The History of Sedgewick

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CraigBaird

Indigenous History

Prior to the arrival of the settlers who would found Sedgewick, the Indigenous moved through the area, often following the bison. This would continue for centuries until Europeans began to move into the land, and the bison slowly started to disappear due to over hunting. The Homestead Act of 1871 opened up the land and surveying began in the area. By this time, the Indigenous were being forced to sign treaties to give up their land and move to reserves set aside by the government.

One important aspect of the Indigenous history comes from the Manitou Stone, which is estimated to be 4.5 billion years old. At some point, centuries ago, a fireball streaked through the sky and landed in the land near Sedgewick. The rock that landed there would become a very important and sacred item for the Indigenous. Called Pahpamiyhaw Asiniy, or The Stone God, this 320 pound rock held great power for the Indigenous of the area.

Through the centuries, there would be records of ancient beads and prayers for power, good hunting and victory in war. When picked up and turned, the stone had a profile of a man’s face, which the Indigenous believed to be the face of the creator. Anytime an Indigenous tribe moved through the area, they would stop at the Manitou Stone and pay homage. The stone would become a pilgrimage spot for the Indigenous and this bothered the missionaries in the area during the 19th century.  In 1866, missionaries took the Manitou Stone from its spot and moved it to Ontario. It would eventually be sent to the Royal Alberta Museum in the early 1970s.

When it was stolen, it was said by the Indigenous that pestilence, war and the death of the bison. Within two months, smallpox hit the Cree and the Blackfoot of the area and by 1880, most of the bison were wiped out in the prairies.

Work is ongoing to bring the stone back to the area.

Founding Of The Community

As settlers began to arrive in the area, they needed a place to stay somewhere. This was common throughout communities in the prairies at the turn of the 20th century and the government responded by building Immigration Halls. One such hall was built in Sedgewick to provide a place for new arrivals to live. The building was divided into six to eight compartments that would house a family. Each room had a stall with a stove, beds and some furnishings. The Sedgewick Immigration Hall would serve the new settlers for several years until it sadly burned to the ground.

The community would be named for the Honourable Robert Sedgewick. Born in Aberdeen, Scotland on May 10, 1848, he came with his parents to Canada and would attend Dalhousie College in Halifax. In 1872, he was called to the bar of Ontario and to the bar in Nova Scotia in 1873. He would eventually become the deputy minister of Justice of Canada and held that office until he became a judge on the Supreme Court of Canada in 1893. During that time, in 1888, he would become the Deputy Minister of Justice. His friend and colleague, John Sparrow David Thompson, was prime minister when he appointed Sedgewick to the Supreme Court. Sedgewick would pass away in 1906, the same year that the hamlet of Sedgewick was born. The hamlet would actually pop up before the railway came through but there was good indications that the railroad would be arriving soon. Sedgewick was founded in early 1906, and by September, the railway was arriving in the community. The community would obtain village status a year after it was formed, in February of 1907.

Only a few years after Sedgewick was founded the community was beginning to thrive. In 1909 alone, the community would see a creamery built, 13 houses, two elevators, a warehouse, a metal factory and a public school. The building in that year amounted to $40,000, or nearly $1 million today.

Unlike in other areas of the prairies, Sedgewick was unique in the use of ready-made farms created by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Each farm had a four-room house of frame construction already built, but with no insulation and the buildings were often made with inferior materials. Nonetheless, they also included  barn, a drilled well and 50 acres under cultivation and a fence around the entire yard. The first of these farms opened up in 1911 and settlers began to arrive on them in Sedgewick soon after.

Unlike many other communities, the founding of Sedgewick was relatively easy. There was no need to change the name, nor did the community have to move to reach the railroad.

Lake Sedgewick

Once called Brown’s Lake, Lake Sedgewick is a small shallow lake that covers 25 hectares near Sedgewick. It was formed as an old melt water channel when the glaciers were melting 10,000 years ago and opening up the land. A stopping spot for the Indigenous, it would become an important source of water for the early community of Sedgewick and then a popular recreation spot as the community grew. The Kinsmen and Kinnette organizations of the community would begin developing the lake with a picnic and camping area, and spruce trees were planted that grew quickly because of the high water table. Today, the lake boasts fishing, summer cottaging, camping swimming and much more for anyone to enjoy.

The Merchants Bank of Canada Building

Inside the community you will find the Merchants Bank of Canada, which is a two-storey structure with cast stone concrete exterior walls. Built in 1910, today it serves as an excellent example of early cast stone concrete block construction. Prior to the First World War, most banks in Alberta’s small communities were made of wood with flat roofs. The Merchants Bank of Canada in Sedgewick differs in several ways, most notably with the aforementioned cast stone concrete block superstructure. The cast stone blocks that make up the bank’s structure were made from sand from Lake Sedgwick, produced by a local company. The first manager of the bank was J.L. Clarke, who was also the president of the Board of Trade from 1908 to 1910 and took up a homestead near the community. The bank operated as the Merchant’s Bank until 1921 when it merged with the Bank of Montreal. For the next 50 years, the Bank of Montreal operated out of the building until moving into a modern building in 1976. The building was made a Provincial Historic Resource on June 24, 2009. Today, it is the home of the Sedgwick Archives and Gallery Museum.

