The Wicinski family has its origins in Ukraine. My father Stefan (b. 1892 - d. 1979) and my mother Katherine, nee: Chomyk (b. 1901 - d. 1958) immigrated to Canada from the Ternopil area of Ukraine, June 25, 1929. They came aboard the White Star Line steamship, the "Regina". Upon their arrival in Saskatchewan, they stayed with Mother's brother Tofan Chomyk, in the Fir Ridge district near Prince Albert. For the next two years, they lived with relatives in the Fir Ridge and Honeymoon districts, and Father worked for various farmers.
In 1931, Father was able to obtain a homestead. It was in the Ladder Valley district near Big River. The trip to the homestead was arduous. First by road to Eldred, then train to Big River. From there it was along bush trails to the site. The land was heavily treed and had to be cleared before anything could be done. The family lived with a generous neighbour for two weeks while Father cut trees and built a house. It must have been a difficult time as money and food were scarce. The house had to be built with hand tools with whatever materials were at hand. Father soon cleared enough land for a garden and to grow some wheat. Rabbits were caught to add protein to the diet. In time, Father was able to acquire a team of horses, a cow and some chickens. The horses enabled Father to cut and sell cordwood so groceries could be bought at O.P. Godin's store in Big River.
The early years must have been lonely for Father and Mother. They were in a strange land, with little grasp of the English language, and were cut off from all their relatives. Despite the many hardships they encountered, they persevered and prospered. Their faith of the Ukrainian Catholic Church carried them over many a difficult time.
I am the third child of five born to the Wicinski family. I was born at the family farm in 1932. We attended the Ladder Valley School and St. Leonards Anglican Church. These places were two miles from home and we had to walk. We had to rise early each morning because, of course, there were farm chores to be done before leaving for school. I attended high school in Big River.
After school, I moved to Prince Albert and worked at the Prince Albert Sanatorium. It was here that I met my husband Donald Neely. We were married in 1956 in Big River. My husband's work took us to many communities over the years: La Loche, Ile-a-la-Crosse, Fort Qu'Appelle, LaRonge and eventually, back to Prince Albert, where we still reside. We were blessed with the birth of four children, three still alive and married with families. Craig in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Margot in Whitehorse, Yukon, and Elaine in Perth, Australia. Our youngest son David died in 1983.
My husband and I travelled to Ukraine in 1979, where we visited many of our parent's relatives. We visited the house where my mother and father had lived, then occupied by Father's brother. The pictures we brought back were a delight to father and brought back a flood of memories. Father died later that year and with him went the only written link with the Ukrainian folks. Under the tutorial of a retired teacher, I learned to read and write the language and have assumed this role for the family.
Neilson, Frank and Sophia
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979
Frank Neilson and family came to Big River in 1937 and homesteaded three miles from Big River where the Cromartie farm is now. Mr Neilson was in the wood and rail business.
The Neilson family consisted of five boys and three girls. One girl died when a child and two boys were killed in the Second World War. One boy passed away in Prince Albert. Four children are still living. Also, Mrs Sophia Neilson is presently in the Pouce Coupe Hospital in British Columbia. Mr Neilson passed away in 1945. One daughter, Dora Doucette, still resides in Big River. The other daughter and two sons reside in Dawson Creek, and Abbotsford, British Columbia.
Nelson, Clayton and Nancy (Tardif)
Leah, Charlene, Clayton and Nancy.
I, Nancy, was born in Big River on January 9, 1955, to Leo and Irene Tardif. Clayton was born in Park Valley on October 4, 1950, to Gunnar and Beryl Nelson.
We were married in Big River on August 25, 1973. At that time we lived in Prince Albert where Clayton was employed at Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.
Our first daughter, Charlane, was born in Prince Albert on March 27, 1974.
In October 1974, we moved back to Big River and Clayton worked for McKenzie Trucking.
On May 11, 1976, our second daughter, Leah, was born.
Clayton became employed at the Saskatchewan Forest Products mill in 1975. He is stilled employed at the mill, which is now owned by Weyerhaeuser.
In 1994, we bought our little farm in Ladder Valley. This was the same farm where we lived when we first moved back to Big River in 1974. We wanted to purchase it then but we were newlyweds then and no one would lend us the money to purchase the farm. When it came up for sale again, we knew we wanted it!
Charlane now lives in Prince Albert and works with Airport Security. She married Darryl Balman on August 23, 2003.
Leah has moved back to Big River where she works as an Education Associate at the T. D. Michel Elementary Community School.
I work at the Timber Ridge Ski Hill in the winter. The rest of the year, I garden and enjoy farm life (although at times it can be trying).
Clayton plans to retire in a few years and then will "play" on his farm full time.
Neubuhr, Herman and Agnes
Herman and Agnes Neubuhr.
We moved from Macdowall to Big River in 1966. We moved to Stockland Place. When we moved to Big River, we had a family of eight, but only five came with us; Ruth (thirteen), Sam (ten), Loretta (six), Viki (four), and Harold (three months).
We lived at Stockland Place for five years. We bought the Price place in 1971 and lived there for four years. Finally, we moved back to Macdowall, where I presently live. Herman worked for Albert Hannigan until haying season. Then he worked in the sawmill. He also went to work at the Big River Sawmill for about eight weeks. In November, Leonard (Dusty) came to live with us, now I have six at home. Jim came from Macdowall in 1970 to live with us, now I have seven at home. Herman passed away in 1984.
Dusty worked for the Hannigan's for one and a half years and then went to work at the Big River sawmill. He later worked for Ted McKenzie Trucking and also in Saskatoon where he worked for Kindersley Trucking. He married Lyla Larson in 1974. Their first son Bud (Leonard) was born in Saskatoon in March. In 1976 they moved back to Big River where Dusty again worked for Ted McKenzie Trucking. In 1981, Leslie was born and Leon came along in 1982.
In January of 1985, they were involved in a car accident, which took the lives of Dusty, Lyla and Leon. Leonard and Leslie survived. Dusty and Lyla were extremely kind and generous people and would not hesitate to give you the shirt off their backs. Dusty drove a truck for many years. It was very ironic that they would die in a car accident.
Presently, Buddy is working in Alberta on the oilrigs. Leslie is living in Macdowall and working at Aim Supply.
Trinity, Clint and C.J.
Jim worked at the sawmill in Big River, and for Mervin Sundby Trucking. One Sunday, Gordy Hegland came to the house to visit and Jim was home. They started talking about horses and before long; they caught the horses and started harnessing and hitching them up to the wagon. Neither Jim nor Gordy had ever driven four horses at one time. They both got on the wagon and drove along Ladder Lake, going as fast as the horses would go. When they wanted to stop the horses they had to drive them into the lake. Presently, Jim owns and operates IV Season's Trail Rides out of Macdowall with his girlfriend, Brenda Gillespie. He also works for Vernon Leach Trucking. Jim married Donna Mike from Duck Lake in 1972. They lived in Big River until finally moving back to Macdowall in 1974. They have four children, Clinton born in 1968, and resides in Saskatoon, Jacqueline born in 1972 and is attending school in Saskatoon, Clayton born in 1976 and resides in Saskatoon and Clifton born in 1981 and works at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg. Jim now has 12 grandchildren.
Grace married Pete Whitford in 1965. They lived in Macdowall where they farmed on the Whitford homestead. They had two children: Beverley born in 1965 and Clifford born in 1976. They continued to farm until their death in a house fire in 1970, which claimed the lives of Grace, Clifford and nineteen days later Pete died as well. Their daughter Beverley, then five, survived. She is now doing very well as a Dental Therapist in Nunavut. She is also an Independent Business Owner of Joeybev Enterprises.
Ruth and John.
Ruth married John Milligan from Big River in 1971. They lived here for about a year and their first-born James was born in 1971. They moved to British Columbia and lived there for a year. Stan was born in 1972 in British Columbia. They returned to Big River where John worked for a garage and also in the bush camp. They decided to move to Macdowall and today still live there. John passed away on April 27, 2003, from Lymphoma Cancer. James is married to Michelle Hamel. James works for WalMart and Michelle is a Teacher's Associate for the Sask. Rivers School Division. Stan and Darcy Sorenson have two daughters, Lindsey and Brittney. Stan is a truck driver for Joe Gill Trucking. Darcey is a stay-at-home mom.
Sam, Marie and boys
Terry and Trent.
Sam was ten when we came to Big River. Sam attended school in Big River and worked on our farm, and the sawmill. While he was attending school he met Neil McMahon and Marlow Pister. These three boys were very entertaining. In 1974 he moved back to Macdowall where he met Marie Gardypie from Duck Lake. They were married in 1977. Sam works for Joel McKenzie in Big River. Marie works for IMI Brokerage Company on Beardy's First nations. They have two boys, Terrence, born in 1976, who trains horses in Duck Lake, and is engaged and has one boy. And Trent, born in 1977, who lives in Winnipeg and is working at Assiniboia Downs.
