Thankful Thursday – Digitization and Our Roots

I had an ungrateful kind of day earlier this week, the sort of day where I’m too impatient and headachey to see the gems in the coal. The kid took a long nap and I should have been glad to have time to myself. I should have been glad that she would wake up happy and refreshed. Instead I had a little sulk, because I wanted to go out. It was in that unreasonable mood that I decided to use the time to do some reading on Our Roots, and try to dig up more on the Lloyds and Dunns from Pioneer Ways To Modern Days.

A browse through the School Districts chapter dropped this picture of children at the Moose Range school in 1917 in my lap:

Moose Range School 1917 - from Pioneer Ways To Modern Days page 185

I admit that my first feeling was disappointment. Oh, it’s just Ena and Bill Lloyd. Why isn’t Illa in the picture? How come I can never find anything out about Illa? I don’t even have a picture of her! Why isn’t anything about my direct ancestors digitized?

I took a break. After a bottle of Mexican Pepsi (do I ever love that stuff!) my headache was gone and I realized what a wretch I’d been. Sure, it would have been exciting to see a photo of Illa. But there were little clues I could tuck away for later. The Meachem kid? Yes! The Meachems were close to the Ralph family. Ena and Illa both married Ralphs, but I wasn’t sure if they both married into the same Ralph family. If the Lloyds knew Meachems, it seems more likely.

I am very grateful for every scrap regarding my family connections that is digitized. If there weren’t scanned certificates and transcribed indexes online, I probably never would have started seriously mapping my family. Nearly every hobby and interest I have has to fit into my sleepless lifestyle, where I feel restless late at night and need something to do. I love that I can just go online to make lists of the tiniest slivers of hints to track down microfiche to confirm things that haven’t yet seen the light of the Internet. I love that without a repository of unusual Canadian books readily available to me from nearly anywhere, I could have pulled my hair out trying to hunt anyone who knew anything about Moose Range, Saskatchewan.


Wednesday Women’s Work – Postmasters in Saskatchewan

Every time I use search engines to look for the Hassan family in Saskatchewan, I get a ton of hits because of the town of Hassan (which has nothing to do with that family). This is one of the Hassan (town) tidbits I picked up while searching Our Roots.

From the book “People Places: Saskatchewan and It’s Names” by Bill Barry:

HASSAN (a name of biblical origin) post office near Sturgis had just two postmasters during its thirty-five years, but both of them served twice. Sarah Dorothy Seddon was in charge from 1932-41 and again in 1944-45; Constance Ellen Shauer held the post office in 1941-44, and again from 1945 until it closed in 1967.

Like Hassan, PLAIN VIEW (north of Melville) was an all-female office. Julia Strevell selected the name after her home in Plain View, Nebraska, and served for the office’s first two years (1904-06). Elizabeth Pekar sorted the mail for almost forty years, and her daughter-in-law Nellie Pekar took over and served until the office closed in 1969. That represents sixty-five years without a male postmaster — a genuine oddity.

Also consider that according to the 1906 census, Julia and Elizabeth were married women when they worked in the post office. Women working after marriage was not common in the early 1900s but it happened more than we think. They didn’t just go to work in large cities, but in frontier farm areas too. The men were needed to work the land, and old restrictions loosened in new places.

Wednesday Women’s Work – Emily Lander, Saskatchewan’s First Telephone Operator

(Photo of Emily Lander courtesy of SaskTel)

While writing about City Battery and Irvin Hassan, I became curious about the history of the telephone in Saskatchewan. SaskTel, the province’s phone company has a timeline on their website and one of the points that piqued my interest was Emily Lander, Saskatchewan’s first telephone operator.

Emily was born in England in 1870. She and her sister Lucy lived in Regina with their older sister Edith and Edith’s husband William, a butcher. In 1887, Peter Lamont opened the first telephone exchange in Saskatchewan at his bookstore, and that was the year Emily became an operator.

Early switchboard operators had been mostly teenage boys because boys had worked in telegraph offices, and in large cities the job could be physically demanding. In some phone exchanges, workers had to climb ladders to reach the jacks at the top of the switchboard. But teenage boys did what teenagers do, and played pranks and were rude to callers. The Boston Phone Company was the first to hire a woman switchboard operator, Emma Nutt*, in 1878. By the time Emily became an operator, most operators were women. Customers liked that women had softer voices and were more polite than the boys had been. Of course, phone companies liked that they could get better work and pay them less than they had paid the boys.

In my online searching, I couldn’t find anything else about Emily Lander. I guess she did what most women who “disappear” from the record do, which was get married. I like to think that she lived into old age when she could just dial the phone without having to ask the operator to make the connection, and smiled at the wonder of it all.

*Tomorrow is Emma M. Nutt Day!

Thomas Aspdin, Mary Black Moon, and Indian Status

In 1876, after the defeat of General Custer, a group of Lakota led by Chief Black Moon settled near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The chief’s daughter, Mary Black Moon, met an officer of the North West Mounted Police and married him. That officer was Thomas Aspdin, who would later be the Indian Agent for the Assiniboine reserve. Under the Indian Act, when Mary married a white man, she lost her Indian Status and could not live on the reserve and claim annuities under a treaty. In other words, she was legally “white.” The 1901 Canada census was the first to ask respondents about their “racial or tribal origin.”

