16-012: A Peace River Ghost Town
By Dorthea Calverley
The plans to make Dunvegan a great city have been well publicized. It is less widely known that’ Grouardians’ had much the same sort of dreams when the railroad was approaching. Grouard had been a busy steamer port for years, and promoters assumed that the railroad would come to the settlement. Or, perhaps, they just hoped to sell that idea to other speculators. In any case a map shows that Joseph Calahasan made his mark and Guillaume Desjarlais signed his name in Cree syllabics to a subdivision plan on December 18, 1911 for a large town with wide streets and avenues. It would be interesting to know what moved two Metis to plan such an enterprise. The paper was “read over and explained to them in the Cree language” and “they seemed to fully understand same”. It was a much more ambitious project than the Revillon Brothers’ subdivision of their property in July 1908.
The railway did not come to Grouard, around the end of the lake but the rails were close enough — 12 miles away — to displace the steamers the town depended on.
For many years the Catholic Church operated a very large mission and residential school to which students came from all over the Peace River area. The school was phased out when the Province of Alberta integrated the Indian students into the Provincial School system. The enormous neat dormitory was sold to the Indian band for $1.00. It was demolished, and the materials were used by the Indians for building purposes. Probably it would not have met health and safety regulations as a hotel or motel complex.
Grouard had joined Dunvegan, Waterhole, Bezanson and Saskatoon Lake as a ghost town site.