Arthur George's Family

By Christopher Bretz

 

This is a work in progress.

Arthur George (1885-1976) was born on the family farm near Fenella, Ontario on May 18th, 1885. He was the second of nine children, although his older sister died as an infant. He was the first son born to William and Mary George

There is some confusion as to the exact year he was born in. Arthur himself used the year 1885, and this is what appears on his gravestone, but the government birth registers of Haldimand indicate he was born in 1886.

As a boy he would have grown up on the various family farms in the Haldimand area. His uncle Thomas and his father William jointly owned a farm just west of the village of Roseneath, while his father seperately owned a smaller farm near Fenella that lay along the main road south to Cobourg where they lived. His mother's family, the Smiths, had another farm just a few lots west of that road. Many other realtives in the area had been there since the 1850s, marrying in and out of each others families over several generations. Arthur's Cornish grandfather had come to the area from Cobourg before 1850. For more information on the George family farms of the area see the George Homesteads.

William and Thomas George's family farms were separated by the Alderville Indian reserve. Arthur would later jokingly tell his children and grandchildren that their ancestors were descended 'horse thieves and indians', but there is no evidence of this. Perhaps it is more indicative of the strong presence First Nations people had in his life growing up.

The Alderville Indians were a band of Mississaugas, a sub-nation of the Ojibwas, who had moved there in 1837 from Rice Lake. The band was converted by missionaries to Wesleyan Methodism in 1826. They numbered about 40 families, totaling 200 people. One of the Alderville Nation's more famous sons was Fred Simpson, a marathon runner who traveled to London in 1908 with the Canadian Olympic team. Fred was a contemporary of Arthur George.

The 1891 census recorded young Arthur living with his parents, siblings, and grandpa George on the farm near Fenella. As labeled here, the farm was still his grandfather's, and his father's family lived with him on it. On the next farm over were his grandparents, Matthew and Prudence Smith, with their youngest children.

1891 Census, Haldimand
            William George 68
            William Ind George 32
            Mary George 27
            Arthur George 5
            Mary George 3
            William George 1

 

Grandpa Smith died a few years later in 1895.

Arthur's mother Mary died in 1900 giving birth to twins. She was only 36. The twins, named James and Muriel, also died within weeks. This surely would have been traumatic for the family, and also left Arthur's father and grandfather with a very large group of children to raise.

By the 1901 census Arthur and his siblings still lived with their father and grandfather on the Fenella farm. They also had Ms. Menifee, to help raise the children as William had not remarried. William's brother Thomas was still with his own large family on the farm near Roseneath.

1901 Census, Haldimand
            William George 44 - Farmer
            Arthur George 15
            Mary E George 13
            William F George 11
            Clara E George 9
            Harrison George 7
            John E George 5
            William George 76 - Father
            Mary L Menifee 20 - Domestic

 

In the coming years Arthur's brothers and sisters would begin to marry and move off to start their own lives. However, the Haldimand district where the Georges lived had largely been settled for several generations by then, and much of the good land had already been claimed or was now somewhat pricey. In addition, the size of the George clan in the area meant there were also many cousins looking to put down their own roots. Many of the younger generation realized they would need to look further afield if they hoped to own a section of property. Some chose to head west.

During the 1880s-90s the Canadian government desired to tame the vast prairie lands into a productive breadbasket. As such, immigration was heavily promoted to draw people to Canada, and Manitoba in particular underwent several periods of extremely rapid growth. Many immigrants from Quebec, Eastern Canada, New England and the United Kingdom were also encouraged to resettle there in the late 19th century. Later came Eastern Europeans and Mennonites. Over 500,000 people passed through the gateway city of Winnipeg in the first decade of the 20th century, and 100,000 more stayed on in that city and fueled its own growth. It would take many years for the social impact of this huge influx of people to be fully settled. It was a time disrupted by conflicts over language, women's rights, the place of immigrants, and the relation between workers and employers. It was also a tremendous boom time. Many wonderful historical photographs and stories can be found at the Winnipeg Time Machine. A great account of the early settlement of the region of Beautiful Plains can be found here. To the right is a Manitoba immigration poster from the 1890s.

The railway companies of the time quickly bought up vast swaths of land and built lines which helped settlers reach their homesteading lands faster than the oxcarts of previous generations. In a span of just 20 years the prairie was transformed. A guidebook published by the Manitoba & North West Railway Company in 1888 spoke of the Rosedale area of Manitoba thus;

The Municipality is in the County of Beautiful Plains and consists of townships 15 to 44, ranges 15 and 16. The M. & N.W. Ry. runs along the southern lines of this Municipality and Bridge Creek station is on the south-west corner. Its market town is Neepawa. It contains three post offices and four school houses, and church services are held in most of the school houses. The southern portion of the Municipality is well settled. The northern portion runs through the Riding Mountain up to and beyond Lake Dauphin. The Riding Mountains are well wooded and provide plenty of wood for the settler. The southern portion of the Municipality is well known as a grain-growing district, and cattle thrive well in the valley of Stony Creek, where there is an abundance of hay.

This was typical of many entries in promotional brochures of the time. They would also discuss the soils, the immigrant demographics, roads, and other things you might be interested to know before packing up and starting a new life sight unseen. For most there would be no opportunity to go out scout locations before the move. You simply chose a region as best you could, or went somewhere you knew someone, and hoped for the best.

Arthur is known to have moved west to Manitoba between 1901-1905, although the details as to precisely when and why journeyed out there are unclear. He was only around 17 years old and as the eldest male in his family might have been expected to help run the family farm. He also was the only one of his brothers and sisters to go, at least up until that point. Many of his siblings would remain in the Haldimand area the rest of their lives.

