The South Cooking Lake Community League has been operating since 1923, thanks to the dedicated volunteers who have donated their time to create a stronger sense of community in the South Cooking Lake Area.
In 1923, R. Bell donated land and the community got together and built a hall. Sadly, that hall burned down in 1939, but that did not stop the dedicated South Cooking Lake Cooking Lake Community League as they kept going using the old Franklin School until World War II. In 1943, activities ceased only to be resurrected after the war.
In 1947, a new hall emerged, across from the store. This hall was used for 25 years before it was sold. The Community League kept going strong and built yet another hall.
Around 1973, Strathcona County donated the land on Grandview Bay where the first South Cooking Lake Airport used to be. Famous people flew from that Bay, including Wop May, Will Rogers and Roy Brown who shot the Red Barren.
The current Hall was completed in 1974 and a Senior Centre was added on in 1993.
History of the South Cooking Lake Area
Cooking Lake as a stopping place goes back to the days of old Carlton Trail, which was the overland route from Winnipeg to Edmonton in the 1880s. Around the turn of the century, the first homesteaders coming to this district used this trail named by the Cree Indians “O-PI-MI-W-SIOO-SAKYAKN” (Place Where We Cook Lake) or Cooking Lake.
The Cree, Blackfoot and the Sarcee were the first to inhabit the area, and that is where the name originally came from. The water was clear and high. The beaches were white sand and the forests were thick and tall.
Cooking Lake was fished commercially until 1926. Large numbers of buffalo, lynx, fox, mink, muskrat, elk, deer, moose, wolves, coyotes and black bears roamed the area. Many people remember the dances at Lakeview Hall. If you drive past South Cooking Lake to Lakeview, you can see the rebuilt “Lakeview Fireplace,” which is all that is left of this famous meeting place.
Sheriff Robertson is one of the first names well known around Cooking Lake. He came with his family to the district in 1892. His mother was the first Caucasian woman to set foot on Kony Island, an island in Cooking Lake. He built a substantial lodge of native logs in 1898 on section 24, at South Cooking Lake. The lodge withstood the ravages of time and weather for more than 60 years and is still a landmark on the shore.
At that time, John McFadden was camped on the shore of a small lake to the west which bears his name – “McFadden Lake.” He had driven a horse herd up from Montana earlier that spring.
Next came Daniel Grummett who settled on the South shore in 1893, and has many descendants in the surrounding districts. The Grummett family operated the post office in Cooking Lake. On Saturdays the settlers came from far and near on foot and on horseback to collect their weekly mail. Settlers from North Cooking Lake also came across the lake to this post office. Distance meant little to Dan Grummett. He was known to start to Edmonton on foot across country at 5 p.m. and be back by daylight with the box of shotgun shells he went for. He was also an excellent violinist and all of his family, three sons and two daughters, inherited his gift. A jack of all trades, Dan Grummett was also the carpenter when the Anglican Church was built in 1908, and built a fireplace of fieldstone for Sheriff Robertson.
From 1893 to 1906, the Cooking Lake District filled up rapidly. One of the earlier settlers was Sid Edwards in 1901. He hauled freight from Edmonton to Cooking Lake and later, with a team of oxen, broke the first sod on many homesteads.
Mr. Keen, who had a greenhouse on the south shore, sold bedding plants in Edmonton, hauled via team and democrat over the Old Cooking Lake Trail. Eddie Keen, whose by-line is familiar to readers of the Edmonton Journal, is his grandson.
Mr. Walton’s four daughters and three sons made their home a popular one. It was a gathering place for the young people. Twenty guests was a conservative number for Sunday supper.
Billy Murphy’s homestead is now part of Al Oeming’s Game Farm.
Will Bufton’s homestead was west of Lakeview in 1902.
Bert and Fred Williams and their mother were family friends in Chicago and they arrived in 1904.
