George and Francis McKnight.
George worked in the sawmill until 1914 when he enlisted in the army. While posted in England, he married Francis Evritt. They returned to Big River after the war and established their home by the old water tower.
The family later moved to a homestead on Ladder Lake. In 1927, they returned to town and opened a bakery shop where Jezowski's house is now. Freda McKnight (Felt) remembers her mother baking special orders for some of the townspeople. One time Freda and her friend, Nora Barks, were asked to deliver a double loaf of bread to a neighbouring house. The freshly baked loaf looked so inviting that they broke the bread in half and ate the entire centre out. After finishing this, they put the two halves back together and proceeded to deliver it. After an immediate return call from the neighbour, Freda was questioned and promptly punished.
The McKnights operated a liquor board store from 1932 to 1936.
George died in 1937 and after his death, Francis worked at numerous jobs throughout the district. She was very handy and talented with her hands, therefore, she would knit, embroider, washcloths, and bake for the upcoming events in the area.
The McKnights had five children: Fred (Felt), Sam, Marge (Yurach), Viola (Colby), and Bill.
In the early 1900s, Martha and her four children, May, John, George, and Freda, came to Big River from Ontario.
Mrs. McKnight opened a restaurant and ice cream parlour.
This was a very popular stopping place for hungry freighters, trappers, and citizens. Each customer was welcomed with pleasant hospitality and a hearty meal.
Mrs. McKnight lived in Big River until 1930, when she left to stay with her daughter Freda in Turnor Valley.
May received training in Prince Albert and became a nurse. John returned to Ontario. Freda taught school in Big River, and then later moved away from this community.
Duncan and Annie McMillan.
Duncan, Annie McMillan and their children, Henry, Ida, Mary, Violet, Dorothy and Hazel had been farming in the Indian Head district. They sold out and moved to Big River in 1931. Annie had made patchwork quilts to take north with them, from old coats, heavy pants, and odd pieces of blankets. They shipped their things by train as settler's effects, and the family by car.
The family stayed at Ladder lake, living under the trees for two weeks. The children were then taken to Tom Murphy's home while Duncan and Annie went out to the homestead to build a cabin. When complete, the house was twenty-five by forty-two feet. Many dances were held during the next few years in the great log house.
Rita and Irene were both born on the homestead with the assistance of Mrs Fortin and Dr Afanasieff.
Duncan cut ties for John Swanson for one winter and also cooked in the camp. He worked two summers surveying. He went to Deep River and Buffalo Narrows and packed fish for one dollar a day and board. They took carloads of firewood and shipped it to Saskatoon and were paid very little. Duncan remembers that you made your living by the sweat of your brow in those days, but there was a good feeling of togetherness.
The McMillans moved south again in 1937. In one way it was sad to leave, yet there was nothing to stay for. There was no work.
Tony Lueken and his family now live on the original homestead. One can get in touch with the McMillans by writing: Mr Duncan McMillan, Strasbourg, Saskatchewan. S0G 4V0.
Bruce McTaggart came west from Napanee, Ontario in 1910. After he had spent several months in and around Big River, he decided the north country was an ideal place to live and wanted to make his home here. He made a trip back to Ontario to visit his family and while there he married his former girlfriend Georgina Crouse. He brought his wife back to Big River with him and together they made their home and raised a family throughout the hardest times that were to follow. They had three daughters, Mary, Muriel, and Dorothy.
Bruce worked at whatever jobs were available. At one time he was dam keeper at the first dam that was built on Crooked Lake, he also worked on the old riverboat the "Alice Mattes". He worked for a few years at the old airbase at Ladder Lake and eventually started working for the Department of Natural Resources. He continued working for the Department until his retirement in 1962.
His genial disposition won him many friends and in his later years he was looked upon, more or less as an old sage.
The Michel Family.
Charles Michel came to Big River in 1912 from Quebec. He had received his schooling in Boston. For a time he worked in a hotel at La Touque in Quebec and it was there he heard of Big River.
Arriving here in the fall, he was immediately hired as the school principal. In the following years, Charles worked at various jobs, such as blacksmithing, freighting and in the mill.
