So, I was doing one of my nerd hobbies, which is looking at random articles at Wikipedia. And, last week, I was shocked – horrified really – to find that my hometown of Entwistle had no article, when Entwistle’s longtime rival Evansburg had an entry. I spent my past week putting together a Wikipedia entry for Entwistle. I was just so proud of it, that I feel like sharing it here. Enjoy!
Entwistle is a hamlet in the province of Alberta. It is approximately 95 km west of Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway. Entwistle sits on the east banks of the Pembina River, and at the intersection of the Yellowhead Highway and Highway 22. It is exactly halfway between Edmonton and Edson.
Entwistle has grown to become a popular staging area for the oil and gas industry. It is also quite famous for its annual rodeo, the Pembina River Provincial Park, and being the Diamond Capital of Canada.
Being a hamlet, Entwistle is administered by Parkland County. In the federal government, Entwistle sits in the riding of Yellowhead. In the provincial government, Entwistle is part of the Stony Plain constituency. In Parkland County, Entwistle is part of Division 6.
Entwistle was founded by James Entwistle, an employee of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Entwistle knew that construction of the railway would be halted on the east banks of the Pembina River for a few years as a bridge was built over the river. A boomtown would most certainly spring up. Seizing the opportunity, Entwistle staked a claim on a section of land very close to the Pembina River and the surveyed line for the GTPR in 1907. In 1908, as the railway construction camps drew closer to the Pembina River, Entwistle built a general store on his land, and left it in the care of his wife and children. The railway soon arrived, construction on the railway bridge stated, and the boomtown formed around Entwistle’s store.
Entwistle was quite embarrassed when people started suggesting that he name the town after himself. Soon, there were enough people living in the boomtown to warrant a post office. But, to get a post office, they needed a name for the town. The town was informally known as “Pembina,” after the river, but that name was rejected by the federal government, citing duplication. The names “Burke” and “Harmer” were also proposed, and again, each one rejected on the grounds of duplication. Entwistle was quite embarrassed when people started suggesting that he name the town after himself. Entwistle was fairly certain that ‘Entwistle’ was already the name of a town, as he knew of at least one town called Entwistle in England. But, Entwistle’s wife Mary went and submitted the name ‘Entwistle,’ and it was accepted. For years after, Entwistle was often joked about how he found a way to put his name on the map, to which Entwistle would always reply, ‘It wasn’t me who put it there – it was Mary.’
Entwistle was officially incorporated as a village on March 26, 1909. James Entwistle was elected the first mayor in April of 1909.
The railway trestle was completed in 1910, and with it, most of the construction boom started moving west, but many stayed behind in the Village of Entwistle. In those early decades, Entwistle had a thriving agriculture industry, along with timber and the coal mines in neighbouring Evansburg.
Entwistle was dis-incorporated on February 16, 1942, becoming a hamlet in the MD of Pembina. Entwistle was once again incorporated as a village on January 1, 1955. Entwistle was once again dis-incorporated on January 1, 2001, becoming a hamlet in Parkland Country.
Today, Entwistle is a vibrant and verdant community – a shining example of the Alberta frontier town. Today, Entwistle is a vibrant and verdant community – a shining example of the Alberta frontier town. Entwistle’s economy is supported by the nearby oil and gas industries. Entwistle is right in middle of the action, and the hamlet has become a popular staging ground for oil companies. Not only that, but Entwistle also has a booming tourism industry. Hundreds flock to the Entwistle Rodeo every Canada Day weekend. The nearby Pembina River Provincial Park has become a popular weekend getaway for people from Edmonton. And, with its prime location on the Yellowhead Highway and Highway 22, Entwistle is also a popular rest area with weary travelers.
Diamond Capital of Canada
The diamond weighed 0.83 carats, and was described as being “a perfect octahedron with eight faces; a clear, colorless stone.” In 1958, Entwistle resident Einar Opdahl found a diamond in the banks of the Pembina River. The diamond weighed 0.83 carats, and was described as being “a perfect octahedron with eight faces; a clear, colorless stone.” Opdahl sold the diamond to gem cutter Ed Arsenault for $500. It was later claimed that Arsenault discovered the diamond.
When the De Beers Consolidated Diamond Mines staked a claim for diamond mining in Alberta’s Peace River country in 1990, people were reminded of the discovery of a diamond in the Pembina River near Entwistle. Several Alberta-based exploratory companies staked diamond claims near Entwistle and the Pembina River in 1992.
Opdahl and Arsenault’s discovery and the mini-boom in diamond prospecting led Entwistle to claim the title “Diamond Capital of Canada” in 1994.
