This old homestead initially caught my eye in 2021 because it’s such an unusual design for Alberta. The steep pitch of the roof is something we see in the mountains rather than on Alberta’s prairies and parkland. From a distance the roof looks similar to thatched roofs of old Europe. The overhang of the roof to create a sheltered front porch reminds me of old houses I’ve seen in Oregon. But I wasn’t in the mountains of BC or the forests of Oregon when I spotted this fine old homestead. I saw it in Alberta, southwest of Edmonton. The area is really quite beautiful. It’s where the bald prairie meets the forests before the foothills. There are rolling hills and a mixture of meadows, forests, wetlands and a couple of large lakes not far away. This wasn’t even close to the best farmland in the province but farmers supplemented their production with wild game and fish. Some farmers found employment as loggers, others ran sawmills and between the modest crop production and their other sources of income these pioneers made a living here.
It’s a pretty little house on top of a hill overlooking a valley and wetlands. This house is also very close to the location where the Russian immigrants that I wrote about in my last post called “A Very Unusual Church” first settled before most of them moved to the Peace River area.
When I first saw a photo of this place it came with a bit of local lore. The following is a quote from where I read this story.
“Robbers Roost” is what I was told this place is referred to as locally. This was shared by someone who’s family is on their third generation farming in the area. He remembered hearing it from his grandfather. Right now the road cuts directly through this treed, hilly, ponded area, but before, the road used to wind through the area. This configuration made it impossible to arrive by surprise. The house was occupied at one time by folks who were on the wrong side of the law, but the law could never catch them there, because they would be heard or observed beforehand. So, early one morning, the Mounties left their vehicles hidden far away, and snuck up the hill and caught them all. That’s the story of Robbers Roost. I have also met someone who had a child use this spot for wedding pictures.”A person on Facebook
Stories like this tend to have a life of their own. Kids walking to school past this house would likely try and scare each other with stories that were inspired by any abandoned house. Usually it’s a ghost story but this time it appears to be a story of criminals using the house as their hideout. I’m not dismissing the story just because there’s only anecdotal accounts of it. I’ve often said that every story has at least some truth to it. Now lets dig into history a bit and see what we can find.
The story refers to the Mounties (RCMP) leaving their vehicles far away to sneak up on the robbers’ hideout. It only makes sense to include a bit about the RCMP and their early vehicles in the story.
The RCMP started using automobiles in the mid-teens of the last century but I suspect it was a little later in the rural areas due to poor road conditions. I looked into this and found an article in a Saskatchewan website that includes some images of actual early RCMP vehicles. The earliest image shows what looks like a Ford Model T. Henry Ford claimed that they could go as fast as 72 kilometers per hour (“kph”) but that was probably going downhill with a tail wind. A more likely average top end was probably around 60 kph, and that’s on a smooth surface. According to the RCMP Federal Government Site, on February 1, 1920, the Royal North West Mounted Police became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) with the absorption of the Dominion Police. That is probably a reasonable starting date for when automobiles outnumbered horses, but I’m guessing here. It is odd that they changed their name but kept the reference to horses (“Mounted”) but it is what it is. Click on an image below to see a bigger version of an actual RCMP vehicle and then click the “X” to close it.
While on the subject of the RCMP, here is one of the interesting facts about them from the Sask Today on-line newspaper article cited above. The photo above right featuring an RCMP vehicle in the mountains goes with the quote below.
1951: RCMP takes over British Columbia Police Force and with it comes a fleet of police cars that all have white doors. This two-tone car design would last with the force until the early 1990s.
The first Unit in the RCMP to have air conditioning as standard equipment in their vehiclesIt was for the Police Dogs (Not the handler’s comfort). Dogs see more with their nose then their eyes. If the dog is hot, they will pant to cool themselves which can effect their ability to track.Sask Today 2019-05-29 – A look at the history of RCMP vehicles
The quote above about the first RCMP Unit to have air conditioning in the vehicle being for the dogs has nothing to do with this story but I couldn’t leave that interesting bit of trivia out of the blog.
Here is some interesting trivia from the RCMP’s site at the Government of Canada. You can click here to see the whole site: History of the RCMP | Royal Canadian Mounted Police (rcmp-grc.gc.ca)
- Parliament passed an act that allowed for the creation of the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) on May 23, 1873. Today, we consider this the official birthdate of the RCMP.
- the Order-in-Council to establish the NWMP wasn’t signed until August 30, 1873. This was in response to an attack on First Nations peoples in the Cypress Hills by American whiskey traders and wolf-hunters. Later that year, on November 3, the first 150 recruits gathered at Lower Fort Garry, near Winnipeg, Manitoba, to start training.
