The area that is currently home to Lamonte was for centuries the land that the Indigenous occupied. The primary Indigenous groups of the area were the Blackfoot and the Cree, who would often come into conflict over territory. The area was also the upper reaches of the territory of the Plains Bison, which were an incredibly important animal to the Indigenous.
Today, Lamont sits on Treaty 6 land.
Settlement in the area began in the 1880s, mostly by travellers who were going from Winnipeg to Edmonton along the Victoria Trail. Eventually, a community was established in 1906, and it would be named for John Henderson Lamont, who was an MLA in Saskatchewan that eventually served as a Justice on the Supreme Court of Canada.
In 1907, the Edmonton Journal wrote about the community, stating quote:
“In a day Lamont has jumped to fame. This town with a future, situated on the CNR mail line, will henceforth be distinguished as the Park City of Central Alberta. A few days ago this thriving place was known only as one of the lusty towns that have sprung up on the CNR, today, the placing in the Elk Park of a herd of buffalo, the last great herd of American bison to be found on the American continent.”
On June 14, 1910, Lamont was incorporated as a village.
Just to the south of Bruderheim, there is Elk Island National Park. This park, called an island of conservation, is the eighth smallest National Park in Canada but the largest fully-enclosed national park in the country.
Within those 194 square-kilometres, there is the densest population of hoofed mammals in Canada, including coyote, moose, lynx, beaver, elk and, of course, bison.
The area of the park had been used by the Indigenous for centuries, and over 200 archeological remains of campsites and stone-tool making sites have been found in the park. After Europeans arrived, the area was used for hunting and timber harvesting until a fire tore through in 1899. At that point, the federal government designed the area as the Cooking Lake Forest Reserve. The trees were now protected, but not the elk, moose or deer within it.
In 1906, five men from the area put forward $5,000 and petitioned the federal government to create an elk sanctuary. Called Elk Park, it was given federal park status in 1913 and became an official National Park in 1930.
In 1907, the Canadian government bought one of the last, and largest, remaining pure-bred bison herds from a herd in Montana. Soon after, nearly 400 bison were shipped to Elk Island and then moved on to Buffalo Park near Wainwright. Not all the bison made the journey and about 50 to 70 evaded capture and stayed within the park. These escapees are the ancestors of the 400 pure-bred plains bison and 300 wood bison that now live within the park. The success of bison in the park has allowed bison to be reintroduced to several places including northeastern Montana, Alaska and the Russian Federation.
In 1951, this replica pioneer cabin was built to honour the Ukrainian Canadians who pioneered in the area. The pioneer home is a one-storey rectangular log structure that has been covered over with white plaster. Its hipped roof is covered with thatch and features a centrally located chimney.
Ukrainian people came to the area in high numbers during the first few decades of the 20th century and the homes they built are quite similar to the one that was built in Elk Island Park. The heritage designation of the building states quote:
“The Pioneer Home is a very good and attractive example of the traditional form and plan of a Ukrainian homestead. This building also illustrates the settlement patterns of Ukrainians in Western Canada as this region developed at the turn of the century.”
The building has remained unchanged since its construction, the home has become a landmark of the area. The landscape around it includes aspen, poplar and spruce trees, with a view of Astotin Lake.
Another thing that makes this building historic is that it was the first museum or historic site ever dedicated to Ukrainian immigration in Canada. In 1993, it would be designated as a Classified Federal Heritage Building.
In the 1910s, as the population of the area was beginning to increase, churches started to spring up along the landscape. Due to the fact that many of the settlers were of Ukrainian heritage, those churches tended to be Ukrainian.
In 1913, one of the first Ukrainian churches was built in the area. The Russo-Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration was built on the site of a Greek Catholic Church that had been built in 1913. Before long, the Greek Catholic and Orthodox Churches began to bicker between each other, and denounced each other in the area. This led to a dispute over who owned the church, which resulted in the church being closed from 1902 to 1906 as the matter went to court. The dispute was bad enough to tear communities, friends and families apart. It would not be until the case was settled after two appeals on Dec. 3, 1907 by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. It ruled in favour of Russo-Greek Orthodox congregation, while the Greek Catholics were awarded compensation based on the property value of the property. Eventually, in 1913, on the site of that church a new church was built. The logs and lumber from the old church was used to construct the current church, which continues to stand to this day. In 2006, it was made a Municipal Historic Resource.
In 1917, the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church was built. This wood framed structure was built with a large onion-shaped dome in the Byzantine tradition. While the church was built in 1917, the congregation actually existed since 1911 and the cemetery next to the church was first used in 1917. Eventually, the church was built in 1917 and the interior of the church was finished in 1925. In 1939, a fieldstone bell tower was installed on the church. The church continues to stand to this day and in 2006, was made a Municipal Heritage Site.
