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COUNTY OF SMOKY LAKE No. 13 - 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 County of Smoky Lake was organized as such on January 1st, 1961.
The County comprises some 35 townships located from Township 57 to Township 62,
and from Ranged 12 to 19 inclusive, West of the 4th meridian; around 54 degrees
North latitude and 112 degrees longitude. It is bounded on the south by the
North Saskatchewan River.
The history of the County is closely connected with days gone by. Three Indian
Reserves are included within its territory, namely Saddle Lake Indian Reserve
No. 125, Cache Lake Indian Reserve No. 125A, and Whitefish Indian Reserve No.
128. Directly north of the County lies the Kikino Metis Colony No. 7. The
Hudson's Bay Company established trading posts in the area. Fort Victoria and
White Earth (formerly Fort Edmonton), are now marked by Provincial Cairns. The
North-West Trading Company was also located near Fort White Earth.
Smoky Lake is one of a few Counties in Alberta where the first survey of land
was conducted along the river. Today, it still contains the narrow river lots
surveyed along the North Saskatchewan River in the Victoria Settlement, the
Lobstick Settlement, and the Hudson's Bay Reserve. The North Saskatchewan River
was the only highway in the early days, and rafts and paddle wheelers brought
supplies from Edmonton.
After the paddle wheeler became obsolete, the Victoria Trail following closely
the north side of the North Saskatchewan River was the chief thoroughfare. The
Royal Mail travelled on this route by stage which was nothing more than an old
democrat covered with canvas and pulled by mules. The most difficult section to
travel was the area called the "Sands", which consisted of a stretch of land
averaging five miles wide. Passengers on the stage coach would have to walk and
help push the stage across. The Victoria Trail led from Edmonton to Athabasca.
The Canadian National Railway, which was completed in 1920-21, runs east and
west through the middle of the County, and the paved Highway No. 28 parallels
the railway. Highway No. 36 provides the connection north to Lao La Biche.
The land within the County of Smoky Lake varies from the very best farming land
to some sub-marginal land and sand.
Many beautiful lakes are located within the County providing fishing and
recreational facilities. In the main group are Cache Lake, Bonnie Lake, Garner
Lake, Goodfish Lake, Whitefish Lake, Island Lake, and Hanmore Lake; while many
smaller lakes also contain fish and provide excellent playgrounds.
The first white people to take interest in this part of Alberta were the
Missionaries. Rev. Thomas Woolsey built a small station near the Smoking Lake,
as it was called then a few years before the McDougall's arrival. In 1862 the
Reverend George McDougall and his son John came to the west and visited Woolseys
tiny mission on Smoking Lake. A new site on the North Saskatchewan River was
chosen on which a new mission and station were constructed. Here the McDougall
families settled and the Victoria mission became the headquarters for the
missionary work in this area.
These were difficult years for the little group of people. It was necessary to
travel all the way to Fort Garry by Red River Carts for supplies. The nearest
doctor was at Fort Garry. Mail was received only once a year.
In 1869 and 1870 a smallpox epidemic spread across the prairies. It came to Fort
Victoria. Many Indians died. Flora and Georgina McDougall died and were buried
in a little cemetery on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. Their graves
can be seen today.
The George McDougall Hospital was first built on the north bank of the North
Saskatchewan River in 1907 at Victoria which name was later changed to Pakan.
All the materials for this hospital were purchased in Edmonton. A scow was built
in Edmonton and the building materials were transported to Pakan down the North
Saskatchean River. Some of the materials were part of the scow. The hospital was
under the management of the Mission Board of the Methodist Church and Dr.
Lawford was the first doctor.
When the railroad was built it was decided to move the hospital to Smoky Lake.
This was done in 1922. It was a difficult task. Steam engines were used to move
the hospital. After many delays the hospital was at last placed on its
foundation. Dr. Morrish became the superintendent of the hospital and Miss
Griffiths, the matron.
During the many years it was in operation, the hospital underwent many
renovations and changes. An addition that was added to the hospital in 1947
remains as part of the building as it stands today. The original building was
removed after the new hospital was completed in 1964.
When the transfer of land from the Hudson Bay Company to the Dominion of Canada
was proposed the native people were very unhappy. They were afraid they were
going to lose their land. The McDougalls spent much time talking to the chiefs
to keep them from starting trouble. The name Victoria was changed to Pakan in
honour of a Cree Chief who would not join the rebellion and who kept others
The first Protestant School in Alberta was established at Fort Victoria in 1864.
