Hans Grimmler came from Germany in 1926 with his mother, Martha. His father, John, had arrived in Canada a year earlier and established a home in Big River. John Grimmler took a job cutting and loading cordwood for the Power Plant in Prince Albert.
The Grimmlers moved to a homestead and Hans later farmed this land. Hans also trapped, and worked for the Timber Board. He still resides in Big River.
Mr. Albert Gustafson.
Mr. Gustafson came to Canada from Sweden, for he had heard about the prosperous new lands where settlers could become rich. In 1910, he arrived in Big River to help lay the foundation for the sawmill. He sent for his family in 1911 and took a homestead in Canwood. Mr. and Mrs. Gustafson had three children. Their daughter Viola (Swanson), is still living in Big River.
Jack and Raty Hackett.
Jack Hackett came to Big River in 1927. His wife, Raty, and daughter Jean, followed in 1928. Mr. Hackett worked for the D.N.R. in Big River and other northern Saskatchewan points until the mid-thirties. He then worked as a bookkeeper in Big River until the outbreak of World War Two.
Mrs. Hackett did first aid nursing before there was a hospital in Big River, and often assisted Dr. Afanasieff. Jack was a veteran of World War One. In fact, he met and married Raty while overseas; Raty was a nurse in the War. With the onset of World War Two, Mr. Hackett went east and joined the army. He served in the R.C.A.S.C. in Montreal. He later retired in Halifax and died in 1974. Raty stayed in Big River until 1960, at which time she moved to Prince Albert. Jean joined the Air Force, met and married Jerry Miller. They have two children, Anne and Jerry, Jr.
Mr. and Mrs. O. Haefey.
The Owen Haefey family came to Big River from Maniwaki, Quebec in 1910 with two children, Hilery age five and Basil age three.
Mr. Haefey was camp foreman of Camp No.1 directly across the lake from the present townsite. This was the first logging camp.
Two more children were born in Big River, Jack and Gilbert. The family left in 1922 when the lumber company moved out after the fire which depleted all the timber supply.
Mr. and Mrs. Haefey, along with Hilery and Jack are deceased. Gilbert and his family live in Ottawa and Basil lives in Edmonton.
Ellen and James Harrison.
Ellen and James Harrison came to Big River from Prince Albert in 1915 and James worked in the lumber mill. Two daughters were born to them while they were here, Mary Bernice and Charlotte May. The family moved to the United States in 1920.
The first member of the Hartnett family to venture into the Big River area was Gordon, in 1931. The depression was on, and the rest of the family was living in Saskatoon at this time.
The Hartnett farm, located about fifty miles west of Saskatoon had been rented out, but due to drought, dust, and the infestation of grasshoppers, it was totally unproductive.
When Gordon returned from a weekend trip to Big River, bearing a big bag of wild fruit and a lot of enthusiasm for the country, it was decided to move. The Hartnett family moved to Big River in 1932, taking up a homestead a few miles north of town.
Alick and Mary Ellen (Hartnett) McVean were very able gardeners, so as soon as some land was cleared and a log cabin built, a garden was sown. The result was a rewarding harvest.
Gordon, Jim and Hec, along with Les Mithelmore, were successful in building a small sawmill. Logs were cut and hauled by horses and the lumber produced from this small mill went to build a very decent home on the 'Homestead'. This was later to become a regular meeting place for many people and the scene of many good get-togethers.
Gordon by now, was married to Jean Clement of Big River, and was living in town. When he heard news of the gold strike at the 'Goldfields' he could not resist the challenge, so he left Big River. He was later joined by Jean and young son, Morgan. The following year another son, Jack, was born.
Gordon Hartnett passed away in 1969. Jean, Morgan, and Jack make their home in Quesnel, B.C.
Maurice, the eldest brother, never lived at Big River, but he enjoyed coming to Big River on weekends and holidays. He married Ruth Lerox of Saskatoon and they had two sons and one daughter. They retired to Kelowna where Maurice passed away in 1969.
