Our History and Restoration
Thank you for believing in our dream!
For your generous support and assistance in making the Alberta Provincial historic designation and restoration of The Old Stone House a reality.
Special thanks to:
Honourable Lindsay Blackett, Minister of Culture and Community Spirit
Lac Ste Anne Community Enhancement Fund
In 1990 Tom and Carolyne Saumer purchased the N.W. quarter of section 34–Twp. 53–Range 2–W5, from Henry Lowell Stewart. They had been farming the quarter for some time before purchasing, and continue to do so today along with their home quarter where the Saumer family has lived and farmed since 1967. On the N.W. quarter, elegantly stands a unique old farmhouse built in the late 1920’s of fieldstones collected from the area.
The house was occupied right up until Mr. Stewart moved out at age 94 in 2003, after living and farming there for over 55 years. Once empty, Tom and Carolyne were faced with the question of what to do with this very unusual and intriguing house. Still in completely original condition, they felt it should be preserved due to its uniqueness and historic significance within the Heatherdown community and Onoway area.
The house was in desperate need of repair and without immediate attention, it would have soon gone to ruin; and with it, a huge portion of the area's history. Tom and Carolyne decided to make it their personal mission and responsibility to preserve the house. They spent years investigating, researching and planning to have the house receive historic recognition. In the spring of 2007, the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation recognized and designated the stone house as a historic site at the highest Provincial level.
They feel very blessed and honoured to be the “stewards” of this piece of history for this segment of its existence, and to be the ones responsible for ensuring its preservation for future generations. The Saumer family has had ties with the stone house and the surrounding Heatherdown area for three generations now, creating a strong sentimental connection to the preservation, restoration, and revitalization of the house.
The Sharman Stone House Story
In 1902 Mr. Thomas Sharman, an English stone mason by trade, made his way from North Dakota, driving a herd of cattle up into the Kilini Creek area (creek runs parallel to Highway 16 West and then takes a jog North East) where Mr. Sharman was the first to make his land claim in this fertile area (purchasing 5 quarters – one of the quarters on which the stone house stands). Thomas Sharman’s land claim preceded both the arrival of the Dominions Lands Survey in 1904-05 and the coming of the Northern Alberta Railway line in 1909.
Thomas Sharman had a son, Lawrence, who left his medical studies in Edmonton to come and work on the farm with his Mom and Dad. Lawrence moved his pregnant wife, Florence and their young daughter, Audrey to the farm in 1935.
Before the stone house was completed a tragic fire occurred in the small log cabin in which the family lived, located only meters away from the then new stone house. Pregnant Florence, severely burned in the fire, was “rushed” to the Stony Plain hospital, by cab. April 1936 was a very wet muddy spring. The taxi service owner, John LaFleur, battling mud and “corduroy" roads was stopped by the R.C.M.P. for having “muddy” licence plates. The cab driver had “choice” words for the officer in his quest to get this poor woman to the hospital. Florence passed away a short time after giving birth. Baby Florence came home to live in the barn (still standing in the yard site today) with her family until the stone house was completed enough to live in.
Both Audrey and Florence have shared stories and photographs with us of their memories of the stone house. Audrey’s job was to paint the mortar black between the stones – this was done on the North and West facing sides of the house (the sides visible from the driveway entering the yard). Audrey was allowed to ride her “retired” thoroughbred racehorse that her father had purchased for her to the Pine Ridge school 3 miles away but she got into trouble when she “ran” the horse instead of walking him. Audrey and Florence recall sitting on the staircase in the foyer of the stone house so they could observe the parties in the living room. The stone house was a popular gathering place for the neighbours. At the time of writing, the sisters in their 70’s, were living in Ontario and B.C.
Thomas Sharman (d. 1946 at age 84), his wife Margaret (d. 1939) and Florence (d. 1936 at age 28) are buried in the Heatherdown church historic site cemetery.
In 1947 Lawrence Sharman (d. 1980) moved his family to Vancouver, B.C. and sold his 5 quarters to Gordon Stewart.
Upon returning from WWII, Henry “Lowell” Stewart son of Gordon Stewart, purchased the stone house quarter in 1948. Lowell Stewart was a part of this community for 55 years. He was an integral part of the Heatherdown/Onoway farming community. A mechanic by trade, he repaired farm machinery for many area farmers at John Mills’ John Deere Equipment dealership. Also a self-taught electrician, Lowell wired many farmhouses and buildings in the area, including parts of the stone house. He was well known and respected. Lowell contributed to the community, province, and nations farming heritage, for over 50 years. He was an active member of the B.P.O.E. Elks Lodge. In 2003 at the age of 94, Lowell Stewart decided to hang up his farming duds for good and retired to Lloydminster, Saskatchewan with his niece, Margaret Gartner (whose family also lived in the stone house for a brief period of time 1970’s). Henry Lowell Stewart passed away December 22, 2006.
Tom Saumer has lived in the Heatherdown area since 1967. He has successfully farmed the home quarter (on the same section as the stone house quarter) with his father William Jerome (Joe) Saumer, since Tom was 4 year old! and has farmed the stone house quarter since he and Carolyne purchased the quarter in 1990.
After Lowell Stewart moved from the stone house in 2003, the house sat empty for 3 years during which time Tom and Carolyne researched, planned and organized the extensive restoration of the beautiful historic landmark. It was in great need of repair and “tender loving care”.
In 2005 the roof, with its steep pitches, many dormers and unique angles, was redone to original condition using 3-layer cedar shingles hand selected from the Fraser Valley in B.C. As of the spring of 2007, the Sharman House the on 6-acre yard site has been officially designated as an Alberta Provincial Historic site and in January 2008 the restoration process began!
