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A HISTORY OF THE COUNTY OF VULCAN No. 2 - 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
Soon after the turn of the century, homesteaders began to settle the area of which
the County of Vulcan No. 2 is a part. Large numbers of farmers from Eastern Canada,
immigrants from Britain and Western Europe, and many from Illinois, Iowa and other
parts of the Central United States came to seek land and fortune in Western Canada.
It is an interesting story to read of the settlers who came in freight cars with
their settlers effects, horses, cattle, pigs, machinery and furniture to build a
new home. A large number of them came to our area via Nanton, High River, Macleod
and Lethbridge shortly after the rails were laid from Fort Macleod to Calgary. Many
trekked across country by wagon from Idaho, Oregon and Washington in the North West
Land offices did virtually a "Land Office" business taking applications for homesteads
and "pre-emptions" beginning in the year 1903. The area that is now known as the
Aldersyde Branch of the C.P.R. was soon populated. The Calgary and Edmonton Railway
Co. owned a great deal of land which was sold during this time and later.
Settlement in the country proceeded rapidly, and when the province was created in
the fall of 1905, legislation was enacted setting up areas averaging nine townships,
which were called Local Improvement Districts. These were the original areas which
in 1918 became Municipal Districts and given appropriate powers and responsibilities
by the Municipal Districts Act and the Department of Municipal Affairs Act. Since
that time rural Municipal Government (in some provinces they are called Rural Municipalities)
has developed into an efficient means to provide services to rural areas comparable
to urban administrations. Legislation also made it possible to organize rural school
districts and this began early in the year 1906.
The County of Vulcan No. 2 is made up of all or parts of Special Areas No. 4 (formerly
Municipal District No.127 and Improvement District No.126 in the Lomond area) Municipal
District of Harmony No.128 in the Champion area, Municipal District No.157 in the Milo
area, the Municipal District of Royal No.158 in the Vulcan area, Municipal District of
Dinton in the Blackie area, and a few northerly sections from Municipal District No.98
at Barons and Municipal District No.97 and Improvement District No.96 in the Lethbridge
and Taber areas.
There are four major periods in the history of rural municipal government in Alberta
exclusive of urban areas:
1. From 1905 to 1918 during the local control and operation of the Local Improvement
2. From 1918 to 1943 when the small municipal districts operated.
3. From 1943 to 1951, the period of the "enlarged" Municipal Districts.
4. From 1951 to the present time, the Counties and the new large Municipal Districts, which
are co-terminous boundaries with school divisions.
The earliest record of local government in Vulcan area is that of July 7th, 1906.
A meeting of councillors of Local Improvement District 9T4 was held at Brant, Alberta.
This place was known later as Old Brant, north and west of the present hamlet. The
residents of the area had been there for some time and welcomed the opportunity to
take part in local affairs. This area, too, was one of the oldest as settlers came
over the main line of the C.P.R. to Calgary and thence to High River which had been
the headquarters for the famous ranches west in the foothills for many years. Farmers
settled east and south. Others came to Nanton and thence east and north into the
area toward Vulcan.
Mr. Peter Mcintyre of the Ensign District who was active in the promotion of the
District was Chairman of the meeting. "Ensign" Pete Mcintyre as he was known served
the District for about ten years from 1906 to 1917 in the capacity of Chairman of
the Council. He was assisted by his brother, A.C. Mcintyre who was Secretary until
the office was moved to Vulcan in 1913 and became Local Improvement District No.158.
Other councillors during these years were H. K. Bateman, J. W. Devel, J. A. McLennon,
M. L. Frisseld, L. G. Pichel, Dan Richmond, H. L. Burgess, L. A. Nutt, Daniel McNiven
Sr., W. H. WiIderman, E. J. Taylor. R. McLeod and F. Layton.
The Minister of Public Works for the Province, whose Department at that time was responsible
for road,supervised the Local Improvement Districts and on occasion appointed members
to the councils. Principal business was "road work". A motion at the original meeting
authorized a levy of 21/2 cents per acre on all taxable land in the District. Councillors
were paid $2.00 per meeting plus 10 cents per mile to and from the meeting. The Secretary
received $125.00 for services to end of 1906, or for six months work, and his bond
was set at $500.00. Application to the Department for financial assistance was the
order of the day in those times too. There are no records available to show with
what success these appeals met. H. C. McKay who audited the books for the year 1906
received the sum of $10.00.
Taxes in those days were almost uncontrollable too, for on January 25th, 1908 the
rate was doubled from 21/2 cents to 5 cents per acre. The Secretary was paid $240.00
per year and the bond set at $1,000.00, just double the previous amount. Returning
officers were paid $10.00. In the year 1908 seed grain was a problem and here the
Council was of service assisting the Government, presumably Provincial, in approving
Local Improvement District No. 158 comprised of Twps. 16, 17, 18 in ranges 24, 25
and 26 was gazetted December 13, 1912 and the first meeting of councillors was held
in the former Oddfellows Hall in Vulcan on February 21, 1913. This was the council's
organization meeting and Mr. A. J. Flood of VuIcan acted as the temporary Secretary.
A motion was passed to call for tenders for the position as Secretary-Treasurer.
There were four applicants. Mr. Flood was chosen at a salary of $500.00 per year.
He continued in office until he resigned in 1935 and became one of the best known
and respected servants of the public in the province. He also served as Secretary-
Treasurer for the Village of Vulcan, school district and Vulcan Municipal Hospital
District in 1927 which he helped to organize.
The railway had reached VuIcan the year before and Vulcan was quickly recognized
as the principal point on the new Aldersyde line. There is no doubt that the selection
of the Secretary had a bearing on the location of the District's office. Although
situated toward the South East corner of the District, it proved to be the central
point, so much so in fact that in the early days of the Municipalities, the Municipal
District of Marquis No.157 located its office in Vulcan too.
Some of the Councillors were T. Hatch, "Ensign" Peter Mcintyre, A. Larsen, 0. Hansen,
Chris McDonald, Geo. L. Ecker, Robt. Fair and T. J. Parker. Rate of pay for work
was set at $3.00 per day for a man and $1.50 per day for a horse and the Secretary
was instructed to obtain information regarding road making machinery.
Public Works expenditures were apportioned by divisions and watched carefully. Taxation
remained at 5 cents per acre. A large number of road diversion surveys were made during
these years. These were done by the Department of Public Works at a great saving to
the Districts. Collection of taxes was vigorous through the services of P. W. L.
Clark, the local lawyer who was limited to 5% commission.
Local Improvement District No. 128 comprising of Twps. 14 and 15 in Range 24 - that
portion of Twp. 14 north of Little Bow River and Twps. 15 and 16 in Range 23 and that
portion of Twp. 14 north of the Little Bow River and Twps. 15 and 16 in Range 22,
West of the Fourth Meridian were gazetted on December 13, 1912. The first meeting
of the Council was held in Champion on February 6, 1913. John Daugherty was elected
Chairman, Ed Zinn won the appointment of Secretary-Treasurer over the other applicants
on the flip of a coin. Pay for road work was set at 50 cents per hour for a man and
team and 30 cents per hour for the foreman. Councillors were empowered to work their
own division and buy, materials and tools as they saw fit. After considerable argument
taxes were set at $4.00 per quarter section and funds allotted to divisions on an
equal basis according to land. A tax collector was employed in the divisions and
in one case a collector was fired for inefficiency.
In 1914 J. F. Trevethick was appointed Secretary-Treasurer and held the position
until 1918 when W. H. Williamson, a C.P.R. Agent was appointed and acted until he
resigned July 3rd. Geo. H. Mark was appointed to the vacancy. Councillors were F.
Anderson, A. McLean, G. F. Smith, P. M. Patterson, J. B. Munson and H. E. Johnson.
Mr. Smith was elected Reeve. Taxes went to $18.00 per quarter per year in 1918. A
man was paid $4.00 for a ten hour day. $4.00 for a team, and the foreman received
$5.00. The supplementary tax was $6.40 per quarter.
Records of the Lomond and Milo areas prior to 1919 are not available and it is presumed
that the original improvement district did not operate to the same extent.
