O.P.Godin's Store

Family Histories, Part 28



Snell, Andrew and Josephine

Andrew Snell.

Andrew and Josephine, 1919.

Andrew was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1890 and immigrated to Canada in 1908. He worked in Winnipeg a few years before moving to Big River, where he worked in the mill for two years. Then he moved back to Winnipeg where he met Josephine. Josephine was born in Bergen, Norway in 1890 and immigrated to Canada at the age of seventeen years. She worked for a Norwegian family. This is where she met Andrew. They were married in 1913 in Winnipeg and moved back to Big River in the spring of 1919.

Andrew got a job in the new mill in Big River where he worked until the mill closed. He followed the mill to Giscome, British Columbia and left the family in Big River until he found accommodations for them. He developed a rheumatic fever and had to return to Big River.

After this, he started freighting with horses from Big River north to Buffalo Narrows and Island Lake. He did this for the next nineteen years. He then worked for Waite Fisheries at Dore Lake.

He passed away in January 1947 from a heart attack. Josephine and Andrew had seven children:


Betty married Earl Reed and is now deceased. Clarence married Claudia Gerard and is now deceased.

Robert married Bernice Belfry and resides in Big River.

Ethel married Henry Mason and resides in Saskatoon.

Helen married Bill Talis and resides in Saskatoon.

Lloyd is now deceased.

Gladys passed away at the age of nine months. Josephine passed away in 1970.

The South Family
Submitted by Catherine Margaret South

In 1910, Alexander Boyack South and Katherine (Allison) South, both at the approximate age of 44 years, immigrated to Canada from Surrey, England initially settling in Bowsman, Manitoba before moving to Saskatchewan. Alex and Katherine had eight children (Alex, Harry, Robert, Miller, Leslie, Annie, Kathleen and Blanche). At the time of their move to Canada, three of the children (Alex, Harry and Leslie) were already married and had left home and been on their own. Their oldest child, Alex had come to Canada in 1904 and his wife Nell and son Harry joined them about one year later. Eventually, all of their children came to Canada, living in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and eventually Alberta.

Alexander and Katherine owned land several miles northwest of Canwood.

Three of their children, Harry (Fanny), Miller (Margaret) and Leslie (Amy) homesteaded in the Bodmin area and they and their children either lived or worked in Big River. Two of these children, (Harry and Leslie) and their families, lived, worked, attended school and formed a part of both communities.

Miller homesteaded SW 19-55-7-W3rd; two miles west of Bodmin. He did not stay long and moved away to look for work elsewhere. He was killed while working on the Alaska Highway, near Dawson Creek, British Columbia. He is buried at Warburg, Alberta.


Henry (Harry) Allison South and Fanny

Elizabeth (Merritt) South came to Canada in 1913 from Surrey, England together with two of their four children: Dorothy Irene Merritt South (November 18, 1905) and Godfrey Alexander Boyack South (July 31, 1908).

Harry homesteaded NW 21-55-7-W3rd (immediately north of Joe Lauren's farm, where the Big River Mill owned by Weyerhaeuser is situated and "/mile north of Bodmin). In the earlier years, the train often stopped at places other than regular sidings. One of these stops was at the Harry South's farm to pick up eggs, rhubarb etc. and to drop off the mail. In the late 1920s, many men, looking for work, were hired by Harry to work in the bush camps or cutting firewood for shipment, by rail, to Prince Albert and Saskatoon.

Harry was one of three men (J.W. Rivers and George Langford) appointed to make the official application for the first school in Bodmin in 1920. Harry died in December 1942 and is buried in the cemetery at Big River.

Their oldest child Dorothy filed on NE 18-55-7-W3rd, as a homestead but did not live on or retain the land for long. Dorothy (South)Lattenville, Hamilton died November 26, 1965, and is buried in the cemetery at Vulcan, Alberta.

Their second child Alex filed on SE 30-55-7-W3rd as a homestead and farmed it as well as taking over and farming the home place (NW 21). Besides farming for himself, Alex did much of the threshing for the locals and worked for Jim Tappley. Between the three of them, (Jim Tappley, Alex and a third farrier) they shod almost all of the freight teams of horses hauling fish, by sleigh, from the northern lakes to the Waite Fisheries plant at the railhead in Big River, for shipment "outside". Alex worked for Len Waite doing welding and other mechanical work at the fish plant. He also had a blacksmith shop on the home place where he did farrier work, blacksmithing (mainly sharpening and resurfacing plough shears), mechanical work and building sleighs for hauling logs, by horse teams. He also worked building the Pool elevator in Bodmin in 1940. Before the elevator being built, the grain was hauled by team and wagon, or by sleigh in the wintertime to Eldred.

He was often called upon by the RCMP to drive the members, by team and wagon or sleigh, to conduct investigations in the countryside. Two of the RCMP members out of Big River, at the time, were Joe Sexsmith and Bill Crombie.

In July 1948, Alex and his family moved to Vulcan, Alberta (where his sister Eileen and family lived) looking for better work opportunities.

Harry and Fanny's third child, Eileen Margaret Annie South born November 15, 1916, married Peter Vernon Schuler, son of Charles Schuler who had land on NE 3-55-7-W3rd. Eileen presently lives in a nursing home in Calgary, Alberta.

Harry and Fanny had a fourth child, Lillian, was born February 2, 1926, and passed away on February 4, 1927, and is buried in the cemetery at Big River.

Harry and Fanny opened a store in Bodmin in 1938 upon his return at the end of World War II. Their grandson, Jack Lattenville, purchased the business in 1945 and managed it for seven years before closing down the store in 1952 and moving to Alberta. The building and land were sold to Tom Huxted in 1954. John (Jack) William Lattenville born July 30, 1922, married Mary Frances Egeland born November 25, 1925, daughter of Andrew and Audru Egeland, on November 27, 1946. Andrew and Audru Egeland owned land on NE 8-55-7-W3'.

Fanny died September 22, 1974, and is buried in the cemetery at Vulcan, Alberta.

My parents, Leslie South and Amy Millicent (Buckland) South were married in England and moved to Canada in March 1919, when I Catherine Margaret South born December 24, 1916, was very young. My mother was expecting her second child and was very ill coming over on the ship.

We lived in Polwarth Saskatchewan, with my father's parents and Dad's brother Robert (Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Bob) on the farm. My sister Annie Allison Boyack (Nancy) South born September 17, 1920, and one brother Thomas Charles South born January 5, 1922, were both born at home at Polwarth.

When Tom was about ten months old, we three children had whooping cough and Tom almost died. Dad butchered a chicken every day and fed us chicken soup until we recovered.

In 1923, we moved to Bodmin and Dad filed on the NE 19-55-7-W3", that he obtained through the Soldiers Settlement Board. We stayed with my Dad's brother, Harry, until the house was built on Dad's land. Dad had served in the First World War for England.

Work in the wintertime, consisted of falling trees and hauling the wood, by horse and sleigh, to Bodmin. The wood was stacked along the railway tracks and later buzz sawed into blocks and loaded onto a rail car for shipment to Prince Albert or Saskatoon for commercial and residential heating. In the summer, it was farming and in the fall the men would travel to the prairie region to work at harvesting.

Our brother Leslie Buckland South was born June 13, 1927, at home in Bodmin.

All four of us received our schooling at the one-room school at Bodmin for Grades One to Eight. Later our oldest son Kenneth Godfrey South born December 20, 1940, attended grade one, in the same school as I did, for the 1947-48 school term with Ms Sheila Kernaghan as his first teacher.

Typical of most rural schools it was used for many occasions including meetings, dances and church services. On Thanksgiving, the schoolhouse would be decorated with flowers and everyone brought vegetables, loaves of bread, sheaves of grain etc. to lay at the altar.

At times, Church Services were also held at various homes in the community, with the congregation often walking several miles to attend. After the service was completed, the lady in whose home the service was hosted would serve tea and cakes and everyone would enjoy a pleasant afternoon of visiting together and with the Minister. Often, the Minister from Big River would ride many miles to hold services, for communion, hold catechism and to baptize new babies.