Jack, the third son, had earlier joined the RCMP and was stationed for the most part, in the Yukon. He died by drowning in the Yukon River.
Eileen, the next in line, married Herb Ketchum in Vancouver. They had two sons. Eileen, now widowed lives in Quesnel, B.C.
Jim, the fifth member of the family, stayed on the farm at Big River. In 1962, he became administrator of the Big River Union Hospital. Over a period of time, the demands of his job made maintaining his farm too much and therefore, he moved to town. He is still Administrator of the Hospital.
Jim married Mary Buckingham of Shellbrook. They have four children: Pat, Bob, Larry and Donna.
Hec, the youngest of the Hartnett family, married Walda Brownfield of Big River. They have one daughter, Sharon.
Mr. and Mrs. McVean, in search of a warmer climate, moved to Vancouver in 1942. Alick passed away there, and in 1968, after moving to Quesnel, B.C. Mrs. Hartnett passed away.
Gordon and Ann Herdman.
Submitted by Aileen Daley.
Gordon and Ann Herdman left their farm in the Wenahena district east of Debden in April, 1937. Mr. Herdman and the older girls brought the household contents plus the cattle by team and wagon. Mrs. Herdman and the four younger children came by train. They were met by Therese and Margaret Michel and Mrs. Michel had a hot supper ready for both families.
The Herdmans lived in the Brownfield home near the Catholic Church. The children were surprised to discover that the school was next door to their home; on the farm they had to walk five and one half miles.
Jobs were scarce in 1937 as a result of the depression, so Mr. Herdman worked at many jobs. In the winter he went logging and Mrs. Herdman cooked at the camp.
In 1942, Mr. Herdman joined the Veteran Guards. He was in the army until June, 1945, at which time he took sick and passed away in October of that same year. Mr. Herdman was also a member of the Big River Legion.
Mrs. Herdman and the family remained in Big river, but moved into the Huxtead house on Main Street.
Mrs. Herdman was a seamstress and spent many hours working at her job. She donated many articles to the Anglican Church and the Legion Bazaars.
In the early years, the Herdman home was a meeting place for many of the town children. Being near the school yard, the children would play softball nearly every evening, then ant-i-over, over the old Brownfield barn. In the winter water would be carried and poured on Tower Hill to make it fast sliding.
The Herdmans had milk cows in town, as did many other families. They would all go in a herd and be chased to the outskirts of town in the morning, and in the evening they would be brought back in again. Many a time a cow would be in your yard destroying the flowers and garden. The Herdmans always had plenty of milk and butter, therefore, they would give it to other families, or deliver the milk to the Big River Hotel.
One day the herd of cattle were on the railway tracks and the train was coming. They all managed to get off in time except for one of Herdmans milk cows, 'Old Jenny'. She was struck by the train. The children went running home to tell their parents that Jenny was dead, but by the time they went down to the tracks, they met Old Jenny coming up the hill with only a bruised hip.
Mrs. Michel used to take the Herdman children swimming in the river, and in order to get there they had to cross a bog on old planks. One day, the water level had risen in the bog and on the way home, Mrs. Michel sunk. The children had quite a time getting her out, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Gordon and Ann Herdman had seven children: Mildred (Mrs. C.B. Howard, Victoria, B.C.), Mae (Mrs. R. Halliday, Canwood), Louise (Mrs. V. McBride, Cranbrook, B.C.), Aileen (Mrs. M. Daley, Big River), Phyllis (Mrs. W. Brody, Tisdale), Fred (married June LePage, Prince George, B.C.), and Doug (married Dorothy Hicks, London, Ontario).
Jim and Dorothy Hiltz.
Jim and Dorothy Hiltz, came to the Rapid Bend district from Prince Albert to homestead. Jim had purchased the homestead in 1939, but the Hiltz family did not move north until May, 1945.