Rural Municipal Government in the Southern part of the province commenced in the years
1918 and 1919. One of the problems at this time was seed grain and the councillors made
sure that help was actually needed in an emergency. In order that everyone would have a
fresh start, the council of the Municipal District of Royal on June 1, 1918 passed a
motion "that all arrears of taxes prior to 1917 be cancelled and struck from the roll".
Councils were faced with the problem of providing special medical and nursing care
and temporary hospital space required for the many victims of the flu epidemic prevalent
at that time.
The twenty-five year period from the beginning of the year 1918 to the enlargement
of the Districts in 1943 was one of great progress in the development of the country
and in Municipal Administration. The new Municipal Districts Act provided the authority
for the local authority to expand its scope and services to its people. The Municipal
Council soon began to take on more responsibility and became more effective. Many
able and dedicated men joined the ranks of "councillors". For the most part they
acted wisely and were up to date and progressive. We are indeed fortunate that this
is so, as the results of their efforts are the foundation of the success of today's
Space and the scope of this article does not permit naming all those who made special
contributions. There are some, however, who deserve mention. In the Municipal District
of Marquis there were Reeves Donald Sinclair and M. H. (Milt) Ward, two very dedicated
and public spirited citizens and leaders in every progressive farmer organization.
Reeve P. M. (Pete) Patterson and Reeve E. H. Griffin of the Municipal District of
Harmony No.128, Reeve Sam Brown (ex -M.L.A.) and Reeve Sam Fox of the Municipal District
of Dinton and Reeve Alex Smith and F. E. Bennett of the Municipal District of Royal.
The Municipal Office became an important place in each community. It was staffed by
such fine men as J. K. McLean, C. B. Hyndman of the Municipal District of Ivlarquis,
U. S. Alexander and C. Rhodes of the Municipal District of Harmony and later M. D.
of Dinton, and A. J. Flood of the Municipal District of Royal. Services of almost
every description were given. Advice was cheerfully given too for what it was worth,
and information on many subjects supplied. Farmers during this time were passing
through periods of economic stress. Seed grain and relief, (feed for both man and
beast) was necessary in the years 1920, 21 and 22. Active collection of the accounts
followed when crops improved. The great depression of the "dirty thirties" presented
many problems to the councillors, some of whom required assistance too. The plight
of the farmer became very serious. Unpaid taxes were piling up and Municipal Districts
were getting into debt to the banks for funds to carry on. The school tax levy and
collections had been taken over by the Municipalities and money was required for
The Provincial Government passed the Local Tax Arrears Consolidation Act which was
of great assistance to not only the taxpayers but the Municipalities as well. It
provided for the consolidation of arrears into one debt, discounted by a percentage
which in effect cancelled previous penalties, repayable in 5 years without interest
providing current taxes were paid as well. Those who entered into the Consolidation
Agreements by paying the amounts required were deemed to be in good standing as far
as tax recovery proceedings were concerned. Tax collections were increased, the Districts
were able toi,ay off bank loans and the taxpayer took new heart as he was getting his
taxes in shape. In the beginning, some of the Municipalities were backward in accepting
this legislation which needed to be adopted by the Council. It was soon evident that
some further debt relief was needed. Mortgage interest and land payments were badly
in arrears. For many farmers it was not possible to ever become solvent. This brought
about the "Farmers' Creditors Arrangement Act" passed by the Federal Government and
administered in the courts. The farmer's debts were arranged on the basis of ability
to pay and the nature of the debt. Local taxes took a severe beating as did mortgage
and interest debts. Original land debts were modified. This was a severe remedy in
many respects as far as the creditors were concerned but it is generally conceded that
many farmers in the Vulcan area were saved from complete bankruptcy as well as many
other thousands in Western Canada.
During the 25 year period prior to 1943 the various Councils were busy administering
ordinary business of the district. Tax levies were watched carefully and were maintained
at a fairly low level in spite of many substantial improvements. Road machinery was
being acquired and a substantial number of miles of roads graded and repaired. The
Vulcan Municipal Hospital District was formed in 1927 and a new hospital opened in
Vulcan in December 1928.
