Address

4401-54 th. Avenue.
Bonnyville, Alberta.
Phone: 780.826.4925

Contact Information

Bonnyville & District Historical Society

Société Historique de Bonnyville et Region

Pioneer Museum & Archives

Box 6995
Bonnyville AB T9N 2H4

Charlene Rachynski
Museum Manager - Curator
Directrice - Conservatrice

Phone: 780 826 4925
Email: 

Events of the Bonnyville & District Museum

 

The Bonnyville and District Museum and Historical Society celebrated its 20th year of operation in 2011.

The fur trapping trade, made up of men like these pictured in 1887, was essential to the founding of Bonnyville.

BRANDON MACLEOD
Nouvelle Staff
Bonnyville Nouvelle, Tuesday, January 10, 2012. Pag. 15, 20.

From humble beginnings as the Bonnyville and District Historical Society in 1980, to the opening of the its first building in 1991, to the present-day state of the museum, with its 13 buildings and thousands of historical artifacts, the Bonnyville and District Museum has come a long way over the years and supporters hope to see it continue to grow well into the future.

There was a push throughout Alberta during the late ‘70s to document the land’s history and here in Bonnyville it was no different. With interest in the area’s history on the rise, several prominent members of the Bonnyville community, including H. E. Bourgoin and Real Girard, formed the Bonnyville and District Historical Society.

By 1981, the society had produced a bilingual book documenting the history of Bonnyville and its surrounding area. Upon completing the book, the society had plans to disband, as it had filled its initial mandate, according to Charlene Rachynski, former chair of the historical society.

But again, there was a push to continue to preserve, document and promote the history of the area and so the society remained intact.

Plans to build a historical archive and library that would service much of the Lakeland nearly came to fruition in the mid-eighties. During the final stages of planning, however, things fell through and the idea to start an archive was scrapped.

With the society in flux, Lou Croteau stepped in, becoming the society’s chair and starting in motion what would become the Bonnyville and District Museum.

Prybysh explained a new wave of interest in the area’s history swept through Bonnyville in the late ‘80s and she said the community really got on board with the idea of creating the town’s first museum.

"Community members did a lot of fundraising, knocked on a lot of doors and were even able to secure a grant from the provincial government, which set them on their way to opening the museum," Prybysh said.

With funds in place and hundreds of artifacts collected from around the Lakeland area, the society was able to open the doors to the museum on May 18, 1991.

It all started rather innocently around a table after a good meal in Beaumont, a very small village southeast of Fort Edmonton at the time. Wilfrid Ouimet, Philorome Ouellette and Albert Dargis, three young, adventurous men from Eastern Canada, were seated together enjoying a relaxing evening.

They were listening to two visitors, Reverend Father Therien and his friend Father Ouellette, missionaries from St. Paul des Métis, now known as St. Paul and Lac L’Orignal, now Moose Lake.


Father Joseph A. Ouelette (above left) and Father Adeodat Therien (above right) convinced a handful of pioneers to move their families to the area that would become Bonnyville over 100 years ago.

The young missionaries spent a part of the evening talking about the beautiful and virtually uninhabited area northeast of Fort Edmonton and Beaumont. They spoke about an abundance of fish, moose and wonderful lakes.

Therien spoke vividly about how beautiful this part of the Northwest Territories was, (this was before Alberta became a province) especially in the summer time when everything was in bloom and the lakes welcomed millions of migratory birds and game was plentiful. According to this enthusiastic missionary, this area would provide an ideal living for those who had the fortitude and foresight to develop it.

Before the night ended, two of the three young adventurers had decided to check out this “promised land.” The third, Dargis, decided the next day to join his friends in the journey.

Within a few days, two sleighs had been made ready for the 350 kilometre trek.

A fourth member joined the party for this journey — Honorius Lamoureux.

They left Beaumont during the early days of spring 1907. Two sleighs, drawn by strong horses, were loaded with merchandise, blankets, a tent, grain for the horses, cooking implements, guns, axes, shovels, ammunition and a few flasks of gin. Lamoureux and Ouimet traveled in one sleigh, while Dargis and Ouellette traveled in the other.

They headed northeast from Beaumont, crossing the North Saskatchewan River at Dejarlais Crossing on the ferry. They followed a freight trail that led them to St. Paul des Métis. They had been traveling for about one week when they arrived at St. Paul des Métis on Easter Sunday.

The four travelers found stables for their horses and rooms for themselves. The next morning, they packed up their sleighs and started their 72 kilometre trek into the wilderness with the help of a guide named Boudreau.

The rest of the trek was uneventful. That night, both teams of horses and sleighs drew up within a clearing where Bonnyville is now located. After spending the night in crude shelters, the explorers looked over their present location and decided to go no further.

The biggest factor in their decision was the proximity of the lake, the abundance of pine trees for lumber and poplars for fuel. Other reasons were the evidence of game and fertile land. They roamed and explored the area for a few days while the sun was warming up and melting the snow. The melting revealed an ideal site for a new community.

Lamoureux did not remain long, however. He decided the area was too wild and isolated and the job of colonizing it too great. Lamoureux left with his team of horses and a sleigh, leaving his companions to make other arrangements for themselves.

After a few unforgettable adventures, the remaining three headed back to Beaumont and civilization. Traveling to and from Bonnyville was always a challenge.

The roads were too soft to carry the load of the sleighs so they decided to leave the sleigh and pack the horses and trek 72 kilometres to St. Paul des Métis. In some places the roads went from snowy to very muddy.

When the three arrived at St. Paul des Métis, they were muddy, tired and wet. After a restful night they took a buggy that Ouimet had left in St. Paul des Métis and made their way back to Beaumont. When they returned to Beaumont, the trio made plans to return to the area and start the task of clearing and colonizing.

In May of 1907, two loaded wagons arrived to begin clearing and colonizing the land. The party of pioneers camped in a shack situated close to Two-Island Lake, which is now Jessie Lake. They rested a short while before going to pick out land for their new farms.

Ouimet, Dargis and Aime Marcotte, who had joined the group at St. Paul des Métis, arrived first, with Hormidas Boisvert, Joseph Dupre and Ovila Martel. Ouelette arrived the next day and Joe Mercier arrived soon after, delayed by the arrival of a new son.

Submitted by
Charlene Rachynski,
Bonnyville & District Museum