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The Bassett Family

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

The Bassett name is one associated with early history of Medicine Hat and of Seven Persons. Mr. and Mrs. Bassett came to Medicine Hat in 1881, before the railway was constructed. It was said that Mrs. Bassett walked into the embryo village from Dunmore. The site was marked by collections of tents, those of Indians and those of whitemen too, for adventurers and employees were moving to the west at that time.

Mr. and Mrs. Bassett began a rooming house and a restaurant for there was a need for accommodations. This business later became the Cosmopolitan Hotel and it continued until mid-century. The Reverend J.W. Morrow, in his book Early History of the Medicine Hat Country said, "Many a man falling sick in her hotel has been kindly watched and nursed. Certainly God has seen and appreciated her sacrifices." Tom, one of the Bassett sons, managed the hotel for numerous years.

Homesteading was becoming a popular mode of gaining possession of land. Mr. Bassett and his sons had a homestead on the south-east hill area of the city. Strangely, when they kept horses there they had to take them to the South Saskatchewan River for water. Little did they know that contractors of houses and, in later years, buildings such as Safeways, have had much difficulty in shutting off water at comparatively shallow depths to complete their construction, in this area. During a real estate boom in 1906, this homestead was sold for $30,000, the highest price ever paid in Alberta for a quarter section of land up until that time. They owned land at Seven Persons, too, and raised horses and cattle.

This family had nine children, five boys: Alf, Judd, Tom, Bert and Harry, and four girls: Mrs. McBeth, Louise Stewart, Annie Flett and Mrs. Hazel Slack. Mrs. Slack's husband, Dr. Albert Slack was a well known dentist in the city. Their three sons, Howard, Ted and Fred worked in the dental profession and their daughter, Marian, was her father's dental assistant.

Harry and Bert operated the ranch. It was a big ranch and farm. They owned a large Romley tractor, a separator and other heavy implements. Charlie Sherman became the owner of the ranch which was in Paradise Valley. Other owners of this holding were Fred Seitz, Gordon Herman and Harry Good. Later, Harry Bassett chose land to the south of this original homestead.

Harry was born in 1881. When of school age he attended Toronto Street School which was the first school in the city. At the age of fourteen he worked for T. Jenkins, who raised polo ponies and cattle on the M.H.R. He recalled cutting and hauling logs from Cypress Hills to build the house at his employer's ranch. He married Annie Brooks, an English girl, who worked at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. They decided to go to the Peace River country and beyond to Fort St. John, and shipped up to the end of steel, then finished the trip by team and lumber wagon. It was a difficult trip over almost nonexistent roads. Mrs. Annie Bassett was the first white woman in that wilderness. After battling unbelievable odds, even riding a raft down a turbulent river, they returned to Seven Persons to continue in farming and ranching.

Seven Persons has known another generation of this family. Harry and Annie had two sons, Richard, who has one son Jim and two daughters, Joyce and Cathy, and Tom who has a son, Harry and a daughter, Susan. Tom served overseas, in the Canadian Forces. He owns and operates the original Bassett ranch. Harry and Annie had a daughter, too. She was named Winnifred. She died from scarlet fever when she was a child.

Tragedy came to the Richard Bassett home in the horror of a house fire in about 1956. The baby, David, of less than a year upset a container of high-test gasoline in the kitchen and it was ignited by a pilot light in the natural gas refrigerator. The house was completely consumed in a very short time, each member of the household having time to escape, but the baby was burned so badly he died. The family lost all their possessions and they had this great sadness.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup