Whitemud Equine Learning Centre Association

The Farm That Dr. Keillor Built

by Lawrence Herzog, Edmonton Real Estate Magazine, January 17, 2007

The stone and wood house and log cabin that nestle in the belly of the North Saskatchewan River valley near Fox Drive are intriguing remnants of a fascinating story of an early Edmonton doctor, Frederick Anson Keillor. Today the house and cabin at what is now 12505 Keillor Road are part of the Whitemud Equine Centre, one of only a handful of cities with a horseback riding facility right in the city limits. Keillor's steadfast vision to keep the land unspoiled, and his repeated refusal to sell it for development, is a rich legacy of preservation. Now, as much for much of the last century, the property is enjoyed by thousands of citizens every year.

Extensive research by Sheila Edmonds has pieced together the story of Keillor and the farm he operated in the 1920s, and the path the land and the dwellings have taken through time. Keillor was born September 1, 1883 in Glencoe, Ontario, and raised in Wallacetown, Ontario. He graduated from medical school at the University of Western Ontario in 1908, and moved to Raymond, Alberta. That's where he married Martha Lillian Lyons, and the couple then moved to South Edmonton, where Keillor opened a medical practice on Whyte Avenue.

The Keillors were to have three children, all daughters. With the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, Keillor enlisted as a medical officer in 1914. He was posted to France and then Gallipoli in 1915-16. He was stricken with typhoid fever, recovered in Egypt and London, and was discharged in 1918 with the rank of captain. On his return to Edmonton, he became a medical director at the South Edmonton Veterans Home, located on the campus of the University of Alberta. Two years later, he returned to private practice as a general physician and surgeon. His office was located in the Royal Bank building at the corner of Whyte Avenue and 104th Street.

Keillor purchased the land, a 61-acre quarter section parcel on the flats east of Whitemud Creek, from the Imperial Bank. The bank had repossessed it from Edmonton pioneer John Walter, after Walter's fortune was washed away in the great flood of 1915. Keillor put his new property to use quickly, raising fox, hogs, sheep and cows. He built the log cabin and the house, using local wood and river rock, strung power lines into the property, drilled a well and laid 2,500 feet of water mains underground. By the 1920s, Whitemud Creek had become a favourite recreation area for Edmontonians. People hiked through and picnicked on Keillor's farm year round and more citizens began using the farm for year-round leisure activities. The nearby ski club asked to use Keillor's power and electricity for a ski tow and lights for their log cabin clubhouse, and he agreed.

Keillor refuses pay to be a city alderman believing that "It is an honour to serve."

In 1925, the Keillor family moved to Garneau, but the good doctor continued working his Whitemud flats property as a hobby, referring to the stone house as his "retreat:' The following year, Keillor was elected as a city alderman, and offered to work without pay, saying, "it is an honour to serve." He served as alderman in 1926, 1927 and from 1929 to 1932. In 1928, Keillor offered to donate land through his farm for a public road to Whitemud Creek. The city accepted his gift, and then asked for 10-acres more - the land beside the river and down to the creek. The route, which came to be known as Keillor Road, ran parallel to the river and extended from 76th Avenue dawn the river valley bank to Whitemud Creek. The title was transferred to the city on November 1, 1930, and construction on the road began the following year. Within a year of its completion, the road had become so heavily used by automobiles that the Alpine Club of Canada wrote to the city, asking that a footpath be constructed beside the river. It was built within a few months, making the trail and the farm the most popular recreation area in Edmonton.

It wasn't long before the heavily used road needed repairs, and citizens were soon writing letters to the city, and local papers, decrying its potholes and washboard surface. Keillor wrote to the city in 1940, reminding it of the original agreement to maintain the road. A new commissioner, unaware of the handshake deal, sent a $7,000 quote to Keillor for necessary road repairs.

The Depression created hardships for farms, and Dr. Keillor, Dr. Terwillegar and Tom Fox were among those who wrote letters to the city asking that the city tax rate not be applied to farmland encroached by the growing city. By 1949, Keillor's land was the last large private farm in the river valley. The oil-driven boom that started in 1947 meant developers were eager for land, bul Keillor was adamant that his property would remain a park, and turned down all offers to purchase. In 1949, he invited city commissioners to tour the farm and asked them for a fair price to ensure its continued use by all citizens. No such deal was forthcoming. Next: How Keillor's farm became Canada's premier urban equine centre.

Upcoming Events

Equine Massage Course

Sept 30-Oct 06

Whitemud Equine Centre Riding Arena – Grand Opening

October 21


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