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Crystal Spring Colony

Heritage of the High Country
A History of Del Bontia and
surrounding Districts Pages 29 - 30

The Crystal Spring Colony was established by New Elm Colony of Magrath in the year 1931. It was located four miles east of Magrath on the old Hodge place. The Colony was unable to acquire enough land to sustain itself, also it was during the depression years, the hungry thirties, that the Colony was starting up. This and the fact that we could not purchase any land, were the main reasons that the Colony could not meet its yearly land payments. Therefore the land fell back to its originial owners, Ed and Joe Hodge.

It was the year 1937 when the Colony established on the present location which was called the Mendenhall Place. It was quite a job to move fourteen families, three living houses each over ninety feet long, also a cow barn, and some other buildings such as granaries, pig barn, milkhouse, etc. In those days there were no house movers like today, and if there were the Colony could not have afforded it. The houses had to be taken apart except for the walls, which were cut in sections and loaded onto selfmade trailers and hauled to the present location by horses and tractors, a distance of over twenty miles.

The Mendenhall Ranch, or place, at that time was used by Alf Ririe of Magrath, as a grazing range for his sheep. The broken land was rented by Lee Carter and the Ganzke Brothers, Fred and Lou. The only buildings on the place were an old house and a huge barn in which Mr. Ririe used to feed his sheep. The barn must have been about seventy feet wide and over one hundred feet long . It had no loft . It had a hay carrier and track, and was filled by this method. The hay was fed to the sheep on three sides. Since the barn had lean-tos on the north, south, and west sides, it was an ideal shelter for the sheep during lambing time. This barn was renovated in the winter of 1937-38 by the Colony to serve as a horse barn and also as a cow barn. A loft was added and horse stalls were built underneath. The house served as a schoolhouse and teacherage for a few years. Later on it was used as a tannery, and served as such till 1978. The barn stood until 1962, when it was decided to take it apart and salvage whatever lumber we could, and use it for building a loafing barn for milk cows and a seed cleaning plant.

The Colony purchased a Caterpillar R.D.7 tractor in the spring of 1938, and with a ten bottom plow donated by a sister Colony, commenced breaking virgin prairie. Well over a thousand acres were broken that year. Another eleven hundred acres were added the next year with disc plows, which we had bought ourselves. Some more land was broken the following year.

A lot of field work was done with horses in those days, which continued right up to the mid-fifties. From then on all field work was being done with tractors, except threshing which was continued till the early sixties. From then on it was combines. As mentioned above, horses were used a lot in those early days, even for travelling to other colonies or hauling supplies such as lumber and cement from town, which is a distance of eighteen miles. It took a whole day to make a return trip. Hogs and other produce were hauled to Lethbridge and Magrath by truck. Since we did not own a truck in those days, we hired our neighbors John Koskewich, Andrew Kolasko, Mack Baker. Later on from 1943 to 1946, Roland Swallow did most of our trucking or hauling.

In 1946 the Colony puchased its own truck, a K5 International, for $2800.00. A couple of years later we bought another one. Today the Colony has three, three-ton trucks, one tandem truck, one pickup and two other vehicles for travelling. It's quite a change from the early days when horses were still in use. If our young people today would have to use the same mode of travel as we did in times past, they would appreciate things more and be thankful for their blessings.

It would only be proper to mention that when we moved from the old Hodge Place to Mendenhall it was with the financial help and other assistance from our neighboring colonies and mother colony. Without their asistance this would have been impossible. The Colony had to leave its kitchen behind on the old place. It has been quite a reminder to all of us (who went past there over the years) of the hungry thirties.

In 1954 we established Acadia Colony at Oyen, and half of the population took up residence there. In 1970 we established Roseglen Colony at Hilda, when again almost half of our people moved there.

After this time, the Colony embarked on a rebuilding program starting with our pig barns, chicken barns, garage, cowbarn, sheep barn, blacksmith and carpenter shop, quonset, steel bins, and slaughter house. This year we replaced our kitchen which we lost through fire last year. Oftentimes one wonders where it is all leading to, the luxuries we have today compared to yesterday, modern trucks and tractors versus horses, milking machines versus hand milking, gas and electricity versus coal and coal oil lamps.

So here briefly we have covered a span of forty-two years that we have lived on this old Mendenhall place. It was an uphill battle for a number of years, but through the grace of God and His many blessings, through diligence and endeavour of our people, we have come a long way. We thank God for His many blessings and hope and pray that we may further enjoy our residence here among our kind and tolerant neighbors.

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Copyright © 2000
Mary Tollestrup