Saskatchewan Gen Web Project - SASKATCHEWAN AND ITS PEOPLE by JOHN HAWKES Vol 1I 1924

Volume II



The three Hostetter brothers in 1910 were among the wealthiest settlers in the country. They had means when they came in, and so avoided some of the experiences to which poorer pioneers were subject. Their story, however, is one of grit, energy and enterprise, which will be found to throw a great deal of light on early conditions. It was obtained from Messrs. Joseph and Albert Hostetter, July, 1910, and is set down as given, Mr. Joseph Hostetter being the principal narrator. Mr. Jacob W.Hostetter, the eldest of the three brothers, was not interviewed.

Mr. Joseph Hostetter said: "We were the sons of a large farmer in Lincoln County in the Niagara district-the garden of Canada. Jacob was the first to come west. He came in with the land surveyors in 1881, and went through by Fort Ellice to the Rockies. The Indians and half- breeds told him that this part (the present Gainsboro country) was the warmest and best, and so in the fall of 1881 he selected land for seven brothers and 'entered' at Brandon. He went on to Winnipeg and from that point he wrote to his father. In the spring of 1882 Herman and Jacob with Tom Nattrass and a party numbering in all thirteen, pulled out of Winnipeg for Deloraine. That was in March and the travelling was very heavy. At Deloraine the party scattered a good deal, but Jacob, Her- man, Tom Nattrass and G. F. Elliott of Port Hope remained together. This Elliott was not related in anyway to the Elliotts now in Gainsboro. Elliott homesteaded in the vicinity of Gainsboro and stayed on his place three summers, going east in the winter, as he was a wealthy man. The first season (1882) Jacob and Herman made a dugout in a bank, using sod and poles and putting on a roof of thatch grass. They also built a sod stable. They brought in three yoke of oxen and in 1882 broke and backset 135 acres. They had to make a trip to Winnipeg with a yoke of cattle for supplies. That was the nearest point-that and Emerson. The C. P. R. was only past Winnipeg at that time, but in the fall of 1882 it got to Brandon. Subsequently Herman went east and never returned.


"In March, 1883, Jacob was joined by Albert and Joseph, who came up from the east to Brandon with two carloads of effects, including two teams of horses and two cows, binder, ploughs and other implements and part of a carload of lumber. That binder was the first one the Brant- ford Company ever turned out to run; we had run it a year in the east,1089 and she lasted four or five years in the west; for three years it was the only binder in this part of the country; we cut grain with it for all the neighbors round. We arrived in Brandon on the 13th of March, 1883; it was about 25 below zero and we had to drive about 125 miles~to the farm. The snow was very deep that year on the prairie, and as long as the trail lasted it was raised several feet above the level; when we got beyond Souris we had to break the trail in places; we left the cows in Brandon. We got to the farm alright, but then had to go back to Bran- don for seed grain. By this time there was a tremendous quantity of water on the prairie, and at one place we had to go through water on and off for miles; the wagons sunk up to the axles; three teams could not pull them out, and we had to dig them out. This prevented us from making the stopping place, and we had to put in the night in the rain, on the open prairie.


"That spring (1883) we put in 40 acres, of the 135 broken, in wheat and the balance in oats. We expected the railroad next season and figured on this giving us a market for our oats; the wheat was a great crop, forty or forty-five bushels to the acre; we hauled about 1,200 bushels of it to Brandon and kept the rest for seed, or sold it locally to new comers; we started seeding that spring on the 16th of April and we were only four days putting it in. We always got our crop in early, and we have never had frozen grain since we came to the country. In 1882 we put in some oats and wheat on breaking; we broke it shallow with one plough, and then followed behind in the furrows with another plough turning up earth over the sod; we learned that from the half-breeds. In 1882 we put in one acre of wheat only and about seven of oats; that was in the nature of an experiment. Albert threshed thirty bushels from that acre; we had no fanning mill; he threshed with a flail in a wagonbox, and winnowed it in the wind; it took him three days to thresh it.


"In 1883 the whole of the oats were in stack, and they were burned with the prairie fire; the stable, harness and horse blankets were also burned, and about 70 tons of hay. The dry grass was very long and the fire came along with a tremendous wind in October. We had first class fire breaks but they were no use, as the fire blew for hundreds of yards ahead. A chunk of lighted grass carried by the wind lit on one of the oat stacks, and then the fire spread to the other stacks. It was a whirl- wind, travelling about fifty miles an hour, and the piece that set fire to the stack lit near the top where the stack was drawn in. It was a dry fall; everything was quite dry; we saved the wheat which was stacked a little farther north from the oats; we had hard fighting but we saved it.


"That winter we teamed most of the wheat to Brandon, and had to make part of our own trail. We got 90c in the forepart of the winter and for the last loads we took out in March we got $1.10. We sold some locally, and for that we got a $1.00 a bushel.

"We had to go to Brandon for supplies next summer (1884), 125 miles; we had to cross at Sourisford, and through Hartney and around by Souris (Old Plum Creek) that made 125 miles by trail. Twice that summer I (Joseph) had to swim the Souris at Plum Creek; we swam the horses across and floated the supplies across in the wagon box, which was naturally pretty watertight, and we could get it across before anything got wet. We pulled the wagons across with chains and ropes. In 1885 they had a ferry at Souris-Gold's Ferry. The river would be about forty yards wide from bank to bank.

"In the spring of 1884 about the middle of March I (Joseph) went to Brandon for a box of freight and clothing shipped up from Niagara; the day after I started it began to thaw, and the frost broke up. Coming back at Plum Creek (Souris) I had to swim the river; I started the horse over and hung on to his tail; I wrung the water out of my clothes; there was ice in the river and I was pretty cold; I had a rope with me which I tied onto the buckboard and when I got over I hooked the rope to the horses' whipple-tree and pulled the buckboard over; I had previously tied the shafts up. I drove about seventy-five miles that day, although I had to swim the Souris and also the Antler and I got home alright with every- thing safe.


"In '83 Albert and Jake made two trips to Roche Percee to get coal, accompanied by two other parties. They made one trip in June and one in November, the distance being 65 or 70 miles across the prairie; they found that someone had opened a mine, but these people would not allow them access to it, and so they had to open a mine of their own. About 200 yards from the existing mine they opened the face of the ravine (the ravine bank would be about 80 feet high from the valley bottom) with pick and shovel. They soon struck the coal which they mined with axes and picks. It was a good soft coal and better coal than we get shipped in here today from the Souris country. They made the trip with oxen, two teams, and calculated to have about 3,500 weight on each load. They had a double-decked wagon box. There was an Indian trail which ran from Manitoba boundary to Alameda, but from Alameda to the mine they had to make their own roads, and part of the time they had to go by compass. Coming back they would follow the tracks they made going down. This track which was made by settlers coming from the east and going for coal was for many years the main road to Alameda west- ward. For six years we hauled coal in this way by wagon, mining it our- selves. At the same time we drew wood from the river valley at a point about 25 miles west of the farm. This wood we would draw in January and February, during the coldest weather. During the first summer, however, we made several trips to the river for the poles for building purposes. We had to go 25 miles there and 25 miles back in order to get a load of poles, so that you see every load involved a trip of 50 miles. These poles we used for roofing purposes. Our stables and granaries were built of sod, the poles were necessary to carry the sod roofs There was a plentiful supply of limestone in places and we made lime; we got the limestone on the top of the river banks. We would pry out the boulders with crowbars, but there was also a lot of limestone boulders lying about loose, and we got the whole of the limestone for a kiln of lime within a radius of about two or three hundred yards. We noticed the limestone, and got the idea of making lime because we passed the spot when we were drawing wood.

THE CROPS OF 1885 AND 1886.

"In the year '85 we had about 175 acres of wheat and 60 acres of oats. We raised nearly 7,000 bushels of wheat out of this. We teamed it to Virden after it froze up. The distance between stopping places on the trail to Virden was sometimes 20 miles and sometimes perhaps only 10. We had to cross the creeks and the Pipestone River, and there was never a bridge in the whole country. We started to haul the wheat as soon as we thought the ice was strong enough to carry the loads over the creeks, but on the first two or three trips sometimes we would go through the ice. That year there was a good deal of frost. The wheat fetched from 55c to 70c. There was no mill, but we got our flour at the elevator where the wheat was sold to Ogilvie & Co., but there were also two fiat ware- houses. Our oats fetched 20c to 25c per bushel and we sold it for feed to new settlers who were coming in. Whenever we failed to make a stopping place we had to camp in the open.

"In '85 the settlers included the McClungs, Law, Nattrass, Charley Wellstead, McArthur, Bishop, Richardson, Jas. Reynolds. The Shield boys came in 1883 and are today extensive farmers. William Shearer came in 1884 and he is still farming (1910). We teamed the crop of '85 to Virden. That year we had a somewhat larger wheat acreage. We had a fair crop in '86; it averaged about 18 bushels to the acre. We hauled all the crop to Virden, with the exception of what we kept for seed and feed. That year we raised enough oats to provide us with feed and seed for the next year. We came in with oxen but all the settlers had money enough to make a start, although in most cases it was not much of a start. In that year I went to Montana and worked on the railroad; I went by the way of Minot to Great Falls.


"In 1887 we teamed the wheat crop to Deloraine and the wheat fetched about 45c a bushel. We teamed 7,000 bushels that winter. Part of that crop was threshed by horse power and part by steam. We could not get it all threshed that year, and two stacks had to be kept over until the next July before they were threshed. All the wheat went Number One Hard that year. We took some wheat in to Deloraine directly after threshing it, two of us making the trip four times. We had two yoke of oxen and two teams of horses. The first load fetched 43c and the next 45c. We then did our ploughing, went to the coal fields and then we started teaming the bulk of the crop. We stored our grain in the Ogilvie Elevator at Deloraine. The reason we stored it was that we were not satisfied with the price. It remained there until February of next year when we heard that the price was up and went to Deloraine to investigate. The roads were not broken, so that for much of the time we were breaking trail. We had a big blizzard, and after that there was no trail. In one place we bad to break the trail for 20 miles until we were abreast of Melita. By this time the price was 70c to 75c so that it paid us very well to store the grain. We had about 4,000 bushels in storage. We were teaming all winter right up to the spring; wheat was still rising; for the last two loads we got $1.10. We teamed all that winter on a rising market; when we threshed the two stacks in July the price had dropped to an average of 75c.

"We had a fair average crop of 16 bushels of wheat to the acre in 1888. The crop suffered that year from a kind of blight. There was any amount of straw, but owing to this blight a great quantity of the crop between Gainsboro and Souris was not cut at all. We had a lot of sheet lightning for three nights, and I believe that that was the cause of the blight. The blight took the grain when it was just in blossom, so there was nothing much in the heads. The wheat we sold that year fetched about 60c a bushel.

"1889 was a dry year; some parts of the crop were a complete failure, but new land, breaking and back-setting, produced about 12 bushels to the acre. It was the fiercest drought we ever saw. The wheat we raised we teamed to Deloraine as before. We stayed here until '91 and never went east. Albert and I now own three sections and a half, about 70 horses and implements of all kinds; we have several houses and town property all over and have thousands of dollars out on mortgages. When Albert and I came in, one was 18 and the other 19. We continued team- mg our coal from Roche Percee until the railroad went through in 1892.


"We often had trouble with lost horses and cattle. We had ridden after lost horses four and five hundred miles into Montana, but we always got our horses. There was a gang of horse thieves around in 1884 and 1885 who was supposed to have its headquarters in Moose Mountain. We slept in the stables for two summers with gun in hand to protect our horses; some farmers had their horses taken right out of the plough by the thieves. I was ploughing one day when a well-mounted man with two horse pistols and a rifle rode up to me in the field and demanded the horses; I had a gun and pulled my gun and said: 'You son of a jack, don't touch anything or I will blow your brains out'. I was brought up to fire arms; he never said a word just got. If he had got that team from me he would have made a pretty good haul for we had refused $600 for the team I was ploughing with. The boys once had oxen stolen in the early days.

