Catholic Missionaries, Lac St. Anne, the Oblates
The mid 1800’s was an active time for catholic missionaries intent on converting native people in the west.
As historian Merrily Aubrey notes, one of the first missions in Alberta was established on a large lake about 60 kilometers west of Edmonton. It became known as Lac Ste Anne.
The name dates from about 1844 when Father Jean Baptist Thibeau, one of the oblates, founded one of the first catholic missions on the western prairies here.
Ste Ann was the mother of Mary, mother of Christ. Since early Christians times, churches have been dedicated in her honor. And the feast of Ste Anne, July 26th, was fixed throughout the church by Pope Gregory the Third in 1584.
And this is important because it’s around July 26th every year that thousands of Catholics, mostly of aboriginal descent, make an pilgrimage to the holy and many believe healing waters of the lake.
There have been some miracles attributed to that area.
However, the legendary powers of this lake in central Alberta predate the arrival of the missionaries.
This is evident form the way other people have referred to the lake through the ages.
David Thompson the map maker who came through, the mapmaker who came through the area at the turn of the 19th century, recorded the name. Manitu Lake.
Carenegie, the earl of southesk noted in his diary on Aug 19 of 1860, Indians call it Great Spirit Lake. It’s also known by the name of Gods Lake.
Other names that have been recorded for it include, Spirit, Devils, and Divine and I guess it depends on whose side you’re on. A post office was opended at Lac Ste Anne in 1903.
And by 1917 another one opened on the south east shore.
That’s where the Canadian Northern Railway placed a train station, "Alberta Beach".