Peter Russell and Family

In Alix, Alberta on August 12, 2016 at 12:00 PM

From “Peter Russell and Family”, by grand-daughter Viola Russell Mattie

Peter Russell (1856 – 1941) and his wife Janet (1855 – 1940) were Scottish.

“In 1894 [Peter] came with his family to Canada.  It took ten days to cross the ocean.  They landed at Quebec where they took the train for Red Deer, Alberta.  The coaches were made of wood and they had to prepare their own meals.  After consultation at the land office in Red Deer, Mr. Russell walked out to the Canyon District where he chose a homestead.  

The neighbours had a house building bee for them, men came with two teams of horses, a walking plough and axes.  They cut large logs for the walls and smaller ones for the roof which was covered first with hay, then with sods they had ploughed and cut into pieces, which were called “government shingles.”

A sod roof was fine in dry weather, but after two or three days of rain, it would start to drip and continue to do so for some time after the rain had stopped.

In the spring of 1895, Mr. Russell went back to England to work at his old job as they needed more capital.  The family stayed until 1896, when they decided to go back too….

[Two sons,] John and Charles came back to Canada during the gold rush in the spring of 1898.  They worked for neighbours, haying, herding cattle, etc.  Charlie McLeod had squatters rights on a quarter of land south of Alix on the river, where he had built a log house, barn and corrals.  He sold his squatter rights to John including land and buildings for $15.00.  Mrs. Russell came to this home when she came back to Canada with the other children in 1899.  She homesteaded this quarter by proxy for her husband who came back to stay in 1900….

In the early years, the boys didn’t have much land under cultivation but raised cattle and horses.  In winter they mined and at one time there were twenty-two coal chutes on the river bank.  Coal sold for $1.25 per ton and most of it was hauled by teams up the river on ice…. One team of horses could haul two and a half tons.”

This article is from the book Pioneers and Progress, a history of the Alix-Clive area printed in 1974 by 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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