They made the journey north by team and wagon, with Jim driving one team and Dorothy driving the other. With them was their seven year old son, Bob. While travelling to their homestead, they were caught in a spring snowstorm near Debden. The temperature dropped and it was necessary for them to stay in Debden for three days. When the weather cleared, they continued travelling. When they reached Bodmin Hill, and Dot saw the fast pace that Jim's team went down the hill she refused to do the same, therefore, Jim had to walk back up the hill and bring the second team down.
They arrived at their homestead along with their personal possessions. With them they had brought a Shetland pony, one goat, a total of six chickens and one rooster and a load of grain. The Hiltz' spent their first winter at Dorothy's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Perry. They lived nearby, which allowed easy access to the homestead. Jim and Dorothy immediately set to work building a log home and clearing some land for a garden. Clearing land was done by hand; Jim would remove the trees while Dot would help by picking roots and stones.
Prior to moving to the homestead, Dorothy had contacted the Fraser family to inquire about a school, therefore, she knew that Bob would be able to receive his grade school education. Bob would ride the small pony to Ladder Valley School, and when the school became too crowded, he started going to the Rapid Bend School. In order to receive his high school education, Bob had to go to Big River and since there was no school bus service, he had to board in town.
During the first year while Jim and Dorothy were on the homestead, they nearly lost their home as a result of a forest fire. As soon as the fire was spotted and was within close proximity of the farm, Jim hitched the team up and made several furrows around the buildings. They spent long hours combating the fire in order to save their home. The horses, frightened by the blaze broke loose, and when Jim finally tracked them down they had gone as far as Park Valley.
Jim and Dorothy purchased some cattle and also had sheep. They would shear the sheep and card the wool, later to be knitted into mitts and socks. Dorothy would can meat and fish, or salt it and store it in the cellar. They also made butter and sold it for twenty cents a pound in Big River. The ladies of the district told Dot that if she put the butter in a box, covered it with a damp tea towel, then rhubarb, it would stay solid during the trip to Big River.
Jim cut cordwood and hauled it to town the first winter. He also worked for one winter in Ben Wahl's lumber camp.
Jim and Dorothy remained on the homestead until 1953, during which time they had their second son, Wendell. In 1953, they moved from the homestead to the "Corner", the land across the road from the school. From 1953 to 1960, Jim and Dot would move to Prince Albert in the winter where Jim would work in the Post Office and then return in the summer where he would be employed at the Big River Nursery. Since 1960, they have remained in Ladder Valley permanently. Jim retired from the Nursery in February, 1977.
Jim and Dot now live on their original homestead, where Jim continues to farm. Their son Wendell and wife Audry are also living in ladder Valley.
Mr. and Mrs. John Hoehn.
In 1934, John Hoehn heard of the many homesteads opening up in Big River. He bought a Model T and started out for Big River from Southern Saskatchewan; the journey was long and tiresome. The old car had no windows and each time it would rain, the vehicle would get soaked inside. He chose his homestead because of the creek running through the property. That spring had been a wet one and a little creek had been formed; it eventually dried up.
Mr. Hoehn built a lean-to and slept under it until his log house was constructed. The neighbours (Reeds), helped skid the logs and build a porch. Mr. Hoehn thought that the homesteaders in the north operated like farmers in the south. He planned to harvest in the south all summer and do chores on the homestead in the winter. However, the people here fished in camps and logged during the winter. Mr. Hoehn was no exception, and began working in the sawmill, fighting fire and freighting.
In 1939, John married Wilhelmina Haberstock in Yorkton and they came back to Big River in the snow of October. The windshield wipers were hand operated and Mrs. Hoehn wore out her gloves turning them. Their first winter was spent at Dore Lake fishing for Nels Edson. However after a few years, Mr. Hoehn did not like the idea of being away from his family from fall until spring. Their son, Mark, would hardly recognize his father each year after the freighting was over.
After a bad year when the wheat froze so bad that the chickens wouldn't even eat it, Mr. Hoehn sold his homestead to Richard Warriner and bought the dray. Mr. Hoehn had a team of horses, a sleigh and a plough; he used these to haul ice for water and to plough gardens in the summer. With the mill operating and paying stable wages, the dray business was used for transporting the produce. However, later the roads to the community opened up and trucks began to haul the freight. The dray could not compete against this and its importance diminished.
