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McDonald Stopping House

Waskatenau, Near

Other Names:
MacDonald Farmhouse
MacDonald Store and Pine Creek Post Office
McDonald General Merchant Store
McDonald Stopping House
Pine Creek Post Office
S A McDonald House and Store
S. A. Macdonald Site (House, Store, Pine Creek Post Office)
S. A. McDonald House and Store
S. A. McDonald House and Store
S.A. MacDonald House, Store and Pine Creek Post Office
Sam A. MacDonald Farmhouse
Sam A. McDonald Homestead

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The McDonald Stopping House is a one-and-a-half storey log house with a steeply pitched gable roof, wrap-around verandah and one-storey lean-to addition at the rear. A modern wing, which is not included in the designation, was added to the rear of the house in 1993. The house, which was built in 1909 and improved over the following eight years, is located in a natural setting with a large yard and numerous trees alongside the historic Victoria Trail. Remnants of a wagon path leading to the site from the trail are still visible. The site is located in the County of Smoky Lake near the village of Waskatenau on the north side of the North Saskatchewan River.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the McDonald Stopping House lies in its identity as an excellent example of a rural stopping house, a once common building type in Alberta of which few remain.

The founding of Victoria Settlement in the early 1860s and the Hudson's Bay Company post at Fort Victoria (now Pakan) soon after, resulted in a significant amount of travel on the trail between these locations and Fort Edmonton. Along this historic path, which became known as the Victoria Trail, numerous stopping houses were established. Operated mainly by farmers to generate supplementary income, these facilities offered travellers shelter for the night and occasionally provided meals and other goods and services needed on long overland journeys. Stopping houses often became important local commercial and social centres. One such facility on the Victoria Trail was operated by Samuel A. McDonald.

In 1908, after successfully proving up a homestead near Warspite, S. A. McDonald settled on land adjacent to the Victoria Trail. He built a small log frame, one-and-a-half-storey building to be used as a family residence and a general store, which opened in 1909. The McDonald homestead, being approximately 30 kilometres from the Victoria Settlement, also became an ideal stop for travellers along the Victoria Trail. McDonald soon began operating a stopping house from his homestead and a coach house was constructed on the site to meet traveller's needs. Also due to its ideal location, the increased traffic and McDonald's political connections, a number of other services were soon offered from the building. The Pine Creek Post Office relocated here in 1913 followed by a sub-agency of the Edmonton Dominion Land Office. The multitude of services offered made the stopping house a frequent gathering place for area residents. The success of the McDonald business operations can be read in the changes made to the physical structure of the buildings over the years. The log structure was expanded and improved between 1911 and 1920. A one-storey shed roofed lean-to at the rear; originally used for storage and later as a kitchen, was added by 1913. In 1917, bevelled cedar siding was installed over the logs on the exterior walls and a wrap-around porch was added to the south (front) and east sides. The interior of the house was also improved by adding high quality wood strip flooring, beaverboard cladding on the walls and high quality fir wainscoting, window and door frames and other millwork. These additions and improvements made the house resemble typical farm houses in areas of Southwestern Ontario, where McDonald had lived before migrating to Western Canada.

Soon after these additions and improvements were made the fortunes of the McDonald businesses declined. The Canadian Northern Railway had constructed a line into the Pine Creek area and had surveyed a town site a short distance to the north at Waskatenau. The arrival of the more comfortable and efficient railway drew travellers away from the river and Victoria Trail. This decrease in traffic ended the McDonald homestead's role as a stopping house. Additionally, Waskatenau became the new commercial service point for the district and the post office and land titles office relocated there in 1920. Soon after the loss of these offices, the McDonald family also closed their general store. With their businesses in decline, they shifted their attention to full-scale farming and constructed a number of outbuildings to support this endeavour. By 1940, the coach house was dismantled and its construction materials were used to build a granary.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1843)

Character-Defining Elements
Key elements that define the site's heritage value include the following:

Main House
- log construction of exterior walls with logs visible in the lean-to addition;
- cast in place concrete foundation;
- full basement with four foot poured in place concrete shelf and original steel support posts, accessible by exterior stairway with trap door and interior stairs to main floor;
- brick chimney supported by a large log post in the basement;
- original fenestration pattern and storm windows;
- roofs clad in cedar shingles;
- floor plan of living room, bedroom and kitchen on the first floor and three bedrooms on the second floor;
- one-storey, shed-roofed lean-to at the rear of the building;
- exterior walls clad in bevelled cedar siding, installed in 1917, over original logs;
- interior features from 1917 upgrades such as fir tongue and groove flooring over original log subfloor, fir wainscoting, doors and window frames, and beaverboard walls;
- wrap-around porch, added in 1917, on south and east elevations with a hipped roof supported by turned posts with scrollwork;
- mail slot, from the site's post office period, present in the lean-to's porch;
- built-in cabinetry under the stairs;
- overall design reminiscent of Southern Ontario farm houses.

- location in a natural setting alongside a ravine on the historic Victoria Trail;
- situation amongst numerous mature trees, and in a well groomed yard;
- former laneway defined by two rows of mature trees leading from the Victoria Trail to the house's front door.
- evidence of a historic pathway leading from the site into the agricultural lands on the higher ground to the north;
- evidence of the concrete foundation of the coach house to the north west of the main house.


Street Address:
Community: Waskatenau, Near
Boundaries: Lot 1, Block 1, Plan 1423459
Contributing Resources: Building: 1
Landscape(s) or Landscape Feature(s): 3

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
54.056460 -112.727323 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2011/03/01

Historical Information

Built: 1909 to 1909
Period of Significance:
Theme(s): Peopling the Land : Settlement
Historic Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Government : Post Office
Residence : Single Dwelling
Current Function(s):
Context: The historical significance of the S.A. McDonald House near Waskatenau lies in its provision of structural evidence of the settlement of the Pine Creek district, west of Waskatenau, shortly after the turn of the 20th century. It is also important in its relationship to the Victoria Trail connecting the Victoria Settlement with Fort Saskatchewan, as many travellers over this trail from 1909 to 1919 made stops there.

When the areas north of the North Saskatchewan River northeast of Fort Saskatchewan were opened for homesteading shortly after the turn of the 20th century, it was natural that many of the first settlers gravitated to land off the ancient Victoria Trail, which connected Fort Saskatchewan with the Victoria Settlement. One of the homesteaders to take up land in this district was Sam McDonald of North Lancaster, Ontario, who filed for SW8 TP59 R18 W4 in 1906. In 1908, he completed his small homestead house, and, in 1909, just after he proved up his land, he married a Winnipeg woman named Janet McDonald at the Catholic mission in Lamoureaux. Together, Sam and Janet developed their homestead and raised two children, Donald and Anna Mae.

Living not far from the much used Victoria Trail, it was not surprising that Sam soon decided to open a community store, with goods acquired in Edmonton. At this time, a store and post office called Pine Creek was already operating a short distance away, managed by F. J. Henry. Sam, however, purchased two acres just off the Victoria Trail on SW35 TP8 R 18 W4, and built a one-and-a-half storey structure which he intended to serve as his family dwelling as well as a community store. In 1913, Henry gave up his business, and the Pine Creek Post Office was transferred to McDonald's place. A short time later, a sub-agency of the Dominion Land Office in Edmonton was moved there as well. In 1919, both operations were closed, for the Canadian Northern Railway had just surveyed a grade through the district, and subdivided a townsite a short distance away which would be called Waskatenau.

Sam and Janet McDonald and their children continued to operate their farm in the years that followed. Sam passed away in 1933, and Janet in 1955. The old store and dwelling off the Victoria Trail continued in the hands of their descendants until 1992.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0709
Designation File: DES 1843
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 39878
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1843)
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