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Marie Reine is likely named after the mother of Christ. She is often called Queen in Roman Catholic liturgy. When Jules Chabot arrived in Alberta from Quebec in 1950, there was already a well-established francophone presence on the fertile lands of the Peace River area. There had been some oil exploration, too. Chabot knew a good piece of dirt when he saw it: "Beautiful soil, not a touch of gumbo", he said in his recollections. (Gumbo here means a silty soil that gets very sticky when wet.) He stayed, even though that first winter the mercury dropped 57 degrees Celsius.

The 20th century may have been already halfway through when Chabot arrived to Marie Reine, but that didn’t seem to ease the lot of a pioneer. Chabot tells how he and other pioneers would drink the ditchwater, having blown off the foam and closed his eyes so that they wouldn’t see the mosquito larvae in it. There were so many mosquitoes, he said, that it felt like walking with a veil on your face. Talking was best avoided. That way you would swallow fewer of the pests. The roads themselves were swamps. People had to abandon their cars and walk to stake their claims. Despite all this, more Quebecers, as well as a few European French, were ready to move to Marie Reine. The Quebecers had no English, so they tended to point at the first line of menus. Consequently, their en route diet consisted almost entirely of soup.

The church in Marie Reine was built the same year Chabot arrived. In 1951, the Oblate sisters came, built a convent and took care of educating the community’s children. It seems that just over 50 years ago, at least in Marie Reine, spiritual needs outweighed physical comforts: electricity came in 1962, gas in 1966. Houses got phones and running water in 1972. A year later, people could opt for indoor washrooms.

Marie Reine has stayed in the business of grain growing. Although people searched, significant oil deposits were never found around the hamlet. Jules Chabot never stopped loving the place he built from the forest with his own hands. He died in 1980, 68 years young.

Source(s):

http://www.ourroots.ca/e/toc.asp?id=4056

Turning the Pages of Time: A History of Nampa and Districts. Nampa: Nampa and Districts Historical Society, 1981.


 

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