Parents were truly pioneer stock

From our April 2014 issue

By George Hennessy – Coldstream, B.C.

After years of reading, The Senior Paper has become an important part of my life. The heartwarming stories of early times in Canada, depicting the spirit of immigrating settlers, comes to life in the inspiring stories which has become a true chapter of Canadian history!

My parents were of truly pioneer stock. Mother immigrated from Nebraska with her family via covered wagon in 1901 to make a new life in Saskatchewan. They suffered many hardships and privations during that incredible trip, walking mostly, as their wagon contained their total possessions including stock and poultry. They were near to starvation before reaching Battleford.

Dad journeyed by ship from his home in Birmingham, England in 1903. At 19 years, he was inspired by the eloquent Reverend Barr, whose dream was to create a settlement of all British citizens as farmers in a pre-determined area between Battleford and Lloydminster.

The government was offering a homestead for $10 to start up farming. Unfortunately, the CP Rail hadn’t reached further than Saskatoon. He was obliged to return to Winnipeg to obtain work until the next year when it reached Lloydminster. They discovered that the promised horses, tents, and equipment wasn’t there, which made their beginnings almost impossible. Tales of their misadventure were told repeatedly – but they survived and became the backbone of our early beginning.

Dad, and many others, spent miserable winters at first, building sod houses, ploughing by oxen and eating wild foul and deer until their first crops and gardens were obtained. Our parents met during those early days at gatherings and as schools and churches were built, they finally were able to raise grain on the rich prairie soil.

Dad’s homestead was the N.West quarter of section 36-42-18, west of the 3rd meridian. Mother raised three girls and one boy on this property 12 miles from Battleford.

My sisters married farm boys and raised families of their own. I helped my parents until age 21, then married a girl from Meadow Lake. I made spending money by trapping coyotes, weasels, skunks, and rabbits, and selling the furs to buyers in Winnipeg. Then I went to WWII and became a nursing orderly, setting up and operating a hospital under tents in England, Belgium, France, Holland, and Germany.

After four years, I returned to Canada and my wife to begin my own family of two. A war injury to my back precluded hard farm work so I turned to machine shop and work in Canada Post as a letter carrier.

After selling my farm, I operated a truck and farm machinery business, plus many other business ventures before retiring. I’m now 96 living in a seniors’ facility near Vernon, B.C.

My parents passed away in 1944 and 1945 while I was still in Germany. My wife passed away in 2009 in Falkland, B.C. where we lived for 21 years.

I still love to dance, play bingo and card games, but reading The Senior Paper is a great reminder of my past. Please keep the stories coming seniors, we love to hear them all.