The installation of two interpretive signs at the entrance of the Winchell Lake day-use area will provide some background information on the natural characteristics of the area, in addition to a historical perspective on one of the early settlers of the area, and the namesake for the lake itself.
The first of the information signs outlines the Alberta government Fish Stocking Program that stocks Rainbow Trout into the lake annually, and the aeration program that the Alberta Conservation Association facilitates to keep Winchell Lake’s health optimal for anglers and other recreational users.
The second information sign gives an overview of the wildlife that often frequents the Winchell Lake area, but also gives some background information on Frank and Elizabeth Winchell, who built their log home just west of the lake around 1910. The home became known as Winchell’s Stopping House as their home was open to the many travellers who were visiting or passing through the area.
Elizabeth Winchell, or Grandma Winchell as she was known, became particularly well known for her work in taxidermy as well as her paintings that focused on the natural beauty of the area. The family resided in the area until her passing in 1966 at the age of 101. Frank Winchell had previously passed in 1957.
In 1968 the Winchell property was purchased by the Myers family through an auction, but much of the property’s legacy remains, including an old Model T Ford and the remnants of the old Winchell log home. The Model T was driven by the Winchell’s son Gene who passed away in 1959.
And while the family no longer resides on the property, there are many descendants of Grandma Winchell, who had five children from a previous marriage, three of whom (Hattie, May and Vern Williams) moved with their mother from Wisconsin to the Crossfield region in 1904.
Today, Winchell Lake is a 40-acre area with the surrounding lands owned by the Provincial Government and the County, located south of Water Valley on Range Road 52. The area is a popular fishing spot and offers great wildlife viewing opportunities.
Many thanks to Doug Myers for background information and access to take some of the photos that appear with this article. Also, recognition for historical information from sources including the publications: Prairie Sod and Goldenrod – History of Crossfield and District, and Big Hill Country – Cochrane and Area.