Black pioneers first settled in Amber Valley, nestled in the hills just east of the town of Athabasca, in 1909. This community, located 160 km north of Edmonton, grew in size to nearly 300 families by the late 1930s and became the largest of all the black communities.
In the early 1930s, a contest was held to rename the settlement; there’s some discrepancy in who actually was the winner, but we do know that the name changed circa 1932 to Amber Valley.
Pine Creek, as the area was originally called, was the only community to have a Masonic Lodge. A school was established in 1913, the Toles School, as it was called, and the schoolhouse doubled as a church. Services continued to be held in the school for many years until 1955 when Obadiah Bowen donated some of his land to host a new church.
An annual picnic was established in 1915 in Pine Creek. The picnic was always held on July 1 – Dominion Day. People from all over the province would come to Pine Creek and the day was filled with games and great food.
Amber Valley would eventually establish a famous winning baseball team. These players would travel to all the communities, winning games, and hearts with their impressive sportsmanship. The team and the community hit its hay day in the 1930s. However, it was never an easy life, as pioneers struggled with the harsh climate, short growing season, and poor soil.
As the Depression hit, times got even tougher for people of this region, and many began to leave the homesteads for work in the city. Today there are a few descendants still living in the area. The Amber Valley Community Hall still stands in its original spot and boasts a museum with many artifacts of the region. The hall and adjacent playing field are active and host many events, even the odd baseball game.