It was in 1900 that a group of hardy settler families from South Dakota, USA left their jobs and farms behind and embarked upon a long and gruelling journey in search of new opportunities and homesteads in what would soon be known as the new province of Alberta, Canada.
The large contingent included David and Anna Wing, Lemuel and Ella (Courser) Wing and family, Corliss and Hattie Wing and family, Rodney Royce and son, Frederick and Clarissa (Wing) Bresee, Edgar and Clara (Hoar) Bresee, Frank and Cora (Wing) Cissell and family, Eb and Alice Olmstead and family, Dan Kilroy, Mary E Hall, and Joe Allen, among others.
They finally arrived in a vast expanse of new land located west of Ponoka, NWT, a location where David Wing had secured several pieces of land for his family and neighbours from South Dakota. While endeavouring to keep their family together, Nerius and Alice Cissell, (Frank Cissell’s parents) and daughter Bessie immigrated in 1902 along with daughter Emma (Cissell) and Emil Wold, while Leon and Clara Cissell and family arrived in 1904 or ‘05, a bit later as they had to wait on the sale of their land in the Dakotas. Those taking up homesteads were required to clear at least 10 acres of land, undertake some cultivation, have built a dwelling and farm buildings and live on the land for six months a year for three years, and then if these conditions were met they could submit an application for title.
Frank and Cora Cissell had already filed for land on NW 22-43-27 W4 and then some years later a granddaughter, Louise Olmstead Doupe, ended up living and farming with her husband Ron and family on this Cissell homestead. Frank and Cora moved to their other farm on SE 33-43-27 and lived with their son Merl until their deaths in1936 and 1940. Merl would later purchase the David Wing homestead, NE 28-43-27 W4 and he and his wife Hilda raised their family here. Son Frank and wife Pat, and their son Chad and wife Alana and family still reside on this original family homesteaded land.
Nerius and Alice Cissell would settle on their homestead SW 16-43-27 W4 in 1902. A small little abode that had been built for the women and children in 1902 when they first arrived in Ponoka was later moved to the Olmstead farm and then to Nerius Cissell homestead. Years later this tiny dwelling became the living room for the grey tin-sided house of the McClaflins when they bought the farm in 1928, and was still there in 1972. Nerius Cissell passed away in 1906 and his wife Alice remained living here on the homestead next to her son, Leon. Nerius had served in the Civil War in the USA so upon his death he was provided with a tombstone stating his rank and unit that he served under, but no birth or death date. At the Cissell Reunion in August, Chad Cissell and Mark Miller, great, great grandsons, placed a marker with this information on his grave in the Dakota Cemetery. Alice Cissell passed away July 14, 1924 and as per her wish, she was also buried in the Dakota Cemetery. As a note of interest it took 39 years after Nerius Cissell’s death for his estate to be settled, finally by a grandson Merl Cissell, and leaving $341 to be divided among the administrator, lawyer, and designate children and grandchildren.
In 1901 Leon Cissell had filed for a homestead on the SE 16-43-27-W4 but he had difficulty selling his property in Oldham, SD so Emma (Cissell) and Emil Wold took over the farm. Leon and Clara Cissell finally got to Ponoka in 1904 or 05 to be with the rest of the family and found that the government had stated he did own that homestead. A home was built and a portion of it still stands today, used as an outbuilding. He also filed an application for NE-16-43-27 W4. Leon’s wife, Clara, passed away in September 1913 of typhoid fever, Leon passed away in June of 1915, and they are both buried at Dakota Cemetery. The children went to live with grandma Alice Cissell on her neighbouring homestead until she returned to the USA, by about 1920, settling in Yakima along with most of her son Leon’s family. Her daughter Bessie (Cissell) Bailey and her family moved back to the U.S. as well.
A granddaughter, Florence (Cissell) and husband Lynn McClaflin bought Nerius and Alice’s place in 1928 and their son Lawrence McClaflin and wife Irene (Webster) lived here for many years. Now son Lorne and Shirly (Sommer) McClaflin, reside here.
David Cissell, one of Leon and Clara Cissell’s grandsons, has chronicled the Cissell family history in his book, The Cissells of Yakima and Ponoka. He has traced their journey from England to the U.S. And the delightful book deals with the paths they took from St. Mary’s County MD, to Pottinger’s Creek Kentucky, to the west side of the Mississippi River to Perry County Missouri and then to Dodge County, Minnesota. In the late 1880s they moved west to South Dakota, and from there in 1900s to Ponoka, AB, Canada, where the ongoing generations still make their homes today and proudly carry on the longstanding family traditions.