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Key Number: HS 46033
Site Name: St. Thomas Duhamel Mission Church
Other Names: St. Thomas Duhamel Roman Catholic Mission Church
Site Type: 1603 - Religious: Church, Cathedral or Chapel


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
46 21 4

Address: N/A
Number: N/A
Street: N/A
Avenue: N/A
Near Town: New Norway


Type Number Date View


Plan Shape:
Superstructure: Other
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure:
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes:
Exterior: Post on sill log construction
Interior: The interior of St. Thomas Duhamel Church includes a number of paintings on the walls and ceiling which were produced shorlty after construction of the church. Also present are original furnishings, a variety of drapes, the altar and confessional, all dating to the early use of this church.
Environment: The church is presently situated on its original site, slightly off the main road through the Duhamel community. It is quite close to the site of the famous Battle River Trestle Bridge, reportedly the longest such structure ever constructed. The surrounding community and region is largely agricultural.
Condition: The church stands today (1974) as a historic site partially restored by the Duhamel Historical Society. In addition a local marker (cairn) is erected in a nearby campsite. The church is in fairly good repair, primarily due to continued use and maintenance. The front and rear additions show evidence of sagging. Footing for the entire structure needs to be stabilized, while slight deterioration of foundation logs should be corrected to prevent serious damage. The surrounding grounds are fenced off from immediate agricultural activites.
Alterations: Several years after its original construction, the steeple and sacristy were added and the entire building (interior and exterior) was covered with wood siding.


Construction: Construction Date:
Usage: Usage Date:
Owner: Owner Date:
The Catholic Archdiocese, of Edmonton
Duhamel Historical Society
Architect: N/A
Builder: N/A
Craftsman: N/A
History: Father H. Beillevaire came from Bear Hill (Hobbema) in May 1881 to Laboucan(e) Settlement, also called Battle River Crossing. Here he established a mission to administer to the numberous Metis who lived in the vicinity. During the first two years a small log cabin was used as a church meeting house and for domestic purposes. By 1883 a church was started and was in use by Christmas 1883, with the visit of archbishop Duhamel in 1884, the mission became St. Thomas Duhamel Mission. Archbishop Duhamel also sent the bell, circa 1892, for the church which bore his name. In 1887 the missionary built a dwelling house and later, 1900, a school was added with Ambroise Gray, the first teacher. Mr. Francois Adam owner of the Duhamel store contributed to the decorations and furnished lumber for the roof vault of the church. Father Deillevaire continued as cure of Duhamel until his death in 1930s.

* * *
Heritage Significance:
St. Thomas Duhamel Church was constructed in 1883 by Father H. Beillevaire to serve the early settlers of the Duhamel area and the neighbouring native population. The church is of 'post-on-sill' log construction, originally chinked with moss. Several years after its original construction, the steeple and sacristy were added and the entire building (interior and exterior) was covered with wood siding. The church was actively used from 1883 to 1962, and has served as a local museum since 1966.

Historical Significance:
The establishment of this mission furthered the development of the Duhamel community into a small town, one of the earliest such centres in the central Alberta area. St. Thomas Church served as a mission to both the local residents of Duhamel and to the neigbouring Indian population.

Architectural Significance:
The church is exceptionally original in structural design, and contains a large quantity of furnishings dating to the early period of its use. It is of post-on-sill construction, covered with wood siding on interior and exterior. The church is typical of rural church architectural design, featuring a central front steeple, high triangular gable, three windows on each side, interior balcony over the front entrance.

* * *
The Catholic Church of St. Thomas, Duhamel has been designated a Provincial Historic Resource announced Mary J. LeMessurier, Minister of Culture.

The Catholic Church of St. Thomas - Duhamel began in a small mission building built by local Metis for Father Bellevaire who first visited the Battle River area in 1881. The first structure served as a combination house and chapel but soon proved too small. On November 1, 1883 construction started on the new Church. The local Metis were again enlisted to build the Church. They used the post-on-sill method of log construction commonly associated with Hudson's Bay Company.

Post-on-sill buildings are composed of uniform logs fitted into upright posts then chinked and white-washed. In 1915 ship lap siding was added to the building and a sacristy and belfry were constructed. The Catholic Church of St. Thomas - Duhamel was located in the midst of a Metis community that came to be known as the Laboucane Settlement. Like Metis across the prairies, the inhabitants of the community were engaged in the freighting business (along the Calgary-Edmonton Trail) and in subsistence agriculture. The coming of the railway and the increasing importance of cash crop agriculture caused the community to dwindle in size; but Father Beillevaire continued to administer to Roman Catholics in the area. He died in 1937 after many years of service to the people of central Alberta.


Status: Status Date:

Designation Status: Designation Date:
Provincial Historic Resource
Register: N/A
Record Information: Record Information Date:
K. Williams 1991/04/18


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0500
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