Onoway Museum and Heritage Centre
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History


Brief History of Onoway and District

Settlement in the Onoway area began in the late 1890s by Europeans who migrated to Canada because of the federal government promise of free land.


Prior to this, from approximately the mid-1850s, Onoway was a stopping point along the Lac Ste. Anne Trail which extended from the Catholic mission in St. Albert to the mission at Lac Ste. Anne. The Trail was used by missionaries (including Father Lacombe), early settlers, first nations people, prospectors on their way to the Klondike and explorers searching for a passage to the Pacific. As well, fish from Lac Ste. Anne was transported along the Trail to be used as food at Fort Edmonton.


As more people began to clear land and start farming, the community began to grow and with it, the demand for services.

 

A school was built and the first day of classes was on the same day Alberta became a province: September 1, 1905. The first store was built in 1906. The Canadian Northern Railway came through in 1910. In 1911 the first telephone service came to the community. The medical needs of people living in the Onoway area were met by St. Barnabas Mission Hospital situated a few miles north-east of Onoway. This was an initiative of the Anglican Church and operated from 1913 until 1937. St. John's Anglican Church, Onoway's first church, was dedicated on June 21, 1914. The Standard Bank of Canada opened a branch in Onoway in 1919.


Onoway continued to grow and on June 2, 1923 was formally established as a village (25 occupied dwellings and a population of 100 people).


Local entrepreneurs opened diverse businesses to meet the growing number of rural residents as well as the increasing village population. A hotel was built; grain elevators and a creamery served local farmers. Recreational facilities (community hall, skating rink, curling rink, baseball diamonds) were built over the years and the burgeoning school population led to expansion after expansion to the original school, then at last another six-room high school was built in 1960. This too had numerous additions. The whole educational system in Onoway was revamped; in 1970. Onoway Elementary School and Onoway Jr. Sr. High Schools became separately administered units. By 2000 the school population in Onoway was approximately 1,000 but it took until 2005 for the Village of Onoway to reach a population of 1,000 and consequently, town status.

 
Onoway Museum, Onoway Heritage Centre, and Alliance Activity Centre

The Onoway and District Historical Guild was established in 2003 by a group of citizens who were keen to preserve Onoway's history. Because many artifacts had been collected over the years by one of the Guild's founding members, what was needed was a building to house and display them – a museum! The Guild reached an agreement with St. John's Anglican Church to use the vacant Old Anglican Church (the oldest building in Onoway) for this purpose. That first museum was opened in summer 2006. The building had no light or electricity but summer employees toughed it out and, with much volunteer help and creativity, some exhibits were created. Interest grew, the number of donated artifacts increased substantially and the space was far too small.

 

In 2007, a new elementary school was constructed in Onoway and the old Onoway Elementary School was left vacant. Almost immediately, the Guild purchased the building from Northern Gateway Public Schools and established the Onoway Museum in the original brick component of the school. It was officially opened on June 6, 2008.

 

Development of the museum was the top priority but because the Guild now had to cover the operating costs, not only of staff, but of utilities, repairs and maintenance, it was important to open the building to lessees and renters. Onoway Public Library renovated the east end of the building and became the first tenant in 2010.

 

The building then evolved into two distinct sections: the Onoway Heritage Centre comprised of the rooms added in 1972 and the Onoway Museum + Alliance Activity Centre (gym built in 1955). This made it possible to rent and lease the various classrooms to organizations and clubs; fitness, health and educational activities. The Lac Ste. Anne County PlaySchool and Rock Victory Church are based in the Heritage Centre. The Onoway Museum/Onoway Heritage Centre has become an extremely busy community resource; 40,016 people used the facility in 2015.

 

Thus the Onoway Museum continues to pursue its mandate of preserving local history and at the same time, the Onoway Heritage Centre provides a valuable resource to community members of all ages and interests.



Looking Back Articles
When the Onoway and District Historical Guild determined that a museum would become a reality, donations related to Onoway's history started to come in. They covered the gamut of everyday life in this area from the earliest days to recent history. Artifacts range from exquisite beaded leather jackets made by Mrs. Gray to report cards; from hand-made tools to calendars from long-disappeared businesses; from military uniforms to cylinder record players.

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And there were magazines, newspapers (local and further afield), club and organization records as well as family documents and letters.

The local newspaper, The Lac Ste. Anne Bulletin, accepted our offer to contribute a monthly column that touched on some of these artifacts and documents. This would give today's Onoway area residents an opportunity to bring back to life the objects, the people and the events of years past - all of which, in some way, helped to shape our world today.

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