SPECIAL AREA NO. 3
THE “LAST BEST WEST”
The Prairie, the plains, the “short grass” country, the “open land”, the “last best west”, all are descriptive of the area to which the homesteaders came in 1910. When the settlers arrived there were already ranchers and settlers along the projected railway line at Monitor and at Oyen, so land between was claimed for the arriving settlers. The new community which now grew quickly between these points, soon to be called New Brigden, was bounded on the north by the “Sharp Hills” and to the south wanders “Sounding Creek”.
It was in late 1909 and 1910 that the first large group of homesteaders came, one contingent from Brigden, Ontario, another large group were immigrants that had landed in the United States originally and others from western Alberta and other diverse points. The cultural mix that resulted included people from German, Polish, Irish, Scandinavian (mostly Norwegian), Russian, Danish and Chinese ancestry.
The community was named in 1912, when the establishment of the post office was imminent. At a public meeting a migrant from Brigden, Ontario, Frank Tye, proposed that the hamlet, because of the number of former Brigdenites, should be a “new” Brigden, and New Brigden it became.
As the accessibility to railway transportation improved more goods and services became available in the district. Living conditions improved as well as increases in population. By 1917 the people in the New Brigden area felt they deserved their own railway line. They sent a delegation up to Edmonton to press the AB government to do something about their rail service. With Grand Trunk Railway and Canadian North on the verge of bankruptcy, the only hope remained with the CPR – they were not interested. In 1925 the Canadian National Railway, a crown corporation made from the bankrupt CN and GTR , began to construct a branch line west from Loverna, Sk to Hanna, AB. By 1926 it had reached New Brigden.
The railway in New Brigden brought a number of services. Grain elevators, hardware store, grocery stores, restaurant and other services. Also, New Brigden’s water tower was erected to provide a reliable water source to the early steam locomotives. In the early years New Brigden was served by train three days a week (M,W & F). In time however, improved roads in the region made it easier to move around. With trucks and cars becoming more reliable and comfortable, drives of a 100km to larger centers became a routine. The result of all this change made it necessary for the train to come to NB only once a week, Fridays.
As family farms became larger with improved farming technology, the population in the area actually decreased resulting in fewer services being offered in NB. Roads became so good and with better vehicles, people began to automatically drive into Oyen and other areas to get needed goods and services. In order for the railways to stay competitive they found it necessary to cut services. As a result NB lost its railway service in 1979.
Today, as a result of changing technology and transportation shifts, NB has lost its status as a service center and only has mail service and an elementary school. The loss of the railway makes it necessary for the local farmers to haul their grains to other centers where rail service is still in operation.