Bradley, Hal and Sharon (Cookman)
Leanne, Tanya, Sharon, Hal, 1993.
Hal Edward Bradley, the oldest of eight children, was born in Big River on April 17, 1951, to Barb and Ed Bradley. He was raised in Big River and took his schooling and other life skills here as well. Hal played most sports but hockey and football were his favourites. He was also an avid fisherman and young mechanic (not always the helpful kind). He was known as an adventurous lad. He and his best bud, Louie Schloegel, often could be found being adventurous together. Hal was interested in army cadets and enjoyed the summer camps very much. He also taught Sunday School for a few years. Hal worked at various jobs: farming and the funeral home for Mike Daley, and Grant's Shell Service for Grant Gould. In 1969 Hal worked in British Columbia and Alberta for a while and came back to work in a few bush camps until he was employed by Saskatchewan Forest Products.
On March 10, 1973, Hal married me, Sharon Lynn Cookman. I was born on April 13, 1954, in Prince Albert Saskatchewan to Sid and Marg Cookman. I am the middle child and only girl. We came to Big River in 1956. I took my schooling here. We lived at various locations in the community.
The first place that I remember was near the Junior Schools (the T.D. Michel Elementary School is situated there now). One of our neighbours was the Milligan family. Mary and I soon became friends. We then moved to the house next to Grace and Carl Colby. Jackpot! There were so many kids in that neighbourhood. It was incredible! We were never at a loss as to what we could do. The words, "I'm bored", rarely came out of our mouths for fear of a chore that would be bestowed upon us.
The back alley was usually full of kids from dawn to dusk and then some. We played "Tin Can", "Anti-Anti-I-Over", "Knock-Down-Ginger", and so many other games. We raided some gardens but no one knew it was us! (Right, guys...) It was the best place in the world to grow up. I can still smell the kitchen odours that came from the homes of Pop and Grandma Craddock and Grandma and Grandpa Archibald. They always had pies or cookies for anyone who came by. We were also allowed into Pop's art studio (which was a little room in the back) and we thought we were so special. Pop would smoke his pipe and tell us some pretty good tales and Grandma would shake her head at what he was saying.
Grandma Archibald had the biggest and the most beautiful sweet peas I had ever seen. I'm still trying to grow them like her but I just can't seem to do it. We tried to count the number of kids in that neighbourhood and 1 believe it was somewhere around seventy from babies to young teens. It's a good thing that Mother Nature didn't teach wood to speak because if the walls on Colby's old caboose and Smith's well-house could have spoken, well, that would be a whole new book!
I was involved in various activities throughout the years: figure skating, square dancing, swimming, and horseback riding, which was my favourite. Unfortunately, in 1969 I was dragged by a horse and had a few good bumps and bruises but lived to tell the tale.
I was so very grateful to have been raised in that neighbourhood. Our little family grew into a very large one and is still that way today. Grace soon became the second Mom and Grandma to us and to our own families as well. She has filled a large void in our lives. We spent many weekends in Meadow Lake with the Cookman grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The farm visits were, of course, the best.
Grandpa and Grandma Cookman had a beautiful Chesapeake retriever dog who was my baby sitter on the farm. He would guard the gate and not let me by. Should I have slipped past him, he would grab onto a piece of clothing and drag me back, kicking and screaming until someone would come to rescue me. Grandpa took great pleasure when people would ask what the dog's name was. He would say "Guess"! The people would come up with all kinds of names until they realized that "Guess" was the dog's name.
In 1971, I worked for Al and Loretta Osinchuck at their Jewelry store. On March 10, 1973, I married the "boy next door" (well, across the alley, anyway). We moved into Waite's apartments - $35.00 a month - what a deal! All utilities were paid and we had running water - you just had to run down the hall to get it. All your firewood was free - you just had to keep the fire going. There was a community bathroom and tub - you just had to clean it. All in all, it was a good place to begin our married life. We enjoyed living there.
In 1974, we moved to Pine Point, Northwest Territories. We very much enjoyed the move. There were the Northern Lights in the spring and the endless hours of light in the summer. Even the dark of winter was tolerable with the knowledge of what was to follow with the spring and summer. Pine Point soon became our home. We found the north country beautiful. All the people were great because everyone was the same young age and far away from their families as well. In July 1975 our first daughter, Tanya Lynn, was born in Hay River, Northwest Territories as was our second daughter, Leanne Marie, in January 1977. (See their histories.)
We left Pine Point in February 1978 to move to Fort McMurray, Alberta. We stayed for a year and moved back to Big River in 1979. We bought our house from Mallaghans. It used to belong to Tony and Belle Cooper. I was on the Parkland School Board for several years. I was involved in minor sports and with Teens Needing Teens (T.N.T.) which was a drug and alcohol awareness program run through the school. I also taught Sunday School at the United Church. Hal worked in the bush for more than ten years for Les Dunn & Fred Isayew. In 1990 Hal started working at Weyerhaeuser and is presently there as a lumber grader. I stayed at home with the girls until 1988 then went to work at Susan's Place and Third & Main. I also worked at Midtown Service for several years and summer at Delaronde Resort for Vic & Bev Slusar. I am presently working at home (the former Dave Briggs place which we bought from Heather Pister in 1996).
Hal and I enjoy the outdoors. We still have our horses which we ride occasionally! We just enjoy having them as pets as well as our dogs and cats. We decorate our home for holidays; Christmas and Halloween seem to be our favourites. We spend many hours in our yard and exploring our vast countryside. It's amazing what we have right under our noses. We so enjoy taking the grandchildren with us; they love the outdoors as well. We have three grandchildren born to Tanya and Spencer Beaulieu: Gabriel Ryan (September 3, 2000), Mackenna Lynn (October 1, 2002), Ethan Daniel (January 30, 2004). (See Beaulieu History) Being a grandparent is such a wonderful job. You can't beat the pay; those hugs and kisses are worth more money than the world could offer. We all have such great memories and stories of all our friends and families. Let's not forget to share them with the next generation. They may seem unimportant at the time but will bring so many smiles to others.
I was born May 18, 1957, in Buffalo Narrows, Saskatchewan. I am the fourth child of Ed and Barb Bradley. I took all my schooling in Big River and participated in basketball, volleyball, and softball. Our class took only one class trip; this was in Grade Eight to Regina to see the Legislative Buildings and the Telecommunications Building. We stopped at Blackstrap on the way home.
I had one summer job at the mill piling lumber. Then in the fall of 1976, I moved to Pine Point, Northwest Territories where I worked in a lead/zinc mine in the milling section. This facility was shut down in December of 1982. I returned to Big River.
I started work in July of 1983 at Key Lake Mining. It is a uranium mine where I work in the mill. I am presently employed there. I work a week in and a week out. In the summer I enjoy camping at Nesslin Lake. I have just taken up golfing and enjoy downhill skiing in the winter.
Leanne, Mackenna, Gabriel.
I was born on January 14, 1977, in Hay River, Northwest Territories to Hal and Sharon Bradley from Pine Point, Northwest Territories.
