Stories of the Century
- Published on Thursday, 07 February 2013 10:06
- Written by Michael James | © DrumhellerMail.com
One of the biggest disasters to befall Drumheller during its 100 year history has been the flooding of the Red Deer River.
Many residents remember the flood of 2005, which submerged large swathes of town and resulted in the evacuation of many homes. However, that was not the first time the Red Deer River swelled beyond its banks.
In the spring of 1948 the river rose and engulfed much of Drumheller. Many residents evacuated, while many others stubbornly refused to leave. Among those who remained in Drumheller was a newcomer to town.
“I had just moved here in December 1947. My parents had moved here a little earlier, but I wanted to finish my term at school,” said Dorothy Bergos, a long time resident of Drumheller who was only 14 at the time.
Bergos left Calgary to move to Drumheller with her parents, who had already taken up residence after her dad purchased a local sign shop. The move was hard on Bergos and made harder when the flooding began a scant few months later.
Dorothy Bergos’ house (foreground) was among those completely flooded in 1948. Bergos’ bicycle was tied up on a tree behind the house and all her belongings were destroyed.
“We were living in the cabin and I was going to school. The first thing I can remember is there was talk about the river being high and people wondering if it would spill over the banks,” said Bergos.
Bergos’ father was the head of the emergency measures organization and helped prepare the town should the worst occur. He did his best to protect his family as well. However, no one suspected how much the river would rise.
“He misfired on that one. He made us put all our furniture up on blocks and tied my bicycle up in a tree. Curiosity got the better of him, he opened a door or window in the cabin and everything fell over. We lost every single thing we had. Our bedding, clothing, furniture, everything was ruined,” said Bergos.
“It started to rain, which added to everyone’s grief. I was sent to live with some elderly friends and my parents stayed somewhere else. Thank God for friends.”
In a scene that would be more apt in Venice, John Anderson travels by canoe through the streets of Drumheller.
Those affected by the flood were given an odd gift.
“The Salvation Army, bless their hearts, decided to give everyone mattresses in North Drumheller. We didn’t have anywhere to live, let alone beds,” said Bergos.
“Some people with imagination decided to put the mattresses on top of their houses. I’ll never forget John Gray, who lived in the first house over the bridge, sitting on top of his house for three days with that mattress and it rained the whole time. None of us ever used our mattresses. It was sad but funny at the same time.”
For a young teenage girl, new to Drumheller, the flood was even more devastating.
“I lost everything I owned. I had a record player, which was the most important thing I had. My dad tried to fix it, but it never worked. You have no idea the amount of silt that settled in our house after the flood. You couldn’t ever get it out,” said Bergos.
Eventually, they resettled on 3rd Street East, a much safer location should the river rise again, which it did four years later. This time, however, the waters stop short of their house.
To ensure it wouldn’t be washed away, boxcars were placed on the Midland train bridge. The bridge survived, but many homes were devastated.
- Published on Wednesday, 28 December 2011 22:00
- Written by Michael James | © DrumhellerMail.com
St. Anthony’s has been a fixture in the community for nearly a century. The vibrance of the church, and its associated programs, owes much to the pioneering efforts of the clergy and parishioners who built the church through their strength of faith.
St. Anthony’s church had its beginnings in 1913 with Reverand Father Russell, a missionary who would journey from Rockyford to Alsask, to hold mass. Father Russell would stop in Drumheller, depending on road conditions.
In Drumheller, Father Russell initially held mass in the Whitehouse Hotel, Auger residence, and Regent Theatre. Parishioners collected money to build a church and St. Anthony’s was completed in 1914 and the choir was formed.
Upon a visit from a Bishop from Calgary, it was deemed that Drumheller required a full time pastor. In 1917, Father McGillivary took up residence.
By 1927, an Altar Society, Catholic Women’s League, and the Columbus Club were formed. Father McGillivary moved to Munson and was replaced by Reverand Father Cosman and a large Sunday School was formed.
Money was in short supply during the Great Depression, but the need was great for a new church. By this time, the condition of the old church was deteriorating.
On March 26, 1939 the new St. Anthony’s was finished and blessed. The old church became a parish hall until 1949, when it was sold and a new hall was constructed.
On December 20, 1952, tragically close to Christmas, a fire broke out within St. Anthony’s church. Fortunately, the fire did not destroy the church.
In 1958, the church expanded its educational program. Parishioners voted in favour of building a Catholic school in Drumheller.
