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Boundary Creek

by Lloyd Simpson
Chief Mountain Country" pages 59 - 61

Boundary Creek has the distinction of being the most extreme southwesterly organized area in Alberta, excluding National Parks. It is not known who named the creek, but it is an appropriate name as the creek rises in Pike Lake barely within Montana and empties into the St. Mary River again inside Montana's borders. Between these two points it describes an irregular ark as it winds its way into Alberta. At its extreme it is some five miles from the International Boundary.

It could be that the first building site given the name "Boundary Creek" was the R.N.W.M.P. barracks which were on the south shore of Police Lake, near its west end. The house consisted of three rooms. It was constructed of logs with wooden pegs in the corners rather than nails. The roof was made of sods. There was a horse stable nearby. It was probably last occupied around 1905

Alvin Beazer, an old-timer of the Beazer area mentioned recently that he could remember when there were only four people on Boundary Creek-Furman, Linquist, Christensen and Savoy. This would be right at the turn of the century. None of these names figure in the area now, although Freeman Cook is a grandson of John Furman.

A man named Ewings, who lived north of the Salt Ranch buildings, went about with a petition to secure the first post office for Boundary Creek. The Post Office was probably the first organized institution in Boundary Creek. "Billy" Fidler was the first postmaster. The Post Office was on the present Ed Neimann ranch but on the north side of the Creek. Mr. Fidler was succeeded as postmaster by Victor Hillmer, who in turn was succeeded by a Mr. J. E. Hansen, still on the same location. When Mr. Hansen gave up the Post Office it was taken over by Mrs. Stuart Selby on the location where Earl Hansen now lives. Mrs. John Vair became the next postmistress in her home now occupied by her grandson, George Vair. It is of interest to note that on this site the Boundary Creek Post Office was actually a few feet into the Beazer district. In the mid-thirties Mrs. Vair retired. Again Mrs. Selby assumed the postmistress' duties in the old Enders home. This was about a mile south and west of Mrs. Vair's. In February 1947 Mrs. Selby relinquished the duties of postmistress. Henceforth the Cardston Post Office became the post office for the Boundary Creek district. Michael Archibald was an early mail carrier. He gave up this job about 1910. Stuart Selby succeeded him as mail carrier, only quitting after the "Hard Winter" 1920 because of the loss of horses and the poor condition of his surviving horses.

A Presbyterian Church was built in the early days in the western reaches of the present Salt ranch near the banks of Boundary Creek. This was abandoned about 1920. The building was sold and moved. At one time summer Presbyterian services were held in the house on the Michael Archibald homestead, SE I/4-24-1-27-W4. This was almost on the spot where the road leads west from the junction north of the present Boundary Creek school. In early days the Anglicans came into the area. Church was held in the school.

In the late thirties and early forties L.D.S. Church services were held in the Boundary Creek School.

One notable thing that had a concern with the Presbyterian Church was the tragic drowning of a young R.C.M.P. officer in Police Lake shortly before 1919. In preparation to attending a church picnic this Constable and his companion went for a swim in the lake. Somehow he got into difficulty and was lost. It was some days until the body was recovered.

The Boundary Creek S.D. No. 1838 was organized in 1908. From the minutes we learn debentures were issued at 8% for $1000. for the building of a school and procuring the site. Two acres of N .W. t/4- 13- 1 -27-4 were purchased from Alfred Gales for the school site. This first school was situated about one block west of the Alfred Gales home, and about two miles west of the location of the present school. The first school was a tall one- room wooden building with a lean-to built on for an en- trance.

The minutes of the first school meeting were dated June 1, 1908. The minutes of the second meeting were dated July 11, 1908. This meeting was held at the home of Chas. Holmes, with Chairman - Chas. Holmes; Secretary-Edwin Blaser; Treasurer-James Crerar. Miss Mary Smith of Mountain View was the teacher in 1910; her salary was $60. per month. Early assessors were paid $20. per year and the assessment April 30, 1910 was 71/2 cents per acre.

At a board meeting December 7, 1910 it was decided that cables should be attached to the west side of the school building. The building was tall and the west wind presented a real problem. As a safety measure these large cables were installed to secure the building. These cables remained for the duration of the school.

The school served as the "community centre". It was the centre of all activity and everyone participated. The School Board was actually in charge of the social affairs of the district, as they were in charge of the school. Many wonderful times were held at the school-plays, parties, dances, socials, picnics, meetings and Christmas con- certs. People came from all around and far away to at- tend these functions.

A former student Mary Martin (Coombs) tells about the "Basket Social", held each November. The girls made beautiful baskets each filled with a bountiful lunch -a work of culinary art. These baskets were auctioned and later the proceeds were distributed among the families to ensure a Christmas gift for every child of school age and pre-schoolers school children were allotted a bit more than pre-schoolers. Much time was spent "browsing through the catalogue" to select just the right gift to comply with the amount they were allotted to spend. Orders were mailed so that these 'gifts' would arrive in plenty of time for Christmas. For many children (and this applied to many districts at that time) this was the only gift the child received. Mary remembers at this time her one wish was to receive a little bottle of nail polish ('cause "teacher" had some and it was something new). Her wish was granted plus a manicure set. About 1939 times were better and sufficient funds were raised so that everyone, even the babies, received a sack-treat containing candy, nuts, popcorn, an orange, and even an apple.

Community spirit was truly evident at Christmas. Everyone helped to make this a happy event for all. Often times were hard, but the spirit of these noble people reigned. The Christmas concert was a community effort. First, a wire was strung across the front of the schoolroom and curtains were hung to set up a stage. Then the big tree was brought in and decorated. Some say it was 12' high. Then came the night of the concert. When everyone was in and seated the little wax candles were lit, the kerosene lamp carried out and young and old alike sat spellbound as they watched their "magnificent tree shine in all its glory-and as the candles began to splutter amid the oh's and the ah's, the candles were blown out (a safety precaution), the lamp returned and the program began.

Following the program jolly Santa always happened to be at the right school at the right time! Such merriment for everyone-especially the children, as gifts were passed around. As times became better treats were provided for old and young alike. The program was usually followed by a dance, so it was not until the 'wee hours' that many a tired and happy soul set out for home. Of all the memories of the little country school, perhaps the Christmas concert is the most nostalgic!

The annual picnic was another great event. Everyone assembled at the school at a given time. When everyone was ready, away they all went to the "dug-way" or some other selected place for a day of fun. Often Mrs. Martin (who had an ice-cream freezer) provided home-made ice cream, an added treat for all to enjoy.

In 1928 coal was hauled to the school for $2.40 a ton and wood was $10. per cord. No inflation there!

There was no water at the school. Elva Gales (Atwood) tells this story. Each week two children took their turn, going to a spring about a mile northwest of the school. Between them they carried the water in a pail back to the school, often trudging through snow up to their waists. The water (what was left in the pail after this hike) was poured into a large round earthenware crock. Each child had their own "collapsible" cup. With this set- up a degree of sanitation was ensured.

As in many districts in the 'dirty' Thirties the raising of funds presented a major problem. At a School Board meeting in 1933 it was decided to ask the teacher to take a cut in salary from $75. to $65. per month. The depression was taking its toll. When the old school was closed it was sold to Vares and moved to their land and used as a granary. A new school was built in 1939. It was erected on four acres purchased from William Simpson Sr. on the N . E. l/4- 13- 1 -27-W4. The new school was considerably larger than the old one. Miss Helen Bews was the last teacher in the old school and the first teacher in the new school. From 1940 until 1944 High School grades were taught as well as elementary grades. Then High School went to Cardston and Boundary Creek School reverted to a one room school again. The school was closed in 1956 and children were vanned to Cardston. The last teacher was Mr. J. H. McMillan. Some of the later teachers were Marjorie Cheney, Katherine Long, Muriel Matkin, Joseph Morris, Hugh Leavitt, Helen Bews, J. Allred, Jean Low, F. Searle, M. Jensen, L. Zemp, Annie Dawson and John Stevenson. The School is now a com- munity hall. It is nice to know the little white school house (with curtains at the windows) is still serving a useful purpose. As the many vacationers pass the school on their way to Police Lake they must surely look up at the school standing as a sentinel on the hillside and wonder "What was it really like in the days of the little one-room rural school?"

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup