Mr. Joseph Lamothe came to Big River in 1919 after the First World War, from the Three Rivers area. He homesteaded in Bodmin and that same year married Philomin LaGouffe. They had three children: Rodney, Marcel and Roger. Marcel still lives in the Bodmin District.
Joe Lamothe, as well as farming, worked as a carpenter. He helped construct numerous buildings in the district such as the school, O.P. Godin's Store, and Ted Harvey's Store (now Beatties).
Mr. Lamothe drowned in 1929, being the first war veteran to die in this Legion district.
Philomin later married Alfonze Laurin and they are now retired in Edmonton (1978).
The Lanes moved to the Ladder Valley district in 1934 from Lancer, Saskatchewan. He made the journey driving a team and wagon with their equipment loaded on a hay rack, a distance of about three hundred and fifty miles. Mr. Lane was a veteran of the Boer War and homesteaded first at Lancer. He moved north due to the drought conditions in the south and homesteaded once again. All are now deceased.
Ivan and his parents arrived in Big River in 1925. Ivan took a job on the freight swings. He later married Helen Riley whose home was at Greenmantle. The Leachs remember one of their more unfortunate trips to Buffalo Narrows. Upon reaching the Beaver River, Ivan observed that the ice was getting soft. He kept the horses at a full gallop so they would not break through, however, in spite of this the sleigh was leaving a track of broken ice behind. finally, their thin support collapsed and the horses went down. Quickly, Ivan lassoed the horses and kept their heads above the water. Due to extreme fighting and kicking, one horse had to be let go or everything would be lost. After much effort and hard work, the remaining horse was pulled free. The Leachs had to purchase another horse for their journey home. They received forty dollars for the entire trip of freight which just paid for the new horse.
In later years, Ivan worked for the Timber Board. He retired in 1978 after many years of service. The Leachs live on their farm home in the Delaronde area.
Ivan and Helen had nine children: Fern (Mrs. Ken Martin), Nancy (Mrs. K. Fast), Orville, Melvin, Ellen (Mrs. Paul Fonos), Caroline (Mrs. Martin Wilson), Jeannie (Mrs. Lukan), Raymond and Vernon.
John and Alma La Gouffe with children Paul (who later married Tesa Swanson), Philomin (Lamothe) (Laurin), Anna (Mrs. Phil Doucette) and Emma (Mrs. Degrasse), arrived in Big River in 1911.
Mr. La Gouffe came as a millwright to work in the sawmill. He was also a blacksmith and would construct parts for the mill. The family homesteaded in Bodmin, living there for a good number of years. Alma, John and Emma are all buried in the Big River Cemetery.
Jesse Leverton came from Debden to Big River in 1926 to work during the winter months. He worked for Beaulac hauling ties, for Sundby hauling wood, and for Paul La Gouffe hauling ties from Mariah, now Neslin Lake.
In 1936, Jesse and Julie moved to Hall's Lake, an area about thirty miles north of Big River. The Levertons came in April to determine the prospects of ranching in this area. They got caught in a snowstorm and had to spend the night at Craddock's; by morning there was eight inches of snow. Julie and Jessie were not alone on this expedition; there was also Gilbert Olsen, Edwin Olsen, Bertha Olsen, and Rene Boulet.
During the time they spent looking for a prospective farm they had eaten most of their supplies. They had to start looking elsewhere for food and when they did, Jesse spotted a blue heron that had caught a fish. He went running after the bird and in the excitement the heron dropped the fish, which was enough to provide them with their next meal. Their luck held out long enough for them to catch a partridge, and this was used to make a large pot of soup.
The group travelled until they arrived at Pete Pasternack's and there they were able to buy some of the necessary provisions. They returned to Big River and with fifteen cents Jesse had in his pocket he bought oats for the horses, bread and sardines. This, along with some cranberries they had picked, provided them with their lunch.
The Levertons returned to Debden for their livestock and personal possessions. It took Jesse, Julie, and Julie's brother Walter Premischook, a total of four days to return to Big River. With them they brought forty head of cattle, seventy hens, six horses, three wagons, and all their worldly goods. Their savings amounted to a total of two dollars and ten cents.
Once they arrived in Big River, they pushed on towards Rat Lake. They lost a six months old colt in the muskeg at the end of Black Duck Meadows. Once they had arrived at Rat Lake they found that the Sprecker family was already there, so they had to start searching for another home. They finally found a suitable place at Hall's Lake. Walter returned to Debden, taking two teams and two wagons.
Julie and Jessie began building their home immediately. It was a log house with a sod roof. For windows, they used waxed flour bags, and to make the house brighter, they covered the house with a white clay found near the lake. They were able to start haying.
The Levertons used two oxen and three horses to put up their hay. By the end of the season, they had succeeded in putting up one hundred and twenty-five tons. This hay was hauled into Big River during the winter, and was sold to provide the Levertons with a source of income.
Julie and Jesse were troubled several times by bears, in fact, Julie was chased by a bear during their stay on Hall's Lake. The Levertons also had to face the possibility of losing their farm to fire. Julie let all the animals out of their pens and went down to the lake with the thought that their farm was going to be destroyed. However, the wind changed and the fire bypassed their building.
One year, the Levertons were invited to have Christmas dinner with Sid and Mary Beeds. The meal was excellent and after they had eaten, more guests arrived. Several families, Smallboys, Keenatches, and Red Irons, came into the house and Mrs. Beeds offered each person an ample piece of bannock, after this, everyone began dancing.
