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Post Offices from the Past

Featuring: Bezanson

By Wanda Zenner

Bezanson is a hamlet in Northern Alberta within the County of Grande Prairie No. 1. It was named after A.M. Bezanson, a entrepreneur and promoter from Nova Scotia. Bezanson is located approximately 30 kms east of Grande Prairie on Highway 43 and west of the Smoky River.

Cecil Evans – Unofficial Postmaster 1914-1915
The Grande Prairie Herald reported on May 26, 1914 that Cecil Evans was the FIRST Postmaster of the Bezanson Post Office that was opened at the Bezanson Townsite (NW 17-71-2-W6). His step-father, Sidney Webb had the contract as the mail courier. In July 1915, Cecil enlisted with the CEF. Private Cecil Evans was “Killed In Action” in France on September 15, 1916. His name is inscribed on the Vimy Memorial.

W.A. Leonard – Postmaster 1915-1916
W.A. Leonard was appointed Postmaster in December 1915 after Cecil Evans had enlisted. He operated the Post Office out of his store. Mr. Leonard resigned in June 1916. R.S.

McDonald – Postmaster 1917-1918
In January 1917, R.S. McDonald filled the position of Postmaster and operated the Post Office out of his store until June 1918.

Edith Morrison – Postmaster 1919-1921
Ken Morrison arrived in the area with his family in July 1918 and purchased a store at the Townsite from P.V. Croken. The store had been originally owned by Peterson & McDonald. Ken had his sister-inlaw, Minnie Bryenton, manage the store and his wife, Edith, was subsequently appointed as Postmaster in January 1919 – a position she kept until May 1921.

Francis Weighill – Postmaster – 1922-1923
Francis Weighill was appointed as Postmaster from May 1922 to January 1923 and operated the Post Office out of the vacated A.M. Bezanson house as the Morrison Store was in the process of being dismantled by the Weighill Brothers. Francis was the last Postmaster at the Bezanson Townsite.


Samuel Hunter – Postmaster 1924 – 1926
Bezanson was without a Postmaster for over a year until Sam Hunter was appointed to the position in April 1924 and operated the Post Office out of his home on NW 2-72-3-W6 until August 1926.

Note the white Post Office sign in top right corner.

Pat & Lucie Rooney – Postmasters 1926-1946
Once Pat Rooney moved to the main road that provided service from Sturgeon Lake to Grande Prairie in 1926 and expressed an interest in opening a post office in his store, he was appointed Postmaster for the new enlarged area that saw the combination of Smoky River and Bezanson into one Postal District. Pat was appointed in December 1926 – a position he kept until 1931 at which time his wife, Lucie was appointed Postmaster. Lucie remained in that capacity until November 1946 when they sold their business. The Rooney’s moved to Grande Prairie and eventually retired in Kelowna. Lucie passed away in 1951, Pat in 1962. Both were buried at the Kelowna Cemetery.

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Post Offices From the Past

Featuring: Smoky River

By Wanda Zenner

Smoky River was the official name of a Postal District north of the current Hamlet of Bezanson within the County of Grande Prairie No. 1.

Patrick Rooney – Postmaster 1923-27
Pat and Lucie Rooney, originally from International Falls, USA, decided to move to the Peace River District after

reading about the opportunities for land ownership in Northern Alberta as advertised by A.M. Bezanson. They arrived at Grande Prairie by train in May 1917 and Pat quickly found employment as a grocery clerk for Crummy Brothers. Although Pat had filed a homestead application on SE 34-72-3-W6 in 1919 in an area of Bezanson known as Lindsay, the family decided to remain in Grande Prairie until a suitable home could be built on the homestead. Once settled on the farm, the Rooney’s decided to open a store in their home. A Post Office was added in the Rooney home/store on June 6, 1923 with Patrick Rooney appointed as Postmaster.

