Category Archives: History Organizations

Networking with Canadian history groups

Calgary: A Week Celebrating Our History

Historic Calgary Week is on the horizon, and 2015 is the twenty-fifth anniversary of event. So, what a great year to participate in the vast array of scheduled programs!

As a nonfiction author, I need knowledge or “content” for my writing. Western Canadian history is an important to my work, but also, that history has also been an inspiration to me. Yes, nonfiction writers are certainly content providers. However, ideally, the content we choose will not only be interesting to our readers, it will fascinate us as writers and support our future goals.

See the Famous Five statues downtown or attend the Walk and Talk regarding these amazing women at Heritage Park on July 28.

See the Famous Five statues downtown or attend the Walk & Talk for these amazing women at Heritage Park, July 28.

For me, filling my head with our history is a way of providing options and opportunities for me in the future. Sometimes writers work within the context of their own time and place; sometimes they need a sense of the past or other geographical locations. Yet, for writers who set at least some of their works in western Canada during the early days, attending events during Historic Calgary Week is a great way to discover or rediscover the way things were.

From July 23 to August 3, writers, history buffs, visitors and locals will be treated to a glimpse of  the “insider” stories from days gone by. Topics are so varied, I can’t begin to list them all. However, whether you are interested in effects of the ice age or prefer tea and a talk at the Palliser Hotel, the options are extensive. Tour our cemeteries and gardens. Check out Bricks, Business and Bowness or Salute to the Stones of Signal Hill. With all that alliteration, clearly, writers are being welcomed. In fact, if you are interested in our lesser-known stories of murder and misdemeanours, spend your Friday evening enjoying that tour. It, too, might just inspire the writer within. However, for this and some other events, you will need to pre-register.

For more information, go to http://www.chinookcountry.org and check out The Week At A Glance for an overall schedule. More information can be found in the online or printed “pamphlet” of detailed descriptions. Events are scheduled throughout the city, and a few are hosted in surrounding communities.

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Pioneer Acres: A Great Farm History Event

Friday, August 8 to Sunday, August 10, 2014, 9 am – 5 pm daily, I will be at Pioneer Acres Annual Reunion and Show just north of Irricana, AB. During the event known as the “The Old Time Show Where There’s Always Something New,” you can enjoy a parade, field demonstrations including horse-drawn plowing, cultivating, and binder work. As well, check out steam-driven plowing and threshing, pioneer exhibits and races.

Threshing with Family Sm Fx 2

Compliments: Shirlee Smith Matheson. Check out Shirlees’ upcoming events on http://www.ssmatheson.ca

The first time I was at the Pioneer Acres event was a number of years ago and being there was such a pleasure. Like most women. I am not really a heavy machinery buff, but I have to say, watching all the events was fascinating. There were steam engines, threshing displays and a sincere commitment to saving our history among all the organizers and participants.

I was raised on a farm in Alberta, and my dad was interested in the history of the area. He had started farming with the threshing crew on our farm, and because harvest ended so late that year, it was too late (at least in someone’s mind) for him to go back to school. So, that harvest likely changed his life.

To purchase this book check out my website at http://www.wordsandhistory.ca

To purchase this book check out my website at http://www.wordsandhistory.ca

Somehow his respect for our past and the history of families in our area rubbed off on me. As a result, I wrote two “farm” books, one Threshing: The Early Years of Harvesting, and the other Monarchs of the Fields: the History of the Combine Harvester. My dad past away before the books were published, but when I am at Pioneer Acres, he will be on my mind when I meet so many people like him, people who truly care about preserving our past. And perhaps, I will meet you there, too.

If you are one of the many who help organize such community events, volunteer or share your knowledge of our shared past in other ways, I am offering a two for the price of one for Awed, Amused and Alarmed. Check out my website; purchase one copy, and I’ll mail you an extra for the same price. Order a specific number, and I’ll add your free copies to the package (eg. order 2, I’ll send 4, but you pay for 2). But this applies only to Awed, Amused & Alarmed. Order through my website and pay with Paypal or email me with your order before October 1!

For more information, see http://www.pioneeracres.ab.ca

History Along Highway 22

I can’t count the number of times we have driven along Highway 22 from Calgary south to Lundbreck before turning onto the Crowsnest Highway (Hwy 3). This magnificent stretch offers views of prairie, foothills and Rocky Mountain peaks. It is part of Cowboy Trail from Mayerthorpe in the north to Pincher Creek in the south, but you can also make your way farther south to Waterton and Cardston.

