Many amazing stories have been told about the colourful and exciting history of the early settlement of the Village of Ponoka and surrounding rural districts, which began way back in the late 18th century.
Pathways to Ponoka is a new book just completed by retired school teacher Janet Pendleton Cooper, and highlights the rugged and delightful stories of the Newton, Barnes, Pendleton, and Hepburn families and so many others who began setting up their humble homesteads in the Seafield and Ponoka areas in 1897.
The author, who is a descendent of the four families, was born in Lacombe before the first hospital was built here in Ponoka, but will always cherish the many fond memories of living on the family farm in the Seafield district.
Janet Cooper later moved to Calgary and Edmonton, where she completed her schooling, graduated from the University of Alberta, married and raised three sons, and enjoyed a long 36 year teaching career. Upon her retirement she ventured into the challenging but exciting task of penning the early story of Ponoka and some of the history of her four favourite families and countless others who have lived and worked in the vibrant town and farmed in the rural districts for ongoing generations, and have always been a great influence and inspiration for Janet to finally be able to put the story on paper.
Although Janet never lived in Ponoka, one would wonder what would cause the author to always want to write this story, but as she simply suggests that, ‘you can take the girl out of the town but not the town out of the girl.”
A forward to the book
Pathways to Ponoka is a comprehensive history presented in 10 exciting and informative chapters of the Town of Ponoka for the first 50 years, beginning in 1900 when the little Village was but a small dot on the Canadian Pacific Railway Line between Lacombe and Wetaskiwin known as ‘Siding 14.’ Janet Pendleton Cooper’s new book traces the growth, the trials, and the tribulations of a group of people arriving here from several different locations, all with several different expectations of what a viable town looked like. Four of the early families, including the Newtons, Barnes, Pendletons, and Hepburn’s, all of which the author was a descendant, are featured, and the story goes back to their countries of origin, their journeys to the United States, and their subsequent choice to make the Canadian west their final home. Other early Ponoka district families featured in this glorious story of survival, dedication, and success are: Klofanda, Bures, Hinkley, Brouillett, Heisler, Hoar, Porteous, and more.
A great deal of the information gathered for the completion of Pathways to Ponoka was acquired by the determined author during many hours of browsing through countless editions of the Ponoka Herald, which was published in the community every week from 1900 to 1984. The insight of the various editors was always on the pulse of the growing town and districts, and the impact of their writing was very evident throughout the years and vividly told the colourful story of the creation of a bustling rapidly growing town and the lives of the people who created it together. While it could have been the tale of many small towns, Ponoka became the story and telling it would become the very ambitious mission of the author, Janet Pendleton Cooper to chronicle the growing pains and challenges that were endured by so many along the way to produce a successful and thriving community in the heart of Central Alberta.
While many individuals and generations of families are discussed within the book, it is the creation of the town itself that is the book’s feature and intent. What did it take to carve a small and thriving town out of the bald prairie, endure the tough and frigid winters, and to provide the food and shelter for the often very large families? All those early hardy pioneers worked very hard to achieve their goals and dreams, and although unfortunately some did not succeed, those who did found the land to be extremely fertile and would produce grains and stock to rival any of the states that they had originated from.
Janet Cooper is looking forward to being present at her booth at the Ponoka Farmer’s Market at the Ponoka arena on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 27 and 28 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. She will have copies of her new book ‘Pathway to Ponoka’ available for sale and would love to chat with friends and visitors about her adventures in writing as well as her youthful years spent out on the Seafield farm and around town.