Here are the Aspdins in the 1901 census:

The Aspdins - 1901 Census

Mary is listed as female, Red (colour indicating race), she’s the wife of the house, married, born the fifteenth of January 1861, 40 years old at the time of census, born in the US, arrived in Canada in 1877, naturalized as a citizen that year, and here is the weird part: her racial or tribal origin is listed as Scotch. It isn’t an accidental “dittoing” on the part of the enumerator, because Thomas is written down as being English.

It looks like it is time for me to go get some books on the Indian Act and what surrender of status meant for women. Since Mary Aspdin wasn’t considered an Indian under the Indian Act, did Thomas make up a white affiliation for her when the census was taken or was this commonplace among First Nations women married to white men?

City Battery Service, Regina, Saskatchewan

Though he went by Irvin, James and Lucy Hassan’s youngest son’s full name was George Robert Irvin Hassan. Here he is in the 1919 Regina Henderson Guide, using his initials in a rather grand way. He and J.C. Wilson must have been business partners to have merited billing next to their business name in the city directory.

Until the 1930s, telephones did not draw power directly from the line and were powered by a battery stored in an enclosure on the wall. The phone was already very popular by 1919, so Irvin and J.C. probably had a lot of business from people who needed their phone battery serviced.

(Portions of the Regina Henderson Directory for 1919 as well as many other directories for other prairie cities are available at Peel’s Prairie Provinces.)

Wednesday Women’s Work: Lucy Hudson Hassan and her girls

After James Hassan died and his family no longer had his income from his employment as a farm instructor, what did his widow Lucy Hudson Hassan do?

According to the 1916 census, Lucy moved the family to Regina and she took in roomers.

Unfortunately, this digitized image is too blurry at the end to see what the enumerator took down as Lucy’s occupation, but a few of the others are pretty clear:

Lucy’s job begins with an H. Perhaps it is Housekeeper?

Ellen was a stenographer. Correspondence courses in shorthand were popular in the early twentieth century, and Ellen may have taught herself during her time on the reserve.

It looks like Elvira and Irwin both worked in stores. Elvira’s occupation is illegible to me, and Irvin was a shipping clerk.

Rounding out the house with the roomers, Phyllis was a student, and I can’t make out what Peter was (English teacher? Engine something?)

Mystery Monday: The Man Who Took The Coat

The Man Who Took The Coat - 1906 Census

I came across The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat in the 1906 Prairie Census when I was looking for the Hassans, and I had to know the story behind his name. Did he take a coat as part of a deal? Steal a coat? Bring a coat to someone?

When white men came to the Prairies and parcelled off the land and displaced the people already there, they moved the people of The Man Who Took The Coat and a chief called Long Lodge to an area outside Sintaluta, Saskatchewan and the Assiniboine Reserve was created under Treaty 4. Originally they had wanted the Crown to grant them land near Cypress Hills, which held great spiritual importance because of a terrible massacre that had claimed many of their people.

After a chief signed the treaty, Indian Affairs would give him $25, a silver medal, and a coat. However, they were calling him this before the treaty was signed. Could it be because he intended to sign and take the coat, or for another reason lost to time?

After The Man Who Took The Coat died, his brother, Carry-the-Kettle became Chief of the people who lived on that part of the Assiniboine Reserve, and became known as the Carry The Kettle Nation.

Here is what Deanna Ryder and Doug O’Watch of Carry The Kettle First Nation say about the origins of Carry-the-Kettle’s name:

After the death of Chief Long Lodge in 1884, the two Assiniboine bands were joined and leadership of both bands was assumed by The Man Who Took The Coat until his death in 1906. At this time Carry The Kettle succeeded his brother as Chief.

Doug O’Watch tells us how the Chief recieved his name:
“The indians were camped along a deep coulee. All at once a big enemy of Blackfeet or Bolld came to raid. ‘Come on, ladies, take the belongings to the coulee, stay, we’ll gaurd.’ The men built barricades of wood and stone. The boys played behind the barricade. A little boy goes back to his teepee. His mom took all. She left a kettle. He took it. He tied it around his neck. He played behind the barricade all during the battle that way with the kettle on his back. When the battle was over the men were retelling what had happened. ‘What about that little boy?’ After that he was known as Carry The Kettle.”

There are conflicting dates about The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat and Carry-The-Kettle. Indian Agency reports from 1877 state that The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat would have been a young chief, around 22 years old, which matches the age of The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat in the 1906 census (the same man appears in the 1911 census with his wife). However, the Indian Affairs Annual Report for 1891 says that Chief Jack (The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat) died that year, and Carry-The-Kettle became chief. Chief Jack’s widow is listed as having returns on crops.

1. The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat died in 1891, and a different person with the same name appears on later censuses.

2. The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat declared that “Chief Jack” was dead, Carry-the-Kettle headed the people, and The-Man-Who-Took-The-Coat lived until at least 1911.

Which is the truth?

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