Posts Tagged ‘Farming’

Geoffrey C. Bartlett Farming History

In 1930s Depression, McCleish, Pioneer Farming, Pioneer tools & Machinery, Sargent District, Settlers on February 13, 2019 at 8:09 AM

                                 From “The Geoffrey C. Bartlett Story”

                     Pioneers and Progress Alix Clive Historical Club, 1974

Coming from England in 1924 I landed in Vegreville in August of that year.  The work day was a 14 hour one, with a barn to sleep in and mice to tickle your feet at night.  Many a mosquito enjoyed an Englishman’s blood.  I discovered that skunks were far more generous than the Avon lady of today. [1974]  Leaving Vegreville in 1930 I moved to Dewberry, Alberta, buying a farm from a fellow who said his first machinery was an axe and unlimited ignorance.  The first crop I received 26 cents for wheat, $4.00 for a hog and $9.00 for steers.  This was the dirty thirties when survival was the order of the day.  My mode of travel was a Bennett buggy, no gas, no license, no insurance, only 8 cent oats.  Housing in those days for a bachelor was about a 10 X 12; if he built bigger folks said he was getting married.  Plumbing was officially inspected and passed by Mother Nature.  The school was on the corner of my farm and was used on Sunday for a church and also for community gatherings on the weekends….

In 1939 I sold and bought a farm at Vegreville where I met my pride and joy, an Alberta Maid.  We lived there for seven years.  Ron and Bernice… were born in the Vegreville hospital.

In 1946 we bought the place where we now live [1974] from George Scorah who had bought it from the first owner in 1929.

Mr. Bruce McCleish was the one who owned it.  He came here in 1900 and ran the store and Post Office.

[H]e was also clerk of the Alberta court.  [W]hen we tore down the old house many court cases and history came to light.  In 1909 he left for Edmonton.  In 1910 and 1911 Harry Elliott lived here; Dan Hayes and Smith farmed it till 1915 when Mr. G. Duffy came in 1916 and farmed it till 1929 when it was sold to G. Scorah.  John deJong lived in the house later.

During our lifetime we have seen the passing of the country schools, old Dobbin no longer pulls the plow, and the binder is no more.  As we move up to the jet age let us not forget the pioneer wife and mother of those early days, their love and devotion to a cause they treasured we will never forget.  Also let us have a warm spot for the beast of burden that paved the way to our present way of life.

‘You poor old oxen what brought you here,

You plowed and sowed for many a year;

With kicks and knocks and other abuse

And now you are here in the thresherman’s stew.’

S1/2 5,40-24-4

Moving to Hudson Bay Land excerpted from “John Rottenfusser”

In Alix, Alberta, Pioneer Farming, Settlers on December 28, 2018 at 11:41 AM

From “John Rottenfusser”

Pioneers and Progress, Alix-Clive Historical Club 1974

The Rottenfusser Bros., Albert and John, moved into the Carroll district 0n May 4th, 1940 onto Hudson Bay land.  No buildings, no corrals of any kind.  We spent the first night sleeping under a tree, later nicknamed “The Apple Tree”, and the site for the cottage which was to be moved later.  The next day we finished moving the granary which required three sets of skids to bring it from Stettler to our new farm.  This was home, grain bin, harness room and all.

That fall we moved a cottage from Rochon sands to the farm.  This is a part of the present house [1974].  It took us fourteen days with wagon and horses to make the move.  To move the house up the sand hill north to the present site required fourteen head of horses, Dewald’s tractor and a block and tackle borrowed from Mr. Olson….

Now that we had a house on the land, we journeyed back to north east of Stettler to get our cattle and other belongings.  In the time we were loading a storm hit bringing cold winds and snow.  On the morning we started back to alix, Albert was driving six horses on two wagons, another team hitched to a wagon trailing behind.  Vernon and I herded the cattle and loose horses.  This trip took two days The first night we stopped … keeping warm by the campfire.  The next day onto Alix and home.  With no barn, all the stock was turned out to a straw stack….

Albert joined the Air Force (Military Police), returning in 1946.  I was married in 1944 to Alice Brown….We have two children, Orma … and Maurice.

From Elmer Primus and Family – by Merle” part 2.

In Alix, Alberta, Pioneer Farming, Pioneer tools & Machinery, Settlers on November 21, 2018 at 12:59 PM

From “Elmer Primus and Family – by Myrle” part 2

Excerpted from Pioneers and Progress Alix-Clive Historical Club, 1974.

