Arthur and Herbert (Bert) left Liverpool England on 29 January 1912 and migrated to Canada. They arrived in Canada in February 1912 and joined Walter at his ranch in Saskatchewan. The three prepared everything for their trip, which included pork, beef, flour, lard and other food necessities as well as the needed cooking equipment. They loaded their items including farming equipment onto a freight car and proceeded to the trail starting point at Edson in Alberta. They were now prepared for their trip.
by Arthur Funnell
Bert, Walter and I arrived in Edson by train on March 7, 1912 and for the next two days we were busy unloading the railroad car and arranging our two sleigh-loads of freight. We could not find room on the sleighs for all that we had, so we left the binder and disk harrow stacked up alongside the railroad track near the station where it could be picked up the following winter.
We left Edson on Sunday, March 10 and found the trail very soft and muddy. It was very warm and the snow had melted. We had two sleigh-loads of effects and the saddle horse tied behind one of the sleighs. The trail was so soft that we had to double up the teams several times and did not reach the Ten Mile stopping place until evening. There we put the horses in the barn and made for the cookhouse for supper. Here we found a piano, much to Bert’s delight, and enjoyed a few songs. However, we weren’t long in getting to the bunkhouse for the night.
Monday morning and we were on our way again. The trail was still very bad, making heavy going for the horses. We reached the Frenchman’s stopping place at 5:30 thus completing 20 miles from Edson.
Tuesday morning we awoke to find it was snowing. As the country was very hilly, instead of doubling up, we had put chains around the runners to hold back the sleighs going down hill. We saw several broken wheels and parts of wagons, also a dead horse -signs of the difficulties of the trail. We completed 15 miles that day, reaching the Swede’s stopping place at 7:00 P.M.
We were up at 6:00 A.M. on Wednesday. This place was ideally situated, affording a beautiful view of the Rockies. The meals were all that could be desired. We started out about 8:00 A.M. We smashed the sleigh tongue and replaced it with a wagon tongue. We decided that we couldn’t make the next stopping place, so made camp. 13 miles that day.
We reached the Athabasca Canyon the next day. The hill down to the river was so steep that most of the load shot off the first sleigh – with a flat rack – so we found a different route for the second. We reached the Athabasca River about 5:00 P.M. and put up at the stopping place after making only 5 miles that day. We borrowed a wagon and hauled most of our stuff up a very steep hill on the other side of the river, rather than wait until the next morning.
On Friday morning we found it had snowed during the night. Some road grading had been done, and it took us two hours getting sleighs up one hill. We reached the foot of Frazier Hill and found there was no snow on it, so had to unload and fix up the wagons. We camped out that night. Only made 3 miles today, making a total of 56 miles from Edson.
Up before sunrise on Saturday. We unloaded one sleigh and put the load on the wagon. The road was bare clay where it had been graded and about half way up the horses refused to go any further. We unloaded and carried everything up on our backs. We took two jags on the wagon by a different route. Then we got going again with one wagon and one sleigh. We camped out again that night, turning in about 10:30 P.M. We made only 3 miles. Total 59 miles.
Sunday we were up before six, had breakfast and were off again. We reached Church’s stopping place and had dinner there. It started snowing and we reached the Little Smokey River at 7:00 P.M. We put up at the stopping place and had a fine supper.
Next morning we found it had snowed nearly 3 inches. After traveling about five miles we found there was a pretty good trail, so again we took the wagon to pieces and put the sleigh together, so we were once more using the two sleighs. We reached the Tony River at 6:30 P.M. and put in at Foster’s stopping place.
On Tuesday we were off at 7:30 A.M. It was very good going except at one hill where we had to use the block and tackle, or rather we tried the block and tackle, but after snapping off three or four trees, we gave it up and doubled up the teams. We sold 40 pounds of pork, some lard and rice to the foreman of the road gang, who said it was the first fresh pork he had seen in twelve months. We made 35 miles that day but as the stopping place was another 15 miles away, we had to camp out in a splendidly sheltered spot.
On Wednesday we were up at 5:30 A.M. Breakfast again on flapjacks. We are getting heartily tired of them, although I cook them myself. We jogged along easily and made House River by noon. We used Fatty Smith’s stopping place to cook our grub, and his bunkhouse to sleep in. The place was crowded, some in bunks and some all over the floor.
Up at 7:00 A.M. on Thursday, and away at 9:00. The trail hereabouts was very good, and we covered the 15 miles to Emerson’s stopping place in good time. We passed two loads drawn by two oxen. The driver was bewailing his chances of getting up the hill, so we took up our own loads and came back and hauled his loads. He said he was located in the Red Willow, so expected that we would be neighbors.
On Friday we left about 8:00 A.M. and found the trail pretty good. We had company as Fraser had completed work on the House River and was moving the pile driver to the Big Smokey to bridge a ravine there. There two teams hauled the pile driver. We all camped on the trail at noon and had dinner together. The country was getting to be much more open, and evidently we were reaching the Prairie lands. We reached Sturgeon Lake, quite a little settlement, about 5:00 P.M. and put up at Scotty’s stopping place. Again the bunkhouse was crowded, evidence that Grande Prairie country was drawing lots of settlers.
On Saturday we found the lake a splendid sheet of water and the settlement looked right over it. There was a Catholic Mission there and a Hudson Bay Post. We left about 8:30 and passed through what -in winter – was an Indian settlement. About midday the trail began to get pretty bad, absolutely running with water. We thought about putting the wagon together again, but decided to wait and see. While cooking dinner a sleigh passed us with just a little hay on it. It was drawn by four horses – evidence that the trail was known to be bad. We saw our first prairie chickens. We reached Harper’s stopping place after dark and the pile driver pulled in just after. We found most of the floor space in the shack occupied by the bed rolls of three Mounted Police. We squeezed in about 10:30 P.M. We were now 215 miles from Edson.
This was Sunday again. We were up at 6:30 A.M. and unloaded one sleigh and put the wagon together again. We had breakfast and doubled up the hill as there was not a particle of snow on it. The trail was merely a big pond in many places, and it made hard work for the horses drawing the sleigh. We reached Smith’s stopping place for dinner. Smith and another chap came from Brantford. Both were football enthusiast . We discussed the merits and demerits of all the football clubs and players till time for us to be off again. We reached the Big Smoky after dark, and put in at Goodwins stopping place. The place was full up, all going to Grande Prairie district.
We were up pretty early Monday morning, but found that quite a few of the occupants of the bunkhouse had started off in the early hours to catch the frost. We made a start about 7:30 A.M. and crossed the river, and it looked as though the ice on it would last forever. The hill on the other side was a very steep and long one, but we were told it had been greatly improved since last fall, when Walter was on it with Dixon and Foy’s. We passed quite a few loads drawn by oxen, and the beasts seemed to be played out. This was the hottest day we had had, being quite like summer weather. We reached the top safely and put in for the night at a homestead belonging to a chap named Manning whom Walter knew. There was no floor in the shack, and as the frost was just coming out the ground was pretty wet.
Tuesday morning Bert found that he had been sleeping in a pool of water which had soaked through the under-blankets. We cooked breakfast and were on our way again. The land hereabouts was quite open and all taken up. We reached Grande Prairie City by noon, and put the horses up as we had a little shopping to do. It was quite a city comprising a bank, a store, and a livery barn in connection with which was a boarding house. The bank was a very large institution with the silver kept in a tobacco tin! We bought saltpeter for curing our pork. We pulled out after dinner and reached Hermit Lake at 7:00 P.M., putting up at a half breed’s place for the night. The shack was very well put together and very clean and tidy inside.
Wednesday we made Saskatoon Lake by mid day and pulled into the little settlement there to send off some letters. This place was about the same size as Grande Prairie City. Some chap wanted to buy our saddle horse Frank, but we were not selling him yet. The snow seemed to have gone entirely around here and the place was all creeks and streams. We caught up and passed an outfit that left Edson the day before us. They were bound for the Beaverlodge District. Somehow we got on the wrong trail. We had to cross a creek that was very deep, too deep for our sleighs, so we unloaded the sleigh and put everything on the wagon. We then put the four horses on the wagon and tied the sleigh behind. The wagon crossed all right, but the sleigh tilted over and shot our box of cooking utensils into the water – two frying pans, kettle, tea pot, baking tin, stew pot, plates, cups, knives, forks and spoons. We paddled and fished about but only recovered 3 cups.
It was now getting dark, (I expect the language had something to with that) and the water was icy cold, so we started off again. We reached the Beaverlodge river which we had to cross. The banks were rather steep and the water rushing pretty fast, added to which it was now pitch dark. We inquired at a shack close at hand how deep the water was and were told it was not too bad. We all climbed on the wagon, left the sleigh and crossed. It was not as deep as the creek where we lost our cooking utensils, because there was ice underneath, the water being merely what had drained down off the land, but it was making quite a roaring sound. Now we found that we were lost. We shouted to know if there was anybody home when we ran across a barn, a shack half completed and a tent, but the place was deserted. We were all wringing wet and my feet were in a mess. Several days ago, when the weather started warming up and the frost was coming out of the ground, I had decided that wearing leather shoes inside of four buckle overshoes was a very uncomfortable business. The shoes were soggy during the day and dried so stiff and hard during the night that I hated putting them on in the morning. So I had invented a new system. I put my boots on the sleigh and stuffed my overshoes with hay. This worked fine until late in the day when water soaked through my overshoes and I really had wet feet. We put the horses in the barn and while Walter saddled Frank and rode around to try to discover where we were, we got the stove going in the tent. Walter returned but he had not any luck, so we sat on the bed clothes and presently went to sleep.
On Thursday morning, the 28th, we awoke to the sound of rain on the tent roof. We hitched up and made another start at about 6:00 A.M. After 5 or 6 miles on the trail we saw some buildings, and on pulling into the yard we were met by people who introduced themselves as the Chapmans. We found them to be very friendly. They fed us and we were on our way again. Our next stop was at a place where there were two brothers, Harry and Russell Walker from eastern Canada. Harry was the owner of what he called South African scrip, which was a half section of land. Their shack had only a dirt floor, but we were now used to this. They persuaded us to stay and eat, and not much persuasion was needed. I shall always remember the wonderful rice pudding with raisins that was put on the table. We pulled out again after eating, and found that we were not very far away from our destination. It commenced to snow again, and finally, after about a couple hours of traveling, Walter halted his vehicle and said, “Well, I think our land is somewhere around here”. And so, we had finally arrived after a trip of 19 days on the trail.
We saw a light and made for it. It came from a cabin owned by a man named Jim Corey. It was built on the bank of a creek and right across the creek was another cabin inhabited by an ex railroad man named Bob Shaw, his wife and daughter. He had lost a leg in a railroad accident. We had a chat together and it was decided that we should split up, Walter going to stay with Bob Shaw and Bert and I with Jim Corey. Bert and I had become used to sleeping on the floor, but we decided we would like to get busy on living quarters of our own.
We found a place where we could cut some good sized cottonwood logs. The first building was a barn. It was nothing fancy, as we were not expert enough to cut dove-tail corners. When it was completed, we pitched our tent in one end and the horses in the other. It was a great to be on our own, and I am sure that it made things more comfortable for the Shaws and Jim Corey. However, they had been very good to us.
About a mile to the south, we found we had another neighbor, Frank White. We had a section of land west of Shaw and Corey, and the first fine day we had, we wandered over the place, to see what it looked like. Considering that Walter had filed on it while it was under snow, we decided we had been pretty fortunate. We now got busy doing some fencing, as we were having trouble keeping the horses close to home as they had found an Alkali lick.
We cut rails and posts and having no hay wire to spare, we cut green willow branches and tied the rails to the posts with them. They worked pretty well, as they dried and became quite stiff and firm.
We had to be careful to keep track of the kitchen supplies as we would not be buying any more until we made the trip back to Edson next winter. So we tacked a strip of cardboard to the inside wall of the barn, and jotted down each item as it was used up.
My brother Tom arrived from England in May, having walked up the trail, so we were now four brothers, bachelors, and all living together.
We arranged with Jim Corey to build a house for us. He was a fine man with a broad axe. And was in much demand. We could not pay him in cash as money was practically non existent, so I picked rocks for him behind a team of oxen owned by George Burt, until ten acres had been broken. This was my first experience in the business of exchanging labour, but there was a great deal in those early days.
More people were coming in all the time. Charlie Hedges was across from us on the west. Dave McLellan was north of them, Jim Howarth and his boys, Harold and Norman, were north of us, and Bannock was north of them. I never did know his real name, but he must have worked as a cook on some outfit to have picked up a nickname like that.
As for water for our needs, there was a creek running in the spring close to our house, and when that ran dry, we hauled from another creek, about a mile away.
We were now busy clearing our land. This was not too heavy a job, just bluffs of poplar and willow. We found that chopping out willow crowns was a much harder job than rooting up poplars.
We took in the Lake Saskatoon sports which lasted several days. Mr. C. Hopkins very kindly invited us to make his house and barn our headquarters. We found good sleeping quarters in the hay loft, as did many others. There was a sing-song in the house every evening – with many good voices – including Dan and Mrs. Chambers, the Dixons, Foys, McNaughts, and others. A very happy time.
On Sundays, we attended the Methodist Church in what is now Halcourt Hill. It was truly a community church, a place where one would meet his neighbors, and sometimes people from the Beaverlodge area.
We enjoyed the hearty singing, but I am sure the four of us were hoping that after the service some of our married neighbors would be kind enough to invite us to their home for supper. What a treat for us after a week of my cooking.
When harvest time came we found that the wheat on the new breaking had gone to straw, very light heads, most of it frosted.
Rabbits were very numerous and one could knock over a pair of prairie chickens with a lump of dirt. They helped out wonderfully with the meat supply.
In November, Tom and I got jobs with a survey crew as axe men. We enjoyed this although it was pretty cold sleeping in tents and moving every few days and pitching tents again in the snow. The work was completed on Christmas day and the whole crew went down the Edson trail, and on to Edmonton where we were paid off. Our pay was $30.00 per month and board. Tom got employment in a lumber camp west of Edmonton and I got a job in a law firm in Saskatoon. We arrived back in Halcourt area in early spring, to put in another six months on the farm. More people had arrived during our absence, and the vacant quarters were few and far between. We cleared more land, and did more breaking.
Arthur, Herbert and Thomas Ernest had land in the Halcourt, Alberta area and farmed it. Herbert decided that he wanted to go back to England and did go back leaving daughter Margaret with his father and step mother to care for her until he could send for her.
The father, Henry Thomas died first, then in 1939 the step mother died and Margaret went to live with Arthur and Kathleen. By that time it was decided to leave her in Canada due to the unrest in Europe at the time. Herbert enlisted in the military service to do his country’s service. After the war ended Margaret left to join her father in England.
Walter was at his ranch in Saskatchewan and things were going pretty good for him. But, a drought caused the land to dry up and winds created a dust storm. Crop growth was impossible and animal raising very difficult.
Walter left and spent some time in the Alberta area where he met and married his wife Lemoin O’Neil who was a district nurse and visited her patients on horseback. Times were when she could not see to find her way home after visitations, so let the horse have its head and it took her home safely.
Walter remained in the area and worked with his brothers, father and step-mother. Lemoin resigned from her district nurse job and went to San Francisco and worked in a hospital there. Walters intention was to soon return to his ranch, and his wife rejoin him, but things had not improved and it became necessary to look for other options.
He migrated to California, got a job with the oil industry and stayed with it. He received a letter from brother Arthur telling him that if he had a good job to stick with it for things were not good in any area up there. Walter was living in a boarding home and when he had enough money saved, he bought a home, brought Lemoin from Santa Barbara area and they set up home in Whittier, California.
This is where Joan and Tom were born. Shortly after the children’s birth he became a citizen. Walter saved his money and instead of carrying out his original plan to return to Canada decided to buy land in California. He found a small orchard in Yucaipa California, worked the orchard on week ends and returned to Whittier on his work days. Eventually they left the home in Whittier and moved to the home on the orchard property land.
Walter left the oil industry and during the World War II period of time went to work as an airplane engine mechanic at an air force base which was only about 20 miles from his new Yucaipa home.
A person in Canada was in touch with Walter when conditions seemed to improve and they made an agreement for that man to live on and work the land in Saskatchewan and Walter would receive a share of profits when available. The profits never seemed to arrive but the taxes did, so Walter offered the land straight out to the man and upon agreement transferred the land.
After the war, he worked his orchard raising, plums, peaches, and had walnut trees for cash crop. He, in addition, had chickens for eggs which he sold and raised turkeys for food. Walter was a very hard working man, very astute, intelligent and a very friendly person. Joan loved her Dad very much, and I had a great deal of respect for him as my father-in-law.
He seemed to have a great deal of difficulty with his stomach. He was under a doctor’s care who recommended surgery. He was having surgery when he died. He was cremated and buried in Redlands, California.
Lemoin could not handle the orchard. She sold it and bought a smaller home where she lived for a number of years. She came to live with us for a few years and then wanted to go live with son Tom. She had a heart attack, was in the hospital, then transferred to a care facility where she later died. She was cremated and remains placed with Walter in Redlands.
Arthur and Kathleen Funnell continued to live in Halcourt, Alberta, Canada and for a while did some farming, raising food crops and seed material. He operated a store and did some legal work. He eventually turned the farm over to daughter Joyce and husband Arthur Martin who worked it until he developed Alzheimers. Arthur passed away and Kathleen sold the property and moved into the town of Beaverlodge where she lived until she died.
Thomas Ernest worked his land as well. He was burned in fire and never seemed to recover from that problem and died thereafter. His property was sold.
Practically all of the Funnell descendents live in the Northern area of Alberta. A few live in the area near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
(Next page : maps of the Edson, Grand Prairie and Halcourt area + the Edson Trail
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