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COUNTY OF BARRHEAD No. 11 - Excerpts taken from the
"Story of Rural Municipal Government in Alberta 1909 to 1983"
by the Association of the Municipal Districts and Counties
Contributed for use in Alberta Digital Archives by Darlene Homme
The present County of Barrhead had been made up, over the last fifty years, of
parts of many Local Improvement Districts and Municipalities. Prior to the
formation of local government in the area the country from Dunstable, in the
south, to Fort Assiniboine, in the north, was in the beginning stages of
development, with two main access roads to the city of Edmonton. These roads
leading out of Edmonton were known as the Athabasca Trail, part of which is
still being used today as Provincial Highway No. 2, !eading to the north and
east areas, and the Klondike Trail used by the gold prospectors in 1898. This
trail headed north and west through the present County of Barrhead.
It was natural that most settlement should take place along these old routes and
gradually creep back to the hinterlands as more settlers came into the country.
These settlers represented many nationalities but mainly British and American
stock. Topographically, the Barrhead country had many swamps, lakes, natural hay
meadows, and timber lands. It is traversed by two rivers-the Pembina and the
Paddle. The area is bounded on the north by the Athabasca River. These natural
boundaries presented an immense problem to the local authorities confronted as
they were with the responsibility of providing adequate roads for the ratepayers
who were constantly demanding better travelling conditions.
In the early 1900's the supply base for this country was the city of Edmonton,
eighty miles from the centre of the settlement. As the years went by, the base
of supplies became nearer as the towns of Morinville, Busby, Sangudo, and Onoway
opened up due to the railways advance into the north and west. In 1928 the
Northern Alberta Railway built what is known as the Pembina Valley Railway to
Barrhead. This made marketing and purchasing of produce more convenient but it
did not alleviate, rather it intensified the problems of local authorities as
road needs changed to demands for access to the new railroad town. As this
country was heavily timbered, many sawmills commenced operations and the
companies built their own trails into the sawmills. Many of these trails were
gradually improved to graded and gravelled standards.
The periodical flooding of both the Paddle and Pembina Rivers took their toll of
many of the roads and bridges that were built. In fact they still do! Many miles
of grade were washed out necessitating much rebuilding of roads and replacement
of culverts and bridges.
The writer had the sad but extremely interesting experience of sitting-in at the
collapse of the steel bridge across the Pembina at Belevedere. A few hours of
pounding by extremely high water, ice flies and debris destroyed that which took
months to build. The stresses and strains made the bridge sound almost human as
it grunted and groaned, each sound more prolonged than the last, until the final
collapse came. The centre pier at Manola caved in at the some time, the middle
of it being under water. In spite of barricading to keep dare-devils from trying
a crossing, a Volkswagen slipped under the barricade, down into the water , and
came up safety on the other side! There is no accounting for the pioneer spirit
of some of our present day citizens!
The demand for better travelling conditions among the growing settlements in the
Barrhead area culminated in the formation of Local Improvement Districts under
elected local authorities. The first one formed, in May of 1910, was L.I.D. No.
30-B-5. This was called the Paddle River L.I.D. This one and three others, 29-
A.5, 29-B-5 and 30-A-5 were subsequently the L.I.D. of Lockerbie No. 580. The
first meeting was held in Gordon McDonald's home at Dunstable. Gordon, later
became the member of Parliament for that constituency. Markus Basche, first
Reeve, is at present in the Auxiliary Hospital at Westlock taking an active
interest in all that goes on. The newly elected council comprised Markus Basche,
Ernie Steinert, C.F. Speck, R.D. Taylor, and Otis Johnson. George Koffman was
appointed secretary-treasurer at a salary of $225.00 per year. Lockerbie
presently became a municipality. Among those who deserve mention for fine
service over the years in Lockerbie were Alex Swanson, R.F. Klein, R.F. Wilson,
N.D. Kerrison, F. Clapp, W. Lamont, C.W. Hoff, H. Crichlow, C. Sylvester, F.