The Anglican ministers were Reverend Parrot and Reverend Smith. Padre Phillips had been in the army and had held services in the Bodmin area. He married Ms. (Bluebell) Stewart, a schoolteacher at Bodmin.

When my mother Amy passed away on August 7, 1931, due to complications on the birth of her fifth child, I quit school to look after my sister and two brothers for two years. Mother and baby are buried at the Big River cemetery.

At the age of 16 years, I went out to work for different families. In 1935, I worked for three years for Mrs Potter who lived at the Forestry in Big River.

I married Alex South on April 24, 1938, at a 6:00 PM evening service in the Anglican Church in Big River. The reception was at the farm of my husband's parents. We have three children: Kenneth Godfrey South, December 20, 1940; James Thomas South, March 29, 1943; and Ethel Amy Margaret (South) Jorgensen, Lawrence, April 7, 1946, all born in Prince Albert.

We left the Big River area in July 1948 and moved to Alberta, living for six years in the Vulcan area. We then moved to the Peace River area of Alberta where Alex farmed and did-welding, blacksmith and mechanical work until 1972 when, due to illness, we sold out and moved to Stony Plain for a few years then to Wetaskiwin. Alex passed away on February 23, 1996, and is buried in Wetaskiwin, Alberta.

In the 1980s, I did a history of my family for the "Saga of Battle River", a history of a portion of the Peace River country in which we lived for 18 years.

Of the South (and extended) family Thomas Charles South, John (Jack) William Lattenville and Peter Vemon Schuler all served in the army during the second world war and all safely returned home.

I am currently living at the George Hennig Place, a senior's residence in Stony Plain, Alberta. Alex and Katherine are buried in the Canwood cemetery.


Stearns, Herbert Roger

When Herbert Stearns was thirty-two years old, he applied for a patent on land located at NE 10-54-7 W3rd in the Winter Lake area. He had two horses and seven head of cattle on this land in 1938. He had lived on this quarter since 1932 after he had built a 16x20 log and lumber house. He had a crop in 101/2 acres, all of which he broke. Later on, he had a log barn and chicken house.


Steinhardt, Fred and Linda

I was born in April 1944 in Northampton, England. I am the second oldest of twelve children of Tom and Barbara Warriner.

Dad was serving with the Saskatoon Light Infantry in England when he met and married mom. After the war, he returned home to Canada with his regiment. We were to follow soon after, but my older sister Judy and I came down with measles, so we were unable to make the trip until later. Finally, we crossed the ocean on the S.S. Srafangadiord and arrived in Big River in January 1946.

We lived near the south end of Ladder Lake for a time on a farm we called Hendrickson's. There, Dad took up farming again. Then we moved to another farm just south of Big River, a place called Stocklands. Dad was taking care of the farm while Mr Stockland was on an extended vacation to Sweden. When he returned, we moved to the West Cowan area near Granny Warriner's.

Dad continued farming. When Judy and I started school, we boarded in Big River at Bill and Beryl McKnight's. Then later, we travelled back and forth to school with the neighbour's kids, the Heibert family.

When Johnny started school, we got our school pony and cart. Old Bill hauled us back and forth for a few years.

In 1953 or 1954, Dad built our own home on the farm about a mile from Granny's. From here, we travelled to school in Big River with horses and wagon in the summer, and sleigh in the winter. Then in about 1958, we finally got a school bus. The hour trip to school was shortened to about twenty minutes.

During these years, our family had increased to eleven children. One more was added after we moved to Big River in about 1960.

After graduation from the Big River High School, I moved to North Battleford and worked in the Saskatchewan Hospital. While there I met Fred Steinhardt through a mutual friend. We were married in August 1965 and I moved to the farm at Medstead.

We have been farming the same farm that Fred's dad homesteaded in 1910.

In 1966, our son Wayne was born. He is presently farming with us. Wayne married Adele Sloan in 1996. She was from the Hazlet area in southern Saskatchewan.


Straub, Ernest and Matilda
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979

Mr Ernest Straub came from Switzerland to Canada in 1929. He arrived in Quebec, and from there he took the train to Big River. Ernie came to Big River because a friend of his, Mr Haslebacher, had a homestead in the Ladder Valley district.

He made the journey from Big River to Ladder Valley with the help of the Gilbert family. They were in town and since they had a Model T, they were able to get home in fairly good time.

Ernie had taken some English lessons while in Switzerland, so communication with others was not impossible. In the fall of that year, Ernie and Mr., Haslebacher went south to try to find a job with the harvesting gangs. Failure to do so sent them further west.

Mr Straub returned to Big River that same fall. He planned to get a job fishing, but it was not until December that he made it up north. However, as a result of the drop in the price of fish and the lack of market, work was finished at the end of January.

Even though the first year of fishing was not very successful, Ernie returned for eleven consecutive winters to fish up north.

Mr Straub, in 1930, also secured a homestead. He spent the summers on his farm clearing and ploughing the land, or he would go south and get a job working during harvest time.

In 1947, Ernie returned to Switzerland and it was here that he met Matilda Krebs. Ernie and Matilda were married in 1948. They adopted a son, Peter, and returned to Canada. Ernie could have obtained a job in eastern Canada, but he liked Big River and therefore, the Straubs decided to return to this community.

Mr and Mrs Straub moved from Ladder Valley into town in recent years, and still reside in Big River.


Streiker, Marty

We prairie farm boys were always needed to bring in the harvest and only after the last bundle of wheat was fed into the gaping jaws of the threshing machine, and the golden grain piled high in the granaries, could we return to school. And so, in late September of 1950, I returned to Saskatoon to continue my university education. I was back in the city just a day or two when I learned that a town called Big River needed a grade seven and eight teachers to start immediately. Would I or would I not? I had never taught before, so this was indeed a big decision. Well, I phoned the Shell Lake School Unit the next morning and after a brief discussion, the job was mine. The next day, with my two suitcases in hand, I boarded the bus for Big River.

I had never travelled much north of Saskatoon, and since Big River was at the end of the railway line, I wondered if it could be at the edge of the Canadian Shield or the start of the tundra. Was I in for a big surprise! It was late September and one of those clear, warm, sunny autumn days as we approached Big River a few hours before sundown. As the bus came to the top of the hill, I gasped at the beauty and panoramic view of this little town nestled on a lake. Across the lake, the green hills of spruce were dotted everywhere with golden birch. The view was awesome! The burner stood out as an immediate landmark. The bus slowly made its way down to the lakeside hotel owned by the senior St. Arnauds and stopped at the cafe run by Art Buckingham and his parents. As I grabbed my suitcases, a young lad repeatedly offered to carry them for me. I declined and politely thanked him. Sometime later I discovered this lad was Gordon McNabb, one of my Grade Eight students. I guess they knew that the teacher was coming.

Board and room had been arranged for me at the home of Edmond and Cora St. Arnaud. Their home had at one time been the police station and a small room at the back had served as a jail cell. Cora was expecting their first baby, so a few months later I moved to a spacious room on the second floor of a huge house on Main Street belonging to Carl and Guilda Brownfield. This became my home for the remaining three and one-half years that I lived in Big River.

Big River was indeed a bustling frontier town and alive with activity. There was logging, fishing, and even some trapping and a large sawmill at the north end of town. It was different from other small towns, in that it had a unique code and quality of its own. Since it was a small town, I presumed that everyone knew what was going on, but they minded their own business. The people, however, were immediately helpful to anyone who was in need or distress.

My classroom was on the second floor in the northwest corner of the school on the hill in the area of the Catholic Church and the hospital. I entered my classroom and read the Department of Education regulations on attendance, discipline, opening exercises and other topics. The regulations stated that each school day was, to begin with, the singing of either "0 Canada" or "God Save the King". This was to be followed by a Bible reading or a prayer. My how things have changed!

I had about 40 students in grades seven and eight and taught all the subjects. What impressed me from the very beginning was how eager these students were to learn. I slowly began to see them as very unique individuals; interesting and very cooperative. I respected each one of them and began to realize the serious responsibility I had in shaping and developing these young minds in their very formative years. Believe it or not, I was somewhat saddened when the weekend came and I could hardly wait for Monday to come when I could be back in the classroom.

A few weeks after I arrived, I started a scout troop. Most of the boys in my class joined as well as a few senior boys from Mr Gould's Class. I remember Dennis Choynicki and Charlie Holmer in particular. In late November, we did an overnight camp out along the river a few miles south of town. It was cold and the river was frozen. We built a lean-to and covered the top and three sides with several layers of spruce boughs. A fire was kept burning all night long as the temperature dropped well below zero. The next day at noon, two concerned mothers walked out to our camp but found us all safe and in good spirits.

There was a strong Elks and Royal Purple organization in Big River. From the money raised at dances and other social activities, they built and maintained sporting facilities and often assisted people and families in need. I recall a special supper put on by the Elks for the men of the lodge, Boston baked pork and beans with rye bread. It was scrumptious. A much larger Elks' hall was built in 1953 and for the grand opening, a special costume dance was held. The swanky hula girls with waist-length black hair, grass skirts and leis were Grace Colby, Laverne Osinchuk and Maude Wilson. Dick and Dorothy Johnson came in native Indian costumes. I did the make-up for both of them and they sure looked genuine. There were also local dances held in Pete Bouchard's hall. Local talent often supplied the music. I remember Ma Godin pounding on the piano and Medi Chamberlain playing the drums.

Mrs Clare Freedman returned to Big River and spearheaded the formation of a "Little Theatre and Cultural Society". That year the club put on a very successful two-act show. The first act was an interesting family drama in which Ursula Holmer played the role of a granddaughter. The second was a lively musical in a western theme. Mr Cyril (Pop) Craddock wrote the narration and the backdrop was an actual corral fence made of tamarack poles in front of spruce boughs. The songs were great and the main singers were Lynn Craddock, Laverne Osinchuk and Maude Wilson. The evening was a huge success and paved the way for other theatrical events to follow.

On January 30, 1953, the town organized a Youth Center where youth could be taught various skills and participate in games and other activities. I recall that Mr A. H. Parker got a group interested and started a brass band. Marcel Bouchard, Roger Dougherty, Henry Goliath and Willis Parker were the backbone of this band and later some went on to form a band of their own and played at dances. Mr George Apps Sr. was the president of the centre and Mr Richard Kindrachuk became the overall director.

There were a fair number of twins in Big River. I recall Bob and Ed Potts, Ricky and Randy McIntosh, Paulette and Pauline Otte, Dick and Bob Johnson and there may have been others. I recall a few tragic accidents at that time and how the town came together and helped in any way they could for the grieving families. Sometime later I remember how Pop Craddock painted a large 4 x 8 painting of a woodland scene with a stately elk in the foreground and donated it to the Elks Lodge in memory of one of these boys.

Hockey was a major winter sport in Big River. Boys would develop their skills by playing street hockey and at the rink every chance they could get. I believe it was in 1951 when the Junior Big River School team won the Shell Lake Unit hockey pennant. The championship game was against Shellbrook and the score was four-three in favour of Big River. That was quite an accomplishment since the competition that year was strong.

In the fall of 1952, grades seven-twelve moved to a new school at the east end of town. It became known as the Senior School. Grades one-six remained in the school on the hill. In the Senior School, Mr Gingara taught grade seven, Mr Kindrachuk taught grade eight, I had grade nine and Mr Gould taught grades ten-twelve. There were about 20 students in my grade nine class, and I previously taught most of them in both grades seven and eight. This class was remarkable. Of all the classes I taught in my career, and there were many excellent ones, this Big River grade nine class was exceptional. They excelled academically far beyond my expectations. Many were university material and some did go that way. They were thinkers and doers; they were aggressive, resourceful and made things happen.

During my four years of teaching in Big River, I met many students with good artistic ability, but Bill Borolein, Michael Fortier and Henry Goliath were exceptional. These three students often did full blackboard drawings with coloured chalk. A few that stick out in my mind are: an action drawing of a large male moose charging a hunter, a deer beside a waterfall, a before and after scene of a forest fire, MacBeth's three witches huddled over a bubbling cauldron, and a waterfall gushing out of a rocky crevasse and falling far below to form a river winding through the woodlands. You could almost feel the spray and hear the roar of the falls.

On the athletic side, Big River students were strong competitors in track and field events. I remember in particular the zeal of Norman McNabb and others. In the spring of 1953, the midget class of our athletes did extremely well. Eight of them went on to compete at the district level in Shellbrook. The girls were Inez Hagen, Nova McNabb, Gail Patrick, and Minota Webster. The boys were Philip Chenard, Grant Gould, Cecil Pederson, and Howard Swanson. Of this group, Grant, Nova, Cecil, Howard and Minota advanced to compete in the northern area finals in Blaine Lake, bringing honour to themselves, their school and the community.

Back in those years, Mr Gould and I did some exchange teaching. He taught my grade nine's French, and I taught his grade ten's English Composition. In 1952-53, Roy Swanson was the only student in grade 12, and I taught him English Composition as well. A year later, I taught Keith Belfiy grade 12 Algebra. I think he was the only student in grade 12 that year also.

Mr Gould was a teacher and principal in Big River for many years. During my four years there, I found Mr Gould to be a man of few words, but these were always words of wisdom and sound direction. I found I was greatly motivated and encouraged by his ideas and suggestions. When in need, I knew I could always count on him for guidance and advice and this I was truly thankful. Mr Gould took an active leadership role in community events, especially with the Elks. I believe Big River was fortunate to have had a man so dedicated to education and his community.

And so the years have passed by. Would you believe that Dick Johnson, a former student, is now a great- grandfather and there are likely more of you in that position? In closing, I consider my four years in Big River a major learning experience and an opportunity to be of service to that community. It was here that I first began to teach some 53 years ago, and yet in some ways, it seems like yesterday. To the students, I say you had a deep impact on my life. I shall never forget you and it is always great to hear news from you. I am impressed with the Big River High School motto: BRHS: Be righteous; honest and self-disciplined. I greatly enjoyed my years of teaching in Big River.


Stuesser, Hulda and Joe
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979

Hulda and Joe Stuesser, and their son Arnold came to Big River in 1940. They settled on the Eisman farm, nine miles north in the Black Duck area. In the spring, the roads would often disappear, and they would be impassable for weeks at a time.

The Stuessers raised chickens and sold eggs to the Hatcheries, which helped as a source of income. They also grew alfalfa for registered seed, and they broke land with a tractor for people in the district. The Stuessers left for Saskatoon 1944. Arnold married Doreen Bell.


Suderman, John and Nettie and Family
Written by Connie (Suderman) Perlitz

Outdoor Rink behind Elk's Hall.

Back Row: Dawn, Bonnie, Connie.
Front Row: Vern, Wayne.

My grandfather, John Suderman, and grandmother, Nettie Suderman, homesteaded in the Bodmin area during the 1930s until 1945. Life was hard during the depression years, so my grandfather gave up farming and moved back to Laird, Saskatchewan where he thought he could make a better living by owning and operating a General Merchandise Store.

When they had moved to Bodmin, they had four children. They were Gladys, Louis, Alvin, and Ronald. A fifth child, Rose, was born in Big River, Saskatchewan.

The four eldest children attended school in Bodmin. My father, Louis Suderman, completed his grade eight at the old Bodmin one-room school.

My dad decided instead of going back to Laird with his family, he would join the armed forces. He left for Vancouver, British Columbia. The army wouldn't sign him up because he had flat feet, but the Merchant Navy did. Louis met his wife to be in Vancouver. Louis and Sherry married in 1947. They moved around a lot, between Vancouver and Saskatoon and eventually had seven children.

In 1961, Lou and Sherry moved to Big River district, known as Erinferry, along with their children, Bonnie, Skip, Connie, Wayne, Ron and Dawn. We attended the Big River Elementary School. A year and a half later, we moved to Winter Lake. My dad bought Miles Isbister's farm. Bonnie, Skip, Connie, Wayne, and Ron attended Winter Lake School with Mrs Isabelle Martel as our teacher in the one-room school for two years. I have many wonderful memories. Mrs Martel was a wonderful teacher and has a great family and we are still friends to this day.

We walked about four miles to school. Later Dad bought a horse, cart and sleigh, which made it a whole lot easier to get to school on time. The school also came with a barn and two outhouses.

Sadly, we lost mother, Sherry Suderman, in November 1964. Shortly after, dad moved the family to Laird. Dad moved back to Big River in 1985 and ran a restaurant for a short time. He was well known for brewing moonshine and did so until he passed away suddenly in 1988.

The Suderman children are all still living. Here's where we are and what we're doing:

Bonnie has four children, Darwin Fehr, Darrel Fehr, Cody Fehr, and Brandy Benard. Bonnie has nine grandchildren, all residing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She enjoys visiting Big River with family and friends. Bonnie is currently married to Murry Poole and resides in Saskatoon.

Skip has lived in and around Big River and Debden for many years. He has always been drawn to the beautiful country and its many lakes. Skip has left a few times but always returns. It's his home

and it feels right to be there. Skip has six children-Robin, Jason, Larry, Crystal, Gale, Sherry, and Terry. He has three grandchildren. Skip is married to Louise Villeneuve and has been for many years. Skip and Louise are currently residing in Debden.

Vern has lived for several years with our mother's sister. When he came to visit us, he thought we were hillbillies and lived in the boonies (he may have been right) but he fit right in! He ended up appreciating the people and the Big River District as much as we did. Vern has six children, Kevin, Yvonne, Carrie, Wes, Brian, and Cam. Vern and his wife, Sarah, reside in Saskatoon. They presently play in a working band, called "Gypsy Wheeler". They have played many venues in and around Big River. Vern also has a family band. Rocky Lakner and I have joined them on numerous occasions singing and playing music.

Connie: After moving around quite a bit, from Vancouver Island, Calgary, Edmonton and many towns in between, including Big River, I made my way to Prince Albert and that is where I reside today. I have three children, Kelly, Tansie and Leah Shipowick. So far, I have three grandchildren. I have many wonderful memories of singing and entertaining with my mother, Sherry and her sister, my Aunt Helen, and also my cousin, Rocky Lakner. The first place I sang in public was in Big River and Debden CKBI Amateur Hour. Presently I sing with the Country Music Association in Prince Albert. I am currently married to John Perlitz.

Wayne married his childhood sweetheart, Ruby Grassick from Erinferry, Saskatchewan. They have two girls, Tammy and Crystal. Wayne has four grandchildren and spends many happy hours with them. Wayne and Ruby still own property around Debden and go visiting in and around Big River when-ever they have time. They are quite busy with their roofing company, "Charlebois Roofing Shingle Div.", in Saskatoon.

Ron lives just outside Prince Albert. His heart will always be in Big River. He has many friends there and spends a lot of his time in Big River. Ron has been a tree planter for many years, and still works for Smokey Lake Tree Planting. Ron loves to play guitar and sing. Many of his songs he has written himself, a chip off the old block. Ron continues to do his own thing. Ron currently lives with Allison Desbins and Rottie, his rottweiler.

Dawn lives in Saskatoon and has three sons, Tim, Mickey, Colton, and her pitbull "Reeper". She is presently working in a nursing home and working towards her Licensed Practical Nursing. Dawn has two grandchildren and spends as much time as she can with them.


Sundby, Andrew and Mayme
Submitted by Edna McNabb

Andrew Sundby.

Mayme and Andy Sundby.

Sundby Children.

Back Row: Mervin, Kenny, Delbet, Donald, Lorne.
Front Row: Edna.

Andrew was born in Norway in 1891. He left at age nineteen to come to the United States, where he found a job driving a streetcar. He eventually came to Big River in the early 1920s and had a bush camp. He hired Mayme Pearson as a cook and they later married.

Andrew and Mayme had seven children: Jean (Ireton), Mervin, Ken, Delbert, Donald, Edna (McNabb) and Lorne. Donald passed away in 1989. All are living in British Columbia, except Mervin. Mervin and his wife, LaDonna, live on the home property, which is located across from where Waite Fisheries Ltd. building used to be.

Andrew worked in the lumbering, logging and sawmill operations all of his life in Big River. He was the mayor of Big River during a time when it was a village and was a strong advocate for it to become a town. He was also a member of the Elks for several years. His wife, Mayme, passed away in 1954 and Andrew passed away in 1965.


Sundby, Greg and Tamara

Greg Sundby.

Tami, holding Brett, Chelsey,
Greg, holding Jessamy and Karli.

Greg Sundby was born on December 15, 1964, a chosen son for Mervin and LaDonna Sundby. Greg grew up in the Big River area and received his formal education at the Big River schools. He worked at various jobs until finding employment at the Big River Sawmill. He worked there for a few years before he purchased his father's trucking business. Greg was a talented hockey player and sports enthusiast. When he played for the Big River Braves, the team won various league championships. Crowds would fill the arena as they excitedly anticipated some exciting moments on the ice! Greg's speed and skill continued to thrill the fans for several years until he sadly hung up his skates.

Tamara Wilson (Sundby) was born on August 2, 1969, the only daughter of Reg and Meada Wilson. She graduated from Big River High School and went on to the University of Saskatchewan where she received her Bachelor of Education degree. She began teaching in the Big River Elementary School and still teaches there today (2004). Greg and Tamara became very close friends and were married on August 27, 1990, in Big River, Saskatchewan. They have four children:


1. Chelsey Sundby was born on March 25, 1992. She is a very talented hockey player. Recently, she was selected to play hockey for the SaskCan Peewee Female Team. They competed at various places in Western Canada. In the Stampede Challenge, the grand finale, the SaskCan team received the gold medal! Chelsey also excels in her academics attaining top marks and was awarded the medallion for the top student from Kindergarten through grade six.

2. Karli Sundby was born on July 11, 1994, and is a very talented tap and jazz dancer. She attends Diabetic Camp annually to help her deal with her diabetes.

3. Brett Sundby was born on January 17, 2000.

4. Jessamy Sundby was born on January 30, 2002.

Sundby, Mervin and LaDonna

Mervin Sundby family.

Back Row: Brenda, Blaine, Greg, Tami. Melissa, Mark, Linda, Jarin.
Middle Row: Mervin, holding Brett, Donna.
Front Row: Chelsey, Karli and Shelly.

Mervin and LaDonna Sundby have lived in Big River since 1934. Mervin was born in Govan, Saskatchewan in 1929. His family then moved to Big River. LaDonna was born in Mont Nebo in 1929. Her family then moved to Big River. They both started school together in grade one.

They had a very happy childhood. In those days, it was so different from what it is now. In the winter, all the families had bobsleds. You would start on the top of the tower hill, down to the corner by the bank, straight down Main Street, turn at Yurach's Store, across the railway tracks, all the way down to Freddie Coates' livery stables.

In the summer, everyone played "Hide-and-Go-Seek", tin can, and rolling tires through mud puddles. Our parents weren't happy to see us so full of mud! When the train would blow the whistle, the kids would run down to the station. You would often get a short ride while they were switching and we would even ask if they had brought our parcels from Eatons.

Mervin and LaDonna were married in 1951 and have three children:


1. Linda married Mark Kohlrus. They live in Lloydminster and have three daughters: Shelly, Melissa and Jarin.

2. Brenda lives in Saskatoon where she completed her Bachelor of Education degree and is now teaching at Kelsey. Brenda has one son, Blaine. He's going to Kelsey taking computer classes.

3. Greg married Tamara Wilson. They live in Big River and have four children: Chelsey, Karli, Brett and Jessamy. Greg is in the trucking business and Tamara is a teacher at the T.D. Michel School in Big River.

4. LaDonna worked at O.P. Godin's Store and Waite Fisheries Store. She was camp attendant at Nesslin Lake for ten years.

Mervin and Donna have retired and they spend their time taking vacations to Hawaii and many places in the States. However, their greatest love is being home close to their grandchildren.


Swanson, Bud and Bernice

Bud Swanson.

Back Row: Ken. Bernice, Bud, Joy-Ann.
Front Row: Sydney, Troy and Jesse.

