Back Row: Dwight, Shane and Darryl.
Front Row: Leonard, Roy, Shirley and Rory.
Roy was born in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan in January 1937 to Elva and Fred Sharp. His family moved to Biggar, Saskatchewan in 1942. Roy took his schooling there until the age of sixteen when he went to work for CPR as a labourer for a year. Roy then worked in the oil patch in Alberta and Saskatchewan for a year and then took a job as a carpenter and worked for several years and gained his journeyman ticket. He moved to Prince Albert in 1960 for work and to be closer to his family.
Shirley was born in August 1940 on the family farm at Timberlost to Clara and Roy Anderson. She was the youngest of twelve children. She attended school at Timberlost until grade seven when she moved to Big River and lived with her sister, Eileen and her husband, Albert Hannam to finish her schooling. When Shirley finished school in Big River, a friend from Timberlost was living in Toronto so she moved to Toronto for a year or more to work. She became homesick and moved to Prince Albert to be closer to her family and friends.
Roy and Shirley met in Prince Albert in 1960 and, after a brief courtship, were married. After a few years and the birth of their two oldest sons, Shane and Darryl, the couple decided to move to Big River. They lived in town until they purchased a quarter section with an older house and yard west of Big River in the Green Mantle area. Roy took a job at the Big River sawmill in 1964 and worked there until retiring in 1999. They had three more boys Dwight, Leonard, and Rory.
Shirley started work at the Big River Forest Nursery in the early 1970s. Roy and Shirley, along with their five young sons, farmed their land, raised cattle, harvested a large garden, went berry picking and enjoyed camping and fishing.
Shirley passed away in August of 1988 at the age of 47. Roy passed away in July of 2001 at the age of 64.
Shane married Kathy Kneen and they live in Lloydminster, Alberta with their three daughters, Miranda, Monica, and Katlyn. Darryl lives in Lloydminster, Alberta with Gail Moore and their daughter, Danya. Dwight married Donna Reimer and they live in Williams Lake, British Columbia, with their daughters Reani and Renee, and their son, Jordan. Leonard lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with Audrey Love. He has one son, Damon, from a previous marriage to Jackie Cunningham. Rory married Pam Potts, and they live in Big River with their daughter, Alicia, grandson, Blake, and son, Steven.
Richard Bruce Shea was born April 3, 1925, at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. As an infant, he moved with his parents to the village of Conquest.
After high school, Dick attended normal school in Saskatoon. He taught schools in northern Saskatchewan for a few years and then worked for Pioneer Grain Company on an elevator repair crew.
In 1949, Dick married Dorothy Jean Wood. They had three daughters: Patricia, Catherine and Elizabeth. They made their home in Saskatoon where Rick found employment as a millwright with the Quaker Oats Company. After fifteen years in this position, he opted for self-employment as a carpenter/repairman. Besides working for private citizens he did a lot of work for S. E. D. Systems Ltd. and real estate firms.
Dick always said that he wanted to go up north where he could "sit on a stump and watch the sunrise." He got his wish in 1976/77 when he bought land from Leonard Woolhiser at Big River and became a beekeeper. As an apiarist, he had little time for stump sitting or sunrise watching. He was literally, busy as a bee.
During his years at Big River, Dick enjoyed the friendship and support of his neighbours. He suffered a stroke in January 1995 and spent his remaining years in rehabilitation and nursing homes in Saskatoon. He passed away on May 19, 1998.
Sheppard, Ron and Beilert, Brenda
Ron, Ty, Brenda and Paige.
I guess we should start with the most important things first. We have had some great times in Big River over the past six years, but the greatest has been the birth of our son and daughter. Ty James Sheppard was born in Prince Albert on December 21, 2001, and Paige Lee Sheppard was born in Saskatoon on May 8, 2003.
Next, we'll cover where we came from and what we're doing now. Brenda was born on February 13, 1966, in Barrhead, Alberta where her father and mother farmed in Moose Wallow. She is the middle child of three with one older sister and one younger brother. Following high school in Tiger Lilley, Brenda worked a short time in the Barrhead Inn and then moved on to work in the Barrhead Clinic. She eventually moved to Grande Prairie and managed the office of the Avondale Medical Clinic.
Ron was born on December 19, 1962, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. He is the second oldest of a family of four boys and four girls. His mother's full-time duty was raising the eight kids and his father worked as a machinist at the CPR and has a small grain farm operation in Belle Plain, which includes the land Ron's grandfather homesteaded in the early 1900s. After completing his schooling in Moose Jaw, Ron obtained a degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. Receiving his degree in 1984, he moved to Grande Prairie, Alberta to work at the Procter and Gamble Pulp Mill. In 1991, he transferred to their Grande Prairie sawmill, which was purchased by Weyerhaeuser soon after.
In October of 1997, with Ron's transfer to the Big River Sawmill, we moved here. After several business ventures of catering, janitorial services, and ranching, Brenda ended up working at the sawmill, as a grader. In 1999, we purchased a small ranch of 400 acres with the home quarter on NE 22-56-08-W3rd. With the help of friends, neighbours, and Brenda we were eventually able to teach Ron what end of the cow the feed went in and which end the calves came out.
In January 2002, we were faced with the decision of transferring out of Big River with Weyerhaeuser or leaving the company and staying here. With Ron now confident on which end of the cow was which, we decided to give a try at ranching and Ron resigned from Weyerhaeuser. Today, Brenda is still a grader at the sawmill, as well as a mother and rancher. Ron's time is now spent with the two kids, the ranch, and some investment projects he is involved within various other locations.
Short, Natalie (Olenchuk)
I was born on December 30, 1967, the first daughter of Peter and Margaret Olenchuk. I completed all my schooling in Big River.
My first job in the real world was at the Big River Pharmacy working for Jack and Stella Hartnett. I was working at Waite Fisheries after graduation and it was here that an opportunity opened up for me. I was reading the Western Producer one day when I saw a job opening at Lake Louise. I phoned and was hired over the phone. So at the age of eighteen, I packed my bags, stored some of my belongings at mom and dad's and boarded the bus for Alberta. This was the longest bus ride of my life and needless to say, the last! I worked at a ski lodge called Deer Lodge, which is set in a beautiful area. I stayed there for six months. I didn't learn to ski, but I did learn a lot about myself that proved to be useful later in life. I did a lot of growing up in those six months. Being away from my family was the hardest thing and many tears were shed. A lot of collect calls home helped me overcome this.
One of the friends that I made here grew up on Vancouver Island and convinced me to move there in the spring of 1988. I moved to Ladysmith and lived with my friend for a few months.
It was while I lived in Lake Louise that I met David Short, and when I moved to British Columbia, he followed. We moved into our apartment in Nanaimo shortly after he moved to British Columbia.
For a year I worked for a photo lab as a courier. I was hoping to eventually move into developing and enlarging, as photography has always been a passion of mine, but that wasn't meant to be.
In 1989, the same friend that talked me into moving to British Columbia also got me a job at a mill called Adwood Manufacturing. I enjoyed this job. I liked the physical work, and I had made some pretty good friends.
In 1990, Dave and I came back to Big River in the winter and were married on December 20. You would think that I would pick a better date, as my birthday is only ten days later! I remember it warming up to -34 degrees on my wedding day and then going back down to -40 the next day.
In 1993, the most important guy in my life came along. On October 6 my son, Cody Wayne was born. I have never seen such big brown eyes! I had worked at the mill right up until the day he was born and it was a real surprise to my boss when I phoned and said I was going into labour! I was able to stay at home with Cody until he was six months old and I enjoyed every minute of it. I regretted it when I had to go back to work, as I missed so many of his first accomplishments.
In 1994, Dave and I separated and were divorced in 1995. He went to the mainland and Cody and I made our lives in Ladysmith.
In 1998, the mill closed and I went to Sprott Shaw in Victoria where I took a Travel and Tourism Management Course. After working for a couple of hotels, I landed a job that is exactly what I like to do. I now work for Seaward Kayaks, the largest kayaking manufacturer in Canada. It was at Seaward that I met my fiance, Mark Tollas. I have been there now for three years and worked myself into a position that I enjoy. I am shipper/receiver/purchaser and parts-maker. There is never a dull moment.
I also teach kayaking to beginners and enjoy meeting new people and being out on the water. I am also a Cub Scout leader and Cody is in Scouts this year. Much of our time is spent hiking, kayaking or camping.
I first saw the streets of the town of Big River in August of 1955 when, as a University student, I was travelling the Prince Albert region with other university students to adjust Old Age Pensions for the Government of Saskatchewan. A group of approximately five or six of us arrived at the Big River Hotel late in the evening for a well-deserved night of rest. As we were unloading our personal effects from the car, the town police officer came to our vehicle and encouraged us very strongly to take all of our typewriters, files and other business equipment into our hotel rooms because there was no telling whether or not our office equipment would still be in our vehicle the following morning.
I am happy to say that if his statement was true at the time, it certainly has not been true since I first became associated with Big River as a landowner in 1966. Incidents of violence against person and property in Big River are next to nil.
My next association with Big River commenced in 1966. I was associated with Louis Belanger in the land clearing business when he convinced me that we should purchase the half section of Samuel Karaloff and Mary Karaloff, to have a place to park our equipment and to lodge the operators when the season allowed it. I must have developed an appetite for land because the acquisition from the Karaloff family was followed by the acquisition of land from Sylvester Homeniuk, Alfred Hunt, Harry Pryma, Hugh and Joan Meyers and in November, a section was purchased from the Province of Saskatchewan.
My major move probably occurred when I purchased the Dan Braidek and Betty Gendron farmlands approximately two miles west of the present site of the mill. As a consequence of moving into that area, I purchased a section of land from Ralph Flint and one quarter from William Donald. My equipment before purchasing it or after purchasing it had opened up a lot of lands, which I had previously purchased. For as long as the window of opportunity was wide enough to make a profit in growing cereals and all the crops in Big River area, I farmed most of the land with the help of many good men who assisted me with the farming process.
As the window of opportunity to make a profit closed, I began to rent out land and eventually I began the selling of land. What was my farming base on the Braidek land until I ceased active farming has become a retreat from the pressures of everyday life for myself and my spouse, Albertine, my children, their spouses together with our fifteen grandchildren.
We recently constructed a cottage with many amenities that have made life in the former cottage, without amenities, now worthwhile. In my nearly forty years of association with Big River, I have seen tourism expand greatly. I have seen the mill expand and become a major employer and contractor and I have seen the land use go from mixed farming to nearly full use for cattle grazing and hay. My family and I enjoy the natural beauty of the scenery in the Big River area together with the many recreational opportunities, which it offers.
Jimmy Simpson was born in 1880 and came to the Winter Lake area in 1931, settling on NW19-54-6 W3rd. He had resided in Kincaid, Saskatchewan with his family. He had five children at this time: four sons, between the ages of eleven and twenty-three, and one daughter, twenty years of age. He had been living in a tent during this time. Sometime in early 1932, his wife and family returned to England. From correspondence, he discovered that his wife became very ill and he had to go to England (September 1932) to see her. Jimmy returned to the homestead in the Winter Lake area as a bachelor. By 1939, he had built a log house and barn, had a crop in twenty-three acres and had four horses and four cows.
Jimmy, as everyone knew him, was a stout, Scottish man who spoke with a Scottish accent. He enjoyed singing and dancing and if you happened to be at a dance in the Eldred Hall, you would be sure to see this jovial man high-stepping and singing. When neighbours from Winter Lake area would get together for a drink, Jimmy Simpson would entertain by singing in his heavy Scottish accent.
As he was ageing, he stayed with John Anderson. Later on, he moved in with Alf Roberts and Sarah Nielson in Big River. This was where he became ill and passed away.
Dick Smith remembers Jimmy bringing his mom a one hundred pound bag of flour for her to make some bread for him. Mom would ask, "Why don't you bring your wife over for a visit?" and Jimmy would always reply, "If we couldn't get along in Scotland, we won't get along here".
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979
Rena and Joe, 1935.
Joe Sixsmith came to Canada from Ireland in 1926. He joined the RCMP at Regina in 1929 and had six months training before being posted at Prince Albert.
On April 8, 1931, Joe was transferred to Big River to open a Detachment. Joe married Miss Rena Clarkson in 1936.
The new RCMP Office was in a medium-size bungalow directly across the street from the present-day Anglican Church. There was no electricity or water and a wood stove was for heat and cooking. Joe remembers when the Detachment got its phone in 1931. It was listed in the directory as number nine, that being the total number of phones in Big River at the time.
