New Bentley history book becomes available

It is a fabulous time for the Bentley and District Historical Society.

It is a fabulous time for the Bentley and District Historical Society. The new Bentley history book, Bentley – A Gateway Through Time, is ready to be offered for sale.

On Dec. 27, there will be an official book launch combined with a Queen’s Jubilee open house celebration.

There will be free activities, displays, snacks and refreshments from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Blindman Valley Agricultural Centre. A program will start at 3:30 p.m.  There are five distinctive limited edition sets, four of which will be auctioned off at that time.

Free horse-drawn sleigh rides courtesy the Bentley Museum Society will be offered by Stuart Lyster, weather permitting.

It is hoped many residents and families will attend.

The present Bentley Historical Society was established in 2005. Their first project was the reprinting of the 650-page history book originally printed1982 that had been simply titled Bentley and District Early History. There were no more copies available and some people were requesting it.

They started holding monthly meetings. Funding was needed and a cover as close as possible to the original was used in the 2005 reprinting.

“That was a fairly easy project as we were lucky that an untouched copy was found and it was just a matter of getting it photocopied,” said historical society director Cora Knutson. Phase 2 of the society’s mandate, compiling information for a follow up and more comprehensive Bentley and area history book, has taken much longer and an inestimable amount of time and research.

The book was originally going to be only one volume around 500 pages but soon it became a much larger task. Because of the amount of information submitted and collected, the new 2012 history of Bentley and area is a two-volume set with about 500 pages in just the first volume alone that contains family histories.

“It is too bad that some of the families who didn’t put anything in the original history book still didn’t submit for this book, and they will be sorry they didn’t when they see the (current) book,” says director Suzie Wiese.

The second volume has almost 750 pages and covers clubs and organizations, schools and districts, churches and area cemeteries, farmsteads and businesses, recreation and arts and culture and more.

The municipal, provincial, and federal archives were collected from. Members went out and took lots of pictures themselves.

It became so hard to keep track of the enormous amount of volunteer hours put in by many on the board that they gave up trying.

After the name was decided, Jack Siebenga, with input from others, designed the front cover. There are lots of photographs included in both volumes.

Some people originally on the board have come and gone but current members of the historical society are: president Jack Siebenga, secretary Myrna Robinson, treasurer Lorna Landry, and directors Cora Knutson and Suzie Wiese with other active board members Heather Osborne, Ena Boot and Stan Anderson.

Bentley – A Gateway Through Time can be purchased as a two-volume set for $75 from society members on and after Dec. 27.

The low price is due to donations and grants used to cover the costs to keep the price low so everyone can afford it. Major funding came from a Government of Alberta Community Initiatives Program grant (CIP grant) and a casino the group worked through the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission. Other supporters included the Bentley & District Agricultural Society, the town of Bentley, the Bentley Museum Society, Bentley Elks Lodge No. 318, Bentley Royal Purple Lodge No. 264, and the Bentley & District Farmer’s Market. There were also memorial, business and private donations and more.

After funding was applied for and received for the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Celebration another dimension was added to the book launch event.

The historical society was the only Bentley group to apply for the federal Canadian Heritage grant, only one was allowed per community anyway, and it has to be used up in 2012, so the special combined celebration was planned.

It is an exciting, satisfying time for society members as they give a sigh of relief after a job well done, but at the same time they are saddened by the conclusion of the seven-year undertaking.

“I don’t know what I will do now that it is done,” said Knutson who has dedicated so much time to the project. “We had a lot of fun doing it.” The other members sitting around the table nod in complete agreement.