Our Past

This was produced in conjunction with Graminia's Social Society's 20th Anniversary.

The committee would like to thank all those people who helped to make this possible.

Graminia is people.  Graminia is a community; a community which has existed for as long as there has been any possibility of community feeling.  The following history is not a sequence of dates and events, but a story of people.  The information given was derived mostly from the people in the area, and therefore makes the story more personal and more meaningful.

Although the community club, Graminia Social Society, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year (1980), the area has had a community spirit for well over seventy years.  The story of Graminia is intended not only to cover the last twenty years, but to extend as far back as research and people's memories will permit.
The word "Graminia" is a Latin term meaning "plenteous grass", named by Walter Baldwin, and this is indicative of what the land and the area originally looked like.  In the early 1900's, the area was very dry and was covered with meadows.  It was much later that there appeared sloughs. 

Legend states that when some of the sloughs dried up, the wagon tracks of the early settlers were clearly visible.  Thus it seems the term "Graminia" is very applicable.

It is difficult to obtain complete information on all these early settlers, but it is known that once an area is settled, a major requirement is a school, and Graminia was no exception.  In 1908 a decision was made to build a school and that same year, it was completed and the school was opened.  In those years every township had a half-section of land set aside for a school.  The school section chosen by the crown was the NE & NW11, T51, R27. 

However, it was decided to locate the school further east of this crown land, SW7, T51, R26, W4, as this area was more settled and this is where the school-age children lived.  Mr. Merrigan and Mr. Val Hennig both donated a portion of their land for the site.  Mr. Poppelton, another resident in the area, built this first school.  It was located on the same site as the later school (which has now become the community hall), but it was closer to the road.
As in most districts, the school became the hub of community activity and it housed the church services for the area, as well as hosting various social functions.  The windows of the first school were designed similar to church windows which gave the false impression that it was a church first, and a school second.  This probably pleased Reverend Boettcher as he held many services at the school.  However, it was only style which dictated the shape of the windows as it was built with the full intention of being a school.

Little is known of the early school days as much information before the 1930s has been lost and memories fade.  The school had only one room and grades one to eight were taught in it.  As education levels increased, it expanded to include grade nine.

After WWI, many soldiers received land in the Graminia district from the federal government as a form of compensation for fighting the war. This helped to bring in more people into the district and open up the land. In 1932 the need for a new school was apparent. The building was moved to the east end of the quarter and eventually sold to Tom Preece. The job was tendered out and Mr. Adam Moore and Mr. Gordon Brownlee built this second school. Graminia district residents paid for it through their taxes as was the case in all communities. Around 1935 a teacherage was added and again Mr. Moore was contracted. The teacherage, (which no longer exists), was located to the northwest of the hall, where the playground now lies. Up to this time, the teachers stayed mostly at somebody’s home in the district. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Bertheaume, who still live in the district, had kept many of the teachers in their home.

Getting teachers to come out to a small district was no apparent problem, especially during the depression and subsequent war years. Trustees from the district hired the school teachers. In the 1930s the teachers could expect to earn about $600-$800 a year. Out of this salary came their rent for the teacherage. The school operated until 1959 when the government decided to consolidate educational facilities and centralize them into major centers. The students from Graminia were then sent to various schools in either Devon or Spruce Grove.

Because of the great distances to a town and the lack of adequate transportation, nearly every community had a store. The Graminia store was run by Mrs. Chave (Brownlee). She was the only owner of the general store and it was located west of the present Graminia hall site. The exact years of operation are not known, but it was open from around 1934-1955.

Along with the store is usually associated a community post office. The Graminia post office existed in only three locations. Back in the early 1890s, it was located east of the present hall site. Then, during the 1920s, it was moved to NW7, T51, R27 W4 which was then owned by Mr. Shaw. However, it was Mr. Campbell that operated and ran the post office. Later this quarter of land was owned by Mr. Fred Hennig, and Mr. Claude Robinson operated the post office. In about 1936-37 it was moved to Mrs. Brownlee’s place. The address of the post office and that of the area was simply Graminia, Alberta. As the population increased, the need for a centralized post office was indicated, and the area residents had their address changed to RR5, Edmonton. It became obvious that the community post office was no longer needed and, in 1955, it too was closed down. The original pigeon-holed desk of the postmaster became the possession of the Ed. E. Hennig family, as they had resided in one of the postmaster's houses. In 1980 they donated it to the community and it is now the possession of the community club.

