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Richard Francis Gwatkin

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson,
McMahon, River Junction
School Districts Pages 323 - 325
with help from Lorna Gwatkin

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Francis Gwatkin, Grandpa and Grandma Gwatkin, came to Lethbridge via Quebec City from Pontypool, Wales, in 1901. They settled in the Six Mile District, southeast of Lethbridge where they bought A.R. & 1. land from Jim Ashcroft at $9.00 an acre. Their house was built by Job Reed. The wagon bringing the building supplies from Lethbridge, got mired down in a mud hole on the Fort Benton trail. To move the wagon, it was necessary to unload the lumber. The lumber stayed and the house was built on the site. That house burned down in 1921 and had to be replaced. Mr. Gwatkin Sr. bought his first car to settle a debt - a 1920 Mitchel - a good car but a weak rear end. Mr. Gwatkin died on March 7, 1932 at the age of 74, and Mrs. Gwatkin was 91 when she died Oct. 26, 1953.

The Gwatkin family consisted of Barney, born Aug. 2, 1894; Pearl (Dolly) born March 28, 1896; Gwenyth, born Aug. 7, 1897, and John, born Dec. 20, 1903.

Irrigation was in its infancy. Water had been turned on in 1902 but that year there was an abundance of rain, so it wasn't until 1903 they spread out laterals to begin their first irrigation. Through the years, the Gwatkins raised chickens, turkeys, hogs, sheep, cattle, including milk cows, grain and twenty acres of beets.

Neighbours included Furnalds who lived on the Windmill Place one and one half miles east of the school, the Preacher Whites on the Edgehill Farm, the Childs who lived adjacent to the crossing that became Stewart Siding, the Keffers who lived four miles east from Gwatkins on the Porter place, later the Kuiper Place, now Bob Lien place, the Tiffins, the Parrys, and the George Heathershaws. Barney recalls meeting Kate Brodie as a young girl and valued the friendship of Kate and Bill (Andrews) through the years. (Bill and Barney shared a passion for bird hunting.)

Lethbridge was the market town. The city boasted a Hudson Bay store, a butcher shop, liquor store and groceries, Harry Bendey's Dry Goods, Higginbotham's Drugstore, Riley and McCormick Saddlery, Sherlock and Freeman, Lethbridge Hotel, the Station and the Square. Barney said they didn't depend on the stores as they do now. When asked about the Depression years of the Thirties, he said "Never went hungry - just thirsty once in a while."

Barney was christened Bernard and hence the nickname Berney (Welsh) which evolved into Barney. Barney credits that to a bachelor farmer from England, Jim Thompson Atkinson.

His education began at White School the day it opened on Sept. 2, 1902. Barney remembers the early teachers: Mr. Hudson, Miss Sutherland, Mr. Angus, Mrs. Robinson. He continued in school completing Senior Fifth (today's Grade 9) with teacher, Miss Waterman. He remembers the time he and Melvin Tiffin did the janitor work for one dollar a month.

Barney, it has been said, spent more time in the saddle than most people do in bed. Oh, the life of a cowboy. He helped in the feeding of cattle 1906-07, involved himself in the Horse Round-up, branded on the Reserve and the McIntyre Ranch, summer of 1916, REP (representative) for certain ranches selling beef which was shipped to Swifts Co. in Winnipeg, performed in rodeo when he was 16, and was a member of the Lethbridge Exhibition Board in 1928.

He started farming in 1927 and took over the farm in 1932. The Gwatkins continued to use horses during the thirties. The first tractor they bought ended up in the corner of the field. No one could repair it! (Barney said "John did become a fair mechanic.")

Barney met Emily Boucher when she was Assistant Night Supervisor at St. Michael's Hospital. Emily was born and raised in Saskatchewan, 22 miles south of Prince Albert. She trained as a nurse at St. Boniface Hospital.

Barney and Emily were married Feb. 19, 1944 and continued with their farming/ranching operation. Barney and Emily raised two children,

They retired from the farm and moved into Lethbridge.

Barney died Nov. 25, 1984 at the age of 90, and Emily died Sept. 28, 1993 at eighty years of age.

Dorothy Francis Gwatkin (Anderson) (Dolly) also known as Pearl. born March 28, 1896, died June 8, 1993.

John Richard Gwatkin was born Dec. 20, 1903, died Sept. 10, 1990. John married Molly Berry, born Feb. 3, 1903, died Oct. 7, 1981. They also had a farm on the Six Mile Coulee.

The Gwatkins used horses until John proved himself a mechanic and could keep the tractors in repair.

In 1939, John bought a farm in the Milk River area from Bert Tiffin. He sold that farm in the spring of 1948 and went back to farming his home place on the Six Mile Coulee.

It's hard for a farmer to retire completely, so he took a job with Noble Cultivators selling machinery. After a few years, he did retire and Molly and he enjoyed their summers on an acreage just outside Waterton Park.

Lethbridge Herald, April 20, 1908

First spring lambs are on the market from the Gwatkin farm.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup