John Dalton came to Big River from Maniwake, Quebec in 1911. Several years later Delena Ethier arrived in Big River and in 1914, John and Delena were married.
John Dalton was a lumberjack, and was also employed in the I.C. Fish Company. The Dalton home was situated near the railway tracks.
John and Delena had eight children: Mary (Mayoh, Prince Albert), Joe (Regina), Helen (Silljer, Khedive, Saskatchewan), Bertha (married Ken Crashley, living in Ladder Valley), Fred (Duck Lake), Gloria (Marshand, Duck Lake), Art (Duck Lake), and Anna (Mrs. Crashley).
The Dalton family moved to Debden to farm in 1930 and then in later years moved into Debden. John Dalton passed away and Delena moved to Duck Lake with her daughter, Gloria.
In 1924, Fred Darbyshire and Ed Theriau arrived in Big River en route north. They ended up at Brush River, which is part of the Churchill water system.
In 1941, Fred Darbyshire married Nora Lueken and they had twin boys, Leonard and Howard. The Darbyshires now reside in Ile-A-La-Crosse, but often return to Big River for a visit.
Amy and Howard Darbyshire arrived in Big River in the summer of 1933. Amy recalls, "I really thought I was going to the end of civilization as a number of the roads were built of logs and I had never been on roads of that kind. However, when we reached Big River, I found out the people were friendly and very civilized".
After they settled, Howard set up a barber shop and later opened a jewelry and repair shop.
In 1940, their daughter was born. That fall they moved to Toronto, as Howard has joined the R.C.A.F. Amy now lives in Kelvington, Saskatchewan.
Mr. and Mrs. Dolmage settled in the Eldred district in 1933. Jack was a teacher from Regina and his wife a graduate of the Toronto Conservatory of Music in Violin. They farmed for many years and then moved to town, where Mr. Dolmage was employed as bookkeeper at Waite Fisheries. Mrs. Dolmage gave violin lessons and contributed a great deal to the local concerts and musical programs. Their daughters grew up in this area. The family moved back to Manitoba in the 1950s.
In 1915, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Doucette and their daughter Aleadia, arrived in Big River. Mr. Doucette was in the wood and logging business, and he also farmed between Big River and Bodmin. Mrs. Doucette cooked for the freighters at the I.C. Fish Company. She also acted as mid-wife, working with the doctor, delivering babies.
The Doucettes had nine children, three of whom died when they were babies. Two of their sons still live in Big River, Albert and Dona.
Mr. Phil Doucette came to the district in 1911 as a saw-filer for the Big River mill. He homesteaded in the Bodmin area, where he met and married Anna LaGouffe. They had children: Gertie (Mrs. Fred Trudeau), Joe (who married Swea Swanson), Roland (who married Ethel Large), Alec (who married Lena Brown), Berth (Mrs. Levesque), Lillian (Mrs. Harold McGrath), Juilette (Mrs. Glen Tilsle), Paul, Johnny and Julian.
Anna and Paul both spent their lives in the Big River district farming and working.
Harry and Margaret Dreaver came from Mont Nebo in the early 1900s. Mr. Dreaver came to seek employment in the sawmill.
Margaret worked at a stopping place for the Red River carts, and then later took a job at the hospital in the laundry room.
Harry joined the army, and upon returning to Big River he regained his job at the mill.
Mr. and Mrs. Dreaver raised four children: Sarah (Neilson), Virginia (Greipl), Irene (Schlitz), and William.
Virginia worked around Big River as a housekeeper. She married Leo Griepl in 1932 and one daughter was born: Theresa (Mysko).
Virginia later began cooking in camps. Both Mr. and Mrs. Greipl are still living in Big River.
Mr. Paul Dube arrived in Big River in April, 1910. There was no railway to Big River at the time, so Mrs. Dube stayed in Prince Albert.
Paul started working at the mill which was just being built.
Also during this time, the Canadian Northern Railway line was being extended from Shellbrook to Big River.
Paul worked at various jobs such as working at the mill, construction work, erecting houses, bushwork, fishing and trapping. They purchased land from Joe Tremblay in the early 1920s. Cliff Kemp now lives in the old Dube home.
Mr. and Mrs. Dube had three daughters and one son: Roland, Alice, Therese, and Leone.
Mr. Dube is ninety-seven years old and lives with his daughter in Vancouver, B.C.
Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Dunbar and their four boys, Bert, Gordon, Victor, and Leslie, went to the Delaronde district in 1922.
Herbert took a homestead on Delaronde. The farm produce was used for their own food supply. The income was made from fishing and freighting. Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar also ran a stopping place for the people who lived across the lake who were travelling to town.
All four boys enlisted in the Second World War. When they came back, Bert went to B.C., and Gordon to Alberta. Victor bought a homestead just south of his father's homestead, and when Mr. Dunbar died, Leslie inherited the original farm.
Victor Dunbar was married in 1939 to Mary Klassen. Their childrens names are: Stan, Rory, Rodney, Janey, and Sherry.
Victor fished, farmed, trapped and did some lumbering. He ran a tug boat on Delaronde for booming logs. Victor was a very good carpenter and was hired by the school unit to do some work for them. In 1951, Victor sold his land to Albert Carter, and moved to Saskatoon to do carpentry work.
Mr. Dundas, affectionately known to his friends as 'Shorty' was born in 1888. He farmed in the Ladder Valley district. He was a World War One and Two veteran, and a life member of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Mr. Dundas is now a resident of the Veterans Home in Saskatoon.
George and Eileen Dunn came to Big River in November of 1925, and their reason, like that of many others, was to find a better way of life.
George travelled by horse, while Eileen and their six daughters came north by train. The Dunn family lived in the town of Big River for several years while Mr. Dunn freighted fish to Ile-A-La-Crosse, Buffalo Narrows, and other northern points in Saskatchewan.
In August, 1933, Mr. and Mrs. Dunn moved to a homestead at Stoney lake. Eileen spent the first winter alone while her husband was away working.
The Dunn family now consists of eleven children: Lilly (Mrs. Ed Wilson, living in Victoria), Blanch (Mrs. Art Johnson, living in Rainy River, Ontario), May (living in Prince Albert), Dorothy (Mrs. R. Wilson, living in Olds, Alberta), Pearl (Mrs. Herb Hellerud, living in Grand Center), John (married to Barbara Hockey, living in Big River), Ruby (Mrs. Charlie Scrimshaw, living in Big River), Bob (married Deanna Pruden, living in Big River), Grace (Mrs Ron Coulter, living in Victoria), Leslie (married Gail Gallant, living in Big River), Ross (married Gloria Gallant, living in Big River).
Mrs. Dunn is still living in Big River.
Nels Edson worked in Minnesota for the Winton Brothers and when they bought the Big River Mill, he decided to come to Big River in search of work.
He was relying on his previous employment with this company to secure a job. He arrived in Big River in 1915. His first impression of the town was a negative one. If he had had any money to buy a return ticket to Prince Albert he would never have left the train. Apparently his view has changed for after sixty-three years, he is still a citizen of this community.
When he first came to the district Mr. Edson recalls that the town was very clean and had wooden sidewalks. The Lumber Company laws stated that no liquor could be taken north of Bodmin, children were to be off the streets at none o'clock, and with the help of one North West Mounted Policeman, Big River was noted for its strict authority.
Nels took a job with the mill for a while, then he worked as a fisherman. Mr. Edson must have a lot of strong will and determination, for his fishing trips proved to be extremely hazardous, yet Nels worked at this trade for thirty-two winters.
On this first trip, Nels and two other greenhorns were hired to travel up north. They had been advised not to bring supplies as stopping places were provided for the fishermen's benefit. Their trip started on the south end of Stoney and their destination was Dore. Each of the men made a sleigh and they put their packs on it; they headed for the Narrows taking the east side and walking until dark.
