By Nona Stauffer from information received from Mrs H.E. Craig,
Mr. Elwood Craig was born in Ontario and at the age of four his family moved to North Dakota to homestead. Later they moved to Barons, Alberta and Elwood took a homestead. Mrs. Pauline Craig, formally Miss P. Myers was born in Indiana, U.S.A. Her family moved to Claresholm, Alberta in 1914. She met her husband Elwood Craig in 1917 and was married the same year. She was teaching summer school at Black Spring Ridge where she met Elwood.
They lived in Barons until after their two sons were born when Pauline decided to enter the new Normal School in Calgary. She is one of the first graduates of that institution. Following this, she taught in rural and consolidated schools until the spring of 1927 when they decided to try their luck at farming in Saskatchewan.
During the depression years they heard so much about the Peace River Country and the great tracts of good open land that they decided to make the trek to this “Land of Milk and Honey” and use their homestead rights and then go back to Alberta. It didn’t work out just that way. They moved into Cherry Point and found the land there was not open for filing so they filed on land in the Clayhurst district and placed their two boys in the school, which was being built there. By this time they had another addition to the family, their daughter Joy, born two years previously in Saskatchewan.
This was the period of their lives that was the darkest. As neither one of them had been accustomed to privations and like any one knows who lived in the Peace River Country during those years there was no work and no money. Elwood, like many a good man in that period, went away from home to obtain work to provide the necessities for his family. Later he was made road foreman for the relief workers in Clayhurst. Pauline did not hold a B.C. teacher’s certificate so she was unable to teach in the Clayhurst School.
During the thirties, Cherry Point needed a schoolteacher and she took the job. The school was started in 1936 in Elver Andrew’s two-room cottage. Pauline lived in the one room through the week and held class in the other. This was furnished with homemade desks, beaverboard painted black for a black board, two erasers and a box of chalk. She later taught in the first school opened in Bear Canyon. Sometimes the pay was eggs, meat and butter. It was during this time her daughter Gwendolyn was born.
It was a short time after this that the Craigs purchased the Clayhurst store and moved the building into its present location and Elwood acted as Postmaster as well as storekeeper. Elwood was well known for his persistence in corresponding with the Government to get better roads and played a big part with W. Clay in having the government put the ferry in at the Clayhurst landing. Elwood also served on the school board as one of the first trustees, and while on the school board the name for the district came. It was important that they have a name in order to get the post office as well as further government support. Elwood called a meeting of all the pioneers and many names were thought of and suggested. For sometime before the meeting the district was known as Clayhurst but it had not received approval from the government. The outcome of the meeting was a new name of Charyuchville along with the name Clayhurst was submitted to the government. The government chose the name Clayhurst and the district has been known as such ever since. The ‘Clay’ is for the Clay family and the ‘Hurst’ to include the Ukrainian settlement.
Now follows some of the interesting highlights of Mrs. P. Craig’s first years in the district and told in her own words …
“I remember the first New Year’s dance held at Barney Streeper’s home in Cherry Point. This was to be a three-day affair, much to my surprise. We wrapped our three children in warm blankets and put heated stones in the cutter and hooked up Kit (a heavy workhorse) and Chub (a child’s pony). What a sight this team made, but these were the only horses we had as we sold all our other horses in Saskatchewan before moving into the district. Someone told us we could buy all the horses we wanted in the Peace Country. What a laugh — there were just no horses to be had for love nor money.
After dancing till midnight I asked Barney to hitch the team so we could go home. He told me, “go put the children to sleep wherever there was room and find a place for myself.” All the bedrooms were full so I went back to Barney, horrified and determined to go home. Barney said, “If that is what you want, I will hook up the team”, which he did. As Elwood was incapable of driving due to the high spirits of the party, I made my way home — which was 12 miles away. With the kids all tucked under the blankets we reached home in the wee hours of the morning. Not being an experienced horsewoman, I pulled the harness from the horses and quickly went in the house. The temperature was 30 below and my house the same. A big fire had to be built and the kids put to bed. Needless to say we all survived our first New Year’s dance in Clayhurst.”
“Kay Clay and I rode horseback a lot together. It was our only means of transportation. Each spring we would ride down to Bear Canyon, some fifteen miles away. Each time we would get lost on the trails. The last time we got lost we had eaten all our lunch and were starving when we came to Mr. Starnes’ vegetable garden. Here we began filling our pockets with peas and cucumbers. Then, looking up, we saw Mr. Starnes. As two grown women needless to say we were embarrassed, but Mr. Starnes just said, “Go ahead and help yourself”. He grew the best gardens in all the three districts. From there we went on down to their homestead and had a good visit with his wife and family. We stayed the night with them and our bedroom was in the upstairs which had open windows. Before falling to sleep, a bat came flying in the room and poor Kay was terrified and screamed each time that bat swooped down over our bed. It caused me to shriek with laughter at how terrified Kay was of that bat.”
“The first time I was invited to an Easter celebration at one of the Ukrainian homes, it was a truly new experience. With each course a bottle of homemade liquor was passed around. As I had never tasted it, I preferred to just pass it on, when the lady next to me said, “You must take a little or the circle will be broken”. I did pour a little in my glass and when I drank it – Oh! What a feeling, just like a little fire. These celebrations as I said lasted three days and often we women were called upon to look after the men as well as the children, but we did have such good times. These were the days when you could forget for awhile the many hardships which we lived with.”
Just as a final thought I would like to say, “As pioneers and neighbors we shared many a hardship and many a good time, and on the whole, life was very good”.