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Peace River

View of Peace River town site ca 1920. Several Estonian families settled in Peace River starting in the 1920s. The Town of Peace River is located in northwestern Alberta along the banks of the Peace River Valley, near the confluences of the Peace, Smoky and Heart Rivers. Located approximately 450 kilometres north of Edmonton the majestic Peace River Valley, with its deep black loam, lies roughly at the same latitude of Estonia.

Otto Luberg and Henry Rosenthal, both of Estonian descent, settled in the Peace River area in the early spring of 1926. They rented a 640-acre farm, a sizeable piece of land where they could begin farming. Farming in such a short growing season, Luberg and Rosenthal built terraces to warm the soil and conserve water. Using such techniques, both farmers were rewarded with a bumper vegetable crop including cucumbers, tomatoes and an assortment of melons. The produce was sold locally and as far away as Eckville, Stettler, and Barons. Evidently, Luberg and Rosenthal established a network of communication with other Estonian families in Alberta and were thus were able to sell their produce outside of the local market.

George and Oscar Moro, two brothers from Estonia, moved to Peace River from Medicine Valley in 1927. Upon arrival, they were immediately impressed by the stunning landscape. By the 1930s, approximately 30 Estonian settlers were living in the Peace River area. It was not uncommon to hear Estonian spoken on the streets of Peace River with such a high number of Estonian immigrants living and working in the area. Peace River, at this time, was already established as burgeoning town complete with a restaurant, hotel, hardware store and meat market. Locals particularly appreciated the opening of the Peace River Creamery in 1931 whereby dairy products were prepared and sold.

A group of Estonians settled in the northern-Alberta Town of Peace River in the 1920s and 1930s. The Estonian settlers who chose to work and live here were an entrepreneurial lot. The Moros built a grinding mill, sawmill, and also worked the traplines during the winter so as to generate cash when they were not producing a harvest. The Moro mill was situated where the Canadian Propane Company is presently located. Henry Rosenthal continued to farm profitable vegetables. According to sources, Rosenthal was famous for growing 70 centimetre long cucumbers, 15 kilogram cabbages and 30 kilogram turnips. Neighbour Paul Simm worked as a lumberjack and trapper. Estonians continued to settle in Peace River after the Second World War; Aleksander and Marta Simm arrived in Peace River in 1948.

Maintaining close ties with their Estonian heritage was important for the families of Peace River. Rosenthal and Luberg, for instance, organized the first celebration of Estonian Independence Day in Medicine Valley, shortly before departing to Peace River. While living in northern Alberta they continued to maintain close ties with their homeland.

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