Depression comes to Clifton Ave.

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. 

Source:, Moose Jaw Public Library Archives and Moose Jaw Geneology Facebook page

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. 

Can you tell if it says Apr. 4 or Oct. 4? I can’t.

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.  

The date on the picture is October 1, 1927, which was a Saturday. They are pretty dressed up for a Saturday.
Lee and Freddie on the front steps at 1037 Clifton.

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”. 

Louise Alice Thomas Bills Hannah at her 1930 wedding to Mr. James Wallace Hannah.  He was a widower with a 13-year-old daughter (Mabel).  Another daughter is born to Louise and Wallace Hannah in 1933. Betty Lou Hannah lives in Alberta.

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 Thomas as a Manager in 1935 Henderson Directory.  The location is where the Conexus Credit Union is in 2021.







Sterling Motors on High and First Ave. W. employed many people in Moose Jaw. One story told in my family is that in October of 1945 after my parents’ wedding in Weyburn, they drove to Moose Jaw where helpful employees at this dealership helped them wash the syrup placed by wedding pranksters over much of their honeymoon vehicle.

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. 

Arthur and Annie have Louise and Wallace Hannah, Mr. and Mrs. Wartman (affiliated with the Free Methodist Church and later the Moose Jaw Bible College) with them in the first row of adults. The 3 Thomas children are there with an extra couple of children. My mother says she spies Shirley Deyo. If you recognize other people or the house, let me know. It does not look like 1122 Redland to me.


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… 

Mrs Winnie Thomas lived only two years after the death of her mother and the subsequent move back to the United States. She was in South Whitley when she died, but the funeral and burial took place back in Decorah, Iowa from whence she had come to Moose Jaw In 1908.

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.