Lacombe took its name in honour
of Father Albert Lacombe, an early missionary.
The first post office in the area dates back to 1891. But as
historian Don Wetherell explains, Lacombe’s development was
really determined by the railway.
When the railway was built between Edmonton and Calgary towns
were space along the line. And some of these became service
centers for the surrounding farm districts.
And Lacombe was one of these centers. And the station was built
about 2 kilometers west of Barnett Stopping place which was an
old rest stop on the Calgary and Edmonton Trail. The railway
laid out the town using a somewhat different plan than that seen
in many towns. It has angular plan in the downtown. And this
meant that some of the blocks ended in sharp points rather than
the more conventional 90-degree corner.
In the Lacombe this offered opportunities for builders. And one
of the town’s finest building, the Merchant’s Bank took full
advantage of this site when it built a fine neo-classical
building in Lacombe in 1904.
When modern flat iron building in place, Lacombe’s leaders
believed they could attract more industry to the town.
They lobbied to have their town made a divisional point on the
Calgary and Edmonton line. And a Divisdisional Point was where
rail crews were changed, and this created relatively secure
employment in he town.
And in Red Deer when the divisional point was established there,
it brought a payroll of about 5000 dollars a month into the
town. So it was a prize to win.
It was also a prize to be lost. In 1908, the railway divisional
point, was moved to Red Deer.
Next time town leader’s lobbied for a line that would bring
trade from Rimbey and Bentley. And then they cast their
ambitions even higher.
They advertised extensively for settlers and in 1912 the town
hired Publicity Man to try and attract industry to the town.
These pursuits were unsuccessful and the depressions of 1912,
1913 brought falling property values and decreased business
activity in Lacombe as it did everywhere in Western Canada.
World War One, that broke out in 1914, further stymied
development. So despite it’s best effort, Lacombe failed to
develop beyond a farm service center.
The Seventh Day Adventists established a boarding school near
But Lacombe’s civic leaders could never shake their town’s
dependence on agriculture. And this was reinforced in 1907, when
the federal government set up an experimental farm to research
grain and livestock production.