By Jan Olson
Local artist, poet, teacher and long-time Strathcona resident Jean Carmichael McKenzie designed the sculpture of a blacksmith at work. Her art was inspired by memories of her grandfather John Carmichael who was a pioneer blacksmith in Old Strathcona and by her life-long love of horses. Jean lives in her grandfather’s house on 84th Avenue and remembers the horses, the cow, and the chickens that her grandparents kept on the property. Today, she and her husband Red raise, and race, thoroughbreds across the province. In her sculpture Jean shows the importance of the pioneer blacksmith to this community. Many of the early setters to Strathcona arrived in Red River carts and relied on the blacksmith to shoe their horses and revive metal parts on their carts. Jean remembers her grandfather shoeing horses and fixing cartwheels.
Métis and European Settlers
During the fur trade both the French and English competed for furs to export to Europe. The European traders made alliances with various First Nations people who knew the lay of the land. The native women, primarily Cree, were a very important part of the Europeans’ survival in the west as they cooked, showed the men how to dress, gave them medicines, and made moccasins and snowshoes for them. Many of the Cree women had children with the fur traders and thus created a new cultural people. Métis culture is a fusion of French, English, Scottish, and Aboriginal influences, and took root and flourished in the late 1800s. The word Métis comes from the Latin term “miscere” (to mix) and was used initially to describe the children of First Nations women and French men. Over time, the word “Métis” became the accepted term given to all children born to native women and European men. The Métis developed a unique language called Michif, using both Indian nouns, and English or French verbs. Métis fiddlers combined jigs and reels into their unique forms of dance and music. Métis’ attire included bright red woven sashes, embroidered gun sheaths and moccasins, and the capote (a European style coat made from blue dyed wool and later from Hudson Bay point blankets).
Métis Along the North Saskatchewan River
Eventually, the Métis came to Alberta to trade with and work for the Hudson Bay Company, and new Métis family lines were established. By the 1870s, the Métis were the first real settlers of the Edmonton and Strathcona areas. However, when homesteading started along the North Saskatchewan, major differences in the treatment of the Métis who settled on the north and south banks of the river were apparent. Both sides of the river used the French river lot system, which included 220 yards of river front access. On the north side most Métis families were related to high-ranking officers of the HBC – William Rowland and Colin Fraser (along with Joe McDonald who settled on the south side). No one challenged the land rights of these settled Métis families. The south-side Métis were considered to be of a lower class than the north-side Métis who retained less of their non-European heritage. They had difficulty holding title to the land. The south side could further be divided into two groups. In the southwest lived Louis Garneau who left the Red River settlement during the Riel Rebellion, and other families not connected to the Papaschase band. Their land titles were also not really questioned. Those who settled in the southeast near modern 99th St. were more closely connected to the Papaschase Band. They had tremendous difficulty and eventually had no success in securing their land. The Papaschase Band had signed Treaty #6 in 1877 to preserve their Aboriginal rights; this band included any Cree who lived on the south side of the river. The east Métis worked with the Papaschase Band to make a claim to the land, which would be beneficial to both groups. The hope was that the land claim made under the Indian Act would help the Métis to remain on their land and the Papaschase to achieve reserve status and thus have control over their own land. When this claim failed the southeast Métis were not part of a recognized reserve, nor did they have a secure title to their lands. Some joined the Edmonton Stragglers (to detach themselves from the unsuccessful Papaschase band) in a last attempt to preserve their land. This strategy also failed and they lost any right to the land they had been working on. This unsuccessful bid was in part related to the desire by developers to acquire land for the railway line from the south and to build a bridge to reach Edmonton. The best location for a bridge was in the southeast where the Low Level Bridge is located today. Most of these Métis families left the area by the early 1880’s. At this time the Canadian Government was passing out Métis scrip in either land or money form. The scrip issued was for $160/person or 160 acres for adults and $240 or 240 acres for children. The Métis, feeling insecure about their future in agriculture, sold their scrip, often at half its value to land and scrip speculators. Almost all of the transfer of wealth on the southeast side of the river was made under deceitful and unethical circumstances. Some of the Métis went to the St. Albert mission some moved to northern communities, while others squatted on crown land hoping to gain squatter’s rights. The southeast side of the North Saskatchewan now became open for business to European settlers and railway companies.
Riverlots #15 and #17
The history of the 99th St area has been documented in various books. I suggest reading Tom Monto’s Old Strathcona: Edmonton’s Southside Roots for more detailed information. Our 99th St area was originally surveyed as Lots #15 and #17. River Lots were settled all along the river banks with wooden Métis houses connected by the Old Fort Saskatchewan Trail (Saskatchewan Drive).
Riverlot #15: (104th St to 99th St to river valley) This land was occupied by William Meaver (born in Aberdeenshire Scotland in 1831) who lived there between 1874 and 1878. He lived with Jeannie Foley (Quinn Gladu) who was considered his country wife. She was Métis from the Papaschase Band born at Lesser Slave Lake in 1836. Jeannie had previously been married to John Foley Sr., but he left her after their fourth child was born. Jeannie Foley and William Meaver had at least four children. All members of the Meaver family applied and were successful in their bid for Métis scrip in fear that their land was going to be taken. Meaver’s stepson, John Foley Jr., was hired as a government interpreter during the scrip transfers. He was also a nephew of Chief Papaschase, but that did not stop him from misleading the band to take Métis scrip in 1885. He earned money for his deceit. In 1876, Norman McKay bought the land and lived there until 1882. At this point the Riverlot was divided into two lots.
Riverlot #17: was located between 99th Street and the Mill Creek ravine beginning at the North Saskatchewan River and running south for a mile. There are some inaccuracies in the original survey maps, which make this history a bit confusing. Three families were named as occupants of the lot – the Gauthiers, the Daignaults and the Gladu-Quinns.
River Lot #17 north on the flatlands: David Daigneault’s family occupied the west side of Cloverdale flats in the 1870’s. David’s father was Papaschase member #47 (Isaac, and his mother was Julie Lawrance). His mother was not Métis. David was born in 1852 and married Marie Morin born in 1855. Marie was a treaty Indian for 7 years with the Papaschase Band and then was #6 of the Edmonton Stragglers. David stated that he was a Straggler for only 2 years, until 1885. After Daigneault left, the Cloverdale Flats was a place where many of the Papaschase Band lived in either teepees or simple shelters. Chief Papaschase’s brother Bateau (George Gladu-Quinn) was living on the flats by 1877 and had built a house. He was married to Jeannie Thomas and had 14 children. The “owners” of the southeast lots intermarried quite often and so the Papaschase genealogical history grew dramatically.
River lot #17 south on the uplands: The Charles Gauthier family occupied Riverlot #17 south. Charles had come from the Lesser Slave Lake area and he married Bella Andrews who was born at Lac Ste Anne in 1849. She was in some way related to the Papaschase family. Bella was recorded in documents as Mrs. Goutier, Papaschase band member #48. In 1885, she was released from treaty status and became #81 of the Edmonton Stragglers. Documents show that by 1882 the Gauthier family moved to St. Albert and lived on near a creek Lot #46 by 1882. By 1885 they had had six children. After living in St. Albert for a few years, we find Charles Gauthier, farmer, in the 1901 Spruce Grove census. By the 1880’s most of the Métis families had left the southeast bank either voluntarily or by passive force. Randy Lawrence in Tom Monto’s book writes that the area east of 101st St changed more drastically between 1878 and 1882 than any other part of the south-side. Daigneault’s land was taken over by Donald Ross and Gauthier’s property by Alex McLeod. The southside of the river which became Strathcona was surveyed for industry and some housing in the east and residential and business in the west.
Riverlot #15: Riverlot #15 was taken over by Norman McKay around 1876, but by 1882 other families moved in. This Riverlot was divided into Lot#15 and #15A.
Riverlot #15A north: North of present day Whyte Ave between 99th St and 101 St. and was occupied by William F. Bredin who claimed his brother willed the land to him. He was born in Ontario, but moved west to farm. He was unsuccessful at this and went north to operate a famous fur business, with partner James Cornwall. Bredin later served as MLA for Athabasca in Rutherford’s Liberal government. He then moved to Grouard, but returned to Edmonton where he died in 1934. Bredin sold the land to John Walter for $150 who then sold it to Frederick H. Sache who also was born in Ontario. He married John Walter’s sister Mary. Apparently he was one of the few to benefit from the creation of the South Edmonton town in 1891. Land speculation increased dramatically in response to talk of a railroad coming through the area. Along with John Walter and Joseph Duggan, he formed a speculative real estate company, selling many small family lots to new settlers. Sache also sold some of his riverlot to the Calgary and Edmonton railway in 1891, but continued to own many properties including most of Lot #15A. He would transfer the property on the corner of 84th Ave. and 101 St. to Holy Trinity Anglican Church, where the parish would move its original wood framed church building from 81st Ave. and 100 St. in 1900. Sache sold two adjoining lots on 84th Ave. to John Thomas Radford in 1902. This is where John and Annie Radford built their simple wood frame farmhouse, which still stands today.
