Friday, February 2, 2018

W. G. LeMaistre, Provincial Apiarist of Alberta, 1939-1956

William Godfrey LeMaistre was  Alberta's second provincial apiarist. Born in England, his beekeeping education was obtained  at the Ontario Agricultural College. His predecessor as provincial apiarist, Mr. Hillerud, had also spent time learning bees in Central Canada. After LeMaistre's graduation in 1926, he farmed in Saskatchewan before returning to work for the College. He obtained the nickname "Tarz" during his college days, as he excelled at wrestling among other sports. The reference is presumably to his Tarzan-like moves on the mats?

An 1958 anniversary volume of the Alberta Beekeepers Association noted,

"As a scientist in the field of Apiculture, he had the admiration of his fellow workers. His keen mind was always on the alert to recognize and find the solution to beekeeping problems. At Beekeepers' Council meetings his advice was always anticipated with keen interest as being fair and well projected into the future. 

Tarz had a warm personality and sharp sense of humor. He will long be remembered by beekeepers of all Canada for his untiring services to the beekeeping industry."

LeMaistre presided over a great expansion of beekeeping in Alberta during the Second World War, and his name is attached to a number of educational pamphlets of the era on wintering bees and how to care for package bees. In a recent address to the Calgary and District Beekeepers Association, beekeeper and blogger Ron Miksha suggested that the great wartime surge of interest in beekeeping was due, in part, to the larger ration of sugar that was allotted to feed the bees. I think he is suggesting that not all the sugar made it to the hive! While crop sizes swelled to unprecedented volumes, the amount of honey per hive lowered, suggesting the new beekeepers had a few things to learn about the fine art of apiculture. 

In 1943, the Calgary and District Beekeeping Association attempted to connect new beekeepers with their provincial apiarist, Mr. LeMaistre. Toole family fonds, Glenbow Museum and Archives.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Sylvan Oswald Hillerud: First Provincial Apiarist of Alberta

Sylvan Oswald Hillerud, the first Provincial Apiarist of Alberta, was a knowledgeable civil servant who learned of bees in Ontario and the United States, and continued his field education in the West. Alberta's chief bee guy from 1928, his life with bees took an abrupt end, but he was remembered with affection by beekeepers long after his retirement in 1939.

Born in Millsboro, North Dakota, to Norwegian Methodist parents on 19 December 1897, his family immigrated to Canada in 1904. In 1918, he listed Claresholm, Alberta, as home when he enlisted for the war. Arriving in England in July, he then served in France as a sapper with the 3 Canadian Engineers Reserve Battalion. Sadly, his service files have few details on his deployment.  In 1919, he worked for the Khaki College, a soldier-run school where he temporarily gained the rank of sergeant. The acting rank suggests he may have done some agricultural teaching there for demobilizing soldiers. He took the War Service Gratuity in 1919, and possibly used it to pay for schooling back in Canada's Prairie West.

After his graduation with a B.S.A. from the University of Alberta in 1920 [or 1921], he studied and mentored under prominent Ontario beekeepers J.L. Byers, F.W. Krouse, and G.L. Jarvis. In the interwar years, he also worked with bees in Montana and California. It was in 1928 that he was made the first provincial apiarist in Alberta. For a couple years he served as provincial inspector in the province and unfortunately as a part of his duties had to burn some diseased hives from time to time. In 1932, he continued his education, traveling to Cornell University to study.

Unfortunately, Hillerud's career in bees was cut short. In 1939, as another world war loomed, he developed an allergy which was said to have been aggravated by his previous gas poisoning during the First World War. He was succeeded as provincial apiarist by W.G. leMaistre. In 1958, Hillerud's memory helped to fill a historical tribute to beekeeping history in Alberta.

Picture of
Photo: Bear Hugs
Sylvan Hillerud passed away in 1979, predeceased by his wife Isabel Janet Hillerud the year before.   Years after his time as the first chief bee man in Alberta, he was remembered with fondness by beekeepers of the province.

Sources: documents
Alberta Beekeepers Association Anniversary Pamphlet
Military Service Files

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Priests and Passes: Father Lacombe, Chief Crowfoot, and their CPR lifetime passes

Father Albert Lacombe looms large in the early history of Western Canada. Born in St. Sulpiche, Lower Canada, he left for the West in 1850, when he took a posting in Pembina, joining the Metis on the buffalo hunt the following year.  In 1853, Lacombe was sent further into Rupert's Land, to assume a position at Lac St. Anne, and several years later he set up an mission at St. Albert for indigenous people in the Fort Edmonton area. While the evangelical efforts of religious orders have received their fair share of condemnation for their role in the colonial project of nation building, there are also a few connections between Lacombe and the actual construction of the iron road.

Lacombe's direct involvement with the railway may have begun in 1880, as the transcontinental line was just beginning to be extended across the prairies.  As Raymond Huel notes in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, "he assumed responsibility for ministering to railway workers along a section of the transcontinental line being built east of Winnipeg, and in the camps he found that blasphemy, drunkenness, and immorality were rife. 'My God, send me back to my old Indian mission,' he wrote in his diary."
File number: NA-4209-2
Title: Father Albert Lacombe en route to Calgary from Blackfoot reserve, Alberta.
Date: Autumn 1884
Lacombe's role as "railway worker" continued into 1883.  As surveyors plotted the location of the line near Blackfoot Crossing, Lacombe negotiated with the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) chiefs, giving them gifts of sugar, tobacco, tea, and flour, relaying that Lt. Gov. Edward Dewdney would hear their protests personally.

Pierre Berton's popular history The Last Spike recalls that the directors of the CPR were so pleased with Lacombe's ability to clear the grade of indigenous resistance that they made the priest president of the CPR for an hour.  Lacombe decided to immediately grant himself two lifetime passes on the railroad, and free transport of goods for Oblate missions.  Not stopping there, he also guaranteed himself free use of the telegraph for life.  The directors were reportedly more than happy to afford him the privileges.

Lacombe was said to loan his passes out rather frequently, and one humorous incident, recorded by Berton, is worth repeating:

"On one occasion the two passes, which became familiar along the line, were presented by two nuns, newly arrived in the west.  'May I ask,' the conductor politely inquired, 'which one of you is Father Lacombe?' He let the blushing sisters go on their way."
"Blackfeet at Earnscliffe." 1886  Father Lacombe at centre, standing.
"Front row", left to right: North Axe, Peigan Chief, One Spot, Blood sub-chief. "Middle row", left to right: Three Bulls, half brother of Crowfoot, Crowfoot, Blackfoot Chief, Red Cloud, Blood Chief. "Back row", left to right: Father Lacombe, John L'Heureux, interpreter. Credit: Canada. Dept. of the Interior / Library and Archives Canada / PA-045666

Interestingly enough, there was already a precedent for the gifting of a lifetime pass for negotiations surrounding this very territory. Chief Crowfoot's pass is among the interesting articles exhibited in the recently updated Canadian History Hall at Ottawa's Canadian Museum of History. Isapo-Muxika (Crowfoot) was granted this permanent ticket in 1877 for his help in the successful negotiation for the route of the main line through Blackfoot territory. These gifts suggest great trepidation on the part of the railway directors when it came to crossing the lands occupied by the Siksika (Blackfoot). That same year, the Siksika were granted their reserve at Blackfoot Crossing, which the CPR's main line crosses to this day.

These two lifetime passes seem to be the only ones recorded, but perhaps there were more? Crowfoot is said to have worn his around the neck for the rest of his life, suggesting it served as a symbol of his role as intermediary between the two cultures. It would be interesting to know if there are any other lifetime passes which still exist, or if Lacombe's pass has survived the years.