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Districts Part - Four

Ladder Valley

Excerpts from Timber Trails
with additions.

The derivation of the name "Ladder Valley" was said to have happened many years ago, before serious white settlement began.

The Winter Lake tribe and the local Cree Indians used Bodmin Hill for a lookout point since it made much of the surrounding district visible. The Crees also held religious ceremonies on the hill during a time of spiritual meditations. The Indians referred to the hill as "Okee-se-won" which translated means "to climb the hill". The lake at the base of the large hill acquired the same Indian name. Subsequently, when the white man entered the area, "Ladder" was substituted for "Okee-se-won"; thus Ladder Hill, Ladder Lake, and Ladder Valley were named.

The community was officially designated as Ladder Valley when the school district was formed. The school was named Ladder Valley and the district adopted the same title.

Settlement of the Ladder Valley area began in the early 1920s. The pioneers who came in were homesteaders who thought that a living could be gleaned from the northern bushland.

Many of the first settlers were of Ukrainian descent. To list all the names would be impossible as many of the people stayed for only a couple of years or even as short a period as several months, learning within that short duration, that they were unable to cope with a life that rarely offered tangible rewards. For those persevering families and individuals that stayed, it took years of hard physical labour before their efforts could be displayed in material worth.

Settlers would purchase a homestead, one hundred and sixty acres, for the sum of ten dollars. They would make the journey north, many by train, and arrive in Big River, destitute and bewildered. Some families did not take the train, but rather travelled on foot, herding their livestock and suffering from the external elements.

From Big River, the settlers would travel out to their homesteads many times, not sure of their direction. Eventually, they would arrive at their destination only to be faced with one hundred and sixty acres of bush, no home, and a feeling of hopelessness and insecurity.

With determination and a will to succeed, homesteaders survived. Gradually more and more settlers moved in, replacing those who had left, or were farming new homesteads.

The need for a new school became apparent as the number of children of school age increased in the district. As of yet, there was not a permanent facility for educational purposes. A committee was put forth to establish a proposal for a school in the district. Meetings and collection of information started in February of 1927 and the proposal was sent to the Saskatchewan Government in 1927. Mr Ferris, Superintendent of Schools, was notified and he complied with a positive attitude.

The Ladder Valley School District was erected early in the year 1930, and a school was opened in temporary quarters in a log house near the Gilbert home. In 1930, C.H. Gilbert, chairperson, Arthur Moore's secretary and G.W. Gibson, treasurer headed the committee of the Ladder Valley School District #4831. The teacher then was Mrs P. Lamothe. After the school was built in 1931, students attended the small one-room country schoolhouse. It was at this time that the district was given the name "Ladder Valley". Other proposed names included Albion, Hill View, Tower Valley, Poplar Grove, Meadow Creek, and Grand Valley.

Even after a school was built, educational problems did not subside. The people of the district still had to contend with securing staff, maintaining the school grounds, and the students had to deal with going to school even when weather conditions refused to cooperate. Eventually, because of the water, roads and trails became impassable. It was inevitable that the school could not continue under present conditions.

When the Inspector of Schools visited Ladder Valley in 1932, he stated in his report that, "Road conditions render it impossible for children to attend the school. I may say that the floods, which I observed there, dumbfounded me. I traversed a good portion of the district on foot, and it is well within the boundaries of truth to say that a child could not approach the school from any direction without positive danger to life and limb. Parents could not help but feel the utmost anxiety for their children, especially the smaller ones, from the time they left home until they arrived back safely, if they ever did...there is a possibility that the waters may subside by the early part of September, but until this happens, it is not reasonable to request that school be opened. Neither teacher nor pupils could reach it under present conditions."

The school did open again in 1934 and continued to provide for the educational needs of the children within the district.

The names of the teachers who have taught in the Ladder Valley School include:

Mrs P. Lamotte,
A.E. Bird
Miss M. Brownfield
Miss J. Henderson
Miss E. Horton
Mr L. Grymaloski
Mr E. Zapf
Mrs M. Holmlund
Mr Zemesukoff
Miss M. Egglestone - (Mrs. Wood)
Mr Habach
Mrs Chalifour
Del Bernard
Mr McIntyre
Miss Tomporowski
Mrs Johnson
Mrs D. Crashley
Mrs Rusk.

These teachers were responsible for teaching grades one to eight. In 1956, Mrs D Crashley's wage was $2,250, and Miss Egglestone's-(Wood) ranged from $2,300 in 1957 to $3,050 in 1962.

The Ladder Valley School was closed down permanently in 1967 and the children were then bused into the Big River schools.

The school, no longer an educational facility, served the district as a community centre until about 1979 and stood as a symbol of the origin of the district. The school was moved to the Jake Zacharias farm in the late 1980s and later burnt to the ground.

As with a school, the people felt the need for a church and requested that one be built at Ladder Valley. Before a church could be built, the people of the district met at the school to hold their services.

With continued faith and determination, the request was eventually approved. The authorization was met with determination. "This opportunity can be seized only by faith and hard work. Nothing less will do. There are no shortcuts. We have come closer together and we must work! The only way to build a church is the way you build a home. One must put one's whole strength into it and so do you build a church." This is a quote from the Church News Bulletin, 1935.

St. Leonard's Church was completed in 1937 with the first service held on May 23, 1937. A financial gift from Mrs Mary Covert, a lady in England, made it possible to construct the building so quickly. A Church committee wrote to Mr Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, to try to secure a bell for the new church. The bell they received was originally a railroad bell, but it served an even greater purpose when it was used within a church.

The first minister in this district was affectionately called "Preacher" Smith. His duty also involved the distribution of the relief money in Ladder Valley. The other ministers who succeeded Preacher Smith were as follows: Rev. Parrot, Captain Hague, Rev. Craven and Miss Colpus.

Services are no longer held in the small log church. The church, like the school, still stood as a representative of the past and the faith that was displayed by the early settlers in Ladder Valley. It was destroyed by fire in the early 1980s.

As the population increased within Ladder Valley, a small general store and Post Office was opened to save the numerous trips to Big River for supplies and mail. The first store and Post Office was opened in 1935 and was managed by Arthur Moore. Arthur's son was responsible for carrying the mail from Big River to Ladder Lake by horseback.

In May 1939, Mr and Mrs Wilfred Young took over the store while Baskotts took over the mail service. The store during this time could be classified as a confectionery. Just a few items were sold, no hardware or bulk staple foods.

Mr Young, as well as being store proprietor, also hauled the farmer's milk to the cheese factory in Big River. Mr Hyatt, and then later, Mr Archibald, were the mail carriers. When Youngs moved out of the district for a time, Frasers opened the store and when their business was discontinued, Parents began operating the store. During these years, the Post Office was under the responsibility of Mr Robert Wood. In 1947, Mr Wood took over the store, as well as retaining the postal service. These two businesses were operated within his home.

Mary and Wilfred Young, Bob Frideli.
Mary and Wilfred Young, Bob Frideli, Fred and Muriel Baskott (holding Lorna),
Leonard and Ron in front.

Ladder Valley Post Office 1943.
Ladder Valley Post Office 1943.

These small general stores, in addition to offering a valid service to the people, also provided a central meeting ground where members of the community could meet with their neighbours and discuss current issues.

Although farms were widespread, people still managed to visit or get together socially for an evening of entertainment. Card parties, house parties, dances in the home or at the school, and picnics, provided the entertainment that was necessary to dispel the monotony and lift the spirits.

Dances were not just restricted to the adult members of the family, all ages attended and all ages enjoyed the fun. Entertainment would consist of anyone musically inclined or willing to exhibit his or her talent. Dances lasted until the early hours of the morning and then families would make their way home, weary yet content.

Gathering at Ladder Valley.
Gathering at Ladder Valley.

Other special occasions that brought people together to enjoy the company of their neighbours were Sundays when they would meet for church. Also, at Christmas time the students put on concerts and many people would gather at the school to be entertained by the antics of the school age children. Presents and candy would be handed out along with a word to the neighbour.

World War II Victory Service.
World War II Victory Service.

In 1965, a grant from the government provided the necessary funds to build a curling rink and skating rink by the men of the Ladder Valley community. For two years, while the school was still open, the students would go skating during the noon hour and in the evening. Curling bonspiels continued for many years at the curling rink for local people and those who came from Big River.

1978 brought many changes to the Ladder Valley area. With 50 plus members belonging to the Ladder Valley club it was discussed as to whether we build a new hall and curling rink since our small curling rink needed many repairs and didn't accommodate the number of people that were interested in curling.

With Jim Stalwick as president, a discussion was held and what we wanted and how we were going to go about it and get it done. It was decided that we would go with two-sheet curling ice and a hall that would accommodate a seating capacity of 125. Fundraising began and notes were signed to help with expenses. A grant from International Woodworkers of America along with the Bodmin Local, Big River Kinsmen Club and the Big River and District Recreation Board, funds were under way for our project. People volunteered to get logs from the bush and Allyn Wood sawed them at his mill into building material. Three students, Darren Kennedy, Troy Cooper and Kerry Gear, with Howard Crashley as a spare were hired. Many community members put in countless volunteer hours building the hall. Rafter raising and sheeting started in July of 1980. A 40 foot well was dug.

The building was used at the homecoming (not completely finished but kept us dry) when we celebrated our homecoming in 1980.

The hall was opened in 1981 and is still being used today. Many a weekend of curling was held there, some even during the night as the weather was too warm and the ice was soft, but we always managed to finish the curling season. It has been used for many things, including wedding receptions, the annual Christmas party, the fall supper, Dine and Dances, New Years party and our annual old-fashioned picnic. We still do fund - raising to keep our hall up and running, but have not used the curling ice for curling for a few years now. It has been used for a hockey and skating rink over the past few seasons.

Ladder Valley is still a farming community, but that definition has changed through the years. Few families operate solely a farm. In many families, both parents work out of the home to supplement the farm. Some of the original settlers still live in this area, while others have moved into Big River. Ladder Valley still retains some of the traditions that were prevalent in its earlier years. Also the attitude of the people still remains the same. They are proud and eager to work together within their rural district to make it a community.

The following are some of the family names of residents (past and present) of the Ladder Valley district:

Approval letter for Bell from PMO.
Approval letter for locomotive bell from PMO.

Letter from Diocese about Bell.
Letter from Diocese about locomotive bell and visit.

Ladder Valley School Days

Submitted by Gail Gear

Ladder Valley School.
Ladder Valley School.

I had Miss Crashley for grade one. The main memory of grade one was getting the strap. I did deserve it as I was paying more attention to a group of kids than the teacher, but I do not remember what it was that we all got the strap for. This was the year we had a very deep snowfall. Highlights of the year were being allowed to play in the tunnels the senior kids had made in the high drifts. The drifts up the back of the barn were level with the roof and allowed us to slide off the front down some planks. The big boys (Bob Kennedy) were there to super vise us. My mom, Margaret Wood, was my teacher for grades two, three, four, and seven. I felt sorry for myself; as I was to set an example, not have special privileges because my mom was the teacher. I did, however, get to assist with the copying on the hectograph and helping with other things.

The Christmas Concerts were such a joy. Miss Johnson came to teach in Ladder Valley when I was in grade five, bringing to Ladder Valley students some different ideas. It was that year that we did a Shakespeare play for the Christmas Concert. It was the year the entire group from grade one to eight got to stay in because the janitor played tricks by setting the alarm to go off during school hours and adjusting the work on the blackboard, and none of us who knew would tell. Mrs Gerow taught us in grade six and Mrs Rusk in grade eight. By the time we got to these grades we'd already sat through the same instruction year after year and we knew most of the lessons by heart.

We had wonderful times at recess and noon, riding on the horse-drawn sleigh, playing ball, hopscotch, anti-I-over, and dozens of other games. We practised for the field days and when the big day came all 19 or so of us would travel in the back of someone's truck to compete in Big River, standing a little forlorn little group during opening ceremonies. Some of us would get ribbons and go on to further competition. The year-end trips sometimes took us to a picnic at Clearwater Lake.

The major event each year was the Christmas Concert. Comparing the actual floor size of the school to the success of the events makes one wonder how those wonderful teachers managed. We pushed all the desks closer to the wood heater and someone (very often my dad) built a stage capable of holding us all. Out came the boxes and up went the curtains to form walls. Back of the curtains and under the stage were all the props/clothes, etc. that we needed to perform our parts and plays. Some years Mrs Straub would come and accompany us on her guitar. On "the big night" all the folks would pack in and we would perform and Santa would come and we would have lunch, oh those were the days! We may not have had many tools to work with, not even electricity, but by the time we were through grade eight good habits were formed that helped prepare us for life.

Ladder Valley School children.
Back Row:
Jack Rempel, Wendell Hiltz, Ann Rempel, Gail Wood,
Fern Kennedy, Colleen Gilbert, Ann Gilbert.

Middle Row:
Neil Archibald, Bill Crashley, Barb Smith, Sandra Archibald,
Wally Rempel, Willy Rempel,

Front Row:
Tina Rempel, Wendy Kennedy, Richard Crashley,
Diane Servatius, Grant Wood. 1961-1962.

