While Roland Michener only lived in Lacombe for a few short months as an infant, he made it a priority to maintain a connection to his birthplace his entire life.
Michener, who served as Governor General of Canada from 1967 to 1974, was born in Lacombe in a house that Lacombians and many others will recognize today as the Michener House Museum.
Michener House is in fact the exact same building that Michener was born in. Although it has had some restoration work and other necessary modifications made, the house looks much the same as it would have when the Michener family called it home.
Marie Péron, executive director of the Lacombe and District Historical Society, said that Michener House being a house museum helps visitors feel closer to the history. She added that it is important that history is passed on.
“What really makes us stand out as civilized people is passing down knowledge from one generation to the next,” said Péron.
Michener himself was instrumental in the house becoming a museum. Many of the artifacts in the house are from his own personal collection, Péron said.
Some such items include the Michener family Bible, paintings by Michener’s mother, a collection of political cartoons featuring Michener and the furnishings of the bedroom where Michener was born.
The story of Michener House is closely linked with that of the Methodist Church which used to stand directly adjacent to it. Both buildings were built by the same man, E. J. Chegwin, the reverend who was in charge of the Lacombe congregation.
Chegwin built the church and the manse to serve as a home for his family and the families of any reverends to succeed him.
That is how the family of Edward Michener came to live in the house. In 1897, Edward, Roland’s father, succeeded Chegwin as reverend for the Lacombe congregation as well as several others.
Shortly after Roland was born in 1900, his family left Lacombe and Reverend Michener went to pursue a new career in business and politics.
In 1922, the Methodist Church united with the Presbyterian Church to become one of the first United Churches in all of Canada, if not the very first, said Péron.
As such, the congregation no longer had need of the house and it was sold to private dealers where it changed hands many times.
At one point it was used as a boarding house for children of families who farmed outside of Lacombe, said Péron.
Some of the people who lived in Michener House while going to school are still living in the Lacombe area, she added.
Today, the church and its building no longer exist in Lacombe (it was removed in 1984), but there are still remnants.
The organ that can be seen in the parlour room of the Michener House is the same organ that was used during church services in the adjacent church.
It was placed in the museum after being discovered in the basement of St. Andrew’s United Church to maintain the connection that once existed between Michener House and the Methodist Church.
It is not just the story of Roland that is told by the Michener House museum, it also tells the story of the time.
Most of the artifacts in the lower level of the Michener House did not belong to the Micheners and instead are examples of the kind of items that would have furnished an early 20th century home or have been used by the people that live there.
Upstairs, the museum gets more personal as it tells the story of Roland. Family photos, as well as personal artifacts of his can be found depicting his life as a boy, a lawyer and ultimately, the politician who became Canada’s governor general.
One of the two bedrooms in the house, the last visitors to the museum will enter, has even been refurbished to look almost exactly as it would have in 1900.
Roland painstakingly tracked down the bedroom furniture, including the very bed he was born in, for the express purpose of placing it in the Michener House museum.
While Roland passed away at the age of 91, his story, the story of his family, the story of their home, even the story of the time, is immortalized by the Michener House.