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Charles Watmough and
Ada Sumner Watmough

Our Treasured Heritage
A History of Coalhurst and District
Pages 570-573
by Charles R. Watmough

Charles was born in Wigan, Lancashire, England, February 2, 1875. His father was cable inspector for the coal mines in that area, and they should have been a well-to-do family. Unfortunately his job kept him among the wealthy mine operators who thrived on alcoholic beverages, and subsequently he became addicted to it. I heard of one case where a cable supplier brought in samples of his wares for my grandfather's inspection, along with a case of fine whiskey to add to the persuasion. Grandfather kept the case of whiskey but he judged the cables unsafe for use. Charlie and Thomas learned their lesson well from their father and never had a smoker's breath or a hang-over.

Charlie never worked in the mines in England but became a very efficient "clogger". He made and repaired clogs for miners, children, and even the girls in the cotton factories. He didn't find a clog to fit any foot, he made it to fit. He continued as a clogger after his marriage in 1897 to Ada Sumner, born in Wigan, on January 4, 1875. Their first two sons were born there, and in 1901 they packed up all their belongings and came to Canada. After a long boring trip across the country, and riding the narrow guage railway from Dunmore, they arrived in Lethbridge in May, 1901.

Charlie, my father, had brought all the tools, prepared to make his clogs for all the "Wiganers" who had preceded him, but soon found out that clogs were not the right footwear in our cold and slippery weather. He went to work in No. 3 mine, and soon got on as a clutch operator on the haulage ropes down the mine. At first he used a kerosene lamp which was later replaced by a carbide lamp. By the spring of 1902 he had acquired a small piece of land bordering 13th street on the east and 18 avenue, N. on the north, complete with a two-storey house and a small barn. He also had a small team of horses and a light wagon.

By the spring of 1904 he had four little boys, and he took up a homestead in West Lethbridge. In order to prove up on the homestead the family had to live on it for six months of the year, so they moved back and forth until 1907, when they moved out to the farm to stay. Charlie still kept his job at the mine, so the farm work was left to his wife and the oldest of the boys. By this time there were five boys and one girl.

There was no school in West Lethbridge at that time, and Coalhurst was still only a dream of the mining company which later built the mine and most of the town. The older boys went to school in North Lethbridge during the winter months, but after they moved to the farm there was no school until 1911, when West Lethbridge school started. The family increased by five on the farm.

There was a long table in the long narrow kitchen of the farm house, and all thirteen of us sat down at mealtimes, each in his own place. In the early twenties there were often twelve lunches to pack as Dad and the five older boys went to the mine at Coalhurst, and six of us walked across the fields to school. I can still remember the happy days we spent out in the pasture, picking mushrooms in the spring, and cactus berries in the fall; and always hearing the exhaust blast from the powerful steam hoist at Coalhurst. We could see the two "buggy wheels" turning in opposite directions on the top of the tipple. Much later I learned that those wheels were about twelve feet in diameter.

In 1926 Dad bought an irrigated farm, raw land covered with tepee rings of rocks, east of Coalhurst, S. E. 23-9-22. All the idle men and boys of Coalhurst knew where this farm was. They wore deep paths through the coulees going down to the river, almost every decent day. When they pushed down the fence in the Windmill Coulee he never thought of prohibiting their passage, as the farmers do now, he simply built a stile where the path crossed the fence line. That stile is still there, but no one ever uses that pathway anymore. The river is polluted and berry bushes are washed out with spill water. The happy chanting of the young boys from Coalhurst trotting down the path to the river to match their skills with red horse, skip-jack, gold eye and sturgeon is no more. The only break in the silence now is the odd howl of a coyote at night, or the snarl of a hill bike in the daytime.

Dad and Mother had a very hard time keeping us kids clothed and fed during the depression, but somehow there seemed to be enough meals to match the mealtimes. The food we could get on the farm, but the clothing was a little harder to come by. The shoes I wore to the barn were the same ones I wore to school. Dad grew alfalfa hay, and usually sold the second crop to the Quarantine Station for the guinea pigs and rabbits. He sold hay to other farmers too, and this, along with eggs and cream was almost our entire income. In 1936 sugar beets became a common crop, and after a few hard years things started to look good again. In 1937 one of the boys took over the homestead farm which gave us more time to work at home. In 1944 I took over the farm at Coalhurst.

Dad and Mother lived in a little house on the farm, and passed away a few years later - Dad in December 1946, and Mother in March 1948.

Charlie and Ada Watmough came to the District of Alberta, N.W.T., with two children and a few trunks and boxes in 1901, and by now their descendants number a score and their value assessment into the millions.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup