Submitted by Mrs G. Flaws
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979
Jack Gagnon came from Ontario in 1910 and obtained employment in the Lumber Mill at Big River.
In 1912, he married Myrtle LaBelle, daughter of Sam and Zuella LaBelle, at the Roman Catholic Church. Reverend Normand Gagne officiating. Sam was foreman of the Lathe Mill. He and Myrtle had four children: Lillian, Myrtle, Hazel and John. Lillian and Myrtle worked in the Company Store, and Hazel worked at the Post Office for Jimmy Forbes. John moved to the United States in 1925 and is now retired and residing in Wisconsin. Sam and Zuella later moved to the United States and both are now deceased, so are the daughters.
While in Big River, Jack Gagnon had supervision of the manufacture of lumber in the sawmill. He was in charge of the lumber from the green-chain to the pile, back through the planer and into the cars.
In 1920, the Lumber Company having finished its cut, the Gagnon family moved to The Pas, Manitoba, where Jack held the position of plant superintendent for The Pas Lumber Company. It was now under the management of Mr AL Mattess. In 1924, the family moved to Giscome, British Columbia. Jack was employed by Mr W.K. Nichols, Manager of the Eagle Lake Spruce Mills until 1929, when the family moved to Edmonton, Alberta.
Jack and Myrtle Gagnon, who are now deceased, have one daughter Mildred. Jack who was always very active in the organization of community and sports events, passed away in 1970 at the age of 85 and Myrtle passed away in 1965 at the age of 71.
Submitted by Leonard Young
Robert Gallager was born in Ontario in 1892. He came west to Saskatchewan and lived in the Abbey area where he worked for the Collinson's. In approximately 1938 when the Collinson's moved to Big River, Robert came with them. He homesteaded on the SE 13-55-7-W3rd (where the Bob Kennedy family now lives). A few years later he left there to live on the Harry Sweet place (NE 21-55-6-W31. That is where he lived until his death in 1953.
Gallagher, Isobel (Stevenson)
My paternal grandparents, Wilbur Stevenson, from Covey Hill, Quebec and Susie May (Brown) from Winchester, Ontario came west to Saskatoon in 1909. Grandfather did carpenter work for years and filed on a homestead near Macrorie, Saskatchewan in 1911. My father, Frederick (Fred) Wilbur Stevenson was born in Saskatoon in 1913 and was raised on the farm at Macrorie.
At the age of three in 1919, my mother Margaret Elizabeth Rainey came with her parents from Tully Vallin, County Armagh, Ireland. They lived first at Meyronne, Saskatchewan, then moved north to file on a homestead at Erinferry, fourteen miles south of Big River.
At about the same time, Fred and Wilbur Stevenson also filed on homesteads in that area (about 1929). Wilbur's land was poor and he returned to Marcorie, but Fred proved up his land, met and married Margaret Rainey, and raised their family, Olive, Frederick Jr., and myself, Isobel, on that quarter section of land plus some land which he leased.
My parents worked long hard hours on the farm. Most work was done by hand; horses were used for fieldwork and as transportation so they were looked after very well. We raised cattle, chickens and a few pigs. The children helped with garden work and chores. Our little farm was self-sufficient, wild fruits were picked and the cellar shelves were filled with jars of preserves, bins of potatoes and root vegetables, sealers of canned peas and beans, pickles, etc.
Family gatherings at my grandparent's house involved our cousins and us. We had great times together and fond memories remain.
Dad built boats for Waite Fisheries for several winters. My sister Olive and I attended school in Big River during two of those winters where we made new friends. We often took Sunday afternoon walks with our parents and our little brother, Freddie, down by the old water tank or out to the Forestry Farm when the weather was nice. We enjoyed watching the planes land on the lake in the spring and the roar of Sundby's logging trucks rolling into town.
My friends Helen Hagen, and Shirley Johnson and I loved to play in the old burner when it wasn't in use. It was a splendid sight, I always thought, to drive into town in the school bus in later years, and get that first glimpse of the old burner with the lake stretched out behind. It was great!
I graduated from Big River High School in 1956, went to Teacher's College in Saskatoon where I graduated in 1957. I taught two years at Rock Point School near Lucky Lake. I married Roy Pukari and had two children Randy and Lynn. Our son, Randy, lost a battle with cancer July 5', 2002, and will always be dearly missed. He was never married.
Our daughter Lynn works in Regina with her husband, Dennis Mazzee, for Sasktel this past 20 years. They have two sons, Eric and Darren.
My parents moved to Ralston, Alberta in 1956 after I left for Teacher's College. Dad worked for the Department of National Defence at Suffield Experimental Station until he retired and moved to Medicine Hat.
Mother passed away in April 1969 and Dad passed away September 1994 at Turtleford Hospital. He died from an aneurysm. He'd come to visit us on the farm where he loved to be. We'd taken him fishing the day before.
Dad never forgot his friends in Big River and area. He loved to tell stories of pranks they played on one another.
My sister Olive married George Beaulac. They live in Prince George, British Columbia. They have five daughters, who are all married with families.
Fred served several years in the Air Force and then worked for Canada Post instructing computer technology. He has two daughters at St. Albert, Alberta. He is now retired at Greely, Ontario.
I live on a farm with my husband, Jim Gallagher, near Livelong, Saskatchewan in the Turtle Lake Region.
Compiled by Sherry Gunderson
Back Row: Loretta, Gerard, Gail.
Front Row: Gen, Alonzo, Gloria.