We moved to Fort McMurray in 1978 for one year and then moved to Big River. I attended school in Big River and was involved in Candy Striping, teaching Sunday School, and babysitting. I am very "crafty" and my talents show in items I've created for each family member. After graduation in 1995, I worked for a few years at the Big River Hotel and the Big River Esso. I moved to Prince Albert to attend school for two years at the Woodland Institute graduating with a diploma in Early Childhood Development. I moved back to Big River in 1999. I worked at the T.D. Michel Elementary School for a year and at D and D Confectionery and the Big River Playschool. Currently, I am at the Big River Community High School as a Community School Educational Associate. My job is very enjoyable. I look forward to each day's rewards and challenges.
In 1931, the drought in the south drove many people north. Louis Bradley was one of these people. He set out from Halvorgate with his brother-in-law, Dick Bale. They travelled by team and covered wagon living mostly on biscuits and pancakes. Their trip took them through the main street of Saskatoon. When they arrived in Big River, Louis filed on a homestead on Green Bush Bay (now known as Bradley's Bay). Louis hitchhiked and walked back to get his family. Rides were few and far between. When he arrived home both his shoes were completely worn out.
The government allotted them two railway cars in which to move their worldly possessions. Mr Bale, Viola's father, built a box-like structure around one of the mattresses and piled hay over it for warmth. This was where Viola Bradley and her three children, Irene, Ed and Bill travelled to Big River. The journey took three days. Mr Bradley travelled with another carload belonging to a friend. When they arrived in Big River they stayed with the Al Martin family. The Martin boys and Mr Bradley built a one-room log house on the homestead. This took about a week.
The Bradley family moved into their new home, dirt floor and all. One day, the Blanchette girls came to visit. Noticing the dirt floor they hurried home to Mr Rae and asked him to trade something with the Bradleys for lumber. Mr Bradley traded some implements which were of no use to him in this country and the Bradley family got their wooden floor.
The next year they broke up a garden patch. This was a difficult job as the horses, not having taken to northern food, were very weak. Eventually, all of the horses and cows that they had brought from the south died. The sheep and goats survived.
Several years later Mr Bradley took out logs. With the help of neighbours, a new house was built. Grace and Hazel were born on the homestead.
Neighbours and Grandma Bale helped out at this time as a doctor was not available. In 1946 tragedy struck and the Bradley home was destroyed by fire. They moved into town where Mr Bradley did odd jobs. Later, he opened a shoe repair shop. He also worked at the mill for several years.
When they retired Mr and Mrs Bradley moved back to the homestead where they lived until Mr Bradley died in 1977. Mrs Bradley moved into a senior citizens suite in Big River.
The Bradleys had six children: Irene (Mrs. Jake Wilson), Ed, Bill, Grace (Mrs. Walter Verge), Hazel (Mrs. Walter Anderson), and Randy. Mrs Bradley died on February 3, 1984.
Back Row: Randy, Bill.
Front Row: Hazel, Irene, Grace, Ed.
Breker, John and Catherine (Eischen)
Submitted by Lucille Carter (Breker)
Lucille, Catherine, Ella, John, Stuart, Lewis, 1942..
John (1891-1985) came from Lidgerwood, North Dakota, and Catherine (1900-1990) from Park Rapids, Minnesota. Both came to Canada as singles and settled near Englefeld, Saskatchewan. They were married in 1919. Together they raised five children: Lucille (Albert Carter), Ella (Fred Caren), Lewis (Dorothy), Stuart (Martha), and Edna (Dick Watson).
After many challenging years, including John's bout with tuberculosis, they moved to a homestead twelve miles east of Big River, (SE 33-55-8 W3rd, Site of the current Ness Creek Festival). This proved to be best for his health. In 1938, John and Catherine Breker along with Albert and Lucille Carter sat on numbers for ten days at the government building in Prince Albert. This was a requirement to receive a homestead. To receive title they also had to open up ten acres in three years.
In the fall of 1938, John and Stuart Breker rode to Big River in a boxcar together with lots of vegetables and some animals. Catherine, Lewis, Ella and Albert Carter came by truck. With the assistance of kind neighbours (Millikin's), they began their home and farm. After building up their homestead, they purchased land six miles west of Big River (SE 356-6 W3rd). After living there for several years they lost their home in a fire. After rebuilding, they lived there until John's homecoming in 1985. Catherine Breker passed away in 1990 after living with her daughter Lucille at Big River Bible Camp for two years.
Breker, Lewis and Dorothy (Boychuk)
The Breker family started in Delaronde area then moved to a homestead in the West Cowan district in 1946. The Boychuk family moved to the Greenmantle district from Tarnpol, Saskatchewan.
I started working at the age of 13 at the Big River Cafe. A few months later, I began to work for a family of five children. I was only there for a couple of months when my mom got sick and I was needed at home to help out. A few years later I got my job back at the cafe.
This is how I met Lewis!! I was working in the Big River Cafe. He came in and had for lunch, a sandwich and coffee. I went to the till to take his money. He gives me five dollars. I looked at him and could hardly see the till. I was nervous, I thought to myself, he's mine. Mine that is, if he is not already married. So I took his money and gave back a five-dollar bill, a one-dollar bill and change. He took it and was smiling so nice; I could have kissed him right there. But, he's still looking at me and smiling, then, he said, "I think you made a mistake". I said, "Did I short change you? I'm so very, very sorry."
Still, with a smile on his face, he gives me the money and said, "You short-changed yourself." Then I took a deep breath, smiled, and gave him the right change, and he's still looking at me!! He smiles and asks, "Are you busy tonight?" I said "no." Then he asked, "Could we could go to the show?" To which I quickly said, "yes".
A week later I moved to Prince Albert and started working for Glass Dairies. Lewis and I met up again in Prince Albert, began talking, and with memories of Big River, agreed to start courting. Lewis joined the Army and was away for three years. He came back on April 28, got discharged on May 10 and then on June 1, 1946, we were married.
We resided in Flin Flon, Manitoba until Lewis rejoined the Army. May 12, 1947, eleven months after we were married, our first son, Larry Lewis was born. Barry Joseph was born on July 25, 1951. When Barry was six months old, God took Larry home to be with him. He died from Measles and Croup. Linda Lou Catherine was born August 16, 1954, and our last son Jerry Lewis was born August 16, 1957. Shortly after Jerry's birth, we moved to Ontario. We returned to Big River, to the homestead of John and Katherine Breker in August of 1971, where I resided until the summer of 2004.
Barry was married to Debra Warkinton on May 7, 1977. They currently reside in Drake, Saskatchewan, where they own there own business. They have three children. Amy married Jason Easterbrook in 2002 and are expecting their first child. David and Allen are working in Drake, helping their mom and dad.
Linda married Norman Ethier on July 7, 1973. They made their home in Big River, where Norman works at the mill and Linda works at the Nursing Home. They have three children. Keith married Dianne Reimer in 1996. They have two sons Dane and Brett. Michelle is a school teacher and is currently teaching in Big River. Julie married Mark Katona in 2002 and they are living in Saskatoon.
Jerry married Kathy Hertz on September 4, 1999. They reside in Southey, Saskatchewan where Kathy works at the Regina Lutheran Home. They have one daughter Trishia, who is a dental assistant.
Lewis and I were happily married for 49 years. Then in 1992, he had a stroke. He was bedridden for three years, which I looked after him. In 1995, in the Big River Hospital, Lewis passed away at the age of 74 years.
Although it is a little harder getting around now, as I never did get a drivers license, I am still active in the Church and the senior's organizations. I enjoy visiting family and friends, and always look forward to the return visits especially my grandchildren.
Breker, Stuart and Martha (Gillett)
Stuart's dad, John, was born in Lidgerwood, North Dakota, USA. His mother, Catherine (Eischen), was born in Park Rapids, Minnesota, USA. John and Catherine moved to Englefield, Saskatchewan. On February 27, 1927, their son Stuart was born. In 1938, Stuart at age eleven moved with his parents and brother Lewis and sister Ella to Big River. Stuart and his dad took the train. Stuart rode in a boxcar accompanied by a cow, some chickens, a dog and a couple of cats. Also in the boxcar was hay for the cow, household items and vegetables including a sack full of cucumbers. Stuart was the right age for fun and adventure! Nothing super exciting happened but just riding in a steam engine locomotive was a lot of fun.
Their homestead destination was South Stoney (SE 33-56-6 W3rd). They arrived on October 31, 1938, (Halloween night). There was nothing spooky about this location. It was beautiful, lots of trees and lakes nearby. The family set to work building a big log house, which they finished and moved into by Christmas. In 1945, Stuart's little sister Edna was born. Three years later in 1948, the family pulled up stakes and moved west of Big River (SE 3-56-8-W3rd). John saw this move as a better place to expand his farming operation.
Now once a year the old homestead is visited by thousands of people. They come from Canada and even other countries to enjoy good music, entertainment, and lots of fun. It's called the Ness Creek Music Festival!
Stuart met and fell in love with Martha Gillett. Martha came to Big River with her parents, Clayton and Ruth, in September of 1957. Stuart and Martha were married on May 1, 1959. They moved one mile north of John and Catherine (SE 10-56-8 W3rd).
Stuart farmed and worked in the bush off and on. Then he was hired at the Saskatchewan Forest/Weyerhaeuser Sawmill until retiring in 1991.
Stuart and Martha Breker and family.
Stuart and Martha have five children. All the children were born at the Big River Union Hospital.
Terry was born on August 15, 1960. On July 21, 1979, he married Brenda Fehr from Debden. They have four children, three sons and one daughter. All four were also born at the Big River Union Hospital.
Jody Ryan - born June 11, 1980, Valerie Kim - born July 17, 1982, Corey Adam - born December 30, 1983, and Daniel
Joel - born July 26, 1985. Their daughter Valerie married Sheldon Dean from Regina on May 28, 2001. They have a son Kyrren
Samuel - born April 26, 1999. Jody married Kim Rowland from Clive, Alberta on July 5, 2003. Jody has lived here all this life and works at the Weyerhaeuser Sawmill. Terry has worked for Saskatchewan Environment Resource Management (S.E.R.M) since 1980. The forest fires have made the summers very busy for everyone at S.E.R.M. Brenda was a stay-at-home mom for many years, then took her training as a Special Care Aide in 1996 and later took her training as a Licensed Practical Nurse and now works at the Big River Health Center. They live on the family farm. With the help of their family, they operate a cow/calf, grain and hay farm.
Milton married Debbie Loewen on October 20, 1984. They have three children:
Ryan born March 6, 1989, Tyler born December 22, 1991, and Janaya born January 26, 1996. They have lived in Camrose, Alberta, since 1986. Milton is Branch Manager for Allianz Education Funds Inc. and has been in the R.E.S.P Industry for 12 years. Debbie left her job at Augustana University College in January 2002, to work for Milton providing administrative assistance.
Kevin married Colleen Wiebe from Borden, Saskatchewan on November 12, 1988. They currently live in Camrose, Alberta. Kevin is a salesman at Wheatland Bins. Colleen is Assistant Manager at Purity Water. They have two children; Jake born on June 27, 1991, and Kellie born on March 15, 1993.
Darryl married Wendy Friesen from Saskatoon on December 1, 1990. Wendy was born in Calgary, Alberta. They have three children; Stephen Carl born March 4, 1993, Melissa Ann born April 27, 1995, and Elizabeth Jean born May 15, 1998. All three were born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Darryl works at the Weyerhaeuser lumber mill. He has worked there since 1987. Wendy is a stay-at-home mom. She is kept very busy with homeschooling the children as well as gardening.
Alison lives in Quebec. She and Hugo Pelletier have two children: Xavier born August 9, 1995, and Alicia born February 16, 1998. Alison has mastered the French language very well and together she and Hugo have taught their children both French and English.
Brown, Derek and Kathleen
Kathleen, Derek and family.
Kathy and Derek Brown came to Canada in 1973, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a ten-day voyage on a Russian Liner, SS Alexandre Pushkin.
We drove from Montreal, our port of disembarkment, in our beautiful second-hand Bentley that I had bought in Staffordshire. We had come to Canada to take up a position as a Medical Radiation Therapist in the Regina Cancer Clinic. We bought a house in Lumsden and I commuted to Regina. In January 1974 our son, David, was born.
After working in Regina for one year, I decided to seek work in General Medical Practice. I worked in Maidstone, Lumsden and Hudson Bay before coming to Big River in October 1975, as a locum doctor for Dr Sanderson.
Amy was born in August of 1975, so we were now a family of four. In 1976, I set up a practice in Debden. I believe I was their first doctor. The following April we decided to return to England. After working for a while in England, Durban and Johannesburg, we returned to Canada in 1983. We resided in Lumsden until we moved to Prince Albert. Both of our children were able to go to Carlton High School.
We next moved to Candle Lake for more peace and quiet until I was struck with a serious illness and required surgery in Saskatoon. Because of a small hospital and active pharmacy, we decided to move back to Big River.
We've been very happy in Big River, ever so far away from our homes in England, and far away from our children. They are both studying computer skills at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.
In 2000, we moved to New Brunswick but due to health problems caused by changes in atmospheric humidity, we moved back to Big River. We are happy here and expect to stay.
Brownfield, Ernest and Minna
Submitted by Richard Brownfield
The honour of being Big River's first pioneer must undoubtedly go to Mr E.C. Brownfield. He not only arrived here in the very early years but also remained here all his life, taking an active role in the community throughout the years. Ernest Brownfield was born in Latvia and came to Canada in the early 1900s. He claimed he was tired of the Cossacks regularly riding up to their farm to collect their "taxes". First, he made his way to Boston where he and some other members of the family established residence. He made his way from there to the Big
River area. He discovered that the area had huge potential with its forests and other opportunities for fishing and trapping.
He made his trip to Big River with oxen over the old Hudson Bay trail. He arrived at Stoney Lake where he proceeded to fish. He returned to Boston where his wife, Minna, and their oldest child, Aleda, had now arrived from Latvia. In 1905 he returned to this area accompanied by Dave Overly and a Mr Knight. They again travelled by oxen and arrived in what was to become Big River. Fishing and trapping were the main purposes of the trip. They also made visits to some of the outlying lakes.
Shortly after this trip Mr Brownfield set up a fish camp on Stoney Lake and established a freight haul from Prince Albert to Alex Delaronde's camp on Stoney Lake, bringing supplies in and hauling fish out. He also built a trading post in the area. The natural meadow where this post was bears his name today.
By 1910, Mr Brownfield was firmly established and sent for his family to join him. His wife, Minna, daughter, Aleda, and son, Carl, along with Minna Brownfield's mother, Mrs Dozenberg, made the journey and arrived to make their home here.
At that time, the lumber company completely owned the townsite and no one could build unless the company employed them. Mr Brownfield didn't fit into this category so was forced to build on the outskirts of town.
Being a resourceful businessman, Mr Brownfield decided to open a general store but was again stopped from doing so by the company rules. A trip to Regina provided a lease in Mr Brownfield's favour and he was able to build on public land. This piece of land was the road allowance that ran through Big River and was not owned by the Lumber Company. To this day there is a jog in the road just north of the Catholic Church. The road was built around his store which was sitting on the road allowance. They built a large store which was also their living quarters and they operated this store for many years. In 1925, the Brownfields built the hotel and named it The Brownfield Hotel. (The name was later changed to The Lakeview Hotel.) It had a dining room and was well-known for its excellent home-cooked meals.
Mr Brownfield was one of the five men who formed the Big River Development Company. When the mill closed in 1920 they bought the "town" from the company and, in turn, sold off the houses to individual owners.
The Brownfields had six children: Aleda was born in Latvia; Carl was born in Boston; the other four: Oscar, Walda, Meta and John were born after Ernest and Minna arrived in Big River. Oscar was born in Big River in 1912 and was one of the first children to be born to settlers in the area. He also had the distinction of being one of the first casualties of World War II. He was killed in a plane crash only one day after war was declared.
None of the descendants live in Big River today.
Brownfield, Guilda (1912-1986)
Submitted by Richard Brownfield
Guilda Brownfield was the eldest child of Cuthbert Hargraves Gilbert, better known as Harry, and Augusta May McKnight. She preferred to be called May. They met in Prince Albert and came to live in Big River in 1912. Guilda was born on November 27, 1912, in the front room of her parents home, which is the Johnson house and is still in that family. At birth, Guilda only weighed 21 k lbs. Her incubator was an apple box behind the woodstove. She was living proof that Big River was a good place to grow in. They later moved to the farm in Ladder Valley.
Guilda lived in both Big River and Ladder Valley. She attended school in both places. At one time she was a stenographer for John Swanson when he was in charge of the L.I.D.
Guilda was an active member of the community. She worked hard for the Anglican Church and was a Past Honoured Royal Lady of the Order of Royal Purple. She was also a member of the Board of Trade, secretary of the Senior Citizens Housing Authority and President of the Senior Citizens Organization. She was an ardent curler for many years and even tried her hand at golf, where she proudly and consistently won the trophy as most honest golfer.
Guilda worked for Waite Fisheries for 14 years and retired in 1977.
In 1942, Guilda married Carl Brownfield, eldest son of Ernest and Minna Brownfield. They had three sons, David, Richard and Brian, who all completed their schooling in Big River. Carl passed away in 1958 and Guilda was left with the task of raising her three sons.
All three sons left Big River to do their patriotic duty. David joined the Navy, Richard the Air Force, and Brian went into the RCMP. Guilda passed away in 1986 and is buried in Big River Cemetery.
Joe Friedman, Carl, Guilda, Meta Brownfield.
Brownfield, Richard, Nov. 8, 1944
I left Big River in 1963 to join the RCAF. This was a fairly common practice at that time as it was a bus ticket out of town. My older brother David had joined the navy a year earlier, so I thought I would try something different. I was 18 years old and looking for adventure, but had no idea where I was going. When I arrived at the recruiting unit, they told me that there were some openings in pilot training. This sounded like the job for me, so I signed up. I then spent 10 years in the Air Force. During pilot training, I flew the chipmunk, Harvard and T33. I then instructed on the T33 and Tutor trainers, based in Moose Jaw. In 1968 I was posted to fly the CF104 and started training in Chatham, New Brunswick, flying the F86 Sabre. Then I was off to Cold Lake, Alberta for CF104 training. I was posted to 422 Squadron in Germany in 1969. In 1970, I was posted to Lubbock, Texas, as an exchange officer with the USAF, where I instructed on the T37 A/C. In 1973, I left to take a job with Canadian Pacific Airlines where I flew the DC8, DC10, Boeing 747 and B737 A/C. After numerous mergers and Company name changes, I retired from Air Canada in 2002.
Throughout all this, I was married to Sandra Dunbar and we had two daughters, Danell and Leanne. They are both married and have children of their own.
When I look back on all my youth in Big River, I can only say it would be good if all kids could grow up in a place like that. I remember my first job in Big River. It was at Waite Fisheries building Fish Boxes. We got paid 5 cents a box. I was only about ten years old, so wasn't very fast. I remember watching some of the older boys like Garry Cooper and Leslie Vaughan build boxes and thought that if only I could build boxes like them, I would be rich. I also delivered the Daily Herald, plus a weekly magazine called the Star Weekly. This provided the spending money that kids require.
I still regularly made pilgrimages back to Big River to visit all the Aunts, Uncles and Cousins that still live there. Not only relatives draw me back, but the fishing also isn't bad either.
I am now married to Patricia, and we live on Vancouver Island.
Hector was born in Big River in 1916 but has always lived in Debden. He owned and operated a hardware store, along with International Machinery and Imperial Oil Products and Insurance business. He also operated a farm. He is very active in community events, as he was the mayor of Debden, president of the sports club and the Chamber of Commerce, as well as manager of the Credit Union. He is also a fourth degree of the Knights of Columbus. His wife Irene (Houle) taught school in Domremy, Hoey and Debden for eighteen years. She passed away in 1998.
Submitted by Hector Brunet
Urgel, Laura, Wedding in 1912.
Urgel Godfrey Brunet was born in Rockland, Ontario. He completed his elementary education in Sudbury and went on to University at Laval.
His first job was with the C.N.R. as an accountant in the Montreal Express Station. It was on the station walls that he saw the publicity to attract settlers in the West. "COME AND MAKE A FORTUNE IN THE WEST."
He, like many others, wanted to share in this tremendous wealth and as an employee of the C.N.R., he was entitled to free transportation on the rail line. They went all the way to Big River, Saskatchewan, in 1910. He was hired as the accountant for the Big River Sawmill.
In 1912, he married Laura Lord at Shell River. Urgel and Laura had four children: Irene, Hector, Leo, and Urgel. They remained in Big River for five years.
Urgel, aspiring to be rich, decided to start a ranch in the Park Valley area. When he finally had things under control and the future looked bright, a fire destroyed all the buildings, including the house, barn and corrals. This was the end of the Brunet ranch. He then managed the west lumberyard in Shellbrook.
Since he wanted his children to become bilingual, he requested a transfer to the company branch in Debden. His request was granted. He got involved in many activities in Debden: He was Secretary-Treasurer for the Village and the school district. He was an Insurance Agent, Coroner and Notary Public. He was Mayor of Debden for seventeen years and the first president of the sports club and Chamber of Commerce. He also managed and acted as a collector when the first telephones were installed in Debden. He passed away in 1958 and was buried in the Debden Cemetery.
Irene - completed her schooling in Debden and then took a secretarial course. She worked as a telephone operator in Debden and Saskatoon and then moved to Victoria where she worked until her retirement.
Hector - see his own history
Leo - Along with his brother Hector had the first hardware store in Debden. He served in the Army for four years. He then worked as manager of Co-Op Stores in several locations throughout the province. He was also employed by Athabasca Airways in Prince Albert. He passed away in 1976, leaving his wife Vivian (Collins), two daughters, Carol and Gail, and one son, Garry.
Urgel - Had the Erinferry store, drove school buses, sold different makes of farm machinery and was an Agent for Co-Op Insurance. He became very active with the A.A. movement. He passed away in 1975 leaving his wife Betty (Woods), one daughter, Judy and two sons, Ronald and Randy.
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979
Dan and Lavina Buchanan came from Marcelin to the Rapid Bend district in 1938. The family travelled with horses and herded their cattle. When they arrived, they were fortunate enough to have a home to move into that had been left by an earlier resident of the land. Later on, when time allowed, they built their own log house.
The Buchanan's had six children: Velda, Calvin, Bob, Phyllis, Lorne and Margarete.
Ruth and Art.
I was born at home (no hospitals or doctors then) on January 26, 1933, to John and Huldah Johnson. I had ten brothers and sisters. They are Joyce, Jack, twin brothers, Richard (Dick), Robert (Bob), Shirley, Alice-May, Ilene, George, Doris and Randy. Bob was killed while working in the bush at Smoothstone Camp when he was eighteen years old. Shirley died of cancer when she was twenty-six years old. Ilene died at the age of two years.
Art was born in Shellbrook on July 18, 1929. His family farmed there and he used to come to Big River around 1946 to help his brother-in-law, Jim Hartnett, farm during the summers and drive a truck for Harry Phillips in the winter. I met Art in 1948. Later, his folks moved to Big River and leased the local cafe and we began to date steadily. On September 1, 1949, we were married. We have twelve children:
1) Graham, born May 1950, married Linda Barry. They had two boys: Alan and Mark. They presently live in Camrose, Alberta.
2) Sherry, born July 1951, married Wayne (Butch), Cowan. They had three children: Clay, Jodie and Jay. They live mostly at Meadow Lake, but still, own a home in Big River.
3) Joanne, born August 1952, married Camille Swanson. They have three children: Colyn, Cheryl and Jeff. They live in Big River, except Cheryl - she presently lives in Italy.
4) Robert (Rob), born November 1953, married Deb Reimer. They have two children: Rhonda and Gregg. They live and work in Big River.
5) Willy, born August 1955, married Lorie Thompson. They have three children: Giles, Daniel and Jessamy. They live in Big River.
6) Cindy, born February 1957, married Blair Bradley. They have three children: Celynne, Cole and Richelle. They live in Edson, Alberta.
7) Judy, born October 1958, married Hugh Watson. They have three children: Jennifer, Ryan and Craig. They live in Big River.
8) Rick, born March 1960, married Tracy Gunderson. They have three children: Kris, Erika and Weston. They live in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.
9) Wendy, born June 1961, married Jerome Proulx. They have two children: Michelle and Roland. They live in Cold Lake, Alberta.
10) Valerie (Val), born August 1962. She has two children: Jarrett and Ashley. They live in Carseland, Alberta.
11) Brenda, born October 1963 in Battleford, married Raymond Grassl. They have four children: Cody, Chelsey, Josh and Rayelene. They live in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.
12) Kent, born January 1965 in Battleford, married to Elaine Meyers. They have three children: Brad, Justin and Alyssa. They live in Big River.
Back Row: Cindy, Judy, Brenda, Graham, Sherry, Valery, Wendy, Joanne.
Front Row: Willy, Kent, Art, Ruth, Rob, Rick.
I worked at the Telephone Office and later the Cafe and show hall (theatre) once we purchased it. I also worked at the hospital where my job duties included: housekeeping, laundry, cooking and maintenance. I retired in 1998.
Art tried many things. He had his truck and would haul freight, fish and logs in the winter and gravelled in summer. He owned the Dray in the 1950s. With this, he hauled freight and parcels from the train station and delivered them around town. In the winter, Art hauled ice to families, where it melted and was used for home use (no running water back then).
We then purchased Grieples farm and farmed for a few years, of course, Art always helped his father on his farm every spring and fall, even when he had his truck. About 1969-1972, we leased the cafe and theatre building and ran them both. We lived on the second level of this building. We also ran a mobile trailer park at the old swimming hole. Art began working for Highways along with Burt Finlaysen during this period. Art then bought his grader and went to work for Saskatchewan Forest Products. He sold his Grader business to Ken Hodgson about 1984-1985.
Art then started a small car lot in the area of where Third & Main is now. He sold new and used cars through Shellbrook Chev Olds. Driving truck was always in Art's blood and he did this until October 2002.
We lived in Battleford for a couple of years of our marriage, but returned to Big River and will always consider Big River as our home. We now have 33 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren and another great-grandchild due in June 2003.
Art was diagnosed with cancer in October 2002 and had done well after two surgeries, but the outcome wasn't great when he passed away in July of 2004.
Buckingham, Bill and Mable
Submitted by Ruth Buckingham
Back Row: Marg, Rita, Gordon, Stan.
Front Row: Mary, Bill, Mable, Art.
Bill and Mable Buckingham moved to Big River in early 1948. They leased a Cafe from Pete Bouchard. Pete also had a small barbershop in this building and also ran the Show Hall. This is where the present Credit Union was located.
I worked for them in the summer of 1949. Art and I were married on September 1, 1949, and we both continued to work there.
The lease was up in 1951 and Mable and Bill bought a farm. At which time Bill began to work for Highways on the grader from Big River to the Dam. He did this until age 67 when he then sold the farm and bought a house in town. They had six children:
(1) Gordon (Teeny Keatin) of Shellbrook - they had three children, Gary, Glenda and Gail.
(2) Mary (Jim Hartnett) of Big River - they had four children, Pat, Bob, Larry and Donna.
(3) Stan who passed away in 1950.
(4) Rita passed away in 1966.
(5) Margaret (Jim Smylie) of Shellbrook - they have one son, Murray who lives in Big River.
(6) Arthur (Ruth Johnson) of Big River - they had twelve children: Graham, Sherry, JoAnne, Robert, Willy, Cindy, Judy, Rick, Wendy, Valerie, Brenda and Kent.
They celebrated their 50' and 60" Wedding Anniversaries in Big River. Their 60th was celebrated in 1973.
Bill died of cancer in 1974 and Mable died of a stroke in 1978. They were a great couple.
Buckingham, Robert Stanley
and Deborah Lynn (Reimer)
I am the fourth eldest child of Art and Ruth Buckingham. I was born in Big River, Saskatchewan on November 3, 1953. I went to school in Big River until the fifth and sixth grades, when our family picked up and moved for Fort Battleford, Saskatchewan for two years. We moved back to Big River and there I continued my schooling.
On December 9, 1972, I married Deborah Lynn Reimer, daughter of George and Bernice Reimer of Park Valley. We moved to Prince Albert where I continued to work for Burns Meat Packing Plant. Our daughter, Rhonda Lynn was born on December 3, 1973, in the Holy Family Hospital in Prince Albert.
In 1975, we moved back to Big River. This is when Rob Buckingham Ent. Ltd. was established. We started out hauling gravel for DNS and the Department of Highways, and also hauled logs for Saskatchewan Forest Products of Big River. During this time, our son Greggory Robert was born on April 9, 1978, in the Holy Family Hospital in Prince Albert. We continued working for Saskatchewan Forest Products until Weyerhaeuser took over in 1986. We continued with Weyerhaeuser.
In 1988, we bought a company called Larsen Logging Ltd. We have logged with various logging equipment from hand falling and line skidding, to full mechanical logging using grapple skidders, delimbers and feller bunchers. In 2002, we changed our line of logging equipment. We now run cut to length Processors and Forwarders. We do the loading and hauling of wood to the Prince Albert Pulp Mill, Big River Mill, Hudson Bay Mill and Wapaweka Mill in Prince Albert.
In 2001, we logged in the Prince Albert National Park. Here we cut a 300-hector fireguard around the town of Waskesiu. Over the years, we have had many dedicated and hard-working employees, who have made our business a success. As of today, we are presently working for Weyerhaeuser as a logging contractor. We have also done some farming on the side such as Elk and Cattle Ranching.
At the present, our daughter Rhonda has married Jason Glasrud and has two children - Jamie Lynn Adel born on November 2, 1993, in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan and Aarik James Robert born on May 15, 1999, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Rhonda and Jason work with us at our company. They haul our logs to the mills. Our son, Greggory Robert is single at this time. He also works with us and hauls out logs to the various mills as well.
Rob at Wabeno Area, 2002, Deb at Wabeno Area, 2002.
Back Row: Willy, Laurie, Jessamy.
Front Row: Giles, Daniel.
Willy was born August 26, 1955, in Big River to Arthur Thomas Buckingham and Ruth Mabel Buckingham (Johnson). Living most of his life in Big River, he was raised in a close family with 11 other siblings - Graham (Linda) Buckingham, Sherrie (Wayne) Cowan, Joanne (Camille) Swanson, Robert (Debbie) Buckingham, Cindy (Blair) Bradley, Judy Watson (John Crashley), Rick Buckingham, Wendy (Jerome) Proulx, Val (Keith) Christie, Brenda (Raymond) Grassi, and Kent (Elaine) Buckingham. Being from such a large family, Willy had to learn to share early and developed a generous heart! Hockey and playing pool were his favourite pastimes through his youth and carried on into playing with the 'Braves' and in later years the `Blues' hockey club. The Buckingham family moved to North Battleford in the years of 1964-65 but returned to Big River when Art was hurt seriously in a trucking accident.
When Willy finished his schooling in 1974, he worked at various jobs, such as the oil rigs, the mill (then called the Saskatchewan Timber Board) and driving grader, before finding his niche in the forestry sector. He began tree planting with the beginning of this industry in the year of 1980.
In 1978, he married Anna Carey Toon - they were separated three years later and divorced. A son was born from that relationship - Giles Scott Buckingham. He was born in Big River on April 19, 1978.
In 1982, Willy went up to the Arctic to work in the silver mines as an electrician. He returned to Saskatchewan to try out school at the University of Saskatchewan entering the Physical Education College in 1983-1984. It was then he decided to start his own forestry company, Roots Reforestation Inc. which involved tree planting, surveying and brush thinning.
Willy met Lorie Lynn Thomson in 1986 when she came to work in one of his tree-planting camps. Lorie was born in Swift Current on November 8, 1960. She came from a farming background with a very close-knit extended family. Her parents are Robert Charles Thomson (died January 1999) and Lucille Thomson (Sartison). She has three siblings: Dean (Karen) Thomson, Lisa (Robert) Faucher, and Dana (Sterling) McCallum.
Lorie attended the University of Saskatchewan and the Mount Royal College in Calgary. She worked in various places throughout her youth - mainly at a movie theatre and various banks as teller/desk operations. She also successfully co-owned/operated a bakery in Alberta from 1981-84. She enjoyed travelling and visited parts of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc. and in later years, Mexico, with Willy. Lorie ventured up north to try out tree planting and it was there that she met Willy, and continued tree planting and cooking for him for three years. They were engaged in December of 1988 and married November 25, 1989. Two children were born to them: Daniel William Buckingham (born April 1, 1990) and Jessamy Lynn Buckingham (born November 23, 1991) - both born in Prince Albert. With the birth of their two children, Lorie settled into domestic life and looking after the children, home/yard and their companies' books while Willy was away in the bush. Family time is important to her and she makes many trips back to her hometown.
Willy had another ambition in forestry - to start a greenhouse to grow tree seedlings. Taking in two partners, the first greenhouse was built in 1988, and Clearwater Greenhouses Inc. was incorporated in 1989 - and has steadily expanded down the years.
Willy also coached the Big River Braves for the seasons of 1989-1990, 1990-1991 and served on the town council as councillor for the years of November 1994 - August 1997. Giles, after spending many holidays and summer vacations with them, came to live with them and finish his high school years in Big River in 1994.
Willy and Lorie made a move to Meadow Lake in August of 1997, for an opportunity to diversify in forestry - mainly developing training programs in all aspects of silviculture for northern residents across Saskatchewan. When these programs were completed, they returned to Big River and repurchased their 'home on the lake' where they are residing now. Willy continues in the forestry business and in his leisure hours he likes to golf, travel, hunt, enjoy nature, and socialize or just 'be around the family'!
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979
Fred Buckley was one of Big River's pioneers. He was born in England and he lived in an orphanage until he was old enough to find work. Having trained in a hospital as an orderly, he volunteered to come to Saskatchewan to work during an outbreak of typhoid fever and arrived in Big River early in 1910. He worked in the lumber company hospital until 1918 and then took a job at Big River Consolidated Fisheries, helping in the warehouse and working at the fish camps throughout the north. Mr Buckley later worked for Waite Fisheries Ltd. and was also appointed Justice of the Peace. He served several turns as Reeve of the Village and was Steward of the United Church for many years.
Well known in the community, Mr Buckley will be fondly remembered for his many community activities and his friendly character.
Brittany was born in Big River, November 7, 1987, the youngest child of Les and Melanie Bueckert. Brittany played softball on many provincial teams under the coaching of Ken Lueken. She is currently in school.
David was born in Big River, June 1, 1983, second child of Les and Melanie Bueckert. He completed school in Big River and graduated in 2001. David moved to Saskatoon and worked at Fountain Tire and is presently taking his automotive service technician at SIAST. He is currently working on his scuba diving certificate.
Bueckert, Edward and Katherina (Fast)
On July 1, 1970, Edward and Katherina Bueckert, with their eight children, the youngest three months old, moved from Dalmeny, Saskatchewan, with all their earthly goods to the Gibson farm in the Ladder Valley area. The land location being SW 21-55-6-W3rd meant it was a mere five miles from where Ed grew up. He felt he had come back home.
Katharina, Edward (May 1974).
To accommodate our large family, we knocked out a wall and "raised the roof' resulting in a five-bedroom home. Piping water from the well to the house and trenching in a sewage system modernized the dwelling.
The first-year Ed commuted to Langham, Saskatchewan, where he was employed by Hertz Bus Lines maintaining a fleet of school buses. The following year, he purchased Sam Miller's garage business in Big River. To supplement the income, Ed contracted for the school bus route serving the Ladder Valley/Rapid Bend districts. Ed enjoyed driving the school bus and had a good rapport with his passengers. Having a milk cow, hogs and a large garden also helped to provide for the family. Farming the land was done on the sideline, needless to say, this made for a busy life. Sundays were reserved for church, relaxing and visiting.
In 1973, Ed purchased a Cat, using it to clear some of our land and doing some custom work. The plan was to sell the garage and do more custom bush clearing. But on June 5, 1974, while brush piling, Ed was seriously injured and died enroute to the Big River Hospital. He was buried in the local cemetery. He was only 46 years old. This was a sudden and hard loss for the family. I, Katherina, was left to raise the four youngest children and although it was a challenge, I was greatly helped and comforted by caring neighbours, a loving family, a supportive church family and by a deep faith in God.
