Ernest and Louisa Cook continued on Clifton Avenue together for 10 more years after the loss of their younger son in 1945. Their elder son, Ronald George, finished his service commitment in PEI and joined his wife and young daughter. Cheryl June had been born on November 19, 1946 in Hamilton where Peggy was staying with friends. Carson William was born in 1949 in Toronto. Ronald became a radio announcer and the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio on March 30th 1950 where Ron became the “Voice of the Cleveland Barons.”
The driving time between Cleveland and Moose Jaw is listed nowadays as 23 hours. So perhaps the little Cooks in Cleveland did not get to have their pictures taken on the front steps of Grandma and Grandpa Cook’s house on Clifton. With their son’s family so far away in the USA, I am sure that grieving support provided by Louise’s older sister, Ella Frances Brodie, was important to Louise and Ernest.
Ella had been widowed since 1938 and had lived on in the Brodie house on Main St. (where KFC is today). Ella and Louise had been brides and young mothers together in Moose Jaw. They had both been involved in community and church groups. Then in 1947, Ella passed away, and the Cooks had only each other and the people who rented the upper rooms in their house on Clifton Ave. I know about a few of the renters who lived here in the 1940s and 50s, but I would like to know more. Here are some of the voters’ lists for those years. It would be great to hear from some of you readers who might be remembering some of the names.
Five years after Ronald and Peggy’s move to Cleveland, Ohio, their children, Cheryl and Conner, would have been 9 and 6 years old. 1955 was the year that their Grandma Louise died in the house on Clifton Ave, where their parents, Ron and Peggy, had been married on Christmas Eve 13 years before. Louise’s death notice in the paper anticipates the arrival of Ronald from Ohio, but it is not clear whether the rest of the family came back to Canada for the funeral.
Ernest and Louise had been renters in the Clifton house from 1938 until April 26, 1944 when they became owners and had a title registered. This was just a month after their son Bill had gone overseas. When Louise passed away, Ernest continued in the house for a while with a few tenants, but he began to have some health issues. He is not listed in the house after 1957, but after some time for recovery, perhaps in a hospital or care home, he embarked on a trip to England. His intention according to the ship’s manifest was to stay for 5 months. His nephew Stuart Brodie was the relative in Moose Jaw who heard from Ernest. Notification of his Uncle Ernest’s recurring illness in England and the lengthened stay would have come by mail to Stuart who then heard that Ernest was planning to return to Moose Jaw in the spring. Then Stuart received the news that Ernest Cook had died in England on February 22, 1961.
It’s a 3-minute walk from 1037 Clifton Ave. to Central Collegiate, 290 meters. When Bill Cook showed up at Central Collegiate in the Fall of 1941, he was in Grade 10. On the first day of class, his homeroom had a guest speaker. Here is how the event was described in the yearbook.
Some students who were in Grade 10 with Bill Cook in 1941-42 are pictured below. Bill was elected Class President for the first term and song leader for the second term.
No doubt, his Uncle Ronald’s service in the Great War and more recently his brother Ronald’s RCAF service as a radio operator were already at work in young Bill Cook’s imagination. Now near the end of the 41-42 school year, there are 30 boys joining the Squadron # 40 Air Cadets. Bill was one of them.
Bill continued with the Air Cadets and went to Grade 11 at Central Collegiate for 42-43. He worked part-time doing deliveries for the CPR. He served as best man for his brother Ron’s wedding on Christmas Eve. He probably listened to White Christmas, Bing Crosby’s #1 hit of 1942. His father, Ernest, went to work for the War-time Prices and Trade Board.
Bill was also acquainted with some young women who may have influenced him in his interests in flying. His sister-in-law, Hazel Elizabeth Whitehead Cook (Peggy) worked for a time at Prairie Airways. One of the tenants in the Cook home was Miss Dorothy Renton. “Dorothy was the first woman to obtain a pilot’s license in Saskatchewan, which showed her adventurous spirit.” (from her obituary in 2003).
His mother ran the household and wrote letters, as I imagine, to her oldest son Ron on Active Duty on the east side of the country. Louise was involved in community groups also: she was the regent of Moose Jaw chapter, Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire for two years and was treasurer of the chapter for a number of years. She was an active member of several other women’s organizations, including the Women’s Canadian Club.
Bill continued high school through the 42-43 term. But when summer holidays came in 1943, Bill had other plans that didn’t involve doing his grade 12 at Central Collegiate. He would be saying goodbye to his classmates in the picture below.
William Henry Cook turned 19 on September 18th, 1943. By this time he had made the decision to enlist in the Air Force rather than return to Central Collegiate for Grade 12. He had filled in his Attestation papers on July 30th, listing his employment experience working for Mr. Zimmer at his Boy’s Clothing Store and at a Boy Scout Camp and being a porter for the CPR. His particular activities that might be “useful in the RCAF” were photography and model airplane building. He listed two neighbours on Clifton Avenue as references: Mr. J. Thomson, a druggist from 1043 and Mr. G.H. Broach, a lawyer from 1046. Mr. Zimmer who employed Bill at his Boys Clothing Shop is included along with a lawyer from 2nd Ave. NW, Mr. H.Pope.
Bill began Aircrew training likely at the Manning Depot at Brandon (which is now a historical site).
“During the Second World War, this building was where new recruits from all over Western Canada, some 1,000 to 1,500 at a time, came for their introduction to military life. The No. 2 Manning Depot, an integral component of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan, hosted classes in precision drills, physical fitness, swimming, sunbathing, as well as general outfitting. At the end of their two- to four-week stint here, the prospective airmen were sorted into three training classes: Pilots, Air Observers, and Air Gunners.” (Manitoba Historical Society)
When I see Louise Cook at her desk writing to her sons, I wonder how she could keep up with all the moving around they did to the locations in Canada where the training was going on. There were 231 sites across Canada where men and women were being trained for different roles in the crews of the air force. At the peak of The Plan in 1943, 3000 aircrew members were being turned out every month. Enlisted in Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, they were studying and drilling and practising in Canada’s open spaces and skies where they were out of reach of the warring invaders in Europe.
The Manning Depot included physical training and matching of recruits to suitable positions for more specialized instruction. Some recruits finished up high school courses that were needed in preparation for their RCAF courses. Eventually, Bill Cook moved into Special Gunner Training.
It is possible that his smaller stature made him a good fit for this position because the space available in the planes for the gunners was pretty tight. Some men had to get into the space and then put their boots on. Some of the planes that were used for training in the early stages can be seen at the Western Development Museum in Moose Jaw. Other museums in Canada tell the stories of boys like Bill Cook. The Bomber Command Museum has a song video and an Air Gunner Poem that explains the challenges facing the experience of being a Gunner.
Click on the underlined words above to connect and listen: “Will I ever see my home again? Will I return to my love and my friends?”
The image I carry in my mind is Louise Cook sitting at her writing desk in my dining room. Her letter writing will continue with letters now needing to cross the ocean. After the Canadian phase of his training, Bill moved on to further training in England. He embarked in Halifax on June 2nd, 1944 and disembarked in the UK on the 10th. Eventually, he was added to the 550 Squadron who were learning to fly as a 7 man crew in the Lancaster. The specialized roles were what the seven airmen had trained for: a pilot, a flight engineer, a navigator, a bomb aimer, a wireless operator/air gunner, a mid-upper gunner and a rear gunner. The two gunners in this group were both RCAF members. Here is the list of all seven members of Bill Cook’s crew:
Of course, there were many other members of the force that had responsibilities in preparing the flight crew and the Lancaster bomber for their operations. There is a museum in Nanton, Alberta that displays and presents a 13-minute video about the Lancaster and the kind of training and experience Bill Cook might have had.
The details of the first and last bombing mission for Bill Cook and his fellow crew members are charted by archivists and researchers with great interest and skills in Military history. I assume that there was a telegram delivered to the front door a few days after Bill’s Lancaster did not return. Then another telegram a few days later.
