Our Family, consisting of my father (Henry) Thomas, a carpenter, my mother (stepmother) Minnie (Moore) and four brothers, Walter a horticulturist, Bert (Herbert) a printer, Arthur a civil servant in the Middlesex Guildhall, and Tom who was apprenticed to a trade (plumbing) were living together in Epsom, Surrey, England.
In 1903 Walter went out to Canada and filed on a homestead in Nokomis, Saskatchewan, (*Note – on this land he raised pigs, chickens, cattle and grains…) In the fall of 1911 he wrote to say that he was going to Northern Alberta to look at an area called the Peace River country and would like to know whether we would like to go out to Canada and take up farming. We replied that we would be willing to go out. In December we received a further letter telling that he had made the trip to Edson, where he met Fred Dixon and Ellsworth Foy and their families and had driven a team for them up the Edson Trail to a place known as Appleton. He had looked over the country, liked what he saw and had filed for us by proxy. We would have to report at the Dominion Land Office in Grande Prairie by June 1912.
The family decided that Dad and Mother should stay in England for another year or two until we had things a bit ship-shape over here. Bert and I left Liverpool for the promised land on January 29, 1912. Tom was to leave two month later after he finished his apprenticeship.
We found a lot to do at Walter’s homestead, getting things ready to load a car of settler’s effects : five horses, bales of hay, sacks of oats, farm machinery, and our three selves. We arrived at Edson on March 7 and loaded our two sleighs for the trip north.
We arrived at our destination on 28 March and moved in with the Bob Shaws and Jim Corey. We got busy and built a log barn. pitched our tent in one end and the horses in the other and moved in. Tom arrived in May. Jim Corey built a house for us, so we were able to move out of the barn.
Our situation was rather unique : four bachelor brothers and all living together. Clearing and fencing kept us busy and to get some breaking done we exchanged labor with a neighbor. On Sundays we attended the Methodist Church in what is now known as Halcourt Hill. It was a real community church, a place where one was sure to meet his neighbors and any newcomers. We enjoyed the singing, but I am sure that the four of us were hoping that after the service that some of the married neighbors would be kind enough to invite us to their homes for supper. What a treat for us after eating my cooking all week.
The first year our crop was frozen. The wheat had grown very tall but the heads were empty. Rabbits were plentiful and prairie chickens could be knocked over with a lump of dirt. These helped quite a bit with the meat supply. In November Tom and I got jobs with a survey crew. The work was finished on Christmas Day and they took us to Edmonton and paid us off. Tom got a job in a lumber camp west of Edmonton and I went to Saskatoon and worked in a law office. We came back here in the early spring of 1913 to do more clearing and breaking, going out again in the fall.
In the winter of 1914 Walter and Bert made their annual trip to Edson for supplies, but this time one of the sleighs was made into a caboose and contained a stove as they were to bring dad and mother back with them. My services as cook would no longer be required and I was very pleased to have mother take over and I guess the boys were too.
We now had a cream collecting and testing station on the farm on behalf of the Grand Prairie Creamery. Dad, who had been quite a gardener in England, now proceeded to show us what could be done with our garden soil and produced wonderful gardens. He was also much in demand for the making of window sashes.
On Sunday, August 1914, our Anglican minister, the Rev. Hugh Speke, from Grande Prairie informed us that war had been declared between England and Germany. He said goodbye to us as he was leaving immediately for England to rejoin his regiment. In the fall I walked to Edson for the sixth and last time and joined up in Saskatoon. Bert joined an Edmonton regiment. On returning to Canada, I married Kathleen Brownrigg in Saskatoon in 1921 and returned to this district to live. Dad and Charlie Cook built a log house for us on my homestead and we tried our hand at chicken farming. This was not a success and we found ourselves in the store business. We moved our buildings down to a location west of the Halcourt school near the blacksmith shop Walter, Bert and Tom were farming the section, but Bert decided to pull out and went down to Saskatoon to get back in the printing business.
In January 1922 Walter married Miss Lemoin O’Neil, the district nurse, who was stationed at the Charles McNaught home at Appleton. Her home was in California and they went there to live. Miss Olive Watherston was appointed to take her place. At first she made her headquarters at Appleton, but moved to Halcourt during the winter of 1922-23 and resigned in 1925. In 1922 our son Bob was born, to be followed by Tom in 1924, Joyce (Mrs. Arthur Martin) in 1926 and Kathleen (Mrs William McNaughton) in 1929.
Dad and Mother now decided that they would like to have a home of their own in which to spend the remainder of their lives, so Dad and Jim Corey built a log house on Dad’s homestead, leaving Tom in sole possession of our original farm home. In 1927 he married Miss Ethel Bastin who had followed Miss Watherston as district nurse. Their family consists of Mary (Mrs Lyall Marcy) Gwen (Mrs Harold Soderquist) Bey, (Mrs. Jim Haiste) and Dorothy (Mrs. Guy Ireland). Bert had returned from Saskatoon where he had been in the printing business and where he had married my wife’s sister, Madge Brownrigg. She passed away in 1928 after giving birth to Peggy (Margaret).
Dad and mother now commenced a Sunday school – something that had been on their minds for quite a long time. It took hold immediately and over the years a number of children attended. Bert organized “Funnell’s Orchestra” which became very popular in the area between Rio Grande and Grande Prairie. Members of the orchestra included Bert (piano), Tom Williams (vocalist and drums), Herb O’Brien (banjo), Albert Silverton (banjo), Weston Longson (violin) and others.
In 1936 Bert returned to England to live. Dad passed away in February 1938 in his 80th year after a long and painful illness, and mother followed him a year later. In 1945, Bert who had married again asked me to send Peggy over to him, and I was fortunate enough to get her away with a trainload of “evacuee” children returning to England after the war. She was then 17 years of age. Bert passed away in 1954, and Walter in California in 1961. Perhaps modesty does not permit the Funnell’s to relate their many years of cheerful years to the Halcourt community.
This is a copy of a journal kept by Arthur Funnell.
Arthur died in Beaverlodge, Alberta, Canada in 1/1/1975. His wife died in Beaverlodge 3/1984.
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