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The naming of Bismark

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Wherever German-speaking immigrants settled in Alberta in the early part of the 20th century, they established towns and villages with names that reminded them of their homeland.

But, when the Great War against Germany broke out in 1914, public sentiment towards German immigrants changed from respect to resentment.

And, as historian Merrily Aubrey explains, a movement arose in many towns to change their names to something more politically correct.

The Bingen post office, which was located 75 kilometres southwest of Medicine Hat, opened in 1913, and it was named after a German town on the Rhine River, southeast of Bonn. And, in 1916, during the war, the post office was renamed Nemiskam, probably through a petition of the local residents.

Alderson is another community which received a name change because of the war. It also was home to some of the earliest German settlers near Medicine Hat.

The area was first known as Langevin, when a post of that name was established in 1904. And I believe Langevin was a Member of Parliament in Ottawa.

The Langevin post office closed three years later, in 1907, only to open again as Carlstadt, in 1909. In 1915, the name was changed to something more patriotic, and that is when Alderson was chosen.

Alderson commemorated Lieutenant-General Sir Edwin Alfred Harvey Alderson, commander of the first Canadian division in Europe.

Yet another Alberta town to erase its German namesake was that of Dusseldorf.

Dusseldorf was named after a German city. It was a post office; it opened 1910, and it was 15 km northeast of Barrhead.

The first two postmasters were Messers Svarg and Munsterman, so obviously there was a German connection there.

The post office ran under that name until January 1919, and its new name was Freedom.

But not all communities caved in to the anti-German sentiment that pervaded Alberta during World War I. Those included Bismarck and Hussar.

On the Heritage Trail, I'm Cheryl Croucher.


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