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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Amber Valley and Black Settlement

Amber Valley wasn’t always called by this name. In the early 1900s, it was just a spot on the map known as Pine Creek.

But, as historian Merrily Aubrey explains, this northern site, just a few kilometres east of Athabasca, would soon take on a significant role in Alberta’s history.

Well, Amber Valley was a centre of Black settlement in Alberta, and many of the approximately 300 people came to the area, via Oklahoma.

The Black people who first went to that state were fleeing oppression and discrimination in the southern and eastern states, but they found their life in the American west not much better.

Some of the families fleeing discrimination in Oklahoma include the Saunders, Mapps, Medlocks and Richardsons. They also included the Robinsons, Murphy and Browns.

Among the first people to settle in Pine Creek was a man named Jefferson Davis Edwards and his wife Martha.

They arrived in 1910. They and their ten kids were heavily involved in the life of the community. Mr. Edwards was instrumental in setting up the Tolls school district in 1913. Well, with ten kids you’d probably need to have a school of your own, practically.

Jeff and Martha Edwards also provided the spiritual heart of the community in having early services at their home, until a church was established some time later. And, apparently, the baseball team organized by Jeff Edwards was renowned in Alberta as being one of the finest in the province.

The time of greatest activity in the area was when the post office was opened in 1931, and, over the years, people moved out of the area—which happened quite a bit, actually, in rural Alberta—and, by 1968, the post office was closed.

It was the schoolteacher, Mrs. Cromwell, who suggested a new name for the community when it petitioned for a post office in 1931. Her inspiration came from the landscape. Every fall, when the poplars turned, the valley glowed a rich, golden colour.

And that’s how the site of Alberta’s first black settlement came to be known as Amber Valley.

On the Heritage Trail,

I’m Cheryl Croucher.

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††††††††††† For more on Black settlement in Alberta, visit Peelís Prairie Provinces.

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