Nestled in the rolling prairie of central Alberta, Lacombe sits at the midpoint of the main route connecting Edmonton and Calgary. The region has been home to First Nations peoples like the Cree, Sautleaux, Blackfoot, Dene and Sioux for at least 12,000 years. Much more recent is European settlement, which began in the 1880s, and gained speed after the Canadian Pacific Railway built a station at Lacombe in 1891.
Lacombe County sits on Treaty 6 territory, just southeast of Gull Lake and the Rocky Mountains. Treaty 6 was signed on August 23, 1876, in Fort Carlton, Saskatchewan, between the British Crown and Cree, Ojibwa and Assiniboine representatives. The treaty land spans across Alberta and Saskatchewan as far north as Athabasca, with Lacombe on the southern edge.
Like so many prairie towns, Lacombe was named by a Canadian Pacific Railway worker. Many towns across the prairies are named for whatever the CPR workers there at the time fancied, be it Roman mythology (Vulcan, AB), Dutch painters (Hobbema, now reclaimed as Maskwacis) or anything in between. Lacombe was named for Father Albert Lacombe, a Catholic missionary born along the St. Lawrence River who ventured west to Lac St. Anne where he was to replace the mission priest. Eventually, Father Lacombe developed a reputation as the primary priest in what is now Alberta, forming relationships with railway workers, the Blackfoot, Woodlands Cree and Metis people.2
The town of Lacombe grew up at the centre of the county, while smaller farming communities also prospered. The towns of Bentley, Eckville, and Blackfalds are covered in this project, as are the villages of Clive and Alix.