Teaching at a Rural School
By Margaret Wood

When I was asked to write what it was like to teach at a rural school my first thoughts were that above all it was a challenge. Late August 1944 I attended a 'short course' at Saskatoon Normal School, which was my guidance in early October to meeting thirty-one students from beginners to grade eight at Ladder Valley School.

The corner site yard was approximately an acre and a half. Nestled within this area were the well-built schoolhouse and two outdoor biffies. A very small porch protected the entry door to the one-room school.

Its natural features were probably similar to all country schools. In the back corner, there was a very small cupboard which contained all the supplies such as paper, chalk, all the school records, readers and spellers for each grade, a few library books and space for the small hymn books used when church services were held in the school. Next, there were pegs for boys apparel. The chimney and barrel type heater, which burnt two-foot cordwood, were close by. The opposite back corner contained a bench stand with a crock type drinking container as well as a basin and water pail for wash water. Pegs for girl's apparel occupied a little space while the window and piano took up the remaining wall space. The front of the room was blackboard space. The desks well used and difficult to move on the wood floor.

In this environment as well there was no electricity, phone, or substitute teachers. Moreover, I had never attended a rural school.

In general, the students were respectful and eager to learn. Lessons required organization of the use of blackboard and materials. Aids such as the hectograph, which made duplicate copies, flashcards, math and alphabet tickets, maps and plasticine, were well used. It took countless hours of preparation to establish a timetable and prepare the lessons. The basics were stressed. Grades were grouped for Science, Social and Health while all were grouped for Phys. Ed, Music and Art. When students in the upper grades completed their assignments they often assisted those in lower grades. It was important to cover the curriculum requirements, as the grade eights were required to write departmental exams. One advantage of having all grades in one classroom was the repetition of lessons. Some years there were students taking grade nine and ten correspondence courses, whereas there were beginners who didn't understand English, so this required different levels of learning.

Extra curricula brought some variety, belonging to the Junior Red Cross for example. One term the children created bazaar items and with the proceeds purchased a radio! School broadcasts were available.

The students and I, especially enjoyed our preparations and presentations of our Christmas Concerts. With no electricity, it was often very dull during the last school period. The plays, recitations, skits, nativity scene and acrostic items became our music, art, excitement and enthusiasm for the weeks in December before that concert evening that brought the community together. There was a makeshift stage and a tree brought in. The students decorated these and the entire room, with decorations mostly fabricated from crepe paper. Bedsheets were strung up for stage walls while fake windows were adorned with crepe paper curtains-blue sky and stars. When the curtains opened and all were on stage with faces flushed with excitement, in my book, each was a star! Traditionally the teacher raised funds to order a gift from Eatons for each student. At the end of the program, Santa arrived and handed out that treasured gift and a bag of candy for each child. Often desks were pushed to the side and the held coats and sleepy children as the adults danced for a few hours before lunch was served.

Playing ball was the most popular sport. Equipment was minimal. Students faithfully took their turns mending the torn leather on the ball. Playing ranged from scrub to teams and also preparing one team to have a game with a neighbouring school on a Friday afternoon, all the students were transported in the back of a one-ton truck.

With spring came practising for the Sports Day held in tow. The outlying rural school would participate in the competition for all the different events. Again the truck trip. The students were very timid about being among so many peers and in such a large school building.

The end of June often found the students again in the back of a truck headed for a picnic at a local lake. Usually, the road was muddy and slippery. After their time in the water and a few games and a wiener roast, we called it a day and returned wishing everyone a happy summer holiday.

As the years sped by there were improvements such as the installation of electricity, a linoleum floor covering, newer desks and library books. A barn was built allowing horse-drawn conveyance if the families desired. Most students walked to school. Some lived four miles away. They all experienced lots of fresh air. Most winters brought severe cold weather and snow was never cleared off the roads. School attendance was good considering the distance and weather conditions the students experienced.

Rapid Bend District

Excerpts from Timber Trails with additions

Rapid Bend received its name from a curve in the Sturgeon River, which separates most of the area farmers from the Prince Albert National Park. Beavers built large dams along the Sturgeon River causing higher waters and rapids and thus, the early settlers that lived along the river named "Rapid Bend".

During the early '30s, the government sent relief people from the city to this area to settle on new and virgin land, in hopes to establish a farm for themselves. Some came with cows and horses and little knowledge of what they were in for. Winters were cold and they were not ready for the harsh weather that lay ahead of them. Most land was straight muskeg and bush and with little knowledge of what to do with this, they soon gave up and returned to the city. Some stuck it out and still have children on their original homesteads. The working days were long and hard and some managed to build a house and establish a farm within a few years and are proud of the work that they accomplished.

Family and friends were close-knit back then and were willing to help each other in any way they could. There were many family gatherings and socials for them all to enjoy. Most men had to find seconds jobs to help supplement their family income, leaving the wife to care for the farm and their family.

There was never a store or Post Office built in the area and the closest one was at Ladder Valley, a few miles to the west. The closest doctor was in Big River, so midwives were used to delivering babies, and in a case of emergency, neighbours were there to help.

Cows were milked and the milk separated and cream was sold in cream cans. Farmers had to take the cream cans to the closest depot to be sent on. A lot of farmers collected the cream cans for other farmers making it worthwhile for a trip to town. Groceries and such were usually bought with the cream cheque once it came. Eggs and butter were a big part of the extra money brought in.

Church services were usually held in peoples homes with a travelling minister, and "van ladies" as they were sometimes called, travelled to different district to hold a regular church service and to visit with families that couldn't get out. It was always nice to be welcomed to someone's place and to sit down at their table for the bountiful Sunday meal.

With a lot of children in need of education, numerous people got together to discuss the possibility of building a school.

Ladder Valley School children.
Back Row:
Bob Woods, Cedric Crossman, Ernie Freer, Edgar Woods, Charlie Crossman,
Tony Panter (holding Betty Lou), Myrion Parish, Frank Schlitz.

Middle Row:
Neta Panter, Doreen Wood, Ethel Panter,
Elsie Panter, Frank Panter.

Front Row:
Jim Panter, Victor Panter, Howard Panter.

Here are the minutes of the first minutes' School meeting which was held at the home of Mr S.E. Crookshank on Monday, February 11, 1935, to form a school district.

Rapid Bend School.
Rapid Bend School.

Mr Crookshank and Mrs L. Longmuir were appointed chairman and secretary. The forming of a school district was discussed and all were in favour. Moved by L. Longmuir and seconded by A. Panter that the SE-27-55-6-W-3rd, be applied for the location of the school. Moved by L. Longmuir and seconded by Fred Schurman that the communications are taken up with the Department of Education, asking for an above mentioned quarter to be granted for the school location. Moved by Mrs Crookshank and seconded by A. Panter that the name "Rapid Bend" be given to the school district. Nominations were held for a committee, consisting of Ray Taylor, Anton Panter, S. Crookshank and Fred Schurman. Moved by Roy Taylor and seconded by Anton Panter that meeting is adjourned. The number of school-aged children in the area is fifteen. Miss Hunter was their first teacher. Other school teachers during the time the school was opened were Esther Clark Hunter, Pearl Lamothe, Henry Lamer, William Melnyk, Jean Egglestone, Mary Hutzul, Edith Young, Ethel Panter, Charles Nelson, De Lila McNeilly, Victoria Karaloff, Jacob Klaassen and Mrs Rousseau.

Rapid Bend School childen.
Back Row:
Rosie Swift, Mary Unrau, Tina Unrau, Ruth Unrau.

Front Row:
Viola Webb, Bill Unrau, Joan Ahearn, Marlene Unrau.

Most children had quite some distance to travel to school, but with the help of their main family animal, their favourite horse, and a sleigh or wagon, they managed to attend school regularly. Some had to walk a fair distance and some stayed with families closer to the school so they wouldn't have to leave early in the morning. Days were long for school children as their day started long before having to leave for school, as there was always the morning chores of milking the cows, feed the pigs and chickens and gathering wood for the heaters before their hectic day at school started. Numerous of our older people can remember of the times they were hired to provide enough wood for the old barrel heating that was used at the school, or the early morning riser to get to the school to put the fire on before the children got there. This school ran until 1954 when it was decided to bus the children to the schools in Big River. Their first bus driver was Jim Panter who later sold it to Alex Pankoski. The school building was later sold to Jim Panter and is still presently used as a garage.

Power became evident in the-mid fifties and with it brought changes to everyone's lifestyles. Electrical appliances, furnaces, and lighting were a big change brought to our modern society. Telephones were a big part of people's lives in the early seventy's where communications were made much simpler. Party lines were phased out and private phones were installed, making conversations more private.

