Sharphead district known for colorful history and hospitality

This week's Reflections considers the days of the Sharphead district.

The Sharphead School class of 1914 included (back row

The Sharphead School class of 1914 included (back row

The Stony Indians were a small, peaceful tribe who faced the threat of starvation at their settlement in the Pigeon Lake area in the early 1880s, followed the Crees onto a reserve at the north end of the Bear Hills, but were later driven out and wandered east in search of water, game and safe shelter for their failing family tribal members. Led by Chief Sharphead, the weary Stonies finally settled on a new 14-acre site at the confluence of Wolf Creek and the Battle River, the tip of which was only a few miles from the present Town Of Ponoka. Sadly, between 1886 and 1890, illness and hunger would ravage the small tribe, drastically reducing their numbers and forcing Sharphead and his family to take the survivors and join another Stony Band at Lake Wagamun.

The sale of the Sharphead Reserve

In November of 1890, the Indian Commissioner was forced to lay off the Sharphead Reserve staff and the government farm was eventually abolished, and then in 1899, the Dominion Government opened up the land for sale at a purchase price of from $2 to $4 an acre. With widespread advertising into the United States, settler families quickly flooded into the area from Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Oregon, and by 1901, the land was all sold and the District of Sharphead was established, and proudly named after the great but gentle chief of the Stony Tribe.

Due to great demand, the first Sharphead School was built in 1903 on property donated by George White, and later owned by the L.J. Auten family. Situated four miles west of Ponoka, the little old country school sat on a hill which commanded a magnificent view of the surrounding district, including the beautiful and rolling Battle River valley. Emma Hunter was the first teacher, who planted trees around the school which lasted for many decades, and started a fund well as to purchase a fine piano, which served the district for countless years. In 1929, a new school was built on the N.W. 11-43-26-W4th, and would remain to serve the ever-growing families of the district until 1944, when it was closed due to a teacher shortage. Some of those legendary early pioneers in the district whose descendents still farm on the original land over the years included W. T. (Tim) Russell, W.G. (Will) Cerveny, the resident poet D.A. (Dan) Morrow, John Hagemann, Evan Lloyd, Aaro Crawford, Lars Larsen and the Edward Elofson families.

Over those exciting early years, it was always said about the Sharphead District that a finer group of people have never graced a community and displayed the ‘proper pioneer spirit’ any better than these. Whether it was a neighbour, a friend, a salesman, or a visitor from town, they were always made to feel welcome and at home at any front door, and over the years it would be these congenial traits coupled with their abilities and ambitions that made them very successful over the years. Following are only a few of the highlights told of those who settled and grew up in the legendary district of Sharphead, as well as those generations of fine families who established and carried on the traditions of living life on the prairies of Alberta.

*People of the Sharphead district have always had a special niche in their hearts for the memory of Dan Morrow, who was a skilled teller of tales and a fine singer and poet of the good word, and his 1948 booklet ‘Homespun Rhymes’ can still be found and enjoyed at our local museum or library, and in many district homes.

*The home of Will Cerveny was always a rendezvous for the young boys of the neighbourhood to gather for a few hours, and if the weather got too bad or the river flooded, their folks always knew that they would always have a warm place to stay for the night. Tim Russell was one of the real district characters, who was full of the ‘old Nick’ and was as witty as any son of the “Olud Sod’ from which his ancestors came.

*John Hagemann and Evan Lloyd, both small men in physical stature, but were mighty in their ability of accomplishment. Both gentlemen settled within a half a mile of each other on land overlooking the Battle River and carved out their fine farms, which still flourish in the area to this day. Both took great pride in raising fine livestock, were superb stockmen who were quickly able to diagnose ailments, and were more than willing to assist their neighbours in this regard.

*Transportation to school in the early days was by horseback or on foot, but there were always many lively pony races on the way home. A little later, when the noisy cars arrived on the scene, the horse and wagon were not used and relied upon as much, but either way it was only a short trip into Ponoka, especially on the weekend for some supplies and a little socializing. Janitor work at the Sharphead School was done by the children of the nearest homes for $2.50 a month, while the ‘moms’ held the major clean-up work bee in the summer. During the 1915-1916 semester, the always full class of grades 1 to 8 included 20 boys and one girl, the latter who quickly decided to attend school somewhere else. Nature hikes, treasure hunts, and outdoor study were favourite lessons, everyone went outside for recess, and a real treat was chasing bushy tailed gophers or watching the adults doing stump-blasting. Country students who wanted to get a further education went to the Ponoka High School, which opened in 1902.

Of those who came later to Sharphead, stayed, and left their mark were the L.J. Auten, Charles Lee, Mat Cameron, Amad Kvestad, Allan Crawford, Soren Elgaard, Anton Lux, Duncan McMillan families, along with many others who carried on the proud traditions of hard work and hospitality through many colorful decades and several proud generations.

 

Just Posted

(Advocate file photo)
Red Deer down to 102 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 332 cases with 26 in hospital and five in ICU

Flora Northwest was taken to the Ermineskin residential school when she was six years old. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ermineskin residential school survivor: ‘It just brings me back to the cries at night’

Discovery in Kamloops of remains of 215 children a painful time for survivors

Maskwacis Pride crosswalk (Left to right): Montana First Nation Councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Shannon Buffalo, Samson Cree Nation Chief Vern Saddleback.
Pride in Maskwacis

The 4th inaugural Maskwacis Pride crosswalk painting took place on Saturday 12, 2020.

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer COVID cases continue to fall

114 cases in Red Deer, down one from Saturday

Lorne Fundytus. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
OUR COMMUNITY: Rimoka Housing Foundation has a new CAO

Rimoka Housing Foundation (RHF) has a new, yet familiar, face to fill… Continue reading

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

(Photo submitted)
RV fire in Riverside, Ponoka quickly extinguished

A fire that set a motor home in Riverside ablaze from an… Continue reading

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

Most Read