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Jim Barnett

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

Mr. and Mrs. Jim Barnett, Leslie, Gladys, Marie Barnett
This is Marie's story.

"We came to Seven Persons in March 1909 from Des Lac's, North Dakota, (near Minot). My father had come ahead and looked over the country, even around Claresholm, but chose Seven Persons. My mother, brother, Les, my sister, Gladys, and I came on a mixed, settlers' train, and arrived at night time. I had been train sick all the way and so they fixed a bed for us in the station. I was five years old. I remember hanging my hand over the edge of the bed and Fanny, our dog, who was under the bed, licked it which gave me much comfort.

"My dad had bought some good horses. I remember Queen, a driving and riding mare, and Dick, a beautiful, big sorrel, with white legs. We had a big red cow called Boss that gave so much milk she had to be milked three times a day. I was much younger than Gladys and Les, so played by myself with my kittens and my pups. The Tonberg twins and Mattie Nesting were my friends. One day Mattie and I were playing at the straw stack. The horses came up near us so I boosted Mattie up on Queen and as she had no halter or bridle, she could only hang on till the horse galloped to the barn. I came running behind, crying loudly. I was scolded for my thoughtlessness.

"I was interested to hear about the Hudson's Bay quarter upon which you live. I often rode horseback over it in search of our cows and those of our neighbors, the Wagners, for the grass was good here and the creek at Tonbergs' not far away. I am sure I rode hundreds of miles looking for them, for if I went west they would generally have gone east. One time my father was walking over this section when a large herd of range cattle gathered and started stampeding toward him. He had the presence of mind to remove his coat and wave it around his head which probably saved his life.

"My father homesteaded the north-east quarter of 9-10-7-4, and Les the south-west of 10-10-7-4, and they farmed Clark Boucher's to the south of us, and Bouchey's which was across the road from us, and also Ole Torgerson's. Dad built a big red barn. It was one of the best in the country and is still standing. We had a barn dance when the building was finished and a lot of people came.

"We lived on this farm for seventeen years and left in 1926 to buy a farm at Iron Springs. Gladys and her husband, Gust McMillan built a big store, a lumber and a machine business in the town. Ed Anderson was their carpenter. I worked in the store for five years before marrying Jack Hunt, youngest son of a pioneer family. We farmed there until 1948, then purchased a section of farmland at Parkland. We spend some time there, but we maintain an apartment in Lethbridge the year around.

"When we were at Seven Persons, Les and I would ride horseback to town two or three times a week to play tennis. There were quite a few young people, and after the game we would meet at Carlson's Restaurant for ice-cream and a sing song.

One night, about eleven o'clock, I was riding home alone. It was bright moonlight so I could see. I met a small herd of cattle and three riders. It was kind of scary, but I had a real good saddle horse so I got away fast. Later someone said they were rustlers but I never heard for sure.

"My dad sold some of his best horses to the cavalry. I recall one good team named Dan and Rock was taken to Medicine Hat. Two mornings later, they were back, tied together and hanging their heads over the gate, wanting to be let in. We all felt very sad when dad had to take them back to Medicine Hat.

"It is hard to believe that the Seven Persons Creek could rise so high to be at wild flood stage. I went to town with my dad one spring day and when we came to the bridge, it was completely flooded over. Dad began driving across anyway. The water came up in the buggy so I had to pu11 my feet up on the seat. The horses had to swim and their tails floated on top of the water. I was terrified until we made it across.

"My mother used to cook for people who were riding by and had come for long distances, people such as ranchers, cowboys and Mounties. One day our folks were away in Medicine Hat when two riders stopped by for dinner. Gladys was about sixteen and I was nine. We had a consultation about what to do. Mother had lots of young fryers and Gladys was a crack shot with a twenty-two. We got a bunch of young roosters sort of gathered up and she shot one through the comb. He kept running, all covered with blood till she nailed him again, and then she shot one more. Now came the cleaning of them, for we had had no experience and we didn't know what to do to get them ready for the pan. We had a terrible time but finally we got them fried and the Maney brothers on their way, happy, I hope.

"After the war, Mr. and Mrs. Shelly Page bought the Ralph Good place, about a mile and a half north of our farm. They were very good neighbors. He was in poor health for he had been gassed and shell shocked in the war. Torrie had played in the Symphony Orchestra in Medicine Hat for years. We had a lot of good times. She taught Les to play first mandolin, and I played second mandolin, and she played the violin. Such music seemed beautiful to us.

"I often visited the Rice farm when their sister, Verona, would come out to their farm from Medicine Hat for the summer. They had a Chinese cook, and he would set out doughnuts or cakes on a low window to cool, and we'd help ourselves.

"One night I had an attack of appendicitis while riding from Rice's. I had to get off and lie on the ground several times on the way home. My father went for the doctor, and when he saw me, he took me to the hospital. He operated before morning. It was my first car ride.

"We three all attended the Joffre School. We often had baseball games at our place, especially on Sundays. Players rode horseback from Seven Persons, Whitla and the surrounding areas to join in. We did a great deal of dancing in the school house, and in homes, and later in the U.F.A. hall. I used to love to dance. The Norwegian polka was my favorite. Annie and Bertha Carlson danced that one particularly well. The Felix brothers had an orchestra. Les and Jack Laiendre played violins with them. Les would get about two dollars for playing for a dance.

"My aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, had a store and post office and a stopping place at Bull's Head Butte. They used to haul their supplies by wagon or sleigh from Seven Persons. Our house was a halfway house for them. I used to spend much time with them before they had children. They had lots of candy in large wooden pails and this I enjoyed. One time my -aunt and I were alone when a rider came and told us to stay inside as they were bringing a thousand head of cattle by. Yeast and Higdon were moving them from Manyberries to the M.H.R. It was quite a sight.

"My dad and I rode to the Medicine Hat Ranch one day looking for some stray cattle. It was ten miles southwest of us. The Murray family owned it. Mr. George Murray was the manager and there were several boys and girls. It was a fine ranch for its large flat, filled with water, making a lake. Then in the summer, this lake dried up and there would be a large hay crop to cut which, of course, the Murray ranch people made use of. There were hay stacks galore. Mr. Mack Higdon was in charge of this ranch at one time, too, I believe.

"I remember our days at Seven Persons with pleasure. We didn't have much money in those days, but we had a good life and we had lots of fun."

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup