Vincent Lake (St.Paul, AB.)

APISCATIM – small dog ᐊᐱᐢᒐᑎᒼ SÔSÔWATIM – ass or donkey ᓲᓲᐊᐧᑎᒼ

MISÔKAN – rear-end or buttocks ᒥᓲᑲᐣ SÂKÂHIKAN – lake ᓵᑳᐦᐃᑲᐣ

Lac Saint Vincent is a relatively small lake, 4 kilometres long and less then 8 square kilometres, in the regional watershed where the Beaver River and North Saskatchewan River basins meet. The lake is surrounded by an aspen parkland forest of spruce, aspen, balsam poplar and grassland meadows. A. J. Cotton, of the Dominion Land Survey, first surveyed the area in 1884 and named the lake Vincent. The common belief is he named the lake for his only son.

However, this was not the name used by the Cree who camped near the lake. Apparently, they had known the lake as dog ass lake or dog rump lake. That translation is sketchy at best. It is more probable the lake may have been called small dog lake or donkey lake. The name as dog rump lake may have been a misunderstood translation by the early settlers.

It was the Cree who originally reaped the value of the rich fertile land and waters of the area. Berries, game and fish provided well for them along with their gardens and small farms. It is believed the first European to explore the area was William Pink of Britain who joined the Hudson Bay Company in 1765 and made his way to the Beaver River region. It was here he came upon the great herds of buffalo and many beaver and the fur trade potential. He would return at least four times to the lake and surrounding lands before finally going home to Britain in 1770.

As the fur trade expanded across the Dominion and travelled west, Pink was followed by the coureurs de bois1 and the Metis. They too found the attraction of the region; some explored and moved on while others remained. And they were then followed, this time by the Oblate Catholic priests who saw a great opportunity to spread their religion and education to the many Metis, Cree and new settlers. Father Thibault was the first French missionary to explore the area and camp at the lake and later in 1850 his compadres would arrive.

The priests were educated and skilled men of the missionary order Oblates of Mary Immaculate, founded by Bishop Ignace Bourget in 1816 in France. In 1841 Canada became their first foreign mission. The Oblates braved the elements and hardships to travel across the Dominion to bring not only the Christian message but also to be parliamentarians and reconcile the differences between the natives and the European settlers.

The Oblates recognized the rich fertile lands around the lake and saw the opportunity to grow a French farming community in their newly adopted country. By 1896 the cozy hamlet near the lake was a growing French settlement. By 1906 because of the strong efforts of the priests to encourage further immigration to the area, many French were arriving and working the lands alongside the Metis and Cree. That same year Bishop Emile Legal named the new French settlement Lac Saint Vincent.

There appeared a great deal of toil and very little trouble. And the hard work did not eliminate the opportunity for the newly arrived French settlers to continue the traditions of their homeland. Social culture grew as strong as the livestock they maintained and as prolific as the crops they harvested.

‘Il y avait des abeilles pour le bâtiment, battant, couverture-faisant, coupant le bois de chauffage, et les abeilles pour juste environ n'importe quelles personnes de raison ont eu besoin de travail effectué. Sans compter qu'aider un voisin par une tâche, les abeilles ont également servi d'événement social, rendant la tâche plus agréable.’2

The immigration continued and the community was ‘la petite France’ in the new Dominion. It was in 1907 that Father Eugene Bonny arrived at the French settlement as the new parish priest and the efforts to build a church for the congregation began. The previous year 10 acres had been set aside by Father Simonin for the very purpose of establishing a church in the small French community. It was later in 1912 that St. Vincent became an official Catholic Parish and the small French colony was renamed St. Vincent de Denisville.

As throughout the rest of Alberta, immigration from Europe continued and farming the fertile prairie lands was a growing economy and important industry. The railways were laying track to transport people, goods and grain. In the second decade of the 20th century the railway was planning to pass through the Lac St. Vincent area. However, it was at this time in 1918 that the region was hit strongly with the Spanish influenza, causing great chaos and far too many deaths. The railroad re-evaluated and not a single track was laid. It would find its route elsewhere.

The loss of the railway had a large impact on the community. Although there was growth, the settlement never seemed to reach Village status. The many businesses, merchants and entrepreneurs had great hopes the railway would bring them good fortune. However, this would not be so and many decided to move on to greener pastures and better opportunities. Regardless, ‘la petite France’ of Lac St. Vincent stood steadfast.

