Wildwood is located 120km west of Edmonton in the picturesque foothills of the Rocky Mountains and was the second-largest black community in Alberta. A group of about 20 black settlers came to the area in 1908 and established the community, and in 1910 the first train arrived. 

The original name of the community was Junkins, named after the Vice President of a consulting company of engineers for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad Company. “Junkins” was a stop along the western line from Jasper to Edmonton and all stops were named alphabetically by Grand Trunk Railroad; when they got to J, they were somewhat stumped for a name and chose to name the community after Mr. Junkins.

Photo of Jay and Junetta Leffler circa 1933

Jay and Junetta Leffler

Jay Leffler with niece Merna Holland on farm in Wildwood (Junkins)

Jay Leffler and Merna Holland

The area was fair for farming but great for logging and trafficking goods. Mills were established and lumber for construction was transported all over the province. In the 1920s the Bailey brothers – originally from Keystone – established one of several mills and were successful black businessmen in the area until one of the brothers lost all their profits in a card game. 

The name of the community was officially changed to Wildwood in 1929 and by then the bustling town had two schools, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and a cemetery. 

Like many of the communities, Wildwood continued to flourish until after the Second World War, when the need for better jobs and more opportunities caused people to move to the cities. 

Newspaper article about Frank Johnson from Wildwood