While a student in the University of Aberdeen, Alex Forbes determined to become a foreign missionary. On graduation, he immediately offered himself for service in Africa but the church board decided to send him to Western Canada. In December 1894, the young missionary came to Canada and was immediately appointed to the Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta charge.
During the following year he was married to Miss Agnes Sorrel, who had just arrived from Montrose, Scotland. For the next fifteen years, Rev. and Mrs. Forbes labored among the settlers, covering a wide area and forming many warm friendships.
On the request of the Presbyterian Church board, Rev. and Mrs. Forbes made a trip into the Peace River country in August 1909. The area was then receiving considerable attention and much new settlement. They came back with a great vision of the vast possibilities of that new land, and so it was not surprising they were selected to carry the work of the church to the Peace.
Early in February of 1910, with a temperature around 40 below zero, the Rev. and Mrs. Forbes set out from Fort Saskatchewan in a caboose on sleighs for their new charge, six hundred miles distant over a hazardous and little known trail. Seventy-three days later they arrived on the spot that is now known as Grande Prairie. When asked to give a few comments on that memorable journey, the Rev. Forbes said:
“Many are still on the Prairie who faced the rigors of the trail and who will readily remember the struggle there was in getting over, or rather through the Smoky River. One is tempted to mention the names of several who were of great help to their fellow travelers during these trying days. Suffice it for the present to mention the names of Mr. and Mrs. Clifford in whose home at Flying Shot we found a safe and comfortable retreat for several months. We then moved over to the townsite to help make the beginning of the town of Grande Prairie by erecting a small church and hospital. Church services were also begun and carried on at various points in the country.”
On August 27, 1917 the growing young community was shocked with the news of the death of Mrs. Forbes, who in the seven years of residence had gathered to her the hearts of pioneers from all over the district.
A little incident, occurring during the ceremony of the laying of the corner stone for the new hospital by Mrs. Forbes, is worthy of relating. As the stone was being placed in position, in some unaccountable manner a slip occurred, and blood sprang from her hand, in a sense attesting to the giving of even her lifeblood for the hospital.
Mrs. Forbes was born in Montrose, Scotland and as a young girl she held several mission appointments in her native town and in Glasgow and Aberdeen. After marriage to Rev. Forbes, she realized her ambition of ministering to the sick and afflicted in both body and soul. Four years later Mr. Forbes married again, this time to Miss C. Smith, who had held several appointments and latterly acted as superintendent of nursing in the health department of the Alberta government.
In 1915 Rev. and Mrs. Forbes left for the East and for the following seven years served at Teeswater, Ontario. Mr. Forbes accepted a call in 1932 to Sutton West, Ontario, where he and Mrs. Forbes now reside.
Grande Prairie Herald, Old Timers Historical Edition
Paper dated 1935, Transcribed 1973