The land south of Cooking Lake was rolling and heavily timbered with poplar, tamarack and spruce. Mr. Chadwick had a sawmill where the village now stands. Settlers hauled their own logs to the Mill where they were sawn into rough lumber at $4.00 per 1,000 ft. B.M.
In the 1890s, many fires swept through the Beaver Hills: in 1891: from Beaverhills Lake to Cooking Lake; in 1892-1893: from Cooking Lake to Miquelon Lake; and in 1895: a giant fire swept through the wooded areas between Cooking Lake and Fort Saskatchewan.
The Northwest Territories Government reacted to these disasters by setting up the first organized District in what was to become the Province of Alberta. Called the Statute Labour and Fire District No.2 in 1893, it consisted of 108 square miles of the Beaver Hills, later increased to 216.
In 1895, William Stevens was appointed the first ranger for this Forest Reserve.
Many of the homesteaders were from the old countries and had been apprenticed in different trades. Working at their trade part of each year in Edmonton helped many during the first rough year. Everyone lived off the land as much as possible. Rabbits and partridge, an occasional deer, and even bear meat during the winter, were items of homesteaders’ menu.
The lakes were full of pike and mullet (jackfish) and suckers to the homesteaders, which made a welcome change in springtime. Wild ducks and berries of all kinds were plentiful all summer.
Trapping muskrats in the spring was also a source of revenue. Later on came the beef, cream cheques and small crops on every homestead.
Franklin School was built in 1908. Mrs. Portas, Mr. Walton and Brockett Moneypenny were the first trustees. Miss Gertie Stinson was the first teacher.
A few of the names who arrived before 1908 were Chambers on whose homestead Lakeview Pavilion was built; Uprights who had the first B.A. service station in the village; Hepharts, Browns, Bradshaws, Portas, Bob Bell, Moneypennys, Morehouse, Haleys, Bairds, Chadwicks, Edgar Hayman, George Weslake (originally at Cooking Lake), Oswald Defieux and many more.
In the Cooking Lake District there were many homesteads filed on by single young men. Every male living alone on a homestead, whether he was 18 or 80, was called an “old bachelor.”
During the late winter of 1907, these bachelors held a meeting, appointed a secretary (Brockett Moneypenny) and each one donated one dollar to provide refreshment at what was to become an annual affair, known as “The Bachelor Ball”. It was the wind-up in the spring of the settlers’ social season. Formal invitations were sent out to more than 50 families, children and grandparents included within a 20-mile radius. Sheriff Robertson loaned his lodge for the occasion. The music was by Dan Grummett with violin and Art Quilley with a flute. The cooking was done by Mrs. Trudgeon (a daughter of Mr. Grummett) who was later to become Mrs. Murdock of Ministik. She was assisted by Ada Chambers. At midnight, sandwiches, cakes, lemon pies, tea and coffee were served, followed by an hour of impromptu concert, in which everyone participated. Then the dance was resumed, lasting sometimes until daylight if the roads were bad. The labour, music, etc. were all donated free and the memory of these “get-togethers” lingers long in the memory of the old-timers.
In November 1905, Mr. Charles Upright and family of London, England, arrived at South Cooking Lake and took a homestead. They settled between McFadden Lake and the present Highway 14. In 1928, they sold this land and used the money to buy lakefront lots on Cooking Lake. Here they built nine cottages and in 1929 put in a store and tearoom. Meanwhile, the part of the Lake in front of the cottages had become an Air Harbor – a Seaplane Base for bush pilots flying their pontoon-equipped planes into Canada’s North. Mr. Upright provided a filling station for re-fueling the planes. Many of the pioneer bush pilots flew out of this site on trips to the North, including Punch Dickens, Wop May, and Leigh Brintmell.
