Homesteading: full text
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The Homesteading Years in Alberta

full text account

 

 

This file contains text plus 9 thumbnail photographs which total 95 kb.

 

some of this was originally published in Alberta History
summer 1985 edition under the title "Over the Red Deer;
Life of a Homestead Missionary."

Copyright©1999
edited by Brian M. Brown
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
posted February 1999 to
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Olympus/4850/Vi-hmstd.htm
and to http://www.alittlehistory.com on Jan. 10/01 with the direct
address of http://www.tcel.com/~brownb/Vi-hmtxt.htm
brianb@spots.ca

 

 

Moving to Alberta

 

In the fall of 1907, my husband and I decided to move to Alberta. We were sorry to leave our many good friends in Yellow Grass, Sask., but it seemed best to make the move. I went home for a visit while my husband drove from Yellow Grass to Calgary with our light driving team and buggy. He interviewed Dr. James Herdman, who was then Superintendent of Home Missions for the Presbyterian Church in Alberta, and received an appointment to Strathmore. My husband could not wait to see if the appointment was satisfactory, as our baby was expected very shortly, so he sent me word to come to Strathmore.

I will never forget getting off the train one evening and finding that there was neither church nor manse nor congregation at Strathmore. The big irrigation ditches were there, and there was the beginning of a town, but the place did not need nor want an ordained married minister at that time, least of all one in desperate need of a house to live in. Dr. Herdman was a very old man and had no doubt given many years of good service to the Church. In his old age he had visions of an ordained married minister in every little town and hamlet in Alberta, but his vision did not include the fact that each of those ministers would need a house to live in and something to live on, and the church was not in a position to supply either. So that is how the mistake was made.

8th Avenue, Calgary before cars - 76 kb
click to enlarge (76 kb)

Calgary's main street, probably at about the time Violet and John arrived. There are no cars visible in this photograph.
From Violet's collection of post cards.

We boarded in a private home for one week, during which I wrote to my friend Mrs. Scott and told her the predicament I was in. Her husband, Dr. A.M. Scott had accepted the position of Superintendent of Schools in Calgary and they had recently moved out from Fredericton. Mrs. Scott replied at once, telling me to come right in to her and stay till it was time to go to the hospital. This I was glad to do; it had been quite an ordeal to watch the passenger train go through to Calgary each evening about 8 oíclock and know there would not be another till the next evening.

The Scotts met me at the train and were most kind to me. They put me under the care of Dr. Crawford, and our daughter, Margaret Anna, was born in the General Hospital on Oct. 30, 1907 . . . .

My husband came to Calgary and while I was in hospital he hunted around for another place. . . . he chose Airdrie . . . . There was no Presbyterian Church, but there was a Methodist Church and the Presbyterians had the use of it on Sunday afternoons. The Methodist service was in the evening. It was the same congregation at both services for the most part . . . .

The placing of a Presbyterian and a Methodist minister in the same town would look like a bad case of overlapping in Home mission work but it was not so bad as it seemed. There were four or five country points served by both ministers on alternate Sundays but at no place except in the town did they have both services on the same Sunday as far as I know. Sometimes my husband preached four times on a Sunday.

 

When Mrs. Downey heard about me and the baby, she asked my husband to bring us out as their guests for three weeks, till they would leave to spend the winter in Ontario. Then they asked us to take charge of the place while they were away . . . .

The congregation then rented a house for us in the town at $10 a month. That was all right for quite a while, till they got behind with the rent; we were told on the side that our furniture was likely to be seized. We did not have very much, but we could not afford to lose what we had, so we took no chances.

One Sunday night we sat around after church till midnight, then had some lunch and donned our old clothes and went to work. By daylight we had everything we owned off the place and on a vacant lot. We had a day to move it to a vacant house a mile west of town . . . .

That was the coldest house I have ever lived in . . . . one night Margaretís cheeks were frozen in bed. There we lived till we left Airdrie, and there our son, Hugh Oliver, was born on July 5, 1909. Dr. Edwards officiated and Mrs. Pole took care of me. I had taught school in the nearby district of Goldenrod from fall till a few weeks before his birth.

