1946 to 1951

Developed for and copyrighted to the Heritage Resource Management Branch of Alberta Community Development
by David W. Leonard
30 November, 2003


1946. Under the Veterans Lands Act, returned veterans of World War II are encouraged to take up hitherto undeveloped land in the Peace River Country, some of it on the Grande Prairie. The Hartman Brothers are contracted to excavate farmland in areas covered by bush.

1946. Due to a decline in grain prices resulting from the end of World War II, farmers on the Grande Prairie, through the Farmers Union of Alberta, engage in a six-week strike.

1946. Northern Planning Mills begins a big lumber operation in Grande Prairie, with lumber now being shipped out of the district.

1946. Robert Cochrane and William Garret begin holding annual geological picnics at Kleskun Hill. Cochrane's farm workshop is soon transformed into the district's first museum.

1946. The Northern Alberta Dairy Pool is established in Grande Prairie, providing district farmers with an opportunity to collectively market their dairy products on larger scale than before. Smaller district creameries soon begin to disappear.

1946. O'Brien Provincial Park is established on the Wapiti River, and land atop Saskatoon Mountain is also identified as a provincial park.

1947. With the oil strike at Leduc #1, oil and gas exploration becomes intense throughout rural Alberta. Grande Prairie becomes the district headquarters for Imperial Oil, Gulf Oil and Amerada in their seismographic surveys.

1948. Clairmont Well #1 is sunk southwest of Kleskun Hill, on the farm of Joe Kapalka. Despite extensive exploration, few producing wells are located on the Prairie.

1947. Lake Saskatoon is declared a provincial bird sanctuary.

1948. A quick-freeze plant with 400 all-steel lockers is opened in Grande Prairie.

1948. In the Provincial election, Ira McLaughlin of the Bezanson district is again successful for the Social Credit Party, defeating Leslie H. Harris of Beaverlodge.

1949. For the first time, over $1 million worth of building permits are granted in Grande Prairie for commercial and community projects alone, aside from private dwellings.

1949. A public swimming pool, a new indoor curling rink and the Memorial Skating Arena are all constructed in Grande Prairie.

1949. An iron traffic bridge is installed across the Smoky River near Bezanson, providing easier access for travellers to and from the district east of the Grande Prairie.

1949. The Sexsmith Sentinel begins publication under the editorship of Art Menzies.

1950. A new composite high school, the second in Alberta, is constructed in Grande Prairie. Complete with a dormitory, it is intended for the entire district.

1950. A Provincial Health Unit is established in Grande Prairie, intended to provide preventative health services for the entire south Peace River Country.

1950. An Old Persons Home is established in Grande Prairie, designed to serve 35 people.

1951. In the 1951 Dominion census, the population of the Grande Prairie was calculated to have declined from 13,743 in 1941 to 13,653. The biggest drop-off was in the rural areas, where smaller family farms were beginning to give way to larger operations. The population of Grande Prairie rose dramatically from 1,724 to 2,664. That of the villages in the district were: Beaverlodge (331 to 514), Hythe (247 to 342), Sexsmith (325 to 331), and Wembley (188 to 251).

1951. Downtown Grande Prairie is modernized with several large structures, including a new Post Office, a new AGT Building, the York Hotel, and the Gaiety Theatre.

1951. Highway paving commences on the Grande Prairie, with Highway #2 paved four miles north of Grande Prairie, and west of Grande Prairie to the Dimsdale corner.

1951. The Municipal District of Grande Prairie becomes the County of Grande Prairie #1, which, along with Vulcan, is the first county in Alberta, giving this rural municipal government a greater tax base to undertake local services and improvements, and to operate schools.