A History of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to 1914
Abrams, Gary William David
This history had its origin in the winter of 1962, when the City of Prince Albert approached Dr. Hilda Neatby, Head of the History Department at the University of Saskatchewan. The work was undertaken in the fall of 1962 as a city centennial project and a thesis in history. The city of Prince Albert provided a scholarship. The writer was also the recipient of a scholarship given by the University of Saskatchewan to encourage advanced study in the humanities and social sciences. For a person who had previously paid but one short visit to Prince Albert, the project was a journey into the unknown. Nevertheless, the history of that city was soon found to hold a peculiar fascination. As many visitors to Prince Albert have suspected, the story is essentially a tragedy. It was not mere fancy that led one citizen to predict, in 1883, that Prince Albert might outstrip even Winnipeg in size. The belief in a grand future was perhaps the most persistent theme in the early history of Prince Albert. It was, indeed, a town that seemed to possess every natural advantage, and a vigorous, intelligent people capable of turning nature's gifts into the ingredients of civic greatness. Instead, Prince Albert's day of glory was brief. The diversion of the Canadian Pacific Railway to the southern Prairies, and the quick relapse into the worldwide depression which characterized the last quarter of the nineteenth century, turned a bustling centre of civilization into an economic and cultural backwater. The catastrophe of 1883 was not, unfortunately, the last which Prince Albert had to endure. Near the turn of the century began the development which, in barely a decade, converted the half-empty West into a vast agricultural empire. Here, too, because of its position on the fringe of the wheat belt, Prince Albert fared poorly in relation to other towns. In these years, also, the uncertainty of a future based upon the resources of the Northland first became evident. In 1911, driven by a growing awareness of its inferior position, the city embarked on a project which promised to lead it towards a long-sought greatness. The building of a power dam at La Colle Falls is, in itself, a subject of rare interest. It ended, through causes not wholly within the capacity of the citizens to foresee, in one of the greatest financial disasters ever to befall a Western city. The three hectic years from 1910 to 1913 were also a time in which every city of the West strove for urban distinction, if not opulence. In this field, Prince Albert did not fail to keep pace. The city spent extravagantly on services which, even fifty years later, have not all been put to use. The thesis ends on a note of regret and foreboding, as Prince Albert began the long descent towards financial collapse. The city's struggle to bear the massive burden of debt thus incurred forms a principal theme in the second portion of the history. Interwoven with the theme of Prince Albert's search for greatness is the history of the civic government. Here is described the long evolution from the simple, though effective, institutions of the frontier town to the sophisticated administration of 1913. It is rendered, hopefully, with some appreciation of the difficulties faced by those persons whose task it is to govern a community.