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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
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Catholic mission at St. Albert, Alberta, circa 1886-1894.In 1861, Bishop Alexandre Taché and Father Albert Lacombe set out to find a site for a new mission to facilitate the maintenance of the St. Joachim mission in Edmonton. When the two stopped on a hill less than 10 kilometres from Edmonton, just off the Sturgeon River, Bishop Taché announced that this should be the site of the new mission. He instructed that Father Lacombe would see to its foundation.

Father Lacombe later returned to the area with 20 families, oxen, horses, a plough and wagon, and set about creating St. Albert, named after his patron saint. One of his first priorities was construction of a church, the building that still stands today as the Father Lacombe Chapel—the oldest building in Alberta.

A harvest sceneFrom its inception, St. Albert enjoyed enormous success as a mission and religious centre despite suffering terrible hardships in the latter part of the 19th century. In 1870, smallpox swept the countryside killing nearly half the inhabitants of the mission; in 1876, a hail storm destroyed all the crops of the region; and in 1890, a fire raged through much of the community. Due to the efforts of the Oblates and Sisters of Charity (as well as good soil and easy access to clean waters) the community was able to rebuild after each disaster.

With the arrival of the railway to Strathcona (now south Edmonton) in 1892, the world was brought to St. Albert’s doorstep.

St. Albert is now a thriving cultural centre encompassing the Arden Theatre, the Visual Arts Studios, and the Musée Héritage Museum. The city has seen numerous important cultural and political figures, and enjoys a healthy tourist trade. Each year many people visit, each eager to take in the natural beauty of the area or visit the historical landmarks in-and-around the city. St. Albert is primarily an English speaking city, but has not forgotten its French roots. Leo Nickerson School, Muriel Martin Elementary School, Sir George Simpson Junior High School, and Paul Kane High School support a growing French immersion program that extends from kindergarten to graduation.


Father Lacombe and the community of St. Albert.

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Source:

  • Legal, Rev. Émile J. Short Sketches of the History of the Catholic Churches and Missions in Central Alberta. Winnipeg: West Canada Publishing Co. Ltd., 1914.
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