On Saturday, Aug. 20th at 10:30 a.m., the Sunnybrook Farm Museum will be presenting its prestigious Golden Furrow Award to a pioneer family who has distinguished themselves in agriculture and community affairs. This year’s recipients are the Towers family of the Willowdale district, southeast of Red Deer.
The award is particularly appropriate as this year (2016) is also the 125 anniversary of the Westerner Fair and Exhibition Association.
The Towers family have been key members of that organization for many decades.
The patriarch of the family was Henry Towers, who was born in 1846 in Staffordshire, England.
After farming in Warwickshire, he, his wife, Elizabeth Barnes and three sons, Thomas, William and Fred, decided to emigrate to western Canada.
The Towers originally settled in the Cochrane/Morley area of Alberta, where relatives Frank and Elizabeth Glover Towers, who had already established a ranch.
Frank and Henry also both worked for a while on the railway.
Henry heard about very good land near Red Deer that was available for homestead.
Hence, in 1894, he moved up to the Willowdale district. Henry took out homesteads in his name and his two older sons’ names. The Towers worked hard over many years building up their new farms and homes.
Elizabeth passed away in June 1918 and Henry in May 1922.
They are buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, southeast of Red Deer.
In 1904, Tom married Janet Morrison.
They had four children – Robert, Mary, Hazel and Gordon.
Tom was a progressive farmer.
He owned one of the first windmills, which was used to power a grain grinder for himself and his neighbours. He bought a Titan tractor in 1918.
He ran the community beef ring that ensured people had a steady supply of fresh meat before the days of refrigeration.
Tom was active in the community. He served on the Willowdale school board and on the manse board of the Willowdale (Zion) Presbyterian Church.
Janet was also active with the Presbyterian Church and particularly with the Women’s Missionary Society (W.M.S.). Tom passed away in 1942 and Janet in 1962.
Robert (Bob) Towers lived in Willowdale all his life.
He married Katherine Larsen and they had three children – Dorothy, Mary Joan and Ken.
Bob served on the Willowdale School Board and Presbyterian Church boards. He served a councilor with the Municipal District of Red Deer for six years. Bob passed away in 1952 and Kay in 1986.
Ken Towers worked in the life insurance industry for many years. He has been active with the Rotary Club, Olds College Alumni Association and Willow Valley Presbyterian Church.
Like many in his family, Gordon Towers was also a long-time rancher and farmer in the Willowdale district. In 1940, he married Doris Nicholson of the Balmoral District. They had four children – Tom, Gary, Lynda and Ross.
Gordon followed the family tradition of being very active in community affairs. He served as president of the River Glen Home and School Association and the Red Deer 4-H Council. He was very active with the Masons. He served as president of the Red Deer Exhibition in 1966-1967.
In the early 1960s, Gordon became very active in federal politics. In 1972, he was elected as Red Deer’s Member of Parliament and continued to serve until 1988.
He was subsequently named Red Deer’s Citizen of the Year. Doris was also involved in the community. She was active with Zion-Willowdale Presbyterian Church. She was a member of the Women’s Missionary Society. She was active with the Creative Arts Committee of the Red Deer Exhibition.
In 1991, Gordon was appointed as Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor, becoming the first person from Red Deer to attain that honour. Gordon passed away in June 1999 and Doris in 2012.
Gary, Lynda, Tom, Ross and their families have been very active in a number of organizations including 4-H, Red Deer Exhibition, Willow-Valley Church and various sports groups. Tom and Ross both followed their father and became presidents of the Westerner Exposition Association.
Unfortunately, space does not allow a full listing of all the groups, projects and activities that have greatly benefited from volunteer and community involvements of the Towers family. With all that they have done for Red Deer and district, they are very worthy recipients of the 2016 Golden Furrow Award.