly preserve the past; Mrs. Daisy Young for the sketches introducing various sections of the book; typists, Mr. Floyd Irwin, Miss Elizabeth Rains, Mrs. Mildred Watson, Mrs. Fay Dodds, Mrs. Rita Halverson and Miss Joan Banack; Neil Phillips for proofreading and checking; Mrs. Esther Anderson for checking and assembling the sections of the book.
There are many others who have helped in the compilation of this book and to them all, I extend my warmest thanks and appreciation.
[signed] Harold C. Schultz President Tofield Historical Society
MESSAGE FROM MAJOR FANE
I am honored in being given the opportunity to send greetings and express my good wishes to the Tofield Historical Society for its outstanding Centennial effort in providing a volume of local history of the town and district of Tofield, and I commend your Society most highly for its efforts in this connection. I am sure that, were it not for the records such as you are providing, the early history of our district would soon be forgotten, at least as soon as the descendants of our pioneers had answered their last call.
I would like to record the names of all the early pioneers in our area whom I remember well, but will not do so because someone would undoubtedly be missed. However, I do want to say that my family connection with the whole Beaverhill Lake area began when my father, the late Frank W. W. Fane, took up a homestead at the north-east corner of Beaverhill Lake in 1887 after his many years of service with the Royal North West Mounted Police. My late mother joined him when they were married in Lethbridge in 1890. 1 am their third child and only son. Hence my long association with the whole area surrounding Beaverhill Lake, and may I say that my father’s original homestead is still the centre of my farm.
The Fane family and the Tofield family were always very close friends. This friendship between the surviving members of both families exists to this day. The late Dr. Tofield, after whom the town and district of Tofield were named, was a most outstanding citizen and through his untiring efforts to minister to all people became a legend in the whole area which he served as the only available doctor.
I remember him very well because he and Mrs. Tofield visited with my parents as frequently as possible in those early days which now seem so long ago. It is very important that the history of Tofield be recorded because Tofield is one of the earliest settlements in our part of Alberta. Tofield has been a very important place in our past and still continues to grow both in population and importance notwithstanding its proximity to Edmonton.
May Tofield long continue its present trend. The reason for Tofield’s continued importance is the efforts of the public-spirited citizens who live there. Their tireless efforts on behalf of their community always in evidence, particularly so on July 1, 1967, at the Centennial Parade and Celebration held in Tofield that day.
My wife and I were greatly honored in being able to be present that day. For me, it has also been a privilege that, as Member of Parliament for the Federal Constituency of Vegreville since 1958, Tofield has been included in my district.
The support that I have received from the people of Tofield and District has always been outstanding and very highly appreciated.
Again, my congratulations to the town of Tofield and its surrounding district on their outstanding past and my very best wishes for continuing prosperity in the future.
Frank J. W. Fane
M.P. for Vegreville, Alberta
THE YEAR TO REMEMBER
– – A. W. GORDEY, M. L. A.
The Centennial year in Canada is, unquestionably, one of the greatest mile stones of our history since confederation. It is a year which should not be remembered by the people of Canada only as a point of interest in our progress and development; it should mean far more than that. Besides its historic importance, it should be a tine of sincere evaluation and appreciation of the many achievements of our people on all fields of progress throughout these years.
In such evaluation of our past, we find that we have a great historic wealth in this county; the hardships, determination, and dedications of our pioneers ; the glories of our men who fought on many battle fronts in time of stress and danger; the efforts and the vision of our great statesmen who molded the foundations of this nation and have piloted its course through many stormy waters; and the work and foresight of many dedicated men and women who have guided the destiny of our country in the past hundred years. This glorious historic past should be known, honoured and cherished by us, and by our succeeding generations.
Table of Contents
Early Settlement: Page 1
Transportation and Communication: Page 36
Education: Page 49
Churches: Page 64
Music: Page 87
Industry: Page 98
Organizations: Page 106
Picture Section: [not included]
Sports: Page 168
Medical Milestones: Page 181
Here and There: Page 184
Biographies: Page 217
Chapter One: Early Settlement
(The Cree name for Beaver Lake is “A-misk-wa-chi Sakyakn” – Beaver Hills Lake)
Reprinted from the Vegreville Observer
Hail, charming lake, that lies before my view,
A glitt’ring gem in Nature’s glorious crown;
Thou’rt lonely now, and known but to the few;
But very soon shall see Old Sol look down
On thriving settlement and busy town;
And o’er thy surface many a pleasure boat
With living freight shall wander up and down
And as they with the gentle breezes float
Attuned to laugh and song shall be each fair one’s throat.
For what is there that struggling mankind crave,
That will not here reward and honest toil?
An atmosphere the purest God e’er gave,
A bracing climate and fruitful soil
Await you here, all ye who sweat and moil
In European climes amidst the crowd;
While they for whom you waste life’s precious oil
Pass by you scornfully, with haughty voice and loud.
Then come where Health and smiling Plenty stand
With outstretched hands to welcome you with joy,
No trampling armies here harass the land,
Nor steel-gloved despotism you annoy;
Here may you honest labor well employ
Free from such stifling tyranny, and see
What shall your children’s hearts exult with glee,
And in your own shall wake a new-born melody.
But now fair lake, I turn my eyes once more
Where Sol’s departing beams, upon thy face,
Reflect the hills that skirt thy western shore
Or backward stand to give thee breathing space,
There many dales the sombre spruce doth space,
And in their gloomy depths you oft may hear
The lordly elk rush by at headlong pace.
p. 2 The deep voiced moose, of antlered game the peer,
Has no Dunraven’s gun to chill his blood with fear.
Yet, stay! What cautious figure do I see
Threading with stealthy steps the forest maze?
Ah, Monaywahsis! I’d forgotten thee,
For thou hast ended many a moose’s days;
And though Dunraven’s record may amaze,
It need not shame thee, for thine eye is true,
And well thy hunting deeds deserve my praise;
And I may praise thine honest nature too,
For I like thee, of thy race, are found, I ween but few.
But hush! What sound comes o’er thee now, Oh Lake?
A wailing cry as from a new-made grave!
“Oh, weep,” it says, ” The Manitou did take,
Far to the Indian’s heaven, the true brave!”
No human skill nor prayers his life could save!
He’s gone, Oh Moose! No more thy trail he’ll scan
For o’er him now the quivering aspens wave.
He died., as he had lived, a MAN,
Come forth and say aught else, all ye who dare or can.
The evening speeds. Oh, Lake! Thy face grows dark,
And shadows thicken over bluff and plain;
Far from the distance comes the coyote’s bark
While waterfowl the echoes wake amain,
All giving presage of approaching rain;
And o’er the Indian’s grave upon the lea,
The sobbing wind now sings a sad refrain,
But soon shall lash to foam thy waters free,
Till white-capped breakers roar in durious revelry.
Written at Beaver Lake in 1884 by J.B. Steele
Back to Top
THE ORIGIN OF TOFIELD’S NAME
In 1962, Mr. Stinson, the town secretary, received a query from Mr. F. Hewitt of Stewkley, England, inquiring as to the origin of the name of the town of Tofield.
