The town of Vegreville was named in honour of Father Valentin
Végreville, a French Oblate who is remembered for his 50 years
of missionary work that included the mastery of several
Aboriginal languages. Father Vegreville died in 1903 and had
never visited the community that bore his name.
In 1894, the French land prospectors M.M. Joseph Poulin,
Benoit Tetreau, and Octave Letourneau were sent by a group of
Franco-Americans living in Kansas to scout for a good settlement
locations. The scouts were directed by enthusiastic surveyors to
the Vermilion Valley, and they took with them Théodore Théroux,
a teacher. Even before arriving in the valley, the scouts were
so impressed by the quality of soil in Edmonton that they
immediately wrote to their beneficiaries in Kansas, inviting
them to come to Alberta. The Franco-Americans encountered Father
Jean Baptiste Morin on their arrival in Edmonton and it was from
there that they travelled to the Vermilion Valley to stake their
claims. In this way, the "real" father of Vegreville was Father
Jean Baptiste Morin, who headed the colonization efforts for
this community. By the beginning of 1895, a post office was
established and named Vegreville.
Father Végreville and his community namesake.
This was a busy time for the young settlement. Théroux became
the first teacher of the new (and first) Independent Catholic
School, built to accommodate the many French families that were
moving to the area. By 1903, it was obvious that Vegreville was
going to grow rapidly, so 80 acres were surveyed for town lots.
By 1904, the first Catholic church was built and blessed by
Bishop Legal. Father Bernier, who was born in Quebec and studied
in France, was appointed parish priest. The growing population
caused Father Bernier to call for aid, and in 1904, Father Jean
Garnier arrived in Vegreville. Father Maur Mourey soon followed,
arriving in 1907.
As sometimes happened, the railroad took a different route
that was near, but not through, an established settlement. A
number of Vegreville residents, particularly business owners and
the clergy, moved to the site eight kilometres north on the
Canadian Northern Railway’s newest surveyed route. A new church
was erected under Father Bernier at "new" Vegreville, and the
Daughters of Providence established themselves as teachers at
the new St. Martin’s Roman Catholic Public school district. The
sisters taught in French as well as English.
With the growth of St. Paul and the French community in that
region, some of the earlier settlers to Vegreville relocated to
be part of a larger French community. Ultimately, the French
community in Vegreville was gradually assimilated into the
greater community and the local school became simply a Catholic
Today’s farming community of Vegreville is situated near
Beaver Hill Lake, 88km east of Edmonton, and 145km west of
Lloydminster. Vegreville continues to capitalize on its
excellent farmland, and has grown to around 5,400 people. The
community is home to the Alberta Research Council and boasts
education from elementary to the college level. French immersion
programs are available at several of Vegreville’s schools, and
Immigration Canada has an important centre in the town as well.
Hardin, Samuel H. History of Greater Vegreville.
Publisher unknown. 1969.