On June 6th, 1891 Canada’s first Prime Minister had died and that same day Russell T. Liggins and his mother stepped off a train at Leduc to join his father, George A. Liggins. The only buildings he spied were the railroad station and the Telford Place located by a creek. Leduc’s population had just gone from two to five!
Russell’s Dad had been appointed by the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) to be the foreman for the Leduc section of the recently completed Calgary & Edmonton Railway. For the first few years they lived in the depot. There were no roads and supplies arrived, by rail, from Winnipeg by way of Calgary. There were no doctors closer than Strathcona.
As section foreman Liggins was responsible for the freight, the mail, and passengers as well as hiring and working with men to improve, expand, and repair the line. George was born in 1845 in an English village called Caldicutt and came to Canada when he was 35 in 1880. He married Jennie Cook from Fergus, Ontario in 1885 and their son Russell was born in 1887.
In those days for a school district to be approved there had to be at least six students. When Russell reached school age there were not the required six students in Leduc needed for a school. An Ontario schoolteacher, William Douglas, did open a summer school for the few children that did live in the area. As a result Russell would go to Wetaskiwin in the winter for his public education.
Russell followed his Dad working for the railroad. He began working with Leduc station agent Owen McKay in 1906 and by 1908 had transferred to Wetaskiwin. Russell would work at Alix, Lacombe, and Red Deer until World War I. While serving for the Edmonton 202nd battalion he was captured by the Germans and spent 13 months in a prison camp. Upon his release he returned to Edmonton in 1920 and began a thirty-two year career with the railroad’s express department retiring in 1952.
The early development of Leduc hanged in the balance shortly after Liggins arrived. From 1893 to 1895 many of the original homesteaders had moved away finding the isolation and the weather too much too bear. When George Liggins decided to add farming to his resume he was able to buy land from the Hudson Bay Company for six dollars an acre. At one time George Liggins owned much of the land that would become the west side of Leduc. He established a creamery and sold produce. The farm began to raise chickens and for some reason attracted prairie chickens and for a period of time there were hundreds of the critters looking for a free meal! Over time he sold or donated land to the town, the St Paul’s Anglican Church and for the Masonic Hall. By 1900 Leduc had become a thriving town and George Liggins was considered as a progressive pioneer serving on both the school board and town council. Leduc can thank the Liggins and Telford families for having the perseverance and courage to see through the hard times and make Leduc a place that drew others to seek their fortune. From the first five Leduc has grown to 25,000 and counting!