One item of major and far reaching importance was the building of Highway No. 23
through the Municipal District of Little Bow No. 98, Municipal District of Harmony
No. 128, one mile in the Municipal District of Marquis No. 157, Royal No. 158, on
the south side of Division No. 189 and North side of Tyley No. 159 to High River
and Highway No. 24 from 12 miles North of Vulcan through the Municipal District of
Dinton and Bow Valley to Carseland and thence to what is now known as the Trans-Canada
Highway No. 1 at Cheadle. In June 1930 the late Honorable O. L. McPherson, Minister
of Public Works offered a plan for the highway to the Municipalities whereby the
Provincial Government would provide the extra right-of-way, engineering and administrative
costs if the Municipal Districts would pay 50% of the construction costs over a number
of years. Nearly 100% of the debts were cancelled later owing to the inability of
the districts to pay due to the depression which followed.
Crushed gravel for the Northern part of the highway was shipped via C.P.R. flat cars
from Aldersyde to points on the route at Blackie, Brant, Ensign, and Champion. Local
farmers were given preference. They fixed up side and bottom dump boxes for their
small trucks and were able to make a few dollars hauling gravel.
One of the hardest hit areas in the depression, not only economically, but extra
poor crops and downright poverty, was the Lomond area comprising of Municipal District
of Clifton No. 127 and Improvement Districts 156 and 126. Conditions were almost
hopeless. People were moving away. Taxes, seed grain and relief liens were not being
paid and land was forfeited for taxes. Special attention to this area was needed
and in 1935 Improvement District No. 156 and 126 were added to Municipal District of
Clifton No. 127 and in 1937 the Municipal District was disorganized and put into
Special Areas No. 4. This arrangement continued until January 1951 when some of the
area was included in the new County of Vulcan No. 2.
The Municipal Districts were enlarged commencing in January 1943. The Municipal
Districts of Harmony No. 128 and Royal No. 158 were amalgamated. That portion of
the Municipal District of Marquis No. 157 South of the correction line and West
of Lake McGregor and that portion of Twp. 16, Range 21, West of the Lake McGregor
were added into the Municipal District of Vulcan No. 29. That portion of the Municipal
District of Marquis No. 157 North of the correction line was amalgamated with the
Municipal District of Dinton into the Municipal District of Blackie No. 30.
There were five councillors in each Municipal District. Elections were held. Councillors
were nominated by divisions and election was at large. Electors voted for a candidate
in each division. The following were elected in the Municipal District of Vulcan:
Division 1 - E. H. Griffin - 1 Year
Division 2 - W. J. Ellis - 3 Years
Division 3 - Win. Munro - 2 Years
Division 4 - Dan McNiven - 2 Years
Division 5 - T. F. Fisher - 3 Years
Mr. Griffin was elected Reeve and served one term. W. J. Ellis was elected Reeve in
1944 and served until his death in September 1945. Mr. T. F. Fisher served as Reeve
until April 1948, when Mr. J. E. Canlson was elected and served until the County was
formed and in subsequent years.
Mr. D. D. McQueen who served in the Municipal Office as an Assistant from 1926 to
1935 when he was appointed Secretary-Treasurer and continued in that office until
1943, was appointed Secretary-Treasurer and served in that capacity in the Municipal
District and County until his retirement on August 31, 1967. He was succeeded by Mr.
K. H. Gatenby.
The offices of the two new Municipal Districts were located at Blackie and Vulcan.
The following were elected in the Municipal District of Blackie No. 30:
Division 1 Jack Deitz
Division 2 Sam H. Fox
Division 3 Ross Wilderman
Division 4 0. D. McWilliams
Division 5 M. B. Scott
O. D. McWilliams was elected Reeve, Sam Fox, Deputy Reeve and Mr. S. S. Ogden continued
in office as Secretary-Treasurer until he resigned in 1945 and was succeeded by Mr.
Clark Rhodes of the old Municipal District of Harmony who left Municipal work at the
end of the year 1950. The office building in Champion was loaned and later sold to
The Marquis office in MiIo was closed and Mr. C. B. Hyndman after attending to various
matters in connection with the division of the Marquis assets and liabilities left
Municipal work and moved to Calgary.
