Donalda Community Hall was packed Saturday, Oct. 18 as a theatrical performance designed as a fundraiser for the Donalda and District Museum attracted history enthusiasts eager to know more about a few characters that made their mark in the region during the late 19th and early 20th century.
Apart from the well-known Gabriel Dumont, the Métis leader played by Bob Willis, the show featured Chris Jenson as James Gadsby, a one-time gangster associated with Jesse James gang after the US Civil War, who later escaped north of the border and became a long haul freighter in Alberta, as well as Jenson’s real life daughter Nora Smith, who reflected the eventful life of Alice Smith, a telephone operator in Delburne working from 1908.
Speaking before the performance, Nora Smith said of her namesake that she was a vitally important figure in her community at the time she lived. “Because she knew everything about everybody, like a local news agency,” Smith said.
Jenson said for his part that Gadsby had become an important part of the local economy with his transport business and that during his trips he had met with Gabriel Dumont as the Métis hunters camped at the Buffalo Lake area to conduct their seasonal hunting parties.
The performance raised some $4,000 dollars for the museum, according to organizing committee member Marlene Conibear, a figure, which was more or less in line with expectations.
Conibear said they had to do these fundraisers because they lacked a regular stream of federal or provincial funding to keep the museum operational and that in order to do “a lot that has to be done,” they needed to cover operational expenses.
“We would like to have a full time (museum) manager but because we don’t have enough funding, we can only afford a part-time manager,” she added.