In the early days, the area around present-day Camrose was home to the Cree. They lived along the nearby banks of the Stoney Creek down to Battle River, along the shores of Dried Meat Lake. Pe-o-kis, a well-known Cree, was one of the first settlers in the Camrose area. The first home was built in 1893 in the present Camrose area by Ole Bakken. One folklore legend said that when Bakken left Norway and arrived in the United States, he had a vision that he would take up land in a faraway country through which a stream flowed and on which a town would be built. He eventually came to Canada and interestingly enough, Stoney Creek ran through the corner of his homestead. It was on this farm that Camrose came to be.
In 1891, Camrose was a stopping place for settlers seeking land as they arrived by rail at Wetaskiwin. The area around Camrose was settled around 1900. Settlers came from the Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Sweden, as well as from the United States. Prior to this settlement, a mission and trading post had been established by Father Bellevaire along the Battle River about six miles (9.7 kilometres) south of Camrose. The first merchant to settle in the present Camrose area was Duncan Simpson in 1904 with a load of lumber from Wetaskiwin. The next day he began building a small store near the end of the west side of the town site. He later moved his store to Main Street. Stores were also established by Andrew Carruthers and R. Bud Price.
The City of Camrose was originally known as the Hamlet of Sparling, named after the Reverend Dr. Sparling of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was incorporated as the Village of Sparling on May 4, 1905. Because of the fact that the name Sparling was often confused with the towns of Sperling and Stirling in Western Canada, in 1906 the Village Council changed the name to Camrose. There is a legend that selection of the name Camrose was chosen from a town in South Wales. The village was incorporated as the Town of Camrose on December 11, 1906 and to the status of a City on January 1, 1955.
In June 1905, the Canadian Pacific railway grade was completed between Wetaskiwin linking the village with the main Calgary-Edmonton line via Wetaskiwin and a train operated three times weekly. Prior to the arrival of the railway, all goods had to be freighted from Wetaskiwin by oxen and horses, which took approximately three days.
The first school was opened in the Presbyterian Church in 1905 and the first school building was opened on May 24, 1907. Rev. Thomas Phillips, a Methodist minister, conducted the first church service in a shack and the first church built in the area was of the Lutheran faith.
Camrose had electricity in 1911 when a steam electric plant was constructed. This plant was taken over by the Calgary Power Company in 1929. In 1949, oil was discovered in many places around Camrose and as a result, Camrose became the centre of the "Joarcam" oil field. In the early 1950s, the population increased rapidly.
WWII and After
Present-Day Camrose - "The Rose City"
Camrose is a rural community within travelling distance of Edmonton. It offers big-city amenities and small town friendliness. Camrose is large enough to supply all major services as well as cultural and sporting activities. The population of the city is over 15,300, although it enjoys a trading area of 104,000. Camrose has a diversified economy based on agriculture, industry, and retail businesses. Citizens enjoy a lifestyle with access to parks, modern services, with many programs for both the young and old.
Camrose has been known for many years as "The Rose City", a tribute to its scenic setting. The area is dominated by parkland and special attention is paid to keep recreational area clean. The city's efforts have been rewarded by the city being named twice "Cleanest City" in a Tri-City Challenge involving itself and two other communities.
Some recreational features the city has are the 18-hole golf course, aquatic centre, trails, and a museum. The city of Camrose is unique that it has a number of twinning arrangements with communities outside of Alberta. These communities are similar in characteristics such as size, climate, geography and industry. The twinning results in greater information and cultural exchange between the cities. Bonds between the cities are strengthened, and student exchanges have proven especially successful. These relationships lean towards developing and fostering interpersonal relationships with objectives of promoting friendship, goodwill, education, economics and tourism. Their sister cities are Kamifurano, Japan; Warwick, Australia; Chicoutimi, Quebec; and Kentville, Nova Scotia.
New Norway: The Immigrant Trail
The legacy of three generations of a Norwegian family who emigrated to Alberta in 1912, set-up a general store and got involved in local politics and community building
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