Mr. Stinson replied to Mr. Hewitt, giving him the information requested and also informing him that Mrs. Edith Rogers, daughter of Dr. Tofield, for whom the town was named, was still a resident of Tofield.
Mr. Stinson again received a letter from Mrs. Hewitt. Enclosed with the letter were two clippings which explained how Mr. Hewitt had heard of Tofield. One clipping was a brief account of the death in May 1950, of the Tofield Siamese Twins, Beverly and Brenda Townsend, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Bud Townsend. The birth of these little girls and the operation undertaken subsequently to separate them, attracted wide attention in many countries. The second clipping was the obituary notice for Mr. Francis J. C. Garford, also of Tofield.
Mr. Hewitt’s letter was of historical interest to all residents of the Tofield area. It ran as follows:
Lumio, 1 Brunel Drive
November 17, 1962
Dear Mr. Stinson:
Thank you for your letter of October 20, which my wife and I found most interesting and descriptive.
Although Dr. J. H. Tofield was presumably born in Yorkshire it is quite possible that his ancestors originated from Stewkley in Buckinghamshire, which was, and still is, looked upon as “home of the Tofields” — in fact, one area of Stewkley still goes under the name of Tofield, and we would suggest that your town is the only other place in the world to bear that name.
p. 4 Now Stewkly is a very old village which dates its known origin to about the year 1066. In that year, the English were defeated in battle by William, Duke of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings, in which action King Harold, last of the Saxon kings, was killed.
Soon after this battle, the Duke of Normandy ascended the throne of England as King William 1. Soon after ascending the throne King William ordered a survey to be made of the whole country in order that taxes might be levied upon the inhabitants to enable him to increase the revenue. Details of the survey were recorded in the Doomsday Book.
Stewkley was mentioned in the Doomsday Book as “Steuclai”. which was a Saxon name. There appears to be no record of the meaning of the word “Steuc,” but “lal” or “ley,” means a “clearing in the forest”
As a result of this survey, the country was divided into a number of areas which were placed under control or jurisdiction of relatives or favorites of the king. A part of Buckinghamshire including Stewclai, was placed under the king’s cousin, Walter de Gifford.
Much of the history of Stewkley has been taken from the church records. The church, the Church of St. Michael, is reputed to have been built in or around 1150 A.D., and is in the Norman style and is said to be among the most ancient and best preserved Norman architecture remaining in the country.
It is understood that many of the old tombstones, most of which were in a state of decay, were removed from the church-yard over a hundred years ago, but among the old ones which still remain are a number belonging to the Tofield family.
p. 5 It is possible that the Tocquefields or Tofields as they are now known, were of Saxon origin and were living in the forest settlement of Steuclai at the time of the Norman conquest of England.
We hope that the above information may be of interest to your friend, Mrs. Edith Rogers, and perhaps to the records of your town.
Frank F. Hewitt.
Back to Top
PRE-PIONEER ERA OF TOFIELD AREA
While making repairs to the attic of his farm home, Harold Schultz discovered some copies of the “Tofield Standard” which were printed in 1907. The Standard was the forerunner of the Mercury and was published by R. N. Whillans. The papers found by Mr. Schultz contain much invaluable information about the pre – pioneer era of the Tofield district. The following article was apparently a letter written to the editor by the son of Phillip Tate, who was the H. B. Co., factor at Victoria.
“The destruction and wanton waste caused by prairie fires are incalculable. Beautiful groves, timber, wild fruit trees, the young wild anumals, with thousands of duck eggs and prairie chicken eggs, are swallowed up by the indispensable friend and relentless foe. First, not having seen Beaver Lake or neighborhood since I was a boy in the early seventies, it was with a genuine feeling of regret that I noted the total absence of maple trees during a recent tour of your beautiful Lake so changed from those early days.
Acting on the advice of their friend and pastor, a band of Christian Cree Indians, isolated themselves from the other bands and made for the then more wooded part of the country; that is north and north-west sides of the lake toward the hills. The fearful and much dreaded smallpox was prevalent among those tribes frequently on the open prairies, especially among the Blackfeet. It was well for this particular portion of Chief Bobtail’s band, that they isolated themselves as already stated, escaping this frightful scourge.
The Indians were camped at the outlet of Beaver Lake, on the Beaver Creek. The winter’s hunt had been very successful from every point of view. It must have been with feelings of unmixed gratitude these Indians here formed their camp instead of going into the fort at Victoria. Still fearing the smallpox, they decided to send for the Oukeyma or his agent to come to them and their furs. This suggestion was readily complied with.
p. 7 At this time my father was in charge of the H.B. Co.’s fort at Victoria, and great was my joy when he told me I was to accompany him to visit the Indians in their camp near Beaver Lake.
It was a good and wise custom for friendship and policy, that each official of the H.B.Co. should have a “Quay-may” or namesake or a “Chewam” or brother, or uncle, or nephew, as the case might be, in every camp where one was recognized as the chief or head man.
On arriving in camp we were most heartily welcomed by my father’s “Che-wan” Chief Bobtail, and his followers. There was nothing too good for us; all the known delicacies of the times were placed at our feet– moose noses, beaver tails, buffalo “boss,” or bump, ducks, geese, eggs, and will you believe it — good maple sugar, made in their camp. Dainty maple syrup, in skin vessels, or properly speaking, bladders.
Neither was the supply limited and could I have accepted all offered to me I would certainly have had forty or fifty pounds.
As we had ridden on horseback in advance of the carts with the trading goods, they would not be in camp for several hours. Chief Bobtail suggested that my father should bring forth the swiftest “buffalo horse” and he would match him for a race. With a cheer our party promptly accepted the challenge, and immediately bets were made.
Pocket knives, silk handkerchiefs, coats, capotes, belts, moose leather, buffalo robes, furs, marrow fat, lassos, whips, were freely laid one against the other. The big bet of the race was of course between the two heads of the respective parties. My father placed a single-barrel percussion gun, two pounds of tea done up in a cotton handkerchief, and two fathoms of rope tobacco on the ground, to be immediately balanced by three bladders of dried tongue, six large beaver tails, and six rogans full of maple sugar and a bundle of fur. The rules for entry and starting were few and to the point “Owners up” being the only one expressly stated. Accordingly the “Ou-key-mas” mounted their racers and rode to yonder willow bush about a mile off
To turn the horses’ heads and race like grim death was, for that bunch of shouting, yelling hunters, the thought and work of a moment.
The Indian rode well and his horse, which had seen service at the camps of the Big Knives, and had won laurels in all buffalo hunts, was no mean opponent.
From start to finish it was neck to neck; under the whip and lash the flyers ran in – a draw.
Immediately came the cry “the sons will take their fathers’ places with their own ponies,” and before I could realize the full meaning of the situation I was on the bare back of my pretty pony. He was a present from a friend, Mr. Hardisty, and had a good strain of the fiery breed in him, his grandsire having been imported via York factory and Lake Winnipeg.
