Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Within the town of St. Paul itself, many residents are employed by the service industry, trades, construction and various government sectors. The business community caters to both the French and the English population, and the town has become a main service centre for many smaller outlying communities. When the colony opened to outsiders at the beginning of the century, many Francophone entrepreneurs opened shops and services centres in St. Paul, hoping to profit from the influx of new homesteaders in the area.
However, Father Albert Lacombe’s main incentive for choosing the region for settlement in 1896 was the area’s rich farmland, deemed perfect for growing grain. Today, the main industry of the St. Paul is still agriculture, and over 1,000 farms raise grain and specialty crops, as well as livestock. An important development in the agricultural history of St. Paul was the arrival of the railway in 1920. Large amounts of grain, as well as cattle and equipment, could then be shipped in a much more affordable manner to and from larger urban centers.
The first grain elevator in St. Paul was erected (in 1920) near the railway tracks to ease the delivery of large grain shipments. Prior to this, farmers had to haul their grain to Vegreville, subtracting money from their profits.
Red elevators, which towered over the town at a height of 60 feet, were operated by the following grain companies: United Grain Growers, Midland’s Pacific, Alberta Wheat Pool, Alberta Pacific, Searle Grain Co., Reliance and Agricore. They served as a hub of commercial life in St. Paul until trucks gradually replaced railway lines as the main means of transporting supplies. On April 30, 2002, the last elevator in St. Paul closed, ending an era in the community’s agricultural history.
Today, the high cost of purchasing and maintaining expensive farm machinery is slowly eroding the presence of the small family homestead, replacing it with larger, amalgamated farms.
After agriculture, oil and natural gas are the major natural resource industries in the County of St. Paul. Salt, peat moss, timber and gravel are also extracted, and related industries provide employment for many residents, along with the construction industry. Tourism and recreation are newer industries for St. Paul and are also contributing to the economic development of the town.
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For more on the towns of St. Vincent and St. Paul, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.
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