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Harrisville

by Laura Vadnais
"Chief Mountain Country" page 63

Harrisville is situated about 10 miles southwest of Cardston, in the foothills of the Rockies, and although it never had a post office or a store, it was a community center, because it was the home of the first Catholic Church in the Cardston area, and had a one-roomed school which was controlled by a local school board. Before the church was built, services were brought by the Oblate missionaries from the Blood Reserve. Father Riou visited the Catholic families in the district, traveling with horse and buggy, through mud and snow, over poor roads, holding mass in the homes of Mr. Fred Shaw (custom's officer), Richard Vadnais, Charles Bianchi, Thomas White, Mr. John Blasco. In 1901 St. Stephen's church was built on the SWl/4 of Sec. 2 Township 2, Range 26 on the side of the hill at Harrisville, overlook- ing the valley. The lumber for this church was hauled with horses and wagons from Macleod by Mike Smith, Mike Olshaskie, Charles Shrimp, and Peter Zubach.

Twice the wind damaged the church very badly, so in 1907 it was rebuilt down in the valley where it now stands. People from Boundary Creek and Harrisville attended the monthly meetings. Some of the earliest families using the church were Zubachs, Smiths, Olshaskies, Blascos, Gales, Zuccas, Martinas, Veres, Vadnais, Pontarollos, Perusos, Lazzeratos, Salts.

Many pioneers that helped build up the Harrisville area are buried in the well-kept cemetery just east of the church.

The first school was held in a log building located on the Mike Olshaskie land, later owned by John Stott, now (1977) belonging to Leroy Hall. This school was managed by a local school board. Much political interest in the district was generated, many different men serving their term as trustee. The Harrisville school district No. 1524 was formed in 1908.

In 1908 a larger frame building that was stuccoed replaced the first log school house. This had a lean-to on the back which served as a one-room "teacherage". Dur- ing the dances many young babies slept out the late hours on "teacher's" bed.

The first teacher was John A. MacDonald for the term 1909-10. In 1911 Willard Smith of Leavitt was the teacher. Joachim Peter Renaud taught 1912-14. Addie Kathleen Forbes was the teacher in 1915. Other teachers were: Elizabeth O'Connor, Orson Daines, Sydney Thurber, Sophie Tompson, Joy Vadnais, Corinne Vad- nais, Jennie Beazer, Aldee Bassett, Hiram Crawford, Miss Noel, Mr. Harris, Tom Barry, Deborah Pashik, Barbara Toni, Marjorie Cheney, Mary Pinder, Olive Luther, Jeanette Hinman, Lena Bario, Laura Low, E. Meyer, Onita Billingsley, Eileen Gillan, D. Boldt, Vonza Reeder, J. Leavitt, M. Ivins, J. McMillan and possibly a few others.

Sale of the school was approved February 19, 1953. The building was bought by Vern Hall and is now used as a machine and storage shed. The building remains on its original foundation.

The school was the center of community activities. Every fall a box social was held to raise money for the Christmas program and children's Christmas tree gifts. Jack Martina was chief auctioneer, often getting the young men to bid pretty high for the privilege of eating supper with a certain lady. The music for the dances was supplied with a fiddle, accordion, bones, etc. by local talent. The Broadhead orchestra from Beazer sometimes played. Others providing music and square dance calling were Bud Sanders, "Toots" Arndt, Steve Pincheck, Glen Atwood, Harold Wollscroft, Charlie Trealease.

There was a lot of good-natured rivalry in sports between Harrisville and Boundary Creek. On Sunday afternoons after church baseball games were played. All the people in the district turned out to play, cheer or visit.

In 1948 the Harrisville school was closed, and the students were bused to Cardston. Losing the school as a center took the heart out of the community, but the church is still preserved as a historical landmark. In 1970 a shrine was set there, and in 1974 a memorial stone was dedicated to the pioneers of the district by Bishop O' Byrne.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup