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Family Histories, Part 6

Colby Carl and Grace (Patrick)

Grace and Carl, January 1941.
Grace and Carl Colby, January 1941.

I, Grace, arrived in Big River from Renown, Saskatchewan on October 4, 1939, with my dad, mom, four brothers and five sisters: Jim, Gordon, Robert, Caroline, Dorothy, Hazel, Hope, Gail and Wilmot. We lived in a log house on a homestead in the Stoney Lake area, thirteen miles from Big River. It is now called Delaronde. I wasn't there very long when I got a job working for Louis and Mary Lamberton, Carl Colby's sister and brother-in-law. I worked for $5.00 a month ($2.50 in cash and $2.50 in potatoes).

We had moved from the dry prairies in the "Dirty Thirties" so those potatoes were like gold to a big family. That is why I call Big River "God's Country". We had plenty of water, wood, wild meat, wild berries and mom could grow such beautiful gardens.

On June 15, 1940, I married Carl Colby, a trapper, fisherman and woodsman. He arrived in Big River from Saskatoon in 1928 to find work and never went back to the city. Before we were married Carl gave me $10.00 to buy some of the things we needed for our home. I bought six hand towels, six cups and saucers, a six-piece cutlery set and enough material for a quilt backing that I had pieced together. They did not have bridal showers in those days.

Our first summer we lived at South Stoney where Boyd's sawmill was. We rented a two-room building from Martin Olson. Carl worked at the mill all summer. That fall he went fishing for Martin Olson at Big Maria Lake, which is now called Nesslin Lake. It was my first experience travelling by sleigh and horses through the bush and having to camp in the bush overnight! We arrived at the camp the next day. Then fishing started - not my favourite hobby. There where those fishing mitts to wash by hand and have them ready by morning.

Our cabin was big enough for a small wood cookstove; double bunks, a few shelves in one corner for our dishes, pots and pans plus groceries, a table, two benches and my sewing machine. When we got married Carl gave me the choice of having a washing machine or a sewing machine. Of course, I chose the sewing machine which cost $5.00, a whole month's wages. It was a second - hand one of course. I used it for twenty years - then got my new Singer, which I still use. It is now forty-eight years old and in very good condition even though it's been used many many hours.

When fishing was done Carl went to cut logs for Charlie Michel at the same lake. I cooked for six men in my little cabin. We had fun, as Hubert Michel had a guitar and we had many sing-a-longs.

When the logging was done for the winter, Charlie Michel gave me $100.00 for cooking for him. I could hardly believe it!!! The first thing I bought was a good pair of scissors. By this time I was pregnant so I had to make baby diapers and clothes.

We moved back to Stoney Lake and Carl worked at Boyd's mill again for $1.00 a day. The wages had gone up. That fall Carl worked for Mr C. Craddock doing ranch work.

In the spring we moved to my Mom's place where Carl built a nice two-room log house. We had Lynne and Ruth by then. Carl did fire patrol work in the area.

We then moved to Carl's brother in law, Alfred Borolein's homestead. He had about forty head of cattle and was tired of looking after them. He moved to Saskatoon and continued living there. We looked after Alfred's cattle for two years.

We then went to Hubert Dunbar's place. He had passed away and his wife Sarah Dunbar had gone to live with some of her family for the winter. That was a very hard winter for me. Carl left in October to go north fishing at LaPlonge Lake and didn't get back until March. I had twenty head of cattle to look after. The most miserable chore was opening the water holes every morning and evening to water the cattle and three head of horses. It was cold, very cold then! Carl said it was time to sell the cattle as his job kept him in town most of the time. He was working for the DNR. When the cattle buyer came out to buy the cattle he gave me a hard time, but I wouldn't let him have my own Hereford heifer. She was a beautiful animal. I wanted $35.00 for her and he finally did pay me $35.00. I had heard through the grapevine that he said I was a tough lady to deal with.

We then moved into Big River, as it was time for Lynne to go to school. We bought a garage from Mrs Dunbar for $50.00 and moved it into town on six lots of land we bought from Ted McNabb for $150.00. I still live on one of those lots.

Carl was working for the Department of Natural Resources and was away from home a lot of the time. After many years of working at fire fighting and patrolling the country on foot or horseback, he lost his job, as he did not have a course in Natural Resources. By then we had eight children: Lynne, Ruth, Don, Laverne, Marina, Leah, Elizabeth and Collin.

Carl then got a job with the Saskatchewan Timber Board and worked for them as a lumber scaler until he retired. Carl's love was the bush, winter fishing, berry picking, and gardening. He was also an avid reader.

He passed away in the Big River Nursing Home on December 12, 2001, at the age of ninety-five years. Carl spent the last three years in the nursing home.

I worked at several jobs. My first job was at O.P. Godins, then at Waite Fisheries, and the Big River Hospital. I injured my back so I then worked for Dr Young and Eaton and later for Dr Wezelman, Al's Jewellery, then for Dr Shukla until I retired. I then worked with Aileen Daley and Barbara Bradley as the B.C.D. Catering. The largest group we catered to was a cold plate for 1000 people for Weyerhaeuser. We catered for weddings and Christmas parties and enjoyed every bit of it.

I have been and still am very active and involved in many community activities. I am a life member of the Order of the Royal Purple. I have been selling Avon for twenty years and I still do sewing and patching for anyone needing the job done. I still live in my own home and am in fairly good health.

Carl and Grace Colby and family.
Back Row: Collin. Middle Row: Leah, Elizabeth, Marina, Ruth. Laverne. Front Row: Carl, Grace. Missing Lynne and Don.

Colby, Collin and Cayla

Cayla Colby and family.
Back Row: Quinn, James, Tegan. Front Row: Collin, Cayla.

Both Collin and I were born and raised in Big River. Collin's mother, Grace, and my grandmother, Anna Lomsnes, were best of friends so they were very happy when Collin and I were married.

We have three children: James, Quinn and then, we finally got our girl, Tegan. Collin worked in the bush for many years. I stayed home and raised the kids. He accepted a job with Weyerhaeuser in Prince Albert so off to the big city we went. We were there for five years. Then he applied for a supervisor position in Big River and received it so back to Big River we went. We were all happy to be closer to our family.

I went to night school for my Special Care Aide course and started working at the nursing home. We were in Big River for five years when Collin had an offer to go back to Prince Albert. He always enjoyed papermaking and wanted to get back to it so we moved again. We bought a beautiful home and settled in. I work at Mont St. Joseph's Nursing Home and Saint Mary's High School. They won the provincials in 2001. Tegan played just about every sport she could squeeze in. Both boys are finished high school. James moved to Saskatoon to go to the Heinze Institute for Computer Graphics. Quinn is not sure what he wants to do. Tegan is in grade twelve.

Cook, George and Martha
Submitted by Frances Jennings (daughter)
as told by George Cook, her 92 year old father

George and Martha with family,1983.
George & Martha with family,1983.

My Dad, George Cook, was born in Elmvale, Ontario on December 21, 1910. His parents, Wilbur and Jessie (McArthur) Cook, moved the family west settling in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. In 1913, they moved to their homestead in the Green Prairie District, which is south of Central Butte, Saskatchewan. Dad attended Green Prairie School. After he finished school, he worked on the farm with his father. He worked on most of the local threshing outfits in the fall. Dad has two brothers and three sisters.

My Mom, Martha Cronk, was born in the Mawer District on February 26, 1910, to Grant and Emma (Oswald) Cronk. She attended Wilson Hill School. After her father passed away, Mom had to work at age thirteen as a housekeeper for the local ladies to help the family out. Mom had four sisters and four brothers.

In the spring of 1933, my Dad and Mom, along with Mom's sister and her husband, Jessie and Pete Geres, left for Marsden, Saskatchewan, where Pete and Jessie had a homestead. They left Central Butte with a saddle mare, which my Mom rode, and Dad rode one of the two workhorses. Pete and Jessie had a tractor hooked to a wagon like a building. They would cook and sleep in it. They also had 10 head of cattle. Mom had the job of herding them. Dad says she was a very good horseback rider. I remember my Mom always saying she would rather work outside than in the house. She was a tiny lady, but mighty. They stayed with Pete and Jessie until about July 1933, helping with seeding and building a house.

In July 1933, Dad and Mom started their trek to Big River, Saskatchewan with their three horses. They slept in some buildings along the way but mostly outside. They even slept in a graveyard one

My Dad, George Cook, was born in Elmvale, Ontario on December 21, 1910. His parents, Wilbur and Jessie (McArthur) Cook, moved the family west settling in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. In 1913, they moved to their homestead in the Green Prairie District, which is south of Central Butte, Saskatchewan. Dad attended Green Prairie School. After he finished school, he worked on the farm with his father. He worked on most of the local threshing outfits in the fall. Dad has two brothers and three sisters.

