Serjeant Gallery

In 1866, Rev. James Nisbet let a group of missionaries from the Presbyterian Church to the area to work with the indigenous people of the area. Settling in the area of Isbister Settlement, he named the mission site Prince Albert.
Overview of the Origins Section
Bison antiquus (left) roamed North America, died out about 10,000 years ago. It is much larger than the modern example we have sitting next to it, but was not the largest species of bison found in North America.
Some artefacts found at the Sturgeon Fort (Peter Pond Site) that was occupied between 1776 and 1780 by a number of independent merchants along the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River, it consisted of 8 to 12 structures, as well as a wooden palisade


Pre 1866
Early Precontact Period

Spanning between 12,000 and 7,500 years ago, this period represents the first archaeological evidence for human occupation in North America. Hunting technology was based upon spears, with the first known peoples to occupy Saskatchewan belonging to the Clovis culture. At first hunting Ice Age megafauna, as these species became extinct subsistence shifted to animal species seen today, such as modern bison.


Middle Precontact Period

          This period is defined by the adoption of the atlatl, or throwing stick. Used between 7,500 and 2,000 years ago, these weapons allowed hunters to throw darts tipped with stone points farther, with greater accuracy, and more force than spears, although spear technology was used until the time of European contact in North America. Living during a period of climatic fluctuations that saw southern grasslands encroach north with warming temperatures, peoples of this time developed the mass bison kill hunting methods (jumps and pounds) seen for over 5,500 years in Western Canada.

Late Precontact Period

The Late Precontact Period is defined by two major technological developments. First, it sees the end of atlatl technology with the Besant point and the beginnings of bow and arrow technology with the Avonlea arrowhead 1,800 years ago. The second major change is seen in the introduction of pottery from the Minnesota/Eastern Woodlands region 2,000 years ago. Using local resources that reflected the cultural groups of the region, vessels were made for cooking and food storage. These lifeways continued until the arrival of Europeans approximately 250 years ago.


European Contact and the Fur Trade

          With the expansion of the Fur Trade from Hudson’s Bay and the Great Lakes region, it was inevitable that the Prince Albert region would see the establishment of a trading post. This occurred in 1776 with a group of Montreal traders, who founded Sturgeon Fort west of the city.

          Standing until 1780, when it was burned while unoccupied in retaliation for mistreatment that took place in previous years, it was the launching point for trader Peter Pond into the interior of Alberta in 1778, where he acquired very high quality of furs. Based on this success, the group consolidated and founded the North West Company, which would be the main rival of the Hudson’s Bay Company until the two consolidated in 1821.

Permanent Settlement

          The first recorded permanent settler to the area is John Isbister, who came to the area in 1862. Previously working for the Hudson’s Bay Company, with his last position as postmaster at Fort Carlton, his first home was recorded as being near the site of the Historical Museum you are currently in! Later he moved to River Lot 62 near the current penitentiary. Although moving from the area in 1866, the region was known as Isbister’s Settlement until the arrival of James Nisbet that same year.

Overview of the Lumber Town Section
Settler's trunk and surveyor's level
Notice to start the first hospital in Prince Albert - the Victoria Hospital. The hopital was opened on Nov. 7, 1900 in Dr. Porter's home/office 29 12th Street West, with 7 beds.
Prince Albert in 1891 looking SE from about 1st Ave and 10th Street West
River Street in 1891 looking East. The Queen's Hotel is in the background which was located on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and 9th Street.
The first train, Engine #132, came into Prince Albert in September 1890. This was part of Qu'Appelle, Long Lake and Saskatchewan Line.
Central Avenue looking North from 18th Street
Hudson's Bay Company barges on the North Saskatchewan River prior to 1900.
JA Vachon tailor on River Street West.
The Hudson's Bay sotre on 9th Ave East and River Street. Mr. Galbraith, the accountant lived just east of the store. The back of photo shows the Cowan Lumber Mill.
The Bank of Ottawa on the corner of 8th Street and Central Avenue
The interior of the Presbyterian Church. Unsure of the date or which Presbyterian Church.

1866 to 1900
Lumber Town

          In 1866, Rev. James Nisbet let a group of missionaries from the Presbyterian Church to the area to work with the indigenous people of the area. Settling in the area of Isbister Settlement, he named the mission site Prince Albert and built a church to serve his congregation. He was followed in 1875 by Bishop McLean of the Anglican Church who built St. Mary’s Church, which still stands west of the penitentiary, as well as Emmanuel College to educate missionaries. In 1882 a Roman Catholic mission was opened by Fr. Andre.

          Many early residents were English Metis farmers or freighters for the Hudson’s Bay Company and came from the Red River area in Manitoba. In 1881 a Dominion Land Office was opened in the hope of spurring more settlement to the area. By 1882 there was a newspaper, The Prince Albert Times, and the HBC had made the town its headquarters for the district. In 1884 a lumber mill began operation and the Lorne Agricultural Society was founded.