Joe policed the village and the largely rural area. The area covered the Big River Indian Reserve, Shell River, Debden, Stump Lake, Park Valley, and as far north as Dore Lake.
A graded dirt road came as far as Dumble from Prince Albert and the remaining fifteen miles was a winding trail. During this time, many trails led out of the surrounding district through bush and meadows. Getting hung up on a stump or stranded in a mud hole was just one of the many problems of the day while driving a car on or off patrol.
Joe recalls in the early thirties, Big River was not like the average village or community in Saskatchewan. He says that Big River, is the jumping-off point to the north, never had a dull moment. He remembers, even though the Depression had set in, there was always money for liquor; and with trappers, fishermen, freighters, salesmen, businessmen, and the men from the logging and tie camps, under the influence, many liquor-related offences were committed. At times it was difficult to keep control but he says he got along.
In 1942, with the rank of Corporal, Joe Sixsmith was transferred to Rosthern. Replacing him was Corporal J.E. Williams until 1946 when Corporal CE Wenzel took over.
Sergeant Joe Sixsmith retired in 1957. He joined the North Battleford City Police Department in 1956 as Deputy Chief and in 1959, became Chief of Police. After forty years of police service, Joe Sixsmith retired again in 1969. He now lives with his wife in Saskatoon. Mr and Mrs Sixsmith had three sons: Gary, Kenneth and Blair.
Mr. Skopyk and Mike came to the Greenmantle district from St. Julian to set up their homestead. They came by team all the way. They cleared and cut logs to build their log cabin and settle down to farming to make it a self-supporting operation.
In 1939, they moved the rest of the family here, except Peter who stayed in St. Julian and married and then moved to Toronto. He had a son Ron and a daughter Shirley. He passed away in 1952.
The family consisted of Mike, Peter, Alex, Annie, and Alexandra. Alex and Bertha had a family of five. They had four sons: John, Jim, Emile and Bill and one daughter who died when she was very young. They all live in Meadow Lake, except Bill who lives in British Columbia. Annie married Bill Lavigne and lives in Toronto with a family of three: Richard, Brian and Karen. They all live in that area. Anne passed away in 2001.
Alexandra married Steve Trach and lives in Spiritwood, Saskatchewan. They have a family of six: Linda, Raymond, Marrie-Ann, Sharon, Patricia and Jerry. Mike married Marjorie Yurach in 1978. Mike passed away in 2000, and Marjorie still resides in Big River.
Slusar, Victor and Beverly
We moved to Big River from Port Alberni, British Columbia on Vancouver Island in 1995. We bought Delaronde Resort from Rod and Diane Arsenault. After purchasing the resort we built four new modern log cabins that could be used all year round, along with the four semi-modern cabins. There was also a large campground and a small convenience store where the coffee pot and some friendly faces were always available. We built a marina and rented out boats, and also had above-ground fuel tanks put in. In August 2002 we sold the resort and moved to Saskatoon. We had eight very successful fishing derbies.
We have two children: Jeff who lives in Port Alberni and Keely who lives in Victoria, Newfoundland. Keely worked in the Big River Credit Union from its opening until the spring of 2002.
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979
Mr and Mrs Arthur Sly and five children moved to Big River in 1918. They homesteaded for two years eighteen miles north of the town. The family came from Neptune, Saskatchewan in search of grazing land for cattle and horses. Mr Sly and his oldest son worked for the Big River Lumber Company. During this time, the family moved into Big River where the other four children went to school. In 1922, the family moved to Prince Albert.
Smith, Beulah and Nixon, Sally
Beulah Smith, commonly known as Smitty, and Sally Nixon came to Big River on November 1, 1951, until August 2, 1953, to work at the Big River Hospital. They had heard that a matron was needed at the hospital, and they applied and received the job, Beulah as matron, Sally as an R.N.
Some of the staff that worked at the hospital during their stay was: Dr. Norman Crux, and wife Fran, Smitty, Sally Nixon, Mrs. Kempin, Eva Vaughan, Marg Watier, Simone Tardiff, Mrs. Fortier, Jean Apps, Louise Hardy, Annie Drangsholt, Grace Colby, Mae Lamberton, Mrs. Belfrey, and the janitor Mr. Atchinson.
The staff at the hospital was like one big family to them. They got along great with them all and they have many fond memories to look back on.
They had no TV at the time, so they had to make their entertainment. They attended hockey games in the cold outdoor rink, with warm mukluks and rubber insoles to keep our feet warm. We had wiener roasts in the bush, and forest fires were common. Sal and I both curled, I playing 3rd for Dr Crux and Sal was lead. We enjoyed it greatly. I can't ever remember attending a show at the theatre, but I do remember a skit that some energetic people put on. They had sung "The Old Grey Mare" but had changed the lyrics in it and put in local people's names.
After leaving Big River, we went on a trip to British Columbia and the western states with another family in two cars. When we got back, I took Sal and her sister to Saskatoon to catch a bus to Lintlaw. The highway to Saskatoon was under construction, as they were putting a new layer of asphalt down. On the way home, I rolled my car. It was put in the garage at Davidson and was almost repaired when the garage burnt down, including my car.
I lay around Moose Jaw for a while recuperating, and then we went to Neudorf Hospital, as I was Matron and Sal as General Duty Nurse. Sal was always a follower, never a leader. I had also bought a new car before we left Moose Jaw. We were at Neudorf from October 15, 1953, to September 1956. After leaving Neudorf, we went back to Moose Jaw and worked at the Providence Hospital. I was on the surgery ward and Sal was on the Medical Ward. We worked at Moose Jaw from Sept 1956 to June 1958.
In Sept. 1958, I joined Public Health at Assiniboia and attended University in 1959 and 1961. Then I moved to Wadena as Public Health Nurse and then to Regina rural as assistant Supervisor till 1968 when I demoted and moved back to Moosomin as P.H.N. I took early retirement in 1984. In 1990, I moved back to Moose Jaw and bought a house where I still reside. I also have a house in Moosomin. I have looked after my mentally handicapped sister since 1963, so am not able to travel as much as I would like. At the age of eighty, I have numerous health problems, which I have managed to control. I keep active by looking after my house and yard.
After we parted, Sally took over a Record Librarian Course in Regina and worked in Providence Hospital Records Room until she retired in 1988 at the age of 65.
Things that I remember well while we stayed in Big River are Keith Belfrey and Michel Fortier who were a couple of teenage boys that helped with many projects at the hospital as putting up the flagpole, making lawn etc. I have met up with both of these boys while attending University. They even helped me with my term project.
Jean Belfrey was a frequent visitor at the hospital. She never worked at the hospital while we were there, but attended the staff functions when she was home. She moved to Fort Qu' appelle where she passed away a year or two later.
Bobby Johnson was another frequent visitor at the hospital, who helped with various jobs. He passed away very young due to a bush accident.
Rev. Hefelfinger (the United Church Minister) was a friendly face that I remember, during lunchtimes. He couldn't cook for himself and didn't have much money so was around for lunch. It was always fun to kid him about looking forward to weddings or funerals where he would be paid. He later moved to Balcarres where he passed away.
At the time when there was no undertaker in Big River, I had to prepare the bodies for burial. I remember going to the church and re-shaving men for the funeral. (It is not true that whiskers grow after death, but the skin shrinks around the whiskers)
We had no ambulance, and patients were transferred in cars or backs of trucks. I remember transferring semi-conscious patients to Prince Albert in Dr Crux's car. They had an IV as well as oxygen. I sat on a hassock on the floor in the back seat and Dr Crux drove as fast as he could on the gravel road.
The oxygen tank was one of those big ones that we borrowed from the garage. The patient did survive.
I also remember a patient with a varicose ulcer and with directions from a doctor in Prince Albert, we made a boot from Unna and laser paste to put on this patient. At one time when I removed this plaster, the ulcer was full of maggots. This I had never seen before and was quite concerned, but the doctor in Prince Albert was not. It cleaned out the wound.
These are a few of my fond memories of Big River, where I enjoyed a few years of my career.
Monica (holding Juli), Darrin, Leona, Leanna, Ernie.
Ernie is the son of the late Thomas and Mary Smith (nee Eshelby) of the Winter Lake District.
Ernie was born in Angusville, Manitoba in 1923. At the age of five, he and his family came to the Big River area. They settled in the old abandoned sawmill building, located in the Lake Four area, near where the Peter Hildebrand home was located. After a year, they moved to their homestead in what is now the Winter Lake District.
Times were hard for everyone. Ernie recalls a time when all the children in the family shared one pair of winter boots. They had to take turns playing outdoors.
They always had plenty to eat as they grew a large garden and had their meat. They were supplemented with deer meat and fish, caught in the near-by Winter Lake (then a good source of fishing).
There weren't any schools nearby so, at the age of twelve, Ernie was sent to Manitoba to stay with relatives so he could obtain some formal education. Here, he was also expected to help with chores and harvesting. After three years, he returned home to help supplement the family income. The boys in the family cut fire and cordwood to be shipped out by rail. This was loaded on a rail car at Dumble, a railway siding near Erinferry.
From 1941-1944, Ernie worked as a commercial fisherman on Dore Lake for Emil Zinovich, Waite Fisheries and Johnny Thompson.
In 1944, Ernie was called into the army. He received his basic training and was discharged when the war ended. He returned to commercial fishing and fished with Frank Nordstrom. Ernie was with the crew that cut the road to Cree Lake. A "cat swing" went up to Cree Lake following this trail. Ernie recalls taking up a load of rocks to be used as anchor rocks on the fishnets. They had been told there weren't any rocks where they were headed. The laugh was on them for there the rocks were plentiful. When the fishing season ended the crew was flown out, courtesy of Waite Fisheries. Not all the fishermen appreciated this means of transportation, particularly when the door of the plane flew open. They managed to fasten the door again using a fish line cord. They did get home safely.
During the summer months, Ernie was involved with farming. He owned a quarter of land in the Wrixon area as well as another in the Clear Water Lake area. This kept him busy breaking and clearing the land. Ernie also stooked and threshed for farmers in the Claytonville area during his leave from the army. Ernie and his brother, Lewis, also had a threshing outfit where they went from farm to farm to harvest the crops. One season, he went out to Taber, Alberta to harvest sugar beets. So you see he put his hand to any job that would bring in a dollar.
In the winter of 1951-1952, Ernie worked at a sawmill with Otto Heibert sawing at Peter Hildebrand's and later Delaronde Lake.
It was during this time he met and courted Leona Heppner who was teaching at Lake Four school. Leona is the daughter of the late John P and Maria Heppner (nee Friesen) of Waldheim, Saskatchewan.
On July 2, 1953, they were married. Leona was teaching at Rabbit Bluff at that time. We purchased the NE and SW 22-53-5-W3rd from Viggo Swendsen.
In 1957, we made a move to Big River. Leona came as a teacher and Ernie worked for Waite Fisheries in the fish packing plant. We rented a three-room apartment from Waite Fisheries. There were approximately nine suites occupied at that time. Just across the hall from our suite was the ice-making machine. I must say I didn't appreciate the noise and odour from this machine. It often ran day and night. The source of heat for most of these suites was a wood-burning stove. How we survived all those years without a major fire is a mystery to me. I recall the frequent pipe fires I had in our suite. It wasn't long before the workmen were on the roof and the fire was doused. The wood was supplied and was located in the hallway. The janitor took care of that chore. Many friendships were formed with the tenants of this place.
Ernie claims the years spent in Big River were the best of his life. We became avid curlers and spent much time on the ice. At one time Leona took charge of the canteen at the rink. This was a busy time come bonspiel time. We joined the local square dance club, an activity that kept us slim and trim.
For many years Ernie was Santa Claus for Waite Fisheries as well as the Legion. He always enjoyed meeting the children in spite of the sauna effect of the disguise.
On January 1, 1968, our daughter Monica was born. Life changed considerably at that time. Leona completed her year of teaching and found out what diapers and finding a baby-sitter were all about.
Come spring, Ernie always went back to Stump Lake to farm. He had now acquired some more land and was very busy. The year that Monica was born, we built a house at the farm and we made a permanent move there. Monica attended school in Debden, obtaining her grade twelve. She also attended University for a year but found her niche as a piano music teacher. She obtained her degree as a music teacher and taught piano music in Big River and Debden. She married David Gustafson of Park Valley in 1989. They have three children Leanna, Darrin and Juli. (Leanna was a twin to Leah. Leah was stillborn.) David farms in the Park Valley area as well as renting our land. Monica is a music teacher as well as working at the Lamplight Cuisine in Debden.
Ernie and I are both retired. Ernie finds being inactive very boring; wishing he were back to the days when swinging an axe was second nature to him. He is no longer able to go hunting and fishing as in the past. He enjoys puttering around the yard when the weather agrees with him. Dandelions annoy him. I am kept busy with the usual household chores and looking after our grandchildren from time to time. Summertime finds me mowing the lawn, gardening and generally keeping busy. I still do some handwork and I love to read. Come wintertime I strap on my skis and go cross-country skiing. (Providing we get enough snow).
Bertha and Frank.
I, Frank Smith was born on November 20, 1932. I am the youngest of eleven children born to Thomas and Mary Ester (Hetty) Smith. I was born on my father's farm in the Winter Lake area (near Bodmin). Mrs Clara Klyne was the midwife and Dr Afanasiff of Big River was the doctor. He got there the day after I was born.
There was no school in the area, so mother taught my chum, Marlin Barrone, and myself school lessons at home. I started school in Bodmin at the age of twelve. I went there until February 1945. When the CCF came to power as the Government of Saskatchewan, they had a school built in Winter Lake. Our first day of school was in February 1946. The first teacher there was Miss Lyla Wyman. She taught for about one year. For the next two years, we had Miss Alice Young (Mrs. Harry Fredrickson). I finished with a grade seven education. I used to walk about three miles each way to school. When I got there, there was no fire lit and some days it was -40F(-40C). My chum, Marlin Barrone, and I were the janitors. We did the janitor work for eight dollars a month (four dollars each).
One of the highlights of my younger years was staying with my brother-in-law, John Eliason. He lived where Thoralf Aarrestad now lives. John had no rules; you did as you pleased, so a young kid (I was seven or eight years old) had a lot of fun.
Johnny had a steam engine, which he used on his sawmill. The sawmill was located on the meadow about a 1/4 mile from his house. When I stayed there, he would wake me up about 5:30 AM to go with him to fire up the steamer. Water had to be added to have the steam pressure up for the men when they went to saw lumber. We pumped water from the slough to put it in the water tank. I used to like to hang onto the spokes of the big wheels as it turned and go around with it. Of course, I got to blow the morning whistle to start work, the dinner whistle and the evening whistle. What fun! The steamer was used to provide the power for the sawmill for about two years, and then it was abandoned. It was cut up for scrap metal during WW2.
After quitting school, my brother Bill and I cut logs, pulpwood, etc. The winter of 1955, I worked in the bush north of Candle Lake for Walter Hayes. During that winter, my father, Tom Smith, took very sick. Men from the Department of Natural Resources tried to get me out to see him before he passed away. The snow was so deep that winter that it took almost a day to get 13 miles by caterpillar tractor. By the time I got to Prince Albert, my dad had passed away.
The following fall, I worked for the Rushowski family on their farm in the Steep Creek District. In the winter, I went to work for them in the bush at Nordegg, Alberta.
The following year, I met Bertha Mayoh in Debden. She was going to school and was a waitress at the Highway Cafe in Debden.
Bertha is the oldest daughter of Eric and Marie (Dalton) Mayoh. She was born July 17, 1941, in Prince Albert. Her father and mother farmed in the Debden area. She took grade one by correspondence, then attended Wislow Lake (Mattes) and Wanakena Schools. The winter of 1955-56 there was so much snow it was hard to get to Wanakewa, even by horse and sleigh. Following the Christmas break Bertha, along with her brother, Jim and sister, Louise moved into Debden and stayed with their grandparents, John and Delina Dalton. Bertha received the rest of her education at Debden School. The spring of 1956, the whole Mayoh family moved to Debden.
Bertha and I were married on August 27, 1958, in the Debden Roman Catholic Church. Our first home was rented from Joe Freidman for $25.00 a month. It stood on the corner of Main Street and Third avenue south. In 1984, we built a new house at 114 5th Avenue south.
I worked for the Forest Nursery in Big River each spring for three years. The first year I got $.75 an hour.
Halvor Ausland was working for Saskatchewan Timber Board and he told me to contact Jack Nesbit (planer boss for STB). I was hired on June 21, 1956, and received $1.17 per hour. I worked square lumber by hand. We did this despite heat 100 degrees, or cold -40 degrees F.
I was also trying to farm my quarter of land but I finally sold it to Jack Rempel.
I worked for Saskatchewan Timber Board (later called Saskatchewan Forest Products) from 1956 until September 1986 when Weyerhaeuser Canada Ltd. purchased the operation. I retired in 1992.
Bertha was a stay-at-home mom raising our five children. She took in children of working mothers during the day and over sixteen years baby-sat many children.
In 1985, Bertha started working for Nor-Sask. Builders Supplies Ltd. She worked as a clerk for twelve years. She is now retired. We have been enjoying some travel, some camping and spending time with family and friends. We also enjoy some gardening and volunteer work.
We were charter members of the Big River Kinsmen and Kinette Club. We served several positions on the executive. We made many good friends through the clubs. We were members, representing Kin, of the Fundraising Committee, which planned and oversaw the building of the Lake-Wood Lodge. It was a proud day for Big River and us when the doors were opened.
Bertha was a member of the CWL from its inception in 1959 until it was dissolved in 1991. She also served on the Parish Council of the Catholic Church for several years. We have a family of five children and twelve grandchildren:
Darlene - born 1959, married to Daniel Michel with children Brandy Connerly, Erin, and Thomas
Cheryl - See Maurice and Cheryl Fortier
Bryan - See own story
Laverne - See Edward and Laverne Michel Sandra - See Marc and Sandra Belair
Sandra - See Marc and Sandra Belair
Bertha, Darlene, Frank, Cheryl,
Bryan, Laverne, Sandra.
Smith, Lenard and Beatrice
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979
Lenard Smith, a French-speaking Irishman, came to Big River in 1917 to work in the lumber mill. After working for a short period in the mill, he found a job more to his liking. He joined the Department of Natural Resources as a junior Field Officer and continued this type of work for many years.
He married a local girl, Beatrice Belisle, and had a family of eight children. Their names areas
follows Kathleen, Austin, Louise, Roland, Pearl, Lillian, Claire, and Ivan.
Smith, Leonard and Martha
I was born on June 19, 1945, to Lewis and Evelyn Smith. I was born at home with Mrs Aarrestad as a midwife. I attended Lake Four country school. I worked for my parents on their farm at Lake Four. From 1967 to 1969, I worked for Saskatchewan Timber Board Mill, in Big River, Saskatchewan.
On August 16, 1968, I married Martha Newman daughter of John and Alexina Newman. In May of 1969, the Big River Sawmill burned down. During the summer of 1969, I worked on the portable sawmills set up at Big River. In the fall of 1969, I moved my family to Canal Flats, British Columbia and worked for Crestbrook Forest Industries Sawmill in the maintenance department until 1974. At that time there was a new mine starting up at Elkford British Columbia. There were better advancement opportunities there so I got a job at Fording Ltd. Cominco open-pit coal mine in the millwright department. I worked as a millwright and was responsible for a maintenance crew for four years.
I had always had a "call back to the land". In the spring of 1977, I answered that call and came back to raise our sons on the farm. We have been farming since then. In the late 1980s, we started selling vegetables at Big River. In 1990, the Big River Farmer's Market Co-operative, which originated from Martha's idea, was formed. In 1989, I returned to school and graduated with an academic grade twelve on March 27, 1992.
Martha attended school in Big River. She lived on the Newman homestead at the corner of Highway 55 and the Deep Lake road. The Newman family moved into town, as her mother Alexina was not well at this time. Later they would move back to the homestead. Martha returned to school and took business courses from Natonium College. Martha worked in Prince Albert as an employment councillor and as an economic development worker. In 1989, she was hired at Lakewood Lodge were she worked in the dietary department, the housekeeping department, in the activity department and the office. One day she would be doing the payroll, next day she would be cooking the meals and the next days she may be running the exercises.
In May of 2000, she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in her spine and knees and it was recommended by her doctor to leave work, much to her disappointment.
We have four sons. Clint was born on April 24, 1969. He married Anne Yurach on August 23, 1997.
They live in Whitecourt Alberta. They have two children: Mathieu born May 21, 1997, and Mackenzie born September 25, 2002. Clint is a journeyman pipefitter and works as a project foreman for Flint Integrated Services. Clint plays hockey and baseball. Anne has an Early Childhood Diploma and had her home daycare, and now is working in a daycare. Anne enjoys her family, friends and going to the gym.
Anne, Mathieu, Clint, holding Mackenzie.
Lance was born July 2, 1971, and married Jocelyn Boissennvue from Whitecourt, Alberta, on April 17, 1998. They live in Clairmont, Alberta. They have two sons: Keagan born November 3, 2000, and Kayde born February 26, 1998. Lance is a Pipefitter and has worked roughneck, derrick, and driller on an oilrig. He is a blowout specialist for oil wells: Lance golfs and plays baseball. Jocelyn is an administrator for Goodwill in Grand Prairie. Jocelyn enjoys her friends.
Robin was born on May 29, 1978. Robin is a class 1 operator. Robin delivered the first load of lumber for the new hospital. Robin also drove cement truck for Sterlings. He drove a coil-tubing unit for Trican throughout Alberta, British Columbia and Northwest Territories. He is now apprenticing for his heavy-duty mechanics. He is engaged to April Beattie and plans to marry in August 2004 in Banff, Alberta. April is an investment banker. They live in Whitecourt, Alberta. Robin is a long-distance runner and has competed in meets in Sudbury, Ontario; McMasters University in Hamilton, Ontario; in Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Yorkton, Prince Albert, and Calgary. He was chosen two years on the Canada Athletics Saskatchewan Division. He is the proud owner of medals and awards. One of his proudest achievements was winning gold in three events 800 meters, the 1500-meter and the 3000-meter all on the same day. April is also an athlete and is a competitive swimmer. Both Robin and April play hockey and baseball.
Dell our fourth son was born January 13, 1983. Dell was seriously injured in an accident on July 24, 2001. Dell did not let this deter him and he graduated with his class in June 2002. He has a natural ability to understand electronics. He has attended college at Heinze Institute of Applied Computer Technology. He studied web design and 3D animation. Dell loves computers and will make his career in the computer field.
Mr Smith was born in Yorks, England in 1888 and came to this area - Winter Lake - as a missionary. He applied for a homestead on NE 36-54-7 W3rd in 1928. His wife was born in 1878 in England.
He held church services under the "Church of England" from 1929-1932. The church was on the shore of Winter Lake and the site became known as "Preacher Smith's Pond."
Back Row: Hal. Larry. Richard.
Middle Row: Clarence, Wayne, Corinne, Lily, Lynn, Calvin.
Front Row: Melody, Carol, Brenda, Kim, Yvette, Tanya, Jennifer and Connie.
I was born at Silver Creek, Manitoba on April 17, 1927, the son of Tom and Esther (Hetty) Smith. I lived in Manitoba until I was one year old. In April of 1928, we came to Saskatchewan to the Lake Four District. My father came first with the cattle and belongings in a boxcar. Mother joined him a couple of weeks later. We lived in this district for a year until we moved to the west side of Winter Lake. There were seven boys and four girls in my family.
I started school at age 13 at Wrixon School, Saskatchewan. I attended school from September to December in 1940, when I quit because there were no teachers. Four teachers came and went in a short period I was in school. One was a minister going place-to-place preaching and when his time was up he left. Another was getting $650 a year, she wanted $700 and when she couldn't get it she left.
It was a 15-mile roundtrip to school and we walked unless we were lucky enough to take the horses, which wasn't all that often. After I quit school, and with no other schools to go to, and with seven boys on one-quarter of land, I had no choice but to leave home at the young age of 13.
In 1941, I helped take out saw logs to build the Winter Lake School. After we had the logs sawed and hauled, the Government seized the lumber. I don't quite remember why, maybe we were trespassing. The school was eventually built in 1945.
In 1942, Johnny Eliason asked me to work at the sawmill. Here we cut wood and used it to fire a steam engine which we used to saw the lumber. My job was to keep the fire going in the steam engine.
I worked at the sawmill with Johnny until August of 1942 when I had my first experience threshing for Ray McComas in Shellbrook. I also did some fall work for him (cleaning sheds, drove six horses on a cultivator, etc.). I was almost fired because the age in my rationing book was 13, which caused Ray to think I was too young to be threshing. I guess he must have liked me though because he kept me on until November 1, 1942.
On November 15 of that same year, I left Big River with George Clark to fish at Smoothestone Lake. We fished until February. We had one day off - Christmas Day, which I didn't spend with my family. I remained at the bunkhouse, but not by choice. We were very isolated up at the lake, home was a 100 miles away and we only had horses as transportation. That winter we had one visitor, Len Waite. He flew in by plane and brought us a bottle of whiskey. He came in to see if he could buy fish from us but we already had a buyer so we drank the whiskey and he left.
In those years there were a lot of timber wolves everywhere. One time, when I was pulling the nets of fish up, I found myself 100 yards from 17 timberwolves. I finished my job while they stood and watched me, licking the blood and remains of fish from holes we had already fished in.
When we were finished fishing, at the end of February, George stayed behind leaving me to go home by myself. I was so scared of the timberwolves that I dragged a logging chain behind my sleigh to stop them from following. That was what everybody did in those days.
That year, when I finished with George Clark, everything was rationed due to the war (meat, sugar, tea, coffee, etc.). I also remember fishing in January when the temperature was minus 70 degrees. It was so cold that at night we'd fill the wood stove in the bunkhouse full of wood, put a pot of beans in the stove and wake up with no fire and a pot of frozen beans. I was paid $125 a month clear from George. In 1943/44 when I fished for Ed Wilson, the wages were better, $200 a month.
After I was finished fishing for George Clark, I got on fishing for Ed Wilson the following winter. Here I worked with Max Wilson and Johnny Dunn. I remember that to get to camp we had to cut a road through the bush and along the lakeshore. It was about 8:00 at night, we were about two miles from our camp, and we did not want to sleep in the bush another night. We had slept in the bush the previous two nights when it was minus 25 degrees. Max Wilson decided to force the horses further out on the lake so that we didn't have to cut trees along the shore. The ice was too thin and the horses fell through, but we managed to save them. We built fires and kept them going all night to keep the horses warm. In the end, we would have been much better off to take a while longer to cut the trees rather than the shortcut we took. There was another time when we were coming back to the fish camp and we had to cross the lake. We came to a place where ice had cracked six to eight feet across. Earlier that day we had heard a big boom, not realizing that it was the ice that had cracked. We had to cross the crack so we unloaded everything, the tools, net and jiggers, and used the fish rack as a bridge. It could have been dangerous, but fortunately, it wasn't. In 1942, my brother-in-law, Alfred Swanson, lost a horse from the same type of thing. The horse was eating hay; the ice cracked directly under it and it fell straight down and drowned. It was under the ice fighting to get out. There was no chance of saving it.
When I fished for Ed Wilson, in 1943, at Smoothstone, there was one time when his child got sick with convulsions. Max Wilson and I had to go 20 miles to Vernar Johnson's at Dore Lake to use a CB radio to get a plane. It was minus 25 degrees. We left at midnight and drove all night until 8:00 the next morning to cover the 40 miles roundtrip. Once we had used the CB radio, we had to turn around and drive back in time to put flags and flares out so that the plane would know where to land. We beat the plane back and the child survived.
In 1944, I was called to go to the army. I had my medical done and sent to Regina. I was then supposed to leave for the army within 21 days. I got my birth certificate to prove that I was too young. In the meantime, John Anderson managed to get an extension for me for one year so that I could stay and work for him on his farm rather than go to war. By the time the year was over, the war was over as well.
It was working for John and Jenny Anderson when I met my wife, Lilly. She was their daughter. The Andersons lived south of Bodmin. We dated for two years before we got married on August 20, 1945. She was seventeen and I was eighteen. We borrowed a car and, with $50 to our name, we drove to Prince Albert and got married.
In 1947, I borrowed $350 from my brother Lewis and put a down - payment on a farm. The total cost was $900. It came complete with one cow, one team of horses, one stack of hay, a wagon, a mower, a rake and the house and barn. I also did a bit of trading to improve my farm. A wheelbarrow, three pigs and cord of pulpwood got me a cow from Joe Meyers.
In 1949, I bought the farm that I am now living on from my brother-in-law, Alfred Swanson. At the time, we had two children and my oldest daughter was supposed to start school. At the old farm closest to the school, (Winter Lake) was four miles away, so we moved to be closer to the school.
We had fourteen children in all, eight girls and six boys: Corinne, Clarence, Carol, Lynn, Wayne, Connie, Larry, Brenda, Calvin, Kim, Hal, Melody, Jennifer and Tanya. We worked a lot of long hours and many days to survive and to support our family. I had a mixed farm operation with eleven quarters of land (mixed seed crops), some dairy cows and about 550 head of cattle at one time.
In 1974, when I was helping my neighbour out by hauling a load of cattle for him, not knowing his cows had Bangs disease (Brucellosis); I used the same truck to crush grain for my cows. The cows I was feeding grain to caught the disease. We were shipping cream and that's how I found out, the cream was tested and I was told I had to sell all female cows and calves because I was so close to the Jackson Lake Community Pasture.
At the time the government was paying $20 ahead, but I refused to sell for that low a price, so I fought the government until they agreed to pay $250 a head for my registered cattle, plus the market price for meat. As for the rest of the cows, they agreed to let me put my price on each head, not exceeding $200, plus the market price for meat.
I drove a school bus to Debden for 29 years, from 1961 to 1990, when I turned the bus over to two of my sons, Larry and Calvin.
I retired at the age of 60, renting out my land to my son Calvin and he still has cows.
My interests include playing cards, curling and keeping busy. I enjoy being an active member of the community. I've been involved and still am involved in such organizations as the Sports Association, Lion's Club, the Snow travellers, and the Elks at one time.
Starting in 1975, my family and I put on a curling bonspiel from Thursday night to Sunday. We called it Smithspiel. We did this to raise money to buy curling rocks for the Debden curling rink. Thirty-two teams entered so we curled around the clock, except for Saturday night when we quit at 9:00 P.M. for a dance and then resumed curling around 3:00 A.M. Everyone had such a good time and things ran so smoothly that we continued to put on a bonspiel each year until our curling rink was condemned and we had to build a new one. After the new one was built, we put on one final bonspiel and decided it would be the last one because there was too much work involved. My family still enjoys curling every winter in regular curling and bonspiels. Lily passed away on January 12, 2003.
