Hudson Bay House
Built in 1908, the Hudson’s Bay House symbolizes the importance of the fur trade. On his way through in 1792, Alexander Mackenzie remarked on the garden at Boyer’s Post. Since then farming has continued. In 1907 the federal government established an Experimental Farm. Plant variety testing, soil management & harvesting methods were studied; research continues today.
Located on its original River Lot, and relatively unaltered in presentation, the Trapper’s Shack is one of the region’s earlier and more prominent hand-hewn log houses. It is the largest and oldest (c. 1908) two-story log dwelling on its original site in Fort Vermilion.
The Bourassa/St. Germain House
Johnny Bourassa was born in c. 1851 at Fort Dunvegan, AB to Louis Bourassa and Marguerite Otaikijik Lafleur. In his twenties, Johnny moved to Fort Vermilion and was hired by the Hudson’s Bay Company as an interpreter. He made Fort Vermilion his home for the remainder of his life, dying there at age 90 in 1941. He married Lucia St. Cyr in 1876 and together the couple raised 11 children. The Bourassa’s Cattle and Wheat Farm was once considered the heart of Fort Vermilion.
During his lifetime, Johnny built three dovetailed log houses. In 1903, Pierre Lizotte helped him build the first, which was used as a residence by Johnny’s son Thomas and his wife Eliza (Lizotte).
Johnny then built the Bourassa/St. Germain House, also known as the Visitor Log House, which he gave to his daughter Marie Anne and her husband John St. Germain. He then completed his final dovetail house, known today as the Trapper’s Shack.
While it may read “North Vermilion” on maps and signs, this settlement is known as “Buttertown” to locals.
Buttertown gets its name from the dairy production of its early residents, who traded butter in great quantities with independent traders and the Hudson’s Bay Company. The butter was then delivered to communities farther north or resold locally.
Participating in this trade was not as easy as it sounds. In order to reach the fur trade center in Fort Vermilion, Buttertown residents needed to cross the Peace River, which was sometimes difficult due to poor river conditions.
This struggle continued until 1974 when the Fort Vermilion Bridge was constructed, providing easier access to residents on both sides of the river. Various vessels, including steamers and ferries, were also used to transport goods and services beginning in 1903 with the St. Charles.
Although the ferry no longer operates and butter making is no longer a livelihood for the residents, Buttertown is still an active community and is recognized as an important part of Fort Vermilion’s past.
Buttertown has historically been a self-contained community with its own stores, church, pool halls, school, saw, and flour mills.
St. Louis Church
Father Jérémy Lavoie (OMI) began construction of the St. Louis Roman Catholic Church with help from the community in 1906. Like many other buildings in Buttertown, the St. Louis Church was built using hand-hewn logs and it was officially blessed on March 20, 1909. It was an outreach of St. Henry’s Mission in Fort Vermilion, founded July 6, 1866, by Bishop Faraud (OMI).
The small building next to the church served as the priest’s residence. Father Jean-Louis Quémeneur (Grouard-McLennan Roman Catholic Diocese 1924-1965) celebrated mass at the chapel for decades and later tried organizing an Indian residential school in Buttertown.
The church is a must-see for travelers looking to experience Buttertown’s heritage, which also encompasses early fur trading and agricultural history.
Zama City celebrated its 50th anniversary of the first producing well in the fall of 2016. Beginning as an isolated oil patch community in 1966, 255 pools were discovered in the area and the oil business has been booming since. In winter this hamlet grows from 250 to upwards of 4,000, which is a direct result of the oil and gas activity in the area. Located 165km NW of High Level, this busy little community is dedicated to the oil and gas industry. The community has lots to offer, a community hall, school, library, outdoor recreational facilities, and emergency medical services.
Residents of Zama City enjoy living in this remote location and take advantage of the vast wilderness at their doorstep by enjoying a more laid-back life. Explore the untamed wilderness on snowshoes, snowmobiles, or ATVs, whether on ready trails or cut your own.
Zama City is proudly in the center of the huge landmass that hosts the protected Hay-Zama Bison Herd of Wood Bison. These majestic animals are thriving and can be found all over the area. The area does incorporate multiple Caribou herds which are rarely seen due to their elusiveness and the inability to access the areas that they prefer. The vast rugged beauty of the area & the possibility of seeing bison definitely make for a memorable experience.
La Crete Mennonite Heritage Village
The La Crete Mennonite Heritage Village is located on 10 acres of land homesteaded by Henry H. Peters in 1950. Mr. Peters owned the property until 1991 when it was purchased by the La Crete Agricultural Society for the purpose of creating a museum.
The Heritage Village contains some of the original homestead buildings, as well as buildings, moved in from all around La Crete. Eleven historic buildings were moved to the site in the years 1992 – 2011. The former Tompkins Landing Ferry was also moved on to the property. The museum village has grown considerably from its inception.
The La Crete Mennonite Heritage Village grounds have been the site of an annual “Pioneer Day” event to demonstrate antique equipment operations and local cultural foods since the mid-1980s. The event attracts approximately 1000 visitors each year.
The La Crete Mennonite Heritage Village has had officially recognized museum status through the Alberta Museums Association since 2007. This status is renewed every five years to prove that provincial museum standards of operation are being upheld.
For more information on the historic sites within the Mackenzie Region, check out these pages: