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Contact Noble Ghosts aims to be a fully interactive web site. For updates on Johnnie Bachusky’s work and travels throughout western Canada visit his Noble Ghosts facebook page or his personal blog. There is also his Ghost Towns of Canada chatboard.

Mr. Bachusky’s work can also be viewed at his four sites on ghosttownpix.com, which features photos and stories on ghost towns from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northwest Territories. This work is in partnership with Ontario web designers and graphic artists Susan Foster and Jeri Danyleyko.

Sometime during the summer of 2009 Nick Tytkanych had an intriguing visitor at the property of his Country Road RV business.

A lady wanted to see the old cabin by the Red Deer River. The nine acres of property on Main Avenue N.E., which Nick and his wife Sherry purchased the year before, angles in a triangular point towards the west bank of the river. There was an old cabin there. It was used by a hermit for a few years but mostly sat abandoned for decades.

The visitor wanted to know about the Scottie. Inside the cabin there was a Scottish terrier, a silhouetted figure etched on the guard of the cabin’s magnificent fireplace.

For Nick and his wife Sherry it was one more reason why this old cabin was important. The lady who wanted to see the Scottie was the granddaughter of the man who built the cabin many decades earlier. His name was John MacLeod, a beloved early pioneer of Sundre. The couple is determined to preserve the cabin at any cost.

Today the structure, once sitting derelict close to the river, is being transformed. The silhouetted Scottie on the fireguard is once again gleaming.

The couple has spent more than $100,000 over the past year to restore the 800-square foot cabin. The work is part of a major upgrading project to five acres of the property that has so far cost at least $500,000. Nick and Sherry could have applied for provincial historical designation of the cabin, which would have made them eligible for grant money to restore the structure, but that was not an avenue they wanted to pursue.

“I didn’t want to get the grants and then told what to do,” said Nick. The cabin has been gutted for its restoration. It will have running water, a new septic tank, roof and windows. When the project is finished the structure and surrounding area will have a distinct historical shine. There will be walking paths with wooden sidewalks leading to the cabin. It will be surrounded by a beautiful garden. There will be split rail fencing and new evergreen trees spread about.

By the same time next year the old cabin, surrounded by the natural blooming elegance of new flowers and trees, will be a cherished fixture by the river for the community and tourists.“

"It is a wonderful place,” said Sherry, the local chamber president who wants the cabin utilized as a meeting place for businesses, as well as a desired point of interest for tourists and for couples wanting the perfect spot for wedding photos. “It is not something we just want to enjoy. We want the whole community to enjoy it.”

The cabin was once a place of peace, serenity and friendship for MacLeod who first came to the area in 1934. He was an entrepreneur who purchased the Sundre General Store. He renamed it the Red and White Store, and it became a popular trading post and post office for locals.

MacLeod later became a partner to create Sundre Contracting, which is still operating. That business expanded to become the Sundre Lumber Co. on Bergen Road.

MacLeod was also a land developer and purchased many properties for residential development. For locals though, he cared deeply about the welfare of the citizens of the new community. He was a founding member of the Sundre United Church and was instrumental in setting up Sundre’s first combined primary and high school, moving the old Eagle Point School into town in 1942.

And of course there was the cabin by the river, which was not just used for recreation. MacLeod utilized it to help many people who had come to the area but had no place to stay. Nick said at one time there were 12 people living in it. MacLeod, a neighbour across the river and his son Jack, now and living in Red Deer, built the cabin in 1944.

“He really wanted it (cabin),” said Jack, adding it has been at least 20 years since he last saw the cabin. “We really worked away on it. It took about a year.”

John MacLeod was only in Sundre for a few more years to enjoy his cabin. In 1947, he and his wife Ethel left the town to retire in Calgary.

Over the ensuing years the cabin and the land it sat on changed ownership. For many years the cabin was unused. It began to deteriorate. But then came Nic and Sherry Tytkanych with their dreams to ring the cabin back to life.

“I am thrilled to hear that,” said MacLeod’s nephew Colin, who lives in Sundre. “I had looked at it a while ago and it was quite rundown.

“In the late 1940s I know it wasn’t used,” added Colin, who once lived in the same house as his uncle, which is now Outlaws Grill on Main Avenue. “As far as I recall I don’t think my uncle came back to the cabin and used it. It was just there.”

When Nick and Sherry purchased the property in 2008 from Ed Morgan they made a gentleman’s agreement that the cabin and its garden would survive into the future.

John MacLeod passed away in Calgary in 1986. A generation later the agreement between Morgan and the Tytkanychs has been kept. Once again, history has successfully melded with inspired development.

“We’ve truly kind of kept this as a secret,” said Nick, who is appealing to the public for old photos of John Macleod at the cabin to decorate the transformed structure. “It’s truly all about giving back to the community. This is representative of our culture.”

—Johnnie Bachusky is an Alberta journalist and ghoster
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