Chapter Twelve: Early Families of Tofield “T-Z”
Thompson p. 330
Tofield p. 333
Weatherill p. 336
Weslake p. 340
Whillans p. 342
Wood p. 344
Note Re: BIOGRAPHIES OF PIONEER FAMILIES
The committee responsible for the compilation of this book felt that for practical reasons the accounts of pioneer families should be limited to those families who were in this area by 1910. After this date, a large influx of immigrants entered the Tofield district; the pioneer era was over.
Members of the pioneer families were asked to submit their family histories. If direct contact was impossible friends of the family were consulted.
Since the excellent history of the Bardo district, “Pioneers of Bardo, Alberta” by Ragna Steen and Magda Hendriksen contains biographies of the families in that district, no attempt has been made to duplicate this material. We are well aware, however, of the invaluable contribution made to Tofield area by the Bardo pioneers.
Those submitting biographies were encouraged to record family legends and experiences as well as the relevant statistics and dates. While this anecdotal approach has enlarged the book, thereby increasing its cost, we feel that the spirit of the pioneer era has been accurately presented for future generations.
MR. AND MRS. WILLIAM THOMPSON
Mr. and Mrs. William Thompson both came to Canada from Scotland. They met in British Columbia where he had a position as a “setter” in a sawmill. They were married in the spring of 1898, and two years later, moved to Tofield where he had proved up on his homestead and built a small house on the N.E. 24, Twp. 50, Rge. 19, W.4. All their possessions were loaded into the wagon in which they travelled, driving one team and leading the other, and driving their cattle. The first three summers Mr. Thompson went back to his job at the saw mill as soon as the crop was in, returning in time to take it off in the fall.
Coal was found under part of this farm, and dug out for fuel. About 1906,Mr. Thompson and Peter Ingram Sr. opened the “Pioneer Coal Mine” on the farm now owned by David Schmidt, at that time owned by Pete Ingram, who owned the coal rights. Work was underground, using pick and shovel. Coal was sold to settlers as far away as Vegreville, who came with teams, across the lake in winter, and around it during the threshing season when the steam engines were fired with coal whenever possible. Several teamsters came together for company, planning to spend the night, but bringing food for themselves and horses to last several days in case they had to wait for coal to be dug or a storm to pass. The Thompson home was often filled to overflowing with these men sleeping on the floor or anywhere they could find a place. Mrs. Thompson had many a laugh when she recalled being asked for permission to play cards to pass the long hours. She agreed to their playing but would have no gambling in her house. With a loud laugh one replied, ‘Missus, we have no money to gamble; we’ll be lucky to find enough to pay for our coal.” Mining regulations were becoming stricter, and the two owners, Ingram and Thompson were finding the business getting too big for them to handle, so in 1908 the Pioneer mine was leased to J.J. McDevitt, a qualified miner.
One of the first community projects undertaken was building the Presbyterian church, which was first located across the road from the N. W. corner of the Thompson farm, with the understanding it was to be moved to town when it was decided where the town site should be. Trees for the rough lumber were cut on the farm recently owned by Mr. Lancaster, a portable sawmill was rented from Matthew McCauley and operated by Mr. Thompson, with Asa Erickson in charge of the steam engine, and Otto Schultz hauling the water. Alex Kellner hauled the finished lumber to the building site Also assisting were J. McGinitie, H. Mitchell, J. Henderson and probably others. Mr. Wilcox was the carpenter, while the finer work was done by a Frenchman with a name like Kazee, who installed the Gothic windows, possibly even making them. The women served the meals and took a turn with the hammer when needed. This church was moved to town by Chas. Bowick’s steam engine in 1908, to cross the grade before the steel was laid for the railroad.
Mr. Thompson was one of the organizers and the first Secretary of the Local Improvement District # 25P4 and when it was replaced by the Cornhill Municipality he served as councillor and for many years as Reeve.