Charles Michel married Alma Tremblay in the winter of 1913 in Prince Albert. They found living accommodation in a house where the Otte family now resides and remained there for quite several years. Later, they purchased a farm from Arille Morrin at Delaronde lake and moved out there. (Tom Michel lives on the same farm at present.)
Charles and Alma had seven children: twins, Caroline and Thomas Dollard, twins, Albert and Hubert, Phillipe, Theresa and Marguerite. Caroline died at birth. The family was all brought up in Big River. Tommy married Patricia Thibeault, Albert married Gladys Sweeny, Hubert married Mary McInnis, Phillipe married Patricia Clancy, Theresa (Mrs. Vincent Leslie) and Marguerite (Mrs. Myron Olson). Both Hubert and Tommy still make their home in Big River. Mr Michel passed away in 1948 and Mrs Michel in 1974.
John and Catherine Millikin.
John and Catherine had nine children: Bill, Andrew, George, Mary, Cathy, Annie, Jean, Eva, and Jack.
Andrew came from Scotland in 1924 and took up a homestead in Hanley, Saskatchewan. He then signed for the rest of the family to move over from Scotland, which they did, but at different times. Within two years, all the family had left Greenock, Scotland and was living in Hanley. In 1928, they moved to Saskatoon and the children attended school there. John Millikin died in 1930 at Saskatoon. In 1931, Andrew moved to Big River and took up a homestead at South Delaronde Lake. All the unmarried brothers and sisters, and his mother, Catherine, came with him. In the next year, the other married members of the family were also homesteading in the Big River district.
In September 1939, the war was declared. One day after the declaration, George and Bill joined the Canadian Army. Three months later they were sent to England with a minimum of training. They remained overseas for six years. When they returned home they joined the Saskatoon Light Infantry, later on, Bill became a sniper and George joined the Royal Engineers as Sergeant. They spent most of their time in Scotland, England, and Italy.
Andrew and Jack tried to join the army at various times but were rejected, Andrew because of his handicapped hand, and Jack because of poor hearing.
During the war (1940) Andrew and Jack worked at firefighting, cutting and hauling cordwood for a dollar fifty per cord. The cordwood was hauled eight miles into Big River. They did odd jobs at home, and it was during this time that they constructed a log dance hall at Stoney. There, benefit dances were held. Later, the building was to be used as the first school in that district.
In 1941, Jack moved to Big River to work at the sawmill. He boarded at his sister Eva's in town. He did various jobs at the mill; his last was firing the steam engine for the power to cut the logs.
Andrew had also moved into town to work at the mill doing the various jobs there. His last job also was firing the engine.
Jack worked at the mill for three years, and Andrew for one and a half years.
Mother Catherine, Andrew and Jack rented the second floor of the Brownfield residence and lived there for approximately two years.
On September 6, 1944, Jack began a job that would last him until retirement in 1977. Jack began work on the railroad. He was under the direction of section foreman Steve Kowalyk. Steve retired after sixteen years and Jack worked under different foremen for the total of thirty-three years.
In 1945, Doris Hopkins arrived from Outlook, Saskatchewan to teach at the South Stoney School. Upon arrival on the train, Jack met her to take her to her boarding place, which, luckily, happened to be his sister Annie's. Annie lived out at South Stoney so, it wasn't far to walk to school. The dance hall was to act as the school until one could be constructed. Doris had thirty-three pupils. These pupils were from grades one to eight and she had one pupil taking grade nine by correspondence. It was during this first year of teaching that Jack and Doris started their courtship.
Jack was part of the three-piece band that played on the pavilion at South Stoney and later at the one on Ladder lake. Mrs Godin played the piano, Ameede Chamberlain played the drums, and Jack played the banjo and the fiddle. Jack played in the band while he worked at the mill and into the first few years on the railroad. Music was heard coming off the pavilions every Saturday night from early spring to late fall. They played at other dances in town also. Many wedding, Elk, Legion and benefit dances were held. Sometimes they played up to three dances a week. A few years later when Mrs Godin decided to quit, she asked Doris to take on the job as pianist.
Andrew moved to Canwood to work at the Municipal Affairs Office for a few years then move back to the homestead in Big River.
