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William Newton and
Catherine Jane Pope Newton

Heritage of the High Country
A History of Del Bonita and Surrounding Districts
Pages 447-449

William Newton was born in Ambleside, Westmorland County, England, August 15, 1878. He received his schooling in Ambleside, and apprenticed as a cabinet maker. He was very thorough and efficlent in everything he did. He was a keen sportsman and had played on the Bradford rugby team when that team won -the championship in 1900 and again in 1901.

Catherine Jane Pope, was born in Dixton, Monmouth County, South Wales on March 17, 1876. Her parents were Edward and Jane Moisey Pope. Her father was a coachman. The family grew up in the midlands of England. After public school she took a course in practical nursing and midwifery and in August 1905 received her certificate as a practical nurse from General Lying In Hospital, Lambeth. A highlight of her younger days was some time spent as a private nurse and governess with the Bailey family in India.

On August 1, 1908, Catherine Pope and William Newton were married in the parish of Belbroughton in the County of Worcester, England. They lived in Barrow-in-Furness where Bill worked as a shipbuilder. At that time Western Canada was being advertised for its sunny climate, and vast fertile plains available to settlers. The Bill Newtons left England in 1911 and travelled by steamship, and train to join a brother, Tom Newton, who had settled in the Fishburn district near Pincher Creek. They lived there for almost a year. Their second daughter was born in November 1911.

Bill Newton spent some time working as a carpenter in Lethbridge. When the lease country was opened for homesteads he filed at the Lethbridge agency for a homestead on May 16, 1912, and came out to erect a home on the S.W. quarter of Section 20-1-21-4. By fall he had the place ready for his wife and family.

It was likely on one of these trips Bill made to his homestead that darkness overtoook him and he became lost. After driving for some time he stopped, unhooked his horses and tied them to the wagon; he slept underneath it. When daylight came he was surprised to find that he was on top of the hill above his home.

Early in November 1912 Bill and Catherine Newton and two little girls, left Fishbum with all their possessions in a wagon. It was a long day's travel to Cardston where they spent the first night. The second day's journey took them as far as Harry Goodwin's place in Taylorville. It was here that they met Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Dalton who were also going to their homestead on the lease. The third day the two couples travelled together to the land that was to be their future home. The Newtons arrived at their one-room dwelling on their daughter's first birthday. The sack of grain for the horses was stored in a corner of the house. As mice scampered over it in the dim light of the kerosene lamp, Catherine felt almost afraid to go to bed for fear they'd jump into the home made bed where the two little girls slept.

Although life on a homestead was vastly different to anything they had ever experienced, Catherine and Bill set to work to found a real home, and to fulfill the requirements necessary to prove up on their land. Their English hospitality, and jovial dispositions made their home a meeting place for a wide circle of pioneering friends. Catherine's nursing training helped her to cope with family illnesses. She was frequently called on to help others in times of sickness, and helped to deliver several new babies that were born in the community.

On April 29, 1913 Bill Newton filed at the Magrath sub agency for entry to the pre-emption, the N.W. quarter of Section 17-1-21-4. It was necessary to fill out a detailed report of each years' accomplishments for the homestead inspector.

In 1915 the Newtons had five head of cattle and three horses; their crop that year had consisted of fourteen acres of oats and six acres of wheat.

In May 1914 when the Del Bonita Post office was granted to the Lease Country, Bill Newton was appointed postmaster. For a short time he also brought the mail out from Magrath. Then Mr. Joe Alston became mail carrier. Sometimes in winter it was necessary for people to wait for hours at the post office before the mail man would arrive. Mother Newton usually served tea and lunch and the women visited happily in the bedroom while the men sat and chatted in the kitchen. The family still recalls their mother's infinite patience and compassion when people had to wait long hours.

The Newtons stocked a few groceries, and ran a small store in conjunction with the post office. Some humorous incidents took place in that room which served as store, post office, and kitchen for the family. One autumn day the door had been left open, and when Mother Newton returned, there stood the sow peacefully munching peanuts from a fifty pound bag by the counter. One rather chilly day when Bill was carrying out the wash water he stubbed his toe and drenched Tom Helgeson who was sitting by the stove reading his mail.

In 1914 a son was born in Raymond, and in 1917 another son arrived in Magrath. Mother Newton and the older son had stayed in Magrath for a month before the baby was born. After the baby came, the older son was sent home with Mr. Alston, the mail carrier. This was quite a long drive with team and buggy for the youngster, and quite an undertaking for Mr. Alston to tend a three year old boy along with his mail carrying duties.

In 1920 when a telephone line was extended to Del Bonita a toll phone was installed in the Newton home. The Newton children were frequently dispatched with telephone messages, sometimes sad and sometimes happy, to various homes on the lease.

Bill was appointed Justice of the Peace, and a few small trials were held in his home. He was also Commissioner for Oaths, and auditor for the books of the local school districts.

Bill Newton built a sod barn the first year, then later replaced it with a frame one. He raised quite a number of Duroc jersey hogs. He never learned to ride a horse, but became a good teamster. He worked on threshing crews in the fall in order to make a few extra dollars.

Bill Newton was interested in community development and served as trustee on the first school board for Lens district. He was also secretary for the dipping vat committee.

One December day during World War I, Mrs. Newton took Mrs. Foggin and her son, and Mrs. Dalton and Mrs. Newton's son to Magrath with the team and buggy. Em Dalton and Joe Foggin were serving with the Canadian troops overseas. The ladies were returning after their little Christmas shopping spree in Magrath. Mrs. Dalton got out to open a gate near McIntyre Ranch and noticed a wheel coming off the buggy. She walked in to the ranch to see if they could borrow an outfit to go on home. Tom Stephenson, the manager, came out and took them all to the house. There Mr. McIntyre welcomed them and gave them a good meal and a room for the night. In the morning Tom Stephenson loaded their supplies into a sleigh, and hooked their team to it and started them off up the hill. Mrs. Newton was driving. Mrs. Dalton and Ernie walked up the hill, and when the team got stuck in the snow Mrs. Foggin and her son got out and walked too. They were about to unload their supplies when Mr. Stephenson came and drove their team up the hill. By this time the three ladies were almost in tears. However, they all piled into the sleigh and drove on toward home. Before they reached Del Bonita they ran out of snow and had pretty tough sledding for the last few miles. Bill Newton was glad to see them and took Mrs. Dalton and Mrs. Newton's son and Mrs. Foggin and her son on to their places in a wagon. This was just another adventure those pioneer women took in their stride, and laughed about in later years.

When Charlie Strong left the district in the twenties Bill Newton bought his property, the north half of Section 20-1-21-4. This gave him a section of land in all. There is a good spring which runs the year round on this land.

The Newton family found time to play as well as work together. In the early years when crops were being sown by broadcast method Catherine drove the team while Bill stood at the back of the wagon and scattered the seed grain; the children went along for the ride. The family sometimes enjoyed picnic suppers in the sweet smelling hay field.

In May 1933 Bill Newton passed away during surgery. This was a shock and a sad blow to the family, but the brave little widow and her sons and daughters maintained the farm and continued on with the postal duties. Neighbors were very kind and helpful through this sad time as well.

In 1935 Mother Newton was able to take a trip back to England. In 1937 she gave up the post office and it was taken over by Tom Wolsey. It was a strange day for the Newtons when they had to go for the mail.

The Newton children all attended Lens School through grade nine. One daughter went to Agricultural College at Claresholm where she specialized in cooking and needlework. Another daughter attended high school in Taber, and Normal school in Calgary. She taught school in Twin River and Lens. One son attended Olds Agricultural College in 1936-37 and 37-38. After graduation he returned to the family farm. Another son remained at home to begin a career in farming and ranching.

Mother Newton continued to live on the farm where she was always actively interested in community affairs. She was a Sunday School teacher for some time, and also served as secretary for Lens School. During World War Two she canvassed for Red Cross and for war bonds, and also did knitting for soldiers overseas. Her happy outlook on life and her wide range of interests made her a friend to people of all ages. She loved to travel and made several trips to the west coast. In 1949 she went back to England and enjoyed ten months' visit with relatives and friends there. Each new grandchild was really a bonnie babe and a source of joy to her. They, and many others, have treasured memories of the happy times spent with Grandma Newton. As she grew older she spent the winters with her daughter at the coast and the summers with her sons in Alberta. She passed away in April 1956 following a short illness.

The Newtons are still a closely knit family. Sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews enjoy family gatherings whenever possible. Sometimes they relax in the shade of trees planted by Grandpa and Grandma Newton, or search for spring flowers on the hillside and meadows of the original homestead. They all feel a deep gratitude for the pioneering spirit, and the love and integrity that were handed down to them by their dedicated parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, William and Catherine Newton.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup