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George R. Hoyt and
Jennie Butler

"Heritage of the High Country-
A History of Del Bonita and surrounding Districts
Pages 386-387

George R. Hoyt was born May 27, 1872, in the state of Iowa, U.S.A.. He was the fifth in a family of eight children. The family went to Iowa from New England after the father had spent four years in the American Civil War. Jennie Butler (Bouteiller) was born in Wisconsin, December 27, 1877. She was of French Huguenot stock.

Both the Hoyt and the Butler families moved into South Dakota in search of land. George and Jennie were married in Bonesteel, South Dakota, November 17, 1897. They homesteaded there and lived in a sod house where their first three children were born Helen, George Jr. and Clarence "Bish".

George had many setbacks in farming due to droughts in South Dakota, so he moved his family to Idaho and settled along the Snake River in a desolate, wild country. There were no schools or other facilities there, so they moved again, this time to the " Big Hole Basin" in Montana, sixty miles south of Dillon. George did well there freighting over the "Divide" with three outfits. The two older children were in school, but there was no land to be had as it was all under the control of the big ranchers.

This insatiable desire for land led them to go farther afield than ever. In April 1911, they started for the Peace River Country in Alberta. They crossed the Alberta-Montana border, and found summer employment to tide them over the coming winter. They moved into Kimball so the kids could go to school. In the meantime, another son, Tom, was born.

The following spring they started again for the Peace River Country, only getting as far as Spring Coulee where they stopped to do some plowing for the Thompsons. While there they heard of some land being opened up for homesteading east of the Milk River Ridge. George rushed out to see the land, and on to Lethbridge to file on it - NW V4-7-1-22-4. The land he got had springs on it and that was a great attraction for him, so it marked "finis" to the Peace River venture.

George bought a log house for $75.00, and moved it on to the homestead for summer occupancy. He then moved Jennie and the kids into Kimball for the winter.

The "Lease Country" became a melting pot of all nationalities and religions who filed on homesteads. They came there any way they could to settle on their land. Sometimes they had no transportation at all, let alone horses with which to plow or cultivate their land. George got jobs plowing ten-acre plots for some of his neighbors, and his boys would follow up with a disc to prepare the ground for seeding.

As there were no fences at first, the unpredictable McIntyre cattle were always a threat to persons on foot, especially children. Badger holes were a hazard that horseback riders had to contend with. Gophers, if not thinned out, could eat a small crop or garden in no time, so the Hoyts kept a loaded .22 rifle just inside their door to take care of those pests. Communication was by mail or by word of mouth. Those settlers with means brought the mail in for their neighbors. The "Family Herald" a weekly newspaper from the east, was a complete book in itself, and was avidly read from cover to cover.

The first school was run on a "subscription" basis for younger children. It was not too long before socials and dances were held in the homes, and ball games added zest to summer recreation. Protestant ministers and Roman Catholic priests came through occasionally to perform essential services.

George worked hard, and his wife Jennie was a true helpmate and between them and their youngsters, they were moderately successful. Grain prices rose during World War 1, and people began to get cars, build schools, and fence their land. Also by 1915 some people had "proved up" on their land and began selling and moving away. George bought one of the better houses offered for sale, and moved it to his place. It still stands, remodelled, but occupied by hired help (1977).

The Hoyts went out of their way to help needy or ill neighbors with goods and services. Riders came to know that if they were overtaken by darkness or a sudden storm, and could find the Hoyt homestead, they could go in the back door (which was never locked), climb the stairs to the old north bedroom and just crawl in. True, the snow sifted in around the window, and sometimes the boys slept with their caps on, but that was pioneer life in the "Lease Country". Jennie never knew how many would come down to breakfast. It was said she made the best coffee in the country.

Until the railroad was pushed to Whiskey Gap in 1929 the nearest end-of-steel and post office was Woolford, some twenty miles distant. It was there that they freighted their grain and got supplies. The most direct route was to ford Milk River, climb Milk River Ridge via Kenney Hill, and thence down the western slopes of the ridge to Woolford townsite. If conditions were good, they could make a round trip in a day.

Jennie came to Canada, a foreign country, reluctantly, but the Hoyts came to love the land of their adoption. George often said, "Canada has been good to me". Their neighbors too, the Newtons, Bametts, Clarks, Craigens, Gravelands, Talbots, Perrys, Wileys, and many others were held in equally high esteem.

As the family grew up, some married and moved away, but George and Jennie stayed on their "Lease Country" homestead until the end of their days. Jennie died February 21, 1945, in the Cardston hospital. George died on the homestead, December 15, 1952, past eighty years of age.

They had five children, four sons and one daughter.

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Mary Tollestrup