Alonzo Joseph Gallant was born March 1, 1903, in Grande Digue, New Brunswick. Alonzo was the oldest son of Henri and Marie Eugenie (Hebert) Gallant.
The Gallant family moved from New Brunswick to Maine, USA. Then in 1911 moved back into Canada to Saskatchewan, after hearing from a priest about getting rich in the north.
Alonzo and his brothers helped clear land and build a house on the homestead (SW 28-56-7-W3rd). Alonzo spent his early years working on the freight swing. He was 21 when his father, Henri, was burned at his fish camp on Keeley Lake. Henri was taken to the Ile-a-la-Crosse hospital by dog team, but he died there a few days later. In February 1924, Alonzo, being the oldest, went with a team of horses and sleigh to bring his father's body back for burial. This trip took many days each way. After his father's death, Alonzo worked on the family farm, as well as freighted with Gaudois Trembley, George Dunn, Jim Sweeney, Al Olson, Vernor Johnson and Jim Taplie.
Alonzo married Genevieve Arsenault on November 14, 1939, in Big River. Gen was born September 12, 1915, in Domremy, Saskatchewan, to Theodore and Eva (Ethier) Arsenault.
Alonzo and Gen lived on the Gallant family farm for a few years. They then moved into town. They had a family of four children:
1. Loretta - born in 1940
2. Gerard - born in 1942
3. Gail - born in 1944
4. Gloria - born in 1946
Alonzo freighted for 22 winters with horses and sleigh, and he would be gone for months at a time.
After freighting, he logged for 15 years in the winter months and worked in the sawmill for 14 summers. Alonzo and Gen took over the farm after his mother's death in 1951 and sold it to the Kohlruss family in 1972.
After logging, he worked at the tree nursery for five years and hauled fish for Mr Leveck, Sam Lions and Gaudois Trembley. At that time fish sold for five cents per pound, delivered!
On August 5, 1986, while he was in his shed, a fire broke out. Alonzo was trapped inside and became unconscious. Gary Donald, who happened to be passing by, saw the fire and called for help. Ross Dunn, Chad Dunn, Gary Donald and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, Ross Lewis, risked their lived by joining hands to form a chain and went inside the smoke-filled shed to find him. Alonzo was taken to the local hospital and then to Saskatoon by Air Ambulance. He died on August 8, 1986. To this day the cause of the fire is unknown. Those that rescued him received the Governor General's Medal of Bravery Award in Ottawa in 1988.
Even though Grandpa has been gone many years we still miss hearing his stories. You always knew when a story of long ago was coming, he'd put his leg up onto the arm of his chair and start with "Well sir, you know".
When Gen was 12 years old, she started to work out. She would walk to Ladder Lake to do housework for the Air Force wives. She helped cook in stopping places for the freighters on Delaronde Lake when she was about 15 years old. She also worked at the Chinese Rex Cafe as a waitress.
At age 24, Gen married Alonzo in Big River. On the family farm, she milked cows, helped in the hayfield, grew a big garden, chopped wood and hauled water. Besides doing her chores, she did the washing and ironing for some of the residents.
She loved to play bingo, the Nevada tickets, and play cards with her family.
Gen was the janitor at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce for over 30 years, cleaning six days a
week. She retired from this job at age 75. She also cleaned the Department of Natural Resources office for several years.
Gen looked after her great-grandson, Drew Osinchuk, who made her life complete until she became sick in April of 1992. Gen died on June 12, 1992, after a brief illness with cancer.
Back Row: Todd, Darren, Valerie, Rocky, Chad, Terry.
Front Row: Jamie, Sherry, Darla, Kelly, Dawn, Lianne, 2003
All of Alonzo & Gen's Grandchildren.
Compiled by Sherry Gunderson,
written by her father, Gerard Gallant
Gerard Alonzo Gallant, was the second child born to Alonzo and Genevieve Gallant on January 8, 1942, in the Holy Family Hospital in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
Gerard started his school years in Big River. The family lived on the farm, which was three miles northeast of Big River but moved into town for the winter months.
When I was ten or eleven, I used to help my uncle, Ted Arsenault, in the summer holidays. Ted was a Conservation Officer. When I was sixteen, I worked for my father, Alonzo. We worked in the woods in the winter and in the summer I worked in the saw-mill for Carl Colby.
At age seventeen I married Nora Klyne. We married on October 24, 1959, in Big River, Saskatchewan. In the fall of 1960, we moved to Calgary and Banff, Alberta where I worked on construction. Then we moved to Snow Lake, Manitoba to work in the mine.
During these years, Nora and I had six children:
1. Sherry Lee - born in Big River on July 17, 1959
2. Rocky Gerard - born in Big River on July 18, 1960
3. Terrance Dale - born in Big River on August 23, 1961
4. Dawn Gaye - born in Big River on October 13, 1962
5. Raymond Todd - born in Flin Flon, Manitoba on June 20, 1964
6. Kimberly Ann - born in Big River on September 25, 1965 - died on December 26, 1965
In 1966, we moved to Allan, Saskatchewan, where I worked at the mine site sinking the shaft for potash. From there in 1970, we moved to Rocanville, Saskatchewan, where another potash mine shaft was sunk.
In 1971, I brought our family to Shebandowan, Ontario, where I worked in the copper mine. We moved on to Ignace, Ontario in 1974. Then I worked in an open-pit mine and did work for the Hydro Line. We moved back to Saskatchewan in the late 1970s to Guernsey, where I worked for Thyssen Mining and Construction and again sunk a Potash mineshaft.
I moved to Sussex, New Brunswick, in 1982, where I began work for the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PCS), sinking a potash shaft.
I have lived in Sussex with my partner, Barbara (Simpson) Elderkin for the past 20 years. Over the years we've come back to Saskatchewan for visits, and usually planned our vacations around the Calgary Stampede. From there we managed to visit with all of my children, and Barb's children, who live in southern Saskatchewan and the North West Territories. After a year of battling cancer, Dad died in the Sussex Health Centre on June 1, 2003.
Todd. Sherry. Terry, Dawn, Rocky, June 16. 2003.
Gallant, Henri and Marie Eugenie
Compiled by Sherry Gunderson
Back Row: Henri (holding Pat), Eugenie, Alonzo, Richard.
Front Row: Paul, Alice, Lily, Sarah, Delor, Marianne..
Henri Gallant was born in 1877 in Grande Digue, New Brunswick to Richard Gallant and Marie Babineau. He was one of ten children and spent his early years in Grande Digue.
On November 12, 1899 Henri married Marie Eugenie Hebert, in Grande Digue, New Brunswick.
Marie Eugenie was born November 9, 1877, to Patrice and Obeline (Poirer) Hebert, in Grande Digue, New Brunswick.
Henri became a young entrepreneur, as he went into the lobster business, running two stores, as well as doing some fishing. He eventually went broke in the first venture, but, undaunted, began again in the General Dry Goods and Grocery business, mainly between 1904 and 1908. People usually bought on credit and because of this and customers' unpaid bills, Henri had to close his stores in Grande Digue and Richibucto Village. By this time, the Gallants had five children:
1. Edmee - born 1901 in Grande Digue, New Brunswick - died 1912 in Big River at age eleven of jaundice
2. Alonzo Joseph - born 1903 in Grande Digue, New Brunswick - died 1986 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - married Genevieve Arsenault.
3. Richard - born 1904 in Grande Digue, New Brunswick - died 1992 in White Rock, British Columbia
4. Delor - born 1906 in Grande Digue, New Brunswick - married Isobel Beckman
5. Marianne - born 1908 in Grande Digue, New Brunswick - married Gaudois Trembley
Henri and his family then moved to Maine, U.S.A. There is no record of what work he did there. One more child was born:
6. Sarah - born 1910 in Maine, U.S.A. - married (1) Phillipe Clement - married (2) Fred Croteau
In 1911, Henri met a priest in Maine who talked him into moving west into Canada. They travelled by train to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and spent eight days there waiting for their papers to be cleared to venture north. Big River was their destination. Upon arriving, Henri built a house on Third Avenue and took a job at the sawmill, where he worked for about ten years. Four more children were born in Big River:
7. Oselie (Lily) - born 1913 - married Charile Dlugon
8. Alice - born 1914 - married Joe Dougherty
9. Napoleon (Paul) - born 1917 - married Anne
10. Patrice - born 1920 - died 1970
The family bought a homestead three miles northeast of Big River (SW 28-56-7-W3rd). Henri and his now older sons began the long task of clearing land as well as building a house.
About 1922, Henri started commercial fishing on Stoney Lake. This proved to be a highly successful venture from the start. In the winters of 1923 and 1924, he went fishing at Burnt Lake, now called Keeley Lake. That winter he did very well, but in February of 1924 he had an accident; a gas explosion in the tent. Henri died two days later in the Ilea-la-Crosse hospital. He was 46. Marie Eugenie continued to live on the farm until her death in February of 1951. She was 74.
Bill and Helen Garnot
Bill was born in the Leask area in 1918, where he grew up with his parents. He worked until he was old enough to join the army, and went overseas. On his return he spent some time in Ontario, later returning to Leask, where he spent a lot of time working for farmers in the area.
He married Helen Stavely. Bill and Helen raised four daughters and two sons, Shirley Wicinski, Patricia Hannam, Violet Reed, Linda Lee, Philip, and William Jr.
When Bill came to Big River in the late 40's he worked in Ladder Valley for Mrs Choynicki on the farm. He later got a wood sawing outfit and sawed firewood. Some years later he went to the bush as a tree faller, working for Mr Sundby. He also worked for Clarence Pederson and Herb Beatty. He loved his work but loved his power saw more. It was always kept in tiptop shaped.
In the late fifties, Bill got on at the sawmill in Big River where he worked until he left Big River in 1964 to work for the city of Prince George, British Columbia.
Bill passed away in March 1978. Helen passed away in June 1980 and their son Philip passed away in 1994.
Back Row: Billy, Phillip.
Front Row: Patricia, Shirley, Violet. Linda.
Clay, Devyn, Jodie Gear
Clayton Michael Gear, the second son and third child of Gail and Roy Gear, was born May 13, 1980, in Shellbrook Union Hospital. My home with my parents was always SW 32-55-6-W3'.
I attended school in Big River. Jodie (nee Hyllestad daughter of Vern and Norma Hyllestad) and I were married in 2001. Jodie attended College in Vermilion, Alberta where she took training in horsemanship. She enjoys schooling horses when time allows. We live on SW 31-55-7-W3'. I am presently apprenticing as an electrician. We have a daughter, Devyn Tyra born January 24, 2002.
I had a Shetland pony that took me places when I was small, a dog team that taught me many things, chores to do, neighbours and siblings and bus drivers to play tricks on. It was a happy childhood.
Jodie and I both enjoy hunting and fishing and working together to build our "farm". We spend a lot of time with our families as they help us to build. I enjoy music. I greatly appreciate the hours Jack Olson spent attempting to teach me how to play the fiddle.
Kerry, Melanie, Esther, Garry Gear.
Garry was born in Weirdale, Saskatchewan on September 29,1934. He first came to the Ladder Valley area in 1950 and bought his first quarter of land in 1954. He started farming part-time and going to work in the oil fields in Alberta.
Esther was born at Big River on February 27, 1945, and grew up on the farm SE-15-55-6-W-3, in the Rapid Bend area. She went to school at Rapid Bend for the first three years, till the school closed and they were bused to Big River School.
Garry and Esther were married in 1964 and settled on their farm NE'1/44 32-55-6-W-3 at Ladder Valley.
They have two children, a son, Kerry born on September 25, 1964, in Shellbrook, and a daughter Melanie (Topham) born on June 19, 1967.
Garry and Esther farm and raise cattle. Ester worked part-time at the CIBC from 1981 to 1989. They continue to work on their farm.
Kelly was born April 30, 1969, in the Holy Family Hospital, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
Roy, Gail and Kelly moved to Kamloops, British Columbia from Prince Albert and stayed for two years before returning to Big River. He started kindergarten at the Junior School on the hill in 1974. At that time they lived on Sixth Avenue South. After that, the family moved to Lake Four and finally settled on SW 32-55-6-W3" in Ladder Valley in 1977. Kelly played hockey from about the age of four years. He took part in a drama. He worked for his Dad with the bees until Roy quit the business. He continued his schooling in Big River until going to work at the mill in June of 1987.
Kelly enjoyed singing and while doing so was privileged to meet some quite well-known entertainers. Once he got well into the business he realized that it was too much business and not enough singing to pursue it professionally.
He now lives on NW 17-55-7-W3' and continues to work at Big River Lumber. He has nieces and nephews who think the world of him and manage to keep him busy.
Back Row: Kendra, Cindy.
Front Row: Matthew, Kerry.
Kerry grew up on the family farm NE-32-55-6-W3rd. He enjoyed outdoor activities, especially hunting and fishing with his dad.
Kerry graduated in 1983 from the Big River High School and was married in 1984. They have one daughter, Kendra, born on June 27, 1985. He worked at various jobs in Prince Albert and Watson, Saskatchewan. He is presently employed by Goodlife Foods. Kerry and Cindy live in Prince Albert with their children Kendra and Matthew.
Gear, Lester and Gertrude
Gertrude, the third child of Tolleif and Rachel Aarrestad was born in Sele, Norway, September 1927. She immigrated to Lake Four with her family in 1930. She started school when the Lake Four School opened in 1939 and attended it for three and a half years completing grade six. Gertrude worked at different jobs: housekeeping, babysitting, cooking in logging and bush camps, as well as cooking and waitressing in cafes. She was a cleaning lady in Big River Union Hospital and at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton.
She also clerked in a grocery store in Hinton, Alberta. Gertrude and her sister Alma operated the Park Valley store and post office from 1963 to 1970. In 1967 she married Lester Gear. Lester is the eldest son of Willard and Alga Gear. He was born in Weirdale Saskatchewan, in April 1920.
He moved to the Ladder Valley area in 1959. Lester and Gertrude spent their first three summers on the farm in Ladder Valley and winters in Edmonton where Lester worked on a PMU farm. Their daughter, Kathrine, was born in Edmonton, on November 1968. In 1970 they took up farming full time in the Ladder Valley area, where Lester farmed with his brother. While keeping with grain and cattle there was always at least one horse on the farm that he felt needed to be fattened up or taken special care of. In 1990 Lester and Gertrude sold the farm and retired in Shellbrook.
Kathrine took all of her schooling in Big River. She graduated from nursing in Saskatoon in June 1989. She has been a nurse in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. In September 2002, she married Milton Seabrook. They live in Cranbrook, British Columbia with Milt's youngest daughter.
Gail and Roy Gear.
Roy was born Feb 18, 1943, and raised at Weirdale, Saskatchewan. He came to the Big River area and attended Big River High School when he was seventeen. Up until this time, he had attended school at Weirdale and Meath Park. His father Bill (Willard) Maxwell Gear was born on January 3, 1893, in Kansas City, Kansas and his mother Alga Irma (Baring) were born on May 2, 1902, in Oceola, Nebraska. They came from Weirdale, Saskatchewan in 1962 and settled in the area on SW 27-55-6-W 3rd.
Roy, the youngest in a family of ten, was a very independent person. He roamed the outdoors for days on end by himself enjoying nature. His parents respected his independence probably much more than many parents could today.
Before and after he was married, work took Roy away to different parts of Canada as an oil field worker and as a bricklayer until we settled on SW 32-55-6-W3rd in 1977. Another of his occupations was raising honeybees, taking him to work in the United States. He was forced to quit this business for health reasons. Roy continues to raise cattle in Ladder Valley.
I, Gail, was born April 19, 1949, at Prince Albert and lived on SE 24-55-7-W3rd with my parents Allyn and Margaret Wood until the family home was moved to NW 19-55-6-W3rd. I attended Ladder Valley School from grade one to grade eight. The transition from Ladder Valley School to Big River High School in grade nine was a culture shock and a very intimidating experience. After graduation in 1967, I began working at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) where I worked both full time and part-time nearly every year until 1998 when I began work at the Town Office in Big River. I am currently employed as the Administrator there.
Being the oldest in the family, I recall being the one elected to assist with chores both in and out of the house. The outside tasks were much more to my liking. I recall harvest and driving the tractor with my Dad behind on the binder, taking him over rock piles and into the bush and still being invited to come back. I remember hauling wagon loads of sheaves to the threshing machine, getting lost while going for cows that were stretched out over two-quarters of bushland, nailing fish box ends at a penny apiece until I had enough for a typewriter. I remember coming home after school with my Mom and starting in to do the necessary chores, left because she was at work all day. A very vivid memory is the day we got the power in. It was wonderful. Shortly after this event, we traded a cow for a fridge and a black and white TV, the first one in the country. Neighbours came to watch. We seldom went very far, possibly to Big River for groceries on Saturday.
As a child, a lot of time was spent with grandparents. With the Wood grandparents, the main event of any day was playing cards, second only to eating. By the time any of the grandchildren were six, we had mastered the game of cribbage. Making the trip to Colonsay to spend a week or two with the Egglestone grandparents required two-week preparation time and a day of travel. It was here that I learned to sew and to drive the car and to listen in on the party line. Such character building!
Roy and I have three children, Kelly, Carla (Bradly Arial) and Clayton (Jodie Hyllestad). The family continues to be important to us. As we think about retirement in the years to come, we are happy that our children have decided to settle close to us.
Gear, Willard (Bill) and Alga
Bill and Alga Gear.
Bill was born in January 1893 in Kansas. Alga was born in May 1902 in Nebraska. They both moved to Canada with their parents.
Bill and Alga met and were married at Oyen, Alberta. They moved to Saskatchewan settling in the Wierdale area. They farmed and Bill worked in the bush during the winter.
Their ten children grew up on this farm. Lester, Ruth (Albright), Helen ( Manning), Flora ( Berg), Harold, Richard, Garry, Ruby ( Pederson), Leona (Reichle), and Roy.
Bill and Alga moved to Ladder Valley in 1960 and later bought the SW27-55-6-W3rd, where they lived for several years.
Seven of their children have lived in the Big River/Ladder Valley area at some time; Lester, Ruth, Flora, Harold, Richard, Garry and Roy.
Bill passed away on April 1974 and Alga passed away on February 1981.
Gendron, Betty (Mrs. Braidek)
Leon and Betty Gendron.
I started in life as Betty Drinkle and grew up in Saskatoon; except for 3 years as a child in Victoria, British Columbia during the Second World War.
After finishing high school, I attended a year at Teachers' College, taught three years in Saskatoon and spent a year taking classes at University. My fourth year of teaching was at Melfort. In July of 1958, I married and moved to a farm in the Speers area. Dick and Jon were born before our move to a farm near Bodmin in November of 1964.
In 1966, due to a shortage of teachers, I returned to the classroom in the Big River Junior School, teaching grades 2 and 3 and being vice-principal, who rang the bell and answered the telephone in my classroom. I moved to teach in Hawarden, Saskatchewan in 1976 and stayed three years.
After numerous university classes at summer school and off-campus, I received my Education Degree in 1980 and returned to Big River to teach grade 2 while a teacher was on maternity leave for one year. Next, I taught in Debden, but due to that school being divided into English and French, I stayed only one year. At that time, teachers were more plentiful and jobs were difficult to find, so I decided to become qualified to teach special education. I was able to take these classes in Victoria, British Columbia in 1981.
While there, I received a phone call from Debden to say the special ed teacher had left and asked me when I could come. I completed my classes and came to Debden to finish the school year. Then I returned to Big River to teach special ed in T.D. Michel School for the next nine years.
I married Leon Gendron in 1989 and retired in 1991. Being blessed with good health, I can spend some of my time volunteering.
Bill, Erin, Maxine, Regine. Insert: Travis
William (Bill) George Gerow, was born at the Big River Hospital on May 20, 1950. He is the the eldest son of three born to Lloyd and Mary Gerow. Robert was born on September 11, 1953, and Clifford was born on May 25, 1956.
Bill was raised in Big River and district, until he was 6, at that time the family moved to Milestone Saskatchewan. The prairie life did not suit Lloyd so they moved to Watrous where Bill took his grade 2 and 3. The family moved back to Big River in 1962 and I took my grade 4 in Ladder Valley where mom taught school. It was not much fun having your mother for a teacher but the stories I remember around the wood heater in that one-room school are worth the pain of listening to what you did wrong all the way home every night. Bill took the rest of his high schooling at Big River and graduated in 1969.
Maxine Johnson was born at Big River Hospital in 1955. Maxine is the middle child of five born to Bernard and Ida Johnson. Wayne was born in 1950, Jordon in 1954, Stewart in 1957, and Lisa in 1968.
Maxine was raised in Big River, until the age of five when the family moved to Dore Lake, Saskatchewan where her mother and father owned a mink ranch and did commercial fishing. It was a great place to grow up, as the tiny hamlet would swell to become an active "summer" community with the influx of fishing, boating and camping tourists. My schooling was in one room, one teacher school at Dore Lake. There was no school bus, so in the summer, Dad would take us to school in the boat, and in the winter he would use the horse and cutter. When the lake was frozen my brothers and I would walk across the South bay to school. Of course, I remember best, the days where it was too cold to go to school and we could stay home for the day; too cold meant -40. At the age of fourteen, I was sent to attend high school in Big River. This was when I met Bill, as he worked as a butcher at Yurach's IGA, and I would help out at the store after school.
Bill moved to British Columbia to work at a mill but soon returned home where he drove a truck for Les Dunn for one summer. Bill purchased his trucks and hauled logs in the winter and gravel in the summer. This continued until October 20, 1973, when he married Maxine Johnson. We lived in Saskatoon for a month until Bill obtained a teaching position at Hudson Bay Composite High School. We lived there for one year and then moved to Saskatoon, where Bill attended university. Upon completion of university and his MVMR journeyman certificate, we moved back to Hudson Bay for another two years. It was during this time that Regine Erma was born (January 24, 1976). The call to be closer to the family caused us to move back to Debden and at this time Erin Mary was born (December 8, 1977). Bill and Maxine moved back to Big River where Bill and his brother purchased the Esso from Carmen Weir. Bill and Maxine ran it for several years until he returned to teaching at Debden. Bill has continued teaching in Debden and is the Principal at present.
Maxine began teaching Driver Education in 1985 and is doing so at present. The early years of Maxine' s career caused her to be gone well past the supper hour. This forced Bill to cook for the growing family; the result was that the girls had many meals of fish and chips or hot dogs and macaroni, both of which the girls shy away from to this day. Bill and Maxine built the house that we presently live in, in 1984/85. Many construction decisions came about after heated battles and we were both happy to move in, during November of 1986. About this time we felt an urge to farm, as Bill's background was one of farming. So we purchased 3 quarters west of the Mill at Bodmin. We ran 75 head cattle operation until the spring of 2003 when we sold the farm.
Bill and Maxine and the girls always enjoyed outdoor activities, which included trail riding, gymkhana activities, canoeing, camping, boating and lastly Motorbike riding. Both Bill and Maxine were very active in Curling and helped coach many teams to the provincial playoffs. Both the girls excelled in figure skating, curling and many school activities. Many fond memories are based around activities, which involved horseback riding. These include memorable events that took place during the many years of travel to the Leoville rodeo.
Regine and Travis live in Saskatoon where they run their own fuel business. Erin completed her Bachelor of Education in the spring of 2003. She is presently teaching at a college in Mexico.
Regine married Travis Gould in Jamaica on April 21, 1998. They presently have three children:
Back Row: Dylon. Presley, Front Row: Jesse, 2002. Dylon six years,
Presley four years and Jesse three years.
Submitted by Bill and Maxine Gerow
Lloyd and Bit.
Pearl, holding Bob, Bill and George.
Lloyd George Gerow came to the Big River area during the 1930s when his parents George Gerow and Pearl Gerow moved from Cabri district (a small village named Gerowville).
George Gerow moved to a homestead in the Erinferry area and lived there until he died in 1954.
Lloyd Gerow met Mary Elizabeth Boddy (who resided with her parents Bill and Eleanor Boddy). Lloyd had many interests and was very good at almost anything he did. He tells stories of his combining days as they travelled from Texas to Canada. He was always interested in Mechanics and obtained his journeyman status in the early 1950s.
Back Row: Shirley, Peggy, Bit, Bill Jr.
Front Row: Gerald, Bill Sr., Eleanor, Ted.
Lloyd and Mary (Bit) were married in August of 1949 after Bit completed her Teachers College in Moose Jaw. Lloyd and Bit resided with Lloyd's parent while he built a new house for them on the family farm. The farm could not sustain two families, so Lloyd and Bit moved to Debden where Lloyd worked in a garage. It was during this time that a baby boy was born. William George Gerow was born on May 20, 1950. Bit tells stories of living in a small house that was so cold in the winter that every water pail froze and to keep the baby from freezing they had to keep him in bed with them all the time. After stints of farm work and garage work, Lloyd and Bit moved to Big River and worked for Eddy Wirtz, who had a garage that was located where Mid-town service is located today. It was during this time that two more boys were born, Robert Martin Gerow (September 11, 1953) and Clifford Lloyd Gerow (May 25, 1956).
When the garage burned down, Lloyd and Mary (Bit) moved to Milestone, Saskatchewan. Lloyd worked at a service station on the outskirts, but he could never get used to the idea of living on the bald prairie and he moved to Watrous after one year. Watrous was a little better with limited trees, but the distance from Bit's family and no 'bush' was enough to cause a move back to Big River in 1962. He purchased land and a house from the Hannigan Bros., which they lived in until both of their deaths.
In Big River, Lloyd sold Watkins products for several years and then purchased a bus run (West Cowan) from Mr Cronk. There are many tales of how students were misbehaving and had to walk in front of the bus, the Sharp boys probably have a few more stories than the rest to relate. There are times when Lloyd would finish the bus run and then go back to help a farmer fix his tractor or other equipment. Lloyd was always willing to help work on any type of equipment, including the scow that towed the logs down the lake to Big River. I was always excited when Dad worked on this scow for it meant that I could go for a ride down the river. Dad taught a farm welding school for several years, from his shop at home. He insisted that his boys know how to weld and work on equipment, looking back I'm sure it was a way to get us to clean the shop every weekend, but we appreciated the knowledge that he passed on to us. To make ends meet Lloyd and Bit did janitorial work at the Post Office and Fisheries Building for several years. Lloyd also did custodial work at the Elementary Schools and the Post Office until he retired at the age of 65. Lloyd was always an active member of the Elk's and at one time was the Exalted Ruler. Dad was always proud to have been an Elk.
Back Row: Bill, Bit, Front Row: Bob, Cliff.
Bit (mom), first started teaching at Green Mantle school in the early 1950s. To get to school she had to come from the farm at Wrixon (known today as Erinferry) There were poor roads and a long distance to travel to come around through Big River so Dad built her a road across the river, behind Rusty Beebe's present house. The bridge was made of logs that he cut on the site, the road was nothing more than a bush trail and all she had to drive was an old Model A Ford. During the winter months, she would ride a horse or use the horse to pull a sleigh. Mom was proud of the fact that she never missed a day of school. Mom's teaching career was on and off as she raised a family and tried to get a little extra money by subbing. Bit taught school at Ladder Valley for one year and later at the Big River schools. Bit loved to teach school and after her family was gone she decided to take up teaching again, she was so excited to obtain a job teaching upgrading in Debden, Shell Lake and Big River. This meant travelling again, and I am very proud to say that I was able to travel with my mother back and forth to work for 10 years until her health forced her to retire.
Mary also loved to do carpenter work, and as I recall the house was always in turmoil during this time, but the results were worth it all. She insisted on doing everything herself or with the help of her family. There was nothing she would not try or anyone she would not give a lecture to if they got in her way. Lloyd and Mary purchased a property from Harry Phillips in the early '70s and with the help of their family, they built a cabin. They loved their cabin and spent every summer at it with their 'lake friends' whom they spoke very highly of.
Lloyd and Bit both loved to dance and were very involved in square dancing and took a very active role in many New Years dances as well as in Klondike days. Mary was very active in the Royal Purple and was pleased to be the Honored Royal lady during her long Royal Purple life. Mom was also an active member of the Legion and loved to go on curling trips and card-playing trips.
One of Mom's favourite past times was curling. Mom was very proud to be able to curl with her children and grandchildren. Her unique slide and compassion for the game were among her many trademarks.
Lloyd became ill and found it very difficult breathing and passed away on August 6, 1996. Mary was fighting cancer but managed to hold it off until February 18', 1999. They were survived by William Gerow and his wife Maxine, their two children Regine (Travis) Gould and Erin Gerow; Robert Gerow and his wife Pauline, their two children Candace (Terry) Lehoullier and Adam Gerow; Clifford Gerow and his wife Marlene and their three children Melissa, Brianne and Courtney. They also have three great-grandchildren Dylon, Presley and Jesse Gould.
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979
George, Ruth. October 25, 1943
George Gibson came to Big River with his parents in 1920. They homesteaded in the Ladder Valley district.
George enlisted in the Second World War and while overseas-married Ruth E. Jones of London, England. The couple returned to Canada in 1946 and settled in the Ladder Valley area. Mr Gibson passed away in 1966 and at that time Mrs Gibson moved into town where she still resides.
Giesbrecht, Bernhard and Katherine
Katherine and Bernard, 1941.
Bernhard was born on April 20, 1881, in Manitoba to Heinrich and Maria (Dyck) Giesbrecht. Katherine was born in Manitoba on November 14, 1890, to Jacob and Katherine (Derkson) Kessler.
They were married in Goertize, Manitoba in 1911 and in 1912 moved to Great Deer, Saskatchewan. They went back to Manitoba and then returned to Great Deer after a few years. They moved and settled in Big River in 1925. Ben cut wood and farmed. They first lived by Ladder Lake and then moved into town. A house fire in 1936 had them move out north of town to where the landfill is currently located. They lived there for at least 12 years and then moved back to town until their passing, Ben in 1963 and Katherine in 1974. They raised their eight children in the Big River area.
Katherina (Tina) Modine was born in Manitoba in 1912 and currently lives in the senior housing on the hospital hill.
Maria (Mary) Fonos was born in 1913 in Saskatchewan and also lives in senior housing. Susana was born in 1914 and passed away in 1915.
Anna (Anne) Milligan was born in 1916 in Saskatchewan and currently lives in the senior housing alongside her two sisters.
Bernhard was born and passed away in 1919. Bernhard (Ben) Giesbrecht was born in 1920 in Manitoba and passed away in 1998.
Jacob (Jake) Giesbrecht was born in 1922 in Manitoba and passed away in 1978.
Henry Giesbrecht was born in 1924 in Saskatchewan and passed away in 1991.
Peter Giesbrecht was born in 1926 and currently lives in Saskatoon with his wife Betty.
Helen was born in 1928 and passed away in 1939 when she was run over by a wagon.
Ben and Katherine played a big part in all their grandchildren's lives. There were always lots of outings. In the summer, there would be picnics (usually at South Stoney) and lots of berry picking. If none of the kids was going, they would walk three or four miles to pick berries taking their dog "Chubby" with them to keep the bears away. Ben played the accordion and taught all his grandchildren "Little Brown Jug". Katherine loved her flowers and making blankets.
Their granddaughter, Tootsie, once asked Katherine's brother, Nick, why they had left Manitoba. Ben said he wanted his children to have an English education. When asked why they had left Great Deer, the reply was that Ben had a bad temper and one day he hooked his cow and one horse to his wagon together and everyone laughed, so he loaded up and moved to Big River.
Germaine Lucille Carter, born in April 1942, was the third child of Albert and Lucille Carter. She lived with her parents and siblings on the homestead (twelve miles northeast of Big River) owned by her grandparents, John and Catherine Breker. In 1948, her parents bought a farm (owned by Victor Dunbar) on the west side of Delaronde (Stoney) Lake. Their neighbours were the Patrick family and the Ben Wall family (Moonlight Lake).
Germaine remembers coming home with her mom and Mrs Patrick in a horse-drawn 2-wheel cart. The noise and rattling from Gordon Patrick's horse and buggy following behind them caused their horse, Nellie to run away. The burst of speed resulted in the kids falling from the cart and being scattered along the road. This was very scary for the women. Gordon and the men, watching from the house, thought this was a race. She also remembers the moving of kids and clothes out of the home, on more than one occasion, due to a forest fire threat. They got to stay at Dave Klassen's and eat bear burgers. In 1954, her dad's horses went missing. Her dad looked for them for about a month but was unable to find them. This was a great hardship for her parents.
Germaine attended Stoney Lake School until 1948. She was then bussed, along with the other children, to Big River where she attended school until finishing her Grade eleven in 1960. She graduated from Caranport High School in Caranport, Saskatchewan. In 1961 and 1962, she attended the Nipawin Bible Institute.
In 1963, Germaine married John Giesbrecht (son of Jacob and Aganetha Giesbrecht of Lake Four). They lived in Big River and area until 1965, while John worked on road construction in Tisdale and area during the summer. In September 1965, they moved to Lousana, Alberta, and worked on the Japan Evangelical Mission farm.
In September 1969, they moved to Redfield (near Battleford, Saskatchewan) until December. They moved back in June 1970 and bought the Howard Swanson farm north of Big River. John also bought his first truck from Sam Miller. He hauled pulp, cattle, and logs until 1980. In July 1980, they sold their farm to Tom and Pat Michel and moved to Lac La Biche, Alberta, where they presently reside. John retired in 2001, and Germaine works part-time as a secretary for the Evangelical Free Church of which they are both members. Germaine and John have four children:
Nathaniel born in 1964 and married Sheryl Mueller of Lac La Biche in 1986.
Nadine born in 1966 and married Gerry Terpstra of Red Deer, Alberta in 1992.
Nola born in 1969 and married Derrick Kruk of Lac La Biche in 1998.
Noreen born in 1972 and resides in Calgary, Alberta.
The highlight of Germaine's years was in 1950 when she, her older sister, Darlene, and her parents, made a life-changing decision to know God in a personal experience at the Big River Bible Camp. This is her hope and strength today. God is Good!
Giesbrecht, Jacob and Margretha
Jacob Giesbrecht was born in Russia in May of 1880. He married Margretha Penner (born in Russia in April of 1882) and came to Canada in 1923. Their children were George, Jacob, Maria (Kroeker), David, Margaretta (Purper), Cornelius, Hans, Anna (Dreher), and Thomas. They homesteaded north of the Lake Four District in 1927. Jacob passed away in 1939 in Lake Four and Margeretha passed away in January 1959 in Rosthern.
Johan Bueckert, of Russia, was born in 1885. Maria Doeksen, of South Dakota, United States, was born in August of 1889. They were married in 1912 and moved from Great Deer, Saskatchewan, to Big River in 1920. Their children were Aganetha (Giesbrecht), Mary (Neufeld), Elizabeth, John, Abram, Henry, and Edward. Johan worked at the Big River mill until it burned down. He found work as the drayman until 1930. They moved and homesteaded SW 16-54-6-W3" on the northwest end of the Lake Four meadows. They were active members of the Bethel Mennonite Mission Church at Lake Four. In 1945, they moved to Waldheim. Johan died in 1948 and Maria died in 1969.
Jacob Giesbrecht (son of Jacob and Margaretha Giesbrecht was born in 1906. He married Aganetha Bueckert (daughter of Johan and Maria Bueckert, born in 1913) in 1932 and moved beside the Lake Four meadows. They had eight children:
Jacob (deceased in 1982)
John (born in 1936 and married Germaine Carter)
Maria (Bergen - deceased in 2001)
Peter (deceased in 1948)
In 1958, Jacob passed away in Big River.
Aganetha later moved to Waldheim where she married John C. Epp of Glenbush in 1972. Aganetha passed away in 1985.
Giesbrecht, Jacob and Mary
Jacob (Jake) and I were married on July 27, 1963. We lived on a farm in the Lake Four area NE 2-55-6-W3'. This is where Jake's parents, Jacob and Aganetha Giesbrecht first lived and where their seven children grew up. Their married names are Jacob (Mary) Giesbrecht, Johann (Germaine) Giesbrecht, Helena (Larry) Fullerton, Maria (Jake) Bergen, Margaretha (Al) Newton, Martha (Ruben) Rempel, Anna (Norman) Mumma. Their first son Peter died in infancy.
My husband Jacob, passed away on June 16, 1982, at the age of 48. His sister Maria passed away on February 20, 2001.
Jacob and I were blessed with two children, Lynette, born on June 15, 1968, and Leroy born on February 26, 1970. Lynnette married Lyndon Schuland on May 21, 1994, and is residing in Regina. Leroy married Darlene Reimer on April 6, 1991, and they are residing in Neuhorst (Osier area). They have two daughters Kayla and Emily.
While living at Lake Four we attended the Bethel Mennonite Church. Jake took over as part-time pastor after the Boldt's left. He also enjoyed curling. Besides farming, Jake was employed at the sawmill at Big River and later at Bodmin until he became ill with cancer.
Even though I lived in other places since I moved off the farm in 1986, I still like to spend time at my farm in the summer months, mostly to visit the neighbours. I am presently residing in Shellbrook and enjoying it.
Calvin Keith was born on August 7, 1957. He started school in Big River and completed his schooling in Hazlet School where he graduated in 1975. After graduation, Cal attended the University of Saskatchewan, where he received his BSA (Bachelor of Science in Agriculture). He and two of his friends from his University days then made a six-month trip to Australia and New Zealand with brief stops in Hawaii and Fiji.
Like his Dad, Cal loves farming and has pursued this career all his life. He also enjoys hunting, curling and golfing.