Dickson

Settlement

Dickson_na_2485_2_thuIn the fall of 1902, a number of men living in the Omaha, Nebraska area decided to establish homesteads in Western Canada. An agent from the Canadian government advised the men to settle in Alberta because of the many acres of land available from the Canadian government. As a result of this encounter, the agent set aside a tract of land approximately 22 miles (35.41 kilometres) west of Innisfail for the purpose of the settlement. Two of these men, Henry and Jim Larsen, travelled to Alberta to inspect the prospective homesteads for farming suitability. Once they arrived, they were satisfied with the rich farmland and returned home to Nebraska to organize their departure.
 
The Danish settlers first move was to organize a congregation of the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church. Once this was established, the first settlers to leave were Fred Pedersen, John Jensen and Laus Christensen in March 1903; a second group left in June. On July 1, their railcar arrived in Calgary. By the second week of July, the newcomers had pitched their tents, each on their own homestead. By agreement, the families with children occupied one section, so the women could be near one another. 
 
dickson_na_2485_3_thuThe original settlement of Dickson was composed of 17 Danish individuals. As a result, the Dickson area became the first Danish settlement in Western Canada. The settlers arrived in hopes of owning land and establishing a future for their families. Like most homesteaders, they experienced many hardships. The homesteaders were physically isolated in terms of distance, rough trails, and, to a degree, by their language and religion. Many of the settlers did not speak English and communicated only in Danish. This resulted in the preservation of their Danish heritage, as they did not feel the need to learn English or adjust to Canadian cultural ways of life because they were the only settlers in the area. Also, all religious services were conducted in Danish and as the church was the seat of power and authority in the community, going against the church would create conflict. Yet despite all of their troubles, they worked together to build the hamlet of Dickson.
 
Dickson_na_2485_1_thudickson_na_2071_16_thuIn 1904, three new families arrived - I.C. Tromberg, Anton Laursen and Reverend J.C. Gundesen. In February 1905, a post office was installed in Carl Christiansen's home, with Carl as the postmaster. By this act, the area of Dickson was put on the map. From 1905 to 1910, there was an influx of families and individuals who took up homesteads to the west of the original settlers. Most of them were Lutheran and, in 1907, a new congregation was organized: the Bethany Lutheran Congregation.  The church then became the spiritual, social and recreation centre of the community. Its activities were limited largely to those of Danish origin, which was a strength and weakness at that time. In 1909, four buildings - a store, church, school and parsonage - composed the hamlet of Dickson. The Dickson store then became the centre of the community with customers stopping by for supplies. In return for essential supplies from Carl Christiansen, settlers bartered farm produce and lumber. The general store continued to operate as a family business until 1980.
 
Source:
  • Contributor: Dickson Store Museum
 

BEFORE WWII

Dickson_na_2071_17_thuFor Dickson, the Danish language was of concern for the early generations. Over time, English became the dominant language but Danish was used in the church, which was the most important place of gathering and influence. As the English language became more dominant in the late 1940s, and after great debate, church services were held in the English language. This change of language in church services had far-reaching consequences. The Danish language was no longer a social barrier. The Danish immigrants put aside their needs and became more focused on their children's welfare and interests. As a result, girls and boys were organized into youth clubs that emphasized citizenship.
 
dickson_na_2071_6_thuThe period from 1910-1920 was not prosperous for the settlers. Farming progressed slowly due to the great amount of time that it took to clear the land, and because of the small farmland space and wet conditions. Transportation was also a problem with the roads being of poor construction. The discovery of oil at Turner Valley offered a new power source, yet farmers were not in a proper situation to utilize it.
 

WWII and After

Dickson_na_2071_8_thuAs WWII started, many local women from Dickson went to train as nurses at the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton. During the war they went overseas as 2nd Lieutenants in the Canadian Army. At home, the Ladies' Aid and the Red Cross did their share of knitting and sewing for the armed forces. After the war, women entered professions such as nursing or they became airline stewardesses.

The men joined the Royal Winnipeg Rifles regiment, the Veteran's Guard and the navy and served overseas. One individual was taken prisoner in Holland and was in a prison camp until the end of the war. Back at home, some helped the farmers by building hay stackers and sweeps, as iron could not be bought. Some of the materials and old machinery were brought from overseas. After the war, many discharged recruits went on to buy farmland.

Source:

  • Contributor: Dickson Store Museum

Present-Day Dickson

The Dickson area has many features. The historical General Store was restored in 1991 to a 1930s pioneer museum (The Dickson Store Museum) that features a restoration of the general store, post office, cold room and living quarters. Another feature is the Dickson Dam, built in 1976, complete with a visitors' centre and is located on the Red Deer River, approximately 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) west of Innisfail. The primary purpose of the dam is to control the flow of water along the Red Deer River for an assured water supply to downstream users. It was built in 1976 when residents became concerned about water quality. The Dickson Dam features a visitors centre and has a manmade lake, Gleniffer Lake, located behind the dam. The lake is also home to many resorts and campgrounds and offers opportunities for fishing and other water sports.

The Danish Canadian National Museum and Gardens is located in Dickson. It features 7½ acres of traditional Danish gardens bordered by natural walkways and flower gardens and highlighted by a manmade lake containing a replica of the Little Mermaid and an island castle and drawbridge. A coffeehouse and museum are also included.

Source:

  • Contributor: Dickson Store Museum