AGM 2018 Report

AGM 2018 Group

(Photo credit Ted Smith)

We had an intimate setting for our 2018 AGM. Although we had to compete with the Grey Cup, and other seasonal events, there was a good turn out!

The agenda was full. Johanne served as our MC welcoming attendees and introducing Laurel Erickson, our president who shared all the highlights of the year.

What A Great Year!!

Elections saw 6 returning board members and 2 new volunteers joining the board. We look forward to introducing them to you in the New Year.


AGM Presentation

The business meeting was followed by coffee, charcuterie and sweets. Next was the James Bond Steele presentation. Board member, Bill Pick (a.k.a. James Steele), read juicy excerpts from our recently published book. Very entertaining!

Bill Pick as James Steele

( Photo credit Ted Smith)

If you missed this opportunity to renew your membership, you can still do so online at HHS Membership . You will want to renew because we have many things planned for our members for 2019. More details to come!

p.s. Do your holiday shopping at Mandolin Books in the Highlands where you can buy all of our books! See  HHS Publications for more information.

A Friendly Reminder of our AGM


It’s that time of year again – the time when we share all the exciting things that the HHS has been part of over the last year.  Come and join us on Saturday, November 24th, from 1-3 pm  at the Community League hall at 6112 113 avenue.

If you love history and are curious about what we do, please consider becoming a volunteer – even a board member! We are always looking for people who share our passion for the Highlands and it’s a great way to meet kindred spirits.

There’s no better way to learn how to be involved than by attending the Annual General meeting! See you there!

In Flanders Field, the Poppies Grow…


One of the most emotional and poignant experiences of our trip to Belgium this June was a guided tour of the town of Ypres, Menin Gate, the Passchendaele Museum and Flanders Fields… where poppies still grow.

I’m sharing several photos with you that I took on our trip of these WW1 battle sites – pictures that still move me to tears – and even more so – as Remembrance Day approaches.


This photo shows a much sanitized version of what the trenches looked like during the war. The bags you see are not original, having deteriorated long ago. These are made of cement. Imagine hundreds of men huddled here. The War Museum web site says this about the conditions in these trenches:

Rats and lice tormented the troops by day and night. Oversized rats, bloated by the food and waste of stationary armies, helped spread disease and were a constant irritant. In 1918, doctors also identified lice as the cause of trench fever, which plagued the troops with headaches, fevers, and muscle pain.”


Dug outs like this one protected men and guns from bombs – but with all the conditions mentioned above.


This is photograph of the town of Ypres taken at the end of WW1. It had been completely demolished. Some towns in Belgium were built anew, using contemporary styles and materials. Others, like Ypres were rebuilt to replace what was originally there before the war.


This shows what Ypres looks like today from the same vantage point. It was rebuilt in the ancient styles of its past. There is much information available online, and of course in books, about the various battles that took place in and around Ypres, and I have to admit to not knowing a great deal about their specific history so, rather than make a mistake I invite you to do some of your own research.


Visible for several miles from its site beside the main road from Ypres to Bruges, the impressive Canadian Memorial at St. Julien stands like a sentinel over those who died during the heroic stand of Canadians during the first gas attacks of the First World War.”


This memorial was by far, for me, the most moving of all. It towers over the countryside and the grave sites. It is called “The Brooding Soldier.”

The sculpted figure at the top of this tower of granite is the head and shoulders of a Canadian soldier in his steel helmet. His head is bowed and his hands are resting on the butt of his rifle in the position of “reversed arms”, that is, with the rifle barrel pointing down. The ceremonial custom of reversing the order of things occurs at military funerals and is believed to have been done for the first time at the funeral of the Duke of Marlborough in 1722.”


This cemetery, the Tyne Cot Cemetery, is the largest Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in the world. It is also the most important reminder of the Battle of Passchendaele from 1917, the third battle of Ypres. Canadian graves are sprinkled throughout, proudly showing the maple leaf on their headstones.


This is the plaque at the base of the statue.


A Canadian son died for his country.


This young man lied, as many did, about his age in order to do his part in defending the Commonwealth. He has the distinction of being the youngest soldier to be buried in this cemetery.


