The Linda Hall Pioneers

In 1901, after hearing of the "free" land in Canada, settlers began to arrive in Alberta from Estonia by way of Russia, where they had tried to make a living. John Neithal, Mike Raho, and John Oro were the first to arrive, and lived first with Tony Kask near Red Deer (Sylvan Lake) before finding homesteads. Within a year, Magnus Tipman and other families arrived, but there were no homesteads left in the area, so Magnus and Mike Kudras went to Medicine Hat by train to in search of land to farm.

Mike and Magnus were not satisfied with the land near Medicine Hat, so they bought pack sacks, supplies, and shot guns and started the long walk back toward Red Deer in search of suitable land. It took them three weeks. They eventually settled in an area southeast of Red Deer in what became known as the Linda district.

Other homesteaders soon joined them, including Alex Saar, Alex Oro, Martin Oliver, Joseph Tipman, John Kerbes, Tony Fridulin, Joseph Hennel, William Hennel, Chris Hennel, Miko Raho, William Klaus, Jacob Cusick, Hans Asberg, Hans Johansen, John Neithal, John Oro, and Mr. Kroon. Sixty Estonian families had arrived by 1909. They made countless trips on foot or by ox team to Red Deer to buy food and farm supplies; the round trip took four or five days. To save trips to Red Deer for flour, Hans Johansen and Magnus Tipman built a flour mill using field stones that they had chiselled into a grindstone, powered by a type of Dutch windmill. Mr. Kroon later built a similar mill.

Mr. Tipman, Mr. Neithal, and John Oro formed the Linda Estonian Agricultural Society, which boasted 28 members in its first year. Summer meetings were held out of doors and winter meetings in members' homes. Because homes were small, Linda Hall was built, on land donated by Johannes Kerbes. Discussions at meetings ranged from agricultural to political issues. The club also built a library, which once held 1000 books in both Estonian on English. Hans Asberg led a choir, and Tony Fridulin put together a brass band.

The Docendo School was built for the pioneer children, who went on to various professions, though many stayed on to farm. In time, an Estonian cemetery was founded east of Linda Hall, and the Estonian community helped establish the first co-operative store in Stettler.

Alberta's Estonian Heritage