You may be so taken with the scenery that you don’t realize how much of Alberta’s history has played out in the area. Fur traders, First Nations, cowboys and settlers have travelled this ancient route. Today, towns along the way such as Turner Valley, Black Diamond and Longview, welcome visitors, and a short distance away Pincher Creek and Fort MacLeod have historical bragging rights, too.

 Turner Valley is the location of some of the earliest petroleum development in the province. Longview has long welcomed cowboys, cowboy historians and Hollywood movie makers. The discovery of coal in the late 1800s gave Black Diamond its name, and the town of Pincher Creek took its name from the creek where, in 1868, prospectors found hoof pincers, a tool used in shoeing and trimming horses’ hooves.

Still, always present in my own mind when I travel this highway are the stories of the Bar U Ranch and of Doukhobors. Today, the Bar U is an historical site open to the public, and for those interested in ranch history, it is a must-see.

Less evident but equally important is the Doukhobor history of the area. I look from farm to farm and wonder if that Russian heritage still lives in these homes. With ties to the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoi (also spelled Tolstoy), the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood began settling in the Lundbreck and Cowley areas between 1915 and 1917. After Doukhobors had moved from Saskatchewan to B.C., the elders realized that they needed farms closer to their B.C. orchards to provide beef, grain and other farm produce. Fourteen farmers and their families made the move to Alberta. Eventually thirteen villages were established in the province with four in the Lundbreck area and five near Cowley.

By the late 1930s, the sect was breaking up. Some families farmed for themselves, and others took various jobs, but their fascinating history remains. The Alberta Doukhobors have a cemetery near Lundbreck, but you can also check out their history by visiting the Doukhobor Genealogy Website (www.doukhobor.org). Just recently, I watched a television documentary called My Doukhobor Cousins. I highly recommend it, so watch for a rebroadcast. And, if you have the chance, take a trip along Highway 22. Both the landscape and history are inspiring.

History Hermits Unite!

 Are you a history hermit who sits alone studying old papers, unaware of possible support systems or heritage buddies? Likely, you buy history books and DVDs. You watch The History Channel, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) documentaries and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Then, just for fun, you tackle genealogy on your computer. You might interview elderly Aunt Doris or begin a memoir. All are commendable, but like writers, history buffs benefit from participation in organizations of like-minded people.

In Calgary, we have the Chinook Branch of the Historical Society of Alberta (www.albertahistory.org), and I’ve been a member for years. I’m a huge fan of the organization, its magazine, newsletter and activities, but others—those who have served on the executive, as editors for publications and as volunteers assisting at events–deserve all the credit for its success. Fortunately, most Albertans have access to similar branches including ones in Red Deer, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Peace River.

Of course, numerous societies are dedicated to our history. Perhaps, the Danish Canadian Club, the Alberta Native Frienship Centre, or Friends of the Ukranian Village Society better suit your priorities. Just do a little digging, and you will find the right organization to support your passion for heritage. Such groups exist all across North America and the world, but regional groups are often the best places to start.

The British Columbia Historical Federation represents many groups in BC, and it has various categories of memberships. On its website this year, the federation boasted of 25,875 members! Interested individuals simply need to go to the website (www.bchistory.ca), follow the link to members and discover groups sponsoring activities in their local communities.

To its credit, the Saskatchewan govenment has made historical resources a very high priority. Perhaps because the province has so many history-related groups, it is hard to find a simple online list. Your best bets are Heritage Saskatchewan (www.heritagesask. ca), the Saskatchewan History & Folklore Society, Inc. (www.shfs.ca), and the Saskatoon Heritage Organization (www.saskatoonheritage.ca). Generally speaking, once on the webiste, go to the list of members.

Also, following links on the Manitoba Historical Society website (www.mhs.mb.ca) is a great way to discover that province’s historical organizations. On the site, select “About Us.”Then find “Affliated societies,” and voila! But, this website provides links to fascinating documents and web exhibits, so set aside time for browsing.

Everywhere, history buffs have organized to find ways of preserving and sharing our heritage. Certainly, you don’t have to be a history hermit—unless of course that’s truly what you want to be. When I have a tight book deadline, even I embrace that option.