An introduction to our history
From the first known evidence of the First Nations people to the development of Sherwood Park, Strathcona County's history reflects how people lived their lives in this Western Canadian prairie landscape.
- The Beaver Hills (amisk-wa-chi in Cree), also known as the Cooking Lake Moraine, were created by the last glacial retreat about 12,000 years ago.
- The glaciers produced the Cooking Lake moraine with its rolling-hill terrain (often called knob and kettle), gravel deposits and rich black loam soils. The resulting wetlands, lakes and dry mixed-wood Boreal forest formed a perfect habitat for diverse vegetation, mammals, fish and birds.
- This land is the traditional territory of First Nations people. There is evidence of the Beaver Indians (Sarcee) arriving more than 300 years ago from north of the Peace River. The Eastern Woodland Cree soon followed, looking for richer food supplies and finer furs to trade with the white merchants of Eastern Canada and the Hudson's Bay Company. The result was the establishment of the largest fur trading post in western Rupert's Land on the edge of the Beaver Hills, known as Edmonton House.
- Canada became a self-governing country in 1867. When the Hudson Bay Company gave up its rights to Rupert's Land to the Dominion of Canada in 1870, Canada began looking to develop the territory and unite the country from shore to shore.
- The North West Mounted Police arrived in Edmonton in 1874, and were established at Fort Saskatchewan the following year. With law and order in place, and the promise of a railway, people began to arrive from far and wide to make their claim for land.
- The Clover Bar Colonization Company (Edmonton and Saskatchewan Land Co.) took land and built a store, boarding house and large storage barn in 1883.
- The Canadian Pacific Railway built its railway through Calgary, rather than through Edmonton as was hoped. The first railway to reach this area came in 1891 when the Calgary and Edmonton Railway reached "the end of steel" at [Old] Strathcona. In 1905 the Canadian Northern Railway came from the east through Scotford and Fort Saskatchewan. In 1909 the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway arrived from the southeast with stops at Deville, North Cooking Lake, Ardrossan, Bremner and Clover Bar.
- The lure of land, of achieving a dream of owning property, was more than enough to persuade people to leave behind homes and families. Homesteaders first settled along the good black soil closest to the river.
- Originating from eastern Canada, the United States and European countries, settlers came with varying life experience, social and economic backgrounds, education and skills. They brought trade skills, including blacksmithing, carpentry and steam engineering. Many were excellent farmers, who in later years helped to make this district into Alberta's dairy belt. Some settlers were illiterate, and others highly educated. Many arrived penniless, others comfortable or wealthy.
- The first settlers arrived by the cart trails such as the Carlton Trail from Winnipeg and followed the southern edge of Cooking Lake to continue on to Edmonton on what was later called the Cooking Lake Trail. Another trail went east of Edmonton (Baseline Trail), angled along the north sides of Cooking and Hastings Lakes, and then turned south to join the Carlton.
- One of the earliest pioneers to homestead in the area south of the North Saskatchewan River was R.P. Ottewell of Ontario. One of several who arrived after a three-month trek from Winnipeg in 1881, he chose some of the finest homestead land in the Clover Bar district. In a following year his small plot of oats produced more than 100 bushels to the acre. News travelled fast and as a result the Clover Bar area quickly became populated.
- In April 1892, Thomas Pearce of Parry Sound, Ontario, arrived in South Edmonton with the first 300 settlers to settle in the Agricola, Partridge Hills and Good Hope districts. Mr. Pearce also farmed some of the fine black loam near the North Saskatchewan River. In the process of moving settlers from Eastern Canada out to the Edmonton area, Mr. Pearce wrote reports for the CPR. It was in one of these that the term Sunny Alberta was first used.
- Meanwhile on May 2, 1891, 53 families - 250 people in total - arrived by wagon train in Edmonton from Red Deer. They were German speaking immigrants from Galecia and Poland. They settled in Josephburg and the surrounding areas.
- South in the Colchester and Ellerslie districts, a group of Moravian Church followers seeking religious liberty in Canada arrived in 1894. In 1895 they established the Bruderfeld Church and more people from Europe soon followed.
- As the end of the nineteenth century was approaching, areas east of the Clover Bar settlement were rapidly filling up. The Bremner, Baker and what was to become the Ardrossan district were settled by 1900. As settlers arrived they built schools, churches and stores, and several communities began to form across Strathcona County.
This is the setting for the rural way of life that came to be in Strathcona County. This way of life welcomed individuals' and families' aspirations for land and a new life only if they could bear the harsh climate and the hardship that came with the primitive way of living. Out of a rural tradition of working hard and working together emerged many strong, close-knit communities. These early residents laid the foundation for the vibrant and dynamic municipality that Strathcona County is today.
Brief history of governance
- The district in rural Strathcona County that was once known as Clover Bar became the first rural self-governed area in what is now Alberta when it was declared by the North-West Territories Government as Statute Labor & Fire District Number Two on April 14, 1893. This form of self-government grew from the need to protect property from stray cattle and horses, and the threat of fire. It also led to the setup of trails and roads for increasing settlement.
- In 1903, Labour Districts became Local Improvement Districts. There were six townships, 216 square miles in size. In 1912, they were enlarged to nine townships, and called Local Improvement District #517 and #518. In 1918 the Local Improvement District No. 517 became the Municipal District of Clover Bar, and Local Improvement District No. 518 became the Municipal District of Strathcona. The two municipal districts were merged in 1943, to be named the Municipal District of Strathcona #83.