Dr. and Mrs. Afanasieff
During troublesome times in Russia, Dr. Afanasieff and his wife, Emily, fled to Canada. Their son Alex, was born en route while at sea. Dr. Afanasieff was a pioneer doctor of this district for many years, serving the people throughout the hard times of the 1920s and 1930s. He was the first doctor in the Red Cross Hospital and had used his home for an office prior to this. Dr. Afanasieff had been an army doctor of high rank in the Czarist army in Russia. When he escaped to Manchuria, to reach a free country, they managed to bring photographs with them which bore witness to their former way of life. Emily is remembered as a kindly lady who could make any plant grow and look beautiful. She was a great help to her husband and both were well known throughout the community for their quiet dignity and charm.
Left to Right: Gary and Reena Sixsmith, Mrs. and Dr. Afanasieff
J. S. Forbes, and Alex Afanasieff.
Joe and Harriet Ahearn.
During the years of the depression, the people in the cities suffered from the absence of jobs and in turn, the absence of money. Joe and Harriet Ahearn lived in Saskatoon at this time, Joe being an engineer for the C.N.R. Even though Joe was paid a wage of forty-three cents an hour, his work was not steady, as the railroad was only in operation for certain months of the year.
In 1930, Joe and Harriet moved north. They had purchased a homestead in the Rapid Bend district with hopes of starting a new way of life.
The Ahearns came up in a boxcar along with their personal possessions and livestock. Once they arrived in Big River they set out on their journey to reach the homestead. It took them three or four days to get there, a total of ten and one half miles from Big River.
They built a log house immediately. It had a slab roof and dirt floor. Mr. Ahearn had a steam engine and with this was able to open land quite rapidly. Wild game was in abundance so they had no problem getting meat.
On one occasion when Joe was clearing land near a beaver dam, he found a large number of buffalo bones. Apparently, before the white settlers began moving in, the Indians had chased the buffalo across the dam and had slaughtered them on the other side.
Mr. Ahearn still worked for the railway when he could; many times he would stay away for the winter months and part of the summer. During this time his family was left alone on the homestead.
The Ahearns had three children; Jack, Myrtle and Joe.
Frank and Tina Anderson.
Frank Anderson moved to Timberlost in the fall of 1937. He stayed at the campsite that had been set up there. He worked with the other men clearing the land and cutting logs. These logs would be used as their future homes. He toiled at this job all winter and in March he went back home to Mildred, Saskatchewan.
He returned to Timberlost, more commonly known as "The Block", with some of his children, Mildred, Vivian, Dennis and Wilfred. Tina remained in Mildred. It was a long, chilly ride by sleigh and mules. They followed a creek from Capson to the Block as there was no road service.
Upon arrival at their new home in May of 1938, Frank, like the other men, was finishing clearing the land.
The government gave them a cow, so milk would not have to be purchased. They were to buy food from what money Frank made clearing the land. Frank also worked with George Skalapski and Napolean Paul, cutting pulp and hauling it to Big River to sell. Tina baked bread for the single men. The income from these jobs bought necessary supplies needed to feed the family
Frank planted grain the next year. During the winter he cut pulp. Fred Coates was in charge of buying pulpwood in Big River during this time.
In 1945, Mildred Anderson married Roy Gunderson and Arthur Anderson married Lisette Douquette at a double ceremony.
Also in 1945, Harry Anderson joined the army. Harry was killed in action overseas. Wilfred Anderson joined the infantry and he was stationed overseas after the war.
Frank later bought a two ton truck and started hauling pulpwood to town for extra income.
The land in The Block had too much sand content and no one was making a living from farming. Families began to move out.
Frank and Tina moved to Big River to retire and in the fall of 1958, Tina died. Frank died in the spring of the following year.
Frank and Tina had eight children, Mildred Arthur, Vivian, Harry, Wilfred, Dennis, Myrtle, and Doug. Mildred, Arthur, Vivian and Doug reside in Big River today.
John and Jenny Anderson.
Mr. and Mrs. Anderson and their children Lillian, Jean and Viola, moved to the Bodmin district to homestead.
Anna arrived a year later from Sweden to work for Swansons and Edsons. Wages at that time were five dollars a month to work in the house as well as milk the cows. Anna married Rider Lomsness in 1936.
Olaf and Pearl Anderson.
Pearl and Olaf Anderson came from Wilkie, Saskatchewan to Big River in 1927. Their reason for coming was the result of the drought conditions on the prairie. They made the journey aboard the freight train.
Their first three years were spent on a farm and in 1930, the Andersons moved into town and took over the livery barn.
In 1935, Mrs. Anderson, later Pearl McNabb, had a small boardinghouse between the present location of Yurach's hardware store and Mr. G. Gould's house.
The boarding house was used by the men from the freight swings and approximately thirty to thirty-five men could be housed at one time. The boardinghouse was also used by people in the winter months who were in town during the day and had no place to eat their lunch. They would go to McNabb's boardinghouse and Mrs. McNabb would thaw out their frozen lunch and provide them with a warm place to eat their meal.
Mr. and Mrs. Anderson had three children: Floyd, Bill and Elnora. In her later marriage seven more children were born: Laverne, Nioma, Norman, Gordon, Clifford, Nova and Larry.
Mr. and Mrs. Roy Anderson.
In 1919, Clara Haugerud married Roy Anderson. They were living in the States at that time. A few years later they moved to Weston, Saskatchewan, where they farmed for a number of years, They then moved further North and farmed near Shell River.
In 1939, Mr. Anderson and Henry, their eldest son, came to the Timberlost district. They built a small log house and then returned to get Mrs. Anderson and the rest of the family. They made their living raising sheep and a few head of cattle. The men had to work out to subsidize their living, leaving the women at home to do the chores.
The roads were very bad, almost impassable. It took at least two days to get to town over bogs and around lakes. Teachers were reluctant to come to such isolated conditions, so much of the time there was no school.
In the 1950s, the government decided that the land was not suitable for farming. The result was all the settlers were moved out of "The Block" and the land reforested. The Andersons moved to their present home, west of Big River.
A year ago Mrs. Anderson went out to pick berries. It happened to be a cool, cloudy day. She went to a good patch of berries that she and her grandson had found several days before. Mrs. Anderson picked for quite a while and then decided to head back to the other berry pickers, but somehow she got turned around and since there was no sun to guide her, she wandered further away instead of toward home. When she discovered she was lost, she stayed where she was for the night. She was neither cold nor frightened. When daylight came, she started in the direction she thought was home. By this time, neighbours, RCMP and their dogs and quite a number of people from town had started a search. A plane was also enlisted in the search. Mrs. Anderson spotted the plane and waved her berry pail. The pilot spotted her and directed the search party to her. Mrs. Anderson insisted she was fine and all she needed was a bath and a good days rest. Nevertheless, she was wisked off to the hospital for several days.
Mrs. Anderson, now 79 years old, still does all the housework for herself and son Henry, She grows a big garden from which she cans and freezes vegetables. She also keeps busy knitting, crocheting and tending her many plants.
Mr. Anderson died five years ago, they had been married fifty-one years at that time. They had eight children: Eileen (Mrs. Albert Hannam). Shirley (Mrs. Roy Sharp), Evelyn (Mrs. Pat Hardy), Edam, Myrna, (Mrs. Paul Hardy), Bruce, who is in the Armed Forces in Regina, Henry who lives at home, and Eddie, who died when he was eighteen years of age.
Ashton and Dorothy Archibald.
Ashton Archibald homesteaded in 1934 and later married Dorothy Marie Lane in 1936. He stayed on his homestead until 1938, when he farmed land for Dorothy's father, Harry Lane. Ashton spent five years working in Prince Albert, then returning to Big River to help his father and mother. They farmed the Lane quarter as well as some rented land. When Mr. and Mrs. Walter Archibald retired and moved to Big River, Ashton and Dorothy rented their land too, and later purchased it.
Ashton and Dorothy had eight children and some of the experiences encountered with the family are very vividly recalled by Ashton. For instance, they all went for a picnic to Neslin Lake, and Neil, the youngest boy went for a splash in Round Lake and almost drowned. Then there was the time when they came home from town to find one of the youngest had painted his body green and had to be scrubbed back to normal pink condition.
Dorothy passed on in January, 1967 and later Ashton married Helen Fehr, and together they raised the last three of the Archibald children.
Walter and Florence Archibald.
The Archibald family, which consisted of Walter and Florence Archibald, and their son Ashton arrived from Regina on June 4, 1932. Using the same settlers rail car for their livestock and equipment, were Gladys (nee Archibald) and her husband Henry Parker.
Walter, Henry, and Ashton rode with the livestock in the freight car, while Florence and Gladys came by passenger train. Upon reaching Prince Albert, the freight car was then attached to the mixed train bound for Big River. The women boarded the passenger coach attached to the same train.
They arrived at their destination in late afternoon so instead of trying to unload, they camped outside the freight car for the night.
Upon going to their rail car next morning to tend to the stock, they discovered their dog had jumped out of the car door, and as he was tied inside, he had hung himself. The unloading didn't take too long and they started out for the homestead about ten a.m. They had about eleven miles to go and things went well for the first few miles. After that they got steadily worse. The guide decided to try a route that he didn't know about . The result was the horses bogged down in places, and a number of times they were forced to double up the teams to pull the loads through. The Archibalds arrived at the Friedli brothers place about eight p.m. and stopped for an hour to eat and feed the horses and the two cows.
After eating and resting the horses they were on their way again. It was getting towards dusk and the trail was a mass of mud and water, so Mrs. Archibald decided that she and Ashton should walk. Ashton still recalls how his mother carried a canary in a cage for those last few miles. On this last stage of the trip, Ashton slipped under one of the wagon wheels which caused him to limp around for a week.
They eventually arrived at Fred Bond's and bedded down shortly. The next day Walter, Henry, and Ashton drove to the homestead and erected a shelter. The next day Florence and Gladys arrived.
They started building a log house immediately and Ashton still remembers how grateful the family was when some of the earlier settlers came and helped: Fred Bond, George Bond, Wilfred Young, George Gibson, and the Sweet boys, and others who cannot be remembered. The Archibalds were in their new home within four days. They only had enough lumber for one half of the floor so, later on Walter and Ashton went and got enough to finish the floor.
Mr. and Mrs. Archibald stayed on this homestead until 1959, when they retired and moved to Big River.
They were honoured on their sixty-fourth wedding anniversary by the whole of Big River and district, in 1965, and the Big River High School year book was dedicated to them in 1967. Both are now deceased.
Thomas and Eva Arsenault.
Thomas and Eva Arsenault came to Big River from Doremy in 1910. Thomas worked in the sawmill and then opened a small shoemaker's shop. They had six children: Mary, Genevive, Robert, Ted, Bill and Rosie. Genivive (gallant), and Ted (the D.N.R. officer) still reside in Big River.
Edwin and Maude Baskott.
Edwin Charles Baskott and his wife, Maude Emily moved to Big River with their sons, William Richard, Fredrick Charles, Francis Henry, and Edwin George in 1916. The family came from Prince Albert, but was originally from England.
The Baskotts homesteaded a quarter section of land in Ladder Valley and Mr. Baskott worked in the Big River sawmill.
Daughters Marjorie Louise, and Beatrice Alice were born during this time.
In 1925, the family moved to the village of Big River where another daughter, Alice Maude, was born.
Edwin Baskott worked at several jobs in the community. He was employed by the I.C. Fish Company. He was a village police constable, and later, Justice of the Peace and Notary Public. Mr. Baskott was also the Anglican Church Warden for a number of years. The Baskotts left the Big River district in 1942 to reside in Dundas, Ontario until their deaths.
William and Margaret Bechtel.
After several years of poor crops, lack of moisture, and dust storms, the Bechtel family left their prairie town of Cabri for Big River. It was 1934 when the family took a quarter of land southeast of the townsite. Being only three miles from town, the two boys could attend school easily.
