During the early days of development in Central Alberta, churches and
religious organizations often played a key role in the establishment of schools
and other local educational institutions. Thus, the first school in Central
Alberta was started in early 1887 by William Neilly, a Presbyterian student
missionary. This was a mission school, which was not recognized by the
Territorial Department of Education. It was operated out of a small shack at the
Red Deer Crossing settlement along the Red Deer River. The Red Deer and District
Archives has some records for this school and other Presbyterian mission
activities in the Knox Presbyterian Church Fonds. A book, Growth: A History
and Anthology of the Synod of Alberta of the Presbyterian Church in Canada
is a secondary source of information.
In the fall of 1887, a proper log schoolhouse was built east of the Crossing
settlement. An official school district was formally established by the
Department of Education in September 1887. The first school teacher was a young
Methodist student missionary, W A. Vrooman. Information on this school can be
found in the E. L. Meeres Fonds and the Annie L. Gaetz Fonds, as well as such
books as The Park Country, by Annie L. Gaetz (1948), Schools at the Crossing
G. H. Dawe (1992), and A Journey In Faith: The History of Gaetz Memorial United
Church, 1887-1987 (1987).
In 1892-93, the Methodist Missionary Society constructed a large Indian
Industrial School on the north bank of the Red Deer River, across from the old
Crossing settlement site. This school was operated by the Society until 1919.
The Red Deer Archives holds copies of the annual reports, building plans and
some correspondence files for the school. There are a number of photographs in
the Charles Hives and Lawrence Tippie collections, among others. There is also
an oral history tape on the school, which was recorded by Albert Lightning. In
addition, the archives has such secondary sources as "The Failure of the Red
Deer Industrial School" by Uta Fox (1993) and Alberta's Indian Industrial
Schools by Ken Tingley.
In 1908, the Priests of Ste Marie de Tinchebray and Les Filles de la Sagesse
(Daughters of Wisdom) established a Roman Catholic mission centre on the brow of
the North Hill in what is now the City of Red Deer. The nuns constructed a
boarding school, St. Joseph's Convent, while the priests built St. Mary's
Apostolic College nearby. The Red Deer Archives holds a fairly extensive
collection of records from these two Catholic religious orders and the schools
they operated. The archives also has copies of records from the Red Deer
Separate School District No. 17, Sacred Heart Parish in Red Deer, and Notre Dame
Parish at Sylvan Lake. As well, there are secondary sources, including History
of the Catholic Churches and Missions in Central Alberta (1914), and The Call To
Wisdom (1983), a history of Les Filles de la Sagesse.
In 1913, the Presbyterian Church constructed the Alberta Ladies College on
the east side of the City of Red Deer. This institution remained in the
community until 1916, when it was moved to South Edmonton. The Red Deer Archives
has copies of the articles of incorporation, reports, college calendars and
some written reminiscences by former students. There is also an extensive
photographic collection in the Helena Keith Fonds.
In 1927, the Church of the Nazarene established the Alberta School of
Evangelism in Red Deer. This soon evolved into the Northern Bible College, later
renamed the Canadian Nazarene College. This institution remained in Red Deer
until 1961, when it was moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba. There are extensive records
of the College in the Agnes M. Comfort Fonds. There is also a published history,
Vine of His Planting by Dorothy Thomson (1961).
From: Aspenland 1998 — Local
Knowledge and Sense of Place
Edited by: David J. Goa and David Ridley
Published by: The Central Alberta Regional
Museums Network (CARMN) with the assistance of the Provincial Museum of Alberta
and the Red Deer and District Museum.