Lögberg-Heimskringla - 15.05.1987, Blaðsíða 5

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 15.05.1987, Blaðsíða 5
ALDARAFMÆLISÁR, FÖSTUDAGUR 15. MAÍ 1987-5 —? Thingvalla Pioneer's Story Continued írom Page 4 homestead. With the help of another settler he took out logs on our own land, hewed them and built the walls for a log house to the height of about eight feet and a size of about 16 by 20 feet, leaving the roof and floor to be done later. He had also managed to put up a supply of hay for the cows. But news came to us in the latter part of the summer while we were still in Millwood, that a prairie fire had razed a considerable area, in- cluding part of our homestead and our prospective home had been burn- ed to the ground. Father had then received permis- sion to use temporarily a small hut which had also been built during the summer by our future neighbor, Jón Magnússon. This was built of black poplar logs, with sod roof, and plas- tered with clay. It was 14 by 14 in size, about seven feet high, had one small window and there was a cast- iron stove in one corner. To this rather cheerless accommodation we arrived on this cold, blustery pitch dark evening. So here we were, two families, counting nine people huddled in this little house, tired, cold and hungry, with no chairs, no table and no bed, and only the little four-lid cook stove to keep us warm. However, a good fire was soon burning in the stove, and this work- ed wonders in cheering everyone. A wide board nailed to the wall served as a table, a few small boxes to sit on, and a good hot meal, all served to minimize the gloomy aspect of our condition. When it came time to go to rest, the boxes were put outside, and our bed- ding spread on the sod floor where we all slept the sleep of exhaustion after a long day's travelling against a bitterly cold wind. Everyone was up bright and early next morning, eager to view the new surroundings. It was a lovely sunshiny morning and much warmer. After breakfast, father and Helgi shouldered picks and shovels and set out for the spot on our homestead where our home was to be, just a half mile away from Jon's log cabin. A partnership was formed, where it was agreed that the two families would live together through the com- ing winter, and share in making a habitable place to live in, in the short time before winter set in. The material on hand consisted of the lumber from the house we lived in, in Millwood, which had been torn down, plus some odds and ends bought cheaply from the mill. This however, was not sufficient to build a structure that would resist or give protection against the rigors of severe winter weather. It was therefore de- cided to make an excavation on the south side of a hill, large enough to live in, and use the lumber to line the walls and for a floor. When this was completed, it was roofed with poles and sod. The walls were about 7 feet high, the front end standing full height, clear of the excavation, the other end being level with the top of the hill. All this was accomplished in record time, and no time was lost in mov- ing the two families. Our cook stove was set up in a corner in the front end, and used by both families. The water for cooking and washing had to be brought in buckets from a little lake, three- quarters of a mile distant. Carrying the water fell to the lot of my sister and myself. Our dugout home was warm but very crowded. We were sheltered from the raw east wind by a fairly heavy poplar bluff, and the fierce northern blizzards did not affect us, as only the roof showed on a level with the hill. News came that the railway had reached a spot seven miles from our homestead. A small village had sprung up that was named Langen- burg, and it served a settlement of newcomers, Germans. One of the two general stores in the village was owned and operated by two Ger- mans, Hinch and Ulrich, the other was owned by Helgi Jonson, it hav- ing been moved to Langenburg from Shellmouth and was managed by Bjarni (Davidson) Westman. Most of the few settlers already in the settlement procured their provi- sions in this new town, it being closest. A few travelled to Shell- mouth to buy their groceries, a distance of 15 miles. . . * o» Late in the fall of 1886 father ap- plied for and was granted a loan of some $200.00 from the Canada Set- tlers' Loan and Trust Co. With this money he bought a team of oxen, a wagon and box, a set of sleighs, a breaker plow, and a set of harrows. Our team of oxen, called Lamb and Lion, were powerful animals and easy to handle, except if travelling away from home, and they found a chance to turn to go back home again, they would get out of control and run like deer, and could not be stopped or turned right or left until they reached the yard at home. That first winter, this team of ox- en proved the only means of subsis- tence for both families. There being no work to be had, and little or no money, they hauled dry firewood to Langenburg that sold for $2.50 a load, for which the bare necessities were purchased. The only meat was bush rabbits, of which there were plenty, and of course the milk and butter from our cows was an impor- tant part of our diet. There were no luxuries, unless a cup of coffee can be put in that class. Father