Millet History

Early Millet

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area now known as Millet and District was occupied by the Cree People, who, among other things, moved through the area following bison. In August and September 1876, Treaty 6, an agreement between the Canadian Crown and representatives of the Cree, Assiniboine, and Ojibwa, was signed.

The area now known as Millet is on Treaty 6 territory, and the homeland of the Métis Peoples. Treaty 6 boundaries extend across central portions of what are now known as Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

The Millet Museum Board, Staff, Volunteers, and Members acknowledge that we are privileged to live and work on this land, which has been and continues to be a gathering place and space for the Maskwacis Nēhiyaw (Bear Hills Cree), Niitsítapi (Blackfoot), Nakoda (Stony), Dene (Athabascan), Métis, and many other distinct Indigenous Peoples. We respect the histories, languages, and cultures of the Indigenous Peoples of what is now known as Canada. 

The stories told below reflecting early Millet history are shaped by the relationships Indigenous Folks had to the land; for example, in the location of the trails that would eventually go through Millet, or in the role of early fur traders. It is important to note that the stories told below are also shaped by a colonial lens that prioritizes settler history. We hope to disrupt this in our emphasis of it here, and welcome any and all contribution from Indigenous Folks wanting to share their stories on our platform. Please contact us via phone or email, and we will be happy to chat with you about how we can improve our presentation of Millet history.

First Trails

The first trails between Calgary & Edmonton that crossed the Millet area were made by Indigenous Peoples and later European 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, McDougall felled trees, cut brush and made the trail useable 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 were 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 could be made in five days. Each night, stagecoach drivers and passengers slept at one of many “stopping places” along the trail. When Peace hills (later to be named Wetaskiwin) was reached, the driver and passengers stayed at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Lucas.
The Railway Moves In
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 the company built. As a result, construction 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 was built in the Millet area in 1891. Father Lacombe named Millet after his long-time traveling companion and canoe man, August Millet. August Millet was a fur buyer and trader who did business with Millet’s first resident, Ben Slaughter, also a fur buyer.
Settlers in Millet
After the railway reached Strathcona, large numbers of settlers with boxcars of possessions began to arrive in Millet. 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:
“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.” (Tales and Trails of Millet, Vol. I, p. 32)
As the homesteaders and settlers cleared their land, Millet grew. Ben Slaughter 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.
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. Road conditions were poor, and there were limited means of communication. In an effort to combat loneliness, the enterprising women of Millet, formerly, women of Nebraska, formed the Nebraska Club. The club "met regularly at one home or another where they have 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 (Tales and Trails of Millet, Vol. I, p. 193). 

From 1901-1970

Becoming a Town

By 1901, there were already several buildings in Millet. B.A. Van Meter built a store in 1902, and the Millet Hotel was built 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 Millet served as an adequate business centre for its residents and for those in the surrounding area. However, increasing numbers of automobiles and upgraded highways eventually meant that residents travelled to larger centres to shop, and the economy in Millet remained at a standstill for a number of years.
Pinyon's Hall
From 1917 to 1942, Pinyon's Hall was the centre of many social activities in Millet. People travelled miles to attend dances, concerts, minstrel shows, and plays. Christmas concerts, supported by each class attending the Millet School, were held in the Hall for many years. The production involved a large Christmas tree being set up and decorated, in preparation for Santa's visit following the plays choruses, drills, and recitations performed by the children. 
The 1927 Town Fire
In October of 1927, a fire began in Vic's Garage when a gasoline engine burst into flames. The building was destroyed, and with it, the chemical apparatus that served as fire fighting equipment. Help came from Leduc and Wetaskiwin, and threshing gangs came in from the fields. Ultimately, the fire destroyed most of the downtown area, including Graham's Pharmacy, F. Day's legal office, and Dr. Ward's dental office. The fire resulted in $50,000.00 worth of damage: over $750,000.00 in today's market. 
Millet School Fairs
During the 1920s and for most of the 1930s, Millet School Fairs were held in September at the Millet School. All ages could enter the fair, and monetary prizes were plentiful. School Fair books, containing recipes for cakes, cookies, date loaves, bred biscuits and muffins to enter in baking classes were circulated to the school children. These books also contained guidelines for entering sealers of fruit, pickles, jellies, and candy, such as peanut brittle or chocolate fudge. Fairs included sewing classes for girls, hand-made doll clothes, hem-sticked dishtowels, and embroidery. For the boys, there were woodworking classes. Each Spring, garden seeds were distributed to students to plant, in preparation for their entry of vegetables in the School Fair. Samples of handwriting and artwork were also entered. 
World War I & World War II
World War I ended on November 11, 1918. This day marked the end of four years of bitter fighting for Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen. While many were fortunate enough to have survived, and returned home to Canada, thousands of their comrades lost their lives, and were left behind in cemeteries in France and in other countries in Europe.
Only 21 years later, on September 3, 1939, Canada joined with the Allied forced in World War II. This terrible conflict, in which thousands of young Canadians gave their lives, and were buried in cemeteries in France, Holland, and Italy, ended on May 8, 1945.  
WWI and WWII resulted in many changes to the lifestyles of those Canadians who were left at home. These changes were evident everywhere. In Millet, during both World Wars, the Red Cross was very active, and Red Cross women knit socks and sweaters for men overseas. During World War II, organizations such as The Women’s Auxiliary War Workers, The Veteran’s Volunteer Reserve and the Sea Cadets were organized.
According to Tales and Trails of Millet, “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" (Vol. I, p. 38). In May 1942, the War Workers sent a carton of cigarettes to each of the thirty-four Millet Boys overseas. The War Workers also regularly sent parcels of treats to the soldiers.
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 effectively patrol and help out in case of emergency.
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 point, there were sixty Sea Cadets from the Village of Millet and the surrounding area in the Corps.
Rationing of sugar, tea, coffee, butter, gasoline, and alcohol was legislated by the Government of Canada. Coupon books were issued to all, and anytime rationed items were purchased, coupons were removed from the coupon book and given to the storekeeper or garage owner. After the war ended, life gradually returned to 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.
The effects of WWI and WWII are still felt in communities today. For the families who lost loved ones in these wars, life was never again the same. In honour of the thousands of lost loved ones and strangers--heroes, who fought for our freedom-- Remembrance Day Services are observed across Canada every year on November 11th. 
Early Communities in Bloom
Around 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 between the Scout Hall and the Legion Hall of today. To begin, 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 perennials for the garden and the staff did the work of landscaping and planting, as well as building the water fountain and 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 many years. 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 in 1998 by Bernice Knight and volunteers. This garden is located across Highway 2A from the Museum. At the time, Bernice was the Western Canada Liaison for Communities in Bloom.
Presently, the Millet Communities in Bloom organization flourishes in Millet. The Board, volunteers, as well as participating businesses, churches, homeowners and organizations, work hard 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 continues to strive for excellence.
Moonen Heights & Acreage Subdivisions
In the 1970’s, the face of Millet changed with the development of the Moonen Heights residential subdivision across from the Agriplex, the ball diamonds, and the soccer fields. Several acreage subdivisions just east of Millet were established at that time, as well.

From 1970-Present

The Millet and District Historical Society

On February 25, 2002, the Millet and District Historical Society (MDHS) celebrated 25 years of existence. MDHS obtained it's society status in 1977, beginning with 16 people meeting in the Millet Library, which was located 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 MDHS was to publish a community history book.
The next months were spent brainstorming ideas on what to include in the book, and how to help the Society raise money for the costs of publishing the history book. 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. 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.
Since then, MDHS has grown, and continues to work to strengthen the community of Millet through collecting and providing access to the material history of Millet and district.
In 1985, the Millet & District Museum and Exhibit Room opened. The Museum is now home to 12,800 artifacts. In 1995, MDHS built an addition on the Millet Museum, and in 1996, the Millet Museum Archives Room opened. The first archival material collected by MDHS was acquired 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 the MDHS Historical Photograph Collection was formed.
Learn more about the History of Millet by listening to Craig Baird's podcast, A History of Millet here.

cover photo: mdhs.