The Old Stone House - Designated as an Aberta Provincial Historic Resource
(Known as the Sharman House under the Historical Resources Act)
- Sharman Stone House
- Sharman Stone House & Yardsite
- The Sharman Stone House and Yardsite
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Sharman House is a two-storey stone building situated on 2.47 hectares of land near the Town of Onoway. The home was completed in the late 1920s and is distinguished by its picturesque exterior, which is composed of different shapes and sizes of split fieldstone. Other prominent features of the home include a hipped roof with intersecting roof ridges, hipped wall dormers, three tall stone chimneys, and a two-storey bay projecting from the southwest corner of the building. The yard includes mature evergreen trees north of the house dating from the period of construction.
The heritage value of the Sharman House lies in the excellent craftsmanship evident in its split fieldstone construction and the home's picturesque aesthetic appeal.
The earliest settlers in the Onoway area preceded both the arrival of the Dominions Lands Survey in 1904-05 and the coming of the Northern Alberta Railway line in 1909. One of the region's pioneers was Thomas Sharman, an Irish farmer and stonemason who took up land in the district in 1903. In the process of clearing his fields, he amassed a huge collection of fieldstones. In the mid-1920s, Sharman decided to make good use of his quarry; with the assistance of his son and some local neighbours, he designed and built the Sharman House. Sharman's craftsmanship is evident in the quality of the split fieldstone masonry and the solidity of the building, which consists of two-foot thick walls set atop a board-formed concrete foundation of equal thickness. His aesthetic sensibility is reflected in the picturesque composition of the various colours and shapes of stones and in the irregular plan of the home. It is also apparent in the blending of Queen Anne and Craftsman style architectural elements Sharman incorporated into his home, including visible rafters, four-panelled wood doors, four-over-one single-hung windows, and plain fir stairs with square newels and square spindled balustrade. The well-conceived marriage of materials, craftsmanship, and architectural sensibility has imparted to the Sharman House its distinctive character and charm.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 2145)
The character-defining elements of the Sharman House include such features as:
- general mass, form, and scale;
- various colours and shapes of split fieldstones that compose the exterior;
- quoin-like corners;
- hipped roof with intersecting roof ridges and three tall stone chimneys;
- hipped wall dormers;
- two-storey bay projecting from the southwest corner of the building;
- visible rafters;
- fenestration pattern and style, including four-over-one single-hung windows;
- original interior elements, including four-panelled wood doors, plain fir stair with square newels and square spindled balustrade, extensive fir interior trim, cobblestone fireplace, fittings, and heating grates;
- smooth coat, plaster-like finish of interior walls;
- extant water well in basement;
- landscape elements north of the house, including mature evergreen trees in the yard.
Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2007/07/03
Significant Date(s): N/A
Theme(s) Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life: Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Residence: Single Dwelling
Current Function(s): N/A
Architect: Thomas Sharman
Builder: Thomas Sharman
Context: HISTORICAL CONTEXT
When the Canadian Northern Railway extended a line through Onoway in 1909, en route to Jasper and Vancouver, much of the rich agricultural land east of Lac Ste Anne was made immediately viable for homesteading. Even before the railway arrived however, and indeed even before the Dominion Land Surveys of 1904-05, a number of settlers had taken up land in the Onoway area. One of these was Thomas Sharman, who settled on NW34 TP52 R3 W5 in 1903, in a district soon to be known as Heatherdown. Sharman had been born in Ireland, and had come to western Canada from North Dakota, where he had been a stonemason as well as a farmer. He had first attempted to homestead near Camrose, but was unsuccessful. Near Heatherdown however, he and his wife succeeded in proving up, and eventually they acquired five quarters.
As he cleared and broke his land, Sharman made a point of salvaging pristine stones that inundated his fields. Being a stonemason, he had an idea that one day these would prove useful. By the mid 1920s, he decided to use these stones for a new house. With the help of his youngest son, Lawrence, and local neighbors, he designed and built a large dwelling utilizing the material he had salvaged. He moved into his new home in about 1927, and lived there with his wife until passing away a few years later. The house and the farm were then taken over by Lawrence Sharman and his wife, Florence, who died tragically in a fire on the farm in 1936. The Field Stone House then continued to be occupied by Lawrence Sharman on his own until he moved to British Columbia in 1947. It was then acquired by Gordon Stewart, his wife Lenabelle, and their son, Lowell. With Lenabelle's death, Gordon and Lowell continued to farm the land and occupy the house as bachelors. Lowell would reside there until 1990, when he sold the quarter with the house to Thomas and Carolyne Saumer. The Saumers now want to turn it into a meeting facility.
The historical significance of the Field Stone House of Thomas Sharman lies in its representation of the settlement of the Onoway area, and of the richness of the farmland in the district. It is also significant in demonstrating the inventiveness and craftsmanship of one of Onoway's early settlers.
Designation File: Des. 2145
Heritage Survey File: HS 72621Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 2145)
The construction of the farmhouse began in approximately 1924. There are accounts from pioneers in the area of one neighbourhood youngster, Bill Johnson, being employed by Thomas Sharman in 1924 and 1926 collecting and hauling fieldstones from the surrounding countryside to be used for the construction of the house. Another neighbour, Ivor Livingstone (descendants still live in the Heatherdown area) was hired by Mr. Thomas Sharman (builder) for $1.00/day to collect and haul rocks for the house. Thomas Sharman’s contribution to the community was of importance in the fact that he was a farming pioneer in this area and was the first to stake his land claim. Clearly his most significant contribution was the designing, planning and construction of this magnificent, unique stone structure.
The Old Stone House is a member of
The Historical Society of Alberta
Members of the
Onoway & District Historical Guild