and Helgi took a load of wood to town alternately and the proceeds were used to buy the bare necessities, such as coffee, sugar, a little flour and shorts to mix with the flour for bread, also milled oats for porridge. Often we would run short of some- thing, and would do without until the next trip was made to town. When coffee was served, my sister Guðny and I were allowed a cup of weaker coffee also a small lump of sugar each. We often watched mother as she prepared meals, and could not fail to notice the care and worry that show- ed, when everything had to be used so sparingly. My sister and I took a notion one day, that we would save our lump of sugar and surprise mother by produc- ing our little hoard, when her supp- ly ran out. This we did, and instead of using it, we deposited each lump in a little tin that was hidden away and kept secret. Then it happened! Some time later, we heard mother mention that the supply had run out, we proudly produced our hidden hoard, and were rewarded with a very surprised look, a loving smile and two big tears. That moment has lingered in my memory all my life. Thus the winter passed, and a cold winter it was, that winter of 1886-7. Many a report, like the sound of a cannon, would be heard in the woods nearby, on a clear night, when the severe frost tightened its grip every- where. * * * This tract of land that I have men- tioned, gave great promise of abun- dance and a bright future. It was well watered with small lakes here and there, plenty of haý meadows, and pasture land, a good supply of building logs and fuel. Not many settlers had arrived in the district thus far, and these, with a few exceptions, had been employed by the railway and had entered for homesteads in later summer and moved in when freeze-up came, and work was suspended. The following summer saw the largest number of new arrivals also a lesser number, the summer of 1888. The various groups of settlers arriv- ing during the summer of 1887 came mostly direct from Iceland. A few were from Winnipeg. As the end of steel was still at Langenburg, these people were met there, and they and their effects were transported via the oxen-wagon route to the homes of kind hearted, hospitable countrymen or relations. Our oxen, often with myself as driver, had a goodly share in these operations. Also in the matter of get- ting logs from the woods for buildings. While the business of house- building went on, some of the families had to live in cramped quarters in shared accommodation with their hosts. As an illustration of this condition for several weeks that summer, our house sheltered three families besides our own. Our home now being a two-storey loghouse, quite roomy. But no one grumbled, and in a surprisingly short time these people moved into their own houses on their own homesteads. Soon the railway was pushed on further into the North-West, and when it reached the settlement on the southern fringe, a small town came into being, and was called Churchbridge. This was in winter of 1887-88. The town grew, and very soon there were two general stores, a post office, a section house, blacksmith shop, a boarding house, and dwellings. One of the general stores was owned by the widow of Helgi Jonson, the colonization agent who had passed away some months previously. This store was managed by Bjarni (Davidson) Westman, who later married the window. The other general store was own- ed and managed by Johann G. Thorgeirsson who came from Win- nipeg and started the business that was quickly patronized by the major part of the settlement. "Joe" was lik- ed and respected by most people, both as a citizen and a businessman. He had a pleasing personality, and was always courteous ánd'obliging. In the winter of 1888-89 the Thingvalla School was built. It was a log building, shingle roofed and was built by volunteer labor. The first teacher was Miss Guðny (Jonsdottir) Jones (later Mrs. Magnus Paulson of Winnipeg). She was a fine person and a very capable and con- scientious teacher. Ours was a six-months' summer school, and Miss Jones taught there for three summers, and as one of her pupils I feel convinced that her work conduct, and moral influence, made a deep and lasting impression on the minds of all pupils. My sister.mar Guðny, taught at the Thingvalla School during the 1893 term and after school was closed that fall she went to Winnipeg and mar- ried Th. (Þórður) Johnson, who for many years had a jewelry and wat- chmaker business on Main St. Thor- dur was one of a large family often referred to as "Hjarðarfells", as they came from Hjarðarfelli in Iceland. Alec Johnson, the well-known singer who recently passed away, was the youngest brother. * * * The settlement progressed; better houses were built; some land was broken and brought under cultiva- tion, the little herds of cattle grew; the Thingvalla Post Office was established; and with money earned in rail-road work, people lived under easier circumstances. It was a thoroughly Icelandic set- tlement. All books and reading mat- ter had been brought from the old country. These were to a large extent, the old Icelandic Sagas, also "Rímur", books of poetry, Sunday _______________Continued on Page 8



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