Settlement in Northwestern Alberta was initiated slightly
later than the other more temperate regions of the prairies, but
when the available land was all taken up on the prairies and the
parkland, the long sunny summer days of the Peace River district
began to take on a more desirable look. As it was, settlers came
to the area willing to endure the gloomy winters in exchange for
the long days of the growing season which were able to produce
quick-growing crops on its fertile plains.
Efforts to settle the area began as early as 1899, when Jean
A. Lemieux, a priest from Quebec, established the Peace River
Colonization and Land Development Company. The company was
established to create a block settlement for French Canadians
and although Lemieux managed to have about 20 townships set
aside, nothing ever came of the scheme. The Oblates encouraged
settlement in the area and two of the community’s priests, Jean-Baptiste
Giroux and Constant Falher promoted homesteading south of the
Peace River. In 1912, 24 settlers applied for homesteads, and
gradually the towns of Falher, Donnelly, Guy, Girouxville,
Tangent, Dréau, Marie-Reine, and St. Isidore were established.
The two largest centres of the area, Peace River and Grande
Prairie, also attracted French Canadian entrepreneurs.