Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tail Creek: The 8 Year Town

All that is left of Tail Creek Town
I have heard of the Tail Creek recreation area but I had no idea there was ever a town there.  Mind you, it wasn't a town for long only from 1870-1878. During this time is was the largest Metis settlement in the Northwest Territories (Alberta was not a Province until 1905). Tail Creek Town had roughly 400 log cabins. Historical reports say all the cabins were similar in style, log walls, pole roofs covered with earth and straw, animal hide windows, and hand hewn doors. The insides were plastered with mud and straw and said to be warm even in a blizzard. At it's peak there was 1500-2000 people in town. Tail Creek became a staging area for hunters looking for supplies such as food, saddles, harnesses, clothing, tents, etc. Meat and hides were traded with the Hudson's Bay Company post at Fort Edmonton (which at this time had a smaller population than Tail Creek). The harsh winters were passed by dancing and gambling. I can almost hear the fiddles and foot stomping revelry that surely carried on into the wee hours.

In 1875 a four man North West Mounted Police Detachment was set up in the town. It was needed to protect the people from rumored whiskey runners who were coming to set up shop. The original bad ass Canadian, Sam Steele, was there during this period to handle the situation. He was to be disappointed though as the rumors did not amount to anything and he didn't get to arrest any smugglers.

By 1878 with the buffalo gone, the town population dwindled.  A devastating fire swept the through the area destroying everything but one cabin and the cemetery.  Just like that, gone. That one surviving cabin is at the Stettler Historical Museum.

I came upon this cemetery by accident, which is what is so addicting about back road exploring. I don't normally check out cemeteries but I couldn't resist this one. I crossed the plank bridge over the ditch and opened the gate. The cemetery is quite large but only the back corner had graves. I suppose the settlers assumed there'd be people in the area for a long time and a large cemetery would be needed.

Some Metis families stayed in the area and a plaque has been mounted in the cemetery to honour them as some of the first permanent residents of the area.


Entrance to the Tail Creek Cemetery
Monument to the Metis settlers of the area


There were only a couple readable headstones, one that had fallen over, a broken cross and a dozen or so wooden crosses with no discernible writing. Seems sad to not know who was buried there, is it the people listed on the plaque? The most recent death was Isabella House who died in 1917, the other readable marker was her husband James, who died in 1897. Besides the memorial plaque, and a Metis flag, there was some fabric pieces (I have been told these could be prayer cloths) on the entrance gate and an old shovel on a tree. I felt a touch of melancholy looking at this place that seems almost forgotten. I think though that as long as myself and others know about it, it won't be truly forgotten.






6 comments:

  1. What an interesting history. I did a double-take at finding one of my ancestral surnames on the plaque. My mother was a Paul - her ancestry in the US going back to their arrival from Scotland in 1615. Some of the Paul's were in Canada for a time, but it would be difficult to tell if this one was one of ours. Still, it is comforting that those buried there will not be forgotten.

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    1. Hi Vicki! Cool to see an ancestral name..and you never know! Could be a relation somewhere down the line!

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  2. Quite the post and a very interesting find. Impressive.

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    1. Thanks BW! I find it all fascinating!!

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  3. Hi Jenn,
    I have come over from Instagram . Love reading the story about this little spot.

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    1. Thanks for visiting my blog and Instagram. I love being able to learn more about a spot I've found and then share it.

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