- In 1904, King Edward VII awarded the title of Royal to the NWMP, officially creating the Royal North-West Mounted Police (RNWMP).
- The NWMP later faced uncertainty from Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who wanted to reduce and someday disband the police. Support for the NWMP in the west won out in the end, though it shrunk from 1,000 to 774 members.
What I found interesting from the above facts is that the Mounties were created to protect local First Nations people from Americans. It’s also interesting – given current events – that it was “the West” (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC) prevented the Mounties from being disbanded. If you are curious about the events that led to the formation of the NWMP to protect the natives from the Americans, there is a historic site in Saskatchewan designated as the site or one of the sites of a massacre. Here is a link to that site: History – Fort Walsh National Historic Site (pc.gc.ca).
That’s a lot of information, albeit interesting, about the RCMP. I included it in this blog because if I’m writing about a place used as a hide-out by criminals, the local police, in this case the RCMP, must also be part of the story.
Back to the Homestead
The image above is not this post’s subject house but both the image and the subject house are from the same year and they’re both from the same school district in Alberta called Rose School. In fact, the Dave Adams family lived just two sections south of the subject property. The image shows that in 1912, the year the subject land was homesteaded, a horse and buggy was still the main style of transportation in rural Alberta. It gives some flavour for the time and place, especially since I don’t have a photo of the subject house from that era.
If I were a robber I think I would prefer a hideout that was more hidden. This house, being up high like that, made it quite obvious to anyone approaching if someone was home or not because they could see lights from lanterns or smoke from the stove. However, I’m not a robber so what do I know of such things. Maybe they thought it was better to see the Mounties coming than to be in a hidden location. Then again the robbers were caught according to the story so their plan of hiding out in this hilltop house didn’t work out so well for them. The house could have been rented by robbers who were eventually caught by the RCMP. This could be sometime in the 1940s or 1950s as that’s when the house was likely vacated by the new owner and used either as a rental or for lodging for farm hands (more on this below). By the 1960s it was too old and dated to even be rented.
I wasn’t able to find any corroborative information about the Robbers’ Roost story. Perhaps only the locals knew what may have happened here. There’s often a lot that only the locals know; facts and events that never get published. There’s an old saying about small communities that goes, “In small towns, you don’t even need to use your signal lights when turning down the street because everyone already knows where you’re going”. This story might be like that old saying, in that if there was an arrest of robbers at the house, all of the locals already knew about it whether or not it ever made the newspapers. Regardless of the veracity of the story, let’s have a look at the house.
This high location for the house is unusual. These old houses had very little insulation. Log houses had to be constantly maintained by chinking and daubing between the logs to keep drafts out. It was more practicable to build a house a bit lower so it was protected from the cold winter winds while still being high enough to avoid spring flood waters. The view must have been too tempting to pass-up. I can understand that. I can also imagine how drafty that house must have been in January.
Actual House and Owner History
The first pioneer to try to homestead on this land was an American named George Heathcote. He filed his Application for Entry for a Homestead in 1904. George didn’t stay long and didn’t build anything on the land. Perhaps he found some better land elsewhere or maybe, if he was married, he couldn’t talk his wife into joining him. We’ll never know. In 1911 an official letter from the Dominion Lands Office was sent to Mr Heathcote to inform him that his application to homestead was cancelled due to abandonment. The land agent stated that there were no improvements to the land (no house or barn). The land then became available for someone else. That person was Robert Jubb and family.
On May 10th, 1912, Robert Jubb, a 62 year old from Yorkshire, England, filed his Application for Entry for a Homestead. Robert, and his wife Elizabeth, had two daughters, Jenny and Dorothy and one son, Frank. They immediately set about to build their house and finished it in just under a year. It was move in ready in 1913. He declared it was 19 X 21 feet in size. Robert also broke 8 acres of land in the first year followed by 4 acres in 1914, 3 acres in 1915, no additional acres in 1916 and 9 more in 1917 and another 9 in 1918. He mentioned that the land was “very hard to break” but I can’t read the rest of his writing on the archive document. Robert was 63 at that point so I think that just about any piece of virgin land would be hard to break. In 1912 he had 2 cattle, 2 horses, and 2 hogs. It seems that hogs were his thing because he had 19 of them by 1917. He also fenced 20 acres by July 1918. Robert Jubb had to do this work without much help from his son because Frank Jubb joined Canada’s military and served in WWI (details below). All of this and more had to be officially disclosed on his application to homestead. In 1918 the Jubbs proved-up their homestead having met the necessary conditions. Then Robert and Elizabeth were proud owners of a piece of Canada having fulfilled the terms of the homestead agreement and they received legal title to the land.