My Mom, Martha Cronk, was born in the Mawer District on February 26, 1910, to Grant and Emma (Oswald) Cronk. She attended Wilson Hill School. After her father passed away, Mom had to work at age thirteen as a housekeeper for the local ladies to help the family out. Mom had four sisters and four brothers.

In the spring of 1933, my Dad and Mom, along with Mom's sister and her husband, Jessie and Pete Geres, left for Marsden, Saskatchewan, where Pete and Jessie had a homestead. They left Central Butte with a saddle mare, which my Mom rode, and Dad rode one of the two workhorses. Pete and Jessie had a tractor hooked to a wagon like a building. They would cook and sleep in it. They also had 10 head of cattle. Mom had the job of herding them. Dad says she was a very good horseback rider. I remember my Mom always saying she would rather work outside than in the house. She was a tiny lady, but mighty. They stayed with Pete and Jessie until about July 1933, helping with seeding and building a house.

In July 1933, Dad and Mom started their trek to Big River, Saskatchewan with their three horses. They slept in some buildings along the way but mostly outside. They even slept in a graveyard one night. It took them ten days to arrive at my Mom's brother, Irving Cronk's homestead. They stayed the winter of 1933-34 with them.

My Dad and Mom were married in Big River at the Anglican Church on November 6, 1933. In the spring of 1934, they purchased their homestead (SE 22-55-8-W3rd) in the Green Mantle District. Dad thinks it cost him approximately $16.00 for the legal papers. They lived in a shack owned by Ivan Leach while they built their home. Their first house was made of logs with a roof of smaller logs covered with moss and dirt. They also built a barn.

In 1935, they built a better house. It was made of logs too but had a shingled roof and better glass windows. Dad and Mom built it together. Dad worked in the bush in the summer and later worked for Waite Fisheries in the winter. He says he was in charge of the warehouse. He kept track of the fish that came in from the North, weighing and packaging.

In the summer he also cleared land at the homestead. He obtained a team of oxen (Tom and Jerry), which cost him a team of horses, to help break the land. They grew oats for feed. They had three or four milk cows and raised pigs from two or three sows. They sold some of the pigs in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and the others were butchered for the winter. Dad had a herd of 22 cattle later on. They also had a German Shephard named Tack.

Mom grew a very good garden, which helped feed them in the winter. In the summer, they picked berries which were plentiful, cranberries, high and low bush berries, strawberries, saskatoons, and wild raspberries. They also hunted and fished. Dad says every lake and stream was full of fish. They purchased their groceries at Pete Godin's store in Big River. There was another store in Bodmin owned by Harry South, where they would trade wood for groceries. The Post Office was also in Bodmin.

Their closest neighbour was Percy Watson who lived across the road a quarter-mile. Other neighbours were Roland Burt and Jim Sandry.

In 1936, Mom's brother, Elmer Cronk and wife Hilda arrived. Dad and Mom helped them get started on their homestead a half-mile away.

For entertainment, they would visit with neighbours and in the summer there would be ball games to watch.

There was no school until around 1943. The Minister from Big River would have to walk seven to eight miles to have church services.

Dad's proudest accomplishment in Big River was his well. He says he dug down five feet in the ground and hit a rock. He dug a foot from the rock and noticed the soil was damp, so he dug another foot and the water gushed in. Dad had hit a spring. He says it was the best drinking water. Neighbours would stop in to water their horses.

Dad and Mom had three children during their years in Big River. Mervin was born in 1938 in Prince Albert, Crayton in 1939 and Frances in 1943 in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan.

In 1945, Dad and Mom decided there was not much of a future for them on the homestead and they decided to go back to Central Butte. Dad had managed to clear only thirty acres of land in eleven years. It was not good soil. Dad calls it grey bush soil (clay) and not much could be grown on it. Dad and Mom sold out and returned to Central Butte by train. They purchased a farm 2 1/2 miles south of Central Butte (NE 4-21-4-W3rd) and farmed there until 1975. In 1966, they built a house in the town of Central Butte and farmed there.

When Dad and Mom retired, they enjoyed going camping and fishing. They made a trip to Big River during many summers. Dad also had a hobby of building old farm machinery with horses. They had been displayed in the Central Butte Museum. He was interviewed for "Prairie Portraits" which is on CBC TV.

My Mom's health failed in 1991 and Dad took care of her for three years until her death in 1994 at age 84. Mom is laid to rest in the Central Butte Cemetery. Dad still lives in his home at Central Butte. He spends his days working in his yard and taking care of his house. He enjoys the Purple Martins that come to live in his birdhouses every summer.

Dad has seven grandchildren - Paul, Dean, and Denise (children of son, Mervin); Kevin and Kim (children of son, Crayton and wife Norma - nee Rode); Shannon and Stacey (children of the daughter, Frances and husband Russ).

Dad also has eleven great-grandchildren - Katelyn (daughter of Paul); Kennedy (daughter of Dean and Annie); Kylee and Dylan (children of Denise (Kevin) Taylor); Dixon, McKinley, Kieran, and Nigel (sons of Kim (Reagan) Smith); Matthew and Easton (sons of Shannon); and Jaden (son of Stacey (Troy) McLean).

Dad always said that he would have liked to make one more trip back to Big River. But unfortunately, our dear Dad went to be with his beloved wife Martha on November 3, 2003. He is laid to rest beside her in the Central Butte Cemetery.

Cookman, Clifford and Shirley

On a cold, crisp, clear Saturday afternoon, January 20, 1968, Clifford Charles Cookman and Shirley Anne Kaese exchanged vows and small gold bands in the old United Church on 3rd Street (later to become Forbes Funeral Home) in front of family, friends and Reverend Fraser Williams. That evening, across the street in the Elks Hall, a reception and dance were held. The old creaking, swaybacked floor of the hall was sorely tested well into the wee hours of Sunday morning as everyone danced to the irresistible music of Jackie and Doris Millikin.

That was the beginning. As we sit in the front room of our home in Nanaimo, British Columbia thirty-five years later, trying to piece together this meager biography, it is difficult to make sense and meaning of all the thoughts, experiences and adventures that came tumbling at us. Three wonderful children and four little boys that caused us to become Grandma and Grandpa (Ganga to Ellis) are certainly the highlights for us both.

Pierceland, Saskatchewan was where Clifford was born to Henry Anderson and Margaret Scott on October 19, 1946. Henry worked for Margaret's father, Walter, and mother, Emma, on their homestead. Walter had been gassed at Ypres in the First World War and found the heavy work of clearing land very strenuous. Nevertheless, he built a beautiful, warm, log home for Emma, Margaret, and sister, Edith. Pierceland was four to six hours away by horse and wagon so Emma was kept busy trying to make the family as self-sufficient as possible by canning and otherwise preserving a huge vegetable garden, sewing and mending their clothes and cooking for a large threshing crew at fall harvest.

Winter months saw farm chores slow down so Henry took Margaret to Hay River, Northwest Territories, where they lived in a tiny caboose. He fished for lake trout on Great Slave Lake. Summers found them back on the farm but even the arrival of Clifford did not deter the winter migration back to Hay River; back to bombardiers, dog teams and the frigid cold. The union of Henry and Margaret was not meant to be. They parted company after three years and Margaret came home to Pierceland.

The farm was a wonderful place to grow up. All too soon the traumatic experience of having to go into town to school was upon me. It was a long walk on short legs out to the road from the farmhouse to catch the school bus. But, the walk home in the dark of winter with only my red lard lunch pail for company was the most vexing.

Margaret, meanwhile, had caught the eye of a handsome Saskatchewan Transportation Company bus driver, Sid Cookman, while working at the Pierceland Hotel. Courtship was followed by marriage. In 1951, Mother and I moved to Meadow Lake. Sid's parents, Arlie and Belle, and his seven brothers and sisters welcomed us into their happy, boisterous family. Visits to their farm saw Leslie, Sid's youngest brother, and I racing tricycles, catching frogs and minnows in the creek and swinging through the loft of Grandfather Arlie's huge old barn.

The stay in Meadow was short. The fall of 1953 saw us move to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. It was a dramatic switch from a small rural town to the bustling metropolis of Prince Albert! The first thing Margaret did was purchase a harness and leash for me (seven years old and on a leash!) for walking downtown. There were streetlights and crosswalks to contend with. Sid rented a small house on 18th Street West but bad wiring caused a fire that winter. Sid's cousin, Alice, and her husband, Niles Cottingham, came to the rescue and provided us with a small house to live in for the rest of the winter. That spring we moved back to 18th Street West (412). It was here that the Easter Bunny brought me a sister, Sharon Lynn.

