Directions: Travel north on St. Albert Trail, which becomes Hwy 2, and turn onto Hwy 642 east (Township Road 560).
Distance: 39.4 km, or about 38 minutes, from downtown Edmonton.
Info: The Morinville town office and information centre is located at 10125100th Avenue. 780-939-4361; www.morinville.ca.
Morinville is named after Abbe Jean-Baptiste Morin (1852-1911). In 1890, Morin was asked to recruit Roman Catholic settlers from Quebec to the West. Under Monseigneur Grandin’s supervision, he brought the first French settlers to the area from Quebec along with German settlers from the United States. Morinville was founded in spring 1891 with the arrival of almost 500 families, including the 43 adults who formed the parish.
The community opened a small post office in 1893 and grew quickly due to its proximity to Edmonton and the discovery of coal in the area in 1895. Telephone lines connected Morinville to Edmonton in 1897, and two years later the first school opened. French culture had a strong influence on the town’s development. In 1902 Father Arcade Ethier helped set up a French religious teaching order through a community of nuns called Les Filles de Jesus, or the Daughters of Jesus. The railway arrived in 1905, the same year Alberta became a province. Morinville went from colony to village status in 1908, and the following year it became the third Alberta community to publish a newspaper.
Morinville incorporated as a town in 1911. In 1920 an extensive fire destroyed an entire business area on Main Street; however, many early buildings still stand as testament to Morinville’s pioneer origins, and several have been declared official historic sites.
By 1967 Morinville’s population exceeded 1,000; today it is home to more than 8,500 people. Immerse yourself in Morinville’s fascinating multicultural history with a self-guided walking tour of the St. Jean Baptiste Church, the murals and monuments of Baptiste Park, and historical homes. Before starting out, obtain the Take a Ride into Our Past brochure (revised 2012) at the Morinville town office and information centre. While you’re there, ask about Morinville annual events, which include St. Jean Baptiste Day, Canada Day, the Family Day Snowman Festival, a town-wide garage sale, and Christmas festivities. The Morinville Farmer’s Market is held Fridays, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., from early June to late August.
As you explore, be sure to note the three historic sites in close proximitythe former Convent Notre-Dame de la Visitation, St. Jean Baptiste Church, and St. Jean Baptiste Rectory. Interpretive paintings and signs called the Tableaux in St. Jean Baptiste Park comprise paintings and interpretive signage that explore the war of 1775-77, War of 1812-14, Father Jean-Baptiste Morin, and the parish.
For indoor entertainment, check out the playbill at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre (9502-100th Avenue). The centre hosts a variety of mainstage shows, as well as presentations for young audiences. Visit www.morinvillecentre.ca or call 780-939-7888 for show and ticket information.
Morinville is home to paved walking trails, more than 100 hectares of green spaces, as well as a splash park (9908-104th Street) and a skateboard park at the northernmost end of 107th Street (at 107th Avenue). You can also spend some time outdoors at the 16-metre-deep Morinville Fish and Game Pond (half a block from the skateboard park on 107th Street). Stocked annually with fish, this area is also a wildlife reserve and has trails around the lake and picnic areas. Firepits are available.
St. Jean Baptiste Church
Location: 10020100th Avenue, Morinville.
Info: Interior viewing by appointment. 780-939-4816.
With its brick exterior, high steeple, and cross, the St. Jean Baptiste Church is Morinville’s most beautiful landmark, but it is not its first place of worship. This church replaced a previous sanctuary here, located 3.3 kilometres west of the current townsite, which succeeded an 1891 log chapel built by Father St. Jean Baptiste.
Following a Quebec model, Father Arcade Ethier began building the St. Jean Baptiste Church in 1907. The parish used a $13,000 loan to fund construction but was left, with a $1,200 debt, which proved an uncomfortable burden for the parishioners who celebrated their first mass here on January 1, 1908.
In 1916, the Stations of the Crossa series of 14 crosses that illustrate the stages of Jesus’s final suffering, death, and burialwere installed. The church obtained its first harmonium, or reed organ, the following year, and in 1918 commissioned murals in the sanctuary (parishioners donated $50 each toward the painting). The church is known for its magnificent art, as well as its high, rounded ceiling.
A choir loft followed in 1925the same year the Casavant pipe organ, built by the famous Casavant Freres company in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, was installed. Blessed on November 7, 1926, the original four-bell carillon still chimes forth. Father A. Gauthier led the finishing of the church’s interior, and in 1929 the brick exterior was added. Completely renovated in 1973, the church and rectory became Alberta’s first officially designated historic site in 1974. A white 14-metre-high brick clock tower was built between the church and the rectory in 2005. Be sure to look for the medallion of Morin displayed inside the clock tower.
Next to St. Jean Baptiste Church, the Convent Notre-Dame de la Visitation (10050-101 Street)the Notre Dame Conventwas the Provincial House of the religious order of Les Filles de Jesus. This four-storey, 100-room building was constructed in 1909, with the south and north wings added in 1920 and 1930, respectively. Today, the external structure of this provincial historic site is still the original, but the interior now holds residential apartments, as well as the Musee Morinville Museum.