Chapter 12: Early Families of Tofield “A-B”
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.
The Abbotts were a pioneer family of Tofield. Lem Abbott was barbering in Ed Kallal’s pool room in 1908 and living near the Maxwell’s with whom he and his wife Emmeline shared many happy social hours.
Lem was musically inclined and generously donated his talents to the town band and to the Tuxis Boys band, which he directed.
The Abbotts took an active part in the town activities. Mrs. Abbott was a charter member of Ionic Chapter O.E.S. and an avid bridge player.
Two years after Mrs. Abbott’s passing in 1957, Mr. Abbott went to live with his daughter, Mrs. Clara Brady, her husband and family, in Edberg.
H. K. Adams
One of the real old timers of Tofield was Harvey K. Adams, Mr. Adams was one of the general merchants in the original hamlet of Tofield, on the present John Rempel farm.
Mr. Adams was born in 1878 in a log shack on a farm in Newton County, Mo. When he was fifteen, he went with his family to the newly-opened Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma. They filed on a townsite lot where the city of Pawnee eventually arose. His father founded a meat and food business which young Harvey took over when his father died.
He got many Texas longhorns to butcher as the Texas cattlemen used to trail them up to Oklahoma to feed them out on corn for a year and most of them would be big brutes five or six years old when they reached the Adams’ slaughter-house.
On January 1, 1898, he journeyed 150 miles to Wichita, Kansas to marry a young farm girl he had met in Oklahoma.
In a letter written from Laguna Beach, California, in April, 1959 Mrs. Adams said their two children, Arthur and Audrey, were both born in Tofield.
In 1903, the Adams’ came forth to Butte City, Montana and worked in the butcher business there. A young man from Butte went to Edmonton to investigate business conditions and, on his return reported them as being good. This was J. W. Morton, who, with Harvey Adams, formed a partnership to establish one of Edmonton’s first butcher shops known as Morton and Adams.
Later Morton and Adams moved to Tofield, ahead of the coming of the Grand Trunk Railway. Mr. Adams took a contract from Pat Burns to supply construction crews with meat. After the construction crews passed Edmonton, he went to work with Burns, who had meat contracts for construction camps as far west as Jasper.
In Mr. Adams’ time the price of cattle was somewhat lower than it is now. He remembered trailing 1,400 lb. steers to Edmonton and selling them for 3 1/4 cents a pound, the price for the times.
Even at that price, cattle raisers made money because there was no grain feeding, thus making for lower production costs.
After working for Burns, Harvey Adams became a drover, working part time out of Edmonton and part time out of Tofield.
In 1919, he came to Calgary as manager of a branch of livestock commission firm of Wood, Weiller and McCarthy. Two years later, he and his book-keeper, Roy Ferguson, bought out the Calgary branch of this firm and carried on as Adams, Wood and Weiller. Later this firm was managed by Art Adams, son of Harvey. Art’s son, Pete, is following in the family footsteps in the business. Neil Morrison, son of Mr. and Mrs. Adams’ daughter Audrey, is also in the firm.
Harvey Adams was always too busy to engage actively in service clubs, but, for a period he was associate director of the Calgary Stampede. The organization to which he later devoted time is the Southern Alberta Old Timers’ Association.
On a site overlooking Beaver Lake, five miles north of Tofield, between Highways 14 and 16, is the Bethel place, a weather-beaten, two-storey frame house rising above the surrounding fields. This house was built in 1910, replacing the small tar-papered original shack. In about the some period the rail fences had been discarded and replaced with wire. The old log barn, although shaky, still stands but many other buildings also built of log, have disappeared.
Mr. Samuel Bethel filed on this property before the turn of the century. As the dense growth of trees had to be cleared before buildings could be erected, the family did not come to the homestead for a few years. During this time they resided in Wetaskiwin where Mr. Bethel managed a Burns’ Butcher Shop.
In 1905, travelling by team and wagon, he brought his wife and three small daughters, Mary, Mildred and Alma, to their new home. Mrs. Bethel was no novice to frontier life as she, in 1876, had moved with her parents, the Joseph Stohrs from Illinois to Kansas. As this was only a few years after Kansas had been admitted as the thirty-fourth state to the Union, Indian scares were still commonplace. In later years Mrs. Bethel entertained her children with tales of these early adventures. The Stohr family later settled in Nebraska and here Rosa met and married Samuel Bethel, a young Irish immigrant.
The year following the move to the homestead, Melvin and Myrtle (twins) were born and Hubert arrived two years after. For the new arrivals Dr. Tofield, and Mrs. Than Noland (a close neighbour) were in attendance. It is interesting to note that the birthplace of the twins is listed as Logan. They were possibly two of the first children registered in this area.
