The hamlet of Brosseau is in Two Hills County No. 21, about
160 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. The Cree called it
Matapeskuteweyak—"the prairie which comes out of the river". The
Chipewyan and Blackfoot Nations used a shallow part of the river
as a crossing place for millennia. Father Albert Lacombe, an
Oblate priest, founded a mission in the area in 1864, and called
it St-Paul-de-Cris. Despite Lacombe’s best efforts, the mission
was closed in 1872, after the fourth smallpox epidemic, which
decimated more than half of the Aboriginal population in the
The settlement was renamed again, this time after its first
homesteader, Edmond Brosseau, who was born in southern Quebec.
Brosseau fought on the Union side in the American Civil War and
panned for gold in British Columbia before coming to Alberta in
Farming, logging, and panning for gold were the main
occupations in Brosseau’s early years. By 1907, the settlement
had a general store, livery barn, jewelry and watch repair
store, blacksmith’s, and a fine hotel that boasted among its
amenities a unique two-storey privy. The St. Laurent Roman
Catholic church was built in 1907, to accommodate the newcomers’
In 1907, a school opened in Brosseau. It appears that it was
bilingual, at least in 1913, when pupils got prizes in both
French and English grammars. A separate school operated by the
Sisters of Assumption was open between 1954 and 1970.
Business and services declined in Brosseau after the Canadian
Pacific Railway came to St. Paul in 1920, and still more after
the railway came to Two Hills in 1927. A bridge between Brosseau
and Duverney was built in 1930, and a gravel highway between Two
Hills and St. Paul was built in 1938 to cope with the growing
traffic from Lethbridge, Fort McMurray, Cold Lake, and Edmonton.
When highway construction also bypassed Brosseau, a few more of
the community’s businesses went under.
Coutu, Hector, ed. Our Crossing: Rivers to Roads.
Edmonton: Co-op Press, 1981.
MacGregor, James G. A History of Alberta. Edmonton:
Hurting Publishers: 1977.
Blankets and Beads: A History of the Saskatchewan River.
Palmer, Howard and Tamara, eds. Peoples of Alberta:
Portraits of Cultural Diversity. Saskatoon: Western Producer
Prairie Books, 1985.
Palmer, Howard and Tamara. Alberta: A New History.
Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1990