The first decade
On March 17, 1894, three years after a small settlement along the railway began, local businessman came together to form the Red Deer Board of Trade. Present was John Murch, Ray L. Gaetz, R.C. Brumpton, Geo. W. Greene, Geo. W. Smith, R.M. Pardoe, P. Pidgeon, J.S. Hicks, M.D.; D.H. Murphy, Wm. Piper, R.D. Jackson and F.E. Wilkins. Raymond (R.L.) Gaetz was elected as the Board’s first President and quickly set the Board to work drafting a constitution and by-laws for the association.
With the paperwork completed the founders set a clear direction stating the Board of Trade’s objectives “shall be the improvement of the town of Red Deer and district, commercially and municipally; the promotion of the district in its agricultural and natural resources, and in such other ways as may be beneficial to the district.” Membership fees were set at $2/year.
Only a month later the Board of Trade undertook its first important task and took the steps to bring Red Deer under the Unincorporated Towns and Ordinance and proposed the town’s boundaries. With a population of less than a hundred the Board decided to advertise in a Toronto for someone to start a local newspaper. If the Board ever wanted a teacher, an editor architect or other professional person it was common for them to advertise in Toronto to encourage immigration to Central Alberta. They also appointed a committee to prepare a pamphlet sharing the advantages of the region.
They also established a “Roads Committee” and for the next five years they advocated to the government for passable roads leading in and out of Red Deer with the government finally approving $500 for the roads leading out of Red Deer. During the same time the Board wrote to the government asking for something to be done about the bridge to cross the Red Deer River as it had been swept away by recent floods. In 1903 the new and much more substantial bridge was completed.
In 1890 the Board undertook the monumental task of having Red Deer incorporated as a town with the Territorial government. The Board did all the preliminary work and on June 20, 1901 Red Deer was formally incorporated with Raymond (R.L.) Gaetz serving as the first Mayor of Red Deer.
In the next four years the Board did everything they could to attract industries to the town. Following the establishment of Alberta as a province in 1905, the Board persuaded Premier Rutherford to visit Red Deer in an effort to convince him to choose the town to be the new province’s capital. Because of its central location members felt Red Deer would be an ideal location, however, Edmonton would later be chosen as Alberta’s capital.
In just a few short years the Board of Trade transformed a group of loosely connected settlers, farmers and entrepreneurs into a bustling and rapidly growing. With incredible progress in the first ten years, the sky was the limit for the Board of Trade and Town of Red Deer.