Mr. Bechtel worked hard clearing the land and planting oats or barley to feed the livestock. The depression was also evident in the north as bad crops and frost would often ruin the income of many families. However, the fresh waters nearby provided fish and a source of enjoyment. Mrs. Bechtel and her two sons, Jack and Gordon, still reside in Big River. Mr. Bechtel passed away in 1970 in Regina at the age of 82.
Thomas Beeds came to Big River before the construction of the railway and the first mill. He used to freight with horses from Prince Albert to Ile-a-la-Crosse.
When the building of the railroad from Shellbrook to Big River commenced, Mr. Beeds was employed to help with the construction. Mr. Beeds also put up hay for the I.C. Fish Company, and spent much time trapping.
For a short time the Beeds moved away from Big River to Norberry, Saskatchewan to homestead. In 1910, Sid was born and in 1914, Thomas Beeds moved back to Big River. During this time, Mr. Beeds ran a stopping place through the winter at Rat lake. In 1918, he went back to Norberry and during the winter months, he would trap in the North.
In 1928, Sid Beeds came back to Big River to trap up north. In 1938, he moved into Big River to live and work for H. Boyd and later, Mr. Sundby. Sid and his wife Marg lived in Big River for 20 years. They had three daughters, Joyce, Joan and Mozie, and one son Jones, all were born in Big river.
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Beeson
Submitted by Beryl E Steel
Family particulars: Frank William Beeson, born King's Lynn, Norfolk, 1884, died in Big River, February 7, 1923.
Laura Beeson (nee Hitchings) born Bury St. Edmunds, England, October 24, 1878, died Edmonton, Alberta, 1958.
Father came to Canada in 1910. He married Laura Hitchings in 1912 and they established their new home in Big River.
My three brothers were born in Big River between 1913 and 1919 and are as follows: Frank W. Beeson, now residing in Prince Albert; Beryl E. Steel, now residing in Edmonton, Alberta; Stanley H. Beeson, now residing in Vancouver, B.C.; Reginald J. Beeson now residing in Prince Albert.
My father preceded mother to Canada, coming first to Prince Albert and then to Big River. Mother came to Canada in 1912 and they were married in St. George's Church in Prince Albert, in April, 1912, and lived in Big River until my father died, except for one year spent in Quill Lake, Saskatchewan.
When we left Big River I was in grade one and still have my report card signed by Martha Meyer (Mrs. Len Waite).
My clearest recollection of Big River is being bundled up and being taken, along with all other children and mothers during the night by train to Bodmin. Big River was in danger, I believe twice, of being levelled by forest fires. There was always a danger of forest fires, which were usually started by lightning.
Mother told of people digging pits in their yards and burying valuables, silverware, etc. hoping to save them from burning.
There was a neighbour who had a new sewing machine and insisted that her husband dig a pit and bury it.
I remember Brownfield's store "on the hill". There was a grandmother living with the Brownfields and I remember her as being very kind to us, particularly when my father died. Later Carl Brownfield and Guilda Gilbert were married. The Gilberts lived next door to us and Mr. Gilbert was very interested in race horses.
Most of the social activity centered around music and church. My father played both piano and mandolin and was one of the first people to have a piano shipped into Big River. Social events were held in a hall belonging to the Lumber Company. I can remember a Mrs. Thompson who was the Station Agent's wife, singing at a concert.
We first met the Waites (John) when Mr. Waite brought Mrs. Waite to our house each day to have her arm dressed. The Waites had come from England to homestead
and Mrs. Waite was helping clear land when Mr. Waite accidentally cut her arm with an axe. Later, their son Leonard, was to marry my grade one teacher Martha Meyer. The youngest daughter, Victoria and I started school together and we now visit she and her husband in Portland, Oregon.
My father ran a barber shop in Big River; the location as I remember, was behind Mahoney's big house. Mahoneys lived on Front Street across from the station.
Mother, being a nurse, was sometimes called to help out at the Company Hospital. This building later burned down. Following this, many people came to mother for nursing advice and she made calls at many homes for the sick.
Even in those days, Big River was a very "dressy" village and the ladies used to don hats and gloves to call on their neighbours in the afternoon. A number of ladies had brought very lovely things from their homes elsewhere, particularly linen and dishes and were very anxious that everyone be duly impressed.
