Home Town or Home Community:

Quill Lake, SK

Our Story:

King, Walter Harvey Nov. 11, 1880 – Jan. 31, 1967

King, Mary Arnetta Pearl Nov. 12, 1887 – Sept. 30, 1949

Walter King was born at Eastons Corners, Wolford Township, Grenville County, Ontario. His father, William James King and mother, Anne Ferguson farmed in that area. They appear to have had a mixed farm and raised meat animals which were butchered and sold in Smith Falls, a few miles to the north. His mother weaved wool and made carpets, curtains, and clothing.

Walter’s ancestors were pioneers in their own right as each of his father, grandfather, great grandfather and probably great-great grandfather moved from where they were born and raised to start a farm in a new area. William was born near Milton, Ontario and moved to Easton’s Corners some 300 km east. His father, Robert, was born at Grimsby and moved to Milton. Grandfather Obadiah was born in Pennsylvania and moved to Grimsby and his father was likely born in the state of New York about 1740. Anne Ferguson was born in Ireland and came to Canada as a child. There are no family records that indicate how Anne and William met, but William’s brother George married Anne’s sister Elizabeth some years after William and Anne married, so the King brothers must have farmed near the Ferguson’s.

Walter’s father died from a heart attack at age 46 while attempting to put out a barn fire. Walter was eight years old at the time and had to share the responsibility of making a living with four older siblings and two younger sisters. One of his first “jobs” was raking hay for thirty five cents per day. He later worked full time (sun-up to sun-down, six days a week) for $16.00 a month. One winter he lived with a sister in Sherbrook, Quebec and worked as a traveling salesman. After a few years of working as a general laborer or farm hand Walter went back to school. He trained as a blacksmith and carriage maker about three blocks from the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Since this was apprenticeship training he was paid a small wage, $3.00 per week the first year and $5.00 the second year. He remembered that he and two other blacksmiths shoeing 101 horses in one day.

After his training he worked in several larger towns and then got a job in North Augusta, just eight miles from his former home in Eastons Corners. Each weekend he would bicycle home to Eastons Corners. Part way home was a country store run by William Gardiner where he would stop for a rest and visit Mr. Gardiner’s beautiful daughter Nettie.

Walter & Nettie's wedding photograph Year: June 1906

Walter & Nettie’s wedding photograph
Year: June 1906

In 1904, Walter purchased a shop in Eastons Corners and on Feb. 21, 1906 he and Nettie were married. Their first child and only son, Harry was born at their home in Eastons Corners in June of 1907. In the same year they traveled to Quill Lake, Saskatchewan where Arnetta’s family had relocated the previous year. In 1908 the King family moved west and settled at Quill Lake, SK. Walter purchased the livery stable from his father-in-law and built a blacksmith shop. Nettie’s brother Ernest was the first family member to move west. Ernest and Mabel Gardiner were married in January 1902 and moved west to Manitoba with two boxcars of settler’s effects that spring. In 1904 they moved to a farm south of the yet to be established community of Quill Lake. The rail line came through the village the following year.

There are no family stories of great hardship and deprivation so it appears as if there was sufficient capital available to get a good start. Hard work and good management was what Walter did to build a business and raise a family. Every community needed a stable and blacksmith shop. Walter had up to 30 teams of horses and oxen in the barn, along with wagons, buggies and sleighs. For special occasions or courting he had a rubber tired buggy and a “fancy” mare called May that was shod with rubber shoes. This rig was booked far in advance and was rented at a premium.

Since Walter and Nettie arrived within a few months of the Village of Quill Lake being incorporated, they preceded most of the settlers in that area and were on hand to assist new settlers in locating their homesteads and transporting their goods to that homestead. That was one of Walter’s main activities in the early years and a great many of the settlers were shown where their new homes would be by Walter King. In addition he acted as a land agent to those who purchased land in the area, selling up to 16 sections in one year.

Walter King Family Year: c1935 L/R: Ruby, Nettie, Shirley, Harry, Joyce, Walter, Winnie

Walter King Family
Year: c1935
L/R: Ruby, Nettie, Shirley, Harry, Joyce, Walter, Winnie

Walter also took the census in at least one year, tallying the population in seven townships, townships 36-39 range 16 and townships 36-38 range 15. Once a week he delivered mail to the Dahlton area, first with horse and buggy then by car. He had the first car in town, a Model T Ford which he purchased in 1914. His last car was a 1952 Dodge which he was still driving the fall before he died in January 1967. Mail delivery took two days; one day out, one day back, if the weather was good. With today’s roads and vehicles it would take less than an hour each way.

In addition to renting teams and wagons Walter acted as a hunting guide. Each fall for many years he hosted duck and goose hunters from “Down East”, mostly from Winnipeg but some from Toronto or Montreal. On one of those occasions a visiting hunter slipped on a wet rock and when he fell, discharged his shotgun. The pellets hit a second rock and some deflected into Walter’s leg. The local Doctor removed as many as he could find but left about four or five that were too deep to get at. Over the years those pellets migrated to just under the skin and Grampa would, if asked politely, show them to his astonished Grandson. Quill Lake was then, as it is now, billed as a ‘Hunters Haven’.

