The History Of Bon Accord

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The area of Bon Accord, north of Edmonton, was the home of the Cree people for the most part for centuries, specifically the Plains Cree. The area was plentiful in game and everything they needed to survive through the year. The territory was also the upper reach of where the bison would migrate in the summer time as the vast herds moved over the landscape.

Of course, as time went on, Europeans began to push in from the east and that would cause their territory to be disrupted. A new Indigenous group, the Metis, also arrived in the area as the 19th century wore on.

Eventually, the Indigenous of the area would be forced to sign a treaty that would hand over land to the government, while giving them small reserves to live on.

Today, Bon Accord sits on Treaty 6 land. Nearby to Bon Accord the Michel Calihoo Reserve would be established in 1878. This reserve, covered 100 square kilometres at one point and remains the home to the Michel Band. Throughout the 20th century, due to covering agricultural land, the Indigenous on the reserve came under pressure to surrender their land for settlers. Over the course of half a century, the size of the reserve began to shrink.

At the time, the Indigenous could not vote unless they gave up their treaty rights under the Indian Act. On March 31, 1958, two years before the Indigenous were granted the right to vote, the Michel Band removed its status and enfranchised, becoming the only Indigenous band in Canada to do so during the 20th century.

Today, the Michel Band is comprised of Indigenous with Cree, Iroquois and Metis ancestry.

Early development of Bon Accord would begin in the late-1800s when Scottish immigrants started to settle and work the land. Eventually, the settlers decided to form a rural government to manage the creation and upkeep of roads, schools and much more. The decision was made to call this new district, the Bon Accord District. The name was chosen due to the familial connections of the settlers to Aberdeen in Scotland. The motto of Aberdeen, which was derived in the 14th century, was Bon Accord, which means Good Agreement.

While the railroad would come through in the early part of the 20th century, the service was not great and that led to many headaches for the people in the community. In 1922, the Alberta and Great Waterways Railways schedule was adjusted so that there was only the wait of one business day in Edmonton between trains. The Edmonton Journal reported quote:

“People from the northern towns along the route of the A & G.W. are inconvenienced under the existing schedule, it is felt, by reason of the fact that in a trip to Edmonton they must stay in the city several days between trains.”

The Bon Accord Trade Association had put the request in to get better service from the railroad for the community. Many merchants in the community stated they were losing business because the service was less than adequate. It would take some time to get the request approved by the railroad company, but it was expected that within a few months, the residents of Bon Accord would enjoy better train service, which in turn would help the economy.

A few years later, in 1928, even though the train service had improved, the mail service still left much to be desired. This couldn’t be fixed by the railway, or even the provincial government. This had to be done by the federal government. To that end, a petition was sent to the Postmaster General to get better mail service. The service, at the time, was delivered on the railway on Tuesday and Thursday only, which meant that it could take a week to get an answer back on a letter. This was not good for business. The Edmonton Journal reported quote:

“Bon Accord, one of the oldest and most prosperous farming communities in the Edmonton district, is desirous that, in addition to the present mail service, the postal department establish a mail route between Bon Accord and Gibbons, four miles, whereby the mail for Bon Accord would be taken from the CNR train at Gibbons on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”

If this was approved, it would give Bon Accord mail five days a week.

In 1936, a young man named Eddie Arrol, who was only 12, started to print his own newspaper in Bon Accord. He was the editor, publisher and printer of the paper, which printed on 8 by 10 paper, only on one side. By the time he had reached his fifth issue, he had 54 subscribers who paid two cents per month, or 25 cents per year. In total, he was bringing in $27 per month, or about $518 today, which is not bad for a 12-year-old. His newspaper also had an oil company advertisement in it, bringing in some extra money. Within the newspaper, he published stories on the local basketball teams, a Women’s Institute meeting and several other bits of information about the community.

Thanks to his work on the newspaper, he would be invited to visit the Edmonton Journal headquarters, where he was shown the current methods for getting the daily newspaper out to the city. The Edmonton Journal reported quote:

“The youthful editor was accompanied on this visit by his mother, younger brother and two younger sisters. All of this little group were interested in the musical festival, then in progress in the city.”

Arrol would continue his love of newspapers and after he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, found himself in Redwater, Alberta where he was working at the Redwater News.

On Dec. 28, 1960, Mary Everitt would pass away. She was a very early pioneer to Bon Accord, having moved to the area in 1896 with her husband Henry from Chatham, Ontario. The couple, with their four children, would spend $40 to build a mud shanty, where two more children would be born. When the family arrived, they found four families in the district, and her husband did manual labour for those families at a cost of 50 cents per hour to provide for the family. Her husband would say of that time, quote:

“There were no roads, schools, or doctors in those days. If you got sick, either you got better or you died.”

She would knit all the clothes the family needed and sell other clothing she had made to bring in money. Her husband John would also trade his double-barreled shotgun for 800 pounds of flour and that is what the family lived on for the first year.

The sons of the couple would continue to farm the land and in the late-1950s, oil was discovered on the land and by 1960 there were four oil producing wells there.

By the time she passed, Everitt had 31 grand children and 67 great-grand children.

In 2015, Bon Accord made nationwide news when it was decided to make the community a Dark Sky Community. The genesis of the idea first began in 2012 when the town was looking for a branding strategy. They submitted their application to the International Dark Sky Association in May 2015 and in August they received their approval. The approval came about because of the community’s efforts to preserve and enhance the dark night skies over the community. The community has fully-shielded light fixtures and they limit the amount of light allowable on public and private properties. This was a huge honour as Bon Accord became the first community in Canada to receive this designation and only the 11th in the entire world to have it.

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