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Medicine Valley

When the Estonian pioneers ventured into the Medicine River Valley the countryside reminded them of the landscape around Vőru in Estonia. Rolling hills, rich loam, fish resources in the rivers,extensive forest cover and availability of contiguous quarter-sections of homestead land contributed to their decision to establish an Estonian community in the Medicine Valley. The Medicine Valley refers to a stretch of land in central Alberta adjacent to the Medicine River. The area functioned as an ideal homesteading location for Estonian pioneers arriving in the early 20th century. The terrain had fertile soil and open prairie supplanted by intermittent groups of spruce and aspen; it was ideal for logging. Moreover, the Medicine River had an abundance of fish. Eckville and Gilby soon emerged as two prominent communities serving the commercial and cultural needs of the area. A plaque commemorates the Estonian pioneers who settled in the Medicine Valley, including Gilby and Eckville. Eckville is situated west of Red Deer and, as of 2006, had a population of 951. Eckville was incorporated as a village in 1921 and became a town in 1966. The term Medicine Valley, however, incorporates a broader definition and will be used to describe Eckville, Gilby, and the surrounding farmland in the text to follow.

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