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William Lloyd Baxter
and Ethel Aldrich Baxter

Heritage of the High Country
A History of Del Bonita and
Surrounding Districts, Pages 266 - 267
written by Irene O'Bray

Dad, Lloyd Baxter and Mother, Ethel Aldrich were both born in Adrian, Michigan, Dad in 1879 and Mother in 1885. They became engaged and decided to live in North Dakota when they were married.

Dad and his folks moved to Dakota, and each bought a farm where they built their homes. Dad then sent for my mother and they were married. Times were pretty hard for them as they had never farmed before, and it was hot and dry.

My brother Russel and I were their only children. They moved to Sand Point, Idaho, where they bought a confectionery store and did quite well. A few years later, they heard there was some land being opened up for homesteading in Sunny Southern Alberta so Dad and friend, Roy Winters, decided to go up there. They drove up with a team and democrat. They came through the mountains on a logging road and forded rivers and streams. I think it took them about a week to get to Lethbridge, where they camped on the lawn in front of the City Hall, to wait their turn to claim their land.

The next day Dad and Mr. Winters drove to the McIntyre lease with a load of lumber and started their new homes. My dad built a two roomed house, twelve by twenty-four feet, and Mr. Winters built a sod house.

In 1913, they sent for their families. We came by train to Magrath. Dad met us with a team and hay rack, as we had brought all our furniture. There were no bridges at that time, so we had to ford the river at Page's ranch, now owned by Herman Hilimer. It was in April, and the ice was breaking up, making it very dangerous. Just as we got into the middle of the stream, a large cake of ice came down and knocked the horses off their feet. They would have drowned if Dad hadn't walked out on the tongue of the wagon and unhitched them, so they could get up. My mother and brother and I were taken across on horseback by some of the cowboys who worked for Pages. When we got home, my brother and I were allowed to do as we pleased as there were no neighbors to bother us. As Mom had been in a city all her life, it was a disappointment to her to be in such a lonely country and not have neighbors. There were no roads or fences for miles and miles. All we could see were herds of cattle and occasionally a few cowboys.

This land had been leased by a big rancher named McIntyre, and although the lease had expired, his cattle were still running on it, so no one could plant gardens or hang their clothes out to dry. It was really frightening to go outside, because the cattle stayed near the houses to be in the shade, and to keep away from the flies. Many people were chased by the bulls and just made it to their door. My mother frightened them away with a big tin dishpan and a long mixing spoon several times at night so they could get some sleep. After they built their fences around their place, they were able to start farming and have gardens. Mom and Dad planted a big garden, and it was growing lovely. We walked over to our neighbor's place two miles away, and when we got home we found the cattle had broken in and destroyed everything. So the people got together and decided to build a pound to keep the cattle in until McIntyre was notified of the damage his cattle had done to us all. He decided to move his cattle off the lease.

A big snow storm came up, and we had no barn, so Dad put the horses in the cellar under the house till it stopped snowing.

Most of the children walked to school, which was two and three miles away. Winter clothing was very hard to get, and at times we all wrapped our feet in gunny sacks to keep them warm and dry. Our teacher would help us to unwrap our feet and dry the sacks by a big heater.

In 1918, Mr. Roycroft told all of his pupils of the flu epidemic coming, and that if any of us started sneezing, we were to go home right away. In about five minutes we all started to sneeze, so he sent us all home, and in two days every one of us had the flu. Only one or two were able to have a doctor, as the nearest one was thirty miles away, and there were no cars to go and get him. The parents just had to do the best they knew how to take care of us. Even though they all had it, not one of the children died, and to my knowledge, the old home treatment must have been good.

For amusement, in the evenings we sat around the table and looked at the old Eaton's or Simpson's catalogue, which we called the homesteaders' wish book. We were allowed to cut out pictures from them too.

As more people came, we put on house parties and dances in the homes. Some of the people had violins and guitars and the old fashioned accordion, called the Wind Jammer. Everyone was friendly and the children enjoyed it as much as the grown-ups. When we got tired we threw coats in the corners, and slept there the rest of the night. There were no delinquents in those days, because we always went with our parents.

My mother was a mid-wife for quite a few families. She had no doctor to help her, but they got along just fine.

When the people started farming, they hauled their own grain to Milk River or Magrath by team, wagon or sleigh, and brought back their winter groceries with them. Quite a few of the men bought threshing machines. Some were stationary. Later the tractors came to replace the horses.

My father built quite a few houses in the early days. He also constructed big sheds for some of the ranchers.

In 1922 dad was building some fence. He rested the crow bar on a post, and stooped over to get his gloves, and the crow bar fell on his head. Two weeks later he died from a blood clot on his brain. Mother rented her farm and we moved to Magrath, where she cooked for a farmer, Mr. George Heathershaw, who owned a big steam threshing outfit. I went to a nearby school, called La Prairie, five miles south of Magrath. I also attended school in Magrath.

In 1923, we moved to the farm on the lease again, and I went back to school in Del Bonita. Mom rented the farm to E. E. Bussian for three years, as we had no machinery, and my brother had to work out. He worked for a time at Hilimers, and later at the Knight Sugar Company Ranch.

In 1925, Mom married Ed Bussian. He had a farm to the west of Shanks Lake, I believe. Powleslands own it now. He bought a half section in Twin River, and Mom took a homestead there. They farmed till 1944, then moved to B.C.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup