A look at one of North Red Deer’s first families

Michael Dawe

When North Red Deer was incorporated as a village in 1911, many of the families in the community were French speaking.

Several of these families were from Quebec and northern New Brunswick. However, a significant number came to this area directly from France.

One of the early French families to settle in North Red Deer were the Jaspars.

Their parents, Leon and Anne Marie Watier, had lived in Lille, France and raised a family of 13 children.

Tragedy struck in October 1903 when Leon passed away at the age of 53. Then, in July 1906, Anne Marie passed away at the age of 50.

While a few of the older children had already started lives away from home when their parents died, some of the younger children were not yet 12 years of age.

In 1908, Stephane, the second oldest son, decided to emigrate to Canada to investigate the prospects for a new life.

He was impressed by what he saw in Central Alberta. In July 1909, he had a house built in North Red Deer by Hugh Clarke, a noted local contractor and son-in-law of the Rev. Leonard Gaetz.

Meanwhile, Stephane, or “Steve” as he generally became known, got a job as a clerk at the R.C. Brumpton store on Ross St. He also became active in community affairs.

In February 1910, he was elected a trustee with the Red Deer Separate School Board, replacing Aubert Wiart who had moved to the new community of Castor, Alberta.

Shortly thereafter, Gaston, Joseph, Paul, Rene, Emma, Jeanne and Marie Therese moved to North Red Deer to join Stephane. The family purchased a larger home on Clive (60) St., at the foot of the steep road that went up to St. Joseph Convent and the presbytery of the Priests of Ste. Marie of Tinchebray.

The three oldest brothers quickly got jobs working at the Great West Lumber sawmill on the north bank of the Red Deer River. Rene got a job in construction. Emma kept house for her brothers.

On July 25, 1910, Marie Therese married Tony Wiart, while on Nov. 16, 1910, Jeanne married Eugene Wiart, Tony’s brother.

Both ceremonies took place in the old Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church on the North Hill (later renamed Our Lady of Sorrows).

Just before Christmas 1910, Stephane returned to France. In February 1911, he married Alice Mangin at a ceremony in Sedan in the Ardennes. The couple was soon back in North Red Deer.

Interestingly, according to the 1911 federal census, Stephane spoke French and English, while the rest of the family only spoke French.

In 1912, Gaston, Joseph, Paul and Rene took out homesteads north of Castor. However, in August 1914, when the First World War broke out, Gaston, Joseph and Paul returned to France where they enlisted in the French army.

Gaston was killed on November 2, 1914 while on patrol in an abandoned castle. He is buried in the Soupir Military Cemetery near Aisne. Interestingly, after Gaston’s death, the Canadian government agreed to transfer the title to Gaston’s homestead at Castor to his sister, Marie Therese Wiart.

Meanwhile, Joseph was taken prisoner at the Battle of the Aisne in January 1915, but fortunately survived the war. Tragically, his wife Thais Valette passed away shortly after their marriage in 1919. Joseph remarried in 1920 to Eugenie Jaboeuf.

In 1916, Stephane was elected to the North Red Deer Village council. Later, when Ananie Durand enlisted for service overseas, Stephane was elected mayor as his replacement.

In March 1917, Stephane resigned from North Red Deer Council to move to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan with his wife Alice and their three children. Stephane and Alice continued to live in Prince Albert until their passing.

Meanwhile, the house on 60 St. was taken over by Louis Laboche, but was later purchased by the Emile Moreau family, who owned it for many years.

On Saturday, Aug. 27, the centennial of the Village of North Red Deer will be celebrated at the Koinonia School.

For information on the day’s events, please email the Riverside Meadows Community Assoc. at riversidemeadowsca@gmail.com or phone 403-346-2498.

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