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Mark Collet and
Emil Rasmusson

Heritage of the High Country
A History of Del Bonita and
Surrounding Districts, Pages 302 - 303

Mark Collet was born on June 8, 1870 at Payson, Utah and Emily Wilhelmina Rasmusson on November 21, 1880 at Bear Lake, Idaho. They were married December 23, 1899. By April 1903 two children had blessed their home, a girl Myrtle May and boy Mark Anthon. At two years of age, Myrtle developed rheumatism which later affected her heart. She never recovered from this and when she was nearly six years old she passed away. Six weeks later an epidemic of spinal meningitis took four year old Mark from them. Following on the heels of this experience Emily gave birth to another son, Celdar LaVern and went through a serious sick spell. Two and a half years later on October 15, 1909 another daughter, Venice Wilma was born to them. The spring of 1912 they sold their home and furniture and immigrated from Vernal, Utah to Canada with two other families. Their journey was made by team as far as Salt Lake City. Here they boarded a train, shipping their horses and cattle via the Great Northern Railway. They entered Canada at Coutts, Alberta.

Mark stood in line for a whole day at Lethbridge in front of the Land Office in order to get his turn to file a homestead. The next spring they started from scratch on one hundred and sixty acres of sod land of the McIntyre lease near Shanks Lake.

When they took up residence on their homestead there wasn't a road, not even a fence post as far as the eye could see. Their first dwelling was a one roomed shack covered with tar paper and a dirt floor which Mark had constructed before sending for his family. He had also built a barn in the side hill. Two sides of the barn were in the hill while the other two sides were of sod. The barn housed the milk cow and calf. Ere long other shacks began to dot the prairie as more settlers moved in. During the winter of 1914 a terrible snow storm swept across the lease country. Emily was alone with their two children, Celdar and Venice, as Mark was away herding sheep for the Harkers at Magrath. When they awoke next morning they saw the sod barn completely covered by a snow drift. The children and their mother with the help of Violet and Florrie Carter dug a path to the barn door. The digging took all day, and by night fall they were relieved to find the cow and calf safe and warm. A few days later a chinook wind arrived and took the snow with it.

They burned cow chips in the summer and coal in the winter. The first year they planted potatoes, the plants came up between the rows of sod. They grew a good crop but the potatoes were rather flat because of the heavy sod.

The homesteaders didn't get their mail that first summer unless one of them went to town for supplies, then that person brought the mail for all the nearest neighbors. Later they got a mail route from Magrath with a weekly delivery by horse and buggy.

The first church service of any kind held on the lease was held in the Collet's home. Elder Harris of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints presided at and conducted the services.

Entertainment in the form of parties or dances was held three or four times each year in the various homes. Mark and Emily put their children in the buggy and travelled many miles just to go dancing. Mark played the accordion or mouth organ at these dances and Andrew Spence's son sometimes played the violin. These parties usually lasted until daylight as no one dared go home in the dark for fear of getting lost. However, one evening while Mark was in Magrath working on a thresher Emily had taken the two children, Celdar and Venice, and driven a team of horses to a dance held at the Munday homestead. (That place later became Jenk's farm). It was light when they started for the dance but dark when they left for home. It was an eerie night, no road to follow and the coyotes were howling. The children were scared as well as their mother and on arriving home there was a team to unhitch and turn out to pasture. The children were too scared to go to the house alone and the coyotes still howled. That was the last party she went to alone. She sometimes said she could still hear the coyotes when she thought of that night.

The following is a true pioneer story as told in Emily's own words: "Mark had a span of horses that were going to foal and he wanted us to watch them closely. He was away working at Ririe's in Magrath. We fed the mares at night and turned them out in the daytime. It was a lovely sunny day in February and the horses had wandered out into our neighbors', so I sent Celdar and a friend, Arthur Carter, after them. They got up there and started playing in an open wheat bin. Celdar was about nine or ten at the time. All of a sudden they looked up, and there was a blizzard coming, and it was nearly dark. "If it isn't dark when a blizzard starts, it soon is", Celdar said, "All we have to do is get home". There weren't any trail's to follow, except horse trails, so they set out to find their way home. The snow was blowing around so they couldn't see where to go. Arthur didn't have any mittens or a warm coat, so Celdar gave him one of his mittens, and they held hands and put them in one of Celdar's pockets. My land was I scared! I just stood there and prayed that I would know what to do to help bring those children home. The thought came to me to get a bell down in the cellar. I went down and put my hand out and felt around in the dark for the bell. Some fellows had lost it off their sheep, and Mark had put it down there to give it to its owner. I went out and walked up and down hollering for them to face the wind, and I was ringing the bell. Celdar said he never heard a word or what I was saying, but he heard the bell. He would say to Arthur, "Listen! That is where our sheep are. We'll go straight to that sound and we'll get home". He thought we were trying to get our sheep in, and they were running back and forth. Well, with the help of the Lord those kids finally did get home. When they did, their faces were just a slick of ice. The steam from their faces and the snow and sleet blowing had frozen on them. A blizzard starts warm, and then suddenly the air turns cold and the snow starts falling as sleet, then it just freezes. I know I would never have thought of that bell myself. I would have thought that I could make as much noise hollering. Luckily the horses had come home by themselves and were safely put away. That night a man got lost and froze to death up in the other end of the valley. Arthur's dad had walked to the post office, and the storm hit while he was on the way home. He had gone the three miles up in an hour, but it took him three hours to make it back because there were no fences nor roads to follow. They stayed with us that night.

Mark hauled most of the lumber for the first school house at Del Bonita. When the building was completed all entertain- ments, socials, and church services were held there.

During the time they lived on the farm three more children were born; William llof, July 28, 1914, and two daughters.

For the sake of the children's education and social life Mark and Emily rented the farm and moved to Raymond, Alberta for a time. Sorrow again shadowed their lives when on December 13, 1928 they lost their fourteen year old son, llof. In 1938 they returned to Del Bonita.

Mark passed away, May 23, 1948. Emily then rented her farm, later selling it to Harold Farries. She lived with her daughter and visited the other children frequently until her passing October 28, 1978, just twenty-four days prior to her ninety- eighth birthday.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup