Home Town or Home Community:
My Grandparents – Gabriel & Theresa Frohlich
Prepared by Anita (Frohlick) Rieger
The early, hard-working settlers paved the way for us today. These settlers, mostly Russian Germans waited patiently for at least two months before receiving their passes and then boarded large ships from their native country, which crossed the Atlantic very slowly. On these same ships not only were their suitcases, trunks, home belongings but also cattle, horses, oxen and other animals. Inspectors who were hired to inspect each family’s belongings were noted for their stealing. Sickness was also a hardship and some died before arriving to Canada. Halifax was the docking point and from there, the settlers came by train to southern Saskatchewan or North Dakota. One of these families, was the Frohlich family homesteading in North Dakota…
Jacob Frohlich (the son of Dionysius Frohlich) was born in Mannheim, Russian July 20, 1840, and married Margaretha Giesinger, born Feb. 19, 1839 (daughter of Jacob Giesinger). They had five children all born in Mannheim, Russia—Dionysius (named after his grandfather) 1865, Barbara (Degenstein) 1867, atherine (Backman) 1870, Johannes (1875) and Gabriel, (May 8, 1882). Jacob died in Sept. 2, 1922 & Margaretha, died Sept. 6, 1916. Margaretha was known for her ability as a midwife. They are buried in the Holdfast cemetery.
In 1900, Jacob and Margaretha emigrated from Russia to Towner, North Dakota. With them came their son Johannes, his wife Johanna Fleig, their two children, and their unmarried son Gabriel who was then 18 years old. In 1903, Gabriel travelled to Saskatchewan and filed on a homestead at Holdfast. Homesteads cost $10.00 and if in three years improvements were made, they received their title. Other land was available for $3.00 an acre. Some Natives still were present, especially in the area where Manheim School was built.
On November 22, 1903 he married Theresa Burkart. Theresa was born Oct. 2, 1885 in Bouta Russia, the oldest daughter of Michael & Barbara Burkart who had settled in Towner in1902. The Burkart family (Michael, Barbara with children Theresa and six sons) came from Odessa Russia. Two boys died at a young age and sister Barbara (Michael Sulsback) was born in 1903 in Towner. Theresa’s brothers were Joseph (1887) (Annie Reiger), Michael (1889) (Rose Deibel), John (1890)(Elizabeth Fuchs) and Nick (1898) (Helen Selinger).
Gabriel & Theresa had Lawrence Welk Sr. and his orchestra as the musicians at their wedding. On Feb. 22, 1904 their first child Madeline was born but died in Infancy. December 18, 1904, Margaret was born. In 1905, they, along with parents Jacob & Margaretha arrived in Saskatchewan setting up their new home three miles east of Holdfast. Their first house was a frame building 14 x 16 which they shared with two other couples who had four children.
Gabriel’s brother, Johannes (John) and family had moved to Winnipeg from Towner. Gabriel wrote letters to them urging them to join him. In 1906 this family joined them and also filed on a homestead.
Food consisted of rabbits and prairie chicken and could be caught three at a time in a trip made from an apple box. If there was extra, it would be salted and cured and store it in a hole in the ground (their cellar-fridge). Up to 40 pounds of fish could be caught, salted and dried, and this supplemented their diet. Fields were ploughed with a breaking plough which had a wooden beam and was pulled by oxen or horses. Potatoes were planted under the broken sod. Wheat was scattered by hand and harvested by a horse power outfit which had a big sweep and pulled by 12 horses. The first steam engine was owned by Mr. Bengart and the first tractor by Mr. Walker. Until the elevators were built grain was hauled by horses to Chamberlain or Craik. The yield was usually 25 bushels to the acre and they received anywhere from 15 to 72 cents a bushel. The railroad came in 1909 and the first elevator “the State” was built in 1911 followed by “Lake of the Woods” in 1912. First car of wheat was shipped in 1911. Although some settlers ground their own wheat for bread, a 98 lb. bag of flour could be purchased at Chamberlain for $1.50. Coffee was $1.00 for three pounds. Each had their own cheese, milk, butter and eggs, because they raised their own cattle, pigs and chickens. Even in town they had their own cow, chickens and pigs. Once or twice a year, a peddler from Regina came on foot, carrying a sack which was strapped to his back and in it he had needles, earrings, thimbles, rings and other things that were easy to carry. At first the settlers thought they were Bolsheviks or communists and were afraid of them.
