Dad went up with his sister and brother-in-law in the spring of 1910 to look things over, leaving his young wife and seven children for the time being. He worked in and around Imperial, Craik and Stalwart, then decided to go farther west to look the prairie over, eventually deciding to settle on some land south of Brock, Saskatchewan. Uncle and Auntie had settled near Stalwart where Uncle Elmer had staked out his homestead.
Dad filed on his homestead April 11, 1910 and hauled lumber from Stalwart with oxen so he could build a house. Even today as you drive down the number 15 highway, the hills are impressive. What must it have been like with oxen and a wagon?
He stopped near Zealandia, and camped the night by a slough, a low spot on the prairie in which water collects, continuing on to build a two story frame house on property he claimed as a homestead, SW quarter of Section 17, Township 28, Range 19 W of the 3rd Meridian. The house was built by November of 1910. Proceeding to get the land ready for plowing, he pulled rocks out and piled them, but did not get any land broke that year.
Oxen were his main form of power, and they were strong, but they were also slow and very temperamental. If they decided to lay down, well they just lay down and chewed their cuds and nothing you could do would get them going again. Also if they decided they needed a drink of water, well, they just went and got one, and nothing changed their minds. Plowing was difficult work. Dad sent a picture of himself on the plow pulled by his team of four oxen to his brother Will, in Michigan. This was written on the back:
“Hello Will received your letter and was glad to hear from you I was just a little disappointed when I got off at Mason and went to ma and she told me you were to Ionia well I hope you get along good with your boss this is me and my trouble $563.00 for this outfit I am breaking out now from your brother Frank Brock Sask. Can.”
addressed to Will Sklapsky, Ionia, Michigan, in care of George Plant. The date is impossible to make out but the stamp was 1¢.
Thankfully there were no trees to fell nor roots to pull, only stones, lots to be sure, which needed to removed and piled. Having done that, he dug a basement for the house, ran a cement foundation and erected a house. Then he again got work near Craik and Davidson, Sask., hiring on to threshing crews, and then returned for the winter to visit Merrill, Michigan where he left his wife and seven children. He listed his commencement of residence on his homestead as April first, 1911 until Dec. 20, 1911 and he had broken forty acres when he returned to the States, having fulfilled his homestead duties. He listed four head of cattle among his possessions, these being his oxen.
Another settler, Perry Pettit, helped in building the house and one day did some art work under the shingles he was laying, discovered many years later by the family’s youngest son, Bainard. Though the discovery was treasured by Bainard, the piece of wood has since disappeared. On the wood was written: “God Bless this happy home. Signed Perry Pettit.” There was also found, between the walls, an empty whiskey bottle, so the house must have been christened or at least liquid sustenance may have assisted in its completion. And God did bless the home.