Joe Anstett''s family moved to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan in the 1900s from Aitkin, Minnesota, U.S.A. They lived and worked at the old Celtic Brickyard, where they ran the dairy farm. Joe went to school in Prince Albert and worked at the Northern Brickyard all summer at the age of fifteen, before going to the north country trapping for the winter. Some of his family worked at the Brickyard and others like Joe and his friends; trapped in the Candle Lake area and north-east almost to the Flin Flon area and due north to Montreal Lake. At that time, this was all a wilderness area, without roads and completely unsettled except for the local Cree Indians and fur trading posts. Joe and his family all returned to Van Dyke, Michigan, in 1926 after several years of trapping. This is their story told mostly in photographic form.
Joe Anstett with his dogteam and a red fox.
The vast area north of civilization, beyond the last city, was referred to as "The North Country". Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the "Saskatchewan River" and a few scattered farms formed the last boundary. There were no roads, the country had not been surveyed when Joe and his trapper friends were there. Leaving for the north in early September, returning to civilization in late June or early July.
The "North Country" covered hundreds of square miles, beautiful forests, lakes and rivers and swamps. Jackpine, blue spruce, tamarack, poplar and willow trees grew along the rivers and lakes. Young willow tree branches were the favourite food of the moose. That wild north country was home to bear, caribou, foxes, elk, deer, coyote and timber wolves. The lakes and rivers were heavily populated with beaver and muskrat, ermine, marten and fisher.
We never tired of hearing the true stories of Joe's faithful dog teams! The leader, of course, was Major - the beautiful black and white husky, broad-chested and never happier than when he was in harness! One day while talking about the intelligence of animals, particularly dogs, Joe told them this true story. One day Joe left the "fish station" on Candle Lake with a loaded toboggan hitched to his dog team. Their destination was their camp on the other side of the lake where Slim awaited them.
Candle Lake is about nine miles long, or that should be nine miles wide and eighteen miles long. It was the trappers' custom to just follow the shoreline around, this Joe proceeded to do. Quite suddenly, one of the worst blizzards Joe had ever seen erupted. The wind and snow cut off visibility to just a few feet. The dogs kept going and Joe decided to just let them have their way. In what seemed hours, the dogs stopped, they were at the camp door!
Slim who had been watching and listening for them, greeted them happily and told Joe his cheeks were both frozen. During the long winter, Candle Lake was frozen over to a depth of seven feet. Spring came late to that northern country and Joe and his trapper friends came back to civilization in late June or early July.
Although definite plans had not been made, the next fall would see the general preparation. Old toboggans were repaired and new ones built etc. The dogs had been having the best of care all summer and some had been "boarded out" while their owners worked out. Joe's parents took care of several dogs besides Joe's.
Employment within the town (Prince Albert) was scarce, Joe was fortunate to have worked at the Northern Brickyard, then on the farms, ploughing, planting and harvesting, working sometimes till 10 pm to beat the frost, Joe said they hung lanterns on the combine feeder to see! This went on for seven days a week until the harvest was in. The men were not paid for the extra hours, just $4.00 a day and room and board.
Dogs are very intelligent Joe said. It was uncanny how watchful and excited the dogs would get at the first sign of preparation for the journey north. When the toboggans were first lined up, before being loaded, the dogs would just lie on the ground in formation as much as to say, "You can't go without me". Warm clothing, blankets, and essential personal items were all carefully packed. Non-perishable food, rice, beans, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and dried fruits. The men took turns hunting for just enough meat for themselves and the dogs to take along.
Joe Anstett worked here all summer at the age of 15,
before going to the north country for the winter.
Joe's father Wendlin, third from right
and cousin Albert from center, front row.
The barn at the Celtic Brickyard where the Anstett family lived and ran the dairy farm.
Joe's Dad standing and Joe on horseback rounding up the cows.
This was a homesteader's home in Paddockwood, about 50 miles from Prince Albert Their name was England and they had five children. Joe and other trappers often stopped overnight for rest and food on their way home to P.A. from the north country. Joe in the middle with his dog team.
Bert England, left, Mrs. England and her daughter and son. Joe Anstett, right with his dog team. Here where we used to stay part way from Prince Albert to Candle Lake. They were kind to the trappers, a hot meal etc.
Mrs. England, her daughter and her son by Joe's dog team.
Joe Anstett at his trapping cabin on Gull Lake with his dog team.
He was only 15 years old and trapping with Bill Arndt.
Joe Anstett's dog team. Major is the lead dog.
Dog - tired team arriving at an
Indian camp at Trout Lake.
Bill Arndt with caribou on toboggan,
Joe Anstett is sitting in the doorway.
Bill Arndt's trapping cabin on Torch River.
Joe Anstett with his full dog team.
Major, Joe's favourite lead dog.
Bert Vandercraft at La Ronge, he married an Indian woman.
Pictures shows burned out area from a forest fire.
Good friend Bill Arndt with Joe's dog team. Unfortunately,
Bill was cut off in the photo.
Joe's dog team with a Red fox caught in a trap.
A cabin built on Little Bear Lake built by Slim Kingsburg and Joe Anstett about 1918.
They fished here, the cabin was built on top of the frozen snow. They had to step down into it.
Arthur Stanstead, Scandinavian. Last Joe heard of him, he was heading for Alaska.
Photo showing his cabin and furs, Big Candle Lake fish station.
August Stansteads' furs, coyotes mink and weasels.
Wolves, coyotes and fox skins, at north end of Big Candle lake.
Joe was staying at this cabin while waiting for his own party.
Slim in white sweater, Arthur S. and friend.
August Sunstadt, standing below a trappers cache. An unwritten rule, if you need food help yourself,
but do not take guns, traps etc. stored for the summer.
Joe Anstett (left) Louie and Indian friend at the Ballantyne River by the Ballantyne River. Louie had a rag tied around his head to keep sandflies from getting into his eyes and ears. Sandflies and mosquitoes were unbelievable in Northern Saskatchewan in 1924-25.
Two entries at the Dog Derby on the Saskatchewan River.
This photo was taken by Slim and mailed to Joe about 1926.
Bill Arndt with Joe Anstett's dog team on Candle Lake. Headed into the woods
to bring back a moose Joe had shot. Meat was needed for food for men and dogs.
Joe Anstett's and his full dog team on Little Bear Lake.
Note - Major always undisputed leader!
Joe with a load of fur near the mouth of Torch River. Hauling
fur from Candle Lake to Prince Albert. Saskatchewan.
Olaf Hanson and Bert Vandercraft, two dog teams on
a trail south of Little Bear Lake.
Major - Joe's husky dog, would balk and never cooperate unless he was the lead dog!
A good leader though. Note the coyote furs on the toboggan.
Joe's best buddy in the North Country Vernon "Slim" Kinsberg.
At the fish camp at Candle Lake.
Joe with his full team at Bear Lake.
One-eyed Fanny, dubbed the slowest plug on earth.
The coming of a new era! April, 1925. Charlie Loring, one of Joe's old trapper friends
touring Oregon. Charlie sent this photo to Joe in Detroit.
Albert Hart hauling logs out of the forest at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
Dog teams meet on Little Bear Lake, each going in a different direction. Louie French left, Joe Anstett in a white sweater, Joe always liked white turtle-neck sweaters.
As usual, Major stays as close to Joe as possible.
Vernon "Slim" Kinsburg (left) and two Indians, Joe did not take this photo.
Not sure what the dog is doing.
Olaf Hanson with the dogs near the Fire Ranger station at Candle Lake, Saskatchewan. The Fire Ranger can only report fires, there is no protection or fire fighting equipment.
The Hanson Lake Road is named after Olaf.
Huskies and their temporary shelter on the trapline. Beautiful, faithful animals,
but it must be remembered that they are part wolf.
Slim Kinsberg holding up a dead fox they found on Candle Lake.
Joe took the photo.
Don't know his name, but he was a fire ranger at
Candle Lake. An Englishman.
Fire Station Tower. Since there was no fire protection, the duties of the ranger were to watch and send all possible locations to authorities when spotting fires. Forest fires were devastating!
Spring Catch 1922. Muskrat, beaver, 2 coyotes, mink and skunk. Joes good friend Bill Arndt "Conversing with Major". Unfortunately, the original photo cannot be located.
Spring Catch 1922. Muskrat, beaver, 2 coyotes, mink and skunk. Joes good friend Bill Arndt "Conversing with Major". Unfortunately, the original photos cannot be located.
Spring Catch 1922. Muskrat, beaver, coyotes, mink and skunk. Good trapper friend Charles Loring, The Old Fish Station. Photo showing back view on Little Candle Lake. Unfortunately, the original photos cannot be located.
Lake Trout from Little Bear Lake. Some weighed as much as 60 pounds, Joe Slim and pals on Candle lake, 1924, the Old Fish Station. Unfortunately, the original photos cannot be located.
Two teams meet on Little Bear Lake. Joe in white sweater - his favourite attire.
Joe's team headed north, the other with a load of fur going south.
Dog team arriving at an Indian camp.
Caribou hides drying on a rack.
Bert Vandercraft and Olaf Hanson crossing
Candle Lake, Saskatchewan.
Dog teams crossing Candle lake,
Joe Anstett at the back.
Click the Green Navigation Link for Part Two
of Joe Anstett's Story.