In the early 1900s, a group of lumberjacks in Ottawa applied for tickets to Prince Rupert, but the ticket salesman misunderstanding their request, gave them train passes to Prince Albert. Horace Chenard took the train to Eldred and then walked to Big River from there. Mr. Chenard got a job helping Joe Nicolson locating clay suitable for bricks to be used in the sawmill. Later, Horace worked in the mill by day and in the evening he made shoes. It is said by many of the old time loggers, that Mr. Chenard's handmade boots were the finest one could get anywhere. He made special shoes for one gentleman who had frozen his feet and was unable to wear the ordinary shoes.
Mr. Chenard was a man of many talents, he was an excellent baker and cook, he was a first rate carpenter who worked for many years at the Mission in Beauval and also in later years, for Waite Fisheries Ltd. He and Menard Clement built a scow in 1938, which they took to Buffalo Narrows to go fishing. Upon reaching their destination, they took the scow apart and used the material to make their cabin. Mr. Chenard also logged for Rizers and was a millwright for a time for Jack Rae. In the early years, Mr. Chenard was a D.N.R. forest ranger. Many of the northern Saskatchewan schools and churches have been built by Mr. Chenard.
In 1911, Horace married Maria Godin and they raised a family of nine on their homestead in the Delaronde area. Three of their children still live in the district - Napoleon, Antionette (Mrs. G. Otte) and Margaret (Mrs. Howard Swanson).
Mr. Choynicki came from Poland in 1927. He settled in the Blaine Lake area and two years later, Mrs. Choynicki joined her husband.
In 1937, Branislaw and Stanislawa bought a farm in Ladder Valley and in 1938, they moved into their new home. Mr. and Mrs. Choynicki farmed in the district for many years. They had five children: Mary, Doris, Johnny, Dennis, and Walter.
In 1933, the Christiansons left Shell Lake due to the Depression; they were searching for a better land. They intended to go to Montreal Lake, but they could not get through, so the family established a home at Stoney Lake. The Christianson family moved between Shell Lake and Big River, trapping here in the winter months. The family later moved to Soup Kitchen Bay (Deep Bay), and then later to the Narrows on Delaronde lake. At each new home, Chris would trap and fish for their livelihood.
The Christiansons spent fifteen years at Ship Island. Here they raised cattle, fished in the waters provided, and had a mink ranch. When the Christianson family moved to their present farm, they transported the cattle, two or three at a time, by boat.
During the first winter, the Christiansons had a hard time adjusting to the north; they were used to trapping on the prairies. However, they soon adapted to their surroundings and enjoyed the plentiful game such as partridge, caribou, deer, and wolves. These animals not only provided food and furs, but a sense of wild beauty that drew the Christiansons closer to the environment.
Chris can remember coming to town by skis from Ship Island. The groceries and mail had to be transported North by plane. Now, people have skidoos and Bombardiers, so there is no worry about communication.
Josephine and Chris have seven children: Stanley, Shirley, Elenor, Gordon, Evelyn, Eloise, and Iris.
Willamina and Alexander Park immigrated to Canada from Scotland in the early 1900s. They arrived in Big River when the Big River mill was in its early production.
Alexander was a sawyer at the mill. In the fall of 1911, Alexander drowned when he fell through thin ice on Cowan Lake.
Willamina's brother, Allen Brown, an orderly at the hospital, advised her to return to Scotland. She returned to live with her sister until after Rena was born in June, 1912.
With Rena and four year old William, she returned to Big River only to have the misfortune of losing her son William six months later due to the measles and pneumonia.
Willamina remarried in 1914 to Arthur Clarkson. Arthur worked at the mill until it closed.
They moved out to a homestead across Ladder Lake. The roads were full of stumps and the ride was long. The trip around the lake was seven or eight miles. Although rowing the boat across the lake was another way of transportation to town. Rena taught at home until it was time for her to further her education, at which time the family moved to town.
Arthur now became the fire tower watchman in the summer and he trapped in the winter. In later years, Arthur worked for the Department of Natural Resources as a Field Officer. He patrolled the Sled, Smoothstone, and Dore Lake territory. He had a cabin at Smoothstone Lake and he canoed and portaged to cover his district spotting fires. The last two years of his life he worked for Mr. J.K. Johnson. He cooked for the men at their mill. He also held a night watchman job at the Stoney Lake Mill during this time.
Rena lived at home when she was a young woman for there was no work for people of that age during the Depression. Rena says, "We were lucky to stay at home if our parents could supply food and clothing.
She remained at home until she married Joe Sixsmith on June 9, 1936.
Willamina passed away April 7, 1942, and Arthur passed away August 9 of that same year.
Mr. Napoleon Clement came to Big River in 1911, from Quebec. He was followed a year later by his wife, Alice, and their two children, Leo and Bertha.
Mr. Clement was hired by the Lumber Company and worked for many years in the mill. He then took out a homestead between Big River and Stoney Lake. He farmed in the summer and trapped in the winter. In later years the Clements moved into town. While living in Big River, Napoleon was employed by O.P Godin. The Clement family left Big River in 1937. They moved to Ontario and then to Montreal, where they resided until their deaths.
There were nine children born to the Clement family: Leo, Bertha, Jean, Hector, Julian, Rene, Julia, John Paul, and Celine.
In 1928, Carl Colby left Saskatoon for Big River. His first year in our community was spent in Hans Matz's sawmill at Moonlight Lake. Mr. Colby remembers working with M.Baker, G. Dunn, H.Feldmeir, E. Leach, H. Lindy, A. Stewart, and T. Wychodzew.
Carl took a homestead on Stoney Lake. In 1935, he started haying for Cyril Craddock and maintained this position for several years. Mr. Colby would trap and fish in the winter and harvest in the fall.
Carl also worked for the Department of Renewable Resources and for the Saskatchewan Timber Board for seventeen years. He married Grace Patrick in 1940 and they had eight children: Lynn, Ruth, Don, Laverne, Marina, Leah, Collin and Beth.
Mr. Colby retired from the Timber Board in 1976. The Colbys are still very active members of our community.
The first time that Tony Cooper saw Big River was in 1929, when he came to town to play hockey. Tony was from Eldred, so his team had to make the journey in the back of a truck or by train, and had to stay overnight in Big River. It happened that this time the team travelled by train. Tony and his brother had the opportunity to stay at Brownfield's house that night and they were impressed with the luxuries found in the house, the main one being running water. The next morning, the family did not get up early so Tony and his brother missed the train back to Eldred. They were not sure what to do, so they started running down the tracks after the train, loaded down with their hockey equipment. To their surprise and relief, they were able to catch up to the train; it had made a stop at the water tower, and it was here that the Cooper brothers boarded the train.
Mr. Cooper returned to Big River in 1940, along with Mr. Fred Emde to work for Oscar Eikel at the Stoney Lake Sawmill. They spent the first night in the hotel since they could not afford the seventy-five cents for the taxi fare, and the following day they had to walk to Stoney.
In 1941, the Cooper family moved to Big River. They rented half a house from the Clarksons. The rent was a total of three dollars and fifty cents a month. The money that Tony had saved during the previous year amounted to sixty-three dollars. This was used to purchase the necessary items for their new home. They went to Debden to buy their furniture and succeeded in buying a cook stove, a table and four chairs, a bed and mattress and a cupboard, and still had twenty-three dollars left over for groceries.
After working in the sawmill, Tony then began working for Sundby and Friedman until he joined the Air Force in 1943. He was involved with the Air Force for three years and returned in 1946. He then delivered groceries for O.P. Godin's and was the Imperial Oil Man. After this, he returned to the bush until the mill started again in 1948. He was employed as a millwright and electrician at the Big River Sawmill. In 1959, he started his own electrical business. Also during the years 1948 to 1963, he ran the movie projectors at the theatre.
Mr. and Mrs. Cooper still live in Big River. They have two sons, Garry and Mervin, and they too live in Big River and Ladder Valley respectively.
The Corbiel family came to Big River in 1910, from Montreal. Mr. Corbiel worked on the railroad. After spending a few years in town, the family moved to Bodmin where they homesteaded. The family: Emilia (mrs. Omar Couture), Leo, Leontine (Mrs. Alphonse Tardiff), Jeanne (Mrs. Isidor Landry), Bella (Mrs. Edward Cassey), Romeo, Yvette (died in 1932), Arthur and Joseph.