If I had the disposal of the millions of a Rockefeller they would have been laid 100 to 1 on my daring little “Vermont.” In a minute my cousin May-che-cha-kun (The Coyote) dashed up on a prancing coal black pony. The preliminaries were quickly disposed of. I felt a “chill of premonition” as my favorite did not clear away at the first jump.
I sat immovable in my seat as did my cousin at my side.
I felt the breeze on my face and slender form, and I bent low over my horse’s neck, only to note that The Coyote was almost lying flat over his mount. I tightened the grip of my little thighs as I drew them up, while The Coyote sat like a doubled up jack knife on his “Flying Crow.”
p. 9 Could it be possible that my “Vermont” had met his match? At Edmonton, Victoria, Fort Pitt, Carlton and Fort Ellice, aye, the whole North West, we had never seen the heels of anyone.
I prayed and prayed sincerely that the awful day be postponed, but still that black snake-like form in long sinewy bounds was at my side.
I urged, I coaxed; in despair, I commanded, and raising my hand with my open palm struck his sloping shoulders. As I did so, my pony seemed to come closer to the ground and while fairly flying through the air, I heard the swish, swish, right and left on the black flanks beside me and with a yell, which I often yet hear in my imagination as I watch the “home stretch” from the grandstand, my opponent flew past me and amid yells and cheers, and with my little heart like lead, I realized that The Coyote had shown us a clear pair of heels. I had lost, and lost to a better horse.
Leaping from my pony’s back with my eyes full of tears, I remembered that The Coyote made a great brag of being a foot racer. He was two years my senior but I did not mind all this. In my haste for revenge I challenged him to run a race; he accepted.
If force of will power and a determination to win has any effect on an opponent, then it was impossible for my cousin “The Coyote” to do otherwise than he did by seeing the shape of my back.
The bets were divided up as originally intended -the Chief taking the gun, tea, and tobacco, while my father had the furs, tongues, and with his own hand Chief Bobtail handed me six rogans of maple sugar.
After leaving this camp we travelled towards the prairies and near the junction of Iron Creek and Battle River we again came to another large Indian camp and here again we were treated to maple sugar galore. Now all is gone – Indians, maple sugar, and buffalo.
Speaking of this to my friend Mr. J. Stephenson, who had a ranch near Battle River, he tells me that there are still a few maple trees on the banks of the Battle but I never heard of any near Beaver Lake of late years.
“Son of the Black Head”
Editor’s note: Robert Logan, whom we all know so well, was at the time of the incident narrated in the above story, clerk for the H.B. factor at Victoria, and no doubt Mr. Logan will remember the “Black Head” spoken of. It is also well worthy of note that the Red Head spoken of in one of our first stories of the Historical Beaver Lake was Mr. Hardisty, Hudson Bay Co. factor at Edmonton, and the Black Head was Mr. Phillip Tate, H. B. Co. factor at Victoria. These men were friends and came together to the west in the year 1874 by way of Fort Garry and across the prairies, suffering together all the hair-raising experiences of those early days.
Back to Top
THE DEVELOPMENT OF TOFIELD
The Town of Tofield had its beginning in 1906 when Morton and Adams built a General Store (carrying dry goods, groceries and hardware) close to the post office on the farm of George Cookson. Sr. the legal description of which was N.E. 1/4 Sec.36, Tp. 50, Range 19, W. of the 4th Meridian. (In 1967, the farm belongs to John Rempel.)
Before the spring of 1907, other businesses were begun. These included: W.C.Swift’s lumber yard, R. O. Bird’s hardware, C.H. Cress and J. B. Harper’s general store, Dr. McKinnon’s drug store and office O. H. Mahaffey’s blacksmith shop. The Queen’s Hotel just a frame shell when it survived moving from Townsite Number 1 to Townsite Number 2.
This move was made in anticipation of the arrival of the railway, the Grand Trunk Pacific. The first survey made by the G.T.P. crossed the “lake road” just north of where (1967) Art Hardy lives. The firm of Crafts and Lee of Edmonton bought the north half of Section 1, Tp. 5l, R.19 from Henry Wood and had it divided into town lots. The firm then offered free lots to anyone who would build houses on them. It is not known whether a time limit was placed on this offer, but it is known that the village moved from Townsite No. 1 to Townsite No. 2
Mr. R. O. Bird is remembered for his habit, most unusual at that time, of going without a hat. Most men wore broad-brimmed hats of felt or straw but Mr. Bird was an individualist. Mr. Cress is remembered as being a sharp business man. Jim Francis recalls that as a small boy he took two dozen eggs to Mr. Cress’ store; on being told, gruffly, the price, he asked Mr. Cress if he knew what Morton and Adams , rival storekeepers, were offering. Mr. Cress replied that he did not know and Jim was welcome to take his eggs to Morton and Adams if he preferred. So Jim did just that and made a cent a dozen on the eggs!
Tofield No. 2 sprung up north of Cookson Avenue, west of the site of the first brick school – at the north terminus of Dominion Street which goes past Oslunds. By the fall of 1908, there was a full row of houses along the west side of the street which ran through the location of the present school gym. Main street had two blocks of business places, fairly well filled in.
Alas for the site No. 2! When the G. T. P. made the final survey it came south of Site No. 2 (its final location) and the Craft-Lee town site gradually became deserted as all of the buildings on Main Street were moved to Townsite No. 3 whose Main Street ran perpendicularly to the railroad which reached Tofield in 1909.
During 1909, Tofield progressed from being the mere village which had been legally formed in 1907 and became incorporated as a town. The village had been administered by J. B. Harper, W. C. Swift and Joshua Noland, as councillors with A. J. H. McCauley as secretary. The mayor of the new Town of Tofield was J. O. LeTourneau; the councillors were M. W. Ferguson who is still living in Tofield in 1967, R. E. Emery, A. F. Fugl, J. B. Harper, A. Maxwell and J. Lamoureax.
The legal description of the town in 1909 was: All of Section 1-51-19; the east 80 acres of all of S. E. 2-51-19; the east 80 acres of N. E. 2-5l-19; 80 acres of S. W. 12-51-19; the south 80 acres of S. E. 12-51-19; S. W. 40 acres of S. W. 7-51-19; West 80 acres of N. W. 6-51-19; and S. W. 6-51-19; N. 80 acres of N. W. 36-50-19; North 80 acres of both N. E. and N. W. of 35-50-19. [all west of the 4th meridian]
The water supply for the town had never been very good and in 1910 the town decided to dig a deep well in hopes of finding a plentiful supply of water. At a depth of 500 feet, water was found in quantity but, unfortunately, it was salty and there were indications of natural gas in the same area. The discovery stirred up great interest. Deeper went the well.
At a depth of 1054 feet, gas was struck. This strike was reported in the Edmonton Journal of June 23, 1912 as follows: “Property values in Tofield have doubled and tripled as a natural gas strike is reported. Unofficial reports say the flow may reach 2,000,000 cubic feet. Townspeople say that Tofield is now another Medicine Hat since gas has been struck at 1054 feet.” Another report stated, “To dramatize discovery of natural gas, Tofield residents have devised a street lighting system with gas flares ten feet high. Townspeople say that Tofield will become the Hamilton of the West.”