The Ingram School was burned, and when a new one was built in 1916, William Thompson was voted in as secretary. For the next 18 years he was never off the board, as trustee, secretary, or chairman.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, with a group of neighbors were organizers and charter members of the Tofield Agricultural Society and served as directors for several years. These first members backed a note to borrow $1600.00 to buy the present Fair Grounds from the Grand Trunk Co. and they paid off the loan before turning the Society over to younger people.
Mrs. Thompson, too, served her community in the Church, the Women’s Institute, and later the Farm Women’s organizations and the Red Cross. She had the honor of placing the first call from a rural phone into the
Tofield switchboard in June 1910. The family was four daughters, and one son, John.
John and his wife — the former Dorothy Baptist, still live on the original Thompson farm. Their two sons, David and Donald are in Edmonton; their daughter, Kathleen (Mrs. Norman McLellan) lives in Grande Prairie.
Three of the Thompson girls live in the Tofield area in 1967. Mary (Mrs. Earl Moore) has two daughters, Audrey (Mrs. Peterson) and Louise of Vancouver as well as two sons, Glenn of Edmonton and Wayne of Tofield. Dolina (Mrs. Carl Blake) has four daughters: Mrs. Evelyn Blakesman, Miss Enid, Mrs. Yvonne Jans all of Edmonton and Mrs. Jean Richardson of New Westminister. Mabel (Mrs. Russel Ferguson) has one daughter, Ellen (Mrs.Hoflin of Edmonton) and three sons, Leonard, Willard and Clifford of Tofield.
THE TOFIELD FAMILY
Dr. J. H. Tofield, pioneer doctor of this area and after whom the town was named was born in Yorkshire, England and educated at Oxford. Here he obtained two degrees, one in medicine, and one in engineering.
He went to India as an army doctor. Here he learned to speak Hindustani as well as the other five languages in which he was proficient.
After seeing various parts of the Canadian west, he came to Edmonton in 1882 and served as doctor among the Cree Indians. During the Riel Rebellion of 1885 he served as an army doctor.
In 1894, Dr. Tofield, along with Dr. J. D. Harrison, Dr. E. A. Braithwaite, Dr. H. C. Wilson, Dr. T. S. Royal and Dr. H. McInnes made a request to the Roman Catholic Bishop of St. Albert for the construction of a hospital in Edmonton. This request was granted and Edmonton’s first hospital, now the General Hospital was completed in 1895 and staffed by the Grey Nuns of the Sisters of Charity. The hospital bought the whole block where it now stands — 46 lots, for $2300.
While in Edmonton at this time, Dr. Tofield’s buckboard broke through the ice on the Saskatchewan River at the Walters’ Ferry. It was extricated with considerable difficulty and his passengers, Mrs. Bannerman and her child narrowly escaped a severe wetting.
In 1896, he and Mrs. Tofield and their family, Florence (later Mrs. A. B. Clutterham); Edith (later Mrs. H. E. Rogers) and Mae (Mrs. Tofield’s daughter from a previous marriage) came to Tofield and lived for a time on the Pruden place, now the site of the local cemetery.
Doctors being desperately needed in the Northwest Territories, Dr. Tofield was persuaded to use his degree in medicine rather than his degree in engineering. (This original licence to practice medicine is in the possession of his daughter, Mrs. H.E. Rogers of Tofield).
After a short time in Tofield, the family moved to Agricola near Fort Saskatchewan where they remained until 1903 at which time they returned to Tofield, homesteading the land now (1968) occupied by the Krystals. To move back to Tofield entailed several trips with horse and buggy and the children’s saddle ponies. The travellers were glad to break their journey at the John Phillips’ stopping house.
The Tofield girls now went East to complete their education; Edith, to Owen Sound; Florence, to Montreal. Mrs. Tofield, a nurse by profession, was privileged to make the acquaintance of Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Strathcona when she was acting in her professional capacity to the C.P.R. construction crews during the building of that railway.
