Michael Dawe: A century of nurturing the land, and the community

The Scott family celebrated the centennial of the Sno-Valley farm, on the south side of Highway 42, east of Penhold, on July 18.

It was wonderful celebration for a family who have contributed a huge amount to our community, while continuously farming the same land for 100 years.

The history of the Scotts in central Alberta goes back much farther than 1920.

The patriarch of the family, George Scott Sr., served with the British military in India and later with the Royal Canadian Artillery.

In 1899, he and his wife Anne decided to move to Alberta for new opportunities.

At first, George, who was trained as a farrier and veterinarian, worked at the Springbett blacksmith shop in Red Deer.

Shortly thereafter, he took out a homestead in the Grassy Lake district, east of Penhold, with the intention of starting a horse ranch.

Tragedy struck on June 29, 1902, when Anne passed away in childbirth. George continued on as best he could as a single parent with six surviving children, four of whom were under the age of eight.

He supplemented his income by continuing to work as a blacksmith.

His eldest son, George Jr., along with the other children, helped to run the family farm.

George Jr. also enlisted with the Pine Lake Squadron of the 15 Light Horse Regiment. In addition, he trained as a steam engineer and worked with local threshing outfits.

In 1916, during the First World War, George Jr. enlisted with the local 187 Battalion. Once overseas, he was transferred into the Forestry Corps.

Just after the end of the war (March 18, 1919), he married Winnifred Dennis at Windsor, England.

Shortly thereafter, the young couple moved back to the Penhold area. George Jr.’s younger brother Gilbert, a former member of the mounted police and a war veteran, took over the Grassy Lake farm as well as a nearby homestead of his own.

George Jr. and Winnifred then purchased a farm in the nearby Edwell district, which had been owned by Tom Walton, George’s former troop commander with the 15 Light Horse. Thus, in 1920, they started what was to become Sno-Valley Farm.

The period following the First World War was exceptionally challenging. The winter of 1919-20 was one of the worst on record, with spring not coming until late May.

A severe economic depression set in, particularly for the agricultural sector, along with a multi-year drought.

Despite all the challenges in getting the new farm established, George was very active in the community. He was particularly active with local farm organizations such as the UFA.

He served as a long-time trustee with the Edwell School Board. He was also the local public works foreman for the rural municipality and the local poundkeeper.

When the Second World War broke out, George and Winnifred’s son Dennis enlisted with the 14 Calgary Tanks.

He was part of the disastrous Dieppe Raid on Aug. 19, 1942. He spent the next 33 months in a PoW camp. He lost 70 pounds during his internment.

After the war, Dennis returned to the Penhold farm. On June 30, 1946, he married Margaret Leithhead, a life-long friend.

On the same day, Dennis’s sister Gwen married Alf Leithhead, Marg’s brother.

Over the years, Dennis and Marg raised a family of five boys and built up the family farm. Tragically, in 1954, their son Mac died of cancer.

Dennis and Marg bought the family farm from Dennis’s father, and later, they bought land from Jack and Mary Leithhead (Marg’s aunt and uncle).

The farm was formally named Sno-Valley since the First Nations had long referred to the area as the Valley of the Snows.

Dennis and Marg were exceptionally active in the community in a huge range of organizations, groups and projects.

In 1981, Dennis was awarded the Order of Canada for his record of volunteer service, particularly with the National Prisoners of War Association.

The succeeding generations have continued the tradition of community service as well as operating Sno-Valley Farm. As such, they have built a wonderful legacy for our community.

Historian Michael Dawe’s column appears Wednesdays.

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