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Innisfail, Settlement

In October of 1754, explorer Anthony Henday, the first European to visit the Blackfoot natives on the western prairies, camped near the present site of Innisfail. Henday had travelled to the prairies seeking trade with the Blackfoot. Another early visitor to the area was Reverend John McDougall who developed a trail from Fort Edmonton to his mission church at Morley. This path in the 1870s wound through what is now the Innisfail district.

The early history of Innisfail dates back to 1882 when only a few men had ventured to establish themselves along the trail area between Calgary and Edmonton. This old aboriginal trail was called "Wolf's Track" and the area was known as Poplar Grove. It became a well-known camping place for "freighters" because of the ample supplies of water, fuel and grass. Many people considered it a popular location for homesteading and many families chose the area for settlement. In the 1880s, stopping houses began to appear on the trail.

One of the first settlers near Poplar Grove was Sandy Fraser. A stopping place was built by Jack and Ed Miller. These houses provided food and rest to area visitors. Others then came and squatted where conditions looked the most favourable. Isabella Sinclair, then "Miss Brown," was the first European woman to settle with her two brothers on the banks of the Red Deer River just west of the present site of Innisfail. People named Fraser, Quesnel, McCormach, West, Edwards, Rogers, Brown, Miller, Moore, Constantine, Varty, Dodd, Bill Kemp and Stiles are greatly responsible for the growth of Innisfail. These settlers along with a few M├ętis and aboriginals constituted the first settlement of Poplar Grove. By this time, the Canadian Pacific Railway had renamed Poplar Grove to Innisfail.

The name of Innisfail is derived from an island in Loch ("lake" in English) Awe, Argylshire County, Scotland. The origin and meaning of the word goes back over 2,500 years to Celtic tribes. When the Celts lived in present-day England they suffered persecution largely as a result of their unique language. When they learned of an almost uninhabited island to the west of England, they believed it to be the Isle of Destiny. In the Celtic language, "Isle of Destiny" was pronounced "Innisfail." In fact, the original name of Ireland was Innisfail. Over the years there have been many versions of this particular name including Innisvville, Innisfree and Innishail. On November 20, 1903 the town of Innisfail was incorporated.

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