The complicated dealings with the Military after Bill’s death were no doubt a hardship for the grieving parents. There were issues concerning his will, his personal possessions, the identification of which airmen was buried in which grave and so on. Eventually, the efforts to support the family were supplemented by memorial attempts. There is an island in Pinehouse Lake in northern Saskatchewan that is named after Bill Cook: Cook Island. There is a sculpture at the burial site of the P221 Crew’s airmen at the Westerbeek Catholic Church. Location: Westerbeek, a small village in the commune of Oploo, is situated west of the Overloon to Oploo road. It is 3 kilometres south of Oploo and about 4 kilometres north-west of Overloon. A poem in Dutch from site translated: (Thanks to Paul Nyhof for help with translation)
After losing his business and his house on 1st NE n the 1930s, Ernest Cook now shares the house at 1037 Clifton with other tenants in addition to his wife Louise and his two sons. Ernest and the first son are working outside the home. Ernest works as a supervisor with the Provincial Tax Commission and then as a salesman at AA Frost in 1939. He becomes a sales manager for Arthur A. Frost at 219 High W. in 1940, working with plumbers and plumbing supplies. His elder son, Ronald George, (24) is working in 1940 at Beatty Brothers at 29 High St. W., probably selling electric wringer washing machines.
In 1941, Ronald George signs up for the war effort and is listed as “on Active Service”. He begins dating a young woman named Hazel Elizabeth Whitehead who grew up on a farm near Moose Jaw. She had been born on Christmas Eve in 1923, so she was 7 years younger than Ron Cook. When she was turning 19 on Christmas Eve of 1942, there was a wedding in the Cook residence that was well described in the Times-Herald.
LAC. stands for Leading Aircraftman. The groom wears his uniform for the wedding. The groom’s granddaughter generously provided pictures to supplement the description of the wedding from the paper.
I find it hard to imagine 25 guests having tea on the main floor of this house, but that’s what the paper said…along with Christmas decorations and a cake decorated by a 92-year-old grandfather of the bride. The last wedding in the house (faithful readers may recall) was also at Christmas time. In 1926, the guests were brave enough to have their pictures taken on the front steps.
After arriving in Canada in 1910, Ernest Cook’s younger brother, Ronald Philip Cook, had been gaining experience with military groups in Regina and Moose Jaw. Then the Great War was declared in Europe. Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier believed that when Britain is at war, Canada is at war. Like many formerly British Canadians who had been in Canada only a short time, Ronald Cook was volunteering to return to Europe with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. He filled in his Attestation form on September 11th, 1915, the day before he turned 22. He was 5 feet six inches tall, brown-eyed, dark-haired, and fair-faced. Probably Ronald did some training at Camp Hughes in Manitoba right after his enlistment. Postcard pictures of Camp Hughes and other sites from World War 1 are shown in the collection of the Toronto Postcard Club.
While Ronald Phillip Cook was preparing for the realities of war in Europe, Ernest and Louise Cook were preparing for the arrival of their first child back in Moose Jaw. What could be more appropriate than naming their little son who was born on April 30th, 1916 “Ronald”? When little Ronald was three and half months old, Uncle Ronald finished his training in England.
On 11 August 1916, Ronald (the uncle) and his battalion disembarked in France, ready to work with the10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Division in France and Flanders until the end of the war. It is likely that Private Cook was assigned duties relating to his skills as a clerk, or some other supportive role because it was discovered in a Medical Examination at Bramshott Camp that he had a vision deficit that had gone undetected in Canada.
Next of Kin in England : Review
When Ronald Cook signed up for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, he listed his mother in England as his next of kin. His father, George Frederick Bristow Cook had died in September of 1899 at the age of 46 leaving Harriett Cook a widow at age 40 with a houseful of children. By the 1901 census, Harriett had relocated her family to Hastings, once again by the seaside as she had grown up on the east shore of England. The family had moved into limited space, and Ernest George had left for Canada. Because young Ronald is not listed with the family for the 1901 census, I think he was at school. Readers, you may remember that Mrs. Cook probably needed some furniture and that I surmised that she also needed more space. By 1904, she had married Stewart Spencer, a house furnisher, a widower with three nearly grown daughters, and by 1911 she was living with five children (three adults and two teenagers) from her first marriage plus a 6-year-old daughter from her second marriage. Cecil had been her only son to marry by 1911, and the census documents show that his marriage had met a tragic end, having lasted less than a year with both his wife and newborn child dying.
It was Harriett Spencer’s house at 19 Edmund Road, Hastings, UK that Ronald Cook lists as the address for his next of kin while he is on active duty during the Great War. It is here where he might spend some leave, and here where he took his discharge at the end of April in 1919 after serving with the CEF for several months after the armistice in 1918.
After battling with Regina over the privilege, Moose Jaw has celebrated the end of the war and the return of the 46th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Ronald Philip Cook had missed the big parade in Moose Jaw because he had taken his discharge in England and had assumed responsibility for his own travel back to Canada. He would be spending time with family in Hastings before returning to family in Moose Jaw.
Apparently, the Cook family in Moose Jaw didn’t want to wait for Uncle Ronald to return home and decided to take a voyage to England. Now that the war is over, there are lots of soldiers needing travel bookings back to North America. Many waited weeks and weeks for passage to be available. I am wondering if the ships that brought returning Canadians and American soldiers then put the return to Britain tickets on sale. Here’s why. On October 9th, 1919, Ernest, Louise and Little Ronald arrived in England. The war had been over for eleven months. The three Cooks are listed on the Canadian Steam Ship “Melita” as having come from Montreal
Their destination is given as 19 Edmund Road, Hastings, Sussex, so it appears to be time for a family reunion. Ernest and his family remained abroad for 5 months.
If you click on the line about the “Melita” above, you find a video viewing of the interior details of the ship that the Cooks sailed on to England after the war. The music that is playing however is not from 1919 but from 1925 when it was the number 1 song. On Mar 2, 1920, Ernest and Mary Louise returned home from England with their son Ronald who was 3 years, 8 months now. They were accompanied by Hettie Cook, Ernest’s sister who would stay with them for a while in Canada. They are described on the ship’s manifest as follows:
Ernest is 5 feet 10 1/2 inches tall with a dark complexion, black hair and brown eyes. He has a scar on his forehead. The same colouring describes Mary Louise who is only 5 feet 1/2 inch tall. Hettie is 5 foot 4, dark complexion, brown hair and grey eyes. She is 30 years old and would have been 12 years old when Ernest left for Canada. They are all heading to 1161 1st Ave. NE Moose Jaw.
April 20th, 1920: A few weeks later, another sister, Norah Cook, arrives on the Metagama. Ernest, her brother has paid for her passage, and she plans to be living with him on 1st Ave. E. in Moose Jaw. Norah is 25 years old and would have been only 7 when Ernest came to Canada. She says her intention is to remain permanently in Canada.
The Henderson Directory of 1921 shows Ernest Cook to be the president of his own general Insurance Company with offices at 103 Main St. N. This is now (in 2021) the NE corner of Main and River where the Major and Maxwell Art gallery is located. The home at 1161 1st NE has both Hettie and Norah living with the family. Hettie is working as a Steno at the company with Ernest. Norah is not showing employment outside the home. Ronald Philip works as a bookkeeper at his brother’s company but has resumed his residence at the YMCA. In 1923, both Hettie and Norah are working as stenographers: Hettie still with Ernest’s company, and Norah with the law firm of Schull and Marquis.
The 1920s seemed to be good times for the Cooks in Moose Jaw. In addition to the support provided by the Cook sisters, Louise Cook and Ella Brodie had their mother, a widow in Ontario since 1914, join them in Moose Jaw sometime before the census of 1921. Francis Littlejohn Davidson lived with her elder daughter, Ella, and her husband Harry Brodie. The Brodie house on Main Street was also home to a young son, Stuart, who turned 10 in 1920. Stuart was 4 years older than his cousin, Ronald. Both boys enjoyed the years when three generations of family members could gather together in one or the other of their nearby homes.
The Moose Jaw 1920s roared on, and in 1924 a brother arrived for 8-year-old Ronald Cook. William Henry Cook was born on September 18th. Although His Aunt Hettie still works for Ernest’s business, she now lives at 821 First Ave. NW, in a house looking west to Central Collegiate. Aunt Norah is also living at the house with Hettie, and she is working as a steno as well in a law office.
In 1927 his office moved to the Walter Scott building. At one point he was on the Ground Floor, and then later he was on the top floor. I am not sure which would have been the more prestigious location in the 1920s.