Exciting times are on the horizon for the church. The centennial of the church is near and St. Anthony’s school will soon finish the construction of its new school guaranteeing that St. Anthony’s will continue to play a vital role in the future of the Drumheller Valley.
- Published on Wednesday, 14 December 2011 22:00
- Written by Michael James | © DrumhellerMail.com
The dinosaurs that have been excavated from the Alberta badlands for over a century are famous the world over. They’re featured in books, TV shows, movies, and photos in the Flickr and Facebook accounts of thousands of tourists. Tourists flock to the valley year after year to get a glimpse of the amazing fossil record that is here.
However, whether you are in Drumheller, Ottawa, New York, or London, England, you can still find dinosaurs from the Alberta Badlands.
Sometime before 1871, a Jesuit priest, Jean-Baptiste L’Heureux, was living with Native Americans in southern Alberta. It was during that time that L’Heureux was shown bones of “the grandfather of the buffalo”, or what was soon to be identified as the fossilized bones of dinosaurs.
George Mercer Dawson, son of palaeontologist Sir William Dawson, first officially reported dinosaur remains in Alberta in 1874 while working for the North America Boundary survey. The remains Dawson collected found their way to the famous American palaeontolgist Edward Drinker Cope.
Colleagues of Dawson working in Alberta began to find more material. Richard McConnell found remains at Scabby Butte in 1882 and Thomas Weston found dinosaurs in 1883.
The most famous discovery, and the one that has had the greatest lasting impact, is that of a young geologist looking for coal seams in the Drumheller area in 1884. Joseph Burr Tyrrell, the namesake of the renowned museum, came across the skull of what would be named Albertosaurus.
After Tyrrell’s discovery, more palaeontologists flocked to the Red Deer River Valley.
In 1889, Weston returned to the area and floated down the Red Deer River and collected a second Albertosaurus skull.
Lawrence Lambe from the National Museum of Canada collected fossils from the Red Deer River in 1897 and 1901. Benjamin Bensley, a zoology professor from the University of Toronto, was inspired by Lambe’s finds and came to the area as well in 1908.
In 1910 a rancher from Drumheller, John Wagner, was visiting the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 1909 and told staff that he had the same bones on his property. The following year Barnum Brown briefly visited the area after his work in Montana was finished and planned an expedition to the Red Deer River in the summer of 1911.
Brown spent the summer of 1911 floating down the river in a wooden scow and would stop periodically to collect fossils. One of the most significant finds during that trip was the Albertosaurus bonebed in Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park. The site has been the subject of considerable research effort by Royal Tyrrell Museum and University of Alberta crews between 1998 and 2011. In 1912 to 1915 a local homesteader, William Cutler, joined Brown’s crew.
The Geological Survey Canada upon hearing of Brown’s finds decided to hire their own team in 1912 to collect fossils from the badlands. Charles Sternberg from Kansas brought two of his son, Charlie and Levi, to compete with Brown. The two crews were generally on good terms, but stayed out of each others way for the most part. Brown continued to work in the Alberta badlands until 1915 and the Sternberg’s continued until 1961.
The early fossil pioneers of the Red Deer River made phenomenal discoveries, but those fossils are no longer here. During these early years the collectors who came to the area were working for the major museums and universities in eastern North America and Britain.
The skull that Tyrrell found was taken east to Ottawa. The hundreds of specimens that Brown collected were shipped to The American Museum of Natural History in New York. The Sternberg’s were each hired by a number of institutions and their finds were sent to the Royal Ontario Museum, Canadian Museum of Nature, and to the Natural History Museum in London.
Alberta dinosaurs could also be entombed in the murky depths on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Charles and Levi Sternberg worked freelance during the summer of 1916 because the Geological Survey of Canada had no funding due to the war. Charles and Levi came to Alberta to sell dinosaur skeletons to the Natural History Museum in London. One of the two shipments of fossils came under attack from German ships and was sunk.
Apart from two excursions in 1920 and 1921 headed by George Sternberg on behalf of the University of Alberta, the fossils collected in Alberta did not stay here. It wasn’t until the late 1950s and early 1960s that Albertan institutions were the dominant collectors of fossils from the area.
Fossils collected in the badlands continue to shed new light on dinosaurs, and even those fossils housed in other institutions around the world giving new insights. For example, a new horned dinosaur, named Spinops sternbergorum, from Alberta was found in the collections room of the Natural History Museum in London. The specimen had been collected in 1916 by Charles and Levi Sternberg and shipped overseas (in the shipment that wasn’t sunk). There the fossil sat on the shelf for 90 years before being named a new species.