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Introduction to the Shaver Family History

To commemorate the 100th Anniversary of our ancestors coming to homestead here in Saskatchewan, we, the Edson Shaver family, are submitting this family history. It is with much love and fondest memories that we do so in honor and memory of our Grandfather, Sam Shaver (1891-1965). Grandpa came to Saskatchewan in 1909 at the age of 18. He made it his home, farmed the land, raised his family and when his life’s toil was done, he passed away Nov 12, 1965 on the land he loved. We were very fortunate to have been raised on the family farm and thus to have enjoyed our childhood years with our grandparents. We lived on top of a hill in a big ole farm house with two kitchens, two living rooms and seven bedrooms. Grandma loved to play the piano and was quick to pull out the song sheets for a Saturday-Night Sing-Along around her piano. Grandpa was an awesome storyteller. He loved to tell us stories of Days Gone By, of life back in New York and pioneer life on the Saskatchewan Prairie as well as recounting the many trips he and Grandma took to visit family and friends in New York and their grandchildren in South Carolina. He would sit in his brown leather rocking chair with the distinctive ‘creak’ as he relayed his memories to us.

The Newly Weds, Sam & Irene Shaver Year: 1914

The Newly Weds, Sam & Irene Shaver
Year: 1914

In celebration, on June 9, 2009 the actual anniversary of the Shaver Homesteads, we enjoyed a family picnic at the site of Grandpa’s homestead. On July 12, representatives from all the Shaver families will celebrate at the WDM where we will go “Back to our Roots” through the festivities at Pion-Era.

To quote a Chinese Proverb: “To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.”

The Shaver Family of Webb:

Arthur Edson and Cora Estelle Shaver

The trek of the Shaver family to their home on the Saskatchewan prairie began back in 1709, when Jost Henrich Schaeffer left Germany for a better life in America. He went from the Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany to England in 1709 and then on to Dutchess County in New York in 1710. Almost 200 years later, in 1908, his fourth great grandson Arthur Edson Shaver was operating a dairy farm near Parksville, Sullivan County, New York on the south-west edge of the Catskill Mountains. He was invited to accompany his wife Cora’s blind cousin, Archibald Campbell, on a trip to Montana so that Archibald could visit with his brothers and sisters who had moved there. Arthur Edson, or Ed as he was usually called, decided to take the opportunity and went with Archibald. After several years of farming in the steep rocky valleys of the Catskills, Ed was quite taken with the rolling prairie. He made inquiries about the availability of farm land in Montana and was told about the opportunities in Canada, where the Government was opening up Saskatchewan for homesteading. For a $10.00 fee, a farmer could take out a homestead of 160 acres and purchase a pre-emption of another160 acres for $3.00 per acre.

Sam's Threshing Crew Sam operated a custom threshing crew from 1910 - 1925.

Sam’s Threshing Crew
Sam operated a custom threshing crew from 1910 – 1925.

Upon the return of the men from Montana, Ed informed Cora of his intention to sell the dairy farm in New York and move to Saskatchewan. To them, with two sons –both interested in farming – one 17, the other 23 and already married, the newly opening prairies seemed like a good idea. And so, in April 1909, the Shaver family, consisting of Ed, wife Cora; two sons, Abel, with his wife Ferna, and Sam; two daughters, Esther (7) and Alfreta(3); and a friend John Jones all bid fond farewell to loved ones and friends and boarded the train for Canada. All their worldly goods, except a grand piano, a spinning wheel and a loom, which were left in the house in New York, were packed into a box car.

The first step of the journey was north through Vermont to Ottawa, where their goods had to be unpacked from the U.S. box car and reloaded onto a Canadian box car before it could be put on a train heading west. This was done on April 23, 1909, Sam’s 18th birthday. The next step of the journey was to Moose Jaw, where they met up with Ed, who had preceded the group by a few days, to try to find a good place to settle before the others arrived.

Ed had the news that there was need to travel on farther west in order to find land to homestead, so the family journeyed on to the new development and town of Swift Current. Upon arrival there they found accommodation at the Imperial Hotel, just across the street from the CPR depot. They were there 2 or 3 days, but since they found hotel living was a strain on the pocket book, while waiting to find a homestead, a farm about 5 miles northwest of Swift Current was rented. On this farm was a one room shanty. The family decided to make that their home until further arrangements could be made. Another trek was begun by the Shaver group up Central Avenue and on to the “Clemmy Place.” Clemmy was the name of the original owner.