The Pembina River Viaduct
The railway bridge whose construction caused Entwistle to spring up is still in operation today. It is a vital part of the CN main line, connecting Canada to the Pacific Ocean. An average of 20 trains travel across it per day. The trestle itself is 910 feet long and 214 feet high. It was the first steel railway trestle built in Western Canada. It is currently the second-highest railway trestle in Western Canada.
The railway bridge whose construction caused Entwistle to spring up is still in operation today. Construction on the bridge began in 1908. As there were no cranes big enough to carry steel back then, a massive false bridge and scaffolding was built out of wood. The steel bridge itself was completely pre-fabricated in Scotland. The Scottish engineers assembled the bridge in Scotland, ran their tests on it, and then carefully dismantled it. The bridge was shipped piece-by-piece across the Atlantic, and brought out to Entwistle on the railway. The pieces began arriving in 1909, and the steel bridge was slowly assembled. The engineers’ measurements were so accurate, that no modifications were needed on site.
As the steel structure was laid in place, the wooden scaffolding and false bridge were gradually dismantled. Construction was completed in 1910.
The Yellowhead Highway Bridge
Equally impressive is the Yellowhead Highway Bridge, running parallel to the Pembina River Viaduct.
The Highway Bridge was built from 1961 to 1962. Even though it was opened to traffic in 1962, a grand opening was not held until July 24, 1963. A crowd of about 1500 assembled for the grand opening. Speeches were given by the chief bridge engineer, the deputy minister of highways, the mayors of Entwistle and Evansburg, and representatives of Entwistle’s youth and senior communities. The ribbon was cut by the Honorable Gordon E. Taylor, the Minister of Highways.
The bridge is 207 feet high and approximately 900 feet long. It cost $1.7 million. When construction was finished in 1962, it was the highest highway bridge in Alberta.
The J.D. Read Memorial Building
When he passed away in 1965, he left the bulk of his estate to the Village of Entwistle, with the instruction that it be used “to build something that will be used by the whole community.” John Davis Read was one of Entwistle’s first citizens, having moved to town in 1908. He opened up Entwistle’s first lumber yard in 1910. In 1912, he started up a feed business, which was hugely successful all throughout the 1940s. Read was also very interested in village matters, serving on the Entwistle Village Council from 1913 to 1942. He was even mayor of Entwistle from 1925 to 1930, and 1935 to 1942.
Read sold off his business and retired in 1946. When he passed away in 1965, he left the bulk of his estate to the Village of Entwistle, with the instruction that it be used “to build something that will be used by the whole community.” In 1973, the J.D. Read Memorial Building was built. Up until very recently, the J.D. Read Memorial Building housed Entwistle’s bank, post office, and public library. It’s currently home to a newly expanded post office and a travel agency.
Entwistle vs. Old Entwistle
One mile to the east of Entwistle lays the hamlet of Old Entwistle. Old Entwistle has a population of around 20. The citizens of Old Entwistle have always maintained that their hamlet is all that remains of the original village of Entwistle. Usually, they offer up their hamlet’s name as the only proof.
When the railway bridge was completed in 1910, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway decided that, since Entwistle and Evansburg were so close to each other, the two villages could share one train station. Evansburg was chosen to have the train station. The people of Entwistle were furious, and demanded their own train station.
Old Entwistle is the original location of Entwistle’s train station, not the whole community. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway finally relented. Entwistle’s train station had to be built one mile east of Entwistle, as this was the minimum distance required so as not to interfere with Evansburg’s train station. The GTPR then proceeded to buy up all the land around the train station. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway then put the land up for sale, advertising the land around the train station as being “the future site of Entwistle.” This area became known as the Grand Trunk Pacific subdivision, or simply, Grand Trunk. Despite the railway’s efforts, the people of Entwistle opted to walk one mile to the train station, rather than moving there.
Old Entwistle is the original location of Entwistle’s train station, not the whole community. It is unknown when Grand Trunk started being referred to as Old Entwistle, but the name became common in the late 1980s.
In 1937, Alberta Premier William Aberhart gave a speech in Entwistle, drawing a crowd of 1000 people.
Former Prime Minister Joe Clark once referred to Entwistle as “a flyspeck on the map.”
In the railway boom years of 1908-1910, Entwistle was rumoured to have had “the largest brothel west of Winnipeg.”
Many truck drivers boast that Entwistle has the largest selection of pornographic magazines on the Yellowhead Highway.
As is the case with many small communities, Entwistle has a longstanding rivalry with a neighbouring community. Entwistle’s rival is Evansburg.
Entwistle is frequently misspelled as ‘Entwhistle.’