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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
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Tangent

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The village of Tangent lies at the beginning of a straight stretch of railway on the outside of a bend in the Smoky River. Not surprisingly, the surveyors for the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway, who put the track there, suggested the name. The line was built in 1916; the area was still a forest in 1927.

First settlers were the Ukrainians in 1928. French Canadians from Manitoba, New England, and Quebec came to the area in 1929. The next year, they put up a general store and a Post Office, and built their first church (Parroise Saints Martyrs Canadiens) a year later. The church’s second storey served as a dormitory for those children who had to walk too far to get home from school. The school was a two-room affair; it went up in 1942-43. Five Sisters of Holy Cross taught in it, followed by four Sisters of Charity. They left in 1971, and the school, which once had 200 pupils, closed in 1977. Tangent now has 50 inhabitants.

In the early years the settlers hunted and fur-farmed. There was plenty of fur—the schoolyard would be overrun by hundreds of muskrats. Once enough forest was cleared, the settlers started growing grain. They suffered appalling hardships during the Depression. The $9 they got from the government bought one bag of flour, half-kilogram of tea, one-and-a-half kilograms of sugar and a small pail of lard. This was to last a large family a whole month. People survived by hunting moose, rabbits and planting vegetables.

The government encouraged stock farming in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and the settlers adapted by growing forage crops such as alfalfa and clover. They could then raise large quantities of pork, chickens, beef, and dairy cattle. Flax was also a successful crop. In the 195050s, the forage grasses gave rise to huge quantities of honey. Electricity came to Tangent in 1954.

The 1980s changed the landscape around Tangent yet again and the fur farmers enjoyed a prosperity they had not previously known. Seismic surveys determined the presence of gas and oil. As a result, oil wells sprung up everywhere. The oil industry also brought off-farm work to the region.

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