Georgina McDougall, the first white child in this part, was born there.
Some years later a public school, namely the Victoria School District No. 75 of
the North-West Territories, was built in this area.
Settlement in earnest of the area started in 1900 and continued well into the
1920's. The earliest settlers were of a variety of ethnic groups. The eastern
portion of the County was settled by English, Irish, Scottish, Ukrainian,
Romanian, Polish, and German immigrants.
The western portion was settled by immigrants from the British Isles,
Scandinavian countries, and from Central Europe.
The middle of the County was settled by people mainly from central Europe, with
The ethnic origin of the early settlers could be determined by the houses they
built, the clothes they wore, and by the customs they observed.
The Ara Elsey home near Waskatenau was the stopping place for the stage coach on
its route over the Victoria Trail. The J. Cebuliak home was typical of the
houses that existed in the Ukraine; thatched roof, the walls mud plastered, and
The M. Antoniuk home was more modern, the thatched roof had given way to tar
paper. Later, Roman Antoniuk was engaged as the Secretary-Treasurer of the
Municipal District of Smoky Lake, which position he held until his demise in
The clothes the early settlers wore were usually brought from their mother
country, or were fashioned in the new land along the style of their mother
The customs of the settlers, with respect to church gatherings, wedding
receptions, and funerals again was a carryover from the land of their
forefathers. The tools and implements were no exception.
The usual means of transportation in the summer was a heavy box wagon drawn by
oxen or horses, that travelled on trails that bore no resemblence to the roads
of today. In the winter, cutters and bobsleds took the place of wagons. An
improvement in the mode of travel continued.
In 1943, the Municipal Districts of Vilna, and Smoky Lake, parts of the
Municipal Districts of Ashmont and Unity, and some Improvement Districts were
organized into the former Municipal District of Smoky Lake No. 89.
Municipal records date back to 1913. The first meeting of Council of local
Improvement District was held on Jan 5th, 1913.
The Local Improvement Districts were organized into Municipal Districts in 1918.
The minutes of the meeting indicate that the early problems were with animals
running at large. Further problems were the diseases among the animals and the
"Flu" epidemic during and after the First World War.
Solutions to the problems were readily found. The following quotations indicate
how some of the duties and responsibilities were resolved:
(i) January 25th, 1913-~Moved and seconded that the rate of assessment remain
the same as before, namely 3-1/8 cents per acre
(ii) April 30th, 1921 -"Moved and seconded that the assessment for 1921 be made
at 10 mills for 6 miles of each side of the railway and 8 mills beyond that radius.
(iii) Court of Revision of August 13th, 1921-"Moved and seconded that the Court of Revision that was to be held on August 6th, 1921, was adjourned on account that there were between 600 and 700 people and it was impossible to hold a Court of Revision."
(iv) August 13th, 1921-'That we protest against raising the valuation made by the assessor, by 100%, by the Equalization Board".
March 1st, 1913-"Moved and seconded that the Secretary-Treasurer's salary be
$225.00 per year."
(i) March 1st, 1913-"Moved and seconded that the Chairman and the Secretary-Treasurer be authorized to borrow $100.00 to be repaid in 4 months from funds of the District, if possible."
(ii) September 6th, 1913-"Moved and seconded that the sum of $100.00 be borrowed from the Secretary-Treasurer, because the bank refused the loan, to be paid for by December 31st, 1913. with a rate of interest to be 10%.
D. Rate of Pay
(i) May 3rd, 1912-"Moved and seconded that the rate of pay for Councillors be $2.00 per day and 10 cents per mile."
(ii) Labor on Roads-January 25th, 1916-"Moved and seconded that labor on roads be paid at 20 cents per hour or $2.00 per day."
E. Safekeeping of Records
August 14th, 1916-"Moved and seconded that the Department of Municipal Affairs
be advised that we cannot afford to buy a fire proof safe this year for our
District, as we are safe enough without the safe."
(i) December 28th, 1918-"Moved and seconded that the meeting that was scheduled to be Iield on December 7th, 1918, be held today, as the Councillors had influenza."
(ii) December 28th, 1918-"Moved and seconded that penalties on taxes which were to be charged on December 15th, 1918, be not charged until January 1, 1919. for the people who had influenza."
The number of by-laws that were passed would indicate the progress of the
municipality, and the scope of its operations. From the earliest organization of
the municipal district in 1918 to March 1st, 1943 there were 55 by-laws passed.
The period from March 1st 1943 to December 31st, 1960 saw 493 by-laws recorded.
For the first eight years of the County of Smoky Lake, (1961 to 1968 inclusive)
304 by-laws are found in the By-Law Register.
The number of resolutions of the Council have been growing in number comparable
to the number of by-laws.
At the present time, modern farm homes, a modern town, and three villages are
evidenced throughout the County.
The roads in the County are being built to paving standard, of 28 to 32 feet in
width, and backsloped to prevent snow drifting in the winter.
The operational budget of the County is near the two million dollar mark, and
nearly a million dollars worth of road building machinery is owned by the
If the rate of progress that the County has shown in the past is maintained, the
next 60 years should prove very interesting.
Considerable progress has been noted in the County of Smoky Lake since 1969.
In agricultural matters the Agricultural Service Board, under long time field
supervisor, Mr. John Jusypink, has provided various agricultural programs in the
county. The county has participated in the construction of the Co-op Seed
Cleaning Plant at Vilna, Alberta, carried out warble-fly control and purchased a
Brillion Grass Seeder.
The land-use bylaw was passed in 1 980, providing for orderly development of
subdivisions, and protection of agricultural land. The county has entered into
fire protection agreements with the Town of Smoky Lake and the villages of Vilna
and Waskatenau as well as with the tree nursery, to provide mutual aid to each
other in case of fires. In 1 981 the county purchased three fire trucks which
are stationed in the Town of Smoky Lake and the villages of Vilna and
Waskatenau. Mr. John Jusypink acts as the fire chief.
The county has entered into agreements with the Town of Smoky Lake and the
villages of Vilna and Waskatenau to provide recreational facilities in those
urban centres for use by urban and county residents.
Considerable development of lake resorts has taken place in the County of Smoky
Lake. A provincial park is located on the south shore of Garner Lake some 2 1/2
miles north of the Hamlet of Spedden.
Considerable development of cottage areas has taken place on the shores of
Garner Lake, Bonnie Lake, Whitefish Lake, Island Lake, Mons Lake, Goodfish Lake,
Cache Lake, and Hanmore Lake. Many other lakes also contain fish and are
excellent playgrounds. Two of the smaller lakes, namely Bellis Beach and
Shemeluck Lake have been stocked with trout. Perch, Jackfish, Whitefish and
Pickerel are the common game fish.
The County of Smoky Lake is included in the Northeastern Alberta Health Unit
with the head office in St. Paul, Alberta and a branch office in the Town of
Smoky Lake. The county is served by two municipal hospitals with one located in
the Town of Smoky Lake and the other in the Village of Vilna. A nursing home
serves the county from its location in the Town of Smoky Lake.
The Lamont-Smoky Lake Auxiliary Hospital District provides the services of its
facilities to the residents of the county. A new hospital with auxiliary
hospital functions is under construction in the Town of Smoky Lake.
The council of the County of Smoky Lake has entered into an ambulance service
agreement, in 1981, to provide ambulance services to its residents.
Senior citizens are provided with lodges located in the Town of Smoky Lake and
the Village of Vilna. Additional senior citizens housing is also provided in the
Town of Smoky Lake and the Village of Waskatenau.
The county owns its own road building machinery which is valued approximately at
21/4 million dollars. In 1969 the road machinery owned by the county was valued
under 700 thousand dollars. The county does its own road construction and
gravelling, under the foremanship of Mr. Pete Magas.
All the travelled roads in the county are now either gravelled, oiled or paved.
In 1974 the council of the county, together with the provincial government,
Ducks Unlimited, and contributions by ratepayers, who would benefit therefrom,
stabilized the water level of Smoky Lake, by the construction of a drainage
ditch. This project resulted in the reclamation of a considerable number of
acres of flooded land.
In 1974 the council of the County of Smoky Lake undertook to provide its
ratepayers with natural gas services. This was undertaken as a municipal
utility, and was constructed with the county's own forces.