In 1918, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was built, featuring a large onion-shaped dome nearby to Lamont. The interior decoration of the church is exquisite, featuring work by Peter Lipinski, who was considered to be one of the foremost church painters and had been hired by the congregation in 1928 to paint the inside of the church. The furnishings within the church were constructed by master carpenter Philip Pawluk. Due to its historic nature, the church was made a Municipal Historic Resource in 2006.
During The Great Depression, in an effort to help residents of Lamont, the decision was made to construct a new church and this one would be unlike any other built in the area. A church had been built in Lamont in 1906 to serve the Methodist and Presbyterian congregations. That church lasted for 30 years until it burned down in 1936 and was replaced with the Lamont United Church. This church was built using stones to ensure that it would be safe from fire. The mason for the church was Frank Rupchak who built the walls from piles of fieldstones that were hauled into the area by local residents. This church is beautiful and quite unique to the area and I have had the pleasure of visiting it. Inside the church, the hymn number holder and fretwork with the Lord’s Prayer was built by Major Frank Norbury, a well known sculptor in Alberta. The communal table, alter and organ screen were built by master carpenter Philip Pawluk. The church would be made a municipal heritage site in 2006.
On May 11, 1951, Edward Michael Stelmach was born on a farm near Lamont. The grandson of Ukrainian immigrants, his family chose not to settle in Saskatchewan because they did not like the terrain. As a child, Stelmach could only speak Ukrainian until he began to attend school and learned English. In high school, his yearbook called him the future Prime Minister of Canada. He would eventually go into politics in 1986 when he was elected to the council of Lamont County, and then became the reeve in 1987. In 1993, he moved into provincial politics and soon began to make a name for himself in the new regime of Ralph Klein. By 1997, he would be serving as the Minister of Agriculture and continued to rise through the party in the coming years including serving as the Minister of Infrastructure, where he made traffic safety a priority. During his time in the post, fines for traffic offenses skyrocketed, sometimes by as much as 700 per cent. Through his time in cabinet, Stelmach was known for never doing anything flashy or controversial and was known as Steady Eddie.
In 2006, Klein resigned as premier of Alberta and Stelmach ran to assume the leadership of the party. He would finish third on the first ballot, but then the fourth, fifth and sixth place candidates all endorsed him, putting him in first place on the next ballot. He would then win the leadership of the party and became premier of Alberta. For the next five years, he would serve as the premier of the province, where his administration focused heavily on the oil reserves of the province and rejected calls from environmentalists to slow the pace of the development of the oil sands and to impose carbon taxes. His government also overhauled the health governance system, amended the Alberta human rights code, re-introduced all-party committees to the Legislature and reached a major labour agreement with Alberta teachers. He would win the 2008 election but the global recession would hurt the province and lead to Alberta’s first budget deficit in 16 years. On Oct. 7, 2011, resigned as premier and was succeeded by Alison Redford.
One of the darkest days in Alberta’s history occurred on Nov. 29, 1960 near Lamont when a school bus carrying 43 students from the local school were involved in a terrible accident when their bus was hit by a train. The disaster would claim the lives of 16 students, making it the worst road disaster in Alberta’s history to that point. The train hit the bus broadside at 8:55 a.m., scattering bodies and debris across the area. The back of the bus was thrown 120 feet away from the railroad crossing. While 16 students were killed, 10 were seriously injured and 16 had minor injuries. The driver of the bus was also seriously injured. The only person to escape any injury was a young man only identified with the last name of Tompkins. Many of the victims were carried on doors and a large heavy tractor was used to pull the bus apart so more children could be accessed in the twisted metal of the disaster scene.
All the victims were taken to the nearby hospital where a large group of parents had gathered hoping to hear news about their children.
The Edmonton Journal stated quote:
“All morning, there was a tragic procession of parents arriving to identify the dead and injured. Many ran from their cars as they arrived and minutes later emerged completely broken. Mounted police set up a guard at the hospital, and only relatives were allowed to enter.”
RCMP from Lamont, Fort Saskatchewan and Edmonton all responded to the disaster. Local workers who helped get children out of the bus refused to talk to anyone after dealing with the scene of death and carnage. Within Lamont, calls flooded the Alberta Government Telephones office and the office refused to accept anymore phone calls except for emergency calls due to the lines working at full capacity. A work crew was sent out from Edmonton to set up additional communication lines to deal with the huge influx of phone calls to the area.
By the next day, the death toll had risen to 17 children.
It was unknown how the disaster happened as the driver had driven the route for the past month with no problem, but it was believed the sun was in his eyes preventing him from seeing the train coming.
On Aug. 3, 1978, Lamont received a visit from one of the most famous individuals in the world, Queen Elizabeth II. The visit came as the Queen was travelling to Edmonton by train for the Commonwealth Games. She would visit several communities in the area and would make a whistle stop in Lamont where she was greeted by four-year-old scott Walker who patted the Queen on the back before he was eased away by an RCMP constable.