Home Town or Home Community:
Glaslyn; Mount Hope
by Eva Fennig
Rudolph and Mathilda Fennig and their seven children came to Canada from Russia in 1913. They settled on their homestead near Glaslyn in 1914. The ages of the children were from 1 1/2 years old (Ida) to 16-17 years (Martha.) Bert was the second youngest at five years old.
What tremendous fortitude it must have taken for people like the Fennigs to make such a journey. On such determination and courage this country was built.
The next ten years were very difficult. Within that time, all but the three youngest will have left home. Len and Dick to find work, Martha when she married Adam Puff, and Hattie when she married Fred Gatzke. Due to the fact that Martha and Adam were living closer to North Battleford helped influence the parents to resettle. In 1925, Dad Fennig bought a half section of land in the Mount Hope district. It adjoined Adam’s. The land location was NE 33-44-15 W3 (home farm) and SE 33-44-15 W3. This land formerly belonged to E.J. Meliki, a lawyer.
They built a house and barn, then in 1926 the existing family of mother, dad, Dan, Bert and Ida, moved into their new home. By this time they owned a threshing machine and tractor with which they did a lot of custom work. They also grew their own meat and vegetables. Close friends nearby were the Puff and Seib families. Ida finished her education in Mount Hope School.
The Lutheran Church was an important factor in the Fennig family. . They helped build the first church in North Battleford in 1935. The stock market crash of 1929 brought on depression and the “dirty thirties”. There was very little money, but there was always enough food to eat. The Fennigs’ had survived worse years than these.
Near the end of this decade. Dad Fennig turned over the farm to the boys. Bert got the home farm and Dan, the SE quarter. Crops and grain prices were improving.
Dad’s health was failing steadily and in 1941 he passed away in his home, sadly missed by his family and friends. Soon after this, Bert was called up by the army, but the doctors considered him unfit to serve so he stayed home and farmed. Mother Fennig kept house for him.
Both boys got married in 1944. Bert and I were married in March; Dan and Muriel Chapman in July.
Dan and Muriel had two children, Wilbert (1946) and Norman (1948). Dan passed away in August, 1980. Later Muriel married William Tebay.
Within the next 12 years, four children were born to us. Ken in February, 1945, Wayne in June, 1948, Larry in June, 1952, and Patricia in June, 1956. All were healthy and lively youngsters. Bert passed away in February, 2001.
In 1947 we took Mother Fennig to BC to live with her daughter, Ida, and family. She passed away in January, 1955, and was buried in Kamloops, BC.
Martha Fennig married Adam Puff. They had three girls, Mary, Ida and Margarette. Adam passed away in 1972 and Martha in 1977. Mary and Margarette have also passed away.
Leonard Fennig married Elizabeth Soich. They had three children, Raymond, Hazel and Edgar. Leonard passed away in 1971.
Richard (Dick) Fennig married Emma Schultz. They had two sons, Alan, and Glen. Dick passed away in 1988 and Emma in 1994. Since then. Glen has also passed away.
Hedwig (Hattie) Fennig married Fred Gatzky. They had five children, Mary (Lena), Daniel, Edna, Arthur and Albert. Fred passed away in 1940 and in 1948 Hattie married William Volmerhaus. Hattie passed away in 1981 and Bill in 1989. Three of Hattie and Fred’s children have also passed away, Arthur (in infancy), Albert and Mary.
Ida Fennig married Elwood Webb. They had three children: Grace, Vemon and Gordon. Ida passed away in 1975, Elwood in 1980 and their daughter Grace, passed away in 1967.
The following are some of Bert Fennig’s memories of life on the farm at Glaslyn.
Bert remembers the long trip, that he, his Mother and Dad made to North Battleford, with the team of oxen. It took about five days: two days to get there, one day to shop, and two days back home. Their midway camping place was Pigtail Creek, so named because it flowed at the foot of Pigtail Hill. In turn, the hill got its name because of the winding road. Both places were used as landmarks, as there were no roads as we know them now. Travelers used the correction lines, and cut across country as much as they could to shorten the distance. In 1916, the municipality started to survey road allowances, and proper roads started to be built.
