Wednesday, November 17, 2004

McLennan, Alberta

I’ve been working over ten years on a genealogy of McLennan, MacLennan and MacLellan lines throughout Stormont and Glengarry counties, eastern Ontario (Canada). I’ve been working toward point of arrival from Scotland (even if that might take me to, say, New York State or northern Ontario or Quebec first). I’ve found a number of really interesting directions, which force me to do further research in Montreal (the McLennan library at McGill is named for a feller from Glengarry county), Boston (where his family eventually moved), California, Vancouver and plenty of other places.

A few months ago, I found these references to the origins of McLennan, Alberta, a little spot on the map invented for the sake of the rail line. The book The Story Behind Alberta Names, How Cities, Towns, Villages and Hamlets Got their Names by Harry M. Sanders (2003, Red Deer Press) writes:

Town on Highway 2, approximately 135 kilometres northeast of Grande Prairie

... The town was named for Dr. John K. McLennan, an executive (and future vice-president) of this railway.

In 1915, as its rails approached the Peace River country, the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway (EC&BC) reached the shore of Round Lake (now Lake Kimiwan). Bypassing the existing settlements of Grouard and Round Lake, the ED&BC established the new divisional point of McLennan. Round Lake residents quickly packed up and resettled in McLennan. Despite its Scottish name, many of McLennan’s residents were French Canadian. The townsite was named for Dr. John K. McLennan, the railway company’s secretary-treasurer, purchasing agent and future vice-president. After earning a medical degree in Winnipeg, McLennan moved to California where he practiced until J.D. McArthur recruited him for the administration of the EC&BC. When the Canadian Pacific Railway took over the line in 1920, McLennan and his family returned to California. McLennan was incorporated as a village in 1944 and as a town in 1948.
(p 211-212)

Another reference I found in the book Back Roads of Northern Alberta by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey (1992, Lone Pine Publishing), that writes:

Continue west on Highway #679 to Highway #49 then turn north to McLennan, home of Hollandia Bakery, the largest, privately owned bakery in northern Alberta. Besides supplying baked goods in Alberta, they also cover the North West Territories and the Yukon. Tours can be arranged by phoning 342-3582.

Kimiwan Lake is the intersection of three major bird flyways: the Mississippi, Pacific, and Central. 27,000 shorebirds rest here on their yearly migrations. Many beautiful waterfowl nest on its shores and the lake is a protected wildlife breeding area. Visit the interpretive centre or wander along the boardwalk and see how many species you can recognize of the more than 200 that frequent the area. Especially watch for snowy owls, bald eagles, and whistling swans. Kimiwan is shallow, but has good fishing for perch, walleye, and pike.

The Cost of Ingenuity

McLennan owes its existence to the "ingenuity" of an Edmonton, Dunvegan, and British Columbia (ED&BC) Railway employee, Hughie Hunter. the railroad was searching for a source of pure water for their steam locomotives and Hunter was sent from Grouard to Winagami Lake and Round Lake (Lake Kimiwan) to collect water for testing in Edmonton. When he arrived back at Lesser Slave Lake, the water container was empty and rather than retrace his steps for another sample, he dipped the vessel into these waters. The water received high marks from the chemist in Edmonton. Thanks to his resourcefulness, the railway spent years hauling water from Lesser Slave Lake to McLennan, because the actual water from Winagami and Round Lakes ultimately proved unsuitable.
(p 67)

What I’m interested in is, who is this doctor fella, Dr. John K. McLennan, and where did he not only come from, but where did he go? So far, I’ve not been able to find anything.

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