Loretta (Lorie) married Eli Mike in 1976. They had four children Eli, born in 1976, Curtis, born in 1977, Amanda, born in 1978, and Kerri, born in 1982. They lived in Duck Lake for five years. Loretta and the kids moved to Macdowall in 1984. Loretta moved to Alberta and married Jim Friesen in 1994. They operate a hobby farm and Loretta works at Grand Prairie Hospital. Eli is engaged to Vivian Sigurdson. Eli and Vivian work at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg and have one son. Curtis works for Brent Young Seeds and Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg. Amanda married Darren Sylvester and lives in Turner Lake. Kerrie lives with Quentin Sylvester and goes to school in Prince Albert.
Ken and Viki.
Viki (Victoria) married Ken Keays in 1986. Viki and Ken live in the RM of Garden River. Viki is an Independent Business Owner of the Bestkeaynecyion. She is also employed at the Wapiti Regional Library in Prince Albert. Ken is employed at Wapawekka Lumber. Before working here he worked for various logging companies, such as Max Wilson Trucking, Wallace Wilson Enterprises, Helge Berger Trucking and Ted McKenzie Trucking. They have two boys: Robert, born in 1979 and Randall, born in 1984.
Randall works at 7-Eleven and is an independent business owner of Gotta Dream.
Rob, holding Jaci, and Robyn.
Rob is married to Robyn Ashby and has a daughter and one due in May. Rob works at Canadian Tire. They are independent business owners of Moco Enterprises.
Back Row: Harold, Shannon.
Front Row: Drew, Cam.
Harold started working at the age of sixteen with horses doing various duties from jockeying to stable hand. He freelanced for ten years horse-training in Winnipeg at Assiniboia Downs. He continued with this until the age of 34. He now works at a Fiberboard factory in Winnipeg. He married Shannon Deny-Edwards and has two boys. Drew, born in 1998 and Cameron, born in 2001. Shannon works for an Insurance Company in Winnipeg.
Neufeld, Andrew and Evelyn (LaPlante)
Richard, Evelyn, Andy, Bonnie, Garry, Bruce (1972).
Andrew's parents, Jacob Neufeld (born 1882 in Minnesota, United States) and Katherine Bergen (born 1882 in Gretna, Manitoba) were married in 1905.
Evelyn's parents, Hercule LaPlante (born 1916 in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan) and Jean Anderson (born 1918 also in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan) were married in 1935
Andrew Neufeld was born in Livelong, Saskatchewan in 1926. Evelyn LaPlante was born in Spiritwood in 1937.
Andrew and Evelyn were married in Big River, Saskatchewan, in the Anglican Church in 1954. They have four children: Bruce, born in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan in 1956; Richard, born in Taber, Alberta in 1957; Garry, born in Big River, Saskatchewan in 1960; and Bonny, born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1966.
Andrew had various jobs including working in the bush, road construction, and some farm work. The family lived in the Timberlost, Greenmantle, Vaucholl, Alberta and Big River district before they moved into the town of Big River in 1961 after purchasing a home on the old North Highway.
Andrew began working at the planer and sawmill in Big River in 1961. Evelyn got a part-time position at the Big River Union Hospital in 1965 until 1984 when she received a full-time position. Andrew retired from his job at the sawmill in 1989 while Evelyn waited until 1998 before she retired from her job.
In 1963, the Neufeld's built a house in town and lived there until 1982. They bought land from Bill Donald and built the home where they still live today.
Bruce married Janell Dunn and they have two sons, Tyler and Weston. Richard married Patty Weimer and they have one son, Dean. Garry married Mishel Olson and they have one son, Douglas and one daughter, Andy. Bonny married Doug McKenzie and they have one son, Lance and one daughter, Hailey. Andrew and Evelyn have one great-granddaughter, Mikaela Harty born April 19, 2001.
People ask me why, living at Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, would I buy land in Big River.
It happened one dry spring when the dust was blowing and I was reading in the "Western Producer" about the property for sale in pine and aspen forests.
In December 1990, I purchased thirty-five acres along highway #55 from Peter and Kathy Lomax (Portion of SE 20-57-8-W3rd). It is fourteen kilometres north of Big River on the east side of the highway. (A pie-shaped parcel cut off from a quarter section by highway improvements).
The following spring I bought a nearby house from John Arsenault. Garth Weindhandl, a friend from Kindersley, Saskatchewan helped me build a foundation of railway ties and the house was moved on to my property by Charles Grassick. Neighbours like Philip and Bernice Hodgson and Dick Shea were a great help in getting my place established.
