This issue of The Echoes launches a new series of articles highlighting St. Albert’s “Century Families” – families who settled in the St. Albert area over one hundred years ago and whose descendants continue to live in and around St. Albert.
On April 8, 1861, Father Albert Lacombe and four assistants arrived from the Lac Ste. Anne Mission, bringing with them several horses and oxen, a plough and a few implements and tools for planting and building. By 1870, St. Albert had blossomed into a centre of note with a burgeoning population of about 700.
The first settlers in this area were primarily Métis families who chose to join Father Lacombe at his new Mission. Many took river lots both to the east and west of the Mission, joining the few families who had previously settled along Big Lake and the Surgeon River on Hudson’s Bay Company scrip land.
To be a “settler” in those early days did not necessarily mean that one was a permanent, year round resident. Many of these early settlers lived a somewhat transient lifestyle; some were even seasonal residents. Freighting and participating in buffalo hunts played a major role in the lives of the Métis prior to their settling in St. Albert and continued to do so for many years thereafter.
Some families were on the move for other reasons. Some of the early families returned to their original roots in St. Boniface, Central Canada or Europe. Others moved to other centres on the prairies, British Columbia or the United States. At times, families would move to other centres to ply their trade or to live with relatives, only to eventually return to St. Albert.
Many of the early families, however, put down deep roots in the St. Albert area and today’s community benefits from their numerous descendants. It is these latter families that we celebrate as our “Century Families.”
Although it is convenient to highlight each family as represented by the original arrival, in truth, the genealogy of the descendent families is convoluted. Inter-family marriages over several generations has resulted in many individuals of today’s generations having an ancestry that includes several, or even many, of the original families. In some cases, the original family names are no longer evident in the St. Albert area. Their descendants, however, continue to grace our community.
NOTE: The references for the summaries included here are found in the Society’s premiere historical publication, The Black Robe’s Vision. Readers are encouraged to “dust off” their personal copies of the BRV and to read the complete stories of these founding families.
Regardless of our attempt at accuracy, errors and omissions will occur. Readers are invited to provide the editors with feedback and additional comments.
Reprinted from The Echoes, Vol. XXIV, No. 2, April, 2006: St. Albert Historical Society