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The Rutherfords

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When Alberta became a province in 1905, the official first family was that of Alexander Cameron Rutherford and his wife Mattie. According to historian Lisa Mort-Putland, a life in politics was the farthest thing from their minds when the couple originally met at the garden party in Ontario.

Mr. and Mrs. Rutherford had met at a garden party. Mattie Rutherford, or Mattie Burkett as she was in the late 1880s, had a very prominent uncle who was a member of the parliament. He would actually throw garden parties for eligible young bachelors and have sort of a match-making garden party. And at one of those parties she met a young lawyer named Alexander Cameron Rutherford.
And they formed a partnership in life and marriage. They were married on December 19th, 1888.

While Mattie hailed from a prominent Ontario family; Alexander was the son of a Scottish farmer.

Dr. Rutherford's family had come from a place called Upper Valley in Perth in Scotland. His family were farmers and he was instructed in the basics of life. They gave him a foundation in education and sent him to school, as they did with his brothers and sisters. And sort of gave him a very strong foundation that he should help and work with people and should do what he could to help and further himself.

Not long after Alexander and Mattie married, the birth of two children expanded the family. And soon the young father and lawyer was travelling west to find a new home for his family.

He came to Edmonton in 1895, and there are two wonderful versions of the story. Some say he was on his way to Vancouver when he stopped in Alberta, loved the weather, and decided to stay. The other version of the story says he was running short of money when he discovered the only lawyer in Edmonton had just left.
So he came to Edmonton to start a law practice.
Whichever version of the story is true, he loved the pioneering spirit. He was in awe of Edmonton, or Strathcona in those days, and the growth of the town. He loved the idea of settling in a new area.

His wife, Mattie, however, was reluctant to leave Ontario. But despite her early reticence, she soon found her place among Alberta society.

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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.