"The horse thieves have come right to our stables after our horses. We have had them come three at a time, but we were always ready. There were horse thieves in the Moose Mountains, as I said before, but they belonged over the line on the American side. They stole a big bunch from the town of Moosomin and got clear across the line with them. They also operated at Melita and Hartney. They rounded up a big bunch of cattle, about 30 or 40 head. They were followed up and overtaken, but the thieves commenced firing and the pursuers thought the best thing they could do was to turn around and go back. The year before the Re- bellion horses were stolen pretty freely.

"Of course we had come to the west with the idea that it was the Garden of Canada flowing with milk and honey. Up to '89 settlers had been coming in every year, but the dry weather of '89 discouraged a good many people, owing to loss of crop, and a number of the settlers left the country. We did not go out until 1891 and then we went east to visit, and since then we have been going east pretty regularly.


"In '83 we built a concrete stable and a concrete house a story and a half high, which is still standing, and I believe this was the first con- crete building put up on this side of Winnipeg. It was 18 x 28 and itis standing as good as ever.

"We burned our own lime. We had never burned a kiln of lime before and we made the kiln on the side of the Souris River. We camped there in a tent, three of us, in order to kiln the lime. We burned 380 bushels and we sold 200 bushels at 40c per bushel. We sold this lime to settlers, principally for plastering log houses along the Souris River. We had seen kilns dug and filled and burned, but we had no actual experience to guide us, nothing but observation. We had a first class 'burn'. We teamed that lime from there and hauled out own stone, and to get sand we opened a sand pit near where the town of Gainsboro now is. We built the concrete buildings without any experience, except seeing it done.

"In 1885 we burned a second lime kiln in order to build a second house on my homestead (Joseph). The house on my homestead was 16 x 28, one story and a half high with concrete stable 28 x 42. All these build- ings are standing today as good as ever and are in first class repair. We cut our own wood to burn that second kiln which was also at the second crossing of the Souris. We got a good burn and the lime was of first class quality. We enlarged our kiln which held about 100 bushels more than the first one. Of this second quantity we used all of it ourselves, except about 100 bushels. Albert and I fired the kiln in three days, with only an occasional nap. The wood we used was mostly poplar, but there was some ash. We cut it in cordwood lengths.


"Until 1884 we had to depend on people going through to old Deloraine in Manitoba for our mail, but these people were not allowed to take out registered letters, and so several times when we got word that there were registered letters waiting for us at Deloraine, we had to make special trips in order to obtain them. In 1884 we got a post office known as Antler, on section 4, township 3, range 30, and for five years we kept the post office until the town of Gainsboro was located about a mile west from where my brother Jake still lives, and where he is working a section and a half of land."


Mr. Henderson interviewed on his farm: "I was born in 1855 in Dumfries County, Scotland, and was the son of a farmer. In 1882 I sailed from Glasgow for Canada on a ship called the 'Manitoban.' Mr. Richard Waugh, who subsequently became so well known in Winnipeg, Manitoba, came out in the same boat. On the boat Mr. Waugh conducted evangelistic meetings and preached on Sundays." Asked what induced him to leave Scotland for Canada, Mr. Henderson said: "It was the immigration literature." Continuing, he said: "We came to Chicago, and from thence by the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad, and arrived at West Lynne on the west side of the river opposite Emer- son at the boundary. There was a man named Crosby, a machine agent, at West Lynne, and we stayed a week with him. With me were A. K. Brown, D. Colquhoun, and Tom Colquhoun, from Dundas County, On- tario, and Isaac M. Guthrie. Guthrie stayed at West Lynne and took up land, but eventually returned to Dundas County. They were Scotch Ca- nadians. We bought two teams of oxen; Brown and I had one team between us, and the Colquhoun brothers had the other, and we also had wagons and supplies. We started out with Deloraine as our objective point, because Deloraine was where the Land Office was. When we got to Deloraine we hunted around for a homestead, but we did not like the look of the land. We wanted to settle all together, and so at last we took up this land at Winlaw without seeing it, but we had the field notes to guide us as to what the land was like. We left Deloraine on the first of June, 1882 and we arrived at what is now Winlaw on the 12th.

"The provisions we took along consisted of flour, pork, beans, soda biscuits, tea, sugar, and oat meal, and of these we had a good supply. We were all single young men. On the way out we sometimes got stuck in the sloughs, but we would double up the oxen and get out. We followed the Commission Trail. At Whitewater for half a mile, the trail was completely flooded.


"We each took up a homestead and pre-emption. A homestead con- sisted, of course, of 160 acres free on payment of $10.00 and the pre- emption of 160 acres for which $2.50 an acre was to be paid on time to the Government. I took up the east half of section 20, township 1, range 30 west of the first principal meridian. Mr. Brown had the west half of the same section. Archie Brown has since been to New Zealand and came back again. He sold out and went away. He was away one year when the C. P. R. offered him a cheap rate to come back and he bought land in the same settlement. Tom CoLquhoun had the east half of 22, and Donald Colquhoun the west half of 22. Guthrie went home to On- tario after entering for his land and came out a year afterwards onto section 16. He has been away a good deal, but is here on the farm now (1910). The Colquhouns had a tent as well as a covered wagon. Brown and I had a covered wagon, but we had no tent, and so we lived in the covered wagon for six months, while the Colquhouns, of course, lived in their tent. We had lots of water, and every two or three days we had rain. We put up two sod houses, one for Colquhouns and one for our- selves, and Brown's and my sod house was put up on my half-section. On the same day that we arrived, two boys named O'Brien came in from Ontario, but they did not last long. Where we settled we were three or four miles from the International Boundary. Further north were the Hostetters, the McClungs and Tom Nattrass. We had two breaking ploughs with each outfit. Brown and I broke ten acres between us that season, five acres on his place and five acres on mine. A party returning to the east had three wild steers, and for these we traded a good steady yoke of oxen. We had to break in these steers and had a pretty trouble- some time with them. The Colquhouns also did some breaking. Their yoke of oxen was a good one and gave excellent service.


"At this time there was a big rush at the Land Office at Deloraine. When we took up our land there, there were 40 people waiting to enter for homesteads, all strung up at the door, and among those standing was W. A. Smith, who settled near Carievale and afterwards lived at Cam- duff. The sod shanty we built was 10x12. All we knew about building sod shanties was: through looking at the sod shanties on the trail as we came along. Two of us worked at building the shanties while the other two ploughed. About the first week in August Donald Colquhoun and I went to Winnipeg to look for work, and Tom Colquhoun and Brown stayed behind to put up hay, which they had to cut with a scythe. I went to work in Winnipeg with a carpenter and got $3.00 a day.

"I am not a tradesman, but I am a sort of a born mechanic. The first work I did was to put in window sashes, in the Redwood Brewery. I sharpened my plane and went down to the brewery to start. The first thing I did was to examine some windows, to see how they were put in, and I came back and put the windows in as well as I could, and there was no complaint. I worked on this job for two weeks. Donald Col- quhoun was a brick-layer and he worked at his trade. Altogether I worked several months in Winnipeg. Donald went back to Winlaw in December, but I did not get back until January, when I found the boys and everything alright. That winter we drew wood out of the Antler Creek. It was principally maple and elm. We got some elm 18 inches in diameter. We were not far from the creek so that we had only a mile or so to haul it, but people came from miles across the open prairie to get this wood. The wood in the Creek supplied all the settlers in that district.


"With the exception of cutting wood we had of course very little to do in the winter. It might be said that we were simply sitting there. We had reading matter and occasionally we would go thirteen miles to Butterfield over the Manitoba line. There was service there on Sundays by a Methodist Preacher. In '83 we sowed mostly oats, expecting to sell the oats for the use of teams on the railroad which we were expecting to come in but which did not come. However, we sold them around to newcomers. In '83 Alex McLeod, who was a gold medalist of Kingston College, came in and he put in the summer homesteading. The Porters came in that year. Quite a lot came to Elmore in that year, but not many came to Winlaw. We had a comparatively uneventful summer in 1883. We had lots of rain, and wheat went 30 bushels to the acre. In '82 we had lots of rain. In '84 and '85 we had good crops. There was no poor year until 1886 which was a year of drought. I went to the old country in the fall of '83 and came back in the spring of '84. I got on the train at Brandon. Jimmy Robinson was going to Brandon and he gave me a lift out. In '83 George Kennedy and John Harkness came out. Tom Harkness, who is now in the Moose Mountains, came out later on.

