R.C. Brumpton house, on 54 Street, Red Deer, c.1912. (Red Deer Archives)

R.C. Brumpton house, on 54 Street, Red Deer, c.1912. (Red Deer Archives)

DAWE: Brumpton family leaves lasting legacy in Central Alberta

One of Red Deer’s first residents and one of its most prominent early businessmen and community builders was Robert C. Brumpton.

Robert Cutsworth Brumpton was born on December 4, 1861, in St. Thomas, Ontario. Unlike their father, who had been a successful farmer, Robert and his brother William decided to go into business. They also decided to move to Alberta where they thought that prospects would be good for ambitious young men such as themselves.

William settled in Olds and started a general store. He became very active in the community. He served as the village overseer (reeve) from 1900 to 1905, when he passed away suddenly at the age of 51. His death was not only a shock to the community, but after his passing, the municipal records were lost. The community, which was in the process of incorporating as a town, had to spend many months trying to get its municipal affairs back in order.

Meanwhile, Robert chose Red Deer as his new home. He built a store on the south side of Ross Street, just west of the intersection with Gaetz Avenue. He, his wife Drusilla and their young son Joseph, lived above the store. His two daughters, Lenore and Evelyn were both born in those living quarters.

In 1896, he sold both his store and a small ranch he had acquired to move back to Ontario where he had secured a position as a postmaster. That did not work out very well and within a year, he was back in Alberta. He started a general store in Red Deer again and also bought the A.E. Roberts Ranch east of town.

Like his brother, Robert was a very active member of the community. He was a founding member of the Red Deer Board of Trade and served as president for several years. He served as a trustee and chair of the Public School Board. In 1901, he was elected to Red Deer’s first Town Council.

Meanwhile, with Red Deer booming, he branched out into the construction industry and became a partner in the Red Deer Brick and Lumber Company. His brickyard became the second largest in the community, after the well-established Piper’s Brickyard. Because the two operations were on either end of 43 Street, at the foot of the Hospital Hill, the street became generally known as “Brickend Street”. Later, it became known as Victoria Avenue.

In 1901, Brumpton decided to use some of his growing wealth to build a magnificent brick residence on the corner of McLeod (54) Street and MacKenzie (49) Avenue. Its spacious grounds became the site of some of Red Deer’s most lavish garden parties.

In 1907, Brumpton again decided to try out his prospects elsewhere and briefly moved to the B.C. Coast. Once more, things did not work out to his liking and he was soon back in Red Deer. He repurchased his original store building on Ross Street and expanded it.

In 1909, he brought a major modern advance to Red Deer when he installed the very first public women’s washroom in the community. This move greatly improved the popularity and profitability of the business.

In 1911, with a great economic boom sweeping Central Alberta, Brumpton decided it was a good time to “cash out”. He sold his store on Ross Street. He dabbled in real estate investments with his friend and partner, Edward Michener. However, he soon decided to join his son Joseph in a men’s wear store in Nanaimo, B.C. He also invested in a brickyard in Vancouver with John Piper as one of his employees.

In 1916, Brumpton decided to team up with his old friend Ray Gaetz in general store businesses, first in Pincher Creek and then in Red Deer.

In August 1917, Robert Brumpton became suddenly ill with appendicitis. Despite an emergency operation, he passed away at the Red Deer Memorial Hospital. He was only 55 years old.

Drusilla Brumpton survived her husband by 38 years. She passed away in Victoria B.C. in 1955 at the age of 90.

Evelyn Brumpton wrote a children’s book, Babs of the Foothills, and had it published in England. The book related many of her experiences as a young girl growing up in the pioneer town of Red Deer.

The original Brumpton store still stands at 5003 Ross Street and is the oldest surviving building in Red Deer’s downtown core.

Michael Dawe is a Red Deer Historian and his column appears on Wednesdays.

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