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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Feature Article


Written By: Michael Dawe
Published By: Red Deer Advocate Centennial Book
Article Used with permission. © Copyright Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate, 2007

Village of North Red Deer established in 1911

When the townsite of Red Deer was first laid out by the Calgary-Edmonton Railroad in 1890-91, the entire community was located south of the Red Deer River.

The biggest impediment to any development north of the river was the lack of a traffic bridge.

Even after the construction of a single-lane traffic bridge in the mid1890s, there was little in the way of development on the northside for many years.

The situation began to change after the turn of the last century.

A large-scale sawmill was constructed by George Bawtinheimer in 1905 north of the river and west of the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks.

In 1906, the Great West Lumber Company bought the operation and greatly expanded it.

Not surprisingly, many of those who worked at the sawmill decided to build their homes nearby.

They were soon joined by others who were attracted by the lower price of land north of the river.

In 1908, the Roman Catholic Church constructed a large mission centre on the brow oft he North Hill. It included a convent, school, rectory for the priests and small college.

A number of those who worked at the sawmill were from French-speaking areas of Eastern Canada and northeastern United States.

With the development of the Catholic mission on the hill, even more French-speaking families moved into the area.

Soon, the community north of the river had a pronounced French and Catholic presence, while the town south of the river was almost entirely English-speaking and Protestant.

In October 1908, 60 residents living north of the river petitioned the provincial government to create a village of North Red Deer.

They claimed that the existing rural council was collecting taxes from them, but was doing very little in return.

They felt that having their own municipality would give them "a better deal" and ensure that their taxes were invested into improvements for the community.

Unfortunately, the petition was flawed. One of the biggest problems was that the petitioners had followed the rules set out under the old Village Ordinance of the North West Territories, instead of the Village Act which had been passed by the new province of Alberta.

In the fall of 1910, a new petition was circulated. This time 127 names, more than twice the number on the first petition, were collected.

The proper rules and regulations were now followed. The minister responsible for municipal affairs wrote back that the new petition would receive "positive consideration."

On Feb. 17, 1911, the Village of North Red Deer officially came into being.

On March 13, the first village council was elected with Walter Webb becoming the first mayor and L. Brennan and William Bawtinheimer becoming the first councillors.

The new village council quickly went to work. It authorized the borrowing of $4000 to construct wooden sidewalks, grade the roads and open drainage ditches.

In 1912, a village hall was acquired on Main (57th) Street and Cherry (52nd) Avenue, complete with administrative offices, a public works yard and an animal pound.

The village council was spirited. So spirited in fact that many residents from south of the river would go to the village hall on council meeting nights to watch the fun.

However, as time went on, North Red Deer became a quiet community where not a lot happened.

As the years went by, the village’s financial situation became more and more challenging, particularly after the Great West Lumber Mill shut down during the First World War.

There simply wasn't the tax base to support the provision of services that people wanted.

Finally, at the end of the Second World War, serious consideration began to be given to an amalgamation with the City of Red Deer.

In 1945, a tentative amalgamation agreement wasn’t ratified in a plebiscite, mainly because many North Red Deer residents objected to a special 10-mill tax levy to pay for the costs of bringing the village infrastructure an services up to the level already enjoyed south of the river.

Finally a new agreement was reached whereby the new city taxes in North Red Deer would be slightly lower that then rates levied by the village.

A new plebiscite ratified the agreement by a vote of 72 per cent.

On January 1, 1948, the Village of North Red Deer officially became part of the City of Red Deer.

Although the two municipalities were now one, there remained a distinct sense of identity for those who lived north of the river. This was clearly demonstrated in June 1986, when the 75th anniversary of the village’s incorporation was marked with extensive celebrations and a reunion. Moreover, a large history book, The Little Village That Grew, was published to ensure that the special heritage of the community was never forgotten.

This article was written by Michael Dawe for the Red Deer Advocate’s Centennial Book. The Heritage Community Foundation would like to thank Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate for permission to reprint these materials online. Please visit the Red Deer Advocate online.The images in the article are part of the collection of the Red Deer Archives. Please visit them online.

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