During the haying season, one year the Levertons borrowed four hundred dollars from the bank. Julie put the money in a small purse and tucked it in the pocket of her jeans. They continued their work, and it wasn't until the end of the day that Julie noticed the purse was gone. The chance of finding the money was almost impossible, however, they began their search at once. They combed the field, and even went through the entire hay stack before they gave up hope. As Jesse was walking away he spotted the purse within a few feet of the hay stack that they had just finished searching.
Jesse and Julie also had the misfortune of running out of matches before it was time to go to town for supplies. For two weeks the Levertons kept a log burning continuously so they would have a fire for warmth and for cooking. Jesse managed to secure some matches that he had found in a vacant cabin of Shorty Melinoski's. He took these with him and at a later date he returned to replace what he had borrowed.
Julie and Jesse spent three years at Hall's Lake, and in 1939, they bought Joe Nicolson's farm. When they secured the land, there was slightly less than ten acres broken. The Levertons lived in the log house that was on the farm until, in 1956, they built their new home.
Jesse and Julie Leverton still live on their original farm several miles north of Big River.
Rider Lomsness came to Big River in 1929 from Saskatoon. The Depression and hard times had struck the city and jobs were scarce with poor pay. Mr. Lomsness had a job promised in George Anderson's sawmill on Stoney lake. After working a few months, the mill burned down. Rider left Big River to harvest on the prairie farms during the summer then returned north to haul fish from Burnt Lake to Big River in the winter. This continued for three years and then Mr. Lomsness turned to trapping east of Cree lake for another three years.
In 1936, Rider Lomsness married Anna Anderson and they had two sons, Leonard and Andrew.
Rider bought a quarter of land where Andy is now and farmed during the summer and fished in the winter. He started logging for Sundby and Friedman, and worked for them until 1946 when he and Oscar Eikel bought out their sawmill. He worked in the bush for eighteen years and did road construction in the summer.
Rider sold his share of the mill in 1964 and bought O.P. Godin's from Mr. Friedman. The Lomsness family still owns this store today.
When Rider first came to Big River the land where he and his wife are presently living, was just being broken.
Henry and Emma Lueken came from Humboldt to Big River in 1935. The Luekens, like many families during this time secured a homestead. Henry's main concern was with the farm, but sometimes he worked out. He was involved in repairing the bridge on Cowan Lake, and also in the construction of the dam.
The Luekens had eight children: Marie (Hanghofer) Nora (Darbyshire), Laura Lueken, Delphine (Story), Ralph, Herbert, Leonard and Anthony.
First Henry and son came, followed by the family. Emma, her children and Fred Hass came by wagon train, driving cattle as they came.
Mrs. Martel came to Winter Lake in 1957 with her son, Rod, and daughter Sandra. Isabel was to be the teacher as well as the janitor of this isolated country school.
The one room school had a box wood stove which was kept blazing during the cold winter months, and it was not equipped with electricity.
Thirty-five students were enrolled, consisting of grades one to nine. Grade nine was done by correspondence. The students tried to come on a regular basis, but they had all had to walk because there were no roads. During the winter months the attendance was poor as a result of the cold and snow. The students all enjoyed school though and came whenever possible.
One January the weather was so bad that Mrs. Martel kept the students at school for a whole month. She said that in a way it was funny because for that month she had perfect attendance, which was unusual during the winter months.
Groceries were hauled by toboggan from Erinferry which was five to six miles away. In the spring it was worse because the trails were under water.
One time a bush fire had drifted in and everyone had to leave the school. At one point, Mrs. Martel and the students had to run through the burning trees to get to safety. Mr. Randall and some firefighters came and safeguarded the school. The school, fortunately, did not burn down.
After six years of teaching at Winter Lake, the unit decided to transfer the students and Mrs. Martel to Big River.
Mrs. Martel and her family moved to Big River and she taught here for several years and then she retired. Mrs. Martel resides in Big River today.
Al Martin was born in Toronto in 1888 and Maude in the district of Assiniboine (where Parkbeg, Saskatchewan is now) in 1890, she was the daughter of a rancher.
Homesteading in Morse, Saskatchewan until 1922, then moving to the Big River district, the family farmed in the Delaronde area from that time to the present. The reason for choosing this place to move to was that Al had come up here with Mr. Pease and had liked it so well he wanted to stay, he enjoyed the abundant fishing and trapping.
The family consisted of two girls and five boys. One girl died of the 'flu in 1919. Alma (Mrs. Ernest Bertrand) lives in B.C. as do Melvin and his wife Eva. Clayton and his wife Irene live in Big River, Arnold and Sylvia live on the original farm at Delaronde, Kenneth and wife Fern are in B.C. One son, Louis, was killed overseas in the Second World war.
Al Martin was a professional ball player and a professional hockey player, his name appears in Saskatchewan History for pitching ball.
The family enjoyed having its own ball team and at one time there were as many as seven Martins on the community team. The girls also had a softball team.
Melvin ran his own fish camp when he was only fifteen years of age. The boys went freighting and they also trapped, and cut cordwood, logs and ties.
Melvin, Clayton, Arnold and Louis, were all in the Air Force during the last war.
Harry and Jane McInnis and daughter, Mary, came from Meadow Lake to Big River in 1942. Harry was employed as Inspector for the L.I.D. and worked there until his death in 1945.
As no house was available at that time the family fixed up part of the old mess hall at the air base on Ladder lake for living quarters. (This building was later moved to town and used for the Red Cross Hospital.)
Jane McInnis was an active member of the United Church and was well known for her needlework, sewing, and baking abilities. She died in her 90th year, having lived in this district for thirty years.
Harry and Jane had three children: Stuart, Bruce and Mary.
Mary married Hubert Michel and they have three children: Janice (Wood), David and Lorna.
Families Part 9