John Albert Swanson, the fourth and youngest son of Gus and Viola Swanson, was born in 1939 on the Swanson homestead. The mid-wife, Mrs Vold, thought such a big name was too much for the little fellow and so she called him Buddy. The name became his for life.

Viola had been home-schooling the boys but in 1946, when Bud was six years old, the family moved closer to Big River and they were able to walk to school. That opened up a world of opportunities for new friends and new activities. Hockey became an important part of Bud's winter.

When Bud finished grade twelve, he went to work for Saskatchewan Forest Products while continuing to work on the family farm. His father Gus had passed away in 1953 and Bud and his brother Eugene carried on the farm operation. In 1980, Bud sold out his share of the farm to Eugene.

Bernice Reed, daughter of Ernest and Mabel (Dahl) Reed, was born in 1943 in Bellear Brook, Saskatchewan. They lived in Reserve for a while where Ernie worked in the forest industry. He continued that work when they moved to Big River in 1956 and Bernice and her brother Howard attended school. After high school, Bernice took a stenographers course in Prince Albert and then worked for various lawyers there for four years. She then came home to Big River to work in the L.I.D office.

Bud and Bernice were married in 1965. Their daughter, Joy-Ann, was born in 1970 and son, Troy, in 1974. Bud served three years as a L.I.D. and RM. councillor including four years as the RM. representative on the local hospital board. He also spent ten years on the Recreation Complex building committee; first on the feasibility committee and then co-chairing the finance committee with George Yurach through all the stages including the installation of artificial ice. He remained until the complex was completely paid for.

Their involvement with the Kinsman and Kinette clubs was extensive. Bud spent years with the club, serving in all the offices, some of them several times. Heritage Night, pancake breakfasts, bingos, and many other fund-raisers and community projects saw them doing their part.

The Swansons spent many weekends camping at Nesslin Lake and Zig-Zag Bay on Delaronde Lake. Bud curled during the winter and Bernice enjoyed ceramics and met weekly with a group including Lil Randall, Marj Skopyk, Norrie Peterson, Dorothy Kuxhaus, Ivy Johnson and Shirley Yurach.

Bernice worked occasionally at the RM. office and became interested in pursuing Municipal Administration as a career. She took classes to that end, and in 1990 started at the town office as assistant administrator. When she received her diploma, she became an administrator. On April 21, 2001, Bernice passed away after a battle with cancer.

In January 2001, Bud retired after forty-four years of working in the lumber industry through the many changes in mills, locations, company names and technology that have occurred through the years. Bud now takes pleasure in caring for an attractive yard and productive garden. His summers are spent making the rounds of neighbouring golf courses.

Joy-Ann Swanson went through school in Big River and after working at the Maple Lane Confectionery for Orville Leach for a year she went to Saskatoon and took a hairdressing course. There she met and married, in 1993, Ken Scott, a carpenter. They moved to White Rock, British Columbia where their son Jesse was born in 1995. Soon after, they returned to Saskatoon where their daughter, Sydney, was born in 1998. Joy-Ann found that hairdressing was not to her liking so found work at the A & W food chain. She worked for that company for ten years in British Columbia and Saskatoon, mainly in a managerial position. At present Joy-Ann, is employed by Culligan Water.

Troy Swanson also attended Big River schools and then worked on road construction for a year before attending the U of S to obtain a Bachelor of Commerce degree. Tree planting in the summer kept him fit and supplied him with pocket money. Troy now lives in Nelson British Columbia where he has taken numerous mountain rescue and first aid courses and works in that field. At present, he is working toward a paramedic certificate.


Swanson, Camille and Joanne

Camille Swanson.

Back Row: Colyn, Camille, Jeff.
Front Row: Cheryl and Joanne.

Camille grew up on a farm north of Big River in a family of four brothers and two sisters with his parents Howard and Margaret Swanson.

I grew up in a family of five brothers and six sisters with my parents, Art and Ruth Buckingham. We lived most of our growing up years in various places in town. However, we did live on a farm north of town for some years also.

Camille and I were married on June 13, 1970. Our first home was made in Powell River British Columbia where our first son, Colyn Camille, was born on August 30, 1971. We then wanted to be closer to our families, so we moved to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan in October 1972. Camille worked two jobs at this time at AD Fab Housing and Burns Food LTD. This is where we bought our very first home and our daughter, Cheryl Dawn, was born on November 25, 1973.

Then in 1975, Camille was accepted into the RCMP so we moved to Regina, Saskatchewan, and lived there for two years. Finding this was not the career for us, we then moved back to Prince Albert in 1977. Camille was hired as a scaler at the Prince Albert Pulp Mill. Our youngest son, Jeffrey Shawn, was born on April 15, 1978. This completed our family.

Our hearts were always to live in Big River and raise our three children, so we sold our house in June 1978 and moved back to Big River where Camille worked as a scaler for the Department of Northern Saskatchewan. In 1979, he was hired as a scaler at the Big River Lumber where he continues to work, which is now owned by Weyerhaeuser.


Camille Swanson.

Brody, Skylar, Jordan and Jesse.

I started to work at Krienke's T-Shirt Shop in 1980 for five years. When the Lake Wood Lodge Special Care Home opened up, I was hired as a Special Care Aide, where I continue to work today. We were joined by the hospital in April of 2000.

All three of our children are married and we are very fortunate to have four special grandchildren. Our son, Colyn, has a daughter, Jordan Elizabeth, born May 27, 1991. He married Krista Teer in June 2002 and has a son, Jesse Colyn, born April 5, 2003. They reside in Big River. Our daughter, Cheryl, married Chad Marino on Jan. 27, 2001 and they have a daughter, Skylar Dawn, born in Italy on July 19, 2002, and they reside in Vicenza, Italy. Our son, Jeffrey, married Michelle Gilbert in 1998. They have a son, Brody Sean, born June 27, 2000, and reside in Big River.


Swanson, Eric and Olga

Eric Swanson.

Back Row: Pat, Mervin, Joyce, Darren, Murray, Lois, Bob, Brenda.
Front Row: Rosemarie, Eric, Olga and Lyle.

Eric Swanson was born on January 15, 1922, in Big River. He was the second youngest of a family of nine children. His parents were John and Ingeborg Swanson. His siblings were Swea, Gus, Tessa, Howard, Martha, Carl, Alfred and Elsie. Eric grew up in the Big River area and went to school there as well. At the age of seventeen, Eric joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He soon suffered a serious head injury during training. The injury resulted in a concussion and Eric was in a coma for thirty days. It took him some time to recover but he eventually was able to rejoin the service. He served four years as an Air Gunner during World War II. Later on, Eric found it very difficult to talk about his experiences throughout the war and tried to avoid talking about the time that he served.

When Eric was discharged after the end of the war, he travelled to British Columbia and tried his hands at doing carpentry work. Later on, he then decided to move back to Big River and there he worked at the sawmills in the area. He also worked with his brother, Carl, doing carpentry work again.

It was at this time that he met his wife, Olga Wicinski. Olga Wicinski was born June 8th, 1928 in Poland. Her parents were Stefan and Katherine Wicinski. She is the second oldest of five children. Her siblings are Walter, Anne, Jenny and Mary. In 1929, Olga, her parents and older brother, Walter travelled to Canada aboard a ship named The Five Star. They travelled for two weeks across the Atlantic Ocean. They eventually landed in Quebec and from there they travelled to the Prince Albert area where they stayed with relatives. A year or so later, the family moved to homestead in the Ladder Valley area. Olga has many memories of her school days at Ladder Valley. She also vividly remembers walking for miles looking for the cattle when it was milking time. The cattle were all free-range and where the cattle were was anyone's guess!

Later in her teen years, Olga met and married Eric Swanson. They were married in Prince Albert on October 25, 1946.

Eric decided to buy his fishing outfit. He had a commercial license and began fishing at Dore Lake. The catches were good with plenty of jack-fish, pickerel and whitefish. Olga stayed there and cooked for the first year and Eric continued for two more years before he bought a quarter of land west of Big River.

Eric and Olga had seven children, three girls and four boys: Rosemarie, Mervin, Darlene, Robert, Lyle, Murray, and Joyce.

Tragically, in 1965, Eric and Olga suffered the devastating loss of their fourteen-year-old daughter, Darlene. She will always hold a special part of her family's heart.

Life on the farm was not always easy. Olga remembers not even having the money to buy her children a pair of shoes.

Over a course of time, Eric and Olga bought more land and farmed for 27 years. They enjoyed a mixture of raising cattle, pigs, chickens, and turkeys. Olga also grew a huge garden and along with that would drive the team of horses to town to sell butter and eggs.

Due to ill health, the farm was sold and the family was moved to town. By this time, only Lyle, Murray and Joyce were still at home. Rosemarie married Gordon Grant and she was raising her family of four children: Karen, Valerie, Ron, and Debbie. Mervin married Pat Becker and their family grew - three children: Myrna, Sheldon, and Darren. Bob married Brenda Kilbreath and they have two boys, Adam and Joshua. A few years later, the Swanson family expanded again when Murray married Lois Bollefer and they have two children: Jesse and Ondraya. Joyce married Darren Davidson and they now have four children: Karlene, Nathan, Matthew and Danae.

Rosemarie presently lives in Lloydminster. Mervin lives in Saskatoon. Bob also resides in Lloydminster. Lyle is down east in Ottawa. Murray is on the west coast in Port Coquitlam and Joyce lives in the hometown of Big River.

To the present time, the grandchildren total 16 and the great-grandchildren add up to 8!

Over the years Eric's health continued to fail and he was eventually admitted to the Lakewood Lodge nursing home in May of 1996. Eric spent six years there and during that time he enjoyed visits from his faithful and loving wife, Olga. The children also made visits as often as they could. Eric was always extremely proud of his family. He loved his grandchildren and cherished their times together.

Sadly, Eric passed away on April 18, 2002. It is a comfort to know Eric is at home, with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.Olga presently resides in her own home.

Eric and Olga went through a lot in their 56 years of marriage. Good times, trials, and tests, but they both put their faith in God and acknowledged that their Heavenly Father would be their strength through whatever would come their way.


Swanson, Eugene and Merle

Eugene Swanson.

Eugene and Merle, 1960.

Eugene Swanson was born in 1934 to Gus and Viola Swanson. He and his brothers took home correspondence until 1946 when the family moved closer to town and they were able to walk to school. At this time, he became interested in several sports including baseball and hockey. He has a trophy and several track and field medals from school and many curling trophies accumulated throughout the next thirty years. He coached hockey when an injury prevented him from playing and coached a women's softball team.

With the illness, and then the death of his father in 1953, Eugene and his brothers took on more and more of the farm work. Eugene also spent three winters in the bush working for Saskatchewan Timber Board at Smoothstone Lake and Dore Lake and one year working for Andy Sundby in the Hackett Lake area. He worked with his brother Roy and with Tony Lueken, falling with a power saw and skidding with a horse.

In the late 1950s, the planer and mill were both beside the lake. Booms of logs were towed down the lake with a tugboat to a holding pen. Eugene spent summers at the mill, grading lumber to be dry-piled and later planed. In the fall, the mill closed because they were out of logs, or any remaining booms of logs were frozen in the lake. Then, Eugene moved back to the planer as a shipper and a checker, filling orders and seeing that they were properly loaded into boxcars, or as a planer operator setting the planer for different types of lumber. Or he sometimes hauled lumber by tractor and wagon from the yard north of First Street, where the Recreation Center was later built, down to the planer.

Merle Swanson was born in 1938 to Nial and May Marshall. She attended school in Frenchman Butte and then spent a year at Saskatoon Teacher's College. After teaching for two years in Archerwill, Merle moved to Big River. As the bus rolled over the crest of the hill on that fall day in 1959 the driver, Sid Cookman, proudly indicated the panorama before them and announced, "Well here's Big River!"

Merle boarded with Mike and Aileen Daley and taught at the primary school with Pat Olson, Mrs Burt, Mrs Rousseau, Leona Smith, Diane Johnson, and Mike Kuzyk. Coal was burned to heat the school and there were chemical toilets. For washing hands, there was a long trough through which the water ran.

Eugene and Merle were married in 1960, moving into the house his parents had built. Eugene and his brother Albert (Bud) took over the farm at NE 24-56-8-W3'. The brothers eventually acquired seven quarters of land and also leased seventeen additional quarters for pasture and hay. At one time they had 458 head of cattle and 1100 cultivated acres in grain, canola, hay, and pastureland.

In 1979, Bud chose to quit farming and work at the mill. Eugene continued to farm and over the years had several different hired men. John Newman, John Voisin, Lee Swanson, Darwin Fonos, David Gustafson, and Robert Halsall were some long-term help.

Merle taught periodically for a total of twenty-four years in the primary, junior, intermediate, and senior intermediate and finally the T.D. Michel schools. One yearly project in the later years was the hatching of chicks in an incubator. An egg for each child, labelled, was put into the incubator and they took turns turning the eggs twice a day. In three weeks the eggs began to hatch and each proud owner took the chick home. The parent's reactions were unrecorded. The hatch rate was pretty poor so there were many disappointed kids. The unhatched eggs were then opened and they saw many different stages of chick development.

Merle became interested in high school drama when her children took part and directed several junior and senior one-act plays. After retirement, she turned to directing adult plays.

Eugene's community involvement was considerable. He was chairman of the Cowan Lake Rural Telephone Company and served on the local school board. He was chairman of the building committee of the first closed-in rink in 1961. Twenty-four years later, in 1985, when the Recreation Center with artificial ice was built, Richard Burt was chairman of the Big River and District Recreation and Improvement Association and Eugene served as building committee chairman.

He was chairman of the hospital board in the early 1960s, during the construction of the nurses' residence and for the final stages of the west extension to the Union Hospital at the location on the hill. In 1999, he again was on the committee when the hospital addition was made to the Lakewood Lodge to form the new Health Center.

Eugene was a member of the Big River Elevator Cooperative in 1984 when the farmers purchased the elevator from the Sask. Wheat Pool and were able to keep the elevator going for eight more years with the help of the Pioneer Grain Company. Others on that committee were Irvin Amundson, Elaine Amundson, Leo Proulx, Cyril Proulx, Abe Bergen, Dick Bergen, Vern Hyllestad, George Hildebrand, Bob Kennedy, Norman Sandry, John Thiessen, Bruce Reed, Doug Panter, Henry Rempel, and Fred Billinger.

He was on the Parkland School Division board for nearly nine years from 1983-1991. During this time the Big River High School burned and he was the Division Board Building Supervisor while the new school was built. Eugene served as reeve of the Big River R.M. for eight years (1993-2000). In 1993, the Government of Saskatchewan appointed him to the Parkland Hospital board committee during the revision of the health system. At present, in 2003, Eugene is in his fifteenth year as a director on the North West Community Futures Business Development Corporation.


Eugene Swanson's family.

Back Row: Lee, Eugene, Merle.
Front Row: Glenda, Sherri, 1986.

Eugene and Merle raised three Children, Lee, Sherri, and Glenda. At present, in 2003, Lee is Dean of the School of Business at Lakeland College in Vermilion, Lloydminster and Sherwood Park. Sherri is married to Clifton Sanche and teaches in Saskatoon. They have two children, Dylan and Claire. Glenda, a graphic designer, married Darrell Oleksyn. They have two children, Nicholas and Erin, and live at Prince Albert.

By 1996, after many successful years of farming, most of Merle and Eugene's land had been sold and the remaining five acres by the lake and the house his parents built-in 1946 is still home for them in their retirement.


Swanson, Gus and Viola
Submitted by Eugene and Merle Swanson

Gus Swanson was born in Sweden to John and Ingeborg Swanson. He came to Canada in 1911 with his parents and sisters Swea and Tessa. Gus helped at home on the farm and his dad's fish camp and tie camp and he also custom-broke land. In 1931, he laid claim to a homestead (SE 35-56-8-W3rd).

Viola Swanson was born in Canwood to Albert and Esther Gustafson. Esther passed away in 1923 when Viola was ten and the household work became the responsibility of the little girl. She continued to attend school until she completed grade eight.

In 1929, Viola came to Big River to work for Tessa and Paul La Gouffe. She also worked for Pearl Anderson and at the "nursing home" or maternity hospital in Canwood.

In May 1931, Viola married Tessa's brother, Gus Swanson, and they went to live on Gus's newly acquired homestead. Their only accommodation that summer was a tent as they began to clear their land. The snow was beginning to fly that fall when they went to Nels and Anna Edson's farm to care for the place while the Edson's were at their fish camp at Dore Lake. Gus and Viola spent the following winter at Swanson's fish camp. Summers were occupied with clearing land and building a log house on their homestead.

The winter of 1933-34, was spent at a tie camp where the men hewed ties for the railroad. It was a very cold winter and in February Viola's mother-in-law, Ingeborg declared that a tie camp was no place for a woman to have a baby so she brought Viola home with her. In March, their first child, Eugene, was born in Canwood at the nursing home where Viola had worked.

In the years that followed Roy, Howard and Albert (Bud) were born on the homestead. Those were busy years with a huge garden with strawberries and raspberries, home correspondence for the boys, wild berry picking and farm chores. Gus was often away at a fish or tie camp during the week in the winter and Viola had a "hired girl" to help. Eileen Keating was one of those who filled that role.

One summer, Ole Olsen brought a sawmill into the yard and then there was a crew of men to cook for. The men working there at the time were Ivan Smith, Buck Olsen, Leo Olsen, and Jack Olsen. The lumber from that sawmill was to be used for a new house. The following year the lumber was planed.

That sawmill was an enticing attraction for the boys as they sat inside trying to concentrate on their studies. Viola was not impressed one day when she found the scholars missing. They had sneaked out the window and gone to watch the sawing.

In 1945, the Swanson's bought Len Waite's homestead (NE 24-56-8-W3') and the following year they built their new house. The boys were now able to attend school in town and to take part in a new passion: hockey.

Some of the men who worked for Gus were Emmanuel Wind, Tom Downing (the remains of whose log house can be seen, in 2003, across the the highway from Ken Lomsnes' home), his Uncle Chris Ericson, brothers Carl and Eric, and brothers-in-law Wally and Helge Gustafson.

Gus passed away in 1953 after a two-year illness and a major cancer operation. Viola and the boys carried on with the farm. Viola also cared for her Uncle Gus Gustafson, her father Albert Gustafson, and Gus's Uncle Chris Ericson in the final months of their lives.

Viola moved into Big River in 1960 when Eugene married and he and Bud took over the farm. She worked for a year at Wilfred Godin's bakery on the SW corner of Fourth Avenue and Main Street, where the Pharmacy was later located and then spent fifteen years in the housekeeping department of the Big River Union Hospital. She retired in 1977. Viola passed away October 1999 in Lakewood Lodge.

Eugene married Merle Marshall, Roy married Denise Lavasseur, Howard married Bertha Adams, and Albert (Bud) married Bernice Reed.


Swanson family.

Back Row: Howard, Eugene, Bud.
Front Row: Roy and Viola, 1984.

Swanson, Howard

Howard Swanson was born on February 25, 1938, on a farm four and one-half miles north of Big River along Cowan Lake (also known as Crooked River at that time) to Gus and Viola Swanson. The family including Eugene, Roy and Bud lived on the farmstead until 1947, at which time they moved into a new home, built by their father and uncle, on a farm one and a half miles north of Big River, still along Cowan Lake. Their mother taught the four brothers by correspondence until Eugene and Roy passed into grade six and Howard and Bud into grade two. Howard's father passed away in 1953.

Howard completed his grade twelve in Big River. He spent part of two years in Prince Albert, attending school at the Prince Albert Collegiate Institute and playing hockey for the Prince Albert Juvenile Mintos. After returning to Big River, he played hockey with Debden in the Big V League. In his last couple of years, he worked during the summer holidays at the sawmill in town.

After graduating from grade twelve, Howard was hired on with the accounting firm of Touche Ross and Company in Saskatoon and moved to Wilkie where the firm had opened a new office. During his three years in Wilkie, he played hockey with the Wilkie /Outlaws in the Wild Goose League. It was in Wilkie where he met his wife, Bertha Adams.


Howard Swanson.

Garth, Bertha, Darren, Howard.

Howard was transferred to the North Battleford office in the spring of 1960. He married Bertha in 1962. They had two sons, Garth and Darren. Howard received his Chartered Accountant degree in 1962 after spending five years attending summer classes at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and part by correspondence. In 1970, he started his accounting firm, growing to a total of twenty-five employees by 1982. In 1982, he downsized his office to its present size of ten employees and moved to new premises. His son, Garth, received his Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Saskatchewan, articled with Price Waterhouse and Co. in Saskatoon and received his chartered accountant designation in 1987. He became a partner in his father's firm in 1990. Garth and his wife, Janet, have six children. Howard, also, took on another partner, his nephew Greg Gryba. The partnership of Howard Swanson & Partners has grown into a thriving accounting practice.

Howard's mother Viola passed away in 1999 and his brother, Roy in 2000.

Howard's other son, Darren, received his Masters of Science in engineering from the University of Saskatchewan in 1992. He worked for five years in Boulder, Colorado, and then continued his education at Harvard University in Boston, where he received his Masters in Public Administration and received his International Development degree in 2001. Darren and his wife, Cheryl, are currently living in Winnipeg where he is working as a consultant. Howard and Bertha are currently considering retirement.


Howard and Bertha Swanson.

Howard and Bertha Swanson.

Swanson, Howard and Margaret
Submitted by Noreen Wilson and
Gaytan Christiansen

Howard and Margaret Swanson.

Howard, Margaret, 1943.

Howard Swanson was born on November 9, 1914, to John and Ingeborg Swanson. Margaret Chenard was born to Horace and Maria Chenard on October 8, 1921. Both Howard and Margaret were born in Big River.

As a young man Howard fished at Dore Lake, then took over the family farm, two miles north of Big River. Howard also worked at the mill in Big River for twenty-three years. He was not able to enlist in the war because he had a severe case of polio, and was chosen to stay in Canada because of the size of his farm.

Margaret Chenard grew up on a small farm four miles north of Big River. At the age of sixteen, Margaret left to join the Grey Nuns' Convent in St. Albert, Alberta. After a few months had passed, she decided to leave the convent to help at home because her mother was very ill. At the age of eighteen, she worked in a bakery for her Aunt Antoinette in Le Pas, Manitoba for six months. She then moved back home where she met Howard.

Howard and Margaret were married on May 12, 1943. They raised seven children: five boys and two girls: Norman, Roland, Camille, Maurice, Lorraine, Rita, and Richard. Norman passed away in a plane crash in May of 1990. One son and two daughters still reside in Big River and raised their families here: Camille (Joanne) Swanson, Lorraine (Gordon) Christiansen, and Rita (Clarence) Olsen.

The family had a busy life; farming, planting gardens and doing a lot of canning. They made berry-picking into a fun family picnic by preparing a lot of sandwiches and fruit, which the children all enjoyed.


Howard and Margaret 1985.

Howard and Margaret, June 23, 1985).

After their children had grown and left home, Howard and Margaret were blessed with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In 1980, Howard was crowned King of Big River at the "Celebrate Saskatchewan" weekend held in Big River, being the oldest male resident to be born here.

Howard passed away on July 6, 1990, at the age of seventy-six, and Margaret passed away on December 22, 1997, at the age of seventy-six.


Swanson, John and Ingeborg
Submitted by Eugene and Merle Swanson

John Swanson.

John, Gus, Viola, Ingeborg.

John Swanson came from Sweden in 1910. His wife, Ingeborg, and their children Gus, Swea and Tessa arrived the following year. John got work helping set up the Big River Sawmill. That mill sawed a million board feet in twenty-four hours when working at full capacity. When the mill burned, the Swanson family moved to British Columbia but returned after only a year. They obtained a homestead two miles north of Big River on the shore of Little Ladder Lake (S u/42 30-56-7-W3`d).