About the time the G.T.P. reached Tofield, Dr. and Mrs. Tofield moved into town and built the house where Ray Henriksons now live. The Tofield girls, returned from their schools, held many parties for the engineers working on the G. T. P.
Dr. Tofield maintained his own dispensary even after J.E. Jamieson, a druggist, came to town. He also had his own scale of fees. One patient with a fractured jaw and broken teeth resulting from a kick by a horse went to Dr. Tofield for attention. The teeth were extracted., the jaw wired, the man was boarded and nursed by Mrs. Tofield for ten days for the sum of ten dollars. Another man had his broken arm set and splinted for $1.50.
In “Pioneer Days in Bardo, Alberta”, the story is told of how Dr. Tofield, in a pioneer home without the aid of modern equipment, performed a remarkable operation on a man who had been in a coma for two days. After shaving the man’s head, he sawed out a piece of the skull, removing the projection which was pressing on the man’s brain. Then he cleaned off the cut piece, put it back in place in the skull and bandaged it. Two hours later, the man regained consciousness and was able to speak. Eventually he recovered completely.
In 1896, according to a record by Mr. John Cookson there was agitation for a government school. The school was started in a building rented from Billie Rowland with Miss Harriet McCallum as teacher. Dr. Tofield was secretary.
When a post office was established in this area, it was called “Tofield” in recognition of Dr. Tofield’s services. When the village in 1907, and then the town in 1909, became incorporated the same name was chosen unanimously by the councillors.
His journeys to aid the ill took Dr. Tofield far afield. He was called to Pakan during a smallpox epidemic. He forded swollen creeks nonchalantly assuring his daughters who accompanied him that he would not let them drown. Even the odd bear met in the course of his travels did not faze him.
Pioneer days had compensations for their hardships. Visiting, says Edith Tofield Rogers, made never-to -be forgotten occasions, especially when made to the Rickner family who lived near Beaverhill Lake. Dancing, parties, baseball, hockey, and swimming were all enjoyed by the Tofields. Dr. Tofield was a great hockey fan as his picture taken with the E.A.H.L. Champions in 1909 testifies. He was also interested in the Silver Seven who made hockey history a few years later.
Dr. Tofield never did “retire.”He was always busy. When he died in 1918, the town mourned. Some, who are now mature men remember “waiting in the horse-drawn buggy for mother and father to come from the funeral” of Tofield’s honored pioneer doctor.
Remembered by his daughter as “a kind wonderful man,” by a neighbor as “the most interesting man to talk to,” the most vivid memories of Dr. Tofield are held by those he served in the pioneer era of this community.
THE WEATHERILL FAMILY
John Weatherill was born in Toronto on January 31, 1854. His father, being a blacksmith and wheelwright, owned a shop on Yonge Street where he made wagons.
He left school at the age of fourteen to apprentice in a lawyer’s office where he had the job of looking after the books of a county close to Toronto.
After completing his apprenticeship he went to New York to work, but it wasn’t long till the urge to go west got the best of him and he set out for Edmonton, North West Territories, Canada.
After journeying to Winnipeg, which was the end of the steel at that time, he purchased a pony and a Red River cart and started out.
Seven miles west of Brandon the cart broke down and he decided to settle there so he filed on a homestead. When local government was organized around Brandon, John Weatherill got the job as secretary and drove to Brandon with pony and buggy every day. By sleeping on the homestead, he fulfilled his obligations as a homesteader.
At that time there was a young family of two brothers and two sisters from Lancashire who operated the first hotel in Brandon. John Weatherill courted and married the youngest sister, Betsy Pilling.
About this time the Yukon gold rush was in full swing. Some of the young men left Brandon to take part in this rush; one of them by the name of McGregor a former rival for Betsy’s hand, who operated the livery barn in Brandon at that time, did quite well. He returned to Brandon and later became Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba.
A short time later, there was another gold rush, this time to British Columbia. Unable to resist the temptation to show Betsy that he, too, was a moneymaker,
John sold his farm, sent his young wife and baby to Ontario, and set forth! Two years later, Betsy sent John her two years’ savings that he might return home to Ontario! A grocery store occupied them for a short while.