I also remember the Houses. Mrs. Harry House's mother, Mrs. Service, looked after us while mother took dad to Rochester for surgery. The Houses had a daughter called "Pinky" who later married Cliff Stewart.
The Beeson family resided in Big River until Mr. Beeson's death, Mrs. Beeson and family moved to Prince Albert, where she nursed until retirement.
Mr. and Mrs. Dick Bell.
Mr. and Mrs. Dick Bell and daughter Doreen arrived in Big River in April, 1927 from Prince Albert.
The family lived by the C.N.R. water tower for many years. Mr. Bell was the engine watchman until the time of his death by drowning in Stoney Lake in 1954. An active member of the Big River Legion, Mr. Bell helped with many community events throughout his lifetime. Mrs. Bell passed away in England in 1975.
In 1926, Kurt Bengston came to Canada from Sweden. He was sent to Big River to cut cordwood for the Swedish American Lines. He later went commercial fishing on Snake Lake. Upon returning with a freight swing, he received ten dollars for his entire winter's work>
Mr. Bengsten worked for numerous store companies in Big River. He spent years at O.P. Godin's, Waites, Yurach's and Friedman's.
Kurt also ran the pool room, and in 1952, he took a job as foreman at the Nursery. Later, he became the Nursery Manager until he retired in 1973.
In 1927, Aleada Zieglar came from the United States to visit her grandparents (Mr. and Mrs. Carl Zieglar). Aleada decided to stay and in 1934, she married Kurt Bengston. They have three children and still live in Big River.
In 1947, Annie and Diedrich Bergen came from Hepburn to the Lake Four district. They came by train, and with them, the Bergens brought seven cows and calves, four or five horses, pigs and chickens. For two years they rented a farm until they were able to purchase their own.
The Bergens had twelve chldren: Pete, Henry, Abe, Dick, Cornelius, Margaret, Jake, Nettie, Helen, Tena, Susan and Betty. Mr. Bergen died in 1961 and in 1970, Mrs, Bergen moved into Big River.
Mr. Joseph Billinger came from Germany in 1925. He arrived in Winnipeg, and then travelled to Bruno, Saskatchewan. Mr. Billinger was able to secure a homestead in the Big River district, therefore he moved north in 1926. In 1932, Ludwina Beck came from Germany and married Joseph that same year.
Neither Mr. or Mrs. Billinger could speak English when they arrived in Canada, therefore they had to overcome this lack of communication. Joseph picked up the language before he came north to Big River, and Ludwina dilligently set out to learn with the help of J.S. Forbes and an English-German dictionary. Mrs. Billinger would write out the Eaton's orders and then Mr. Forbes would check them for errors. With his help, Ludwina also learned about our Canadian currency, although she was confused with some of the slang related to money. Mrs. Billinger was shortchanged several times because she didn't know the meaning of a buck, a half buck, two bits, nickle, dime, and quarter. Mrs. Billinger would also listen to the radio and would refer to the dictionary whenever she didn't understand a new word.
Mr. and Mrs. Billinger mastered the English language and spoke it constantly. Speaking German caused hard feelings during the time of war, and since their son had to go to an English school, it was only fair to speak an accepted language. In 1935, a terrible hail storm destroyed their crops and left them without a roof over their heads. Ludwina stayed to fix things, while Joseph went fishing in order to earn some money.
The Billingers started out with a calf and six chickens. Hawks were a constant threat, so they covered their chicken coop with fish nets and set traps. This soon put an end to the disappearance of chickens.
In 1941, Fred was born and when their son was old enough to go to school, they had to bring him into town by sleigh or buggy. Living nine miles out of town, Fred sometimes had to board at various places in town.
Mrs. Billinger succeeded in growing apples and strawberries. She made more money selling strawberries than Mr. Billinger received for his wheat. Mrs. Billinger also began to raise chickens and sell eggs. To some of the children in town, she was known as the "egg lady".
Mr. and Mrs. Billinger continued to farm until they moved to town in 1971. The farm, now a dairy, is run by their son, Fred Billinger.