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W. P. Harper and
Esther Mary Ann Faulkner Harper

"Heritage of the High Country-
A History of Del Bonita and surrounding Districts
Pages 366-367
by W. J. Harper, White Rock, B.C.

My father, W. P. Harper, was born in Scotland. He became a tailor, and worked as a young man in London, England. In 1902 he married my mother, Esther Mary Ann Faulkner. I was born in 1903, and was their only child. We came to Canada in 1906, to Alberta in 1909, and to Cardston in January, 1910, where he bought a tailoring business which he operated until the spring of 1914.

In 1911, he filed on a homestead - NW 16 and SW 21-1-23 W4th, and in March of that year he hired a carpenter, and with my uncle, J. H. Faulkner, as helper, he built our homestead shack.

Our nearest neighbor was an elderly bachelor, A. T. Jackson. We met him in Cardston, and he offered to help us move. We accepted, and shortly after, he came along with a four-horse outfit hauling a load of corral poles. Mother and I added a few household effects, and climbed aboard, and away we went to our new home. It was twenty-three miles, an all day ride, over a very rough prairie trail. To me, a boy of seven, it was very exciting, but to Mother, who had lived all her life in London, it must have been a bone shattering experience.

We arrived about sunset, and were met by Uncle Jim, who was putting the last few nails into "the house ".

For the first three years (1911-1913), mother and I lived on the homestead from Ist of April to 30th of September, thus fulfilling the residence requirements; then we moved back to Cardston for the winter. Meanwhile Dad kept the store going, and drove out to the Gap each Saturday afternoon and back to town Monday morning. He made some very wet, muddy trips - in an open buggy, from three to six hours, depending on the roads. In 1914, he sold the business, and we moved permanently to the Gap.

Like everyone else in the area, we were almost wiped out" in the winter of 1919-20. The summer was very dry, and we had very little hay. Winter set in with a heavy snow in September, which stayed on the ground until I st May, when we had the start of a three day blizzard. We had gone heavily into debt to buy hay, some of it shipped from as far away as Quebec, but we lost half of our cattle in that blizzard. To complete the disaster, the price of cattle dropped by almost half by the fall of 1920.

Recovery was slow, but we gradually expanded, buying out three neighbors in the next fifteen years.

The Valleyfield School was built in 1916. Mother was Secretary-Treasurer for several years, and was also postmistress until the late 1920's. Dad was Justice of the Peace for several years.

In 1929 the C.P.R. built their long dreamed of extension from Raley to Whiskey Gap, and a town began to appear there. There was a general store, a restaurant, owned and operated by Huey Gum, a very fine and obliging Chinese; a lumber yard, a pool hall, an oil agency, a blacksmith shop, and for a short time, a garage. A townsite of five blocks was surveyed, but the only two residences to appear were the houses for the Wheat Pool and Alberta Pacific agents. The U.G.G. house was not on the townsite.

The depression of the "30's", plus the improved roads and cars of the 40's, spelled the doom of the Gap, and businesses closed one by one, the last being the store, in the early 50's. With the removal of the railway, the Gap is back to where it was when I first saw it in 1911.

In 1918, there were thirty pupils attending the Valley Field School in Whiskey Gap. They represented fourteen families. In addition there were six other settlers who had no children. Today there are four families in permanent residence in this entire area.

Dad died in 1942. At that time I was farming at Claresholm. During the war I was faced with a shortage of help and machinery. I ran both places, Claresholm and the Gap, until 1945. Then we built a house at the Gap, and my wife, Effie, and 1, plus our six children, moved in. Effie was president of the F.W.U.A. local, which was the largest in the province. She also taught at the Jefferson School for part of a year, when there was a teacher shortage.

I was president of the Community Pasture Association, and Municipal councillor for four years.

Mother lived with us until her death in 1947. She was active until the last, and passed away in her sleep.

We left the Gap in 1950, and moved to Edmonton, where I was Alberta vice-president of Canadian Co-operative Implements for ten years, and later radio broadcaster for the F.U.A. (now Unifarm).

We retired to White Rock, B.C. in 1976.

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Copyright © 2000
Mary Tollestrup