Jim and Pamela Sweeny.Mr. Sweeny, an Irishman from Ontario, came to Big River around 1910 in search of work. He took a job at the mill, hauled fish, freighted in the winter and farmed at Delaronde. He married Pamelia Ethier who had come to Big River with her family from Domremy in 1910. They raised a family of five and three of their children still reside in Big River: Bill, Gladys (Schmidt), and Irene (Martin). Mr. Bill Sweeny grew up in Big River and spent his life working in our town. He has worked at Waites, fished, logged, packed fish and farmed. In 1976, he married Mrs. Roth, and they still reside in our Community.
George and Mary Thibeault.
In 1910, George and Mary Thibeault arrived in Big River from Montmanie, Quebec. George moved to Big River to work for the prosperous Lumber Company. He then homesteaded at Stoney Lake, moving to town a few years later. While living in Big river, George was employed at various jobs, and among these was a bakery at O.P. Godin's Store.
George and Mary raised their family in Big River and lived here until their deaths in 1951 and 1952. Their children were Jean-George, still residing in Big River, Emile, Albert, Desnieges and Joseph.
Mr. and Mrs. Michael Thibeault.
Mike came to this district in 1919 and in 1920 married Ella Schofield from Liverpool, England. They farmed in the Delaronde area for several years, moving across the lake in 1936, south and east of Grassy Island which was across from the Government Dock. They operated a sawmill and made fish boxes for Waite Fisheries Ltd. They moved to town in 1955.
Fifteen children were born to them, ten boys and five girls. Two died in infancy. Six of the family now live in British Columbia: Doris, Harry, Bud, George, Ken, and Bob. Four live in Alberta: Peggy, Liz, Ron, and Tilly. Two still live in this community: Norman and Pat (Mrs. T.D. Michel). John was killed in action during the Second World war.
John Thompson came to Big River from Dafoe, Saskatchewan in 1924. He spent several years fishing and trapping at Dore Lake before moving to Big River. He married Grace Blanchette in 1934 and in 1937, they bought a farm in the Stoney Lake District and raised mink. Mink ranching became Mr. Thompsons occupation and for the next twenty years he lived and worked on the fur farm. In 1957, he moved to Buffalo narrows where he continued to raise mink until his retirement in 1974. He chose to spend his remaining years in Big River and resides here today.
The Thompsons raised a family of five boys, their names are as follows: Fred, Stewart, Howard, Jack and Ronnie. Fred and Ronnie are both professional boxers. Fred held the Provincial Middleweight Championship for two consecutive years. After Fred retired from boxing, he became interested in politics and for the last several years he has held the position of M.L.A. for the Athabasca Constituency.
Walter Traill Family.
Mr. and Mrs. Walter Traill moved from McDowell to Big River in 1912 with their family of seven children. Mr. Traill became manager of the Ladder lake Company store where he worked until 1917. After the death of his father in that year, he moved to the family farm at Meskanaw. Mrs. Traill died in Victoria in 1948. Mr. Traill died in Garrick in 1957. Their family consisted of the following: Dougal, the oldest son, was employed at the railway station until he joined the army in 1916. He was awarded the Military Medal. He was killed in action in 1918.
Harry, the second son, worked as a filer in the sawmill until he too joined the army. He was wounded, but served again in World war II, He died in Victoria, where his widow and four children still live. Evelyn married Reverend Douglas Andrews, who died in 1957. Evelyn now lives in Victoria.
Katie married William Tatty who farmed at Garrick where she still lives. Her husband died in 1963. Edna married Reginald Kirk of Plenty, Saskatchewan. He died in 1978 and Edna still resides in Plenty. William homesteaded at Garrick. Jessie married Percy McKay and they homesteaded at Garrick. Florence, who was born in Big river, married Bishop Walter Bird who died in 1939. Florence Died in Victoria in 1974. Roland, also born in Big River, served in the Second World War and later farmed at Plenty, Saskatchewan. He died in 1977.
Thomas and Mary Tremblay.
