Walter and Ruth Gee and their son Myrl were among the earliest pioneers of the Grand Meadow district south west of Ponoka. For well over 100 years the Gee family generations have always been very active in their avid pursuits of farming

The Gee family helped to establish the early Grand Meadow district

Looking back at the history of the Gee family in the Ponoka and area in this week's Reflections.

Walter and Ruth Gee had both been born and raised in Iowa, where they later met and were united in marriage in 1898 in the Town of Onawa. Longing to establish a permanent home and a new lifestyle, Walter accompanied Arthur and James Holben to Alberta to explore the boundless acres of fertile land, rolling hills, and ample opportunities available in and around the rural areas near the Village of Ponoka.

After purchasing property in the newly settled district south-west of Ponoka, Walter Gee began to build his new homestead while Arthur Holben was establishing the Grand Meadow Ranch, and their wives and families would join them the following year. Over the years Walter and Ruth would welcome their only son Myrl, and as a family they would spend many happy years enjoying their beautiful home, adding a fine set of buildings, and becoming very involved in all the activities of the growing district of Grand Meadow. With the rapid arrival of new settler families into the district such as the Ledgerwoods, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Crawford, the Goodmans, A.J. Crawford, Carl Stuarts, the Will Gees, Louis Fleming, Marion Hooper, Carsons, Ed Williams and many others, the need for a school for their children became urgent. In the summer of 1901 the Holben family kindly donated the land, and the first Grand Meadow School was completed in 1902 on the N.W. 27-42-26-W4th. Walter Gee kindly provided the fresh water for the school from a spring located on his land, which was dipped from a big barrel and carried up to the busy school for drinking and washing up.

Walter Gee was always keenly interested in horses, enjoyed showing his purebred stock at many fairs, and was later awarded a Life Membership in the Canadian Percheron Association. The Gees always enjoyed a wide circle of friends in the district, with Ruth passionately expressing a lifetime of deep devotion to her family, friends, neighbours and community, as well as becoming a Charter Member of the Grand Meadow F.W.U.A. and the Ponoka Rest Room Association. They loved being hosts at their palatial home for countless community events, as well as helping to convene social events at the school, at Maple Leaf Lake, and throughout the district. Mrs. Gee passed away suddenly in 1946, while Walter continued to be active until his passing in 1962 at the age of 86 years.

The Myrl Gee family

Myrl Gee grew up on the family farm of his parents Walter and Ruth in the Grand Meadow district, attending school at both Sharphead and Grand Meadow, and completed his early education at the Ponoka Composite High School. He later went on to the University of Alberta and to the College of the Pacific in California, where he majored in Geology and then later Articled with a Chartered Accountant Firm in Calgary.

It was in 1941 that Myrl Gee joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he served for almost six years. In 1945 he married Vera Boehmer of Ottawa, and after his discharge, the happy couple returned to settle on the family farm in the Grand Meadow district. Always very fond of trucking Myrl enjoyed earning his early living by hauling grain, coal, livestock and gravel in and around the districts and beyond. It was the great accessibility of gravel on the Gee and Purnell farm, which he later purchased, that led to the development of a very successful gravel, heavy hauling and earth moving business. The busy and rapidly growing company also took on work in the oilfield, while their vast gravel pit located on the S.W. of 35 included a washer set up on the Battle River, with countless tons of clean and washed gravel being delivered for road building and countless other projects in this area as well as far and wide for many decades.

Myrl Gee later leased his land and moved into town, but as an avid conservationist at heart, he always made sure to preserve the serene, peaceful, and safe atmosphere of the area by allowing no hunting or trapping of wildlife along the river that wandered through the farm. Myrl and Vera Gee were blessed with one daughter Marsha, who later married Robert Turney, and they raised their family in the same area. Marsha Turney would quickly develop her grandfather Walter’s love for horses, and along with her husband Robert pursued special training at Phoenix, Arizona, with Marsha graduating as a Horse Trainer and Robert as a Farrier. Together they have always enjoyed raising and showing their Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Morgans and Pintos, while proudly carrying on the longstanding and colorful family traditions.