On December 18, 1913, a frigid wind whistles through the chinks of George Ramsey’s log house on his quarter section of land. “Gotta harness up the team and head out to Yeoford to collect the mail today,” he reminds his wife. As the post master, he provides mail service to his fellow black pioneers who have been settling in the Keystone area* since 1910. A practical wooden apple box nailed to a wall of his two-room house serves as the post office depot. The weekly trip takes him over the rough trail that is often challenged with snow drifts or muddy ruts.
The thirty-five families who live here look forward to the letters, supplies, and small parcels George delivers to the close-knit community. With just a few days until Christmas, there are several special packages in the mail. One is addressed to a family down the road from the Ramsey’s. They have been waiting for this order from the Eaton’s catalogue and are relieved to hear it has arrived on time. With great anticipation on Christmas morning, the neighbour’s young son carefully unwraps the plain brown paper. He finds a painted toy horse inside. A large toothy smile appears on his face as he displays his treasure.
This weathered metal pull-toy horse, about six inches high, is one of the oldest artifacts in the Breton and District Historical Museum. Its history is unclear but it was found by a farmer in 1970 on what was the original homestead of William Bailey, an early black settler in this area. The toy may have belonged to his adopted son, Eddie.
Breton and District Historic Museum is unique in Alberta, as it is one of the very few museums to focus on the history of black pioneers who emigrated to Canada in the early 1900s. William Allen, an Afro-American pioneer from Oklahoma, came to Canada to find freedom and opportunity. With an intense desire to find a safe place to call home, he helped a small group of black settlers establish a community in central Alberta. The museum honours these early pioneers. It also showcases the history of the community’s development as one of Alberta’s settlements, which was also influenced by a significant logging industry and agriculture base.
*Keystone’s name changed to Breton with the arrival of the railroad in 1926
• Replica of a homesteader’s house
• Photographs of black pioneers
• Archival records of minutes from school and church meetings
• School class room of 1940s -1950s
• Logging industry history associated with John Walter and DR Fraser Lumbering Company
• Agriculture and community development