Roy Smith applied in 1928 to purchase land in the Winter Lake area, and it was approved at that time. Then in 1929, he wished to purchase thirty-one acres of vacant land adjacent to Winter Lake. The inspector stated the land was low and sandy and not fit for cultivation. "The lakes are permanent and will not dry up" He bought the land for $3.00 per acre. Roy was a fox farmer. He had silver foxes and other fancy breeds. He caught fish in Winter Lake and hunted deer to feed to the foxes. He also provided fish and choice deer cuts to families in the area.
Taken from Wilderness to Neighborhoods
Thomas and Mary.
Thomas Smith was born April 7, 1887, in Russell, Manitoba. When Tom was only two years old, his father was killed when he fell off a building while laying bricks. Tom and his mother returned to Manitoba on a cattle boat and settled in Russell, Manitoba.
Mary (Hetty) Eshelby was born April 30, 1892, in Gloustershire, England. She came from England at ten years of age and settled in Silverton, Manitoba. Tom and Mary were married in1914 and farmed in Russell, Manitoba.
It was very dry in Russell, Manitoba and Tom decided to look for a better place to farm. In the spring of 1928, Tom, Albert and Lewis came by train to Bodmin, Saskatchewan. They rode in the boxcar with the cows. At Bodmin, they stayed at Walter White's (which was west of Bodmin) for about ten days. Mary and the rest of the family arrived later. They then travelled by wagon to the Lake Four area. It had rained and the roads were icy. They had to unload the wagon to climb the hill. They settled at the Parker Place. Parker's had a sawmill here, and there were some abandoned buildings that they moved into. They lived there approximately one year, then moved to the Winter Lake area where they took up a homestead. They lived in a small shack until their house was built. They had a family of eleven children.
Linda was born in 1914 and married Ben Christianson and had three children, Roy, Nona and Garth. They later were divorced. Linda later married Percy Dewing and they had two children Irene and David. David passed away in 1959 and Linda passed away in 1977.
Edith - See Louis and Edith Morin history Lewis was born in 1917 in Russell, Manitoba and passed away in 2000.
Albert was born in 1918 and was never married. He passed away in 1983.
Alice was born in 1921 and married John Eliason. John passed away in 1981 and Alice still lives in Salmon Arm British Columbia.
William - See William Smith story
Ernie - See Ernie Smith Story
Robert was born in 1926 and passed away in 1954
Richard was born in 1927 and married Lily Anderson. Lily passed away in 2003.
Joyce was born in 1928 and passed away in 1930.
Frank - See Frank Smith Story
Tom passed away in 1955 and Mary in 1981.
Memories of the Smith Family
There were many cows to milk and when mother (Mary) milked, she would kneel instead of using the milk stool. She could milk very fast and put the boys to shame. Mary made butter, which she hauled, to the Ladder Lake Airforce training base. She travelled in winter down the lakes to Ladder Lake. She drove a slow old horse named Maude. She had a pass to get into the base. Her unsalted butter commanded a premium price and was used on the officer's tables.
In summer mother drove a Starr Car. She never had a driver's license, so she would leave the car at the cemetery, and walk into town. In later years, the car was made into a wood sawing outfit and a Bennett Buggy.
Dad (Thomas) sawed many cords of wood with a cross-cut saw. He was on one end and two kids on the other. Many cords were cut into four-foot lengths. Some were cut into firewood and sold to Joe Harvey who owned a store at Bodmin in exchange for groceries. The wood had to be hauled to Bodmin and the roads were poor. One time part of the load had to be unloaded on the side of a bad part of the road. The blocks were carried across and re-loaded.
Mother did a lot of sewing for the family. She could make a parka out of heavy canvas on her hand-powered sewing machine. She had her design made to be practical with a very large hood to protect the face. If one of the boys were going fishing in the morning, she could make a parka overnight.
Mother's sewing machine handle got broken. The machine was adapted to bicycle power. A rope was run around the bike wheel, after removing the tire, and to the pulley on the sewing machine. The bicycle was made stationary and by turning the pedals, the machine continued to work. Parkas were needed for the fishermen.
She got a new treadle sewing machine but she had difficulty using it because of the ulcers on her legs, a long time malady. It was later converted with an electric motor.
As was the case with many people, the family was not rich and many things were done to keep food on the table. There was always a large garden. Mother had a very green thumb. Dad trapped many animals, even 'Skunks'. He would bury a skunk in the manure pile for a few days before skinning it. It seemed to help with the odour. He got less than $.50 for a pelt.
Berry picking also helped keep the larder full. One story goes this way: Frank was just a toddler, put to sleep under the seat of the buggy. The horse was tied to a tree. Suddenly the horse began to make an awful fuss. When they investigated, it was discovered a bear had been in front as well as behind the horse and buggy. Luckily, Frank wasn't hurt.
The family had several horses. Swamp fever hit the area and nearly wiped out the herd. Many home remedies were tried including cutting off enough of the horse's tail to make it bleed. Another thing tried was cutting into the horse's belly to drain out fluid; still, the horses perished.
Mother and others in the area tried to get a school built for the children. There was some opposition for fear of higher taxes. Many letters were sent to the Department of Education to ask for a school. It wasn't until 1945 that a school was built in Winter Lake. Frank was the only one of the Smith family to attend this school.
Many people came to the farm and many meals were served to those who came. Several neighbours were bachelors who enjoyed a home-cooked meal.
Recreation consisted of skiing, sliding, skating, and playing hockey or softball, playing cards or checkers with family and neighbours.
Bill and Clara.
Bill was born in 1921 in Russell, Manitoba. He came with his family to the Lake Four area in 1928. The family later moved to the Winter Lake Area.
Bill returned to Russell, Manitoba to stay with relations to receive his education since there was no school in the area at that time.
Bill worked at fishing, logging, millwork and farming. Following the death of his father in 1955, Bill and his mother Mary Smith remained on the farm. Bill took over the farming.
Bill married Clara (Englund) Hovdebo. Bill was killed in a traffic accident in 1978.