My Maternal Grandparents, Arthur and Annie Duckett by Vivian Elgie

My maternal grandparents were Arthur Edward Duckett and Annie Luff. Grandpa was born at Westham Farm, near Wedmore, Somerset, England on November 26, 1875. Although he was the fourth child born to Thomas and Martha (nee Pearce) Duckett, he was the first to have been born on the farm they had purchased earlier that year. Thomas and Martha had nine children in all, eight of which lived to adulthood. One little boy died at nearly six months old.

Grandma was born on January 20, 1883 in Mark, Somerset, England, only a few miles from where Grandpa was born. Grandma was the fourth child born to Frank and Amelia Vowles (nee Duckett) Luff, (Amelia’s father was a brother to Thomas). Frank and Amelia lost two of their little ones, one from diphtheria and the other from whooping cough. Amelia died in 1897, only a few short days after giving birth to their twelfth child, leaving her husband Frank and the other children to raise the little ones.

After the death of his wife Amelia, Great Grandfather Frank Luff Sr. ventured to Canada in 1907 although to this date I have not been able to find his passage. He had a farm at Elk Lake, just out of Victoria, British Columbia where he grew strawberries. Great Grandfather returned to England about 1927

As the story was told to me, Grandpa wanted to go to London. Great Grandfather Thomas did not approve of his teenage son making that trip so he hid Grandpa’s boots. Grandpa, being quite adventurous, with no footwear of his own, surely would be stuck at home, but not Grandpa, he just borrowed his brother’s boots and off he went to London. I am not sure what kind of mischief he got into in the big city, nor his reason for the trip. I also do not know his father’s reaction when Grandpa returned to Westham Farm.

Grandpa’s next trip was in 1895 when he landed at Ellis Island, New York on February 25 aboard the Steam Ship Etruria. On this voyage he had travelled with 4 friends. Grandfather spent 2 years in Chicago this time, working at several jobs. I have a copy of a letter he received from his parents written March 4, 1896 in which Thomas suggests grandpa had taken on several jobs, one of them being in a powder factory, where both his parents figured the work would have been very dangerous and said they were glad he was not there still. They also asked Grandpa about his severe asthma which he had inherited from his mother. Thomas also wrote about Grandfather’s oldest brother Percy who was in South Africa at the time. It is believed that Uncle Percy went to South Africa to participate in the Jamison Raid. He talks about Uncle Percy being on a train that was searched and if they would have found his firearms they would have been confiscated. He also told him about the poor living conditions and there being a shortage of food and drink in South Africa. Sadly Percy contacted a tropical disease and died in Johannesburg, South Africa on November 23, 1896. On August 2, 1897 Thomas passed away which I would presume is what prompted Grandpa to return home to England.

A passage back to North America could not be located although by 1901 Grandpa appears in the Canadian Census working as a farmhand on the farm of Rice Gerald Spring in Assiniboia, The Territories, present day southern Saskatchewan. There were eight other farmhands employed alongside Grandpa as well as a cook. I have a receipt from the Rocky Mountain Lodge, Number 34, Independent Order of Odd Fellows at Golden, BC dated the last day of December, 1902 so he must have ventured farther west. It is unclear what he was doing at Golden at this time, other than possibly exploring. I know he did do some farming, logging and mining around this time. Eventually Grandpa got itchy feet and set sail for England again.

Image - Loading Haulm at Westham Farm. The man top row holding the pole, with his hand on his hip is Grandpa on one of his trips home. The 3 men to his left were his brothers.

Loading Haulm at Westham Farm. The man top row holding the pole, with his hand on his hip is Grandpa on one of his trips home. The 3 men to his left were his brothers.

On April 16, 1904 Grandpa arrived back at Ellis Island aboard the Steamship Campania. This time Grandpa travelled with his cousin Frank Duckett and they were headed to Dubuque, Iowa. Grandpa had a whole $48.00 in his pocket and poor Frank possessed only $22.00. It is not known how long Grandpa stayed in the US but in the 1911 Canadian Census he was living alone in Poplar Creek, British Columbia (now a ghost town). On October 18, 1912 Grandpa made application to pre-empt 40 acres of land at Poplar Creek, along the Lardeau River and Lake Creek. He farmed here for a number of years as well as working in the logging industry.

Just previous to Grandpa’s third voyage to North America his youngest brother Hugh Cecil Duckett arrived at the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia on April 9, 1904 aboard the Steamship Canada. I would presume to check things out here. He must have liked what he saw because Uncle Hugh returned to Halifax on June 5, 1908 aboard the Steamship Tunisian, most likely with a broken heart. As family lore goes, Uncle Hugh had discussed moving to Canada with his fiancé. She did not want anything to do with a new life in Canada so she broke off the engagement. This young lady was none other than Annie Luff.

While in the wilds of British Columbia it is said that Uncle Hugh worked as a laborer and lumberjack. At any rate, Uncle Hugh and his cousin Frank Duckett didn’t stay in Canada long as they decided to travel to New Zealand in about 1909 for one year and check things out there. While there Uncle Hugh met and married the girl next door and never did return to Canada.

Image - Annie Luff

Annie Luff

Meanwhile back in England, Grandma Annie was helping to raise her younger siblings, working on various farms in the Mark area and doing domestic work. The 1911 England Census shows 28 year old Annie visiting on the farm of her oldest brother Edmund. My mother told me that in early 1913 Grandma was chatting with her younger brother, Frank Jr. and he said that rumor around the area was that the two of them were moving to Canada and they pulled up stakes in England. They departed from the port at London on April 16, 1913 aboard the Steamship Ionian and landed in Montreal, Quebec. From there they ventured to Winnipeg, Manitoba where Grandma found work looking after children. In time she secured a job in the glove department of the Eaton’s Store in Winnipeg.

After several years in Canada Grandma decided to take a vacation back to her beloved England to see her family and friends. While there she got reacquainted with another vacationer, Arthur Duckett. She returned to Canada, landing in Saint John, New Brunswick on March 4, 1920 aboard the Steamship Metagama. Grandpa arrived back in Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 1, 1920 aboard the Carmania. This trip he brought with him his nephew, Duckett Champeny.

Grandpa and Grandma were married at Grace Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba on May 16, 1920. Grandpa still had his farm at Poplar Creek at that time although I don’t believe Grandma ever lived at Poplar Creek. They travelled west via train for their honeymoon, ditching Duckett Champeny in Alberta. Apparently Duckett had no knowledge of Grandpa’s pending marriage until the event. Duckett felt quite badly about this and ended up moving to California almost immediately. As they travelled through British Columbia Grandmother fell in love with Enderby so they pulled up stakes and moved to Enderby. The first year they lived in town and Grandpa worked at a sawmill. I presume one of his positions at the mill was working on the log booms as he always claimed that he fell in the river the day his first daughter was born, shortly after their first anniversary. Later that same year they purchased a farm about 6 miles north west of Enderby in the Springbend district.

Image - Marriage of Annie Luff and Arthur Edward Duckett

 Marriage of Annie Luff and Arthur Edward Duckett

After they moved to the farm they had an additional two children. Grandma gave birth to her last child at the age of 42. They raised dairy cows and grew the hay and mangles to feed them. Grandpa still suffered severely with asthma and often couldn’t do the milking or haying so grandmother and the two girls would pitch in and get the job done. The only boy suffered from asthma too. They also had a horse, chickens and pigs and grew all of the fruits and vegetables the family required, entirely on a farm with no hydro or telephone and the only running water was to grab a bucket and run to the creek. The only means of transportation was a democrat in the summer and a cutter in the winter. Their three children were all very proud of the fact they were educated in the Springbend School, a one room schoolhouse that grandpa, along with other members of the community, helped to build.

Grandpa was quite handy and would make most everything they needed or wanted around the farm. There was a wonderful gulley on the farm so grandfather made several pairs of skis, steaming them over the tea kettle to get the curvature in them. If conditions were right they could ski down one side of the gulley, cross the bottom and ski half way up the other side before they would have to take their skis off and walk the rest of the way.

Grandpa suffered a stroke and passed away at home on October 23, 1942 and was buried in Cliffside Cemetery, Enderby. By this time the girls were both working away from home but Grandma and my uncle continued farming until 1951 when grandmother sold the farm. Grandma ended up getting cancer and passed away November 24, 1958 in North Vancouver and was buried in Cliffside Cemetery, Enderby, alongside Grandpa.