Local History

On August 10th, 1909 Rev. and Mrs. Forbes left Edmonton with a team of ponies and a buckboard loaded with provisions for what is now the Grande Prairie area. Upon arriving, Rev. Forbes could see as he looked around at the rolling plains, the good farm land, dotted with lakes and creeks, that one day this tiny settlement could grow so he took a stick and wrote on it: Presbyterian Church and he drove it into the ground on a small knoll.

They travelled to other places in the surrounding area before starting back to Edmonton. They made a report to the Church in Edmonton on what they had seen and thought of the area they had explored. It was a favourable report to the Church in Edmonton on what they had seen and though of the area they had explored. It was a favourable report and it was decided to set up a mission at the Bear Creek settlement. The Forbes were asked to go and do this new work.

With the temperature at forty degrees below freezing on February 21, 1910, the Forbes were ready to leave once more for the north. They were going to pull a wooden caboose with them and there also four other heavily laden sleighs.

Spring came early to the north country that year and by the time the Forbes and the party with them reached the Simonette River, it had already started to thaw. They could go no further.

They waited by the river until all the ice had gone out and then they built rafts and attempted to float down the river. They floated for three days and nights. They finally reached Flying Shot Lake on May 3rd. It had taken them seventy-three days and they had originally planned doing it in twenty-one. A small 18 X 20 cabin was found for them to live in.

The first church service was held on June 11, 1910 at the home of William Smith at Bear Creek with seven people attending. A mission had been established, if not a proper church building yet.

The following year, after the church was built, a log house, 24 X 24 feet, with an upstairs and a shingled roof was built onto the hospital building. The building is still standing today on 96th St. and 104th Ave. This was the Forbes homestead and was named Montrose after Mrs. Forbes home in Scotland.

Eventually a sum of money was donated and a separate hospital was built on the site, where today’s hospital stands. It was called the Katherine Prittie hospital. The money came from a Mr. Prittie in Toronto in memory of his daughter who had died. It was eventually torn down and replaced by a more modern hospital in 1929.

In 1917, Mrs. Forbes died. She had been in Grande Prairie for seven years and yet she had done a life time of work for the people and Church in Grande Prairie.

Rev. Forbes continued the Lord’s work in Grande Prairie until 1925, when the Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church, and the Congregationalist Church united to form the United Church. Rev. Forbes at this time resigned his position as minister as he was not for union. He moved to a new position in the east and those Presbyterians left in Grande Prairie no longer had a minister of church.

After four years a minister by the name of Rev. Wright arrived in Grande Prairie. The year was 1929. In 1930 he organized the building of a new Presbyterian Church in Grande Prairie. It was located on a piece of land owned by Rev. Forbes and it was named after him. Rev. Forbes returned to Grande Prairie in 1931 for the dedication service of the new church.

In the years that followed the congregation had its ups and downs but throughout it all the witnessing for a life of faith in Jesus Christ remained strong. The congregation continued to minister within the community following the model so well laid out for it by Rev. Alexander and Mrs. Agnes Forbes.

In 1979 a new building, where the congregation presently worships, was constructed in the Patterson district of Grande Prairie.
The 1911 church building has been restored in the museum and the 1930 building was moved to Wembley where it is being used by the United Church congregation there.

From Rev. Forbes to Rev. Malcolm, there have been 18 Presbyterian ministers in Grande Prairie, who have all contributed to building our Church to what it is today. From 1910 to 2009, 99 years of history of our church in Grande Prairie. Something we can all be proud of and help to keep it growing in the future.

For the glory of the Lord who has blessed us with this church. May his teachings and love forever be spread, in the community and in the world, from its doors.