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Ramsey Family

In 1905, George Ramsey was one of the first Black pioneers to head for Oklahoma from the southern states and who lived among the Creek Indians until Oklahoma became a state in 1907. Lured by the promise of inexpensive homesteads, costing about $10 for 160 acres (65 hectares) of land, George Ramsey headed for the Canadian Prairies and settled on a homestead in Keystone, Alberta in 1910. With him were his wife Leutisha, his mother-in-law Drusilla Brisco, and his children Rolla and Ruth. Drusilla Brisco, the first pioneer to be buried in Keystone, died in 1912. George died not long after.

George operated the post office. His son Rolla took over the post office while the Ramseys farmed. Every week, Rolla would travel on horseback to Yeoford, about 12 miles (20 kilometres) south of Keystone to pick up the mail. Given that there were no roads leading to Yeoford and that the land was mostly muskeg, the journey took a full day.

Rolla Ramsey had a son, Rolla Ramsey Jr., who married Ophelia Hayes while running the post office and clearing land on his homestead. Rolla Jr. had to clear and cultivate 30 acres (12 hectares) of land to “prove up” his homestead. Unfortunately, he was not able to plough the full 30 acres in time for the government inspector's arrival. Upon hearing of the inspector’s impending visit, he ploughed a furrow around 30 acres of land so that he could tell the inspector that he had ploughed “around 30 acres of land.”

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many of Keystone’s settlers left. Rolla Jr. was among those who left; he moved to Rutland, British Columbia in 1936. He and Ophelia eventually had 10 children: Ella, Mildred, Roy, Viola, Stella, Margaret, Ethel, Martha, Walter, and Phyllis. The Ramsey family met for its one and only family reunion in 1977. By then, Rolla Jr. and Ophelia had long passed away—Ophelia in 1944 and Rolla in 1968.

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††††††††††† For more on Black settlement in Alberta, visit Peelís Prairie Provinces.

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