The first people to live in the Bearberry valley were First Nations families of the Stoney tribe from Morley. Three or four families came each summer to hunt deer, moose and sheep. Bearberry was one stop on the route from Morley to Nordegg. When enough deer and moose meat was dried for winter, the families moved farther into the mountains to hunt sheep. After snowfall, they trapped small fur bearing animals, before returning to Morley in late December.
When these Indians crossed the Big Red River, they trailed along the banks of the Bearberry Creek and up and over the big hill, where the homesteaders who followed along in later years stopped to rest their teams and look over the lovely valley below. This way into Bearberry, now a forgotten trail, was at one time the quickest way into the valley, over Hill Twelve. Several old Indian graves can still be found if you know where to look.
The Land survey of the Bearberry area began in 1902-03. The first homestead was filed in October 1906. When Bearberry was opened up for homesteading, the small Town of Olds situated along the C.P.R. railroad tracks was the jumping off place for the homesteaders who flocked into this West Country.
Some of the settlers hired teams and wagons to freight them out West, others trailed all the way from Calgary before heading along the dusty trail West of this town. The railroad had reached Olds around 1890. In the early years of this West Country, the small settlement of Sundre was our closest town.
Before any store was opened there, the settlers took turns driving a team and wagon about once a month to Olds for supplies, and in the fall getting a winter's grub stake from Calgary.
Everyone baked their own bread and buns and kept a few hens.
The first post office No. 0865 was opened in 1909. No store had been located for this area. The mail went to Sundre once weekly. Together with the mail small supplies were hauled into Bearberry when any settler ordered them. The postmaster also kept plug tobacco, Copenhagen, salt, sugar, tea, matches and other small items more for an accommodation for the people rather than a store.
In November 1924 a much better country store was opened to the Bearberry people with George Pearce as postmaster. There were several changes during the years. In July 1942 the post office and the store made the final move to the hill beside the Community Hall and school.
Mr. Battensby donated a corner of the NE Quarter of 28-33-7-W5 for a school. When this building burned down in 1928, classes were held in the old hall until a new schoolhouse, which is now part of the present Community Hall, was built on the SE Quarter of 27-33-W5.
(SOURCE: Chiniki Band of the Stoney Tribe, Stoney History Notes, 1983, Morley, Alberta and "Recollections of the Homestead Trails", published by the Bearberry Wapitana Society).
In 2014 we celebrated the 75th Anniversary of our Community Hall. For more information about our history projects please click here. For pictures of our events please visit our pictures page.