Village and school share more than a name

Rob Schellenberg | May 28, 2012
President Dwayne Uglem looks over historical photos with Briercrest mayor Bill Duncan (back) and museum board president Chuck Alton. President Dwayne Uglem looks over historical photos with Briercrest mayor Bill Duncan (back) and museum board president Chuck Alton.President Dwayne Uglem looks over historical photos with Briercrest mayor Bill Duncan (back) and museum board president Chuck Alton.
President Dwayne Uglem looks over historical photos with Briercrest mayor Bill Duncan (back) and museum board president Chuck Alton. President Dwayne Uglem looks over historical photos with Briercrest mayor Bill Duncan (back) and museum board president Chuck Alton.Community volunteers Marge Cleave (left) and Jacqueline Colter give June Clark a tour of the general store display at the village of Briercrest.

The Village of Briercrest and Briercrest College and Seminary share more than a name – they share a lot of history.

Briercrest College and Seminary, which started as Briercrest Bible Institute, opened its doors in the community of Briercrest on October 19, 1935 and remained there until it moved to the Caron air base in 1946.

The school had 10 strong years of history in a community celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer.

“Briercrest Bible College is a very important part of our history,” Mayor Bill Duncan said, chuckling about the visitors who still come to the town looking for the school. “We have many people show up at the village looking for Briercrest College and Seminary.”

The history of the school in Briercrest would have been longer if not for the need to find more room for a growing student base.

“Mr. (Sinclair) Whittaker felt very strongly about a board of directors’ responsibility to provide adequate space for students. In spite of the prolonged depression, the college had grown to fill every available building in Briercrest,” Henry Hildebrand wrote in his book In His Loving Service.

Whittaker knew that after the war young people would return to continue their studies and so a year before VE-Day he approached Hildebrand about preparing for the increase.

The conversation was also captured in Hildebrand’s memoirs.

“Henry,” he said one day, “from all I know, an airport is what we will need after the war. Let us pray that God will give one of them to us and we will have room and water facilities for all our students.”

Six months before the end of the war Whittaker approached Hildebrand again about being prepared.

“Henry, we have been praying for an airport after the war. Our boys are doing well overseas; the war will soon be over. Let’s put legs to our prayer and thread our way through the red tape so that when the airports are disposed of, we’ll be on the ground floor, ready to buy one.”

Things moved quickly from there as the down payment was raised during a conference where the idea of purchasing a base was presented.

“On Monday the decision by the board was positive, but our people of Briercrest who had given birth to the College were stunned,” Hildebrand wrote. “It all went so fast that we could not properly brief them about the developments. They loved the school and were loathe to see it move away. We loved the people, and had become part of them...”

Last Thursday, Briercrest College and Seminary president, Dwayne Uglem, presented the community representatives with 14 pictures from the Briercrest years of the school. The school also donated audio copies of the gospel radio broadcast that originated from the Yale Hotel in Briercrest.

“It was remarkable to see the work that they have put into the new museum site and we are honoured to have given them pictures showing our early history in the community,” he said. “We have a deep appreciation for the role the people of Briercrest had in the formation of our school. Briercrest will always be a part of our school’s history and we join them in celebrating their 100th anniversary.”

The mayor acknowledged the connection between the village and the school and was thankful that the school chose to support the museum and the community’s upcoming celebration.

“The history of our town is based a lot on it and we appreciate the fact that they are thinking of us on our centennial year,” Duncan said. “The photos are absolutely beautiful. It takes us back to a time when things weren’t maybe as busy but people still had very good quality of life.”

“(We’re) very thankful for this kind of historical evidence of the college being here but also the pictures of the village of that era,” museum president Chuck Alton added. “This is part of our history.”

The museum will be holding its grand opening on June 29th at 8 p.m. during the community’s 100th anniversary celebration.