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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 353: French Oblate Names: Part Two: Father Vegreville

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At the end of the 20th century, the town of Vegreville in central Alberta is synonymous with Ukrainian settlement in the province.

However, according to historian Merrily Aubrey, Vegreville was originally settled by the French. And it owes its name to one of the most active Oblate missionaries of the 19th century.

Father Valentin Vegreville lived from 1829 to 1903. Starting in the 1850s, he served as a missionary in Western Canada for 50 years. Father Vegreville was an expert linguist in Cree, Montagnais, and Assiniboine.

He wrote several manuscripts focusing on the many dialects of the native languages. And, like Petitot, he was recognized internationally. Some of his work was published by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

The community of Vegreville is located about 95 km east of Edmonton, and dates back to the final years of the 1800s.

The French-speaking colony east of Edmonton chose his name for their new settlement. It was a tribute to him and a recognition of the help they'd received on many occasions from the Oblates of St. Albert.

The original site of old Vegreville was about seven km southwest of its present location. But it had to move when the railroad was surveyed to the northeast. The first settlers included a group of French Canadians from Kansas-that's a long way to get from Quebec!

The post office opened in December 1895, with Eugene Poulin, one of its first inhabitants, as its first postmaster. It was incorporated as a town on August 15, 1906, so it's coming up to its 100th anniversary soon. Vegreville later became a centre for Ukrainian settlement, and although it was named for Vegreville, he never served in the immediate district of the community.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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