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Restless ghosts of Stockholm

The ghosts have been restless in Stockholm.

Bridgeman's House - 1916 Photo: © Johnnie Bachusky

The townsite of Stockholm was first surveyed 100 years ago, but has endured a slow decline for the past eight decades. It is now a ghost town, but a few diehard residents remain, more than happy to enjoy the tranquil rural lifestyle.

The Swedish Baptist Church, originally built in 1904, was recently rolled out of town. The move was another nail in the coffin for the forgotten Central Alberta community, located along Hwy. 596, eight kilometres west of Red Deer.

Right: Stockholm's pioneer church in 2002. It was first converted into residential garage and then moved outside the town site later that year.

“It’s nice and quiet out here. We were raised in the country and enjoy it,” said Lise Doupe, who with her husband Wes, used the old church as a garage before it was moved out July 10.

Once renowned for its district’s cheese factory, Stockholm’s pioneers threw in the towel for the town’s future when officials with the Alberta Central Railway bypassed the town in 1912 in order to build a rail line through Sylvan Lake on its way to Rocky Mountain House.

Stockholm’s demise was a familiar end for many Central Alberta pioneer communities that depended on the railroad for its longterm survival.

“Railroads both created new communities – like Blackfalds, Penhold, and to some extent Red Deer,” said Michael Dawe, city archivist for the Red Deer & District Archives. “It was also the death of some communities, like Content and Evarts which were bypassed and died.”

Stockholm Community HallPhoto: © Johnnie Bachusky
The pioneer school at Stockholm. It is today used as a community hall for the Burnt Lake district.

The old church may have been rolled out of town but its destination was only a few hundred metres away across Hwy. 596 to the farm of Lorie and Melvin Johanson.

“If it could be saved, it was nice to be able to do so,” said Melvin. “It’s still in really good shape. It’s a nice building to have around.”

The Doupes, who wanted to build a larger garage on the site of the former Baptist church, will not be left without a holy pioneer shrine. Their house is the townsite’s old Seventh Day Adventist Church.

“It doesn’t even look like a church now at all,” said Lise, noting at one time the immediate area around Stockholm had seven churches.

To move the Baptist church from the Doupes’ property to his farm, which is the former site of the pioneer cheese factory, a friend of Melvin’s rolled the structure – propped up on logs - with a large tractor. He also had to get the rural electric company to lift up the power lines to accommodate the move.

“We got looking at it and it looked movable,” said Melvin, whose two young sons, Trevor and Jason, have converted the church into a mini- indoor floor hockey rink.

“They are not going to like it if I put too much stuff in there because they like playing in it,” said Melvin. “It’s amazing how great the shape that building is in.”

Whatever it’s current use, the old church is saved, and the ghosts of Stockholm have staved off total oblivion.

Stockholm well and PO © Scott Van Seggelin
Stockholm PO and gen store © Johnnie Bachusky
Left: A communal well sits abandoned in tall grass in front of the abandoned general store and post office.
Above: The general store and post office. It was abandoned years ago.
Stockholm 1920 Courtesy: Red Deer and District Archives
A wide angle photo of Stockholm in 1920
Stockholm PO and gen store © Scott Van Seggelin
A tractor passes the pioneer church at Stockholm after it was moved just outside the town site in 2002.