Ponoka offered opportunity, hospitality and wealth – Reflections of Ponoka

This 1907 photo shows a bustling 50th Street going south. The population of Ponoka at that time was 500

This 1907 photo shows a bustling 50th Street going south. The population of Ponoka at that time was 500

In 1908 the Board of Trade of the lively and rapidly growing Town of Ponoka published an enthusiastic little promotional booklet entitled The Vale of Ponoka. It would serve as a friendly invitation to new families and prospective businesses to, “Come and see — Because seeing is believing!” There were countless exciting opportunities available to those who may choose to settle in our vibrant town and surrounding districts.

The citizens of both the Town and County of Ponoka had quickly earned the keen reputation of always offering a most hearty welcome to all newcomers and visitors, and such was the beginnings of our proud, successful, and colourful 104-year history.

What did Ponoka have to offer way back then?

Following is a summary of the congenial presentation that our new 1908 Board of Trade made to those folks who were interested in making this fertile and Battle River valley and the rolling countryside their new home.

The Town of Ponoka, located along Calgary and Edmonton Railway confers its name to a considerable extent of lush and hilly country drained by the Battle River, whose source is the picturesque Pigeon Lake to the northwest. Pigeon has become far famed for its valuable whitefish, with many rail cars and wagonloads shipped locally or throughout Canada and the U.S. during the angling season. The winding Battle River itself is literally full of fine pike and pickerel, and from its source, meanders through one of the most fertile and pristine valleys in Alberta.

Since the establishment as a Town in 1904, success and growth has been evident by the extent of the trade that has been developed, with prominence quickly being set as a large shipper of agricultural produce. Roots go deep into the rich soil, and favourable climatic conditions ensure unbelievable yields and quality crops for all seasons, while good water is readily available in all areas at depths of between 10 and 25 feet.

Seven years ago (late 1800s) the Village of Ponoka was only a flag station, including one small store and a water tank to feed the rumbling CPR trains travelling along the main line. Its hinterland, at that time, was almost unknown to the white man, and was a haunt to wandering tribes of Indian families, whose existence was assured by the bountiful hunting, fishing, and trapping. Today, for a radius of at least 30 miles, the new town supplies the requirements of hundreds of hardy and prosperous settlers, whose busy homesteads, dwellings, farm buildings, livestock, and crops have compared very favourably with any in our province. Schoolhouses, churches, and community halls are being located in all rural areas as they settle, and several lumber mills along the Battle will create employment and vast revenues from an intense growing demand here, and afar!

The thousands of acres of lands of this vale are exceedingly fertile, being a rich dark loam with clay subsoil, and no possibility of drought. There will always be ample enough timber, brick, and stone to meet all the building requirements and to furnish fuel in plenty for many decades to come, as well as rich resources of coal and other minerals that have yet to be touched. The value and outstanding development and natural success of these lands have greatly enhanced their value over the first quarter of the century, but many homesteads are still available for reasonable payment for new settlers. The best of land can be obtained for from $8 to $25 an acre, and all are within easy distance of the Town of Ponoka, which will surely grow and thrive with new citizens, businesses, and family amenities.

Ample harvests are available from all corners of this prairie paradise

• While notably a mixed farming centre, our Ponoka district is by no means behind in the raising of all sorts of grains and grasses. The 1906 crop marketed over 200,000 bushels of wheat, oats, barley, and rye with wheat yielding at 32 bushels to the acre and selling for 70 cents a bushel, oats at 55PA/25 cents PB, rye 36PA/50 cents PB, and barley at 40 bushels PA and bringing 30 cents a bushel. The grasses, brome/timothy/alfalfa all realized 2½ to 3½ tons per acre and brought $9 to $10 a ton.

• Fruits and vegetables are in abundance, with a wide variety of berries resulting in thousands of cans being preserved for winter use or sale. Possibly no county in Western Canada can produce such exceptional quality and quantity of garden vegetables, including 12,000 bushels of potatoes each season, selling home or afar for an average of 30 cents a bushel.

• Our dairying industry is also in a flourishing condition, supplying no less than three creameries in the Ponoka area, producing 271,000 pounds of products last year, and at an average price of 17 cents a pound for a total income of over $46,000.

• As a stock-raising district, Ponoka is taking a leading role for all Alberta centres, due to first class feed, handling, and shelter. In 1907 dealers shipped from this point 1,331 cattle with a total weight of 1,597,200 pounds, which received a superb average price of 41.3 cents a pound. During this same period Ponoka district farmers shipped 4,126 hogs (bringing 5½ cents a pound), and 400 sheep, that realized 5¼ cents a pound. The raising of poultry is also really catching on in this area, with the demand currently being far beyond the supply, and the prices very high.

• There are many kinds of fur-bearing animals abound in this district, and the average yearly shipments that would realize over $25,000 in annual returns. Our Ponoka district is indeed a hunter’s paradise in the fall, with an abundance of moose, deer, prairie chicken, and partridge available, while the countless lakes, streams, rivers, and streams attract literally millions of ducks, geese and swans.

In summary, the Ponoka Board of Trade can proudly state that citizens of all ages from our rapidly growing town and county for miles around are extremely happy, and have become financially successful over a short period of five years. We feel that our future is indeed very bright, and we extend a cordial invitation to everyone to pay us a visit, interview our citizens, storekeepers, farmers, and their families, and then consider becoming a part of our friendly and vibrant town and county natural playground and community.