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A History of Hardship

A History of Hardship


History is not a term which affixes itself easily to community life which is so much a part of each one of us. In Hanna, and other small communities, we are familiar with the events, the families and the culture which is an intimate part of everyday living. Nevertheless, 85 years of relentless effort under every form of adversity … drought, hail, blizzards, floods, rust, smut, poverty … qualifies as history. The history of Hanna and district is a dramatic tale of overcoming hardships and developing a modern, thriving community with all of the amenities any city might boast. And along with this is the maintenance of the superb quality of the rural way of life. The town came into existence in 1912 as divisional point on the Great Northern Railway which later was gobbled up by the CNR. It gets its name from D.B. Hanna who was president of the railway at that time.

For most of its existence Hanna was the main service town in East Central Alberta for farmers and ranchers seeking banking services, professional services, medical care and a wide range of shopping services dealing in almost all commodities. The town itself was peopled by merchants, tradesmen, professional people and railroaders giving a nice mix with railroaders coming and going, and a rich if not spicy social atmosphere prevailed.

As railroad activity diminished other initiatives were undertaken to replace the dwindling population. Since the beginning of the oil boom there has always been a representative group of oilfield production and service personnel. In recent years, beginning in the late 1970’s a new wave of enthusiasm engulfed the citizens of Hanna with the beginning of construction of the 750 megawatt Sheerness Power Generating Station about 15 miles southeast of town. The plant is up and running with about 75 permanent jobs and another 50 Manalta Coal and Luscar Mines which supply the fuel for the plant.

Located about 214 kilometers (130 miles) northeast of Calgary on Highway 9, Hanna is well serviced by highway transportation in all directions, good bus service and the main branch of CN Rail from Saskatoon to Calgary.

It was only a few years ago that a new airport was completed with lights and a 3,500 foot strip capable of handling small jets.

Hanna is headquarters for the Special Areas Administration which provides local municipal government for most of the sparsely populated 5,000,000 acres of its domain in East Central Alberta. It is also headquarters for the Palliser Regional Planning Commission which provides complete planning and advisory services for municipalities and improvement districts in a vast area.

Hanna is 2,658 feet above sea level, boasts 2,133 hours of sunshine annually and receives an average 10.81 inches of rain and 44.4 inches of snow annually. In an average year if the rain falls at the right time and the snow accumulates for a fast spring runoff there is plenty of water for the cattle and the crops are generally good. It doesn’t always work out that way.

Regional natural resources include: thermal clay, sand, gravel, petroleum, natural gas, agriculture products and bentonite. By far the most important industry in the district is agriculture whose products include: wheat, barley, rye, tame hay, oats, flax, rapeseed, beef cattle, hogs, poultry, sheep, lambs and horses.

Hanna is governed by a mayor and six councilors, assisted by a town administrator and clerical staff as well as the public works crews and the various service specialists.

The town boasts a full range of cultural and recreational activities. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police provide policing service. Complete medical services are available through the facilities of the Hanna General Hospital and the Big Country Health Unit provides care for home patients in the town and rural areas. Hanna provides educational facilities from kindergarten through high school and includes some post-secondary education opportunities through the Further Education Council and the Big Country Educational Consortium.

Text courtesy of The Hanna Herald