Friday, 12 August 2011

Swift Current

Alan, Doug, Blanche (kneeling), and Kelli

In the early days of our research, we wondered if there were other family around who might have stories to share. One day, we talked about the Smith and Waite homesteads in SW Saskatchewan, and realized there might still be some family there. Dad remembered that Doris Thoreson lived in Swift Current, and we checked the online phone book to discover that there were a couple of Waites in that area as well. We decided to just phone them up and hope for a friendly response. I found the name and number for Doug Waite, and Dad dialed the number. As luck would have it, Doug was there, and welcomed our call.
Don Smith & Doris Thoreson

We found out that Doug's brother Alan lived nearby, and that they stayed in touch with Doris. We were really encouraged by this news, and decided to drive out to visit. Dad talked to Doris as well, and she invited us to come to her place, and said she would invite the others to come and meet us.

The five hour drive was just great. This was our first road trip, and Dad told me many stories along the way. I now wish that I had a voice recorder and that is something I say every time we go on a trip. I suppose that would perhaps stifle the conversation to some extent. We passed through Medicine Hat, and talked about some of the good old times with Lyle and Marg Smith, who had lived there for many years, and had raised their family there.

We arrived at Doris' place in the afternoon, and spent a little time getting acquainted. She had searched through some of her things, and had a few letters from my grandmother, Gladys, to share with us. So comforting to see that handwriting after so many years! We shared some of the results from our research, and took notes about Doris' extended family to add to our tree when we returned home.

Alan Waite was busy, but Doug and Blanche Waite joined us, and told us about their families. They also brought along some wonderful photographs, and encouraged us to take them home to scan them, as their daughter Angela lived nearby me in Calgary, so they said I could just drop them off to her afterward. How exciting to learn that there were more relatives living close to us, and in addition, I learned she was a writer! Her brother still lived near Cabri, and helped to farm the family's land.

Dad took us all out for a nice dinner, and although we had intended to stay overnight at a motel, Doris insisted we stay with her. We rested well, and the next morning we said farewell to Doris and drove to Cabri to Doug and Blanche's lovely home. They clearly treasure the past, as there were many photographs of the homestead and some of the farm implements, and they had a framed copy of the auction from when the Waite family left the homestead in the dirty 30's and moved north. We talked about how sad that must have been for the Waites, as they had worked so hard to build a life there, and like so many others, they had to literally walk away from everything. We have one picture of the wagon train as the family left their home.

Fortunately for us, Doug and Blanche live near to the old homestead, and they know the current owners of the land. We had permission to go onto the land and to poke around the remaining buildings, which were in poor shape, but still standing. How exciting!!

We went for a drive and before going to the land, we visited the Bestville Cemetery and the Verlo Cemetery, where a few family members were buried. First we discovered Mary Belle Waite's grave (died 1918), and then Bella Waite (died 1920). Mary Belle was my grandmother's sister, and had died as a young lady. Family lore says she was the favourite, and that Gladys and brother Lester were not treated as well by their parents, Jack and Mabel. We did not expect to find Joseph Mason Waite (died 1939) or Robert Waite (died 1957). Another surprise was to discover the grave of Mabel's father, John Arnold (died 1924), who was the great-grandson of the infamous Benedict Arnold. We took some pictures and signed the guest book, and hit the road again.

We drove onto the old Waite land, and took our time looking around. I hung on to every word, as the Waites and my Dad talked about how life would have been for the family in those early days. You could see where the old machine shed had been, and there was a small shed still standing. Some old rusty implements were lying around, and we wandered over to the big barn, where the windmill still stood. Near the barn was the base of the ice house, and we guessed at where the house had been. An old rusty bedspring lay abandoned in the field, and we recalled a photo of Grandma Smith (Gladys) sitting on it, so I took a shot of dad in a similar pose. After awhile we decided we'd seen all there was to see., and we went on to Hazlet, where the Smiths had farmed.

The Smith land was at the edge of Hazlet. There were no buildings left on that land, but we saw the grove of trees that would have been planted as a windbreak, and imaged how it might have looked in those days.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome history, I also visited Verlo and Hazlet and really enjoyed looking around at everything.