MARY SHARP: A PIONEER WOMAN RANCHER
by Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
FAMILY BACKGROUND AND FIRST MARRIAGE
Born in 1854, and raised in Ireland as Mary Elizabeth Craig, as a young girl of 14 years of age she came to Canada with her family. The Craigs settled in Toronto. A younger brother Thomas (1861 – 1944) joined the North West Mounted Police in 1882 and remained with the Force for eight years. Amongst his duties was being a Scout during the 1885 Riel Rebellion. Upon receiving his honourable discharge, Thomas Craig settled on a farm in the Pincher Creek area. In 1942, Thomas and his wife Chrissie sold the ranch and retired into town.
Mary Craig’s first marriage was to a Mr. MacIntosh who she met at Owen Sound, Ontario. Two daughters Eva and Mabel were born to this union. However, Mary was widowed at a young age and was left to raise the two children on her own.
MR. AND MRS. THOS. SHARP
In 1892, Mary decided to move west to the Pincher Creek area where she and her young children resided on her brother’s nearby farm. There, she assisted her brother and sister-in-law with the running of the Craig household.
Mary’s second husband was that of Thomas Sharp whom she met here in Pincher Creek. The officiating Minister who performed the wedding ceremony was the Reverend J. P. Grant, who served the Pincher Creek Presbyterian Church from 1889 to 1898. It was with Grant’s assistance that the Presbyterian Congregation constructed their church building on East Avenue, completed in 1892. It was in this ornate looking pioneer church & with the able assistance of Reverend Grant that Mary Craig and Thomas Sharp exchanged their wedding vows. Two children, Jean and Robert, were born to this union as well.
RANCH OPERATIONS SOUTH OF TOWN
Thomas and Mary Sharp soon established their own ranch, located some two miles immediately south of Pincher Creek. There they resided till Thomas’ passing in 1931. On the ranch, the Sharps raised cattle, mostly Herefords. This the couple found to be quite successful, and being only four miles distance from Pincher Station, the closest rail connection, they had easy access to distant markets. According to local folklore, Mary assisted with virtually all aspects of the ranch operations. She enjoyed working outdoors and with animals.
The couple also raised horses on their ranch, and both Thomas and Mary enjoyed horseback riding. At various times over the nearly four decades that they spent on the ranch, they also raised a variety of crops and had particular success with raising barley and wheat. These too were marketed afar via the Canadian Pacific Railway. Mary also was an avid gardener, spending many a day each week during the spring, summer and autumn tending to her prized vegetable and flower growths. Between the ranch operations supplemented by the crop and garden, Mary Sharp ensured that her family was well fed. Both Mary and Thomas were well aware of the pioneer concepts of being thrifty and knew well how to make their agriculturally based money go a long way.
Mary also was active in the community. Religiously, she first was an active member of the Pincher Creek Presbyterian Church and attended services on a regular basis. When the local Presbyterian and Methodist congregations joined forces in 1917 to become the first United Church Congregation in Canada, Mary continued her loyal church affiliation. Although winter weather sometimes and poor road conditions prevented her from attending church as she would have liked, she did not allow work on the ranch to interfere with the family’s religious duties. Sundays were days of rest and she appreciated the work of the Church.
Mary Sharp passed away late in 1940.