Photo at left: Social worker Anne Jarvie welcomes two young children and their older sibling to our Bowness campus in the early 1930s. The original orphanage can be seen in the background. Many of our original historic photos are stored at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.
Wood’s Homes operates on treaty lands in Alberta that include Treaty 6, 7 and 8. These are the traditional territories of diverse Indigenous Nations and Métis communities who have cared for the lands and resources around us with respective traditions, practices and protocols and who continue to be caretakers of those lands. The respect and connection Indigenous caretakers have had with the beautiful landscapes across Alberta in both past and present allows for many to work, live, and prosper in these areas.
Acknowledging the land is an important way to reflect on the traditions, practices and protocols of Indigenous peoples who are the historical and current caretakers of the lands. We get to prosper on this land because of the reciprocity, care and respect Indigenous peoples have shown the land across decades. Land acknowledgements can be grounded in your interactions with Indigenous children, youth, family members, and communities.
Our Story Begins out of Misfortune
Wood’s Christian Home was founded in Innisfail, Alberta, by Reverend George Wood, a Scot and minister who moved to Canada with his wife Elizabeth in 1907. They settled in Saskatchewan.
In 1914, tragedy struck when his wife lit a lamp in their home with what she thought was kerosene. She had been sold gasoline by mistake. The lamp exploded, the house burst into flames. Anne, the couple’s three-year-old daughter, was saved from the burning house by a passerby, but her mother perished.
In a special way, this tragedy charted the course of caring and challenge. Now alone with a daughter, George Wood requested a transfer from his ministry to a place with less painful memories. His mother (who had travelled from Scotland) accompanied him to help raise Anne and together they made their way to Innisfail.
While still grieving, George Wood was approached by a young soldier named Mr. Porter who asked him if he could care for his two children as he was called to war.
Reverend Wood agreed and before long began taking in other children whose parents were either deceased or financially unable to care for them children in struggling times. His family became too large for the Innisfail house so they moved to an acreage near Olds.
Annie, a Scot, a social worker, and good friend eventually married George and assisted him in his work. She became ‘Mother Wood’ to so many.
By 1925, the Olds structure also became overcrowded and the Hextall Estate in Bowness (west Calgary), was purchased for $18,000 using Reverend Wood’s insurance policy as security. In November, 1926, 32 children accompanied the Woods to the new home in Bowness.
George, Annie and the children were constantly dependent upon the goodwill of others for donations, food and clothing. The story goes that George would talk people into driving him back to Bowness from meetings in Calgary because he had no car. His real intent, however, was for them to see the beautiful grounds and happy children as an inspiration to donate money and goods. It seems he was quite successful.
In 1927, a member of the Calgary Oddfellows Lodge played a round of golf with George and came away from the match determined that George and his family would have greater security. So began the Oddfellows undertaking to raise money that would guarantee the success of the charity.
Unfortunately, George did not live to see the fruits of his labour in easier circumstances. He died on November 27, 1928 after a short illness. Mother Annie Wood survived him by 11 years, and ably maintained direction for the orphanage.
Today, Wood’s Homes continues to provide services to children and their families in that same Bowness location as well as at two other Calgary campuses (Parkdale and Inglewood); in Lethbridge, Strathmore, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Cold Lake and Lac La Biche.
Wood’s Homes strives to continue the legacy of Reverend and Mother Wood by caring for families and their children – especially those abandoned, abused or with troubles in their lives.
In late 2016, the Bowness Historical Society and Wood’s Homes celebrated the designation of the George and Annie Wood Park. This area is located directly across the street from our Bowness campus at 9400 48 Ave. N.W. Wood’s Homes would like to thank the society for paying tribute to the Woods and the role they played in the history of the community of Bowness.
Thousands of children have come and gone through Wood’s Homes (previously called Wood’s Christian Home) over the past 100+ years. Occasionally, people involved with Wood’s Homes, whether as alumni, volunteers or staff, send us information related to the history of the organization, their time, or their experiences.
Below are links to ‘Children of the Storm’ a story written by Grace Wiwad Elsaesser. It is a contribution of memories from several people involved with Wood’s Homes and is dedicated to Linton Leonard Gaetz, teacher and principal of the Wood’s Christian Home school.
Meanwhile, in July 2017, a group of alumni, known fondly as ‘the Homers’ held their last reunion (in Innisfail) and did some remarkable research on the Porter family. We acknowledge their conscientious efforts to uncover events and explore historical interpretations, remembrances and uncoverings.
People call our organization all the time with information about our history that we did not know. We welcome this interest.