Farry, R. J. MacGinnis, G. Broadhead, F. Brant, J.G. MacGregor, K. Klumph,
Weisondorfer, E.G. Kipp, William Shelly, J. B. Nixon, William Johnson, A.S
Beach, Wayne Rogers, J. Borle, H. Terhorst, P.R. Hooper, Bert Whittaker.
In 1928 a new district to the north of Lockerbie became the Shoal Creek
Municipality about ten years after the formation of Pershing to the west of
Lockerbie in 1918. In 1943 the new Municipal District of Westlock No. 562 was
defined. It comprised the following areas: all of Tawatinaw No. 608, all of
Pibroch No. 609, all of Shoal Creek No. 610, part of Lockerbie No. 580, and part
of Hazelwood No. 579. The final meeting of Lockerbie took place on the 28th of
January, 1943. At this time, Pershing was absorbed into Lac Ste. Anne.
At the first meeting of the new Westlock M.D. the following councillors took
their seats: Alois Zaczowski, Henry Terhorst, Fred Casavant, Leslie Short, Moise
Dusseault, William Giles, and William Johnson. Johnson, of Barrhead, was
appointed the first Reeve. Thomas Garde became the secretary-treasurer, a post
he held with the Pibroch M.D. In 1946, upon Mr. Garde's death, Mr. F. W.
Stutchbury succeeded him. "Stutch" had previously been secretary of Lockerbie.
The M.D. of Westlock continued until 1955 and during these years, the succession
of councillors was as follows: George Schultz, Sam Nowakowsky, W. A. MacGregor,
Frank Armstrong, Otto Trautman, John Harry, Fred Madson, Oscar Wiese, Walleston
Merdier. In 1955, an order-in-council by the Provincial Government under the Co-
Terminous Boundary Commission designated two new Municipalities: Barrhead No.
106 and Westlock No. 92.
The Barrhead M.D. was formed from part of Lac Ste. Anne, part of Westlock and
parts of L.l.D. No's.107 and 108. W. A. MacGregor organized the first election
for Barrhead, N.S. Kennedy, Municipal Inspector for the Department was appointed
Administrator, and Gerald (Jerry) Rourke, Departmental Accountant was the
temporary secretary. Mr. Rourke served in this capacity until the appointment of
Mr. Ronald Penrice, who previously had been Assistant Secretary at Sturgeon. The
Barrhead School Division provided office space until the council rented an old
garage building downtown which was converted by the owner into adequate
accommodation for the Municipal Administration.
The first council for the M.D. of Barrhead was elected in March of 1955 and took
the oath of office on the seventeenth of March. There were five electorial
divisions represented by the following councillors: Division One-W.R.S. Wilson,
whose father had previously been councillor for the old M.D. of Lockerbie;
Division Two-E.N.Enders; Division Three-Win Olthuis, Division Four-George
Schultz, previously Reeve of Westlock M.D., and Division Five-Claude McKay.
George Schultz, who spent many years in Municipal work, having been councillor
in Stony Plain and Westlock, was elected Reeve, a position he holds to the
The municipality continued to function until 1958 when, with unanimous consent
of the Barrhead School Division and the Municipal Council, permission was
requested from the Department of Municipal Affairs for the formation of a County
type of Government. Permission being granted the County of Barrhead came into
The formation of a County necessitated the amalgamation of school and Municipal
administration and as the previous School Division had an administration
building, this became the headquarters of the County. There were now seven
divisions instead of the former five and the successful candidates for office of
councillors were: Division 1- Norton Green, orevious school board member
Division 2-Stan Barton; Division 3-George Schultz; Division 4- Charles Rossman;
Division 5- Eddie Enders; Division 6- Kenneth McKenzie and Division 7- William
As the previous school division was not co-terminous with the boundaries of the
County but extended into L.I.D.'s 108 and 109, the representative elected to sit
on the School Committee of the County from this area was Rex Robinson from Fort
Assiniboine. Earle Lane represented the town of Barrhead, Secretary-treasurer of
the County was Ronald Price with W.A. MacGregor as Assistant-secretary and in
charge of school administration. The assessment of the new County was slightly
over three million dollars and the tax rate was set at eighty-five mills.
In a subsequent election in Division 1, W.R.S. Wilson replaced Norton Green and
in 1965, due to ill health, Eddie Enders was unable to continue his duties. He
was replaced by Joe Smith of Naples. Rex Robinson still represents the L.I.D.'s
and Charles Yuill replaced Earle Lane who decided not to run again. In 1967,
Gordon McArthur was appointed by the Village of Fort Assiniboine as the third
Town and Village Representative on the School Committee. Gordon was a member and
chairman of the old school division. Charles Yuill was the former Member of
Parliament for Jasper-Edson. Mention should be made of the first assessor for
Barrhead, Mr. Paul Lloyd, who had spent many years assessing for the Department
as a private assessor, Paul was very meticulous and thorough in his work and he
often used to say to the writer, "Bill, you must not presume anything, it is
your duty to assemble all the facts." He therefore did an excellent job of his
Tribute should also be paid to one of the long-time school teachers in the area,
Mr. Jack Harris, who taught continuously, except for his overseas service in
World War I, in a one-room school at Mosside, from 1913 to 1964 at which time he
retired. Jack, as he was affectionately known by his former pupils and friends,
was teaching third and fourth generation of his original students at the time of
his retirement. The result of his instruction by teaching and example are very
much in evidence in the County of Barrhead to this day. The County, in
recognition of his outstanding ability and the respect in which he was held,
named the Junior High School at Barrhead "The Jack Harris Junior High School."
Many amusing incidents occur over the years in municipal work. Two such
incidents are recalled now. The secretary and some of the councillors met with
Departmental officials to iron out a problem they were having at the time. After
much discussion, the trouble was resolved to everyone's satisfaction. The
secretary felt so relieved that he invited the members to his home for some
refreshments, which everyone thought was a splendid idea. The lady of the house
was absent. Unfortunately, "mix" was in short supply, though there was plenty of
the main ingredients. One enterprising chap, on looking through the cupboard
said, "Hold it, here is something that will do." The new mix was tried and it
was good. Eventually all returned to work. The writer had occasion to visit the
secretary the same evening, and on entering the house the wife said, "Just tell
me something please, before I go nuts, I didn't mind the cigar smoke, and ashes
everywhere, or the burns in the carpet, but in the name of God, what did you use
for a mix?" "I can't even scrape it out of the glasses!" The answer was,
"Haven't you ever heard of JELLO with the seven different flavors?"
The other tragi-humorous incident involved an old Scotsman who had come in with
the early settlers. He had an abiding love for his horses and owned some of the
best ones in the community. Being always interested in local affairs, he was
usually chosen as DRO for the elections in the Division where he lived, always
discussing the ORDINANCE, as he called the Election Act, with the Returning
Officer, who happened in this case, to be the present writer. So these two
became fast friends. After many years, he got the road built past his farm, and
since there were a couple of muskeg bogs on the roadway, the councillor got
permission to dig a borrow pit inside the fence of the old Scotsman's property
for some clay for the roadbed. A few weeks after the road was finished, the old
chap came into the municipal office to report one of his Clydesdale mares had
drowned in the borrow pit. "They didna' put up the fence as they had promised
and the mare wandered in an' couldna' get hersel' oot!" With tears in his eyes
as he was telling the story, he said, "Mac, ue ken, I would almost rather it hae
ben ma wee wuman than ma mare, ye ken!"
The success of any organization is primarily derived from the solid foundation
on which it was built and the elected and appointed people who are responsible
for its administration. "Stu" Kennedy set out with this idea in mind for he
often said, "We are going to make this the best little M.D. in the province." He
inspired everyone who worked there with the same idea. With the able assistance
of George Schultz, who had worked hard for the formation of the Barrhead
Municipality and who knew his ratepayers and their problems better than most
people, and the other able men elected as councillors during the following
years, Stu's ambition had been realized even beyond his expectations.
Recognition is due to a succession of good organizers in various fields,
particularly in the agricultural one which affects nearly all ratepayers. Mr.
C.R. "Kit" Robinson, first District Agriculturist, and Mr. William YuiIl, who
succeeded him; Mr. Glynne Jones, first Field Supervisor under the newly formed
Agricultural Service Board and Roy Steinbring, who is now Field Supervisor; Mr.