In the late winter of 1955, the bus route from Prince Albert to Big River came open and we were off to the Saskatchewan outback. The snow was piled so high along the road that year it nearly covered the telephone poles. Mrs Bouchard welcomed me into Grade Three and the tenants above Waite Fisheries store welcomed our family into the community. What a change; no more leashes, no more traffic, no more pavement! Summer days were endless. There were booms to run in front of the sawmill, fish to catch down at the dock and trails to explore on Waite's Hill.

After several moves in the community, we bought Runge's house (for $1600.00) next to Carl Colby, built on to the house and built on to the family with the arrival of Gregory Brent in 1964. Good neighbours like the Colbys, Evans, Craddocks, and Beckers anchored us to the neighbourhood. Baseball and softball in summer and hockey in winter took up prime time but there was plenty of time left for good friends: Richard Burt, Clifford Buchanan, Bob Kemp, Don Colby and Randy Johnson just to mention a few. School was an obligation but hockey was a passion! Teachers like Mrs Burt, Andy Labach, Mike Kuzyk and Michel Fortier had to compete with the influences of Norm McNabb, Bob Schneider, Grant Gould, Les Dunn and Malcolm Broach. O.P. Godin & Co. was a godsend by providing me with cold cash to fill the car's gas tank in exchange for delivering groceries. Parties and dances on Saturday nights could be attended! Thank you, Anna and Leonard Lomsnes!

Upon completion of high school, I was fortunate to win a Molson Hockey Scholarship to the University of Saskatchewan in 1967. Shirl and I were married the following year. On April 27, we were blessed with a strapping baby boy, Kenton William, born at Saskatoon City Hospital. After a year of teaching high school at Frontier, Saskatchewan we moved to Nanaimo, British Columbia where I secured a job at the local pulp mill. Jennifer Lynn was born the following year on April 22, 1971, and Craig Richard made his appearance on January 12, 1979.

Kent pursued his hockey ambitions to secure a scholarship to Concordia College, U.S.A. He returned to Nanaimo with a degree and a beautiful wife, Carrie Michele. They have a son, William Gabriel, born on May 4, 2000. Jennifer Lynn went off to England for the winter of 1995 and she brought home a swarthy young Scotsman, Lee Pow. They have three boys: Ellis Lyle was born on April 24, 1997; Kyle Loughlan was born on March 24, 2000; Rowen Lee was born on June 19, 2002. Craig has been quite a test for his mom and dad. The school was nothing more than a social gathering place but the sport of fastball has opened many doors for travelling across Canada and for the making of many friends. A good job at a roof truss manufacturing plant is slowly replacing fastball.

Evenings are much quieter for Shirl and me now that the children are gone. Books and T.V. are interrupted by hockey and fishing, by golf and curling. Gardening and camping are priorities as are the grandchildren. But, when asked by acquaintances where home is, it isn't Nanaimo that jumps to mind even though we have lived here for thirty-three years. Home is a small dot on a map in Northern Saskatchewan, a dot that represents fond memories of good friends, family and a wonderful beginning.

Cookman, Greg and Carla

Greg was born in 1964, the youngest child of Sidney and Margaret Cookman. He has a brother, Clifford and a sister, Sharon.

As he grew up in Big River, Greg worked with Christopher Warriner in the honeybee business, trapped beavers with Kelly Bradley and went fishing and hunting with his dad. There were many times that beaver pelts were hanging on the side of the shed, antlers drying on the porch and Greg busy learning how to cook in the kitchen with his mom.

Later, after leaving school, Greg worked in a bush camp before residing in Lloydminster in 1983. There he worked in the oilfield on the service rigs. In 1988 he met Carla Fischer. Later that year they moved to Fort St. John, British Columbia where Greg worked at Nowsco Well Services and Carla worked at Peoples Drug Mart. In their spare time, they went fishing, camping and hunting. Jessica Marie, their first daughter, was born in March 1992.

Shayna, Jessica, 2002.
Shayna, Jessica, 2002.

Now, being a family of three, life got a bit busier. Greg went back to work at Fracmaster as a cement supervisor and was transferred to Wembly, Alberta just outside of Grande Prairie, Alberta.

In June 1995, Greg and Carla tied the knot. In February 1996 their second daughter, Shayna Elaine Margaret, was born.

In 1997, there was another move for Greg and Carla. They and the girls moved back to the Lloydminster area and currently reside in Kitscoty, Alberta. Greg started up a consulting company called Cookman Consulting Ltd and is keeping quite busy. Carla works at a local grocery/meat market so she can be close to the girls while Greg travels with his work.

On days off Greg likes working with wood (a trait that he had picked up working side by side with his dad), fishing and camping, quading and archery with his daughter, Jessica. Carla enjoys tole painting, cake decorating, gardening and being involved with the girls' activities.

Jessica enjoys many sports and activities both in school and out. She excels in archery and skating when she is not at summer camp or riding trails with her quad.

Shayna enjoys dance and swimming and, though summer camp has crossed her mind, she still opts to stay at home with her mom.

Cookman, Sidney and Margaret
Submitted by Sharon Bradley

Sid, Margaret, 1973.
Sid and Margaret Cookman, 1973.

Sidney Arnold Cookman was born to Belle and Arlie Cookman on June 17, 1923, in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. He was the eldest of eight children. Margaret Mildred Scott was born on September 9, 1925, in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was adopted by Emma and Walter Scott and raised in Pierceland, Saskatchewan. Mom married Henry Anderson and they had one son. Clifford Charles was born October 19, 1946, in Pierceland, Saskatchewan. Mom and Henry separated three years later. Mom was working as a telephone operator and Dad was driving for S.T.0 (Saskatchewan Transportation Company) when they met.

In 1953, Mom, Dad and Cliff moved to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan where Dad continued to drive for S.T.C. Sharon was born April 13, 1954, in Prince Albert. In the spring of 1956 Mom, Dad, Cliff, and I moved to Big River. Dad continued driving for S.T.C. taking over from Charles Tuck. Dad drove many miles through mud and snow to keep his bus on schedule. He was rarely ever late (but was never caught speeding!). Dad made many friends along the route that he travelled for 30+ years. Many times people needed items picked up in the city because they didn't go to the cities as we do now. I remember Dad bringing home things such as live creatures, fresh produce, repaired shoes, dry cleaning and even some repaired dentures. One Christmas at least ten frozen turkeys were weighing from 25 to 45 pounds! On July 27, 1972, Dad attained one million miles accident-free.

When we moved to Big River we stayed in the Waite Fisheries apartments. We didn't know anybody and with Dad being gone all day Mom was so very grateful that Barb Warriner tucked us under her wing and made us all feel welcome. We spent many unforgettable times with the Warriner family on the farm and in town. We lived at various places but settled in at 110 6th Avenue South where Les Dunn is now living. This was next door to Grace and Carl Colby who soon became our extended family as well as the rest of the neighbourhood. There were many coffees, laughs and tears shed among Mom, Grace, Jean, Aileen, Barb, Anna, Bertha, and Mrs Pan. and whoever else may have come by. Mom and Dad enjoyed the square dancing group very much; it was a time of music and laughter with all of their friends. Most of the women sewed their dresses and I remember thinking how beautiful they were and would often dress up in them.

Mom was very active in the Legion and United Church. She was a very good cook; her spud nuts and gingerbread men were known throughout the neighbourhood. Mom had a special talent with the needle and thread; she tried to keep us as up-to-date as best she could with the new trends. We always sported new Christmas Eve and Christmas Daywear. Mom also worked part-time over the years at O.P. Godin's and the telephone office. Mom and Dad lost an infant daughter, Sheryl, in 1962. Gregory Brent was born on March 21, 1964, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. In 1968, we moved to Meadow Lake for six months, to Prince Albert for Ilia months and then back to Big River. Dad was still driving for S.T.C.

In 1968, Cliff married Shirley Kaese (See own history). In March 1973, Sharon married Hal Bradley (See own history). In June 1995, Greg married Carla Fisher. (See own history)

Cliff, Greg, Sharon, 1995.
Cliff, Greg and Sharon, 1995.

Mom and Dad became grandparents for the first time when Kenton William was born to Cliff and Shirl Cookman in April 1969. Jennifer Lynn (April 1971) and Craig Richard (January 1979) followed him. Tanya Lynn (July 1975) and Leanne Marie (January 1977) were born to Hal and Sharon Bradley. Jessica Marie (March 1991) and Shayna Elaine (February 1996) were born to Greg and Carla Cookman.

