The Fort Ostell Museum Society was founded on June 25, 1967. The name comes from the original Fort Ostell that was built near Ponoka in 1885. During the Riel Rebellion, some young natives of the Cree reserves pillaged the Hudson Bay store and raided the mission. Many of the white settlers fled to Fort Edmonton. In order to secure the area, members of the “Alberta Field Force”, numbering 462 men arrived from Calgary. This group, under the leadership of Captain John Benjamin Ostell, built a fortification near the Battle River. This fort was later named after Captain Ostell. In June of 1885, Batoche had fallen, Riel was captured and the rebel natives were under control. Fort Ostell served as a military post for fifty days from May 9 to June 27, 1885. While nothing remains of the Fort today, a model of the Fort, the history of Captain Ostell and the original flag that flew over the Fort, can be viewed in the Fort Ostell Museum.
The original museum was started in a wood frame building in 1967, in the new established Centennial Park. In 1979 for the Town of Ponoka’s 75th Birthday, the museum began a public fundraising project to build a new museum. In 1981, a $250,000 concrete building was opened. This building was then donated to the Town of Ponoka.
The Fort Ostell Museum Society has managed the museum since 1981. The Museum Collection consists of agricultural and household objects of the early pioneers and natives from the late 1800’s to the present. In 2004, as part of Ponoka’s Centennial, the museum brought back the “Alberta Mental Hospital Museum” collection from storage. This collection is unique as few collections of mental hospitals exist in Canada. This collection of artifacts and archival material from 1911 to the present is now on display and has become the “History of the Care of the Mentally Ill” in Alberta.
The museum collects artifacts from the surrounding area which help to tell the story of this area's past. It also serves as a research tool for many residents wanting to know specific details about the area or historical events. It's the intention of the museum to care for and to display as many artifacts as possible, thus making them viewable to the public through the gallery and through temporary exhibits.
The Fort Ostell Museum collection is a tribute to the past, and it is hoped that it will be enjoyed by everyone who visits and by future generations.
The museum has a confrence room which can comfortably hold 30 people. There is a complete kitchen facility attached to this room. The room can be rented for $25 a day and if the kitchen is needed, there is an additional charge of $10. Museum staff is prepered to serve a light meal at a cost of $10 per person. If there were from 15 to 20 people, the room rent would be waved.