Balmoral’s Early History
The area was named Balmoral in 1891 to honour Rev. William Scott, a Presbyterian minister who had homesteaded in the district from Balmoral, Scotland.
People had already lived in the area for many millennia before Rev. Scott arrived. Many First Nations favoured Balmoral as a camping and hunting spot for many animals, such as bison, elk and deer.
The first agricultural settlement was developed in 1882 when a group of Metis settlers came west from Headingly, Manitoba and settled along the Red Deer River between Waskasoo Creek and the Blindman River.
These resourceful settlers worked hard to build up their new farms. In order to make an income, they erected a sawmill and began selling lumber.
Many of the early settlers found that the rich loams of Balmoral with its thick willow brush were a challenge. A Balmoral resident, Frank Van Slyke, invented the breaking plow. The Van Slyke plow was a success. An image of it is included on the Red Deer City Crest.
When Fort Normandeau was built during the Riel Rebellion in 1885, they sold supplies and provisions, first to the soldiers and later to the North West Mounted Police, after the police took over the fort.
The spot where the old Calgary-Edmonton Trail crossed the Blindman River was notorious as a dangerous ford. Consequently, a family created a new secondary trail, dubbed the McKenzie Trail, where they built a ferry.
Unfortunately, they found out they had settled on land that the federal government had sold to the Saskatchewan Land and Homestead Company. Although they had legitimate legal claims by way of squatters’ rights, the Government was oblivious to their petitions and protests. So finally, in 1890, they moved away.
Meanwhile, other settlers arrived in the Balmoral district to take up homesteads or buy land from the S.L.H.Co. By 1891, there were enough young children in the area that a local school district was established. It reflects the district's prosperity that both the first schoolhouse and a later one were substantial structures made of brick.