Robert Jubb was born in 1850 and died in 1932. Elizabeth Ann Jubb died four years later in 1936 and both are buried in a nearby cemetery. Their son, Frank Jubb took over the farm from his parents either when they retired or when they died. When Frank Jubb retired he sold the farm and moved to BC where he died in 1944. I don’t know the date when Frank Jubb sold the land but I think it’s a good guess that he stayed here until the late thirties. Frank most likely stayed in the homestead because nobody would buy it during the great depression and drought, otherwise known as the Dirty Thirties. Most farmers survived by not paying anything to the banks or for property taxes. Nobody had any money to spare. Unless Frank Jubb really had to move for health reasons, he would have stayed on the farm. I based this conclusion on an excellent article in the Western Producer. An excerpt follows:
A farm family that moved into town would have had to pay rent and buy food, but they would have had no money to do that. If they stayed on the farm, they could live for free because the banks eventually gave up trying to collect mortgage payments and the municipalities gave up trying to collect property taxes. There was also the possibility of growing potatoes and carrots and butchering the occasional hog and chicken, something that would have been out of the question in town.Western Producer, July 28, 2005,
The next owner, Alex Morris, who bought this land from Frank Jubb, probably built himself a new house on a different location on the property. In the 1940s both the depression and the drought were coming to an end and people started to upgrade their homes, especially in the post war period.
The Two Jubb Daughers
I couldn’t find very much history about the Jubb daughters. Both of them attended Rose School. In fact Jenny and Dorothy Jubb along with ten others were the first students in the school. It opened in 1910 so perhaps the Jubbs were living in the area before they homesteaded in 1912. Dorothy Jubb married Bob MacKenzie. They farmed in the Wooddale district until 1937 when they moved to the Chilliwack area of BC to continue farming. They retired to White Rock, BC where Dorothy died in 1969, before her husband died. I was able to obtain the Certificate of Death for Dorothy MacKenzie and Frank Jubb because BC has a very complete and open online system.
Frank Jubb served in WWI. It looks like he served from 1916 to 1919. Sometimes these documents can be hard to read. It says, that he served in “France with the 43rd Battalion”. If you want to know more about what that means, click here for the Wikipedia explanation. Frank Jubb served in the infantry in France and Flanders. Basically that means that the 43rd Battalion was on the front lines of the major hot spots of the war.
Back to The House
The images below show a little of the inside of this house. I didn’t go inside but rather captured this images from either a window or a doorway. This house is old and could come down at any time and I would rather not be in it when that happens.
I think the shelves and big window you see below was once the kitchen. The strange thing is that the chimney is in the front room. Maybe at one time part of that wall wasn’t there so the heat from the stove could keep both rooms warm.
The image at the above left is showing the inside photographed by me standing outside in front of the window. As you can see nearly all the walls and windows are a bit crooked.
Above are the rolling hills in front of this unusual looking house. Below is the same basic image but from further away as it includes the pond between the house and the road.
I don’t have an image of how this house looked when it was new but it might have looked similar to this craftsman style home from an architectural firm in Oregon.
There you have it. An unusual old house built by Robert Jubb and his family to homestead. I would love to see an image of it with the front porch pillars still in place. I’m sure it was beautiful in its day. Was it used at one time by a gang of robbers to hideout from the RCMP? Your guess is as good as mine. All we know for certain is that the Jubb family had nothing to do with the old story about the house being a hangout because they lived in it. After they sold it anything is possible.
- Crestomere-Sylvan Heights Heritage, 1969, Crestomere-Sylvan Heights Book Committee.
- Over the years: a history of the Rimbey area, 1983, Rimbey History Book Committee. This local history book had some information about the Rose School district as it seemed to overlap the area covered by the Crestomere-Sylvan Heights Heritage local history book. The latter of the two was used much more than the former.
- Sask Today 2019-05-29, A look at the history of RCMP vehicles. Link at: A look at the history of RCMP vehicles – SaskToday.ca
- History of the RCMP. History of the RCMP | Royal Canadian Mounted Police (rcmp-grc.gc.ca)
- Western Producer, Dirty Thirties: fact and myth by Bruce Dyck. July 28, 2005. Dirty Thirties: fact and myth | The Western Producer
- Homestead information was obtained from the Alberta Provincial Archives, Edmonton.
- Library and Archives Canada; Personnel Records of the First World War. https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/personnel-records.aspx
If you visit the structures shown in this blog, or any other old potentially abandoned structure, please respect the landowners” rights and obtain their permission to access and photograph their structures. Always exercise caution when visiting abandoned buildings as there are potential dangers such as crumbling structures, deep wells hidden by grass, and even spores of mould in the air.