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Authority record
Athabasca Archives Alberta

Wolanuk, Victor

  • ath 20.18
  • Person
  • 1928 - 2016

Victor Wolanuk was one years old when his parents Wasyl (Bill) and Annie Wolanuk immigrated from Poland with their three children (Xannie and Antonette) in 1929. Bill (1892 – 1945) homesteaded at NW 10-68-21-W4, Richmond Park, Alberta and two more children were born in 1930 (Mary) and 1937 (John). Annie and the children kept the farm running after Bill’s death in 1945; Victor eventually taking over the homestead. He married Anne Popwich in 1955. Victor became an Athabasca School District No. 42 trustee in 1950, was a member of the Farmers’ Union of Alberta (subsequently the United Farmer’s of Alberta), a director of the Richmond Park Mutual Telephone Company, and a member of the “Reflections from Across the River,” 1994 history book committee. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 88 years. His grandson now farms the family homestead.

Home Outreach Society of Athabasca (HOSA)

  • Ath 96.13
  • Corporate body
  • 1987 - 1990

In Athabasca Town and County, a need for an emergency support system for the elderly and those with severe handicaps was identified and the Home Outreach Society of Athabasca was formed to identify and fund raise for an emergency support system. The system was designed to summon assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and to be available in either private homes or institutionalized settings. HOSA opted for the Apello System which was Canadian made and did not require a central monitoring or answering service to forward distress calls. Society members were President, Barb Wilkinson; Vice President, Nola-Jean Paterson; Treasurer, Mike Chute; and secretary, Denise Armstrong. The society operated under the leadership of 14 directors with four representatives from the Athabasca General and Auxiliary Hospital, three representatives from the Athabasca Health Unit, one representative from Athabasca Family and Community Support Services, one representative from the Athabasca Senior Citizen’s Society and six representatives from interested community groups including the Athabasca Hospital Auxiliary. To raise funds for the project the first annual Athabasca Canada Day Canoe Race was conceived. Eight people in Athabasca Town and County were identified as being in need of an emergency support system and the system the society decided to purchase was the Apello System at a cost of $1,115.00 per unit.

Langton-Adams, John Edward (Ted)

  • Ath 21.07
  • Person
  • Circa 1915 - 2002

Ted Langton-Adams was a Canadian photo journalist based in Vancouver, BC. He was born in the United States and came to Canada to enlist in the military, having been unable to join in the US. He served as a reconnaissance rider during WWII. After the war, he was employed in the commercial airline industry by Trans-Canada Airlines (later Air Canada) and Western Airlines (later acquired by Delta Airlines). Ted Langton-Adams was the president of Trail North Foundation in 1978 and was part of a historical motorboat trip on the Athabasca River from the Town of Athabasca northeast to the Grand Rapids. Others on the trip included Town of Athabasca Mayor Herman Leicht, County of Athabasca Reeve Lee Melsness, several town and county councilors, and representatives from Athabasca and District Chamber of Commerce. Ted Langton-Adams was widely traveled and enjoyed a number of interests including photography, vintage motorcycles and automobiles, and breeding Boxer dogs. A book of his motor sport photographs, The Photographic Art of Ted Langton-Adams: Europe 1962, was published posthumously in 2009 by Thomas E. Johnston Ventures Inc.

