Gladstone George Hall Hutton was named superintendent of the Lacombe Experimental farm when it was created in 1907. From the date of his arrival he was active in the community.
In 1907 he was a choir member and a member of the Official Board of Grace Methodist Church, roles he filled for the next 12 years. He also served four years as Sunday School superintendent (1910 to 1913) and three years as recording steward (1917 to 1919). In 1916 he was a member of an inter-denominational committee to evaluate the logistics of union with St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Lacombe. He was elected to the Town council in 1911.
Throughout his years in Lacombe Hutton was a strong supporter of the Board of Trade and a valued member of its industrial committee. It was perhaps in this capacity that his name appears as one of the sponsors of the 1909 Act to incorporate the Lacombe and Blindman River Valley Electric Railway Co. Electrical power for this enterprise was to be provided from the Burbank generating station of the Blindman River Electric Power Company.
He also played a direct role in community development. With partners Craig and Percival, he purchased the old Agricultural Fair Grounds along Barnett Ave. in 1907 and presented a proposal to Town council for subdivision of this area as residential lots.
Council approved the proposal and the triangular area bordered on the north by Barnett Ave., on the west by 58th St. and on the east by the C&E Trail was designated Percival Park. At the same time, in partnership with Craig, he purchased property north of Barnett Ave, to be developed as a nursery.
After an initial investment to create an opportunity and plant a vision, sow the seed as it were, Hutton was never financially involved in these developments.
He was content, to let others reap the harvest.
This was the period when the potential for rapid population growth seemed secure. Canadian Northern Railway had acquired a large coal field at Nordegg and proposed to use this fuel source to power the steam locomotives for their entire rail system; Lacombe was designated as the site for their distribution system.
An article in the May 18th, 1912 Calgary Advocate described this ambitious plan. “Lacombe will be the divisional point for the Brazeau-Calgary Strathcona lines of the CNR – making the junction south of Lacombe one of the important points on the CNR. More that 1,000 railway men and their families will be involved.”
By 1910, Lacombe’s population was 1,800 and growing, blueprints had been drawn for the residential subdivisions of Fairview Heights and Hyde Park, and construction of the coal storage and distribution centre were well advanced at the site now marked by the sign ‘Jackson’ on the railroad right-of-way just south of Lacombe. Indeed, traces of the concrete footings poured for this project in 1911 may still be found there. But that is a story for another day.
Having helped to launch the residential and nursery enterprises, Hutton sold his interests to his partners.
Percival Park did not prosper. Neither did the Hyde Park development which saw the original nine-hole golf course subdivided into 600 residential lots.
Those failures, a fascinating chapter in the history of Lacombe, were no refl ection on the vision or the sponsors. Rather they were the direct consequence of the outbreak of the First World War when virtually the entire male population of Lacombe enlisted to serve overseas in the armed forces. But the nursery did succeed. Controlling interest was sold to Mitchell and Caldwell about 1911 and the following year they employed J.N.B. MacDonald as manager and shareholder. He was soon the sole owner; he changed the name to MacDonald’s Nursery.
The nursery prospered earning wide recognition through successful contracts to landscape city parks (including Winnipeg and Lethbridge) and the Legislative grounds in Edmonton. One of the proud stories of Lacombe.
The esteem in which Hutton was held by the community is illustrated by the following tribute that appeared in the 1913 Board brochure titled ‘Bristling with Resources’.
“Under the management of Mr. G.H. Hutton, Superintendent, who in addition to being an expert farmer is a member of the Board of Trade and one of the most progressive citizens of Lacombe, the Experimental Farm at Lacombe has been brought to a high state of efficiency and ranks high among the institutions of this character in Canada.”
The brochure goes on to say, “This is one of the largest and best equipped experimental and livestock stations in the west.”
The first Agricultural Short Course in Western Canada was held at Lacombe in 1908. It was Hutton’s idea.
Ever a booster of Lacombe, he convinced fellow board members that such an event would benefit both the community and town and persuaded them to promote and sponsor it. The event was a great success and the following year he persuaded the CPR to provide mid-summer excursions to Lacombe. This attracted over 700 participants in 1909, a number that swelled to more than 1,200 annually before being discontinued in 1917. This annual influx of people more than doubled the summer population of Lacombe.