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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back In Dorset For Next Christmas

Those were the words that my Grandfather's cousin, Jack Goff said around the time of his first Christmas in Canada in 1903. Out here on the homestead in the district of Assiniboia that would later become the province of Saskatchewan it was a pretty harsh change from a winter in the south part of England. Jack along with his cousins, Tom and Alf Goff had just arrived on the homestead in May of 1903. Homesteads were cheap, 160 acres of land for $10 but a man had to work for it. They had to build a place to live, good enough to survive a Canadian winter, break a few acres of land. Plus buy some horses or oxen to pull the breaking plough. The closest settlement was Fort Qu'appelle some 20 miles south which was a long journey in the days before roads.After spending their first few months in a tent they managed to construct a 10x12 foot log cabin in which to live which was a big improvement over the tent. Still, it must have been a real eye-opener when the snow came and the temperature dropped to the -20s for long periods. It was likely during a spell of that weather that Jack made the statement that he would be back in Dorset for next Christmas. He never did make it back to Dorset though. As they made progress on the farm he may have come to accept the extreme weather conditions as normal. Or it may have just been lack of funds to make a return trip to England that kept him here. He farmed the land for another 40 years before retiring to town. Here's a picture of the little homestead shack as it stood in 2003, a hundred years old.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Littlest Immigrant

The youngest of my ancestors to leave England for Canada was my mother's cousin, Ernest William Nevard, or as everyone knew him, "Bill". Born in 1902, he was only 4 years oldwhen he boarded the ship with his mother to sail to Canada and join his father, Ernest, who had come to Saskatchewan to homestead in 1903. Bill had very little formal education learning all the basics from his parents. He was a voracious reader and prolific writer writing many short stories and works of fiction on whatever scrap paper was available at the time. He also loved to draw and left many pages of his own unique type of art. Bill began helping out on the homestead as soon as he was able to and went on to farm the land himself until 1948. He loved his horses that he farmed with and they all had names. When farming became more mechanized and tractors were taking over from horses, this must have helped him decide to leave farming and seek other employment. Bill worked at the Fort Qu'appelle t.b. sanatorium for the next 20 years until he retired. He enjoyed his retirement, gardening re-building the old farm homestead house and spending part of the summers there. He died at age 73 doing a job that he enjoyed, cutting firewood on the farm on a sunny morning in November of 1975.