Tofield had indeed been successful in striking gas but this discovery, important as it was, had not solved the problem of the salty water coming from the same source. The two flows had to be separated.
The driller, instead of pouring down straight cement which would have hardened to sufficient density to allow boring through it, mixed concrete and filled the well to the depth at which the water came in. In trying to bore through the concrete, the drill kept slipping to one side or the other. So this well had to be abandoned. The second well was drilled on the same lot. This too, was unsuccessful and still a third had to be dug.
During this time, the town council had gas flares burning all the way down Main Street to the station and the land boom was in full swing. New subdivisions were created. “Tofield Heights” was located in the S. W . 1/4 of Section 6, Tp. 51, Rge. 18. This lay just east of town with the present (1967) Mennonite Church on its western boundary. “Euclid Park” was in the N. W. 1/4of Sec. 6, Tp. 51, Rge. 19, just north of the Tofield Heights subdivision. “Tofield Rosedale” subdivision was planned for the N.1/2 of Sec. 35, Tp. 51, Rge. 19, on the site of the present golf course and the home of Aino Jensen. The Sam Stauffer 1/2 section was subdivided and sixty acres of lots were sold on it.
p. 14 The N.E. 1/4 of Sec. 6, Tp. 51, Rge. 18, known as the “Baptist Place” was subdivided but was not placed on the market. John Rempel’s quarter section, land now belonging to S. Pearson, and the east half of sec. 25, Tp. 50, Rge. 19 were all subdivided. West of town the town fathers subdivided the present Nickerson and Art Francis farms into town lots. The Jack Cookson farm was bought by the Council for $15,000. (This is the site,in 1967, of the Northwest Utilities Buildings.) This land, it was planned, would be Tofield’s industrial area. J. G. Jobb built a foundry on the land occupied by C. Swanson’s slaughter house. For six months it operated.
John Francis, visiting in Vancouver in 1912, saw in a window, advertisements for Tofield town lots. He wandered in, and on three walls of this office were glowing advertisements for his home town.
The Cookson place was depicted as having several large smokestacks to indicate a thriving industrial area. The fair grounds were shown with not only the truly existent race track but with an immense covered grandstand, as well as enormous cattle and horse barns to accommodate the prize stock and race horses.
John Francis, as a native of Tofield, was mightily interested and asked many questions — too many to please the gentleman in charge of the office who asked sourly, “Have you ever been in Tofield?” “Yes,” answered John Francis, “three years ago when it didn’t look anything like that.”
When the gas well petered out, and the boom died down, many people found themselves poorer than before
The town council faced a $90,000 deficit. This was in 1913; by 1967, the Council has the debt whittled down so that by 1975, they hope, the debt will be paid off and a “burning ceremony” can occur.
In 1913, when the boom had died down, real estate sales were at a standstill. Town taxes began to pile up on the lots which had been sold. Subdivisions were recreated into farm lands. Farmers now became the owners of recent subdivisions. The town faced a desperate debt-ridden situation. The 1920 assessment roll shows taxes still being paid on lots owned by Eastern Canada, the U. S. A., the British Isles, and some European countries. In 1916, the brick school had burned thus adding to the town debt as the replacement was completed. Vacant town houses were in many instances moved to farms.
The railroad and the coal mine payrolls helped to hold the town together. The railway payroll paid a station agent, an assistant agent, an expressman, a freight agent, three telegraph operators and a repair man as well as a switching crew of three or four, and a section crew. The coal mines operated all year round but business reached its peak in winter. In peak periods in winter,about 200 miners were paid by the three mines. The spending power generated by these payrolls kept the town business solvent. In 1923, Northwest Utilities exercised their franchise to instal gas into Tofield homes. A goodly number of employees of this company made (and still make) their homes in Tofield and their contribution to the economic life of the town was and is important.
In 1927, a curling rink housing 4 sheets of ice was built a block east of the Royal Alexandra Hotel. While many people helped, the name of John Chapman is prominent among those who built the rink. In 1960, the rink having become decrepit, plans were made to build a new one on the Exhibition Grounds. In 1967, this fine new rink has been in use for several years but is not yet finished upstairs.
In 1944 the Tofield Community League was organized by Herb Chandler. In 1946 this group built, largely by volunteer labor, the Memorial Hall. In March 1955 this hall was destroyed by fire but was rebuilt and opened in December of 1955 with Premier E. C. Manning conducting the opening ceremonies.
Until 1945, the town had to obtain permission from the Alberta Utilities Board in order to spend anything on local improvements. Finally money was obtained to replace with cement, the wooden sidewalks which had fallen into disrepair.
In 1954, water and sewage systems were installed in Tofield. Now many fine modern homes line the streets. A tree-planting program improved the appearance of the town. On Main Street, new buildings have replaced those lost in the centre of town. Mrs. Petra Stauffer, Centennial Queen, has been instrumental in development of a park on Main Street; so it has been nicknamed “Petra’s Park.”
In 1969, the population of Tofield is 1009. Its mayor is Dr. W. H. Freebury; Councillors are: Arnold Swift, Arny Klassen, William Christensen, Lloyd Cribb, Gabe Pittet and Conrad Patterson. Secretary of the town is Mrs. Rita Halverson.
Back to Top
STAR TWINKLES ONLY ONCE
A copy of what is believed to be the first Tofield newspaper was received from Arnold Swift. It was the Tofield Star and Volume 1, No.1, published August 27th 1907, announced Tofield to be “A progressive Town with a Grand Future.” Mr. W. A. Pratten was editor and manager and Mr. Pratten stated that the paper would be published weekly upon arrival from Winnipeg of the Tofield Printing Plant.
We have no further record of following issues of the Star so perhaps the obtaining of a printing plant for Tofield in those days was more difficult that Mr. Pratten surmised.
Among advertisers in this early issue we note C.E. Jamieson, druggist; Harper and Letourneau, furniture dealers; Mr. Sherlock, as manager of the A.T. Walker Lumber Company; Kennedy and Small, general merchants; Merchants Bank; Rot. Logan, merchant; Greenhill and Johnson., real estate; Ingram and Hayes, Pool Room; Canadian National Railways; A. W. Story, builder and contractor; Morton and Adams, butcher shop; A.W. Hunt Real Estate; L. Taylor, Milliner; Felix Paradis, blacksmith; Noland and Noland, livery; J. Gladue, livery; Swift and Emery, lumber; M. W. Ferguson, harness maker; Stonehocker Bros. real estate; C. H. Cress; general store; R. 0. Bird; Hardwood; O.M. McHaffey, blacksmith.
THE TOFIELD “BLOWHARD”
(Appeared in Tofield Standard, 1909)
“As it has lately been decided to hold the World’s Fair in Tofield in the summer of 1909 we feel it is now a fitting time for a review of the history of Tofield’s development as a city. When an old timer like the right Reverend Ralph Bradley, the convener of the
p.18 Presbyterian Church in Canada (and whose esteemed father was at one time in charge of St. Andrew’s Church in this city) is in a reminiscent mood [he] takes a walk a way from the jungle of wholesale houses on 1st Avenue to the beautiful residential part of the city, then tours in his automobile along the delightful drive by the lake shore; he looks back as in a dream, to the time when he chased coyotes and lynx on the vast prairie where now stands our grand Metropolis.
Not many years ago Tofield was but an infant in swaddling clothes, but even in her infancy she showed signs of a brilliant career. She learned to walk at a remarkable early age and toddled away from her parent, the dear old post office, when but a few months old. Having wandered across the prairie for some distance, she selected a spot suited to her fancy, but as her growth exceeded all expectations, she soon grew restive and desirous of extending her boundaries. Consequently having established a beautiful residential section, she, with one huge bound, extended her border to the G.T.P. where a magnificent station was erected. From this time forward the aggressive little town spread like a wild fire until it reached its present proportions. A fair idea of Tofield’s size today, may be formed from the fact that if all buildings were placed together in a straight line – and not too close together – they would reach from Beaver Lake to Edmonton.
In some of the oldest and best of the wholesale houses on 1st. Avenue, we see such names as Kennedy MaHaffey and Small, Letourneau and Harper, Jamieson and others. Some of these are long established headquarters of the Dominion.
While shopping by mail has been done more or less in all civilized countries, it has been left to C. H. Cress to bring this idea to its development. So successful has been the enterprise that Montgomery & Ward of Chicago, and T. Eaton of Toronto, are endeavoring to follow him – with a fair degree of success.
On 2nd Avenue a little to the east of Main Street is the Stock Exchange. Further north towards the residential center is the Tofield University, the President of which is Charles Shaw, a distinguished scholar whose father was at one time the Principal of the Tofield Public School in the early stage of its development.
Stanley Laidman, Judge of the Supreme Court,has settled permanently on Rosedale Avenue.
The Fire Department has reached a state of perfection with Lorne Lee as Chief of the Dept. The motor car is now giving birth to the airship which the manufacturer, Oliver Bird, turns out of his establishment daily.
The orchestra, begun in years past by the distinguished musician, C. Carter, is second to none on this continent.
The excellent social conditions in our fair city are such that the Dramatic Club was obligated to import villains from Ross Creek and Chipman as none could be found in Tofield.
Tofield has had many mayors but none better than W.C. Swift, who now holds the honoured position. In the City, a magnificent edifice may be seen portraits of the men who were founders of the Hub. Among them we see such names as Logan, Sherlock, McCauley, Tofield, Noland, Swift and others whose names have already been mentioned.
And still this indomitable city continues to rush forward. Its expansion is a growth, not a boom.Young as she is, Tofield, is unequaled in the Western Hemisphere.”
Back to Top
The following is the text of an address given by Mr. A.J.H. McCauley, then mayor of Tofield, in October, 1922, as reported by W. Worton, editor of the Tofield Mercury at that time.
EARLY DAYS AT TOFIELD
Mayor McCauley Gives Interesting Address
The subject, “Early Days at Tofield,” on which I have been asked to speak to you is one that a person might write a book about. However, I will try to tell you briefly of some of the events that took place here.
For several hundred years this part of the Northwest was truly the happy hunting grounds of the Indians. The large lake at our door was called Beaver Hills Lake and the country for over twenty miles west of this lake was called Beaver Hills, owing to the large number of beaver being found here. Amisk Creek, a few miles East of Town, was given its name for the same reason, “Amisk” being the Cree word for beaver. Like the evergreen clad island you can see from Cooking Lake Station, these hills were covered with jackpine,spruce and tamarack, and the depressions between the hills with water. In this forest were to be found buffalo, bear, moose, deer, as well as beaver and on the lake swam geese, ducks, pelicans and all kinds of waterfowl by the thousands. During the first part of the nineties, fires destroyed this great forest.
As the fur trading companies kept pushing up the rivers from Hudson’s Bay, in time trading posts were established on the banks of the North Saskatchewan at Edmonton, and at Victoria (Pakan).
Mr. William Rowland (now deceased), who told me stories of the buffalo hunting days, was during the sixties a chief trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Chief Factor sent him out periodically to trade with the Indians at Beaver Hill Lake. Mr. Rowland afterwards took up a homestead on the land where his sons William and John reside, part of which is now the property of the Tofield Cemetery.
The usual fighting ground of the Blackfoot and Cree Indians was along the Battle River for about twenty miles on either side, between Ponoka and Wainwright. The Blackfeet, whose camp was at Sarcee, just outside the present city of Calgary, were proving very troublesome to the Crees and had commenced to make raids around the South end of Beaver Hills Lake. Not wishing to lose this great hunting ground, the Crees, in 1860 or 1862, persuaded Chief Ketchamoot to come up with four hundred braves from Fort Pitt. For several days this small army camped on the land where the golf links are and where Messrs. John W. Cookson, Alex Kellner, and James Muskett now live. After being joined by the Indians around Beaver Hills Lake and having secured a supply of food by killing twelve buffalo, they travelled South-west, passing through Camrose, and met the Blackfeet in battle south of Wetaskiwin.The Blackfeet were routed and the Crees captured a large amount of booty, including many ponies and twenty squaws. The chief took one and the others were given to his councillors and secretary-treasurer. The chief afterwards traded his Blackfoot squaw for a horse. Chief Ketchamoot spent his declining years here and was buried on the banks of the creek that bears his name –the first creek north of town. Ketchamoot school district, southwest of town, was also named after this celebrated chief.
In May,1868, the halfbreed buffalo hunters from Edmonton, St. Albert and Lac St. Anne to the west and to Victoria, White Fish Lake and Lac La Biche to the north met here, camping on the land now the farm of Mr. Peter McAllister, to make plans for hunting buffalo during the summer. It was necessary for the hunters to travel in large parties when hunting in the country to the south, for the Blackfeet were liable to mistake small parties for Cree Indians and kill them. Chief Factor Hardisty (who was later appointed first senator of Alberta) and Chief Factor Tate of Victoria, representing the Hudson’s Bay Company, were here to attend this meeting and to trade with the Indians for furs. Rev. George McDougall–the pioneer Methodist missionary, who a few years later lost his life on the plains, was also at this meeting.
Two of the oldest settlers of this part, Messrs. Augustine and Jeremie Gladue, Sr. have killed many a buffalo in the buffalo hunts from here to the U.S. boundary. A favorite place for hunting the buffalo on horseback was just north of the farms of Messrs. George Wood, George Goeglein, E. Hardy, W. B. McNeil and Pete Gates, over the open country on the lake.
One way of getting a supply of buffalo meat, when stocks were running low, was to drive the buffalo into a buffalo pound. This pound was made by building a high fence with heavy logs in a circle having a diameter of about one hundred yards.In this pound was left a narrow opening from each side of which a brush fence extending outwards was built until the ends were over half a mile apart. Into this the buffalo were driven and after being shut in this circular pound were killed. In 1872, one of these pounds was built on the lands owned by Mr. Coombes and Mr. G. S. Sears and at another time one was built on the farms now occupied by Messrs. Thomas Cookson, Edmund Cookson, and Thomas Porter.
Mrs. Anderson, who lived ten miles north of Tofield with her father, Mr. Chas. Whitford (deceased) first saw Beaverhill lake in 1865. Mr. Whitford, who only camped here for a short time then, returned in 1873 and made his home for three years on the land later taken up by Roderick McKenzie and now owned by George McLaughlin. Mr. Whitford was the first man other than the Indians to make his home on the shore of Beaverhill Lake. Mrs. Anderson in company with other women followed many buffalo hunt and skinned many buffalo.
After 1870 it was noticed that the buffalo herds were getting smaller and by 1876 very few were left in the country. In 1874 the North-west Mounted Police were organized and sent out to the Western Prairies, a post
p.23 being established at Fort Saskatchewan, about forty miles north-west of the lake. After peace was declared between the Blackfeet and Crees at Peace Hills, near where the city of Wetaskiwin now stands, freighting by carts from Winnipeg to Edmonton was regularly carried on. One of these trails ran at the north end of Beaverhill Lake, about sixteen miles north of Tofield. Over this trail in 1879 travellers drove from Winnipeg to Fort Saskatchewan, the trip taking three months.
During the eighties, settlers or squatters started to come in and take up claims along the West side of Beaver Lake. Mr. James Pruden with his sons Edward and Frank came in 1884 and Messrs. Robert Logan, John Logan, and William Lennie, George Norris, Joseph Norn, Augustine Gladue and Jeremy Gladue, Sr. in 1886. Mr. Robert Logan kept a trading post for over twenty years on his ranch, which was later bought by George A. Trent Messrs. J. 0. Letourneau, J. Lafond, William Bloss , J. W. Cookson, George Cookson, Jr., George Wood, Thos. Herndon, and Wm. Hopgood came in 1891. Mr. G. Cookson, Sr. and other members of his family followed the next year. Government surveyors came out in 1893 and surveyed the land around Beaver Hill Lake. Settlers were now given the right to secure homestead entries for the land they had squatted on.
The first post office on the west side of Beaver Lake was named Logan after Mr. Robert Logan and Mr. Roderick McKenzie was appointed the first postmaster, the post office being kept at Mr. McKenzie’s place. Mails were received once a month. Previous to this the settlers had to go to Fort Saskatchewan or Edmonton for their mail. In 1897 a post office was secured at this end of the lake and was named Tofield after Dr.J. H. Tofield. Dr. Tofield came in 1893 and was the first medical man to settle in this district. Mr. G. Cookson, Sr., was appointed first postmaster at Tofield and he kept his office in a small shack which still stands on his farm, just east of town. The first year Mr. Cookson was Postmaster he sold $36.00 worth of stamps and received a salary of $12.00. The mail was then received once every two weeks.
In 1894, Mr. Peter B. Anderson came in with a large party of Norwegians and settled south of Tofield in the part of the district now called Bardo, and W. H. Neal and his son Harry took up the land on the south shore of the lake.
The first school was opened here in 1896 with Miss Harriet McCallum as teacher. The children were taught in a small house, which stood on the west side of the road, across from Mr. N. S. Smith’s place. A few years before this, a school was opened near Logan post office, and the first teacher was Major William Stiff.
From this time on the district received many settlers and became known as one of the best mixed farming sections of Alberta. In 1906 the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway main line was surveyed through Tofield. During this year Messrs. Morton and Adams, Cress and Harper, W. C. Swift, R. 0. Bird and Jas. Mahaffey started business around the old post office.
Early in the year 1907 Messrs. Crafts, Lee and Gallinger, of Edmonton, surveyed the N.E. 1/4 1-51-19 W 4th M. adjoining the land located by the Grand Trunk Railway Company for their Tofield townsite, the south half of section 1-51-19-W 4th M., and offered free lots to the people who would build on them. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company having refused to survey their townsite until the following year, businessmen and others accepted this offer and moved their buildings, leaving the old post office by itself once more. Thirty business places, including a branch of the Merchants Bank of Canada, having been established here during the summer, steps were taken to apply for incorporation as a village. This application was granted and on September 9. 1907, Tofield was proclaimed a village. Messrs. J. B. Harper, W. C. Swift and Joshua Noland were elected as the first council and I was appointed Secretary-Treasurer.
The following year the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company surveyed their townsite and from then on business places and dwellings kept moving on down near the station. On June 30, 1909, the steel on the main line was laid into Tofield, which great event was fittingly celebrated on Dominion Day. In August of the same year construction on the Tofield-Calgary branch line of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway commenced; the building of this line made Tofield an important railway point and assured its growth in the future. The first passenger train from Winnipeg to Edmonton passed through Tofield on August 13, 1909.
Incorporation as a Town was sought in October,1909. This was at once granted by the Government and the first town council elected was composed of: Mayor J.0. Letourneau; Councillors, Messrs. R.E. Emery, M. W. Ferguson, A.F. Fugl, J.B. Harper, A. Lamoureax and A.Maxwell. I was again appointed Secretary-Treasurer.
The events of which I have spoken cover fairly well I think the ground my subject calls for.
I will conclude by saying, today the young men of Tofield dream of future success in farming and other lines of business and of shooting geese around Beaver Hill Lake, but the old men dream of the Indian pow-wow with its accompanying “Hi-Yi” song and beat of the tomtom, of the trapping of beaver and the great buffalo hunts of the past.
On February 5, 1910, Premier Rutherford and others went to Camrose by train through Tofield to officially open the new railway to that point.
On March 31, 1909 we received the first issue of the “Tofield Standard,” Tofield’s first weekly newspaper printed and edited by the late R. N. Whillans.
Back to Top
Pioneer Missionary Visited Beaverhill
J. R. Francis, secretary of the Tofield Historical Society, discovered in an extract from the Journal of the Rev. Robert Rundle, quoted in “Messenger of the Great Spirit” (by Muriel Beaton Patterson), that this famous missionary visited the Beaverhill Lake area (now the Tofield area) in 1840.
On October 18, 1840, according to this record, Rev. Robert Rundle from England, via Norway House and the Saskatchewan River, arrived in Fort Edmonton where the Hudson’s Bay factor., John Rowand, made him welcome. Immediately upon his arrival, Rundle held a church service, the first Protestant service ever held east of Fort Garry (Winnipeg).
“Soon after Rundle’s arrival,” Miss Patterson states, “John Rowand was going to visit the hunters’ camp at Beaver Lake and suggested that Rundle accompany him. It was January, and cold, as western winters can be. On his return, Rundle recorded the journey as follows:
‘We were drawn by four dogs driven by a half-breed. Weather was very severe and I was warmly clad; sealskin cap tied under chin, moccasins, pair of lamb’s wool stockings, flannel shirt, woollen drawers to foot, thick trousers, leggings and black silk gaiters, waistcoat, pilot coat and shawl tied around the neck; and in the carriole, buffalo robe and blankets. It was a beautiful starlit night with faint glitterings of the aurora.
