Unlike Thickwood or Timberlea, where many of the streets are named according to a specific theme, most of the streets in the downtown area of Fort McMurray are named after people who are significant to the history of the region.
Have you ever wondered who was the inspiration for Manning Ave or Morimoto Drive? What about Sutherland Street, the side street off of Franklin Ave where the Podollan Inn & Rez is located? Have you ever wondered who Sutherland was?
Angus Sutherland was the first druggist in Fort McMurray. He was born in Ontario in the 1890s, but attained his education in Manitoba. Following graduation, Angus worked for the Northern Transportation Company’s water transportation division in Athabasca Landing. You can see Angus Sutherland in the 1916 Census of Alberta here where he is listed as working as a purser, or the person responsible for handling money, on a steam boat.
In the winter of 1918, Angus was sent to Fort McMurray for business. At this time, soldiers were beginning to return home from the battlefields of the First World War. These men unknowingly brought with them the Spanish Flu, a deadly virus that became a global pandemic. When this flu made its way to Fort McMurray, Angus immediately began to stockpile medical supplies, even treating people at no cost if they could not afford to pay his fees.
Realizing that the growing community needed a pharmacy, Angus opened a small drug store inside the Franklin Hotel. This business venture was so successful that it needed a larger space. In 1922, Angus opened a new pharmacy, Sutherland Drugs, in a two storey frame building. The pharmacy served as both a drug store as well as a library, the first in Fort McMurray. Membership to the library cost one dollar and the borrowing fee for each book was twenty-five cents.
Suffering from ill health, Angus asked Walter Hill, a recent graduate, to help with the pharmacy business. In 1922 Walter arrived in Fort McMurray and became Angus’ partner. However, in 1934 a major fire destroyed most of the businesses along the west side of Franklin Avenue, including Sutherland Drugs. Amazingly, the store was rebuilt within 30 days and even refitted with wiring for electricity.
|In this photo, Angus Sutherland is sitting on the left and Walter Hill is seated on the right. Photo courtesy of the Fort McMurray Historical Society.|
Four years later, in 1938, Angus opened two Sutherland Drugs: one in Waterways along Railway Avenue and another in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. This expansion earned Angus the title the "Pharmacist of the North”.
After serving the community for over 20 years, Angus died in Fort McMurray on May 31, 1951. With his death, Walter Hill became the sole owner of the business and he renamed the Fort McMurray store Hill Drugs. Walter Hill died in 1986 and his pharmacy continued to operate until 1988. The Hill family tradition of pharmacy service continues to this day with Dave Hill Pharmacy in Thickwood (Dave is Walter’s grandson).
Following its closure, the Sutherland Drugs/Hill Drugs building was donated to Heritage Park. It currently houses the museum’s main displays about the fur trade, river transportation, the railway and of course, the pharmacy itself.