Remembering the very pleasant Easter of 1905

Michael Dawe

This year, Easter falls between April 22 (Good Friday) and April 24 (April 24). It is very unusual for Easter to fall so late in the year. The last time that Easter fell on these dates was 1859. The next time will be in 2095.

It is almost as rare for Easter to take place between April 21 and April 23. The last time this happened was in 1916. At the time, the country was embroiled in the First World War.

Easter also fell between April 21 and 23 in 1905. It was a much happier time for the community. Red Deer was experiencing one of the best bursts of growth and prosperity in its history. The population of the Town surged from just a few hundred to almost 1,500.

Much of the boom was due to an enormous influx of new settlers flooding into Central Alberta to take out free homesteads in the fertile agricultural heartland.

The numbers of those filing land claims more than doubled. As the spring progressed, the Red Deer Land Office recorded the highest number of new homestead claims in all of Canada.

As the farming areas filled up, people also moved into the Town of Red Deer to build new homes and to start new businesses.

In April 1905, it was reported that there was not a single vacant house in the whole town. No less than four new residential subdivisions were created – Parkvale, Woodlea, Grandview and Fairview.

With all the new growth and construction, a large new sawmill was created north of the river, near the current site of Bower Ponds. On the south side of Town, Piper’s Brickyard expanded as did the Red Deer Brickyard on the west end of Victoria Avenue (43 St.)

A new sandstone quarry opened up on the south bank of the river, below the Cronquist farm.

The sense of optimism and good times was fuelled by the glorious spring weather. There was only one day after the middle of March when daytime temperatures failed to rise above zero degrees.

By early April, there were a number of days when the thermometer rose above 20C.

If there were any complaints, it was that the weather was also very dry. Dust started to become a problem. The new editor of the local newspaper urged the Town to make more frequent use of watering wagons to keep the growing clouds of dust down.

There were some more serious public controversies. The new Red Deer Memorial Hospital was a major concern. A number of people complained about a decline of care and overcrowding.

A young woman passed away unexpectedly while in the Hospital. Several felt that an inquest into her death should have been held.

Meanwhile, the local Ladies’ Hospital Aid Society and the young women’s Alexandra Club held numerous fundraisers for the Hospital. Although the Hospital Board charged $5 to $7 in patient admission fees and the Government paid a grant of 50¢ per patient per day, the Hospital almost always faced a financial operating deficit.

Just before Easter, the local Epworth League sponsored a debate on whether women should be granted the right to vote.

At the end of the evening, the largely male jury voted against the motion as they felt that “The women’s place was in the home.”

Apparently, that did not include the time spent raising money to keep the Hospital open.

On Good Friday, in addition to the traditional church services, there was an afternoon soccer match between Red Deer and Penhold. To the delight of the assembled crowd, Red Deer trounced Penhold 3 to 0.

In the evening, another large crowd turned out to take in a concert by the local young men’s choir.

There were generally only church services on Easter Sunday. In addition, there was also a special community service at the schoolhouse featuring a noted religious speaker, G.D. Robinson of St. Paul, Minnesota.

With temperatures rising to more than 26C and still nary a cloud in the sky, people agreed that Red Deer had just experienced one of the most pleasant Easters ever.

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