Thursday, 18 May 2017

Cordel, Alberta

This Google satellite image of part of Alberta a two-hour drive to the southeast of Edmonton graphically illustrates the way in which, under the Dominion Lands Act of 1871, much of the prairies of Canada was divided into plots of 160 acres for distribution to settlers for a $10 fee and the requirement that the new owners fenced, cleared, and worked a minimum of 40 acres before being given full title. At a time of land shortage in many European countries, this attracted settlers from, for example, the Ukraine, France, Norway and the UK. Pioneers from each of the countries often bought adjoining plots, and....

....built their own churches. This wooden church, at the intersection of Range Road 154 and Township Road 402, was built by a group who came from the Savoie region of France.

They raised their church in 1915, and abandoned it in 1964, when they built a new one a little to the northeast, but on the opposite side of the intersection they had, and still carefully maintain, the community's graveyard. At its centre is a large block of gneiss (left), an erratic brought down from the north when the glaciers of the last ice age were depositing the material that would create the thick, rich soils that so attracted farmers.

On the gneiss block is this plaque.

Almost all the names on the gravestones are those of the Savoie settlers, names like Cordel, Fetaz and Dion. Perhaps the Cordels were the first to arrive, for the tiny settlement bore their name. However, three headstones bear the names Georgette Maclean and, side by side, Marion and Murdo MacPherson. So at least two Scots men, Maclean and MacPherson, lived in or near Cordel and married the local French girls.

The interior of the old church is now too dangerous to enter, but it is good to think of it when it was filled with people celebrating these two marriages.

This is another Google satellite image, with the church at bottom right opposite the green square that is the graveyard. The Cordel area is underlain by rich coal seams which are being strip mined, the coal being burnt in a nearby power station. This mine destroyed Cordel's 'new' church and large swathes of the community's fields.

Living on Ardnamurchan, and knowing that so many families in this area's history left for the new world, many going to Canada, it was interesting to see an example of the sort of place in which they built their new lives. But an average croft here may have eight acres of stony land, so the two Scots may each have exchanged this for 160 acres of rich Alberts soil in a place which today is one of the world's major cereal and beef farming areas.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely to meet you today - good to have a chat. Hope we may see you again on our next visit if pastures new haven't already beckoned! Lynn and Steve.