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Family Histories, Part 3

Bittman, Mr and Mrs Chris
With Excerpts from Timber Trails Book, 1979

Mr and Mrs Chris Bittman arrived in the Big River district in 1939, moving here from Athabasca Lake. They homesteaded on the land south-west of town and still own the farm. Mrs Bittman remembers the farmers having to cut their roads into their new homes. It was hard work and just one chore among many that the new settlers had to attend to.

During the cold winter months, the children were taken to Big River to school by horse and sleigh. The team was left, until after school was out, in a barn provided for their shelter. The family had to pay a fee to have their children attend the town school, as there was no school district out where they homesteaded. The Bittman's had four children: Rosella (Teer), Elnore (Lueken), Lorraine (Klitch), and Edwin.

Mrs Haas, the mother of Mrs Bittman, came to Big River in 1934 with her son Fred. The Depression had hit them hard and they lost their farm in Bruno, so they moved north and homesteaded here until 1957. Mrs Haas later moved into town and lived with her daughter until her death.

Bock, Al and Anne

Annie, Albert. 1922.
Annie, Albert. 1922.

Al and Anne (Hardy) Bock were married in Lemberg, Saskatchewan in 1922. Al worked for the Canadian National Railroad (C.N.R.) as a fireman. Anne was a waitress at the Melville Hotel when they met. She was one of sixteen children raised on a farm by John and Rosalie (Netzel) Hardy.

Beryl, Myrl. 1936
Beryl, Myrl. 1936.

Al and Anne had two daughters. Beryl was born in Melville, Saskatchewan on May 6, 1923, and Myrl was born in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan on April 16, 1928. When Myrl was born, Al had left the railroad and was working for the Imperial Oil Company driving oil tankers. Beryl, by this time, had been living with her grandparents, George and Alberta (Godbold) Bock, in Watrous, Saskatchewan for some years. Somehow, what started as a holiday with her grandparents, ended up being a stay of some fourteen years!

George and Alberta, 1938.
George and Alberta, 1938.

In 1931 Al, Anne and Myrl (nick-named Bubbles) moved to a homestead in Ladder Valley near Big River.

Ladder Valley Memories
by Albert A. (Al) Bock

Big River, Saskatchewan! Was there ever a Garden of Eden such as this? Grass on the meadows waist-high and blueberries luscious and ripe on the hills, with damp, wet ground, again underfoot! Gardens of the people who had settled there were bursting with vegetables and the cattle and horses sleek and fat with all the pasture necessary. Coming from the south with its aridness, this truly was the land of promise!

And truly these were the happiest years one could live, despite the hardships of being so financially poor and of the weather so cold, perhaps proving, I hope, that money isn't everything.

After the hot, dry, dusty years in the south with crops and gardens dried to a crisp, the clear skies and rain-washed green of the north woods appeared as a virtual Garden of Eden. The long drive from the south had left Anne and Bubbles very tired. It was only the thought of the responsibility undertaken that kept a man from sharing their fatigue. It was a trip of some 550 miles over gravelled roads, wash-boarded beyond description. The bush trails were muddy and dusty when the gravelled roads were left behind. This was done in an ancient Model "T" Ford Coupe loaded so heavily that the slightest bump made the tires scrape the fenders. No speeds were over thirty miles an hour. It was enough to tire anyone!

However, after leaving Prince Albert, our spirits gradually rose more and more as we encountered the wonders that regular rains can produce in the countryside. The years spent in the drought-ridden south seemed to be slowly washing away and the clear moist air of the north with the smell of green, growing and ripening foliage-filled our hearts with hope and gave us a renewed desire to carry on. In any case, we beat the train into Big River and on August 15, 1931, we were there when our boxcar of settler's effects was shunted and spotted at the loading platform.

We unloaded our entire worldly possessions at the C.N.R. platform. They consisted of one cow, two pigs, twelve hens, a wagon, a sleigh and a miscellaneous collection of beat-up household furnishings. There was also a tent and a large wood-burning cooking range that was to become one of our most prized possessions during our entire stay in the north. This, along with $40.00 cash, was all that we possessed.

I shall never forget that first night in Big River. Our new cow, Rosie, and our only horse, lean and lanky Buster, were tethered in the lush, green grass nearby. The twelve hens in the boxcar were clucking happily now that their hen-house was motionless. Best of all, our tent, that was to be our home for the next two months, was pitched. The beds set up ready for a night's rest, and our supper cooking on the range. We were all so tired but so very, very happy!

We had a guitar, so we sang and we were very happy. Al, Anne, Bubbles and a lot of the townspeople gathered around that first night in Big River. We sang songs and laughed. There was never a happier group of people in the world - and we had nothing! During the ensuing week, we moved out to within one mile of our homestead. This location was chosen because it was necessary to cut a roadway through the bush and swamp to about a half-mile from the place we had selected as a building site. In the days that followed, the logs were cut and pulled out of the bush. Finally, a campsite was established near the building site to cut down on travelling time between jobs.