Although there was considerable opposition to the enlargements which centralized the
municipal administration, the new councils made every effort to co-operate in maintaining
the municipal services at the same level in all areas of the new district. It soon became
evident that the larger area could provide more road building equipment and was able to
afford more work such as road gravelling and maintenance. Although there were less than
half the number of councillors in the new District, ratepayers were able to get better
service from them. The larger districts could afford capable full time foremen whose
business it was to look after things over the whole district. Business was operated
smoothly and ratepayers began to look upon the new districts as an improvement over
the smaller municipalities.
For the next eight years until the formation of the County. the two districts prospered.
The war had been going on for three years - crops improved, the livestock industry was
buoyant and farmers were getting out of debt. The districts were cleaning up tax arrears
and book surpluses were being converted into cash. Considerable road improvements were
undertaken, many miles of grading and gravelling was done throughout the districts.
District Highways, sometimes called market roads, were given first consideration
along with many special roads for the operation of school buses. In the year 1949
a new Municipal office was built on the district's property in Vulcan.
The Alberta Legislature at its 1950 session passed an "Act to provide for the Establishment
of local Government Units to be known as Counties". The new legislation provided for
the joining of Municipal Districts, school divisions, or districts into a single local
government unit. The original Act included Municipal Hospital Districts but this feature
was withdrawn. The basic principle of the Act was to make it possible for an elected
body to operate the local school and municipal services under one administration. At
the August 8th, 1950 meeting of the Council of the Municipal District of Vulcan No. 2,
the councillors began discussing the new Act which appealed to them as having merit
not only from the viewpoint of a larger area, but from the viewpoint of having municipal
and school boundaries co-terminous which would obtain a uniform rate for school taxes
throughout and eliminate complaints against four school tax rates varying from 16.5
to 27 mills. The Vulcan area had been in an awkward situation by having four school
divisions since the school divisions were formed in 1938.
The Reeve, Mr. J. E. Carlson, mentioned at the meeting that he and the Secretary-Treasurer
had a visit with the late Mr. J. W. Judge, Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs in the
fall of 1949. Among other things, Mr. Judge suggested that the ratepayers in the
Special Areas No. 4 were ready to govern themselves, and threw out a hint that the
Municipal District of Vulcan should be given some of the area. Mr. Judge also drew
attention to the situation in the Municipal District of Blackie and noted that the
whole of the Municipal District of Marquis should have been included in the Municipal
District of Vulcan organized in 1943. From these discussions it was apparent that
the Municipal District of Vulcan should seriously consider revising its boundaries
and the best way to do this would be to make application for a County. The following
motion was moved at this meeting by Mr. Dan McNiven Sr. and unanimously passed "That
the Council of the Municipal District No. 29 petition the Minister of Municipal Affairs
to erect a County in this area as soon as it can be arranged".
The application was made to the Minister and approved in principle. There was a great
deal of opposition from school officials, trustees and teachers. Municipal officials
and councillors mainly in the Municipal District of Blackie were opposed not only to
the County idea. The boundary revisions would mean all the school divisions, Taber,
Macleod , Bow Valley and Foothills would be disorganized. Meetings of school trustees
and councillors in the areas concerned were held. Those concerned with school affairs
were particularly bitter and opposed every step in the organization of the County,
and later the division of assets and liabilities of the areas being included in the
County. Delegations interviewed the Ministers and the Premier in Edmonton. The area
of the original proposal was changed slightly in the North West corner (Mossleigh
District) which was deleted, and on the recommendation of the co-terminous boundary
commission on January 1, 1954 was added to the County of Vulcan.
On December 27, 1950 Order-In-Council 1616/50 was passed forming the County of Vulcan
No. 2. This was actually the first County formed, but did not receive the number 'one'
owing to the fact that the original idea in respect to Counties came from the Grande
Prairie School Division which was promised the first number and was formed a day or
two later. The area of the County comprised of the following: All of the Municipal
District of Vulcan No. 29, part of the Municipal District of Blackie No. 30, part
of the Municipal District of Argyle No. 26, part of the Municipal District of Barons
No. 25, part of Special Areas No. 4, and part of Foothills School Division No. 38,
part of Macleod School Division No. 28, part of Bow Valley School Division No. 43,
and part of Taber School Division No. 6.
