Written by Wanda Zenner June 2019
Sidney Webb, grandson of Sidney James Webb, spent a very enjoyable afternoon on June 23, 2019 viewing the site of his grandfather’s house and barn at the Bezanson Townsite and also viewed the homestead land (SW of 28-71-2-W6) and the fraction purchase land (SE 28-71-2-W6) of Sidney Sr.
Sidney’s entire family; wife, Natalie; son, Wesley; daughters, Sheila and Heather; accompanied him on the trip from Ottawa to see where Sidney Sr. had lived from 1910 to 1915.
It was a touching moment for Sidney as he saw the sign that marked his grandfather’s house site and what would have been the remains of the cellar. As his uncle, Cecil Evans who was killed in action during WWI also lived there as well, made the moment even more poignant.
Sidney and Elizabeth Webb operated a large farm in an area that is now part of Ottawa. Maynard Bezanson had been in Ottawa during the winter of 1909-1910 to meet with the head of the Canadian Experimental Stations. While there, Maynard also met Sidney Webb and convinced him of the agricultural possibilities in Northern Alberta following which, Maynard and Sidney entered into a partnership in a cattle operation. Sidney subsequently left Ottawa with his 16 year-old step-son, Cecil Evans, in June 1910. Once a home was established, arrangements would be made for the family to follow. Sidney’s land was located next to Maynard’s; however, as it was located at a higher elevation, Maynard had Sidney establish the first experimental plots in Northern Alberta.
Once Maynard was successful in enticing several potential investors in his Townsite, he required the assistance of Sidney and Cecil with the improvements to be made to the area. In fact, Sidney built the access roads to the ferry landing on both sides of the Smoky River. Sidney purchased one of the business lots at the north end of the Townsite and built a 30’ x 90’ barn and also added a two-story bunk house with an attached restaurant. The lot chosen by Sidney was excellent as it was next to the road that led down to the ferry; consequently, all those who would arrive from the ferry would generally stop to utilize the services his business offered.
Sidney left the Bezanson Townsite late in 1914 with the intention of bringing back his family with him in the spring of 1915. However, Sidney was unable to do so due to an illness. Cecil stayed behind to look after the business ventures and to continue to assist Maynard with improvements to the Townsite. It had become increasingly difficult to find hired help as many of the young men in the area had enlisted in WWI. As it also soon became apparent that the railroad was not going to cross at the Bezanson Townsite, Sidney decided to sell his property to the Goodwin Brothers and remained in Ottawa. The area lost a true pioneer – a business owner, Townsite developer, cattleman, mail courier, road builder and the first agricultural experimentalist. Not only that, he was also the Justice of the Peace for the Townsite.
Sidney enlisted with the Canadian Over-seas Expeditionary Force in April 1917. Once he was discharged on demobilization, he returned home and continued to farm. He passed away in 1972 and was buried in the Beechwood National Cemetery in Ottawa.
No part of this document may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any means without written permission from the author. Photos – Wanda Zenner Collection