The largest and most resilient black community in Alberta seems to have been Amber Valley. In 1911, a group of settlers, some of whom had been brought from Oklahoma under the leadership of clergyman and Mason Parson H. Sneed, met their friends and family in a small hamlet north of Edmonton near a U in the Athabasca River. The community had already developed a certain unity because of a shared investment in the Masonic organization, which had spread information about Canada to blacks in the United States.
Like other pioneers transplanted to a land with a harsh climate and poor farming conditions, the settlers in Amber Valley found life difficult for the first few years. They had to clear the heavily-treed land and build houses. Repeated crop failures meant that they relied on wild flora and fauna, and on keeping cattle and chickens for food. The weather alone would have been almost unbearable, even if one wasn't accustomed to the relatively mild climatic conditions in Oklahoma. But the settlers in Amber Valley were as tough as their surroundings. Over three quarters of them remained on the land long enough to receive patents for their homesteads, a much greater success rate than among Alberta settlers generally.
Amber Valley residents began a school in 1913 and a nondenominational church in 1914. After 1915, the Amber Valley picnic was an established and popular event. It featured many kinds of sporting events, games, and dancing. The town's baseball team would eventually become known throughout the north.
The large percentage of people of black ancestry and strong community structures meant that Amber Valley continued to be a major settlement for black people in Alberta until the 1930s.
To listen to the Heritage Trails, you need the RealPlayer, available free from RealNetworks:
- Amber Valley and Black Settlement - Hear about the first black settlement in Alberta and Jefferson Davis Edwards, one of its most important members. Then discover how Amber Valley got its name.
Read | Listen
- Fixing Obadiah Place, an article from Legacy Magazine
- Amber Valley: A Black Community, part of a Digital Collections website