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William Hourston Bews and
Mary Ellen McDonald Bews

Tales and Trails - A History of Longview
and Surrounding Area
Page 35-37
by Helen M. Newton

On June 13, 1880 William Hourston Bews was born to Peter and Margaret (Clouston) Bews near Dounby, Orkney, being one of nine children. During holidays he herded cows for the neighbors, and at the age of twelve began his apprenticeship as a blacksmith. He took military training with the Orkney Territorials, also joined the Masonic lodge; learned to play the violin and bagpipes and played at weddings and parties.

His father, as a young man, had served with the Hudson's Bay Co. in Canada and had driven dog teains from Winnipeg to Edmonton; also bought land near Winnipeg. His tales of life and adventure in Canada inspired his boys to cross the ocean, so in 1901 Billy left Orkney to join his older brother Jim. He arrived in High River on May 10, 1901 and loved the country from the first. He worked at a blacksmith shop first in High River then Calgary, where he was a member of Calgary's first bagpipe band.

On July 11, 1904 he was granted entry for his homestead, SW'/4-14-18-2W5th west of High River. While driving his team and wagon, loaded with lumber and supplies out to the homestead he wondered if that was what he wanted - to travel that long road the rest of his life, so thinking of the good job and fellowship he was leaving, he turned his team around and headed back to town. After a couple of miles, he decided he should not be a quitter, so again turning around he went on to making a home and prove up on his homestead. In the winters he worked on bridge crews, and in summer doing blacksmith work in his own little shop.

Early one summer morning Billy looked out and saw something bounding up and down in the tall grass. His first thoughts were "a bear!" soon he found out it was his brother Jim catching grasshoppers, so the two of them rode off for a day's fishing up Sullivan Creek. Chatting over the camp fire Jim said, "We might see Sullivan's ghost up here." Later, as they rode passed the old Sullivan home they heard a strange tapping sound coming from within the deserted building. Curiously they went to the door and called, but no answer; again a tapping; they tried to open the door but someone seemed to be pushing on it. Finally they pushed till the door gave way; a poor old cow rushed out so weak she could hardly travel.

Billy helped build many bridges: the first steel bridge over the Old Man River at Lethbridge, the St. Mary's, Cardston, ones at Pincher Creek and Fort Macleod. He also did blacksmith work on the windows and doors of the first Provincial Jail built in Lethbridge.

On March 24th, 1887, Mary Ellen McDonald was born to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph McDonald of Vernon River, P.E.l., one of ten children. Hiring out to neighboring potato growers to pick potatoes was a childhood chore 'enjoyed?' by 'Ella' and her brothers and sisters. She trained as a teacher and in 1911 she arrived in Taber on a harvest excursion intending to stay only three years. Later her application was accepted to teach Big Hill school; while here she boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Francis Noble. One day she asked Mrs. Noble to pack a lunch for her so she could 'walk to the mountains for the day.'

Billy Bews became interested in this young school 'marm'; and until they were married in 1914 she taught at Donalda, Alta. a Norwegian settlement, then at Fosk, where she boarded at the S. M. Mace home. Meanwhile with the help of Cyrus McBee Billy constructed the cozy log house that was to be their home.

A prized possession in the Bews home is the autographed photograph of the Prince of Wales mounted on the horse 'Colonel' loaned to the Prince by Mr. Ellison Capers to ride the foothills. Billy had shod this horse so he could walk without limping.

There were four children in the Bews family.

Billy and Ella led a busy and happy life as did their children. Music was a great pastime in their home; Billy also played at dances, with his brother Jim step-dancing and Jim Andrews calling the square dances. Among other local musicians taking part were: Mrs. Ed McKethen, Leona Andrews, Cyrus McBee, Mrs. Weidenhammer, Mr. and Mrs. George Hoggan, Mrs. Archie Hogg, Tom Weidenhammer, Knut Bokvist, Bill Lawrence and the Wallators.

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Copyright © 2000
Mary Tollestrup