The innovative genius of pioneer workmanship was recently unearthed by a construction crew in Condor.
Workers from Northside Construction Partnership had been digging to replace the town’s sanitation system when they struck something unusual.
In his 40 years in construction, crew foreman Warren Jensen said he’d never seen anything like it: Buried six or seven feet underground was a wooden culvert — that was still carrying water.
This primitive underground piping was discovered in two sections, totalling about seven metres.
The culvert was created using lengths of notched hardwood. Similar to the construction of old barrels, these long wooden pieces were carved to fit together into a hollow circle, with the planks girdled by metal bands.
Jensen could only make out the first two numbers of the year the pipe was made, but he figures it must have been assembled by settlers in the first decades of the 1900s. “It must be 100 years old,” he said.
Due to the rarity of this discovery, Jensen spent three hours digging the antique culvert out by hand. He’s since donated both pieces to the Sunnybrook Farm Museum in Red Deer. “I want people to appreciate what these old-timers did,” he explained.
Long before factory machining and plastic or metal production processes, early settlers would spend a lot of time and effort creating their own utilities’ infrastructure to manage water drainage.
“Now we take it for granted, but back then, people didn’t have plastic pipes. They made do with what they had,” said Jensen, who was further impressed to see shovel marks on the wooden pipe, indicating even the trench for the old culvert had been dug by hand.
Ian Warwick, executive-director of Sunnybrook Farm, said he’s excited to receive this rare example of early rural infrastructure.
“It’s a really cool artifact for our collection… We jumped at the opportunity to take something like this that tells the story of how people in small communities pulled together in the early history of rural Alberta,” said Warwick. He believes the pipe could be from the 1930s.
Once the two sections of culvert are treated with wood preservative, they will be displayed at the south end of Sunnybrook Farm, near the early grader that was used to create roads. Warwick said the antique grader was once pulled by 18 horses.
Another display item from around this era was recently donated to the Sunnybrook Farm Museum — an old working Michener Centre fire truck. Warwick said it was recently “repatriated,” after first going to the Ukrainian Village Museum, east of Edmonton.