Sandy Allsopp, Sharon Chapman, Kiana Bugarin and Harriet Evans — the congenial staff at the Fort Ostell Museum in Ponoka are very excited about the gala-year round celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.
Just for the occasion, they have been very busy arranging two new colourful displays for everyone to enjoy when they visit the museum and get the unique opportunity to browse through many decades of the long and proud history, mementos and milestones of the development our Town and County of Ponoka.
Now greeting everyone in the front lobby will be a colourful and authentic ‘history of the fur trade’ display, as well as the 150 year Ponoka timeline as it followed and enjoyed the same amazing progress, growth and successes as our great nation of Canada.
Over in the Fort Ostell Museum display room — which is packed with the life-size figures, scenes, and artifacts of our history — is another new display case which salutes our grand community celebration of Canada’s gala 100th Centennial celebration in 1967. Also shown in the first display are samples of the hot products of the day including a big bag of Pure Alberta Sugar, Rosebud flour from Didsbury and a pouch of the finest Patriot Smoking Tobacco made in Quebec.
The vital fur trading history in Canada and Alberta
In the 1600s, European explorers began their long and gruelling journey, exploration and mapping of all regions of Canada. They were extremely impressed that wherever they travelled they discovered a rich environment of fur-bearing animals including fox, mink, muskrat, beaver, buffalo and more.
Because there was such a large demand in Europe for the fine and majestic pelts, the fur trade increased at a very rapid pace. The French and English loved to use beaver pelts to make their hats and as trim on other items of clothing, and in order to assure an ample and steady supply a partnership was formed between the Aboriginals and the European nations.
In 1670, English merchants would start the Hudson’s Bay Company when the King granted them the right to trade furs in the lands drained by rivers flowing in the Hudson’s Bay, and it wasn’t long before countless HBC trading posts were set up all across Canada.
Here in the Ponoka area, two rival companies would establish busy trading posts. The Hudson Bay post was built at the Battle River Crossing in 1884 under the management of Thomas Taylor, while the second post was erected by the I.G. Baker Company and located along Wolf Creek, managed by A.W. Colpman.
When the Hudson Bay trading post was pillaged by Cree Indians in 1885 during the time of the Riel Rebellion that was occurring in Saskatchewan, the army led by Captain Ostell was called in to fortify the store. After 50 days without an incident, Captain Ostell moved his men to Fort Edmonton, peace prevailed and the now legendary trading post near Ponoka became known as Fort Ostell.
Other famous traders who travelled the rugged countryside and thrived during the lucrative and colorful fur trading era in Western Canada included: John Palliser, Alexander MacKenzie, Henry Kelsey, LaVerande, Samuel Hearne, Peter Pond, Peter Fiedler, and many others.
The Ponoka timeline:
1867 – The formation of Canada
1885 – The building of Fort Ostell at the Battle River crossing
1891 – The arrival of the first Canadian Pacific train at Siding #14
1904 – Ponoka, NWT was officially declared as a town
1905 – Alberta became a Province
1911 – The Provincial Insane Asylum was opened just south of Ponoka
1954 – Ponoka celebrates 50th Anniversary
1967 – Canada’s 100th birthday
2004 – Ponoka celebrates 100th birthday
2005 – Alberta celebrates 100th birthday
2017 – Our Canada celebrates 150th birthday. We have come along way together Canada and the future is great.