The first trails between Calgary & Edmonton were made by Indians and fur traders traveling to do business at Fort Edmonton. The trails were not much more than footpaths when John McDougall, a missionary at Fort Edmonton, decided to make some improvements. In the fall of 1873 he felled trees, cut brush and made the trail possible for his convoy of wagons, horses and cattle, which he was moving from Edmonton south to his new mission at Morley, Alberta.
After these improvements had been made the use of this “cart trail” between Edmonton and Calgary increased rapidly.
In 1883 the CN Railway reached Calgary from eastern Canada and the “cart trail” to Fort Edmonton was busier than ever. Stagecoaches carried passengers, mail, and light freight. The two hundred mile trip was made in five days. Each night the stagecoach driver and his passenger slept at one of many “stopping places” along the trail. When Peace hills (later to be named Wetaskiwin) would be reached, the driver and passengers would stay at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Lucas.
Finally in 1890 the long planned Calgary-Edmonton Railway Company was formed and the Federal Government granted it 6,400 acres of crown land for every mile of railway that the company built.
As a result of this, constitution of a rail line was soon underway and in August 1891 the railway reached Strathcona.
Millet received its name when Sir William Van Horne, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, asked his good friend, Father Lacombe, a Catholic missionary, to name all the stations from Lacombe north on the new railway line which had come through the area in 1891. Father Lacombe gave what was to become Millet its name. He called it Millet after his long time traveling companion and canoe man August Millet. August Millet was also a fur buyer and trader who did business with Millet’s first resident, Ben Slaughter, a fur buyer as well.
[After the railway reached] Strathcona large numbers of settlers with boxcars of possessions began to arrive. Most of them filed on homesteads.
All homesteads had land descriptions with even numbers. The Government held back sections 8 and 26 of each township.
A settler could file on 160 Acres of homestead for $10.
He could qualify to have title to his homestead in one of two ways described as follows.
“1. By continuous residence on the land for 12 months after date of entry, have 30 acres at least of cultivation, have erected a habitable house and make payment for the land at current Government price per acre.”
“2. By residence on the homestead for at least six months in each year for three years dating from the time of perfecting entry by becoming an actual resident and by cultivation of the land to reasonable extent.”
While the homesteaders and settlers cleared their land, Millet began to grow. Ben Slaughter, a fur buyer, was the first person to settle in Millet in the early 1890’s. He had a store with living quarters on the east side of the railroad.
By 1901 there were already several buildings in Millet. B.A. Van Meter built a store in 1902 and the Millet Hotel came into existence the same year.
Millet officially became a town on June 17, 1903 under the authority of section 3 of the Village Ordinance of the North West Territories. W.F. Blades was appointed as Returning Officer to elect an overseer. An election was held on June 29, 1903 and James Blades became Millet's first overseer.
In the 50 years or so to follow, Millet’s population grew to approximately 400 people and for many years was able to provide an adequate business centre for its residents and for those in the surrounding area. However with the increase in the number of automobiles and upgraded highways, residents gradually traveled to larger centres to shop and Millet remained at a standstill for a number of years.
In the 1970’s the face of Millet changed with the advent of the development of Moonen Heights residential subdivision across from the Agriplex, the ball diamonds, and the soccer fields. Several acreage subdivisions just east of Millet came into being during that time as well.
The Nebraska Club
In the late 1800’s and the early part of the 1900’s the majority of settlers who arrived at Millet came from the United States. They were far from home and had very few, if any, opportunities to return to visit friends and relatives left behind. Road conditions were poor and there were few means of communication. As a result women in particular were very lonely. However, upon gradually becoming acquainted, one group who were all from Nebraska formed the Nebraska Club. It tells in Tails and Trails of Millet, that the newly formed club “met regularly at one home or another where they had sing-songs and played games such as dominoes and checkers in the winter, and in the summer, ball games and horse shoes. “Home made ice cream was always on the pot luck dinner menu.”
For 25 years, from 1917 to 1942, Pinyon’s Hall was the centre of many social activities in Millet. People came from miles around to attend dances, concerts, minstrel shows and plays. Christmas concerts were held in Pinyon’s Hall for many years. Each school classroom of the Millet School would provide its share of numbers for the program. A huge Christmas tree was set up and decorated in readiness for Santa’s visit following the plays, choruses, drills and recitations preformed by the children.
Millet School Fairs
Millet School Fairs were held in September each year at the Millet School during the 1920’s and for most of the 1930’s. Millet School and most of the one-room schools in surrounding districts participated.
These were numerous classes for all ages in which children could enter. Money prizes for winners were plentiful as well. School Fair books containing recipes for the children to make cakes, cookies, date loaves, bread biscuits and muffins to enter in the baking classes were sent to all the schools to be circulated. Included in the book, too, were listed the guidelines for entering classes for sealers of fruit, pickles, and jellies as well as for candy such as peanut brittle and chocolate fudge. There were sewing classes for girls and hand made doll clothes, hem stitched dishtowels and embroidery, and for boys there were wood working classes.
Every spring garden seeds were handed out for students to plant and tend their gardens for entries of vegetables in the school fair. Samples of handwriting and artwork were entered too.
WW1 War Years
On November 11, 1918 World War I ended. After four years of bitter fighting Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen who had taken part and were fortunate enough to have survived, thankfully returned home to Canada. Thousands of their comrades who had lost their lives were left behind in cemeteries in France and in other countries in Europe.
Only 21 years later on September 3, 1939 Canada again became involved in a war, this time in World War II, another terrible conflict that continued until May 8, 1945. Again thousands more young Canadians remained in Europe in cemeteries in France, Holland and Italy.
These two wars brought about many changes to the life style of Canadians who were left at home in Canada. These changes were evident everywhere. In Millet during both World Wars the Red Cross was very active. During World War II organizations such as The Women’s Auxiliary War Workers, The Veteran’s Volunteer Reserve and the Sea Cadets became organized.
The Red Cross women knit socks and sweaters for the men overseas during both World Wars. Fund-raising events to help out were sponsored.
In Tales and Trails of Millet, it tells that, “The Women’s Auxiliary of War Workers, was organized and its first meeting was held in the hotel dining room with twenty-five ladies present. During that month a carton of cigarettes was sent to each of the Millet Boys overseas. The Women’s Auxiliary of War Workers also sent parcels of treats at Christmas and at many other times to these young men.
The Veterans Volunteer Reserve (The V.V.R.’s) was another group that was organized at this time. The V.V.R.’s trained to be able to effectively patrol and help out if an emergency were to occur.
In 1942 the Navy League of Canada, established a Sea Cadet Corps (in Millet). The officers and cadets attended numerous training courses in Alberta and British Columbia.
At one time there were sixty Sea Cadets from the Village of Millet and the surrounding area in the Corps.
Rationing of sugar, tea, coffee and butter was legislated by the Government of Canada, as was the rationing of gasoline and alcohol. Coupon books were issued to everyone and anytime these items were purchased, coupons had to be removed from the coupon book and given to the storekeeper or garage owner. After the war ended on May 8, 1945 life gradually returned too normal. Soldiers, sailors and airmen came home, wartime organizations discontinued, rationing came to an end and people could cash in their Victory Bonds and War Savings Certificates.
In the space of 31 years, (1914-1945) nine years had been taken up with World Wars One and Two. For the families who lost loved ones in these wars, life was never again the same. It is to honour the memory of these thousands of lost loved ones that Remembrance Day Services are held across Canada every year on November 11.
The Forerunners of Communities in Bloom
In about 1937 the staff of the Millet Burns Creamery decided to start a flower garden to beautify the creamery grounds. The approximate location of this creamery was on the east side of 52nd street somewhere between the Scout Hall and the Legion Hall of today. To begin with, the staff landscaped the area south of the creamery to 50th avenue. They developed a beautiful rock garden with a fountain and a fishpond located at the north end of the garden near the creamery. Residents of the village donated the perennials for the garden and the staff did the work of the landscaping and planting as well as building a water fountain and a fishpond. All of this was done on their own time.
The Burns Creamery staff maintained the garden and it remained a place of beauty for several years to come. Over time, however, many of the staff joined the Armed forces during World War II (1939-1945) and gradually the garden ceased to exist.
A similar creamery rock garden was designed and re-created in 1998 by Bernice Knight and volunteers. This garden is located across Highway 2A from the museum. Bernice was then the Western Canada Liaison for Communities in Bloom.
Now to jump to the present – The Millet Communities in Bloom organization. Carol Sadoroszney, chairman, Arlene Swedberg, secretary and the volunteers as well as participating businesses, churches, homeowners and organizations are to be highly commended for their work this year to make Millet beautiful. Their sense of civic pride helped make Millet “the most Beautiful Town in Canada” in 2001. Since then, the Town of Millet has continued to strive for further improvement.
The Millet and District Historical Society
On February 25, 2002 the Millet and District Historical Society celebrated 25 years of existence. Previous to its obtaining society status in 1977 the organization had its beginning when 16 people met in the Millet Library situated in a room in the front part of the old Legion Hall just north of the “Old Bank Stopping Place” of today. The purpose of the forming of an organization was to publish a community history book.
The next months were spent brainstorming ideas to enable the Society to raise money for the cost of publishing the history book and to decide what should be included. For almost two years, histories of families, school districts, churches, rural telephone companies, women’s institutes, youth clubs, lodges, sports clubs, school fairs, and music festivals from Millet and the 12 surrounding school districts were accumulated, edited and prepared for publishing. As well, over 1,000 photographs were collected.
On Sunday, December 17, 1978 a two – volume history book, Tales and Trails of Millet, was unveiled at an open house at the Community Hall.
The Millet Museum Archives Room opened in 1996. It was part of the addition built on the museum in 1995 by the Millet and District Historical Society.
The first archival material collected by the Historical Society occurred in 1977 when the history book, Tails and Trails of Millet, was being put together for publication.
Many photo contributors left their photos, so together with the pictures purchased from the Provincial Archives of Alberta the nucleus of our photo collection was formed.