We will never forget our first log cabin! On October 1st, we moved into a 14 x 16-foot mud-chinked log cabin with a slat and tar paper roof. The big cooking range glowed red-hot at times to provide heat. After almost two months in a damp, cold tent it was heaven!

Considering all the posh places we've stayed in on our travels, nothing can compare to the first night we finally had a roof, heat and a home! Strange as it may seem it was the first home we ever had and I can say (and Anne could, too) that no other home ever gave us such a thrill. You can buy a home, pay it off, improve it and make it much better than it was - but try going out in the bush, cutting the logs and building the cabin with your own hands. You will find that this is a home! We did it twice - and twice for others.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of being cosy in a cabin in the north with a lot of firewood and that sense of accomplishing something great. Was it cold? YES! So cold that the sap in the trees would bang like a shotgun and the northern lights would streak across the sky with all the colours of the spectrum let loose. Don't let anyone tell you that the Aurora Borealis doesn't make a noise. We have heard these northern lights hiss. (I don't care what the great scientists say - they DO hiss!)

I suppose our greatest consolation during that first winter in the north bush was that up the range line, three-quarters of a mile, we had friends - Fred and Bert Gallagher. Fred was a very humorous Irishman who could make a joke out of any situation. He would also cause everyone to be a little hyped-up about what, who or why other people even existed. Our neighbours and friends came over and helped us build (in one day) a barn for the hens, cow and horse.

The old Ford Coupe which had served us so faithfully was parked under some sixty-foot poplars and retired for the winter. Our supply of water from a well hastily dug nearby, supplied us with brackish, but sanitary water. With bush partridge, prairie chickens and the good steady supply of eggs from our chickens we managed to feel some sense of security.

Somewhere, someone wrote the words (perhaps it is a quote from the bible...) "And there were giants in those days...". Looking back to the autumn of 1931, I can only say, we too must have taken on the stature of giants. How else could we have accomplished as much as we did from August until the snowstorms of late October?

Rosie, our faithful cow, strained herself to supply us with a meagre amount of milk all through the following winter. In early spring she gave birth to a bull calf. I am afraid that we placed ourselves ahead of the calf because due to the lack of proper sustenance in his early months he did not amount to much. Though later in the summer of 1932, he did provide us with much-needed food - a little skinny and stringy but at least it was food!

The year 1932, will always be remembered as our potato and egg year. We managed to trade labour (we had nothing else) and receive, in return, plenty of potatoes, a few carrots and some cabbage. But, for days on end, from May through September we ate eggs and potatoes, potatoes and eggs. Anne boiled, scalloped (with the help of Rosie), fried and baked potatoes. She boiled, fried, poached and devilled eggs until the poor woman must have been almost out of her mind! For breakfast we had eggs and potatoes, for lunch, we had potatoes and eggs and for dinner, we had a choice - either eggs or potatoes!

We had coffee and tea (the cheapest grade) and flour, at $1.98 per 98 pounds - 3rd grade, out of which Anne produced the largest and most wonderful bread that could be imagined. Bubbles and I, made short work out of all she turned out!

In the spring of 1932, the rains came. The meadow, our good source of hay, was flooded as well as the dugout we called a basement. Our well became a flowing well - water running in one side and out the other. Leaf mould and other organic substances made it necessary to boil water for our use. The terrain became so boggy and water-logged that we went about for days with permanently soggy feet.

Mosquitoes by the trillions gave us no rest, day or night. (These were the days of no insect repellant!) The largest and most vicious mosquitoes swarmed down on us giving us and our animals no peace. Horseflies of an enormous size drove the animals almost crazy and, perhaps worst of all, there was an almost invisible gnat that caused raised welts the size of twenty-five cent pieces on our hands. They also caused bleeding areas on all the hairless, exposed parts of the animals' bodies. The only way to define our situation was to say that it was "homesteading under difficulties"!

One day, when driving the cow home to milk, I walked up to her side and struck a group of horse flies which had settled on her flank. I killed seven in one slap! This may not be a record but it gives you some idea of the suffering of the animals. We used smoke smudges to drive the pests away. The animals were sometimes plagued so badly that they would lie down too close to the fire and burn their skin, thereby suffering the pain of burns as well as that of insects.

In late July, the dragonflies came. I have never found out if they preyed upon mosquitoes and horse flies. In the years we were in northern Saskatchewan and elsewhere I have always noticed that when these great beautiful blue dragonflies and their transparent wings graced us with their presence the mosquitoes and horse flies disappeared. Their arrival was a time of rejoicing. The relief that they brought was beyond comprehension. By now, we knew that, although winter would not be far away, we would at least be blessed with a month or two of autumn and the hope for, 'Indian Summer'. This was the best time in the north woods.

By Andrew McPhee, grandson of Al Bock

Al, Anne and Bubbles, continued to live on the homestead until the outbreak of World War II. Beryl had, by this time, joined them and for a few happy years, they lived together as a family for the first time! In 1939 the family left the homestead to help the war effort. Al joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and became a service police officer. The family followed him. Anne and Beryl often worked in the office or maintenance workshops at the base.