Boundaries of any community are likely to change and this happened to Graminia three times.  As a 20th anniversary project, a map was drawn up of the area.  Using a boundary map from the County of Parkland as a basis, the Graminia map indicates only those quarters which are designated as belonging to the Graminia area.  The map shows the original titleholders for each quarter, the second titleholders and the owners of the land as of August 1, 1980.  In areas where the land is subdivided, the names of each owner are not given but are simply designated as subdivisions.  Hopefully, in future years, all titleholders to these quarters of land will be listed up to 1980 and perhaps beyond.

Even though the original titleholders are given, there are many settlers who are not listed.  Many people filed for the land but never received title.  To receive title, a person had to file for three consecutive years, improve the land by breaking 15 acres each year, and stay six months of the year on the land.  Therefore, there are many people who helped break the land but will never receive credit for it.

It was from these early settlers that a heritage was born.  Every community is proud of their roots and Graminia feels the same.  There are names and there are people who will always be remembered; human interest stories that are small but are significant to the people in the area.  For example, who can forget that it was Mrs. Brown who had the first car in the district, and that it was a Grey Dort; or that Mr. Merrigan and Mr. Brown had the first steam threshers in Graminia; or that fishing was pretty good on the school section as Ed Hennig can relate.  Probably Mrs. Bertheaume can remember all this best, for Tootsie Brown, as she was fondly called, is the oldest living person who was born in the area.  The area can even boast of having some origins of fame.  The Malcolm Groat family farmed in the district in the early 1900s until they bought some land closer to Edmonton and moved there.  This newly acquired land later became part of a major transportation route of central Edmonton and still bears their name: Groat Road and Groat Road Bridge.

These are just a few people from the area and indeed there are many more; people who have helped to build, maintain and support a school, a store, a post office, and eventually a community hall.  It was some of these same people who began the first community club in the district when the school was closed in 1959.  Something had to be done with the building and, like most districts, a community association was formed.  In January of 1960, Graminia Social Society became an incorporated club under the rules of law.  There were 30 members that first year and they became the foundation of the club for the future.

The community sponsored local dances, box socials, whist drives, and a host of community events.  In 1974 a snowmobile club was formed as part of the society and became an integral part of the social activities of the hall.  The Snowmobile Club operated for several years and featured various racing events and dances.  The club exists now in name only, but its memories will remain as many challenge trophies of the club now rest in the hall.

As the years progressed, many physical changes occurred to the community hall.  In 1974, a 20' x 40' addition was built to include a kitchen, bathroom facilities, and a small seating area.  In 1977, renovations began in the basement which included laying a new cement floor, redoing the walls, and partitioning the basement into several rooms.  A few years later, trees were planted around the boundaries to help enhance the grounds.  Thanks to the kindergarten class, a playground now exists on the site.  Needless to say, the community hall of 1980 would not be very recognizable to the hall of 1960, but through the hard-working efforts of many members, it is a source of pride.

Since 1975, the hall is home to kindergarten and playschool classes, as well as offering programs to Cubs, Scouts, Brownies, and Guide packs.  The community hall is kept busy helping to provide services to both the young and the not-so-young.  As of 1980 or 1981, the community hopes to have their skating rink in operation.

Through the last twenty years of operation, there have been many changes.  However, the concept of being a “community” has always remained constant.  Only four people, Jim and Hazel Gray and Tom and Dorothy Gray, have remained members for the entire twenty years, and the Society is pleased to honor them on this anniversary.  Through these twenty years, the society has struggled to maintain the sense of belonging and the sense of pride; the club welcomes the challenge of the next twenty years.

A new school is being planned for somewhere in the area.  There is, as yet, no decision as to where the exact location will be.  It may or may not be on or near the original Graminia school site - but perhaps a new beginning is before us and our children once again.  History has a way of repeating itself.
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