The garage was subsequently sold to Joe Ahearn, the Cat and farm equipment was eventually disposed of. Paster John Penner, who had been driving the school bus for us, continued to do so for a couple more years. I served on the local School Board for about eight years and also worked in Waites Store Meat Department.
In 1983, after having an auction sale, I rented out the house and land and moved with my youngest daughter to Lethbridge, Alberta. Here I worked in a Nursing Home for seven years and experienced city life.
The north, however, held a strange attraction, so every fall I spent my holidays in Big River and area visiting family and friends.
When the Lakewood Lodge was built in Big River, I applied for work and was hired in October 1990. I was back and took up residence at 220 6th Avenue North (locally known as "Sesame Street").
After six years of meaningful employment at the Lodge came retirement. Involvement with the Church always was an important part of my life. Since retiring other areas of involvement and opportunities of service opened up, especially the seniors.
The farmland is still leased out, but the house was in a deteriorating condition so in the spring of 2002 our local Fire Department used the house for a controlled burn to hone their fire-fighting skills. Buildings may go but memories remain.
The family is somewhat scattered, Joyce and Les (the oldest) are at Big River, Ruth and Gladys live in Lethbridge, Alberta, the four youngest Dan, Verna, Rosalinde and Geraldine are at Camrose, Alberta. I've been blessed with 16 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Life is good because God is good!
Bueckert, Johan and Maria (Duerksen)
Compiled by Gary Bueckert in 1979,
updated/submitted by Katherina Bueckert
Back Row: Maria, holding Edward, Johan, Aganetha, Mary.
Front Row: Abram, Elizabeth, John, Henry, 1928.
In 1920, Johan and Maria Bueckert with their four children, Aganetha, Mary, Elizabeth and John moved to Big River from Great Deer, Saskatchewan. Their remaining children, Abram, Henry, and Edward were born in Big River.
Both Johan and his brother Issak worked in the Big River Mill. After the mill burned down, Johan became a drayman in Big River, delivering goods such as wood, coal and freight.
The "Dirty Thirties" was not a good time to be a farmer in Saskatchewan, but when Johan and his family moved out to Big River in 1930, they didn't know that. They homesteaded the SW16-54-6 W3rd. They moved with hayrack and horses. Their first temporary home was a tent spread over a cellar. In the meadow, directly east of the homestead, the grass grew up to four feet tall. There was also an excellent stand of spruce trees to the west.
Because of distance, Johan Bueckert and his family couldn't visit his brothers and their families in the south. They did go visiting quite often though, travelling with oxen and horses. The family was musical so they would sing while they drove.
Johan was quite quiet and perhaps somewhat shy. Though his wife did most of the disciplining, he took care of the more serious cases. He only had to look at his children and they knew what he thought about their behaviour.
The family had devotions daily, which provided Christian teaching in the home. They participated in churches wherever they were including the Bethel Mennonite Mission Church at Lake Four, Saskatchewan.
Johan could read and write in English and German and he wanted his children to have an education. The children attended school in Big River and later at Rapid Bend School. Edward used their dog and toboggan to get to school in winter and if the weather was too severe, the home was the best place to be.
Many important events occurred during the fifteen years on the farm. Of personal importance were the marriages of the two oldest children, Aganetha to Jacob Giesbrecht and Mary to Peter P. Neufeld. Of broader importance were the depression and World War II, including the call for able-bodied young men.
In 1945, Johan, Maria and children who were still at home, moved to Waldheim, Saskatchewan. Johan was sickly already before they left the farm and in April 1948, he died of stomach cancer. His wife Maria died in June 1969. Both are buried at Waldheim. There are only two surviving members of the family, John in Rosthern and Henry in Waldheim.
Karen was born in Big River, April 3, 1981, eldest of three to Les and Melanie Bueckert. She took all her schooling here, graduating in 1999. After graduation, she attended Universal Career College in Saskatoon and completed the travel counsellor course. She worked at TransWest Air, Lakeshore Greenhouse and presently as a library clerk at Big River High School.
Karen, Melanie, David, Les, Brittany.
Les was born on December 8, 1954, in Waldheim, Saskatchewan, the second of eight children to Katharina and Edward Bueckert. Before moving to Big River they lived in Waldheim, Hepburn, and Dalmeny. They moved to Ladder Valley in 1970 when Les was fifteen years old. Les graduated from high school in 1974. He worked at Waite Fisheries, the Big River Sawmill and then started his driving career, hauling gravel and logs.
In 1976, Les started driving for Earl Beebe Trucking Ltd., hauling chips, fish, freight and logs. In 1982, he purchased his first truck from them and started hauling to the northern mines (Cameco and Cogema at Cluff Lake, Key Lake, McArthur Lake, Rabbit Lake, McLean Lake and Cigar Lake).
Les married Melanie Peterson on August 19, 1978. They have three children: Karen Lesley was born on April 3, 1981, David Edward was born on June 1, 1983, and Brittany Kay was born on November 7, 1987.
Les presently runs three trucks with Earl Beebe Trucking Ltd. hauling freight and logs. He has a fourth truck with Northern Resources Trucking out of Saskatoon, serving the uranium mines in northern Saskatchewan.
Bueckert, Melanie Kay (Peterson)
I, Melanie, was born on March 25, 1958, the second child to Elmer and Lenora (Waite) Peterson. I have an older brother, Leonard Lawrence and a younger brother, Marlen John. We lived on the hill (Waite Crescent) with the cemetery to the south.
I took my first years of schooling in the Junior School down the hill from where we lived. I remember the big swings and how far you could swing, the big yard to play "boys chase the girls" and the honour of being the one to run around the school ringing the school bell. For grades four and five, we moved over to the Junior Intermediate School and on to the Senior Intermediate for grades six and seven. This is where I was the day the burner went down! We then moved into the newly-built high school. It housed a gymnasium which allowed the students to enter the world of competitive sports with other schools in the unit. I played volleyball, basketball and badminton. Mrs Betty Braidek (Gendron) was my first basketball coach followed by Mr Stan Linteck and Mr George Ritchie. Mr Phil Devonshire was my badminton coach. Mrs Vivian Zinovich and Mr D. Lee Cooper ran the glee club which branched off to a small singing group. Both groups performed on SpotLight on Talent on CKBI-TV. The small singing group also sang songs on CKBI as time fillers.
After graduating in 1976, I moved to Prince Albert to work at The Bay and to take a secretarial course at Natonum Community College. On August 19, 1978, I married Les Bueckert and we have three children Karen, David and Brittany. Karen Lesley was born on April 3, 1981. David Edward was born on June 1, 1983. Brittany Kay was born on November 7, 1987.
Burt, Roland and Olive Family
Submitted by Lawrence Burt
Back Row: Murray, Neil, Lawrence.
Middle Row: Ruth, Olive (holding Barbara), Roland (holding Richard), Donna.
Front Row: David.