Mom and Dad enjoyed their grandchildren very much. Unfortunately, after a short battle with cancer, Mom passed away in November 1975. In 1984 Dad was forced to take early retirement due to illness. He was soon on the path to recovery and back to his old self (which was usually to no good...) He then moved to Meadow Lake to care for his mom and dad. In 1991 Dad married Leona Umperville from Fort Nelson, British Columbia. In February 1994 Leona passed away suddenly. After many years and a long hard battle with cancer, Dad passed away on December 4, 1994.

Cooper, Garry and Paulette

Paulette, Garry, Sept. 3, 1963.
Paulette, Garry, Sept. 3, 1963

On September 3, 1962, Garry and Paulette (Otte) Cooper was married in the Catholic Church in Big River. Paulette worked in the Big River Union Hospital as a nurse's aide until their first child, Garry Lee, was born on November 17, 1963. Garry built their first home, a two-bedroom bungalow, in the summer of 1963 at 110 - 5th Avenue North. Tammy Lynn was born on March 19, 1965, followed by Corrine Gaye on June 19, 1966. Paulette and Garry were very busy during these years but still found time to curl, to go on family picnics at the lake and to dine and dances whenever possible.

In the spring of 1966, Garry attended Saskatchewan Technical Institute in Moose Jaw. After three winters, he received his Journeyman Electrical ticket in the spring of 1968. Garry worked with his father, Tony, and his brother, Mervin, at Cooper Electric until a new mill was built at 6th Avenue North to replace the one that burnt in 1969. At this time both boys began working for Saskatchewan Forest Products. In 1973, when the new mill was built at Bodmin, Garry stayed on with the company as head electrician.

In the summer of 1972, Garry and Paulette decided to take up camping and bought a new hardtop camper. During the following years, almost every summer weekend was spent camping at Nesslin Lake with family and friends. Many happy hours were spent pulling the kids on water skis and sunbathing on the beach.

The Coopers were charter members of the Kinsmen and Kinette Clubs from the time that the clubs were first formed. Garry was on the executive for many years. During this time many new friends were made. Along with hours of hard work, came many fun times. There were conventions, local projects, family get-togethers and potluck suppers.

The kids grew and a bigger home was needed. In 1976, a new split-level house was built right next door at 112 - 5th Avenue North. They live in this house today.

Paulette returned to the workforce in September 1980, the year Lee began Grade Twelve. She worked for one year as a Teacher Aide at the old elementary school on the hill. In June 1981, the school closed and the new T.D. Michel Elementary School opened. She worked there for six years before moving to high school in 1986. She followed Jason Beebe as his aide through to his Grade Twelve graduation in June 1992. These were very interesting and enjoyable years. Following that she worked with many students in the Special Education classroom as well as alongside teachers in regular classrooms. She retired on January 31, 2002.

In 1988, Garry decided it was time for a change and quit his job at the mill. He was hired to work for a local contractor, George Ritchie. Garry worked for Ritchie Construction until 1991 when he went into business for himself and once again began Cooper Electric. He remained in business until 2001 when health problems caused him to retire.

Garry and Paulette are now both retired and hope to spend the next few years enjoying life in general. They love to spend time with their grandchildren. Garry loves to golf. They both hope to spend more time camping and fishing in the summer as well as curling in the winter.

Gary Cooper Family.
Back Row: Calvin, Corrine, Shelly, Lee, Tammy, Garnet. Middle Row: Hillory, Garry, Brooklyn, Paulette, Tony. Front Row: Wes, Quinn, Dana, Kale, 2002.

At present in June 2003:

1) Lee (Shelley Menonis) Cooper, daughter Brooklyn and son Talbot live in Red Deer, Alberta. Lee works as an Information Technology Coordinator and Shelley work for the David Thompson Health Region as a Dietitian.

2) Tammy (Garnet) Wood and their children, Tony, Kale and Dana live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Tammy is a French Immersion teacher at River Heights Elementary School and Garnet is a Geophysicist for Camco.

3) Corrine (Calvin) Smith and their children Hillory, Wesley and Quinn live on a farm near Debden, Saskatchewan. They raise cattle and do some grain farming. Corrine does hair-dressing in her home.

Cooper, Mervin and Lois

Outdoor Rink behind Elk's Hall.
Back Row: Garrett, Shelly. Front Row: Emma, Grant.

Mervin was born on June 26, 1942, in Canwood, Saskatchewan, to Tony and Belle Cooper. Mervin was raised in Big River and took all his schooling there. After graduating he worked for Sam Miller in his garage. He then went to work for Saskatchewan Forest Products in the mill. He went back to school in Moose Jaw to get his journeyman electrical ticket working for his dad "Cooper Electric" for a few years, then back to the mill as an electrician.

Lois was born April 21, 1944, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, to Art and Ethel Kennedy. Lois moved with the family to Ladder Valley in 1948. Lois took Grades One to Eight at the Ladder Valley School. High school was taken in Big River by riding the Rapid Bend bus. After school, she worked in Godin's Store for Joe Friedman for a year. Then she worked as a telephone operator in the home of Bill and Tom Young.

Mervin and I were married November 21, 1962, in Big River by Reverend David Bould in the old United Church. We moved to Ladder Valley (SW 36-55-7-W3') and operated a mixed farm, also having a dairy operation for two years. While on the farm we had three children:

1. Shelly (Grant Shave) was born in Big River, May 11, 1964. Shelly took all her schooling in Big River. After she graduated she went to the University of Saskatchewan then on to Technical school in Vermillion, Alberta. Shelly is employed as Head Cook at Fox Creek Hospital where they presently reside. They have two children - Garrett and Emma.

2. Troy (Erin Doherty) was born in Big River, November 17, 1965, and took all his schooling there. After graduating he went to Technical school in Moose Jaw, then to Police College in Regina. Troy is presently employed as an Inspector with the Prince Albert City Police. They have three children - Kelly, Khia, and Kade. Troy has two more girls, Ashley and Kristen, from a previous marriage.

3. Jay (Hillary Mills) was born in Big River, March 3, 1971. Jay took Grades One to Ten in Big River. Grades Eleven and Twelve were taken at Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. After graduating, Jay attended the University of Saskatchewan. He is now a civil engineer at the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company Mine in Flin Flon, Manitoba. They have two girls - Casey and Eve.

Erin, Kelly, Kia, Troy, holding Kade. Inset: Ashley, Kristin.
Erin, Kelly, Kia, Troy, holding Kade. Inset: Ashley, Kristin.

Jay, holding Eve, Hillary, holding Casey.
Jay, holding Eve, Hillary, holding Casey.

We took in many foster children over the years.

In 1977, Merv went back to work in the new mill at Bodmin and retired in 2003. Lois started working in 1984 as a Home Care worker, then in 1986 when Lakewood Lodge was built, she worked there as a Special Care Aide. Lois continues to work in the Big River Health Center as a Special Care Aide.

We sold the farm in 1997 and built a house on Cowan Lake Quarter (Portion NE 17-57-8-W3K1). We, as a family, have many great memories of Ladder Valley. The greatest is the feeling of belonging to a community with great neighbours, community picnics, family curling games, dances, and ball games.

Mervin and Lois.
Mervin and Lois.

Cooper, Tony and Belle

Submitted by Garry Cooper

Anthony (Tony) Henry Cooper was born to Phillip and Hattie Cooper on November 25, 1918, in Osage, Saskatchewan.

The first time that Tony Cooper saw Big River was in 1929 when he came to play hockey. He was from Eldred, Saskatchewan and his team had to make this journey by truck or by train. They would have to stay overnight in Big River. It happened that this time the team travelled by train. Tony and his brother had the opportunity to stay at Brownfield's house that night. They were impressed with the luxuries found in the house, the main one was running water.

The next morning the family did not get up very early so Tony and his brother missed the train back to Eldred. They were not sure what to do, so, loaded with their hockey equipment, they began running after the train. To their surprise and relief they were able to catch up because it had stopped at the water tower. Here the Cooper brothers boarded for home.

In 1939, Tony married Belle Evangeline Emde, daughter of Alfred and Annie Emde. She was born on March 24, 1920, in Tyvan, Saskatchewan.

Tony returned to Big River in 1940, along with Fred Emde, to work for Oscar Eikel at the Stoney Lake Sawmill. They spent the first night in the hotel since they could not afford the seventy-five cents for the taxi fare. The following day they had to walk to the mill.