Rooney home that had housed the Smoky River Post Office

By 1926, the Rooney’s realized they had outgrown their home. Instead of building on to the existing house/store, they decided to move three miles south to the main road that provided service from Sturgeon Lake to Grande Prairie. The new store with living quarters on the back was built from the logs of the Presbyterian Church that had been located at the Bezanson Townsite. The Smoky River Post Office District merged with the Bezanson Post Office District and the new enlarged area became known as Bezanson and operated out of Rooney’s Store.

The Smoky River Post Office closed on May 18, 1927. Gary & Janet Sarmaga own the property in 2020 on which the Smoky River Post Office was located. Pat and Lucie semi-retired in Kelowna, BC where they lived until Lucie passed away in 1951 and Pat in 1962. Both were buried in the Kelowna Cemetery.

Edith Field – Postmaster 1926 – 1927
Clarence and Edith Field, originally from Ohio, moved to Ponoko, Alberta in 1910 and then to Northern Alberta. Clarence filed a homestead application on NW 34-72-3- W6 in 1918 in an area of Bezanson known as Lindsay. Although the Field’s lived on the homestead along with Edith’s mother Sarah, Clarence opened a photography studio in Grande Prairie and drove back and forth every day.
Edith was appointed as “Postmaster” on July 12, 1926 with the departure of the Rooney’s from the area. Although there is no “resignation date” on the archived postal document, you would assume Edith operated the post office out of her home until the Smoky River Postal District closed in 1927. Clarence passed away in 1931 and was buried at the Glen Leslie Cemetery.


References
Smoky to Grande Prairie History Book
SPRA Land Settlement Database
Library & Archives Canada Post Office Database

The Bezanson Curling Rink – Bringing Together Our Community Since 1962

By Kiera Donner

In 1962, family, friends, and neighbours gathered in the hamlet of Bezanson to volunteer and build the curling rink that is still standing today.  The hard workers harvested lumber from the surrounding woods and sent it into a local sawmill to begin building the project they envisioned.  The entire community worked together to raise enough money to build the rink.  Through cash donations alone, they were able to raise $649.50!  Someone even donated a record player which was raffled off allowing for $371.00 to go towards the construction of the rink.  

Twenty-one years later the kitchen and benches for supporters and other teams were installed which was an excellent addition to the rink.  Over the years, the rink has undergone many renovations.

It has been a hotspot for this community where members of Bezanson and the surrounding rural communities have been able to come together and play a sport which all ages love.  The Curling Committee even put together an after-school program for the junior high students of Bezanson around 1967 which made the rink social and educational.  The kids were sent home with notes which read that curling would start at 3:45pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  The committee kept all twenty-five notes of the students’ names and parents’ signature providing us with historical records of the educational use of the facility.  Journals dating back to about 1981 of every bonspiel and meeting ever held were preserved making great memories of this written history. The note books include details of what was said in the meetings, people that have won trophies for bonspiels and other achievements, and includes all the costs they have spent that has brought the rink to where it is today.

The curling rink was another foundation to this great community that has been built on teamwork. The rink brought the community together and we are grateful for the hard work of the volunteers for the opportunities that the curling rink brought to our community.

NEW VIDEO on Bezanson Community Group!

The Bezanson Community Group is a collection of all the different groups that work hard to bring the community of Bezanson a wide variety of facilities, services, resources, and activities. Watch this video to see how to stay up to date on community news and learn more about all the groups involved.

Meet our Connections Coordinator Haley Friesen

The Bezanson Ag Society recently received Emergency Community Support Funding delivered by the Community Foundations of Canada along with the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta to hire a Connection Coordinator.  This position is to help identify local needs and launch opportunities meeting the needs surfacing in this rural area. 

The Ag Society welcomes Haley Friesen, this Bezanson born and raised university student, to this position.  Haley is entering her third year of studies at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC this fall, working towards her Bachelor of Science undergraduate degree majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry.  In the long term, Haley plans to go to medical school.

The Connection Coordinator position focuses on the community of Bezanson. The Bezanson Community Centre wants to meet the mental, physical, and social needs of community members, and Haley is the liaison for that connection.   The sowing of positive connections will reap health and vitality and sustain individuals, families, and the community.


Haley’s favorite quote:  You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. (C.S. Lewis).