‘The cold was intense and we stopped about 10 o’clock and lighted a fire: about 1:00 a.m. we came upon an encampment of two men belonging to the fort. Afterwards we proceeded until sunrise when we again halted on the Beaver Hills. The cold at this time was more severe than ever; a convincing proof of its intensity was afforded us by the very sluggish ascent of the smoke into the atmosphere. Indeed it might be said to
p. 27 scarcely ascend at all.'”
It is noted that Rowand and Rundle travelled at night to avoid snow-blindness.
Apparently the rigors of his trip to Beaver Hills did not deter Rundle, for next February (1841) he was off to Rocky Mountain House by carriole.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
January 23, 1958
The Tofield Mercury
RE: History of Tofield and District
It is with a great deal of pleasure that I have had the opportunity to read your booklet issued on the occasion of Alberta’s Golden Jubilee in the above matter. [A Concise History of Tofield and District Prepared by Tofield Jubilee Committee, July 1st, 1955]
I have read your book with the purpose of obtaining authentic information in regard to the early history of the locality in which the story, Buffalo Days and Nights,refers in several places.
Peter Erasmus, guide, interpreter and traveller was hired as an interpreter to Rev. Woolsey, a Methodist missionary who was engaged in missionary work at Pigeon Lake and the vicinity of Edmonton.
He arrived in Alberta in the year 1855, from Fort Pitt where Reverend Woolsey met him by saddle horse.The years ’55 or ’56 and the winter of ’57 and ’58, Peter travelled with Woolsey on his trips, following the Pigeon Lake Crees.
In December of 1857, Rev. Woolsey accompanied the Crees on their winter quest for buffalo meat, getting sick near the Buffalo River where the Crees had a semi-permanent camp. Unable to stand the cold and privations in a canvas tent without a stove, he decided to move back to the Fort at Edmonton.
His guide and interpreter was delighted at his employer’s decision which would give him an opportunity to share in the festivities of the Christmas holiday week that was a highlight of social life for the officials of the various forts that gathered there for a conference and planned their activities and needs for the following year’s business.
The settlement of Lake St. Anne and the new settlement of St. Albert where a number of retired H.B.C. servants had taken up land and lived with their families furnished the women who were always invited to attend the dance in Edmonton on Christmas Eve.
Peter’s progress back to Edmonton was slow as the Reverend Woolsey grew tired very quickly; the snow was heavy and he decided that if he made a direct route to the old trail, usually followed by the men of the Hudson Bay Post, hunting buffalo south of the Beaverhill Lake, that he would likely have a beaten trail back to the Fort., thus making it easier for the tired horse.
He managed to reach the south east shore of the Beaver Lake before it grew dark and was unable to find a sheltered spot to pitch their tent. He refers to the buffalo grass that grew luxuriantly along the south portion of the lake and was as good as grain for a tired horse.
Woolsey was then the first white man to see the Beaverhill Lake on December 22 of the year 1857 where they both camped overnight, and in Peter’s own words, “I found my deductions to be correct in that I soon struck a well-beaten sleigh road, that was still undrifted and made the trail much easier for the horses. We made Edmonton early the next day, the day before Christmas, and believe me, I was happy to again join in the fun and good times that had become the one week of social life in a whole year of work.”
1862. The battle under the leadership of Ketchamoot.which won the Crees an initial victory was the means of rendering the whole area unsafe for any Cree for a number of years afterward as vengeance by the Blackfeet for their defeat under the Crees from Fort Pitt. This left the peaceful Indians of Pigeon Lake exposed to the depredations of these Blackfeet. They were forced to abandon their permanent homes at Pigeon Lake and were scattered in many areas north of the Saskatchewan river and among the Stoneys west of Rocky Mountain House.
Woolsey moved to Smoky Lake and started a mission there in 1862.
Trust this may be of interest to you. Please advise me if a copy of the booklet can be obtained for my files.
Yours truly, Henry Thompson.”
Back to Top
AN OLD TIMER, WILLIAM ROWLAND, IS GONE (1907)
The following is an interesting anecdote concerning the life of the late Mr. Rowland which appeared in the issue of The Tofield Standard on November 5th 1907. The article appeared originally as a letter to the editor signed by Etat Trebla. If you are good at decoding you will note immediately that this is the reverse spelling of “Albert Tate,” a pioneer guide.
“At 6:30 p.m., last Saturday, William Rowland, Sr., one of the earliest pioneers of the Beaver Lake district succumbed to a severe attack of bronchial pneumonia.
p. 30 Mr. Rowland, although being an old man, was very hearty, until quite recently, when he felt a condition of general break-up coming. Only a few days ago a severe cold which developed seriously, culminated fatally. He was one of a very few in the Beaver Lake district who had reached the ripe old age of the eighties, he being 83 years of age. Just a week or so ago he received a visit from a brother whom he had not seen for over 18 years and who had lived northwest of Edmonton.
Having lived as he did many years in the west, in the early time when the H. B. Co. employees were the only white men in the country, Mr. Rowland always had a fund of stories at his tongue’s end to tell about the remarkable things that happened in those days.Wonderful it must have been to him to watch the development which has taken place in the last decades in the march of progress.
The deceased leaves a sorrowing widow, two sons and two daughters to mourn his demise. The daughters are Mrs. E. Pruden and Mrs. J.Logan, and the sons, Messrs. Wm. Rowland, Jr., and John Rowland, all of whom live around Beaver Lake.
The funeral, which was one of the largest ever seen in the Beaver Lake district and which testified to the great respect the deceased held in the community, took place from the family residence, one mile west of Tofield, to St. James-the-Apostle cemetery at 1 p.m. last Tuesday. Rev. A.G.A. Rainier, curate in charge of the Anglican Church, of which the deceased was a member, conducting the obsequies.
The late Mr. Rowland was born in 1826 at Cumberland near Lake Winnipeg and spent most of his life in the west. In the early days he held an important position with the H. B. Co., traversing the north country between Fort Churchill on Hudson’s Bay and Chipweyan in charge of shipments of the company.
p. 31 Several brothers and sisters survived him. These are Fred and Alex Rowland, who live at Battleford, John who lives at St. Albert, Mrs. Kenneth McDonald and Mrs. John Sinclair of Edmonton and Mrs.Colin Fraser of Fort Chipewyan.
The old land marks are fast disappearing one by one. The connecting links of Kah-Yas long ago are getting fewer and fewer as each year claims its inevitable harvest.
At Beaver Lake lived one of the genuine “Old Timers” William Rowland, who for many years in 1860 to 1875, and even before that held the important post of special trader and interpreter to the great, war-like tribe of Blackfeet in the service of the mighty H.B. Co.