Anthony Garry Cooper was born to Tony and Belle on May 9, 1940, in a nursing home in Ormeaux, Saskatchewan. In 1941 the Cooper family moved to Big River. They rented half a house from Clarksons. The rent was a total of three dollars and fifty cents per month. The money that Tony had saved during the previous year amounted to sixty-three dollars. This was used to purchase the necessary items for their new home. They went to Debden to buy their furniture and succeeded in purchasing a cookstove, a table, four chairs, a bed and mattress and a cupboard and still had twenty-three dollars left over for groceries.

Another son, Mervin Delbert, was born on June 26, 1942, in Canwood, Saskatchewan.

Mervin. Garry (1944).
Mervin, Garry, 1944.

After working in the sawmill Tony began working for Sundby and Friedman until he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943. In 1946, he returned home. In August of that year, he bought a house across the street from the Post Office (1083rd Avenue North). This house was purchased from William Millikin for $1500 ($800 down and $15/month until the remaining $700 was paid off). This home is where the boys grew up and lived until they were married.

Tony delivered groceries for O.P. Godin and was the Imperial Oilman. After this, he returned to the bush until the mill started again in 1948. He was employed as a millwright and an electrician at the Big River Sawmill. In 1959, he started his own electrical business. During the years 19481963, Tony ran the projectors at the Big River Theatre. In 1978, Tony sold his electrical business and went to work as the maintenance man at the Big River Union Hospital. He was there for the last five years of his working life and retired in 1983.

Belle didn't work outside the home but for many years she ran a boarding house. Many people would have their noon meal at Belle's table. James S. Forbes was the postmaster across the street. He came over for his meals almost every day for many years. As well, nurses, bankers, R.C.M.P., truckers and a lot of relatives stayed at her house. Belle was always involved in various crafts: knitting, crocheting, needlepoint and dressmaking. Her favourite pastime was bingo. She never missed any of her boys' or grandkids' sporting events or any other of their involvements.

Garry and Mervin Cooper always had a lot to do and were involved in everything. Both boys spent many years in the Boy Scouts and in the United Church "High C" group which was formed by Reverend Dave Bould. They were involved in all sports both in winter and summer. They spent many happy days at the "Old Swimming Hole" and on the lake with their refurbished eighteen-foot freighter canoe. Running the booms at the mill was also a great pastime. The Cooper house was always full of kids from all over town.

Garry was a member of the Big River Brass Band for a couple of years until the bandmaster, Henry Parker, moved away and the group disbanded. In later years both boys were involved with music and were members of a band called "The Six Teens". Pat Harty, Dave Brownfield, Dennis Pruden, Ron (Riley) Thibeault and Ben Nichol were also involved with this band at one time. They built a lot of their instruments and amplifying equipment as in those days every penny counted. The band used to make really "big" money once in a while by going to Eldred and Debden to play all night for a dance. The great sum of $18 was made for a night of singing and playing. Garry still plays in an old-time dance band.

Garry, Tony, Belle, Mervin.
Garry, Tony, Belle, Mervin.

The boys always had odd jobs during the summer and after school. They did chores for several senior couples such as hauling wood, water, ashes, snow, and all sorts of things. They did the chores at the restaurant in Pete Bouchard's hall as well as janitorial work such as stacking chairs and benches after a dance or other function and sweeping and cleaning the theatre after movies. They also worked part-time at Waite Fisheries packing fish and building fish boxes. After finishing school both boys worked full-time for the Saskatchewan Timber Board until 1964 when they went to work for their dad at Cooper Electric. Garry and Mervin lived at home until the fall of 1962. Garry married Paulette Otte in September and Mervin married Lois Kennedy in November of that year.

Tony passed away in Saskatoon on December 15, 1999. Belle, 83 years old, still lives in Big River at a private nursing home.

Belle, Tony, 1990.
Belle, Tony, 1990.

Corbiel, Henry and Emilia

Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979

The Corbiel family came to Big River in 1910, from Montreal. Mr Corbiel worked on the railroad. After spending a few years in town, the family moved to Bodmin where they homesteaded. The family members are Emilia (Mrs. Omar Couture), Leo, Leontine (Mrs. Alphonse Tardiff), Jeanne (Mrs. Isadore Landry), Bella (Mrs. Edward Cassey), Romeo, Yvette (died in 1932), Arthur and Joseph.

Cossette, Leslie and Doreen (Wilson)

I, Doreen, was born near Big River, to Jake and Irene Wilson. I am the third child of a family of twelve.

I lived and worked in Big River until 1966. I moved to Canwood, Saskatchewan where I worked at the Canwood Co-op.

On December 9, 1961, I married Leslie Cossette (son of Ernest and Catherine Cossette of the Sugar Hill district). We took over the farm from Leslie's parents when they moved into Canwood.

I worked in Canwood until I retired from the Co-op in December of 1996, and took up farming full time. We have cattle and do some grain farming. The farm we live on has been in Leslie's family since 1914. We have two children and three grandchildren:

Andrea Lynn - was born on May 3, 1969. She went to school in Canwood and graduated in 1987. She took 1 year of university in Saskatoon, then moved to Prince Albert where she took a Legal Secretary course. She worked in Prince Albert for a few years, then moved to Calgary, where she still lives and works for Superstore.

Michelle Kyla - was born on June 16, 1971. She went to school in Canwood and graduated in 1989. She took a Medical Secretary course in Prince Albert. She lived and worked there for about a year and then moved back to Canwood where she took a Home Care/Special Care Aid course. She now lives in Shellbrook and works at the Parkland Terrace Nursing Home. She is married to Blaine Stene of Shellbrook. They have three children- Randy Leslie (twelve), Kelli Lynne (nine), and Brandon Roy (six).

It's great to have the grandchildren close by and enjoy their visits to the farm.

Cottam, Walter and Ada
Excerpts from Timber Trails (1979)

Walter Cottam arrived from England in 1911 and settled in Big River. He took a job in the sawmill and later sent for his wife Ada, his daughter Alice, his sister-in-law Alice Lovatt, and his mother-in-law Rose Lovatt. This family ventured across oceans on the first ship that sailed after the sinking of the Titanic. The Cottam members participated in the many sports days held in Big River; Ada often won first prize for her racing abilities. The family left Big River for The Pas, Manitoba after the mill closed down.

Cowie, Jim and Christie
Submitted by Meada Pederson

Christie Morin was born around 1898 in the Big River area. She was the daughter of Raphael and Maryanne (Landry) Morin. She married Mr Martinson and had one child, Evelyn. Evelyn married Mr Hanson, and she died of tuberculosis at a young age.

Later, Christie married Jim Cowie and they had two children: Joe and Meada. Joe Cowie married Bertha Isbister and had three children: Jimmy, Gary and Lucille.

After Joe and Bertha separated, he married and lived in Edmonton until his passing in about 1998.

Christie Cowie was a sister of Louis Morin, Mary Pruden/Billings and adopted sister, Bernice (Andy Davis). She passed away in Saskatoon around 1958.

Jim Cowie grew up in Carnduff, Saskatchewan. He had four brothers and two sisters. His father was a Scottish man, while his mother, Ms Gallagher, was Irish. She went to England at a young age to find work. Her very special girlfriend was Miss Mead. She decided then that her first granddaughter would be named after her. Thus, the name "Meada" began when Meada Cowie was born.

Jim Cowie was well known since he worked for the Department of Natural Resources, as a game warden and a fire ranger. He was also the manager of the Big River Nursery.

In those days most of the work at the nursery was outdoors in the fields. Trees were planted, thinned and weeded by the employees. The trees were picked, bundled and shipped to various places including all the national parks.

Some of Jim Cowie's duties included being the fire ranger. People remember him going to the local bar or on the streets to recruit men to fight forest fires.

He was also the only government scaler in the Big River area in the late 1940s and early 1950s. While scaling the logs in the bush camps, he also performed the duties of a camp cook.

Meada recalls a time when her father, Jim Cowie, was performing his duties as a game warden. He had to deal with some angry poachers. Luckily, he could understand Cree just enough to understand the poachers' plans to get rid of him. With quick, unexpected action, he was able to get their guns, save his horses and get the culprit into court.

Jim is fondly remembered by many for his acts of kindness. Being a government employee, he had to show settlers where their land was. Many a time he would talk to Bill Young, from Young's Garage, and he would ask him to give people some gas to help them get to their destination. If they couldn't pay him back, he'd hire them at the Nursery to make up for the money.

Before living at the Nursery, Jim and Christie Cowie owned the land where Stan Millikin now resides. A big, old two-storey house still stands as a reminder of times long ago.

Jim Cowie passed away suddenly in about 1955 due to a heart attack. He is buried in the Big River Cemetery.

Craddock, Cyril (Pop) and Mary
Written by Mary "Bill" Pankoski

Cyril Craddock, or "Pop", as he was better known, was born in Wiltshire, a county in southern England. I guess he always wanted more space so he and some of his brothers decided to come to Canada. "Going out to the Colonies", as his mother used to say, was a term he hated. Fearing the worst for their sons in that wild, uncultured country his parents decided they, too, would move. So, the parents and four boys all arrived in southern Saskatchewan to what is now known as the Assiniboia district. There they took up homesteads though none of them knew beans about farming but by hard work and working out in the slack seasons, they made a go of it. All of their work was with horses and oxen as there was no machinery in those days, around the year 1907.

That was my father. My mother, Mary Helen Cross, and her father came to Canada at the same time. Her mother and the other four children came out the next year by boat and train to Calgary. Another son was born to them just nine months later.

I guess my mother felt the need to spread her wings a little for in the next few years she worked in Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw, where she met Pop. They were married in 1911. Pop had a little country store on his homestead but soon felt crowded out. So, he and Mother and my baby brother, Lynne, moved miles west to Wood Mountain, an old RCMP detachment. Here Pop raised horses and cattle and had another country store. In 1921 he got itchy feet again and, with another couple (Merle and Floyd Cave), moved his horse herd to Big River. He settled along Cowan Lake some 15 miles north of Big River. He later returned to Wood Mountain and shipped his cattle by rail to Big River. My mother and I arrived by train on December 3, 1921.

There followed years of hard work and hard ship. Luckily, Pop was a jack-of-all-trades and could turn his hand to anything to make a dollar. He was a carpenter, a sign painter and a veterinarian. Many a calf and colt owed their life-long virginity to Pop's able jackknife.

Over the years various settlers came and went; mostly gone! There was Pete Arsenault from New Brunswick, Ed Larocque from Minnesota and people from overseas. It was a hard life. During the dry and dirty thirties, many moved from the dust bowl to the bush country to try to make a life. One was Alec Pankoski who had fled the drought from the Yorkton, Saskatchewan area.

Alec and I were married in 1942 and produced a son and a daughter, Allen David and Eileen Margaret. These two grew up and we were able to give them their schooling in Big River. From there they went on to university in Saskatoon. AlIen taught school in Pierceland, Saskatchewan for one year and then moved on to Edmonton to various jobs, even putting in one winter on a rig in High Level, Alberta. He later settled in Edmonton and had various jobs in Edmonton, Fort St. John and Calgary then back to Edmonton, where he now lives in Sherwood Park, Alberta.

In the meantime, he met and married Joyce Lukian, a Saskatchewan girl who had moved to Edmonton and was a hospital worker. They produced two daughters: Christi May who lives and works in Calgary and Leigh-Ann who is married and lives a few blocks from her parents. Leigh-Ann and her husband, Trevor Ball, produced my first great-grandchild. Colby Allen was born on June 19, 2003. They are expecting again in September 2004.

Our daughter, Margaret, also took teacher training and taught with her friend Helen Zinovich in Smith, a fairly northern Alberta community. They had a roommate from New Brunswick. When the school year was over the girls drove east on a tour. Margaret returned as far as Toronto and there she realized her life-long dream of becoming a Policewoman. She served in that capacity with the Toronto Metro Police force for twenty-six years and could tell some hair- raising stories of her experiences. There she met and married Jack Appleton of the RCMP. He was a native of Kelowna, British Columbia, where his father and sister still live. After their retirement, they bought property west of Niagara Falls with a huge house on it. They spend their summers there and their winters in Mexico living in their motor home.

As for Alec and I, after twenty-some years of driving school buses, we gathered together what was still left of our sanity and moved to Kelowna where my brother was living. My father had died in the '60s and my mother stayed with relatives in Victoria until we moved to Kelowna. She stayed with us for seven years. She passed away in October of 1982. Alec passed away in 1983 when we were on holiday to Saskatchewan. Lynne passed on in 1994. I now live in Kelowna and am a comfortable senior citizen with no desire to move.

Crashley, Charles and Karen

I, Charles (Charlie or Chuck) Crashley, was born in Carievale, Saskatchewan. At the age of two, I moved north to Rapid Bend where my father, John, and mother, Margaret, homesteaded. In the mid-1930s my father helped build a school in Rapid Bend. I went to school until the age of sixteen when I decided to venture out into the world.

I worked around Saskatchewan for several years before heading west. I came to British Columbia and worked in the logging industry. After a few months of cold, wet weather I decided to go back to Saskatchewan for some dry snow. In 1954 I headed back to British Columbia to find work and ended up joining the Air Force. I spent ten years in the service (three of which were spent overseas). After my discharge from the Air Force, I brought my wife Mary, and children, John and Louise, to Ladder Valley where I tried farming with my brother. It did not work out so I moved my family to Chambly, Quebec where our son Donald was born. In 1972 I decided to move to back to British Columbia. I worked in the elevator trade until about 1978. Then I went into the machinist trade working at Burrard Dry Docks and a couple of hydro dams. In 1980 I was sent to Powell River to work on their pulp and paper mill expansion.

I met Karen Begg and we were married in 1983. My daughter, Louise, is married to Frank Ginter. They live in Swift Current, Saskatchewan with their daughter, Jessie. My sons, John and Donald, both live in Surrey, British Columbia. Neither is married. Karen and I are still living in Powell River, British Columbia.

Crashley, Glen and Anna

Anna and Glen Crashley.
Anna and Glen Crashley.

Glen Crashley was born in 1930 in Carievale, Saskatchewan. He was one of nine children born to John and Margaret Crashley. In the spring of 1955, Glen married Anna Dalton who was born in Wanakena, Saskatchewan. They settled in the Ladder Valley district where they raised three children. Dwayne was born in 1962. He now lives in Oliver, British Columbia with Wenda Mallard whom he met in Canwood.

Dwayne is a journeyman carpenter and Wenda is a home care worker. Their second boy, Howard, was born in 1964. In 1993, he married Debbie Gerlack. They met in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. They now live in Regina and both work at Wal-Mart. Their only daughter, Karen, was born in 1968. In 1985 she married Brent Gerlach of Debden, Saskatchewan. They are currently living in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan where Karen is a home care aide.

Brent is currently studying for the ministry. They have three sons: Terry (1985), Joshua (1993) and Daniel (2003)

Glen worked at the sawmills in Big River and Bodmin to augment his farming income. He and Anna moved into Big River after Glen retired. Glen Crashley passed away in June of 1999. Anna Crashley is still living in Big River.

Crashley, John Sr. and Family

Margaret and John.
Margaret and John Crashley.

Dust, wind and more dust blew across the southeastern Saskatchewan farm in 1934 as the Crashley family decided to move away from their home to begin a new life on a homestead in northern Saskatchewan.

John, the father, was 41 years old and Margaret, the mother, was 32 years old when they packed up six of their children to travel the long journey. Bert, who was the eldest at thirteen, decided to stay with his Aunt Ede and Uncle George in Carievale instead of traveling to the unknown land. The rest of the children ranged in age from eleven years to six months old: Ken (eleven), Marjorie (nine), Bob (seven), Glen (four), Charles (two) and Eleanor (six months).

John and Margaret with their children.
John and Margaret with their children.

Two big black horses pulled a canvas tent covered hayrack with steel wheels. Once the rack was ready the family's possessions were loaded. The furniture was the first to be packed, then the books, clothing and other small items too precious to leave behind.

The Crashleys traveled north through Moosomin, the Qu' Appelle Valley and Yorkton. They crossed the Saskatchewan River at St. Louis, passed through Shellbrook and traveled north to an area near Big River.

Many incidents marred the family's trip as they continued on their long journey. Shortly after starting out, just outside Rocanville, a steel wheel on the wagon broke and had to be welded before they could continue. John decided that they would have to lighten the load and so, the heavy furniture was lifted off the rack. Margaret sorrowfully lit a fire to burn books that she had to leave behind. When Marjorie saw her mother burning her precious books she, too, wanted to help and tossed her only doll into the fire.

As the Crashley's moved northward they stayed away from cities and, instead, traveled the back roads. They did not carry a lot of food due to the weight and lack of refrigeration. The family depended on farmers along the way to buy their milk and vegetables and to allow them to camp in the farmyards overnight. Mom, Marjorie, Eleanor, and Charlie slept on mattresses on the rack while Dad, Ken. Bob and Glen slept underneath on the hard, cold ground. The horses were tethered by the wagon and ate hay purchased from the farmer.

The family travelled through the Lake Four district towards their homestead in Rapid Bend. Aunt Elsie and Billy Bock were already homesteading in the area so that is where the family first stopped to rest. Mom, Marjorie, Eleanor, and Charlie stayed in the house while the others stayed in a shack with sawdust floors.