In 1919, when fire surrounded Big River, Ingeborg buried some of her possessions in the yard, as did many other people. She then hitched up the team and hurried into town with her children. The evacuation train had already left, but eventually, the wind shifted and the family was able to return home safely.

The Swansons built a two-story house and a large barn. The barn loft became the scene of many barn dances, which were attended by a large part of the community. This barn is still standing in 2003. A windmill was built which charged batteries for electricity for the farm. The Swanson's sold milk in town at one time and operated tie camps for cutting railway ties, and fish camps on Dore Lake and other lakes.

John and Ingeborg Swanson had help in all these projects from their family. Martha, Howard, Carl, Alfred, Eric, and Elsie joined the three mentioned above, to complete the family.

John served as the L.I.D. inspector for several years until 1942. John and Ingeborg then moved to Port Alberni with their daughter Elsie, where John worked for McMillan Bloedel until his retirement. After moving to British Columbia, the Swansons returned every year, as long as they were able, to visit family. John passed away in 1964 at eighty years of age and Ingeborg in 1970 at age eighty-five. Elsie married Archie McGillivray and settled in Port Alberni.

Gus Swanson married Viola Gustafson, Howard married Margaret Chenard, and Eric married Olga Wisinski. These couples stayed and raised their families in Big River.

Martha married Leo Ethier and after his death moved to Port Alberni. Swea married Joe Doucette; Tessa married Paul La Gouffe; Alfred married Viola Anderson and Carl married Josephine Gull from Canwood. Within a few years, from the mid to late 1940s, all left for British Columbia.


Swanson, Lee

John Swanson.

Lee Swanson.

Lee Swanson was born to Eugene and Merle Swanson in 1962. He lived with his parents and sisters, Sherri and Glenda, on the farm two kilometres north of Big River on Cowan Lake until graduating from high school in 1980. While living in Big River, Lee worked on the farm, participated in sports, was a cub and boy scout, and was generally active in the things that occupied boys his age. Among the most memorable experiences from his years in Big River were the outdoor education trips arranged through the school, Halloween adventures, school sports and the social events, ball tournaments, rodeos, winter festivals, camping and socializing with friends.

In 1984, Lee earned his Bachelor of Commerce degree at the university. Also in 1984, he began working in the financial services industry in Saskatoon, Swift Current, and Prince Albert. In 1988, he began teaching business and computer college courses in Saskatoon. In 1989, he moved to Vermilion, Alberta to work as a professor in the business department at Lakeland College. Lee is currently (2003) the Dean of the School of Business at Lakeland College, managing customized business training and 15 post-secondary business programs up to the Master of Business Administration level offered at campuses in Lloydminster, Vermilion, and Sherwood Park and at other locations in Canada and the world.

As part of his professional and academic career, Lee conducted research on international comparative management in Japan, published papers on the topic, presented his research at a conference in Taiwan, and had his research and writings included in business textbooks written by other authors. On two occasions through his work at Lakeland College, Lee travelled to Palestine and Israel in the Middle East on an international development project.

Lee's interests in 2003 include visiting with friends and family, canoeing, hiking, camping, playing recreational hockey, attending live music events, volunteering, and travelling. He cherishes the memories from his years in Big River and continues to maintain close ties with many of the friends he grew up with.


Swanson, Roy

Roy, Viola and Gus's second son, was born in April 1936. His first few years were spent on the homestead, where Viola home-schooled the boys for several years until the family moved to their new home one mile north of Big River. His formal schooling began in grade six. In grade twelve, he had the unique distinction of being the only graduate.

When the family suffered a great tragedy, Gus's death, Roy was in grade eleven. This meant that Roy and his brothers were to help keep the farm operational to support the family. In the early years, Roy often joked about his varied career, a farmer, gas jockey and lumberjack.

In 1958, he enlisted in the airforce and trained as a pilot. After training, he was posted to North Bay, Ontario with, 414 Squadron where he flew the CF 100 and the CF101 (Voodos). A year later he married Denise Levasseur from Spiritwood. While in the forces, Roy and Denise became the proud parents of a boy, Todd and a girl, Val.

In 1964, Roy decided to leave the airforce and enrolled at the University of Alberta where he obtained a Bachelor of Commerce and an MBA.

After graduation, Roy worked in Banff for the Banff Center for the University of Calgary. Living in Banff was fun as the whole family learned to ski but also the housing situation at that time was quite appealing. The next move, in 1971 was to Red Deer where Roy worked at the Red Deer College as Vice President of Administration.

Roy spent a brief time working with the Department of Advanced Education in Queensland, Australia and Singapore.

In 1991, Roy opened his accounting firm in St. Albert, Alberta, where he worked until his death in May 2000.

Roy was an avid golfer who spent many summer afternoon or evenings on the greens. He and Denise travelled extensively to many parts of the world where they enjoyed the various cultures and flavours of the country.

His two grandsons were his pride and joy, but unfortunately never got to know "little Roy" who was born two months after his death.

Someone once dubbed Roy as "Big Roy from Little River". For years that moniker was used by many who knew him well.


Sweeney, Jim and Parmella
Submitted by Eugene Michel.

Jim came to Big River area from Ontario in 1910 looking for any kind of work. He worked at the local mill, hauled fish and freight by horse from northern Saskatchewan. He purchased a farm in the Delaronde Lake area where he raised a family with his wife, Parmella Ethier from Domremy. They had a family of three boys and two girls. One son, Jim, was killed in action in World War II.

Bill married Mary Roth and resided in Big River area working for Waite Fisheries, logging and farming. Irene married Clayton Martin and raised two children on their farm in the Big River area. Gladys married Albert Michel and raised five children: Louis, Eugene, Charles, Roy and Marlene. They lived on a farm near Delaronde Lake. After Albert passed- away, Gladys married Robert Schmidt where she enjoyed her garden and was very much into fishing and camping at Hackett Lake.

Melvin married Rosella Sprecker and resided at Smoothstone Lake where he raised mink and commercial fished.


Swift, Thomas and Anna
Submitted by Robert Swift

Jim Sweeney.

Swift family.

Tom was born on October 16, 1903, in Liverpool, England. In 1908, he moved with his parents to Milestone, Saskatchewan where he took his schooling. In 1931, Tom homesteaded at Rapid Bend Ladder Valley district on the SW 20-55-6 W3'. In 1934, Tom was working for Ohrt's farm in Milestone and met Anna Erickson who was originally from North Dakota and moved to the Rapid Bend District in 1935. The couple continued to farm until 1957 when they went to British Columbia for a year where Tom worked at a sawmill. Then, in 1958, they went back to the farm and did some carpenter work for four years. Then, in 1962, they moved to Golden, British Columbia. Tom passed away in Golden in 1987. Anna passed away in Prince George in 2001.

Their family consisted of sons; James and Robert and daughter Rosemary. James moved to British Columbia in 1955, and now lives in Prince George, British Columbia. Robert moved to British Columbia in 1957 and now lives in Squamish, British Columbia with his wife and two daughters. Rosemary moved to Ontario in 1961 and then to British Columbia in 1964, she had two sons. Rosemary passed away in 2000.


Swope, Karen (Ausland)

I, Karen Swope, left Big River in the fall of 1962. I have resided both in the United States and Canada. I now live in Calgary and work with people that have special needs. I also am a personal care attendant with the Senior Citizens. I have three children and I am listing them in order:


Karl Lee Swope, is married to Kari and has one two-year-old daughter, Peyton Ashley. Karl and Kari both have degrees from the Oregon State University in Corvallie, Oregon. Kari is a pharmacist and Karl is a specialist with a degree in Forensics. They now reside in Bellingham, Washington.

Jeff Swope, went to school at Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon. He has worked in Australia, Ireland and now resides in Malaysia. Jeff is still single.

Serena has a Chiropractor Assistant Diploma but is now a sales person for PDL and sells Telus products. She also worked and trained in the United States with a cell phone company. Serena has one child, Jalen, age nine.

I only have two grandchildren and they are such a joy.



e-mail me.
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"Date Modified: 2019, January 24."


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