Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer

Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer

History Column: The August Gross Home

The August Gross home and Wetaskiwin history.

There was a time when Wetaskiwin was only known as Siding 16 but when the Calgary and Edmonton Railway came through in 1891, a station was built and before long the community of Wetaskiwin was growing.

By the turn of the century, the community was thriving and a lumber company was operating under the guidance of H.E. Rosenroll by 1898. In 1902, John Peter Gross came along and bought one-third of the company and changed the name to Gross Lumber Company.

Gross had been born in France and moved to the United States when he was a child. By the age of 15, he was blacksmithing and by 1898 he was prospecting in western Canada and decided that he wanted to start farming. He brought his family to the area and purchased a farm south of Wetaskiwin. After he bought the lumber business, he let his sons August and Frank run the farm until he bought out the business and brought his son August in as the manager of the company. John Peter would serve on the village and town council at this time as well.

In 1912, Wetaskiwin became a city and the growth of Gross Lumber Company was seen as a symbol of the success of the community. By this point, August was directing most of the company and he was heavily involved in the community as well. He served on town council from 1908 to 1909 and then on the city council from 1918 to 1919. In addition to his time on council, he also served with the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Parish, the Board of Trade, the Hospital Board and the Kiwanis Club.

It was during all this that August Gross began to construct a large wood frame house for his family at 4408-51 Street. With 12 rooms, it was a perfect home for the leading businessman of Wetaskiwin at the time. Gross would live in the home for just over a decade until 1920 when he moved to Puyallup, Washington.

In 1963, Gross returned to the community to be honoured for his many civic achievements at the age of 88.

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— Craig Baird