CHRONICLES OF LOCAL JOURNALISM AND MUNICIPAL POLITICS, Part 2:
ANNA DERRETT/EDWARDS AND FRANK EDWARDS
by Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
PIONEER WOMAN JOURNALIST ANNA DERRETT EDWARDS
With her husband Howard’s unfortunate demise in January 1920, the widowed Anna Derrett and her young family were forced to rely upon their own resources to survive. A smart businesswomen, she grabbed life by the horns and assumed the publishing and editorship duties of the Pincher Creek Echo. Anna adeptly continued in these capacities for nearly two decades, until 1939 and was one of the few Canadian women to tackle such endeavours so early in our history. Her success with the Echo was due to several factors. Well known within the community and active in such local organizations as the Red Cross, Anna built upon these contacts to seek subscriptions, sell advertizing and collect news. In contrast to the paper’s First World War coverage, Anna Derrett ensured that the Echo almost exclusively covered local news during the 1920s and 1930s. Part of her success lay in the district news correspondents who covered rural happenings on a regular basis. Some of the early rural localities including Cowley, Fishburn and Twin Butte saw coverage as early as the 1910s. Others such as Beaver Mines, Lundbreck and North Fork witnessed monthly if not weekly news columns a decade or two later. Each article offered a collage of rural news items with each paragraph or two highlighting the most recent agricultural, country school or social activities. It was a great way of keeping posted of outlying news and was one of the Echo’s strengths during the glory days of the Prairie Canadian weeklies.
Married a second time in 1926, Anna and her new husband Frank T. Edwards retired in January 1945 and moved out to Vancouver. Anna was active in the local United Church which threw the couple an elaborate farewell party chronicled in the paper itself. Circa 1961, two years following Frank’s passing, Anna settled in Calgary where she passed away on Thursday, 29th August 1968. She was buried in Burnaby, British Columbia.
BUSINESSMAN AND MUNICIPAL POLITICIAN FRANK THOMAS EDWARDS
Frank Thomas Edwards too had an adept business style. As Anna Edwards’ second husband, he first was involved in the local creamery business followed by his editorship of the Pincher Creek Echo during the Second World War. Edwards was active in local politics.
Our community activist was sixteen years old when he immigrated to Canada in 1900. Edwards was born in 1884 in the London suburb of Hounslow, England. He initially wanted to homestead but he was too young to submit an application. A year later, he landed in Vancouver when he applied for enlistment in the British Forces fighting in the South African War. Again, his endeavours were rejected because of his young age. Edwards later settled near Red Deer, Alberta where according to the 1911 Dominion Census he took up farming. Edwards enlisted in the First World War, first serving with the 89th Battalion of Calgary and subsequently transferring to the 49th of Edmonton.
Frank Edwards’ connection with Pincher Creek came in May 1923 with his arrival here to install machinery at the local creamery. He stayed on to become the creamery’s manager. Edwards acquired property in town but also held an interest in agriculture, acquiring the former Redpath Ranch located just downstream from the settlement of Pincher Creek. He was one of two dozen Pincher Creek area businessmen who invested in the Alberta Gas and Fuel Co. Ltd. Its only well, Yarrow Number One, was drilled south of town during the summer of 1930. Edwards took over as Editor of the Pincher Creek Echo in the late 1930s and held the position till his retirement some six years later. He continued the paper’s well thought of tradition of extensive local news coverage. The Echo was well patronized by town and rural businesses as indicated by the variety of display ads on its front and inside pages.
Possessing an abiding interest in local politics, Frank Edwards served on Pincher Creek’s Town Council during the 1930s and as Mayor during the first half of the Second World War – he retired in early 1942. Municipal financing was difficult during the Great Depression and one of Edwards’ efforts during his Mayoralty was Pincher Creek’s contributions towards the war effort. During his tenure, the old Town Office was housed in an impressive two-storey brick structure built just over a generation earlier at the corner of East Avenue and Kettles Street.
In February 1926, Frank Edwards and Anna Derrett were united in marriage. It was a second marriage for both. Edwards had two children of his own, a son Lionel F. born in 1907 who later lived in Vancouver and a daughter Dorothy M. Wirtz (1908 – 1985) who as an adult resided in Des Moines, Iowa. Having had disposed of their business interests in the Pincher Creek Echo, Frank and Anna Edwards retired out to Vancouver in early 1945. Frank passed away there on Sunday, February 15th, 1959.
One of the biggest historical legacies of Howard Derrett, Anna Derrett/Edwards and Frank Edwards are the back issues of the Pincher Creek Echo, most of which now are preserved in the Archives of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village.