The North West Entomological Society (NWES)

(This history is drawn from several sources including notes by Rod Trentham, Michael Dawe, and Michael O’Brien.)


Flea typical of the types the Gregsons might have collected.

The North West Entomological Society was founded in Blackfalds, Alberta, the first meeting held on March 10, 1898 at the home of Percy Barrow Gregson, a lawyer who had immigrated from England. His younger brother, Douglas had arrived earlier. Douglas had been earning a bit of extra money by collecting fleas for Charles Rothschild, a noted entomologist of his day. That collection is now housed in the British Museum.

Percy became the first President of the NWES and Douglas became the Secretary-Treasurer and Librarian. Other prominent members of the community and members of the Society included Dr. James Fletcher (the Dominion Entomologist), Cyprian Pinkham (Anglican Bishop of Calgary), and Frank Oliver (local Member of Parliament and Federal Minister of the Interior). The Society’s objective was, “to classify the flora and fauna of the Northwest Territories, also embracing the study of injurious pests, weeds, and other matters of economic entomology in relation to agriculture“. Thomas Nathaniel Willing, also a founding member of the North-West Entomological Society served as its secretary-treasurer from 1898 to 1901.

A public meeting was held on March 24, 1898 in Blackfalds, Alberta at which Percy Gregson spoke on the value of entomology to agriculture. A third meeting in Lacombe on January 7, 1899 expanded the Executive to include people from across Central Alberta. They held their first Annual Meeting in Lacombe on November 7, 1899.

By 1901, the Society built up its collection of butterflies, moths, fleas, beetles and “other natural wonders” including fossils. A strong emphasis was placed on education. Percy Gregson wrote that teaching young people not only increased their knowledge of natural history, but also developed their powers of observation. They started a Field Club in the Lacombe School and soon established others in Blackfalds and Red Deer.

The territorial Government agreed to give the Society an annual grant of $25.00 and active assistance from a number of government officials in agriculture and education. In spite of the grant, the Society faced many financial challenges.

Because of the vast territory covered, keeping in touch with members was difficult. Printing costs were high and the Society began to run yearly deficits and many expenses had to be covered by individual members from their own pockets. On November 5, 1902, the North West Entomological Society held its last general meeting. Percy Gregson stated that the dissolution of the Entomological Society had become necessary, but it was proposed that a new natural history society would be created. The new society would have a greater scope of activities and interest and therefore, would become more sustainable.

And so, the North West Entomological Society ceased to exist.