A letter about Summerberry by Mrs. W. P. Waugh


My husband and I and three children came to Summerberry in March, in 1893, from Bruce County, Ontario.  The train came right to Summerberry.  My parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Shaw, who had come out a couple of years before to the Banbury Place, south of Burnham's, met us at the train.

We were told there was two houses and a gopher hole in Summerberry.  From John Mann we bought the farm where Burnham's now live.  My husband homesteaded south of Glenavon, a number of years later, and sold the homestead to his brother Jake.  Our first land was sold to Albert Todd, who later sold it to Harry Burnham.  We built on land on the west side of the coulee, where Ernie's now live.

Life was very different in those days.  We got two cows and a calf shortly after we came out.  We got a few hens and put in a garden right away.  We put in the usual vegetables.  One year we had a heavy snowfall in September.  We didn't know it would go away again, so we dug them up in the snow, and what a job!  The only year the potatoes froze in the cellar was in the new house we moved into from the old log house.  That winter we'd bring up as many frozen potatoes that were needed a time, wash them,  and pour boiling hot water on them and boil them with there skins on.  They tasted just like new potatoes.

The children went to school at the Drainie house.  Then the Rose Lane school was built.  It was named by Jim Bryan.  It was to the west of Osler's, but was moved to where it is now.  Two of the early teachers were Miss Stathcon (Mrs. Tom Sim) and Annie McCowan (Mrs. E. Taylor).  

When we were on the farm I baked twice a week.  A hundred pounds of flour often lasted for less then two weeks.

We dried our peas and beans and even the wild berries we picked.  There were no sealers for preserving vegetables and fruit.  We bought sugar a few pounds at a time for the first few years and cooked the berries a few at a time as they were needed.

We kept meat by putting it into a salt brine.  We raised our own animals for butchering.

At first we had iron pots and later got enamel ones.  We even had iron tea kettles.  We used iron knifes, forks and spoons that were hard to keep clean.

We washed on a washboard and used homemade soap.  The soap was made from waste fat and lye.  Down east we made our own lye by bleaching hardwood ashes in a barrel, but we couldn't do that here as the ashes were not good.

I made most of the clothes, even the overalls for the men in the family, for years.  I sewed by hand for awhile and later traded a colt for a sewing machine for "Massey" Jack, from Grenfell.  The women's clothes were made plain from prints, etc., bought from stores from Wolseley and Grenfell.  We often got it for 12 & 1/2 cents a yard, and just as good as it is today.  For patterns, I took an old garment, laid it flat on a brown sheet of paper and pricked all around it with a needle.  Then you'd cut out a little bigger to allow for seams.

Prices for farm produce were very low: butter 8 cents a pound, and eggs 8 cents a dozen, and we had to take it to the next town to sell.  One time dad took three dressed pigs to town to sell.  He couldn't get cash for them and had to take trade, hardly being able to get rid of them at that.

Our mattresses were ticking filled with straw or hay.  We used factory cotton for sheets.  When we had our own feathers we made a thin feather tick to put on the straw tick mattress.   We used blankets and never had feather ticks to cover up with.  We had homemade beds at first and later bought bedsteads.

The children never had any serious diseases like scarlet fever or diphtheria.  They had mumps, measles, and other common children's illnesses.  A favorite remedy for croup was a chopped onion partly cooked in a little fat.  Then it was put in a thin cloth and put on the chest as hot as they could stand it.  In the first years it was thought necessary to give the children sulphur and molasses in the spring but we didn't do that later.

The early doctors were Dr. Elliot and Dr. Argue.  The doctor was called only when it was really necessary.  In those days a midwife attended childbirth in the home, not in the hospital as today.  For diapers we used thin old sheets or any other clean old material.  We had no safety pins.  We used common pins.  We tried to get brass pins so they wouldn't rust.

We attended church in the hall at first.  Then the stone church was built in 1903.  We went there.  Rev. J. H. L. Joslyn was the first minister.  The church was dedicated in the fall on a lovely day, but a bad storm came up and the roads were very muddy by the time we reached home.

In the summer we drove to church with the oxen, leaving them tied to the wagon with a sheaf of oats.  In the winter we didn't get to town for months.  Later we got a horse and a democrat so it was easier to get around.

There's a big improvement in the way people live today, but in my way of thinking, we were more contented in those days.  Some people think that people are healthier and stronger now, but I think there is more sickness then there used to be.  Nowadays people want to be going someplace all the time.

I will be 84 in July and have worked hard to raise twelve of our fifteen children.  Victor died in the first war.

I don't think work will hurt anyone, if they take it into reason.

By Mrs. W. P. Waugh - written in 1955

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