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Sneed and Saunders Families

Sneed Family

Parson Henry Sneed was one of the first to settle in Amber Valley. With Jordon Murphy and Nimrod Toles, he arrived in 1905 to survey the land, hoping to bring Black settlers with them from the United States. Sneed returned to his home in Clearview, Oklahoma.

He was a member of the fraternal organization, the Masons, which had many members among the Black community in Oklahoma. Through his Masonic ties, Sneed was able to recruit a group of families to come to Amber Valley. Henry initially recruited 200 settlers. After that, he met Jefferson Davis Edwards on the train to Edmonton and convinced him to homestead in Amber Valley. A second group of about 200 settlers were set to come to Amber Valley in 1911. Unfortunately, they were arriving at a point when the Canadian government started to take informal measures to keep Black immigrants out of the country. (See US Race Relations for more on this subject.)

Immigration officials tried to deny Blacks entry into Canada by imposing medical examinations designed find them unfit for homesteading. Officials also raised the head tax from $5 to $50 per person—a very large amount at the time. However, the settlers were healthy and well equipped, and most managed to gain entry into Canada.

As a Baptist minister, Henry Sneed was a leader in Amber Valley. He preached at houses which served as temporary churches. He was also an able farmer.

Henry Sneed had four children: Arthur, Walter, Ed, and Freddi. Freddi died when he was five. When Henry's first wife died, he married Elizabeth Jefferson and had five more children: Elvida, Florence, Matthew, Ernest, and Eugene. This second marriage was not to last: Elizabeth died of pneumonia in 1918. Henry’s children moved in with their aunt Georgia Coleman. Henry’s brother Harrison Sneed eventually took the children to Edmonton. Henry Sneed died at the age of 77.

Saunders Family

While the Sneeds relocated to Edmonton in 1918, Elvida stayed behind in Amber Valley and, the following year, married David Saunders, who had come from Clearview, Oklahoma in 1907 with his father William Stanley Saunders. David’s mother opted to stay in the United States, and she eventually moved to Chicago. David’s siblings Pearl, Earl, Captoria, Ella, and Stella later reunited with their mother in Chicago. Captoria married Anthony Williams and had a child, Vernie. David’s brother William Arthur moved to Edmonton. William Stanley Saunders, patriarch of the Saunders family, died in 1925.

In 1920, David and Elvida Saunders moved onto their own homestead in Amber Valley. David farmed and played on the Amber Valley Baseball Team. In the 1930s, he raised many pigs and bought a threshing machine for wheat farming. He and Elvida eventually had 17 children, including sons Glen, Melvin, William, and James and daughter Margaret. Glen died in 1964 and Melvin in 1975.

William and James enlisted during the Second World War. When William returned from the war, he went to Kingston, Ontario and worked there as a baker.

Margaret Saunders married Lester Mapp of the prominent Amber Valley Mapp family. She stayed in Amber Valley as a school secretary and served on the school board. She and her mother Elvida were the only women ever to serve on the Amber Valley school board.

David and Elvida Saunders retired to Edmonton in 1968. David died in 1977 and Elvida in 1979.

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

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