This early 1900s photo features the main street of Bashaw, Alberta, and illustrates the rapid and ongoing development of the community since its incorporation as a Village in 1911. Image: Bashaw Museum

Reflections: A look back at how central Alberta got settled

The first congenial invitations to come and settle in Central Alberta

Mike Rainone for the News

The turn into the 19th century was a very active time for Canada and its provinces, as thousands of pioneer families and individuals from the United States and throughout the world were reaching out and looking to establish their new homesteads and hoping to take advantage of the countless opportunities and new lifestyles that had been offered in our vibrant new nation.

This vast region of central Alberta that we love to live in and call home today would, at that time, become a very popular destination for these hardy new settlers and the early founders of the villages, towns and districts that had already been settled. Those communities would then make a very ambitious and sincere effort to extend the welcome mat out to these prospective new neighbours and friends to come and join them.

By the first exciting years of the 1900s, the rapidly growing region including Ponoka, Lacombe, Red Deer, Stettler, Rimbey, Bluffton and others had already began to set up new businesses, services, homes, farms, churches, schools and other amenities in both their urban and rural settings.

Not to be outdone, the surrounding areas in all directions began staking their land claims and encouraging new residents to become a part of a bright new future out here on the prairies.

My great friends at the Ponoka News very kindly passed a copy along to me of a unique booklet issued by the Bashaw Extension of Settlement Club — which was made up of over 60 of the first pioneer families who had travelled from countless locations near and far to seek out and settle in all areas of central Alberta.

This week I will share some of the sincere and amazing contents of this more than 100 year old booklet, which extended a warm and friendly invitation for other new families and individuals to join in and help to build the foundations of what would surely become some of the finest settlements in western Canada.

Please come and join us in Bashaw and districts

The early history books produced by our congenial neighbours in Bashaw and districts tell us that although the earliest settlers to arrive in the area came in the 1890s.

The humble beginnings of the first village location may have been determined by the turn of a playing card.

Apparently the original land sight was being homesteaded by Joe Louis, a Métis gentleman who loved to play poker and got involved in a serious game with early settlers Frank Allan, Alec Salmon and Art Robinson.

When Louis ran out of money, he put up his land for security and on the next hand lost his homestead to Allan, who in turn sold the quarter section for $500 to a Mr. Bashaw — who would later begin some of the initial developments in the area.

It would be upon the arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway that the village, first known as Forster, was incorporated in 1911 and then later named Bashaw, which we all know today.

Here are some of the sincere heart-to-heart i promises, perks, and benefits that the new village fathers had to offer as they reached out to encourage newcomers to settle in this vibrant new community.

  • This area is a rich, new, and prolific country and all it needs to complete its record are more practical farmers with their families. The pristine Bashaw district with its rich soil, abundant pasturage, ample supply of water and good transportation facilities offers every advantage for increased and successful settlement.
  • We have here what we all believe to be ideal year-round climate conditions for the permanent health and happiness of the individual. As an example, during the 150 days in the months from November 1913 through to March 1914, there were 81 days where the mid-day temperatures in the area varied from 30 to 69 degrees above zero, 61 days where it registered from 0 to 29 degrees above and only nine days where it went below zero — the lowest being minus 19. Our winter snowfall varies from a few inches to a foot in depth for only a few months a year, but blizzards have been absolutely unknown.
  • With average annual precipitation of 17.83 inches, the large yields of wheat, oats, barley, flax and bountiful gardens are well known as some of the best in the province and bring top prices at the markets and elevators. Our Bashaw area has already been proclaimed as one of the greatest cattle raising and finishing districts in Alberta, with local dairying operations also making a strong appearance.
  • Churches of all denominations are holding regular services in the Bashaw district, while the school system in Alberta is already equal to any in the continent. New settlers coming into this district will be pleasantly surprised to know that in Alberta no taxes are charged against the farmer’s improvements, livestock, machinery and personal affects, BUT ONLY ON THE LAND.
  • Hunting and fishing in the area is plentiful with the rolling landscape flourishing with all sorts of berries and thick forests. In and around beautiful Buffalo Lake is an ideal year round setting for boating, fishing, swimming, courting and family picnics and recreational activities such as baseball, fastball, horseshoes, soccer, hockey, curling and on and on.

As a vital part of the ongoing development of the central Alberta region, Bashaw and surrounding districts have continued to promote and enjoy steady successes and growth through countless decades.

Along the way many of their historical buildings, milestone, and artifacts have been carefully preserved and are on display for all generations of families and visitors to share and enjoy.

Please plan to partake in a delightful drive out to the friendly Town of Bashaw, where everyone is welcome to visit the 1911 Fire Hall Museum, browse around the friendly community and then make a stop at magnificent Buffalo Lake.

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