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Key Number: HS 12020
Site Name: St. Edmund's Anglican Church
Other Names:
Site Type: 1603 - Religious: Church, Cathedral or Chapel


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
35 20 4

Address: N/A
Number: N/A
Street: N/A
Avenue: N/A
Town: Big Valley
Near Town:


Type Number Date View


Style: Gothic Revival
Plan Shape:
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure:
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes:
Exterior: N/A
Interior: N/A
Environment:  32 km south of Stettler, just off HWY 56.  The landmark church sits alone, high on a hill overlooking the village - and it's blue.
Condition: N/A


Construction: Construction Date:
Usage: Usage Date:
Owner: Owner Date:
Big Valley Historical Society (c/o A.R. Johnston)

Architect: N/A
Builder: N/A
Craftsman: N/A
History: St. Edmund's Anglican Church was constructed in 1916-1917. Originally, it was very simple in style until a crenulated bell tower was added in 1923. The church, with the later bell tower is a very good example of a modesty designed Late Gothic Revival church, based on a cruciform plan that incorporates two gothic windows in the apse.
The sense of the Late Gothic Revival is also evidenced in the interior where the ceiling of the apse has been built to form a large gothic arch. The church structure contains a very high degree of its original historical integrity.

The historical significance of the St. Edmund's Anglican Church lies in its service as an Anglican church for the community and district of Big Valley. It is closely associated with the boom period of the community between 1912 and 1922, when it was the major divisional point on the Canadian Northern Railway branch line between Vegreville and Drumheller. The church is a prominent landmark within the context of Big Valley and the surrounding region. (Notice of Intention, September 2002).

RESOURCE St. Edmund’s Anglican Church
ADDRESS Big Valley
BUILT 1916
DESIGNATION STATUS Provincial Historic Resource

In the summer of 1909, as a result of the provincial government’s new policy of guaranteeing the bonds of major railway companies building branch lines in Alberta, a subsidiary of the Canadian Northern Railway called the Alberta Midland began constructing a line from Vegreville through Stettler and Drumheller all the way to Calgary. Some 22 km south of Stettler, a station was erected and a town site subdivided off Mott Creek next to a small community called Big Valley, where a store and post office had existed since 1907. Here, the Canadian Northern decided to establish a divisional center, which would be provided with switching yards and facilities for servicing and repairing track, locomotives and rolling stock. A major consideration was the water supply, as the water in Mott Creek (now Valley Creek) was non-corrosive.
With the establishment of the rail yards in 1910, the population of Big Valley began to grow. Freighting service along the rail line was begun the following year, and, in 1912, a water tower, turntable, round house and other features of a railway divisional center were in place. By 1914, when Big Valley was incorporated as a village, it was home to 14 different railway crews and a large contingent of related maintenance staff. When the Canadian Northern was taken over by the federal government in 1918, the divisional facilities were extensively upgraded, and the community nearly doubled in size. In 1920, it was incorporated as a town with over 1,000 people.
As a railway boomtown, Big Valley was bereft of many social facilities in its early years. Church services, for example, were held in private homes or commercial buildings. Until the first Roman Catholic Church was built in 1917, Father Bazin of Stettler gave mass every fourth Sunday in Backstrom’s Hardware Store. This store was also used for Anglican Church services, with Reverends Child, Harrison, Bateman and Scallon also making visits there from Stettler. In 1918, the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Calgary was presented with a cheque for $500 from one Mrs. Caroline Leffler in England in order that a church might be established anywhere in his diocese where he felt it was most needed. By this time, thousands of young men and women from England had chosen to make south central Alberta their home.
It was no coincidence that Bishop Pinkham chose Big Valley as the site for Mrs. Leffler’s generosity. There was every reason to believe that the community was evolving into a metropolis, and that there were plenty of residents amongst the farmers, railway personnel and service workers who could identify themselves as Anglicans. Indeed, an Anglican congregational meeting had been held as early as 1917, with Fred Briggs as the Rector Warden. In June of that year, Reverend Scallon also performed a wedding in the community. In 1919, therefore, a wood frame church called St. Edmund’s was erected on a hill on the west side of Main Street. Father Scallon, who became the Church’s first resident minister, oversaw construction.
The economic boom in Big Valley did not last long. The Dominion government had taken over the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, as well as the Canadian Northern. In 1921, they collapsed both lines into a single company, the Canadian National. The main purpose of this was to consolidate services. This meant closing down a number of branch and spur lines. In 1922, it was decided to make the former Grand Trunk Pacific line between Camrose and Calgary the main north-south artery for the CN in Alberta. Staff at Big Valley was severely cut, and, in 1923, train service between Big Valley and Vegreville was terminated. By 1930, the population of Big Valley stood at 440; in 1942 the town reverted to village status. The train and maintenance crews, which remained, did so mainly to ship local coal and mixed farming products south through Drumheller to Calgary.
St. Edmunds Church continued to survive however, until, in 1966, improved transportation encouraged many parishioners to travel 22km north to Stettler to attend church services. With little commercial development in the community, the St. Edmund’s Church building was allowed to remain standing, as it does today.

The historical significance of St. Edmund’s Church lies in its service as an Anglican church for the community and district of Big Valley. It is closely associated with the boom period of the community between 1912 and 1922, when it was the major divisional point on the Canadian Northern branch line between Vegreville and Drumheller.


Status: Status Date:
Occasional Use
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Provincial Historic Resource
Register: N/A
Record Information: Record Information Date:
Tatiana Gilev 2002/12/17


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0816
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