If anyone died, they did not have a special place to be buried, so were laid to rest in the corner of a field by a fence. Sometime later a special place for the Catholics and a special place for the Protestants was arranged. Joe Lutz was the first person buried in this special place called the graveyard.
Soon after the settlers had up their little sod huts and settled, they started to think of education. In each district, they choose a spot where the population was denser and if they had $1,400.00 and certain enrolment a school could be built. One of the first, Kenockee #2315 was built in 1904 and was also used as a community hall. Kindred #1500 was built in 1906. Some wanted to name this school Bronco because of the many wild horses. In 1906 the Gabriel Frohlick homestead was the scene of the first Roman Catholic mass, and mass was held at other homes as well. In 1907, Manheim School (named after a colony in Russia), was built and it was also used for a church. The first teacher was Frank Merchant from Ontario. His wages were $50.00 a month. A travelling priest from Regina, Fr. Suffa said mass at Manheim School. In 1910 the first church and rectory was built near the cemetery, Father Rubb was the first pastor. For 11 years mass was said at this church. In 1921 the present Catholic Church was built. The first church was moved to Holdfast and used for a school and the Sisters of Charity came in 1924 to teach. The rectory was also moved to Holdfast, remodeled and used as the rectory.
Other schools were also built, Lake Shore #2221 was built in 1910. Everett school #367 was built in 1915 and cost $1,200.00 to build. It was originally called Walker School as it was on Mr. Walker’s land. The first teacher was J. McLellan and received $353.00 for teaching a few months. School was only in the summer months and it was not compulsory for children to attend. On January 2, 1917, it was moved to Charlie Everett’s land and renamed Everett School. The first school board was John B. McGarry, Dan Scully and Charlie Everett and Charlie was also the first secretary. In 1918 a teacherage was built. It had one class room, for grades 1 to 12, a recreation room, and two cloak rooms, one for boys and one for girls. This was the school my brother Joe and I attended. It closed in 1946, reopened in 1949 and closed for good in 1952. Other schools built were Rocky Lily #1861, Aberfelly #2090, and Taft $2483.
January 3,1907, the first mail arrived by horse and wagon from Chamberlain and post office was set up in the Frohlich house on Sec.18, Twp.23, R.24, W2 and Gabriel was postmaster until his resignation in 1910 but remained as Frohlich Post Office until 1912 when Ott Measner took over.
In 1909, Holdfast got its name from some Winnipeg railway men, who were going to give Gottlieb Fahlman $38.00 an acre for his land on which to build the railway, but he wanted $40.00 an acre. They came four times, then finally said “that guy is really holding fast to his land.” So they called this settlement “Holdfast” and Mr. Fahlman finally decided on the $38.00.
In 1914, the first telephone company was formed, which was called the Kindred Telephone Company. They had 30 subscribers. In 1916, the Holdfast Rural Telephone Company was organized and had 60 subscribers. This company had the majority so after a few years they amalgamated and called it the Holdfast Rural Telephone Company. My mother Ida (Hitcherick) Frohlick was one of the early telephone operators under John and Mary Stephan operating this company from 1923 to at least 1942 or longer.
After the First World War, things got tough. Poor crops and cattle prices forced Gabriel to start trucking to help support his large family and managed the liquor store in Holdfast from 1925 to 1930.
Gabriel was directly responsible for establishing the first church and school district as well as organizing the local council of the Knights of Columbus, of which he was Grand Knight from 1923 to 1926. He acted as the Justice of the Peace for four years and served long terms as church and school trustee. No community activity was planned in which he was not keenly interested and willing to participate. Theresa was an active member of the Rosary Sodality and the local C.W.L. and always found time to attend the meetings and serve on the executive.
