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
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.
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.