Marie Reine is likely named after the mother of
Christ. She is often called Queen in Roman Catholic liturgy.
When Jules Chabot arrived in Alberta from Quebec in 1950, there
was already a well-established francophone presence on the
fertile lands of the Peace River area. There had been some oil
exploration, too. Chabot knew a good piece of dirt when he saw
it: "Beautiful soil, not a touch of gumbo", he said in his
recollections. (Gumbo here means a silty soil that gets very
sticky when wet.) He stayed, even though that first winter the
mercury dropped 57 degrees Celsius.
The 20th century may have been already halfway through when
Chabot arrived to Marie Reine, but that didn’t seem to ease the
lot of a pioneer. Chabot tells how he and other pioneers would
drink the ditchwater, having blown off the foam and closed his
eyes so that they wouldn’t see the mosquito larvae in it. There
were so many mosquitoes, he said, that it felt like walking with
a veil on your face. Talking was best avoided. That way you
would swallow fewer of the pests. The roads themselves were
swamps. People had to abandon their cars and walk to stake their
claims. Despite all this, more Quebecers, as well as a few
European French, were ready to move to Marie Reine. The
Quebecers had no English, so they tended to point at the first
line of menus. Consequently, their en route diet consisted
almost entirely of soup.
The church in Marie Reine was built the same year Chabot
arrived. In 1951, the Oblate sisters came, built a convent and
took care of educating the community’s children. It seems that
just over 50 years ago, at least in Marie Reine, spiritual needs
outweighed physical comforts: electricity came in 1962, gas in
1966. Houses got phones and running water in 1972. A year later,
people could opt for indoor washrooms.
Marie Reine has stayed in the business of grain growing.
Although people searched, significant oil deposits were never
found around the hamlet. Jules Chabot never stopped loving the
place he built from the forest with his own hands. He died in
1980, 68 years young.
Turning the Pages of Time: A History of Nampa and Districts.
Nampa: Nampa and Districts Historical Society, 1981.