The Hamlet Of Prestville

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The Prestville Store

To look back at the origin of the tiny community of Prestville, we must dive back in time to 1916, when a man by the name of Prest oversaw giving names to the communities along the railroad line. At the time, there were only a handful of families living in the area, who had arrived about four years earlier to settle.
Deciding to immortalize himself, Mr. Prest gave the community the name of Prestville.
The small community, or as it would be more accurate to say, the district slowly grew over the coming years. It would be several years before anything was built for the residents of the area though.
In 1925, the Charlie Parks family would arrive. They were joining several relatives who had already arrived, including Oscar and Arthur Parks in 1912-13, and Tom and Matt Parks a few years after that. Percy Parks, along with his wife, who would operate the first Prestville post office. The first store soon followed, and it was owned by a man by the name of Solmers, before it was sold to Lottie and Walter Hood. Another store was operated by the Nick Zahara family, who arrived in the area in 1933
In 1928, a one-room school was built to accommodate the growing number of children who needed some sort of education in the rural area. The school would operate for the next two decades before it closed in the late-1940s, at which point children were bussed into Rycroft for school. Eventually, the one-room school building was moved into Spirit River, where it became the municipal office for a time.
In the same year that the school was built, an elevator was built for the community. The first elevator agent was a Mr. St. Arnot, followed by August Johnson and Ed Gillespie. The elevator would remain until 1938, when a fire destroyed it. It was rebuilt, but then torn down at a later date.
Times were tough for everyone in the 1930s, but that didn’t stop the residents of the Prestville hamlet and surrounding area from building a new Presbyterian church. The Deaconess Margaret Gregor, along with Mrs. Leddingham, held services and Sunday School each week.  Gregor could not ride a horse or drive a car, but she had a team of horses strapped to an old Model T and she would use that improvised buggy to administer services to churches around Prestville and Rycroft. On any given Sunday she would travel a few dozen kilometres each way, administering as many as ten services. She would serve the community for five years.
Elizabeth Young

Prior to the church being built, settlers would attend services at a two-storey log cabin mission building near Spirit River at the Catholic Mission.

In 1947, a community hall was built by volunteer labour, and it would serve the many needs of the community for years to come.
For those who were ill in the area, there was always Auntie Young to help. She was a war nurse, originally known as Miss McLean, who married Louis Young after she arrived in 1920. She would travel many miles on her pony to residents around the hamlet, helping them when they were sick. Her commitment to those in the area was so strong that the Elizabeth Young Park near Burnt River was named for her.
Sadly, as time went on, the hamlet would slowly fade from existence until the 1980s, when no building would remain. Nonetheless, the memories of those who lived their and what they shared can still be seen in the local history.
Suggestions for columns or questions? E-mail Craig at Listen to his podcast by searching for “Canadian History Ehx” on your podcast form. Find his show on YouTube at
Information, and all quotes, for this column comes from Wheatfields and Wildflowers
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