Elmer began working for “Wong Loon Groceries” after school and on Saturdays.  They used to grind up about 40 pounds of coffee every Saturday morning, then package it.  The brown sugar came in hundred-pound jute bags.  It had to be packaged, also raisins, currants, beans, even cookies came in large boxes.

They had to unpack about 10 or 12 dozen eggs a week per farm family.  They were packed in chop or grain to keep them from breaking on the buggies or wagons.  A few had the large egg crates.  You brought one-pound prints of butter and with eggs, gave the farmer credit, with which he bought the other groceries he needed.  Many people would only buy butter or eggs that certain people had brought in.

Eddie Wong came out from China and had completed school there, so Elmer was asked to take him to school to learn English.  First, he had a desk at the back in Grade I, then each week he would move up a grade.  He mostly had to learn new ways of doing mathematics and the English language.  It didn’t take him long.

After completing his schooling Elmer decided he wanted to farm so he moved out with [his brother] Hillert and Hazel.

Every Friday and Saturday night for a year and a half he worked for George Darlow in the show hall as an apprentice in the projection room.  Everything was hand operated.  The hall was upstairs over the pool room.  Pat L’Hirondelle ran the engine to create electricity.  Then Mr. Darlow sold out; that finished that job.

People were just starting to drive cars so everyone wanted somewhere to go so they had good crowds.  The streets had many model “T” Fords and the hitching posts had teams and top buggies as well as the wagons etc.

Hillert moved to Open Valley District so Elmer batched for 10 years…. He trapped rats, hunted, sheared sheep, raised pigs and ran around.

from Elmer Primus and Family- by Merle

In Alix, Alberta, Pioneer Farming, Settlers on November 14, 2018 at 10:37 AM

Excerpted from 74Pioneers and Progress Alix-Clive Historical Club, 1981.

part one

Elmer was born March 24, 1906 in a dugout on S.W. ¼ of 27-39-23 west of Alix.  Primuses had built a house but were not quite ready to move.

He loved rabbits better than cats or dogs for pets.  He got a pair of rabbits from Steve Foster, both does, then he got one from Mr. McGonigal and it was a doe.  Finally, he sent to Stettler for a buck.  The rabbit cost 50 cents and the express was 60 cents.  After that, they multiplied well and he soon had 60 or 70.

When it was near Easter, they would put away a few eggs every day, then Easter morning they went out and brought in two or three dozen They were boiled and the big thing was, who could eat the most boiled eggs.

At that time, they had a couple of coyote hounds that needed feeding, so his rabbits kept disappearing.  There were quite a few empty twenty-two shells around the yard, so I guess the older brothers were instructed to limit them a bit.  They had taken over the green feed, cow mangers, etc.  Elmer was very worried.  They finally ran out of rabbits.

Then he visited the Sargent boys.  They did enough sneaking, from their father’s tobacco pouch during the week, to have a smoke behind the barn on Sunday.

In the winter he trapped weasels and muskrats.  In those days, you could walk as far as you could stand to go, as these animals were quite plentiful and not too many were trapping.

Every Sunday, they had to carry in snow as Monday was wash day, regardless.  The wood pile, also, had to be carried to the house, and he was the youngest.

Then the Primuses bought the Harbottle house.  They had six acres with the creek running through the edge. They and other families used to put chicken wire across the creek, then a couple of people would go in and chase the fish up to it, and catch them.  The fish were suckers and pike.  They split them down the back, then cleaned and salted them overnight, and next day smoked them.  Dad Primus was the smoking boss.  He laid them on a chicken wire rack over a bed of coals from willow wood.

Elmer and Lou rode horses to school.  Elmer took his saddle horse called Buster to town, so he could ride tout to Hillert’s farm on weekends.  Later he traded Buster off to Tom Ralston for a younger horse called “Tewie”.  He was very hard to catch after being turned out to pasture.  It took his Dad, Mother, and himself to catch “Tewie” every Friday night.

Once when they were going to feed cattle the tongue of the bob sleigh came down and bumped the wagon up in the air throwing Elmer out. He must have struck his leg as he went, as he landed in the snow with his left leg broken at the thigh.  Hillert went for orris; they loaded him in the wagon and took him to town.  Dr. Hart, an Alix doctor, looked after it.  For six weeks he lay in bed with a weight attached to it, Jack Pears visited him every night.  All the kids were good; even we girls visited him.  He played a lot of cards, darned socks, and played the violin.  Still, he thought it was a long time.