          The year 1885 was a significant one for the Prince Albert area. The Northwest Resistance fought by the French Métis in the Batoche area from March to June of that year spilled into Prince Albert. Settlers in the surrounding area came into the town for protection, and militia troops and NWMP were stationed in the area for several months. Following the conflict, Prince Albert was incorporated into a town of 600 people in October, with civic elections taking place in November that saw Thomas McKay become the first mayor.

Overview of the Booms and Busts Section
Cartoon depicting the fallout of the La Colle Falls dam project from 1911 to 1913. This project was to supply the City with hydroelectric power, however the North Saskatchewan River does not have the water flow needed. The project was over budget and the
The fire wagon on River Street West circa 1910
The 1910 Prince Albert Mintos who vied for the Stanley Cup.
Woodman's Auction Rooms circa 1904 at 1st Ave and River Street West
The Northern Crown Bank Construction on the east side of River/8th Street and Central Avenue.
The fair (exhibition) grounds in 1907.
Construction of the Post Office in 1910, on the corner of 13th Street and Central Avenue.
Winter street scene in 1909.
The Hudson's Bay riverboat "Saskatchewan" travelled up and down the North Saskatchewan River, was built in Prince Albert in 1904.
Whitman's Golden Lion Brewery on River Street and 5th Avenue. Today Riverside School is on this location.
1909 land rush at the Dominion Land's Office, located in the post office.
Another view of the 1909 land rush.

1900 to 1918
Booms and Busts

          The 20th century began well for Prince Albert. Lumber sales rose, wheat prices were up and land sales increased. In 1904 the city was incorporated with a population of 4,500. After incorporation the city saw a slower rate of growth, although by 1910 the population was around 9,000 people. This cycle continued until the biggest boom the area has seen from 1910 to 1913. During this time period construction began on the La Colle Falls dam project, which was expected to provide electricity for the city and surrounding area, and usher in a period of large-scale industrial development. By early 1914 questions about the viability of the project and a lack of money shut it down with drastic consequences for the city for many years to come.

          Many positive developments occurred in these years. The year 1909 was significant, with the construction of the first bridge across the North Saskatchewan River and Prince Albert Collegiate (now PACI), as well as with the opening of the federal penitentiary. Within the city, water and sewage treatment systems were installed and a fire hall on Central Avenue was completed in 1912. With the optimism fuelled by the construction of the La Colle Falls dam, wild land speculation began in 1911, and plans were drawn up for a much bigger city.

          This expansion came to a sudden and almost disastrous end with the beginning of the First World War. With money no longer available to be loaned for projects in small, outlying corners of the British Empire when a war was being fought in Europe, the boom period in Prince Albert rapidly evaporated. Hundreds of men were left unemployed, and many joined army units based out of the city. These conditions continued until the last years of the war, when the need for locally based resources increased. The start of construction of the Burns Meatpacking plant was one of the few positives in 1918. Mostly, however, this period was one of collapse and debt for the young city, ending with the impact of the global influenza epidemic, killed more individuals than the global conflict that had just ended.  

Overview of the Tough Times Section
Baby walker given as a Christmas present in 1932 to Marie Ethier by her godfather.
Connaught School in 1938 at 1014 1st Street E. The school was torn down in 1977.
The City Red football (soccer) team in 1925.
MInto Arena collapse in 1930. The arena collapsed becuase of a large snow load on the roof.
Cutting ice on the North Saskatchewan River, February 14, 1961. Prince Albert Daily Herald photo 23406
Cutting ice on the North Saskatchewan River, February 14, 1961. Prince Albert Daily Herald photo 23406
Cutting ice on the North Saskatchewan River, February 14, 1961. Prince Albert Daily Herald photo 23406
This is a 1902 curling photo at the bottom of the hill that is now 17th Street just off Central Avenue.
The toboggan slide off the riverbank was great fun! The photo was taken in 1926 and was located at 1st Avenue East.

1919 to 1939
Tough Times

          The interwar years were characterized by difficult economic times, from the end of the war to the mid 1920’s and again in the 1930’s. There was an epidemic of influenza after the war as well which killed many in the area. Prohibition ended in 1924. The immediate post-war years were also a time of labour unrest in the whole country and it did not leave Prince Albert untouched.

          This area was represented in the Canadian parliament by the Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, who helped open Prince Albert National Park in 1928. In 1929 the provincial Sanitarium to treat tuberculosis patients opened here.

          By 1929 the drought of the “Dirty 30s” had begun to affect the southern croplands of the province. In addition, in October of that year the New York Stock Exchange collapsed, causing the financial ruin of many. These seemingly distant events had an effect on Prince Albert over the next 10years. This part of the province escaped the worst of the dry years and benefitted from people moving north from the dry farmlands of the southern part of the province. In spite of this, grain prices were poor everywhere, and unemployment grew. Local make work projects were initiated to offer some relief to the unemployed, such as a rock-filled dam near the airport. In spite of these difficult economic conditions, new industry did come to the Prince Albert area, with Northern Wood Preservers and the Canada Creosoting Company opened plants south and east of the fairgrounds. By 1931 the population of Prince Albert had risen to 9,905.