In 1944, Myr] passed away in Edmonton at the age of sixteen from leukaemia. At the end of the war, the family was in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Anne and Beryl were working at the army hospital. Al got a job working on the maintenance of the Alaska Highway. Eventually, he became supervisor of the northern half of the highway. In 1952, Al and Anne moved to Edmonton, Alberta where he operated a grocery store for a while before becoming a very successful Investors Syndicate salesman.

Upon retiring they moved to Maple Ridge, British Columbia. Al passed away in March 1977. Anne will be celebrating her 98th birthday soon. She continues to live in Maple Ridge with many of her family members nearby.

Bogner, John and Theresa
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979

John and Theresa Bogner came from Germany to Big River in 1930. After arriving in Canada, they travelled to Big River in a passenger train and since neither John nor Theresa were able to speak English, they were unable to communicate with the other passengers on the train.

Once they arrived in Big River and established their home, John worked as a fisherman up north during the winter months and spent the summer harvesting crops in the south.

In 1929, John filed on a homestead and in May 1930, they moved to their farm in the Ladder Valley district. There were buildings already situated on the farm, but these were in desperate need of cleaning and repair. John and Theresa walked out from Big River three times to prepare their new home.

The Bogner's didn't have any machinery or livestock. To obtain a cow they had to clear four acres of land. This had to be done with only the help of axes. To obtain a horse they had to cut fifteen cords of wood, however, the horse they bought was old and died that same winter.

During the summer months, John would harvest in the south. He returned to the same farm for five years and was fortunate enough to receive three pieces of old equipment from this man.

Mrs Bogner can remember the house parties that they would have every Saturday night. They would walk to the neighbours with the lantern and enjoy listening and dancing to the old gramophone, or the accordion and guitar played by one of the neighbours.

In 1965, Mr Bogner passed away. Mrs Bogner remained on the farm for three more years to work the farm with the help of her son, Johnny.

Mrs Bogner went to British Columbia and stayed there for six years. She was remarried to Mr Feldmeir and when he passed away, she returned to Big River in 1975. Mrs Feldmeir still lives in the town of Big River.

Bogner, Pamela

I was born on April 21, 1981, in Big River to Ted and Shelly (Reimer) Bogner. I attended school in Big River until I left in Grade ten.

I began dating Clarence Reimer in 1996 while he was employed by C.R Logging (owned by Clarence and Russell Beebe) as a skidder operator. In early March 1997, I became pregnant with our first child. We rented our first house from the Big River Housing Authority in October 1997. It is located at 219 - 6th Avenue North.

On November 6, 1997, we welcomed a baby daughter, Taylor. A few months later, in early 1998, I began my first job as a cashier at D and D Confectionery for Judy and Marlow Pister. About a year later I quit to be home with Taylor.

In October 1998, Clarence and I purchased our first house from Rosemary and Gerald LaPlante for $40,000. It is located at 510 Forbes Street. Clarence and I, along with my cousin Kevin Reelie, completely renovated the basement and part of the main floor. This now put our mortgage at $56,000.

In November of 2000, I went to work for Crystal Reimer at her bakery in the old Waite Fisheries building. I worked for her until about April 2001, when she sold her equipment and closed her bakery. Around February 2001 I began waitressing at Third & Main. This was a great job that was a lot of fun as well as hard work. Many of my friends were employed there at the same time and we were usually very busy because Weyerhaeuser was renovating the sawmill and there were a lot of construction crews coming in at that time.

In August 2001, I became pregnant for the second time. Around the same time, Clarence left his job at C.R Logging to work for Rob Buckingham at Larson Logging as a forwarder operator.

In October 2001, I left my job at Third & Main because my pregnancy was making me very sick and it was hard for me to do my job.

Sometime in April 2002, Clarence began working at the Big River sawmill and is currently there. On Mothers' Day I went into labour and the next afternoon, on May 13, 2002, our son, Jackson, was born.

In December 2002, Clarence and I separated. In January 2003, I began dating Kiel Wilson. Kiel is presently employed with Wallace Wilson Enterprises Ltd. as a skidder operator. Kiel, my children and I now live at 127 - 4th Avenue South.

Bogner, Theodore (Ted)

Ted Bogner was born on October 3rd, 1960 to John and Victoria (Mirasty) Bogner at the Big River Union Hospital. Ted was a baby brother to Terry, Valerie and Rose Mary. Brother Vernon and sister Lynn were born in 1965 and 1967.

The Bogner's made their home in Ladder Valley where Richard Crashley now lives. John worked in the bush for Max Wilson and then for Saskatchewan Forest Products. Vicki was a stay-at-home mom. This was a full-time job.

Ted has many memories of "The Valley". Although he was only three years old he has vivid memories of the day that their house burned down. The family was on their way to visit the Servatius family. As they were going down the driveway John looked back and saw the house on fire. Everything was lost including the dog that they were looking after for Andy Labach.

Ted's Grandpa and Grandma Bogner were very close to their only son. A lot of time was spent at Grandpa's farm. Johann (John) was a seed farmer. Ted recalls his farm, machinery, and mechanic sheds as being immaculate. They picked wild oats from his crop by hand to produce premium seed. This farmyard was routinely swept with a willow broom.

