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Breton Museum
4711 - 51 Street, Breton
Contact: Allan Goddard
Phone: 780-696-2551
E-Mail the Museum

Admission by donation
Daily 11 am - 5 pm
During July & August
Other times by appointment

A compelling story of the black settlers, written by Breton resident, Gwen Hooks.

Breton History
The picture facing all settlers at the turn of the century was a daunting one - uncleared land, harsh weather and isolation. Non-Europeans often suffered the additional hardship of discrimination. This helps to explain why the flow of Black American settlers from Oklahoma, begun in 1908 with Canadian government encouragement, was virtually over by 1912. Nevertheless, about 1,000 courageous black souls settled in the province, including Keystone (now Breton).

The Keystone area was a good location for settlement due to its isolation. That way, black settlers could establish a community without white interference in the forms of prejudice and racism. William Allen and his wife Matie were the first black settlers to arrive in the area and laid the groundwork for the formation of the settlement.

These early settlers founded Good Hope Baptist Mission in September 1911, in a little log cabin built by the settlers. Its name was appropriate, because to succeed in the harsh environment the parishioners needed not only strength of will but also a heavy dose of hope.

Despite its vibrancy, the community at Keystone began to disperse after WWI. Many of the settlers' children joined the army or moved back to the United States. The railway brought many white settlers into the area, and much of the town's cohesiveness disappeared. There are only a few black families in Keystone today.

In 1985 the Historical Society restored the Keystone Cemetery, following many years of neglect. They erected a cairn to honour the Black families who had settled Keystone (pictured upper right). During this project, it was discovered that the cemetery was not listed at the Land Titles Office and also that the property line of the adjoining quarter ran through the cemetery. With the help of Brazeau County, the Historical Society obtained a legal subdivision from the present owners of the land and now have title to the property. Today, the Keystone Cemetery stands as a silent testament to the Black families who were the first major group to populate the area. A vote of thanks is owed to these people for the hardships they endured in the opening of a new land.

Breton Museum
In 1989, the Breton & District Historical Museum opened to the public, with exhibits that focus on four major themes: Black History, the Lumbering Industry, Community Development, and Agricultural Development. The Museum is located in the former Breton Elementary School, a two-room school built in 1948.

The Museum is the only museum in the province that has a major focus on the Black settlement history of Alberta. One of the premier events the Museum hosts each year, on the fourth Sunday in February, is Black History Day.

The Museum also celebrates its lumbering history, which began with logging timber berths around the turn of the century. Breton and district became a major lumbering centre in the late 1920s after the arrival of the railway in 1926.

During the off season the museum is happy to open its doors for school tours and private tours.

VILLAGE OF BRETON, BOX 480, BRETON ALBERTA CANADA T0C 0P0 | PHONE: 780-696-3636 | FAX: 780-696-3590 | EMAIL: [email protected]