Friday, November 30, 2007

Wallace Feedback

I love to hear from my readers, and this morning I had an email from Lori, a Gamble descendant, sharing this with me...
I enjoyed your article about Ada Wallace. I know when my parents were first married in the early 1960s, they lived in small apartment in a house in Emerson on the main street along the river (which was torn down when the dike was built) which belonged to a lady named "Mrs. Wallace," and we've always referred to as "Mrs. Wallace's house." I can remember my mother saying there was a doctor's office in the house, although I don't recall her mentioning that Mrs. Wallace was a doctor herself. I will have to ask.

However, I did notice, near the end of the 1948 article, there was this line: "She prescribed treatment for John Kohut, will with pneumonia five miles from town. The messenger took the prescription and instructions back Sunday, and Monday the sick man was improving." Funny to see his name pop out at me like that. I will have to ask my dad if he remembers his dad being sick. He would have been 7 at the time.
I myself remember the buildings that had to be sacrificed for the new dike, but never knew until now that one of them had been the Wallace home and offices...

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Indomitable Wallaces


Over a year ago, I posted a profile on Dr. Ada Wallace. My grandmother was one of many people's lives she and her husband touched in their lives' work. I asked at that time, that if anyone knew her and could tell me more about her, to please get in touch with me. Recently, someone did just that, and an amazing story it is; please note that our area is only part of the story, but I think you'll find it's well worth reading it in its entirety...

The Indomitable Wallaces

An autobiography of Doctors Ada and Harry Wallace as told to Beth Thornton during the spring of 1981

Published by Ryerson United Church
Vancouver, British Columbia
1981


What a pair! Marching together through the 20's and 30's and 40's and 50's and 60's, steadfastly pursuing their mutual goal of expressing in actions their concern for service and social justice for all persons under their care - especially the underprivileged. And all this by the grace of God and with a fine sense of humour.

Harry was born on February 16, 1890, in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, where he attended the public school until the age of 13. He was then invited by a town's lawyer to become his law clerk - a tribute to Harry's sound character and specialized handwriting. At this point Harry's "Double life" began! For six years he not only worked at County Court activities by day but studied at the Academy by night. Then there followed several years at Castle Wellan in charge of a branch law office, then a term at Waterford City as Session Clerk for a firm of lawyers, and as County Court Clerk as well.

Here in Waterford Harry prepared for the Courts, every three months, debt cases which involved clients many of whom were poor and liable to imprisonment for non-payment of debts. This work was distasteful to Harry, as Southern Ireland was debt-ridden at that time. Inevitably, the day came when one client was to be sent to jail for non-payment of debts which in this case had been contracted by a teenage son. Harry was so disturbed at this prospect for his poverty-stricken client that he went out for a walk during which he met the new minister at the Waterford Presbyterian Church. The minister, a former college professor, mentioned to Harry that he had just received a letter from the Presbyterian Church in Canada asking him to recommend a suitable young man as a student for the mission field in Canada. Would Harry be interested? After considering the matter for a few days, Harry accepted the proposition and was duly accepted as a student for the Presbyterian ministry on the Canadian mission fields.

Subsequently, in the spring of 1911, at the age of 21, Harry Wallace, deep Irish brogue and all, boarded the steamship "Lake Manitoba" in Belfast Harbour bound for St. John, New Brunswick. After passing through Immigration Offices in St. John, he took the train to Winnipeg, the wheels on the rails singing a monotonous litany, "For ever and ever, for ever and ever, for ever and ever...," and Harry mused on the fact that his boat passage and train fare together had cost the Presbyterian Church all of forty dollars. At the Winnipeg office of the Presbyterian Church Harry learned that he had been assigned to the mission fields of Saskatchewan - specifically, the Dirt Hills area beyond Estevan. A stranger in a strange land, fresh from his years in law offices in Ireland, Harry became missionary-at-large to the settlers in Southern Saskatchewan. A long, hard year of purchasing his own conveyance (buggy, cutter, two Indian ponies - all debited to his account by the Home Mission Secretary of the Presbytery), finding his own lodgings (sometimes a deserted cabin), procuring his own food (sometimes a prairie chicken), buying his own "suitable" clothing. Heat waves, prairie tempests, food poisoning, blizzards. But the villages and schoolhouses were located, and good Presbyterian sermons delivered.

Fortified now with funds towards tuition at Manitoba College of Arts and Theology, Harry resumed his "Double life", a busy mix of mission fields in summer, study at the College in winter. Summer after summer for seven years Harry served as missionary and preacher at Prairie Grove, Manitoba, at Elmwood-Transcona at Springfield, Hedley, and at Middle River, Minnesota. Highlights of those winters at Manitoba and Wesley Colleges were many and varied. In 1913, Harry won a Gold Medal for Oratory offered by University of Manitoba and all Colleges participating. He assisted in the organizing in Winnipeg of Associated Charities (still actively functioning) meeting personally with all parents of families needing that assistance. He served on the Board of Regents for several years during the uniting of Wesley College and Manitoba College of Arts and Theology under the new name of "United Colleges," and being an alumnus of both Colleges was especially effective in forging strong alumni ties. On one memorable occasion on campus, Harry attended a Theologs' party for Medicos during which he was introduced to a serene brown-eyed medical student, Miss Ada Wilson from Gladstone, Manitoba. In April 1919, Harry graduated from the Manitoba College of Theology. The first charge to which Harry was assigned after graduation was the Presbyterian Church at Kenton, Manitoba, where he served for two years. Then in 1921, he received a call from the Presbyterian Church at The Pas, Manitoba, and was advised by Presbytery to accept for the need was urgent and the north country was opening up. Harry took up the challenge, went North, and plunged into his work in a frontier Church. Soon he was resuming studies as well, resulting in a Bachelor of Divinity degree from St. Andrews College, University of Saskatchewan, in 1925. During his second year at The Pas, Harry began his "triple" life! In August 1922, he married Ada Wilson, M.D., the daughter of Magnus and Ellen Wilson of Gladstone.

