Jefferson Davis Edwards
Jefferson Davis Edwards was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1888 and grew up on a cotton and tobacco plantation owned by his father. In order to escape constant prejudice, the Edwards family joined the land rush to the Indian territories of Oklahoma. In 1907, Oklahoma was formally made a state; however, Oklahoma’s Black community was subjected to constant segregation and disenfranchisement, just as it had been in Arkansas. Disillusioned, young J.D. Edwards read about the opportunities in western Canada and, in 1910, he headed north by train to Edmonton. Local newspapers advertised large tracts of land available in Canada; this appealed to hard-working Americans interested in agriculture and in raising large families.
Jefferson Davis Edwards was one of the first to settle in Amber Valley, a Black community located north of Edmonton. He built a house on his homestead and lived there with his wife Martha Murphy and their 10 children.
Jefferson was a community leader, and he helped build the school and the church in Amber Valley. Moreover, he organized most of Amber Valley’s community events. He was likely best known for his efforts in organizing and managing the Amber Valley Baseball Team, which he founded in 1926. The team won respect throughout rural Alberta and helped foster goodwill toward the Black community.
Jefferson Edwards was also politically active. He lobbied the provincial government to bring roads and electricity to Amber Valley. In addition, he served on local school and hospital boards and became vice-president of the local agricultural society and a founding member of the Alberta Wheat Pool. In 1973, he won an achievement award in the humanities from the Government of Alberta. Jefferson Davis Edwards died In 1979 while living in Edmonton. He was 90.