My Uncle gave a talk at the Jumping Pound Hall on July 14, 2016 to a group of people. I can’t remember who they were, or what the function was about, but somehow I was there and not only did I gorge myself on the family famous garlic cheese dip, but I sat with my kids and cousins at a front row table while he gave a brief history of the ranch. About 30 seconds into his talk I realized this was one of those recollections I was unlikely to hear again and recorded it on my phone. I’ve had a few suggestions that I should be turning this into a book, and I’ve decided to take some time and lay everything out and do just that!! I’m not sure how to put it together yet, but I do think it would be a lovely way to remember who we are and where we come from.
When I was a teen I spent a summer working at Mackay’s, and I spent many lunchtimes sitting at the Lodge with Grandma while she told me stories of the “olden days”. In my teen arrogance I thought I would always remember those stories, but I quickly forgot them. I swore that if the opportunity came up again that I would make sure I recorded them.
As my uncle’s story begins, I believe he is talking about my great-grandfather Richard and his brother John.
..and the reason why they both wanted to homestead here is because it was close to the railway, close to fresh water, close to firewood. They went through miles of prairie, and don’t kid yourself, in those days prairie was prairie because it was continuously burned off by Indians travelling through it, and there were miles and miles and miles of nothing, not even a stick of wood to burn. So everybody burned buffalo chips, you know all about that don’t you? That’s why they did it. Even the old round up wagons in the early days burned buffalo chips – there was no wood except for along the odd little creek.
Anyway, getting off the story a bit but.. the fact that this country was homesteaded is sort of why our family ended up here and I’ll go back a notch further again, the original settlement in this area was at Morleyville, with the McDougalls and the mission there. And there’s another old family that lives to the west of us, their name’s Sibbald, and they came in in the 1870s and he was the first white teacher in Morley, and we’ve had a great relationship with the Stony Indians for a long, long time – due to the fact that way back in Ireland sometime in the late 1870s – our family was a family of Protestants in Cork, the County of Cork in Southern Ireland, and that seemed to be kind of an event.
They were quite religious, my great great grandfather was a pastor there. He raised 7 sons and they travelled out, one of them went over to Africa and they never saw him again. He went with the missionary work with the Dr there.. Dr. Livingstone. Another one went to Australia, but anyway they were poor, worked real hard, and they decided they were going to take the youngest son and educate him, so everyone worked real hard to get this young guy an education. And talk about kind of picking the black sheep, I don’t know… sent him to school and he ended up back home, with a little bad reputation behind that, and anyway, stayed home.
My grandfather, I didn’t hear him say this, but my dad always told the story, they were over digging peat bog there my great uncle John, which is who I’m talking about, he stuck the shovel in the ground and my grandfather said you could hear the shovel vibrating and he said “I’m going to Canada”. So the family settled on that and they bought him a boat ticket to take him to Montreal and that’s all he had was a boat ticked and no money.
He ended up in Montreal and they didn’t hear from him for two years. Until, they heard from him in Brandon, Manitoba and he got a got a job with a farmer there and learned to drive mules, they never had mules to drive in Ireland, I don’t know what they were using – donkeys probably, But, he was a mule skinner and he became friends with a band of Cree Indians who were camped in that area and were in the area, and he also worked for the Canadian army as a mule skinner. And he learned to speak a little Cree Indian so the army hired him, he was an adventurous young guy no doubt about it, they hired him to travel west with this little band of Cree Indians.
He spent his first winter in Fort Qu’Appelle and his job was as an informant for the army and the RCMP <I believe at this time they were the North West Mounted Police>, which hadn’t been formed at that time, I guess they were, with regard to the Riel Rebellion. So he travelled West and ended up at Calgary. And his first job was as a freighter from Calgary for the East to bring supplies to Fort Denton in Montana, to Fort Whoop-up in Lethbridge, and then on up to Calgary and his job was to distribute some of this stuff out to the Tsuu T’ina over here, we used to call them Sarcee, and also Morley. And the old Morley trail, kind of wagon ruts, that he carved across this part of the country.
And as a result of that, he became the first Indian Agent, the first white Indian Agent for Morley, and he spent the early years of the Riel Rebellion in Morley, had lots of friends there and they looked after him, but it was quite a dangerous thing. There are quite a few stories about what happened you know, unsettlement, and anyway he survived that. In his travels back and forth across here, he sent letters back to the family and attracted the interest of my grandfather who arrived here in 1885. By that time the railway was here so he didn’t have to walk all the way across those prairies. And he set up a homestead over here, my great uncle set up a homestead over here, and they homesteaded together. My grandfather bought the property just to the west – where those buildings are – you saw the CL barn – and so they were right next door to each other. My great uncle down the hill, and my grandfather was on top of the hill and they were stockmen, and they loved livestock. My grandfather tried raising some sheep and he finally ended up getting up page-wire fence to keep the sheep in and the coyotes out, but the coyotes still got in so he quit raising sheep I guess.