Ernest Cook had leisure time enough to become a golfer and served a term as president of the Moose Jaw Golf Club. His brother-in-law, Harry Brodie, was also a golfer and a curler; he served a term as president of the local curling club. Yes, the 1920s were good times for the Cook family. According to Ken Bradley in Out of Bounds: A Century of Golf in Moose Jaw, “Locally, the first recorded President’s Cup emblematic of the Men’s club championship was played between F.C Grant and Ernie Cook. Mr. Grant won.” (p.17)
October of 1929
Little William Henry Cook would have just turned 5 years old a month before the Stock Market events in October of 1929 brought big changes for the Cook family. According to Ernest Cook’s great-granddaughter, Ernest suffered great losses in his insurance business at that time. The Roaring Twenties which had seen businesses thriving and optimism flourishing through the city and its leadership came to a crashing end. The family seems to have been able to hold on to the house on First North East for a while. The Cook family would be left looking for less expensive housing and employment opportunities as Mr. Cook’s business was no longer able to support the family.
Although the family was struggling, William Cook started his education at Ross School. The Cook family continue in their original home until 1932 when they moved into rental accommodations. In 1933 when Ronald G. would be 16 and William Henry would be 9, the family is shown at 368 Stadacona W. This house would be north of what is now The Bentley and facing at that time Alexandra School. William continued his education at Alexandra School.
The 1935 Henderson Directory shows Ernest Cook at 1062 First Ave. N.W. His son Ronald is also there and is employed at the Savoy Theatre. The house would usually be occupied by Dr. and Mrs. John Orr who were travelling to England to spend a few months. Dr. Orr also was involved with Queen’s University, and so the home at 1062 First Northwest later became the home of Albert E Peacock, the principal of the new Technical High School and Superintendent of Education in Moose Jaw.
Then in 1935 or 1936 Ernest and Louise Cook move with their boys into 1037 Clifton Avenue. The house is bigger than the others they have lived in. However, it seems that they will not have just their own four family members living here. In 1935, Ronald George would have been 19 years old, and his younger brother, William Henry would have been 11 years old. The previous owners of the Clifton house have returned to the United States, and the house, as a result of the troubled economy, had been taken over by the city. There are several adults living in the house very soon, but it is not clear what their living arrangements were.
The Clifton house is fairly large (six bedrooms and two dens on three floors above the basement. Whereas the previous family, the Thomases, filled the house with 3 or four generations of the same extended family, the Cooks shared the house either like a boarding house or a rooming house. In a boarding house, the host family would have most of the space, but other single working people or married couples would have rooms and would eat (board) with the family in the dining room. The second arrangement, a rooming house, would have un-related folks renting rooms, but not eating with the family. There would be some sort of food storage and preparation facilities in the bedrooms where renters would prepare light meals for themselves. Over the next few years, there are many names on the Voters lists for 1037 Clifton. Most of the people stayed for only a short term, but some stayed for years.
A Wedding (1935) and a Funeral (1939)
I think it was likely a happy time for the family when Uncle Ronald Philip Cook married Jean Colbourne. I imagine the wedding was a simple affair, perhaps in the bride’s home or maybe at St John’s Anglican Church. I have found no detailed record of it. The bride was 28 and the groom was 42. In 1935 the #1 song on the pop charts was “Cheek to Cheek” by Fred Astaire. I hope they danced to that song at Temple Gardens or in their living room.
On September 10, 1939, Canada entered the war against Germany. Three months later, the Times-Herald reported that Ronald P. Cook had taken ill on Wednesday and died in a local hospital on Thursday, Dec. 14, 1939. The obituary honoured Ronald both for his work for the city of Moose Jaw and for his service during the previous war. He was buried in the Soldiers’ section at Rosedale Cemetery.
Before long, both Ernest and Louisa Cook’s boys will face decisions about involvement in the military for the conflict in Europe. Bill Cook has continued for 1939-40 term as a student in grade 8 at Alexandra School. He heads off to Central Collegiate in the fall of 1940. Ronald has stopped out of school and is working to help the family. Bill has a hobby of building model airplanes and enjoys going to summer camps run by Mr. Zimmer who also has a clothing store where Bill works part-time. In April of 1942, the family gathers on the front steps for a picture. The rest of 1942 must wait for another post.
In 1902, Ernest Cook came to Moose Jaw alone, and his younger brother, Ronald, followed him to Moose Jaw several years later. For Mary Louise Davidson it was the opposite experience. She was the younger sibling who came to Moose Jaw after her older sister came.
The two Davidson women were from Oshawa, Ontario. Elder sister Ella Francis Davidson came to Moose Jaw as a bride to join her businessman husband, Harry Brodie, who had established himself in Moose Jaw as one of the owner/managers of a flourishing Drug Store on the corner of Main and River Streets.
Harry Brodie had not intended to go into business in the prairies but was heading from Oshawa, Ontario to the West Coast when he was waylaid and invited to join two other men who owned the Moose Jaw Drug and Stationery Store. A detailed story of Henry (Harry) Brodie and his background was published in 1924 by John Hawkes as part of his history of Saskatchewan. Harry Brodie’s involvement in the story of 1037 Clifton is indirect but important. The first record of a living place for Harry Brodie in Moose Jaw was with the Oswald B. Fysh family in 1901. They had seven children, ages 12 and under, and they still made room for two lodgers. Whether this experience of family life in Moose Jaw was a bit overwhelming in either a positive or a negative way for Harry, we cannot know, but he was obviously inspired to start his own family in his own house. In 1903 Harry Brodie went back to Oshawa Ontario and married Miss Ella Frances Davidson, a 30-year-old school teacher. The Fysh family welcomed several more children and still took in lodgers. Several children were involved in a family pharmacy and one became the mayor of Moose Jaw.
Ella Davidson was the eldest child in a family of six children. The 1901 census shows their ages. Ella was 16 years older than the youngest of her four brothers, and she was 9 years older than her only sister, Mary Louise.
The marriage of Ella Frances Davidson to Harry Brodie took place in the bride’s parents’ home in Oshawa, Ontario on August 19th, 1903 and was reported in the Moose Jaw paper on August 27th. You can listen to one of the pieces played at the wedding by Miss Phee Hezzlewood if you like: Leybach’s Fifth Nocturne. Here it is played by Phillip Sear. The groom’s gift to the bride was a piano. Music was obviously important to the Davidson family.
I wondered if the groom bought a piano in Moose Jaw and had it ready for her in their home in Moose Jaw. I am leaning toward thinking he had the piano shipped from Oshawa because a business that had opened there in the 1880s and had now reorganized its plant and revised its piano in 1902. The New Scale Williams Piano is presented in booklet form in a piano museum online. Could this be the piano the groom bought for his bride?
About 3 years later, in 1906, Ella’s sister Mary Louise Davidson moved to Moose Jaw and lived with the Brodies. These two sisters had left their 4 brothers and their parents in Ontario.
The mother of the Bride
The backstory for Ella Frances and Mary Louise Davidson begins with a mystery. Their mother, Francis Stoneman Littlejohns, seems to have come from England to Canada as a child, without her family of origin, and she grew up in Ontario. We can see the census of 1851 for the small village of Buckland Brewer in Devon.
When Frances Stoneman Littlejohns was born in October 1850 in Buckland Brewer, Devon, England, her father, Thomas, was 39, and her mother, Mary (nee Short), was 37. Both parents, other children, and Frances appear in the 1851 England census: Frances as a 6-month-old baby, and Mary at age 38. By the next census in 1861, both Mary and Frances are gone. Mary has died in 1852, and her husband Thomas Littlejohns has re-married and fathered 3 more children. Little Frances shows up in the Durham County, Ontario Census of 1861 as a 10-year-old. How did she get to Canada and who raised her? I have made contact with folks from Buckland Brewer in Devon. A lively historical society is at work tracking people who have lived in their village, and they are sharing information through blogs and newsletters to help researchers. We are checking out the possibility that she immigrated with the J. S. Thorn family who were members of the Bible Christian Church in Devon which was sending out missionaries and members to Canada in the mid to late 1840s. In the 1861 census in Canada West, the Thorn household included 2 girls, one (Mary Thorn) who was 3 years old, and born in Canada, and Francis “Littlejones”, who was 10 years old and born in England.
My hunch was that little Frances was taken in by these relatives or friends at her mother’s death because the father had his hands full. These kinds of informal adoptions were common at that time. My own great-grandmother in her infancy was taken in by another family after her mother’s death in 1852.
The long history of this village is explored by the Buckland Brewer History Group who say people have lived in Buckland for over 1000 years.
