Hello. If you are new to the area, welcome. If you’ve lived here a while, hello again. Nice to see familiar faces. It’s been a while since many of us may have heard some general history of our bustling little community. Ready?
By Sierra LaValley
On March 22, 1951, entertainment in the Bezanson community was forever changed when the Bezanson Community Hall bought the Filmosound Specialist Bell & Howell 16 mm projector. According to a list of assets, the projector and screen were worth $892.13; however, because they traded in their old projector it only cost the Hall $596.70. Over the years the Hall purchased films, bulbs and other supplies to maintain the projector from Sharp Theater Supplies Limited based in Calgary. According to word of mouth, the first movie ever played on the projector was The Wizard of Oz, but other films played included Father of the Bride, Lady Without Passport, Follow the Sun, and many others. What is now an old attic in the Memorial Hall used to be the balcony for kids viewing the movies on the Filmosound Specialist Bell & Howell projector. Show nights and dances alternated almost every weekend for many years and records of how much money was made from admission fees and canteen sales are in historical ledgers. Recently, tickets from 1967 were found that would have been used for movie admission! There is even still a location on site from where they used to place the projector to play the movies. When fondly reminiscing about attending the picture shows, one man said that he remembers how every so often the show would stop because the film broke and they would have to wait for someone to splice the film to continue the show. This projector brought joy to many Bezansonites by giving people the chance to come together through the novelty of watching a movie as a community. In 2017, the projector was recovered from where it sat in the balcony since the 50s to be a way for those who have many cherished memories that stem from the projector to reminisce about the days of the picture shows at the Bezanson Hall.
The first movie projector was the zoopraxiscope, made by Eadweard Maybridge, a pioneering British photographer, in 1879. The zoopraxiscope rapidly projected images from rotating glass disks. These rudimentary movies were significantly shorter than the blockbuster films we have today. The first movie ever made was only 2.11 seconds long! The specific projector the Bezanson Hall purchased was manufactured by Bell & Howell, which was an American based company. The original Bell & Howell company was founded in 1907 by two projectionists in Wheeling, Illinois. The Filmosound 16mm Projector was created in 1932 to be economical for amateurs to purchase and became a best seller for many years. The widespread of the projector in the hands of armatures was the beginning of all movies and television shows and the community of Bezanson was on the forefront of that technological revolution.
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.
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.
Smoky to Grande Prairie History Book
SPRA Land Settlement Database
Library & Archives Canada Post Office Database
Featuring: Kleskun Hill
By Wanda Zenner
Kleskun Hill is an unincorporated locality in Northwest Alberta within the County of Grande Prairie No. 1. It is located approximately 20 kms north-east of Grande Prairie on Highway 43 close to Bezanson. Kleskun Hill Park protects some of Alberta’s most northern badlands, wapiti rock formations, wildflowers and the last surviving native grasslands in the Grande Prairie Region. Within the Park, sits the Kleskun Hill Museum.
Truman & Hubert Manning – Acting Postmasters
(no record of formal appointment therefore dates unknown)
Hubert and Truman Manning, originally from Ontario, had been living in Saskatchewan when they decided to move to the Peace River District. They traveled by the Athabasca Trail in 1911 and Hubert filed a homestead application and Truman purchased 640 acres by means of South African Scrip on land in the Kleskun Hill area. It is written that the Mannings operated the Post Office in their residence on behalf of James Brims who had been appointed as the official Postmaster.
It was interesting to note that the Manning’s had ploughed two furrows from Crystal Creek to the Smoky River that eventually became Highway 43.
The Manning house was donated to the Kleskun Hill Museum by Elvin and Tillie Gordon. It has been completely restored and contains a “Mail Slot Box” that may or may not be original.
James Alexander Brims – Postmaster 1913 – 1915
The Kleskun Hill Post Office was established on May 15, 1913 with James Brims being appointed as “Postmaster”. James was originally from Scotland and arrived in the Peace River District in 1910 and subsequently filed a homestead application on SE 17-72-4-W6. He was on the land in March 1912. As he had served in the British army in the South African War and was still a reservist, he went back to England to once again join the British army when WWI commenced. It is assumed that in his absence, he had the Manning Brothers provide Postal Services for Kleskun Hill at the Manning residence.
Mr. Brims resigned on August 29, 1915.
After the war, James moved to Arizona due to his health. He married Alison Dick Cullen in Phoenix on September 14, 1921. They had one son. James passed away in Phoenix in 1951.
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FEATURING: GLEN LESLIE
Written by Wanda Zenner September 2020
Glen Leslie is an unincorporated locality in Northwest Alberta within the County of Grande Prairie No. 1. It is approximately 20 km east of Grande Prairie on Highway 670. The area is known for the Glen Leslie Church which was designated as a Provincial Historic Resource and the Glen Leslie Cemetery.
Thomas Leslie – Postmaster 1914-1919
Thomas & Margaret Leslie and their 3 adult sons; Norman, Ed & Bruce, left Roslin, Ontario and arrived at Grande Prairie and filed homestead applications on land east of the town. They filed in such close proximity to each other that the area became known as “The Glen of the Leslie’s” which was later shortened to “Glen Leslie”.
A large two story log home was built on the Norman’s homestead (NW 25-72- 4-W6) and Thomas and Margaret also moved into the house. The home was on the Bezanson Townsite to Grande Prairie Trail and became a stopping place for many travelers. On July 1, 1914 a Post Office was established in Norman’s house and named “Glen Leslie”. Thomas Leslie was appointed Postmaster. He resigned on January 13, 1919.
In February 1920, Thomas and Margaret decided to move back to the farm in Queensborough, Ontario. Thomas passed away in 1941 and Margaret in 1960. Both are buried in the Queensborough Cemetery.
Norman Leslie – Postmaster 1920-1921
Norman had enlisted in the Army in 1915 and was wounded and returned home in 1919. On June 30, 1920, Norman was appointed Postmaster – a position he kept until February 22, 1921 at which time he moved his family to Dimsdale to operate a store and Post Office. The Leslie’s later retired to Grande Prairie. Norman passed away in 1972 and Gladys in 1983. Both are buried at the Glen Leslie Cemetery.
Minnie Bryenton – Postmaster 1922-1928
Ken Morrison, who owned a store at the Bezanson Townsite, decided to dismantle the building and use the material to build a store on property (NW 36-71-4-W6) owned by his daughter and son-in-law, Dorothy and Ed Leslie. His sister-in-law, Minnie Bryenton was appointed Postmaster on July 28, 1922. Minnie decided to move to Calgary and resigned on March 22, 1928. Minnie, who had married Sam Turner, passed away in 1946 and is buried at the Glen Leslie Cemetery.
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Fitzsimmons is an unincorporated locality in northwest Alberta within the County of Grande Prairie No. 1. It is located approximately 30 km north-east of Grande Prairie or 10 km north of Bezanson.
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.
Learn more about what facilities the Ag Society operates and the programs that it offers to the Bezanson Community! The Bezanson Community Centre is perfect for rentals, whether it be a wedding, family reunion, funeral, or cooperate event. Visit our website www.discoverbezanson.ca to contact us about booking your event.
Learn all about the history of the Bezanson Ag Society! Our current facilities include the operation and rental of two commercial kitchens, the Memorial Hall, and a regulation size gymnasium.