BLACKFALDS, Alta. — For settlers on the Canadian Prairies in the early 20th century, the Eaton’s catalogue was equivalent to today’s online shopping mall. Everything needed to fill a house, and even the house itself, could be ordered from the pages of the iconic mail order catalogue.
One of these homes that dot the western provinces belonged to George and Mary Wadey of Blackfalds, Alta. A century later, the home that has been vacant for a decade has been moved and is being restored to house a tourist information centre as well as the Blackfalds and Area Historical Society, the Blackfalds Archives and Blackfalds Chamber of Commerce.
George Wadey settled in central Alberta, coming from Esmond, Illinois, in 1911. He and fellow settler Frank Barnes purchased a quarter of land complete with a cattle shed, pig shelters and windmill.
A house was needed so he selected the No. E19, the Eastbrook, in the Eaton’s catalogue. The millwork was shipped west via rail from Winnipeg and the lumber came from British Columbia.
Wadey, a carpenter by trade, built the home in 1916 but modified the floor plan.
Judy Carleton, president of the Blackfalds and Area Historical Society, said he added one more room on the main floor and adjusted the sizes of the three bedrooms upstairs.
“The porch was his own add-on. It didn’t come with the package.”
Wadey married Mary Hedemark in 1917, who came with her parents from Fort Ransom, North Dakota, in 1900.
As well as raising three sons and a daughter, George and Mary ran a mail route and had cattle, sheep and pigs.
“Mary was the grande dame of Blackfalds,” said Carleton. She helped start or support countless local organizations and causes. Teachers often boarded at the Wadey home, which was located across from the school.
“One time, Mary’s husband jokingly packed a suitcase for her and placed it on the back step with a note: ‘wanted: a wife who will stay home,’ ” Carleton recorded in Blackfalds’ history.
That kept Mary home for a week.
George passed away in 1942 and Mary carried on farming with the help of her sons. She died at age 98 in 1992. Mary’s son, Leslie, 88, resides in Red Deer.
Carleton said the descendants of the Wadeys are pleased the house is being restored.
“I’m getting quite a few old artifacts back,” she said.
“I know the Wadey family. I know who to ask.”
That includes a stained glass window, floor grates, a high boy dresser, an original crank telephone, cabinet radio and a hand coloured photograph portrait of George.
The Wadey Centre, as it will be known, is located at All Star Park and is slated to be completed in conjunction with Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations this summer. It is partially funded by the Canada 150 Fund.