The Village of Mirror turns 100

This year marks the centennial of one of the most unique and interesting communities in Central Alberta. On July 27, 1912, the Village of Mirror was officially incorporated.

The history of the community actually goes back much farther than 100 years. In the 1860s and 1870s, large semi-permanent Métis buffalo hunter settlements had formed in the Buffalo Lake district at Boss Hill and Tail Creek. At one time, these localities had as many as 3000 residents, which would have made them the largest settlements west of Winnipeg.

The rapid disappearance of the buffalo caused the disappearance of these early settlements. In the late 1880’s and 1890s, ranchers and farmers began moving into the district. Soon a new community, Lamerton, sprang up on the southwest end of Buffalo Lake by Fletcher Bredin’s trading post.

A big boost to the new settlement came in 1910 when the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway began construction of a major north–south rail line through east Central Alberta. Because of its mid-point location between Calgary and Edmonton, Lamerton was deemed to be the ideal location for a major divisional point on the railway.

However, the Grand Trunk Pacific ran into problems in negotiating a satisfactory agreement to purchase land at Lamerton for its proposed railyards and accompanying townsite. Hence a decision was made to purchase 1,000 acres of land a short distance to the south.

The new townsite plan was a grand one, befitting what was predicted to become one of the major urban centres of the burgeoning province of Alberta. Broad main thoroughfares were laid out in a diagonal fashion from the central point in the proposed town. A summer resort-like area was planned by Buffalo Lake.

According to a press release issued in mid-May 1911 by the Grand Trunk Pacific, the new community was to be called Mirror, because of “The very clear water of the lake which reflects objects like a looking glass”.

However, in a stroke of real estate promotion genius, the G.T.P. Railway and its real estate subsidiary, the Transcontinental Townsite Company, decided to partner with the influential Daily Mirror newspaper in London, England. This gave international publicity to the new community and boosted the interest of overseas investors in Mirror.

The main thoroughfares were given the impressive names of Whitefriars Boulevard and Northcliffe Boulevard. Many streets and avenues were named after the members of the Daily Mirror staff, although several were also named after the pioneer and prominent families in the district.

The Transcontinental Townsite Company decided to launch the sale of the townsite lots with a grand auction, to be held in conjunction with the arrival of the first passenger train to the community on July 11, 1911. To make the event even more impressive, they recruited Sir Rodmond Roblin, the premier of Manitoba, to act as the first auctioneer.

The auction was a phenomenal success. Sixty thousand dollars worth of lots were sold in the first two hours and $251,648 worth of land was sold over two days. To put those amounts into perspective, at the time, $2 per day was considered to be a pretty good wage.

While Mirror enjoyed a heady boom for a couple of years, things came to a crashing halt in the summer of 1914 with the outbreak of the First World War. There was another brief boom in 1922 when the newly created Canadian National Railways decided to consolidate a number of regional operations in Mirror.

However, over the years, Mirror remained a quiet little community. In 2004, a decision was made to rescind Mirror’s status as a village. It is now a hamlet within Lacombe County.

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