“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.
Thanks for reading.