I bought a woodstove and furniture from Maple Creek and Dick Shea kindly offered to help me unload it. We were lifting the hide-a-bed from the truck into the door when Dick began yelling at me to set it down. As I went around to see what the problem was, Dick was bent over. When I asked him if he was all right, he said: "My hair is caught in the springs". I tried to free him but couldn't so as a last resort I took my pocket knife and cut off the hair. Somewhere in my hide-a-bed, there is still a lock of Dick Shea's hair.
My two sons, Jesse and Murray, greatly enjoyed holidays at the cabin: fishing in Cowan Lake, swimming at Delaronde and Nesslin Lakes, having campfires and watching the logging trucks on the highway.
My parents have also enjoyed the cabin and my father, who missed cutting firewood when they sold the farm in Ontario, was able to enjoy working with the chain saw and axe again.
We enjoy our time at the cabin, attending services at St. Martins Anglican Church and going to the farmers market. This is such a beautiful area with friendly neighbours, abundant wildlife and peaceful countryside.
Now that I am retired as an Anglican Priest, although my home will still be in Maple Creek, I look forward to spending more time at the cabin.
Joseph Newman settled in the Winter Lake area in August 1929. He built a log house, a barn and a granary. He had five head of cattle and two horses when a patent was recommended on November 3, 1933. Joseph passed away in Prince Albert on April 22, 1937, at the Holy Family Hospital, at the age of fifty-nine years. He is buried in the South Hill Cemetery in Prince Albert. His son, John Newman (Nieman), took over his land (NW 9-54-7 W3rd).
Submitted by Blanche Kasdorf
Ivery Ogden Newton was born March 13, 1888, at Ouyon, Quebec. As a young boy, he came west to Saskatchewan, settling in Old Battleford where he was a barber.
In 1914, he joined the Fort Garry Horse Regiment in Winnipeg, Manitoba, serving overseas from 1914 to 1918. While overseas he was presented with the Military Medal for Bravery from King George the V. After the war, he came back to Saskatchewan settling this time in Prince Albert.
In 1921, he married Mary Motherwell of Prince Albert. Mary was born in Scotland on May 31, 1900. She immigrated to Prince Albert at the age of twelve with her parents, brothers and sisters, one sister being Grace Gould of Big River.
In 1922, Ivery and Mary Newton moved to Big River where Mr Newton was the game warden until 1932. After several years of trapping and running the steam engine at the lumber mill at Delaronde Lake, he then became dam keeper at Cowan Lake. He retired in 1963 and died on May 25, 1971.
His wife, Mary, was an accomplished pianist. She played the organ for several years at the United Church. She also played the piano in the Big River Orchestra, and at the school Christmas concerts. After a lengthy illness, Mary died in 1940.
Ivery and Mary had three children: Blanche, Lorna and Belroy. Blanche and Belroy both took their schooling in Big River.
Nichols, Mr and Mrs Wallace Kimball
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979
Mr and Mrs Wallace Kimball Nichols came with their family, Wallace Kimball Jr., Margaret Elizabeth, and Barbara Ellen, from the United States in the spring of 1914.
Mr Nichols became manager of the Big River Lumber operation for the Winton Brothers Ladder Lake Lumber Company. The family then moved to Seattle in the fall of 1921.
David Robert Nichols was born in Big River. Mr and Mrs Nichols have passed away. All the children live in the Vancouver, British Columbia area.
Thomas David Nicholson was born in Lingdale, England in 1900 and immigrated to Canada in 1926. He worked his way from the East Coast to Saskatchewan and homesteaded at Egg Lake near Big River.
He worked as a cook for men fighting forest fires and in bush camps for loggers. He also worked for Andrew Sundby in a small sawmill on Delaronde Lake.
Tom married Florence Olsen in 1937 and they raised six children on a small farm near Delaronde Lake. Their children were: James Olsen (Flora Morin) 1934-1975, Priscilla (Clarence Pister) 1938, Benjamin (Marie Lillyengren) 1939, Laverne (Albert Davis) 1941-1997, Grace 1943, and Nadine (Shaun Baker) 1954.
Tom passed away in 1983 in Big River and Florence passed away in Prince George, British Columbia, in 2000.
Submitted by Marjorie Skopyk
Lyle Yurach, Joe and Neil Yurach.
Joe Nickolson was born on June 6, 1871, in Cumwhinton Wetheral, England to parents Robert and Eliza Nickolson.
Joe came to Big River in 1909 and was one of the settlers to arrive here in Big River to a land of almost virgin timber. He came to help locate the clay, which would later be used for making bricks, to be used in the construction of the sawmill. Joe was a member of the Coldstream Guards of the Imperial Army during the South African War, and is also a veteran of the First World War.
Mr Nickolson became the first tower man for the Bodmin Hill tower and was also a supervisor of the Big River Forestry department along with Ernie Over.
He was very active in the Royal Canadian Legion and looked forward to the events that the Legion held, where you could see him amongst the children of the community at such events as the annual Christmas party or the birthday parties that were held at the Legion Hall.
It was during his later years that he made his home with Bill and Marjorie Yurach. Joe passed away in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan in 1958 and is buried in the Big River Cemetery.
Nisbet, John (Jack) Stevenson
Jack and Hilda
John (Jack) Stevenson Nisbet was hired by the Saskatchewan Timber Board to manage their planer mill in Big River in the early spring of 1954. His wife, Hilda, and their three daughters, Anne Marie, Eleanor, and Cheryl joined him as soon as school was out in Hythe, Alberta.
At that time Herb Beatty was sawmill manager, Arnold Stuesser and later Norman McNabb were sales managers, Joyce Harris was the bookkeeper, and Cliff Felt and Howard Hagen were the millwrights. The Nisbets lived in Big River until Jack was promoted to quality control inspector in the spring of 1960 and the family moved to Prince Albert. Jack passed away in Victoria, British Columbia on February 11, 1993, at the age of seventy-seven. Hilda and Cheryl Johnson (Clarence) both live in Vernon, British Columbia; Eleanor Blakeborough (Ian) in Nanaimo, British Columbia and Anne Marie Hunter (Don) in Prince Albert.
While living in Big River, Jack, a member of the B.P.O.E. (Elks), was Exalted Ruler for the club for two terms. He was also fire chief for the volunteer fire department. Hilda belonged to the C.W.L., I.O.D.E, and the Hospital Auxiliary. Anne Marie and Eleanor graduated from Big River High School in 1959 and 1960 respectively. Cheryl finished her grade nine in Big River but took her high school in Prince Albert.
The Nisbet family lived in one of the mill houses near the lake when they first arrived but soon moved to one of the suites above Waite Fisheries. They later moved into the "Old Schneider House" which was on the northeast corner of Main Street and 4th Avenue.
Big River was a great place to grow up in the late fifties. The girls learned to swim in the river at the "old swimming hole" - in spite of the mosquitoes and horse flies. They enjoyed many campfires with friends at Waite's pasture and spent hours on nice winter days sliding on the hill below the Catholic Church that went all the way down to Bengston's. They saw almost every movie that came to town for 25 cents in the old "show hall" with its wooden bench seats and danced in the pavilion at Ladder Lake. They loved to hang out at the Rex Cafe drinking coke or eating one of their spectacular banana splits (finances permitting). They skated on an outdoor rink and learned to curl with people of all ages. Bonspiel week the whole family spent most of their waking hours at the rink. Hilda, who didn't curl herself, gave up on meals at home and went to help in the rink's kitchen and to watch some of the games.
So many people now gone are fondly remembered. One of the first to welcome Hilda and the family to town was Hazel Over, who let the girls practice on her piano every weekday, and who dried Eleanor and Cheryl's clothes when they fell in the lake so Hilda wouldn't find out they had been running the booms. Bill Gould was another, who fostered a love of poetry and Shakespeare in Anne Marie, and Len LaBrash, an excellent teacher/advisor to the yearbook staff, (which Anne Marie and Eleanor edited and co-edited), and a great curling coach for the high school team (which Anne Marie and Eleanor both curled on) who, by example, taught good sportsmanship.
Some of our special memories are, getting caught by Herb Beatty when we were trying to see into the original burner from the conveyor belt. Or getting our heads pushed into the snowbank beside the rink boards by the boys! Another is running the booms down by the old mill site. Fond memories rowing an old boat on the lake with Francie Hagen, working at Godin's and Kathy Waite's stores, baby-sitting for Art and Ruth Buckingham, running around on the sandhills, and going to the teen dances every weekend.
Our six years spent in Big River were very good ones, and they will always be remembered as some of the best ones of our lives.
Anne-Marie, Eleanor, Cheryl. Summer. 1954.
John Norby was born in 1884 in Minnesota, U.S.A. He was forty-seven years old when he settled in the Erinferry area. He had a log house, a barn and a garage and lived on SE 13-54-7 W3rd where he had four cows and farmed one hundred fifty-seven acres. He was single in those days and worked hard to improve his homestead.