What appears to have happened is Arthur's uncles, Robert Smith (and family), George Smith, and Jacob Smith, as well as his widowed grandmother Prudence Pockett Smith (and possibly others unknown to us), all decided to move to Manitoba roughly around the same period of years. With the money they got for their Ontario farms they likely bought many more acres in Manitoba. As well, grandma Prudence's brother Samuel Pockett and sister Louisa Clark had already been living in the Dauphin/Neepawa area for some years and doing quite well, and other members of the Pockett family were also resettling there from Haldimand, so it looks to have been a mini-exodus. The years 1897-1912 are considered the boom years of Manitoba. Arthur apparently went with them. Uncle George and his mother were out there by the 1901 census. His brother, uncle Robert brought his own family out in early 1902.

This photo to the left is of Prudence Pockett Smith from around 1880. It is from the book The Pocketts 1808-1998 by Sandra Moulton.

There is a fascinating account of the Robert Smith family move by Arthur's cousin, Harriet Smith (daughter of uncle Robert) found in Kelwood bridges the years, 1890-1967, 1967. p 271;

Our father came to Manitoba with a harvest excursion in 1892, took up a homestead in the Springhill district then returned to Ontario when harvesting was finished, intending to move out the following year. Our mother was not prepared to make such a move to a strange place where she knew no one, so would not consent to come until ten years later.

In March 1902 after a sale we left Ontario. Mother with five of us boarded a Grand Trunk train at Norwood, Ontario, and father with our two eldest brothers came with the train bringing our livestock and furniture.

We were too young remember much of the trip. I was ten years old the following August and our youngest brother of age two years of age. We had to stay overnight in Winnipeg and take the C.N.R. train the following day to Glencairn. A friend helped us get on the train which happened to be the C.P.R., with a very cranky conductor, who threatened to put us off which he did when we arrived at Portage la Prairie. There mother enquired about the train and we were directed to another train which was also the C.P.R. and had a crankier conductor who put us off at Gladstone. When we arrived in Winnipeg it lovely warm afternoon and the sun was shining, but the following morning we were introduced to our first blizzard and it was so cold. This was bad luck as when we arrived at Gladstone the wind nearly blew us away. I remember walking to the C.N.R. station through the wind and over gravel and stones and trying too keep my eye on the rest of us lest someone might get lost; a little girl was lost in Winnipeg the day before, who was traveling on the same train as us. She had not been found when we left the city.

We reached Glencairn that afternoon and our Uncle George Smith and a friend were there to meet us. We traveled from there eight miles to our uncle's homestead in the Glensmith district, which is now Mr. Tommy Young's farm. We were told to lie down in the wagon box and were covered with quilts and blankets. We could hear the horses feet breaking through the ice as we traveled over the prairies. The men sat on a spring-wagon seat. Our grandma Smith [Prudence] met us when we arrived and gave us a hearty welcome.

The following afternoon Mrs. Holmes and Mamie called to welcome us, also Aunt Eliza and Uncle Angus Wood with Mrs. Sid Weston. We found many new things and places to explore, so time went quickly. One of the first homes I visited was Mr. Fred Winthrops.

Later on we settled on the Wood's homestead, land now belonging to Alf Newton I believe. That was our first experience living in a log house. but we were happy. Our father rented the land from Mr. McCutcheon east of Kelwood, George McCutcheon's grandfather. He put in the crop, then went to Springhill to get work.

We started to school at Norgate and had to walk two and a half miles, sometimes through about a mile of water. I did not fancy sharing my seat with and desk with a boy, as they did there, when convenient. In Ontario the boys sat on one side of the room and the girls on e other side. We enjoyed crawling under the barbed wire fences getting wild strawberries in Mr. Bill McLeod's pasture on our way home from school. One experience we had was seeing a nest full of prairie chicken eggs in a stump and a snake curled around them while the mother was having fits of distraction. We were ever on the alert for wild animals.

In the autumn of 1902 the C.N.R. railway construction gang finished grading the road just past the house where we lived. They got as far as the fence on the east side of the field when everything froze up for the winter. The grade had been built to the muskeg by the contractors who used horses and mules to do the hauling. The mules knew when it was noon and always gave the signal. Doukhobors got the job of making the grade over the muskeg. They worked with shovels and wheelbarrows. They got our mother to bake bread for them and gave her a third of the sack of flour for pay. Two local men completed the grade to the fence.

In the autumn we young fry decided we'd build a railroad too We surveyed a "right of way", and cut the scrub in the bush west of the buildings. I cannot remember if we had or did start grading when it ended. Our eldest brother was driving ill a stake with the blunt end of the axe and accidentally hit another brother on the head. We were going to crawl under the granary but thought we had better get help when we saw blood on Albert's head. That was the end of the Smith Construction Company's adventure in railroading.

In the year 1903 the first home was built and another house west of it. One was the McKone home. That was before Kelwood was named.

I remember Christmas Day 1902. It was a clear bitter cold day, but we bundled up and rode in the sleigh across wild country to Mr. Joe Jacksons for sinner. There were mother, father, and we seven children. It was a wonderful day for us.

On this portion of a map from 1900 you can see there were not a lot of roads in the area yet. A spur of the Canadian National Railroad was extended past the young village of Glensmith in 1903, which the following summer changed its name to Kelwood (Glensmith is visible near the top of this map).

The journey from Haldimand to Kelwood would have taken only days thanks to the trains, as opposed to the wagons of previous generations. You first would have to take a wagon to Cobourg or Norwood to catch a train to Toronto, about half a day in itself. From Toronto to Winnipeg the journey was about 4 full days - if your left on a Tuesday at noon you would arrive Winnipeg Saturday evening. The last train into the prairie was lass than a full day. The base fare price for the Toronto-Winnipeg segment was $??. Typically settlers would have sold most everything they owned and traveled lightly, and then rebought what they needed after they arrived. As noted about the Robert Smith family took the step of shipping much more. A great discussion of the trains of the day can be found here.

On the 1906 census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta Arthur was found living with the family of his grand uncle Samuel Pockett near Kelwood. They had been in the region since at least 1885 and would have been among the first wave of settlers around Neepawa. Arthur is listed as a hired man. There is a brief account of Samuel's family found in Kelwood bridges the years, 1890-1967, 1967. p.257;

1906 Census, Dauphin district (near Kelwood)
            Samuel Pockett 58 - Farmer
            Louisa Pockett 38
            Ida L Pockett 8
            Vernon Pockett 6
            Edna Pockett 3
            Gladys Pockett 7mo
            Mary Strelckio 17
            Arthur George 20 - Hired man
            William J Culth 21 - Hired man

 

In the same area, but separately, lived Arthur's uncles George and Jacob with their mother Prudence, and his uncle Robert lived with his own family.

Early life at the time was hard. From the Manitoba Hall of Fame;

Some towns developed fairly quickly after settlers arrived, but one major impediment to town development was uncertainty as to where, when or if, rail lines would be established. The CPR had been granted a monopoly on rail line development as an incentive to build a transcontinental rail line, and the CPR was not in a hurry to build branch lines. Once the Province was able to break the monopoly granted by the Government of Canada, branch lines eventually sprung up as did more towns. It took almost 20 years of negotiation with the federal government and various railway interests to get a branch line system in place in Manitoba.  Towns tended to be about 10 miles apart which meant that settlers would be about five miles at most from a town or about 1 to 2 hours driving time by horse (or Oxen).

A rail line to Dauphin and west, in 1896, led to the settlement of the Dauphin area and west to Gilbert Plains, Grandview and Roblin soon after. The rail line continued north, arriving at Cowan in 1899 which quickly led to the settlement of the Swan River Valley.

After settlers had taken care of their personal survival needs, schools became a first priority, followed closely by churches and local government. Some form of local government was necessary to get roads and bridges and other community infrastructure underway. Various businesses soon became established in towns to look after the needs of early citizens. Agricultural societies were soon formed in most rural communities for the purpose of educating new farmers on improved farming methods and on showing and selecting superior livestock for improving livestock production.

History tells us that even though the early settlers were quickly able to grow good crops it was a while before the necessary infrastructure was in place to export grain, and when the necessary infrastructure like railways and grain elevators and grain merchants were in place, high shipping and handling costs and low grain prices kept farmers from making much money. Crop failures and small profits put a blight on the boom years of settlement in the early 1980’s. Farmers did not make much money from farming until the early 1900’s when the situation improved some, but only for a short while. Farm families where able to produce most of their own food and thus were able to essentially live off the land, if and when, necessary.

[...]

As new land was settled in the west, it became necessary to find an earlier maturing wheat variety to replace Red Fife, which too often was damaged by frost. Canada’s research program made Marquis wheat available to farmers in 1910, a variety of high quality but with earlier maturity. Following Marquis many new varieties have been developed which overcame problems like rust and other diseases, keeping Manitoba’s wheat some of the best in the world.  

Livestock was always deemed to be an essential part of farming, and starting with the Selkirk Settlers, horses, cattle (both dairy and beef), hogs, sheep and poultry were gradually introduced and increased. For many years livestock production was mainly for personal or local use — not exported from Manitoba.

Many male settlers would work cutting firewood for export on the slopes of the Riding Mountains in wintertime.

Neepawa was the region's main market town. It was first settled in 1877 and enjoyed the prosperity and affluence suggested by its name, which is derived from the Cree for 'plenty.' It was one of the few towns that was able to offer a telephone exchange, electric street lighting, piped drinking water, underground sewers, and even paved sidewalks. In 1904 a hospital was established, and there were two weekly newspapers. The main regional post office was located there as well.

This postcard shows Mountain avenue in Neepawa around 1911.

Arthur went to work for Albert Clark of Neepawa sometime around 1906-07. Albert was Arthur's cousin, 1x removed (his grandma Prudence's, sister's son) and was originally from the same part of Haldimand, Ontario as he was. Albert worked as a tanner and farmer. This is how Arthur likely first met Ethel Dagg, as she was Albert's niece-in-law through his new wife, Violetta Blackwell.

Ethel's family, the Daggs and the Blackwells were originally from the Carleton/Ottawa area of Ontario and had moved west in 1893. They were in the Neepawa area by 1899. She had 5 brothers and 1 half-sister, with another sister who had died in infancy.

Arthur married Ethel Dagg (1888-1948) in Springhill on October 23, 1907. The church no longer exists but is marked as shown here. They would soon begin having children and would raise 11 between 1908-1932. The couples first child, Muriel Violetta, was born in Springhill in March 1908. She was named after Ethel's aunt Violetta who likely had a hand in introducing the couple.

The couple moved back up to a farm near Kelwood in 1908, where they stayed for several years and had more children; Luella, Gladys, Millie, and Russell.

Arthur's grandpa William died in 1909 back in Ontario. Since Arthur grew up with him always present in the home, he likely would have been affected by his passing.

At the turn of the 20th century horses were still the most important animals on a farm. Before the era of the internal combustion engine, horses provided the power that pulled most of the heavy farm machinery such as plows, corn pickers, hay rakes, wagons, buggies. A livery stable was a business which both rented and sold horses, as well as offered rented stabling for privately owned horses. Ethel's father, Thomas Dagg, was in the livery business, renting and stabling horses.

The first automobiles were seen in the Neepawa and Kelwood areas in 1910, and were great curiosities.

The 1911 census showed Arthur and Ethel and their growing family living near Kelwood.

1911 Census, Dauphin, Township 19, Range 14-15
            Arthur George 26 - Farmer
            Ethel George 23
            Muriel George 3
            Luella George 2
            Gladys George 9mo
 

Farm life in Kelwood revolved around the seasons. In the spring farmers prepared the soil for planting using a plow and spread manure across it. In the summer fields were cultivated to keep the weeds from growing between the rows of plants. In the fall the crops were harvested and threshed, and preserves made from the gardens. In the winter farmers caught up on a lot of jobs they didn't have time to finish during the summer like repairing machinery, mending fences and farm buildings and taking care of livestock. 

Threshing machines were quite large and expensive and often one was used by many farms in a region. A team of men from the community would move from farm to farm with the machine in the late summer and ensure every neighbor's field was cleared. A group of wives and daughters would spend the day cooking food for the men. Threshing day was very exciting. This photo shows a threshing gang from the early 1900s.

Threshing is just one process in getting cereals to the mill. The wheat needs to be grown, cut, stooked (shocked, bundled), hauled, threshed, and then the grain hauled to an elevator and the chaff baled. For many years each of these steps was an individual process, requiring teams of workers and many machines. To reduce the amount of work on the sidehills, the idea arose of combining the wheat binder and thresher into one machine - a combined harvester. About 1910, horse pulled combines appeared and became a success.

The first gasoline or kerosene powered tractors appeared in Manitoba around 1905, but were outnumbered by older steam powered versions until the end of the First World War. By 1920 lighter and less expensive machines enabled farmers to become increasingly self-sufficient in ploughing and harvesting. 

The RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank on April 15th, 1912, killing over 1,500. It was an event talked about widely and although very tragic, it was not as far removed from the prairies as it might seem. Ten of the passengers were from Manitoba and others were immigrants destined for the province.

From the Neepawa Press on Friday, May 3, 1912;

Amongst the bodies of the Titanic victims found was that of Leonard Hickman of Eden who went home last December and was returning with two brothers and several other young men to accept positions with farmers in the neighborhood. Private correspondence from Fritham tells of the terrible affliction of two families there as a result of the Titanic disaster. Parents of Mssrs. Leonard, Stanley and Lewis Hickman are so prostrated that there are fears for their recovery, and a Mrs Davies, whose son was also on the lost vessel en route to Eden is believed to be hopelessly unnerved.

While it did not effect our family directly (that we are aware of) certainly it would have been a topic of conversation in the community.

Back in Ontario, Arthur's father remarried in 1915 to Lily Sherwin.

The George family moved to Alberta around mid-1915, where they lived in Lacombe, and where son Orville was born. Arthur was helping his father-in-law Thomas Dagg in the livery business, who had come to Lacombe a few years earlier.

There are numerous articles and advertisements from the Lacombe Western Globe newspaper which mention the Dagg and George families between 1914 and 1919. This one shown to the right from the July 12, 1916 issue, and recorded that Thomas had leased The Alberta Stables and was running the livery on Glass street. From these clippings we can build a picture of the family's experiences in the town.

It would appear that Thomas Dagg and his family arrived in Lacombe in early 1914 (or possibly even late 1913) as the first mention of him is in the January 7th, 1914 issue. It notes that he had leased his first stable from P. Wintre on Barnett Avenue, and renamed them the Arcade Stables. As a promotion he offered free stabling to the community during Sunday church services. Sometime in late July 1914 Thomas then took a new lease at the Alberta Stables on Glass Street, right near the centre of town. He wasn't able to get out of his other lease at the Arcade Stables until October of that year however.

This photograph to the left shows Barnett Avenue in Lacombe around 1910, a few years before the Daggs and Georges arrived. It depicts the Fair coming through town complete with elephants. Thomas' first business was down this street, perhaps near the church.

Susan Dagg was found to donate to the hospital and participated with the local Women's Institute. The family donated winning prize money to two races in the Dominion Day children's athletic contest in 1915 totaling $5 (about $100 today). Their youngest son, Russell Dagg, had his grades published in the paper as part of regular testing.

Thomas was a member of the Orange Order and served as a senior member of his lodge - Deputy County Master. On July 12th, 1915 a large celebration was held for all central Alberta Orangmen which Thomas helped plan extensively. The paper noted it was the 'greatest day in Lacombe' history to that point.

In early June 1915 Thomas was recorded having received word that the Canadian army was looking to purchase heavy horses to use in World War I and wanted to put the word out to the community.

In early December someone stole two buffalo robes from the livery and Thomas posted a notice to implore the thief to please return them "if they wish to avoid trouble."

In February 1916 Thomas and his wife returned from an extended holiday visit to their old Ontario home.

The Dagg's owned several cattle over the years and a dairy cow belonging to them was run over by a freight train in June of 1916.

In later years the Dagg's barn was often used as an auction house for the community.

Thomas appears to have attempted to move to British Columbia in April, 1917 where he intended to continue working in the livery business, but for unknown reasons stayed in Lacombe. He went as far as stopping his lease on the Alberta Stables and put a notice in the paper alerting the community to his decision. Whatever happened, he got back into the livery in Lacombe in January 1918 when he took over operation of Wintre's Barn, and later in July 1919 he again took over the Alberta Stables.

In December 1919 Thomas was conned by a grifter writing bad cheques and was left out a substantial amount of money (to the right). The police later caught up with the thief and jailed him in Red Deer.

The 1916 census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta recorded Arthur George in Lacombe, now with 6 kids, including newborn Orville. The home was located just down from the Alberta Stables on Glass Street (now 49th Street).