Mr. Hoehn began selling insurance, worked as secretary for the hospital, was a member of council, was appointed Justice of the peace, was subunit trustee for Shell lake school unit, and served as Notary Public. Mr. Hoehn is a twenty-five year member of the Elks, and thirteen of these years he served as secretary-treasurer.
Mr. and Mrs. Hoehn had four children and are still residing in this community. Mr. Hoehn retired in 1976.
Rupert and Anna Holmer.
Rupert and his cousin, Hans Fieldmier, decided to come to Canada because living conditions and opportunities following World War I, were very poor in Germany. They arrived in Big River in the spring of 1926 and stayed at the home of Max Eisman for a while. They earned their living by cutting cordwood for one dollar per cord and paid thirty-five cents for meals. Rupert remembers the hoards of mosquitoes that swarmed around as they worked in the bush. Firefighting for the Department of Natural Resources brought two dollars and twenty-five cents a day and Rupert spent some time at this job. Then he worked for John Waite on a farm, as well as fishing and freighting. Wages were low, but Rupert managed to save enough money for a steamship ticket and his brother Frank sailed over and stayed in Big River about twelve years.
Rupert worked for the IC Fish Company in the warehouse; he remembers it being so cold that the breath of the workers would cling to the roof forming frost and icicles. He remembers working with Bill Young, Fred Buckley, Ted Wychodezew, and Bill Kaese, along with many others.
In 1929, Rupert decided to marry a girl from Germany and expressed his wish in a newspaper back home. He said he received several answers; from them he chose Anna, and a very happy choice it was! Having sailed from Straubing, Anna arrived in Saskatoon where Rupert had agreed to meet her.
They had decided that she would put a red rose on her suitcase so he would recognize her. They were married in Saskatoon, March, 1929. They came to Big River and shortly after bought the land on which they are still living. They raised a family of five. Rita died a few years ago of cancer; Oma, Ursula, Ruth and Charlie are well known in our district, having spent all their childhood here.
Rupert worked for Waite Fisheries hanging nets for some time and then as a scaler for the Saskatchewan Timber Board. The Holmers are now retired and are enjoying their home and beautiful grounds.
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hunt.
The Hunt family came to Big River in June of 1932, from Saskatoon. The Hunts lived in Big River for two months, then moved to a homestead in Bodmin. Here, Mr. and Mrs. Hunt and family lived in a tar paper shack until their log cabin was constructed. They started farming with one cow and a team of horses. Land was broken by three oxen. The Hunts spent most of their lives in the Bodmin area and have five children: Timothy, Arthur, Alfred, George and Allen. Arthur and Alfred are still living in the Bodmin District.
Goldie and Pete Hyllestad.
Goldie and Pete Hyllestad were married in 1929; they had two sons, Olaf and Andrew. They homesteaded in the Lake Four District. Here, they turned their cattle loose to graze freely on the surrounding area. Once a week a truck came to empty cream cans and take the fresh cream.
Peter became the chairman for the school board and remained so until his death in 1951. Another school had to be constructed, because the old one could not provide sufficient room for the forty children who arrived in the district.
In the summer, Goldie would plant long rows of sunflowers for feeding her hens. In mid-December, she would hitch up the team and wagon, drive in to Big River and tie her team to the hitching post south of O.P Godin's. At the store, she would sell her eggs for fifty cents a dozen.
The old log house they lived in still stands in Andrew's yard. Fire precautions had to be taken every spring because often timber fires would sweep through to destroy the homesteads.
By a previous marriage, Goldie Hyllestad had five children; Denise, Lenard, Willard, Opal, and Thelma. They homesteaded at Shellbrook after coming to Canada from the United States in 1921.
Goldie remembers picking many raspberries and canning one hundred and fifty quarts a year. Goldie still lives in Big River.