Charles Clifton Bray (Cliff) was born in Gleichen, Alta., on November 10th, 1895, of pioneer parents, Charles Cantlon Bray and Lena Fallow. His father, of English parentage, was a native of Ontario, lived in Saskatchewan as a young boy and came to Alberta on his own when a lad in his mid-teens. His New Brunswick born Mother, of Scottish ancestry, also lived in Saskatchewan as a tiny girl and came with her parents to Alberta when eight years of age. She was one of a large family of brothers and sisters. Mother and Dad Bray, when newlyweds, settled on a ranch on the Red Deer river 40 miles north of Brooks. And during their earlier years there, the town of Gleichen was their nearest shopping point and Post Office, so supplies had to be bought for months ahead. There was no bridge across the Red Deer at that time, so they were beset with many unexpected mishaps at times while crossing with a wagon load of goods. No schooling was available in this area in those early years, except by a governess part of the time. So, in the spring of 1909, the Brays reluctantly left their ranch to take their family - Cliff, the eldest, and his seven younger brothers and sisters to a farm near Wolsely, Saskatchewan, where years before both Grandfathers had taken part in the guarding of the little settlement during the Riel uprising. Here, their brood of eight grew to a brood of thirteen, six brothers and seven sisters. The parents having passed on after both had reached their eighties, the circle of thirteen was reduced to twelve just this New Year's Day, 1972 with the death of their eldest sister, Jocelyn Forster of Brooks. After World War 1, Cliff and his brother Lyle, home from service overseas, came back to their parents' old ranch in Alberta, where they lived until both married and took up land separately.
I, myself, born Bessie Connell, am the sixth child in a family of five brothers and seven sisters. Our parents, J. Henry Connell and Elizabeth Thomson were pioneers of the Gladys Ridge district, both coming west to Alberta in the spring of 1889. Dad was a young man of 22, from a large family of Scottish Canadians in Ontario, while Mother, with her grandparents, came from Scotland at the age of five and from Ontario to the west at thirteen. My oldest brother Alex served with the Lord Strathcona Horse in World War I.
It was while staying with my brother Bert on his ranch, which was located on the opposite side of the Red Deer from the Brays, that I first met Cliff. It being some fifteen miles between the two places, around by the bridge, and five or six miles if one could cross by boat, Cliff used to come down to the river opposite my brother's place, tie his saddle horse or team to a tree, and fire off his shotgun to attract our attention. At this signal, Bert would row across and bring him over to our side. One time, in early winter, Cliff decided to risk the newly formed ice, so he cut himself two long poles, then with a pole in each hand he inched across the Red Deer river on his stomach. On his return, in the wee sma' hours, it was frozen solid enough to walk across.
Cliff and I were married in Calgary on January 18th, 1928, (my birthday) and farmed near Farrow, north-east of Blackie for two years, spending the last winter at the Milt Eby place, while the Eby's were away in Ontario. Then, in the spring of 1930 we came with our year old daughter Laura, to the Tom Black farm west of High River, (near the six corners). We were barely settled in our new home when we had the sad experience of the loss of my Mother, who passed away in her mid-fifties. My Dad lived many years more, almost reaching the age of 95. Then, four years ago, the death of my brother Bert made the first break in our circle of twelve. It was during our three year residence on this farm in the East Longview community that twin girls were added to our household, their birthdate falling on Armistice Day. I used to often wish, when the three girls were all in their teens, that we still had the big home we lived in when they were tiny. Our daughter used to ride her kiddie car miles it seemed, around and around through the big rooms and wide doorways. I also remember one night at dusk, finding her stuck in the front gate, terrified that we would not miss her and go to bed leaving her out all night.
In the spring of 1933 we moved to the "Bond" place on Tongue Creek, where Joc and Mina Noble now reside. Here we farmed and ranched for eleven years, at one time operating a mink ranch together with Cliff’s brother, Percy. The girls, via Shetland Pony and cart, attended Cameron Coulee school while in the Elementary grades. They learned to swim in the creek in summer, and had many thrilling rides down the hills on the toboggan in winter, more thrilling still when they came down a steep and wandering cow path on the scoop shovel. We had a very full and interesting stay there, leaving in 1944 to go to the Hemus farm south of Okotoks where we lived for two years. While here, a fourth daughter, joined the group of five. Then in the summer of '46, Cliff’s health not allowing him to ride the farm machinery any longer, we gave up farming and settled in the town of Black Diamond where he, in partnership with his brother Gordon, opened up the Diamond Hardware. The twins took their High schooling in Turner Valley High School, our oldest daughter having attended High school at High River and Okotoks. After the big fire in Black Diamond in '49, Gordon sold out to Cliff, who carried on the business until his retirement in 1964.
Our girls are all married, and among them have blessed us with ten grandsons and one granddaughter.
We still live in Black Diamond where we have many friends. Cliff is enjoying his retirement and has a few rounds of golf in the summer in addition to an occasional fishing trip. I still keep busy with my church and home.
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