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Cows grazingThe 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 province.

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 1903.

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’ religious needs.

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.

Source(s):

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. Edmonton: 1949.

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
 

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