Walter Cottam arrived from England in 1911 and settled in Big River. He took a job in the sawmill and later sent for his wife Ada, his daughter Alice, his sister-in-law Alice Lovatt, and his mother-in-law Rose Lovatt. This family ventured across oceans on the first ship that sailed after the sinking of the Titanic. The Cottam members participated in the many sports days held in Big River; Ada often won first prize for her racing abilities.
The family left Big River for The Pas, Manitoba, after the mill closed down.
John and Margaret Crashley came to the Rapid Bend district from Carievale, Saskatchewan, in 1934. The drought in the south pushed them north and they took up a homestead and farmed. The family made the trip north with a team and wagon, covering a distance of over five hundred miles. There weren't any roads, only trails, which increased the difficulty of the journey. The Crashleys only brought their personal belongings and were without livestock, except for the team of horses. The Crashley family moved from the homestead, to live in Ladder Valley. They made their new home on the same quarter of land where the school is situated. later on, the Crashleys moved to Debden and then returned again, this time, purchasing a house in Big river. John and Margaret had nine children: Ken (married to Bertha Dalton, living in Ladder Valley), Bert (Moose jaw), Bob (Saskatoon), Glen (married to Anna Dalton, living in Ladder Valley), Charlie (Surrey, B.C.), Marjorie (Rosetown), Eleanor(Skarponski, living in Mont Nebo), Fred (Cranbrook), and Dorothy (Muir, living in Leduc, Alberta). Dorothy received her certificate for teaching and returned to Ladder Valley to teach at the school. She also taught in Big River. Mrs. Crashley still lives in Big River.
The Cummings family moved here in 1949, from Blaine Lake. Mr. Cummings was a bank manager and opened the Bank of Commerce in that year. Mr. Cummings, his wife, and two daughters made their home here until they were transferred back to Blaine Lake in 1952.
Shirley Cummings married Dr. James Forward and they live in Calgary with their two sons. Lois married Floyd Lillies and they operate a building supply business in Nakush, where they reside with their two sons and daughter.
Pat and Hannah Daley, former residents of Aberdeen, Saskatchewan, first visited the Big River area in 1929. Their initial stay was a short one; in the fall of that same year they returned to Aberdeen.
Pat and his daughter Mary, returned to the homestead in the Black Duck area in 1930. Living conditions at that time were at best less-than-satisfactory. Forced to live in a tent while taking out logs for their new home, they suffered the many inconveniences common to such a temporary abode.
In 1931, the rest of the Daley clan returned to Big River and together they built their new home. That fall the family moved to Saskatoon with plans of returning to the homestead in the spring; however, in the interim, Mr. Daley passed away.
Determined to return to Big River, Lorne and Tom Daley, assisted by Les Mitchelmore, moved the rest of the family's belongings and machinery from Aberdeen in 1934. With the assistance of Earl reed, they cleared and broke sufficient land to prove up the homestead.
In July of 1935, a very violent storm hit the area of the homestead and resulted in the loss of the roof of the house. Naturally, the family was upset about this turn of events - especially as Mary was arriving with her new husband the following day. Being very resourceful people, a solution was soon found. A visit to J.K.Johnson's for a wagon full of slabs, and the addition of six inches of soil to the roof solved the problem.
In 1938, Mrs. Daley married John Pilney. With the conclusion of the Depression and more affluent times at hand, the old home was abandoned in favour of a more comfortable lumber home. Mr. and Mrs. Pilney lived on the farm until 1955 and then retired to the town of Big River. Their retirement was an active one. Mr.Pilney, an avid sportsman, enjoyed regular participation in curling until his seventy-fifth year. Mrs. Pilney remained active also - particularly in the realm of church work and community affairs.
Hannah Pilney passed away in December of 1961; Jack in July of 1972. Edna now resides in Kelowna, Ethel in Penticton, Tom in Saskatoon, and Mary in Kindersley. Lorne passed away in Stewart, British Columbia in May of 1977. Mike still resides in Big river and farms the family homestead.
Families Part 4.