Stories of Lacombe’s early Board of Trade

The Lacombe community was incorporated as a town in 1902.

HOWARD FREDEEN

The Lacombe community was incorporated as a town in 1902. Two years later the Territorial Government in Regina, responding to a petition from the Town, granted permission for incorporation of a Board of Trade.

The certificate of incorporation was presented to a citizen’s meeting on Nov. 23, 1904. An executive was appointed that evening and its first order of business was to direct executive members to pursue with the Territorial Government the issue of road improvement.

Two weeks later the minute book recorded the appointment of a committee to prepare a memorandum re-establishment of a Federal Experimental Farm at Lacombe.

It was this objective that had sparked interest in the formation of a Board of Trade, its promoters believing that a request from an official business organization would carry more weight with government than requests from individuals.

Lacombe was one of the first western Canadian communities to submit such a request to Ottawa.

That decision had consequences for the Lacombe community as attested by the current physical presence of the Lacombe Research Centre at the south boundary of the City.

Among the board members present at this meeting were Senator Peter Talbot, member of Town council and MLA for the Lacombe constituency in 1905 Wm. Puffer and George Gladstone Hall Hutton. This was a new name in the community and the significance of his presence would not become clear until 1907.

That was the year the creation of the Lacombe Experimental Station received parliamentary approval and Hutton was confirmed as its first superintendent.

Federal legislation creating the Experimental Farms System had been enacted in 1886.

At that time five experimental farms were created at locations across Canada with the one in Ontario designated the Central Experimental Farm.

Provision was made for future expansion of the system but locations developed in subsequent years would be designated Experimental Stations not Farms.

The Lacombe Board memorandum was submitted December 1904 to the Hon. Sydney A. Fisher, minister of agriculture. It concluded with the recommendation that the Hiram Flewelling farm bordering the southern boundary of the town be purchased for this purpose, an improved quarter section priced at $50 per acre.

Ottawa demurred. The government would not pay for land.

The minister said if the board was serious it should buy the land and gift it to the government.

Board members offered to donate half the purchase cost but the minister did not change his tune – it had to be all or nothing.

Even Hon A. C. Rutherford Premier of the newly created Province of Alberta and Sir Wilfred Laurier, prime minister of Canada got into the act.

But the issue remained high-centered until February 1907 when the federal minister of agriculture advised the member of parliament from Central Alberta that he would authorize purchase to a limit of $5,000.

Within five days that MP was able to respond that Puffer had arranged the balance and the deal received cabinet approval Feb. 25, 1907.

With that approval came confirmation of Hutton as superintendent. Subsequent events would prove the wisdom of that choice.

The land cost $8,000 the government paid $5,000 with the balance contributed by substantial donations from Talbot, Puffer, and Hutton augmented by donations of $50-$100 from other members of the community.

Thus was born the centre, which from its inception would play a role in the development of agricultural practices in the prairie provinces and beyond.

From the outset its contributions in animal agriculture have been particularly impressive.

The Lacombe Board of Trade played a dominant leadership role during the formative years of the community. It stimulated the development of the water pipeline from Barnett Lake.

It enticed the Danner Flour Milling Company of Missouri to relocate to Lacombe.

It gave impetus to development of the facilities for brick manufacturing and promoted product sales to both local and provincial government contractors.

It promoted development of the Blindman River hydroelectric plant and its members were investors and promoters of the Blindman Valley electric railway intended to service Rimbey and beyond.

But without doubt its crowning achievement resulted from the 1904 memorandum it prepared re-establishment of a Federal Experimental Farm at Lacombe.