On Saturday, Aug. 15th at 10:30 a.m. at the Sunnybrook Farm Museum, the Northey family of Red Deer will be receiving the Golden Furrow Award, which honours them as the Pioneer Farm Family of the Year.
The patriarch of the family, Jonathan Northey, was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, but was raised in Iowa.
His wife, Mary Ellen Higgs, was born in Indiana and was the daughter of a Welsh sea captain. Jonathan and Mary Ellen were married in October of 1871 in Iowa City. They had eight children – five boys and three girls.
In 1898, Jonathan purchased a section of land in the Balmoral district for $3 an acre. The family moved up to their new home in 1902. They arrived in Red Deer in December, when the temperatures were a bracing 40 below.
The work on the new farm was hard – lots of land needed to be cleared and broken.
However, Jonathan was an excellent farmer and soon built up a first-class grain farm. His accounts of getting his farm established were quoted in the Board of Trade promotional brochures, which were used to help lure more settlers to the Red Deer area.
Jonathan was soon able to purchase more land.
One piece was in the Springvale district, southeast of Red Deer. Another piece was on the southwest end of Sylvan Lake. The lakeshore parcel became known as Northey’s Point, when it was subdivided in 1911.
The first part of the Northey name was used when the Summer Village of Norglenwold was established 50 years ago in 1965.
In 1912, as his health was beginning to falter, Jonathan bought land in California, with his sons continuing to run the farm east of Red Deer. Jonathan passed away of heart failure in 1913. Mary Ellen passed away in December of 1922.
One of the sons, Byron and his wife Gertrude (Gertie) established their own farm in Balmoral and this was their home for 45 years.
That farm was later taken over by their son Louis (Lou) and his wife Evelyn.
Chester (Chet), another son, worked the original family farm, but also acquired land of his own. His wife, Edna Piper, was a member of the famous Piper family, who operated Red Deer’s first brickyard and also farmed east of Red Deer.
Chet and Edna established one of the first Guernsey cattle herds in Alberta. They later raised registered Yorkshire hogs.
Chet and Edna’s farm was later taken over by their son Vernon.
Vern and his wife Doris Bennett, of the Knee Hill Valley district east of Innisfail, raised a family of seven on the original Northey farm. In addition to farming, Vern worked as an electrician, while Doris taught school at River Glen, before becoming the first director of the Red Deer and District Museum.
A third son of Jonathan and Mary Ellen, Walter, worked as a school teacher for a while, before acquiring a farm near Olds.
He married Ruby Johnston of the pioneer Johnston family of Markerville.
Near the end of the First World War, Walter and Ruby acquired a farm in the Waskasoo district south of Red Deer. Like the other members of the Northey family, they were excellent farmers and were soon able to acquire additional land.
Their sons Howard and Allan later took over the farm and established an excellent dairy operation with Holstein cows.
Allan moved to West Park in 1968, while Howard, his wife Betty and family, continued to live in the Waskasoo district for many years.
The list of the organizations and activities, with which the Northeys have been active, is a very long one.
Edna, Gertie, Ev, Doris and Ruby were all very active with the Women’s Institutes. Lou was a key member of the Red Deer Elks Lodge. His wife Ev had the distinction of becoming the Supreme Honored Royal Lady (national head) of the Royal Purple.
Allan was a locally noted artist, as is Jeanette Northey.
Howard is famous for his wonderful wood carvings. Doris was the provincial president of the Alberta Museum’s Association and the Alberta Women’s Institute.
This is but a small sampling of the community involvements in Red Deer and area of the Northey family over 117 years.