Alberta's Provincial Historic Sites, Interpretive Centres and Museums
Father Lacombe Chapel

The Mission

"In my travels from Edmonton to Saint Ann, then I’d stop on a hillside to have my dogs rest, I’d gaze towards a certain hill with a lake in the distance, and just opposite a forest. As I’d gaze, I’d murmur to myself: 'What a lovely place for a mission.' So, it was to this site that I led Mgr. Taché. As we stood admiring the view from all sides, all enjoying a bit of pemmican, His Excellency said: 'Father Lacombe, you were right. This is a magnificent site! I choose it for our new mission, and desire that it be named Saint Albert, in honour of your beloved patron."

Quote- Albert Lacombe (in James. G. MacGregor’s Father Lacombe)

During his time at Lac Ste. Anne from 1853 until 1861, Father Lacombe became increasingly convinced that the mission site was ill-suited to serving the local population. While the location provided excellent fishing and had evolved into a substantial settlement by the end of the 1850s, the soil was of dubious quality and its farming prospects were marginal. Lacombe believed that the Métis and First Nations of the west needed to transition into a more sedentary, agricultural way of life to secure a future and began seeking out a more suitable location for a mission. In January 1861, while journeying from Lac Ste. Anne to Fort Edmonton, Lacombe convinced Bishop Taché that a site just north of the Sturgeon River was an ideal location to establish a new mission. Lacombe thought the location offered promising agricultural prospects and that the site’s proximity to Fort Edmonton would provide them with an excellent opportunity to evangelize the area’s First Nations. Taché agreed and planted his walking staff in the snow to mark where the first church should be built.

Father Lacombe and the Métis he had brought with him from Lac Ste. Anne worked diligently to establish a firm foundation for the mission community. They immediately erected the Father Lacombe Chapel and over the following three years built houses, a convent, a bridge over the Sturgeon River, farms, and livestock fencing. They put in crops and erected a gristmill. The work of the mission advanced dramatically with the arrival of the Grey Nuns in 1863. The sisters operated a hospital and offered medical services to the surrounding region, they opened an orphanage, and they established one of the first schools in the North-West. By the end of the 1860s, inspired by their devotion to God and their commitment to their brothers and sisters, the Oblates and the Grey Nuns had worked with their Métis companions to establish one of western Canada’s most significant and successful religious missions.

Photo: Missionary Oblates, Grandin Collection at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, OB1724

Last reviewed/revised: May 7, 2012
Early view of the buildings on Mission Hill

Early view of the buildings on Mission Hill (left to right: 2nd Bishop’s Residence; well; 2nd Cathedral (1st Cathedral to its left); 1st School of the Grey Nuns; 1st Residence of the Sisters; 3rd Bishop’s Residence) Oct. 21, 1886.
Photo: Missionary Oblates, Grandin Collection at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, OB1724

St. Albert from a painting

St. Albert – From a painting showing the Hill in 1875 (was on a stage at the Grey Nun’s Residence).
Photo: Missionary Oblates, Grandin Collection at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, OB1725

Drawing of ‘The Historic St. Albert’

Drawing of ‘The Historic St. Albert’, 1861-1930.
Photo: Missionary Oblates, Grandin Collection at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, OB1954