Success and Loss 1901 – 1920
John’s new house was completed in 1901. With the later additions of water, electricity, sewage and telephone, the home was very comfortable.
John’s prosperity in his businesses continued in relation to the steady growth of Edmonton and Strathcona. John’s lumber business grew to a second location and he opened a second coal mine. With his brother-in-law Frederick Sache, he also pursued real estate investment and owned many buildings and land in Strathcona.
On June 7, 1907, tragedy struck as an accident occurred in his coal mine. Five men perished and it remains the worst industrial accident in Strathcona’s history. John, reputed as a fair and dedicated employer, took the accident to heart and was said to grieve keenly over the deaths of his employees.
John’s ferry service ended in 1913 with the opening of the High Level Bridge. John regarded the end favourably and was quoted in the Edmonton Journal: “we took the scow out of the river and I hope to never use it again.”
John’s businesses, particularly his lumber mill, began to suffer with the decline of the housing boom in 1912. The great flood of 1915 caused great damage to his lumber business, washing away lumber stocks and sawmill and causing great damage to the Walterdale community. To add to the losses, one of John’s trusted employees embezzled a substantial amount of money.
Never able to fully recover from these losses, John continued on until December 25, 1920, when he passed away, at the age of 71, in hospital after an operation for appendicitis. For 50 years, John had made Edmonton his home. He became one of Edmonton’s important figures and enjoyed the respect of all sections of the community.
The Strathcona Evening Chronicle wrote: “There is no more progressive and public spirited citizen than John Walter. All in all he has probably done more for the city than another of its residents.” End of article.
I’d encourage you to visit this site if you live in the city or are visiting as a tourist. Although modest in size, the site is a wonderful representation of what it was like to live in Edmonton in the late 19th century.
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