Old Vegreville

The original hamlet of Vegreville was located 4 ½ miles southwest of its present location on the banks of a creek known in the early days as Wah-Ski-Wa or Birch Creek. The first settlers were French-Canadian families from Kansas arriving in April 1894. English-speaking people from the United States and Eastern Canada soon joined them, followed by a major wave of immigration from Eastern and Central Europe and the British Isles.

The first Post Office, established in 1895, was named “Vegreville,” honoring Father Valentin Végré (1829-1903), an expert linguist in Cree, Assiniboine, and Montagne. As a missionary, he served with dedication for fifty years in western Canada, encouraging settlement in the west.

The hamlet grew to 20 buildings, including one blacksmith shop, two restaurants, one hotel, three machine shops, one police barracks, four stores and two banks, before a mass exodus took place. The arrival, in 1905, of the Canadian Northern Railway, 4 ½ miles northeast, meant progress and development; so within a short time, most of the transferable buildings were moved on wheels and skids to the new location.

One of the most commented upon aspects of Vegreville is the harmony with which so many people from different ethnic groups lived and worked together. By the 1950s there were more than 30 different ethnic groups living in the Vegreville area.