Masthead image
Alderson
When settlers came to southeast Alberta during the great land rush of the early years of the 20th century, the village of Carlstadt was born. There was abundant hope of prosperity, and the new settlement, formerly a train whistle stop named Langevin, came to be known as the “Star of the Prairies.” But Carlstadt, later to be known as Alderson, was to become the centre of one of Canada’s worst agriculture disasters; victim of just about every imaginable calamity, including drought, fires, flies, grasshoppers and even marauding rabbits.
Railway sign announces Alderson
Left: A rail sign announces Alderson, a kilometre west of the original townsite.
Carlstadt Country Map 1914
© Johnnie Bachusky
A map of the southeast region
of Alberta, including Carlstadt (Alderson) in 1914.
Photo courtesy David C. Jones.
During the fall of 1909, when land-hungry homesteaders began to pour into Carlstadt, the entire dry belt district and its new settlements, from southwestern Saskatchewan to southeast Alberta, experienced unbelievable growth. The Canadian Pacific Railroad first surveyed the Carlstadt townsite in February, 1910.

The first town layout comprised 17 blocks, with 16 to 28 lots per block. Six weeks later, 166 lots had been sold. By January, 1911, there were 35 occupied houses in the new prairie town, and later that same year Carlstadt was incorporated as a village. A census in 1911 stated Carlstadt’s population at 162.

Townsite map of Carlstadt in 1910
A map of the townsite of Carlstadt in 1910, before the prairie community changed its name to Alderson during the First World War.
Photo courtesy of David C. Jones.
By 1913, the town reached its peaked and its business district included three insurance, real estate and loans businesses, two dry goods and general stores, three lumber companies, two implement dealers, two hardware stores, two pool halls, a drug store; a meat market, a baker, a Union Bank, one of the best two-room schools in the region and five hotels, including the stately three-story Carlstadt Hotel.

The prairie town began with great promise but in 1914 Carlstadt’s decline began. In three months of that year, the town was struck with three disastrous events: a major fire that wiped out most of its business district; crop failure throughout the dry belt and then, the First World War. In 1915, at the height of the First World War, the town’s name changed to Alderson, a move initiated by townsfolk who thought the moniker Carlstadt sounded too German.

Cactus grows on the site of Alderson
© Johnnie Bachusky
Above: The site of Alderson a half century after the final resident left is still as dry and barren as any place in Canada. Today, cactus is found in abundance at the former townsite.
Citizens of Alderson, proudly patriotic during the global conflict, organized a Home Guard, believed to be the first in the country, and with great enthusiasm, practiced maneuvers at the local drill hall. But the land was proving to be an equally devastating foe to the fortunes of Alderson. Grain marketed from Alderson in 1915-16 was 679,000 bushels; in 1917-18 it was 72,000 bushels, and by 1919-1920, only 9,000 bushels of grain left the town’s four elevators.
Townsite debris
Building remnants
© Johnnie Bachusky
The last remnants of one building nearly taken over by nature's forces.
© Johnnie Bachusky
Much of the former townsite is littered with chunks of concrete, metal and various other debris left over when
the last residents left more than a half century ago.
In 1919, as the region was facing yet another drought, Alderson was once more the victim of a major fire; this time burning down several more major structures in the downtown core. The droughts continued, and many farmers attempted to try mixed farming, but it was too late. Alderson was doomed.
Foundations near the rail tracks Remains of a house chimney
© Johnnie Bachusky
Foundations near the rail tracks.
Debris fills a foundation
© Johnnie Bachusky
© Johnnie Bachusky
The remains of an Alderson house chimney.