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Red Deer, Settlement

The City of Red Deer was named after the river which flows through it. The Cree referred to the river as Waskapoo Seepee, the Aboriginal name for "Elk River." The river received this name on account of the numerous elk frequenting its banks in the early days. In the early 1870s, Métis buffalo hunters established themselves in settlements along the Red Deer River.

In the mid-19th century, the Blackfoot, the Stoney, the Plains Cree and the Métis inhabited the area. Early European fur traders often mistook the elk as a type of European red deer. They mistranslated the Cree name Waskapoo Seepee for "Red Deer River." Later on, settlers to the area referred to their community as Red Deer.

Addison McPherson was the first European to reside in the district. In 1872, he constructed a trapper's log cabin about five kilometres southwest of the present city. In 1875, traffic increased along the trail due to the establishment of Fort Calgary by the North West Mounted Police. In the summer of 1882, permanent settlement into the area began.

Settlement was hindered in the early years by the presence of the Saskatchewan Land and Homestead Company. This Ontario based land and colonization venture purchased 180 sections of land in the Red Deer district. Given the choice between buying land from the company for $10 an acre or securing a free homestead in another area, many prospective settlers initially chose to go elsewhere.

In December 1883, Mr. G.C. King (who was appointed postmaster for Calgary) built
a small log trading post and post office at the Red Deer Crossing. This trading post was the first European post between Calgary and Edmonton and did considerable trade with the Aboriginal peoples. With the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883 and the start of a stagecoach service between Calgary and Edmonton in 1884, general access to the area improved. Initially there was not a rush of settlers into the area due to the fact that the United States had great areas of agricultural land available and the world economy was in decline. As a result, migration was limited for the next five years. Only a few groups of settlers arrived at the Red Deer district by 1884.

In the spring of 1884, Reverend Leonard Gaetz, with his wife and 10 children, took up a homestead on a section where the city of Red Deer now stands. Reverend Gaetz heard of the agricultural potential of the Red Deer River Valley from his friend, John T. Moore, the managing director for the Saskatchewan Land and Homestead Company. During the Rebellion of 1885, the Canadian militia fortified an existing building, Fort Normandeau, at the Red Deer crossing settlement. This post was later taken over by the North West Mounted Police who used it until 1893. When the Calgary and Edmonton Railway bypassed the crossing entirely, its settlers abandoned the crossing and moved east to present-day Red Deer.

 Red Deer

Red Deer

Train Station and Park

Train Station and Park