Times have changed over the years and someone owns every quarter section of land.

A big part of the area, (approximately 52 quarters consisting mostly of sloughs, muskeg and land too rocky to farm), was bought by the government and made into a community pasture. It was mainly a relief pasture to start with because of the server drought in the south. It is always nice to take a drive and watch the hundreds of cattle being rounded up for their annual round-up in the fall, where numerous people were there to sort and truck the animals back home, ready for the winter.

A lot of people come this way for a beautiful scenic drive and in hopes to observe any wild game that may come out of the Prince Albert National Park. It is not uncommon to come across a herd of buffalo grazing in the farmer's fields, or the damage they have done, rolling in the dirt to keep cool or be protected from the flies and mosquitoes. A visit to Tie Lake in hopes to catch a supply of fish or just to sit and have a picnic and to relax is just a few of the modern-day pastimes that people enjoy. Also within the last few years, the Prince Albert National Park has opened up a trail where people can enjoy an outing with a walk in the park, and enjoy a picnic at the top of the hill at the Sturgeon Crossing campsite.

A lot of friendships and hardships accompanied us all over the years but the memories that we have to talk about of our past with our families will remain in our hearts and be passed on through our generations to come.

Some of the early homesteaders to the area were; to name a few.


Today the present people living in the Rapid Bend area are:



Excerpts from Timber Trails with additions

Plan A.
Lot Plan A

Plan B.
Lot Plan B

Timberlost has an interesting saga, which began as a community of high hopes and ended up with just memories of the total abandonment of a community.

During the depression years of drought and hard times, many of the families in the south became desperate and were forced to ask for government assistance. In an attempt to help these people, a plan was put into effect to open virgin land in the north so that new communities could develop which would support the oppressed families. One of the areas opened up in 1937 for this purpose was "Timberlost". Situated about fifteen to twenty miles west of Big River, it consisted of heavy timberland waiting to be cleared and broken into farmland. There were no roads and no facilities; just bush country for miles and miles and it was to this the early settlers came.

In the early thirties, it was a daily event to see families moving. A great percentage of these pioneers were depression afflicted, or the drought in the south had forced them to leave homes. A team of horses pulled the wagon with the family belongings, and what livestock there was, followed behind.

Upon reaching their new quarter of land, the newcomers knew that long hours of back straining work were ahead of them. First, the land had to be cleared and logs cut to make their new home. Log cabins and barns were constructed and the remains of many of these buildings are still standing at Timberlost today.

While the cabin was in the process of being built, the families usually lived in tents until the home was completely assembled. Sometimes though, the men would have gone ahead of the family and would have a home ready when the women and children arrived.

It usually took all of the first summer to build a home and clear enough land so that a crop could be planted the next season. Often the families were sceptical of their future. Then the soil was found to contain too much sand to produce crops. With little or no visible means of income, the situation became gloomy. The homesteaders had to live off the land. Gardens and crops were planted for food that they would need to see them through the winter months.

Otter Lake School, 1942.
Otter Lake School, 1942.

Back Row: Jessie Anderson, Ruby Pelchat, Gertrude Mitchell, Doug Anderson, Mrs. Gladys Anderson, Sherman Harty, Jacob Peters, Elsie Cleaver, Vivian Anderson, Hilda Larson. Third Row:
Bob Mitchell, Rhiney Pauls, Victor Bushy. Joe Harty, Dan Harty.

Second Row:
Muriel Sklapsky, Louise Harty, Eileen Wingerter, Ursela Pelchat, Rose Pauls,
Ruth Harty, Opal Pelchat, Myrtle Anderson, Eunice Cleaver.

Front Row:
Abe Peters, Dennis Bushy, Allan Sklapsky, Raymond Mitchell.
Willie peters, Dennis Anderson, Ervin Wingerter.

Some of the more fortunate farmers were able to bring livestock and chickens with them. Included in the initial purchase of the homestead, one cow was supplied to each family, which provided them with milk, cream and butter. Many of the homesteaders would barter with their neighbours for the things they needed. Eggs were often exchanged for flour or groceries in town.

Two schools situated in Timberlost, one at the north end and the other at the south. Otter Lake School, District #5140 was situated on SW 36-55-l0-W3. February 1st, 1938 people of this area got together to discuss the needs of a school for the children of this area. The first school meeting was held on May 6th, 1938 and officially the district was established on May 16th, 1938. A grant of $100.00 was received to help in the building of the first schoolhouse, and an additional $100.00 could be obtained for a special building grant.

