^By Carson Ellis
How places get their names is always interesting. Many towns that sat along the railway, were given their official names by the railroad company, and many of those names were often staff for the company, or relatives of high-up executives.
The same was done with a lot of the early school houses in the province. Some schools were named by founding members, who often wanted to name it something from an area they grew up in, or a person they admired. Many early schools were named after the person who donated the land the school was originally built on. Some schools have lost their origin stories, and often have theoretical stories. Such as Fenn School, which has two possible histories to its name. The first being it was named after a boy who brought the CNR crews water. The second was the name was given by a man from the Fenn district of England.
However, one of my favourites, is the supposed beginning of the Pilot Knob School.
It begins with the unfortunate journey of Stettler resident Harry Hardy who headed out one day to visit family in the rolling hills of the country six miles north of town. Hardy became lost in the area, and after failing to arrive at his destination, spent the night in a haystack. Afterwards, a long pole was erected atop the hill near where he slept to help guide travellers. This pole became a useful tool for trappers, hunters, and local Indians making their way to the trading post at Boss Hill on Buffalo Lake.
The land was later donated by Mr. Dykstra, and the school was officially formed in July of 1907. Dykstra, then went out with his five children, and collected money from the people of the surrounding district for a new school. In January of 1908, Mrs. Caroline Syson officially opened the Pilot Knob School. The school operated until finally closing in 1945. Like many country schools, even though they were no longer used by the school division, they still were in prime locations for the locals of the area. So shortly after closing, Pilot Knob School, became the Pilot Knob Social Center. At the school’s 60 year reunion in 1968 more than 200 former students and teachers signed the register. Pilot Knob is still a relatively active social center and hosts and annual pancake breakfast.
Editor’s note: Carson Ellis is a member of the Stettler History Book Committee. He has lived in Stettler his entire life and has a keen interest in Stettler’s history.