Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Smiths at Indian Head 1894-1905

I'm guessing that this studio shot of George
and Louisa was taken in 1900 when they
lived at Indian Head, on the occasion
of their 25th wedding anniversary.
When they arrived on the prairies, George and his family first settled at Indian Head, about 50 miles east of Regina, Saskatchewan's capital city.  Some of what I know about their time there comes from one of George's daughters, Bessie Jane.  In 1984 she wrote a short article for a local history book about Indian Head.  Here is most of that article:

“I came to Indian Head from Ontario with my parents, G. Thomas Smith, his wife and eight children. Thomas was originally from England where he was born on May 31, 1851. We arrived at Indian Head on March 1, 1894. We lived on a farm in the Rose Valley District* which my father had rented. We had left a large house and ten of us lived for two years in a two-room house. The upstairs was unfinished and in winter nailheads were covered with frost, but after two years the owner added three more rooms. 
The Rose Valley School which I attended was the center for social life of the community. An addition had been added to accommodate the congregation for church services and for concerts. We had four miles to drive to this. An interesting fact regarding church at Rose Valley was that we really had a church union, as a Methodist minister and a Presbyterian minister took alternate Sundays. Everyone attended every Sunday, whatever faith they belonged to. (1) 
* The Rose Valley District is about five miles north of the town of Indian Head

Rose Valley School (and church), about 1897

It's not surprising that Bessie felt the cold at Indian Head. Average high temperatures are below
freezing for 5 months of the year.  Note the grain elevators in the background.

In October 1897, George and Louisa had another daughter, Beatrice Ethel.  And a few months later, in May 1898, they acquired their first son-in-law, when their second daughter, 20 year old Maud, married William George Bennett.

The town of Indian Head would have looked something like this when the family arrived.

Bessie Jane's article continues:

Father bought a farm two miles south of Indian Head.  I then came to the first school in town which is now a duplex house.  The present public school was then built and I attended there."  (1)

This is the second school Bessie mentioned, which opened in 1901.

The family left Rose Valley in 1898 or 99.  I haven't yet found the exact size or location of the land George bought south of Indian Head, but I've been told it was near the government's Experimental Farm, which was established in 1887.  Its intent was to meet the needs of new settlers for reliable information on the best farming methods and practices for local conditions. Long-term studies with field crops, animal husbandry and horticulture were undertaken, and no doubt George, among many other farmers, benefited from them.

In April 1899, George and Louisa's final child, Audrey May, was born.  And just four months later, when George was 47 and Louisa not yet 44, their first grandchild, James Bennett, was born.  In April 1900, George and Louisa celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.

Reaping the wheat at Indian Head, early 1900s

Indian Head grain elevators and train station, around 1905.

The family stayed on their farm for about six years, at a good time for growing wheat. According to the Department of Agriculture, the Indian Head district ranked highest for wheat production in Saskatchewan in 1903, 1904 and 1905. A Board of Trade pamphlet from 1905 proclaimed it as the best wheat producing district on earth. For a town with a population of 1,800 in 1905, it boasted twelve grain elevators which were erected along the Canadian Pacific Railway, with each elevator having the capacity to hold approximately 350,000 bushels. This location handled a higher quantity of grain in 1902 in the initial shipment stage than any other inland port in the world.(2)  Hopefully, lots of that grain came from George's farm!  He had another wedding to pay for during this time - In 1902, 27 year old Clara married Archie Adair.  Archie and his father, John, had lived near George's family in Ontario, and it's quite likely that Archie and Clara met there.  They soon started their own family - Murray Adair was born in 1903 (but died only 8 months later), and his brother James in 1905.

And also in 1905, George was on the move again.

1) Indian Head: a History of Indian Head and District, 1984, p.678.  Online here
2) Indian Head Board of Trade pamphlet, 'Indian Head, Saskatchewan', 1905. Online here

Indian Head photos courtesy of Prairie Towns

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