Thomas Tremblay came to Big river in 1911 to join his son Joseph who had a store at Eldred. He purchased a large house from the priest, Fr. Gagne and sent for the rest of his family who were at Lac St. Jean, Quebec. His wife, Mary, and children, Elizior, Alma, Gaudoise, Anna Marie, Lorenzo and Augustine came by train in 1912. Joseph filed on one of the earliest homesteads in this district. He later sold this land to Paul Dube.
The Tremblays found they could not get the title to the land on which their house stood so decided to move to a homestead just south of town on ladder Lake. They operated a small milk route for a time and the boys fished and freighted as well as farmed. During the 1940s, Thomas and Mary moved back into town to retire. They lived in the house where the bus depot is at present.
Joseph, Elizior and Anna Marie (Lavign) moved from the district many years ago, but Gaudoise, 'Gus' and Alma (Mrs. Michel) remained and are well known pioneers of the district. Thomas is buried in the Big river Cemetery and Mary passed away in Victoria. Gaudoise, Gus and Lorenzo are now living in Port Alberni, B.C., where they are retired. They still enjoy coming back to Big River to visit old friends.
Mr. and Mrs. Vold.
The Vold family came to Big river June 1, 1932. They lived in an old log house for the summer and in the fall they moved into Brownfield's old store. They paid eight dollars a month for rent. About a year later, Mr. Vold made a deal with Mr. Figeland for a house across from the station.
The Volds had a truck and took many homesteaders across the forestry for berry picking in the summer. Mr. Vold also had a livery while in Big river. He had two driving horses and a caboose built on a sleigh, and with this, he used to drive the RCMP Officer, Joe Sixsmith, Mr. Potter, the Homestead Inspector, Dr. Afanasieff and the Anglican Minister.
The Vold Children all received their education in Big River. Their names are: Donald, Kathleen, June, Godfrey, May, and Luella. The Vold family lived in Big River for approximately fourteen years. Mr. Vold passed away in 1952. Mrs. Vold passed away in September, 1978 at Calgary.
The Vold family.
The Waite Family.
Mr. and Mrs. John Waite with their family of three children, Leonard, Kathleen and Edna, came to Canada from Nottingham, England in the year 1913. They came to Zealandia where Mr. Waite had three brothers in the Zealandia area. They helped with farm work and in 1915, moved to Saskatoon. Mr. Waite was employed at the J.F. Cairns store (now Hudson Bay store) and Leonard at F.R. MacMillan Store (now Avenue Building).
A daughter, Victoria, was born in Saskatoon. In the fall of 1916, the family came to Big River where Mr. Waite had taken up a homestead about eight miles north of town. Mr. Waite and Leonard worked for a time in the then existing lumber mill and during the winter were engaged in fishing.
Mr. Waite was very active in the community; he was one of the group of The Big River development Company, which formed at the time the lumber company was dismantled and moved away. He also served on council for some years after Big River was incorporated as a Village. He was one of the first on the Anglican Church Board, then known as St. Mary's Mission.
In later years, Mr. Waite sold his homestead and resided on a farm north and just out of Big River town limits. As it was a wooded area, many days were spent in clearing the land. Mr. Waite passed away in 1943.
Leonard, when not in school, helped his father on the farm. He also fished in winter. he built the fish business up over the years into a thriving industry. For some years, Leonard owned Big River Light and Power, supplying the community with electrical energy. Connected with the fish business he bought several planes and Northern Airlines was incorporated. This company was later purchased by the government as was Big River Light and Power Company. Leonard was Chief Flying Instructor at the Elementary Flying School in Prince Albert during the Second World war.
Leonard married Martha Meyers of Rosthern, who came to Big river as a school teacher in 1925. They have one daughter, Lenora, and one son, Richard. Leonard passed away in 1964, and the business is being carried on by the wife and son Richard.
Kathleen (Kathy) had returned to England with an uncle shortly after coming to Canada and due to unforseen circumstances, she remained in England for several years, making her home with her paternal grandparents. She came back to Canada in 1926. Later, she married Siegfried Kreszny, a salesman out of Winnipeg. She died in 1960. Her mother predeceased her in 1949. Daughter, Edna, passed away during infancy while the family was in Zealandia. Victoria married Lloyd Morrison of Glenavon, who operated a store in Carrot River and Melfort areas and later made his career in the insurance business. They now make their home in Portland, Oregon.