1939 to 1966
Prosperity Beckons

          The end of the drought years of the 1930s also saw the beginning of World War II. During this period the city continued to struggle, although the need for food, lumber and other vital resources needed for fighting the war improved prices. As part of the war effort, Prince Albert was one center of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, where many pilots were trained here in safety on Tiger Moth biplanes before being sent overseas to various theatres of operation.

          After the war ended, a period of optimism and hope began. The city became the unofficial capitol of the north, which was being made more accessible due to new roads and improved air travel. Natural gas lines came to the area in 1955 and the new traffic bridge, now called the Diefenbaker Bridge, was opened in 1960. Further development was seen with the opening of the Prince Albert Vocational High School in 1963.

          In 1951 the population had increased to 17,149. In 1957 Prince Albert again became a centre of national politics with John Diefenbaker, a Prince Albert lawyer and politician, being elected as Prime Minister of Canada. The area was also the focus of national media in 1958, with the visit of Princess Margaret, sister to the current queen, to the area.

          In 1961, the provincial government brought in a medicare plan, which was opposed by many physicians, resulting in their going on strike. In opposition to this trend, Dr. Orville Hjertaas, a local supporter of medicare, started the Community Clinic in support of public health care.

          With the pulp mill scheduled to be opened in 1966, and with the Burns plant and Molson’s Brewery serving as two of the biggest employers in the city, the future of Prince Albert began to seem more brighter and optimistic, with many troubles from the past now behind it.

Overview of the Gateway to the North Section
Commodore Computer
Henderson's Directories give a listing of all business and people in the City of Prince Albert.
Rotary telephone used at the Historical Museum until 2012
Mixmaster and bowls
Building the MacIntosh Mall June 28th, 1979. Prince Albert Daily Herald photo 5412
Central Avenue looking over the viaduct, July 1985. Prince Albert Daily Herald photo 5617
Central Avenue looking North, June 1986. Prince Albert Daily Herald photo 5705
Construction on River Street West, August 4, 1975. Prince Albert Daily Herald photo 5819
Divers repairing the water line crossing the river at 3rd Avenue West, March 13th, 1970. Prince Albert Daily Herald photo 5987
Prince ALbert City Police in new and old winter coats, November 23, 1966. Prince Albert Daily Herald photo 16401
The first plane to land on the river in 1967. Prince Albert Daily Herald photo 33160
Katz Bros. Hide and Furs at 165 River Street West

1966 to Present
Gateway to the North

          With its first century behind it, Prince Albert began to change from an agricultural and lumbering center to a service center for northern and rural areas of the province. In 1966 the city paid off the debt from the La Colle Falls project. This finally gave Council the funds needed to invest in street paving, building a sewage treatment plant, and other infrastructure needs. Other major projects followed suit during this period, including the Prince Albert Pulp Mill, the new Victoria Hospital, Pinegrove Women’s Jail, the Communiplex (now the Art Hauser Center), and the McIntosh Building which housed government offices.

          As Prince Albert saw growth in many industries during this period, other well-known businesses and institutions closed during this time. The North Park Center, which began its career as a tuberculosis sanitorium, and later served as a facility for the mentally challenged, was shut as public perceptions surrounding the treatment of mental illness and the elderly changed. The Burns meat plant and Molson brewery were also shut down as companies opted to centralize their production facilities. By 2005, the pulp and paper mill had closed as well.

          Since the 1970s Shopping malls, ranging from those built in the 1970s to the newer Cornerstone center, have always drawn many people to the city, in addition to smaller service industries that cater to local and northern residents. Central Avenue, the main shopping area for much of Prince Albert’s history, began to see a decline in usage as shopping and banking patterns shifted towards larger malls and chain stores. In recent years, however, this trend has begun to reverse as the downtown area is undergoing a process of renewal that has seen the return of small businesses, independent restaurants, and cultural institutions. By 2011, the population of Prince Albert had increased to 35, 129, and is continuing to grow today.

James and Mary Nisbet
James Isbister
Lucy Baker
Thomas McKay
Samuel McLeod
Bernice Sayese
Dave Balon
Jack Cennon
Johnny Bower
Jon Vickers
Marge Naainer
Marion Sherman

The Prince Albert Historical Society wishes to thank the following for their assistance in mounting this display or lending artifacts:

Prince Albert Historical Society Staff
Les Anderson
City of Prince Albert
Timothy Franc
Connie Gerwing
Ken Guedo
Shirley Hamilton
Morley Harrison
Jack Kucherawy
Dr. David Meyer
Ron Moniuk
Dennis Ogrodnick
Saskatchewan Archaeological Society
Karin Steuber