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Edmonton & Area

From a certain perspective, the community of St. Albert could be considered as the first centre of French Canadian settlement in Alberta, but the lands were ultimately divided into river lots and given to the local Métis in the scrip settlement.

St. Albert - Mission Park, 1934. (OB1909 - Oblate Collection at the PAA)The first French-Canadian settlers to come to the area and claim land for farming were the two Lamoureux brothers who arrived in autumn 1872. Their family history varies, but Joseph and Frank, after a considerable odyssey through the United States, met up accidentally in Oregon after not having seen each other for many years. They teamed up and headed for Caribou gold fields, but didn’t find any gold. On their journey, they were told of the fertile Saskatchewan valley and decided to see it for themselves. Upon their arrival, the brothers decided to settle across from Fort Saskatchewan, approximately 10 kilometres from St. Albert. The brothers sent for the rest of their family and a number of friends to come and join them at the little town they call Lamoureux.

St. Albert - First Cathedral, [1920s]. (OB1739 - Oblate Collection at the PAA)Several years later, in 1890, settlement in the region was officially promoted by Jean-Baptiste Morin, a young priest who became a federal government agent in charge of recruiting settlers. Morin was named to the position at the urging of Bishop Vital Grandin and father Albert Lacombe.1 Based in Montreal, where he had an office, Morin gave presentations and prepared promotional articles for French-Canadians on settlement in Alberta. He visited the northern United States a great deal, and as a testament to his success, historian Donald Smith notes that of the 620 families who settled eight localities in Alberta, more than half were from the United States, while only a fifth of were from Quebec.2 Morin was considered to be the founder of Morinville and Beaumont where several hundred French-Canadian families eventually settled. Nine localities in the area (Edmonton, St. Albert, Morinville, Fort Saskatchewan or Lamoureux, Stony Plain, Beaumont, St. Pierre de Villeneuve, Rivière-qui-Barre, and Vegreville) were settled by migrants from Eastern Canada and immigrants from the northern United States.

Resources

(1) Jean-Baptiste Morin, Journal d’un missionnaire-colonisateur 1890-1897, Édité par Alice Trottier, f.j., histoire franco-albertaine, 3, Le Salon d’histoire de la francophonie albertaine, Edmonton, 1984.

(2) Donald Smith, "French Speaking Albertans", Peoples of Alberta, ed. Donald and Tamara Palmer, Saskatoon, Western Producer Prairie Books, 1985, 93.


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