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Interpretive staff at Stephansson House introduce visitor’s to the family’s interesting story of emigration from Iceland to the United States and then finally to Canada. The Icelandic community at Markerville was built around the same kinds of interests and goals that had been fostered in Iceland. Their dedication to literature and learning distinguished the settlers at Markerville from many of their neighbours.

Accordingly, rural schools were among the first community institutions to be established in Markerville, and functioned not only in an educational capacity, but as centres for social gatherings. The Icelandic Ladies' Aid was established in 1891 in Calgary, serving as a support for the wives of men building homes for them in at the new settlement site. A Lutheran congregation was in existence from 1900, but lack of funds and divided religious opinion meant that the community's first minister was dismissed in 1909. Eventually, the church building was used only for special occasion or on religious holidays.

Poet and influential community member Stephan G. Stephansson had established an Icelandic Cultural Society in North Dakota, which supported liberal philosophies of religion and the arts, and focused on the search for knowledge as the primary means to a satisfying existence. In 1892, the settlers at Markerville formed a literary society called Ithunn, 16 years before they opened a church.In fact, unlike most other pioneer institutions of its kind, Markerville's church was not at the center of community life. Instead, as they had done in Iceland, settlers came together after a hard day's work to discuss political or religious topics, and to share a passion for literature. On Mondays, settlers would bring milk to their creamery and borrow books from their library. It was tradition for Icelandic families to gather together around the stove, and while the men read aloud, the women would spin or knit wool that the children had carded.

The most important social event in Markerville occurred once a year: on August 2, an Icelandic National holiday was celebrated with a town picnic, to which would come families from miles around.

Between 1900 and 1914, however, immigration from the United States and the rest of Scandinavia meant the proportion of people of Icelandic descent in Markerville slowly declined. The building of roads and bridges ensured that communication with the outside world increased. Farming became a more commercial enterprise, and farmers from all around the area were served by the Markerville creamery. Although all of this had its economic and social benefits, it also meant that distinctive Icelandic language and cultural practices suffered.

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  • Markerville Creamery - The Markerville Creamery was an initiative set up by Mr. C.P. Marker in 1902. Hear Dorothy Field explain the history of this historic site.
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  • Stephansson House: Part One - Stephan Guthmundarson Stephansson was a famous Icelandic poet before he came to Markerville, Alberta. Hear about Stephansson and his little farmhouse near Red Deer.
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  • Stephansson House: Part Two - The Stephansson farmhouse, at Markerville, Alberta, grew with the Stephansson family, room by room. Stephansson House is now a historic site.
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  • Stephansson House: Part Three - Listen to the history of Stephansson House's unique architectural details, from its brilliant colours to its eight lightning rods!
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  • Stephansson House: Part Four - Stephan G. Stephansson has been called the Shakespeare of Iceland. Hear some of Stephansson's poems, and learn about the man himself.
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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.