It was way back in 1902 that a man by the name of Matthew Brimacombe settled on land near what would one day be Vermilion. One year after he settled in the area, the community of Breage was born and he would become the first postmaster for the community. He named his post office after a small town in England called Breage, and the name for the community was born from that.
It was on the land of Harry Bowtell that the community of Breage would be formed. Several other people also homesteaded in the area including George Pwell, Lance Playne, John Arnold and Hugh Evans. Hugh Evans was part of the Southern Cross expedition in Antarctica, serving as an assistant zoologist.
In 1902, settlers began to arrive and Breage quickly grew. While today the community is in Alberta, at the time it was part of the postal district of Saskatchewan.
Bowtell, who owned the land, had a stopping house in the community, while also serving as the land guide for settlers who came to the community between 1904 and 1905. Also, in 1905, Fred, Frank and Art Bowtell arrived and joined their brother in the community.
The community thrived in those early years and dances were a popular past time for many residents. Billy Robertson was well-known for being an excellent fiddler, who would play through the night at these dances.
The years of 1904 and 1905 were not easy ones for the community. A heavy snow came in 1904 that caused big problems for getting provisions to the community during the winter. It would take six or seven drivers, travelling together, to clear out the huge snow drifts. Sadly, it is believed at least two men died during the heavy snow storm after they attempted to walk home.
In the spring of 1904, the river was jammed with ice and when the dam broke, huge ice blocks went up the hillside. That ice would provide ranchers with ice well into summer in some cases.
By June, the river was flooding, and several old-timer residents went to Edmonton and built a large scow of planks to carry 13 tons of goods to the store. They were able to bring the supplies to the community through a great deal of work, including the building of two bridges over Tongue Creek and Deer Creek. In all, the trip took several weeks.
The first doctor to the area would be Dr. H. Burris, who worked out of the office of Harry Bowtell.
In 1905, the surveyor for the railway came through the community and many residents were excited of at the prospect of the railroad arriving. Unfortunately, the rail line bypassed Breage by about half a kilometre. The railroad decided that a townsite would be at the banks of the Vermilion River, about five kilometres to the west of the community.
In late 1905, Brimacombe would move to Vermilion to serve as the first postmaster there, as well as the first mayor of the community in 1906.
Suggestions for columns or questions? E-mail Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to his podcast by searching for “Canadian History Ehx” on your podcast platform. Find his show on YouTube by searching for “Canadian History Ehx”.
Information for this column comes from Bowtell Tales.