It was the cultural strength within the French community and the strong religious Catholic convictions that bound the people of Lac St. Vincent tightly enough to weather the 1930’s as the Depression gripped Alberta. During this time the third church, after fire destroyed the second one, which was larger than the original tiny church, became the focus and saving grace.

With the arrival of Father Charles Chalifoux in 1933, the energies of the congregation were revitalized and harnessed to continue the construction and decoration of the church. The church stood for not only the faith of the French people but for their resolve and commitment to the French culture and community. While other settlements around them were being swallowed up by the predominantly English speaking community, Lac St.Vincent remained French.

Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta was founded in 1926 to support the French population of Alberta and to share the French culture. Now there are over 65,000 French speaking Albertans and approximately 500 place names of French origin throughout the province.
Today agriculture occupies over half the land in the watershed and drainage basin, with both forage and crops as well as livestock. The remaining surrounding area is mixed aspen, spruce and balsam poplar with grassland meadows and rolling hills.

The lake boasts plenty of soft sandy beaches and numerous wetlands with an abundance of waterfowl. It is also home to walleye, yellow perch and northern pike. There are several coves and bays, and at Westcove there is a privately owned campground. Lac St. Vincent is an ideal lake to explore by kayak or canoe ou laze environ sous le soleil sur la plage sablonneuse molle.

While there are nearly 600 cottages about the shores of the lake, there is only one Summer Village. The Summer Village of Horseshoe Bay sits on the west side of Lac St. Vincent in a beautiful cove; and yes, it does look more or less like the shape of a horseshoe. About 145 properties make up the shoreline community with a permanent year round population of 70 or so residents. Horseshoe Bay was incorporated as a Summer Village in 1985.

Lac St.Vincent and the surrounding area remain today an historical tribute and commitment to pioneering in Alberta. As have other European settlers, the French have made a substantial contribution to the Province of Alberta as we know it today.

Nous n'oublierons jamais la force et la résolution de ces pionniers de Français qui sont venus pour de nouvelles occasions, nouvelle liberté et Alberta fait leur maison3.

1 The coureurs de bois (‘runners of the woods’) were mostly of French descent who became fur traders, learning the ways of the woods from the aboriginal people of the region. They later became known as ‘voyageurs’.

2 Translation – ‘There were bees for building, threshing, rug-making, cutting firewood, and bees for just about any reason people needed work done. Besides helping a neighbor through a task, bees also served as a social event, making the task more enjoyable.’ Excerpt reprinted (in English) from “Souvenirs: Saint Vincent 1906-1981” without permission from Saint Vincent Historical Society. Retrieved from the Internet.*

3 Translation – Never shall we forget the strength and resolve of those French pioneers who came for new opportunities, new freedom and made Alberta their home..


Size of lake: 7.9 square kilometres
Greatest depth: 7.5 metres
Boat launches: 1 public launch and accesses
Fishing potential: Good
Hiking &walking trails: Nature and walking trails
Restrictions on boating & fishing, if any: Posted restrictions apply
Summer Village (1): Horseshoe Bay
Year settled: 1700’s Cree & 1880’s French Oblates
Access to Summer Villages (when open/accessible): All year round
Appeal to families & children: Good
Appeal to people with passion for topic: Good – Nature, Canoeing/kayaking, Missions, Fishing, Swimming, History, Birding
Scenic appeal of site: Very pretty
Accommodations: Private campground with all amenities plus tennis court, baseball diamond, playground and more
Amenities: No public amenities
Additional/nearby recreation & accommodation: 3 golf courses, aquatic centre, riding arena, several lakes & campgrounds nearby, motels, UFO museum 


Source 1
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GeoTourism Canada Site Number: 

Satellite view of Vincent Lake
Photo credit: Google Earth

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Nearest Community with Postal Code: 
    St.Paul, AB  T0A 3A0
Nearest Community with a Tourist Booth (VIC):
    St.Paul, AB
     County of St. Paul


Nearest Primary Highway
    Highway 28 & Secondary Highway 881
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A box is not installed at this site.

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Author:  Angela Wynton
Date:  2011


GPS Latitude/Longitude Coordinates: Degrees, Minutes & Decimal of minutes; WGS84 datum
UTM Coordinates: WGS84 datum



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