Village of North Red Deer marks 100-year anniversary

Michael Dawe

Michael Dawe

February 17 marks an important event in our community’s history. It was 100 years ago, on that day, that the Village of North Red Deer was incorporated by the provincial government.

When the Calgary-Edmonton Railway Company first laid out the town site of Red Deer in 1890-91, the entire community was located south of the Red Deer River. The biggest impediment to any development north of the river was the lack of a traffic bridge.

A single lane traffic bridge was built in the mid-1890s and a few people began to build houses north of the river. Many of these new north side residents were employees of the railway.

The situation began to change much more dramatically after the turn of the last century. George Bawtinheimer constructed a large scale sawmill in 1905 north of the river and west of the C.P.R. tracks. In 1906, the Great West Lumber Company bought the operation and greatly expanded it.

Not surprisingly, many of those who worked at the sawmill decided to build their homes nearby. They were soon joined by others who were attracted by the lower price of land north of the river.

In 1908, the Roman Catholic Church constructed a large mission centre on the brow of the North Hill. It included a convent, school, rectory for the priests and small college.

In October 1908, 60 residents living north of the river petitioned the provincial government to create a village of North Red Deer. They claimed that the existing rural council was collecting taxes from them, but was doing very little in return. They felt that having their own municipality would give them “a better deal” and ensure that their taxes were invested into improvements for the community.

Unfortunately, the petition was flawed. One of the biggest problems was that the petitioners had followed the rules set out under the old Village Ordinance of the North West Territories, instead of the Village Act, which had been passed by the new province of Alberta.

In the fall of 1910, a new petition was circulated. This time 127 names, more than twice the number on the first petition, were collected. The proper rules and regulations were now followed. The minister responsible for municipal affairs wrote back that the new petition would receive “positive consideration”.

On Feb. 17, 1911, the Village of North Red Deer officially came into being. On March 13, 1911, the first village council was elected with Walter Webb becoming the first mayor and L. Brennan and William Bawtinheimer becoming the first councillors.

The new village council quickly went to work. They authorized the borrowing of $4,000 to construct wooden sidewalks, grade the roads and open drainage ditches. In 1912, a village hall was acquired on Main (57th) St. and Cherry (52nd) Ave., complete with administrative offices, a public works yard and an animal pound.

The village council was spirited. So spirited in fact that many residents from south of the river would go to the village hall on council meeting nights to watch the fun. However, as time went on, North Red Deer became a quiet, peaceful community where not a lot happened.

At the end of the Second World War, serious consideration began to be given to an amalgamation with the City of Red Deer. In 1946, a tentative amalgamation agreement wasn’t ratified in a plebiscite, mainly because many North Red Deer residents objected to a special 10 mill tax levy to pay for the costs of bringing the Village infrastructure and services up to the level already enjoyed south of the river.

Finally, a new agreement was reached whereby the new City taxes in North Red Deer would be slightly lower than the rates levied by the Village. A new plebiscite ratified the agreement by a vote of 72%.

On Jan. 1, 1948, the Village of North Red Deer officially became part of the City of Red Deer. However, although the two municipalities were now one, there remained a distinct sense of identity for those who lived north of the river.