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The Markerville Creaery sign
thealbertan.com

History Served with A Scoop: Markerville Creamery Museum’s Sweet Opening Weekend

Markerville’s Creamery Museum opened its doors, inviting visitors to explore the town’s storied past, which dates back to the early 1900s

Who says history is boring? 

Not Markerville, a small town of 35 residents located about 30 minutes west of Red Deer. 

Over the long weekend, the town’s historic Markerville Creamery Museum opened its doors for the season, offering visitors a weekend filled with pancakes, sausages, ice cream, and, of course, a scoop of history. 

Visitors enjoying sausages and pancakes on the opening day of the Markerville Creamery Museum
Visitors enjoying sausages and pancakes on the opening day of the Markerville Creamery Museum | Historic Markerville

Other than some internet problems, the fun-filled event went off without a hitch, drawing in a crowd of all ages, including Red Deer County Councillor for Division 5, Brent Ramsay. 

“We were in Markerville for their pancake breakfast this morning and managed to get to Dickson in time to get their first ice cream scoops of the season,” wrote Ramsay in a Facebook post

Ramsay and other visitors enjoyed their ice cream at the museum’s Kaffistofa coffee shop, which serves coffee, ice cream, light lunches, and Icelandic treats for hungry historians.

In addition to delicious food, the museum offers guided tours and educational programs, such as a mini tractor ride around the building. Who doesn’t like a tractor ride? 

Leading up to opening day, museum staff and volunteers were hard at work tidying up branches and leaves from the grounds.

They were so thorough in their cleanup that even Kiwi the cat, a rigorous feline site inspector, had no complaints. 

If the Markerville Creamery Museum sounds like your cup of coffee, you might want to mark your calendars for a trip to Markerville sooner rather than later. 

The museum is open to the public from mid-May to September. 

In the off-season, it hosts the Coffee Club where friends, family, and neighbours gather to share coffee and socialize.

Is Kiwi the cat hard at work or hardly working?
Is Kiwi the cat hard at work or hardly working? | Historic Markerville | Facebook

An Ice Cold History

People aren’t drawn to the museum just for its food. The museum’s history, which dates back to 1902, is just as rich as its ice cream. 

However, the Markerville Creamery Museum is one scoop out of an entire carton’s worth of history. 

The original creamery in Markerville owned by Helgi Jonasson
The original creamery owned by Helgi Jonasson | Provincial Archives of Alberta

In 1875, many families from Iceland migrated to America in search of a better life. 

In 1888, the first settlers made their way from North Dakota to Tindastoll, which is today known as Markerville. 

A second group of settlers arrived in 1889, including famous farmer-poet Stephan G. Stephensson and his family of hard-working homesteaders.  

Tindastoll started from nothing. It had no roads, bridges, or cleared land. With hardly any equipment, the Icelandic settlers built homes, farms, and a community for themselves. 

In 1895, Helgi Jonasson opened a cheese factory in Tindastoll but lacked the funds and equipment to run the factory independently.

In 1897, Jonasson partnered with Einar Johnson. Together, the entrepreneurial duo expanded the cheese factory to include butter making and opened a second factory in Tindastoll.

However, even with Johnson’s help, the two factories struggled to stay afloat. But in 1899, the Department of Agriculture offered Jonasson and Johnson a golden opportunity.

The department was in the process of establishing creameries across Canada’s Territories at the time. 

The Canadian government recognized Tindastoll’s potential and worked with the community to establish the Butter and Cheese Manufacturing Association.

One Chapter Ends, Another Begins

Both creameries in Tindastoll were sold to the Association, which agreed to rent the operation to the government. 

In return, the government handled building maintenance, bookkeeping, marketing, and hiring a butter maker. 

The Markerville creamery before its restoration in 1976 |
The Markerville creamery before its restoration in 1976 | Historic Markerville

In 1901, the Association’s cream dream reached new heights under the guidance of the Alberta Dairy Commissioner, Dr. Christian Peter Marker

With his help, a larger creamery was built, and Tindastoll was renamed Markerville in appreciation of Marker’s involvement. 

The new creamery officially opened in 1902 and was directed by Daniel Morkeberg. He ran it until his son, Carl Morkeberg, took over in 1932. 

Carl ran the creamery until its closure in 1972, marking the end of an era. The creamery was the heart of Markerville’s community of 100 residents. 

At its peak, the creamery brought new businesses to the town, many of which closed when the creamery did. 

Markerville’s passion for dairy products spans across generations. In 1974, a small group of residents gathered to form the Stephan G. Stephansson Icelandic Society.

The Society’s goal was to restore historical landmarks in Markerville, starting with Stephansson’s homestead. After completing the restoration in 1976, the Society set its sights on the town’s creamery. 

After years of collecting dust, the creamery was in rough shape. However, the Society successfully restored the building and reopened the creamery in 1986 as the Markerville Creamery Museum.

A photo of Carl Morkeberg (presumably right) outside of the Markerville creamery on the day it closed in 1972  Historic Markerville  Facebook
A photo of Carl Morkeberg (presumably right) outside of the Markerville creamery on the day it closed in 1972 | Historic Markerville | Facebook

Historic Markerville Today

The Markerville Creamery Museum is one of many Provincially Designated Historic Resources found in the charming town. 

Other historic buildings include the Markerville Lutheran Church, built in 1907 and the Fensala Hall, built in 1904. 

he Markerville Lutheran Church
The Markerville Lutheran Church | Jeff Stokoe | Red Deer Advocate.

The Fensala Hall is the longest operating hall in Alberta and still hosts a variety of community events. 

Before the museum opened over the May long weekend, Fensala Hall hosted the Dessert Theatre’s presentation of “On a First Name Basis,” a comedy theatre performance.

The event was designed for people with sweet tooths and featured a variety of desserts and pastries from Arrae Pâtisserie.

The Society recently finished restoring the Buttermaker’s House located across the street from the Markerville Creamery Museum

Markerville is advertising the Buttermaker’s House as a residency that is perfect for writers, musicians, painters, performers, and maybe even buttermakers!

The house features a full kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedroom, and office. It can be rented from one week to three months, with costs ranging from $420 a week to $1,800 for one month. 

After closing in 1972, the Markerville Creamery Museum has again become the heart of Markerville, attracting visitors from across the province. 

Markerville is a hidden gem in Alberta, and it proves that there is so much more to discover; you just have to look for it.

The Markerville Buttermaker's House
The Markerville Buttermaker’s House | Historic Markerville

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