The County was divided into nine electoral divisions. All councillors were elected
by acclamation except divisions three and seven. The following were sworn into office
at the first meeting held on March 8, 1951:
Division 1 Allan McLean
Division 2 J. E. Carlson
Division 3 Richard A. Clements
Division 4 C. W. Loose
Division 5 Donald B. Smith
Division 6 Jack Deitz
Division 7 M. Willard
Division 8 J. M. McKay
Division 9 Donald A. McNiven
J. E. Carlson was elected Reeve and held that office until 1962. Jack Deitz was elected
Deputy Reeve and held that office until 1962 when he was elected Reeve and has held that
office until the present time. The first School Committee was composed by Mr. J. M.
McKay, Chairman; J. E. Carlson, D. B. Smith and Jack Deitz; from the County Council,
James Shortt from the Town of Vulcan, D. H. Russell from Villages of Carmangay and
Champion and C. Curtis from the Villages of Arrowwood and Milo. The Municipal Committee
was composed of C. W. Loose, Chairman; Donald A. McNiven and Allan McLean. D. D. McQueen
was appointed Secretary-Treasurer. J. A. Williams, Chartered Accountant of Lethbridge,
Auditor and the late P. M. Patterson of the Champion District, Assessor. Early School
Superintendents were C. M. Laverty, followed by the Late Hugh Wilson, the late Andrew
L. Schrag and E. K. Hawkesworth.
Operations of the County began under a cloud of skepticism, augmented to a certain
extent by hostility in matters relating to school affairs. Also it was imperative
to make good on the promises and assurances given during the discussions in forming
the County. There was another element too which prevailed and that was the expectation
held by many that the County idea was a good one and that excellent results would be
obtained. Much credit is due to the first Council for the wise measures taken and the
skill and ability with which the affairs were managed. The School Department was
under pressure being new at the business of administering school affairs. Chairman
McKay and the Committee, however, had excellent co-operation and soon gained the
confidence of the people generally.
The general business of the County except the school presented no problems. The larger
District operation was responsible for many improvements, particularly in public works.
One of the first objectives was to provide every resident in the County with a good
gravel road to town. This was accomplished in three years. Having one area for school
and municipal administration proved that a co-terminous area was necessary to equalize
taxes in rural areas. The Department set up a co-terminous commission to arrange
common boundaries throughout the province. The commission's report was implemented
in January 1954.
County of Vulcan was enlarged by the addition of the whole of Special Areas No. 4
and certain lands in the North West corner of the district. The number of councillors
was increased from nine to eleven.
The County undertook to up-grade the schools in all centres. New modern schools were
built at Carmangay, Champion and Nib, a new High School in Vulcan and enlarged in
1964, an addition to the elementary school in Vulcan, new schools at Mossleigh, Brant
and Arrowwood - in all $2,695,000.00. Schools in Armada Queenstown, Kirkcaldy and
Travers were closed. Housing shortage was responsible for capital outlay $288,000.00
for teacher residences. Improvements in bus service were instituted. The County began
to gradually acquire ownership of buses and extended service to the pupil's home. The
public ownership of buses had also been the means of making centralization of high
This history should refer to the dedicated people who gave a great deal of time to
the task of serving in Municipal Government - to the original 1951 Council mentioned
previously; to Mr. J. E. Carlson, first Reeve, who continued in office until 1962;
to Mr. Jack Deitz, Deputy Reeve until 1962 and Reeve from then to the present fime;
to Mr. J. M. McKay, Chairman of the School Committee until December 1965; to Mr.
Donald A. McNiven and M. Willard, Councillors since 1951; Councillors Allan McLean,
C. W. Loose, Donald B. Smith, A. Cutforth, the late R. A. Clements, the late Earl
Ericksen, Andrew McAlister, Clarence Green, Ivan Haga, R. S. Irwin, Arthur W. Ulrich,
F. E. Hubka, E. W. Prater and F. N. Thurber. Some of the members of the School Committee
from the Town of Vulcan were the late G. E. Voisey who served from 1954 to 1964, Mr.
Ray Wellman, Leonard Williams, Arrowwood and R. O. Bertrand, Milo.