A time capsule is a great way to share the things that are important to you or your community with those in the future. Here at the Lacombe Museum, we were recently given possession of one such time capsule from the Father Lacombe Catholic School!
1907 was a big year for the town of Lacombe. While the population may have been small, Lacombe was a major stop between Calgary and Edmonton, and this prominent position in the province showed. This was the year Lacombe was chosen to be the location of the experimental farm, which still runs as the Lacombe Research Station. It was also the year that Lacombe built the Nelson School,making it potentially the earliest year that we will get a look at in our time capsule.
Nelson School to Father Lacombe Catholic School
The Nelson school was an impressive building that dominated the modest skyline of Lacombe. The first major building constructed using Lacombe Brick, Tile and Cement Co bricks, the project had an original budget of $25,000. By the end of the build, the project budget almost doubled this estimate to $40,000, which would equal well over a million dollars today. The Nelson School opened its doors to the children of the area in 1908 and quickly became a central hub of education and community life. The school was named after Reverend John H. Nelson, a Methodist missionary who came to Alberta in the 1880’s with ambitions to assimilate the Indigenous Peoples of the area, including the Ĩyãħé Nakón mąkóce, Nêhiyaw, Niitsítpiis-stahkoii, and (please see our Treaty 6 Info & Resources page).
After 49 years serving the community, the school was closed in 1957 – records indicating low enrollment for the reason. After its closure, the school bell, which can be seen in the bell tower at the very top of the building, was removed and is currently located in the gardens of the Lacombe Memorial Centre, along with another time capsule found at the school, which is to be opened in 2046.
Timeline of the Schools at 52.468175, -113.732867
- 1907: First Nelson School built
- 1908: First Nelson School opened
- 1955-56: First Nelson School demolished
- 1957: Second Nelson School built
- 1957: Second Nelson School opened
- 1980-2000’s: various renovations on the building occurs during the years
- 2005: name changed to the Father Lacombe Catholic School
- 2021: Father Lacombe Catholic School begins construction of new school (Second Father Lacombe Catholic School) on site
- 2023: Father Lacombe Catholic School (Second Nelson School building) demolished
- 2023: Second Father Lacombe Catholic School opened
Continuing a Legacy
As the school was being demolished, a time capsule from 1907 was found within a cornerstone. Before rebuilding the next Nelson school, which was to sit in the same spot, the decision was made to open the 1907 capsule and add more to it, making the contents of what we have today a compilation of documents from 1907 and 1957. An issue of the Lacombe Globe from 1957 stated that the contents included various school papers and various trinkets of the time. These were then put within a copper box that was encased in a large marble cornerstone with “1957” etched into its side and were placed as the cornerstone by the provincial minister of economic affairs and M.L.A. of this constituency at the time, the Hon. A.R. Patrick. Though the cornerstone originally had a plaque, that was kept by the Father Lacombe Catholic School.
In 2021 the Father Lacombe Catholic School began the process of rebuilding and modernizing the school, and demolition of the previous school began at the beginning of 2023. It was during this most recent demolition that this capsule was found and was legally transferred into the custody of the Lacombe and District Historical Society. The time capsule experienced some damage as it was being removed from the school which revealed a hint at what contents may be hidden within, mainly a variety of newspapers and school documents.
What those documents have to say is still to be seen. Whatever secrets may be kept inside this capsule will surely bring a new breadth of knowledge to the long history of this school and our city.
Written by Brittany Kerik,
Researcher, Lacombe & District Historical Society.
Edited by Melissa Blunden,
Executive Director and Curator, Lacombe & District Historical Society.