Lest we forget, young German men were killed too. Far too many were barely 18 years of age. The Nazis filled their heads with the idea of glory in dying for the Motherland. Vladslo Cemetery is one of only four First World War German cemeteries in the Flanders region. In the whole of Belgium there are 13 First and Second World War German military cemeteries.


“The Vladslo Cemetery also contains a pair of statues – The Grieving Parents – by Kathe Kollwitz, a noted German sculptress. She made the statues in the 1930s as a tribute to her youngest son, Peter, who was killed in October 1914 and is buried in the cemetery. The eyes on the father-figure gaze on the stone directly in front of him, on which Kollwitz’s son’s name is written.”

The statues were originally somewhere else and were set further apart but later were placed in this cemetery as shown. This distance between the statues signifies the parents’ separation in grief, rather than their support of each other.


And finally we visited the “hospital” (dugouts into the ground with ceilings less than 6 feet, without light) where Canadian doctor John McCrae tended to the many wounded soldiers. It was here that he wrote that famous poem, “In Flanders Field.”

When the world is in chaos, and the news is filled with stories of our inhumanity to others, it’s especially important to understand the need for compromise and peace. Nothing is made clearer than when you visit these war memorials.

I hope you enjoyed this lengthy blog and visit the sites yourself someday.



What A Great Year!!

2018 was a very important year for the HHS. We’re proud of what we did this year.

February: New Blog / website. We decided that a blog would be better way to tell our stories and keep you up to date than a newsletter that was being produced only a couple of times per year.

March: Gibbard Block Open House and Fundraiser. This was an excellent opportunity for our members and the Highlands community to see the the Gibbard Block before restoration began. We heard so many stories of how important this building was to Edmontonians. We raised $2000 to fund our ongoing projects and programs.

Gibbard Block Pressed Tin Ceiling Main Floor

Original pressed tin ceiling in the Gibbard Block will be preserved.

April: Our First Plaque Workshop was held at the Highlands Library. Participants learned how to do research on their homes and how to take advantage of our Plaque Program.

June: The first of 2018’s Speaker Series. Twenty five people turned out to listen to Dr. Rod McLeod speak about the history and importance of Edmonton’s Blatchford Field during WW2.

July: We participated in the annual Historic Edmonton Open Doors Festival. The launch was held at the Highlands Golf Course. Over 150 people came to this event. Following the presentations, the HHS offered two walking tours which were well attended. Later in the week we had another sell-out bus tour of the Highlands.

Open Doors2

Historic Open Doors festival at the Highlands Golf Course was a huge success.

September: Our second Speaker Series featured four presenters from the Beverly Interpretive Center. Forty people heard the stories of coal mining from community members whose grandparents worked in the coal mines of Beverly. We also held our Second Plaque Workshop, which was extremely well attended.

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Speaker from the Beverly Interpretive centre showing a picture of a mine in Beverly.

October: The HHS celebrated its 30th Anniversary (Yippee) at the Highlands Golf Course. Following an excellent buffet dinner we were treated to a “visit” by James Bond Steele (1857 – 1923). Brian Christy, aka the McKay Avenue one-room schoolteacher, played the role of Steele, and Kassandra Milette played the part of his daughter Elsie.  The book, James Bond Steele Diaries: The Daily Life of a One Room Schoolteacher in early Edmonton 1885 – 1891 was officially launched. Many guests dressed up in 1920’s garb.

Trio with Costumes

Attendees at the Gala got into the spirit of the era.

But Wait ! There’s MORE!!

November 24th, 1-3 pm Our Annual General meeting, previously advertised as being at the Highlands United Church, has been moved to the Community League hall at 6112 113 avenue. The agenda includes a short business meeting that will include elections. If you love history and are curious about what we do, please consider  becoming a volunteer – even a board member! We are always looking for people who share our passion for the Highlands and it’s a great way to meet kindred spirits.

After the meeting, editor of the James Bond Steele Diaries, Melanie Moore, will present highlites from the book. There will be an opportunity to purchase your own copy of the book, renew your membership (which expires October 31st) and mingle with fellow members over refreshments.

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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

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!