Weber, Mr. Koberstein and Mr. Bouchard were Assistant Secretaries after Bill
MacGregor's move to Westlock, Mr. Penrice went to the Department of Education,
and Mr. Frank Dawley, and Mr. Allan Charles served successively as Secretaries.
Over the years there seems to have not been enough appreciation given to the
elected representatives of the people for the time and consideration they give
to their duties in public office. Even when they are engaged in their own work
on their farms they are pondering-which road-which bridge-which ditch should
have priority, what is the equitable thing to do? A salute to the wives of these
men who carry on the chores early and late so these men can be on the road, is
in order. Only when elected officials can sit down together and discuss problems
dispassionately is good government accomplished.
Continuing Bill McGregor's history of the County of Barrhead No. 11 from 1969 to
1982 reveals many new faces around the council and board table with the only
survivors being Joe Smith as councillor and board of education member, Allan
Charles as the county manager and Roy Steinbring being the agricultural
At the administration level, Ernie Bourchard (1967-1971), The assistant
secretary-treasurer, was replaced by Lloyd Brattly (1971-1981) and then by Doug
Barker in 1981.
Walter Hryciuk (1959-1971) The superintendent of schools was replaced by Dr.
Harvey L. Treleaven in 1971. Gary Kiernan, acting superintendent, filled in for
Dr. Treleaven during a 14 month sabbatical during 1980-81. A number of assistant
superintendents have served the post starting with Marjorie Affolter, Roger
Kangas, Gary Kiernan and at present, Don Duncan.
At the council level, Ervine Wimmer replaced Bill Wilson in 1971 in Division
Division Two saw Phil Fluet replace Stan Barton in 1971 and three years later
Jim Ryder was elected to replace Phil in the 1974 election.
Division Three long time councillor and reeve, George Schultz was replaced by
Bob O'Brien in 1971 and then by Lawrence Miller in the 1977 election.
In Division Four, Charles Rossman gave up his seat to incumbent Karl Wahl
following Charlie's resignation in 1974.
Division Five has been represented by our present Reeve Joe Smith Since 1966.
Division Six saw many changes from the days of Kenny McKenzie to his
replacements, Norman Kuhn, Kenn Tuckey and presently, Don Fraser.
Division Seven long time representative Bill Olthuis hung up his shoes in 1980,
giving up his kingdom to Albert Elgersma.
Town and village representatives on the board of education have also made
complete changes. The Town of Barrhead long time member Charles Yuill forfeited
his seat to Dr. Sam Huculak in 1969. Alvin Gross was then elected to fill the
vacancy in 1974. In 1977 the Town of Barrhead qualified for two representatives
on the board of education and Wilma Thompson was elected to fill the second
The Improvement District #15 representative Rex Robinson resigned in 1969 giving
way to Luke Renkema who served until 1980. Luke did not run in the 1980 election
and as a result of the poll held, his daughter-in-law, Pauletta Renkema was
The Village of Fort Assiniboine was represented by Gordon McArthur until his
death in 1971. His spouce Enid McArthur was elected in his place following
The area within the County of Barrhead, formerly the M.D. of Barrhead #106 and
the Barrhead School Division #59 has remained stable in size except for some
annexation around the Town of Barrhead. Nevertheless, budgets have grown at the
municipal level from a low of $438,341 .00 in 1975 to over $6,000,000.00 in
1982. The school budget has gone from $220,226.00 in 1955 to over $8,815,000.00
In reviewing the municipal and school involvement since 1955 it is interesting
to note that a great expansion of services has been offered to our ratepayers
and electors over the past 27 years. Ervine Wimmer, representing Division One,
served as deputy reeve from 1977 to 1981, chairman of the board of education for
the past two years 1980 to 1982, hospital board and nursing home board
memberforthe past 11 years, agricultural service board member for the past 11
years, three years on the exhibition board, the past four years as a director on
the North Central Alberta School Authorities Association as well as negotiating
member of the North Central Alberta School Authorities Association for the past
three years. Ervine has also been appointed to many adhoc committees of both the
board of education and county council throughout the past 11 years.
