Located 4 km northwest of Mount Oliver near many un-named creeks. Victoria Cross Range, Jasper Park, Alberta Major headwater Athabasca River.
When William Antrobus Griesbach was elected Edmonton mayor in 1906, the newspapers called him “Edmonton’s boy mayor.” He was just 28 years old and, after all these years, he still ranks as the youngest mayor the city has ever elected.
Nearly a century later, a former north Edmonton military barracks is named for him.
A 1927 article on Griesbach reflected that his life and achievements were like a page from fiction. He was not only mayor but he also elected as a Member of Parliament, appointed to the Canadian Senate and earned distinction in military life.
The story of this fascinating man began in Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan on January 3rd, 1878. William was the son of RCMP Lieut.-Col. Arthur Henry Griesbach - the first man to be issued with a Northwest Mounted Police badge in 1873. And so, in effect, his father was Canada's first Mountie.
In "I Remember," published in 1946, William wrote that his father told him he was descended from a gang of "fiddlers" who came from Germany to England. His father came to Canada in 1870. When he was transferred to Fort Saskatchewan in 1883, the family travelled by Canadian Pacific Railway to Calgary and by wagon train north to Edmonton and then Fort Saskatchewan.
"The road was a mere cart track," Griesbach wrote, "and frequently the whole party had to stop and build or repair a bridge." The family arrived in Fort Saskatchewan in September, 1883, when all 400 feet by 95 feet of the fort's palisade was built of logs.
That's where the family stayed during the Riel Rebellion in 1885. William left in 1891 to attend the Anglican church school of St. John's College in Winnipeg. He returned to Edmonton in 1895 to study law and in 1899 enlisted to go to South Africa and fight in the Boer War.
He knew from boxing weigh-ins that he was about two pounds under the minimum weight of 140, but found a clever way to fool the authorities. "The doctor preceded me and as I passed the coal box, I picked up a sizable piece of coal and held it in both hands behind my back," he recalled. "I stepped on the scales and the doctor found that I weighed 140 and a-half-pounds. As I walked past the coal box, I dropped the lump of coal back in its place."
In 1901, back from serving as a trooper in the South African War, he began practising law, with an office in the Edmonton Bulletin newspaper building. A story in the June 30th, 1927 edition of the Bulletin quoted Griesbach as recalling, "My rent was $12 a month. The first month I didn't make anything; the second I made exactly $12, and the third I went up to $17. Most of my callers in those days were people who wanted to sell me books."
Responding to the wishes of many friends, he stood in 1903 and 1905 for election as alderman, winning the second time. The following January he married Janet Scott McDonald Lauder, daughter of James Lauder, who started Edmonton's first bakery. They built a house at 195 Sixth Street (near modern day 97th Avenue and 106th Street.)
Griesbach ran for mayor and a campaign ad published in the local papers on December 8th, 1906, called him a "true son of the west." The ad went on to say, "Mr. Griesbach enjoys a wide circle of friends in both business and social life who predict a promising future for him."
Those friends couldn't have been more correct. Griesbach was elected mayor during the city’s great boom of the early 20th century and, like the city he guided, there was plenty of affluence and optimism. He and Janet built their Glenora mansion and all seemed right with the world – until events on Europe changed the course of history.
When the Great War broke out in 1914, the 19th Alberta Dragoons volunteered as a unit and Griesbach, who had been commissioned as a lieutenant, was among the first to offer his services.
In December 1914, he was named as officer to command the 49th Battalion and he immediately commenced recruitment. Edmonton had only 72,000 citizens then but the drive for 1,000 men took only eight days in January 1915 - a recruitment record that still stands.
The 49th, or "the Edmonton Regiment," as it came to be known, was called to various engagements overseas, including the attack on Vimy Ridge, the defence of Arras and operations at Passchendaele and Mons. Griesbach was promoted to Brigadier-General in 1917, when he was just 39 years old.
After the war, his rank became Major-General and he was elected as Member of Parliament for Edmonton West. In 1921, he was appointed to the Canadian Senate - a post he held until his death of a heart attack on January 21st, 1945.
Major-General Griesbach was given a full military funeral. His personal papers were placed in the city archives on August 29th, 1958.
-by Lawrence Herzog Reprinted with Permission. © 2002 Lawrence Herzog (www.lawrenceherzog.com)