The first school district committee members were Chairperson Leo Harty and secretary Frank Winterter. The first school teachers in 1941 were Victor Leowin and Paul Zeilbesky. Other teachers that followed over the years were Gladys Anderson, Kurke Neumann, Paul Weins, Sheilah Kernagham, Mr E Vin Ruh, and Jordon Brightman.

The other school was named Big Ravine School.

District #5163. The settlers of this district saw a need for their children to get an education. A proposal was made to the Department of Education on May 31, 1939, for a school to be built on NW18-55-9-W3. This was approved on January 9, 1940. Chairperson for this school district was I. Miller and the secretary was Percy Bole. This school closed down in 1950 and the students were bused to Big River.

Groom Arthur Hodgson, Bride Jessie Anderson.
Groom Arthur Hodgson, Bride Jessie Anderson, Cannon Payton,
Douglas Anderson, Muriel Hodgson. June 1947.

This school was opened in 1940 with sixty-six students in attendance. Mary Hutzel was the first teacher in the Big Ravine School and she taught grades one to nine. Teachers that followed her were Allen Wager, P. Bokurak, Mrs Rusnell, Sergey Kujawa, Eugene Bodnarchuk, Mike Markowich, Armand Quessie, Miss. H. Pallerson and Orest Kazmynka. Often five or six pupils would have to squeeze into the desks built to accommodate only four. Each day water was hauled one-half mile in a cream can for use at the school. The students on their way to school did this daily chore.

During the summer months, the students of these schools held frequent ball games. Another time they all got together was for the Christmas concert. The teacher at the time would arrange a program and the parents would attend. The two schools would hold a competition for the best Christmas concert.

At times, the Big Ravine School and the Otter Lake School would not be open because of the lack of teachers. Often they did not want to live out in the bush. Consequently, the school was held during the summer months when the teacher was willing to come to Timberlost to teach.

A teacherage was built beside Napoleon Paul's store in 1944. The teachers no longer had to board with the homesteaders. The schools eventually closed when the people began leaving Timberlost and the school population dwindled.

Though life was rough, often times were good. The Timberlost community met once a year for the annual Sports Day. This was held at the end of June. The students of both schools would compete in ball games, high jump, pole vault, etc. Each school took its turn at winning the yearly event.

The Cleaver family made ice cream and there was free ice cream for all. The children always looked forward to Sports Day.

Picnics were popular and usually, one was held every Sunday and the men would play ball.

Dances provided popular entertainment. Each family took turns hosting these. Mrs Rene Douquette, Mr Leo Harty, and Nellie Duquette often played the accordion, while the Miller Brothers, Sam, George, Tom and Martin, along with Mr Cleaver, played violins and all enjoyed their lively music.

Dancing, singing, and laughter would often carry on until the early hours of the morning. This often made the settlers forget their troubled times in the happiness they were sharing.

Often church services were held at the homes of settlers in the early years. Later, church services were held in the school where the minister from Big River would arrive to give faith and hope to the people.

This building was the first store in Timberlost run by Harry Pelchat, probably 1940, then the teachers lived in it.

Groom Arthur Hodgson, Bride Jessie Anderson.
Back Row:
Ruby, unknown. Mr Kurt Newman (Otter Lake school teacher), unknown,
Mr. Serg Kejawa (Big Ravine school teacher), Pauline Wall, Eva Klassen, Edna Wall.

Front Row:
Donald, Pearl Pelchat, Elma Pelchat,
Art Bergen, Delbert Anderson.

Anthony Thibeault built and operated the first store and Post Office in Timberlost in 1938. The store stocked only groceries. Any hardware, if needed, had to be picked up in Big River.

Louis Peltier also had a store. He later bought Mr Thibeault's business and later sold it to Johnny Beebe. Johnny ran the business until he moved from Timberlost.

Some men in the community later began to run private mills. This provided the extra income needed for the family. The mills would cut lumber and ties for pulpwood. This would be hauled into Big River and sold. This process of cutting, piling and the trip to and from Big River would take two days. At times a load of pulpwood would be sold for one dollar, just so it wouldn't have to be hauled back home.

Some private mill owners were Mr Rene Douquette and Mr Kilbreath, Stun Anderson and Millers, and Mr Peters. The land was extremely dry at that time and provided an excellent start for two forest fires that began to devour the surrounding forest near Timberlost. The fires swept towards unprotected homesteaders. The only thing the men could do to protect their farm homes was to fireguard. They worked frantically as the fire grew and began to surround the homesteads. The homes on the outskirts were endangered first. Women and children were moved to the centre of Timberlost, at the crossroads. Fortunately, the fires burnt out after a couple of days and the people could return to their homes. The only danger noticeable was the charred black walls on the outside of the buildings. The private mill owners were not so fortunate as the fire would prevent them from producing the quantity they wished. They were forced to share the timber left untouched or to move their mills.

In 1939, with the upheaval of the war, young, willing men set forth on an undeterminable journey. Harry Anderson, Roy Gunderson, Philip Harty and Ken Michel from Timberlost joined the army. With a minimal of training, they were sent overseas. Harry and Ken were killed in Europe, fighting with the Canadian Forces. Later, Wilfred Anderson and Ernie Cleaver joined the infantry and were posted overseas for defence work after the war. The people of Timberlost remember with joy, the return of the soldiers and the mourning for those who were lost.

Because of the lack of roads and facilities, farming became increasingly hard and the settlers became discouraged and began to move away from Timberlost. Many families left to find jobs or better farmland. Timberlost gradually became sparsely populated.

Many of the sons and daughters of the homesteaders married and remained in the district, moving on to land vacated by the first settlers. A new era began for those who remained.

The venture of farming the Timberlost area was abandoned by the government in 1959. The few remaining families were paid five hundred dollars to move out. The government intended at that time to make a bombing range out of the area. This never actually was done. The Rene Douquette, Mr Pelletier, Peter Olenchuk, Roy Gunderson and Dave Piche families were the lasts to move. Peter Olenchuk remained the longest.

Much of Timberlost is still uninhabited; however, some of the farmland has now been opened up and roads make the farms accessible.

Today, many people return to Timberlost or the Block as it is generally known, to look for a few remaining shanties and log building that was once their homes. Here they rekindle a spark of happiness, or sadness and remember the hard times and laughter shared by all who gave part of their lives to Timberlost.

For a time these pioneers created a community and became part of the history of those times in Northern Saskatchewan.

Through their determination and hard work, they created this new district which they should be proud of.

Post Offices and Postmasters.
Post Offices and Postmasters

Big Ravine School History

as related by Eva Klassen (Miller)

Teachers presided over a class of sixty-six students ranging from grade one to nine. The school was usually in session for the two summer months and frequently utilized recent school graduates. There were only a few years that had a full-term (winter classes).

I attended school from age eight to fifteen years (1940-1948), as my family left Timberlost in 1948. The Big Ravine School closed down in 1950-1951 with the remaining children going to Otter Lake School.

School cleaning was on a volunteer basis, though the volunteers did receive five dollars for their efforts. The work was extensive, as one had to scrub the floors, desks, and windows and outside toilets. I helped groups of people on several occasions, though when my sister Mary and I cleaned the school alone, it took the entire day!

Chores were assigned to two students per week who were responsible to bring in drinking water, firewood and empty the oil drum heater ashes as necessary. In addition, they were required to clean the blackboards, and ring the bell to announce the commencement of classes, dinnertime and both recesses. One final duty was to raise and lower the Union Jack (Flag), as Canada did not have its own yet.

Our school had not one, but two chants, both of which were written
by Leopold Duquette. The first chant was for local teams:

We've got the gang
We've got the zip
We've got the school that has the pep
The gang, the zip the school, the pep
Big Ravine, yes you bet!
Hip hip hooray!

The second chant was used when visiting other schools and districts:

We've got the gang
We've got the zip
We've got the block that has the pep
The gang, the zip, the block the pep
Timberlost! Yes, you bet!
Hip hip hooray!

I have many memories of this school but in particular, one humorous incident springs to mind. I suspect this was a summertime school session, as the teacher had the school door fully open. Many of the students were playing, some of which had taken to tossing horse droppings about. As you might well imagine, one such specimen was witnessed sailing into the school where it found a comfortable, though most unwelcome resting place at the base of the teacher's desk.

It suffices to say the teacher was not impressed and though she questioned the many gathered and suitably frightened children, the perpetrator would not confess. A sheepish William Miller offered and removed the offering sample, making certain not to admit guilt in any way.

School at Big Ravine.
School at Big Ravine.
Students of Big Ravine School.
Students of Big Ravine School.

e-mail me.

Author: Webmaster -
"Date Modified: March 21, 2024."

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