Ella and Louise Davidson’s father, Robert Davidson, had been born in Canada to immigrants from Scotland, but their mother, Frances Stoneman Littlejohns, had come from England. She settled in Bowmanville, Canada West, with the Thorn family and from 1856 until her coming of age probably stayed with that family. On the 13th of June in 1872 at aged 22, Frances Stoneman Littlejohns married Robert Davidson, son of Alexander and Elizabeth Davidson in Oshawa, Ontario. Both bride and bridegroom list their religious denomination as “Bible Christian”. This was a group that had branched out of Methodism in England and spread to Canada in the mid 19th century. The history of this group would have formed the backdrop for the mother of the Davidson girls.
Thirty years after the marriage of Robert and Frances in Oshawa, their two daughters will leave Robert and Francis with their adult sons (brothers) in Ontario. First Ella marries a local Oshawa pharmacist who is also trained in business and after their honeymoon to “points west” will settle in the house he has made ready in Moose Jaw. Ella and Harry’s house was 121 Main St. N. which is renumbered after 1914 as 843 Main St. N. It was to that house that Ella’s piano wedding gift would have been moved. From that house, she would have gone teaching school for a few years. To that house, she would have invited her younger sister Louise who had been her maid of honour to come and live with her in 1906 as Ella and Harry prepared to start their family.
The Davidson sisters experienced losses around the major transition in 1906, the year that Louise moved to Moose Jaw. Back in Oshawa, Robert Llewellyn Davidson, the brother just younger than Louisa by 2 years died on June 6th after a 7-year struggle with heart disease. He was 23 years old. Harry and Ella Brodie were probably very glad to have Louise with them when, in 1907, they lost their firstborn son, Robert Edwin, when he was only 6 days old.
Louise Davidson continued to live with Harry and Ella and was there for sisterly support in 1910 when Stuart Davidson Brodie was born. She probably lived there while Stuart was a wee boy, through the months until she married and moved into her own house with her new husband. During the courtship years of Louise and Ernest, the friendship with Ella and Harry Brodie was deepened. In January of 1913, the two couples were probably glad to be living just a 9-minute walk from each other.
The Brodie house is no longer there on the S.E. corner of the Main and Ross St intersection. This house is important because of its location near to both places where Ella’s sister Louise and her husband Ernie would live during their married life in Moose Jaw 1912-1955.
Some enchanted evening between 1906 when Louise Davidson moved to Moose Jaw and 1912, she met our Ernest George Cook. Ernest started off in Moose Jaw much as Harry Brodie had, first living with a family. In the 1906 census of the Prairie Provinces, “Earnest” Cook is listed as a “Roomer” on West Fairford. He appears to live with Mrs. Gould and her three children and 7 other roomers, all men. 20ish.
In 1907 Ernest is listed as a clerk in the accounting office of the CPR. It is not clear when this position began or ended. However, sometime that year, he moves on to a new position at the Dominion Lands Office. The Moose Jaw Times actually reported on the state of his health on Tuesday, September 24, 1907:
Mr. Ernest Cooke, (sic) of the Dominion Lands Office, underwent an operation at the hospital yesterday. His many friends will be pleased to know that he is doing as well as can be expected.
In 1908, still working at the Dominion Lands Office, he is living at 65 Main St. This may be a Boarding House run by Mrs. Joseph Brocklehurst. “65 Main” is the old numbering for what is now 321 Main N. (just south of Uptown Cafe.) In 1909 Ernest is living at 32 Ominica. On May 28, 1910, Ronald Philip Cook enters Canada at the port of Montreal and begins to make his way to Moose Jaw. When Ronald arrives, both brothers move into the new YMCA building that had just opened.
Somehow Ernest meets and becomes engaged to Mary Louise Davidson. (I like to imagine them going for a soda to the fancy soda counter installed at the newly renovated and expanded Drug and Stationery Store. )For their wedding on December 16th, 1912, they travelled to Oshawa, Ontario. I assume the wedding was similar to the one provided for Ella and Harry 9 years earlier. By the time the Henderson Directory is published in 1913, Ernest and Mary Louise have settled into their first house. It is at 69 Beech Avenue, but its address will change in 1914 to the new numbering system: 1161 First Avenue North East. Their house is a short walk away from the Brodies’ house on Main and Ross where Louise had been living with her sister since she came to Moose Jaw 6 years earlier.
The house at 843 Main North has been replaced by KFC. The distance between the two addresses is probably not a comfortable one to carry a large bucket of hot chicken, but it was a good distance for two sisters to live apart-a good distance to push a stroller or baby carriage or walk with a child for a visit or care. The Davidson sisters enjoyed the closeness, I am sure. And into the 1920s, Frances Stoneman Littlejohns Davidson spent months, perhaps years, living with the Brodies after her husband Robert Davidson passed away in 1914.
The Cook family and the Cook business seems to have flourished on First Avenue East. Ernest is vice president of an insurance company working with a businessman who had once been the mayor of Ottawa: Mr. Jacob Erratt.
From that foundation, Ernest moved on to have his own insurance company, sometimes in collaboration with other companies, and sometimes on his own. At some points, advertisements in the Henderson Directories call it the largest one in Saskatchewan. Offices moved around in those days in Moose Jaw as buildings were bought and sold and replaced.
In 1916, Ernest and Louise became the parents
of a son, Ronald George, born on April 30th. Many thanks are due to the granddaughter of the baby in these pictures who, though living halfway around the world, generously shared electronically from an old family album. I especially like the baby bath in the kitchen, but all the pictures are precious. The baby’s namesake uncle, Ronald Phillip Cook was living in Room 6 in the YMCA at the beginning of the War in 1914. He signed up early and returned to England with the 46th Battalion from MooseJaw. After the war, Ronald Phillip returns, and the Cook household will grow some more as two of Ernest’s sisters make a trip to Moose Jaw, and a baby brother arrives for Ronald George. What string of events led to the Cooks’ relocation to Clifton Avenue and becoming one of the longest Clifton stories? That is a story of another decade and must wait for another day.
I would like once again to acknowledge that the house on Clifton Avenue I write about in this blog is on the traditional lands referred to as Treaty 4 Territory and that the city of Moose Jaw is located on Treaty 4 territory, the original lands of the Cree, Ojibwe(OJIB-WĒ), Saulteaux (SO-TO), Dakota, Nakota, Lakota, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.
Greetings from Clifton Avenue,
I left you in 1936 when the Thomas family who had lived on Clifton Avenue since 1920 had returned to the United States. The house may have become someone else’s responsibility, but the taxes were not paid, and the title for the house was taken over by the City of Moose Jaw. This was common in the middle of the depression. The city was applying The Arrears of Taxes Act, which came into effect in 1931. The problem of city revenues was explored in a MacLean’s article from 1935. So the Cooks, the new tenants of 1037 Clifton, have the city as a landlord. For the next several years, the house will provide shelter to the Cook family and a number of other renters. One of the Cook descendants believes that Mrs. Cook actually ran a boarding house for some of the renters, that they ate together. At times, there were as many as 9 adults living in the house according to the voters’ lists. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Who was left behind when Ernest Cook came to Moose Jaw?
Mr. Ernest George Cook arrived in Canada and Moose Jaw in 1902. He had been born in 1884 in New Malden, part of the historic county of Surrey, in England, and he did not fit the “Sifton description” of the desirable immigrant who would live in the country and work very hard as a farmer.
I have puzzled over the reasons why this young man left his large family in England. In 1902, there were several motivations for people to move to Canada. Some folks were looking for economic opportunity and a better life; some were escaping from oppression and persecution. Others were looking for wide-open spaces and fewer people, and perhaps some were seeking adventure. And some came because other people persuaded them to come. even in the early 1900s, now that steamships cross oceans and trains cross nations, there was power in advertising! Check out prices and menu plans. Some people came with complete or growing family units, and some people came alone. I wonder if Ernest had read some of the promotional material supplied by businesses and governments to convince people in England to help colonize the western areas of Canada.
Ernest had spent his short life until 1902 in urban centres and his only work experience had been as a clerk. However, in his teen years, his family of origin had undergone a lot of change. Deaths in the family and repeated relocation were possible factors in young Ernest’s decision to explore the opportunities available in Canada. Plus there was precedence for emigration on both sides of his family tree. On his father’s side, one of Ernest’s grand-uncles, Edward William Cook (1827-1892), had moved to Australia in the 1850s, married a girl from Ireland, and changed from a clerk to a school teacher.
On his mother’s side, some of Ernest’s ancestors had emigrated to North America about 50 years before Ernest was born.
Ernest’s grandmother, Harriett Clark (b.1823), was the youngest of 9 children. Ann, Hannah, Elizabeth (2), and Harriett stayed on in England when five of their brothers and sisters in the 1830s were bound for North America. Lewis, William, and Esther ended up in Ontario, Canada while John and Mary stayed in New York. Harriett Clarke would have been 11 years old when her siblings began leaving for North America in 1834. Lewis and John left first, sailing for about nine weeks and landing in New York. Harriett Clarke stayed in Lowestoft, grew up there, and married in 1853. She and her husband, James Cooper, had five children: Elizabeth Clarke (b.1854), HenryWilliam(b.1858), Harriett Anne(b.1859), Martha Eliza(b.1861), and Marian(b.1863)
More about Lowestoft.
Lowestoft, Suffolk England, is the most easterly point of England. Although there may have been barrel-makers (coopers) in Harriett (nee Clarke) Cooper’s family’s past, her father and his father had also been fishers, farmers, and blacksmiths.
According to one local history site, you can find the entire history of England in Lowestoft if you know where to look. Photographs such as the one below may be a clue why Harriett and at least one of her sisters were looking for other employment options than what was prominent in Lowestoft during their youth. At least two of James and Harriett Cooper’s children seemed determined that some of their history would be found in places other than Lowestoft.
Lowestoft, while Harriet Cooper grew up, had two levels: the town up on a cliff and the village on the shore. The interesting trails that ran up and down between the two levels were called scores and are one of the things I don’t want to miss if I ever get to visit Lowestoft. Some of them might not be safe at night I would think.
The 1871 census shows the family of Harriet Cooper in Lowestoft when she was 11 years old. In a few years, Harriett Anne and her older sister, Elizabeth Clarke, leave Lowestoft and find husbands for themselves before the next census in 1881. By the 1881 census, these two women are no longer listed in the Lowestoft census pages for 54 Crown St. Harriett is now a married woman of 21 living with her husband Frederick George Bristow Cook in Lambeth where he lists himself as an Army Agent’s Clerk. The marriage took place on Nov. 17, 1878 in Twickenham with at least one relative of the bride present. Harriett’s sister, Elizabeth Clarke, now Bexfield had been married just a few months before to William Stephen Bexfield. She signs the documents as a witness for her sister’s marriage.
Now it’s time to find out more about the man who will become the father of Ernest George Cook from Clifton Avenue, Moose Jaw. Who are the people he comes from, and where will he live to raise his family?
The paternal side of Ernest Cook’s family can be traced quite clearly back through four generations. His father, Frederick George Bristow Cook had been born in Hammersmith in 1852. Three generations of George Cooks before him had been born in the areas near London and seem to have lived urban lives as “gentlemen” whether acknowledged as thus by others or merely by themselves. It was the custom for the groom and his father and the bride’s father to record their occupations on the marriage documents. So Ernest George Cook’s father (m.1878), grandfather (m.1852), great-grandfather (m. 1823), were all listed as gentlemen when they were married. Of course, in those days there was no tracking of occupations for women in most documents.
Frederick George Bristow Cook was the firstborn to George Richard Cook and his wife Elizabeth Thompson Hixon who, as you can see below, had a large family of seven sons and 5 daughters between 1852 and 1877. The 1861 Census for England was taken on the night of 7 April 1861. Young Frederick Cook is missing from his family’s listing in the census document. He shows up at his 81-year-old grandmother’s house at 28 Phillmore Place in Kensington. It seems that he was on a school break because Easter was on March 31 that year just one week before the census was taken. He was 8 years old in 1861. There was another grandson there at the time. His name was James Thompson Hixon (25), and he lists himself as an artist. There are a couple of his drawings on The British Museum website: both pictures of an Arab. Their grandma Maria Hixon was only to live one more year. The Cook family address in that year was 4 Brunswick Villas in Hammersmith.
In 1871 at census time, the G R Cook family has grown to nine children including baby James who is about seventeen months old. Frederick who is 18 is listed as a clerk. His father, George Richard Cook, is also a clerk working at the War Office. The Cooks are living at Castelnau No. 4 Villa. This housing development was noted for 20 pairs of “exceptional classical villas” which were built in 1842 by Major Boileau. The villa seems to have had enough room for the 9 children plus a cook, a nursemaid and a housemaid. Some of the Castelnau homes have been preserved in a conservation area, and some are on the market for over 4 or 5 million pounds.
So Frederick G B Cook at age 26 is the gentleman who marries 19-year-old Harriett Cooper from Lowestoft in 1878.
The 1881 census takes place before Frederick and Harriett Cook have any children. FGB Cook is 27 years old and is employed as an Army Agent’s Clerk. Harriet is now 21 years old and after being married for 2 years and 5 months is expecting their first child when the census is taken. Lambeth is their location, close to central London. They must have had only part of the house at 19 Hubert’s Grove; there seems to be another family also in the house. The census was taken on Sunday evening April 3, just 11 days before Madeline Elizabeth Cook was born on April 14, 1881. The house or flat they were living in must have very soon seemed inadequate because the family had relocated before the baby was baptized on September 4th.
Lime Grove and later Acacia Grove, New Malden are where George and Harriett continue to expand their family through the 1880s. In May of 1883, Cecil was born, and he was baptized on October 7th. On November 12, 1884, George Ernest Cook was born. A double baptism takes place after sister Daisy Millicent was born on April 27th. Two babies, 1 year and 5 months apart, both baptized on August 1, 1886. The next baptism is a triple baptism: Mary Freda born Sept. 5th, 1888, Hettie born Dec. 29th,1890, and Mary Phyllis born July 9th, 1892. They were all baptized on August 31, 1892. It seems that Hettie was named after Harriett’s mother, Harriett, who had just died in 1889. So now Ernest Cook has three relatives named Harriett to keep straight: his grandmother who has passed away, his mother, and his sister. I hope he was better at it than I have been.
Mary Phyllis only lived until the 16th of September that year. She died at 2 months when Ernest Cook was just turning 8.
Ronald Philip Cook, the third son, was born in September of 1893 and baptized in August of 1894. Sisters kept coming: Twins, Maggie and Norah in 1895, Elsie in 1897, and Doris in 1899. Watch for Ronald, Norah, and Hettie. They will have Moose Jaw play a part in their stories.
In February of 1899, Elizabeth Thompson (Hixon) Cook, Ernest Cook’s paternal grandmother died and was buried at age 66. On September 24th of the same year, her son, George Frederick Bristow Cook, also died, at age 46 leaving his wife Harriett with a family of 12, ranging in age from Madeline at 18 to Doris at 3 months. Ernest Cook’s father was buried on September 28th in the same graveyard as his infant daughter, Phyllis. Ernest was 14.
When FGB Cook’s will was read, 323 pounds was left to his wife Harriet. The British system used the abbreviations £ for pound, ‘s’ for shilling and ‘d’ for pence. They are abbreviations for the Latin words libra, solidus and denarius. According to an online CPI inflation calculator, £323 in 1899 is worth £41,778.71 today which might be about 72,003.94 CAD today.
There was a census taken on March 31, 1901, a year and a half after GFB Cook died, and we see a listing of the Cook family without their father/husband. The youngest child, Doris, is listed as 1 year old. “Hethe” the mother is 40 years old and her children range in age from 19 down. Ronald (7), Daisy M (16). and Mary F.(13) are not listed. The family are living at #5 Linton Crescent in Hastings, in the county of Sussex. Harriett has returned to a coastal town this time on the south side of England rather than the east coast like Lowestoft, where she had lived as a child.
Living this close to the sea would not be strange to Harriett, but probably it was to her children. I assume that moving with this many children and personal items would have happened by train in 1900-01. The distance from New Malden to Hastings might not seem like much to us now, but making the trip with a large family would have been a challenge in 1900. I think perhaps they did not move their furnishings, and that Harriett would have to buy new furnishings for their home on Linton Crescent.
There was a “General House Furnisher” in business on High Street. Mr. Stewart Spencer, a widower, at age 44 with 3 teen-aged daughters were living above the business.
1902 finds Ernest George Cook in a lineup to buy a ticket to Canada, not just to the eastern shores but to the western prairies. Likely a train ride took him from New Malden to Liverpool, and there he boarded the Tunisian.
“Launched in 1900, the Allan Line’s Tunisian was built by Alex Stephen & Son of Glasgow. She took her maiden voyage on 5 April 1900, from Liverpool to Halifax and Portland, Maine. A month later, she made her first trip to Québec and Montréal.” (https://greatships.net/tunisian)
When Ernest George Cook buys his ticket to sail on the Tunisian to Canada, he lists himself as 19 years old. He plans to depart from Liverpool on the 29th of May, 1902, travelling by “steerage”, so he won’t have a first or second class cabin for the week-long trip to Montreal. A long list gives names of single men leaving from Liverpool on the Tunisian. The top name on the page has written “Winnipeg” as his ultimate destination and all the rest of the names in the long list have ditto marks under the name of that city. These men have likely purchased tickets that include railway transport to Winnipeg after arriving by ship in Montreal. Although Ernest Geo Cook lists his age as 19, he was probably was 17 years and 7 months.
Steerage passengers were advised to hire an “outfit supplied by the company” that included: Woods’ Patent Life-Preserving Pillows, Mattress, Pannikin to hold 1 1/2 pint, Plate, Knife, Nickel-plated Fork and Nickel-plated Spoon…, leaving passengers to provide bed-covering only. We have no way of knowing if Ernest had some time between his sea voyage and his train ride to Western Canada.
The first evidence of Ernest’s presence in Moose Jaw is his listing in the 1906 Census of the Prairie Provinces. “Earnest” cook is listed as a “Roomer” on West Fairford. He appears to live with Mrs Gould and her three children and 7 other roomers, all men, 20ish.
In the 1907 Henderson Directory, Ernest is listed as a clerk in the accounting office of the CPR. However in the Moose Jaw Times: Tuesday, Sept. 24th of 1907 is the following announcement: Mr. Ernest Cooke, (sic) of the Dominion Lands Office, underwent an operation at the hospital yesterday. His many friends will be pleased to know that he is doing as well as can be expected.
In 1908, Ernest is living at 65 Main (66 Main was the Seaborn Block). In his early years of employment in Moose Jaw, Ernest met the people who would provide accommodation for him, introduce him and mentor him as a business partner ready to strike out on his own in the future. He will meet his future life partner. 1912 begins a new decade for Ernest. In the second decade of his life in Moose Jaw, Ernest will marry a woman whose sister is married to a prominent Moose Jaw businessman. He will meet his brother, Ronald, at the train and welcome him to Moose Jaw. These are stories for the next time.
By 1930, the Thomas family that had arrived at the Moose Jaw train station in 1908 and hauled their belongings to a farm at Tuxford has been been in Saskatchewan for 22 years. After 10 years on the farm, James and Winnie Thomas left their son Arthur and his wife, Annie, to work the farm and settled in Moose Jaw at 1037 Clifton Avenue. Winnie’s parents, Benjamin (Frank) and Louise Headington, joined them from Iowa in 1920. Through the 1920s, the number of generations being sheltered in this house moved between two, three, and four, depending on the level of support needed in varying family passages and crises.
In June of 1930 Grandma Louise Headington, now a widow, was invited to a special tea put on for Moose Jaw’s Old Ladies. Probably she is 5th from the left at the back in the picture below. By the time the tea was over, perhaps the women had made some new friends and had shared some memories with old friends. Although it was clear that hard times were upon them, these ladies couldn’t have foreseen the changes coming in the next 10 years. Mrs. Louise Headington herself lived until 1935, and her death along with financial difficulties regarding taxes seem to be the impetus for James and Winnie to return to the US.
On July 23, 1931, the last of the Thomas daughters married, but not in Moose Jaw. Hallie Winnifred (called Freddie in the family) married Lee Webster Evans down near South Whitley, Indiana where Mr Evans’ family lived. For Lee Webster Evans, it was a second marriage. His first marriage had been in 1917 in South Whitley when he was a 20-year-old post office clerk. His bride, Olive Keenan, had been 24. They had been married for eight and a half months when she died on April 20th 1918.
The Fort Wayne Sentinel April 22, 1918, reported as follows:
Mrs. Lee Evans, of South Whitley, passed away Saturday in Fort Wayne at the home of her sister, Mrs. Fred Seymour, where she had been a guest for a week and suffered a fatal attack of pneumonia. The remains were shipped to her home in South Whitley and the funeral occurred Monday, with interment in the South Whitley Cemetery.
There is no mention in the article of Spanish Flu as a precursor to the pneumonia that killed Olive (Keenan) Evans. We do know that the Flu outbreak became more severe in the later months of 1918 in Whitley County and that there were only two recorded cases in Allen County as early as April.
We know that the groom within a few weeks after his wife’s death signed up for the US Navy. In fact, the date for beginning his service with the Navy is listed as June 4th, 1918. He served until September 30th, 1921. The 1920 census shows Lee Webster Evans as a postal clerk. The work of the postal system during WW1 is the topic of Smithsonian historical displays.
Another fascinating trip into the Great War era postal system is in the online display of the National Postal Museum.
How did Freddie Thomas on Clifton Avenue meet up with an American widower, a Navy recruit and postal worker in Whitley County, Indiana? One answer might be that she made a trip to Indiana in 1927. Freddie filled in a card at the border giving an address and her intention to stay for 2 months. Freddie did have a younger sister (Gertrude) who had married on Christmas day of 1926 and moved to Indiana. After a few months, a visit was probably on the wish list for both of them.
If the scribbly date on the border card is April 4, Freddie would have been in the US on April 21, 1927, which was the date of her grandfather’s death in the house on Clifton. One source says the pictures of Freddie and a young man on the Clifton stoop (below) are from Oct. 1, 1927. Then, the Moose Jaw Henderson Directories from 1930 and 1931 list Winnifred Thomas as employed as a Bank steno at the publication time. She seems to have had her young man here for a visit in 1927 and perhaps a family celebration of their engagement. Freddie lived on here on Clifton until she went south to be married in July of 1931. Her “residence place” on the Marriage records is Moose Jaw.
There are pictures of Lee Webster Evans and Hallie Winnifred Thomas that have been shared, but it is not clear if these are engagement pictures or just visiting the inlaws on Clifton pictures.
Yes, all four Thomas daughters and one son have married. Two of the daughters, Gertrude and Freddie, married American men and moved to South Whitley, Indiana. Gertrude and Eldon had one daughter, and Freddie and Lee had two sons.
However, the oldest daughter, Louise, who had married first in 1912, became a widow in 1924 and lost her eldest son in 1926. That story was told in this post. Louise was remarried in 1930 to James Wallace Hannah who lived until 1944 when she became a widow for the second time. Louise Thomas Bills Hannah lived on in Canada for many years after there were no more Thomases on Clifton Avenue. Louise has been the storyteller of the family so far and did the family write-ups for the Community History books for Tuxford and Marquis. She also wrote her own memoir called “Gram”.
I see two of Louise’s children looking happy about the wedding. Little Virginia must be about 7 or 8. Her Papa Jim in the back row right will be living on Clifton for 5 more years. I assume the other people are relatives of the groom or friends of the couple.
Don Bills lived in Moose Jaw for some time and later lived in Alberta as you can see in his obituary. His little sister, Virginia Louise Bills Stewart (who came to our veranda on her 80th birthday), married a Moose Jaw boy, and they moved to Alberta and then to Ontario. Their stories and connections are contained in obituaries as well.
What about the only Thomas boy who had taken over the family farm with his wife Annie? By 1928, the Art Thomas family had moved to Moose Jaw where he was working as a salesman at Sterling Motors. In 1927 a store and garage designed by Henry Hargreaves had been built on High Street and First Ave. W. By 1935, Art is a manager at Sterling Motors and is living on Henleaze Avenue. In 1944-5 Arthur Thomas was President of Sterling Motors and was living at 1122 Redland Ave, a house that is now a lovely Bed and Breakfast! Jeanne Thomas, their daughter, was living there too and was working as steno at Sterling Motors. Mr. Thomas was listed as President of the Moose Jaw Board of Trade.
Art and Annie Thomas remained in Moose Jaw through their 25th anniversary in 1942 and moved to California in 1946. Arthur returned to Moose Jaw for business reasons until 1961 when he sold his interests in Sterling Motors to Mr. Robert Lockwood. Mr. Lockwood’s parents, Frank and Mary Elizabeth Lockwood, had been the owners of the Clifton house from 1917 until 1927 when they sold it to Mr. James Smith Thomas. The Thomas family had been renting the house from the Lockwoods from 1920 to 1927 before they took over the title with a purchase for $8000. So the Lockwoods sold a house to the Thomases, and now in the next generation, the Thomases sell a business to the Lockwoods.
Another Thomas daughter, Mildred, had passed away in 1928 before the age of 30, leaving two small daughters and her husband to move from their farm near Pense and live with Mildred’s parents in the Clifton house. Jack Weiland and his daughters, Marjorie and Winnifred, lived on in other Moose Jaw locations after the Thomases left the house on Clifton in 1935. After the Thomases left Moose Jaw, Jack Weiland married Fern Louise Fryklund, a Moose Jaw woman, and in a few years moved to Goshen, Indiana. His two daughters married and made their homes there as well. So by the mid-thirties, Mr and Mrs Thomas have more of their family members in Indiana: two daughters, and two grand-daughters. By 1935 there are two grandsons (born to Freddie and Lee) as well.
I am still puzzled about 1935-1938 and the exceptional transition of the house from the Thomases to the city of Moose Jaw. That’s a story for another post. But first, there remains one more life well-lived story to tell.
Louise Olive Smith Headington lived in Canada at the beginning and at the end of her life. Many little girls were named after her in the generations to follow including her great-granddaughter Virginia Louise Bills Stewart who got me started on this quest on her 80th birthday.
After leaving Moose Jaw…
When Mr. and Mrs James Thomas returned to the US in 1935, they did not return to Decorah, Iowa, but settled a full days drive beyond in South Whitley, Indiana. Winnie Thomas lived only a short while in Indiana before she died on October 11, 1937. Her husband, James Smith Thomas, lived on until 1946. Sometime between 1937 and 1946, a picture was taken at a family gathering that included the Thomas Indiana connection: Papa Jim is with his daughters Gertrude and Freddie and their husbands. Also in the photo are his two grown granddaughters, Winifred and Marjorie (nee Weiland) and their husbands. There are a few more grandchildren and a great-grandchild in the picture too. All seem to be thriving and glad to be together. Perhaps on this occasion some of them remembered their posing for family photos that had happened on the front steps of 1037 Clifton Avenue when the family shared the adventure of living in Canada for 25 years.
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy
The famous first line of Anna Karenina has come to mind often as I gather information about 10 decades of family life at 1037 Clifton. Births and marriages and funerals are the occasions likely to be reported in documents. Sometimes the usual family events follow close together. Sometimes the family ups and downs are complicated by happenings in the larger community and in the broader society. For example, a funeral near the end of the “roaring twenties” brings its own sadness to a family. A funeral in the middle of the “dirty thirties” may lead to bigger life changes than could have been imagined.
Before the Thomas family years on Clifton(1920-1935) were over, they faced more turning points. The nest that had been almost empty by the mid-twenties moves back to four generations again by 1929.
First, remember there had been a bridesmaid in 1917 who became a bride in 1919. Her name was Mildred Edith Thomas, and she had been born on January 16, 1900, in Decorah, Iowa. Mildred was 8 years old when her parents moved from Iowa to Saskatchewan, hauling their belongings over the miles from the Moose Jaw Train Station to the East half of 15-20-27 north of Tuxford.
In 1917 when Mildred was a bridesmaid at her brother Art’s wedding, her own future husband, John J. Weiland, was just arriving in Canada from Decorah, Iowa. His story differs from Mildred’s, but there were some similarities too. He had been born in 1899 in Minnesota to John J. Weiland and his wife Anna Maria Boleneus. Baby Jack (John) was the first son born after 4 daughters. This was the same family structure as the Thomases at Marquis/Tuxford: four daughters and one son. The big difference is that Mr Weiland Sr, the father of John and his sisters, died on September 27th, 1900 when his son was just 16 months old. Mrs. Anna Weiland was now a widow with 5 children under 8 when she was only 26 years old.
Mrs. Weiland married again in 1902 to Eugene Henry Main. With him, she had two more children in quick succession. The new little daughter, Gladys Mae, however, died in 1905. In 1910 when the U.S. Census was taken, the six children are listed with Mrs. Mary Main who is now 37 years old and recorded as the Head of the family. Now a single parented blended family is struggling in their house on Maple Ave. in Decorah, Iowa. I wondered if Mary had been widowed a second time. Apparently not. Her absentee husband married again in 1911, had some more children. He lived long enough to be married for the third time after his second wife died.
According to the journalist, Will Englund, March 1917 was a month that transformed nations and transformed the world. There were food riots in New York City. There was news of the Russian Revolution, and there was Jeannette Rankin the first woman elected to the United States Congress making a 20 city speaking tour. The United States is facing a decision about whether to join the Great War in Europe.
It is not likely that any of the great issues and events of March 1917 were major reasons for young John Weiland to want to travel north to Marquis, Saskatchewan. Probably more personal inclinations were the factors that influenced him.
First, he was the young brother of 4 older sisters. By the time he was 17, three of his sisters had established their own homes. Indeed, 1914 had been a big year for the daughters in the family. Beginning on January 27th, 1914, the first sister, Bertha married Mr Selmer Iverson. On June 24th, a second sister, Anna, married Mr Alfred Larson. His occupation was listed on his marriage documents as “Cylinder Buttermaker”. A third sister, Louise, married a farmer named Raymond Krantz on July 8th. The fourth sister Emma was living with her mother’s parents in Davenport, Washington. John’s mother, Anna Maria (Mary) in 1915 had been living alone and working as a laundrist in her home in Decorah, Iowa, but sometime before the 1920 census, she moved to Wesley, Iowa where Louise and Raymond Krantz had welcomed her into their home. Louise Krantz was 23 years old in 1917 and probably could use some support as a farm wife and mother to 4 children under 6 years.
Louise F. Weiland marries Raymond L. Krantz on July 8, 1914, in Iowa.
John Johnson Weiland actually crossed the Canadian border in March of 1917. With all the upheaval and change happening in Europe and North America, and with a need for farm workers in Canada to support the war effort, who can blame a young man for feeling restless and wanting to strike out on his own. John travelled along with two other young men from Decorah, Iowa. They listed their destination as Marquis, Sk. John Weiland’s cash and effects were valued at 40 dollars. The 15 men listed on the same Border Crossing page were all planning to farm in Canada, working for other farmers at first and then perhaps to get their own land. The plan seemed to have worked for young John Johnson Weiland. By 1919 he was married to the second youngest Thomas daughter Mildred Edith, and by the census in 1921 they were living in a wooden house on 24-17-24 near Pense, SK.
By 1925 the Weiland farm was home to two little daughters, Winnifred and Marjorie. Judging by the pictures shared with me, the Weiland family spent quite a bit of time at the Thomas home on Clifton. In fact, on the day that the census of 1926 was taken, all four of the Weilands were visiting the grandparents and were counted in the census at the 1037 address.
By 1928, John Weiland is a “well-known farmer”, but in the “bleak midwinter”, this family faced a painful loss. The personal summary below Is taken from the journal of Louise Bills, Mildred’s sister.
“Mildred had a ruptured appendix, and after a week of intense pain she passed away just before Christmas. Dr Bloomer had made a wrong diagnosis. We were all stunned but it was especially hard on Mother because none of us knew Mildred had been seriously ill.
She left two little girls, Winnifred eight, and Marjorie six. Jack and the two little girls moved in with my parents.
Mildred had wrapped all her Christmas gifts, and it was heartbreaking to receive gifts from her after she was gone.
Jack didn’t open his until the next Christmas.”
Died Sunday in a Local Hospital (Source:Times-Herald)
Mrs. Mildred Edith Weiland, wife of J. J. Weiland, well-known farmer of the Belle Plaine and Stony beach districts, passed away in a local hospital Saturday, following a brief illness.
Funeral rites for the deceased will be held Tuesday afternoon at two o’clock from Broadfoot’s funeral home, with Rev. C.H. Dickinson of St. Andrew’s United Church, officiating. Interment will be made in Rosedale cemetery.
The late Mrs. Weiland was born in Decorah, Iowa, during the year 1900, and came to Canada 21 years ago with her parents when they took up residence in the Marquis district. During the year 1919, she was married to J. J. Weiland, well known farmer of the Belle Plaine and Stony Beach districts, where she had resided for the past several years.
To mourn her loss she leaves her bereaved husband, two daughters, Winnifred, aged 8 years and Marjorie, aged 6, her parents Mr. and Mrs J.S. Thomas, 1037 Clifton Avenue, one brother Arthur, of Tuxford; three sisters, Mrs. Louisa Bills of this city; Winnifred Thomas, also of this city, and Mrs. Eldon Krieg of South Whiteley, Indiana.
