History of Wainwright
View an episode of Canadian History Ehx podcast featuring the Town of Wainwright:
The area surrounding Wainwright was homesteaded in 1905-06. The original townsite was established by James Dawson in 1907 and was named Denwood.
The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (now CNR) arrived in 1908 and established a new townsite 4 km west of Denwood. The new site was to be a major divisional point and was named Wainwright after Mr. William Wainwright, 2nd Vice President of the railway. As a divisional point, it was intended that branch lines would extend from Wainwright to such places as North Battleford, Medicine Hat, Calgary and the Peace River area.
These original intentions triggered a quick growth of Wainwright, which became a Village in 1908 (pop. 450) and was incorporated as a Town on August 14, 1910 (pop. 1000). Although the plans of the GTPR did not materialize, Wainwright maintained its position as a railroad center and became the major service center for the surrounding agriculture industry.
In 1907, to preserve the endangered bison, the Canadian Government created the original Buffalo National Park on 160 square miles of land immediately south of Town. The area was fenced and stocked with several hundred head of buffalo from Montana. The herd grew to such an extent that annual round-ups began in 1921, shipping some animals to various parts of the world and slaughtering others. The round-ups continued until 1939 when all the animals were removed and the park was turned over to the Department of National Defence (DND). By that time over 39,000 head of bison were produced in the park.
Upon possession by DND, the park was converted to a training establishment fo rthe Canadian Army and became known as Camp Wainwright. In 1945-46, the Camp was used as a prisoner of war facility where over 1,000 German Officers were interned.
Camp Wainwright has been extensively developed over the years and is now known as Canadian Forces Base/Area Support Unit Wainwright and is one of the primary training areas in Canada, regularly hosting international exercises.
Oil and gas were discovered in the district in 1921 and since then have remained important industries for Wainwright.