1916 Census, Lacombe
            Arthur George 32 - Livery stable
            Ethel George 30
            Muriel George 8 
            Luella George 7
            Gladis George 5
            Mildred George 4
            Russell George 2
            Orville George 0
 

They moved back to Kelwood by late 1916, where daughter Marion was born. A newspaper clipping from September 27th, 1916 records that the family was selling their household goods, including stoves, tables, beds, chairs and mattresses, perhaps in preparation for the move back east.

The Dagg's finally left Lacombe before 1923 and appear to have gone to Dauphin, Manitoba. Arthur took over the livery barn from his father-in-law sometime in the early 1920s.

Arthur was said to have called the square dances at his children's school during celebrations.

In the fall and winter of 1918 the Spanish Flu pandemic spread across the world. Globally it killed more than 22 million - more than died in WWI - and perhaps as many as 100 million. People took to wearing masks and staying indoors. Even the harsh winter temperatures could not stop the spread of the Flu. The virus was different in that it affected young adults in their 20s and 30s, who are generally hardy enough to fight off such infections. It is estimated 30,000-50,000 died in Canada (the equivalent of 1 in every 180 people). Being relatively isolated in the country probably kept the George family safer than those living in cities and towns.

The 1921 Census of Canada showed Arthur and Ethel and their growing family living near Kelwood.

1921 Census, Kelwood
            Arthur George 36
            Ethel George 34
            Muriel George 13 
            Luella George 13
            Gladis George 10
            Mildred George 9
            Russell George 7
            Orville George 5
            Marion George 1
 

One of the things recorded on this census for the first time was the yearly earnings of the family. The George's earned $600 in 1921 (about $28,000 today).

One of the things we notice as time passes is that the price of goods change, but it was the early 20th century which started to value things more closely to what we value them today. The cost of living during the 1920s and 1930s was similar to today, but money was worth more so the prices were scaled quite a bit lower. There are some items which were comparatively expensive because they had only recently been introduced, as well as a few that were cheaper relative to today. For comparison a 1921 Canadian Eaton's catalog is viewable here.

Some other prices from the time include (from various US and Canadian sources from the early 1920s);

Item Cost then Price equivalent today
Gallon of gasoline $0.20 $2.50 (0.60/litre)
Newspaper $0.02 $0.25
Oranges $0.23/dozen $2.80
12 eggs $0.18 $2.20
Steak $0.22/lb $2.70/lb
Shoes $2.00-3.00 $25-40
Men's suit $35.00-50.00 $430-620
Women's silk dress $30.00-40.00 $370-500
Bottle of soda $0.05 $0.60
Alarm clock $1.00 $12
Large cabinet radio with speaker $100 $1,200
Tabletop radio $50 $620
Victrola type record player $75+ $925
Piano $120+ $1500
Restaurant dinner $1.00 ea. $12
Living room furniture set (3 pc) $160 $1900
Furnished apartment $4.25/week $50/week
5 bedroom house $7,000 $200,000
Average farm wage $2,300/year $30,000/year
Used car $800 $9,500

As we can see, food and housing were somewhat cheaper then, but electronics were much more expensive. There were only 60,000 radios in the US in 1922, but by the end of the decade there were over 10 million, and the prices of them accordingly came down.

The George family was not well off and Arthur certainly would have made less than $3,000/year at the time. It is important to remember there was no credit to speak of, so people had to scrimp and save hard cash to buy things.

From family stories we also know that things were bad enough starting around 1923 that many of their children would only go to school until around grade 8, and then had to go to work to help support the family. Their daughter Muriel had dreams of becoming a teacher but would never fufill them.

The family appears to have moved to a farm in the Lansdowne district around this time, where children Roy, Verla, and Velma were born.

Arthur and Ethel's first grandchild, Pearl, was born in July 1924 to their daughter Muriel. Interestingly, Ethel herself would still be having children at the same time as her kids were starting families, making for a very large gap of 24 years between the eldest and younger George sibling.

October 1929 was the collapse of the stock market in New York and marked start of what would come to be known as the Great Depression. However, many Canadians at the time felt that the depression wasn't as much brought about by the stock market crash, but by the enormous post-1928 wheat crop crash.

From Prairie Farmers and the Great Depression by George Siamandas

Dust storms began in 1931. There was no rain through the June germination period. No rain by July 1, only blasting winds. Then a couple of years of respite but suddenly, 1936 was a scorcher with temperatures often warmer than 100 in the longest, hottest summer ever. The topsoil blew away after years of too much tillage. Millions of acres just blew away. In the years to come new ploughing techniques would be encouraged by Ag scientists.

In 1932 commodity prices plummeted. Due not only to drought but ironically to oversupply with huge surpluses being created by Argentina and Australia glutting world markets. A bushel of No 1 Northern went from $1.03 in 1928, to 47 cents in 1930, and 29 cents in 1932. Lower than any time in the preceding 400 years. Farm income was cut to half in Sask. and Alberta and by 80% in Manitoba. Meanwhile farmers were caught in debts incurred in a more optimistic era. Farmers had been over producing and investing in still more land, mechanization, and better homes. Then the day of reckoning appeared at the worst possible time.

Then 1937 saw even hotter drier winds. Lakes went dry and farmers cut Canada thistle for their starving animals. Swarms of locusts ate shrubs, the handles off a rake and the clothing on the line, even the shirt off your back. Gophers proliferated and some families survived by eating them. A penny was paid for each gopher tail amounting to over $1M paid out in Alberta and Sask. Prime Minister Bennett's promise to "blast into the markets of the world" proved false.