From Ontario they moved to Peoria, Illinois, where their second son was born. From Peoria they moved to Chicago where John worked for McCormick Farm Implement for fifteen years. By this time the family had grown to include four boys.
In 1906 a big depression hit the U.S.A .so the eldest son, J.P. Weatherill headed for Canada and finally filed on a homestead near what is now Deville, Alberta. Johnny Dunn is now farming the place.
J.P. Weatherill returned to Chicago for the winter on 1906 and 1907. In the spring of 1907 the whole family decided to move to Canada. Betsy and the two younger boys stopped off at Brandon while John and the two older boys came to Edmonton to build a home for the family.
This was the spring following a very hard winter. They mentioned seeing many dead cattle along the C-P-R between Calgary and Edmonton. The dead fish were piled on the shores of Hastings Lake like huge snow drifts.
John Weatherill filed on the N.W. of 16-5l-20-4 and built a house overlooking Hastings Lake, just east of what is now Weslake Beach.
The main winter road between Edmonton and Tofield went over Hastings Lake and many freighters lost at night headed for the light on the hill, where they took shelter for the night. One young Englishman by the name of George Weslake came to the door with his hands badly frozen. He probably would have perished had it not been for the light on the hill.
The second son, George Weatherill, filed on the S.E. 2-31-30, one mile west of Lindbrook hall. He built
a home and lived there until 1928.
Betsy and the two small boys came to Edmonton in November of 1907 and were met by George, with a team of cayuses and a lumber wagon. It was a long day’s trip over corduroy trails. There were no spring seats on the wagon and Betsy and the boys sat on trunks which bounced continuously. The youngest boy cried with pain from the “stitch in his side” so the pauses were made to walk for short stretches. About two miles from home one of the cayuses balked on a slippery hill. When Betsy saw a light close by, she and the small boys went to investigate and found themselves at the door of a house, which proved to be that of family by the name of Rowland. They were busy skinning and stretching the hides of rats. One two-year-old by the name of Art had one by the tail and was galloping around the room.
The small group had to walk the rest of the way, with the owls hooting and coyotes howling; it gave the city raised children quite a thrill.
After the novelty of the new house wore off, the young boys missed their playmates and the youngest boy went to Betsy crying, “I don’t like it here.” Betsy sat down and started to cry too, and said “I don’t like it here either.”
On one trip to Edmonton for supplies John was delayed longer than usual and the little family had nothing to eat but flour and water. When the local auctioneer, Shorty Carter, came along with a team and buggy, he put his horses in the stable and came to the door where Betsy met him saying she was sorry but they had nothing but boiled flour to offer him. “Oh,” said Shorty, ” I just stopped to rest my horses” and he went and got a lunch from his buggy and left it on the table for the children.
When spring came the number of the wild ducks was tremendous and many swans floated on the lake. The Beaver Hills were a hunter’s paradise at that time and with the help of the Ward children, who taught the young Weatherills to set a trap and to skin a rat, and
Augustus Gladue who bought their furs and didn’t complain that the first ones that weren’t stretched or fleshed too well, the young boys were able to adapt themselves to the pioneer life quite well.
John took an active part in trying to organize a school district, but with no success at that time as the bachelor neighbours out-voted those with families. He attended the meeting that organized the Lindbrook school district and chose the name Lindbrook from two pioneer family names; Lindberg who lived south of Hastings Creek and Sherbrook who lived north of Hastings Creek.
But John Weatherill was a misfit as a homesteader -so his wife, Betsy, didn’t have too much trouble persuading him to leave the homestead after four years, to move to Edmonton.
In Edmonton he had difficulty at his age competing with the young Englishmen, who were coming to Canada in large numbers at that time to do office work. However about this time the Rural Municipality of Cornhill was formed and they were having trouble keeping a secretary Mr. T.J.Glenn, the reeve at that time, advised John to apply for the position. He did and was accepted at the salary of $60 per month. So in the spring of 1915 the family moved to Tofield where the office of Cornhill Municipality was located.
By this time there was only one boy left home, Charley, the third boy, having gone back to the States. Harold, the youngest, received most of his education in Tofield and still farms north of town. He and his wife Margaret (Bates) have one son Laurie. Harold raises purebred Herefords on his “Dlorah” farm.
In March 1928 John Weatherill died at the age of 74.
George Weslake was born in Exeter, England, where, during his years in school he was very active in sport being especially proficient in football.
Being an adventuresome chap who didn’t care much for city life, George, at the age of nineteen sailed for Canada and a new life in the Canadian West. Arriving in March 1907, he filed on a homestead in the Beaver Hills northwest of Tofield; this area later became known as the Weslake District, north of Lindbrook.
The first years were hard for the city boy engaged in clearing and breaking the land. Soon he became the proud owner of a yoke of oxen with which, of course, came a new vocabulary. To supplement his meagre income, he worked part time on the railway construction gangs as the railway was built through this area. George also added to his coffers by trapping muskrats.
Travel in those days was mainly accomplished on foot; George often walked to Tofield, Chipman, or Edmonton for supplies and for recreation. This recreation was the sport of football at which he excelled. He was a valued member of Tofield’s football team.
In 1909,George Weslake returned to England to marry his childhood sweetheart Miss Elsie Tett. The next year saw the Weslakes back in Edmonton via C.P.R. where they hired a livery team to carry them and their belongings to George’s homestead.
Here the English bride made the acquaintance of her neighbors. Women were scarce in this pioneer district but bachelors were plentiful. Bill Harres, Clint Frary Mike Hahn) Corbett Caniels, Mr. Mercier, the Morrows, the Sherbrooks, the Gladues, the Donalds, and many others soon became friends of the newly arrived English couple
Four children were born to George and Elsie Weslake: Dolly, (Mrs. Walter Griesson), Edmonton; Pat, Hastings Lake;
Hazel, (Mrs. Herb Reynar), Leduc; and George, (married to Cora Broen) still living on the original homestead in 1967.
His growing family provided an incentive for George Weslake to be instrumental in organizing the school district which bore his name. He was chairman of the Weslake School Board through almost all of its existence. Until 1934, the Weslakes lived and worked in the Hastings Lake district where they lived until George Weslake’s death in 1961. His widow, now (1967) in her eighties, still resides at the lake with her son, Pat, during the summer months.
THE WHILLANS FAMILY
The Whillans family came originally from Roxburgshire, although several generations lived in the parish of Southdean at Chesters, whose name is derived from the Roman word “camp”. Some of the family also lived in Castleton Parish which adjoins Southdean but which is drained in the opposite direction, west, by the Liddel and the Esk. When Sir Walter Scott visited Liddesdale to collect ancient ballads, he found it without roads; his was the first wheeled vehicle ever seen there.
It is believed that the name Whillans was originally Quheillands or Whilland.(Que in Scotland was pronounced as “W”).This name originated from the lands near the Wheel Kirk, situated on the spring (the word for which was Quelle with ‘Qu’ pronounced as “W”) which forms the headwaters of the Liddel River. So the name Whillans means “owner of the spring lands”. Wheel Causeway, following an old Roman road, passes near Wheel Kirk as does an earthwork called the Catrail which is said to have been built by the Picts. Edward I visited Wheel Kirk on May 24, 1296.
William Whillans was born in Southdean parish in 1779. He traced, documented and recorded the Whillans’ family tree, beginning with his grandfather, James Whillans, who was born in the parish of Jedburgh in 1688 and died in 1783.
