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  • Writer's pictureCraig Baird

Vermilion’s First Mayor And His Indigenous Artifacts

When early settlers began to arrive in the Vermilion area, they homesteaded throughout the region. As they cleared the land to grow crops, they would find thousands of artifacts from the Indigenous that had accumulated in the area over the course of thousands of years. These could range from arrowheads, bison bones, beadwork, and much more.

One person who decided to collect these items was Matthew A. Brimacombe, the first mayor of Vermilion. He died on Jan. 18, 1939, after a long illness. Originally, he came to Canada in 1876 and settled in the Vermilion area in 1904 before the railroad had even arrived. He would become the postmaster and then served as mayor in 1906 and 1907.

Over the years, he would collect Indigenous artifacts from the region, being fascinated by the history. He would find Indigenous artwork, beadwork, arrowheads, and much more, all of which he kept. The process to gather these items took him 35 years.

Upon his death, he stipulated in his will that all of the Indigenous artifacts would be given to the Vermilion high school, where they would be used to highlight Indigenous art and history.

J.W.G Morrison, the principal of the school, would state quote:

“It was Mr. Brimacombe’s interest in the life of the Indian and the wish the young men and women coming after him would be placed in a position where they could appreciate the art and work of those fast disappearing people that led him to bequeath the most cherished of all his treasures to the Vermilion high school.”

At the time, his collection was considered to be among the largest individual collections found in all of Alberta.

The collection would be housed within glass cases at the Vermilion High School from that point on.

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