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a red sign that reads de winton community hall surrounded by lush greenery
The DeWinton Community Hall

An Editor’s Worst Nightmare Is An Alberta Hamlet

If you thought autocorrect was your worst enemy, try living in De Winton – or is it DeWinton, or diwinton?

Have your heard of DeWinton? Or is it De-Winton? Maybe Dewinton? What about De Winton? That looks about right, so let’s stick with it for now. 

De Winton is a hamlet in southern Alberta, nestled within Foothills County. The small village has some beautiful sights. This includes a river valley, green meadows, grazing livestock, and a view of the Rockies.

To give you an idea of just how small De Winton is, the hamlet had just under 100 residents in 2003, according to a municipal census conducted by Foothills County. 

De Winton is a tight-knit community, but there’s one thing residents can’t agree on. What is the official spelling for De Winton? This question has puzzled both locals and outsiders. 

members of the dewinton heritage committee posing for a photo behind the dewinton community centre sign
From left, Perry Diebert, Betty Parr, Bonnie Gerlitz, Donna Poffenroth, Sandra Neish, John Thorpe, Shirley Ternan, and Robert Poffenroth of the DeWinton Heritage Committee | Western Wheel

The hamlet was named after Major-General Sir Francis Walter de Winton, a British army officer, colonial administrator, and courtier – someone who attended the royal court of a monarch. 

According to Sodbusting to Subdivision, the community’s almost 600-page history book, Sir Francis visited the area that would become De Winton two decades before Alberta became a province. 

“He arrived in 1883 on a special train and, after reaching the end of the steel, travelled, in company with Colonel Williams, to several farms and ranches south of Calgary,” claims Sodbusting to Subdivision.

De Winton wasn’t officially established until 1892, following the construction of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway (C&E Railway). This was the first major transportation connection for the Edmonton settlement. 

The development of the C&E Railway led to the creation of many small railway towns, including De Winton.

Most signs point to the hamlet’s name being spelt “De Winton,” but not everyone agrees. We have Sodbusting to Subdivision to thank for much of the confusion. 

You will find the copyright details on the second page of the book. Here, the book credits its publisher as the “De Winton & District Historical Committee.” 

On the very next page, the book reads, “The DeWinton and District Historical Society is proud to present…” So which is it? De Winton or DeWinton?

Sodbusting to Subdivision was written by multiple local contributors, which would explain why there are different spellings for the hamlet. 

a black and white photo of sir francis de winton who has a bushy beard and balding head
A photo of Sir Francis De Winton, who was secretary to Marquess of Lorne, the Governor General of Canada, from 1878 to 1883

The spelling of highway signs leading to the hamlet is just as inconsistent as in Sodbusting to Subdivision, which De Winton resident Amanda Gotmy finds hilarious.

“I personally giggle when I see them, especially the ones coming from Okotoks…Completely different spellings, even though they are across the highway from each other,” she told The Globe and Mail.

Gotmy is a member of the DeWinton Community Association and has consistently called her home DeWinton. Betty Parr, who has lived in De Winton for 50 years, used to agree with Gotmy.

But one of her friends, who has lived in the area even longer, gave Parr flack for her opinion. Now, she turns to Sodbusting to Subdivision to explain the hamlet’s spelling, bringing things full circle. 

The book first refers to the hamlet as De Winton, “Therefore, I would take that as the official correct spelling,” explained Parr. 

In June, Calgary released a report summarizing feedback from the public related to the city’s proposal to annex part of Foothills County, including De Winton.

Annexation is a process where a municipality expands its boundaries by acquiring land from a neighbouring municipality. 

In an online survey and letter responses related to the annexation, residents referred to the hamlet as De Winton, DeWinton, and diwinton. That’s a new one

While residents of De Winton can’t agree on spelling, the community was unified against Calgary’s expansion plans. The annexation project has since been scrapped, marking a win for Foothills County. 

“The only thing that matters for me is for people to know that De Winton is a wonderful village, community and area,” expressed Parr.

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