Another source of income was to take traveling salesmen around the community. They would arrive by train and visit as many local farms as they could in the time available before moving onto the next town. On one occasion Walter was driving a machinery salesman and they stopped at the farm of an immigrant who spoke very little English. This individual needed a plow and the salesman was very willing to sell him one but the farmer lacked the cash to purchase the plow outright. No problem says the salesman, just sign here and he places a mortgage for the farmer’s quarter section on the table. This man wanted the plow but wasn’t sure what the papers represented so he asked Walter to accompany him outside and asked him for advice. Walter counseled him strongly not to sign those papers as the plow was only worth a fraction of the value of his property. Apparently it was a very quiet ride back to town and the salesman never hired Walter again.

King Family Year: c1935 L/R: Harry, Wayne, Beryl, Mildred, Darlene and Eunice King

King Family
Year: c1935
L/R: Harry, Wayne, Beryl, Mildred, Darlene and Eunice King

Another sideline of the King family was that of buying and selling furs. One story relates the time Walter started buying fur in 1912. The local buyers where paying 12 cents a pound for fur, but the Winnipeg price was 15 cents. Walter decided to pay 14 cents and set out to buy what he could, storing them in the blacksmith shop. He felt that hides should go for 26 cents a pound and over the winter paid as much as 22 cents. Come spring a buyer stopped in and offered him 25 cents. But I want 26 cents said Walter. Discussion followed and a telegram to Saskatoon and finally a price of 25 ½ cents was agreed upon. He could have gotten 26 cents the next day but by the end of the week hides were down to 16 cents. He kept in the hide business for several years, even storing the furs in the basement of the family home.

One year frost took the local potato crop and store bought potatoes were $3.50 to $4.00 per bushel, beyond the reach of many. On the way back from a trip to Winnipeg Walter stopped at Dauphin to see if he could get some potatoes and at what price. Yes, at $1.60 loaded into a rail car. Shipping added another $.40 to make the Quill Lake price $2.00/bushel. Walter ended up buying 1700 bushels.

In 1911 their second child and first daughter, Winnifred Pearl, was born; followed two years later by Ruby Ann. After Ruby’s birth Nettie was quite ill for several years and never did regain full health, although she did have and raise two more children, Joyce was born in 1926 and Shirley in 1930.

Winnie attended teachers college in Saskatoon, taught school for a few years then went to business college. She married Lloyd Scott of Radisson and they farmed in that district. One son, Bryan was born in 1943. In 1944 Lloyd died and Winnie moved to Saskatoon. She married Lawrence Ryan in 1949 and continued to live in Saskatoon. Bryan married Arlene Prysiazniuk and they have three boys, two of which live in Saskatoon with their families and one in London, England. Bryan took up blacksmithing as a hobby and now uses his Grandfather’s forge and anvil. He also volunteers as a smith at the WDM.

Ruby attended City Park Collegiate and Robertson Business College in Saskatoon. She came back to Quill Lake to work and married Donald Campbell in 1939. Don and Ruby owned and operated Campbell Motors a BA Oil distributor, Chrysler car dealership and J I Case machinery sales. They had two sons Archibald in 1943 and Douglas in 1947. Both sons continue to live and work in Saskatchewan as do many of their children.

Joyce graduated from Success Business College and was employed by the R.M. of Aberdeen. She married Alastair McLennan in 1947. They had two girls, Cheryl and Dawn. The marriage failed and Joyce and the girls moved to Devon, Alberta. Joyce married Ted Clark in 1966. Both Cheryl and Dawn married and remained in Alberta.

Shirley graduated from Teachers’ College and taught school in Swift Current and Edmonton. In 1953 she married a fellow teacher Joseph Navid from Melville. They moved to Toronto were Joe worked as a Communication Engineer with the C.N.R. Shirley died during the birth of their only child, also named Shirley. Shirley junior is a nurse in the Toronto area with several children of her own.

By 1920 Walter and Nettie were well established and decided to change careers. They purchased land adjoining the Village of Quill Lake and became farmers. They bought the north half of 8-36-16-W2 from the Hudson Bay Company and the south half from a Mr. D. Armstrong who had purchased it from the CNR. Later the east half of section seven was added to the farm and later yet Walter’s grandson Wayne would purchase the S1/2 of 16 and NW of 9 to make a farm unit of nine adjoining quarters. The road to Walter’s farmstead is unusual in that it is constructed north and south on the half mile through section 8 to line up with main street in Quill Lake.

A large four bedroom 2 ½ story house was constructed about ½ miles north of the village along with a horse barn, garage/blacksmith shop, chicken coop, hog pen and granaries. The main granary is interesting in that it was built like a grain elevator with 2×4 boards laid flat and nailed together to give a four inch solid wall. That method of construction proved reliable as the structure is still in use today, as are the house and garage, although all are showing their age.

