I well recollect when the Lease Country was opened for homesteading in May 1912. It was a real exciting time and I think the men enjoyed it all. I remember what a busy time it was hauling lumber and building their shacks. Will could not homestead there as we had land at Grassy Lake, but he was right with the rest of the men helping to build and haul lumber.
We went down November 28, 1914, brought all our cattle and horses as there was no crop in Grassy Lake and lots of hay on the lease. It was a long trip out from Magrath in the wagon. We left after breakfast and it was after four o'clock when we got out, but it was the grandest day and we were together. Leighton Moore came up to the shack and said Jessie, his wife, had dinner all ready for us. We really enjoyed it. Leighton and Jessie were great friends of ours in Ontario and so we felt quite at home. They had one little boy, and we had one little girl.
Mail day was once a week. Mr. Alston brought it from Magrath. Mr. and Mrs. Newton kept the post office and everybody went there on mail day. The men had to stand outside to let us ladies in "to gossip" so the men said. Mrs. Newton always made room for one more. They had three little children. The baby was lying in his little bed his daddy built him. We thought he looked so cute, bed and all.
I recall the first Christmas tree. The week before Mrs. Newton, Baby Ed and Mary Hitt came on a stoneboat with one horse for Jessie Moore and me and our kiddies. We went to Mrs. Taylor's down at the river, to make Christmas stockings out of green mosquito netting, for all the kiddies on the Lease. Mrs. Wiley came over to help us too. The night came and the Christmas concert was held at Charlie Partlow's shack. Everyone came and brought their kiddies. We even had a Christmas tree. It was held up by planting it in the hub of a wheel and the stockings piled around it. It was a big affair. We packed in like sardines. I remember Jessie gave a recitation. Claire Allen and others recited. Mr. Newton sang Cock Robin. How the kiddies enjoyed it. When the men wanted to smoke they went over to Curly Clifton's shack just a few paces away. One of the West boys and his girl thought they would get married but when Tom Wilson asked for their licence they didn't have one, so we didn't see the wedding after all. When a few went home we had a dance. Nephi Atwood lived down in 20. They had several children and they owned a lot of sheep. When they were getting their children bundled up to go home, someone said, "How do you know when you have them all, Nephi?" and he said, "Oh by their bleat".
Mrs. Herron, one day on her way to the post office called in to see Jessie, and I was there. She brought Jessie half a dozen eggs in a cigar box all wrapped with a Christmas seal on each egg. We both thought we never saw eggs look so nice. Jessie said, "Gertie, I'll have you and Will and Edith down and we'll have a boiled egg for supper. " I thought I never tasted an egg so good. Times were hard, but we had enough to eat and everyone was happy. There was no highfalutin; the Smiths were as good as the Jones.
One night about twenty of us went across the line to Van Sanden's to a dance. There were no fences in that rolling country so we had to go before it got too dark and stay until daylight so we'd know our way home. Did we ever have a good time! For lunch we had turkey sandwiches and a big wooden bucket full of doughnuts which they strung on a young skinned sapling; really quite the way, we thought; also coffee and all we could eat. What a wonderful time we did have.
Another dance we went to was at Steve Atwood's place. We always went on the stoneboat with the wagon seat on it. Jessie and I each had our little ones wrapped in a quilt, and then another one over our knees. Will and Leighton stood up. We had the team and between everyone talking, the harness clicking, and the stoneboat going over the bumps we had a merry time. I recall the quilt that was over us got down on Jessie's side and kept slipping under the boat. I though Jessie was pulling the quilt, but she said she wasn't. All at once it all went and pulled her little bundle off too. She called to Leighton, "I've lost Allen." We had to go a piece before we could make the men hear us. When we did Leighton said, "Lord, Jess, couldn't you hang on to him?" So away we went back, picked up Allen and the quilts, and he never woke up through it all. I remember the moon was shining bright and we could see the black object behind us. What a laugh we had. That same night, all the babies were laid on the bed.
We had to go back to Grassy to put in our crop in the spring, so had to say adieu to the lease, after a very happy winter. We came back again in 1921 and spent three years. We had to sell on account of Will's health. There were schools then, Lens, Del Bonita, and Rinard, and we had children old enough to go. Our entertainments and dances were held in the different schools. A notice was put up in the post office and everyone was welcome to come.
When we were going to celebrate our eleventh wedding anniversary and Sharpe and Rella their sixth, we thought we'd give a dance. When Lillie Breen heard about it she wanted to be in on it. Our date was January 19, Sharpe and Relia's was January 22, and Lillie's birthday was January 21, so we held the dance on her birthday. She sent over a big rooster for me to make some sandwiches for her part. We really had a good time. Will played the violin, Sharpe called off, and everyone came and enjoyed themselves. We always had to have some one sing a few songs. Walter and Edith were the willing ones. Mr. McKenzie's favorite was "Wee Dock 'n Doris", and he had a little step all his own. I remember one night at Rinard, the dance was on full swing when suddenly someone shot off a gun. The shot went through the black board. We women were about panicky, but whoever it was, was like the Arabs, folded his tent and silently stole away, and the dance went on.
When we went, and were coming home from dances, Fred Breen would always sing one of his favorites to the tune of Red Wing, "I wash my white clothes white and I wash both day and night."
One day we had a terrible hail storm. It broke most all the windows on the north or west of the shacks on the lease. The next day after school, Mrs. Wiley sent Gordon up on his horse to tell us to go down for supper. They were having ice cream. I went to the field and told Will to stop work early and we all went down. Sure enough, they froze the ice cream using the hail stones that were still banked up against the north side river hill. The ice cream was so good we made another freezer full. We also had a good meal too.
Will and Sharpe were papering our house all over the inside with building paper. Fred Breen came riding in on his way to the post office so Will and Sharpe asked him to get our mail. He came back and brought a letter from my sister, Theresa. She sent me samples of the paper she had papered her dining room and bedroom with. I showed this pretty paper to the men. Sharpe tore off a piece of building paper and said, "Here Gert, send this to Theresa, and tell her you are papering your whole house with it".
It was either July or August 1923, Sharpe and Will decided we would all go to the circus in Lethbridge. My mother was with us, and we took Gordon Wiley along. Will said on our way in, "We must get back to Magrath before dark, we have just one light. " The circus was good but the kids were restless. Rella lost a pretty bonnet Irene wore. Verna got lost, so the men had to hunt her up. By that time Sharpe was ready to go home, so home we went. On our way home a big electric storm came up. Our light went out and we wondered what happened to Sharpe's, so we sat a while and waited. Finally they came with both lights out. What a time we had on and off the trail. I wanted Will to sit all night at the foot of Mclntyre's hill but he said, "Oh, we can't do that with your mother and a six month old baby in the car. " Finally we made home at one o'clock in the morning, dead tired. When we woke the next morning the sun was shining bright and it was the day to go through the Cardston Temple, so away we went, Henrys too. The Temple was very lovely. We were glad we had the opportunity to go, but made sure we got home before dark that night.
We never knew Buck Hayes had another name which was Vernon until he was married to Sarah McKenna from Ireland. Maggie Farries said I was the cupid in that marriage, unknowingly, maybe I was. Vernon, like so many others, passed away last summer, 1960.
One time when the children and I were back to Del Bonita visiting Rella and Sharpe like we so often did, Sharpe said to Rella and me, "Let's go over and see the Herrons". So we did. It was a very hot day, so Mrs. Herron thought she would just make lemonade, instead of putting on the fire to make tea. We had bread and butter, gooseberry jam, rhubarb pie and lemonade. All at once John said, "Well I don't know what about you folks, but this is the darndest sourest supper I ever tasted in my life. " We all had to laugh. Poor Ella said, "Oh, I should have made tea", but we made her feel all right, and all right it was too.
The last time Will and I went to the lease to visit Sharpe and Rella was on November 29, 1929, and on April 13, 1930 Will passed away.
Will and Gertie Ledgerwood had six children. At the time they homesteaded in the Del Bonita area they had two children. They lost an infant daughter prior to going to the lease area, and while in Del Bonita they had a daughter, born at the Holladay home in Magrath. Two other children were born after the family returned to the Grassy Lake area.
Will Ledgerwood died in April 1930, at the age of forty-seven. Gertie stayed on in Taber. They had moved there a couple of years before to enable the eldest daughter to attend high school.
Gertie Ledgerwood died in June 1971, at eightythree years of age. She had made a good home and life for her family in Taber. She was active in the community, and she was an active church member of the Anglican faith.
Harvey Ledgerwood died in the spring of 1936 at the age of twenty years.
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