Moose Jaw Times Herald: Dec. 16, 1928
The house has 6 Thomas family members from 4 generations from 1929 until 1935. Then the house goes through a transformation that was common in the 30s. In order to cope with economic challenges, many homes were opened to “lodgers” or “boarders”. Many homes were given up because owners couldn’t pay the taxes or the mortgages. Many people gave up their farms and returned to where they had come from. Many people found other employment than farming. 1037 Clifton’s residents had all these experiences.
Readers often ask me if I know about people who died in this house. Well, early on, when the house had been here on Clifton Avenue for about 14 years, there was a death in the house. There had been some deaths in the Lockwood and Thomas families, but so far, none actually in the house. A young father had died in the Tuxford hospital in 1924, and a 12-year-old boy had drowned in the Moose Jaw River, but I don’t think anyone had actually died in the house until 1927. On January 20th, 1927, James Smith Thomas took possession of the title to the house where his family has been living for 7 years under a rental arrangement with the previous owner, Mrs Mary Elizabeth Lockwood who has been living in BC for much of this time. As you may recall from the preceding post, there had been up to four generations of Thomas family members living here since 1920. Two of James and Winnie Thomas’s grandchildren, Donald and Virginia Bills, had been born in the house, and they had lived here off and on especially after their father’s death in 1924. By that time, James and Winnie were also providing a home to Benjamin Franklin Headington and his wife, Louise, who are Winnie’s parents and have come to Canada to live with their daughter in their declining years.
Mr and Mrs Headington celebrated their 58th anniversary on February 27th, 1927. Then, as far as I know, just a few weeks later, B. Frank Headington was the first person to pass away at 1037 Clifton. Mr Headington had only been living in Moose Jaw for 6 years when he died on April 21, 1927. A family member shared with me the obituary that had been published in the U.S., and the Moose Jaw paper also wrote about his death and his funeral here on Palm Sunday of 1927.
“He was a man held in highest respect. His was a congenial, friendly disposition, but nothing could swerve him from espousing a principle in which he believed. He was an esteemed citizen, a loyal friend, a good husband, and a kind father. He lived a long and useful life, and his memory will be revered.” (Decorah Journal, Iowa, April 27, 1927)
The pallbearers are listed in the Moose Jaw obituary above. They were all neighbours from Clifton Avenue it seems.
G.L. Dewey: is listed as the enumerator for the area around Clifton Avenue in the Prairie Province census of 1926. He first lived just up the street at 1077 Clifton, but by 1927 he was up in the 1100 block at 1127 Clifton Ave.
W. Houston (age 59) lived with his wife Amelia (52) across the street at 1038 Clifton Ave.
Hugh Thompson (a widower, age 74) lived just next door at 1043 Clifton with his daughter Elizabeth (31) who was married to Angus MacPherson (37) and two Macpherson youngsters. This young neighbour, Angus, moved on to Saskatoon in 1931 and was elected mayor of that city, serving as Mayor of that city from 1944 to 1948.
Check back to find out about the next eight years that the Thomas family remained in the house. They were here for all of the Roaring Twenties, and then they stayed on until halfway through the Depressing Thirties.
“Heartbreak” is the title of Chapter 11 in the journal style memoir written by Louise Alice Thomas Bills, the eldest child of James and Mary Winnifred Thomas who lived at 1037 Clifton Avenue from 1920 until 1935. In a one page excerpt from “Gram,” she tells about the February day in 1924 when “til death do us part” came true and in her words, “the bottom seemed to drop out of life.” Louise starts with a nostalgic story about a family playtime that led to a slight scratch on her husband Dick’s face. A bad cold seemed to look like the beginnings of pneumonia, and Dr Storry visited. Within a very few days, the seriousness of infection was cause for Mr Bills to be admitted to the Tuxford Hospital. Because the Bills’ farm was about 12 miles from the town, a plan was made for Louise to stay in Moose Jaw and ride the train out daily to Tuxford to visit her husband over the 10 days that Dr Storry said he would need to be in the hospital. It seems that before they were able to make the transition to Moose Jaw, a call came from the hospital. Louise’s brother, Arthur, drove them, but they didn’t get there before he died. The Moose Jaw paper published Dick Bills’ obituary describing his funeral at Broadfoots’ Funeral Parlors.
Now a widow at age 32, Mrs Louise Bills had to plan for her future and that of her four children. She had been a teacher before she married, but only with a temporary certificate. It made sense to her to return to Normal School to obtain a permanent teaching certificate so she could get a job at a school that provided a teacherage for her to live in. Family members helped out with her children some of the time by taking the older ones into their homes. The summer of 1924 was a time of rest and renewal for them all as “Papa Jim” took them camping at two different sites on Last Mountain Lake. (also called Long Lake) In the fall, Louise attended Normal School for a few months to improve her certification. The demand for teachers was high, and the new Normal School would be opening soon. It is quite likely, though, that in 1924, the course that Louise Bills took in Moose Jaw would have been offered at Alexandra School, the one that used to be where the Bentley is now in Moose Jaw. Somehow with Louise in Normal School, and other members helping with her four children, the family managed to commemorate the 80th birthday of Grandpa Frank Headington on January 12 of 1925.
By the summer of 1925, the Thomas family was living their “new normal.” James and Winnifred took a trip with their youngest daughter, Gertrude Helen, to Yellowstone Park in the state of Wyoming. While there, the family became acquainted with another family who was visiting the park. The young people were 4 years apart in age; Gertrude Helen was 16 years old. Mr. Eldon Krieg was 20.
Louise Thomas Bills, as a widow, soon accepted a position teaching at the Queen Alexandra School in Truax, Sask. Her son Burdette was enrolled for grade 8 in the Truax school where his mother was teaching. The summer of 1926 was to include a trip to a church camp just south of Moose Jaw in Kingsway Park. However, a sunny Monday afternoon in the meandering waters of the creek near the camp took a tragic turn.
Once again the Thomas and Bills family will be requiring the services of Broadfoots’ Funeral Home.
12-year-old Burdette Bills dies 2 years and 5 months after his father.
After the full report of the incident was printed on Tuesday, July 20, there followed another article about the funeral that happened on Wednesday.
In the midst of the grief following the funeral of young Burdette, plans continued to be made for the Christmas wedding of Gertrude Thomas and Eldon Krieg. Just as the Moose Jaw Times had been so thorough in reporting the funerals of 1924 and 1926, now the paper can share some happy news from 1037 Clifton Ave. The house was full of music and flowers that day as the bride with her father entered the living room. Gertrude carried a sheaf of pink roses.
No rose in all the worlduntil you came. No star until you smiled upon life’s sea. No song in all the world until you spoke. No hope until you gave your heart to me.
O rose, bloom ever in my lonely heart. O star, shine steadfast with your light divine. Ring on, O song, your melody of joy. Life’s crowned at last, and love, and love is ever mine.
Two sisters and the bride’s sister-in-law provided the music for the wedding. The paper reported that there were four generations of family present that day plus a few friends.
They are looking a little more dignified than they did on the beach at Yellowstone Park where they had met 18 months earlier.
The bride and groom were young, but they moved to the US and had a long life together, reaching their 50th anniversary in 1976. I found an obituary online for Gertrude and through that and Facebook, located a granddaughter.
She shared with me a plate that was decorated by Winnifred to honour their golden anniversary.
Here is some of what Eldon and Gertrude’s granddaughter wrote:
Kriegs moved from South Whitley and lived in Santa Rosa Beach, FL for many years where Granddaddy had a machine shop. He was a mechanical genius and although he only had a 6th-grade education, he was able to design and manufacture machines to do jobs that there were no machines for those jobs at the time.
He did work making bomb parts for the war, worked for NASA, made the mechanisms for the first top floor revolving restaurant in Destin, FL, made scientific equipment…the list of things is quite long! I have several photo albums with many pictures of his inventions. Grandma acted as his accountant and secretary and they had a good business! Between that and church, there wasn’t much time for anything else.
More about the Thomas connection next time. They were here until 1935, and faced more challenges through the depression. More weddings, more funerals.
I do not believe in ghosts, but when I enter an old building, I am always conscious of those who came before. It does not matter if the furniture and bric-a-brac have been stripped away; a sense of presence remains—a feeling that this building knew the cycle of birth, life and death, of hope and despair, of sadness and joy. Pierre Burton 1973 “Ties that Bind”