The Crashley family lived in many different houses before their own house on their homestead was built. John cut and hauled the logs to the site and built the house himself.

Dorothy was born one year later and Fred was born two years after the family moved north.

The countryside supplied a diverse range of berries: blueberries, strawberries, saskatoons, raspberries, gooseberries, currants, pin cherries, cranberries and high bush cranberries. Margaret was kept busy preserving and making jelly.

Initially, there wasn't a school in the area so Margaret taught the children at home. In 1936 the neighbours got together to build the first school at Rapid Bend. There were thirty-six children in the first class including eight and ten-year-olds who had never been to school before.

In 1942 the Crasheys moved to an acreage in Ladder Valley because John was no longer able to farm. From there the family moved to Debden where Eleanor, Fred and Dorothy finished high school. John and Margaret moved to Big River for their final years.

Bert (1921-1983) married Lillian Garner. They had four children: Diane, Theresa, Randy and Tonilee.

Ken (1923-1988) married Bertha Dalton. They had six children: Bill, Richard, Gloria, John, Ron and Jeanie.

Marjorie (1925) married Jim MacDonald. They had three daughters: Sheila, Lorna and Kathy. Marjorie resides in Rosetown, Saskatchewan.

Bob (1927) married Joyce Switzer. They had three children: Donna, Linda and Wayne. Bob and Joyce reside in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Glen (1930-1999) married Anna Dalton. They had three children: Dwayne, Howard and Karen. Anna resides in Big River, Saskatchewan.

Charlie (1932) married Karen. He has three children from a previous marriage: John, Louise and Donald. Charlie and Karen reside in Powell River, British Columbia.

Eleanor (1934) went to Teachers' College after high school. She taught in Mont Nebo where she met and married Peter Skarpinsky, They have four children: Ken married Betty LeBlanc; Evelyn married Monty LeComte; Patti married Roger Provencher; Cory married Cherie Baun.

Dorothy (1935) went to Teachers' College after she finished high school in Debden. Returning to the Big River area, she taught one year in Ladder Valley and five years in Big River. She married Allan Muir. They have three daughters: Carolyn, Sherry and Jeanette. The family currently resides in Calgary, Alberta

Fred (1937-1993) went into the Air Force after high school and then completed his Civil Engineering degree. (He was City Engineer in Cranbrook, British Columbia at the time of his death.) He married Vickie Robertson and they have two children, Melissa and Devin. Vickie still resides in Cranbrook, British Columbia.

Allan, Dorothy.
Allan and Dorothy.

Crashley, Ken and Bertha (Dalton)

Bertha and Ken.
Bertha and Ken Crashley.

Kenneth James was born on March 25, 1923, in Carieville, Saskatchewan to John and Margaret (Norris) Crashley. He moved with his family to Rapid Bend when he was ten years old. When they first came to the Big River area they wintered at the Alan Clark homestead and then moved to their homestead in the spring, on NW 23-55-6 W3rd.

While working at Macrorie, Saskatchewan, Ken joined the army and was sent into action. After the war, he moved to Ladder Valley and lived with his parents at the Ladder Valley Store, which they had purchased. Bertha Mary was born to John and Delina (Ethier) Dalton on April 21, 1929. She lived with her family in the Wanakena district. After schooling she worked in Prince Albert at the Holy Family Hospital and at Lund's Wildlife. She then moved to Big River where she worked for Albert and Gladys Michel. She then lived with Paul and Pauline Chalifour (at the Friedli farm, NE 26-57-6-W3rd) in Ladder Valley, where she cared for the house and children while Mrs. Chalifour taught school.

While there, she met Ken and they were married on July 14, 1952 at the Park Valley Church. Ken and Bertha lived on the Frasier farm (NW 26-55-7-W3rd). Around 1960 Ken and Bertha moved again, this time only half a mile east and they built a house on SE 26-55-7-W3rd. Bertha and Ken had six children:

William (Bill), born on April 12, 1953; Richard, born on January 13, 1955; Gloria, born on July 4, 1956; John, born on September 25, 1957; Ron, born on July 9, 1962 and Jeanne, born on April 18, 1965.

Bill married Carmen Pulumbo on July 24, 1976 and they have four children: Doug, born on September 22, 1978; Tara, born on May 24, 1980; Tanya, born on February 4, 1985 and Jennifer, born on August 12, 1988. They also have a granddaughter, Mikaela, born on April 12, 2002. Bill and Carmen currently live in Golden, British Columbia.

Richard (see own history).

Gloria married Ralph Liepold on June 2, 1984. Their first child, Ken, was born on July 4, 1986 and passed away on August 1, 2003. Bobbi was born on September 16, 1988. They currently live in Regina, Saskatchewan. John has two children: Lonnie, born on October 8, 1980 and Kaylene, born on March 8, 1983. John currently lives on his farm in Ladder Valley on SW 26-55-7-W3rd.

Ron (see own history).

Jeanne married Dale Popowitch on September 19, 1992 and they have two children: Michael, born on August 12, 1997 and Haley, born on May 12. 2001. They currently live in Red Deer, Alberta.

John, Bill, Jeanne, Richard, Gloria, Ron.
John, Bill, Jeanne, Richard, Gloria, Ron.

Ken worked at the sawmill until his retirement on December 31, 1986. During those years Ken and Bertha had a mixed farm and Ken also worked for the road construction when the mill had some slow years.

Bertha lived and worked on the farm in Ladder Valley all her married life. After Ken's sudden passing on July 30,1988 she moved to the town of Big River. Bertha lived out her life in Big River and all who visited remember her little house across from the post office where she sat at the window watching people come and go and some stopping in for coffee and a chat. Bertha passed away on June 1, 1997.

Bertha will always be remembered for her friendly laugh, her love of gathering family around her bountiful table for special feasts, her love of fresh tomatoes, wild cranberries, huge cakes with brown sugar icing, the love of bingo, her fear of bees and bears, her connection to life via the phone and the joy of visits from family and friends.

Crashley, Richard and Cheryl

Crashley, Richard and Cheryl
Richard, Cheryl and dog Shadow.

I was born on January 13, 1955 in Prince Albert. That was the winter of the "Big Snow", at least I've been told.

I attended seven years of school in Ladder Valley, in the one-room - eight grade school house. I spent the next five years at school in Big River until 1972. Then I packed my bags and moved to Canal Flats, British Columbia - better known as little Big River because it too was a lumber town. Later, I moved to Vancouver Island and worked for Jim and Pat Wall (neighbors from Ladder Valley) at the cedar salvage. From there, I went to Golden, British Columbia where I worked for (my brother) Bill's father-in-law's taxi service and worked in the logging camps.

I migrated back to Saskatchewan, where I dated and married Brenda Pister. Our son, David was born on January 21, 1982. Brenda and I divorced. David lived with his mom and stepdad Greg Bradley and his sisters, Gwen and Beckie, north of Big River. David graduated in 2000 and has worked at various jobs in and around Big River. He is presently working for Beebe's Transport and lives by Cowan Lake.

I moved to Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, after the divorce, where I worked in the "oil patch". I met Flo Romansky (at my sister Gloria's wedding) at Moose Jaw and we were married in 1986. She had two teenaged children, Belinda and Waylon. Together we owned and operated Mayfair Foods - a grocery store in Lashburn, Saskatchewan. We sold the business and moved to Lloydminster where I worked for Universal Industries. Flo succumbed to cancer in the fall of 1990.

I stayed working in Lloydminster and met Cheryl Wood. We were married in March of 1991. Cheryl had two teenagers from her previous marriage - son, Leon and daughter, Chris. While working for Universal Industries at the Upgrader in Lloydminster, I was injured and could no longer work in that position. Once again, we moved and lived in Edmonton, Alberta where I attended college and studied insurance and business administration (two-year course).

We moved back to Ladder Valley in 1995 and built an abattoir (meat processing - domestic and wild game). In the spring of 1997, we started "Raven Ridge Bison" with the arrival of 12 heifers and a bull. The herd and our farm have grown over the years.

I've been employed with Weyerhaeuser the past two years, training and working various jobs mostly on the weekend shifts.

Big River and the Ladder Valley community are great places to live. Even the step-kids who have grown and scattered and the two grand-girls Kristina and Kayla, enjoy coming to visit the farm.

Crashley, Ron and Amanda (Panter)

Ron Crashley and Amanda (Panter).
Back Row: Amanda, Ron. Front row: Chelsey, Britney, Dylan.

Ronald Dean Crashley was the fifth child born to Ken and Bertha Crashley. He was born on July 9, 1962, and took all his schooling in Big River. Ron started working at the mill in 1979 and still works there as a millwright. In June of 2004, he received his twenty-five years of service award.

Ron married Myrna Young in 1986 and they lived at Erinferry for a few years. It was then that Chelsey Dawn was born on May 20, 1988. They then moved to Ladder Valley to the SE 26-55-7-W3rd. Myrna passed away on April 21, 1989.

On July 31, 1993, Ron married Amanda Panter. Amanda is the eldest of six children born to Doug and Kathy Panter. She took her schooling in Big River and after one year of University, she moved back home and started working at Panter Agencies Ltd.

Amanda and Ron added to their family with the birth of their son, Dylan James on June 9, 1994, and their daughter Britney Rhian Mai on June 9, 1998. They continue to live in Ladder Valley and all the children go to school in Big River.

Cromartie, Grace

I am the third child of Jim and Georgena Forbes, born December 7, 1941. In 1957, I moved to Prince Albert and the next year married Lester Ross Cromartie. Our children, all born in Prince Albert, are MaryEllen born May 13, 1959; Leslie Elaine born September 6, 1960; Ross James born December 23, 1961; and Todd Dwayne born November 29, 1962.

In 1963, our family moved to Big River where we lived the first winter with my Dad and my four siblings still at home. In the spring we bought the old house I grew up in and lived in it until we built a new house in 1967 on the same property.

I was a stay-at-home Mom, baby-sitting other children in my home until all my children were in school. My first job was summer relief at the hospital. For the next six years, I worked at Yurach's IGA as well as casual hours at the hospital. During this time, I also began taking school children from the North into my home. Altogether, eleven of them lived with us.

One summer I delivered CN freight for my dad, who was ill at the time. We rented and ran the Chicken Koop for six months and I also ran the theatre for many years. About then my marriage ended and I decided to continue my education in several ways: Grade 12 GED, a typing course, a meat-cutting course, and a bookkeeping course. I then kept books for J and S Hair Care, Big River Community Centre, and 5 G Enterprises. I also served as treasurer for the First United Church and the Steering Committee for the Nursing Home. I was the first President of the Board of Lakewood Lodge and was also town councillor for 14 years.

At the hospital, over the years I moved from casual to half-time and then to full time in 1973. While working, I took the Home Care/Special Care Aide course over two years, finishing in 1999. By then arthritis caused me to go on disability to wait for and then have both hips replaced. There were complications, but I was deemed fit for work and returned in December of 2001. I struggled to do the job, but after six months I simply could not. Neither could I maintain my house and property any longer - I sold it to my granddaughter and her husband. By then I had a relationship of some years with George Vols, and we decided that I should move into his house in Saskatoon. I did so in the fall of 2002. No more big garden! I still enjoy baking and needlework and spending time with family and friends.

MaryEllen married Bernard Gunderson. They live on an acreage near Big River. Their children are Lance Bernard born July 23, 1979, and Crystal Marie born May 20, 1983. Lance married Melanie Weiss and they live in Saskatoon. Crystal married Sheldon Leach. Their children are Tristan Kristopher Hyllestad born Nov 25, 1998, Selina Rae Leach born February 4, 2002, and Mallory Mag Leslie Leach born July 7, 2004.

Leslie married Dwayne Gunderson. They live on an acreage near Prince Albert. Their children are Scott Dwayne born June 20, 1986, and Kelsey Elaine born September 19, 1988.

Ross lives in North Battleford. His son, David Ross Crumley, born November 7, 1985, lives in Prince Albert. His other son, John Ross Cromartie, born April 27, 1995 lives in Saskatoon with his mother, Cheryl (Starblanket) Cromartie.

Todd lives in Fort St. John, British Columbia with Tina Laliberte. His children are Tyler Dwayne born Apri16, 1983; Travis Dwight born Apri12, 1985; Karah Ann born June 24, 1986; Trevor Dean born March 20, 1990 (their mother is Kathy Sieben); and Zoe-laine Janelle Girard born March 18, 1993 (her mom is Leah Girard).

Tina's children are Bradley Curtis McConnell born April 5, 1989, and Amanda Rae McConnell born July 16, 1991. At present, Todd, Tina, Trevor, Bradley and Amanda live together.

Crumley, Cindy Lou

Submitted by Lorraine Forbes

Cindy, 1986.
Cindy Crumley, 1986.

Cindy was born on July 23, 1961. Cindy went to Big River in March 1991 for a visit with Ross Cromartie. A few months later, Cindy moved there from Regina. Cindy and Ross first lived in Don Forbes' house. Cindy loved children so had no problems getting babysitting jobs. She worked at the bar for a while, but she found it too stressful so had to quit. Cindy and Ross had broken up already, when on November 7, 1985, Cindy became a single parent. David Ross Crumley was born at the Shellbrook Hospital. At that time, Cindy was renting a house across the street from Grace Cromartie whom she called "my other mom". She was proud of her little home.

Cindy was a very gullible city girl. She would believe anything anyone would tell her. She believed there were such things as ice worms. She went up-town once to buy a left-handed screwdriver and another time went looking for a skyhook.

In June 1986, Cindy started work at Lakewood Lodge in Big River as a Special Care Aide. She put in many extra hours that year to complete the Special Care Aide Course. She loved her work. She served on the town council for one year (1991-1992).

Cindy had always made it clear that she loved country and western music. She would sing and play her guitar whenever the opportunity arose. In early 1986, Cindy originated the band that was later named Rivertown. She was very dedicated, loyal, and believed in this band. They cut one tape (Cindy had written some of these songs) and had hoped to do another one in the fall of 1994. Cindy put her all into her music whether it was when she was alone or with the band. The residents of the Lodge enjoyed the show when Cindy dressed up like a leprechaun and played and sang Irish songs for St. Patrick's Day. Cindy got a lot of pleasure and satisfaction out of writing her songs. She wrote a special song and sang it for Robert and Susan Anderson at their wedding. Cindy donated a lot of her time and talent for various fundraisers.

Cindy was always ready to lend a hand. She didn't always know what she was doing but she was willing to help and did it the best she could. Cindy was independent, self-confident, determined to succeed at whatever she was doing, had an outgoing personality, and had the gift of the gab. Cindy had a great sense of humour. She enjoyed telling jokes, but could rarely get them right, and she had the ability to be able to laugh at herself.

Cindy met Claude Paquette from Leoville at a rodeo in August 1990 and they started dating in December. Claude was a divorced man with two sons that lived with him. Sarah Dawn Crumley was born on April 2, 1992. In July 1992, Cindy, David, and Sarah moved to Leoville, expanding her family to include Claude, Tyler, and Bradley.

Life for Cindy was even busier. She had a man to care for, four children, a big house, one part-time job in Big River, one casual job in Spiritwood for awhile, her music, and getting involved with her new family and community. She was also on two work-related committees, one with the Staff Advisory Group of the Parkland Health District and the other as chairperson of the CUPE local. She was a very busy woman.

Cindy passed away on July 9, 1994, on the way to do what she loved. She died in a two-car accident just on the outskirts of Leoville. Her band was participating in a jamboree at Rabbit Lake that weekend. We were fortunate to have Cindy as part of our Forbes/Cromartie Family for those 13 years.

UPDATE: of Cindy's children:

David was eight years old when his mom died. He continued to live with his family in Leoville and was quite active in school and the Catholic Church. He moved in with his grandmother, Grace Cromartie, at the end of December 2000 and went to school the rest of that year in Big River. The next year David went to school in Prince Albert, living with his aunt and uncle, Leslie and Dwayne Gunderson, for one and one-half years and is now living with the family of a school friend. He is seventeen years old and completing his Grade Twelve at Carlton Comprehensive High School. He works occasional part-time jobs. David plays the base guitar and is just starting to learn to play a handheld drum.

Sarah was two years old when her mom died. She is now eleven years old, in Grade Six, and living with her Dad at Leoville. Her name has been legally changed to Sarah Dawn Paquette. She is very active in school, sports, and music. Sarah has taken piano lessons for a while and has just recently started taking singing lessons. David and Sarah are still a part of the extended Forbes/Cromartie family.

Cummings Family
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979

The Cummings family moved here in 1949, from Blaine Lake. Mr Cummings was a bank manager and opened the Bank of Commerce in that year. Mr Cummings, his wife, and two daughters made their home here until they were transferred back to Blaine Lake in 1952.

Shirley Cummings married Dr James Forward and they live in Calgary with their two sons. Lois married Floyd Lillies and they operate a building supply business in Nakush, where they reside with their two sons and daughter.

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"Date Modified: March 25, 2024."

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