The house was heated with a large coal burning furnace in the basement with a four foot square grate above it, opening between the dining room and living room. Smaller ventilation grates opened into three of the upstairs bedrooms. These provided some heat to the sleeping area but not enough to make them really comfortable during the colder days so children did their homework or played in the main area of the house. When they got up in winter mornings there was a rush to get downstairs to dress over the furnace vent. The kitchen was warmed by the cook stove as was the bedroom above the kitchen. One bedroom had no heat vent so was often not used in the coldest months. Another indication of Walter’s progressiveness was the fact that batt insulation was used in the walls of the house. Whether the batts were rock wool or fiberglass I don’t know, but it must have been one of the first houses in Saskatchewan to be so insulated.

King House Year: c1935 Winnie, Joyce and Harry sitting on front porch.

King House
Year: c1935
Winnie, Joyce and Harry sitting on front porch.

A cistern below the kitchen was fitted with a hand pump to provide “running” water and upstairs a commode with a four gallon steel pail served as a toilet for night time use. The outhouse was to be used during the day and during the summer. Rainfall kept the cistern supplied during the summer and snow was melted in the winter to supplement the supply. This house also came with electric lights, thanks to a small gasoline generator and a bank of glass batteries. This served the Kings well until 1950 when a power line was constructed the one-half mile from the village.

Cattle were a major part of the King farm but Walter didn’t limit himself to raising calves; he also bought finished cattle locally and shipped them to Winnipeg. He and Jim Marshall senior topped all shippers one year with an average of two carloads per week. Walter often rode along with the cattle to make sure they arrived in good shape and to negotiate the best price.

How much of the original section was farmable when Walter and Nettie bought it is not recorded in any family records but it certainly was not all broke. This was not prairie land but rather it was more like forest with large clearings. Most of the trees were hardwood, predominately poplar, maple, and willow, with saskatoon and chokecherry bushes. Walter reminisced about clearing trees so large two men could not join hands around the trunk. Not all of the land was cleared in the early years but bit by bit over the next twenty years with one 40 acre parcel not cleared until about 1960.

Walter and Nettie’s son Harry took his grade 12 in Saskatoon and went on to take teacher’s training at Normal School in Saskatoon. His first school was at Wolverton, north of Wadena then at Wishart. In 1927 he married Mildred Gammon of Quill Lake, who had also trained at the Normal School, and took a teaching position at Eston, Sask. Their first two daughters, Eunice and Darlene were born in Eston. In the spring of 1929 they returned to Quill Lake to take up farming with Walter and Nettie. That fall an eighty acre field of oats was totally destroyed by a late August hail storm. Harry remembered it as one of the best oat crops he ever grew.

Harry and Mildred had a house built on the SE 8 just north of the village and lived there until Walter and Nettie retired and moved back into Quill Lake in 1945 at which time they moved into the main farm house. They had three more children, Beryl in 1931, Wayne (Bud) in 1933 and William (Bill) in 1946. Eunice followed in her parents footsteps and became a teacher. She married Herman Lissel of the Lampard district, (north of Dafoe). They had four children, Stuart, Candace, Avril and Robert. All moved from Saskatchewan for their careers and as of 2005 only Avril has returned. She currently works for the Dept. of National Defense in Yorkton. Stuart, Candace and Robert all live in Alberta.

Darlene took nursing at Winnipeg General Hospital and nursed until her marriage to Richard Gilbertson who farmed north of Quill Lake. They had three children Beverly, Glen, and Sharon, all who currently farm near home. Beryl took secretarial training at the Robertson Business College in Saskatoon and married Ferguson Allan of Tisdale. After some years in Saskatoon they returned to Tisdale to manage Lamb’s Hardware and raise four children; Michelle, Vaughn, Susan and Christine. Michelle is a nurse in Saskatoon, Vaughn is a petroleum engineer in Calgary, Susan is a nurse in southern Alberta while Chris is a pharmacist in Australia.

Year: 1954 Four generations: Walater, Duince holding Candace, Stuart and Harry

Year: 1954
Four generations: Walater, Duince holding Candace, Stuart and Harry

Wayne took over the farm from Harry. He married Sandra Pisiak from Wimmer and they moved a house into a new yard adjacent to the home place and raised four children, Douglas, Brenda, Colin and Trevor. Douglas is an Animal Nutrition Professor at the U of North Dakota, Brenda also trained as an animal scientist and died from cancer in 2005, Colin trained as an agronomist and took over the home farm from his father, making him the fourth generation to farm that land, while Trevor works in the hog industry in Manitoba. William took Agriculture at the U of S were he obtained a BSA degree in Horticulture and a M.Sc. in Plant Science. He worked for Agriculture Canada and Saskatchewan Agriculture and now operates a market garden with his wife, the former Jean Lowe of Quill Lake. They have one daughter, Diana Mae who obtained a B.Sc. in Geology from the U of S and a B.Ed. from the U of Winnipeg. She now resides in Manitoba.

As of 2005 Walter and Nettie have over one hundred ten descendants of which one hundred one are still living and of which about fifty still live in Saskatchewan. The home farm is no longer in the family, having been sold to a neighbor in 2002. The yard site was retained and Colin’s family still live there.