History of Prince Albert
Prince Albert is one of the oldest settlements in the province and has enjoyed a rich and celebrated history. James Isbister was the first to settle and farm in the area in 1862 - an ideal spot to build a life where the prairies meet the pines. In the broad valley of the North Saskatchewan River that divides the rich agricultural land of the south, from the broad band of mixed forest to the north, the possibilities seemed endless. In 1866, Reverend James Nisbet arrived and named the new settlement Prince Albert, in honour of the Prince Consort to England's Queen Victoria.
Early settlers were drawn to the abundance of timber and fertile land in the late 1860s and early 1870s.
One of the first buildings in Prince Albert built by Nisbet still exists today - the First Presbyterian Church which now sits at the north end of Kinsmen Park, and was moved to that site for the Prince Albert Historical Society in 1932.
In 1886, Prince Albert became the Saskatchewan Headquarters of the NorthWest Mounted Police. The original guardroom of the NWMP has been re-located to the Visitor Centre property and is now home to the Rotary Museum of Police and Corrections.
Laying cornerstone of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, c. 1906
Courtesy of Bill Smiley Archives.
The first train arrived in October 1890, and thus Prince Albert was opened to the newly emerging culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some notable figures to live in Prince Albert during this time include famed author Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of "Anne of Green Gables". Also a young Boris Karloff, honing his skills with Prince Albert's Harry St. Clair Players before becoming one of the most famous villains in Hollywood history. Other notables that have lived in Prince Albert and area, include Archibald Stansfield Belaney (Grey Owl) and John G. Diefenbaker, Prime Minister of Canada between 1957 and 1963.
Prince Albert officially became a City on October 8, 1904. By 1910, the new City was booming. In addition to the wealth of the forest and agricultural industries, Prince Albert was a hub of steamboat and railway activity and a centre for commerce.
Over the years, Prince Albert has been the home of many large businesses, including breweries and flour mills. With the development of a Pulp Mill in 1968, forestry became the second most important industry (agriculture being the first). Numerous gold and uranium discoveries in the 1970s and 80s increased employment and stimulated the Northern Saskatchewan economy. Throughout the 1990s, the City has seen tourism emerge as its third largest industry. As a result of this growth, Prince Albert has twice been named "One of the Ten Best Places to Live" in Canada by Chatelaine magazine in 1992 and 1993.
The beginning of the 21st century marked another period of growth in the City, including the building of the Cornerstone Development Shopping District, the E.A. Rawlinson Centre for the Arts, and the Provincial Forestry Centre. With diamond exploration in the Prince Albert area, growth in the commercial and industrial sectors, and an active cultural and recreational community, Prince Albert's future promises to be as exciting as its past!
For more information about Prince Albert's rich cultural history, visit the Prince Albert Historical Society website.