While in school, all the boys went swimming in the creek, in the nude.  We had an hour and a half noon then.

High Tea & Conversation Irene Parlby

In Alix, Alberta, Famous 5 Persons Case, Museums, Settlers on October 12, 2018 at 4:16 PM


Marking the 150th birthday of Irene Parlby of the Famous Five / Persons Case:  High Tea and Conversation at the Alix Wagon Wheel MuseumOct.  27  3 p.m.        Admission by Donation      Event for Adults



In Alix, Alberta, Business, Churches, Dairy Pool, Museums, Organizations, Pioneer Farming, Pioneer tools & Machinery, School, Settlers, War Memorials on July 6, 2018 at 10:29 AM

Alix Wagon Wheel Museum Association is very grateful for funding for our summer students. We are getting a lot of work done, and able to have the museum open all summer.

Chelsey is partly funded by Young Canada Works.

Keyanna is partly funded by Canada Summer Jobs.

Talayna is partly funded by STEP.

Come in to have a tour or browse on your own to see our exhibits: businesses, schools, churches, First Nations, war memorials, railways, service clubs, art by Alix artists, sports, pioneer tools, dairy/Alix Creamery, toys , taxidermied birds, Eager Beaver, and more.


Morgan and Artise Daniels

In Alix, Alberta, Boy Scouts, Pioneer Farming on March 19, 2018 at 9:54 AM

From “The Morgan Daniels Story – by Artise Daniels”

Morgan was born on the S.W. ¼ of 20-40-23 at Tees, Alberta, and took his schooling at Tees.

He was in the Armed Services in World War II, along with his brothers Alvie and Luther, and sister Martha.  After returning home he and his parents purchased the S.E.1/4 8-40-23 and the S.W.1/4 8-40-23.

He married Artise Chiswell, a Lacombe girl, on October 10, 1952.  During our farming career, two little helpers, Arlyne and Keith, arrived.

To Supplement our farm income Morgan worked part time for several Alix business men, C. Smith, J. Hennel, I. Peterson, and Art Mehle.

In the fall of 1964 we purchased a home in Alix and here remained for another seven years.  In 1965, another helper, Lorne, arrived to complete our family.

Life became more active one winter when Morgan and his sixteen Boy Scouts decided to build a boat for a project, and launch it on the Red Deer River, come summer.  When the big day arrived they were assisted by K. Keeton and Ron Martynuik; Bill Gould was the bus driver to the portage and exit points.  The boat floated, and the boys enjoyed their day on the river.

In May of 1971 we moved to Edmonton….

This article is excerpted from Gleanings After Pioneers and Progress, Alix -Clive Historical  Club, 1981.  The book is available for sale at the Alix Home Hardware and the Alix Wagon Wheel Museum.


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.


Eric W. Cormack

In Alix, Alberta on June 30, 2016 at 11:00 AM
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Eric Cormack

In March 1922, I left Saskatchewan and took the train to Edmonton. I turned up at the Corona Hotel where I was befriended by the desk clerk. He put my bedroll and my other luggage under his desk and showed me where I could get a big breakfast for 25 c. Then he took me to where I could catch a streetcar to get me on my way to Mr Gibson’s farm at Oliver. The streetcar took me as far as the Transit Hotel near the Swift’s packing plant and I then had a further 5 or 6 miles to walk. Along the way I got directions from very friendly people. I had walked about halfway to the farm when I was picked up by a fellow with a team and wagon who gave me a ride the rest of the way. The Oliver farm turned out to be a huge place and had a man, obviously the boss, keeping an eye on things.

I said “My name is Cormack and I’ve come from Saskatchewan” to which he replied “Oh, you’ve come, have you? You’ve come at a good time because Jimmy the houseman, has been waiting for two months to get away to see his girl in Lougheed but has been unable to leave because of all these cows. Can you milk a cow?”

“I can milk a cow” I said. This was literally true but it did not mean that I could milk a barn full of cows.

Anyway, Jimmy was another Scot and there were 42 blessed cows to milk. They were Holsteins and on R.O.P, (Record of Production) so you had to milk them, weigh the milk, record it, separate out the cream, feed the calves and so on. The milking was a terrible job for me. I could milk a couple of cows all right but when you sit down to milk more than 20 of them you’ve got a challenge. Sometimes I could hardly sleep at night because my arms ached so much. Mr Gibson was a graduate of McDonald College and he was very good to me. He never said what he was going to pay me and I never asked. The first month he paid me $40.00 which was four times as much as I had been earning during the winter. He increased my wages by $10.00 per month until I was getting $70.00 a month (plus room and board). So I was away to the races!

