Monday, July 31, 2017

Sunshine Gospel Mission

The sun shines on Sunshine Gospel Mission

I found this little church on a gravel road not too far from home and near Eckville, AB. I would have seen it last year but I turned a road too soon and missed it. At that time last year, I was chasing a school and found it's marker. The church was literally on the corner after the one I turned at. It's hidden in the trees so you can't see it as you approach from the west.

The signs on the church say this was the Sunshine Gospel Mission, Established 1946. It looks like there was once a cross on top and the bell is now missing from the tower. The inside (as seen through the open windows) is empty, except for water damage and pigeon poop. I did not venture inside.

In 1946, 3 acres was bought from the government and materials purchased to build the church. It was built by volunteer labour. The church was furnished with 54 chairs, an organ, pulpit, oil furnace, hymn books and book cases. A Ladies Aid was formed in 1950. Part of their duties was to look after the church.

A temporary closure was noted sometime in the early 1970's, but I could find no mention of when the church was last used. Memories from homesteaders in the area recall the wonderful Christmas Concerts and summer picnics with all the pop and ice cream you could ever want. It sounds like a wonderful place where the community could gather. I am sure anyone who knows the church, and passes it today, must have a mix of happy memories and also feel a bit sad at it's current state.

Look at those colours!


Faux brick

Here is the marker for Estonian school that used to be located just west of the church. I have never seen a marker like this. Unfortunately it looks like there was once photos of the schools, but they are gone now as are the schoolhouses.

References: Homesteads and Happiness
Special thanks to Fallon Elayne Moos, who helped me find this place.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sunnyslope Shelter: More Than Just a Room

I was pretty stoked to finally go see this place. I built it up enough that my 7 year old was not uninterested...excited would be going too far. After seeing it, he rolled his eyes (something he seems to be getting better at, lord help me) and said, 'Mom, it's just a ROOM!".

Earlier that day...

The Sunnyslope Shelter has been on my list for awhile and I finally had the perfect time to go. After a busy Saturday of hanging at the lake, paddle boarding and hanging out with friends and their kids, Sunday was more low key. We had a relaxing morning and headed out early afternoon, it is just over an hour SE of home. I love how so many things are about an hour from my house, of course stopping to see unplanned things and taking back roads always makes it more than an hour.

We arrived at the location. It was hot, it was on a dusty gravel road, it was perfect. Not much around, a farm or 2 in the distance, a compressor station, and out in a field of wheat, you spot it. A door. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It's impressive and vaguely Hobbit-like. There was no way to access it from the front without trampling the wheat, which I was not going to do. On the other side off a lease road, was a narrow but distinct path through the wheat to the shelter. I didn't feel comfortable walking through the crops. There was also a sign posted next to the shelter reading, "Danger: Reclamation in Process. No Trespassing." I had to zoom in with my camera to read it. My son was disappointed that we were not going to see it up close. This was the first disappointment of the day for him.

Objects in the photo are farther away than they appear.
I drove back to the gravel and proceeded to take a few shots from the road, good thing for my trusty zoom lens. As I was sitting there, a bit (a lot) discouraged that we had driven all the way here (but not discouraged enough to trespass), a truck came by and stopped to ask if I was lost. I said no and explained that I was just taking photos. He was not the owner of the land, but knows them and said it was OK to go see the shelter, but to stay on the path, don't drive to it! Who would drive to it I wondered. No one I hope. I took it as a sign that the only human I'd seen on these roads was OK with it. He gave me his name just in case and left.

When I first thought about venturing into this underground crypt, I envisioned various creepy crawlies, murderers hiding out and a skunk family waiting to spray unsuspecting visitors. First I noticed the handle and slide lock were covered with webs, meaning no one had opened it recently. Phew. I opened the door as wide as possible to let in the sunlight. It looked safe. It was. Nothing to be worried about at all. It even had a covered skylight. It was cool (temperature cool, but also cooool cool). It isn't very big, only 10'x 12'. I couldn't imagine living in it, but 2 hardy souls did, one during the winter of 1902-1903 and another at various times in 1904.

Below is the history of the shelter, this note is stuck to the inside of the door. I forgot to take a photo of it but found this one at Thanks Internet!

Take a journey with me to One Mans' Castle:

Stay on the path!

Made it.

Threat level minimum.

Nothing flew out..



So that was it. My son was not blown away by it's historical awesomness. I tried to explain it's significance and that it was built before Alberta was even a Province, by the pioneers that made this province. I however, was impressed by this place and it's history and truly glad I was able to see it.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Historic Shilo and Sweet Caroline, AB

Summer of Storms

Alternate summer title: summer of visiting museums! Last week we took a quick trip to the town of Caroline, AB. Home of Kurt Browning, The Wheels of Time Museum and some friendly people.

This trip was a 2 for 1! Near Caroline is Shilo School. It was open from 1910-1952 and was designated an Alberta Historic Site in 2011. I noticed that the grounds and adjoining baseball field were recently mowed and it looked like baseball game could break out at any moment. I was told the occasional event still takes place here.

My son ran off to try the door at the school while I was taking photos around the ball diamond. I didn't expect the door of the school to be unlocked, but it was. We took a quick peek inside and left without disturbing anything. It's well taken care of inside and someone took the time to list the names of the pupils on the blackboard as well as the history of the school district.

Looky, no touchy

Batter Up!

Swing batter batter, swing!

Convenient stairs from the ball diamond
into the canola field...

Next Stop, the Wheels of Time Museum. We were the only ones there and got a guided tour by the museum interpreter, John. He was great and made it even more fun for myself and Hayden! He even stayed past closing time to finish the tour with us. Check it out if you're in the area, admission is by donation. I always leave something to help keep these great places operating.

The main building, which is the old Caroline School, had some neat artifacts including an old recording device that I hadn't seen before. Also, be sure to grab an ice cream treat while you are there and get a photo with a life sized Kurt Browning cutout. I did not take a selfie with Kurt.

I was too busy listening to John and didn't take any inside photos of the buildings! You can view some on their website if interested, by clicking here.  Here are the buildings and other things we saw on the tour:

Big Bend School.
Originally located about a 1/2 hour east

Teacherage: very cozy (tiny) 

Log home and trappers cabin

We were framed!!
Behind the museum is a nature walk..we followed the path for a bit. There were neat bird houses in the trees along the path. The path became less distinguishable as we got further so we detoured to a campsite, in the adjacent RV Park, and headed back to the museum.

In conclusion, my parting gift to you, if this wasn't already in your will be now.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Storm and St. Paul's at Sunset

I had intended to head west a bit on Sunday to visit another school and explore a bit. The skies were overcast but I figured I had enough time. As I headed west the skies got darker and darker, the wind picked up and the smoke from the BC wildfires became much more noticeable, leaving everything hazy and with a smoky smell that was coming in through the vents. We are a few hundred kilometers from the wildfires and still have smoky conditions, I feel for those affected and hope everyone is safe and sound.

I decided to head home as the rain was starting. I saw several very close lightening strikes and pulled over briefly to take a photo. I spotted some fortuitously placed old buildings and took my shot quickly as the rainfall started to intensify. By the time I was part way home the rain had turned into hail and visibility was poor. I got home, relocated some flower baskets to the safety of the covered porch. The petunias suffered minor injuries. Nothing to do now but get cozy in the house, perhaps watch a movie. Which is precisely what we did. Also the photo turned out pretty good if I do say so myself.

The sun came out again shortly and I thought it might be a good opportunity to head to a church that wasn't too far away and take some photos as the sun was setting. I headed east this time and found the church. No storms on the horizon this time, but still a smoky haze.

A sign on the fence says St. Paul's Anglican Church was consecrated in April 1899.  However a church was not built until 1905, it was made of logs that had to be rafted down the Red Deer River. The first service was held on July 2, 1905 and the church and adjoining yard (for use as a cemetery) were formally consecrated by the Bishop in September of 1905.

On April 17, 1910 a devastating wildfire destroyed the church and many surrounding homes. The alter cloth and a few furnishings were saved. Funds were raised and work began in the fall on a new church with the first service being held on October 1, 1911.  Services are still held on the 3rd Sunday of every month.

Could there be a more perfect little country church?

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Brief Moment in Diamond Valley

It only takes a moment to pass by Diamond Valley on the highway, blink and you will literally miss it.

Diamond Valley is south of Eckville, AB. Not to be confused with the Diamond Valley area in Southern Alberta. The former is an unincorporated area that used to be the centre of a pioneer community. The latter is an area in Southern Alberta encompassing several thriving communities.

The subject Diamond Valley was named after a diamond shaped valley covered with trees, I did not see the valley nor do I know where it is....but it must have been nearby. Maybe I was in it! This area is on a secondary highway and I have passed by it several times. I almost always stop for a picture of the old school, the red metal roof really stands out and you can see it peeking over the tree tops as you drive towards it. The church is across the highway and NE of the church and school (on a gravel road) is the Diamond Valley Cemetery.

The school operated from 1911-1944. It closed for 3 years. Unsure why, but not for lack of enrollment. 47 students had to be relocated. It opened again from 1947-1954. In 1967 it became the Diamond Valley Community Centre. It appears unused today, but the land in front is used for access to some granaries and a farmers field.

Prior to 1936, the school house and private homes had been used as places of worship from a variety of denominations. After using the schoolhouse for 2 years, it was decided that a log church would be built. The men who worked on the church toiled through the winter, cutting and hauling the logs 10 miles to the church site. Construction began in the Spring and was completed and dedicated in the late Summer of 1936. At that time, it was affiliated with the Apostolic Church of Pentecost. Later on as the congregation grew, the need for more room became apparent, the adjacent building was added for Sunday School rooms. Currently its called the Diamond Valley Full Gospel Church.

When I was by this area in June, the grounds had been freshly mowed. I am not sure if regular services happen here anymore. I like the log construction of this church and glad it is cared for.

If anyone reading this has additional info on the area, I would love to hear it. Thank you!

References: Homesteads & Happiness; Pioneering With a Piece of Chalk.