Episode 5: The Ravine Reveal

Haeden stands in front of one of the dig sites
University of Chicago-based archaeologist Haeden Stewart is researching early 20th century history in Edmonton’s Mill Creek Ravine.

This episode: What has archaeologist Haeden Stewart been digging up in Mill Creek Ravine? I followed him down to the dig site itself. And along the way, I learned about a neighbourhood you might never have known existed, how Edmonton industrialized in the early 20th century, and what caragana can tell you about where to dig.

This episode also includes questions from community members who attended a live talk Haeden gave at the Bonnie Doon Community League in November 2016.

spoilers below

A map of Edmonton south of the river, with Mill Creek Ravine outlined in red.
A map of Mill Creek Ravine, and the survey sites where Haeden and his team searched for archaeological remains. Excavation Area 2 is where they dug in the summer of 2016.

Haeden and his team identified two “shanties” in Mill Creek Ravine, close to modern-day Connors Road (Excavation Area 2 on the map above). When this community existed from about the 1920s to the 1950s), it was called Ross Acreage. Their homes were demolished, and residents evicted, when the City of Edmonton built Connors Road.

Some of the artifacts Haeden and his team have excavated include buttons from jeans made by Edmonton’s Great West Garment Company, and a child’s toy plate. He says some of these artifacts paint a picture of families living in Ross Acreage, not just men. [Editor’s note: Wow, I just realized this implies that men can’t have families alone. Talk about internalizing some bad ideas! I meant that he found evidence that women and children lived at this site, not just adult men living alone].

The history of this community is intimately tied to the industrialization of Edmonton, the appropriation of land from the Papaschase Cree on the south side of the river, and the meatpacking plants and mines in the Mill Creek area.

The Bonnie Doon Community League is currently working on a book celebrating the 100th anniversary of Bonnie Doon. If you have stories, photographs, posters, or newspaper clippings to share about the neighbourhood, please get in touch with Margaret Russell at history@bonniedoon.ca or 780-469-1179.

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