Disasters

The fires
In the 1890s, many fires swept through the Beaver Hills; in 1891 from Beaverhills Lake to Cooking Lake; in 1892 to 1893 from Cooking Lake to Miquelon Lake and in 1895, a giant fire swept through the wooded areas between Cooking Lake and Fort Saskatchewan.

The Northwest Territories government reacted to these disasters by setting up the first organized district in what was to become the Province of Alberta. Called the Statute Labour and Fire District No.2 in 1893, it consisted of 108 square miles of the Beaver Hills, later increased to 216. In 1895, William Stevens was appointed the first ranger for this Forest Reserve.

Epidemics
One of the greatest concerns in early settlements were the epidemics.

  • Small pox had decimated the native communities in modern day Alberta between 1869 and 1871. It struck again in 1883, 1912 and 1921, this time affecting white settlers as well.

  • There was a whooping cough epidemic from 1905 to 1906, closing local schools.

  • From 1911 to 1912, scarlet fever swept through most Strathcona Districts. South Cooking Lake pioneers, Mr. and Mrs. T.A. Waters lost two of their children at that time.

  • Diphtheria struck in 1912 to 1913 and again in 1918 to 1921, and with it the second time came the red measles.

  • But the worst catastrophe in those years was the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 to 1919.

Treatment for these problems rarely rose above the folk medicine level. Goose grease and camphorated oil rubs, mustard plasters, steam inhalations and various herbal teas for tonics, flues or colds.

The last series of epidemics were caused by polio from 1925 to 1927, in 1935, from 1948 to 1950 and again in 1953. From 1925 through to 1935 most schools generally closed down for several weeks usually in the fall, in the period of September to October. The arrival of Salk and Sabin vaccines finally brought an end to those epidemics.

Last updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Page ID: 41145