At the end of the 20th century,
the town of Vegreville in central Alberta is synonymous with
Ukrainian settlement in the province. However, according to
historian Merrily Aubrey, Vegreville was originally settled by
the French, and it owes its name to one of the most active
Oblate missionaries of the 19th century. Father Valentin
Vegreville lived from 1829 to 1903.
Starting in the 1850s, he served as a missionary in western
Canada for 50 years. Father Vegreville was an expert linguist in
Cree, Montagne, and Assiniboine. He wrote several manuscripts
focusing on the many dialects of the native languages. And, like
Petitot, he was recognized internationally. Some of his work was
published by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.
The community of Vegreville is located about 95 kilometres west
of Edmonton, and it dates back to the final years of the 1800s.
The French-speaking colony east of Edmonton chose his name for
their new settlement. It was a tribute to him and recognition of
the help they’d received on many occasions from the oblates of
St. Albert. The original site of old Vegreville was about seven
kilometres southwest of its present location, but it had to move
when the railroad was surveyed to the northeast. The first
settlers included a group of French Canadians from Kansas that’s
a long way to get from Quebec, I guess! The post office opened in
December 1895, with Eugene Poulen, one of its first inhabitants,
as its first postmaster. It was incorporated as a town on August
15, 1906, so it’s coming up to its 100th anniversary pretty
Vegreville became a centre for Ukrainian settlement, and,
although it was named for Vegreville, he never served in the
immediate district of the community.
On the Heritage Trail,
I’m Cheryl Croucher.