Stepping up for the remarkable Bella
Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017 09:00 am
There are always hidden stories that will somehow rise to the surface. These great tales sometimes come to us because people simply care they should never be forgotten.
There is no better example of this than the story of Isabella (Bella) Sinclair. In 1883 at the age of 16, Bella took a train ride filled with men from Ontario to Alberta. She then journeyed by horse and wagon from Calgary to this region to settle in what was then a wild male-dominated frontier. Bella became the first Caucasian female to settle in Central Alberta, carving a path through courage and perseverance. In later years, she continued to be a humble inspiration to countless citizens.
Bella passed away in 1950, a year after her husband David. Over the next six decades, the memory of Bella and what she accomplished slowly faded.
The 125-year-old Sinclair home remained on their farm eight kilometres west of Innisfail. The land and structure was eventually taken over by the Thompson family who lived in it until 1989. For more than 25 years it sat empty, forgotten by many.
But John Thompson, the current family patriarch, would not let that happen. He cared that the memory of Bella should never be forgotten and struck a deal with the Innisfail and District Historical Society to move the home at his own expense to the town’s historical village. But that deal almost collapsed late last year due to fundraising issues for preliminary restoration.
However, fate is often a mysterious thing, and private funding came literally at the last moment to match a government grant deadline. Bella’s home and its memories will be correctly preserved.
This development opens up a great opportunity for Innisfailians.
This year is Canada’s 150th birthday. With the federal and provincial governments creating only subdued plans for this historic year, celebrations have largely been left to communities. The town and many local partners are now working hard to ensure there is a great celebration for Canada Day on July 1.
Plans are also underway to move the Sinclair home and to create a proper foundation at a chosen village space. Many citizens have already offered to help but more is needed. Wouldn’t it be inspirational to have Bella’s home, with at least its weathered exterior fixed up, officially presented to the public on Canada Day?
It would be an appropriate way to honour Bella and her vital contribution to the town and the region, as well as for all women who followed her remarkable path since her arrival.
Most importantly, it’s a way for the community to ensure Bella will always be unforgettable.