In mid-summer of 1934, Roland and Olive moved from the farm with their children: Donna, four years and eight months old; Lawrence, three years and three months old; and Murray, one year and seven months old. The farm was near the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River about twelve miles west and one mile south of Turtleford, Saskatchewan. Olive and the kids travelled by train while Roland drove a team and hayrack wagon loaded with belongings. They filed on NE 22-55-8 W3rd, six and one-half miles southwest of Big River in what was already tagged Sleepy Hollow but, eventually, became Greenmantle School District No. 5157.
During the first year, while log buildings were built to accommodate family and animals, they lived in a small, one room, dirt-roofed addition to the dirt-roofed log building in which Olive's parents, Sam and Martha Reed, lived on NE 10-55-8-W3rd. There was no floor in this room. A memory Lawrence has is of a stone protruding from the dirt in the very limited manoeuvring space. It was probably a source of many stubbed toes.
In early July 1935, just before moving to our place, Roland walked directly southwest cross-country through the bush back to his brother's place at Turtleford to drive eight or so head of cattle to our new location, a distance of about 125 miles. Living pretty much on wild fruit, it took Roland a week to complete the journey. It was blueberry-picking time and apparently, there was good picking about a mile and a half south on Roland's route. Olive went with him as far as the blueberry patch. It was a cloud-covered day and not easy for the unskilled to maintain a sense of direction in the bush. When supper-time came Olive had not returned.
As the evening progressed concern took on deeper dimensions and the closest homesteaders rallied for a search. A brush pile fire was lit as an attention-getter. Guns were fired and noise made with whatever would make a noise. Donna decided to express her concerns in loud, uncontrolled crying. Ivan Leach, Bert Reilly, Oscar Reed, and others took separate routes into the night bush as far as the blueberry area, firing guns and calling out. In the darkness of the late-night, they returned without a trace. It needs to be understood that noise travels very short distances in the bush.
When Olive decided to return home she realized that she had lost her sense of direction; that she had not maintained reference points. She wandered trying to spot something that would give her a sense of the direction to home. Nothing stood out! Eventually, she spent the night sitting under a large spruce tree. The sky cleared and when the sun rose she figured it out, approximately. She walked until she came upon the surveyors' cut-line, which she followed, arriving around breakfast time.
Meanwhile, at the farm, Roland and his brother, Harry, shipped a carload of cattle by train to Winnipeg. Instead of receiving the desired and needed monitory return, they received a bill for eight dollars to finish covering the cost of freight. Percy Watson joined Roland at the Turtleford farm and helped with the cattle drive to Big River.
The quarter section homestead consisted of several unproductive, stone-polluted, dry, clay ridges lined with wet willow runs. This was certainly not a recipe for any sort of grain farming. Picking roots and rocks was thankless and continuous. We were never in a financial position to purchase a tractor to help with the work; everything was either done by hand or with horses (some of the neighbours used oxen.). Someone with a tractor was always hired to break up the land. Ted McNabb from Big River broke up the first pieces of land in 1937, a twelve-acre field and a three-acre field. He had a 10-20 McCormick Deering tractor with a breaking plough. Maintaining an adequate supply of firewood for the house was a never-ending chore. The well always seemed to be reluctant to provide an adequate supply of water; consequently, watering of the animals was always ongoing.
For several years roads were just wagon trails through the bush connecting homesteads. Over time the men cleared the road allowance rights-of-way to provide a direct route to Big River and Bodmin. They laid corduroy over the smaller wet peat moss muskeg sections and covered the corduroy with clay. The mile-wide muskeg on the way to Big River was always a serious problem. During wet times wagons would sink in the peat right up to their axles. Crossing in late spring with horses was very difficult. The government did some primitive grading of the clay in the sections between swamps. With these improvements travelling to town was at least more direct.
Neil was born on May 24, 1938, on Mother's birthday. Ruth arrived on January 1, 1940. She was the first child born in Saskatchewan in 1940. Grandma Burt (Turtleford) bought us our first radio in October 1941. It enhanced our quality of life! When we had more than one cow milking (never more than four) we shipped up to a five-gallon can of cream a week to a creamery in Parkside, west of Shellbrook. Preserving the cream during the week was attempted by lowering the cream can into a cribbed hole about eight feet deep adjacent to the well. The train departed Big River at 7:00 a.m. so once a week on the day before the train we took the cream by team and wagon or sleigh and placed it on the station platform at either Bodmin or Big River for shipment the sixty miles to Parkside with a train change in Shellbrook. If the cream was sour when checked at the creamery, which it always was in the above freezing season, the grade of the product was docked significantly and the paycheque accordingly. This was always anxiety heartache. David was born on April 4, 1943.
During the thirties and early forties, government support for a community was meagre at best. It was pretty much the collective responsibility of the local people to meet their own social needs, and of course, that could only be done according to their collective resources and capabilities. A local plebiscite was used to decide whether a school would be built or not. Taxation was levied according to formalized improvements that were implemented. Everyone was extremely poor; no one had any dependable cash flow. Persuading the majority to support a school that inevitably would have a tax-dollar price tag was a slow and difficult process during these times. On May 15, 1939, the Greenmantle School District No. 5157 was formalized; Mike Skopyk was the chairperson and Roland Burt was the secretary. Eventually, a log school building was well along to completion on the southeast corner of section 16 when a forest fire levelled it. It was eventually replaced on the same site by a frame building and Greenmantle School opened for classes March 13, 1944, with Olive Burt teaching thirteen students. Lawrence and Murray helped shingle the building the fall before it opened. Olive taught until the end of June 1945 before receiving any financial remuneration. What she did receive was what was called the school grant, which amounted to $200.00. After the grocery bills were paid and some fence wire bought there was little, if any, left. A change in government at that time immensely improved the school situation. Donna took her grade schooling at home by correspondence. Lawrence attended Greenmantle for three years, Murray and Neil for over five years and Ruth for four. Richard was born on January 26, 1947.
An adequate quantity of food was seldom an issue; having a healthy, balanced diet was uncommon. Honouring the things of Our Creator and God as found in His Word, the Bible, and His Handwork was always very important to Roland and Olive.
After 15 years of constant, unrewarded struggle, with sixty-five acres under cultivation and still a feeble, unreliable cash flow, the decision was made to move into Big River. A house was purchased from Kurt Bengtson for $100.00 down and $50.00 per month. The move was made on October 26, 1949.
Roland got a job as the night watchman at the mill, Donna worked as a domestic in Prince Albert, and Lawrence went logging up north. Though labour wages were low, at least there was some semblance of regular cash flow. In September 1950, Donna married George Neale. They had three sons and a daughter. On February 5, 1951, Barbara was born. This completed Roland and Olive's family: eight children (five boys and three girls) spread over twenty-one years, three and one-half months.
Olive was hired to teach in Big River in 1953. In October 1954, Lawrence married Doris McLaughlin. They have four daughters. In August 1959 Neil married Ruth Wood. They have a son and a daughter. In November 1960, Roland died of heart problems. In November 1964, Murray married Thelma West. They have two daughters. In October 1967, Ruth married Henry Loepky. They have two daughters. Richard remained single and in Big River where he is supportive of the community. Olive taught school until her retirement in June 1971. She died of complications following ulcer surgery one month after retirement. In December 1979, Barbara married Bryan Eymann. They had two daughters and separated shortly after the second daughter was born. In April 1991, Neil died of a brain tumour.
The river is big, deep, and wide. From every compass point, they became Big Riverites. Though many scattered near and far, in their ways, they forever cherish The Rio Grande of Saskatchewan, Canada.