John Carruthers came out from Dumfries (my own county). He met me in Carberry. He did not stay very long, but went away and was away eight years. He came back and is now here on his old homestead. He stayed long enough to get his patent before he went away. In '83 Mrs. Porter and Miss Porter came in.


Mr. Henderson interviewed on his farm:...

"We hauled wheat to Virden and Deloraine (about 50 or 60 miles) for quite a few years. The last winter that I hauled wheat to Deloraine I made twelve trips and the wheat fetched from 45c to SOc a bushel. Mrs. Henderson came out from the old country to join me. She was a Miss Catherine Henderson, a neighbor from Dumfries County, Scotland, and although of the same name no relation. I met her in Brandon and we were married there by Dr. (afterwards Senator) J. M. Douglas. I had a team of mules and a wagon and with these we returned to Winlaw. When Mrs. Henderson came out, which was in '85, she was accompanied by Christopher Halliday and Mrs. Christopher Halliday came in the spring of '86. These were all Scotch people from Dumfries County. Since then David Halliday and family and J. W. Stevenson and family have come out. I am the forerunner of all these folks.

"W. A. Smith was the first postmaster at Workman. Tom Colquhoun was the first postmaster at Winlaw. There was a post office two years before this at Elmore. People used to come from the north Antler coun- try to Winlaw Post Office to get their mail at first.

"In '88 the school district was formed under the name of Winlaw School District. It was formed in December, and in the spring of '89 the trustees opened school in the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Guthrie was the teacher. This was the first school east of Carnduff. Carnduff is an older school district than Winlaw. Mr. Guthrie held a first class Ontario certificate. The first Board of Trustees consisted of Christopher Halliday, who was the chairman of the board. R. H. Henderson (myself) was the secretary-treasurer, and John Harkness was the other trustee. That was in '88. Have been secretary-treasurer ever since. School was taught for quite a few years in the church, and it was not until 1900 that we built a separate school building.

"John Hay, a student from Kingston College, was sent in by the Home Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Hay was partly paid by the settlers and partly by the Home Mission Board. The church was built in 1886 and it was a frame building. We had no contract, but built it ourselves, mostly by bees. We sheeted it and lathed and plastered it inside. The same church is in use today (1910), although since then we have had a porch built to it. It seats 100 and is yet a good building, and is in good repair. Its dimensions are 18x30. This was the first church probably built south of the main line, although there was an Anglican sod church on Taylor's place in the Carievale District. In 1891 the railway came in, and there was a settled minister at Gainsboro, and since then Winlaw has been subsidiary to the church at Gainsboro.

"Winlaw may be called a Scotch settlement. The old settlers were mostly old country farmers. Most of the settlers when they came in had a little money, but not many of them had very much. The Coney Brothers (T. and W. H.) came in '85 and they have stuck to it ever since. J. J Reynolds came in 1884 with his family.


"At one time we were troubled with horse thieves. Judge Richard- son lost a fine team of greys from Regina. They were taken by Dutch Charley and his chum, and they brought them right down to the Souris River from Regina. The horse thieves built a dugout camp and wintered there on section 1, range 2, near the boundary. Billy Noble, who was in the police force, got that from old man Troyer. They cut wood for Chris. Troyer as a kind of a blind. In '84 William Noble came down here on the police force. Owing to horse thieves a petition was sent out from the settlers around Alameda for police protection. In July, '84, Inspector McDonald of the Mounted Police came down to investigate. He returned to Regina and reported, with the result that nine policemen were sent down under Sergeant Ross, who put up with Chris. Troyer on section 2, township 2, range 3 in the Souris Valley, practically where Oxbow now is on the bench. That was three miles from old Alameda post office. They moved up to about four miles of Claire, which would be somewhere near where the town of Stoughton now is. They got several supposed horse thieves; they were suspicious characters, but they had not sufficient evidence to convict them, and so the police had to let them go. Two or three were held up and rifles and guns taken from them, but nothing could be proved against them. Chris. Troyer was Justice of the Peace." Bibliography follows:

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