Leduc’s First Entrepreneur

In the spring of 1894 Leduc consisted of three buildings, the railroad depot, Telford’s Place, and the hardware shop established by Robert Telford and William Douglas called the Pioneer Store when Robert Dittrich and his wife arrived from Chicago. 
    Born in Germany in 1862 Robert and his wife Albertina (Bertha) came to Leduc and established a shoe shop. Robert had acquired the skills of a shoemaker as he grew up in Germany and when he and his wife stepped off the train in Leduc he saw his opportunity to put his skills to use and make a living for his family.
    Dittrich was rather stocky in built, but his skill in turning cowhide into a pair of excellent footwear soon had customers flocking to his shop gaining him respect for his ability to repair shoes or his custom new shoes. Customers raved not only from the quality of his boots, but also from the inexpensive cost. At two and half-dollars for a pair of work boots and only five dollars for a fashionable pair of shoes he saw many repeat customers. As farmers began to come to him with their need to have harnesses or saddles repaired Dittrich was able to expand his business to meet their needs.
    Robert decided to build a combination home and shop just south of the Pioneer Hardware store close to where the Gaiety Theatre once stood, and thus began the growth of Leduc’s business district. Dittrich’s first shop was made of hewed logs and didn’t look like much, but inside people quickly realized a skilled craftsman was at work. Later he enlarged the building and added siding. Robert like many of the early settlers was more than willing to help the community when needed. For many years he would serve as an interpreter for the courts and also helped many European immigrants with the paperwork they needed to become Canadian citizens. 
    In 1896 Robert and his wife Bertha began to homestead a farm two miles south of Leduc and there they raised six children. Robert’s brother became well known in the clothing business when he established and ran the Dittrich’s Men Shop, for many years, in Edmonton. The Dittrich’s only son would remain on the farm long after his father died in 1926 and his mother in 1946. Many of Robert’s descendants still live in the Leduc area. Today the farm is part of the Meadowlake and Tribute subdivisions.
    The City of Leduc recognized in 2010 the contributions made by Robert Dittrich to the early growth of the community when they named a park in his honour.  Today Leduc’s first entrepreneur still reminds us that Leduc is a place of opportunity for those who are willing to work for it.

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