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