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History Of Pershing District

by May Roberts and May Lee
"Chief Mountain Country" pages 72 - 74

Some of the early history of what later became the Pershing School District centered around the Bar K2 Ranch and the Owendale Farm, and much of the land was owned by the Knight Sugar Co. In 1911 Sam Stoddard was foreman on the Bar K2 and his wife Mary provided meals for the many riders coming and going by the ranch. Jim Peters spent some time on the ranch, and later came Bob Argyll and wife.

Original owners of the Owendale Farm were R. H. (Roger) and Owen Owens of Minneapolis, shareholders of the O. W. Kerr Co., who had obtained extensive holdings from the Knight Sugar Co. The Owens lived in the east, but Roger and wife spent some time in the summer at the farm. Their daughter and husband, Mr. and Mrs. Cummings, lived in Lethbridge where the O. W. Kerr Co. had their western office. The fall of 1910 saw a wonderful crop of winter wheat on the Owendale farm. Earlier that year A. J. Passmore and wife came from Minneapolis to the Owendale. He came as foreman for the O. W. Kerr Co., but the following spring bought land from Ben Moriarity. In the spring of 1912 the family moved to a rented farm north-east of Woolford where they lived until 1913, when they moved to Lethbridge for a time, Mr. Passmore returning to his former business. Following A. J. on the Owendale was John P. Jones, a Welshman who came from Iowa. Mr. and Mrs. Albert Olsen, also from Iowa, worked on the farm, Mrs. Owen cooking for the crew of men. John P. became ill and returned East the next winter accompanied by W. J. Roberts as he was unable to make the trip alone. Albert and Mrs. Owen also left the district for the Chin area where they rented land. Mr. Jack Patterson was the next foreman on the Owendale and Mrs. McDermid, a grand Scotch lady, was the cook. After Jack returned to Taber his place was taken by another Welshman, Johnathan Ellis. Mr. John Sugden spent a short time on the farm, and then Mr. and Mrs. Howell, who came from Wisconsin, were the last to occupy the place under R. H. Owen. The farm changed hands and Martin H. Galt farmed the Owendale for a time, followed by the Nay Bros. At that time the Jim Hampton family lived on the Owendale for awhile, and they were succeeded by Will Wickson and family. Soon after this Mr. Orene Hansen bought the Owendale and lived there for many years.

In 1910 and 1911 there were many newcomers in the district. M. C. Taylor and son, Amsi, followed by Clark and later the rest of the Taylor family came from Washington State. At that time, too, a bachelor by the name of Slim built a shack on the side of the coulee north of the present Sherman Farm. Many interesting tales were told centering around the shack, including, a boisterous shivaree party. About that time, in the neighboring district to the south came the A. C. Drake family, the Wilsons, Rickmyers, Dawsons, and soon after many others followed. In September A. J. Passmore needed help and his brother Bert and wife, Jennie, came from Michigan so Mary L. Darchbetter known as May in those days- and a niece of the Passmores came with them. May came for a year as she was having eye trouble and was advised to take a year off from studies, but like many others she stayed. That year there was a huge hay crop in the country. A. C. Drake had a large hay camp and a crew of men and their large outfits hauling and stacking the hay.

J. W. Lee and family settled on the Moriarity farm in 1912 and in time Dill, Lester and Walker all married and obtained land of their own in the district. In 1915 May Darch married William J. Roberts. Ben Hague and family came from Washington State and farmed the land later owned by Vern Leishman. Then there were the Richards, Shem Purnells, and Glines. The Taylor boys Amsi, Clark, and Bill all married and had homes of their own. Mr. Carpenter from Spokane settled on Section 2C and broke 200 acres of land, then left the country. In 1914 J. W. Kienholz and family came and settled on this land. Oscar Kienholz and family stayed there for many years and were joined by a brother, Alfred.

The Pershing school, like many other small districts in Alberta, served a very useful purpose for 22 years, then was absorbed into the Jefferson Consolidated School. The Pershing District extended from the Kimball canal on the west to the Milk River Ridge on the east, and from Jefferson district just north of Mr. Rickmeyer's farm, to and including the Bar K2 Ranch. The children who lived in this district had been riding horseback to Woolford or Jefferson schools, a distance of 6 or 8 miles. In 1919 a few parents met together and applied to the Dept. of Education for permission to form a school district. The requirements were met, and a list of names were submitted, from which the Dept. selected Pershing as the name of the new school. The name was suggested as honoring Gen. Pershing of the Allied Armies. The first trustees were, Melvin C. Taylor, chairman, with W. W. Roberts and John W. Lee as councilors, and Mary L. Roberts secretary.

Plans for the building were selected and the building contract was awarded to Oland Construction Co., the same company that erected the Prince of Wales Hotel. A teacher had been hired, May Coffin of Stirling. But the first of September was near and the building had not been started. So a barn was quickly erected by Heber Sheffield, having one thickness of lumber, a rough board floor, equipped with a small coal stove in the centre of the room with a stove pipe through an opening in the roof. There were pupils desks, a teacher's desk and chair, a school bell to ring outside and a desk bell, one panel blackboard, chalk, a yard ruler, a water pail and tin cup, and the teacher's roll book.

Miss Coffin boarded at the home of Oscar Kienholz. Mr. Taylor, Ted and Fred met her at the train at Cardston in one of the few Ford cars in the district. The roads were just dirt trails, the hills were steep, and the Ford had only four cylinders, so several times during the ride, as they came to a hill, Ted, Fred, and the school teacher had to get out and push.

In that first school there were nine little boys: Ted and Fred Taylor, Robert, Wayne and Sheldon Lee, Claire and Clarence Hague, Allan and Forrest Kienholz.

The new barn was comfortable for a few weeks, but very cold and drafty when the early fall storms began. So on cold mornings, Mrs. Taylor would get Mrs. Kienholz and Mrs. Lee on the rural phone, and suggest that it was too cold for the children to go to school, so classes were postponed until a warmer day. In this way school continued until Thanksgiving holiday, which lasted two weeks. By then the building was completed, a circulating heater installed, woodwork varnished, adequate chalk boards and pupil's desks, and the Union Jack and Canadian Ensign decorated the front of the school room. An organ had also been donated. Later a piano was obtained.

There were no library books, just the Alexander Readers, which were supplied free to every pupil by the Alberta Dept. of Education. Soon a dance was held in the new school house, both as a house warming, and to obtain some money for library books. The music was furnished by Ernest Albiston on the organ and his father Thomas Albiston on the violin. They did this as a donation. Tickets of .35 cents were charged, and school children sold lemonade. At that time the Dept. matched the dollars paid by the district for books, so from this dance they obtained enough books to fill two shelves in the corner cupboard. Most of the story books were read many times by each pupil, and the reference books were well used also.

The Pershing School was a gathering place for community dances, programs, and parties. Some of the teachers who taught there were:

Mary Coffin, John MacDonald, Alice Rickmeyer, Margaret Woodlock, Lou Goodwin, Ethel Christopherson, Mr. Eacrett, Greta Carlson, Ada Venne, Rex Nielson, Bill Blackmore, Eileen Whitworth, E. Burt.

School was closed June 1941. On Oct. 3 1941 the school was sold to the L.D.S. community for $500. The school barn was sold to Walker Lee for $40.

When the Jefferson Consolidated school was built in 1942., Vern Leishman was engaged to drive the van to take the Pershing children to Jefferson. The school house was sold to the L.D.S. church in 1949 and moved to Jefferson and was used for services until 1952. Later the school was sold to a farmer, Byron Wolsey, where it is now on his property in Taylorville.

The pupils who began their education in this little school have scattered widely, and have made valuable contributions to society, locally, and in various cities in Canada and the United States. They remember with appreciation the foundation they received in the Pershing District.

The social life of the district must not be overlooked. Many good times were enjoyed in the school house. Christmas programs were a must. Dances were often held on Friday nights, taking in the entire district of several school districts. The Community Club also covered the whole area, and many plays, concerts, minstrel shows and a three-act play "Deacon Dubbs" was rehearsed and performed at several of the schools in the neighborhood. It must also be remembered the many house parties held in the small homes, and jolly times they were. Niel Downey (Scotty) and his violin were around for a long time.

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Mary Tollestrup