German Place Names, Part Two:
Those That Stayed the Same
The Great War against Germany brought much hostility and resentment against German immigrants in Alberta.
Non-German residents often petitioned to have the names changed of their hometowns, which had been settled and named by early German immigrants.
But as historian Merrily Aubrey explains, not all communities found it necessary to purge their German roots.
Examples include Graz. This post office near St. Paul operated from 1913 to 1958, and was named after the birthplace of the first Postmaster, Joseph Vogel. Graz, in Germany, is located southwest of Liepzig, about 120 kilometres from there.
A former locality, Bismarck, was situated about 20 kilometres west of Ponoka. The post office was named by the Lutheran pastor Reverend Gruber, who was there at the time the people petitioned for a name for the post office. The name was that of the first German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, who ruled from 1898 to 1915.
Another community where the original German name has survived is Hussar, near Drumheller. The village was settled by a group of German immigrants known as the German Canadian Farming Company.
They bought a 16-section block of land from the CPR in 1910 or 1911, to establish colonization farms in the area. And that's over 10 000 acres. Many of this group of settlers were once officers in the German Hussars, and according to local legend, brought their uniforms, spiked helmets, and guns to Canada and liked to have them on display in their households.
By 1914, 4000 acres of land had been broken and ready to seed, and four sets of buildings erected. By the outbreak of World War I, most of the settlers, including the manager, Captain Schultz, attempted a return to Germany. But few were successful in their efforts.
Yet another Alberta community to maintain its German name is that of Josephburg, near Fort Saskatchewan. It was named for a village in Galicia, in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, from which the early German immigrants originated.
These villages were part of the Hapsburg's plan to populate other parts of their empire with German speakers. From 1888 to 1890, many of the families left for Canada and took up homesteads near Medicine Hat, naming their settlement Josephsburgh.
The settlement had its share of problems. First of all, there were two successive years of crop failures. The second problem was that a small number of the immigrants were tied to the Dreamers religious sect, who fell afoul of their neighbors, as well as the North- West Mounted Police. Incidents of barn burning were allegedly attributed to them.
Many of the original settlers sought new land further north in 1891. One group took up land eight kilometres east of Fort Saskatchewan, and named the new settlement Josephburgh - dropping the "s".
On the Heritage Trail,
I'm Cheryl Croucher.