In the late 1920s, Leigh Brintmell became Assistant General Manager of Western Canadian Airlines (later Canadian Airlines), and in August 1929, he flew Gilbert Labine, the famous prospector, into Great Bear Lake. They flew from the Cooking Lake Air Harbor, and on this trip, uranium was discovered. Leigh formed the MacKenzie Air Service with administrative offices in Edmonton. Its primary purpose was to fly uranium concentrate from Great Bear Lake to world markets by way of Edmonton. The Cooking Lake Airport provided important access at this time, and quickly opened up northern Canada.
The Upright Tearoom was used by passengers and pilots alike, as they awaited a flight into Edmonton. This was often provided by Les Upright without charge. One day an emergency flight from the north arrived with an expecting mother and her husband. On landing, the baby could not wait, so Mrs. Upright became the mid-wife, delivering a beautiful baby girl.
The airport remained on the Grandview side of South Cooking Lake until 1935, when receding waters forced a move to Wellington Beach. After two years, it was moved to its present location. The Air Harbor saw the coming and going of the northern bush pilots. In 1935, Wiley Post and Will Rogers stopped off here on their ill-fated trip around the world. Oil exploration companies, as well as mining companies used, and still use, the South Cooking Lake Air Harbor.
Farther east on the south shore of Cooking Lake lies the Ministik Lake District. In 1910-11, there was a summer resort at White Sand Beach. There were several cottages built there.
There was a large boat (The Daisy Girl) owned by Mr. Firth and Mr. Hull, editor of the Edmonton Bulletin for many years. This boat met passengers from the daily C. N. R. train at North Cooking Lake and delivered them to White Sands on the south shore.
The first Postmaster in Ministik was Pete Anderson, and, later, his parents. They lived in a small house directly opposite the present consolidated school. They were a quaint old couple who spoke such broad Gaelic that a newcomer found it difficult to understand. The mail was brought out to Cooking Lake via team and buggy and then taken by horseback to the Post Office. In wet seasons, the horse would often bog down on the way.
Ministik School was built in 1909. There was a debenture taken out for $88. The lumber was bought from W. C. Swift of Tofield and hauled to the school site by Andrew and Archie Ferguson. Bob Mair (secretary), Peter McKerral and David Swabey were members of the first School Board.
The first teacher was a Mr. McCauley, who boarded at the Robert George home. The Georges were the first owners (1908) of the homestead where the present school and Ministik Community Hall are now located. Church services were also held at this home. The first written record of the old school is in 1910, when 14 students were enrolled from May until December. The teacher was Mrs. Irene Verge.
The lakes were used for travel in winter. The ice was smooth for travelling and often cut off many miles “as the crow flies”.
Ministik Lake itself and 10,000 acres of virgin territory is a Federal Sanctuary. In 1911, by an order of the Minister of the Interior, all vacant lands adjoining the lake and the smaller lakes beyond were set aside for sanctuary, to provide protection for the birds which migrate from one country to another. An agreement was signed in 1916 by His Majesty’s Ambassador Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, G. V. C. 0., and Mr. Robert Lansing, Secretary of State, U. S. A.
Fred Butler, fresh from Agricultural College in Toronto, came to Ministik in 1909. He and Bert Williams and Myra George formed a debating society in 1910, which provided a social outlet for all. Stanley George played on the Tofield Hockey team for several years.
Bill Stewart ran a sawmill with a huge old steam engine for many years near Ministik Lake.
Jack McNish, foreman of a lumber camp near Edson spent his summers on his homestead.
The Camerons had the place where the present service station and store is now.
Frank Doherty owned the quarter where the United Church now stands, south of the store.
Following are a few names of the first settlers: Wingroves, Bacheldor, Barnes, Olivers, Bosses, Ralph Ablett, Heitmans, Bert Robbins, Steele Murdoch, Dick Allen, Jack Blair, Quigleys, McBain, George Huff, and Dick Wilson.
The South Cooking Lake Area has a rich history, with many families continuing to stay and raise their children here. It continues to be a community of neighbours helping neighbours, friendship and respect.