Vintage Photos of the Hamlet of Lac La Biche

The name “Lac La Biche” is actually a French translation from a Cree phrase that means “Lake of the Elk.” The hamlet of Lac La Biche is the second-oldest permanent settlement in Alberta. The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) built a post in 1799 after the famous explorer David Thompson became the first European to land on the shores of the namesake lake in 1798. Of course, the Lakeland region was home to Indigenous people for thousands of years prior to Thompson’s arrival.

Lac La Biche
1877 – Group portrait of four metis gentlemen sitting on a bench in front of a store in Lac La Biche.

Lac La Biche Lake is one of the largest bodies of water in the province and is surrounded by more than 150 other lakes. There are also plenty of rivers and vast tracts of forest, making it an ideal place for the fur trade to thrive. The region was considered strategically important because it provided access to the Churchill and Mackenzie River drainage basins. The original trading post became a popular stopping point for many expeditions. In 1853, Oblates of Mary Immaculate priests arrived and established the Lac La Biche Mission near the HBC post. Two years later they moved the mission to it’s current site to be closer to the water. The mission is credited with many firsts for Alberta including the first printing press, commercial wheat crops, flour mill, and wood sawmill.

Lac La Biche
1890 – Exterior view of a house at Lac La Biche. Augustin Ladoucer is standing on the left, “Les deux jumelles Ladouceur” are standing on the right.

In 1915 the railroad connecting Edmonton and Fort McMurray was completed. This resulted in the area being opened to tourism and Lac La Biche being hailed as “Edmonton’s newest summer resort.” In 2007 the Town of Lac La Biche and Lakeland County amalgamated creating what is now known as Lac La Biche County. I hope you enjoy this collection of historical photos featuring this picturesque region in east central Alberta.

Lac La Biche
1900s – Exterior view of the Breymat Cheese Factory, Lac La Biche.
Lac La Biche
1921 – Men using machinery to lay track north of Lac La Biche for Northern Alberta Railways.
Lac La Biche
1925 – Exterior view of the Alberta Hotel, Lac La Biche.
Lac La Biche
1930s – Exterior view of the Chapel at Lac La Biche Mission, parishioners gathered in front.
Lac La Biche
1930s – Men standing on a horse-drawn sled on Main Street, Lac La Biche.
Lac La Biche
1930s – Men playing baseball at Lac La Biche Mission.
Lac La Biche
1930s – Exterior view of the McArthur Hotel in Lac La Biche.
Lac La Biche
1930s – View of men cutting ice from Lac La Biche Lake.
Lac La Biche
1930s – View of a fishing boat at dock in the Lac La Biche area.
1942 – David Elves, student missioner, standing outside the church in Lac La Biche, Alberta.
1945 – Exterior view of the Convent at the Lac La Biche Mission.
1963 – View of Main Street in Lac La Biche, Alberta.
n.d. – Group photo in front of Dolphus Johnston’s homestead at Lac La Biche. Top row, left to right: Leo Johnston Patrick Fredrick Bottom row, left to right: Melanie Johnston Narcisse David Ladoucer Dolphus Johnston Pat Ladoucer.
n.d. – Group photo of the Lac La Biche Mission Hockey Team in uniform standing outside.
n.d. – View of the buildings at the Lac La Biche Mission.
n.d. – Men, including sawyer Ovide Langevin and Father Menard, at the saw mill at the Lac La Biche Mission.
n.d. – View of a barn being constructed near Lac La Biche. Joe Langevin is the carpenter.
n.d. – Lac La Biche Hospital, Lac La Biche, Alberta.
n.d. – View of Lac La Biche Hospital with boat and dock in foreground.
n.d. – Tomkins’ river lot at Lac La Biche, Alberta.
n.d. – Helen Cardinal and Mrs. Castor, outdoors, in the summer, Lac La Biche, Alberta.
n.d. – Looking toward Mill Point on Lac La Biche, Alberta.

More additional collections of historic photos featuring communities across Alberta, please see these previous posts including, Fort Chipewyan, Exshaw, Fort MacLeod, and Rocky Mountain House.

n.d. – Peter Tomkins, Senior, Emilion Boucher, and family at Lac La Biche, Alberta.

The photos above were collected from Archives Canada and the Provincial Archives of Alberta. If you’re interested, additional information can be found for each photograph on their websites. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta and Western Canada. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.


About Tyler Dixon 217 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.