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St. Joachim / Fort Edmonton

Fort Edmonton, despite the fact that it had been given that name by the Hudson’s Bay Company, was known among the Francophone fur traders as one of the Forts-des-Prairies1 [literally, the Forts of the Prairies]. A number of forts also bore this name in the West. at one time or another, including - Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt, Fort Ellice, Dogpound and Norway House.

The first missionaries who visited the Fort passed through on their way to the Pacific Ocean and the missions of Oregon where approximately 20 families of French-Canadian voyageurs had requested their presence.The two priests were Modeste Demers and François Blanchet sent from Québec, at the request of Bishop Provencher of the diocese of Saint-Boniface. As t hey stopped by the forts, they performed baptisms and marriages, as most marital unions up to that point were "country marriages." When the priest Jean-Baptiste Thibault came to Fort Edmonton in 1842, he noted the baptisms, marriages and burials in the Forts-des-Prairies register. The register was kept at Lac Ste. Anne, the home mission.

Edmonton, AB - St. Joachim Church [in Fort Edmonton], c1887. (OB574 - Oblate Collection at the PAA)The first permanent chapel was built inside Fort Edmonton in 1859, though there may have been a temporary one before. It was given the name Saint-Joachim, in honour of the husband of Saint Anne; and made a good catechism lesson for the Métis who frequented the Church. In 1876, the chapel was moved to the Groat Estates, on land donated by Malcolm Groat, where the present parish cemetery lies today. About 1862-63, Brother Constantine Scollen began teaching school in the Fort chapel, which effectively became the first school in Edmonton. After the move to the Groat Estates, the chapel was again moved to the present location of the parish church.

Despite the moving of the chapel, there was still a school at the Mission and, in 1883, Father Henri Grandin, the resident priest at the mission, asked the Faithful Companions of Jesus, a French teaching order, if they would come and open a school. The order accepted and ran a boarding school for girls and young women in the Edmonton area.

Resources

1. Bishop Norbert Provencher, in a letter to Monseigneur J. Signay, bishop of Québec, July 8, 1839, writes of the “fort des Prairies” where M. Rowand is the “bourgeois”, which was of course, Fort Edmonton. “Lettres de Monseigneur Joseph-Norbert Provencher, Premier Évêque de Saint-Boniface, Bulletin de la Société historique de Saint-Boniface, vol III, 1913.


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