Michael Hogan Influenced Founder’s Day Program
“He liked to refer to St. Albert as ‘Little Switzerland’ because of the
divers ethnic cultures represented here” – St. Albert Echoes
In recognition of this statement, the Edmonton Swiss Men’s Choir was invited to perform at the 2007 Founder’s Day program. The 1931 census of St. Albert supports Michael Hogan’s description of our community. The ethnic origins of St. Albert’s 825 residents are listed as follows: French, Irish, English, Scot, Polish, German, Native, Russian, Dutch, Belgian, Italian and Chinese (St. Albert, Tardif).
Michael Hogan was born in Ontario of Irish immigrant parents, where he grew up and obtained his education. Working as a teacher in Ontario, Michael also farmed, thereby forming a pattern that was to define his life – being involved in multiple enterprises.
In 1900 Michael moved to Alberta. After teaching a short while in Strathcona, he moved to St. Albert, teaching in St. Leon (area of St. Albert trail & 137 Ave) and Bellerose (east of St. Albert on Bellerose Road). Michael soon became engaged in other pursuits in addition to teaching. A 1908 article in the Edmonton Bulletinassociates Michael with the Massey-Harris farm equipment dealership. In 1910 Michael left teaching altogether to enter the real estate and insurance business with Leon Boudreau, later becoming the sole owner.
In 1912 Michael married a local teacher and editor of the St. Albert News, Vera Rheaume. Their daughter, Evelyn, later married a local lad, Gene Perron, son of an early St. Albert merchant, Fleuri Perron. Sadly, Vera passed away in 1917. Michael later married Blanche Escallier, also a teacher. Blanche and Michael had three sons.
Michael became involved in community and municipal affairs while still teaching. In 1905, Michael became Secretary-Treasurer of the M.D. of Ray, northwest of St. Albert, a position he held for over 35 years. In 1917 Michael was elected to St. Albert Town Council and was elected mayor in 1919. Michael was also police magistrate, dabbled in provincial politics, served on the Board of Trade, and was active in the Knights of Columbus.
However, it was Michael Hogan’s service as mayor which defined his commitment to his community. In 1919, the Town was experiencing a mounting civic debt: the previous year’s debenture coupons remained unpaid; the Town owed six month’s wages to the Secretary and the Policeman; there were substantial loans to the Banque d’Hochelaga; and many properties were at risk of forfeiture because of unpaid taxes.
Under Michael’s leadership, the Town began contracting out services to save money, reduced teacher salaries, reduced taxes to avoid forfeitures, and obtained private loans as well as additional bank loans. By 1927, the situation had not improved appreciably. The municipal inspection report for that year reports a “…financial situation not at all good…a rather serious situation.”
The Great Depression of the 1930’s added to the Town’s woes. The provincial “relief” program was downloaded to municipalities, without accompanying funds. Council developed strategies for deriving a benefit for the “relief’ dollars spent. One was to open a Town work yard. Men were paid to deliver, cut and split firewood, which the Town then sold. Another was to pay men to repair the Town’s wooden sidewalks. In the field of health, the Town contracted with the Edmonton General Hospital to provide service to residents for the fixed rate of $1.50 per day. The town guaranteed payment, which it would then recoup from the families over time. Dr. Giroux was relieved of taxes in compensation for unpaid services. By 1935, success was in sight. Only one family, a single mother, was still on “relief.”
Michael Hogan died in 1943 during his 24th year of service as mayor.
Reprinted from The Echoes, Vol. XXV, No. 1, January, 2007; St. Albert Historical Society