Ada, daughter of a resourceful, creative brick - maker - cum - landowner - cum - horticulturist father born in the Orkneys, and an artistic, meticulous, musical mother, had attended the Glasdstone school as a girl. There she had studies at the foot of her favourite painting, "The Doctor," yearning to be a physician some day and save lives, too. At home, Ada had read the Wilsons' big Doctor Book from cover to cover. During summer holidays she had often gone to stay with friends at a nearby lake, and from afar had worshipped their family doctor whenever he and his wife had visited at the lake, too. At home, Ada had been her father's helper, and had loved to nurture their apples and strawberries, and had even tried her hand at brick-making as well. In the house, she had helped her mother, and had learned the mysteries of art and music and hardanger (an intricate Scandinavian embroidery). But by the time her senior years at school arrived, Ada had made up her mind to study Medicine although her parents would have preferred that she chose a life at home with them, and avoid the hardships of study and practise. But Ada had prevailed. She had applied for entrance to the Manitoba Medical College and had been accepted. To her delight, she found herself registered for 3 years of Science followed by 5 years of Medicine. Until her final year at College, no other woman was registered in Ada's class along with the 30 male medical students. The young Ada, destined to one of the first lady graduates of the Manitoba Medical College, experienced no discrimination because of her sex or age, and participated fully in all study sessions and all laboratory sessions throughout the 8 years at the College. During her final year at Medicine, Ada, along with two male medical students from her class, was invited to intern at Misericordia Hospital in Winnipeg at the same time continuing and successfully completing her studies at the College. In May 1922, Ada graduated from the Manitoba Medical College complete with a beautiful bouquet of her father's special tulips from Gladstone.

After the Wallaces' honeymoon at Herb Lake, Manitoba, during which Dr. Ada was called out on three cases, the bride and groom arrived in The Pas to being their four decades of devoted service in the West to parishioners, patients, family and communities. Teamwork all the way.

There was plenty to do in The Pas, where may an adventurer lost heart at finding no gold or silver, and became a social and moral problem. Harry and Ada, too, were busy assisting and advising these persons, as well as protecting the youth of The Pas from unwholesome influences. This early social service work for the Church, says Ada, was fitting her for her work later on as a country doctor. Harry organized Associated Charities for needy families in The Pas, just as he had done in Winnipeg. In 1921, he joined the Masonic Lodge at The Pas, and began a lifelong service to the Masonic Order. In his spare time he wrote articles for several Sunday School periodicals, and established friendships with surveyors, bush-pilots, trappers, teachers, geologists, and undertakers. Above all, he preached and served his Church.

In Harry's personal diary are many stories of people of the Northern Frontier in the early 1920's including this account of a funeral which he conducted: "Accidents on lakes, rivers, in mines and lumber camps made necessary many trips to the cemetery. The only suitable ground for internment was a sand and gravel mound about three miles from town. There were two ways of approach. You could walk dry-shod along the railway track, or risk getting your feet wet on the muskeg trail through the bush. The local hearse consisted of a democrat pulled by a single horse. As that was the only vehicle in town, the minister had the privilege of sitting on the spring seat with the driver, and holding on to the casket as the democrat bounced over stumps and logs. Mourners and friends walked some distance behind. Strange things sometimes happened on these unpleasant journeys. Indeed, on one occasion I lost the corpse. I was engaged in conversation with the driver and failed to attend to my duties. When we came to within half a mile of the graveyard, I looked back to see if the mourners and friends had kept pace with us, but they were not in sight. I then thought of the casket and found myself looking down into an empty vehicle. The tail board of the democrat was gone and the casket had fallen out! As I ran back over the trail, the driver unhitched his horse in order to turn around. At each bend in the trail I expected to meet the mourners carrying the casket. Then suddenly I saw it lying by the side of the road where it must have fallen. I picked up one end of it and dragged it around the bend onto the soft muskeg. The driver appeared on the run and between us we got the casket placed in the democrat just as the first group of mourners appeared in sight. No questions were asked, and I did not feel it expedient to reveal what had taken place..."

