In 1861, Bishop Alexandre Taché and Father Albert Lacombe set
out to find a site for a new mission to facilitate the
maintenance of the St. Joachim mission in Edmonton. When the two
stopped on a hill less than 10 kilometres from Edmonton, just
off the Sturgeon River, Bishop Taché announced that this should
be the site of the new mission. He instructed that Father
Lacombe would see to its foundation.
Father Lacombe later returned to the area with 20 families,
oxen, horses, a plough and wagon, and set about creating St.
Albert, named after his patron saint. One of his first
priorities was construction of a church, the building that still
stands today as the Father Lacombe Chapel—the oldest building in
From its inception, St. Albert enjoyed enormous success as a
mission and religious centre despite suffering terrible
hardships in the latter part of the 19th century. In 1870,
smallpox swept the countryside killing nearly half the
inhabitants of the mission; in 1876, a hail storm destroyed all
the crops of the region; and in 1890, a fire raged through much
of the community. Due to the efforts of the Oblates and Sisters
of Charity (as well as good soil and easy access to clean
waters) the community was able to rebuild after each disaster.
With the arrival of the railway to Strathcona (now south
Edmonton) in 1892, the world was brought to St. Albert’s
St. Albert is now a thriving cultural centre encompassing the
Arden Theatre, the Visual Arts Studios, and the Musée Héritage
Museum. The city has seen numerous important cultural and
political figures, and enjoys a healthy tourist trade. Each year
many people visit, each eager to take in the natural beauty of
the area or visit the historical landmarks in-and-around the
city. St. Albert is primarily an English speaking city, but has not
forgotten its French roots. Leo Nickerson School, Muriel Martin
Elementary School, Sir George Simpson Junior High School, and
Paul Kane High School support a growing French immersion program
that extends from kindergarten to graduation.
Father Lacombe and the community of St. Albert.
- Legal, Rev. Émile J. Short Sketches of the History of
the Catholic Churches and Missions in Central Alberta.
Winnipeg: West Canada Publishing Co. Ltd., 1914.