By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
It was the turn of the century when the Wilmer Mercantile Building first opened its doors as the town’s general store in 1901. Robert “Duff” Scott’s grandparents, Thomas and Jane Seaton, bought the property, the house and store all in one shot in the early 1950s. This month marks the end of an era as the building and lots that have been in Scott’s family for more than 70 years will change hands as new owners from Lethbridge take over. Scott has many fond memories as a kid travelling from Edmonton, where he still lives today, to Wilmer to visit his grandparents over the summer months.
“It was your typical general store in any small town. If they didn’t sell it, you didn’t need it,” Scott quipped. “I remember just being a boy and playing in the town and waking up early in the mornings with my grandfather. I have distinct memories of him giving us pop and the store had this distinct smell that has always stayed with me.”
The store had a great run, but officially closed its doors in 1965, a year after Thomas Seaton died. Wife Jane carried the torch for a year after Thomas’ death, but it became too challenging for her to continue. She stayed in Wilmer until 1969 before moving to Edmonton to be close to family. Scott and his cousin each bought three of the six lots that once belonged to their grandparents, purchasing them from uncles and aunts more than three decades ago. Scott’s three lots included the buildings.
“My cousin had to sell, and I couldn’t afford to buy them at the time, so they just floated around for a long time,” Scott said. “There were no developments made to it, so for the longest time, we just used it as extra yard space.”
The three lots that once belonged to Scott’s cousin were sold to the new owners, with their intention being to use the space for a mobile home. Both distance and health concerns contribute to the fact that Scott cannot care for the property like he once could. While a hard decision and a bittersweet transaction, he knew in his heart that he also needed to follow suit and sell.
“It’s a really tough thing to do,” Scott said.
Small towns and hamlets like Wilmer are remembered for their heritage buildings and sites that give them identity. There may be changes on the horizon for both the owners and the land, but the future of the Wilmer Mercantile Building, located on the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa Peoples, will remain steadfast as assurances have been made that it will remain standing.