Left: Clara and Edgar Bresee shown at their Dakota district farm in 1940. Right: Shown here in 1958 on the original family homestead are

Left: Clara and Edgar Bresee shown at their Dakota district farm in 1940. Right: Shown here in 1958 on the original family homestead are

Reflections of Ponoka: A salute to early Dakota families

It all started around 1900 when half a dozen families who were living in South Dakota grew tired of drought and failed crops and decided

It all started around 1900 when half a dozen families who were living in South Dakota grew tired of drought and failed crops and decided to venture into the lush and promise land of Alberta to establish their new homes. The Wings and the Olmsteads would live in a small shack in the Village of Ponoka while they broke the land and built their homesteads in the Ferrybank area, which they patiently created into a friendly new farming district, which they appropriately called ‘Dakota ‘ in memory of the rugged land from which they came.

As new settlers moved into the district, it was necessary to build the first bridge near Ferrybank over the Battle River to make access to the area easier for the new influx of families. Two large trees were cut and fallen across the river, and were then covered with poles wide enough for wagons to cross. Stone piers had to be added in the spring to protect against floods, and this fine structure would serve Dakota for many years until the government erected a permanent steel structure. A lot of fine homes, barns and other early log buildings were constructed in the district under the direction of a colony of Nova Scotians out of Lacombe, who were master axmen.

The magnificent Dakota History Book now has a permanent home at the Fort Ostell Museum for the enjoyment of everyone, and the Reflections feature in the Ponoka News is pleased continue to honour some of those colorful early pioneer families.

The Bresee family

Edgar Bresee had come to the Ponoka area from South Dakota with his uncle Dave Wing in the spring of 1901, facing many hardships to get through the Battle River floods, but then homesteading the land where his son Douglas would later establish his farm. Edgar married Miss Clara Hoar in 1907, and together they would raise two children Douglas and Velma, who later became Mrs. Earnest McDowell.

Mr. and Mrs. Fred Bresee had come west in 1902 and built a home on their son Edgar’s homestead. Tragedy struck the family in 1906 while on their way to eastern Canada when Fred was knocked from the station platform in Calgary and killed by a train. His widow, the former Clarrissa Wing continued to live on the farm for a time, did a great deal of practical nursing in the community, and then spent her last years back in South Dakota.  oaHoareHoaHoaHoare

Clara and Edgar were very active in community organizations and projects such as the Dakota United Church, United Farmers of Alberta and the Ladies’ Aid. Edgar was an elder of the Dakota Church for many years, while Clara faithfully played the organ for 41 years until they retired to Ponoka in 1945.

Douglas Bresee was born in 1912 in the house where he would eventually raise his family. After talking three years at the Olds School of Agriculture, he returned to the district in 1939 and married Elsie Toreson, who had come from Bawlff, Alberta to teach at the Dakota for six years. The couple were blessed with three sons, Keith, Garry, and Darryl, and the family became extremely active throughout the district in curling, 4-H work, the F.U.A. and the Dakota United Church. Following the family tradition, Doug also took on the role as a church elder, as well as serving as the secretary-treasurer of the Dakota Cemetery Association. Elsie loved to sing soprano in choirs and other groups on many occasions. The Bresee family farming tradition was proudly carried on with the raising of fine purebred Angus cattle, and then in 1959, they began breeding Charolais, thereby gradually increasing new blood into their herd, for which they became very successful and well known throughout the industry.

Upon completion of their formal education, Keith Bresee bought the Henry Kristensen farm in the Lundgren district, and continued to farm with his father. Garry became a supervisor for the Farm Credit Corporation of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, with his head office in Charlottetown. Daryll finished his schooling in Ponoka, went on to be a licensed automotive mechanic for Healy Motors in Edmonton and then returned home to farm with his father and Keith in the Dakota district. Keith and Daryl continued to live in the Dakota district, raising their families and remaining very active in the community, and have always encouraged the proud Bresee tradition of raising quality into the next generation.