The bad times had taken their toll and 250,000 people left the prairies between 1931 and 1941. In 1936 alone, 14,000 farms were abandoned. The 1937-year was the worst ever in the prairie economy. Many ended up on relief and to farmers raised on the virtues of hard work and independence, relief was a humiliation. Finally in the fall of 1938 the rains came. And finally so did federal help.

As these years wore on, farmers improvised. Since the price of wheat was so low, they planted new crops like oats, rye, flax, peas and alfalfa. They adapted to the dry weather with different tilling methods, crop rotation and artificial fertilizer. By the end of the decade, the fields of Manitoba were productive and the northern parts of the province were slowly developing. 

The George family moved around frequently during the Depression years. Between 1923-39 they lived in the Tobermore district, the Lansdowne district, Riding Mountain area, the Oak Leaf district, as well as Kelwood. Little is known of exactly what farm they stayed at and for how long. Arthur and Ethel's youngest child, Kelly, was born near Neepawa in 1932.

From 1930-37 Orville's war record noted that he and his brothers worked on the family farm of 160 acres near Oakleaf. From 1937-40 Orville worked on a local fur farm and other farms in the Neepawa area. He then spent 5 months in 1941 working for Bob Hunter as a farm labourer.

Ethel always grew a large garden and did a lot of preserving of produce as well as wild fruit to help feed her large family during those lean years. This practice was continued by her daughters with their own families. The George women (and Russell) were always regarding as exceptional cooks.

When his sons were growing up they would occasionally go off to parties on local farms. After a late night of drinking and revelry they knew they had to get home and to get some sleep before dawn, when they were expected to be up to help run the farm. Often the solution was to sleep in the wagon on the ride back home. The horse knew where to go, and Arthur's boys could slump forward and get some shuteye, arriving home by the time their father woke.

Arthur and Ethel moved into the town of Neepawa sometime in 1939. While several of their children were now married, their youngest ones, Roy, Verla, and Kelly, were with them as they were still just 18, 9 and 7 years old. Their teenage daughter Velma went off to Brandon for work around then as well. They lived in a house on the hill near the hospital overlooking the park. Sons Russell and Orville also came with them to Neepawa but lived largely on local farms as hired hands. Arthur went to work for a Mr. Ego in the livery business.

Arthur belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows for many years, and was a Noble Grand at one time. The Odd Fellows are a male only club or fraternity which promotes personal and social development. They work through teachings which emphasize positive growth, eg. welcoming travelers, and of helping those in need. Their motto is "visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan." Arthur transferred his membership to Neepawa on April 26th, 1943. On January 24th, 1966 he was granted lifetime membership. It is not known when he first joined, but the Order was quite popular in Neepawa earlier in the century. One of the largest IOOF meeting halls in Manitoba was constructed there.

World War II broke out in September 1939 and sons Russell, Orville, and Roy enlisted in the army in 1940. There was a noticeable effect on the prairie farms as nearly half the males were fighting overseas during these years.

Arthur's father William died in 1942 at the age of 84.

Arthur and Ethel moved to a house on Hamilton street around 1945. Their son Orville returned from the war with a young family and built a home only a few blocks east of there.

This postcard shows Mountain avenue in Neepawa in the late 1940s.

This photo from 1947 shows Arthur and Ethel with their newborn grand daughters Judy and Jennifer.

 

 

Ethel started to fall ill by 1948-49 and her daughter Velma moved to Neepawa with her own family so as to help care for her. Ethel died in 1949 at age 60. She was buried in the local Riverside cemetery in Neepawa.

After her death Arthur finally retired in 1950 and decided to move to Swift Current with his youngest daughter Verla and her family. He lived at 808? Chaplin st east.

Arthur visited with his cousins on and off over the years. His grandchildren remember visits to Kelwood to see Arthur's cousins Austin Smith and Edgar and Harriet Seebach (mentioned in the settler text above).

The Great Red River Flood of 1950 was a very memorable event for all residents of Manitoba. From its early settlement the province had dealt with the local rivers and streams overrunning their banks in the springtime, but May 5th of that year was one for the record books. Eight dikes gave way and flooded much of Winnipeg, turning 1,600 km2 of farmland into an enormous lake. The city turned to the Canadian Army and the Red Cross for help. In the end, four of eleven bridges were destroyed and nearly 100,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes and businesses. This was the largest evacuation in Canadian history until that time. One result of the flood was the construction of the modern spillway system around the city. Fortunately Neepawa and rural towns did not suffer as much as the captial, although every region had its own problems.

Arthur remarried to Clara Bland in 1954 in Swift Current. Many of his grandchildren remember grandma Clara as their only grandmother. This photo shows them at their wedding.

During the next few decades Arthur and Clara would spend their golden years traveling to visit their numerous children and grandchildren.

Arthur was remembered as being a wonderful storyteller and had a terrific sense of humour. Once he took his grandkids down to watch the road crews paving in Neepawa and tried to get a rise out of them by offering to sell them to the workers for a nickel, much to the workers amusement. He also liked to squeeze his grandchildren's hands to make them squeal, something they always remembered.

The George family played cards a lot for entertainment, both the kids and the grown ups. Some of the favorite games included Blitz and Canasta. However Arthur was really hard to beat.

 

This photo from 1964 shows a gathering of Arthur and some of his children. From the left is Arthur, ?, ?, Clara, Donna, Velma and her husband Alf.

In 1975 Arthur and Clara moved into a seniors home in Swift Current. There was some trouble at the time because he and Clara were not able to share a room together.

