Mr. and Mrs. Bittman.
Mr. and Mrs. Chris Bittman arrived in the Big River district in 1939, moving here from Athabasca Lake. They homesteaded on land south west of town and still own the farm. Mrs. Bittman remembers the farmers having to cut their own roads into their new homes. It was hard work and just one chore among many that the new settlers had to attend to. During the cold winter months, the children were taken to Big River to school by horse and sleigh. The team was left, until after school was out, in a barn provided for their shelter. The family had to pay a fee to have their children attend the town school as there was no school district out where they homesteaded. The Bittmans had four children: Rosella (Teer), Elnore (Lueken), Lorraine (Klitch), and Edwin. Mrs. Haas, mother of Mrs. Bittman, came to Big River in 1934 with her son Fred. The Depression had hit them hard and they lost their farm in Bruno, so they moved north and homesteaded here until 1957. Mrs. Haas later moved into town and lived with her daughter until her death.
Mrs. Haas and Mrs. Bittman by house with spinning wheel.
John and Theresa Bogner.
John and Teresa Bogner came from Germany to Big River in 1930. After arriving in Canada, they travelled to Big River in a passenger train and since neither John or Theresa were able to speak English, they were unable to communicate with the other passengers on the train. Once they arrived in Big River and established their home, John worked as a fisherman up north during the winter months, and spent the summer harvesting crops in the south.
In 1929, John filed on a homestead and in May, 1930, they moved to their farm in the Ladder Valley district. There were buildings already situated on the farm, but these were in desperate need of cleaning and repair. John and Theresa walked out from Big River three times to prepare their new home.
The Bogners didn't have any machinery or livestock. In order to obtain a cow they had to clear four acres of land. This had to be done with only the help of axes. To obtain a horse they had to cut fifteen cords of wood, however, the horse they bought was old and died that same winter.
During the summer months, John would harvest in the south. He returned to the same farm for five years and was fortunate enough to receive three pieces of old equipment from this man.
Mrs. Bognar can remember the house parties that they would have every Saturday night. They would walk to the neighbours with the lantern and enjoy listening and dancing to the old gramophone, or the accordion and guitar played by one of the neighbours.
In 1965, Mr. Bognar passed away. Mrs. Bognar remained on the farm for three more years to work the farm with the help of her son, Johnny.
Mrs. Bognar went to British Columbia and stayed there for six years. She was remarried to Mr. Feldmeir and when he passed away, she returned to Big River in 1975. Mrs. Feldmeir still lives in the town of Big River.
Henri and Desnieges Bouchard.
Henri Bouchard was born in 1889 in La Toque, Quebec. He started working for his father at a very early age and later took a job on the railroad.
In April, 1911, Henri's father, Joseph, and his brother Horace arrived in Big River and took positions offered by the Lumber Company. In July of the same year, the rest of the family followed. Two years later, the entire family with the exception of Henri, moved to Shell River (now Victoire), where they farmed.
Henri remained in Big River and worked for the lumber Company until the early twenties, when he purchased a blacksmith shop. His shop and his home were located on the corner across from O.P. Godin's Store.
Henri worked for many years shoeing horses, making tools, repairing sleighs, fixing harnesses and renovating wagons. In the late twenties and early thirties, Henri slowly converted his blacksmith shop into a garage and also installed gas pumps. Henri, although now a mechanic, continued to use his blacksmith talents. He worked with iron, creating fancy plant stands and iron crosses used for grave markers. In fact, the iron cross on the Catholic Church was made and donated by Mr. Bouchard. Henri remained in business until 1937, when he retired due to a back injury. He spent the last thirty years of his life in a wheelchair.
In 1922, Henri married Desnieges Thibeault, daughter of George and Mary Thibeault. They had six children. The oldest daughter died at six months, Therese (Mrs. Kazmiruk), Rita (Mrs. Jack Olson), Yvette (Mrs. Hyatt), Roland and Marcel. Theresa and Rita reside in Big River. Desnieges Bouchard passed away in 1972 and Henri in 1976.
Horace was born in La Tuque, Quebec and lived in Lac St. Jean before coming to Big River with his father Joseph Bouchard in 1911. The family, consisting of Joseph's mother, Henri, Alice, Alma, Victor, Alfred and Armand, came out two months later.
The men worked in the lumber camps and also in the company mill. Horace, well known as Pete, took a barbering course. He married a school teacher in 1920. Pete and his wife lived in Shell River for a year and then came to Big River. He bought a Pool Hall and Barber Shop in 1922.
