Luckily, to go on this adventure, there is no need to find a DeLorean.
Motorists can share in the history of the province through Alberta Culture and Tourism’s extensive network of more than 80 “Heritage Markers”. Each marker reveals a chapter in the story of Alberta, detailing the milestone events and the landmark people and places that have played a significant role in our shared history.
The Heritage Marker Program was launched in 1955 to celebrate Alberta’s Golden Jubilee. While the program is administered by the Heritage Division of Alberta Culture and Tourism, the overwhelming majority of the markers have been initiated by the public. Organizations and individual Albertans are encouraged to submit suggestions for topics and locations for future heritage markers.
While cruising along enjoying the beauty of Alberta’s landscape, keep your eyes peeled for sightings of Alberta’s past. Here’s a sample of what awaits you out there on the open road!
On to the Pacific!
The newest Heritage Marker, On to the Pacific was unveiled on May 9 and tells the story of famed fur trader, surveyor and explorer David Thompson.
Located west of Edson along Hwy 16 at the highway rest stop near Medicine Lodge, the marker commemorates Thompson’s visit to the area of present-day Hinton in the winter of 1810-1811 on his journey over Athabasca Pass. The marker was initiated by the Hinton Historical Society, with the support of Yellowhead County and is a fitting tribute to a Canadian legend and a vital period in the development of our nation.
Checking your map? Then look up…waaay up…and you’ll see Fort Vermilion
Located along the east side of Highway 35, about 4 km south of High Level, the Fort Vermilion Heritage Marker tells the story of one of Alberta’s oldest communities.
About 250 km from the Alberta/NWT border, visitors will discover Fort Vermilion, a community with roots that go back more than 8,000 years. Here a gathering place was established by Aboriginal groups hunting, gathering, and living in the area.
Once the site of a thriving fur trade, both the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company established operations at Fort Vermilion, each vying for control of the lucrative crop of pelts harvested by Aboriginal, Metis and European trappers. Now, it is wheat being harvested, and with the region long growing season resulting in bumper crops.
Just west of the southern Alberta town of Raymond at road side pull out along Highway 52 stands a tribute to Alberta’s early Japanese pioneers.
Finding work laying track for the railroad or on construction of irrigation projects, early Japanese newcomers settled primarily in the south in communities like Raymond or Hardieville (near Lethbridge) although a small Japanese community was established at Redwater, northeast of Edmonton.
The outbreak of World War II had a dramatic impact on Alberta’s Japanese community with the relocation of Canadian of Japanese from British Columbia. Though most returned to their home province, many of the new Albertans stayed to strengthen one of the province’s most dynamic cultural communities.
Big Valley’s “Church on the Hill”
Big Valley’s St. Edmund’s Anglican Church stands as a comforting sentinel on a hill overlooking the central Alberta community. But as interesting as the building itself, is the story of how it came to be almost century-old. The details of that story are shared in a Heritage Marker located on the grounds of the church.
Designated as a Provincial Historic Resource in 2002, St. Edmunds traces its roots back to England and one of its earliest benefactors, Caroline Leffler. From her home across the Atlantic, Leffler offered the donation to the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Calgary to establish a church in an area of his choice. Big Valley was selected and the church was constructed on the crest of the valley, visible from miles away. The “big blue church on the hill” is a cherished community landmark and symbol of Alberta’s “colourful” past.
So, as you are cruising down Alberta’s highways, look for the road side pullouts and take a break on your holiday road trip. Get out…stretch…enjoy the beautiful Alberta summer…and share in a bit of local history through an Alberta Heritage Marker – a rear view mirror into our past.