Living, as we do now, in peaceful and sunny Alberta with railroads, telephone and telegraphs at our command under the paternal care of the government, in other words, the R. N. W. M. P., we cannot realize how important an office was held by Mr. Rowland.
Not only between the great company and the Blackfeet nation did Mr. Rowland act as intermediary, but also between the hereditary enemies, the Crees and the Blackfeet. It was his duty, and a difficult one, to see that there was no open rupture between these enemies., at least within the horizon of the H. B.Co., immediate influence and forts., to so manage the periodic visits of these Indians that they did not encounter each other near the fort., and as far as possible, without the knowledge of the other tribes.
Mr. Rowland has seen some “mighty big feasts” around Edmonton fort during the days the trading was done Could he be induced to tell a few of his experiences with some of the wild Indians, some of our curls would straighten out and the blood curdle in our veins.
The times and missionaries have changed and not the least noticeable is the reception accorded the aborigines, as they enter into the great trading emporium of the H. B. Co. on the corner of Jasper and Third Street, Edmonton.
I recall on one occasion when Mr. Rowland was trading with the Blackfeet an angry jealous husband, cool and deliberate, walked up to his wife, and taking her nose between his forefinger and thumb, with his scalping knife quickly snipped it off, and as he held the piece up so that all might see, rushed onto the young brave standing by and thrusting his hand over his mouth literally made him swallow the undelectable morsel! “You have eaten her, and now you can own her.” he yelled.
All the buildings comprising the old fort at Edmonton were surrounded by a stockade 15 feet high. The Indian trading store was about twenty feet from the wall.
Immediately facing the store the stockades were doubled and trebled making it bullet proof. At each corner and commanding a full view of the stockade by the trading store, were bastions or sentry boxes, but very substantially built. They also were bullet proof. The port holes showed small cannon and glistening barrels of ever ready fire arms. A gallery ten feet from the ground ran along this stockade, connecting the bastions and overlooking the trading store.
In the stockade facing the store was a loop hole or hatchway on a level with the gallery, and about three feet square. Through this hole all the trading was done. The Indians remained on the outside of the bullet-proof enclosures with closed gates and glistening arms facing them.
An Indian wishing to trade rode up to this loop hole and threw his furs in, which were immediately counted and sorted, shouting out his requirements.
They were thrown out to him as unceremoniously as he had done his furs – always provided his furs were equal to the number of skins valued on the goods. And so the trading was continued for days and days until the Indians having no more buffalo robes to throw into the loop holes, once more took themselves off the plains.
Often there were occasions when the Indians, being headed by some of their great chiefs, were allowed to come into the fort enclosures and even visit the families.
The old time chiefs were chiefs not only in name. They had the power of life and death at their slightest call. Old Chief Mask-ke-pe-toon of the Crees and Chief Sapoo-mack-se-ca among the Blackfeet had and frequently were obligated to use their powers in maintaining their dignity. Both these chiefs were friendly to the whites but were “at daggers drawn” with each other as far back as the writer’s memory goes.
In the end the Cree chief lost his life at the hands of a few unruly Blackfeet, while on his way to “patch up a Peace” and “smoke a pipe” with the head of the Blackfeet. Sapoo-mack-se-ca was horrified at the action of his treacherous subjects and dealt out summary justice to them.
Having called a great council he asked the bearers of the scalp of the Cree Chief to stand forth, which they proudly and promptly did, and as he received the scalp from them and with his own hands Chief Sapoomack-se-ca tomahawked both of the murderers.
These are the events which happened in the days when Mr. Wm. Rowland was a young man and held to be second to none in dealing with the meeting the Indians.
Back to Top
A SHORT HISTORY OF TOFIELD AS I REMEMBER IT
George Cookson Jr.
Written approximately in 1920
“Tofield got its name when the first school district was formed in 1895, and was named after Dr. J. H. Tofield, resident doctor at that time. The number of the school district was 376. The first trustees were J. W. Cookson, chairman, Dr. J. H. Tofield, John Lafond., George Cookson Sr., sec-treas. The first teacher was Miss Harriet McCallum, now Mrs. Tom Deby of Beaver Lake East. She was followed by Mr. Brown, Mr. D. Francis and Mr. Hendershott. The school was built of logs on the E. Gladue farm, close to the house where the Jeanettes are now living. Families attending school were: the Tofields, Lafonds, Letourneaus, Prudens Rowlands, Rickners, Gladues, and Hendersons. We had home-made desks which held four pupils at each desk.
At this time we were getting our mail every two weeks at the Logan P. 0. where Mr. R. McKenzie was postmaster. Afterwards (1897) we got up a petition to have a post office at Tofield and another at Northern (afterwards Bardo) which was granted. George Cookson Sr. was appointed postmaster for Tofield and Peter Jevning postmaster for Northern, with mail every two weeks. After a time we got a weekly mail and then a twice-weekly service. Albert Bruce and W. Rowland were mail carriers and brought the mail from Fort Saskatchewan.
The first regular church services were commenced in 1894 and were held at the home of Mr. George Cookson Sr. These were Presbyterian services conducted by a student minister, John Ferguson. In 1895, the Church of England under Rev. d’Easum started a service every two weeks, thus alternating with the Presbyterian service which gave us a service every week. This arrangement continued until we built the school when services were held there. Sunday School was then conducted by Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Cookson and Mr. and Mrs. D. Francis. Hours of service were: Sunday School 10:30 a.m., Church service 11:30 for the Presbyterians or 3 p.m. for the Church of England on alternating Sundays. After a few years, the Methodists commenced holding services with Rev. Hobbs as minister.
The village of Tofield was started in 1906 when the G. T. P. commenced running surveys for a transcontinental railway. The village was started on Mr. George Cookson’s farm N. E. 1/4 of 36-50-18, W.4. Morton and Adams built the first general store. Then followed a lumber yard operated by W. C. Swift, another general store operated and owned by Cress and Harper, a hardware store by R. 0. Bird, a drug store by C. Jamerson, furniture store by Harper and Letourneau, another drug store by Mr. McKinnon, a restaurant and butcher shop by Jim Mahaffey. The Notary Public was A. J. H. McCauley.
The school districts were reorganized and a village school built on S. E. corner of Sec. 36 with H. Martin as teacher. The village remained by S.1/2 of Sec. 1-51-19 for a townsite. Then Crafts, Lee and Gallinger of Edmonton North 1/2 of Sec. 1-51-19, had it surveyed into lots, and offered the storekeepers free lots if they would move their buildings to the Crafts, Lee and Gallinger townsite. The storekeepers took advantage of this offer and commenced moving their buildings to the Crafts, Lee and Gallinger townsite.
In the summer of 1907, the Presbyterian Church which had been built by the early settlers on Zion Hill north of William Thomson’s farm was removed by tractor to a site just north of the present public school. It was moved again about 1910.
In the spring of 1909, the people of Tofield called a meeting to talk and try to secure a piece of land suitable for a cemetery and the present land was bought and surveyed into plots on May 17, 1909, – temporarily on account of Mrs. George Cookson’s death- and surveyed later by qualified surveyor.