Mrs. Bouchard taught school in Big River and became one of our well known teachers. They had a daughter, Irene, who later became Mrs. William Clarke. Mrs. Bouchard passed away in 1960, Pete in 1972 and Irene in 1973.
Dr. Herbert Frank Boyce.
Dr. Herbert Frank Boyce was born in India. His father was an Engineer, employed in India, building bridges for Britain. His reason for coming to Canada was merely for adventure, and this was partially fulfilled when he served as a scout in the Riel Rebellion under the supervision of Middleton. In 1884, he was appointed as Lay-reader in the Church of England by Bishop Anson of Qu'Appelle. He served under several Bishops before retirement.
Dr. Boyce had a practise while living in Victoria, B.C. but after his wife died he moved east to Big River, Saskatchewan. He spent his summer vacation in a cottage at Ladder lake. He was impressed by the location and the surrounding area, therefore, he bought a cabin and property from Mr. Figeland. He purchased a second cabin that had been hauled from Otter Lake and spent time repairing and renovating the buildings to suit him. Here , he found great solace and quietness. He made it his home where his children and grandchildren could come and spend their vacations.
Dr. Boyce built a ping pong pavilion and had ping pong tournaments which were enjoyed by many people.
Dr. Boyce had many interesting hobbies which included a noted stamp collection. His greatest hobby was one of making walking sticks. His collection was extensive as it included over three hundred canes. Some of his more outstanding ones were made of glass and corn, while others could be converted into a chair, an umbrella and a sword. His collection was unique and therefore it intrigued many people.
When the campers and occupants of the cottages had gone from Ladder Lake, Dr. Boyce named the property "Eden Health Resort". Dr. Boyce was of the reasoning that life is what you make it, full of fresh occurrences. Happy is the man who can enjoy it all and keep well. Many people came to the Resort when the opportunity and space allowed.
Dr. Boyce would leave the solitude of the cabin for the winter months and then return in the spring. He would be busy with planting a garden, berry picking, boating and swimming, going on country drives, and visiting with people who came to his health resort.
Dr. Boyce passed away in December, 1952. He is survived by two sons and two daughters.
The Eden Health Resort with Dr. Herbert Frank Boyce.
Louis and Viola Bradley.
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 and lived on mostly 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, which is now known as Bradley's Bay.
Louis then 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 to move their worldly possessions. Mr. Bale, Viola's father, built a box-like structure around one of the mattresses, he 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 roomed 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. Ray's 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.
A number of 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, then later opened a shoe repair shop. He also worked at the mill for a number of years.
When they retired, Mr. and Mrs. Bradley moved back to the homestead where they lived until Mr. Bradley died in 1977. Mrs. Bradley has 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.
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 he also remained here all of his life, taking an active role in the community throughout the years.
Ernest Brownfield was born in Latvia, Europe and came to Canada as a young man. He found his way to Prince Albert around 1900 and while there, he became interested in the north country with its potential opportunities in fishing and trapping. With the rugged spirit of a true pioneer, he made a trip with oxen over the old Hudson Bay Trail and arrived at Stoney Lake where he proceeded to fish. He soon realized the possibilities of the fine fresh water fish in the northern lakes. In 1905, Mr. Brownfield decided to take another trip into this area and, accompanied by Dave Overly and a Mr. McKnight, they travelled again by oxen and arrived at what was to become Big River. Fishing and trapping were the main purpose of the trip and visits were made to several of the outlying northern 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, bringing in supplies and hauling fish out.
Mr. and Mrs. E.C. Brownfield with children Aleda and baby Oscar, 1913.
By 1910, Mr. Brownfield was firmly settled into the community and sent for his family in Boston to join him. His wife, Minna, a daughter Aleda, and son Carl, along with Mrs. Brownfield's mother, Mrs. Dozenberg, made the journey and arrived to make their home here. At that time, the Lumber Company completely owned the town site and no one could find land on which to build unless they were employed by the company. As a fisherman, trapper and freighter, Mr. Brownfield didn't fall into this category so was forced to build his log cabin home on the outskirts of the settlement.
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 brought a lease in Mr. Brownfield's favour and he was able to build on public reserve. They built a large store and living quarters and operated this successfully for many years - a landmark to determination and resourcefulness. In 1925, the Brownfields built the hotel, naming it the Lakeview. Mrs. Brownfield was well known for her hotel management and excellent cooking which was served to all guests. Many minute books of years ago record a vote of thanks to Mrs. Brownfield for meals she had cheerfully donated to various guests such as student ministers or special speakers staying at the hotel. If the treasuries ran short to pay such bills, all too often it was Mrs. Brownfield who said she would cancel her bill and vote that others be paid instead. When electricity first arrived in town, travelling shows (usually missionary films) were shown in the large dining room of the hotel as few places could supply electric power.
Mr. Brownfield had six children: Aleda and Carl and the four youngest born after moving to Big River: Oscar, who was killed while in active service with the R.C.A.F. and who was one of the first children born to settlers of the district, Meta, Walda and John. Only Carl's wife, Guilda (Gilbert) Brownfield still resides in Big River.
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 Buchanans had six children: Velda, Calvin, Bob, Phyllis, Lorne and Margarete.
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.
Olive and Roland Burt
Excerpts submitted by Lawrence Burt.
In 1934, Mr. and Mrs. Roland Burt decided to move to the Big River district. The economic depression and the devastating drought drove them north. The Burts were married in 1929 in Saskatoon, and had three children when they moved here: Donalda Marie, Lawrence, and Murray. Olive's parents (Mr. and Mrs. Reed) had established a homestead in the Greenmantle district and had encouraged the Burts to follow.
Roland shipped all but twelve head of cattle by train to Winnipeg before the move. His brother, Harry, shipped enough to make up the rest of the cattle car load. Instead of receiving a monetary return, they received a bill for eight dollars to cover the cost of freight that was still due after the sale.
Mr. Burt loaded all their belongings onto the hay rack and headed out. After leaving his wife and three children at Turtleford, Roland continued the journey to Big River. Later, Mrs. Burt and family boarded the train and rode to Bodmin where they were met by Grandpa Reed with a team and wagon. They were immediately introduced to the wagon trails through peat swamps. Mr. Reed had built a one room log shack. There was no floor and only one small window. This shack was to lodge the family for one year, while homesteader bees built several houses and barns in the Greenmantle Community.
There was no community church, but the Burt family was taught Sunday school lessons by their father every Sunday.
All homesteaders had one hundred and sixty acres of bush, swarms of insects, no fences to contain cattle, and weather that was often extreme. Clearing the land, picking tree roots and stones was hard work, but very necessary for every farmer.
Elmer, Ruth, David, Richard, and Barbara were born to the Burts while in Big River.
Mr. Burt received a shoulder injury from the First World War. Often he would severely pull the tissue in this area and would have to be confined to bed. At this time, the children would cope with the chores on the homestead.
The Burt children received correspondence courses from the government before the Greenmantle School opened up.
The family was given a radio by Grandpa Burt in 1941. Roland got a large world map and placed it on the wall over the radio. This served as a means of education and interest.
By 1943, the Burts had twenty-five acres of land under cultivation. They had about four horses, five milk cows, twenty head of cattle, one hundred hens, and twenty pigs. They lost some horses due to disease and old age. This loss was always an obvious expense as it cost eighty to one hundred and forty dollars to replace a horse.
When the Greenmantle School opened, Mrs. Burt was hired for the teacher. However, the pay was unpredictable. The only hope of a salary was a grant from the provincial government. This money was received fifteen months after school had opened.
In 1949, the Burt family moved to town and Mrs. Burt returned to teaching at the Big River School.
Roland Burt passed away in 1960, Olive Burt died in July of 1971, one month after retiring.
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Caisse.
Joseph Caisse came from Charlo, New Brunswick to Big River in 1911. While in Big River he worked at the sawmill for two years, and in 1913 he bought a homestead.
In 1919, Anna Gallant came to Big River from Moncton, New Brunswick.
Joseph and Anna were married in 1921. They lived in Big River for one year, then moved to the homestead in 1922. Six children were born to the Caisses, two boys and four girls. Mr. and Mrs. Caisse remained on the farm until 1951 and then moved back into Big River.
Edward and Bella Cassey.
Mr. "Ned" Cassey (as he was called) arrived at Bodmin in 1921 from New Brunswick. In 1927, he married Bella Corbiel and they had eight children, all of whom were born in Bodmin: Juillette, Doreen, Lucoene, Eugene, Annette, Marcel, Louis and Roland. Louis and Eugene are still living in the Bodmin district. In 1956, Ned and Bella moved from Bodmin to Prince Albert and Ned passed away in 1976. Bella is still living in Prince Albert (1978).