After John Senior's death in 1964, the Bogner kids spent a lot of time with Grandma to help out. Every Saturday they would take her to town to shop. Each kid would get a dime. She moved to British Columbia in 1968 and married Carl Feldmeier. After his death, she moved back and remained in Big River until her death in 1992.

Ted was fortunate enough to go to the Ladder Valley School for one year until it closed in 1967. Mrs Rusk was the teacher that year. He attended school in Big River from 1967-1974. Although Ted's body was at school, his heart and mind were usually back in the valley riding horses. The "town kids" made many visits to the Bogner farm for a day of riding with the Bogners and Crashleys. Ted liked school sports and liked to stay in town so he could spend time skating at the rink.

The church was also part of family life and like every good Roman Catholic boy, Ted was an Alter Boy. Life in Ladder Valley in the 1960s was not easy but everyone helped each other out. The children all had their chores at home and worked any odd jobs for spending money. They were never hungry. Vicki is a good cook (and thrifty). She sewed many of the kids clothes so they were never cold.

Ted remembers the day they bought their first electric toaster. John Crashley came over and ate a whole loaf of bread toasted. (John loves homemade bread to this day.)

John and Vicki separated in 1973. In 1974 John moved to Carrot River where he lived with Clarice Brettle. Ted moved to Carrot River to live with his Dad and to go to school. The next summer he worked for the LeFebvre brothers on their farm near Carrot River. Making $800.00 cash per month in 1975 left little incentive for a fifteen-year-old boy to go back to school. That was the end of school for Ted. At the end of harvest, Ted came back to Big River to work. He applied for work at Max Wilson Trucking but they couldn't hire him then because he wasn't old enough to be covered by the Workers' Compensation Board. He went to work for Gary Magrath and also worked at Waite Fisheries for awhile.

In January 1977, Max Wilson came into the Rex Cafe to ask Ted if he wanted to go to work. Ted thought it would be a good job for a couple of years. Twenty-seven years have passed. He has done every job there is in the bush and is still there. How time flies when you are having fun! Ted and Max spent a lot of time bunking together. Ted has often said that he spent more time with Max than with his own Dad. Wally Wilson took over the company from his Dad, Max, in later years.

In addition to working in the bush, Ted farmed with his brother Terry from 1981-1990.

In 1979, Ted married Shelly Reimer. They had two children: Pam (1981) and Dallas (1983). Pam has two children with Clarence Reimer: Taylor (1997) and Jackson (2002). They live in Big River. Ted and Shelly separated in 2000.

Dallas is currently apprenticing to be an automotive mechanic at Big River Auto Body. He is lucky to have a good teacher like Martin Hanson. Dallas lives in Big River with Ted and his wife Wanda.

In 2002. Ted married Wanda Wilson. They make their home on Cowan Lake in the Rural Municipality of Big River. Wanda owns and operates Third & Main restaurant and Thelma & Louise's lounge in Big River.

Ted's dad, John, died in 1993 just one week short of retirement. He is still missed. Vicki lives in Drumheller, Alberta with Ken Leonhardt. They are retired. Vicki enjoys curling, bowling, golfing, dancing, camping and church activities.

Throughout Ted's adult life he has been an avid hunter. There were many great times at hunting camp with Hughie and Rob.

Wanda and Ted love to ski-doo, ice fish and downhill ski; but working in the bush leaves little time for winter sports. Ted has also been a faithful hockey fan of the Big River Braves. This past year was not an exception.

The last few years Ted and Wanda have begun to do some travelling and plan to do much more but "home"' will always be Big River. Both Wanda and Ted love to entertain friends and family.

Bogner, Wanda (Wilson)

I was born on April 22, 1956, in Prince Albert to Max and Laura (Gould) Wilson. Mom and dad brought me home to Big River to my older brother Wally. We lived on Highway 55 where Marion Grassick lives today.

Dad owned his own trucking company. Mom was a schoolteacher but gave up her career to help dad with the business.

My memories of the '50s are Sunday dinner at my Grandma and Grandpa Gould's, Picnics at the Spillway, and Sunday school at the old United Church.

The '60s brought Gaye (1961) to our family. I was happy to have my own "live" doll to play with.

In 1962, I started school at the old Junior School. Miss Scott was my grade, one teacher. I always loved school and eagerly participated in everything with enthusiasm.

Summers were a mix of bike riding, spending time at our cabin at South Stoney, Camp Tapiwingo and sneaking down to the Rex Cafe. There were two places I wasn't supposed to be: one was the Rex Cafe; the other was the pool hall. Of course, I loved to go to both! My dad has a nose on him like no one else I know, one sniff of me and he knew where I had been.

I remember loving Christmas Concerts at the Elk's Hall, Winter Carnivals, piano recitals and sports days. United Church activities were a regular part of our life.

