Late in the 18th century our first hardy pioneer families began arriving in the sparsely populated rugged and fertile prairies of Alberta looking for exciting new opportunities and lifestyles.
They came by all modes of transportation from the United States and across the oceans and once settled in their new homesteads, districts, and communities they proudly began to carry on and contribute to our long and proud history, heritage, and traditions going into the future.
Among the earliest settlers in the Ponoka district were the Reid brothers, William, Andrew, Joseph, and David. William, who was claimed to have ridden his horse Buck all the way from Oregon in search of work arrived in 1893 and took up land four miles northwest of the village sight and would later marry Miss Emma Tyner of the Ferrybank district in 1899. A brother Andrew, who was born in Ireland and worked as a streetcar conductor in Liverpool before venturing to Oregon to join his sisters Lizzie and Rachel would finally decide to join his brother William in 1895 and filed on a quarter section of land near where the Forest Home cemetery is now located. The Brothers Joseph and David arrived in the district in 1898, both settling on homesteads northwest of town, with Joe marrying Mary C. Larsen in 1903 while David moved back to Oregon two years later.
At the time of Andy’s arrival the only building in the Village of Ponoka was the CPR Railway depot, but bound and determined to succeed he and his brother William would live together for six months and then built their log cabins and worked very hard to later become the first homesteaders in the area to obtain the title rights to their land. Andy married Anna A. Larsen in 1900, and following her death in 1919 he married Miss Jonina L. Goodman.
Ponoka’s first entrepreneur?
Like so many other early homesteaders Andy depended on work with the CPR for his sustenance, and the two brothers would take turns working on the railway and on their own land.
They loved to explore the countryside on their ponies while picking up the mail at Holbrook, often stopping to help others, but mostly to visit and share some gala old Irish stories, fun, and laughter, but it was also on these popular excursions that they began doing a little courting.
By 1900 Ponoka had grown into a bustling village, and just by chance Andrew Reid became a merchant rather than a farmer, assisting at the Ponoka branch of the Lacombe Farmers Co-operative store as well as in the shops of Fred Lee and Bill Kennedy along Railway Street. With this experience he jumped at the opportunity of going into business for himself, buying a building of his own and stock from Henry Dick in 1903. After the provincial census in 1904 a meeting was held in Reid’s Hall with the purpose of moving towards the incorporation of Ponoka as a town, which happened the same year. Andy Reid served on the town council and took an active part in the business promotion of the community for many years, as well as being the first secretary-treasurer of the local Presbyterian Church.
As the town grew at a rapid pace so did Andy Reid’s Dry Good Store, doubling in size by 1910 and expanding again in 1915 and always packed to the rafters with ample supplies and treats to serve the needs of hundreds of new citizens from the urban and rural districts. These would include all sorts of grocery items, wooden barrels of dill pickles and sauerkraut, huge blocks of cheese, butter, eggs, and so much more. Andy and Anna Reid and their always congenial staff also had a fine supply of linens, clothes, arts, silks, and blendings as well as knick-knacks for all ages, with their young son George delivering the boxes of goods to the customers in a livery cart pulled by two black ponies called Jim and Jerry.
For many years Saturday nights were especially exciting at the Reid Hall in Ponoka, as the week’s work was done and the farm folks came to town to join the locals for a gala time of visiting, shopping, a show and jitney dance, and not until midnight were clerks able to lock up the doors and go home. In the spring the First Nations from Hobbema would come into town in droves in their wagons, setting up their teepee town on the east side of the Battle River. The ladies loved to spend their money on the brightest cotton goods, and then in the evening treated everyone to their colourful dances. Andy Reid was always a very good friend and had a great respect for the First Nations, learning their language, and really enjoyed teasing and joking with them, as well as trading and bartering for all sorts of goods and fair deals. They called him ‘Kwea Kiwinaway’ which meant ‘Red cheeks.’ The original family home after the log cabin was across from the Presbyterian Church in Ponoka, but in 1916 Andy moved his growing family to a big house on Donald Avenue, which would remain ‘home’ until Nina’s death in 1957. Other Reid property around town included where the new south bridge and overpass was later built as well as another quarter section in the same area.
Sadness came to the Reid household in 1919 with the death of his wife Anna, and Andy had to take on the responsibility of seven children ages six months to 16 years, as well as facing the burden of the post war years where business was unstable and credit deadly. But like so many other gritty pioneer families from the town and districts their strong will would prevail, and then in 1922 Andy would wed Jonina Goodman, a teacher and former protégé of the Ponoka High School. In 1925 after 22 years of faithful service and success in business Andy Reid would sell his popular general mercantile business to the UFA Co-operative Association. Several years later he became the police magistrate and later Judge of the Juvenile Court, and in this capacity he would always remain as a trustworthy friend to all until his death in 1943.
The very active family of Andy and Anna and later Jonina Reid consisted of four sons and seven daughters including: Ambrose, George, Elizabeth (Lysne), Gladys (Norrison), Norman, Donald, Margery (Beaton), Wilma (Rix), Dorothy (Dobi), Shirley (Waines), and Jean (Egger). Like their congenial and dedicated father before them they enjoyed their life in Ponoka, but eventually wandered away from home to seek their fame and fortune but always loved to return to share the countless memories of family and friends.