 

 

 

 

A celebration of Arthur's 90th birthday drew a great deal of family to Swift Current in May 1975. Nearly a hundred of his descendants and their families came. In this picture is Arthur and his children. Left to right is (back row) Gladys, Millie, Marion, Roy, Velma, Verla, Kelly (front row), Russell, Arthur, Clara, Luella. Son Orville is missing as he was in the hospital in Winnipeg at the time.

Clara died in January 1976.

Arthur died in Swift Current on September 6th, 1976 at the age of 91. He is buried in the Riverside cemetery in Neepawa with his first wife Ethel. Throughout his life Arthur had a strong love of children and family - he thoroughly enjoyed the get-togethers and having all his family around him.

In 1985, for the 100th anniversary of Arthur's birth, a family reunion was held in Neepawa. For more information on this see the George Reunion. A tree of Arthur's many, many descendants can be viewed here.

 

 

Arthur and Ethel's children:

Muriel Violetta George (1908-1973) was born in Springhill, Manitoba on March 19, 1908 the eldest of the 11 George children. She was named for her father's sister, Muriel George, and was also partly named for her mother's aunt, Violetta Blackwell, who likely had a hand in introducing her parents to one another. Muriel grew up mainly in the Kelwood, Riding Mountain, and Oak Leaf area of Manitoba, just north of Neepawa. She quit school after grade 8 due to hard times, and never realized her dream to become a teacher. She met Harry Hunt while working for the late Chas Hunt. Together, they raised a family of two sons, Carman and Gordon, and five daughters - Pearl, Doris, Roberta, Muriel (known as Babe), and Sharon who died during childhood. Muriel was well known for her huge garden and beautiful flowers. She did a great deal of canning and pickling from her garden, as well as the meat Harry brought home from his numerous hunting trips. Muriel loved a card game and a good dance with lots of music and fun. Harry worked on the C.N.R. section crew until his retirement due to ill health. After his death, Muriel continued to live alone in the house in Birnie, until, she too was forced to move into hospital due to illness. She passed away in Neepawa at the age of 65 years in 1973. Muriel was 24 years older than her youngest sibling.

Luella was born Harriet Luella George (1909-2002) in Kellwood, Manitoba on May 13, 1909. Her school years were spent in Kelwood, Lacombe, Glenella, Birdtail, and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Growing up there were always chores to be done, from watering the cattle in the river a mile away during the winter, to fetching the cows in for milking during the summer. Her horseback riding career ended abruptly after she fell off a horse while going to school at Birdtail. Luella quit school at about 14 years old and worked on various farms for about 6 years earning from $5 - $20 per month. She met Bill Cartwright in 1924 and after 4 years, they married.. Together they had two daughters, Joyce and Francie. doc didnt know she preg... After their marriage, they farmed a mile from where Bill was born for 38 1/2 years. Work for them was the way of life, with stock to be cared for, threshers to be fed, pickling and canning to be done. There were always extra children about on weekends and during the holidays. One story Luella told was of the time Orville Moore drove Bill's tractor right through the garage and put the end out. The tractor wasn't harmed, but the shed sure needed repairs. And, another time after milking a cow that Luella tripped over what she thought was a pile of dirt. It turned out to be a skunk. Her leisure time was spent playing cards, going to dances at the school, playing baseball, and in her later years - bingo. In her 80s old folks...xmas cards. After Bill passed away in 1968, Luella moved to Riding Mountain in 1970. She became an avid traveller with her sisters. She played bingo, attended meetings, helped out where needed. Luella died in 2002 in Brandon.

Gladys Ruby George (1910-2007) was born in Kellwood, Manitoba on September 6, 1910. Her schooling was mainly in the Kellwood, Riding Mountain, and Oak Leaf areas north of Neepawa. School was 1 1/2 miles from home and often there was no fire to warm you on cold days. At the end of the school term, there was a picnic and a ball game. Her father called the local square dances, which cost 25 cents to attend. The band was composed of anyone who could play an instrument and a good time was generally had by all those present. Gladys tells of the time in 1930 that she and her sister Millie asked Luella for a chocolate bar that her husband Bill had given her (a rare treat). After receiving a definite NO they took it from her and ate it anyway! Right about this time the two of them were sent across the creek to a neighbours to phone for a doctor. When they got back home, their sister Velma had been born. Needless to say, the chocolate bar incident was quickly forgotten. Gladys worked around Birnie, Springhill, and McGregor for $10 per month as a young woman. She met Hugh Moore at a dance ln 1937, and married him on June 15, 1938 at home on the George farm with her sister, Marion and brother, Orville standing up for her. Her flowers were lilacs tied with white ribbon. Together, they raised one son, Orville, and 4 daughters, Phyllis, Shirley, Audrey and Linda. After Hugh's death, she continued to live in Birnie, Manitoba for a number of years. She always kept a large garden from which she would make preserves on a small wood stove in back yard. Her neices very much remember what a great cook she was, being able to whip up a meal from very little. Gladys died in 2007 in Neepawa.

Millie or Mildred Emmilline George (1912-2000) was born on Aprll 30, 1912 in Kelwood, Manitoba. She and George Dinsdale were married in 1937, and had two sons, George and Dennis. Both sons lived in Riding Mountain. Millie worked at the Assiniboine Hospital in Brandon for 24 years. She and her sister Marion both moved to Brandon in the 1930s to work and lived together for the first few years. After her husband passed away in January 1985, Millie continued to live in Brandon, Manitoba. Millie and her sister Luella (and sometimes Gladys) would take bus trips in their older years, visiting family and seeing parts of North America. She died in 2000 in Brandon.

 


Russell Edwin George (1914-1998) was born in Kelwood, Manitoba, on January 11, 1914, the first son born to Arthur and Ethel. Russell and his younger brother Orville were quite close growing up, perhaps because they were outnumbered by their sisters. During World War II he served with the Army with the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. He met and married his wife Mickey Melville while overseas in England and brought her back to Canada. Together they raised 5 sons - Robert, Brian, Terry, David, and Ian. After the war Russell worked at one time as a cook for a lumber camp, and his wonderful cooking skills were well know in the family. For many years, Russell continued to be a member of the reserves in the Dragoons. He looked after the armouries in Neepawa, and later Brandon, until his retirement. Russell loved having family around and his house was always the place were parties and gatherings were held. He and Mickey moved to Cranbrook, B.C and lived there for many years, and where he died in 1998.

Orville Harrison George (1916-1984) was born April 13th, 1916 in Lacombe, Alberta, the fouth of eleven children. Orville was the middle name of one of his mother's brothers, and Harrison was the name of one of his father's brothers. He went to school in the Kelwood area but quit school after grade 8 to work on the farm. Orville served his country during World War II with the Lord Strathcona Horse Regiment. For more information on Orville's wartime experience see here. During that time overseas, he met and married his wife Diana (Pat to most). Together,they raised 4 daughters - Bobbi, Judy, Jennie & Laurie. He was a member of the XII th Manitoba Dragoons, and a Past Noble Grand of the I.O.O.F. Orville's working life was spent in the draying business; delivering milk and bread; and as a heavy equipment operator for the Department of Transport until his retirement in 1981. Orville died in 1984 in Winnipeg. To follow the lives of their daughters see the Western Georges.

Marion Louise George (1917-2009) was born on February 24, 1917 in Kellwood, Manitoba. Her middle name was that of her grandmother, Mary Louisa Smith. As a young woman she worked in Brandon while living with her older sister Millie, whom she was close to. Marion carried a scar from cutting her leg on a nail while tobagganing with Millie as children. She met George Byers while working in Dauphin around 1940 and married the following year. She loved to dance and they did so with George often. They had three daughters - Iris, Gwen, and Lynn. Their children always described their parents as soulmates. George was in the Air Force for 25 years, a great deal of their life was spent travelling and they lived in many places including Portage la Prairie, Swift Current, Saskatoon, Trenton, Moose Jaw and Edmonton. They lived in Calgary from 1966-80, and then retired to Penticton, B.C. They moved to Calgary when George got sick in the 1990s. Marion died in Calgary in 2009.


Roy Airiel George (1922-1977) was born on August 8, 1922 in Lansdowne municipality. He served with the XIIth Manitoba Dragoons during World War II. He married Marie Mousinie on May 15, 1949 and together they had 6 children - Cameron, Brenda, Tom, Geraldine, Holly and Donna. The family moved from Neepawa to Winnipeg in the mid 1950s where he delivered milk, and later to Edmonton in 1961 where Roy worked for the Lillydale Poultry Company. He took an early retirement due to ill health. He passed away with heart problems in 1977.



Verla Clara George (1929-1983) was born on May 25, 1929, likely in the Lansdowne municipality. She met and married Tom Reid in 1947 and together they raised 3 children - Ronald of Winnipeg, Yvonne of Swift Current, and Frances of Swift Current. She moved with her family to Swift Current around 1954, about the same time as her father, whom she looked after for the next 20 years. Verla worked at the meat department of Safeway for 17 years. Verla's hobby was life itself. She enjoyed everything she tried. She was a loving wife and mother. She passed away January 13, 1983 in Swift Current.

 

Velma Merle George (1930-2003) was born on June 3, 1930 at the old Hinds place in Lansdowne municipality. She came before the doctor could arrive and so was delivered by her older sister Luella. Velma went to Brandon to work as a waitress at about 15 years of age. She later married Jim Jury and lived in Swift Current where her daughter, Donna, was born. Things did not work out with Jim, but Velma met Alf Hegland in Ocean Falls, B.C. in 1948, and remained with him the rest of her life. She returned to Neepawa with her family to care for her mother Ethel until her death in 1949. Afterwards she, Donna, and Alf moved to Prince Albert where they lived until 1953. They then moved to Edmonton where Velma worked as an invoice clerk for I & S Produce, and Alf worked for Crown Tire. Velma was nearly broken in 1968 by the tragic death of her daughter Donna and her 2 grandchildren in a housefire. It changed her and afterwords she would would only sleep in places with windows she could leave by. She lived in a mobile home for years. Alf and Velma never had children but did get a small Chihuahua named Tiny. Velma was an avid bingo player and won many prizes, including a car once. She loved Lincolns and Cadillacs, and always had to have the fanciest car. Velma lived in Calgary for a few years after Alf died, near her brother Kelly, but returned to Edmonton where she died in 2003.

Kelly was born Clarence Calvin George (1932-2007) on October 16th, 1932 in Neepawa, Manitoba. He was 24 years younger than his big sister Muriel, and was always thought of as the baby of the family by his siblings. He joined the Canadian Army in 1951 and served during the Korean War as a paratrooper. He was discharged in 1954 and tried his hand at civilian life, apprenticing as a plumber and several other jobs, but returned to the armed forces in 1956. First enlisting in the Navy, and finally transferring to the Army. He married Margaret in 1958, and together, they raised 3 children - Randy, Wendy and Kevin. As a career soldier his family transferred around a fair amount, even spending some time in Germany in the 60s. Kelly retired from the army in 1970 and moved to Calgary where he started working for the Calgary School Board Supplies Division, where he was for many years. Kelly took on the role of the family patriarch from his father and became the main family organizer and socializer. He was always full of life and never afraid to try something, whether it be white water rafting or horseback riding. He loved to dance and was a master toasts man. He died in Calgary in 2007.

 

Shown here are some of the locations of the George families in Manitoba.