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Settlement and Development (1914-1945)

1914 was a difficult year for the residents of Lloydminster. Nurse Mabel Drewe, who had converted her home into a private hospital, died on April 25. Meanwhile, the First World War was developing overseas. Lloydminster, with a population of around 800, lost many of its young men to the war. Years later a cenotaph was erected paying tribute to their efforts abroad. 1914 did deliver some positive news: the Lloydminster & District Agricultural Co-operative Association was founded and a co-operative store was soon built to meet the needs of the community. This co-op store still exists today and is the largest of its kind on the prairies. Near the end of the war, a new brick hospital was built, and the facility was soon tested when the Spanish Influenza swept across Canada.

Hospital in Lloydminster, Alberta

By the 1920s, Lloydminster’s development was stagnating. Its decreasing population was recorded at 755 in 1921. The decade was a very difficult for farmers because of drought and a general economic downturn. Many farmers left for urban centres, no longer able to support their families or their farms. The village and town of Lloydminster did gain population from this exodus, but its economy remained sluggish. Lloydminster lost the Lloydminster Milling Company, an important employer in the town. Fortunately, Lloydminster gained a few important institutions – the Garbot Business College and the public library. Also, two lumber yards opened in the 1920s, possible signs of a community regaining prosperity.

A significant event that would point to Lloydminster’s future prosperity was the discovery of oil by farmer Charlie Marren in 1923 when he was drilling for water 20 miles south of town. A short burst of oil speculation followed. The Lloydminster Oil and Gas Company was founded in 1926 and several wells were drilled. However, the heavy oil that was found was too thick to be pumped, so the wells were soon abandoned and the oil industry was temporarily abandoned in Lloydminster.

At the end of the decade, Lloydminster suffered a tremendous setback. On August 19 of 1929, a fire started in the back of a pool hall in the Town of Lloydminster. The fire spread across the downtown core, destroying 53 building and causing an estimated one million dollars in damages. Two landmarks, the King Edward and the Brittania hotels, were lost in the devastating blaze. The business district of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan was all but destroyed, yet on the Alberta side, the business district was saved due to the efforts of the fire brigades.

Ibstone #1 drilling in Lloydminster Field, Saskatchewan

If any good came from the destructive fire, it was a renewed attempt to amalgamate the two Lloydminsters. The small Village of Lloydminster in Alberta and the devastated Town of Lloydminster in Saskatchewan now needed each other. The municipal governments and the Lloydminster Ratepayers and Board of Trade pushed for an amalgamation. It took five drafts of the Lloydminster Municipal Amalgamation Act of 1930 before the governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta finally approved it. Next, the amalgamation had to be approved by means of a referendum. The results were overwhelmingly in support of an amalgamation. The Act was passed on May 20, 1930.

Immediately following amalgamation, Lloydminster witnessed the affects of the Great Depression. Because Lloydminster’s farm lands fared well during the depression, the town was repeatedly denied relief programs. Luckily, new industries saved the town from poverty. The Lloydminster Gas Company was formed in 1933 in search of gas wells. Two years later, the Colony Oil and Gas Company drilled two more wells, and in 1937, the Dina Oil Company brought in several oil wells from a refinery. But these industries were largely based well outside of Lloydminster’s boundaries, making them largely inconvenient for workers.

The Second World War renewed Lloydminster’s economy. In 1941, Lloydminster had a population of 1624. Ten years later, that population more than doubled to 3938. There was a migratory trend towards the urban centres during the war years as farmers sought better opportunities in the city. This made housing scarce for the first time in Lloydminster’s history. The town was in a state of growth; office workers were needed during the war and the Miller Business College opened soon thereafter. The war also created a need for petroleum based products, and in 1943 a new rotary rig technology made the heavy oil in the Lloydminster area more accessible. This technology propelled a huge growth in Lloydminster’s oil industry, accompanied by an economic boom that would transform the town into an oil city.

References

Foster, Franklin Lloyd and Alan Grant Griffith. Bordering on Greatness: A History of Lloydminster’s First Century 1903-2003. Lloydminster: Foster Learning Inc., 2001.

“ Lloydminster: From Oxcart to Oilwell, 1903-1950.” Lloydminster High School Essay Club, 1950.

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