But what did I do for recreation? I was living in a bunkhouse with 4 or 5 other men and we got the newspaper there. I saw the announcement of an amateur track meet that was to be held in Edmonton. I believe it was being run by the Victoria Police Association. I was given a half day off in order to attend the meet (We normally worked a 7-day week). I went with a couple of the other hired men and won both the quarter mile and the half mile. That was my introduction to track in Alberta. It was a lovely break after having your nose to the grindstone. A day like that was fun -competitive, but nobody was vindictive.

One day Mr. Gibson said to me “Now, you want to go farming but you do no have enough capital. You should get yourself a degree at the University of Alberta”.

I said “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”

He said “Yes, you would then be eligible for a large number of occupations. I do not advise you to go homesteading at the present time”

The next thing that happened was that he invited Prof McGregor-Smith from Agricultural Engineering at U of A to come out to the Oliver farm so that I could meet him. Then I had a visit from Dean EA House of Faculty of Agriculture. The Dean said, yes, I should come to U of A so with all that pressure I enrolled at the University. Dean Howes was very keen that U of A should make a good showing in the Inter-Collegiate track against UBC, U Saskatchewan and U Manitoba.

I went to Saskatoon with the track team and enjoyed the hospitality of the U of Saskatchewan. I won the mile and the half-mile with record times and came second in the 3-mile. When I got back to Edmonton I found that I had made quite a mark as ‘the bald-
headed Flying Scot’.

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E W Cormack, 1924

That fall there was an Inter-Faculty track meet and I noticed an attractive young girl winning the 100- and 200-yard races. I asked who she was and was told that her name was Barbara Villy, that she was a student in Honours English, reputed to be a very good writer.

One afternoon I ran into Len Huskins, a graduate student in Field Husbandry (Genetics). It turned out that he was married to Barbara Villy’s sister, Margaret and that they were living in a little cottage on 88th Avenue. Margaret’s parents had come up from Calgary for the weekend and they were having a little family gathering. They needed another man to balance the party and Len had been sent sent over to Athabasca Hall to find another Ag. man. He ran into me as we were walking across the campus and asked me if I would like to come. I said “Sure” and when I went there was Barbara Villy.. We had a very pleasant evening and one thing led to another.

In those days the U of A had only about 1000 students in all faculties so the university was an intimate, personal thing where you got to know nearly everybody. There were a lot of engineering students and a few in agriculture. There were 20 in my graduating class which was the biggest up to that date. The campus was quite compact with residences for about half the students. In Athabasca Hall where I was resident there was a dining room and a lower gym where you could dance to a record player. It was an awfully interesting university.

Another person I met in 1923 was D E Cameron, the U of A Librarian. He was another Scot and had been a minister in the U.K., (Presbyterian, I suppose) and had conducted a rather unconventional Sunday School in Manchester which Barbara and Margaret Villy had attended about 1912-13. DE Cameron was tremendously well-read and one of the truly educated men I have known in my life.

There were many very bright people around with which you exchanged ideas and some of it rubbed off. One chap was quarterback of the football team and later became Vice-President of Sun Life. In my classes there was tremendous competition and I had to listen hard and work hard to keep up. I think I was 4th or 5th in the class of 20.

I. Did you play football at U of A?

C. I was on the team but they did not play me very much because they wanted to save me for track where I was the star. I was invited to try out for the Eskimos but that did not work very well. My instincts were not for the stereotype game of doing exactly what you’re told by the coach. I would do the unexpected and could not be moulded into the team pattern.

In the second of my two years at U of A I got a job as “Central Check” at $40.00 a month which happened to be just what I was paying for room and board at Athabasca Hall. I had a little office to check the cash flow.

The Students’ Council budget havng been agreed upon the funds were dispersed according to the budget. A statement of the cash flow had to be available at every Council meeting. They had got into trouble the year before so I was the boy who had to keep the books straight. My personal finances were pretty tight but I allowed myself $2.00 a week to take out Barbara who was now “my girl”.

I. Did Barbara think $2.00 a week was enough?

C. Well, she had to put up with it. When she graduated in 1924, a year before I did, she got a job as a reporter for the Edmonton Journal, She got passes, sometimes two of them, to shows and concerts so that she could write them up. We would walk across the High Level Bridge to a theatre downtown and if I was flush we’d have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and we would have three chocolate marshmallow biscuits. The coffee was 10c and the biscuits 3 for 10c.. Barbara had agreed to get married as long as we did not go farming. As it turned out, we got married and went farming in 1925.

When I graduated in April with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Agriculture I joined forces with another graduate, Bill Gentleman, and rented a half-section farm 6 miles north of Tees, about 20 miles east of Lacombe. The farm came equipped with basic farm implements, 10 horses and one cow.

That spring we put in 175 acres of crop which is a lot to do with horse-drawn equipment so we worked like ‘billio’. Bill and I were ‘batching’ in a two-room shack on the ‘Tees Place’ while Barbara was living with her parents in Edmonton and working for the Edmonton Journal. After the crop was in I got a temporary job in Acme, AB , as a butter-maker a job I had done the summer before. I bought a pony to give my bride as a wedding present. I exercised the pony a bit and then rode up to the ‘Tees Place’ which took two days. I left the pony there and went up to Edmonton to get married.

Barbara and I were married in August 1925 with D E Cameron performing the ceremony. Somebody had hired a piper so we had a bit of a ‘do’ and went to Jasper for our honeymoon.The catch was that the summer staff at Jasper Park Lodge were nearly all U of A students who knew us. We were met by a friend, Ray Stickson who drove a taxi and took us to the YMCA camp on Lake Edith. As we started out there was an awful noise and we found that the taxi was dragging a lot of tin cans. I did not catch onto this but Barbara knew exactly what it was and blushed away. We thought we were being hidden away.

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Barbara and Eric’s wedding announcement

After the honeymoon we moved to the farm north of Tees.

One day when I was cutting grain with a four-horse binder Barabara reported that someone was using terrible language trying to get the horses going fast enough to run the binder. “Who could it be? Surely not Eric, he doesn’t use language like that.” But she learned quickly. Barbara found herself cooking for four hungry men. Two of our staff were young university professors. One of them, Howard Nichols, was a very accomplished musician and later became the U of A’s resident organist.

To purchase food and other supplies she had to take the buggy and a pair of lively horses to the general store in the village of Tees, 6 miles away. There was a well on the farm but one usually had to pump water by hand because the pump engine did not work. Well, anyway, we got the harvesting done and Bill Gentleman headed off to Scotland on a cattle boat. Barbara and I thought about settling in at the ‘Tees Place’ for the winter of 1925-26 as we could have sold enough grain to get along. However, on a trip to Edmonton to visit friends I ran into C P Marker, the Dairy Commissioner, who told me that he was looking for somebody to teach dairying at the Vermilion School of Agriculture. He knew that I was a qualified grader and that I had been working as a butter-maker during the summer. He asked me whether I would go to Vermilion and I said “Yes”. (People have done this sort of thing to me all my life. I guess they think I need being taken care of.) So, after making arrangements for somebody to look after the horses and cattle we left the Tees farm and turned up at the Vermilion School of Agriculture (VSA) in the fall of 1925.

It was very hard to find accommodation in Vermilion in late October. We finally found a very large room in a business block. I think the room had been a store at one time. There was one little toilet around the corner and water in a tap down the passage. At least you didn’t need to go outside for anything. We had a great time that winter at VSA. The Principal was WJ Elliott, a graduate of Guelph Agricultural College in Ontario and one of the pioneer agricuturists in Canada. By chance, WJE had lived next door to Barbara’s parents, the Villys, when they lived in Calgary and Mrs. Villy had given piano lessons to WJ’s son Billy. WJE, therefore knew the family and was very kind to us when we were in Vermilion.

At that time there were several ‘Hoadley Boys’ enrolled at VSA. When Charles Hoadley was Minister of Agriculture for Alberta he had promoted a scheme for Britsh boys in their late teens or early 20’s to come to VSA for a winter term to learn some basic skills such as handling horses , milking cows, using farm machinery and so on. In the spring they would be helped to find jobs on Alberta farms, They could come back for another winter term if they wished to graduate from the school. In the fall of 1925 there were 35 of these British boys at VSA and they certainly stirred things up. One of them, Ronald Purkis, became my partner on the farm near Alix, from 1928 until 1941.

In late 1925 I inherited about $4000 and bought a farm of my own.. I made a down payment on a quarter-section about four miles north of Alix and had $640.00 left. with which I bought four horses, a cow and some farm implements. The farm had a large barn and what we thought at the time was a wonderful house with three bedrooms.

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I. Was it good land?

C. Only fair. Some of it was pretty hilly and some had a lot of boulders and stones. however it was a pretty good farm and I increased it to a full section, 640 acres, as time went on. We had a great life in the Alix district. I would say that the community took to us. I was pretty green in farming operations and made plenty of mistakes. I was much better with horses than with tractors. We had 22 horses when I went off to WW-II in 1940. Horses did not take much to keep in those days. When you threshed you got big straw piles and during the winter the horses you were not using were browsing at the straw piles and doing quite well. We used to have up to 12 working horses and a tractor.

I. What kind of tractors?

C. Our first ones were McCormick-Deerings (10/20 and 15/30) and then we got rubber-tired John Deere tractors. My partner, Ronald Purkis, usually looked after the tractors and I handled the horses.

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We milked up to about 8 cows and shipped cream to the creamery in Alix. The weekly cream cheques bought the groceries – but not quite. We kept cattle, we kept pigs, we kept chickens, we kept sheep. It was an old-fashioned mixed farm.

I. What did you do in the winters?

C. Ronald would look after the livestock wile I went away to teach at V.S.A. Sometimes Barbara would come to Vermilion with me but usually not.

I. How many winters did you do this?

C. Fifteen, from 1925 to 1940. A lot of it was during the Depression and times were very hard. I was away on active service with the Canadian Army from 1941 until 1946 when I returned to the farm. We left the farm in 1950 after a great life in the Alix district for 25 years.










Threshing and Stooking

In Alix, Alberta on June 10, 2016 at 1:00 PM

These articles are excerpts from Fred B. Stone’s “Stones on a Farm”, taken from Gleanings, (the follow-up book to Pioneers and Progress), Alix-Clive Historical Club, 1981. Both books are available for sale at Alix Wagon Wheel Museum, Alix Public Library, and Alix Home Hardware.

“The grain harvest followed hard upon the hay making. The binder was powered by four horses, driven abreast. Stooking was a back-breaking job – probably the hardest, most monotonous and concentration of man power that the farm had to offer. It consisted of pucking up the sheaves or bundles of grain deposited in rows on the ground by the binder, standing them on their butts – leaning inwards for mutual support – in stooks of six to ten bundles each. The purpose of this was to expose the heads of grain to the sun and air so that the straw would dry out and the grain kernels would harden – thus permitting the grain to be shaken out of the straw as it went through the separator.

In the early days before there were enough threshing outfits to thresh all the grain prior to snowfall, it was the practice to assemble the stooks into stacks from which the bundles were subsequently pitched directly into the feeder of the separator. Stacking was also hard work, as it involved forking the stoked bundles into a bundle rack drawn by two horses, and then pitching them onto the stack with a man on the stack again forking the bundles into a butts-out- heads-in circular arrangement. The stack was rounded, with the sheaves sloping slightly upward so that rain and snow would not penetrate the stack and dampen the grain.”

“With the coming of more threshing machines, stook threshing became prevalent. Although this was also hard work for the bundle pitchers, and indeed for the grain haulers too – as they had to manually shovel every bushel of grain in transferring it from separator to storage – stook threshing was the most exciting operation on the farm. It revealed, in measurable form, the hitherto uncertain rewards of a year’s work.

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A local re-enactment of stream threshing

Grain could be converted into cash, either by selling it on the market or by feeding it to livestock which, when fattened, could be in turn marketed for cash. There was the stimulating effect of being brought together in large numbers in a combined and sustained work situation. Each participant had to hold up his end, and the number of bushels threshed was a figure that all looked forward to hearing at the end of the day. Any failure, human or mechanical, could adversely affect that figure and, moreover, add to the risk of some farmer’s stooks being caught in the snow before the threshing gang got to them.

Strikes were unheard of and unthought of. Working hours were from “can’t see till can’t see”. Crewmen took their bedding with them as the outfit moved from farm to farm. They slept in haylofts, and granaries. Their appetites were good and the farm women fed them well – serving, in effect, five meals a day, including lunches brought to the field morning and afternoon. Many a farmwife sighed in grateful relief as she watched the threshing machine roll slowly off her farm onto a neighbours’s field, taking with it a dozen ravenous appetites.

The advent of the tractor, powered by an internal combustion engine, eventually put the steam engine out of business.”

1959 DVC, RAP binde, tractor

Photo courtesy of D. Cormack

“Here’s a shot of Ronald Purkis’ tractor with me tagging along on a modified 6′ horse binder which he inherited from Cuthbert Wolfersatn.  My job was to try to drop the bundles in reasonably straight rows for subsequent stooking.”