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History of Lloydminster
Founding of Lloydminster
Miles and miles of open unbroken land, grass, trees, sloughs and sky were all that was discernable to the eyes of the Barr Colonists as they approached the site of the present City of Lloydminster. This was far different to what they were accustomed to, but their hopes and expectations were the foundation of what is now one of the most diversified cities is western Canada.
On March 31, 1903, North America’s largest organized colonization was undertaken when 2,684 English men and women set out to seek a new life in Canada. Many never completed the trek to Lloydminster as some stopped off to settle elsewhere in Canada, others falling short on funds or being disappointed with this new country, returned to England. From the beginning of their journey they encountered numerous hardships and disappointments as well as losing confidence and trust in their leader. Being unable to tolerate the antics of Reverend Barr any longer, they relieved him of his duties in North Battleford, Saskatchewan and had Reverend Lloyd take over the remainder of the colonization trek. Despite their hardships and problems, their visions of new life in Canada carried them onward to their final destination of what was to become Lloydminster. An accurate recount of the Barr Colonists journey is portrayed in the publication 'Muddling Through Time', which is available at the Barr Colony Heritage Cultural Center.
The stone cairn, located two miles north of the City center, marks the original location where the first colonists camped on April 17th, 1903. From the original campsite, they built their town and named it Lloydminster, a name derived partly from Reverend Lloyd’s name and from 'minster' or 'mother church'. Their trek to the promised land was not without its disappointments. Some of the land that the Barr Colonists had purchased, was not the rich farmland they had envisioned, as a lot of it was covered by trees and sloughs. There was a great deal of chaos in locating the land that they had purchased while still in England. The wooden survey stakes that marked the quarter section lines had rotted or disappeared. In trying to find their homesteads, numerous arguments and even fights resulted over their land disputes.
When they finally got their homesteads, they started to build their homes. The lack of knowledge about the western climate created havoc with many of the Barr Colonists. Some having started work too late in the season were unable to finish their homes, resulting in them having to spend the winter in tents. Others who built log homes used green logs, which shrank or settled resulting in large gaps in walls; some were so bad they could stick their head out between the wall and the roof. The sod roofs leaked and the dripping water soon caused the dirt floors to become a mass of mud. The first winter was very hard on the Barr Colonists and some being ill prepared for winter were short of food supplies and feed for livestock. Despite all the hardships, and lack of knowledge about farming and this new country’s climatic and seasonal conditions, many persevered to establish good farms or businesses in the bustling community of Lloydminster.
Every city’s history contains a number of major events that have radically transformed the community. In 1905 when the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were formed from the North West Territories, the fourth meridian was chosen to be the new provincial boundary. The Dominion Land Survey Company surveyors were surprised to find that the town of Lloydminster lay directly in their sights. Lloydminster first became a village in the North West Territories on November 30, 1903, but the creation of the two new provinces created a unique situation which lead to the division of the community into the Town of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan and the Village of Lloydminster, Alberta. Lloydminster existed as two separate communities not even a stones throw apart, each with their own municipal organizations, fire departments and so on. The surveying of the 4th Meridian as the Saskatchewan-Alberta border also established the longest surveyed straight line in North America, a fact that remains today.
On August 29, 1929 Lloydminster experienced a massive fire which completely destroyed several blocks in the downtown core with total damages estimated at well over one million dollars. This was a large amount of money at that time. The fire was so large, it could be seen miles away and it was impossible for anyone to go near the downtown core due to the mass of flames and burning buildings. Try as they did, the fire departments could do little to stop the spread of the fire and could only stand by and watch as their town burnt to the ground. The great fire gained national attention for Lloydminster; it was a hard blow for any community to take especially a young and growing community that Lloydminster was. Some good did result from the great fire, as when the downtown core was reconstructed, a large majority of the buildings were constructed of brick rather than wood, negating potential fire hazards. Along with the reconstruction, the town began to develop a new look, one, which marked a new era in its progress.
The quarter of a century existence of two separate communities of Lloydminster ceased when on May 20, 1930 the Village of Lloydminster, Alberta and Town of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan was amalgamated by complimentary Orders in Council from both provinces. A charter was created and agreed upon by both provinces, which laid out the guidelines for the governance of the newly amalgamated municipality. Although the original charter has undergone modifications to meet with current conditions, the City of Lloydminster still operates today under these guidelines. Amalgamation of the two communities of Lloydminster also created a unique situation in that Lloydminster became the only community in Canada that is located in two provinces. On January 1, 1958, Lloydminster progressed to gain city status through complimentary orders of Council in both provinces. Lloydminster then became the tenth city in both provinces and holds the unique distinction of being called 'Canada’s Only Border City'.
Lloydminster was originally an agricultural economy based community, and life centered on the agricultural industry. But early in its history Lloydminster entered the oil and gas age, which opened a new chapter in the history of Lloydminster. In 1926 oil was first discovered south of Lloydminster in the Dina, Alberta area. this served as an indicator to the possibilities of oil reserves lying within the Lloydminster area. In 1934 the Lloydminster Gas Company drilled Discovery Well Number One which hit paydirt bringing Lloydminster and area into the oil and gas age. Discovery Well #1 was the first gas well to go into production in Saskatchewan and became the basis for further oil and gas exploration in the area. With the discovery and production of natural gas, Lloydminster residents were soon to experience the comforts of natural gas heating systems. Discovery Well #1 is located within the present city limits in the north east area near the cemetery.
A well drilled a mile south and west of the townsite produced oil for one day, and although considered a dry well, it indicated to the early gas pioneers that Lloydminster had a future in the oil industry. The 1940’s were a hectic time for the Lloydminster gas and oil industries. Proven reserves were growing but the market potential was limited. A young Albertan, Glenn E. Neilson had a vision for Lloydminster’s oil industry. Anticipating that the steam locomotive age was ending and the advent of diesel and with both CNR and CPR in Lloydminster, he knew there would be a demand for the excellent bunker fuel that could be produced here in Lloydminster.
Glenn Neilson undertook a bold and risky venture and bought mineral rights to a large tract of land east of Lloydminster. He then transported an entire refinery from St. Louis, Missouri and reconstructed it on its present site. This laid the foundation for Husky Oil, which is now a major player in the national and international oil industry. His vision and entrepreneurial abilities brought Lloydminster right to the center of the oil industry.
Lloydminster laid claim to the title of 'Heavy Oil Capital of the World' when starting in 1988 a 1.65 billion-dollar Bi-Provincial Upgrader facility was constructed on the outskirts of Lloydminster. Both the Saskatchewan and Alberta Provincial governments, the federal government and Husky Oil funded this venture. The Upgrader is a state-of-the-art production plant capable of producing 46,000 barrels of synthetic crude oil today. Work is currently in progress of increasing its capacity to 55,000 barrels per day as well as the addition of a co-steam electrical generating plant.
Through the efforts of numerous entrepreneurs, Lloydminster has become a leader in both the agricultural and oil and gas industries exporting vast amounts of high quality livestock, agricultural crops, oil product equipment and systems around the world. There is also a huge demand for the technology applied in Lloydminster’s agricultural and oil industries, which has resulted in a number of international partnerships with many Lloydminster businesses.
Today, Lloydminster can be proud of its history and accomplishments. We freely boast that Lloydminster has a small town atmosphere with big city facilities and amenities. Residents are proud of recent developments such as the Barr Colony Heritage Cultural Center, Lakeland College Campus, Bud Miller All Seasons Park, the Leisure Center, the Bi-Provincial Upgrader and the joint Alberta/Saskatchewan inland wheat terminal. Lloydminster and its residents can usually be seen up front in the oil & gas industry, the agricultural industry or the world of sports. As the Barr Colonists pioneered this area in the early 1900’s, so do Lloydminster residents today pioneer as did their forefathers, creating new technology, systems and equipment or agricultural and livestock products, all of which are in high demand in the national and international marketplace.
Not yet a century old, Lloydminster as a community has stood out from other centers and its growth, services and amenities have out shown many other communities of equal age or size. Today the City of Lloydminster thrives and continues to grow and will remain leaders in all fields of industry. It will continue to add to and improve on its amenities and quality of life for its residents. Our history is young and Lloydminster in its readiness and pioneering spirit, eagerly await the future.
Written Aug 29, 2002
Weaver Park and Barr Colonist Historical Museum
Lloydminster was founded by a large group from England called the Bar Colonists and they have a great legacy in the community.
Written Aug 29, 2002
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