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James Arthur Potts and
Ethel Owen Potts

Our Treasured Heritage
A History of Coalhurst and District
Pages 479-482

James Arthur Potts was born at Eccleshall, Staffordshire. England. April 5. 1893, the oldest son and second child of Mark and Harriet (Thompson) Potts.

Young James worked as a farm laborer and assistant veterinarian until early in 1912. Then he decided to come to Canada, and he booked a third class passage on a big new ship to leave England in April, but he had to stay another month to collect some of his back wages, so he came on another ship in May. He often recalled how lucky he was to miss the first ship, the Titanic which sank on its maiden voyage. He was 19 years old when he landed in Canada, and he worked as a farm laborer and teamster for a while. He then rented a dairy farm and shipped milk by train to Toronto every morning in 8 gallon milk cans. His fiancee of 4 years, Ethel Owen born August 5, 1890, came from Staffordshire, aboard the Metagama. They were married in Toronto on May 27, 1916.

The young couple were starting to make a little progress on the farm, when their first son was born April 13, 1917. Unfortunately the child died a few weeks later. Soon afterwards a serious cattle disease hit that area, and most of his heard had to be destroyed with very little compensation. After these two tragedies, they came west and found work at New Dayton working on a farm. They rented a farm near Masinasin for a few years. Their two daughters were born while they lived there. Masinasin Country suffered severe drought in those years and the family income came mostly from butchering hogs and cattle in the farm and selling the meat in the small villages in the area.

Early in 1923 the family moved to the Lethbridge Northern, near where Park Lake is now. Jim worked for Mr. John James for some time on Sec. 16-10-22 and for someone on SE 34-9-22. He later bought a farm of 100 acres, part of SE 27-9-22, and moved on with a cook car and some machinery about 1925 or 26.

He accumulated a few horses and an I. H.C. Titan tractor. Apparently, he walked to work at the Coalhurst mine from Mr. James' place for a few years, and later from the farm at Coalhurst. He worked mostly as a teamster around the surface, and hauled the coal to the pumphouse on the riverbottom to operate the steam powered pump. He often told of some very rough, cold trips down the coulee road. Mr. Dickie and his family lived in the residence at the pumphouse at that time and they always supplied him with hot water to make his tea at lunch time. He used to wear burlap sacks wrapped up over his shoes and tied with binder twine to ward off the cold. He also wore the same footwear to walk to work and they left a good trail for his girls to follow to school later in the morning. The young people of today could hardly imagine the hardships of the farm families of that period.

After the harvest of 1926 Jim hitched his horses to the cook car, and moved to Hill's Piggery where he worked for the winter.

They were still living at the Hill farm when a son was born on March 14, 1927. He was only about six weeks old and all three children were in bed with scarlet fever, when Jim hooked up to the cook cars and headed back to the farm at Coalhurst. They removed the gear from under the cook car, and set it on the ground for permanent living quarters. A small kitchen was added to the east end, but it was still very small for a family. After the Coalhurst mine closed in 1936, Jim bought one of the many company houses that were put up for sale. He paid about sixty dollars for it, as did some of the other farmers. It was a common sight to see these houses going down the road with about a dozen or more horses pulling them. This was the farm home for the remainder of the time they lived there.

Jim had a real knack for horticulture and before many years he had the place looking like a typical English farm, with its spacious lawn sloping down to the highway, all the bushes manicured to perfection and the weeds all kept out along the front. Most of this was destroyed however, when the highway was widened in 1949. The screen of shrubs and bushes were taken out and the Coalhurst company house stood out in plain view of highway 25.

Like the rest of the district the Potts family struggled through the depression always hoping that things had to get better. as they couldn't get much worse. Jim was one of the early sugar beet growers in the area, and was later recognized for his many years of service to the Southern Alberta Beet Growers Association. Most of the labor at that time was manual and when it came to harvest time Jim's daughters were out there in the field, forking beets with him.

After the girls were married and their son was grown up, they concentrated on feeding cattle and hauling wet beet pulp for other farmers. This was one experience that no red-blooded farmer should miss. You would rise at 4 or 5 on a winter morning, when it may be snowing, or forty below zero, put on all the clothes you could carry, start up an old war surplus truck, and drive a dozen miles to the sugar factory for a load of sloppy, smelly (not like roses) beet pulp. With lots of luck, hard work, and no flat tires, you may make three trips a day but you must go regardless of the weather. A common sight along the road was Pete Zmurchyk hauling pulp and wearing a large fur coat because the left window was missing from his truck. Pete seemed to thrive on fresh air. By the time the cattle were ready for market the spring chinooks, messy corrals, swampy roads and spring seeding had drifted into the past, along with the high cattle prices.

The Potts' were increasing their cattle feeding endeavour, and had built quite a herd. An outbreak of hoof and mouth disease hit Saskatchewan causing a closure of meat exports to the U.S.A. and the price dropped about 40%, which knocked the props out of the beef business in the west for several years.

Jim's son stayed on the farm until the early fifties, and then went to work for Trapp Farms of Barons. - Jim and Ethel lived on the farm until 1957 and moved into a small house on Charlie Watmough's farm. In 1971 Jim's health was failing and he could no longer drive, so they moved into the Golden Acres cottages in Lethbridge, and he passed away on August 4, 1973. Ethel moved into the Golden Acres Lodge until late in 1979, when she moved into the Parkland Nursing Home, now Extendicare. She passed away December 27, 1982.

During their thirty odd years in the Coalhurst area they acquired many life long friends through their constant attendance of the Penticostal Church. As well they were members of the Beet Growers, and Cattle Feeding Associations. No matter how busy Jim was, he always had time to help his neighbors with their veterinary problems.

Jim and Ethel lived on this earth long enough to see the hand plow replaced by the gang plow, and those replaced by the massive modern machinery. They saw the horse drawn carriages and steam powered trains give way to the automobiles, and high speed aircraft of today. They saw more progress in their lifespan than had ever been recorded before them. They had more poverty and adversity than the average, yet they were happy to be part of our world. They now lay side by side in Archmount Memorial Gardens.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup