Manager, Experimental Station,
I noticed your letter of Jan. 18 is addressed to Hassard Cadenhead, whose initials H. C. are the same as my own. As your questions chiefly concern gardening he wishes me to answer as his mother. Having full charge of garden work while he has been in charge of the farm, I know more about [the gardening.]
My son J. D. Cadenhead came to this country in 1910 from Edmonton where we had been living for 10 years. He returned to Edmonton in 1911 for supplies and Hassard accompanied him back. They liked this place and wanted me to come but I did not get my home and business in Edmonton disposed of to come with them that spring, but the following spring J. D. returned again for supplies and quite a party of us returned with him. Hassard remained here and prepared for our coming. He said if mother is coming she will want a garden. He got a team of horses, broke two acres of land, fenced it and had it all planted in potatoes, carrots, turnips, lettuce, onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and rhubarb plants from seed I sent on ahead the year or winter before.
1. July 7, 1912, I arrived here with my mother and daughter and a widowed sister from Ontario and her son.
2. My two sons liked it here and wanted me to come. My father was born in 1809, my mother in 1824. Father passed away at 88 years 4 months. My mother was 88 years of age when she came here with me. In August 1913, J.D.C. went with her to Edmonton, where my sister met her and she went on to Victoria, BC. Fourteen months later without any illness and faculties bright she went to sleep much as usual but did not awaken early next morning as usual, slept on and breathed her last 10 a.m. My father’s name was Hassard Wilcox Purdy and my mother’s Caroline Elizabeth Bristol. Both families came from Britain, Wales chiefly and Bristol, England. Later as United Empire Loyalists came to Canada. Both my parents were born along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River where many of the U. E. L. settled and received large tracts of land.
3. My first gardening was many years ago chiefly after I married and went to live in Manitoba, on the bank of the Assiniboine River at St. Charles. [This was] just west of Winnipeg then, where the whippoorwills would call to us from the trees around our home there. We had a fine garden on part of our city lots around our home in Edmonton. One year Hassard as a schoolboy had two crops of potatoes off the same land on the hillside. We had cabbage, cauliflower, beets, carrots and onions, but chiefly tomatoes. Here we have tried many varieties. The Experimental farm at Ottawa very kindly sent us a great variety of shrubs, trees and perennial flowers. We tried them all and reported to them our success. Rhubarb from seed does well here. I have many new seedlings to transplant in spring.
Last year we had corn from home grown seed for three weeks, cabbage, 9 lbs. the second week, in August, by the end of August 23 lbs., many of them.
The government seed sent headed late in fall but were firmer and better winter cabbage, though we generally have good cabbages here in March and have now. Cauliflower excellent and large. Cucumbers fine and large. Carrots — Chantenay and Oxheart. Beets half sugar and small red. Magels 3 varieties. Onions, peas, lettuce and tomatoes. Frost came early last year, none ripened in the garden, but we had them for weeks after ripening in the house and lots for green tomato pickle.
One year we had 25 bushels of tomatoes. August 25 they were ripening in the garden, frost came late that year so the vines were out until October, I think that was 1914. We have tomatoes here every year with fairly good success. They seem to me quite as hardy as potatoes. I notice the same frost takes both each year.
We have crab-apples trees but not to blossom yet. They either winter kill or the mice girdle them, but it seems surprising what a growth they make each year. We have bush honeysuckle, caragana, and lilacs — both common and Chinese. The common lilacs have not blossomed yet. Seed of all above shrubs put in 1913 except the Chinese lilacs and at three years last year they blossomed. Bush honeysuckle and caragana blossomed the third year from seed. We have hop vines and year after year a heavy hedge of wild cucumber vines around my own special garden around three sides of the house.
The flowers are lovely here year after year. When the snow goes and spring comes we have pansies until snow comes in fall — even then they peep out at me and wait until winter sets in. Leeland poppies — 3 shades. Rockets — white all summer, younger plants late.
Columbines all shades of pink, purple and white to almost black. Cypsophila lovely, sweet William, coreopsis, dianthus (pinks), sweet peas, hollyhocks have been in bud and even opened then frosted. Gaillardia and campanula all do well here year after year. Wormwood, catnip and rue and sage grow well.
4. Field crops do well here — more like Ontario, I think. During the time we have only had one failure of wheat. I think in 1915, but at the moment am not sure, but it was the same year wheat failed over a large part of this western country, frosted in the blossom, but even that year oats and barley did well here. One year we had buckwheat very good. But we did not care enough for it for feed to bother with it, preferring oats and barley for feed. Cattle and horses do well here with reasonable care. Pigs thrive with indifferent care but like everything else in proportion to the care they get. Ours seem to be doing very well. When we first bought them here they were a great curiosity. The Indians would come and watch them with great interest.
5. When we came in 1912 we were the first white women who came to live here west of Dunvegan. That fall Mr. Drew, HBCo Trader brought his white wife there to Hudson Hope and a son was born there, so far as we know the first white child at Hudson Hope. I think it was two years later Mr. And Mrs. Learmoth has a son born to them there and the present Mrs. Jim Beattie has three children born there. Several men took up land around Fort St. John just before the war. Many left for the front; some abandoned their claims later. Not much farming if any being done except by Mr. Beatton, HBCo Trader, who had been at St. John for many years.
I hope you will get his story of life at St. John, I believe it would be very interesting. Mr. Burley, Revillon’s Trader, married Mr. Beatton’s daughter after coming to Fort St. John in 1913, I think.
6. Hassard had heard of “Nigger Dan” [D.T. Williams], and that he lived on Dog Island out from St. John but could not give any sure account of him, but surely Mr. Beatton can.
7. Mr. Beatton and Mr. Burly could tell you fairly accurately, I believe about “the extent of settlement and cropping and ranching in the Fort St. John country”. There are so many newcomers since the war we could not tell you very well. We have been so busy attending to our own business 30 miles away. Just now, Hassard is away freighting up the Halfway River with Mr. Colt of the Diamond C. Ranch. This is a large ranch taken up by a syndicate — horses, cattle and farming. There is no road yet — only a pack trail — and they try to get their freight up the Halfway over the last ice. Mr. Sam Colt has been storm-bound here for weeks with his team. Hassard and he started from here with loads of lumber and grain and groceries. Feb. 4, a bad snowstorm struck them two days out and they cached their loads and returned here on Feb. 7 at 5 p.m. They waited until warm weather came to lessen the snow and left again Mar. 3 (Dates taken from notes in my diary).
I am here alone in charge while Hassard is away. We are milking two fresh cows for winter. I feed one steer calf, and two heifer calves, milk the third cow for me and are doing fine. We have 12 head of cattle, beside have dressed and sold two beef cattle this winter, and several pigs. We still have 25 pigs beside a new family of 9 a few days old. Another litter arrived 6 p.m.
I have five pens to feed and the rest have more open shelter outside but have to be fed. Besides that, there are ponies and colts in the open to eat and be attended to, but very little work about it. Hassard and I are the only ones left at home now for three years. We only have a man to help at times.
Wages have been so high — $3 to $5 per day and board. We had 80 acres of crop last year, and have feed to sell for teams passing by. Generally they want sheaf oats. We have 150 hens, so it keeps us busy in spring and summer. I attend to house work, butter plenty the year around, three more cows expected in soon and soon my early garden needs to go in and garden work starts but I enjoy it.
There has been just enough farming done around Hudson Hope to prove up on the better land around it but not to make farming a success there yet. At Farrel Creek or Red River, fifteen miles west of here the Erb brothers had a very good crop this last year. They have some cattle there to winter for a Mr. Frank Alexander who has quite good place twenty miles up the Halfway from here and owns a number of horses and fifty head of cattle. A Mr. McFarlane has taken land seventy miles up the Halfway and Mr. B.C. Brady is farming and has many horses and some cattle 80 miles up, one day this side of Laurier Pass. Charles and Frank Hudson have a trapper’s cabin beyond Mr. Alexander’s near the turn west to the Diamond C. Ranch, sixty miles from here. Hassard will probably be away a week, having to break trail with only the two teams, Mr. Colt’s and ours to do the work.
I have been a widow for twenty-six years. My husband was a surveyor. He was on the first Boundary survey between Alaska and Canada and perished in the Klondyke while in the employ of the Dominion Government. I was left with my husband’s old uncle and three small children to care for. The youngest was fourteen months old. I have become so used to attending to everything possible to earn an honest living for them and though I have only one left at home with me now, I still keep at it. I begin to feel I have been at it so long (since 30th Dec. 1857). I should not attempt so much work now, but there is still much work to do and I take a pleasure in doing all I am able to do. At the first sign of spring I begin to think of putting in early seed. Easter is generally my time to start boxes in the house, but as it is late this year I intend to start this month — four weeks earlier. I seem to see in my mind my grandmother’s garden and another of fruit trees — plums and greengages — and my father and mother’s garden along the old Bay of Quinte shore at Bath where there was an old English church built in 1793. I was born there on a hillside on the old farm that used to belong to Uncle Billy Wilcox, my father’s uncle. There we had apples early and late, plums blue and green, small greengages, many varieties of pears, red and black currants and raspberries. Our trip from Edmonton here has been published before, but may be interesting to you.
We left Edmonton May 4, 1912, went west on the Grand Trunk Pacific to Thornton at the mouth of Wolfe Creek. The men of our party built boats and loaded them with our outfits and supplies of every kind needed. We floated in two good-sized boats down the McLeod River to the Lesser Slave River to Salteaux Landing. There the steamboat took our main passenger boat — the one that had a tent on it and a very comfortable place for my mother and her easy chair — in tow. They took us to Sawridge and on across the Lesser Slave Lake to Grouard. The other boat was tracked up the Sawridge by the Indians, and came across the Lake by next trip of the steamer.
We poled over to the English Mission across Buffalo Bay. From there teams were hired to take us across the Grouard Portage to Peace River. Twenty-five miles south of Peace River we bought two Red Polled cows with their calves and took them to Peace River a few days later while we were waiting for a boat up river. I paid the “Grenfell” Co. eight hundred dollars to bring us all up this to the Halfway Flat. I liked the place and location from the first. We were merely squatters at first for the place was not surveyed yet.
As my youngest child was still a minor, they allowed me to take up land and I bought the fraction in front, giving me the NW 1/4 of 28/Tp83/R22, West of 6th, and the fraction — something over seventy acres with a half mile of river front on Peace River and a spring on the hillside to the third flat. Good land and facing the sun. We have very long days in summer and three hours of sunlight on our home the shortest days in winter. The third Flat, where most of the quarter is, gets more sunlight, but the garden is fine here and a good boat landing all summer long.
Today a gold mining outfit passed here — five sleighs, six teams, a cook shack and several men. They came up and bought 65 oat sheaves here for noon feed and some to take with them. They expect to do well just above the Rocky Mountain Portage from thirty to fifty miles above.
There has been drilling going on north of Hudson Hope for oil since last summer, now they have moved to within nine miles of the Hope. Gething is getting out coal from his mine just above Hudson Hope. We hope they will all do well. A lot of money is being spent on Hope. Joe Turner, has broken much of the land around Hudson Hope for parties, proving up their land, and is the main farmer near town. Kelly, five miles out has remained on his homestead and Jim Beattie had farmed his homestead 20 miles above Hudson Hope, even raised tomatoes there. He has the Portage work and intends to move back to Hudson Hope next summer he told us. I hope I have not wearied you. Do not print all this by any means. I have been very busy since your letter arrived by next to last mail. I wrote you by last mail and sent a letter to Mr. Beatton for you as we only have mail twice a month. I realized tomorrow would be mail day again so I wrote this as it came to me this afternoon between my work. Attending to the stock takes most of my time when I am alone. I often feel when people come up from the boat that they should not praise my garden so much, but they seem sincere. I feel it should be much better, but it is only done in my moments of spare time. I could spend them at other work but the garden goes so far toward our living I feel it important and I enjoy it all. We have vegetables plenty the year around. I have dozens of sealers, pick the wild fruit myself and do it up — raspberries, Saskatoons, cranberry and rhubarb and green tomatoes. We raise our own meat and poultry. I put up much of that for summer use, so though freight rates are high we do not have to buy much for our own use. Many passing along the river come in for butter, eggs, bread, milk cream, and vegetables. All help to make the farm pay. I have never photographed my garden in summer. Many tourists have. My photos of the place have been taken in winter. I wish you success in your work.
P.S. I forgot to tell you we have about 25 acres of timothy hay beside the 80 acres we had in last year of wheat, oats and barley. Part of the timothy field has been in seven years and still yields a good crop. Hassard let part of it ripen last year and flails out the seed on a canvas then fans it. He sold some to Mr. Dopp of Cache Creek, 8 miles east of us along the river. There are three settlers there all farming and they have horses and cattle.
The wild grass soon gives out for hay. We use chiefly timothy. We get much more hay for the work and better hay near home. Timothy comes up in every direction here. It is the hardest weed I have to fight in my garden. Birds and wind carry the seed and it goes in the manure. Quack grass is natural here. Hassard has to use care and work the land and crops to keep it in check but it can be done and is well worth while to do it. I have to fight it out in my garden too with something that goes deeper than a Dutch hoe. Grubs bother me much too perhaps these drawbacks are what keep others from having a good garden. Hassard had plenty of timothy to seed his place, 1/2 mile west of mine and more to sell. Mr. Burley has spoken for some. H.A.C.