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When Thomas Woolsey left the mission at Pigeon Lake for a site located north of the North Saskatchewan River, he settled at "Smoking Lake", about 150 kilometres northeast of present-day Edmonton. After two years, however, the mission had not taken root and the new superintendent of missions, George McDougall, chose a new site on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, 30 kilometres to the south. The new location afforded access to both the Wood and Plain Crees and was close to fur and game and buffalo. It had suitable soil, good transportation links along the North Saskatchewan River and the lakes in the region had an abundance of fish. Woolsey, his interpreter and guide Peter Erasmus and McDougall's son John started construction of the new mission in 1862.

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