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Ethnic Settlement in Alberta:
Francophones, Part II

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Through the 1880s and 1890s, the mission at St. Albert provided a bustling centre for Catholic and Francophone culture in the west. In fact, more people in the region spoke French than English.

According to historian David Leonard, Francophones rose to prominence in Edmonton, as well.

Agents and real estate developers and local merchants, Stanislav LaRue and J.H. Picard, formed one of the more aggressive commercial operations around Edmonton. Philip Roy became a senator in 1905, and he was later replaced by
A.E. Forget, who had served as Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories.
And, with the local chapter of the St. Jean Baptiste society, and newspapers like "Lance sur Events" and "La Courier de l'Ouest," the Francophone culture - as distinguished from the Métis culture - continued to blossom in the early part of the 20th century. And it found political expression with such people as Jean Côté, who served in the riding of Lesser Slave Lake and Lac La Biche and Lac Ste. Anne during his extensive tour on behalf of the Liberal Party in Alberta.

While the French-speaking, Catholic community of St. Albert thrived through the 1890s, it suddenly lost its dominance when the railway arrived.

When the Calgary and Edmonton Railway arrived from the south, it stopped on the south shore of the North Saskatchewan River, and a little community of South Edmonton grew up - was actually developed by the railway company. But this, of course, gave great credence to the community on the north side of the river, Edmonton, which began to grow in great numbers, and to a great extent because it was on the North Saskatchewan River.
And when the Klondike gold rush began to bring hordes of prospectors through Edmonton during the late 1890s, well, of course, this is where they stopped. This is where the Immigration Hall was, this is where the railway had stopped, and, of course, this is where they stocked-up with supplies to go north. And, of course, a real estate boom in Edmonton evolved as a result.

Edmonton exploded as the commercial centre for the region, leaving behind the French-speaking communities of St. Albert, Bon Accord, Villeneuve, and Morinville.

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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.