The exodus from the heart of Swift Current up to the Clemmy Place and getting established was a big experience for the New York family. Ed had purchased a team of oxen, which was hitched to a lumber wagon and a team of horses, which was hitched to a buckboard, and in these two wagons were the eight people and their possessions.

The first night there, blankets were spread on the floor of the little one-room house, and that was the sleeping quarters for eight persons. A wonderful nearby neighbor, Cyrus Newell, befriended the family by bringing over some blankets and supplies to make the first night a more comfortable one. Throughout the entire years of the Shaver family on the prairies, the Newel Family was always close to them and they were valued friends. On the second day a cow shed on the property was moved up against the house and this added a little more space and comfort to the living quarters for the family.

On June 9, 1909, Ed applied for a homestead on the NW 33-14-16-W 3rd and a pre-emption on the NE-33-14-16-W 3rd. This was on the north side of Goose Lake, about 5 miles northeast of Webb and 15 miles west of Swift Current. On the same day, Sam filed on the S ½ of 3-15-16-W 3rd, Abel on the E ½ of 4-15-16-W 3rd and John Jones on the W ½ of 4-15-16-W 3rd. All four homesteads were connected.

Now all efforts had to be turned to building living accommodations for the family. It was decided that the best thing to do was to build the first house on Ed’s homestead for everyone to live in until the other houses could be built. The building of the new house was no easy task. Abel and Ferna remained at the Clemmy Place with Esther and Alfreta, while all the others went to Ed’s homestead. There they pitched their tent, which was to be their living quarters until the house was built. While the 3 men built the house, Cora or “Mother Shaver”, as she was affectionately known, provided the necessary food and needs for the workmen.

Gander Lake School Year: c. 1912 Gander Lake School was situated northeast of Webb in southwest Saskatchewan, this photo was taken probably about 1912. Ester and Alfreta Shaver were amongst the first students to attend this school.

Gander Lake School
Year: c. 1912
Gander Lake School was situated northeast of Webb in southwest Saskatchewan, this photo was taken probably about 1912. Ester and Alfreta Shaver were amongst the first students to attend this school.

It was December by the time Ed and Cora’s house was completed enough for the whole group to live in, and another trek had to be made from the Clemmy Place to the new homestead at Webb. There was no road to use, just an old “Bonepickers trail” which went from Swift Current westward past the homestead. Sam and Abel took the horses and oxen in and all their remaining belongings were loaded onto 2 wagons. Cyrus Newel took Ferna, Esther and Alfreta ahead in his buggy and Sam and Abel started out in the much slower and heavily laden wagons. By the time they made it to Beverly the clouds had darkened and it had started to snow. They stopped to rest the animals and were advised to stay until the upcoming storm had passed. About this time Cy Newel arrived on his way back home and he also suggested that they wait because the storm was going to be a bad one. However, knowing that the rest of the family would be waiting for them, Sam and Abel decided to push on the last 9 miles.

Seeing that the storm was getting worse and that the oxen were becoming exhausted trying to keep up to the horses, Sam told Abel to go on ahead with the horses and he would follow as best he could with the oxen. Sam did not go too far before he saw Abel and the horses stopped by the side of the trail. The storm had turned into a blizzard and Abel had decided that the two brothers would either make it to their new home together or die on the trail together. To everyone’s good fortune, they were able to follow the trail and find the right spot to turn off to the homestead.

The following year in 1910, Ed’s father Adam came out with his grandson, and Ed’s nephew, Henry Cammer. Adam’s wife had passed away in 1907 and he had turned over his farm in New York to his youngest son James William, so he came west and at the age of 78 took up a homestead and pre-emption on the S ½ of 9-15-16- W 3rd, a mile north of Ed’s.. Henry Cammer filed for a Homestead near Antelope Lake.

In January 1911, the local homesteaders got together and formed the Gander Lake School District. The school opened in a temporary building in October that year and Esther and Alfreta were among the first students. The permanent school opened in 1912 about 2 miles north east of Ed’s homestead. The school was also used for social events and church services. Many were the fun times held in that schoolhouse. There was always lively music and a happy and enthusiastic spirit of the people.

The Gander Lake School was a large part of the Shaver family life on the prairies. Not only did all of the Shaver children attend school there but many of the teachers boarded at the Shaver residence. Ed Shaver was the first Chairman in 1911. He was followed as chairman by his son Sam from 1918 to 1930. Sam’s wife Irene was the secretary treasurer from 1924 to the time the school closed in 1937, when most of the land in the school district was incorporated into the Swift Current/Webb Community Pasture.

Ed and Cora took Adam back to New York in 1916, where he lived until his death in 1918. Ed enjoyed only a few years of farming on the prairies. He passed away in 1917. Cora continued to reside on the homestead until her death in 1925.

In 1916, Abel moved his family back to Swift Current where he operated the first pasteurized dairy in Saskatchewan. Later, they again moved back to the homestead at Webb and stayed there until 1931 when they moved to Westlock, Alberta along with several other prairie families. There they settled on a farm seven miles west of Westlock in the Hazel Bluff area. Abel lived there until he passed away in 1941. Ferna passed away in 1974 in Edmonton, Alberta. Abel and Ferna had 3 children, Bernard, Greta and Edith.

Out for a Drive Year: c. 1909-1913 Sam Shaver as a young man.

Out for a Drive
Year: c. 1909-1913
Sam Shaver as a young man.

Bernard married Muriel Patterson and continued on the farm until 1966 when they moved into Westlock. They remained there for the rest of their lives. Bernard and Muriel had 2 sons and a daughter.

Greta married Stanley Kasawski and lived in the Flatbush, Alberta area and in Edmonton, where they both passed away. Greta and Stan had a daughter and 2 sons.

Edith married Warren Smith and had a daughter and a son. Edith and Warren were divorced and Edith then married Earl Jensen. Edith and both of her husbands have since passed away.

In 1914, after he had proved up his homestead. Sam travelled back to New York to marry Ferna’s younger sister, Irene Taylor. They had planned on building their own house on Sam’s homestead, but with his father’s poor health, they took up residence on his dad’s homestead. Sam took over the farm and lived there until his death in 1965. Irene continued to live on the farm until her death in 1966 while visiting relatives in New York.

Sam and Irene had 3 children, Beatrice, Gertrude and Edson.

Beatrice went To Normal School in Moose Jaw and taught school in the Webb area for four years. She married a local farmer, Everett Taylor and has lived in several places in Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC. She now resides in Ottawa near her daughter. Beatrice and Everett had two children, a daughter and a son.

Gertrude attended the University of Minnesota Nursing School and after graduating she practiced nursing in that area. She joined the US Army Nursing Corps during World War II and while she was in the service she met Dr. Warren Snoddy from South Carolina. After the war they were married and lived the rest of their lives in South Carolina. Gertrude and Warren had a son and 3 daughters.

Edson stayed on the farm and lived on the original site until 1991 when he moved to Swift Current, where he and his wife still reside. He continued to farm until 2001 when the original homestead was sold. Edson married Margaret MacDonald and they had 3 daughters and a son.

Esther attended Normal school in Regina and taught at Gander Lake School for 2 years. She then, along with her sister Alfreta, entered nursing training at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. She took a staff position at the hospital for a year before marrying Dr. Harold Wright. They had met while he had taught school at Gander Lake. Harold had a teaching and research position at the University of Minnesota and they lived there until his retirement when they moved to Florida. They spent the rest of their lives there. Esther and Harold had a son, George, and a daughter, Kay. Both married and each had 2 children. George is living in California and Kay is living in Washington.

After graduating from nursing training, Alfreta also took a position at Roosevelt Hospital. She continued working there until her marriage to Jim McHugh. Alfreta and Jim lived the rest of their lives on Long Island, New York. They had 2 daughters, Frances and Carol, both of whom still live on Long Island. Frances married and had 2 children.

Over the years under Sam’s management, the farm grew in size from the 8 quarters in the original 4 Shaver homesteads. As neighbors felt the pinch of the Dirty 30’s and moved to more prosperous looking locations where an easier living could be made, Sam bought up the land and expanded his holdings. From the original start the farm was a mixed operation with the main concentration on cereal crops and beef cattle. However as normal for the times there were always pigs, chickens and turkeys as secondary operations. Numerous changes were made over the years, with some dairying being carried on in the 20’s and a mainstay throughout the thirties and forties was the addition of sheep.

Over the 92 years that Ed’s homestead remained in the family, 6 generations of Shavers have put in their time and sweat to carry on the farm operation, none more than Edson with his 82 years on the farm.

Throughout the years family and friends remained the focal point. The Shaver house on Ed’s original homestead remained a Beacon for all who grew up there and those who left were always eager to return, to recall fond memories with family and old friends. It as well was a Beacon to those who grew up in the vicinity for having left and then returning, it was often the only remaining structure they remembered. As well, numerous relatives and friends from New York came west for visits and all were welcomed with open arms and all the hospitality of the prairies.