Leduc’s First MLA
In 1905 Robert Taylor Telford was elected as Leduc’s first MLA and would serve until 1913 as a member of the Liberal Party. How an Irish man from Quebec would become Leduc’s first MLA is an interesting story.
Telford was born in 1860 to Irish parents in Shawville, Quebec. When he turned 20 he was drawn to seek his fortune in the United States to work in the land of Paul Bunyan as a lumberjack in Michigan and Wisconsin.
In 1885 Telford read an article about the North-West Rebellion so, at the age of twenty-five, he headed for Calgary with a plan to join the North West Mounted Police. He had to wait a year before becoming a member. In the meantime he used his lumberjack skills to become a carpenter. In July of 1886 he became a member of the NWMP and served for the next three years.
In 1889 he had the opportunity to stake out a homestead near a lake a few miles south of Edmonton. Telford had his Irish sense of humor and was able to make friends everywhere he went. It was a natural transition for him to convert his homestead into a way station or stopping place where travellers could stop, have a meal, and a place to sleep for the night.
In the spring of 1890 he returned to Wisconsin and married his longtime girlfriend Katherine “Belle” Howard. Upon their return they set to work to improve their business. They moved the stopping place to be closer to the new railroad station and expanded by operating a general store and a lumberyard.
He served as the community’s postmaster until he became Leduc’s first MLA.
Telford was involved in the opening up of the area to homesteaders by developing roads into the areas set aside for homesteading. Prior to 1901 he led the crew that developed what is know today as Highway 39 to the Strawberry Creeks area. The post office that opened in 1904 to serve the people of the new homesteads was named Telford in his honor. Among the first homesteaders were Dr. Roberts Woods and his family.
Telford was involved in all aspects of Leduc’s early growth. He was a member of the town council serving as mayor during World War I and for a time on the school board. He sold his lumberyard in 1919, but continued to draw an income from his various real estate holdings. For thirteen years he was the area’s only Justice of Peace.
In 1905 he ran as a Liberal and became Leduc’s first MLA. He supported the Rutherford government and was re-elected in 1909. In 1913 he decided not to run again and returned to Leduc.
Tragedy would strike the Telford family, as they became the first Leduc family to lose a son in World War I as their adopted son Raymond was killed in action at the age of 22.
Robert would live to the age of 73 and passed away in 1933. In his honor the community changed the name of Leduc Lake to Telford Lake. Today as one paddles a Dragon Boat or a simple canoe on the lake they can see the Telford House where stage coaches and travellers once stayed and enjoyed the company of Robert Telford and his family.
If you listen carefully you just might hear the laughter of his guests drifting through the air after listening to an Irish joke told by an individual that enjoyed the company of his fellow man.
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