Canadian Northern Railway Train Station

  • Ath 21.02
  • Corporate body
  • 1912 - Present

The Canadian Northern Railway train station in Athabasca, Alberta was built in 1912 and was the terminus of the rail line from Edmonton, Alberta. In 1914, the CNoR was heavily indebted to banks and governments, and its profitable branch lines in the prairie provinces did not generate enough revenue to cover construction costs in other areas. In 1917, the federal government effectively took control of the company and became the majority shareholder. On September 6, 1918, the directors resigned and were replaced by a government-appointed board. Subsequently, CNoR executive David Blyth Hanna and his team managed not only CNoR operations, but also the federally owned Canadian Government Railways (CGR). On December 20, 1918, as a means to simplify funding and operations, a Privy Council order directed CNoR and CGR to be managed under the name Canadian National Railway (CNR). The two railway companies would not formally merge and cease corporate existence until January 20, 1923, the date parliament passed the final act to incorporate the CNR. The Athabasca train station was in operation until 1973 when passenger travel from Edmonton ceased. The rail siding was in use until 1990. In 1973, the train station was leased by the Athabasca Senior Citizens’ Society and renovated for use as their centre. The Seniors’ Society built a new centre in 2009 and future use of the train station was discussed and imagined by several groups in Athabasca. David Murray Architect conducted a feasibility study in 2005. In 2010, the Athabasca Heritage Society (AHS) arranged a 25-year lease with the Town of Athabasca for the purpose of restoring the station to its 1912 condition and creating community space in the station for tourism and heritage interpretation. By 2021, the restoration of the interior was completed and AHS planned to finish painting the north side and landscaping the property.

Conquest, Mary

  • Ath 20.17
  • Person
  • 1873 - 1955

Mary Hagen Conquest (nee Owen) was born in Stirling, Scotland in 1873 to George and Rachel Owen, the youngest of six children. She obtained the degree of L.L.A. (Licentiate of Literature and Art) from the University of St. Andrews, one of the few universities granting degrees to women at that time. She met her husband William Conquest in London, England and they were married on July 3, 1897. They immigrated to Canada with their six children in 1913. William’s work as a printer took the family to several places in Alberta where Mary volunteered and then worked in various capacities for the Red Cross Society. In 1922, William took a job as printer at the Winnipeg Free Press and Mary got a job as director publicity at the Red Cross Headquarters in Calgary. In the early days of Canadian radio, which at the time was broadcast over CNR or CPR telegraph lines, she read children’s stories as Aunt Mary on the CNR network. She dreamed of combining her Red Cross work with the outreach that radio could provide and she pitched the idea of the Red Cross Radio Lady to the station manager at CFCN in Calgary. She began broadcasting sometime after 1922. She and William moved to Edmonton in 1924 and she continued to broadcast her hour-long radio program from their home at 8416 – 104 Street. William was out of work in 1929 and he answered an advertisement from the Board of Trade in Athabasca, Alberta to re-establish their newspaper and so moved north to found and publish the Athabasca Echo. Mary joining him in 1930. Her work with the Red Cross continued as did her weekly radio program. She had hoped to broadcast from Athabasca but this was not possible so she took train or bus to Edmonton on Thursdays, often accompanied by children in need of care in the city. Mary was diagnosed with Renaud’s disease after pain in the little finger of her right hand became unbearable. In 1932, her right arm was amputated about three inches above the elbow. She returned to radio after convalescence. She became ill again while on vacation in Vancouver and this resulted in the amputation of her left leg. She convalesced in Edmonton but became homesick for Athabasca and returned there in 1937. Her radio broadcasts had ceased with the second amputation; she was only able to get around in a wheelchair. William’s health had deteriorated in the late 1930s and he was diagnosed with cancer in 1937. It was decided he and Mary would return to Edmonton to obtain proper medical care. His son Charles had become the Echo’s publisher until duty in WWII took him overseas in 1941. With Charles overseas, William carried on with the Echo for a few more years until his death on May 16, 1942. After he passed, a chance outing in Edmonton took Mary to CFRN Radio station where she visited with the owner, a long-time friend. The current radio program was interrupted and the “Red Cross Lady” made a surprise broadcast. There was great response from fans and this resulted in Mary broadcasting three 15-minutes programs each week from her home at 10420 – 126 Street. She was very happy to be working again and made a real contribution to the war effort. Her patriotic and philanthropic work was honoured when she was awarded an MBE in the King’s Birthday Honour List in June 1942. After the war, Mary broadcast once a week. She volunteered for the Red Cross Cancer Society, Salivation Army, Victorian Order of Nurses and The YMCA. She facilitated the creation of the Rehabilitation Society for the Handicapped and for inspirational purposes, often invited handicapped people to take part in her radio shows. Mary wrote an article on the history of the Red Cross in Alberta for Alberta’s Golden Jubilee Anthology in 1955. Mary Conquest died on April 20, 1955.

