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Raymond Pioneers: Letter to a Wife

One early pioneer arrived in Stirling August 30, 1901, where he immediately secured employment in construction. He was impressed with the land and wrote his wife to prepare to come to Canada, as this was the land with a future that appealed to him.

The following are excerpts from letters to his wife:

Stirling, September 7, 1901
I have had the honour of helping to build the first house in Raymond, and it is a nice house. We were camped out there in a tent and on Thursday morning early, before we were out of bed, the wind blew our tent down. The rain and snow was coming down pretty hard and we soon were wet. We fooled around for awhile trying to get a dry place but the wind blew the rain in everywhere. Some of us struck out from Raymond to Stirling, seven miles on foot, and I can tell you that we were some pretty looking ducks when we got there. We couldn't have been more wet had we had to swim all the way. When we got to Stirling the ground was covered with snow...
If I make my home up here, Raymond is the place for me. The railroad is tight here and there are five carloads of lumber standing there now waiting for us to go to work....
...tell all the inquiring friends that I think this is the future country, whether I decide to locate here or not...
Your loving husband.

Stirling, September 1901
I am working out at Raymond and doing carpenter work earning $3.00 a day. We are building a large store, 35 by 60 feet and two stories high. I do not know how long I will stay here. I wish you were all up here then I could stay more contented. I can work here all winter if I want to. I have to pay 60 cants a day for board and live with Mr. ---. He is the same man I started to work for when I first got here. He is a very nice man and a good carpenter. I have earned $22.00, enough to take me home, but the longer I stay the more taken I am with this country. I don't think I could settle in Stirling as Raymond is the place for me. We are going to figure some contracts and if we get them it will compel me to remain here for two or three months yet. But I think I will make some money. If you get a chance to sell the place for $500.00 let her go, and I will come home and tend to it and come right back, all of us.

Stirling, September 24, 1901
Well, my dear wife, I have been here nearly one month, working some and looking around a little. I have my mind made up to come home and have even sent my order for my ticket. But I feel like I will be making the mistake of my life if I leave here... I took a trip over the Magrath and the beautiful fields of grain and nice homes and flower gardens and the fine healthy trees, the fields of Lucerne that had only just been planted this year and have already yielded one crop, convinced me that this is the place for me. I have felt this way ever since I arrived here but the conviction has been steadily growing until now my mind is thoroughly made up. I have made arrangements for the building of a new house. I know how you feel, judging by your letters, and if you feel that it is all right I want you to start for Canada as soon as you get this letter.
From your loving husband
P.S. Write soon and let me know when you are coming.

His wife, a cheerful and resourceful person, had been left with the responsibility of caring for her family and the farm. When the decision was made to immigrate to Canada she rose to the occasion, sold the farm and other assets, and followed her husband to their new home in the new land.

In preparation for his family's arrival he took out a half-section of land that he farmed throughout the years to sustain his family. He built a one-room house, the fifth house to be built in Raymond. It was built on main street where it stood for 85 years. When his wife arrived from Utah with the family, "home" was ready.

The family was active in community affairs from the time the town was founded. His interest and involvement in the community is indicated by his having spent twenty years on the Town Council and serving one term in 1926 as the mayor of Raymond.

He was the first choir leader in town and his daughter remembers the first practices that were held in their home. He was also a member of a military band where he played a bass horn. The band was one of the main features of the Dominion Day celebrations in the town. As, well, he played the bass viol in the first orchestra or dance band in town.

He was active in home dramatics both as an actor and director. As soon as fall work was over he and others in the town would start rehearsing plays for the entertainment of the community.

As well, he also served in many capacities in the LDS church. He was a Sunday School superintendent, ward choir leader, and worked in the YMMIA.

His wife did her share by co-operating with her husband to see that he might have time to spend in public endeavours. She took pleasure in seeing the good results of his labours and was truly both a good pioneer wife and mother.

They had nine more children after moving to Raymond. She died in 1918 as a result of blood poisoning, giving birth to her fifteenth child. The baby died two months later, making six of her children that died in infancy.

One lady who came to Raymond was born in Halesowen, Worchester, England in October 1862. With her parents she immigrated to the United States and settled in Salt Creek, Utah. She met her future husband and married in July 1879 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was nineteen and she was seventeen. They had fourteen children and, in time, she was known to everyone as Grammy.

Their oldest child, a son, was killed at a railway crossing when his buggy team balked and refused to move so that the train hit them. This was the first of many devastating blows for Grammy.

The family had made their living in the sheep business but at the turn of the century sheep that had been bought for $4.00 a head were difficult to sell for 50 cents a head. The future in Salt Creek looked extremely bleak, so shortly after the fourteenth child was born the father took his buggy and headed north toward Idaho to find work. Only three of his children ever saw him again.

After two years had elapsed and Grammy had not heard from him she decided to sell what possessions they had and come with the pioneers to Southern Alberta where there was promise of a new life.

Grammy arrived early in March 1902 with eleven of her thirteen children. A son and daughter did not come at this time because of lack of funds. During this period in Utah the daughter discovered letters which her father had sent to her mother which contained money. These letters had been intercepted, possibly at the postal station. They were carefully hidden in her boot and brought to Raymond for her mother.

Grammy and her family came by train to Stirling and then the seven miles to Raymond by wagon. The newly built Stake House was, for this family and other new arrivals, their first home for a few weeks. She purchased a lot in town for $1.00 and the boys took a team of horses to Lethbridge, 25 miles away, and bought lumber to build a small platform. They secured a used army tent, full of holes, to set up on the platform. Grammy patched the holes with oilcloth and this was their home for two years. Eventually a lean-to was completed and here they were, fourteen people, living in two small rooms and a tent.

When the Knight sugar Company began operation in 1903 and farmers began raising sugar beets, it was a golden opportunity for the family to find work thinning, hoeing, topping and loading sugar beets. The hours were long, the pay was poor and the work was hard, but it helped them to survive. Some of the older boys worked on the canal being built from Cardston to Magrath. Every member of the family had to work as well and hard as possible to enable them merely to eat and be clothed. One son said after he was eight years old he never had a pair of shoes bought for him. Even at that age the children had to help their mother by finding jobs, doing chores and bringing in enough money for their own clothing. Everyone worked and helped their mother to survive. They were dined the opportunity of a higher education; theirs was the "school of hard knocks."

During the flu epidemic in 1918 Grammy nursed and cared for many of the sick, taking some of them into her own home. She served as a midwife and delivered many babies in town, always taking one of her older daughters with her to chop wood, get coal and boil the traditional big basin of water on the cook stove. Grammy did the rest of what needed to be done.

Grammy was a very fine seamstress and had hand-sewn most of her large family's clothing, including the teenage girls' pretty dresses. She also sewed garments that clothed the dead in town and never asked for any remuneration. It was all strictly charity. Perhaps the payment would be a dozen eggs or a few vegetables.

At the age of 70 Grammy had a stroke which paralysed her arm and leg on one side. She recovered sufficiently to live on her own, with daily help, but died rather unexpectedly in August 1943 at the age of 72.

Excerpts courtesy of Evelyn Hendry from the Raymond Museum and Archives.

See also:

[back] [First People and Settlers] [New Beginnings] [Adventurous Albertans]

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