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John Albert Bossingham
Margaret Genevieve (McKiver) Bossingham

Pinepound Reflections - A History of
Spring Coulee and District pages 224 - 225

John Albert Bossingham was born July 17 1892 to John and Elizabeth (Laythorpe) Bossingham near Horncastle, Lincolnshire, England. While Albert was still a very small child the family moved to Boston, Lincolnshire and it was there the rest of the early years of his life were spent and where he first attended school. When he was ten years old, Albert went to live with his mother's sister Sarah and her husband who was gamekeepers on a big estate for some wealthy titled gentleman.

Albert was very fond of horses and whenever possible, used to hang around the racing stables on the estate. At age twelve being about the right size for a jockey, he was put to work exercising these beautiful animals. Here he was in his glory and day after day this was his life for the next three years. Needless to say he became an expert rider. This was a trait he never lost and he always attracted attention by the style with which he rode.

At about age 15 Albert went to work for a neighboring farmer who owned enough land to be considered quite well-to-do. It was here, under the farmer's supervision, Albert learned so many of the things that aided him so much in later life in Canada.

He learned how to run and repair machinery and how to operate the various engines used to grind feed, thrash grain and prepare silage for storage. He learned how to care for the farm horses, who did so much of the work and how to keep the harnesses in repair. On many a rainy day this was what kept him occupied. He learned all about the cattle and the sheep and how to doctor them when necessary and when they were having trouble giving birth. In later life in Spring Coulee he was often called upon by neighbors who had cattle or horses in difficulty. He also learned about the planting of grain and the value of crop rotation. All his life Albert spoke very kindly of this employer and was very grateful for the interest this gentleman had taken in his welfare.

In the spring of 1912, when Albert was not quite twenty years old, he wanted to come to Canada but, because he was not yet of age he had to have his mother's consent. Not wanting him to go so far away she refused to sign the papers. Perhaps it was a good thing as he might have been aboard the Titanic on that ill-fated voyage. That ship did carry a fair number of emigrants travelling steerage. Nearly all of them perished. Early the next year Albert reminded his mother that he would be 21 in July and could legally go then so she gave in and signed the papers. In early May of that year 1913 he said good-bye to his mother and father and six sisters, his aunts and uncles and boarded ship. The sad part is he never saw any of them again as he never went back. He landed at Halifax, Nova Scotia and was soon aboard the train for the long trip across Canada to Alberta.

It was late May when he stepped off the train in Spring Coulee. Here he was met by Frank Allen of Bradshaw Siding whom he had known in England. Frank and his brother John had come to Canada about four years before and having some money from their father's estate, had purchased land at Bradshaw.

For the next eight years, Albert worked at various places around the country. His first job was with the first Mr. Bradshaw to settle in the district. I think his given name was John. He spent a year with an old bachelor named Fred Chris who had land that extended along the U.S. border. This was down south of Del Bonita. He rode for quite a long spell at the Mclntyre Ranch working with the cattle and horses. He worked for the first Mr. Ririe who lived in Magrath, the father of a large family of boys who became Albert's friends. Mr. Ririe was quite a sheep man and Albert herded sheep for him. He must have owned or leased land up around Boundary Creek because Albert spent one entire summer up there with Mr. Ririe's sheep. It was there he first met the Simpson boys, there were several, and where he first met the Jessops. Having saved his wages, Albert even tried farming but picked a poor time to do so as it was 1919, a year of no rain and complete crop failure throughout a good share of Alberta. This was on the land where the Jensen Dam was built about twenty or twenty-five years later. Having spent all his savings he had to give up and seek employment where he could find it. He even spent one summer working on the section for the CPR.

In the spring of 1922 Albert came to Spring Coulee to work for John Coffee Thompson. He remained with the Thompson family for eighteen years until 1940. John was a good employer who treated him well. In fact he was treated in many ways as a member of the family. The Thompson family usually spent their winters in Pasadena, California leaving Albert in charge.

In 1934 Albert started farming on land one mile south of Spring Coulee. This land was adjacent to the Thompson land. Albert used his horses, plows etc. in conjunction with the Thompson outfits on the Thompson land and in return the Thompson outfits helped Albert work his land. This was in the dirty thirties and times were very hard. There was little rain and wheat and stock prices seemed to have hit rock bottom. No one seemed to have any money but co-operation seemed to go a long way. By 1937 the rains returned and times were somewhat better. War was declared in 1939 and there was a demand for wheat to feed the hungry people of Europe although the price of grain remained low for years.

On November 8, 1928, Albert was united in marriage to Margaret Genevieve McKiver also of Spring Coulee. They were married in Lethbridge by Rev. John Claxton of Magrath. Two daughters were born to them. Also Margaret's niece came to make her home with them when she was 14 months old and was good to them. I never saw him lift a hand to one of them yet all three would have done anything for him.

Albert suffered a stroke in the fall of 1953 from which he never fully recovered. His health gradually failed and he passed away in Magrath Hospital on January 23, 1959, at the age of 66, following a massive heart attack. He is buried in the Magrath Cemetery. "Ab" as he was often called was a good community man and a good neighbor. He was always willing to give a helping hand. He was a good hand at organizing things and taking charge in an emergency. He never seemed to spare himself. Perhaps that is why he died so young. We missed him.

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Mary Tollestrup