The current strong diversified economy and tourism attractions of Lamont County are a tribute to the hardy pioneers who settled this area. Our success today is a result of people of varying nationalities and religious convictions that cooperated to forge a prosperous and progressive area.
First surveyed in 1883
The area which is now part of the County was first surveyed in 1883, before settlers arrived and while the Beaverhill area had been a hunter’s paradise.
First Wave of Settlers
The first settler in the Beaverhill Lake region was an Englishman, Frank W.W. Fane, who after having served 8 years in the Northwest Mounted Police, took a homestead in 1887. He brought cattle and horses from southern Alberta, and while farming, maintained a post office and a general store which served a wide area, with people coming 15 or 20 miles distance on foot for supplies. Mr. Fane was the first councilor in the Local Improvement District of Beaver, was the first Conservative candidate in 1905, and held various positions as magistrate, doctor, dentist, and lawyer. His son is Major Frank Fane, a former Member of Parliament, who still owns the home place upon which stands one of the houses his father built.
Other settlers followed: Peter McCallum, and the Deby’s (1891), the Steel brothers, the McAllisters (1895), and the Watsons, Stewarts, and Wilsons (1898). At the same time, 1888, the German farmers migrated into the Bruderheim area, selecting the richest land in the region. By 1896 their number had reached 150. Polish people settled near St. Michael about 1898,later to move onward throughout the region.
Second Wave of Settlers
In 1891 a new era began when the first Ukrainian immigrants, Wasyl Eleniak and Ivan Pilipewsky, landed at Montreal. People from their homeland of Galicia came in large numbers to settle this part of Alberta. Wasyl Eleniak, along with his brother Peter, settled in Chipman. Wasyl Eleniak farmed and raised a large family, passing at the age of 97. Ivan Pilipewsky and his family settled north of Lamont, near Star.
These hard-working people quickly broke the land, building sod houses with thatched roofs, a replica of which is found in Elk Island National Park. The nearest railway depot was at Strathcona, now South Edmonton and the mail was distributed from Fort Saskatchewan. Trips through the wilderness were not uncommon and often took days, traveling by foot, ox-drawn carts or horse and buggy.
The Ukrainians retained their dynamic culture and customs to contribute to the wonderful mosaic of today’s Alberta.
The first governments were in the form of three Local Improvement Districts. The first LID 27N4 administered the Chipman-Mundare area and held the first meeting July 14, 1906 with Councillors Michael Eleniuk (chairman), J. Wilinski, P. Bahry, and H. Theis (sec-treas). Councillors were paid $2.00 per day and the secretary treasurer’s salary was originally $100.00. On January 25, 1913, the area became the Municipal District of Pines No. 516. Councillors were A. Achtemychuk (chairman), E. Halberg, M. Kozak, W. Miskew, J. Jakubec and A. Lappenbush. M. Korczynski was secretary treasurer. The second LID No.28N4 centered at Wostok. Wostok was named by Theodore Nemirsky. This name is derived from the Ukrainian work “Wostoko” which makes reference to the Three Wise Men and the star in the East.
The initial meeting was held on June 22, 1908, attended by Councillors Theodore Nemirsky (chairman), J. Lesar, F. Wosney, E.S. Harris, H. Samograd, and S. W. Calvert (sec-treas.). Meetings were held in Wostok at the Alexandra Hotel. Taxes were set at $4.50 per 1/4 section, of which $.50 was mandatory payment. The rent could be paid by 2 day’s road labor. In 1919 this area became the Municipal District of Wostok No. 546, with the council as follows: J. Hnidan (Reeve), N. Moshuk, M. Shopka, N. Zigonook, J. Warshawsky, and Wm. Knysh (who served as councilor for 19 years). E. Marianicz was secretary- treasurer. Headquarters were in Andrew.
The third district was LID No. 546, centred at Sniatyn. The first meeting on March 14, 1913, saw as councillors Kost Nemirsky (chairman), W. Chamlock, G. Burdian, M. Shopka, T. Vitvicki, and N. Bidniak. In June, 1920, the Municipal District of Leslie No. 547 was incorporated. The council consisted of Wm. Pylypow (Reeve), J. Koshure, P. Thomas, M. Kaminsky, N. Prosek, and A. Anderson. Municipal office was at Lamont.
Settlement Growth in the Early 1900’s
These were difficult years for the settlers. 1918 saw the outbreak of a bad flu epidemic, and the dry year of 1918 and the frost of 1919 necessitated the ordering of hay from Ontario.
Yet despite the difficulties, the people prospered and were able to build their communities. A chapel built near Mundare in 1902 by the Basilian Fathers was used as a school with classes up to Grade 8, until a two storey schoolhouse was built in 1913. In 1912 the Lamont Public Hospital was opened, founded by Dr. A. E. Archer. It was affiliated with a Training School for Nurses. Well over 500 nurses have graduated since 1915. The hospital served people from Saskatchewan, Alberta, and B.C. In 1921 Lamont Hospital was the only hospital in Canada, outside of those in the cities, which presented standard qualifications. Today it still operates as the Lamont Health Care Centre.
Life in the later 1900’s
Over the years various people of the district had received many honours. Willian Skaladan of the Village of Andrew won the world oat crown twice – in 1939 and again in 1941. John Skripitsky of Mundare was awarded the Master Farm Family Award in 1952.
Many leading specialists have come from this area. A child-psychologist in California was born and educated here; medical specialists have also been raised here. A list of other professional would have to include lawyers, pharmacists, doctors, nurses and teachers.
The Mundare Basilian novitiate has seen 128 priests ordained after training under its auspices and many have gone on to fulfill positions in the Catholic Church at the provincial and federal levels. Five became bishops, serving in both Canada and the Ukraine, and three served on the General Curia (the Basilian Fathers Board of Management) in Rome.
Today the Town of Mundare area boasts of a monastery, grotto and museum run by the Basilian Fathers, a hospital, school, fire station and a new town office. In the Town of Lamont, the Auxillary Hospital was built and opened in 1964. A 1995 fire has devastated this building and now a new facility has been built. A Senior Citizens’ and Nursing Home was constructed in 1969 and has recently undergone extensive renovations. Lamont is also home to a High School and Elementary School, a fire station, and the County Office which was constructed in 1972. The Village of Andrew is proud of its new Village Office/School Complex which is the first of its kind in the province. The Village is home to the world’s largest mallard duck; Andrew is situated just northwest of the Whitford Creek Nature Complex which is a major flyway for waterfowl. In the Town of Bruderheim, located on the County’s western border, a new elementary/junior high school was constructed in 1980. The Town’s Administation Office has recently moved from the old Walker School building into a renovated building in the Town.
In the field of politics, many people have made outstanding contributions. Peter Stefura of the Village of Chipman was elected Member of Parliament in 1957, major Frank Fane, a farmer in the Mundare area, held the Vegreville federal constituency for the Progressive Conservative party from 1958 until his retirement in 1968. Anthony Hlynka was also a Member of Parliament for the Vegreville constituency in the years 1940-49. Others from this area have sat in the Alberta Legislative Assembly. They include: Willian Fedun. 1921-25, Peter Miskew, 1930-35, George Woytkiw, 1940, Stanley N. Ruzycki, 1955-59, Nicholas A. Melnyk, 1959-71, John Batiuk, 1971-86, George Topolnitsky, 1971-86, Julius Edward Yankowsky, 1993-2004, and Edward Stelmach, Premier of Alberta from 2006-2011.
The province experienced an economic boom 1969-1983 which affected every facet in life and every level of government. The first big change came in August of 1971 when the Progressive Conservative Government swept into power; John Batiuk won the Vegreville constituency seat which included the south-eastern parts of the County of Lamont. The Redwater-Andrew seat was taken by a teacher, George Topolnisky of Andrew. The Lamont area, part of the Clover Bar constituency, stayed with former Social Credit MLA, Walter Buck. All three successfully retained their seats, even through the November 1982 election.
Today the County and the progress it has made over the years is a tribute to the hardy pioneers who settled and made this area their home. It is symbolic of a region where people of varying nationalities and religious convictions have been able to cooperate to forge a prosperous and progressive area. It stands as a tribute to their efforts and as a reminder of the heritage that helped to found this province.