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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
Background, People, Culture, Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource and Alberta Lottery Fund


Francophone Edukit

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Cold Lake









Central Hotel, Bonnyville, Alberta, [ca. 1955-1956]

Although the first explorer to have visited the Bonnyville area was North West Company fur trader Angus Shaw circa 1789, it wasn’t until 1907 that Father Thérien convinced four men from Beaumont to consider settling in the area. After a brief visit, three of the four men returned with family and friends, becoming the area's first eight homesteaders.

The first post office and store were opened in 1908, a few kilometres from present-day Bonnyville. The settlers were forced to reconsider naming their post office Moose Lake upon discovering that the name was being used elsewhere. The recent arrival of Reverend Father Francis Bonny to the area facilitated the decision, and the new settlement was named Bonnyville in his honour.

Hauling logs near Bonnyville, Alberta.The land, characterized by dense forests, numerous lakes, sloughs, and fertile black soil, had plenty to offer ambitious homesteaders. Loggers and farmers came to the area from the United States and Eastern Canada to stake out their land.

Bonnyville’s early population was almost entirely French-Canadian, and local family names included the Boisvert, Dargis, Hétu, Marcotte, Martel, Mercier, Ouellette, and Ouimet.

Bonnyville, circa 1948.Today Bonnyville maintains a successful oil and gas industry, and continues to attract hunters, fishermen, and families to join the other 10,000 people living in-and-around the town. The French community is still prominent; Bonnyville boasts a regional French cultural centre of the province-wide French-Canadian Association (l'Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta), as well as proudly being the sister town to France’s Bonneville. There is a vibrant summer community near the shores of Moose Lake, which is becoming a permanent home for an increasing number of local residents.


  • Bourgoin, Henri. Echoes of the Past: History of Beaumont and District. Bonnyville: Société Historique de Bonnyville et Région, 1981.

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