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Keystone

J. King, Connie Adams, H. Brooks, and S. JonesKeystone, later known as Breton, was the second Black settlement founded in Alberta. In 1909, William Allen recruited 35 Black families to accompany him from Oklahoma to Keystone, an area 50 miles (80 kilometres) south of Leduc. Although Keystone's remoteness shielded the settlers from Whites' prejudices, many settlers were forced to leave the area because they could not survive the cold weather or plough enough land to keep their homesteads.

In spite of these hardships, the tight-knit community members knew how to enjoy themselves. Over the course of the winter, children would toboggan and skate on nearby ponds. This sort of activity was particuarly popular during the Christmas holidays. Most people would gather for the annual Christmas concert, which featured festive singing and dancing. During the summer, children enjoyed swimming and playing various ball games.

In 1910, Harry Allen’s family donated land to build Keystone Cemetery, where Black members of the community were to be buried. Many of the settlers were deeply religious and therefore ensured that the first institution built in Keystone was a church. The Good Hope Baptist Church, founded by William Allen and Charlie King Sr., opened in 1911. The Funnell School, also founded by Allen and King, opened the following year.

The King and Allen families were particularly active and influential within the community. Charlie King Sr.’s son, Charlie Jr., was an especially well-known figure and served as an active member of the United Farmers of Alberta, president of the Breton Farmers Union of Alberta, a member of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), and a noted social activist.

During the First World War, many left Keystone to enlist in the army or to work in the cities. When these young people did not return at the end of the war, the Black population of Keystone, not surprisingly, began to decline. In 1927, through the efforts of Douglas Breton, the railway was extended to Keystone. Thus, the community was appropriately renamed Breton in his honour. The railway revived the logging industry in the area and brought new businesses, including a café, hotel, grocery store, and blacksmith shop. Although the prospects for Breton were better than they had been before the First World War, the Black population was slowly decreasing. The railway brought an influx of White settlers who soon outnumbered the Black settlers. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, still more Black settlers left Keystone, hoping to find better prospects in the city. In 1954, Funnell School closed its doors, and by the 1960s, little was left of the Black community at Keystone.


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