McLean, Della

  • Ath 15.24
  • Person
  • Present

Della McLean is an artist and resident of Athabasca County. Formerly a real estate agent, she converted one of her properties in the Town of Athabasca to the Red Roof Gallery where she facilitated local artists with solo and group shows from 2001 to 2016. She was inducted into the Order of Athabasca University in 2007 in recognition of her hard work and dedication to Athabasca University both as a member of Athabasca University Governing Council (the Board) and her continued support as a contributing artist to the University and the Athabasca community as a whole.

Ross, Olga (Fotty)

  • Ath 06.07
  • Person
  • 1939 - present

Olga Ross Nee Fotty) was born in Wandering River, Aberta in 1934 and moved to Athabasca, Alberta with her family in 1939. She graduated from Edwin Parr High School. In 1970, got a job in admissions at the Athabasca Municipal Hospital where she was employed for 23 years.

Athabasca Youth Talent Explosion

  • Ath 05.16
  • Corporate body
  • 1997 - 2003

Mrs. Evelyn McDonald and Mary Olson chaired the Athabasca Youth Talent Explosion committee, a subsidiary of Edmonton’s Klondike Days Exposition, where successful acts would be featured at Edmonton’s Klondike Days Exposition. Evelyn and Mary coordinated the local event, soliciting donations and participants, booked the event and created print materials.

Harvey, Maureen (neé O'Neill)

  • ATH 23.01
  • Person
  • 1939 - Present

Maureen Harvey, née O’Neill, was born in Edmonton, Alberta on April 24th, 1939 and attended St. Joseph’s High School. She attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and obtained her BA majoring in Arts on July 7th 1962. Her studies included scientific drawing as related to anatomy and life studies. She married Dr. John Harvey in Edmonton in 1963 and the couple bought a farm in Athabasca County in 1973 as a weekend retreat. Harvey has an art studio at the rural property. Her work includes two books, “Basky” written by Athabascan, Dorothy Lane, and “The Silver Chain,” written by Edmontonian, Gerda Bako. She has also created murals on themes of heritage, pioneers, dinosaurs, and people, birds and plants of the Bahamas. The murals are in Alberta communities including Edmonton, Sherwood Park, Slave Lake, Calgary (Ferguson School), and Grande Prairie.

Backstrom, Shirley

  • ATH 08.26
  • Person
  • 1934 - Present

Shirley Backstrom (neé Coleman) was born in Amber Valley, Alberta on July 7, 1934 and her parents were Isaiah and Velma Coleman (neé Adams).
Shirley’s great, great grandmother was Jane Bowen, born February 18, 1844 in Alabama, USA. She was half Black and half Cherokee. Her maiden name was thought to have been Thigpin, but discovery of her marriage license shows that her family name was actually Gregory.
The family myth is that great, great grandmother was the daughter of a chief; however, the most likely scenario is that great, great grandmother’s father had enslaved her mother, as the Cherokee Nation is known to have kept Black slaves at that time.
Great grandfather Columbus Bowen’s parents were “Big Daddy” and Jane Bowen. Descendants of this family have been unable to establish Big Daddy’s actual name. This is understandable given the fact that Big Daddy was most likely a freed slave. Slaves were sold from one owner to the next and took on the names given them by their respective owners.
Columbus was the first of eight children born to Big Daddy and Jane in 1870 in Pine Flats, Butler County, Alabama. The remaining children were twins Martha and Mary, Lulu, Silas, Ollie (known as Aunt Miss), Frank and Nellie.
Columbus’ wife, Martha Watts, was born in 1872 in Butler Springs, Alabama and he and and Martha were married in 1887 in Butler Springs. They moved to Montgomery, Alabama where four of their eight children were born: Minnie, Etheline (Ethel), Forest and Columbus (Lummie).
They left Alabama via Lee County, Texas for Guthrie, Oklahoma. They had four more children:
Willa, Ilean, Herman and Lovetta. It appears they remained in Guthrie for approximately 11 years from 1899 to 1910. Their second daughter, Ethel, born in 1888, received her teaching certificate from the State of Oklahoma in 1910. They moved yet again to Chandler in Choctaw County, Oklahoma to join a group who were immigrating to Canada.

The family arrived in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 1911 where Martha unfortunately passed away in 1912. Columbus moved his family to Pine Creek, Alberta, Canada (NE 15-66-20-W4) in 1912 where he and his cousin Willis Bowen would eventually settle. Pine Creek later became known as Amber Valley. Ethel taught school in Amber Valley at the Toles School, District #2895.

Ethel Bowen married Percy Adams in Vancouver, BC. Percy was from Cape Town, Africa, born in 1894. They moved to Amber Valley. They had two children, Shirley’s mother Velma Adams, born in 1916 in Amber Valley, and uncle Chris Adams, born in 1918, also in Amber Valley. Percy Adams was a porter on the Northern Alberta Railway from Edmonton to Fort McMurray for many years.

Velma Adams married Isaiah Coleman (born 1910) in 1932. They had six children: Corene, Shirley, both born in Amber Valley, and Ronald, Rodney, Jeanette and Carol, born in Edmonton, Alberta.
The family lived in Edmonton from 1935 to 1946 and then moved back to Amber Valley, the children attending Toles School until 1951. When the family moved to Edmonton, Isaiah Coleman got a job as a porter on the Canadian National Railway going from Edmonton to Prince Rupert.

Shirley married Sylvester Hinton of Amber Valley on April 30, 1951 and they lived in Edmonton. They had four children: Nadine, Terry, Randolf and Leon. September 7, 1957, Shirley and the children moved to Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.

Shirley lived in Fort Smith for 11 years, moved to Pine Point for 12 years, then Hay River for 11 years for a total of 34 years in the Northwest Territories. She was the Supervisor at the Information Centre at the Alberta-Northwest Territories border for six years. While living in Hay River, she worked as a highway transport officer at the weigh scale from 1982 – 1991. Shirley was Secretary for the Union of Northern Workers Public Service of Canada, Aboriginal, Inuit and Métis Workers from 1983 – 1990.

While in Fort Smith, two foster children were added to the family. Wilbert Boucher was two years old when Social Services asked if she could keep him until they found a place for him. He was born on June 03, 1963. In 1966, Shirley got Shawnee Mary Ruth when she was six weeks old. She didn’t find out until Shawnee was six months old that she was Wilbert’s biological sister.

When Shirley lived in Pine Point, NWT, she was the Secretary for the Mothers for Minor Hockey Club, Secretary for the Legion, and Craft Teacher for the Sanavisik Guild, teaching knitting, crochet and ceramics.

Shirley joined the Royal Purple in Pine Point on February 1, 1968 and held dual membership in Pine Point and Hay River until 1988 when Pine Point closed down. She received her 25-year-pin in 1992 from the Hay River Lodge. She received her 30-year-pin form the Athabasca Lodge. She received her Life Membership Pin from the Athabasca Lodge on April 15, 2000 and her 35-year-pin from the Barrhead Lodge in 2002. She received her 40-year-pin from the Lac La Biche Lodge in 2007.

Shirley moved from Hay River, NWT to Colinton, Alberta in July, 1991. She was a member of the Athabasca Native Friendship Centre (ANFC) since March 1991 and was elected to the Board of Directors in June 2007. She became Vice-President in 2008 and Board President in 2010. In 2010, Shirley represented the ANFC at meetings held in Edmonton, and youth and Elders gatherings in Jasper. She attended an Elders retreat at MacEwan University in 2011.

Shirley started the Drug and Alcohol Program at Athabasca’s Landing Trail Intermediate School, the Hutterite Colony School, and Rochester School in September 1993 for the Elks and Royal Purple of Canada. She ran the program until June 2010. The last year of the program she had 273 entries from participating students. Shirley also worked with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Program in the Athabasca and area schools. The Elks and Royal Purple donated education kits on teasing and bullying as unacceptable behaviours to Smith School, Rochester School, the Hutterite Colony School, Whispering Hills Primary School, Landing Trail Intermediate School and the Athabasca Native Friendship Centre.