The villages of Vilna and Warspite are also being provided with this natural gas
service, by agreement with the county. The total gas utility project costs in
the vicinity of 4 million dollars, and is partially funded by the provincial
government. The project is supposed to be self-liquidating. The county must
purchase its natural gas from Gas Alberta, so owning the utility does not
necessarily mean any too great a saving to the users of natural gas. However,
since it is a gas utility, and not a co-op, every resident of the County of
Smoky Lake is entitled to be connected to this system, on payment of the
There are 56 organized school districts, included in the County of Smoky Lake
and there are six districts with operating schools. The schools in Vilna and
Smoky Lake provide instruction from grades one to twelve, whereas the schools in
Bellis, Waskatenau and the Hutterite Colony provide instruction in grades one to
nine. The Spedden school provides instruction in grades one to six.
At present there are 931 pupils with a teaching staff of 61 teachers. This
reveals a considerable drop in school population from 1 969 at which time 74 1/2
teachers provided instruction to 1,431 pupils.
Considerable renovations have been carried out to the schools at Smoky Lake,
Vilna and Waskatenau.
Contract school buses provide transportation to school pupils, but the county
has recently purchased three school buses which would provide the county with
statistics as to which system is more economical.
The population of the county has continued to decline considerably. In 1969 the
population of the county, based on the 1966 Dominion census was 4,028 and in
1982, based on the 1981 Dominion census was 2,910.
The assessment of the county did not increase as dramatically as had been
envisaged. In 1969 the assessment, including the valuation of pipe, power and
telephone lines was slightly over four million dollars, and in 1 982 it was in
the vicinity of eight million, eight hundred thousand dollars.
The county is governed by 7 councillors, namely: Peter Habiak, Bill Kuryliw,
Jeff Wade, Win. Cherniwchan, George Babichuk, Alex Makowichuk and Fred
Moschansky, with Bill Kuryliw acting as the reeve.
All members of the county council are also members of the board of education. In
addition Messrs. Alec Zotek, Maurice Lalonde, Norman Martyniuk and Jim Toews,
are also members of the board of education as representatives of the town and
villages included in the county for educational purposes.
The administration of the board of education is carried out by Mr. W M. Cooper,
Superintendent of Schools, Mrs. Jeanne Cooper, Assistant Superintendent of
Schools, Mr. Bart Eisen, Director of Student Personnel Services and Laverne
Semeniukas the stenographer, Mr. John Meronek is the school maintenance man.
The Natural Gas Department operates under the watchful eye of Dennis Pidluzny
the utilities officer, and Maurice Lalonde and Klaas Rerikema as the servicemen.
John Skuba, the long time administrator, carried out the chief administrator's
position of the county till his retirement in 1981 after 45 years of service, in
various positions, teacher, principal, assistant secretary-treasurer, secretary-
treasurer and then as commissioner. He was assisted, at various times, by Steve
Antoniuk, now deceased, Bill Gartner, now secretary-treasurer of the County of
Camrose, John Mulak, now retired, Roy Doonanco, now Secretary-Treasurer of the
Municipal District of Bonnyville, and Peter Goruk. Many members of the present
staff have provided many years of service to the county, Stella Palichuk, Mary
Kokotilo and Bernadette Dalpe, just to mention a few. However, the long time and
capable services of Olive Romanchuk, now retired, Kate (Makarenko) Diduck, now
retired and Mary Dwernychuk, now deceased, are hereby recognized.
The present office staff of the county are: Cary Smigerowsky, county manager,
Bernadette Dalpe, office manager, Stella Palichuk, Mary Kokotilo, Darline
Zdebliak, Colleen Moschansky, Bernice Van lderstine and Sheryle Paskevich.
The feasibility of operating a small County, with very low assessments, is
sometimes questioned. In 1976 and 1977 the annexation of parts of the Municipal
District of Sturgeon River by the City of Edmonton, evoked proposals for changes
in the boundaries of the Municipal District of Sturgeon, the County of Thorhild
and the County of Smoky Lake. There was a proposal that a portion of the County
of Thorhild be annexed to the Municipal District of Sturgeon, and the remaining
portion of the County of Thorhild be annexed to the County of Smoky Lake. On
April 30th, 1977 a plebiscite, proposed by the Department of Municipal Affairs
was held with the following question being asked "Are you in favour of
amalgamating the County of Thorhild No. 7 and the County of Smoky Lake No. 13
into one County?"
The results were as follows: (a) For amalgamation 193 (b) Against amalgamation
This decisively indicates that the ratepayers of the county are well satisfied
with its operation.