They camped on this shore for the evening, and in the morning discovered that the ice had gone out leaving the Bay splashing water. The men walked along the shore until they reached the point where the Bay turned and started to flow in another direction. The men, hungry and desperate searched for something that could cross the Bay as often ruins were washed up against the shore. The men found an abandoned boat with a sizable hole in the bottom. However, out of necessity, they climbed aboard with the paddles they had made and proceeded to cross the two-mile Bay. With one man bailing the constant flow of water out of the boat and two men rowing, the trio safely made the opposite shore.
The men started walking north in search of a stopping place; they had been without food for three days and were famished. When the North End was reached they found nothing. Weary, tired, and starving, the men journeyed to another promise of a stopping place halfway between the north end and Sled. When the band reached their destination, they found buildings but no people or food. Apparently, it was too early for these halfway houses to be open, but these inexperienced fishermen had not known this.
The men pushed on hungry, cold and discouraged. After much travelling the exhausted men discovered Mirasty's fishing camp on the shore of Sled Lake. The men were welcomed to a hearty meal and Nels says that that baked jackfish and bannock was the best meal he has ever eaten.
Mr. Edson married Anna, in 1954. The Edsons are still members of the community (1978).
Mr. and Mrs. Svein Erickson came to Big River to retire in 1937 from Foam Lake, Saskatchewan. They lived in Big River until their deaths. They had two sons, Erick and Anton (Tony).
Erick came to Big River in 1912. He spent most of his life in Big River and Beauval where he had a mill and a stopping place for many years. He later moved to Meadow Lake where he had a sawmill and box factory until he passed away.
Anton Erickson spent most of his adult years in the North, fishing Dore, La Plonge, and Buffalo Lakes. He also had a sawmill in Buffalo Narrows.
Ernest's parents, Lusanda and Alfred Ethier, came to Big River from Doremy in 1911. Mr. Ethier Sr., was seeking employment in the sawmill. They settled in a house where the Drug Store is now and later moved down the tracks by the old water tower. The Ethier family stayed there until the sawmill was dismantled, then they moved to a homestead in the Debden area. Mr. and Mrs. Ethier had fourteen children.
Ernest was two years old when he first came to Big River. He moved with his family to Debden, but later returned and has been a resident of this community ever since. He worked for various private sawmills and in the bush camps. He met Cecile Chartrand while she was cooking in one of the camps and they were married in 1943. Mr. Ethier later took a job with the mill and worked there until 1959.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Ethier are still living in Big River.
When the prairies dried out, Cliff Felt came north to work in the sawmills. He arrived in Big River in 1936. He took a job with Harry Boyd on Stoney Lake. Cliff has worked in sawmills ever since he came to the district.
In 1940, Cliff married Freda McKnight and they have three children: Anne, Peggy and Mabel.
Dr. George Sebright Fenton graduated from McGill Medical School in 1908 and went immediately to Big River to look after the employees of the Big River Lumber Company and the residents of the large area surrounding the town.
Dr. Fenton married Mary Graham of Ottawa and they had seven children: Frederick, John, George, William, Margaret, Mary Elizabeth, and Barbara.
From historical records of the early days of Big River, the name of Dr. Fenton appears many times. Not only serving as the doctor for the entire community, he spent many years on the school board and other public services devoting his time and talents to the people.
The Fenton's lost a son, William, in the First War, 1917 and in 1918, the year of the 'flu epidemic, an infant daughter died and is buried in the local cemetery.
Stories related about the big fire of 1919, record how Dr. Fenton worked tirelessly in getting women and children onto the train to be evacuated from the danger area.
When the lumber company sold out in 1922, the Fenton family moved back to Ottawa where Dr. Fenton continued his medical practise.
Jim first came to Big River in 1918 to work in the mill. He did some trapping during the winter. In 1931, the family moved from Saskatoon and resided there for the next sixteen years. Mrs. Fiedler writes, "During the years, Mr. Forbes was our friendly, kindly and helpful Postmaster. he knew everyone by name, it was always a joy to come into his clean, homey Post Office, canaries singing, a treasured plant blooming on the counter for all to admire. Today we do not even know our postmaster, we are just a box number!"
Families Part 5