The "Diamond Queen" was a noted character that most visitors to The Pas in the 1920's wished to meet. Harry writes about the day when Ada and the "Queen" met each other: "The 'Diamond Queen' was purported to be one of the three famous May sisters, actresses of London, England. In her younger days she had toured South Africa with a road show, and had been greeted on one occasion with a shower of diamonds, hence the scintillating nature of the name which had stuck to her through the years. The 'Queen' and her husband Gilbert Le Croix, kept a stopping place at Mile 81 on the Hudson Bay Railway. She was very polite, and when sober almost timid. A few glasses of liquor, however, turned her into a boisterous female ready to fight anyone against whom she had a prejudice. During out honeymoon trip to Herb Lake I told my wife about some of the escapades of the 'Diamond Queen' and Ada expressed a desire to meet her. We arrived at the stopping place at Mile 81 around noon, and the 'Queen' received us most graciously. Indeed, my wife was so impressed by her ladylike manner that she doubted the truth of my stories. Later in the day a prospector presented the 'Queen' with a bottle of whiskey. What a transformation took place. Ada and I were preparing to portage across to Herb Lake when the 'Queen' rushed out of the door with the cash box under her arm. She shouted to me, 'Here, hold this until I knock the hell out of so-and-so!' And the man in question beat a hasty retreat with the 'Queen' in hot pursuit. He was no match for the 'Queen'. He reappeared with a black eye..."

In 1925 came Church Union at which time the Wallaces, at the request of the Settlement Committee, left The Pas to serve the former Methodist and Presbyterian Churches at Belmont, Manitoba. Harry's six years at Belmont passed swiftly as he organized the building of a brand new United Church, coordinated both groups of young people into a Young People's Union also a Dramatic Society (Harry played the part of the Private Secretary one evening in a production of "The Private Secretary"), and preached in outlying schoolhouses.

The Wallaces' 1922 model Ford finally had to be replaced, which pleased their garage man. I his diary Harry sets down the reasons for this: "It had been the garage man's task each Sunday morning during the winters to start the engine within a blow torch underneath the oil pan. If the engine refused to go at the first swing, he would take time off to turn the air blue with his language. One Sunday his blasphemy was extremely loud, and I suggested that he put on the 'soft pedal' as folks were passing on their way to Church. He turned to me angrily and demanded 'What would you expect me to do - sing hymns?!'"

The Depression Years were settling over the prairies as Harry accepted a call to Knox United Church in Russell, Manitoba, in 1932. By now the Wallaces were proud parents of two daughters, Isabel and Kathleen, and one son, Gordon. And by now Harry had received a Master of Arts degree in 1930. Still pursuing their service and social justice goals, Ada and Harry moved into their seven busy years of compassionate stewardship and service in and around their new Church and community. Everywhere communities were felling the pinch of poverty; some districts north of Russell had suffered five crop failures in succession. Harry was appointed Chairman of the local Relief Commission, using the large Manse as headquarters. Ada and Harry helped personally in the distribution of "relief" clothing and fruit and vegetables - freight-car-loads of gifts from United Churches in Eastern Canada. The Town Council controlled the flow of money to be distributed for other necessary groceries and clothing for the needy, and at one troublesome confrontation between the unemployed and Council when "relief money" was about to be cut off, Harry produced a more equitable schedule of distribution which was acceptable to both the recipients and Council. A Fall Carnival which Harry named "Vanity Fair" was organized by the Relief Commission to raise extra money for the needy. "Vanity Fair" has now become an institution in Russell and is sponsored by the local Elks.

And now the pace accelerates! In 1939, Harry, Ada, and family moved to a new charge, the United Church in Emerson, Manitoba, and here the War years were soon upon them. Emerson at this time was a chief Port of Entry to and from the United States, bordering on Minnesota and North Dakota. Harry and Ada soon found themselves deeply involved with not only the people of Emerson but also with the people of Pembina, ND and St. Vincent, MN; with tourists from railway, highway, and river, with Customs and Immigration officials, sometimes with soldiers and airmen in transit.

There were six doctors resident within an 1-mile radius of Emerson when the Wallaces first arrived but within several months two had died and the others had enlisted in the fall of 1939, so the number dwindled to one - Dr. Ada! The Wallaces family was scattering: Isabel enlisted with the Wrens, Kathleen attended boarding school in Winnipeg, and Gordon enlisted in the Navy. Dr. Ada found patients arriving at the Manse door in need of medical help, and soon she and Harry decided that this was her long-awaited opportunity to practise medicine full-time. With the consent of the Church Board, Dr. Ada opened her first medical office in the Manse on the first floor. Harry's study was one storey up. Dr. Ada's patients arrived on the veranda or in the Manse living room in increasing numbers, and she served them in her office or else in their homes, by day and by night. She travelled to her patients by car, truck, tractor, boat, buggy, sled, passenger train, freight train, stoneboat, Red River ferry, and even on foot! Dr. Ada never refused to answer a call at any hour, summer or winter, fair weather or foul, and all this over a wide area which included Emerson, St. Vincent, Pembina, and the two rural municipalities of Franklin and Montcalm, as well as Roseau Indian Reservation with its 300 families. The nearest hospital was 30 miles away. Hired help was scarce or frequently non-existent, but Harry willingly helped his wife, often driving her in their one car on winter nights, often assisting her in her office with her patients, keeping records, consulting, assisting at inquests where his law experience was of great help and when four copies of each case had to be made out for the Coroner. Sometimes a patient's visit to the medical office would end up in the minister's study. Their partnership meant "preaching" and "practising". Their motto was "We get you coming and going!"

Over their ten years in Emerson, Harry's work was preaching to and serving two large congregations - the United Church in Emerson and the Presbyterian Church in Pembina, ND His pastoral calls, weddings, baptisms, funeral services, social service work in the community, his dedicated service to the Masonic Order, all continued unabated. Added to this, of course, was his frequent assistance to Dr. Ada. In 1946, the United Colleges *University of Winnipeg) granted Harry an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree for distinguished service.

Very soon after opening her medical office Dr. Ada was appointed Medical Health Officer for Emerson, Pembina, St. Vincent, and the two rural municipalities mentioned; also Medical Health Officer for the Department of Indian Affairs for the 300 Indian families on the Roseau Reservation; also Medical Representative for the Department of Immigration and Customs at the Port of Emerson; and Medical Representative CNR Emerson Division. Along with all these responsibilities and her work as a family doctor to scores of residents - urban and rural - Dr. Ada was appointed in 1942 to the Office of Coroner of the South-East District, after special legislation was passed by the Manitoba Legislature to allow her to do so! She has the distinction of being the first woman in the Province of Manitoba to take over this semi-legal Office of Coroner.

Dr. Harry says of Dr. Ada, "I can recall scores of occasions when her condition seemed worse than that of the patients. But she seemed to thrive on hard work and sacrifice, for during the whole of the ten years she practised in Emerson she never had a serious illness." On month, he estimated, Dr. Ada travelled 1400 miles and served 250 patients. About 50% of her medical work was on the American side of the border. In order to facilitate travel back and forth each day, a special border permit was given to her by the US authorities so that there was no delay night or day. In fact, Immigration officials took messages for Dr. Ada and usually knew where to locate her in an emergency. The Governor of North Dakota made provision for all the gasoline that Dr. Ada required in that State.

Dr. Ada's diary is especially revealing of the difficulties (and rewards) of carrying out her duties as Family Doctor, Medical Health Officer, and Coroner in those War Years. She writes of one worrisome trip: "On winter's day I received a call from the Indian Agent at the Roseau Reserve asking me to locate a sick Indian child at Neche, ND, some twenty miles distant from my office. I located the family in a shack at the Ball Park. The door consisted of a couple of bags. The two year old child was ill with pneumonia. I wrapped her in my fur robe and returned to the highway enroute to St. Boniface Hospital, Winnipeg, where most of the Indians were hospitalized. This would add another seventy miles of travel. On my way to Winnipeg through Emerson, I called in at my office and found another message from the Indian Agent saying there was a very sick child at the Roseau Reservation as well. I promised to go back and examine the little one, and subsequently decided to take this child with me, also. Fortunately for all, my husband was the driver of the car, for on the journey I was obligated to pick up one of them, then the other, to help restore breathing. A doctor and nurses were waiting for me on our arrival at the hospital at 2:00am. The children were able to return to the Reserve in three weeks time. Our round trip on 175 miles had not been in vain. Indian women usually waited until the confinement was about to take place before asking the Indian Agent to notify me, some twelve miles distant. Pre-natal or post-natal care meant little or nothing to them. The first notification I would receive was when the child was on the way. Several children were born on the back seat of my car. On one occasion the Ferry-man paused in midstream to turn the ferry light on my car late at night while I cared for a mother and delivered a new babe. Another confinement took place on the busy highway at noon. I parked my car on the side of the highway and set to work, while tourists sped quickly on their way."

Dr. Ada describes a different but no less memorable call: "It was impossible to secure the services of another doctor or a nurse during war time. The majority of my confinement cases were in the homes. A neighbour would be called in to help. I would instruct her in the use of the anaesthetic, for example. One case I recall was that of a woman who lived in a caboose during the summer. When winter approached, they decided to rent the caboose and move it into town. The caboose was propped up on four blocks of wood about 18 inches from the ground and was banked with snow for warmth. A week prior to her confinement I was called in and immediately suggested her removal to hospital. Both husband and wife refused. They had made up their minds that the baby would be born in their on-roomed caboose and that was that. Three previous children had died in childbirth and they were sure that this one would meet the same fate. I tried to assure her that the child id not have to die. My efforts were in van. When I arrived for the confinement, the local priest was already established behind a curtain in a corner of the room. A neighbour was called in to help me administer the anaesthetic. The expectant mother lay on a set of springs propped up on blocks of wood. A piece of wire was attached to the upper part of the springs and fastened to the wall for additional support. In a moment of excitement the neighbour leaned against the springs. At the most critical moment the supports under the springs gave way. The would-be nurse and mother and baby lay in a heap on the floor. The priest rushed from behind the screen and began to look for his Crucifix which had been placed in the hand of the expectant mother. The husband heard the noise from outside the caboose, and knew from experience what had happened. He came in with four large blocks of wood in his arms, and soon had the springs in their accustomed place. Fortunately, no one was injured. I picked up the mother and the new-born baby from the floor. The husband turned to me and said, "Doc, it's hell to be poor!" I was tempted to reply, "It's sometimes hell to be a doctor." In spite of its rough and tumble entrance into the world, the baby lived an was the joy and pride of his parents."

Dr. Ada's duties as Coroner called for investigations at the rate of 10 to 20 per year. Here is her description of one such autopsy: "My most unpleasant experience as Coroner was in performing a post-mortem in a barn in order to escape the burning sun. The temperature was around 80 degrees. The body had been found, buried in a manure pile for several weeks. Murder was suspected. Of the two young Police Officers present, one had to be assisted out of the stable, and the other very wisely assumed duty as close to the door as possible. When I had finished the post-mortem, I handed to the officers a bullet found in the brain of the deceased. They lost no time in returning to their detachment."

In her memoirs, Dr. Ada writes of an "experience" one stormy night in December 1947, when Dr. Harry drove her to answer a call to a sick child in Pembina, ND about 5 miles across the border. Snow was swirling across the highway. On both sides the ditches were level with snow. Several cars had been abandoned on the road. The temperature was low: "Each of us travelled with head out of the car window in order to see any car that might be stalled in the snow banks. With great difficulty we arrived at the entrance to the town. The patient's home was on the outskirts along a road that was completely blocked. We left our car as close to the edge of the highway as possible and set out on foot - a distance of a quarter of a mile. We walked along in silence shielding our faces from the storm and drifting snow. I turned my back to the storm and spoke to my husband; there was no answer. I retraced my steps and called again. There was a faint answer from a distance. He had failed to notice a slight bend in the road and was on his way to the local cemetery. He took off the belt of his overcoat, and we held onto that for the balance of the journey. Although the call was supposed to be urgent, the parents did not expect to see me in the storm. I found the child quite ill with pneumonia, and stayed until there were signs of improvement. The father accompanied us with a lantern back to the highway. He was very apologetic and said, "Doc, you have looked after my family for a long time and I have never paid any bills. Tomorrow I will see that you are paid." But 'tomorrow' never came. The return journey home was uneventful."

But the acceleration of activities for the Wallaces reached its peak in the spring of 1948. For fifty years floods had come and gone without devastation. In 1948 it happened! The Red River was in flood again; the water rose slowly and inexorably up and over the banks, up and into the towns. Main streets in Pembina and in Emerson were soon three to four feet deep in flood water. Storekeepers placed their wares high up on shelves; residents moved to the up storeys of their homes. Boats arrived from the Provincial Red Cross office in Winnipeg and were assigned to all areas of Emerson. A resident could hail a passing boat, and enter it from his door or upstairs window, whichever was more convenient. The Mounted Police provided a power boat for Dr. Ada's use; the US Army provided an amphibian for her five-mile voyages to Main Street in Pembina on American calls. Dr. Harry and Dr. Ada wore hip waders for days, as did numerous other residents. On the flood waters floated bodies of dead animals, boards, manure, barrels, and sewage. The chief danger was an outbreak of typhoid fever. Dr. Ada went everywhere inoculating victims of the flood. On one banner day, Dr. Ada, with the help of one nurse and several High School students, inoculated 1000 persons. For 10 days she had little more than 12 hours sleep. Dr. Harry supervised the building of a raft using a couple of oil drums and the side of a piano box. It was dubbed the "Queen Mary", and proved often useful to both the Wallaces. As the flood water gradually receded, Dr. Ada assisted in plans for fumigation and disinfecting of the flooded areas. She was named "Flood Heroine" by the Associated Press.

Dr. Ada was eulogized by Gordon Sinclair in the Winnipeg Free Press on Tuesday, April 27, 1948:
SHE DARES FLOODS TO HELP THE SICK

Lone Emerson Doctor lauded for her work

EMERSON, Apr 27. A grey-haired woman doctor has disproved for us any theories of the female being the weaker sex. If there is one person deserving to be singled out of the scores who have aided in the salvage of this water-ravished town it is Dr. Ada Wallace. The only doctor in a 30-mile radius, she has worked night and day on an international basis since the flood broke ten days ago. Monday afternoon after completing 75 typhoid inoculations for townspeople in a two-hour period, she took time out to outline the work of a country doctor during a flood. Dr. Wallace was called from her home during a heavy rainstorm last Saturday night, to rush aid to a seriously ill woman across the river in West Emerson. A 4-mile trip by auto and boat was required to reach the home of Mrs. Hunter Storms. The return trip was a race against time. Dr. Wallace won, and the woman was lifted aboard a Winnipeg-bound freight train to receive emergency treatment in a city hospital. Another trip made since the floods began took the Doctor to the farm home of George Johnston. Minutes after stepping out of a boat into hip-deep water, she had diagnosed measles for two of Mr. Johnston's children. A third emergency call took Dr. Wallace to Pembina ND, five miles from here. During the trip she was initiated into the intricacies of the U.S Army 'Duck", an amphibious vessel. "It was a lot of fun," the doctor smiled. "We had quite a ride in it." Treatment by remote control is another of Dr. Wallace's specialties. She prescribed treatment for John Kohut, will with pneumonia five miles from town. The messenger took the prescription and instructions back Sunday, and Monday the sick man was improving. Dr. Wallace was planning yet another mission, the transporting of the town "handy-man" to the Hallock, Minnesota hospital.
And now the Second World War was over, and many doctors and ministers were returning home to Canada. The Wallaces both yearned for a warmer climate, bade farewell to Emerson, and spent a winter in Florida. The following May 1949, they moved to British Columbia, where Dr. Harry had been appointed by the Superintendent of Home Missions to a term as pastor of the North Kamloops United Church, and as well, of the North Thompson Mission Field whose parishioners were strung out along a 160-mile trail from Kamloops to Blue River. Together the Wallaces undertook a week's "survey" of the latter area, a hazardous car-and-tent trip over a rough, narrow, gravel road that jutted like a rocky shelf halfway up the mountains, with the North Thompson River foaming far, far below! Dr. Harry and R. Ada met Scottish people at Barriere - some worked at the power plant there; scheduled services in a large Community Hall at Little Fort; Church at Bi4ch Island (and visited a hermit who claimed to live there happily for $6 a year); used a schoolhouse for meetings at Avola; and chose quarters in the temporarily empty Red Cross Hospital at Blue River. Thereafter, once a month Dr. Harry, and usually Dr. Ada, held services, conducted Sunday Schools, and made pastoral visits in each of these isolated congregations, travelling by car-and-tent until October. In winter Dr. Harry continued his monthly services to the five settlements, travelling by freight or passenger trains, alert for possible landslides. For the remaining 3/4 of each month, Dr. Harry devoted his energies to serving the congregation of North Kamloops United Church.

Dr. Harry's one-year term in the Thompson River Valley ended in the summer of 1950, following which he and Dr. Ada drove to Montreal. From there they sailed to Liverpool to explore by car Northern Ireland, Eire, England and Scotland from Land's End to the Orkney's. On their return in November, Dr. Ada and Dr. Harry settled in Vancouver near their daughter, Kathleen. Dr. Harry continued his service in the Masonic Lodge, and in June 1964, was appointed Grand Chaplain of the Masonic Order for BC and the Yukon. From 1951 to 1961 he served at Ryerson United Church as Associate Minister. In 1974, a biography of Dr. Ada was published in a prestigious Canadian book, "The Indomitable Lady Doctors", by Carlotta Hacker. On his 90th birthday in 1980, Dr. Harry's name was enrolled on the Honour Roll of the United Church of Canada.

"We must never let the traffic gradually smother with noise and fog the flowering of the spirit." - Stephen Spender

"I am happy to have served as a Country Doctor." - Ada Wilson Wallace, M.D.

"Life is still for us 'not a goblet to be drained, but a measure to be filled...'" - Harry B. Wallace, D.D.

Dr. Harry and Dr. Ada Wallace, the Ryerson Church family salutes you! God bless you both...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rural Kittson County Churches

I came across some wonderful rural photography by a person named Stephanie...
In the fall of 2006 I was finishing up my last semester of college and my classload was pretty light. It was probably a combination of visiting the church I'd attended when visiting my grandparents and stumbling upon the Preservation ND website that sparked my interest in photographing all these churches.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Old Maps

I am fascinated by maps and what they can tell us. I ran across the maps below of my hometown area and surrounding lands from the past - 1879, 1906, and 1952 - and they tell a story just like words and photographs do.

On the St. Vincent Township map (at bottom), I see the land belonging in 1952 to my mother's brother, my uncle John Fitzpatrick. This was two years before he died, and 7 years before I was born. There was a terrible story1 behind his owning that land; here, it is just some squares on a map with his name on them. At least now I know where the land was...





NOTE: First map is from 1906, second map from 1879, and the last two from 1952.

1 - To make a longer story shorter, my grandparents put their farm in their son's name during the second world war. He was married and had a family, but to ensure he wouldn't be drafted, they did this. It worked, and he stayed home safe and sound. But the deal was to put the farm back in their name, although he could work it and make a living out of it. It was to be their insurance for old age. However, he refused, causing a lot of bad blood amongst the family...but that, is another story...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Porous Border


I had the privilege a few years ago to hear Randy William Widdis speak at a local family history workshop. I had come to the workshop for several reasons, including him. Why? His topic was "The Porous Border: Migration Back & Forth Across the Canadian/U.S. Line". As you might imagine, that got me VERY interested, with my own family history following that path on my mother's side. It was a theme common to many early settlers to St. Vincent and indeed throughout Kittson County.

Widdis did his dissertation on seven counties in New York and five in Ontario on migrations patterns back and forth. One county he did it in was where Syracuse, NY is. Some immigrants went to Watertown, NY, some to Syracuse, NY.

Some highlights:

- He found patterns where certain counties in Canada went to certain counties in NY. The same was true for those Ontario emigrants coming to St. Vincent, i.e., coming from the same towns.

- He found that those that went to NY migrated in increments, whereas those that went to our area came directly here.

- Those that went to urban areas tended to be single men, while those that went to rural areas tended to be families.

- Canadians that migrated to NY tended to retain their Canadian citizenship, while those that came to our area tended to give it up and become American citizens.

- He found that our area was more embracive to the Anglo-Canadian immigrants than the NY communities were.

Land was the big draw to our area, and when land was opened up and advertised far and wide, the Anglo-Canadians (a great many who were Irish) flocked to our area. English/Irish/Scot Canadian surnames made up a majority of early settlers in St. Vincent. Although outnumbered by Minneapolis/St. Paul's Irish community, percentage-wise, we led the way.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Maggie Neill Letters II


Maggie Neill wrote letters to the Gamble family all her life. The Gambles left Ontario in the late 1870's when Maggie was just a young girl, and her last letter was shortly before she passed away. In my opinion, the motivation behind the Gamble letters was Maggie, and we have her most of all to thank for the chronicling of early St. Vincent daily life we have seen reflected in those older letters.

I've decided to share the rest of her later letters in one posting. By this time, Maggie was starting to feel her years. She hadn't expected to live this long, but she did. The one thing that most people have in common as they get older is the realization that they feel inside the same as they were when they were young, that there is never enough time, and that getting old, well...sucks, to put it plainly! I've yet to hear an elderly person proclaim it is their truly 'Golden Years'. You'll see in Maggie's letters that she is striving to remain independent, and to stave off loneliness...

Beaverton
March 7/45

Dear Alice -

I was pleased to hear from you at Xmas & hope you will write soon again. I daresay you have read of our big storms this winter. We had a hard time digging ourselves out of the snow banks.

Beaverton has been hit hard by the war. About a dozen boys won’t come back - they died overseas & some are prisoners & some missing.

I would like to hear how your lads are getting on. Hope you are all well.

M. Neill

(This was on back of a postcard)


Beaverton
August 25th, 1945

Dear Alice,

I was pleased to get your letter, and hope this finds you all well and the boys back home. A number of the Beaverton boys have come back, but about a dozen lost their lives overseas, among them the United Church minister’s son - an only child - and an Anglican minister’s son.

Some have been prisoners so they must be glad the war is over. I never heard what became of your uncle Alicks boys who enlisted.

I never hear from any of your people excepting once in a while from Mrs. Ladyman. I see by the papers there was a terrible railway accident in Dakota. I have not been on a train for years. I am feeling my age now - 85 yrs. But am doing my own work yet.

This has been a very cool, very wet summer. To-day we are having a thunder storm & quite heavy rain so I may not get to the post office this evening. Thanks for the clipping sent. I put it in my book. Would be pleased to hear from you soon again. I remain
yours affectionately
Margaret Neill.


Beaverton
February 5th 1946
To Mrs. Alice Edkins

Dear Alice

I was pleased to hear from you again but sorry to hear of your bereavement.

It is hard to see those near and dear to us passing away. I was pleased to hear you had one of your sons home with you at the last. I hope the other son may soon get home too.

I think most of the Beaverton boys are home now but about a dozen died overseas, all fine young fellows they were too.

The United Church minister’s only child - a Captain in the Air Force - is gone. His plane went down over Germany they say.

I had a letter from Mae the other day. They have had colds she said. Jean and Rae have settled in Hamilton, and are going to build a house there - a five room bungalow. Rae got his old position back. I never hear from any of the other Gambles now.

I think the weather about the worst I can remember, this last month or so. And fuel is very scarce which makes the situation worse. We had learned to depend on coal or coke but there is neither for sale here at present, and no word of any coming in.

I have a little coal and wood yet The snow drifts are so deep we can’t get the trucks to come nearer than the boulevards. I began this letter on Tuesday and it is now Wednesday evening and rainy after all the frost. I hope tomorrow won’t be icy so we can get down town, as there are puddles on the streets now.

I will enclose a little valentyne in this. Write soon again.
Yours Sincerely Margaret Neill

(Alice’s husband, Percy Edkins, had passed away 11-27-45. His son, William, was given a leave from the Army Air Corps to come home for the funeral. Their other son, Robert, was stationed in Japan)


Beaverton
Jan. 1949
To Mrs. Alice Edkins

Dear Alice

I was much pleased to hear from you again.

I am not staying in my own house at present. Since the first of April I have been living in a nursing home in town - on Simcoe St. I will be 89 years old next Sunday if I am spared. There are seven other old ladies here at present. We each pay 15 dollars a week.

I just had to lock up my house with everything in it. I did not like to leave it, but help is impossible to get now here and I could no longer keep house alone. I have not seen Mrs. Ladyman for a long time. I am lonesome for my own home of course.

We have to stay in bed every day. There is no cure for old age. I never hear from any of the Gamble family but Mae’s people. I hope your boys are getting along all right. Would be pleased to hear from you whenever you can write.

I got twenty-five Xmas cards and a number of parcels. I could not get out to buy any myself. They are as good to us here as people would be anywhere, I guess. We try to help ourselves as much as possible. Our old neighbors are good to call on us.

I cannot do anything but read - I don’t try to write much. I have no spectacles yet. I have my second sight I suppose, so I can read.

We have lots of snow here now - I supposed my house is snowed in. Well, wishing you all a very happy New Year. I remain yours affectionately
Margaret Neill.


Beaverton, Ontario
November 28, 1949

Dear Mrs. Edkins,
Having promised to let you know from time to time how Miss Neill was getting along, this is to say that the doctor telephoned me yesterday afternoon to let me know that she was taken quite ill. I had been up to see her a few days before and she was sitting up in bed, reading some of her clippings that she had ready for a scrapbook and in spite of a slight cold that did not seem to be bothering her much. She was as chatty and as alert as ever.

The news of her illness was, therefore, a complete surprise to me, so I went at once. Mrs. Teer said that the doctor had pronounced it a touch of pneumonia which, at her age, might be very, very serious. She had no temperature to speak of but not being able to get rid of the phlegm (as is the case with so many elderly people) her breathing was a bit laboured at times. As she did not find it too easy to talk, I told her not to and that I would do the talking for both of us. She did not seem to be in pain at all, but I fancy her goitre may be adding to the distress in breathing at times. She was quite rational of course, and seemed to be glad to see me, but the doctor thinks that she may not be able to regain her strength at all. Mrs. Teer was not so pessimistic, but at her age - she will be ninety in January, as you know - anything may happen, so I wanted to let you know how things were with her.

I telephoned Mrs. Teer as early as possible this morning and she said things were about the same. I am going up again as soon as I finish this and will post it on the way. This is the first outgoing mail since I knew of her illness.

Last night I telephoned Mrs. Ladyman in Toronto. She has a nasty cold herself and wanted to do anything possible, but as no one can do anything at the moment I will let her know each day how things go. Anything Mrs. Ritchie and I can do, of course we will attend to. We are both fond of Miss Neill who has been our neighbor for so long and feel so very, very badly that she is so ill.

With kindest regards to your son as well as to yourself.
Sincerely yours,
Mary Ritchie

(There was one more letter from Mrs. Ritchie, written the following day to let Alice know that Maggie had died that day - the 29th...)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

St. Vincent Snapshots

The best shot yet of the St. Vincent-Pembina ferry; the only way for most residents to traverse the river for business or pleasure before there were bridges.
Yes, believe it or not, St. Vincent once had a bank!

NOTE: Photos supplied by descendents of the Gamble Family

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Experiences of an English Soldier

Long-time readers of this blog will well remember the letters of the Gamble Family.

Letters are powerful demonstrations of history. Letters bring obscure and dusty facts to life, and flesh to the bones of names.

WWI: Experience of an English Soldier is one such blog. The blog has been publishing the letters of one WWI soldier on the comparable dates they were originally published. You get to know the soldier - William Henry Bonser Lamin, or Harry - as he shares his experiences in training, and on the battlefield.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Border Lines

For those of us who grew up on the US/Canadian border, John Mahoney's Border Lines rings a very familiar bell.

John also does a local news and history blog for his area in northern Vermont and touches on the Quebec area he borders. I definitely feel a kindred soul in John. Be sure and check him out!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Profile: Margaret "Toots" Ryan


My grandmother had many friends in St. Vincent. When I think back about it, she and my grandfather pretty much knew everyone and everone knew them. She would often go visiting, or have others visiting her. It was part of everyday life. One such person she knew was Toots, her neighbor.

Toots (Margaret) Ryan and her brother Andy lived north of Grandpa and Grandpa Fitzpatrick's main street home, right across a little alley running east to west most of the length of the town. Margaret was not just a neighbor, but a friend with Grandma. Another family in town called the Friebohles were close to Toots and helped her out with things like taking her to the store, church, etc.

I remember Toot's backdoor steps, very steep and high, but still not quite high enough to reach the door stoop, so one would have to take a very large step up and in. In my mind's eye, I can still see Toots coming out, and it was a bit hard for her since she was a short woman. Many was the time in the summer when I was little, where I would come down the road from our house four blocks north, to visit my Grandma; if she wasn't home, I'd fly out the back door, the screendoor slamming behind me, and run north across that alley and up those steps, to find her visiting with her friend. I remember both of them as seemingly always in an apron, and maybe they were, ready for work around their homes.

Toot's house was small compared to houses today, but for the time, it was very nice with high ceilings and large windows, with a good size kitchen and front sitting room. In that room was an old piano that had real ivory keys, just as many keys missing the ivory as had 'em. Even as a little girl, I could see that this piano was special and not like new ones. It may have seen better days, but it was a link to the past, a mysterious and special past in my little girl's mind. It was so out of tune it sounded like a honkytonk piano in an old west saloon with it's fascinating old round stool with claw feet. The parlour it was in had old persian carpets, thread-worn but still elegant. In the kitchen was an old porcelain sink with its hand pump - no faucets.

Toot's brother worked for the railroad and was gone a lot, or so it seemed to me. I remember him as a large bear of a man dressed in overalls and an engineer's striped cap. The siblings lived together and neither had ever married, for whatever reasons. It wasn't so unusual back then for that to be the case. I remember Toots herself as being a short rather round woman, with white medium-lenth hair worn loose. When she smiled, which was often, she showed some missing teeth, which made her all the more interesting to a little girl like me.

I once was staring at her in her own parlour, just having played with her piano, during a visit with my Mom and Grandma. I looked at her and said, during a pause in the adults' conversation, "You're fat!" She laughed, my mother blanched, and I got quiet, but I still thought she was fat. I wasn't trying to be mean, I was simply amazed. I had just realized in my 5-year-old mind, how definitely round she was, and I didn't know anyone else like that. Toots called me "PK Gum" (after an old Wrigley's gum brand...), since my first two initials are P and K. She replied, "Yes I am, PK Gum!"