Fink family left USA for the ‘Promise land’ of Alberta near Ponoka

This week's Reflections looks at the history of the Fink Family in Ponoka.

The family of Joseph and Sarah Fink were born and raised in the Oregon and Wisconsin area of the United States for many years, but when Joe’s oldest son Ben purchased land in the Manito area north of Ponoka in 1911, he came out to see what was being called ‘The Promise Land’. So impressed by what he saw he returned to Wisconsin, sold his store, and in 1912 made the long trek back to Alberta with his wife Sarah and daughters Eliza and Josephine.

Ben Fink was born in 1878 and as a young man taught school and worked at a store in Montana, but later longed to seek out a new life on the rolling prairies of Alberta, Canada. While settling on their new homestead, Ben and his hired man were supplied with fresh home-made bread by Mrs. Charles Park Sr. because there was no bakery in Ponoka. Ben’s fiancée Jennie Fountain, who was also a school teacher from Paradise, Montana and had previously travelled by covered wagon to Wetaskiwin to assist family in 1896, would return to Ponoka in June of 1911 and they were married in the local Catholic Church. There was no house yet, so they all lived in tents throughout the summer while Ben and his father Joe and Jennie’s Uncle Jim McLeod completed the framing twice, with the first effort being totally destroyed by a severe hailstorm.

Joseph and Sarah Fink bought the southeast quarter of section 36 in the Hazel Hill district, and their family continued to grow to include son Ed and daughters Clara, Francis, and Sister Ignatius. Their youngest son George would work for them on the farm from 1916 to 1920, and together, father and son would build a small house for George’s new family. When Joe and Sarah retired, the small house was moved into Ponoka, where they enjoyed life in town, with Sarah passing away in 1924, after which Joe moved back to his favourite old homestead until his death 1926. Ben and Jennie farmed in the Manito district until 1932, when they moved onto Joe and Sarah’s original homestead in the Hazel Hill area, and along the way they would be blessed with 10 children, including Helen, Katherine, James, Mary, Bernard, Roger, Rita, Jean, Gerald (Jerry) and Josephine. The children attended school at Arbor Park and Manito, with Katherine, Jim, and Helen all riding their faithful horse cricket together each day to those tiny country schools. The massive farming operations of the Fink and Jim McLeod family’s often required as many as 27 horses pulling the machinery together, and then they purchased a noisy steam tractor in the mid-1920. Many hardy labourers were hired from throughout the districts, as well as newly arrived immigrants, one of which was Mr. Alex Kazimbek, a Russian Count who spoke four languages and in his spare time dressed up in his white satin tunic, black trousers, and high boots to dance and played classical music on the piano to the joy of everyone. Times were always hectic out at the Finks’, especially during the summer and harvest, with as many as 17 regulars for dinner and up to 25 people sleeping in the house on many occasions.

Ben and Jennie and the children were always very active in the social affairs in and around Arbor Park, taking part in countless plays, socials, card parties, dances, picnics, and sporting events. They also belonged to the U.F.A., U.F.W.A., and Junior U.F.A. and were active in the Catholic Parish, while Jim played baseball and hockey, and all the kids loved swimming and skating on the Battle River. Ben raised Holstein cattle, Percheron horses, Yorkshire pigs, Suffolk sheep, chickens, turkeys, mink, racoons, as well as spending many hours at repairing harness and carpentry work. Together, Ben and Jennie and their family loved planting and producing magnificent gardens and fruit trees in the fertile black soil each and every spring. Ben Fink passed away in 1953 and Jennie stayed on the family farm until her passing in 1961. The ongoing generations of Joseph and Ben Fink proudly continued to grow and carry on the strong family traditions, many remaining in Ponoka and districts, with others reside throughout Canada and the United States.


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