Lacombe was named in 1893 by railway officials to honour Father Albert Lacombe, an outstanding Roman Catholic Missionary who was accepted as a friend by the aboriginals. Settlement of the community started in 1883. C.A. Magrath surveyed the Lacombe district for homesteads; Magrath was later employed by the Galt mining interests at Lethbridge, and married Sir Alexander Galt's daughter. Magrath was responsible for the development of irrigation in southern Alberta. Among the early settlers were Ed Barnett, W. Findlater, W.B. McPherson, E.M.H. Parlby, Dr. E.M. Sharpe, W.N. Morrison, Roy Hoppus and W.F. Puffer, who was the first member of the Alberta Legislature to represent this district.
Heritage Trails #277 Towns, Lacombe
Find out more about the early history of Lacombe.
Ed Barnett built a log barn and house about a mile north of the present site of downtown Lacombe. By the time the Calgary and Edmonton Railway (later named the Canadian Pacific Railway) reached Lacombe in 1891 there were 19 adults and 16 children populating the area. In 1893 the present townsite had a population of approximately 25 people, and by 1900 this had increased to about 100 and was considered to be larger than Red Deer. The first post office was opened in 1893 with Mr. Dalmage as the first postmaster.
The Growing Town - Harvest of Memories
Learn about early growth and settlement in Lacombe.
The hamlet was constructed as a village July 28, 1896 and incorporated as a town May 10, 1902. W. Burris was the first mayor and the first town councillors were M. J. McLeod, C. F. Morris, H. A. Day, H. B. Powell, W. F. Puffer and Joseph Tire.
By 1907 the population of Lacombe began to increase at a great pace. Many residential and commercial developments were approved at this time and, at that time, Lacombe was known as a city with great commercial importance.
Lacombe is surrounded by rich, rolling parkland, dotted with lakes, patches of trees and cultivated fields. In the early years, the local economy was largely agricultural. The first purebred bull sale was held at Lacombe in 1904 and has continued every year since. It is the second oldest and largest sale in western Canada, and receives entries from across the province.
The first school was built of logs in 1893 and was located north of the creamery on the east side of the railway. Miss N. Greene was the first teacher. The first frame school was built immediately north of the present town hall in 1900. Senator Peter Talbot was the first principal of this school. A 12-room brick school was built in 1906 and a $300,000 high school was built in 1949.
Heritage Trails #16 - Charles Halpin, Editor of the Western Globe in Lacombe
In 1929, Charles Halpin, editor of The Western Globe in Lacombe, took a very public stand against the Klu Klux Klan, by publishing scathing editorials. The Klan was beginning to organize in Alberta in the late 1920s, and despite Klan threats to destroy The Western Globe, Charles Halpin continued his vocal campaign against the hate-mongering group. His campaign is stated as one of the main reasons why the Klan failed to garner much support in Alberta in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
On July 8, 1907, a meeting was held in the office of C. L. Durie for the purpose of organizing a Board of Trade. The meeting was a success and, in August, 1904, a Board of Trade was established with R. F. Taylor as president, J. A. Skinner as secretary and H. M. Trimble as treasurer.
In 1900 the first newspaper, the Lacombe Advertiser, was published by W. D. Pitcairn. Soon, other newspapers began to appear including The Lacombe Western Globe in 1906, which was started by C. B. Halpin. It was purchased by Harry J. Ford in 1935 who changed its name to the Lacombe Globe which was published by Mr. Ford's sons, Bert and Tom.
In 1909 Lacombe received its first two-storey frame community hospital, which was built with public subscriptions; it contained eight beds and the first matron was Miss Jean Pye. Credit for the construction of the hospital was given to Mrs. William Burris; she devoted much of her time to soliciting subscriptions for the building fund. A 30-bed community hospital was built in 1930, and began operating as a municipal hospital on January 1, 1947. A 27-bed addition to this hospital was officially opened on February 23, 1949. In October of 1967, a new modern 50 bed hospital was officially opened leaving the previous hospital to be renovated into a municipally operated nursing home.
Fire - Harvest of Memories
How Lacombe was plagued by fires, and the consequences.
With the onset of WWI, the town of Lacombe experienced a decrease in population and, as a result, 1,000 lots of land were forfeited to the town in 1915. These lots were then put up for a public auction but no one wanted to purchase the land. After that time, the population of the town steadily decreased until 1951 when Lacombe experienced a small boom and the population increased to 2,277 people. From 1951 to the 1970's, the growth rate increased rapidly.
Heritage Trails #164 Cenotaphs
Almost every community has cenotaphs. Most cenotaphs come from the World War One. Learn more about the significance and importance of war memorials in Alberta.
A small hydroelectric plant was installed on the Blindman River nine miles away in 1910 and electric lights were installed in the town that same year. In 1911, a 55,000 kilowatt steam-electric plant was built but could not be operated after freeze-up. On February 12, 1929, Calgary Power Ltd. was granted a franchise to supply the town with electric light and power. On September 12, 1929, the same company was granted a franchise to supply the town with water. The first sewer mains were installed in 1911. Natural gas was supplied to the town from the Viking-Kinsella field, by Northwestern Utilities Ltd. in 1946.
WWII and After
The post-war era in Lacombe has witnessed an impressive growth in industry and research. In 1958, Len Thompson, a fish hook designer and manufacturer, moved his plant from Saskatchewan to Lacombe. Mr. Thompson and his son-in-law, Cecil Pallister chose the site for their plant on account of the soft water and of its transportation facilities.
Lacombe was supported by a prosperous mixed farming district and a large number of purebred livestock was shipped from the district. A huge breeding program carried at the Federal Government's Research Station at Lacombe, resulted in the development of a new breed of bacon hog, the Lacombe Hog, which was distributed across Canada. The Lacombe Hog was the first swine to originate in Canada and was in popular demand. Later, the Lacombe district was the scene of a widespread development in the dairy and beef cattle feedlot industry and had one of the largest concentrations of beef cattle in the province.
The Homesteaders - Harvest of Memories
Learn more about the Calgary and Edmonton Railway and its importance to new settlers such as Ed Barnett and the Almonte Settlers.
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Present-Day Lacombe - "Town of the Century"
In just over 100 years, Lacombe has grown from an early fur trade era settlement into a town that boasts a current population of over 9,000. During the past few years, the town has experienced a significant increase in its residential, commercial and industrial growth. Lacombe also has recently acquired more land for future development needs.
Lacombe offers a unique lifestyle for its population with a local college, federal and provincial research centres, a petro-chemical association and a strong ethnic, cultural and agricultural base. Lacombe is also part of the successful Alberta Main Street program, a downtown revitalization and architectural rehabilitation program. The town is also fortunate to be located adjacent to Red Deer, which offers city shopping, services and experiences, but is small enough to retain its small town quality of life.
Heritage Trails #216 - Michener House in Lacombe
Michener House is one of Lacombe's most famous landmarks. Listen as historian Dorothy field explains how the house got its name and talks about the design of the modest house.
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The town also serves the agricultural and industrial interests of Central Alberta. Lacombe is located in the centre of Alberta's most fertile production areas. Wheat, barley and oats are just some of the products grown in the area. Over the last few years, more value-added industries have started to move into Lacombe including dairy operations, hog and beef operations, greenhouses and a wide variety of agricultural support services.
The town is also supported by a tight-knit community of citizens concerned with preserving the architectural heritage, uniqueness and beauty of the town's buildings. Lacombe is also involved in the Communities in Bloom project that encourages people to plant and maintain flowers, trees and shrubs to help beautify the town. Lacombe also initiated a centennial project to honour its veterans by planting hundreds of spruce trees along a few of the town's boulevards.