In those early years the Bethel’s neighbours were the Pruden families, the Norris’, Phillips, the Than and Jos Noland families and Henry Wood family, (with
whom Sam had shared the terrifying experience of a train wreck on an earlier trip to the territory). This community is now known as Lakeshore. To the north (the McKenzie district) lived the Chris Moos, the Logan, Trent, Roberge, Norn and, of course, the McKenzie families. In time several families from Quebec, including Seales, Fergusons and Booths came to the neighborhood. The Jack Monroes acquired the quarter just south of the Bethel property and became good neighbors In many cases the former homesteaders sold to the new arrivals.
During this time of change other people came and left. Some became discouraged with the demanding pioneer life and soon departed. But many fond memories remain of one colorful couple — the C.D. Cays, who once lived on the farm now owned by Rod Rudzcki. C.D. was a retired British sea captain and his wife, Elsie, a New York heiress. It is difficult to imagine them in a pioneer community. They were frequent visitors at the Bethel’s and along with their three Airedale dogs; Currie, Haig and Tig, were a source of awe, wonder and amusement to the children. Mrs. Cay smoked (very gracefully too) and she also wore a blonde wig! This was fascinating. In 1914 Captain Cay recalled to his ship for active duty and Mrs. Cay stayed on the farm, caring for their livestock. Following the war, they sold the farm and left for Hollywood. The movie making industry was in its infancy, and it is reported that D.C. became an actor. This story is quite credible as he was a handsome and debonair gentleman.
True western hospitality prevailed in the Bethel household. Dances, card games and skating parties were frequently held. Sam was generous with his belongings and his time. Horses were shod and equipment repaired in his primitive blacksmith shop. He was willing at all times to attend and care for sick animals in the community. His interest centered in livestock, primarily Suffolk-Punch horses, Shorthorn cattle and Berkshire hogs. He was an organizer and director of the early Tofield fairs and was always an enthusiastic exhibitor. He was a member of the Stock and Swine Bree-
Mrs. Bethel was endowed with a wealth of good common sense and also possessed a keen sense of humor. These characteristics gave her the strength to brave the hardships, privations and sacrifices of a pioneer wife and mother. She could produce a proverb for almost any situation. (“Spare the rod and spoil the child” was the one most often quoted). She too was a kind friend and neighbour and her youthful outlook and lively interest continued throughout her long life.
In 1926, Mr. Bethel became ill and suffered the loss of a leg. He died four years later. His widow remained on the farm until her death in September, 1954 at the age of 86.
Mary is the only member of the family remaining in the Tofield area. She and her husband , John Wood, live on a farm near the original Henry Wood’s homestead. They have four daughters and one son. Mildred (Mrs. Mildred Seale; deceased) left two daughters. Alma’s ( Mrs. Bob Bradley) home in Nelson, B.C., Myrtle (Mrs. J. McDonald) of Okotoks has two sons. Melvin(deceased) left two sons and two daughters. Hubert and his wife Annie also have two sons and two daughters. These two families live in Vancouver, B.C.
Big Bill Bloss, Colorful Old Timer, Dead
This article was written by Margaret (McCauley) Wood in 1938, following the death of Bill Bloss. it was printed in the Tofield Mercury and is reprinted here because of its historical significance.
“Tragically ending his life by hanging, at the advanced age of 89 (he would have been 90 the following day) Bill Bloss, a colorful figure of the West, passed away Sunday night. His wife predeceased him in 1913. There were no children.
Big Bill Bloss is dead – Let not the manner of his death overshadow the true character of the old man. Those who knew him best well know his courage, independence and indomitable will. As a young man his life was filled with romance, excitement and adventure, such as few of us can ever hope to experience. A pioneer of the pioneers is gone. To quote his own words spoken during a serious illness six years ago, “Aye, a lot I’ve seen in my time, more than most, perhaps. Life has been kind to me. So many I’ve seen come and go in the making of this country of ours. But looking back over my life it seem to have been a lot of fun more than anything else. Aye, a great adventure. I have no desire to live longer and be a burden to anyone. I hope I may soon be in the happy hunting grounds.”
He was born in Indiana, October 3rd, 1849. In 1869 he left home and went to Minnesota, and in April, with a team of oxen and wagon, began freighting from St. Cloud to Dakota, carrying supplies for the soldiers in the first Riel Rebellion. There were eighty wagons in the outfit and more than once they were attacked by the Sioux Indians. These trips took all summer and the winters he spent at Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, fishing and hunting.
The Spring of ’72 found him the head of a small party freighting from Braynard Minn. to Ft. Lincoln on the Missouri River, just across from where Bismark now stands. In the spring of ’73 he went west with a gov-
ernment engineering party under General Stanley. It was a big outfit, 29 companies of soldiers and over 300 mule teams. They were surveying a route for the Northern Pacific Railway.
In the spring of ’76 he was waiting at Ft. Buford to join the troops which were being sent up the river. A post settler asked him to go to Bismark to bring back men and oxen, promising they would be back before arrival of the troops. However, they were away much longer than they intended, and on their return they heard the news of the Custer Massacre; thus quite by accident Bloss missed the fate of Custer and his men. He joined the troops at this time serving General Miles. He carried despatches for General Crook from Ft. Buford up the Yellowstone to General Terry’s boats. Here he delivered them to the famous Buffalo Bill who carried them the rest of the way.
In June of ’77 Bloss and another made a trip from Miles City to Seattle on horseback, took the boat to San Francisco and train to Los Angeles. There they fitted out with saddle horses and packs and went east, skirting the Mojave desert, near the borders of Mexico to Fort Tuna on the Colorado River; across the river 125 miles north, then east 200 miles to Iron Springs and 30 miles again to the Colorado crossing just below Grand Canyon; north again 100 miles to St. George. From St. George down the valley towards Salt Lake City 300 miles; then to Ogden, Utah; north to Franklin, Idaho; still further north to Lemki, the Indian agency at the top of the mountains; east to Virginia City, Montana, to Bozeman, then down the Yellowstone to Miles City. That was May of ’78. The trip had taken eleven months.
The years ’79, ’80 and ’81 were spent hunting big game in the Big Horn Mountains; part of the time for himself and each fall acting as scout and guide for Old County gentry. There were many big names among them and it was then that he met the uncle and father of our present Alberta Lord Rodney.
In the spring of ’84 he was freighting in the Rocky Mountains as far west as Golden, B.C. The C.P.R. was being built through that year.
In the spring of ’85 came the war. Bill Bloss served under General Strange and pursued Big Bear as far as Fort Pitt. In July of ’85 he came back to Calgary and the next spring went freighting again between Calgary and Edmonton.
In the spring of ’87 Bloss went to Lacombe and had a cattle ranch there for four years. In the spring of ’91 he came to Beaver Lake. Since that time he has been ranching and farming in the Tofield district until six years ago when he retired from active life.”
Margaret (McCauley) Wood
The Jack Bowick Family
Jack Bowick was born in Fettercairn, Kincardineshire, Scotland, in 1881. In 1892 he came to the United States and then to Edmonton. In 1905 he and his wife came to Tofield, in the company of James and Omar Mahaffey.
Among his remembrances of his early days in Alberta was the driving of the golden spike which symbolized the completion of the Canadian Northern Railway.
He also remembered the discomforts of a trip to the Pembina valley when a snowstorm was raging. He was wearing, of all things, a derby hat; a handkerchief tied over the hat and around his ears gave some protection against the bitter weather but still, he was forced to turn back.
On his arrival in Tofield, Mr. Bowick filed on a homestead which consisted of four quarters of land and was situated one-half mile north of Henry Woods’ home. The Bowicks travelled to their homestead in a lumber wagon over roads that were far from good. The sloughs, swollen by the wet spring, had covered much of the road so a new trail had to be made, following the higher ground.
The Bowick homestead was proved up in 1912. In the meantime, Mr. Bowick worked for the Tofield Coal Company. The first shaft for their mine was sunk in 1907. Mr. Bowick managed the mine for Crafts, Lee and Gallinger from 1907 to 1910. Later, this became a strip mine, reaching a production of 145,000 tons per year and being shipped as far as Winnipeg.
By 1913, Mr. Bowick was working for the town of Tofield, finishing up the gas well near the present Baptist Church. When the drill went too deep, salty water flooded the well – one thousand feet in six minutes.
In 1915, Mr. Bowick bought a steamer that pulled three 24-inch plows. These weighed 1575 pounds each. He and his brother Bill, together with Cap Lee owned this outfit which was used to break up virgin land at the rate of seven or eight acres a day. This was an unheard-of speed in breaking the land which had been covered by solid forests of popular at the coming of the pioneers.
The Bowick family often saw Chief Meechum and his band travelling by wagon and horseback to and from their permanent camp at Blackfoot Lake. Chief Meecham’s favorite article of attire was a derby hat.
Mr. Bowick was instrumental in moving the buildings from the original site of Tofield to the Crafts, Lee and Gallinger townsite. When Tofield was again moved in 1908, he again assisted the process both with horse outfits and with his steamer. He moved the present Masonic Hall with six teams of horses. It had to be jacked up to be raised onto a high foundation. To do this, 64-foot timbers were used.
Mr. Bowick returned to the mine later. Here, as master mechanic with steam engineer’s papers, he worked until 1923.
He also moved the present Graham Allan house and the present Coffee Shop which was once the L. C. Hay Store and was situated on the site of the present Walter Kendal house.
In 1940, the Bowicks moved to Barrhead, returning to Edmonton in 1947. In 1951, they went to Kelowna and in 1955 returned to Tofield to retire.
Mr. Bowick was an active curler. Some of his fellow-curlers were John Lee and George McLaughlin, with whom he curled in 1913.
He recalled playing baseball in shirt sleeves on January Sth in 1914.
Mr. and Mrs. Bowick retired in Tofield where they lived for several years prior to their deaths.
In Tofield they were close to their grandchildren, Bonnie, Bruce and Colin, children of their deceased son Harry and his wife Edna (Shaw) Bowick. Nearby in Edmonton are Mattie and Connie, Keith in Barrhead, Bob in Kingman, and another son, Jack, in Kelowna, B.C.