They were blessed with 21 children, 5 of whom died in infancy, and 3-year-old Stanley died in a wagon accident. (Picture – shows 11) But 15 grew up as adults and married….their stories will follow.
Music was always a source of pleasure to each member of the Frohlich family. In the early 1920’s Gabriel played the organ and Theresa and the children gathered around singing in harmony. They loved music so much that every effort was made to buy an instrument each time one of the children wanted to learn to play one. This was the beginning of the Frohlich orchestra. The boys, Joe (my dad), Gabe, and Mike, and Johnny Bachman played their first public dance on March 17, 1927 at Stalwart, Saskatchewan. They were joined by Jack and Scotty Keller, and sometime later Tony took up the sax. They “The Monarchs of Melody” played most of their dances in Holdfast and in neighbouring towns (including Saturday Midnight Frolics at Grandview Beach). They used their Dad’s big truck, stopped at Dilke and a whole truck load took off to the dance at the beach. There were many hours of practice each week and twenty white shirts to be laundered and ironed each week.
Gabriel and Theresa retired to the village of Holdfast in 1946. Theresa died Feb. 2, 1962 at the age of 76. Gabriel remarried July 21, 1962 to Marianne Unser. Gabriel died Feb. 1, 1968 and the Unser family seized the property and belongings.
Stories told by the “Fifteen Children”
Because some were written in the late 70’s early 80’s, I have updated in italics.
- Margaret ++ (1904-1998) & Con Folk++(1903-1968)
I am the oldest of this family. My gosh, my father told me take six horses on the disc and get going—what happens after is up to you. Beginning of the dirty thirties times were very bad. I was as tough as anyone could be. Margaret married Conrad Folk. They lived in Moose Jaw where Conrad passed way in 1968. Margaret became a resident of the Holdfast Housing Authority in 1979 and later returned to Moose Jaw as a resident of the Ina Grafton Gage Nursing Home. She was a resident there for eleven years prior to her passing in 1998.
- John++ (1906-1994) & (Rose Meyer++ 1909-1996)
Rose and I were married on June 18, 1929 at the beginning of the Great Depression a time when prices of everything went down to where it didn’t pay to produce anything or raise anything…like cattle, or hogs or chickens or whatever. Beef was selling for 7 cents a pound and so was pork. Butter was 20 cents a pound and you got $3.00 for a 5-gallon can of cream. Wheat was down to 20 cents a bushel and eggs were 5 cents a dozen. (not worth the wear on the chicken’s ass). There was no way of making money but we always had butter, cream, cottage cheese, milk, and eggs. We raised a little family even during these hard times. This wouldn’t have been possible but for the fact that my wife Rose was a wonderful wife and mother and that she could make a good meal out of practically nothing. We made Bennett buggies out of the model T Ford cars and used horses for horsepower until times got a little better. We used Estevan coal for heat in the heaters. We got relief vouches of $5.00 a month and then special vouches for coal or wood. This is pretty well the sad story of the dirty thirties. John & Rose retired in Holdfast. John died in 1994. Rose remained in her home until health reasons prompted her to move to the Regina Lutheran Home where she died in 1996.
III. Joe++1907-1971 & Ida Hitcherick++1909-1978
On Nov. 22, 1933 Joe Frohlick and Ida Hitcherick and Georgina Hitcherick and Adolph Dayton were united in marriage in a Double wedding. We lived with both parents for the winter. In the spring, we moved to our honeymoon shack 4.5 miles S.W. of Holdfast. In 1934, we accumulated four chickens, 2 pigs, 2 calves and 2 cows and one horse and moved to a brick house 2.5 miles east of Holdfast. There were no other buildings so animals and us managed for three days in the same living quarters…pigs in the basement, chickens upstairs, and cows on fence post. A granary was moved and became the barn. We lived here until spring of 1935 then back the little shack. We repaired and repaired and finally bought and moved the Livery Stable (owed by the Myrah Bros.) to its present slight. Then in 1947, we moved into a new four-bedroom home which Joe built. In October 1957, we rented the farm and moved to Rocanville where we bought a Hotel & Cafe. We operated this for fourteen months, then sold it in December and moved to Holdfast with the two younger boys while Joe established himself in Real Estate and to find a home in Regina which is at 3033 Robinson Street. In 1969 Joe became ill and after nearly two years of failing health, the Lord took him on July 13, 1971 At the time of this brief history I am in Hospital (Feb, 1978). We have worked hard all our lives but had so many good times. (Ida died March 4, 1978).
- Gabe++1908-1985 & (Marie Sekawitch) (1919 – 2002)
Gabe was employed at Chevrolet Sales as brakeman for over 30 years. He died very suddenly with heart problems in 1985. Marie sold their home and moved into a senior’s apartment where she did volunteer work. She died in 2002.
- Mary ++1911-1997 & (Dennis Murphy++ 1915-1994 )
Mary was born May 15, 1911 at Holdfast, the 5th of 21 children. She received her education at Manheim School. In 1935, Mary moved to Estlin, SK, where she worked for a time for the Brown family. She later moved to Regina and worked for the Gates family. While working in Regina she met Dennis Murphy, a painter. They were marred on November 21, 1939 and remained married for 54 years until Dennis died in April of 1993. Mary and Dennis lived in several places across Canada, including Victoria, Halifax, Langley, Winnipeg, Cloverdale and Holdfast. Mary endured many challenges and hardships through her lifetime, but despite these challenges and hardships, she seldom complained and was always optimistic about the future. In the late 1970’s Mary and Dennis retired and moved to Holdfast. Mary belonged to the Holdfast Senior Group, enjoyed playing weekly bingo and attending the many socials which the group held. Mary looked forward to the Frohlick Family Reunions which are every two years. After nearly twenty years of living in Holdfast, Mary’s health began to deteriorate, and in October of 1996 she moved to Regina to a private care home. Mary was a kind, loving, sincere and understanding person and maintained her sense of humor until the end. Compiled by Don Miller, et al…
- Mike++ 1912-1992 or 1993 & (Frances McGee++ 1920-1994 Frohlick)
Growing up on the farm was good until the dirty thirties came. Then it was rough, especially when you had seven brothers and seven sisters to share everything with. However, we survived, we were never hungry. It was then I decided to expand my knowledge and took advantage of everything that came along. In 1945 I married Frances McGee, at which time settled in Holdfast, operating the central office. In 1948 the Dominion Government asked Frances to come back to her old job in Regina. I got a job with Chev Sales as parts man. In May 1951, Mr. McGee retired from the CPR and persuaded us to come to Vancouver. This was the best move of our lives, we both got good jobs. Frances stayed at the same job for 26 years. I had three different ones in that time all in the automotive parts business. My last job was purchasing agent from which I retired in 1977. I have always loved music. We played our first dance in 1927 and from then on we played many dances throughout the district. We are now enjoying retirement. Never had any children of our own but have a great deal of love for the rest of yours. Mike passed away in 1993 and Frances in 1994.
VII. Anne++1914-1976 & (Mervyn Brown++1913-1983)
Mom and Dad were married on July 5, 1937, the hottest day on record in Saskatchewan (it was in the Guinness Book of Records for years -the heat that is – not the wedding). Both of our parents told terrific stories about growing up on the prairies. Blizzards, droughts, fires, grass hoppers, hard work, Nuns with straps, and other natural phenomena figured largely in a lot of the stories. We heard about the harvests, the ball games, the Saturday night dances, and the Sunday gatherings with the house full of music. Some of the stories have become the stuff of legend. Our favourite was the story of Mom and Aunt Mary and the cow’s tails. It seems the two of them had gotten all cleaned up to go to a dance and they still had the milking to do. The cows had been in the Russian thistle and the resultant runs had covered their tails into lethal weapons. Aunt Mary confirmed Mom’s story of what happened next but she claimed she couldn’t remember which of them held the tails and which wielded the axe. Knowing my mom I can make a pretty good guess. Another story I’ve always remembered was about Mom’s leg being injured when she was about four years old. Grandpa took her into Regina by horse and wagon (this would have been about 1918) and the first doctor he saw wanted to remove the leg, so did the second. Grandpa wouldn’t allow it. He went from doctor to doctor until he found one who would at least try to save it. Mom ended up in a platform shoe and an iron brace. No one remembers how long she wore it but we know she finally got rid of it. She and Uncle Mike buried it behind the barn. Grandma and Grandpa never said a word about it.
Dad, and Mom was always by his side, had many careers, teaching school, owning a dry cleaning plant, moving to Montreal and then to California where he did cement and landscape contracting, owning a pizza business with Uncle Jack & Aunt Mary. Grandpa and Grandma visited us there in 1955 and when Mom put them in twin beds Grandpa got up in the night and pushed the beds together. They travelled as much as they could.
Mom’s life was cut short in 1976 after a terrible car accident but she lived to see her sons happily married and she got to know her first four beautiful grandchildren. Dad stuck around for another seven years, just long enough to meet and pass approval on his two sons-in-law, and then he left us to join Mom in 1983. Mom and Dad believed in, and taught us, the importance of family. It is a legacy that will keep their children and grandchildren returning to Saskatchewan for generations to come. • by daughter Linda McCartv
VIII. Kay++1915-1980 & (George Geisinger++(1920-1974)
George and I were married during the war years. We had thirty years of army life. In that space of time, we had three children. The places that George was posted were Shephard, Calgary, Winnipeg; war in Korea, Edmonton, Montreal and then Regina for the 2nd time. The first time he worked for the CPR for 3 years before returning to the forces. While in Montreal I worked as a Librarian for an English High School. George retired in Regina in 1971, and took a job as commissioners until his death in 1974. I carried on as long as I could at our residence (1759 Connaught Street). In 1974 I moved to my home town of Holdfast to retire as my health was failing. The children are all happily married and I am happy in my retirement. Kay died in 1980.
- Jack (++1916 – 2008) & Mary Filbert – (++1916 – 2004)
I (Jack) was the first born in the semi-modern house, 3 miles east of Holdfast, SK on the 20/11/16. At the age of three, I survived the dreaded flu that took the lives of many thousands of Canadians. I also survived a cookie dipped in a liquid fly poison. On both occasions our Doctor held little or no hope for my survival, however my maker had other plans for me. My education had its beginning in Manheim school at age 7. After several years at Manheim, we were transferred to Holdfast to a school near the Lutheran church, from there we soon moved to a large 3-room school with Nuns as teachers.
After terminating my education, I became a farm hand but my main interest was music, luckily it provided a small income which at that time was a blessing. I shall never forget the terrible depression of the 30’s. Those were terrible times to grow up in. I enrolled in the Moose Jaw Technical School of Aviation and on completion of the course, I enlisted in the RCAF. One of the posting was Winnipeg, where I met A Winnipeg girl, Mary Filbert. In April 27th, 1946 after several years of courtship we were married. I enrolled in Barber College and Mary became a Beautician. We left Winnipeg and moved to Vancouver, from there to San Francisco and then to California where I changed careers to a Pizza business. After 11 months my health failed and so disposed of my interest. It is now 1969 and Mary is again employed as a clerk in a large dept. Store, Tim is in Jr. College and I’m unsettled. As luck would have it, I met a barber who was leaving his established business because of the high rent. I met with the landlord, arranged a fair settlement and moved in October 1, 1969. It’s been the best yet and I plan to stay. Seek and ye shall find. In 1973, we purchased a neat home in Benicia, CA, just 6 miles from my shop in Martinez. Mary retired.
It has all been a tremendous experience for all of us with no regrets and every move was a new challenge for us all but through it all we improved our statue with each move. It has been my philosophy to always evaluate my position, and then try to better myself. It takes a great deal of courage and a willing partner like Mary. After living in California for many years, they relocated to White Rock BC. They enjoyed many years of retirement year, but Mary’s failing health took her to a nursing home where she died in 2004. Jack was moved to Regina and after trying out several nursing homes was placed in Santa Maria where he died in 2008. Both have been buried at Holdfast cemetery.
- Barbara (++1919 – 2003) & (Steve Hoffert++1912 – 1989)
- Theresa (1920) & (Mike Miller++1920-1982)
Mike and I were born at Holdfast in August 1920 where we attended school. We both grew up on the farm so we learned to realize what work meant. In 1942, Mike joined the armed forces and served with the Royal Canadian Engineers. In October 1945 we were married at Little Flower church in Regina. We moved and lived in many rural areas. I think 5 years is the longest we lived anywhere. We bought a section house at Kedleston and during our holidays we dismantled it and brought the lumber to Holdfast where we built our present house. We lost our son Gordon in a snow mobile accident in 1976 and in1980 Mike retired and was enjoying it immensely when a year later he suffered a severe heart attack and died. This was a rip off to all of us and seemed so unfair. In spite of our misfortunes hopefully time will heal and the children and I will carry on to the best of our abilities and look forward to a brighter future. I have been active in the Holdfast Seniors’ group for several years and have enjoyed meeting many wonderful people from communities throughout Southern Saskatchewan. Theresa now resides in Cupar Home for Seniors.
XII. Tony (1924) & (Theresa Schatz – 1922)
Tony was born in 1924, the fourth youngest of the Frohlick clan. On October 8th, 1946, Tony married Theresa Schatz, and it as soon after that they began their family of seven children while living at Holdfast. In 1965 they moved to Regina where they continue to reside. In October of 2011, they celebrated their 65th Wedding Anniversary with many family and friends.
XIII. Stan (1925) & (Helen Folk++1926-1990) & Mary Walters (1938)
Helen and I got married June 30, 1947 when times were quite rough and jobs were limited. We worked on the farm for Dad and rented a half section of land. Crops were few and far between so work other than the farms was necessary. In early spring of 1957, I drew up an agreement with Dad to buy three quarters of land which included the homestead. This was when we decided that the farm house, which raised fifteen children, was ready for retirement. We saved as much lumber as we could and in the fall of 1958, we moved into the house which took us all winter to complete the interior. Life on this farm was never boring as the worn down buildings either needed repairing or rebuilding, and the tasks seemed endless. We are presently giving retirement a lot of thought and letting the younger generation take over. Helen passed away in 1990. Stan remained on the farm until 1993 when he moved to Regina. Stan and Mary Walters purchased a home in 1996. Mary has also retired but is still involved with her volunteer service with St. John’s Ambulance. In 1994 Rick & Gail relocated to the Frohlick Family Farm east of Holdfast and on June 24, 2004 they received the Century Family Farm Award.
XIV. Al (1927) & (Emelia Eberts ++1934-2007)
Emelia and I met at a dance in the Dilke hall around October 1948. We married in June 1952. The wedding took place at Dilke, and the weather was something else, it rained almost all day. We bought our first house, it was non-modern but we figured it was a good place to raise children as it was out in the sticks. We still talk about it today. In 1963 we bought a modern house on Argyle Street, an older house but close to school and church. We got involved in baseball and hockey in the winter. Time sure did fly. Then in 1972, we moved to Lethbridge. That was a big move, leaving all your relatives and friends behind but we managed. After several jobs for both of us I’m still with Southern Millwright Services and I enjoy it immensely. I’m only 5 years from retirement and with God’s help I’ll make it. Unfortunately Emelia developed a heart condition and died in surgery in 2007. Al is retired and continues to live in Lethbridge.
- Madeline (1928) & (Jim Karr++1929-1994)
Madeline and Jim met in 1950, and were married on July 10th, 1954. Jim graduated in May of 1954 in Pharmacy. He worked for his father at Karr’s Drug Store on Portage Avenue for a number of years. He now works for Metro Drugs, a chain of stores owned by Kents of Ontario. We enjoy our children and grandchildren. Jim died in 1994 without seeing too much of retirement. Madeline is still in her own home and continues to be involved with family and friends. She had a very serious heart surgery in 2011 but will be at the reunion in August of 2012.