 

 

Preparing to Move to the Homestead

 

In the fall of 1907, my husbandís brother Tom and his wife Mary came from Chicago. Tom and my husband took up homesteads and pre-emptions in the area known as "Over the Red Deer". In the spring of 1908 they made a trip in the buggy to look over the land; they had filed on it without seeing it.

When they reached the Red Deer River they could not ford it, as the water was deep, it being spring, but that did not daunt them. They slept the night at the home of Mr. Greentree. He was a rancher whose log house was the only house in what is now Drumheller, and the settlers got food and lodgings there.

[Drumheller is now a tourist centre, with a population of 6,600, located in the heart of the badlands. It is known as the dinosaur valley and becoming known as the "Dinosaur Capital of Canada." They are now looking at a proposal for a millennium project: a giant $1,000,000 dinosaur.]

He owned a row boat, a leaky one to be sure, but he told them that if one of them could row the boat while the other baled the water out of it, they could make it across the river. This they did, then set out on foot for the homestead . . . . My husband and his brother found the homesteads and got back safely to Mr. Greentreeís before dark.

They made a trip with wagons in the spring of 1909, taking lumber, etc., and built shacks and spent most of the summer there.

As Tomís wife and I were both expecting that summer, we did not move to the homesteads till fall. We left Airdrie on Aug. 31, 1909, and arrived on Sept. 4, having travelled nearly a hundred miles.

 

 

The Journey

 

The men each drove a team of horses pulling a load of household effects. On one of the loads was a box containing our twenty hens and a turkey, and another box held our cat. The two dogs followed the horses, but the smallest one got under the buggy wheels and went limping back to the house. We tried to bring the cow, but neither persuasion nor force would induce her to come, so, after causing us several hoursí delay, she had to be left for the next trip.

My sister-in-law and I drove in the buggy with her baby, Aileen, aged nine weeks, our two children, Margaret, then two years old, and Hugh, aged eight weeks. Their little girl Anna, then six years old, came on the load with her father. It was no easy task to drive with Hugh in my arms, especially as the horse persisted in trotting down the hills and wandering over the level prairie to eat grass and otherwise showing the perversity characteristic of a western broncho.

After the excitement of getting started and the delay caused by the dog and the cow, we in the buggy were glad to stop for a cup of tea and a final gossip with a friend as we went through Airdrie, then hasten on till we sighted the top of our stove pipe on the wagon in the distance. We travelled only nine miles that evening.

The drive in the hot sun and the excitement had been too much for Margaret, and when we got out of the buggy, she lay prostrate on the ground. As we stood helplessly watching her, we were thankful to see the rigid form relax and the tired little traveller fall into a natural sleep. We camped for the night in a prosperous district known as Yankee Valley.

The days were very warm and the nights, especially the early mornings, very cold. We slept in a tent and ate our meals by the roadside. Many settlers who had long distances to drive fastened their tent on their wagons, thus making a shelter for day and night. After our noon meal, while the horses rested, we usually seated ourselves on the sheltered side of a hill and gave the babies their bath.

The second night we camped on a hill, the third in a valley beside a running stream. This was one of the most beautiful spots in the West. There were hills on all sides and tall trees on the banks of the stream. After making preparations for the night, we sat enjoying the twilight and the peacefulness of the scene, our thoughts wandering backward and forward, for soon we were to cross the Red Deer River.

We thought of the friends we were leaving behind and began to realize what it meant to go where the nearest post office was twenty miles away, and where we would be out of all telegraph communication with the rest of the world.

So loth we part from all we love,
From all the links that bind us,
So turn our hearts, as on we rove,
To those weíve left behind us!

On the other hand, each dayís journey was literally "a dayís march nearer home," for were we not going to live in our own houses, built on our own land? The idea of a settled home appealed to me more than to the others, as I had been accustomed from infancy to the wandering life of a ministerís family. My father was one of the many who responded to the Canadian cry for missionaries and came from the Isle of Man to eastern Canada in the late 1870s.

While engaged in these reflections, a typical western prospector joined our group. He was a large, red-faced man, somewhat wild in appearance and dress; he smoked his pipe and entertained us with tales of his adventures till twilight faded into darkness.

The fourth night we spent in a vacant shack . . . . Next day, we crossed the Red Deer River on a ferry . . . . Until a short time before, all who crossed the river had had to ford it. . . . The banks of the river are regular mountains, with coal in abundance sticking out of the sides. It took the four horses to bring each load up and the wheels of the wagons had to be chained going down. The hill on one side had been graded a few weeks before; it would almost make one dizzy to look down to the place where loads had been hauled before the grading was done.

We forded a winding creek seven times and each time there was a deep bank to go down and up. We never knew whether the horse would come down on his feet, or we on our heads in the water. Often my sister-in-law would wade it, with her baby under one arm and mine under the other, while I put Margaret down at my feet and drove on. Sometimes Margaret and I waded too, leaving the horse and buggy for one of the men to bring across.

 

 

Mrs. Tom (Mary) Brown also wrote about the journey. She writes:

We pitched our tent close to a farm house, ate our supper, and slept like logs until we were awakened at daylight by a shrill whistle. Mr. Woods, the farmer, was calling his horses. He very kindly invited us for breakfast too, and after partaking of a substantial one with lots of good coffee, we were ready for an early start, and made splendid progress that day.

The weather was beautiful and I shall always think of those two days as a glorious picnic . . . . The sunsets were grand, and each night as the sun went down we were lulled to sleep by the weird strains of the coyotes . . . . The children wanted to know if the coyotes were saying their prayers. Our worst drawback was water, for it was one of those years that had turned very dry towards fall. We had to carry a supply with us when we could get it, for we were refused water several times on our way.

We had to cross the Knee Hill Creek five times - the first crossing was awful, as our unbroken broncs insisted on galloping downhill into it. I held the two babies, and I donít know how I kept from catapulting into the water. I was so much frightened that I decided not to ride through any more of these crossings in that rig, so the next four times we crossed, I removed my shoes and stockings and waded through with a baby under each arm.

For a look at recent photos of the Kneehills Creek valley (89 kb), the valley they traveled into and through, try this file at my Geocities site.

We had gone only a short distance when we came to a hill known as Fox Coulee, near the site of Munson. My husband took Anna off his wagon just before starting up the hill, when half way up, the wagon capsized, and all our belongings rolled down to the bottom of the coulee. Fortunately Tom was able to jump clear just as the horses fell. It took all the forenoon to get our stuff gathered together, and dragged from the bottom of the coulee. My dishes, which I had packed carefully, had not a cracked plate, and only our table and the violin were broken. We started again after dinner on the last lap of our journey.

 

 

Violet continues:

Near the end of the journey, one of our loads upset and stoves, bedding, trunks, etc., went tumbling over the prairie. This delayed us half a day.

When within four miles of our destination, we were overtaken by darkness and had the difficult task of finding our way over the prairie as best we could, with little to guide us. When almost there, the buggy broke down and we had to finish the journey on foot. We were most thankful to reach the end of it, to grope our way into our own shack, make ourselves a cup of tea, and lie down to rest.

 

 

Surviving on the Homestead

 

After we had a few acres broken we still had no seeder. I drove the wagon up and down the field, Margaret and Hugh asleep at my feet, while my husband broadcast the seed from the back. He harrowed it, walking behind the harrows. I donít remember whether it was wheat or oats, but it grew. There was a cold rain and sleet falling part of the time while we were seeding.

photo of homestead 92 kb
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This photo of the homestead was taken around 1932, about two decades later. The part you see is the new addition which was built onto the front of the original shack.

a threshing crew and
their machine - 95 kb
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This is an unlabeled photograph of a
threshing crew and their machines.

We stacked all of our first crops. We never knew how long it would be before a threshing machine came around. . . . Mr. John Ewin had a small threshing machine run by four horses. They drove around in a circle. He threshed for himself and the near neighbors. The Murray family had the first large outfit run by steam. Then Mr. Colter got one. I had 21 men for one dinner. Three of them were going off, and three had just come on to take their place.

The first tractor near us was bought by our nearest neighbor, Tom McKee. It often sat in the field while Tom drove around with his horse and buggy trying to find some one who could start his tractor, and the neighbors were getting on with their seeding with horses. It was not a good recommendation for tractor farming. It sat in the corner of his field for a long time. I don't know what became of it. He later became a good tractor farmer.

tractor, barn, and hay stack behind 38 kb
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Years later, when they had a tractor, this photo was taken. Their barn is
in the background, and behind it is
a stack of hay.

The wild animals in our district were the coyote, rabbit, badger, skink, porcupine, weasel and gopher. On rare occasions deer and antelope were seen and very rarely wolves were heard. Skunks, weasels and badgers killed chickens; a skunk got into our hen house and killed and mangled thirteen old hens. He was still there when we went out and we killed him. Coyotes came into farm yards and ran off with chickens and turkeys.

We got our coal from a surface mine part way down the Clarke hill. The men would take lunch and dig for most of the day and come home with a nice jag of fairly good coal. Further east of us some neighbours dug an underground mine. They had not used it long till a young man of the district, Peter Sylvester, was killed when a piece of rock or coal fell on him.

The Rodseths moved into the area from Stettler in the spring of 1910. Mrs. Rodseth and her three small children stayed in Stettler for three weeks while her husband and her brother hauled two loads, mostly lumber to the homestead and built a shack. . . . When Mr. Rodseth returned to Stettler . . . . as night was coming on, they came to a large house, and asked if they could stay for the night. The woman of the house refused them lodging. If there [would have] been a woman along, the men could have stayed. It was snowing heavily. They went on and came to a sod shack. The woman there was most hospitable. She said if they would put up with what she had, they were very welcome, so they spread their bedding on the floor, and were most grateful for shelter for the night. Mrs. Rodseth said she learned a lesson in hospitality that she never forgot, and she has never refused food or shelter to anyone in need of it.

Their neighbours the Sylvestors, had moved in from Crossfield, where they had been farming. They had everything to farm with, machinery, horses, cattle, and poultry. Mrs. Sylvester, a very kind hearted woman, gave each of her three nearest neighbors, Mrs. Rodseth, Mrs. Steward, and Mrs. Morley, a hen and [part of] her flock of chickens, to start them up.

 

Food on the Homestead

For the first winter we brought in our groceries from Calgary. Soon the Sylvester family started a small store in one room of the house they had built. They hauled their merchandise from Crossfield and later from Acme with team and wagon. At one time when we were out of money they gave us the necessities on credit for which we were most grateful. We got flour, rolled oats, tea and sugar. As other things ran out we just did without them. Finally, a small cheque came through from the Home Mission Board and we were able to pay our debt and go on.

Of course, we had our own milk, butter, eggs, and sometimes meat and vegetables. One whole summer our only meat was home cured bacon. It became very monotonous. One year, when we had no luck with our vegetables, my husband made a trip to near Stettler and bought potatoes and vegetables from a farmer there. We also got some lovely heads of cabbage but they did not keep too well in our cellar, which was just a hole in the ground under the shack.

In a later year, a carload of vegetables was sent to our community from some district near Edmonton when we had a failure and they had plenty.

 

 

art with mellons - 41 kb
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This 1932 photo shows Art in front of their "shack" with their dog and a bunch of mellons they had grown.

We used rabbits for food in the early years. A roasted rabbit with dressing in it made a delicious meal. I made hamburger of one rabbit and had it fried when the children came home from school. They said, "Whoís been to town today?" They knew there was no meat in the house. It was good and we had a fine meal. In later years, most of the rabbits were diseased. They had water blisters on them and were unfit for food. I cooked one and it smelled so good, but when I cut it, I found the blisters and we had to throw it out. We were a disappointed family that day. We soon gave up using them.

Occasionally we had a good dinner of wild duck; a dayís fishing at the Red Deer sometimes resulted in a meal of fresh fish, mostly gold eyes. Later on, we used to send away for as much as a hundred pounds of frozen fish for the winter, mostly whitefish, salmon trout and pickerel. Sometimes a neighbour would make a trip to Cold Lake and bring back a load of fish and peddle them amongst the community. Once a beef ring was started and it lasted for a year or two. There was difficulty in keeping a quantity of beef for any length of time so the ring was of benefit to everyone.

Most of the early years there was a good crop of saskatoon along the Red Deer River and at the Hand Hills. Some years a late spring frost killed the blossoms and some years they were hailed. Many a summer day we took lunch to the river, picked saskatoons till late in the afternoon, bathed in the river, and got home in time for the evening chores. We cooked the berries with sliced lemons (when we could get them), vinegar or rhubarb to take away the flat taste. We tried boiling them a long time to make jam but that just made them hard and shrunken. Later we found that by mashing the berries with a bottle first, then cooking them a short time, they made good jam and could be mixed with other fruit for variety. The jam required fewer sealers and made excellent pies. We never tired of saskatoon and may a year they were the only fruit we had.

 

Creating Clothing

. . . . bales of clothing were sent to us by the Church. I used a piece of blue serge that came in one of the bales to make a pair of pants for my oldest boy. The first time he wore them to Sunday school, when the primary class assembled for the lesson, he stepped out in front of the class and said to the teacher, "See my new panties! Mama maked them and put elastic in them."

When Bill needed a pair of overalls for school, we made them out of the good parts of an old binder canvas and dyed them brown. There was almost endless wear in them and they looked quite passable. The other boys wanted to know what they were made of. They discovered some of the small holes where the canvas had been tacked to the slats and the secret was out.

 

Violetís son Bill writes about his clothes:

. . . . When I arrived at school, the older boys started to examine my overalls or pants. Mother had made them from binder canvas. I was proud of them as she had dyed them brown with some dye in a pot on the stove. They wore for a long time and I suppose I grew out of them rather than have them wear out.

 

Violet continues:

Arthur had a good strong school shirt about the colour of coffee. Finally, his elbows wore through and I had nothing suitable to patch it with. The sleeves soon were past mending and the rest of the shirt was still sound. Then I had a bright idea. I took a fifty pound salt sack and boiled it in strong thick tea until it was close to the right colour. I used this to make half sleeves and cuffs and it lasted for months till the crop came off.

 

Art, Bert, cousin Elizabeth, and pets. - 38 kb
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This 1924 photo shows the twins, Art and Bert, with their cousin Elizabeth behind posing with their pets.

Handkerchiefs were made of empty ten cent salt sacks, neatly hemmed. Shoe laces were strong string soaked in ink, with the ends waxed. Empty flour sacks were the standby; they were made into sheets, pillow cases, mattress covers, tea towels and undergarments of all kinds. We could not have gotten along without them any better than the men could have managed without haywire.

 

Community and Religious Activities

The only roads in the country were wagon trails, so most of my husband's travelling was done on horseback. He would leave for a morning service at Livingstone. I would do the noon chores, get the children ready, and we would set out on foot after lunch for Bixbys. It was 1 1/2 miles by the road, but we went across the prairie, a shorter distance but very rough walking. Margaret could walk both ways, but Hugh was just learning to walk and had to be carried most of the way. I tried putting him on my back and holding his arms, but that tired him, so I put him in a flour sack and held it by the corners. I would turn him loose and let him walk a while, then put him in the sack again. When we got there, I conducted the Sunday school and my husband came later and held the service. I rode the horse home with Hugh in the saddle in front of me, while my husband walked and led the horse.

Verdant Valley school was built in 1912, and from then on it was used for church and Sunday school. The Womenís Institute was organized that year, and its first project was to provide an organ for the school. There was a good Sunday school there for many years.

We were most fortunate to find ourselves in a community of Church going people. They came to Sunday School as families and stayed to Church. It did not matter what their nationality was, or what denomination they belonged to. . . . Besides Presbyterians and Methodists, we had Anglicans and Lutherans, Baptists and Seventh Day Adventists, etc. Some people had religious ideas of their own. One neighbor refused to poison grasshoppers, saying, "We are supposed to have those grasshoppers, or they would not be here." Most people were doing their utmost to get the poisoned bait out by daybreak.

One of those early winters we had a Literary Society at the Livingstone School. It met every two weeks, and people came to it for miles around. Mr. Colter was president and Alan Charters secretary. We had good programs, and some real good debates. Some people came from Moodieís mine to it. On special occasions, like the Christmas Concert, we had lunch. The coffee was made, and the cakes cut at the Charterís home, and everything had to be carried across the road to the school.

Once when the Rev. Wm. Shearer was Superintendent of Missions, he came to our place. It was on a summer evening and he had been driving his horse and buggy all day in the hot sun. He was very weary, and was glad of a good night's sleep on a shakedown on our kitchen floor, which was the only accommodation we could give him. The next day he seemed quite refreshed. He was a good friend to us and understood the difficulties we were up against. He baptized our son William John, the William being for himself.

A coal mine was opened up at what is now Rosedale. An evening service was held there, sometimes in the dining room and sometimes in one of the bunk houses. The miners would cheerfully clear out the bunkhouse and make it ready for the service then, put things back afterwards. One winter the services were particularly good. There were many good musicians and they prepared a fine musical program for each service. Mrs. Cecil Fulton, the merchantís wife, played the organ. There were three violins, and the singing was something to remember.

this Glenbow photo was labeled as Rosedale - 57 kb
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Rosedale about 1912 (57 kb)
Glenbow Archives   NA2389-69

On one appointment where my husband had to stay overnight, he got body lice. As soon as he came home on Monday morning, he changed underwear and the one with the "cooties" was put outside till we could get boiling water to scald it. It happened to be new woolen underwear, too.

When the town of Munson started, my husband held a Sunday service there for some time . . . . When Drumheller started up a little later on, the first service was held in a restaurant. . . . My husband continued to preach at the country schools for some time.

My husband continued to preach at the country schools for some time. . . .   We continued to help with the Sunday School as long as one could be kept up. For three years in succession the Verdant Valley congregation held a Garden Party to raise money for the Church. One was held at the Rodseth home, one at the Greene home and one on the school grounds. There was a ball game first, then lunch followed by a program. I had the honor to be in charge of the program each time.

 

Violetís son Bill writes about his parents :

They were a very religious couple, as Dad studied for the ministry and was originally a Presbyterian. Mother was a Methodist in her background. I do not want to appear to belittle the religion in anything I say, but I do like to look at some of the humorous situations. Motherís religion seemed to me to be very strict. She believed that dancing, cards, lip stick, or even a girl getting her hair cut was some kind of sinful living. Dad on the other hand, could dance an Irish jig quite well for anyone, and mother would either look on with disgust, or not watch at all.

 

Tragedies and Near Tragedies

One day the two men were out shooting and Tom raised his gun to fire at a prairie chicken, but the gun accidentally discharged and shot Mr. Gibson. We were in the garden and saw Tom come over the hill, waving his arms and shouting for someone to come. My husband went over at once and when he saw what had happened he drove to Drumheller in a hurry, for the doctor but Mr. Gibson died before the doctor arrived.

In 1919, our neighbour, Tom McKee made a trip to Ireland, leaving a young Austrian named Otto in charge of his farm. Our children always called him "Two Chances to One," because he used that expression in almost every sentence, sometimes more than once. He often visited us and I think of him with the deepest gratitude. That was the winter of the second flu epidemic and all seven of us had it at once. I was the last to go down. I had been waiting on the others and doing the chores. When I had to give up, we got "Two Chances to One" to come over and milk the cow and do the other outside chores each day. I don't know what we would have done without him. Most of the neighbours were sick too, and had their own troubles.

 

One day before I took sick, my husband suddenly got out of bed and was determined to go outside. He was tired staying in the house and was going out for a walk. I stood between him and the door and watched him trying to get dressed. He soon played out and was glad to be helped back to bed. He did not attempt to get up for a whole week, and when he recovered he had no recollection of the incident. I am sure he was so sick he did not know what he was doing. If he had gone out that day, it is very unlikely that he would have recovered, as we heard of many people who went outside, came in and went to bed and never got up again. It seems wonderful that all seven of us got over it with no doctor or nurse to take care of us.

We had been fortunate to escape the first flu the year before. It was worse but the second was bad enough. My husband conducted the funeral of Percy McKee, who died of the first flu. When they were leaving the cemetery in Drumheller, they met another funeral procession coming in, with no one to conduct the service; they asked my husband to do it and he did.

 

There were many near tragedies in those days, some of them in our own family. One day my husband tried to ford the river . . . . He got into deep water and the horses started to swim. The wagon box floated off the running gear and he was out in the water . . . and, being fully clothed, with great difficulty he managed to swim a few yards till his feet touched bottom and he was able to walk to shore. The horses reached the other side, but one of them became entangled in the harness and was drowned. . . .

The loss of the horse was a serious blow to us. We had no money to buy another, so my husband and his brother Tom made a trip to Calgary to make arrangements for a loan . . . . That was the beginning of our experience with debt and it lasted till very recent years. The debt increased, largely through having a well drilled, and when the bank would no longer carry the note, we had to mortgage the farm to pay it off.

 

Then there was the ever present danger of fire. It was many years before we had a brick chimney. At first the stove pipe went straight up through the roof and the distance between the stove and the roof was far too short.

One hot summer day I decided to do my washing out behind the shack in the shade. I made a wood fire in the stove to heat the water and was washing away when I heard a crackling noise . . . . I looked up and saw flames coming out under the roof . . . . I used the wash basin to throw the water up to the roof and finally got the fire out . . . .

shack - 39 kb
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This is what was left of the homestead shack in 1956. This photo is part of an aerial photograph which
is posted below.

When it was out, I went up on the roof to make sure there was no fire still in the shingles. I put the washboard across the tub to get up, but as I got off it, the tub upset and the clothes went onto the ground . . . .

There was no way for me to get down but to jump . . . . I remembered that back at Normal School in Fredericton, we were taught a Swedish system of gymnastics. One exercise was to jump and land with our knees bent; as I stood there on the roof, I imagined I could hear the teacher say, "Prepare to jump. Jump!" and I did it as I was taught and suffered no ill effects. When all was over, the place was in a terrible mess and I was completely exhausted.

After that, we fixed the stove pipe differently.

 

[So, Violet and John raised their five children in a small shack on the prairie. They planted and harvested crops; and in a small barn nearby, they kept some chickens, a few pigs, a couple of horses, and their feed.]

[At the end of the war, their son Art took over the farm and Violet and John retired in Drumheller.]

farm from air in 1956 - 52 kb
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This is the farm in 1956 as seen from above. The homestead shack is seen on the left.

Violet in 1955 - 21 kb
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This photo was taken about 1955, when Violet was 75 years old.

 

 

 

[John died in 1946 and Violet died in 1964 at the age of 84.]

 

 

 

 

 

Additional Comments:
On August 28, 2001 I was given the contents of Violet's old trunk which had spent over half a century in the attic of what became an unused house. After doing a major cleaning job, I listed most of its contents and have now posted that list here.

Their homestead was located on the plains about ten miles east of Drumheller, Alberta, and about four miles from the Red Deer River and the Dinosaur Valley. This Web site also includes pages on Drumheller, a town which has become a tourist center. It is the home of a giant T-Rex, the world class Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, the hoodoos, and other tourist attractions.

 

 

DETAILED ACCOUNT of Diary and Memoirs

To Part 1: full school diary (64 kb).

To Part 2: Saskatchewan teaching, marriage, and overall summary (21 kb).

To Part 3: moving to Alberta and their homesteading experiences (49 kb).

 

                       
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to:     home page for a little history.com

 


Posted January 10, 2001.