St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Calgary, dated 1909
Postcards from the Past, PC 652
When we think of Canada’s French Canadian population we rarely think of our city. Did you know that it was a French speaking person who welcomed the North West Mounted Police when they arrived at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers in 1875? Father Doucet, an Oblate, in the area to minister to the First Nations tribes who called this area home, had already established a mission at the site. The Mounties thought the area would be ideal for their fort and so asked the missionaries to move further up the Elbow. The area where they finally established their mission, Notre Dame de la Paix, eventually became Rouleaville, Calgary’s first French community.
The presence of the mission attracted other Catholic development including a hospital, cathedral, convent and schools. St. Mary’s school, started in a log cabin in 1885, is still in operation, albeit in a newer building. The settlement attracted other Francophones including Metis who were employed as the 19th century equivalent of truck drivers, moving freight in and out of Fort Benton. Father Lacombe, the visionary behind this community, sought official status for the area of land the Oblate fathers were occupying and was ceded the rights to two quarter sections. This furthered the development of the area and soon French speaking businessmen and professionals were building their mansions in the area. The earliest of these were the Rouleau brothers, Charles and Edward. (aj 1142) Charles’ lovely mansion is gone, demolished in 1939 to make way for the Athlone Apartments, but Edward’s house was moved to a spot behind the old St. Mary’s Parish Hall (now Alberta Ballet) and still stands.
Dr. Edward Rouleau Residence, 114 18 Avenue SW, ca 1972
Moved to vacant lot behind the Alberta Ballet building (141 18 Avenue SW)
Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1142
The existence of a French community in Calgary is unknown to many of us. La Bureau de Visibilite de Calgary and La Societe Franco-Canadienne de Calgary sponsor Les Rendez-vous de la Francophonie throughout the month of March. On the 22nd of the month, these organizations along with the Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association and the Calgary Public Library are presenting, in English, “Rouleauville – Calgary’s French Connection” at the John Dutton Theatre of the Central Library at 2:00. Admission is free. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about an important part of Calgary’s early history. See you there.
Sacred Heart Convent, built 1893
Postcards from the Past, PC 136