Riverlot #15 south: Lot #15 was occupied by Timber Tom Anderson who also owned lot #13. Anderson was born in England and became one of the first civil servants in the area. Lot#15 was angled along University Avenue from northwest to southeast, following the angle in the North Saskatchewan River. The Canadian government appointed him to act as land title officer. He was instructed to move his office closer to the south-side rail station, but rifles and angry north-side businessmen prevented him from relocating the office. Within a year he built another office near the south-side train station. He owned two of the most central lots on the south side; Lots #13 and #15, and, as land titles officer, he had prior knowledge about the railway line location. He sold all of lot #13 and the south half of Lot #15 to the CN railway company. Tom and his sons owned many other lots on the south-side amounting to almost 6-quarter sections of land. With so much real estate, he became, a staunch south-sider and opposed the amalgamation of Strathcona and Edmonton to protect his holdings and business interests.
Riverlot #17 was also divided into north and south components. The survey placed north Lot #17 on the flats and south #17 on the uplands between 99th and 97th Streets to 88 Ave. Most other lots were not divided into two sections.
Riverlot #17 south the uplands: This land has an unusual occupation history as one Métis family (Gauthier) was succeeded by another, the McLeods. McLeod purchased the land from Gauthier and within a few years passed it on to Malcolm and Sarah McLeod. Alexander McLeod’s family history is confusing as there were a few unrelated McLeod families living in the area. An 1882 survey map shows Alex McLeod and Donald Ross operating a coalmine on Riverlot #17. Donald Ross from south Scotland, settled on the north-side of the river, but he had considerable influence on the south-side development; particularly, in the railway business.
Riverlot #17 north the flatlands: Louis Daigenault, brother of David Daigenault claimed in his 1885 scrip that he was challenging John Cameron for land just south of Lot #17 West ½ section 28-52-24-W4. Cameron arrived in Edmonton in 1881 from Winnipeg. He exercised considerable power as the first president of the Edmonton Board of Trade, as a member of town council, and of the Edmonton School Board. With the backing of “White” Edmontonians, Cameron won the land. 99th St was named after him until numbered streets were introduced into Strathcona. Cameron Street led to his “Cameron Hotel” at the intersection at Cloverdale where Scona Road and Conner’s Road now meet. He was also part owner of two other hotels in the area. Mann and McKenzie of the C and E Railway and the E, Y and P Railway purchased the “rights of way” on lots in the south-side and, where necessary, even buying an entire numbered block. Mann and Mackenzie ended their line at End of Steel Park, where no bridge was built to cross the river. They surveyed the blocks and divided them into small family-sized lots. They sold these lots for incredible prices and became very wealthy in the process. They owned most of the land in the central town site – Lots 11, 13, 15, 15A, 17 south and the smaller lot acquired from John Cameron. These parcels of valuable land became the future hamlet and town site that formed around the railway lines. Today composition of the 99th Street area has evolved from complicated land transfers taken from the Papaschase Band and from settlers of Métis families to White (usually Scottish) settlers. This historical flip-flop happened in such a short time that it is difficult to put together all of the pieces of the puzzle together. As you walk around the area imagine yourself as one of these groups living and working on the land. Lots of love and happiness dwelt in this area’s early homes, but there were also external political and legal actions that adversely affected many of the early residents. The present communities in what was once Lot #17 and #15 continue to adeptly protect the area politically by standing up for the rights of the neighbourhood and ensuring that the legacy of natural beauty and proud history enjoyed by its citizens will survive for the future enjoyment of those who will follow us.
1) Tom Monto. Old Strathcona: Edmonton’s Southside Roots. Crang, 2011
2) Herb Belcourt. Walking in the Woods: A Métis Journey. Brindle & Glass 2006
3) Joachim Fromhold. The Western Cree (Pakisimotan Wi Iniwak) Donald Whitford 1840-1927. LuLu.com
4) Gregg Dahl and Ian Peach Christopher Adams. Métis in Canada: History, Identity, Law and Politics. University of Alberta Press. 2013
5) Joachim Fromhold. Alberta History – The Old North Trail (Cree Trail), 15,000 Years of Indian History; 1820-1850. Lulu.com. 2012
6) Jaimy L Miller. “The Papaschase Band Building Awareness and Community in the City of Edmonton” in Aboriginal Peoples in Canadian Cities: Transformations and Continuities, Heather Howard and Craig Proulx (eds.) pp 53-68 Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2011
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