History of Vilna

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The Vilna District

was opened in 1907 by an influx of mostly Central European homesteaders and squatters. When the Canadian Northern and Grand Trunk Pacific Railways began to expand their lines west and north of Edmonton, the local homesteaders and early settlers were promised a railroad that would serve the area north of the North Saskatchewan River. The rails had to run as far north as the present site of Vilna to avoid the difficulties of Indian lands and large bodies of water. As such and as predetermined by an earlier survey, the town site had been set aside at Mile 90 (NW 20-59-13-W4).

The Canadian National Railway had completed laying the rail through the district in 1919. That same year, the post office was moved two miles to the present site of Vilna and a general store was built. Almost at once, a hamlet grew up around it. To capitalize on the social and economic climates, a hardware store, bank, butcher shop, hotel, post office, apartment and rooming house, pool hall and dance hall and four stores and shops were open for business by 1920.

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After much argument and debate, it was decided by popular vote that the Mile 90 hamlet be named Vilna, meaning "peace" in Polish, after the Vilna in Poland. An ironic name choice since Vilna was born in such a turbulent era. The Great War was grinding to a bloody halt and the Russian Revolution was in full swing. In addition, the early years of Prohibition made moonshining a profitable but dangerous business in Vilna.

On June 13, 1923 Vilna was incorporated as a village. Today it remains a progressive community with many modern amenities as it capitalizes on its prime location on a major transportation artery and its large trading area of resorts and first nations reserves. This fortune has granted Vilna and its merchants an impressive degree of viability and sustainability for over 75 years.

 

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