The original site of Bezanson along the banks of the Smoky River was a thriving pioneer settlement founded by Ancel Maynard Bezanson, an adventurer from Nova Scotia. Once it was established that the Canadian National Railway had surveyed their line through an area just beyond where the Simonette and Wapiti Rivers confluence with the Smoky River, Maynard (as he liked to be called) subdivided his “Townsite” directly on that rail line and shortly thereafter lots were advertised for sale. As the provincial government decided to locate the ferry 10 kms downstream, Bezanson saw to it that a road was built down the hill to a suitable place for the ferry system that he then put in place. By 1915, the Townsite had 20 buildings – Hall & Leonard General Store, Harwood Hotel, Mart Geary’s Blacksmith Shop, Doran’s Bakery and a Presbyterian Church that also served as the schoolhouse, to name a few.
The development of the Bezanson Townsite was closely linked to the development of the south Peace area prior to the arrival of the railroad. It was on the route followed by settlers who came into the region via the Edson Trail and was a stopping point for the river boats operating on the Smoky and Peace Rivers. With the decision of the Edmonton Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway to enter Grande Prairie from the north, virtually all hope was lost for the need for a town. In 1917, Maynard Bezanson and his family left bound for Edmonton. With the Government’s decision in 1922 to move the site of the ferry down river to where the bridge is presently, the Town soon disintegrated. Several buildings were either moved or dismantled and rebuilt at different locations with the most notable being the Church which was rebuilt as a Store at the current hamlet of Bezanson. In 1923 the last resident left. The Old Bezanson Townsite was designated a Registered Historic Resource in 1986 and became a Park and Campground area in 1988.
The Hamlet of Bezanson was relocated 10 km up from the river, closer to the highway where it stands today. The 1920’s saw the building of the community hall and church, followed closely by a set of ball diamonds for sport and recreation needs. The community came together through the years with sports, box socials, picnics, and even the occasional masked ball. Many changes followed, including building a new hall, curling rink, Legion hall, and school, but what remains unchanged is the great sense of community that Bezanson embodies.
The South Peace Regional Archives maintains some excellent historic photos from the Bezanson family here.