Category Archives: People

Search for grandfather’s story turns up Ranching roots of C.Y. School


C.Y. School, circa 1917
– Photo courtesy of Sandra Martin Guymon.

The subject of the email was “Re: C.Y. District school”.

Sandra Guymon, the director and sole employee of a “very very very small library” in upstate New York, was searching for information about this curiously named district in southern Alberta.

 “My Grandfather Duncan Lorne Martin was a school teacher at C.Y. District school. I have some photos from about 1917. I know he lived in Taber Alberta, but I don’t know anything about the C.Y. district, and can’t seem to find anything about it on the internet.”

Duncan L. Martin enlisted with the 49th battalion Edmonton, Canadian Expeditionary Force, during the First World War. 
– Photo courtesy of Sandra Martin Guymon.

As Guymon explained, Martin was a native of Tottenham, Ontario, who came west around 1917 to teach at C.Y. School, northwest of the town of Taber. Martin enlisted with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment towards the end of the First World War, returning to the C.Y. district in 1919.

Martin initially boarded with the Garrett and Wilhelmina Gertzen family, who lived on a farm near the school, and later married Wilhelmina following the couple’s divorce. In 1926, the Martins moved to another farm in the area, where they would eke out a living for over a decade.

According to Guymon, Duncan and Wilhelmina enjoyed some success during the wetter years of 1927-28, before eventually being driven off the land in 1937, victims of the twin economic and ecological disasters known today as the Great Depression and the Dirty Thirties.

After returning to Tottenham, Martin worked for a time in the post office before hiring on as construction labourer at Camp Borden, where army and flight training was undertaken for the Canadian armed forces during the Second World War. He was hospitalized in April 1940 when a trench he was working on caved in. Shortly afterwards he suffered a brain aneurysm, and passed away at the age of 49.

Some 80 years later, Guymon is seeking to learn more about her intrepid grandfather’s western adventures, and the country her father and grandparents called home.

“I hope they might start up a conversation!” she added.

As it turns out, the origin of the C.Y. is rooted in southern Alberta ranching history.

Both the C.Y. school and district derive their name from the C.Y. Ranch, which was established in the late 19th century along the Belly (now Oldman) River, north of what is now Taber.

Continue reading Search for grandfather’s story turns up Ranching roots of C.Y. School

A serious question about Hand Hills L.O.L.

The Orangeman’s loyalty to Great Britain was no laughing matter. Photo submitted by Tamara Harken.

Every so often I will receive an inquiry from somewhere in North America, from someone seeking information on their long-departed ancestors in Alberta.

In late March, I received one such email entitled “question”.

Tamara Harken, a resident of Seattle, Washington, had been looking through her grandparents’ box of memories when a particular photograph captured her attention.

Sepia-toned and a century old, it featured a gathering of stern-faced gentlemen, decked out in suits and saches, posing outdoors on a summer day.

Harken wondered if one of the men in the photo was Anthony Baker, a one-time resident of the town of Drumheller, Alberta.

“I believe my grandfather might be the man kneeling third from the right front row. He lived in Drumheller for sometime, where my father was born,” she explained.

“If it is him,” Tamara added intriguingly, “it would be the last picture taken of him before he lost his arm.”

Inscribed along the bottom of the photo was a curiously contemporary caption, printed in all-caps:

“JULY 12, 1915

FIRST ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF HAND HILL COUNTY

TOBERMORE L.O.L. NO. 2344 DRUMHELLER ALTA.”

“Is there any chance you might have some information on the event noted in this picture?” she inquired.

Continue reading A serious question about Hand Hills L.O.L.

The Lund Home

“Here on these prairie plains I stay,
Wanting nevermore to stray,
The winter days will come once more,
And north winds whistle ’round the door.

For always in my heart I sing
The song of a wondrous prairie spring,
And the melody to me so dear,
Is only this – My home is here.”

– An excerpt from “My Home Is Here.” by Lydia Montallan of Carseland.

Originally published in the June 1947 issue of Canadian Cattleman, “My Home Is Here” appears alongside an article about Otelie Lund in “The Piegan Country”, a 1966 history of the Maleb area of S.E. Alberta. Natives of Norway, Ms. Lund (b. 1880) and her husband, Lars, settled in what was known as the Glen Banner district in 1909. The Lunds built a two-storey home in 1917, a local landmark which still stands to this day on a hilltop five miles north of present-day Orion (pictured).

The hardships were many for Ms. Lund. Widowed when she was 70, fifteen years later she was still feeding cattle, chopping wood, hauling coal, and living without electricity. A 1965 article in the Medicine Hat News celebrated her as a “living example of true pioneer spirit and courage”:

“Mrs. Lund, who did not have a family to raise, has not seen a relative since coming to this country in 1909. She had left behind in Norway a large family of sisters and brothers when she came with her new husband on the new venture. Perhaps all her dreams weren’t realized, but building a new life in a new country has brought many satisfactions to Mrs. Lund as she now looks back on it all and treasures each precious memory of old times, old days, old friends.”

Ms. Lund passed away ten years later at the age of 95.

Above and Beyond: The living legacy of Dr. Alexander G. Scott

Can you imagine a small-town doctor with an airplane, visiting patients all around southern Alberta 100 years ago?

For almost 40 years, Bassano’s Dr. Alexander Gladstone Scott worked around the clock, tending to the well-being of the surrounding frontier communities. With patients spread across many miles, he took to the roads, and then to the skies, going “Above and Beyond” to care for prairie people in the days before public health care.

In a video produced by Jonathan F. Koch and the Forgotten Alberta Project, with the cooperation of Bassano Medical Clinic, the Town of Bassano, and the Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP), we celebrate the living legacy of Dr. A.G. Scott: An innovator, pioneer, and prairie trailblazer.

Continue reading Above and Beyond: The living legacy of Dr. Alexander G. Scott

Big loss for Orion: Stevens Hardware destroyed in Christmas Day blaze

Sad news coming from Orion, Alberta this morning.  I have received word from a  few friends of Forgotten Alberta that the pioneer-era hardware store operated by prairie icon, Boyd Stevens, burned to the ground on Christmas Day.

A video posted on Facebook by Logan Biesterfeldt shows the store already completely engulfed, as locals scramble to contain the fire on a frost Xmas morning. 

Comments  on Facebook and elsewhere online indicate that Boyd is safe, but I will post confirmation and further details once they become available.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have stopped by Stevens Hardware on a few occasions in during sojourns through the south, and had the privilege of conversing with Boyd about his life and times in isolated Orion, Alberta. Visitors to Stevens Hardware  were assured of great conversation, and came away knowing the intimate details of the history of the region. Hopefully Boyd made it through okay, and his family’s legacy will continue.

 

Boyd Stevens: Storekeeper & Orion #Alberta icon. #FABTrip14 @prairiepostalta

A photo posted by Jonathan Koch (@forgotten_alberta) on

Boyd and the store were subjects of a video short by director, Sean Thonson, of Travel Alberta fame (“Remember to Breathe”) calledPassing Orion“.