Jim Ryder, representing Division Two, has served eight years on the county
council and the board of education and served as vice-chairman of the
agricultural service board prior to being elected as chairman of the
agricultural service board in 1980. Jim has also served on other adhoc
committees of both the board and county council and is presently serving his
second term as vice-chairman of the Alberta School Trustees' Association zone
Lawrence Miller, representing division three, has served as chairman of the
county recreation board as well as the chairman of the regional recreation board
and has been the representative on the sturgeon health unit board since 1980 and
a member of the airport commission and the economic development board. Again,
Lawrence has served on many adhoc committees.
Karl Wahl, representing Division Four, has been the deputy reeve since 1981 and
has served as a representative on the Hillcrest Senior Citizens' Board as well
as the day care board and the North Central Association of the Mentally and
Related Handicapped also serving on the seed plant board. Karl also served as a
member and chairman on the Family and Community Support Services Board (formerly
RS.S. Board) and is presently the representative on the Yellowhead Regional
Planning Commission. Karl also has served on otheradhoccommittees of both
council and the board of education.
Joe Smith, representing Division Five, served as chairman ofthe Hillcrest
Foundation as well as chairman ofthe Barrhead General Hospital and Nursing Home
and a member of the Yellowhead Regional Library Board. Joe has been reeve of the
county since 1977 and has served on the municipal planning commission and has
represented the county on the Alberta Development Corporation Board. Joe is
presently serving on the provincial Alberta Association of Municipal Districts
and Counties executive and was a member of the zone Ill Edmonton Union
executive. Again, Joe has served on many other adhoc committees since his
appointment in 1966.
Don Fraser, representing Division Six, is presently the chairman of the
Hillcrest Foundation and is the Alternate member on the Yellowhead Regional
Planning Commission Board. Don has also served since 1979 on the municipal
planning commission. Again Don has served on a number of other adhoc committees
over the years.
Albert Elgersma, representing Division Seven, has served on the educational
committees including the salary committee other than teachers, the grounds
committee, school accounts committee and the joint educational advisory
committee. At the municipal level, he has served on the machinery committee, the
court of revision, the salary committee, other than teachers, the municipal
planning commission, the appeal board, the rural road study committee, the
Neerlandia Sewage Committee, the agricultural service board, the accounts
committee,The Family and Community Support Services Board, the seed cleaning
plant and also as honorary fire guardian and the council representative on the
Alvin Gross, representing the Board of Education from the Town of Barrhead, has
also served on a number of committees during his term of office and has served
on the Alberta School Trustees' Association Zone II executive and is presently
working on the minister's advisory committee relative to the computer
technology. Alvin has also served on a number of adhoc committees with the board
of education, including the policy development committee.
Wilma Thompson, again representing the Town of Barrhead, has served as the
deputy board chairman for the past year as well as the member representing the
Yellowhead Regional Library Board and was at one time the representative for the
North Central Association for the Mentally and Related Handicapped. Wilma has
also served on a number of adhoc Committees.
Enid McArthur, representing the Village of Fort Assiniboine, has served on a
number of adhoc committees including the joint education advisory committee over
Pauletta Renkema, representing the Improvement District #15 again has served on
a number of adhoc committees with the board of education including the joint
educational advisory committee as well as the policy development committee and
the grounds committee.
Many other committee appointments have been delegated to various trustees and
county councillors and naming some that have not been mentioned above, would
include the Barrhead and District Economic Development Board, the Midnight
Twilight Tourist Association and the Airport Commission.
At the board of education level, we have representation of the board on the
further ed. council and many others too numerous to mention.
Since the writing of the last history, the position of superintendent of schools
has changed from a departmental position to a board responsibility in 1971.
Following the appointment of our superintendent came the appointments of the
assistant superintendent as well as other co-ordinators, directors, speech
therapists and guidance councillors.
We have come a long way from the horse pulled grader to a new 140 motor grader
costing approximately $200,000.00 or from a school building costing less than
$10.00 per square foot to a new high of $100.00 per square foot.