If you want to know about Red Deer history – just ask an archivist. The Red Deer & District Archives is the official repository for city records of all kinds and it’s where inquisitive citizens research Red Deer’s historic places, trailblazing pioneers, community happenings, even famous runaway piggies and 100-year-old candy recipes. We asked our local history experts five curious questions about Red Deer’s colourful past and here are their five fascinating answers.
Q. Who was Red Deer’s most notorious person?
A. While there are many colourful characters in Red Deer, one of the most notorious was Louis Martin Sage, founder of Cash City southwest of Red Deer in the late 1880s. To promote his site for settlement and investment, Sage published many tall tales in The Calgary Tribune, each emphasizing that his site was better than the one at the “lower crossing” (Red Deer).
Due to his poor management skills and bad relations with his neighbours including the Alberta Lumber Company, the settlement failed miserably. Sage then became involved in several liveries, a shipping company, and a few other businesses but they collapsed any time creditors came to collect. This led to troubles with the legal system. In 1893, he was arrested on a charge of larceny in Calgary (dismissed), in 1894 on attempted murder charges in Red Deer (reduced to grievous assault), and again in 1894 for using insulting language to a woman and swearing on the highway outside Innisfail.
Despite his remarkably poor business sense and his arrest record, he continued to be involved in the livery business in Red Deer and area off and on for many years, and he even raced horses around British Columbia and the United States. He died without family and was buried in Innisfail cemetery in an unmarked grave.
The story of Cash City is recorded in Homesteads That Nurtured A City, one of our library books—we host a small reference library including books from the Red Deer branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society. We also have many records from the author, E. L. Meeres, including his research notes, which are available to the public.
Q. Who was Red Deer’s most respectable person?
A. There are so many great contributors that we can’t choose one to be the most respectable; however, one of our favourites here is Ethel Taylor. She was exceptionally active in Red Deer, founding the Red Deer Women’s Institute, Red Deer Local Council of Women, Hospital Auxiliary, Alberta Council on Aging, Kindergarten Society, Film Society, Allied Arts Council, Craft Centre, Social Welfare Committee, Social Planning Council, Family Service Bureau, Indian Association of Alberta and Indian-Eskimo Association. In 1961, she was elected the first female alderman for the City of Red Deer and in 1979 Taylor Drive and Taylor Bridge was named in her honour. We have a large fonds – a collection of documents and photos created by Ethel Taylor – here which is available for researchers who want to know more about her or about the groups she started. Photo right. Photo credit: Red Deer & District Archives, P413 – Ethel Taylor as a young woman.
Q. What is the city’s oldest building?
A. There are two answers to this question. The oldest building still on its original site is the Brumpton Store. It was built in 1892 and is located at 5003 Ross St. The oldest building still standing in Red Deer is the Stevenson Hall Block. It was originally built for the Saskatchewan Land and Homestead Company and is the small white building currently located in Heritage Square between the Archives, the Recreation Centre, and the Norwegian Laft Hus. Photo left. Photo credit: Red Deer & District Archives, P3835 has both Stevenson Hall Block (the white building) and Brumpton Store visible in background.
Q. What’s your favourite artifact or photo in the archives?
A. We have over 7,000 digitized images here, and over 100,000 altogether to choose from so I think this question is impossible to answer! One of our favourites, however, is this image of Red Cross nurses from the First World War. Their bright, crisp uniforms – combined with the patriotic flags and the new car in the background helps show the story of nursing a century ago. This year is the centennial of the start of the First World War and we are highlighting some of our documents and images in exhibits at the Archives and on the second floor of City Hall downtown, if you want to learn more. Photo below. Photo credit: Red Deer & District Archives, P2129 – Nurses in First World War.
Q. What would be your first stop on a historical tour of Red Deer?
A. We recommend everyone start by picking up the Heritage Walking Tour brochures and use them to guide you through historic Red Deer. There are now four to choose from: The Ghost Collection, Saturday in the City, First Impressions of Red Deer and the War Memorials Tour. These are available all around town, including at the Archives and at Tourism Red Deer, as well as online at reddeer.ca/heritage.