Our vacations were long weekend trips to visit Uncle Bill and Auntie Maudie at East End, Auntie Belroy and Uncle Eddie in Winnipeg or Auntie Blanche and Uncle Peter in Stoughton. Our time travelling was always fun. We played eye spy, sang songs, played word games, and we even counted power poles. There were no built-in DVD players in vehicles in the '60s!

In 1967, mom and dad built a new house on Highway 55 across from the Catholic Church. They still live there today.

In 1969, sister Gina was born. The '70s brought High School fun. Our class trip in 1970 to the United States tops the list. I enjoyed SRC, drama, curling, softball, and volleyball - everything except Algebra.

In May of 1972, my son Scott was born. I finished my school year with help from Mr Cooper, Mrs Zinovich and Mrs Krienke. They were awesome. I returned to school in the fall of 1972. In October Rick Hartnett and I were engaged. We were married in June of 1973.

We moved to Pine Point, North West Territories. We added two daughters to our family there: Jade in 1976 and Amber in 1979. Rick apprenticed to be a welder at Cominco, Pine Point mines. He became a Journeyman in 1977.

I worked as a figure skating teacher and clerk at the Bank of Montreal. In 1975, I went to work for Pine Point mines too. I worked as a Telex operator, payroll clerk, and as a metallurgical clerk.

Both Rick and I were involved in many Community activities: Minor hockey, Curling, O.O.R.P and church.

In 1980, we left Pine Point and moved back to Big River. (I ran a daycare out of my home from 1980-1985). I worked at Max Wilson Trucking from 1985-1989. Rick and I separated in 1988.

In 1989, I bought "Susan's Place" restaurant and renamed it "Third and Main". In 1991 I built an addition.

In 1992, I married Paul Wariner. We worked together at the restaurant for a few years. We divorced in 1999.

In 2000, I added Thelma and Louise's lounge on to the restaurant. The business has been good to me and I love what I do, but I regret the things I gave up over the years in the name of success.

Scott is now a grown man of thirty-two years with his own family with his partner Sherry Laplante. They have three daughters: Kelly (1994), Taylor (2000), and Abby (2004). Scott is a heavy-duty mechanic and has worked for Cummins for twelve years. He is currently working for Cummins at Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Jade is married to Terrance Boland. They live in Calgary, Alberta. Jade has an education degree and she teaches in High River, Alberta. Terrance is an Accountant with Price Waterhouse Coopers. They have two sons: Austen (Watier) (1993) and Finn (2004) and are expecting a new baby in 2005.

Amber also lives in Calgary. She is currently going to Mount Royal College. She works a couple of jobs to support her love of travel and nightlife. She is still single and loving it.

In October 2002, I married Ted Bogner. We make our home on Cowan Lake in the R.M of Big River. We enjoy many things together: boating, ice fishing, hockey, travel, camping and our yard. We plan to spend a lot of time doing the things we love.

Bouchard, Henri and Desnieges

Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979

Henri Bouchard was born in 1889 in La Toque, Quebec. He started working for his father at a very early age and later took a job on the railroad.

In April 1911, Henri's father, Joseph, and his brother Horace arrived in Big River and took positions offered by the Lumber Company. In July of the same year, the rest of the family followed. Two years later, the entire family except for Henri moved to Shell River (now Victoire), where they farmed.

Henri remained in Big River and worked for the Lumber Company when he purchased a blacksmith shop. His shop and his home were located on the corner across from OP Godin's Store.

Henri worked for many years shoeing horses, making tools, repairing sleighs, fixing harnesses and renovating wagons. In the late twenties and early thirties, Henri slowly converted his blacksmith shop into a garage and also installed gas pumps. Henri, although now a mechanic, continued to use his blacksmith talents. He worked with iron; creating fancy plant stands and iron crosses used for grave markers. The iron cross on the Catholic Church was made and donated by Mr Bouchard. Henri remained in business until 1937, when he retired due to a back injury. He spent the last thirty years of his life in a wheelchair.

In 1922, Henri married Desnieges Thibeault, daughter of George and Mary Thibeault. They had six children. The oldest daughter died at six months, Therese (Mrs. Kazmiruk), Rita (Mrs. Jack Olson), Yvette (Mrs. Hyatt), Roland and Marcel. Therese and Rita reside in Big River.

Desnieges Bouchard passed away in 1972 and Henri in 1976.

Bouchard, Horace
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979

Horace was born in La Tuque, Quebec and lived in Lac St. Jean before coming to Big River with his father Joseph Bouchard in 1911. The family, consisting of Joseph's mother, Henri, Alice, Alma, Victor, Alfred and Armand, came out two months later.

The men worked in the lumber camps and also in the company mill. Horace, well known as Pete, took a barbering course. He married a schoolteacher in 1920. Pete and his wife lived in Shell River for a year and then came to Big River. He bought a Pool Hall and Barbershop in 1922.

Mrs Bouchard taught school in Big River and became one of our well-known teachers. They had a daughter, Irene, who later became Mrs William Clarke.

Mrs Bouchard passed away in 1960, Pete in 1972 and Irene in 1973.

Bould, David Pawson

Dave, Nov. 1984.
Dave Bould, Nov., 1984.

My connection with Big River began in 1956, fresh from College in Toronto, where I grew up. That year I was ordained as a minister of The United Church of Canada. A "Settlement Committee" decided where we new ministers were needed, but it did ask for our choices. My first choice was Saskatchewan. I had the privilege of serving on a Summer Mission Field (Kingsland-Rowena) in the Rosetown area in 1954 and was impressed by the geography, people and culture of the province. I thought it would be a great place to live, and was not disappointed!

My first correspondence was with James A. Forbes, who was Postmaster at Big River and also the Clerk of Session for First United Church. It was arranged when to arrive, August 1, 1956, is my choice. The response was to come as soon as convenient, but he hoped I had some money, as they still owed money to my predecessor, Ray Heffelfinger, and would not be able to pay me for a while. Undaunted, I came on the appointed day and was soon made welcome. I was always paid, though not always on time.

Other places in which Church services were held were Rapid Bend and Wrixon. As Wrixon faded away the services were moved first to Eldred and then to Debden. Rabbit Bluff became another place for services. The Home Mission Superintendent for the area, Robert Hall in Saskatoon, gave me the Shell Lake area to supervise while under the care of a summer student minister, and then to minister over September through to May, when there was no student. I did this for two years until Shell Lake - Hawkeye - Mildred was attached to the Leask - Blaine Lake Pastoral Charge. In 1960, I was asked to take the fledging congregation of La Ronge United Church under my care in the same way. That is when I learned to fly. I was indeed becoming acquainted with my province of choice and had the joy of meeting and working with people over a wide area without moving from Big River.

It sure did make for a lot of driving, I recall one winter after a snowstorm when, having had morning services in Debden and Big River, I headed for Shell Lake for an evening service. I made it in time, only to find that I was the only one at church. The parishioners there had more sense than I and thought that I would have enough sense also to stay home. The next winter they provided me with a rented house, so I spent three nights (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday) in Shell Lake and the last of the week in Big River. With wood heat in both places, it seemed I was always just getting warm.

Flying that little Luscombe 8A two-seater aeroplane was more work than pleasure. It involved me in a few flights that my various passengers turned into some tall tales. I was always a novice pilot, not flying enough to become proficient at navigating over the lakes and forests of the territory, so it was always a bit of an adventure. But driving a car over the roads of that period, 1956 to 1964, required more skill that was needed to fly, so flying had its compensations.

In December of 1959, I married a woman I had gone to school with in Toronto. Geraldine (Gerry) brought changes into my lifestyle; it was not quite appropriate to be rattling around the countryside visiting hither and yon (as well as in town) with little thought for when I would be home. The congregation also upgraded the Manse (the minister's residence) from a three-room suite in the Waite Fisheries Building to a house on Second Avenue and later (1963) to a new house, the present Manse, on Fifth Avenue. Geraldine was the inspiration and drive behind the opening of the used Clothing Store, sponsored by First Union Church. She also gave birth to our first son, Jack, in November 1961, so he is the only family member born in Saskatchewan and who had Big River as his first hometown. Our marriage lasted until 1981, during which time a second son, Douglas was born (1966), but by then we were living in Ontario, in Geraldine's home surrounding of Manitoulin Island.

In the spring of 1981, I returned as an interim "fill-in" minister to what had become the Big River - Canwood Pastoral Charge. It had been without a resident minister from the previous September. So I had ten weeks to enjoy life in the community once again, sharing the joys and sorrows of its residents. Many visits to Big River over the decades have been a precious part of my life and have kept me emotionally alive to this part of my heritage. How great it is to see the changes and many improvements over that time. I discover also that others, like me, have moved to various parts of our land, and carry with them their connections to this very special place.

After serving the church in Big River for eight years we moved to Gore Bay, Ontario (in July 1964) and served there for fifteen years, took a two year "Sabbatical/Time Off", spent two years at Lion's Head. My last ten years of pre-retirement ministry was at Trinity Church in Kirkland Lake in Northeastern Ontario. Since then (1993), I continue to be active in Temiskaming Presbytery of the United Church. I am married to Sandra Orr, a good partner for this phase of my life journey.

Boutros, Judith Marie (Coates)

When Judy completed her Grade Twelve she moved to Saskatoon to take her nurses' training. After graduating as a Registered Nurse she moved to Prince Albert. She worked at the Holy Family Hospital until its closure at which time she moved on to work at the Victoria Union Hospital.

Judy married Samih Boutros and they had one son, Alexander Paul. Alexander married Kerry Johnson and they had three girls: Adrianna Dawn, Olivia Ruth, and Sophie Marie. They live in Prince Albert. Alexander passed away on November 9, 2001.

Bovill, Leslie and Gladys
Submitted by Pat Boulet (Bovill)

My Dad and Mother, Leslie and Gladys Bovill, took up a homestead in the Stoney Lake District in 1927. Since the land was solid bush, my dad cleared it with just a swede saw and an axe and used the logs to build a house. We had no power or any modem conveniences. I remember being very poor in those days. My mom always grew a big garden and picked berries for winter. My dad had joined the army in 1939.

I was born at home on December 19, 1938, with my dad being the mid-wife. When I was old enough, I walked about four miles to school every morning. Our school District was No. 5175.

I remember walking to school one morning and we froze our feet. The teacher sat us all around the barrel heater until noon telling us it was -70 degrees F. We were sent home and stayed home for a week because of cold weather.

My grade one class in 1946 was in the building owned by Andrew (Millikin). My teacher was Doris Hopkins (later Mrs Jack Millikin). After grade school, my sister, Carol and I went to Big River High School and boarded at Mary Michel's place.

While I was in Big River, I met Rene Boulet and we were married on June 16, 1957. We had five children: four boys and one girl. I now live in Nipawin. I lost my husband in 1988 due to heart trouble. My oldest son, Clarence, passed away on March 20, 2004, at the age of forty-six years.

Bowes, William Martin and Nina Lynn

William is the older of two children born to John and Mildred Bowes (deceased) of Camrose, Alberta. Nina is the third of five children born to Joe and Julie Huber of Raymore, Saskatchewan.

We came to Big River in March of 1999 from Merritt, British Columbia after the Weyerhaeuser Mill there closed. Bill got a job as a millwright in Big River. In the spring of 2000, we bought a farm from Harold and Jean Gear in the Ladder Valley area.

We have a total of five children. Bill has two daughters from his first marriage: Rebecca Leigh and Beverly Marlene. I have a daughter, Taniell Nicole, from my first marriage. Together we have Jolene Ann and William John Michael (Billy).

Boyce, Dr Herbert Frank
Excerpts from Timber Trails, 1979

Dr Herbert Boyce.
Dr Herbert Boyce.

Dr Herbert Frank Boyce was born in India. His father was an Engineer, employed in India, building bridges for Britain. His reason for coming to Canada was merely for adventure, and this was partially fulfilled when he served as a scout in the Riel Rebellion under the supervision of Middleton. In 1884, he was appointed as Lay-reader in the Church of England by Bishop Anson of Qu' Appelle. He served under several Bishops before retirement.

Dr Boyce had a practice while living in Victoria, British Columbia, but after his wife died he moved east to Big River, Saskatchewan. He spent his summer vacation in a cottage at Ladder Lake. He was impressed by the location and the surrounding area; therefore, he bought a cabin and property from Mr Figeland. He purchased a second cabin that had been hauled from Otter Lake and spent time repairing and renovating the buildings to suit him. Here, he found great solace and quietness. He made it his home where his children and grandchildren could come and spend their vacations.

Dr Boyce built a ping-pong pavilion and had ping pong tournaments, which were enjoyed by many people. Dr Boyce had many interesting hobbies, which included a noted stamp collection. His greatest hobby was one of making walking sticks. His collection was extensive as it included over three hundred canes. Some of his more outstanding ones were made of glass and corn, while others could be converted into a chair, an umbrella and a sword. His collection was unique and therefore it intrigued many people.

When the campers and occupants of the cottages had gone from Ladder Lake, Dr Boyce named the property "Eden Health Resort". Dr Boyce was of the reasoning that life is what you make it, full of fresh occurrences. Happy is the man who can enjoy it all and keep well. Many people came to the Resort when the opportunity and space allowed.

Dr Boyce would leave the solitude of the cabin for the winter months and then return in the spring. He would be busy with planting a garden, berry picking, boating and swimming, going on country drives, and visiting with people who came to his health resort.

Dr Boyce passed away in December, 1952. He is survived by two sons and two daughters.

Boychuk, Elko and Lina
Submitted by Dorothy Breker

My dad Elko Boychuk was born in Ukraine to his parents Andrew Boychuk, born 1860, and Polly Ewskiew, born 1869. He was seven years old when they moved to Canada. My mom, Lina, the daughter of Mike and Annie Kowalenko, was born at St. Julian, Saskatchewan (it was then called the Northwest Territories).

As the years went by, Mom and Dad met and courted for two years. Mom was 15 and Dad was 24 when they were married. A year later, my sister Dorothy was born. She died at four and a half years old; my brother Pete was two at the time. Then Mike came along. Then as nature took its course, I was born and they named me Dorothy. Then, Andrew, Annie, Nestor and Alice were born.

The folks were moving a lot from place to place, from St. Julian to Tarnapal, then to Wakaw. From there we moved to Bodmin in 1936. We homesteaded as we all grew up in Bodmin. Pete was seventeen when he joined the Army. Mike stayed home to look after the place, as Dad had very bad asthma.

I, Dorothy had to go to work. I was only thirteen when I went to work out at the Block. I took care of five children. The mother was in the hospital, so I had to take care of them, make meals, milk cows, wash clothes, make bread and housekeep just like their mother had to. I enjoyed working there. I was just as old as the oldest daughter was and we got along. I played with them like a kid and when it was time to cook, I was the grown-up. They all loved and respected me and so did their dad. He was always gone cutting wood, so he was hardly ever at home.

My brother, Andrew, went to work fishing for Harry Husak in Dore Lake. He worked there for several years. In 1939, my brother Edward was born; that made a total of eight children. Anne, Nestor and Alice were the three youngest ones at home.

Dad tried working and did work for one winter and summer. Then in the fall, we moved to Prince Albert. That's where both my parents died, Dad in 1959 and Mom in 1970.

Upon Pete's return from the army, he married Stella Lato and had two sons, Kenny and Mark. Peter is now deceased, (1995).

Mike married to Helen Subuda in 1975. He passed away in 1992. His wife lives in Regina. They had two children, Shirley and Wayne.

Dorothy married Lewis Breker in 1946, They have three children, Barry, Linda and Jerry.

Andrew married Gerrie Clarke; they have one son Eddie.

Annie married Metro Waseyliew in 1944. They have five children: Gerald, Roger, Denis, Max and Marlene.

Nestor married Faye Gastongtuay and they have three children: Lorraine, Lanse and Lynden. Nestor passed away in 2002.

Alice married Mike Kalyn in 1950 and they had two daughters, Sharon and Judy.

Edward married Ellen Weisberger. They had three sons: Brent, Garry and Cory. Edward died on September 12, 1999, at the age of sixty.

Bradley, Blair and Cindy

Blair is the son of Edward and Barbara Bradley. Cindy is the daughter of Arthur and Ruth Buckingham.

We were married in the United Church in Big River on July 20, 1974. We moved to Pine Point, Northwest Territories and worked for Cominco Mines until they closed in June 1988. While in the Territories we had three children, all born in Hay River, Northwest Territories: Celynne Karen (March 8, 1977), Cole Ryan (May 15, 1979), and Richelle Dawn (June 9, 1980).

In June 1988, we moved to Edson, Alberta where we live today. Blair worked as a mechanic for Obed Mountain Coal until May 2003 when the mine was shut down. He is now working for Begg Industrial Services. I do North American Lumber sales for Sundance Forest Industries Ltd. I have been working for them since August 1991. All three children are married. Celynne married Marc Morin on May 22, 1999. They are living in Edson, Alberta and have a daughter, Kaely Reece, who was born June 14, 2003. Richelle married Immanuel Meyer on May 25, 2002. They are living in Hinton, Alberta. Cole married Melissa Ashby on August 30, 2003. They are also living in Edson, Alberta. Cole is a Journeyman Welder and they are expecting their first child in January.

Bradley, Ed and Barb

Ed was born in Central Butte, Saskatchewan. He lived there with his parents, Louis and Viola Bradley until he was seven years old. They then moved north in search of better land and a more prosperous future. He lived on the homestead at Green Bush Bay, now known as Bradley's Bay, until he went to work at the age of thirteen. His first job was on Nels Edson's farm where he drove horses, ploughing fields, and cutting hay. His job was also to feed the animals but the women did the milking. When he was fourteen, he spent the winter in a fish camp. He worked with two German fellows who never spoke to him in English; they talked to each other in German. His pay was $90 a month all year whether he was on the farm or fishing.

In the following years, he freighted with horses and eventually with trucks. He went to Beauval, Ile-a-la-Crosse, Buffalo Narrows, La Loche, Dillon, and Patuanak. In the winter many of the roads were on the ice. Several times he had the misfortune of going through the ice. This happens when the weather is really cold and the ice becomes brittle. The roads were often very muddy; it took days to make a trip. In later years they were greatly improved to gravel, oil, and eventually blacktop.

Ed married Barbara Davidson in 1950 and had eight children: Hal, Blair, Arlene, Heather, Lori, Greg, Holly and Kelly (deceased).

Holly, Arlene, Heather, Lori, Barb, Ed, Hal, Greg, Blair. June 1999.
Holly, Arlene, Heather, Lori, Barb, Ed, Hal, Greg, Blair, June, 1999.

I, Barbara, was born near Sanctuary, Saskatchewan. At the age of five, my family moved to Dinsmore, Saskatchewan. I went to a country school called Invicta for ten years then into Dinsmore to finish high school. I then went to Normal School in Saskatoon. My first teaching job was at Delaronde in 1947. This school was situated where Barry Moule now lives. I boarded with Dick and Myrtle Bale who lived approximately three miles from the school. I went by horse and sleigh in the wintertime with Gordon and Lorna Bale. In the spring and fall, I walked or rode my bike. The starting salary at that time was twelve hundred dollars a year. I had Grades one through seven-twenty-eight pupils. I also taught at Jackson Lake and Hagen.

I was part of the Bradley/Colby/Daley (BCD) Catering group for ten or more years. We catered to gatherings big and small and did all our baking (pies, cakes, bread, and buns) and pickling. I also was treasurer of the local United Church Women for twenty-five years, served on the church board, and was a local trustee for the Parkland School Board for ten years.

Ed retired in 1989. He still keeps busy with his leatherwork fixing saddles. In our retirement years, we have enjoyed travelling, camping, fishing, curling, gardening, and watching our grandchildren participate in various activities. We have twelve grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

e-mail me.

Author: Webmaster -
"Date Modified: March 25, 2024."

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