Alix Alberta, whats in a name?On June 11, 2020 by Jeremy Jagusch
In the history of Live History, we have performed in so many cities and towns that I had never heard of. One of the coolest parts of the job was learning about these places! As with any of our shows, we try to learn as much about our short term adopted home away from home as we can, and sometimes, it is hard to know where to start. Every story needs a beginning right? Not counting the fact that a certain movie franchise technically “started” with its fourth movie…. But I digress. Learning the origin of how a town or community started is always interesting to me.
As someone who has lived in urban areas my whole life, I’ve come to learn how much we take for granted the very basics of what we have. When I moved to my current home city, everything was already there. When I got here all I had to do was look for an apartment, move in and I was kind of set. Even when I think of the challenges my parents had to face when coming here to start with, a new life in a new country, it wasn’t as if there wasn’t a town already here. There are certain things myself, or my parents never had to do. … Like building my own home out of necessity for example. This brings back to why Alix, Alberta has always fascinated me, ever since I researched the show we did in Alix several years ago. If you’ve never heard of it, something you’ll be forgiven for, Alix is a village located in central Alberta, Northeast of Red Deer, Alberta. First and foremost the name, Alix wasn’t always named Alix. It’s alright if you’ve never heard of it, but after this, I hope you never forget.
Until 1907 Alix, Alberta was actually “Toddsville” Alberta. The land was owned by Joseph Todd. So why did the name change to Alix? Well, it was named in honour of one of the area’s first female settlers, Alexia Westhead. I think Alix, Alberta has more of a ring to it than Toddsville, don’t you? Alexia and her husband Charles came to Canada in the early 1890s. Her nickname was Alix. The Westhead’s would go on to establish a ranch that gave many new Canadians arriving from England their first jobs in this country. It must have been an amazing adventure and challenge for The Westhead’s and those who came before them, epecially considering how much work lay before them.
I’m sure that all of the early settlers felt out of their element. There were no doubt plenty of nights when they would look up at the night sky and desperately wish they could close their eyes and be back home when they opened them. I’m also sure the fear and uncertainty were met in equal measure with excitement and hope for the future.
The other thing that has always interested me about history, in general, is the somewhat “mundane” stuff. The things that we do in our daily lives but take for granted. In the 1890s, of course, washing your clothes and cooking your dinner were half your day, and yet today, it’s just a few minutes before we can wander off to other tasks. What did the Westheads go through, far away from anyone they knew? What would they think of the village that was there now? I think they would be proud. Somehow, they took the land they were given, and they made it a home, a community and then into a thriving place to live. They lived their whole lives there. You see, it wasn’t they invented a caddleprod or found a way to bottle milk. They were strong individuals, who brick by brick, season by season, shaped land into a thriving village, from their everyday actions. I want to know the story of their entire lives; I want to know how they spent their Tuesdays; their Wednesdays. In every story of “normal”, there is beauty and there is strength. And these folks, who shaped this village, are a prime example. They followed their dreams, not knowing how it would work out, and now, because of their strength, they are immortalised.
Over the years Alix has become known for its Wagon Wheel Museum (which Live History was lucky enough to perform in 2018 and hope to revisit). Alix, Alberta was also home to Irene Parbly, who helped shape changed the course of history for Canadian women. As a member of the Famous Five, Parlby helped challenge the Supreme Court to recognise women as persons or worthy of being appointed to the Senate before changing Alix history as President of the United Farmers of Alberta’s Women’s Auxiliary and then later becoming a minister. In the Wagon Wheel Museum, a plaque commemorating Parlby exists in Alix and personal items can be found. Knowing how a place began helps give some perspective on how things changed. Knowing how it changed into the place you stand in today makes you understand so much more, I think.
Alix is one of those neat little communities tucked away that is very important to the history of not just Canada but North America as a whole. It’s also one of the countless communities in the world that has made important and somewhat overlooked contributions. By it’s everyday actions, it has shaped the country. One person, following their dream, made a village pop up, just by doing her best to survive. I’m proud that we get to learn about and help showcase these communities and people. It constantly feels like an honour and a privilege. Thanks very much for reading, be sure to check out this space every Wednesday for a blog. Stay safe, take care of each other. We’ll see you in the past.