Who Was James Bond Steele?

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James Bond Steele (second from right, top row) in 1889 in front of Belmont School. Photo from Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Who was James Bond Steele? And why are we publishing his diaries?

James came to the Northwest Territories in 1885, following his older brothers Richard, Godfrey, and the infamous Sam Steele.

Sam Steele

James’ older and more famous brother, Sam Steele. Image from Dictionary of Canadian Biography (online).

Sam was the leader of Steele’s Scouts during the Northwest Rebellion, and James wanted to join up. That was not to be his destiny, however. Instead, after many fits and starts, he became a respected schoolteacher who taught the children of well known early Edmonton families such as Griesbach, Kirkness, Gullion, Fraser and Borwick.


Fort Saskatchewan in 1899. Image from http://www.priarie-towns.com

Like his older brother Sam, James kept a daily diary in which he documented his adventures in the Wild West starting with his experiences in Fort Saskatchewan.

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James Bond Steele Diary Page July 1891. Image from Provincial Archives.

For six years, he taught at Belmont School, which served a large area northeast of the Edmonton townsite, including the river lots on which present day Highlands, Bellevue and Virginia Park are built.

James’ daily life is detailed in his diaries which are featured in the book we are launching at our 30th Anniversary Gala on October 11th. You won’t want to miss this special celebration and the opportunity to be among the first to learn about James’ life during the 6 years he taught at Belmont School.

To answer the question, why are we publishing his diaries? Why are they important? From James’ diaries we glean much of what life was like for the early settlers during and following the Northwest Rebellion of 1885: their fears, feuds and frustrations. Despite the hardships of settlement life, James and his neighbours experience joyful times too.

Experience life in the Edmonton Settlement between 1885 and 1891 through the diaries of James Bond Steele, schoolteacher, author, farmer, brother, friend and husband.

For more information about our event click here.

Get your tickets soon. Seating is limited!

Our 30th Anniversary and Book Launch Gala


Join the Highlands Historical Society on October 11, 2018 for a very special event as we celebrate our 30th Anniversary and launch our latest bookJames Bond Steele Diaries – The Daily Life of a One-Room Schoolteacher in Early Edmonton 1885-1891.”

 The event will be held at the Highlands Golf Course. Doors will open at 6:00 PM, followed by a delicious buffet dinner at 6:30. We have negotiated a special meal price with the Highlands Golf Course of $30 per person. After the meal, James Bond Steele, (who has graciously agreed to return from the Great Beyond for this special occasion) will regale us with his memories of what it was like to be a teacher in 19th century Edmonton.

The book will be available after the performance for $30 (are you seeing a pattern here?) payable by cash or cheque.


We will be drawing door prizes with one special prize going to the person with the best 1920’s costume so come dressed in your finery. Check out the following website to learn how to create easy vintage styles: https://vintagedancer.com/1920s/ . These images are from that site.


Tickets are available online via Eventbrite or by mailing a cheque to the address below. Tickets are limited so reserve your seat soon and join us in celebrating this special event!

Event Details:

When:   Thursday October 11, 2018. Doors open at 6pm, dinner at 6:30 pm.

Where: Highlands Golf Course, 6603 Ada Blvd NW, Edmonton, AB T5W 4N5. This                facility is wheelchair accessible by driving to the lower level beyond the                    parking lot.

Dress:   Business casual or 1920’s costumes.

Tickets: $30. Purchase your tickets online through Eventbrite or by mail. If paying by  mail, please send your cheque, name of guest(s) and contact information to the following address:

Highlands Historical Society Edmonton
PO Box 51066 RPO Highlands Edmonton, Alberta T5W 5G5.

Deadline: Tickets must be purchased by October 7th so don’t delay!

We look forward to seeing you at our celebration!


Speaker Series Worth a Listen



Dr. Rod MacLeod speaker on the History of Aviation in Edmonton

“We had a great turnout at our speaker event on June 5th” enthused Melanie Moore, board member and co-organizer of the Speaker Series, a popular speaking event where the Highlands Historical Society invites experts to speak on various topics. Dr. Rod MacLeod regaled the group with interesting anecdotes and little known facts about aviation in Alberta’s capital city.


For example, did you know that, in 1943, the Edmonton airport was the busiest one in the world? Apparently our early air traffic system was emulated around the world. Who knew?

The next Speaker Series event will be held at 7 pm on September 12th at the Highlands Library Activity Room. Guest speaker Kristine Reid, the Interpretive Center assistant for the Olde Towne Beverly Historical Society, will speak about Coal Mining in Beverly. Rumour has it that there may be other speakers present to add their unique perspective to the presentation.

Cost: $5 per person, but FREE for Highlands Historical Society members. We hope to see you there. The talks are worth a listen…


Walking & Bus Tours & Open Doors Launch a Success


Walking tours of the Highlands, as part of the Open Doors Festival in July, continue to be popular year after year. People are fascinated by the stories and the architecture of one of Edmonton’s premier historical communities.


This year, 20+ people joined Robyn Fowler, a board member of the Highlands Historical Society, as she pointed out special details and told the stories of the people who first settled the Highlands. For the first time we attempted to use a PA system but it failed us. In any case, Robyn’s experience as a teacher came through loud and clear. The weather alternated between sunshine and rain – lots of it – but that didn’t deter the group.

Those who booked the tour on the bus, however, didn’t have to worry about inclement weather. This sold-out tour was presented by Bill Pick and Dustin Jussila, also both Highlands Historical Society board members. We are indeed fortunate to have this bus free of charge thanks to Connelly Mckinley Funeral Homes as part of their community outreach. The HHS is responsible for paying the driver, splitting any money made with him or her. It’s a win-win situation for all.


Highlands Golf Course Personnel in all their Vintage golfwear finery

The Open Doors Festival was launched at our very own Highlands Golf Clubhouse. The event had the highest turnout ever for its official launch program. 154 people attended the celebration and enjoyed the delicious food prepared by Chef Vikram and his staff. Club historian (and long time Highlands resident) Ted Smith and Rob Lake, club president, gave a presentation on the history of the golf course. Everyone was impressed by their 1930’s golf attire, as shown in the photograph above. Johanne Yakula spoke about the HHS, – its beginnings, its mission and upcoming projects.

All in all, a great celebration. Until next year…


Highlands Lawn Bowling Club – 100 Years!



Lawn bowling has a long history in the Highlands. A photo exists from 1918 depicting a happy group of lawn bowlers on William Magrath’s lawn on Ada Boulevard. Magrath was co-owner of the Magrath-Holgate & Co. Ltd., the developer and builder of the Highlands subdivision in the early 20th century. Magrath was an avid sportsman, with particular interest in lawn bowling, curling and baseball.

The club recently celebrated 100 years of lawn bowling in Highlands.


The above photo shows a symbolic moment – the moment just before the celebration was to officially begin. Long time resident and board member of the  Highlands Historical Society, Cathy Chalmers, attended with her mom, a past resident of the Highlands.


Cathy reported that the lawn bowling club had a display of old photographs, trophies and even a plaque that her mom’s family had donated to the clubhouse in the 1930’s! A formal program was held with Kerry Diotte (MP) and Brian Mason (MLA) (seen in above photo) providing congratulations from the city and the province. Wine and cheese followed.


HHS president laurel Erickson with HHS member Helen Gillespie.

The event was well attended and current members encouraged any of those attending to try their hand at throwing a ball or two. They are working hard to get younger players involved in the sport. Hopefully they are successful and that there’s lawn bowling in the Highlands for another 100 years!