Sedgewick Museum

If you go to a rural community, your first stop, after getting some lunch, should be a visit to the local museums. I love local museums because they often have so much history in them and are a great place to learn about the past. The Sedgewick Archives and Museum features many items from the past of the community including books, photos, tools, clothing and jewelry. The Sedgewick Archives Gallery and Museum was created on Nov. 8, 1989 and the archives themselves are located in the same building as the museum. The museum hosts events and is open throughout the summer and by appointment.

Goose Creek School

In Sedgewick, one of the first schools built after the founding of the community was Goose Creek School. The school was built in 1912 and was situated southeast of the community on the land of Wallace O’Brien, an original settlers to the area. Along with being the centre for schooling, the school was also a place of worship for both the Anglican and Presbyterian congregations, and served as the Agricultural Society headquarters beginning in 1919.

For almost 50 years, the school was the place where hundreds of students learned what they would need to be productive members of society. It was finally closed down in 1957. That was not the end of the life for the school. It would be moved to Sedgewick after the Goose Creek Community Association donated the building to the Sedgewick Historical Society on Aug. 1, 2000. The building was moved thanks to fundraising efforts on July 26, 2005. For the official opening of the school, which was held during the centennial celebrations of the community on June 30, 2007, Alberta Lt. Governor Norman Kwong was on hand.

Today, the school sits on the museum grounds and includes several things from the past of the community including antiques from the period the school operated, school-room desks, maps and even a chalk-covered blackboard, giving a glimpse into the school’s history from a century ago.

Oil and Gas

In Alberta, many communities have a strong connection to oil and gas. Even before the booms that happened in the latter-part of the 20th century, oil and gas was something many rural communities relied upon, even on a small scale. While Leduc #1 wouldn’t strike oil until 1947 and kick start the first major oil boom in Alberta, oil was being drilled in the Sedgewick area as early as 1920. Rather than having a huge steel derrick as is common these days, the first oil derrick in the area was a wooden derrick. The drilling methods back then were also very different, using a cable-tool drilling method, before the rotary drilling procedure developed.  In 1944, Imperial Oil drilled near Sedgewick in search of oil, followed by Voyager Petroleum. By 1953, with the discovery at Leduc, the Trans-Canada Pipeline was built through the area and the real oil boom of central Alberta began.

The Billy Rose Rink

Every community has had important people come from it. They may be politicians, artists or sports stars, but they are the pride of their hometown. For Sedgewick, Billy Rose is the person who helped put the community on the map on the national stage.

On Oct. 4, 1921, Sedgewick formed the Curling Rink Association and the organization began work on a new covered curling rink for the community. By 1925, the rink was built and curlers from the area began to play there and hone their craft on the ice.

Born on April 11, 1904 in Minot, North Dakota, Billy came with his family to Sedgewick at the young age of two. He was well-known in the area for his ability in sports, playing on the baseball teams and on the tennis courts. As a child, he would crawl through the vents to get into the curling rink so he could curl when it was closed. Interestingly, he didn’t get his first major championship in sports, but it buttermaking. He was a buttermaker at the Sedgewick Co-op Creamery in 1923 and he would work at 3 a.m. to ensure he could play in baseball and curling games later in the day. In 1927, he would win the World’s Butter Review Championship for Mould and Yeast.

In 1929, Rose began to enter competitive curling and would represent Northern Alberta four times and the Province of Alberta twice at the Brier. He would finish as the runner-up in 1936 and would win the Brier, the Stanley Cup of curling in Canada, in 1946. The win was only the fourth time Alberta had won the Brier and it would be the last time until 1954.

With the Brier win, the community decided to invest in curling and work was done to improve the curling rink. A new ice making plant was installed in the old building to that end.

In 1980, Rose was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.

He passed away in Edmonton on Oct. 6, 1987.

Brian Berg

Another well-known athlete to come from the community was Brian Berg, who began his football career at Sedgewick High School, learning the fundamentals of the sport from his coach Ken yates. After high school, he would spend two years with the Edmonton Huskies where he earned the All-Star Status for Defensive End, allowing him to get scholarships to several universities. He would attend Augsburg College in Minneapolis and played football there for four years, setting a record with his 59-yard field goal kick.

After his college career was done, he was drafted by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the fourth round, 33rd overall, in the 1974 CFL Draft. Playing with the Roughriders, he was a place kicker and did the kickoffs for the team, setting a league record for most consecutive converts for a season. Following his first season, he was released by the Roughriders in 1974 and was picked up by the B.C. Lions, playing as their place kicker for the 1975 season. That was his last season in the CFL. Over the course of his career, he had 22 field goals in 39 attempts

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