A history of terrorism and Central Alberta

The whole world is, quite rightly, becoming more and more concerned about acts of terrorism and the consequences. It is something that seems to be spreading and striking in all kinds of unexpected places.

That is the key goal of the perpetrators.

They want to instill and grow a sense of terror and panic amongst those who they consider to be their enemies. The psychological impacts of the terrorism acts are just as important, if not more than important, than the violence of the acts themselves.

Some people feel that terrorism is a new phenomenon, and the media often tends to report it that way.

However, terrorism has been a part of the human experience for a very, very long time.

Anarchism was often manifested in acts of terrorism in the late 19th century and the early part of the 20th century.

Anarchism held that the state and all the large institutions are evil. Hence, one of the strategies used was to physically attack government and economic structures and symbols.

Such things as banks, railroads and government buildings were bombed. Major leaders were assassinated.

For example, Czar Alexander II of Russia was assassinated by a group of terrorists in March 1881. President William McKinley of the United States was killed by an anarchist in September 1901.

In the summer of 1914, Gavrilo Princip, acting with a group of other Serb radical nationalists, assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This act was the most immediate cause of the outbreak of the First World War.

The First World War shattered many world governments and the global economy. The terrible conflict spawned several revolutions.

The post-war period brought widespread fear of more revolutionary actions and a further collapse of what was left of the existing world order.

The result was the great ‘anti-Bolshevik’ backlash across western Canada, particularly after major strikes in such places as Winnipeg and Drumheller.

Severe actions were taken against suspected revolutionaries, anarchists and radicals. For example, Charles Snell, a local surveyor, was a committed socialist but not a violent radical. Nevertheless, he was forced to bury many of his books and papers in his garage in order to avoid arrest by the authorities.

The great economic hardships of the early 1920s brought great unrest, but no acts of true terrorism in the province. However, the situation changed in 1930, when a second world-wide economic depression set in.

Around 2 a.m. on July 10th, 1930, an attempt was made to burn down the Alexander Pavilion dance hall on the lakeshore of Sylvan Lake.

A barrel full of shavings, twigs and the remains of a banana crate was doused in kerosene and set ablaze. Fortunately, the owner, Henry Hussfeldt, soon realized something terrible was going on. Together with some nearby cottage owners and passers-by, he was able to put out the blaze before much damage was done.

Then, on July 31st, 1930, at 3:30 in the morning, someone threw four sticks of dynamite through an open window at the dance hall.

Fortunately, the damage was limited to a hole blown in the floor and the shattering of windows. None of the estimated 30 people, sleeping in rooms on the east end of the hall, were injured, although they were all shaken up.

Moreover, many of people in the community were awakened by the sound of the four explosions and frightened when they heard what had happened.

The Alberta Provincial Police identified anarchists as the culprits and began a major investigation. However, no record can be found in the subsequent newspapers that any suspects were conclusively identified and arrested.

Therefore, the sense of fear continued in the resort community for the rest of the summer, although no further acts of terrorism/anarchism occurred.

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