William Whillans and his family emigrated to Canada and settled near London, Ontario, in 1837. His brother Robert, settled at the same time at Hurdman’s Bridge near Ottawa. Robert’s eldest son became the Rev. Robert Whillans M.A, a competent Greek scholar, and the grandfather of Roy Whillans of the Ketchamoot district south of Tofield. The youngest son became the Rev. George Whillans, D.D. a minister and minister emeritus of the Presbyterian Church in Quebec. George’s brother John., living in Calgary, celebrated his hundredth birthday by walking to church.
Another famous member of the Whillans family was “Big Jack Whillans” who was reputed to be the strongest man on the Ottawa. Standing 6’3″, weighing 275 lbs. he had no difficulty in maintaining this reputation.
Rev. Robert Whillans of Ottawa had nine children, Wally and Wardy, who died in World War I; Allan; Harry, who became a doctor; Charlie (father of Roy Whillans); Carie, a nurse; Mary, Winnifred and Lina.
Charlie Whillans came to Alberta from Ottawa as a young lad of seventeen. He worked on a farm north of Tofield until he had saved enough money to make a down payment on a homestead south of the present Bardo elevator. He started his farming operations with a team of oxen named Tom and Jerry of which he was very proud. One ox being smaller than the other, had less endurance and thus preferred to quit early in the day When the oxen died, their horns were mounted and now hang in the Tofield Museum.
Charlie soon tired of “batching”and began courting Clara Sheperd who had come to Alberta with her parents from Barrie, Ontario, to a farm at Round Hill. Albin Anderson, an old timer of the Kingman district recalls that Charlie drove a pretty snappy team and cutter the winter he was courting Clara. He wore an old cap with the ear flaps pulled down against the winter’s chill until he approached Clara’s home at which time, he made a fast change to a hat. So when he arrived at the door, he was a dapper young suitor.
Charlie and Clara were married in March,1907. By 1918, the little log house was so crowded with a growing family that a new eight-roomed house was erected. The children born to Charlie and Clara were Gordon, Roy, Ralph, Lloyd, Marguerite, Neil and Joyce.
Every Sunday found the entire Whillans family in church first at Bardo Methodist services and then at Ketchamoot United Church.
When Mrs.Whillans took a few days’ much needed holiday, the children received a treat when father cooked plum pudding for them. Roy recalls that the first two puddings were horribly sweet but later ones were greeted with joy by seven hungry youngsters.
Charlie passed away in July 29, 1961, at the age of 76 years. He had lived for a few months in Tofield after retiring from the farm. Clara lived quietly in a nursing home in Edmonton where she passed away on March 14, 1966.
Roy is the only one of the family remaining in the Ketchamoot district where he still farms. He married Dorothy Ovelson of the Kingman district in 1938. To this union were born four sons: Jerald, Vernon, LeRoy, and Barry.
Jerald married Sylvia Grace Kettletz of New Sarepta. Their children are Marlin and Marleen. Vernon married Lorraine Redford of Edmonton; Tracy and Todd are their children. In 1968,Vernon and his family are stationed with the Armed Services in Germany. LeRoy and Barry
are students in the Tofield School in Grade XII and Grade IX respectively.
Gordon Whillans resides in Tofield. His children are Donald, Dennis and Karen.
HENRY WOOD FAMILY
The material for this article was supplied by Mrs Esther (Wood) Majakey of Edmonton.
Henry Wood was born in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1859. He was the eldest of the family and when he was three years old his father joined the Union Army of the Civil War. Thinking of this as a winter’s adventure and a means of earning a little money, he left his family on the farm. Instead, the war lasted four years. Soldiers’ dependants received no allowance and had no contact with their families for months at a time. Mrs. Wood was
forced to return to her family and Henry was sent to live with an uncle until the war was over. He grew up in Ohio and then moved with his parents to Lewton, Kansas, where in 1888 he married Louella Patton, the daughter of a former Methodist minister. They settled for a time on a farm near Newton and then moved to Western Kansas. This was done by driving over land in two covered wagons, the mother driving one team and the father the other. One of Mrs. Wood’s exciting stories was of swimming her team across the Cimarron River, and not knowing if they would ever make the other bank.
This venture was not as successful as the young couple had expected and they returned to Newton. Here the talk of the time was the opening of the Cherokee Strip of the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. The method of land granting was most exciting. One registered at the land office and was given a place in a long line formed by all the competitors. At the appointed time a gun was shot and the race was on. There were no restrictions as to the rype of conveyance. Buggies, wagons and even men on foot were all in evidence. The first one to reach the quarter section of his choice staked it, and it belonged to him.
Mr. Wood had an excellent horse and the spirit of adventure so once again those covered wagons with all the Woods’ effects plus three children set out across to Perry, Oklahoma, to take part in the great run. The origin of this fast horse was always vague. Good horses were always Mr. Woods’ greatest pride. A noted Sire was being brought to Newton and it was Mr. Wood’s greatest desire to own a horse of this lineage; so, taking his prize mare, he proceeded to town. But the fee was exorbitant so he put his mare up at the livery stable and went away to spend the night, a ,very disappointed young man. The next spring, much to his surprise, along came a beautiful black colt. It was rumored that the attendants at the livery stable just couldn’t see a young man so disappointed. With this horse, Henry Wood outdistanced all the competitors and got a good farm with a creek on it, something much desired in Oklahoma. The horse ran for several miles with no trouble; a
picture of him hung on the Wood’s front room wall to commemorate the events.
After seven successful years in Oklahoma neighbors by the name of Mason returned from the North West Territories in Canada with glowing stories of a new country that was opening up. Once again the spirit of adventure was aroused and this time a colonist car was secured and everything the family owned, cattle,horses, and machinery, were loaded and the long trip to Wetaskiwin was started. Henry’s brother William Wood and his family, a cousin Iva, later Mrs. Pete Logan, and many young men of the district joined the group.By this time there were seven children in the Wood family, the youngest being twins. At one point, Ardis, one of the twins was missing. Later she was found under a seat by Sam Bethel who was also one of the colonists coming to Wetaskiwin.
On reaching Wetaskiwin, they unloaded their car and drove by team over the trails to what is now Tofield. They had to cross the Pipestone Creek and even though it was September the water was so high the wagons were taken over by raft; the livestock swam.
They were met by Mr. Mason, the man who influenced their coming, and stayed with him, while Henry Wood looked for a house for his family. Mr. Mason lived on the farm that now belongs to J. C. Warner. After a few days a log house was found for the family on the farm of James Pruden. This farm was directly across from the Bethel farm. The Jordy Norris family also had a house there.
The Wood family settled on the S.W.quarter of 8-51-18-4, now (in 1968) part of the Dodds farm. After a few years he sold it to Mathew McCauley, and bought the north half of 1-51-19-4 which was to became Tofield No. 2. He sold this property to Crafts & Lee who subdivided it into town lots. The next move the Wood family made was to the west half of 35-51-19-4 where Mrs. M.C. Wood and her son Donald and his wife Phyllis (Rose) now reside.
In 1903 Henry Wood purchased one of the first steam engines and ran a sawmill on his farm, during the winter. Most of the logs came from what is now known as the Cooking Lake Forest Reserve. The settlers hauled their own logs and if they were able, they paid, but mostly he took lumber in trade. In 1906 he built what was then a large house, hauling most of the lumber for it from Edmonton. One summer he made twenty-two trips. The flies and mosquitoes were very bad and he had rather fancy fly nets for the horses.
This house had no basement as Mrs. Wood had not forgotten her days in Oklahoma and was still afraid of cyclones. As was the custom there the family had a sort of root cellar in the yard where you could take refuge from the twisters.
While the Wood family did not run a stopping house this was the last place on the old base line to Edmonton, and travellers were never turned away. In those days people carried their own bedding and were glad of any place to put up for the night. One time when Henry Wood was on one of his trips to Edmonton, a man came requesting a place to stay. Bill and John were making a bit of money looking after someone’s horses and the barn was full so the traveller was told he would have to put his team in the shed. This he refused to do and when the boys refused to move their horses he became hostile and said, very well, he would go on to the next place. The boys gleefully told him to GO, neglecting to tell him that it was twenty-five miles to the Watson stopping house at Ardrossan. The man drove all night and when he arrived weary and worn and was asked why he had come so far he said he would have stayed at the last place but there were two such sassy kids there and they hadn’t told him how far it was. Unfortunately Henry Wood was one of the travellers at the Watsons and such treatment wasn’t his idea of hospitality as the boys found out when he arrived home.
As the settlers began raising crops, the need of a threshing machine arose and Henry Wood already had the engine he bought a grain separator. This was for
many years the only threshing machine in the country and the district was from Chipman to Ryley. The crew started in the fall and were lucky to be home by the new year. The last farmers stacked their grain and the time of the threshing didn’t make much difference. Threshing in those days was a big undertaking. The farmer supplied the fuel, usually wood, for the 140 lb. pressure engine.
A crew consisted of ten teams and there were spike-pitchers, field pitchers and grain wagons. Jack and Charlie Bowick were the engineers for many years until Lloyd Wood took over. The crew carried their own bed rolls and usually slept in the hayloft of the barn. Henry Wood was always sympathetic to the farm women, who, he said did more work than anybody, cooking for up to twenty-seven men and vying with each other to serve the best meals. In later years this same steam engine was used to break the land on many of the farms around the district and even after gasoline tractors became popular it was unequalled in pulling the stumps of the large poplar trees that grew on much of the land.
The Woods family were very community-minded, helping in any way they could to make life better for them selves and their neighbors. They raised nine children, two of whom are still living. Lloyd will be remembered by the old timers as the member of the Tofield ball team. In later years he served as a councillor on the Cornhill Municipal Council and as a member of the Lakeshore school board. Bill was known for his marksmanship with a rifle and would entertain the young fry who gathered at the Wood home by throwing up a nickel and shooting a hole in it before it hit the ground. Pat and Mel promoted the Lakeshore Stampede which was held for several years at the home place. Those who were around in the early twenties will remember names like Ritland, Sizer and Dumont and our own young bronco busters, Owen Eaton, the Friegen boys and the Donalds. Many of the hearts of the now-not-so-young girls, will beat the faster at the memory of the gala barn dance which was held at the end of the day in Tommy Jones’ big barn.
Maggie, the eldest of the girls was loved by all who knew her, always working in her quiet and unselfish way to help others. One early settler said, “If it hadn’t been for Maggie’s kindness I never would have had the courage to face another Alberta winter.” Nina, as a young girl, was an active participant in the horse racing at the local fairs. After her marriage she lived at Viking for twenty-seven years where she gave so unstintingly of her time and talent that when they formed a chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star they named it the Nina Chapter in her memory. Ardis trained as a nurse and served the district as a private nurse for Dr. Frank Law where more often than not her winter transportation was the front runner of the bobsled and her patient shared the living room with the rest of the family. She went on to become matron of the Viking and Macleod hospitals and then returned to Tofield as the nurse in Dr. Freebury’s office. Melville, the youngest son, won the Master Farmer award in 1958 and lived on the farm which Henry Wood homesteaded in 1903, and where all of the family grew up. John farms north of Tofield and lives on the farm which Lloyd homesteaded and Esther Majakey lives in Edmonton.
Mrl and Ethel Wood had a son, Donald, and a daughter Margaret, now Mrs. Lorne Berrecloth, who has two children, David and Sherry.
John and Mary Wood had four daughters, Lorene (Mrs. Jim Francis); Louella (Mrs. Robert Goubault); Evelyn (Mrs. Vic Halwa); Kathleen; the one son, John, married Gloria Miller. They have two children.
Mr.and Mrs. Majakey have one son, Vernon.
Of this large family who did so much in building up our local history, six are buried in the Tofield Cemetery.