Letter by Giles Estell

In Alix, Alberta on July 29, 2016 at 12:00 PM

The following are some excerpts from a letter written by Mr. Giles Estell to the Union Paper in Lake Crystal, Minnesota, from Lamerton, Alberta, February 28, 1904.

“After being here for some time in “Sunny Alberta”, I thought I would write to you about our prosperous country.  It froze up here Nov. 7, and from that time to February 1, we have had a mild open winter with very little snow.  Stock fed on the range up to the time mentioned.  It has been cold here since Feb. l, with snow about a foot deep on the level.  The mercury ranged from ten to thirty five below [Fahrenheit] with very little wind.

The country is somewhat rolling, with a dark loam soil just sandy enough to make it fine for agricultural purposes.  There are a number of lakes, but especially Buffalo Lake, which is noted for its size and beauty.  There are all kinds of fish to be caught in this lake, even suckers.  We had a fine pickerel for our Thanksgiving dinner that weighed twenty five pounds and measured four feet from tip to tip – how is that?  Can you beat it down there?  There is lots of fishing through the ice.

Our fuel consists of coal and wood which is in great abundance.  The principal coal mines are ten to twelve miles from us.  (The wood costs us nothing but work and time.) Coal costs from $1.25 to $1.50 per ton at the mines.  It is soft, with no soot to blacken the rooms.  This is a great stock country and that is all that is raised here, excepting what feed a rancher wants for his own use.  I saw cattle on the range last fall as fat as cattle would have been if fed on corn for six months.  The grass here seems more fattening after frost than before.  It also makes fine hay if put up in time.  There is lots of game birds and other small game.  As for the coyotes, I am lulled to sleep at night by their yodelling.  There are a few eagles here and numerous pelican at Buffalo Lake.

At present, we have to haul our goods from a town called Lacombe, forty miles from here: it takes three days to make the trip with a load. (Note: Lacombe is now only 26 miles from here by modern roads.  In those days they had to drive around a lot of muskegs and sloughs.)

We are expecting a railroad this coming summer as it was surveyed early last fall.  It will run a few miles west of us.

There is plenty going on such as surprise and card parties, also dances, with a “kissing bee” between so you see I have no time to get lonesome…. There are quite a few English people in this part, but mostly they are from the States: Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Michigan….

Yours truly,

G.J. Estell

This article is from the book Pioneers and Progress, a history of the Alix-Clive area printed in 1974by DW Friesen and Sons Ltd., Calgary.  Copies of it and of its follow-up Gleanings are available for sale at the Alix Public Library, Alix Wagon Wheel Museum, and Alix Home Hardware.


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