Jack and Doris were married on July 17, 1946, and they had their first child, Janice Lee, born September 1947, who died at birth. That same year, Jack and Doris' house burnt to the ground while they were enjoying a day at the lake. Very few things were saved. That house stood where Larson's trailer home is today (1978). The town held a benefit dance and another building, twelve by eighteen feet, was bought and hauled onto the same lot, which they lived in for four years. They later bought a house from Jack's brother-in-law, Howard Martin. His house stood where the Esso fuel building is today. In 1960, they moved it to their present location. The land was sold to the Imperial Oil Company. Mother Catherine passed away in 1963.
Jack and Doris reside in Big River. Their children are Stanley, Leslie, Don and Cheryl. Andrew Millikin now resides in Saskatoon. Annie Pukanski still resides at South Stoney. Her home is where the schoolhouse used to stand. The remaining sisters, Cathy, Jean and Eva are living on the West Coast.
Bert and Annie Mitchell.
Bert and Annie Mitchell and family moved to Timberlost in March 1938 from Wimmer, Saskatchewan.
Bert wanting a farm of his own, moved to Timberlost with his son Kenneth ahead of the family. They had constructed a home and a barn by the time the rest of the family arrived.
The children's job was to help clear the land to be broken for the garden and to seed the grain. A field was cleared and broken in time to plant a big garden and some grain. Bert and Annie had eight children: Lillian, Gertie, Dorothy, Kenneth, Leslie, Gordon, Robert, and Raymond. Bert, Annie, Kenneth and Gordon are all now deceased.
Jim and Mary Morrison.
Submitted by Violet McLeod Morrison Hicks.
I, Violet McLeod, born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, 1914, stepdaughter of James (Jim) Morrison, resided in Big River from about 1918 to 1922 or 23. I can recall going to a birthday party (I believe at Brownfield's) and getting the dime from the birthday cake. A dime, a ring and a thimble were baked in the children's birthday cake in those days, and it was quite a thrill to find one in your piece of cake. I started school in the first grade in Big River, but cannot recall the teacher's name. I know that Charles Olson's daughter taught school there for a while.
My stepfather, Jim Morrison was lumberyard foreman and we lived next to the McCaskells and across from the Haefeys and Charles Olson (a Foreman and I believe second-in-charge of the mill). Before moving there, my mother, Mary McLeod Morrison, was the chief cook at the company boarding house.
My brothers, Ralph McLeod and Alex McLeod lived in Big River also for a short time.
Jim Morrison and family left Big River around 1922 for St. Joe, Idaho, for one year, then moved to Giscolme, British Columbia, where he again was lumberyard foreman. We then moved in 1928, to Bend, Oregon. Jim and Mary Morrison moved to Shelton, Washington in 1944.
Alex McLeod passed away about 1957 in Butte, Montana at the age of fifty and Ralph McLeod passed away at the age of fifty-three in Shelton, Washington.
In 1962, my husband and I visited Big River and spoke to a Mr Chamberlain. We saw our old house still standing and occupied. I remember the barber, a Mr Beason I believe - I liked him as he was so nice, even named a doll after him.
My Uncle, Jim Harrison and his wife Ellen (Nell) and their two daughters, Mary and may Harrison lived across the street (next to the Haefeys I believe).
I can also remember the brickyard or lathe mill located behind our house, but I do not believe it was in operation then.
While I was in the Air Force in 1945, I married my husband Loy A. Hicks, a navy man. We now happily reside in Shelton, Washington. Both of us are retired.
Frank and Sophia Neilson.
Frank Neilson and family came to Big River in 1937 and homesteaded three miles from Big River where the Cromartie farm is now.
Mr. Neilson was in the wood and rail business.
The Neilson family consisted of five boys and three girls. One girl died when a child and two boys were killed in the Second World War. One boy passed away in Prince Albert. Four children are still living. Also, Mrs Sophia Neilson is presently in the Pouce Coupe Hospital in B.C. Mr Neilson passed away in 1945. One daughter, Dora Doucette, still resides in Big River. The other daughter and two sons reside in Dawson Creek, and Abbotsford, B.C.