On Oct. 11th, 2014, Mr. William Leslie Kent passed away in Langley, British Columbia, just shy of his 107 birthday.
He was a long-time engineer who distinguished himself with his work on numerous bridges, dams, tunnels and other major construction projects, not only in Canada, but also around the world. One of his proudest accomplishments was his work on the Lions Gate Bridge.
W. Leslie Kent was also born in Content, Alberta on Oct. 19th, 1907. As such, he is probably the very last person who had been born in this early Central Alberta community. Content became a ghost town in 1912 after the nearby Village of Delburne was founded.
Leslie Kent was the second son of Arthur and Mary Jane Wellwood Kent and had an older brother Edgar, and a sister Myrtle. His mother came west in 1896 from Wingham, Ontario to become a schoolteacher at the old Red Deer Indian Industrial School.
That institution was located on the north bank of the Red Deer River, across from the old Red Deer Crossing settlement site.
In 1899, Arthur Edgar Kent came out from Goderich, Ontario to teach ranching at the Industrial School. He was joined by his brother Fred who also worked at the school as a blacksmith. In July 1899, Mary transferred to the McDougall Orphanage which had been established on the Morley Reserve, west of Calgary, in 1883.
In April 1901, Arthur Kent and Mary Wellwood were married in the old Morley Methodist Church which is now a provincial historic resource.
The officiating minister was Rev. R.B. Steinhauer, the famous First Nations Methodist minister and the grandfather of the Honorable Ralph Steinhauer, former Lieutenant Governor of Alberta and a former student at the Red Deer Indian Industrial School.
Not long after their marriage, the Kents moved to Innisfail, where Arthur got a job with the H. H. Drake Lumber Company of Red Deer. He was one of the people who drove logs from the headwaters of the Red Deer River to the large lumber mill which was located on the north side of the Red Deer River, next to where Bower Ponds is now located.
In summer of 1905, one of the big log booms broke and the logs were swept downstream to a spot near where Tail Creek enters the Red Deer River. A new sawmill was set up to cut up the salvaged logs. Arthur Kent was sent to work at the mill. He liked the prospects of the developing district. He consequently decided to relocate his family to the fledgling village of Content, which had been established by former Innisfail businessman, Albert A. Content in 1903.
The Kents started a small restaurant in a building behind the store that had been operated by A.A. Content.
They soon established a stopping house (hotel) and a livery business on the north end of the Village’s main street.
For a few years, the business flourished.
However, in 1912, the townsite of Delburne was established on the new Grand Trunk Pacific Railway line (later taken over by the Canadian National Railway). Like many others in Content, the Kents decided to move to the new community.
Arthur Kent went into the livery business again, but also ran a freight (dray) outfit, operated a butcher shop, delivered the mail in the rural areas west of Delburne, shipped cattle and hogs to Calgary and managed the local bulk oil station for Imperial Oil. He was active in community affairs. He served on both the first council of the Municipal District of Hays and the Delburne School Board. Mary was active with the Women’s Institute and the local branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.).
In 1923, the Kents moved to Edmonton. In 1931, Leslie graduated from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alberta.
The family later moved to Vancouver, B.C.