Gordon and Albretta Walker.
Gordon and Albretta Walker came to Bodmin in 1926. he taught school for two years in Bodmin, and then came into Big River to teach for another two years. Here, he taught seventy-three students in five grades. Again he went back to Bodmin and taught for another two years. Due to the decrease in wages, Gordon quit his job. His successor received three hundred dollars a year, and the wages dropped so low that she could not collect enough for her fifteen dollar monthly rent.
Gordon took a homestead at Bodmin. During his farming career, he raised cows and pigs and planted his crops. At times, he worked up to sixteen or eighteen hours a day.
Mr. Walker remembers taking an old Model T motor, fixing it, and constructing it so that it would run a saw at one end of a belt, and a grain grinder at the other. as much as eighteen hundred cords of wood went through it. Mr. and Mrs. Walker had twins, a son Alexander, and a daughter, Evelyn. Mr. Walker resides in Big River today.
Steve and Katherine Wicinski.
Steve and Katherine Wicinski, their son and daughter, Walter and Olga, came from Poland to Canada in 1929. For the first few years, Steve worked on his brother-in-law's farm in Steep Creek, Saskatchewan. In 1931, the Wicinski's purchased a homestead in the ladder Valley area and proceeded to move north.
The first part of their journey was made by truck. They managed to get as far as Eldred, but muddy roads and poor travelling conditions prevented further advancement. At this point, they had to board the train, along with their livestock, in order to get to Big River.
When they got to Big River, they still had the journey to the homestead in front of them. They followed an Indian trail and when they arrived at their new home, all that could be seen was one hundred and sixty acres of bush.
For the first two weeks, the Wicinskis stayed with their neighbours, the Homeniuks, while a home was being built. Mr. Wicinski had brought one hundred and fifty dollars with him, which was soon gone after purchasing windows and doors for his house.
For the first winter, the Wicinskis lived on snared rabbits. They would eat the hind quarters and then the front part was chopped up and fed to the chickens, since there was no grain for them. Mrs. Wicinski flavoured the meat with onions and garlic in order to provide some kind of variety.
Mr. and Mrs. Wicinski opened the land by hand, using only an axe and grub hoe. Steve secured some wheat seed and at harvest time he cut the small crop with a knife. All the hay for their livestock was cut with a scythe.
The Wicinskis also had the problem of a language barrier. Their neighbour, Fred Gallagher, had two children, and when Steve's son, Walter, would go over to play with the children he was forced to speak English. Within three days, Walter was able to communicate in the English language. Steve's ability to speak English came during his stay on a farm in southern Saskatchewan. Steve had gone south to help with the harvest and during this time, the owners of the farm helped him with the language.
Mr. and Mrs. Wicinski had five children: Walter, Olga, Annie, Jenny and Mary. Mrs. Wicinski died in later years and then Steve moved into Big River. Walter took over farming on his father's original homestead.
George Wilcox was born in Regina and received his education there. He worked in various locations for several years and farmed for seventeen years before coming to Big River in 1956. He was employed by the Saskatchewan Timber Board at that time and continued to work for this department until the time of his retirement in 1965. Mr. Wilcox worked in bush camps at Dore Lake and throughout the north and later was employed in the Timber Board Office in Big river. Mr. Wilcox is now retired and resides in Big River.
Billy Wilson Family.
Billy, his wife, Sarah, and son Murray, lived in Ontario until a typhoid epidemic broke out. Mrs. Wilson died from this disease. After his wife's death, Billy left Ontario. He took a job with the Ladder Lake Company in Big river. While here, he met Laura Ethier; they were married in 1912.
Mr. and Mrs Wilson worked together in camps. Laura was cook and Billy would log and fish for the camp. Times were hard, and people worked with teams of horses and were thankful to receive fifteen dollars a month for wages. The unemployed received money from the government each month in order to provide for their families. Laura and Billy Wilson made their home in Big River. Billy died in 1968 and Laura in 1975.