THE CARLSON FAMILY HISTORY by Gary Carlson (grandson).
My grandparents came from Sweden to Milestone, Northwest Territories in the 1890’s, to find a new life.
My grandfather, Alfred Karlsson (Carlson) was born in Urhult, Sweden on 7 May, 1862, the son of Karl Muller Elliason and Beata Erickson. He married my grandmother Josephina Theodora Bengtsdotter (Bengtson) born 17 April 1861, on 4 June 1885, and they had their first three children, Jenni Karolina, Charles Oscar and Alma Beata, in Sweden before he left for Canada in 1891 to build a better future for his family. In Sweden, they had been tenant farmers. Supporting herself and her children as a tailor after he left must have been difficult for Josephina. After baby Alma’s death, the family (probably with financial help from family members) sailed for Canada in 1896 to join her husband at Milestone, Territory of Assiniboia , N.W.T.
Alfred worked first in Winnipeg , then moved west to help build the Soo Line (rail line) southeast from Moose Jaw. Once it was completed, he had mastered English so he was appointed section foreman for the C.P.R. at Milestone. The family arrived shortly after. Over the next decade, four more children arrived: Fred Albin(1898); Mabel Victoria (1899); Elsie Roberta (1902) and lastly, my dad, Elmer Edmund on 2 April, 1905, just before Saskatchewan became a province.
Grampa filed for a homestead on N.W. 16-12-19-W2 on 12 August, 1899. In 1902 he purchased the quarter just south of town, resigned from his railway job and was soon in the dairy business. While still the stationmaster, he became postmaster in 1900 and built a combination residence/post office on Main Street where the family lived for the next 10 years. They delivered milk daily in town by horse and wagon. Later he and his sons custom harvested with their steam engine, and still later with their famous Rumley Oil Pull tractor and threshing outfit. He retired with Grandma to live with son Charlie at White Bear, SK where he died 25 May, 1936.
Grandma Josephina Carlson is believed to be the first white woman immigrant to permanently live in the Territory of Western Assiniboia, and theirs was the first pioneer family. Her life was hard: she had to learn English, there were no other women for company and she had to educate her six children herself, because for many years there was no school. She supplemented the family income by raising chickens and turkeys and selling eggs and produce from her large garden. Later, she became affectionately known as “Mother Carlson” to scores of railroad workers, early R.N.W.M.P. personnel and settlers on their way west. Their home became an overnight stop for hundreds of these men in transit. She once reminisced that fourteen men had slept on the floor of her dining room one night. And left a few unwelcome crawly guests behind, no doubt. Native aboriginal families, with their belongings in wagons, often dropped by and were very intrigued by her fair hair and skin; they too soon became her friends.
Aunt Jennie, the oldest, was a tiny girl. She actually ran the post office for her dad and soon made all the family purchases and did the accounting for their “temporary” boardinghouse. On one such trip to Moose Jaw by train she encountered the Willow Bunch Giant, a man who stood 8’2”, towering over her diminutive height. She married Fred Garrett , who became an agent for Wawanesa Insurance there for 75 years. They took over the family dairy and remained permanent residents of Milestone for more than 60 years. Quite a record. The Garrats had four children: Charles (Alice), Marion (Marshall Herschberger), Phyllis (Jack Shaw) and Walter (Alice) all now deceased. Several of their descendants operate farms and cleaning plants in the vicinity.
Charles: Uncle Charlie, as we all knew him, remained a bachelor. He first homesteaded near Lang at age 18, in 1905, and later at White Bear in 1912. His ten day journey to his new homestead by horse and wagon was negotiated by following the rail lines west from Saskatoon until the line ended at Zealandia, and by sleeping under the wagon encircled by a woven horsehair rope he believed would protect him from snakes. I guess it did, but there weren’t any poisonous snakes there. Having never attended school, Charlie became self-educated; an avid reader who acquired a modest library of the great authors. An early photo of him taken inside his first wooden shack reads “Thank God at last I’m free. No wedding bells for me”. It was taken by a traveling photographer of the time. The shack was later replaced with a modern house before his parents came to live with him.
Charlie claimed that he never had a crop failure in 41 years, but one year he shipped an entire carload of grain to Winnipeg and received a bill for more than the payment for the grain. He told them to keep the grain! Until the railroad was extended to Kyle and White Bear, he had to haul grain to Swift Current by wagon. To get down the steep river hills around Stewart Valley, Charlie used to jam a long log in the spokes of the rear wheels of his wagon, effectively creating a very efficient brake system, since the back wheels merely skidded down the slopes. Once at the bottom, he removed the logs and continued on his way.
He became an astute poker player with his bachelor friends. During one high stakes game when brother Fred accompanied him to a game at Tuberose, they returned home with a car they had won. He also learned to never permit Aunt Elsie to see his hand. She just didn’t have his poker face. Uncle Charlie became very self- reliant: he developed good cooking skills and learned to can his own chickens and cubed beef for winter meals. Yummy! He told us his only failure was when he tried to make jelly out of Wolf Willow berries. No matter how he tried, they tasted burned, so he threw them out, even though he knew they were a good source of vitamins and the burned flavour was natural. He retired to Saskatoon in 1953 and lived with Aunt Elsie until his death in 1968. His estate was divided among his 16 nieces and nephews.
Uncle Fred was the first child born in Milestone in 1898. After working and living in several other places as a young man, he took over the family farm when his parents retired. He and his wife Edith (Rooney) had four children: Valerie (Pat Patterson), Charles (Dorothy), Shirley (Spud Stewart) and Betty (Wedge). Fred died in 1964. His son Charlie (Chuck) Carlson now operates the family farm and lives in Regina. Fred’s widow Edith is still alive in 2005.
Aunt Mabel had a fairly short life. Growing up, she helped her parents and later Uncle Charlie with the hard work on their farms. She studied piano, and later taught some primary students. She was a good athlete, excelling in basketball and skating. She married Walter Newell and they settled near Gray to farm. They had a daughter Maxine. When Maxine was only 14, both of her parents were killed in a collision with a train near Swift Current but she was unharmed. She became a nurse and presently lives in B.C. with her family.
Aunt Elsie was born in 1902, their first child in the new century. She grew up as her mother’s helper, and later “kept house” for Uncle Charlie at White Bear. She continued to care for her ageing parents until their deaths at White Bear. She married Tom Husby, a local farmer. They had four children: Allen, Gertrude (Bob Poirier), Thomas (Wilma) and Verna (Ole Neilson). She moved to Saskatoon after her husband’s death, and Uncle Charlie moved in when he retired. Aunt Elsie was thrifty, evident in her practice of having friends bring her a pot of soil whenever she gave them free “volunteer” flowers from her garden in Saskatoon. She had discovered that her garden was becoming the lowest spot in the yard and chose this as a solution. Aunt Elsie won many awards for her crochet work at city and Provincial exhibitions. Her descendents still farm in the Kyle area.
My Dad, Elmer Edmund Carlson, D.V.M., 2 April, 1905- 15 Nov 1984.
My dad, always known as Pat, arrived in 1905. The family bible lists his name as Allmer. A bright child, he did not really like the life of a farmer. The big machines were too noisy and smelly. School wasn’t much of a challenge either, but when he quit in Grade 11, Grampa made him become his hired man for the summer, and he was glad to return to the books in the fall. He studied agriculture at the U of S for two years then was accepted in the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph, Ont., at the time the only veterinary college in Canada. His years there shaped his life. He lived college life to the fullest: coonskin coat, bathtub booze, dancing the Charleston, sorority hijinks, trips to visit the families of far flung cohorts, and star member of the University Hockey team. At only 5’6”, he was referred to as the “boy vet” by his classmates. He was class President in his senior year, graduating with an average above 95%. His scholarships included the H.D. McGilvray honorarium that helped defray his college expenses.
The year Dad played hockey for the local team in Milestone as a teenager, they won the Provincial championship. At Guelph, his University team won the Provincial championship for Ontario. Wow!. If only he had been a big guy! And in those days, dad was quick to point out that a player played the full 60 minutes of ice time.
He met my mother, Clara Guild, who came from Briercrest, the summer before his final term at college. She had come to Milestone to work as a telephone operator. They were secretly married before he headed back east and she followed soon after. Life for them was very frugal. They lived in a one room walk-up flat. Whenever they ran out of money Dad would go down to the bowling alley and compete in bowling. He invariably won, as much as $2 in an evening, but sometimes less. Following his convocation, and awaiting his government posting, a windfall academic prize of $50 was spent on a car (a Chevy with a rumble seat) He was soon hired to help a golf course designer in Guelph. He also worked for renowned Dr. Frederick Banting, procuring specimens at a dollar each (stray impounded dogs that would have been put down) for his experiments that led to the discovery of insulin. A piece of Canadian History.
He joined the Federal Health of Animals Department in Cornwall, but moved back to Saskatchewan a year later as a field representative, testing beef cattle for tuberculosis and brucellosis both serious diseases at the time.
As one of the earliest field reps, dad had many colorful and interesting experiences: getting ushered off of farms with a shotgun at his back was not uncommon. Everyone feared that they would lose their cattle if a disease was found. Driving a team of horses and sleigh in -40C was not uncommon in winter, and a good hot meal from a farmer’s wife was thoroughly welcomed. We still have the heavy mouton mitts and leather wing hat he wore. Remote areas such as around Turtle Lake in 1931 presented other tales. The Finnish population there were fishermen; on one occasion, they invited Dad to stay for lunch. Their daughters were sent to the lake to catch their lunch. Dad went along and was amazed that all they had for lures were bent safety pins: they caught enough perch in no time and served them up for lunch. He never returned to that lake until the 70s when they came up to our little cabin for a weekend visit.
He worked out of Saskatoon during the late war years as chief inspector at Intercontinental Packers (now Mitchell Foods/ Maple Leaf Foods) when the plant canned hams and Wiltshire sides for shipment overseas. Owner Fred Mendel became a great friend of the family and gave us a painting for Christmas every year. Several of those artists became well known. Dads working hours were crushing: starting at 6 a.m. and often working until midnight six days a week. He tried to sign up for army duty but was deferred as being too necessary for the war effort at home. He purchased a 1936 Chevrolet for $600 and was allowed extra gas coupons because the streetcar did not go near the “pork plant” and he had to be at work before the first trolley bus ran. So we had a car, and it was great.
Dad was the Federal District Veterinarian for Saskatchewan when the “Foot & Mouth” epidemic broke out in a herd of cattle north of Regina in 1952. A massive containment program was mobilized: quarantines were thrown up to surround the infected area. Initially, the disease baffled them. The media were very critical, but not savvy enough to realize that this was a disease that no veterinarian in Canada had ever seen. Dr. Harold Hunter, a school friend of my mother, was the first person to suggest that they consider foot & mouth disease as a possible cause. He was right. Dad eventually had to face Parliament in Ottawa to defend the actions being taken. It was the first (and still only) outbreak of this disease in Canada. Many hundreds of cattle were shot, burned and buried in lime at the farms around the outbreak. Meat was not allowed to be transported in or out of the infected area, and if people had their “frozen” meat in a locker in the “wrong” town, they had to somehow get a permit to remove it. Traffic was monitored, and as Dad later said, the disinfectants used to spray tires and floors of vehicles probably didn’t do much but they bolstered public perception that a major health concern was being dealt with in a timely and efficient fashion. The outbreak was probably carried to Canada on the overalls of an immigrant worker, although these things are often never proven. Not long after, he was sent to Mexico where an outbreak of foot & mouth disease was in progress. In Mexico, human life was pretty cheap. He was walking along the beach with his bodyguard one evening when the guard had to dispatch a man sneaking up behind them, machete poised to kill dad for whatever was in his pockets. Further south, a group of veterinarians actually were murdered by an angry mob of women after they had been ordered to destroy their herd which was afflicted with the disease. Ah. Life in the fast lane.
Dad went on an extended diplomatic tour of the Soviet Bloc countries in 1959, then known as “behind the iron curtain”. He had to get special permission to enter the maternity ward in St. Paul’s Hospital to see his infant twin granddaughters before he left. Body guards accompanied him wherever he went in Europe; he had his camera stolen and returned a year later, showing evidence of tampering. Hey, everyone wasn’t a spy.
One strange event stayed clear in dad’s memory. He was summoned to a farm around Weyburn to investigate a very rare event: a farmers’ herd of cattle were losing the ends of their tongues, and since cows rip off their food, the animals affected had to be put down. Local resource personnel could not find a cause. After touring the operation, dad noticed several horses in stalls in the barn next to a corral beside the water trough. There was a hole in the wall between the barn and corral. The cattle would go to the hole and lick it, presumably to get salt. As one poor cow did this, the horse in his stall grabbed her tongue and bit off the tip of it and ate it. Some minor carpentry eliminated the problem and once they had dealt with the seriousness of the deed, everyone had a good laugh at the ingenuity of the horse involved.
Dad suffered from severe headaches, usually taking aspirin for relief, and in 1953 underwent surgery to remove most of his stomach due to bleeding ulcers. This was pretty serious surgery in those days, and he was not expected to make a full recovery, but he did, although he lived with dietary restrictions for the rest of his life. He retired in 1965, did some field work and soon realized why he really liked administrative work. So he became Secretary of the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association (SVMA) for 15 years. Mom became his secretary after a stint at business school where she learned to type.
Dad’s health began to fail in the early 80s,and he died of kidney failure at age 79, in 1984, having watched his beloved Saskatchewan go from prairie to farm to dustbowl and back again, and from buggy to cars to jet planes and the moon. He truly lived in the most exciting era in history.
My Mother, Clara Emma Guild, born on Christmas Day, 1908, was the oldest of the six children of Herman and Rose (Mercer) Guild. Her mother’s ancestors had been Loyalists some of whom came west in the first wave of settlers, whereas the Guild family had emigrated to Tennessee from England and Germany in the seventeenth century, part of a group who were referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch. My great-grandfather Truman Guild and family, moved to Ontario before coming west. Once here, the family eked out a living, where Grampa Herman tried a homestead at Spring Valley, then worked in the lumber yard in Briercrest before becoming a grain buyer. During the depression, when there was no grain to buy, the company paid him $20 a month to take care of their elevator. They raised chickens for extra cash and food: with the hordes of grasshoppers, that was a good choice for free chicken feed. Grandma used to tell me how she had to sweep off the front steps before she could walk down them in the morning. I have many fond memories of summers on the farm, playing cribbage with Grampa. He invariably lost, but sometimes the games (rubbers) went on for weeks.
The Guild children consisted of Clara, Gordon (Ethel McNeil; sons Jim and Doug), Roy (Ruby ; son Bob) Alvin (died of Spanish flu), Mel (Elsie) and Patsy (Jack Wheeler; Glen, twins Ron & Rhonda, and Lynne ). Patsy is almost the same age as me. Mom attended school at Spring Valley, completing Grade X, the limit at the time. She was the pianist in a local “pick-up” band that played for dances in the vicinity. We still have many original sheets of music from her flapper years. Many family descendants still live in and around Moose Jaw. Mom died in 2001 at age 93.
The three Carlson children, my brothers and I arrived as: Ray (Conrad Raymond) in 1929, Gary Lane (me) 1932 and Terry Edmund in 1945.
When I was young, mom raised canaries as a hobby, and male singers were prized. She had lots. Whenever the phone rang, they would burst into song so she had to rush around and throw sheets over their cages so she could speak to her caller.
My oldest brother Ray was the proverbial “Huck Finn” student, preferring anything to school and content to have a menagerie of pets around at all times: homing pigeons (he sold one several times), dogs, cats and a horse. He eventually became a mechanic for the Air Ambulance Service, often flying into remote areas when repairs were needed. He and wife Ida (Cowan) packed up their three children (Cathy, Pat and Colleen) in the 70s and moved to Vancouver Island where the family has resided ever since. Ray died in 1989 of a massive heart attack. Son Pat (Kerry) lives at Jordan River , Cathy (Shaun Fagan) and son Josh live in Metchosin, as does Colleen, whose children Alicia, Matthew, Aaron and John still attend school. Ida lives with Colleen and her husband Pierre and is a great grandmother now.
My youngest brother, Terry was part of the baby boomer generation. He lived at home as mom & dad grew older, which we very much appreciated. He played the guitar in local rock bands, and completed a CGA degree, He married Gloria Swanson, whose family hails from Brownlee. They have two sons, Travis and Chase. Travis has been seeing the world as an active reserve army recruit, going to Afghanistan and Bosnia. Chase is still in school.
I was born at City Hospital in Saskatoon and lived at several locations in Moose Jaw and Saskatoon as I was growing up, finally living on 7th St. just west of Broadway. Haultain School was a tough little school while I attended. I was at Nutana Collegiate when dad accepted a transfer to Regina. Life as a child was carefree. Dad and I often shot partridge and sharptails east along 14th St. After we moved to Regina, I attended Scott Collegiate, and was a senior when I played third on Bill Clark’s curling team that represented Saskatchewan. We won the first Canadian Schoolboy Curling Championship (Briar) in 1950 at Quebec City. I still have my Sifton Trophy. Ian Innes, who played second, is still a close friend. He was a member of a high school band we put together, playing for school dances in Regina for fun and some extra cash.
I attended Regina College for a year, winning the presidents medal, then transferred to U of S in Saskatoon to complete my Commerce Degree. When I had finished my Chartered Accountants degree, I moved back to Saskatoon to work at a local accounting firm, McMillan & Dill for a short time, then became a partner in the American Motors dealership on Eighth St. with Ed Scissons. When we closed in 1976, I became Finance Director of the Western Development Museums, a position I enjoyed immensely until I retired in 1999.
I met my wife Muriel Hicks the spring of 1958. Born 21 August, 1936, she grew up near Semans, the third of ten children of Fred & Margaret Hicks. Her childhood was the opposite of mine: no car, second hand/remade clothes, long walks to school, chopping wood every day, and killing the roosters for Sunday dinner when they could afford to. With no indoor plumbing, snow was the winter source of water, and summer found her weeding in the large garden, or picking saskatoons nearby. Or sometimes just sneaking away to the ravine where the birds were nesting. She became a birder at age 5, when she found the nests of thrashers, kingbirds and meadowlarks and is still involved with Breeding Bird Surveys (25 years) for the Canadian Wildlife Service.
An over-achiever, she looked on school as just another challenge, to win at all costs. When she came down with mumps in Gr XI, it was required that she have a note from her doctor saying she was free of the disease. The only doctor within 50 miles was on his first vacation in 30 years. The Principal refused to allow her to return. She unwittingly became the student whose misfortune caused that stupid law to be repealed. It was 30 years before she returned to school, completing an honors degree in Anthropology & Archaeology in 1990 at U of S. She volunteered at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, firing her aboriginal pottery replicas and her own very individual pottery outdoors there. Later she volunteered at Joe Duquette High School, working with young native mothers who had incredible art skills. She also conducted pottery workshops and fired her work at Herschel, near the Interpretive Center there. The only display of her work is there. Burnishing pottery was in its infancy here when the first traders brought iron pots, and the cultural trait/tradition was soon lost. Muriel carried this decorative skill to quite a high level, winning artisan awards from the Saskatchewan Handicraft Society in the process.
Twins Donna Lynne and Lori Diane were born in 1959. Lynne was actually a 7 month preemie, whereas Lori was almost a full term baby. They grew up as vastly different children. Son Donald Robert Gary arrived on Canada Day (July 1), 1961.
We soon learned to deal with health problems: two of our children had to live north of the farm belt by June every summer due to allergy problems and asthma. After a few summers in Waskesieu, we bought a small cabin at Indian Point on Turtle Lake, which has been our summer home for 37 years. The children soon learned their birds and butterflies and developed a lifelong love of the forest and nature.
Donald and Lori both attended U of S, then SIAST. He moved to Edmonton and she became a Medical Laboratory Technician at City Hospital. Lynne married Rick Walker and has a son Jonathan Walker. She has lived most of her adult life in Alberta, presently at Nampa with husband John Marcinkow. Lori married Kenton Cooper in 1981 and has three children: Adam, Carmen and Sarah. Donald has remained single.
Lori died suddenly on 24 March, 2005 from a very rare coronary infarct that caused the atrophied muscle in her heart to die then perforate and eventually caused her death. We miss her deeply. We are planning a special seminar presentation about epilepsy in her memory in 2006 featuring Dr. Robert Mittan, a world-renowned expert in the field. The seminar was to be part of her education program as part of her new job as Coordinator of Rapid Response Teams for the three hospitals in the city. She died a week before she was to assume the position. Her children all plan to be in studies at school or college this fall. We wish them very well.
We built a new home at Turtle Lake in the eighties. Today we live in Victoria in winter and at the lake in the summer. When an opportunity to buy the quarter section of land nearby to develop a nature sanctuary came up in 1994, Muriel threw herself wholeheartedly into raising funds to help buy the land for Nature Saskatchewan. She has been one of the stewards of the sanctuary ever since, but the years have taken their toll. Following Lori’s death, she plans to withdraw from her volunteer positions to focus on helping her grandchildren complete their goals. We love the prairie summers, the spectacular sunsets and the endless starry nights of Saskatchewan and plan to return as long as we are able.