Wednesday, August 07, 2013

In search of a homestead & a story

I've walked around my great-great-grandparent's homestead. I wasn't even hoping for such an outcome, thinking instead that finding a gravestone or some evidence in the town hall would be most likely. Craik is halfway between Regina and Saskatoon, and the administrator of the Rural Municipality Office was happy to oblige when I called ahead and asked him about the Kemsley family. They weren't in the computer, but they were in the town history book, complete with a photograph of my great grandmother as a young girl. We found the section where they homesteaded, and it was occupied. The administrator said that we'd be very welcome at the Schollar's who have been living on that land for the last 60 years. So we did.

Evelyn, the youngest, is my Great Grandmother
 I knocked on the door hopefully, and was met by an elderly farmer who invited me in before I had even introduced myself. I sat at the kitchen table and told him who I was and that my husband and kid were in the car (city people that we are, I figured they'd just say "yep, this was their farm" and send us on our merry way). He told me to bring 'em in and he called out the front door to his wife, Mrs. Schollar. He offered us refreshments and started to tell us about the Kemsley's: my great great grandparents and their offspring. He told us about where the barns and original house were and about the state of the well when they first took possession of the farm from the Kemsley descendents in 1954. He told us about how they paid for the road to be built to town even though the town didn't support the idea. $400 it cost. Better than the road that ran through the field, sunken with potholes and seasonal sloughs. Mrs. Schollar came in and took over from there, offering us cookies and Otis toys to play with.

The Schollar's just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. One week after the marriage of one of their great-grandchildren.

She brought out photo albums to show us glimpses of the original house, behind photos of her children. My great great grandmother, Susannah, was the midwife of the area. They settled 8.5 miles from Craik (farmers here still talk in miles) in 1907. By 1910 the Kemsley's lived with their 5 children in a two room house. We saw the original house, with a top floor added and by this time listing eastward. Full of the flotsam of farming - old tires, clamps, wood stove and ample evidence of small wildlife.

This was the original home, with the addition of another homestead tacked on after the first couple years. Still not sure how they did that. 
Retelling this I feel like the experience was surreal. But while at the farm itself, it just felt natural. Of course this couple knows the story of their farm. Naturally they'd be happy to tour us around the farm, even taking us down the grid roads past great great uncle's farm, and past the home where my Nana visited her grandparents when they moved from the original homestead (leaving it to their daughter) in the 1920's. We felt so welcomed, and I am so grateful to Ellen & Sterling (whose middle name is Otis!) for their lesson in warm hospitality. I can't wait until I can pay it forward.

We went looking for roots, and we found them. I don't know yet, how this makes me feel. Do I feel more connected to my Nana's side of the family? Do I feel more connected to my story as a Canadian - how at least part of my family became Canadian? What about Saskatchewan? It's curious, but I just don't know. Maybe I need to leave this province and go back home to feel it. I'm definitely eager to sit with my Nana and talk to her about this. And would you believe, after all this homesteading my great-great-grandparents moved to Victoria in the late 1950's and spent the rest of their lives there! It looks like I'll have some more exploring to do back home.   

We have been travelling merrily since - visiting Brian's family and exploring his haunts. I will write about this leg of our journey when I next have a moment (Saskatoon, Hill family farm & all-organic-all-the-time). We're currently in Churchbridge with my Grandma Dorothy & Arni - and every moment counts: the goal of this visit? "Have fun every day", says Grandma.

Until then :) 

1 comment:

Len said...

That's great stuff Leanna! Thanks for taking the time to share.