This adventure has us motoring down a lonely back road, one that seemingly goes nowhere. It runs arrow straight, the car raising a cloud of dust as it cuts across the great plains of Alberta, past endless fields of stubble. Then dipping into a low valley it twists and turns. Here, near a muddy slow moving stream and the remains of an abandoned rail line, we find the forgotten homestead.
There’s not much here, a barn and some odd bits of metal. But it’s enough to capture our imagination. A storm threatens, daring to ruin the day but never following through. Down here, below the fields, we’re sheltered, the wind gusting above us, but never felt. It’s peaceful, quiet, it’s all ours, a playground to explore, those boiling clouds adding a dark moody tone, that atmosphere which photographers so covet.
The land we’re documenting was first homesteaded in the early years of the twentieth century. Several individuals or families have lived on it over the years, some for only a short time, a year to two, others for much longer, a generation or two. Children were born and raised here, and moved on, the last owners it appears staying until their passing, after which it appears the place was abandoned.
We know the names of most of those who called this valley flat home and even a fair bit of their story, but the land owner asked we not share that for privacy reasons. They’ve had trouble with trespassers and don’t want our post to encourage more. Seems we’re part of the problem and it’s catching up with us.
There was a house on the property. Its foundation can still be seen, but is all filled in with metal and junk and stuff. This is to keep the cows, which range here on the property, from falling into it. The house, it’s believed, is from the 1910s/1920s period and was perhaps the second such dwelling here. It’s not known exactly when it was torn down.
The barn is likely from the same period. It’s used to from time to time to store bales and perhaps provides a place for the cows to shelter in times of bad weather. Beaten by the elements but still standing straight and true, one aspect is a slate grey having been heavily bleached by the elements. What’s left of some old “fake brick” asphalt siding (popular in the 1940s/1950s) can be seen on one wall.
It’s said there were other buildings on the property at one time, sheds, granaries and the like, but these are all long gone with zero evidence show they were ever here.
Scattered about in the grass is all manner of old metal. Car parts abound, old rims, remains of a car door, stuff we can’t ID but we know it’s auto-related. Care is taken as much of it is sharp and at least partially hidden. Danger in the grass. A horse drawn scraper is found and we’re thinking how hard man and beast worked to level the land for farming. The fields once connected to the place are on the plains above, directly south.
Some old farm machinery rusts away. The usual suspects – rakes, plows and other stuff we have no idea their purpose. What’s left of an old truck – we think it’s a truck – rests nearby. Only the frame, cowl and dash and one fender remain behind. It’s really not enough to give us an ID, although we tried anyway over lunch…and came up short. We’re busy so not every “mystery” can be investigated through to completion (and this bugs us). We can say with reasonable certainty, however, it’s from the mid-1920s or thereabouts. Gotta wonder how long it’s been sitting here – seventy or eighty years? Wow!
An old rail line runs past one end of the property. This stretch of track was put down in the early 1920s and pulled up in the mid-1990s. Lots of grain and coal once moved along this branch line. In the old days, people came and went on the train, so did many of the things consumed or produced locally. Now, it’s only an empty gravel track winding down the valley, a ghost line from somewhere to somewhere else.
There used to be a small town just down the line – but that can be said of a lot of places near the tracks – back when there was a town, village or some kind of locality spaced every ten clicks or so. There was a store, post office, some grain elevators, perhaps a house or two, a small backwater burg personified, with nothing left today. The place came and went and no one noticed.
A circle of the property – to make sure we missed nothing – and we’re done. It’s a half a click back to the car, and on the walk we think about those who farmed the land around, those who were raised here, lived here, died here, those crazy hardcore pioneers that toiled away, scratching out a living. Imagine it, your nearest neighbour over the horizon, you, the family alone, solitude, cold winds, blistering summers, endless work. That was life…here…at the homestead.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: April, 2017.
Location: Kneehill County, AB.
Article references: Book: Carbon – our history, our heritage.
The old homestead is on private property. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.