At this time a war was raging in Europe. When it started in 1914, the Fennigs disclaimed their German heritage, and called themselves Polish. They were not only afraid of being deported, but also there was some discrimination. Rudolph could not have gotten the title for his land if he had admitted to being German. The deception was helped by the fact that Rudolph and Matilda could speak four or five different languages, including Polish.
Another memory of Bert’s, was when his Mother was driving the oxen during haying time. Rudolph was mowing hay with the horses and Matilda was raking it with the oxen. It was a hot afternoon, and the mosquitos were abundant and hungry. The oxen, tired and frustrated by the mosquitos, decided to take a break — a water break. They headed into the nearby slough. No amount of yelling by Matilda could deter them. Into the slough they went, up to their bellies, pulling the rake and Matilda aboard it, with them. Rudolph heard the commotion and saw what was happening, so he tied. Up his team and went to the rescue. He was probably laughing at the situation, but Mathilda was not amused.
Gradual improvements were being made to the farm — another cow or two, pigs, chickens, and geese. When Matilda put in her garden, she planted flowers as well as the vegetables. One favourite flower was the poppy. Not only was it colorful, but it was also useful. When the family went visiting for an afternoon, she would pull up some poppies and feed them to the geese. The substance in the plants would cause the geese to sleep and doze for up to four hours. She did this, because the geese were very hard on the chickens, and also would soon ruin the garden if they got into it.
Everything possible was done to earn a few extra dollars in those days. After school and in his spare time, Bert dug Seneca roots. These roots were used in medicines by several drug companies. He washed, dried and sold them to the store. The proceeds from this helped buy his winter clothes. Shopping was done through the Eaton’s catalogue. In the winter when they were older, Bert and Dan trapped muskrats and weasels. Still later, when they were 18 to 19, they had hounds, and hunted coyotes with them.
Rudolph even tried his skill at making homebrew. This was illegal, of course, but a lot of people were doing it. Bert says his father’s brew was very good and smooth to the taste. There were kids who got their high school and college education from the proceeds of the sale of this liquor.
This could be considered one of the province’s first “cottage industries.” It was still in production throughout the ’20s, and as late as the ’50s in “them thar hills.”
By 1920, the farm was quite well established. They had several head of cattle and horses, pigs and the usual assortment of poultry. They also had an unusual pet or two in addition to the dogs and cats.
One such pet was a squirrel. Rudolph built a cage for it, and put a wheel in it for the squirrel to spin. It would get a treat for this each time it turned the wheel. It also enjoyed the freedom of the house from time to time. It got so spoiled by all this attention, that it would chew its way out of the cage. This wasn’t too bad, until it started chewing up clothes. Len’s coat was the first casualty, and he wasn’t very happy about it. As a result, the squirrel was put outside which made it unhappy, because it missed all the treats and attention. So, it chewed its way back into the house by the way of a window. The next casualty was Bert’s favourite winter cap. That was enough! The squirrel was quickly dispatched.
Another pet was a black bear cub. He was about a week old, when Len brought the orphan home. He was fed on a bottle until he could drink from a bowl. It didn’t take long, and he certainly knew his dish. When he wanted food, he wanted it NOW, and pestered Matilda until he got it. As he got older, he got mischievous, and made a nuisance of himself. One of his favorite tricks was to get into the chicken house at night, and swat the chickens off their roosts. He didn’t kill any, just frightened them. Frightened chickens don’t lay eggs, so Matilda was upset, to say the least. Those eggs were very important, so the bear had to go. They had had him for nearly a year, when Len sold him to Frank Bell, a sawmill owner.
The special events in the district were Christmas concerts and school picnics. Bert remembers one picnic when he was about 9. Mr. Chester Kellog arrived in his new car, a Model T Touring, and gave all the kids a ride in it. Very few people had ever seen a car, let alone ridden in one.
Another summer attraction was the Birch Lake stampede. The family, especially the young people, thoroughly enjoyed this outing. So much so, that Dan, Bert, the McNiel and Ledinski boys had their own private stampede. The corrals were built in a clearing in the bush, hidden from the watchful eyes of their parents. As cattle were out on open range, the boys would round some up, and try to ride them. At times, they would supply some of their own unbroken horses for the event. Of course, if certain parents were away for the day, the stampede was held at that particular farm, usually on a Sunday afternoon.
Horse racing was a special event, usually held at picnics. Pride was taken in raising and owning good horseflesh. If one had a horse with a good speed, it was soon known and challenged. But horses were not only for work, a mode of transportation, or racing. They were also used for the enjoyment of riding by the young people.
Other forms of recreation were pie or box socials held in conjunction with dances, at the local schools. These were usually fundraising events for special reasons such as Christmas concerts, with local musicians volunteering their talents. Also a great favorite of both young and old were the house parties. The older folk could visit, while the younger ones could dance, and play games or cards.
Once in a while, Rudolph and Matilda would drive to the school for Sunday School services. Some church services were held in the homes, and nearly all of these were non-denominational. The Fennigs, being Lutheran, seldom saw their own pastor, so they attended the other services as often as possible.
The Fennigs’ lived at Glaslyn for about 11 years (1914 – 1925) and remember it fondly as their first Canadian home.
More Memories of Farming, Depression and War by Eva Fennig
In 1922’s Rudolph sold the Stanley Jones and bought a 1020 Titan tractor and an International 22-inch separator. Len and Dick, and a crew of four teams traveled to the North Battleford area, where they stook-threshed for a number of people such as Adam and Martha, Henry Puffs, Bob Stirtons and Wes Lambs. In 1923, they threshed in the Glaslyn area. Rudolph didn’t go threshing with the crew very much, as his sons were starting to take over. He bought his first car, a model T Ford, in 1924, and the boys drove it.
In 1925, Bert was confirmed to the Lutheran faith (Dan had been confirmed two years earlier). The ceremony was held at Belbutte in a private house, as there was no church.
Earlier in that year, Rudolph bought a half section of land adjoining Adam Puffs. The land location was N.E. 33-44-15W 3rd (homeplace), and SE 33-44-15W 3rd, next to Adam’s. Forty acres had been under cultivation when they bought it, so Rudolph, Len and Dick moved to the new farm to break more land, and to build a house. They lived in an old granary while they were there.
Logs for the new house were bought at Belbutte, and hauled south. In the meantime, the crop was sown and more land was cleared and broken. Also during that summer, building on the house was started, and continued through the following winter. On November 11, 1926, the rest of the family arrived at their new home. Bert remembers that they stopped overnight in Cochin, and that it rained and then froze, making the roads very slippery. Ida started school at Mount Hope that month, and in two or three years completed her grade 8. She then quit and stayed home to help her mother.
This land, with its nice black loam and tender stones to pick, was much better than that on the homestead at Glaslyn. But the weather was not kind to them. In 1926, their crop was partially hailed out, and in ”27 and ”28, their crops were partially frozen.
Meanwhile, Bert and Dan broke land for the neighbors with a 1530 McCormick Deering tractor and a 20-inch brush breaker. During the winter they cut bush on their own land, ready for breaking the next year. Also at that time, Len was away working, while Dick was still farming the original homestead. After four or five years, he left, and the land as then rented for several years. Finally in 1944, it was sold to Tony Siklenka.
At the new farm, their nearest neighbors were Charles Fredrick and family, who lived on the Wl/2 of 33. North of the east-west road (Mount Hope road), lived CP. and Mrs. Hardy, and son, Dan. Just east of the north-south road, right across from the Fennigs, lived Mr. and Mrs. Bill Kirby and their two children, Roy and Mac. Old friends from Medstead, the Henry Puffs and the George Seibs lived within easy driving distance. Also, having Martha and Adam, and their family near was a comfort to them. It wasn’t long before they made new friends in their district and in the surrounding area.
Nineteen twenty-nine was a very good year. There was a bumper crop and the prices were good. The price for wheat at that time was from $1.33 to $1.40 per bushel. Then in October of that year, the Stock Market crashed, and that was the start of the depression.
Nineteen thirty as also a good crop year, but the prices were poor. By 1933, the prices had dropped to $.33 per bushel for heat, an all-time low. Oats had dropped to $.05 per bushel, and barley to $.08 per bushel. These prices didn’t even pay the “threshers” bill. With slight variations, these prices held for the next five years, till 1938.
At the start of the thirties, the Fennigs were pretty well established. They had enough horses and machinery to farm, they milked cows, and raised pigs and poultry. Matilda grew a large garden, and she and Ida did a lot of canning and pickling. Sauerkraut as made in a 30 gallon wooden barrel for winter use. It is a great way to preserve cabbage, and some women used to can it in jars.
Wild fruit as a very important commodity, and what variety! -saskatoons, raspberries, strawberries, chokecherries, pincherries and high bush cranberries were some of our local berries. Blueberries were found farther north, and were also a great favorite. All of these were made into preserves, jams and jellies, but saskatoons were by far the favorite fruit around here. Many farmers had these bushes on their on land, and protected them for their own use. Others had to go into the hills to find them.
Many townspeople came out to the country to pick berries. Some would make it a special day, and have a picnic with the family. July was the month for saskatoons. The first question was, “How are the saskatoons?” The second was, “Where are they?”
The Fennigs had a car, but it was only used in the spring, summer and fall. Even then, it made the weekly shopping day much easier and faster. As there were very few trucks, grain was hauled by team and wagon, or team and sleigh. This was a very slow conveyance, and in winter a very cold one.
When winter snow fell, the car was put away until spring. The team and sleigh, or team and cutter were then used. A trip to town was a real excursion, as the drive took at least two hours from the Fennig home. As well, many times the roads were blocked, and detours had to be made through the fields.
In the late thirties and into the forties, the covered cutter as introduced. What an innovation that was! Travelling was no faster, but it was Mt more comfortable and cozy. Each one had a little wood stove inside, and when this was “fired up”, it was indeed a pleasure to defy the winter weather.
In the early thirties (1931-32), Dan and Bert built a sawmill, and did custom sawing at home, then moved it north of Bapaume. They spent two winters there, and with this lumber they built an addition to the farm home, and put a new roof on it. They then brought the sawmill home, and did more custom sawing for those who needed it.
About this time, they also built a wind charger. This as a 30 foot structure, with an 18 foot square base, and a 4 foot square top. It was made of poles, with the top platform made of boards. On top of this platform, they fastened a generator with a propeller attached. Wires were strung from the generator to the batteries in the house. When the wind turned the propeller, it generated electricity into the batteries, thus recharging them. These batteries were used for the house lights, the radio and the car. This structure, built near the N.W corner of the house, was blown down by a very strong wind in the winter of 1949-50, It just missed the corner of the kitchen roof.
Another invention at that time was the barbed wire telephone. Dan Hardy, Bert and Dan, and Adam and Henry Puff used this communication device, for about three or four years.
Bert and Dan had very inventive minds. What they couldn’t afford to buy, they made, including parts for their machinery. The blacksmith shop and forge was a very important building on the farm. Rudolph was particularly good at doing this.
Entertainment was found within their own district, and the Fennigs enjoyed the visiting, house parties, and dances at the local schools. Another form of entertainment was skating. The first skating rink was built on the NW corner of George Sidebottom’s land (where the Mount Hope school-cum-Recreation Centre now stands). Bert helped build this. At first, water was hauled from Stades’ well, then a well was dug near the rink. A log shack was built, and a stove put in it, which was a nice convenience for the skaters. A hockey team was formed, and they were named the Mount Hope Shamrocks. Bert played for them when they needed a spare. This rink was enjoyed by young and old. John Acaster Sr., was one who enjoyed playing hockey with the team, just for fun.
The Lutheran Church was an important factor in the Fennigs’ lives. Up to now, services had been held in the homes. But in 1934, it was decided that they needed a church. It was built mostly by volunteer labor. In the fall of 1935, it was opened for services, and was well attended, Ida Fennig and Elwood Webb were married in this church in November 1935.
Earlier, I wrote about the unusual pets the Fennigs had. In the early thirties, they had another one – a pet deer. She as orphaned, so Bert brought her home from the north, and named her “Babe”. She was never penned, but was free to come and go as she wished. She frequently came into the house, and was well mannered – she never had an “accident”.
Bert enjoyed watching the deer and dog play. First the deer would chase the dog, then the dog would chase the deer. This was continued until both were tired. Bert remembers seeing the deer, dog, and cat eating out of the same dish. He ran for the camera, but when he got back, they had dispersed.
Babe enjoyed food treats such as apples, candy, and tobacco – when she was able to snitch a cigarette from someone. No, she didn’t smoke it, she just ate it. She was a well-loved family pet, and was known throughout the district. One day in late autumn, two years later, she wandered away and didn’t return.
So far in this history, I have not written much about the personalities of Matilda and Rudolph. When I asked Bert what his Mother was like, he said that she as a stern lady. I guess she had to be, as she had the responsibility of raising six children (Martha as married) when their Father was away working. She as a very hard worker and believed that all her family should be as well. So, they were. There was no sleeping in, after being out to a dance or a party till 3 a.m. They had to get up at 4:30, feed and milk six to eight cows, feed the horses, then have their breakfast, and be out in the field by 7 a.m. It was a long day.
Matilda loved gardening, and sold the extra vegetables in town, to make a few extra dollars. She made excellent butter, and sold some of that too. She as a very thrifty manager of the household funds. No doubt, she made many sacrifices for the sake of her family. Matilda as very religious, and read her bible every day. She also said morning and evening prayers. To her, Sunday as a day of church, rest and visiting.
Rudolph was also a hard worker, but had a more jovial personality. He was fair and honest in all his dealings. He was also a very good blacksmith and carpenter.
Later, when the boys bought cars and tractors, he left them to operate the “new-fangled” machinery. Rudolph’s first and last experience at driving a car ended in the ditch. So he quit and drove horses. At least, they would stop when he told them to! He did learn to drive the tractor, but didn’t do field work with it. In those days of the thirties all field work was still done by horses.
Although Rudolph wasn’t an overly religious man, he attended church with his family. He also made sure his family were all confirmed to the Lutheran faith.
Along with Matilda, he too enjoyed visiting with his neighbors. They had many friends in town, as well as in the country. By 1936, most of the family had left home, Dick and Len were away working, and Hattie and Martha were raising their own families, Ida and Elwood lived only a short distance away, but they would soon be starting their own nursery. So, that left Bert and Dan to take over the farm. Rudolph was getting close to 70 years old, so he just helped with the horses.
In the fall of 1936, Bert, Ab Wing, Herman Kramer, and the three Krebbs boys (Art, Reuben, and Leo), drove out to BC in the Krebbs’ car – a model A Touring. It took two days and two nights to get to Vernon. The Krebbs boys had been working there, but it was all new country for Bert. It was the first time he had ever seen the mountains. Ab and Herman went on to Vancouver.
Bert and the Krebbs worked for Norman Denison for nearly a year. The first part of the winter, they started out by cutting cordwood. They were paid $1.00 per cord, and on a good day, they could cut four cords, between the four of them. They shared a log cabin, and cooked their own meals.
After they had cut 100 cords of wood, they were then moved to cutting ties. This meant cutting logs to 8 foot lengths, and hewing (squaring) them. These could be used on the railroad. This paid better than the cordwood. They could cut and hew ten ties a day.
In the spring of 1937, the Krebbs left, but Bert stayed on. Bert liked working for this very English family. The experience of a different way of life served him well. He and the Denisons (Norman, Mrs. Denison, and their eight children) became good friends. In fact, Bert took me to meet them, when we were on our honeymoon.
During that summer, Dick went out to BC, and also found work. That fall Bert went picking apples, and managed to pick his 100 boxes a day. He was paid $.04 per box, and a box weighed 40 pounds.
In October, Bert and Dick came home. Bert stayed, but Dick went back to BC, and made his home out there. In 1938, he got married, and he and Emma raised two sons.
Meanwhile, back on the farm, not much had changed. Crops were still poor, and the prices for grain and livestock were just as bad. The Fennigs hauled feed from north of Bapaume with a truck and trailer. Relief feed was brought in by rail, and they also used some of this, but it was very bad. Bert said it was rotten straw. In spite of all of this, they fed 14 head of horses, and a herd of 20 cattle—eight of them milkers.
A 5 gallon can of cream sold for $2.00 a can (no subsidies), and they sold 2 cans per week. There were no fridges then. So, the cream as kept cold in the well, hung from a long rope.
Meat had to be cured and salted, then kept in an ice house. But in the early thirties, the Co-op Creamery put in freezer lockers, and rented them to their customers. This innovation was a great help for the rural people. Enough meat was then taken out about once a week, and also kept in the well until it was used. Sometimes, it would be canned in jars. This was great when you needed meat in a hurry. (I did a lot of canning in the early days.)
Many people went “on relief”, and Bert says that they did for two winters. They got $17.00 for clothes and another amount for food. This was not per month, but as one allotment for the winter months. Bert worked it off during the summer, by hauling grasshopper bait with his truck for the municipality. Those that couldn’t pay at all were “forgiven”.
Food as also brought in by rail – apples, cheese, and codfish. Codfish was something most prairie people had never seen. It was a large fish, gutted and flattened out. Then it was heavily salted and dried. In fact, they were about the same size as snowshoes. Thus, they acquired the descriptive name of “snowshoes”. Can you imagine an innocent bystander listening to the following conversation?
Kate: “Hello Mary, I haven’t seen you for a while, I see you are doing your weekly shopping too,”
Mary: “Yes Kate, I’m trying to hurry, as John wants to leave for home, as soon as he picks up the snowshoes,”
Kate: “Bill is getting some too. By the way, can you tell me another way of cooking snowshoes? I need more ideas.”
Yes, those codfish tested the culinary skills of many cooks. But there were those that couldn’t meet the challenge. They threw the fish away, or fed them to the cats and dogs. My Mother still has the original recipe that came with them.
In 1938, Rudolph’s health as failing, so he turned the farm over the boys. Bert got the home quarter and Dan the SE quarter. Dan started to build his own house in 1940.
Also in 1938, the drought was coming to an end. More rain brought better crops.
In 1939, the crops were even better, and in that year, two important events were to happen.
We were honored by a visit from Their Majesties, the King and Queen of England. This was the first time reigning monarchs had ever been to Canada. They arrived in May, and traveled across the country by train. They were greeted by hundreds of people at every stop.
The second event was not a happy one. Dark clouds of war were looming on the horizon. In order to stop Hitler from taking over the other European countries, Great Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. Canada entered the war one week later on September 10 as an independent nation. This was a very anxious time for everyone.
It is sad, when it takes a war to improve the economy of the country. But that’s what it did. The law of supply and demand was great so, prices improved for all or grain, livestock, and dairy products. Of course, there were shortages. Items such as tea, coffee, and sugar were rationed, but, we were much better off than those in Europe.
In 1941, Rudolph’s health was much worse, and he passed away in his own home on September 18 of that year. He was sadly missed by his family and friends. One of Bert’s fondest memories of his father was seeing him pick saskatoons into a cup, and feed them to Babe, the pet deer.
In the summer of 1942, Bert received his draft notice from the army, but because of his chronic ulcer and back problems, he was considered unfit. So, he stayed home to farm, and his mother kept house for him.
In 1942 or early “43, Bert bought the CP. Hardy quarter. This land was directly north of the Fennig place, so it was very handy. Later that year, Bert also bought a barn from Harold Bryce, and had it moved to the farm. This was a major improvement, as the old one was a log structure, with a straw roof. It as demolished that year.
In 1943, Len, who now lived near Edson, Alberta, got married. He and Betty had a family of two sons and one daughter.
In 1944, the last two boys also got married. Bert married me, Eva Poell, on March 8, and Dan married Muriel Chapman on July 12. This marked the end of one era, and the start of another.