My grandfather, Henry J. Clark, the eldest child of Lucy Dollarhide-Clark and Ichabod Niles Clark was born in 1868 in California to farming parents. When he was a young boy, his parents moved to Washington for the prospect of better farming land. His parents initially purchased 60 acres and gradually increased that size over the years eventually ending up with 344 acres (just over a half section of land). They raised horses, sold milk and cream, and planted berries and a variety of fruit trees.
Henry taught school for two years then quit teaching to return to farming. He rented 80 acres of school land from the Washington State Government. Several years later, he decided to quit farming and found work at a Bank in Latah, Washington for a period of time. He met my Grandmother, Catherine Maude Stevens at the Methodist Church and they were married in 1895. He quit working for the bank because the crops were poor and the farm was accumulating increasing amounts of debt. He rented an additional piece of land, which they farmed for the next two years. To make ends meet, he worked as a grain buyer then got a job collecting for the Osborne Machinery company. One of my mother’s older brothers, said they lived near a First Nations village. One of the elder natives offered to trade six horses for him. My uncle said he always ran and hid whenever he saw that particular fellow. Sometimes the natives got drunk and rode past my Grandparent’s house on their way home. He remembers my Grandmother standing at the door with a revolver, because the natives had shot a bullet right through their house barely missing her three youngest children.
Image - Henry and Catherine Clark, 1895
Henry became ill with Typhoid fever and was sick for almost a year. They had no money left by the time he started to recover but his father offered them the use of a three room house on his property that had been used for a pig pen. When Maude saw the house, she sat down and cried. The paper had been shredded off the walls by the pigs and the house was full of pig manure. They started working and cleaned it as best as they could. The property had a big garden with lots of berries and an orchard. They traded vegetables and fruit for groceries at the store. Henry bought a team of work horses and found employment with the State Highway System. He rented an additional 160 acres of land. They milked about 10 cows and Maude made about 50-60 pounds of butter each week which she sold. A couple of years later, the land was sold out from underneath them forcing them to move again.
By 1909, my grandparents had three sons and three daughters. Land was expensive in Washington and with three sons, my grandfather realized he had to move elsewhere so his sons could purchase land at a reasonable price. Henry read newspaper articles advertising rich, unbroken, prairie land in Alberta for purchase at ‘give-away’ prices. He made an agreement with a real estate firm in Spokane Washington to work as a land agent. He signed a contract in which he would receive $1 for each acre sold to prospective buyers. He brought twelve prospective buyers to southern Alberta that year and earned enough money from his commission sales to make a down payment on a half section of land located along Rosebud Creek, (south-west of Drumheller). Although he then owned land, he didn’t have enough funds to start farming so he continued working on the as a Road Supervisor in Washington while they saved their money. He formed a partnership with his two brothers. They didn’t have any money either but their part was to move to Rosebud and farm the land.
For the next few years he travelled back and forth between his home in Washington and Southern Alberta with prospective buyers working on commission for the CPR Land Company. Finally, in 1917, he had saved enough money to move his family to Canada permanently. A three room house had been built. By this time, the family had grown to nine children; five boys and four girls. My mother, Lucy Rosamond (Rose) was their fifth child.
Image - Rosebud Farmhouse, 1917
Henry’s father gave them a few horses and some cattle. They loaded two train cars, one with 11 horses in one end of the first car with some machinery and household goods in the other end. The second train car had 11 cows and the rest of their settler’s effects. Floyd, their oldest son had already moved to Rosebud and was helping his Uncle with the threshing. Henry and the next two older sons rode in the two train cars to help manage the livestock. Only one man was supposed to be travelling in each car, so they hid the younger son when the conductor or the brakeman came around so they wouldn’t have to pay extra. It took three days travel on the train before they arrived at Rosebud. Maude and the younger children travelled a few weeks later by passenger train. Life continued to be hard with the harsh, long winters, crops sometimes yielded well and sometimes they didn’t depending on the weather. In 1920, they had 1000 acres seeded but were almost 100% hailed out. It seemed that every year when they had a good crop, it was followed by two years of poor harvest. Whenever they seemed to be able to make a profit, they needed new machinery. The dry weather during the 1930’s taught them to become diversified in an attempt to survive.
Their day started at 4 or 5 in the morning depending on the time of the year (they rose earlier during the harvest). Henry and the boys went out to do the chores while Maude and the girls made breakfast, the older girls helped look after the younger children as well. Breakfast consisted of bacon, eggs, biscuits, preserves and oatmeal or pancakes. Feeding a family of 11 was a big job. Maude’s days were busy providing meals and looking after her family. Henry and the children looked after the garden but she canned the fruit, made the preserves, and dried corn and peas. Every summer they picked saskatoons in the nearby coulees. Henry’s asparagus patch was his pride and joy. When I attended a Rosebud reunion in 1998, we visited the original Clark homestead. His asparagus patch was still growing strong.
Cream was hauled by buggy to the Rosebud station every morning by 6 am to be shipped by train to Calgary. Once a week, Maude made butter which was also shipped to Calgary.
There was often a dance at a nearby school on a Saturday evening. The men paid a dollar while the women provided the sandwiches and coffee. There was always someone to provide the music. Often the dances weren’t over until around 1 in the morning but everyone still had to get up early the next morning as per usual. As my grandparents had a big family, it was often a gathering place for many of the neighboring families. They were one of the first families to boast a tennis court (of sorts) out on the prairie beside their house. They had a lawn croquet set up between the rough grass and the gopher holes where gangs of neighboring youngsters would gather. A big Sunday afternoon event that happened during the summer months were the baseball games with teams from neighboring small towns. The Clark family was the mainstay of the Rosebud baseball team as all the boys played while the girls attended to cheer their brothers or someone else on another team they had taken a ‘shining’ to. There were also several girl’s baseball teams.
Henry was a pioneer who believed in challenges. He introduced Jersey cattle to central Alberta when many believed the breed could not survive the harsh Alberta winters. He exhibited 10 prize Jersey cattle at a livestock show in Calgary shortly after they arrived. It was early pioneer farmers like my Grandfather Henry that experimented with a variety of grain crops in an attempt to provide winter feed for their prize herds. As a result, he inadvertently proved the long dry Alberta summers could indeed produce grain crops like wheat, barley and oats.
Henry remained active on the farm and in local municipal affairs serving on the local School Board for many years until he retired to Drumheller in 1948 at the age of 80. He passed away in 1953 at the age of 85.