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Edward Anderson

Seven Persons - Once Hundred Sixty Acres and a Dream
As the Story was Told

Edward Anderson 1876-1949

Ed Anderson, my father, came to Seven Persons in June of 1908 to choose a new homestead. "What a promising land," he thought, as he decided upon the north-east quarter of 28-11-7-4. Grass grew "belly-deep to a horse", and hay could be cut almost anywhere. Sloughs of water nestled between the knolls. The soil, a brown sandy loam, appeared rich and fertile and seemed so right for the production of grain and forage for livestock. The land was untouched for the building of a farm. He was pleased with his choice. On this holding, he lived for the rest of his life.

Dad's early life seemed exciting and romantic to us,his family. He was born in Goteberg, Sweden. There were five other children. His father was a carpenter whose income was quite meager, so educational benefits were limited. Following his elementary schooling, Dad was sent to a carpenters' trade school. Working with wood became his hobby and often his means of livelihood.

When he was only seventeen years old he joined a Norwegian sailing vessel and braved the waves to many North Sea ports. Life was adventuresome, but so hard and so cheap. On those "Old Windjammers" he gained a knowledge of ropes, ladders, sailing, and the sea. He saw, on numerous occasions, ports of London, Gibraltar, Alexandria, Cairo, Naples and so many other geographically interesting places. He recalled for us his seeing the pyramids, the desert sands of Algiers and the ever-threatening guns on guard at the Strait of Gibraltar. After numerous years "before the mast" he was engaged by an English tramp steamer company, which was carrying fruit from the tropics in the West Indies to England. Here he was required to shovel coal for the steamer's locomotive energy. He visited ports in the West Indies, British Guiana, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and cities such as New Orleans, Miami, Norfolk, Philadelphia and New York. He recalled, "I saw so many tons of bananas I never want to taste one again." "There were many poisonous insects in the fruit. I saw a fellow sailor get stung by a scorpian and die in great pain and convulsions," he said. "From one port in Guatemala we took a steamer load of giant turtles to the Louisianna swamps. They were so big they would get stuck in doorways, as they wandered about on deck, and we would have to pry them loose with bars. They would snap at us, so we were in some danger."

Eventually he left seamanship to become a dock worker in Hoboken, New Jersey and then a homesteader at Scarpio, or Bowbells, North Dakota. He became a carpenter in Minot, North Dakota, and while there, met the lady who was later to become his wife.

In the spring of 1910, Dad moved to his farm at Seven Persons. There was much work to do. Buildings and fences had to be constructed. Rocks had to be loosened and hauled from the fields. The land had to be broken. How many miles did a man walk, following a walking plow, to turn over one acre, when each cut was only a sixteen inch slice? Then this field had to be floated and disked to become a seedbed. Farm implements were quite primitive at this time.

A step of progress was the purchase of a sulky plow, which cut only sixteen inches, too, but which could be ridden by the operator. Other acquisitions were a seeder and a binder, each to be drawn by four horses. The binder cut the ripened grain and tied it into bundles. From eight to twelve of these bundles were set up into a stook, this being done by hand. Threshing was done by a separator and a tractor that went from farm to farm. The grain was hauled by a team and a lumber wagon, and shovelled on or off with a scoop shovel.

Weather has always controlled the destiny of man. So it was for Dad. When the "Weatherman smiled" there were good crops. He spoke of 1912, 1915, 1916, 1923, 1927 and 1928 as being particularly rewarding. For him there were many other years when he harvested very little. The grass that, at times, was so bountiful, became a short, grey ground covering, hardly capable of nourishing livestock. The sloughs dried up, the wells went dry, and the fields eroded with the winds.

It was then he resorted to his skill as a carpenter to supplement his income. He built many of the houses and the barns in the district, many of the homes and places of business in Seven Persons, and some of the stores and the schools in Medicine Hat. One fall he worked on the C.P.R. round house for the wages of sixty cents an hour.

Dad was over six feet tall and he looked taller, for he was quite slim. He wore a black western hat whenever the temperature allowed hat wearing, and he smoked a pipe. Sometimes that pipe became so strong smelling I don't know how he could lose it, but he did, and then asked us to help him search for it. When he worked he whistled and he knew so many tunes. He was cheerful and ever-optimistic.

He had had little formal schooling, certainly none in this country, but he read widely and comprehended well. His outstanding philosophy helped each of us, his children. His words of wisdom helped me much in my career.

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Mary Tollestrup