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Resume of the Big Valley Historical Society

The Big Valley Museum originated, informally, in the early '70s with a small local group of citizens who saw the need to preserve as many aspects of local history as possible.  


By 1970, our CNR railway station had been classed as "demised" by the CN.  CN had torn out the platform and stripped the interior of the building of anything moveable.  The building was becoming dilapidated.  In cooperation with Red Grover (Mayor at the time) we entered into an agreement with CNR to open a museum in the "Express Room: (the most southerly ground-floor room) of the station.  With Red's help we accessed a $5000 grant from the RCMP Centennial Fund and the museum was officially opened in 1973.  About the same time, Marie Melary organized a group of local seniors and they moved into the north three rooms, establishing the Big Valley Drop-In-Centre (their official opening took place on November 14, 1974). 


In 1987, the Drop In built new facilities and because of our ever-increasing need for space, the museum took over the whole station (except for the "Waiting Room" which was still reserved by the CNR).  by this time the station roof was leaking badly so, with the help of Alberta Historic Sites, our museum group employed Vern Raho to replace all the shingles.  I should note that we had previously negotiated a lease with CNR giving us exclusive rights to the station (for a payment of !1.00 per year) until the year 2000.  Somehow, the lease was later ignored by the CNR and the rail line and all related buildings were sold to CWR (Central Western Railway Corp.).  CWR intended to use the station as their office and we were requested, by them, to leave.  We negotiated a compensation agreement with them and proceeded to move all our displays into the former Melary's Ceramic Plant on Main Street.  Later when it became obvious that CWR would require only the upstairs of the station we moved back in.  More recently the Canadian Northern Society (CNS) negotiated a lease with CWR and we moved to our new location.


Because of the difficulty in accessing funding under the name, Big Valley Museum, we applied to become a registered society.  On May 19, 1982 we officially became The Big Valley Historical Society and, on May 1, 1984, we became we became a federally registered charitable organization.


Another major focus of our effort, that overlapped (time wise) the railway station project, was the extensive repair and restoration of the "demised" St. Edmund's Anglican Church, on the hill overlooking the main street of the village of Big Valley.  It had been unused, by the Anglicans, for several years and had suffered some vandalism.  Many of the windows were missing, and the roof was leaking in numerous places.  We began restoration by replacing all the shingles and windows, followed by extensive interior repairs.  Our Society now holds title to this historic site and continues to make every effort to maintain its original appearance (aside from its current distinctive blue exterior).  We have operated it as a tourist attraction for many years, and it has been a popular site for weddings.  In 1996 we had natural gas   installed (courtesy of Canadian Western Natural Gas) and, with the cooperation of another group of local volunteers, a natural gas furnace was obtained, and installed, so that the premises can now be useable on a year-round basis.  In 1998 an automatic bell ringing device was installed (primarily by Harry and Lionel Stuber), with donations by Harry Stuber and several other villagers, and the steeple bell now rings out the hours.  (Currently, 2015, the bell has stopped ringing due to water getting into the computerized system and shorting it out.)


About 1990, we purchased two huge all-steel baggage cars (with the co-operation of the CTAP program) and had a "panel track" constructed so that they could be located just south of the station.  They have been  converted into much needed additional museum display space.    They now house quite a number of vintage toys, model trains and other collectibles such  as over 1500 salt and pepper shakers .


We also own another locally historic site, the former McAlister Motors building, located on Railway Ave. one block south of the station.  We have now finished extensive repairs to turn this building into our main museum area.  As the building was formerly a garage and machinery sales outlet, we try to maintain the "garage flavor", and display several antique cars and trucks in the older arched roof portion.    We had to replace the "lean to" portion of the building which was beyond repair.  This new section houses our main office, archives, and our household antique collection.   In 2008, we added a chain link fence and equipment shed to the yard beside the garage and now have a place to display farm equipment and tractors.  We also have numerous equipment in the field across the street and on the south side of McAlisters.


Because of modernization, and centralization, in the grain storage and transportation industry, our last local grain elevator (we had three at one time) was closed early in 1998.  Our Society has concluded an agreement with the former Alberta Wheat Pool (now Agricore), that allowed the largest elevator to be left, intact, on site.  Through the years it has been a landmark and an integral part of the local community and railway history that we are trying to preserve.  We have received a lot of local support (morally and financially).  In 2012 it obtained the status of being a Provincial Heritage Site.


Around 2010, we made an agreement with one of our directors, Rod Miller, to build a new building to house his extensive collection of antique tools and collectibles.  In 2015, the building was completely and now displays are being constructed inside.  There will be a grand opening sometime in the summer of 2016.



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