History of the Palmer Family

History of the Palmer Family

Pioneers of Southern Alberta

Compiled and Written by Ada P. Orgill

Published in Raymond paper September 24, 1969

W M Palmer  ChristinaWilliam M. Palmer came with his wife, Christina Larson Palmer, and a family of eight children.  They arrived at Stirling, by a narrow gauge railway from Coutts on March 30, 1903.  They were met at the station by their son, Parley, and with their baggage were brought to Raymond by team and wagon.

They left their home at Aurora, Utah for Salina a town five miles north of where they boarded the train.  Changing at Salt Lake City to a through train of immigrants for Stirling and Raymond Canada.  Upon reading a point in Montana their cattle were unloaded and the older boys of the families drove them through to Raymond.  Coming from the narrow valley in the Rockies, the great expanse of the unsettle prairies filled us with amazement and awe.  Before crossing the border we all had to be vaccinated for smallpox.  Sore arms were a part of our lives for some time.

Accompanying the Palmers were Jonas Larson and Mr. John Larson, daughter Ethel (later Mrs. Floyd Litchfield) and son, Ross.  The Larson were father and brother of our mother, Mrs. John Larson, Iona (West later), Lorin and Linden joined the family in June with them was our sister Helen who was teaching school at Price, Utah.  Upon arriving we went to the home of father’s sister, Mrs. Mary Pickett and were warmly welcomed by our uncle, Brigham and the family.

In a few days, Mr. Christopher Nilsson finished two rooms of the home he was building (now occupied by the Bob Graham family) and we, with the Larsons lived in those two rooms until we were able to get a large tent from the government when we moved to our farm (my brother, Parley, who came to Raymond in 1902) had arranged for father to buy.  He also bought a small one room camp house, which was moved to the farm.  In it was put a small wood heater (we had never used coal before, always wood) but now we had to get used to coal.  Our parents and the younger children used this place for sleeping quarters.

A lean-to of wood was built over the cook stove (coal of course) and then the large tent was put up.  Cupboards, table, chairs and two beds were put in.  To me it seemed the tent-covered acres, but of course it was not that large.  The Larsons bought land east of us and put up a tent with a wood floor.  The trail to their place from ours was an old buffalo trail.  Bordering our farm on the west was the AR and I Canal across this was the farm of Heber C. Christensen and farther west the home of Tom Collett.  All had families and we became fast friends.

The year 1904 brought sorrow to the family.  Our brother Melvin passed away suddenly at the age of 20 of a heart condition, on January 22.  His was the eighth grave in the Temple Hill Cemetery.

In the spring back to the farm where we learned to milk cows, how in the large garden (now on our own land).  Father found he could raise celery, which we kept in the cellar in sand and enjoyed it all winter.  We also had pigs, chickens and a number of tame ducks (Father’s joy, we used to call them).

Then again sadness hit us, our brother Delbert, 18 years of age, contracted typhoid fever, which at the time was usually fatal.  He passed away on July 14, 1904 and was laid beside his brother on Temple Hill.

At this time the family learned from the actions and beliefs of our parents – to stand upright in adversity and say, “This will be done, O Lord.”

Some of the years the crops were abundant; some years a failure; but the people here were happy because of general love for neighbors and their fellowman.

Father, who was born in the USA and loved his native land, became a naturalized citizen of Canada as soon as he was eligible.  His motto was, “Where you make your home and a living, there you owe allegiance.”  So we became Canadians.

The second year our crops prospered, people kept coming in as pioneers.  Our neighbors on the south were William Harris, Sydney Harding, and Mrs. Elmer Newell.

With some of the neighboring young people we would put three spring seats on a wagon and with a spirited team (sometimes a horse they were breaking was harnessed and third single-tree attached to the whipple-tree and we would have a three horse team) we would go out to the St. Mary’s River for a picnic.  One time we went to Whoop Up and to our surprise and joy the train from Calgary to Lethbridge came and we had never seen it cross the bridge before.  The track from Lethbridge to Calgary was where the Mayor Magrath Drive now is, following the highway over Six Mile Coulee then turning southwest past the west side of the air port then on west over a bridge of the St. Mary’s River and then straight through to Calgary.

The first time I went to Calgary on the train was in 1909 when my husband “Cody” O’Brien, as he was called in baseball, went to Calgary to pitch in a tournament for the Calgary team against Regina.

Sometimes our family would go to the river bottom where Russell’s Mine was, to enjoy a picnic.  It was beautiful there, threes and grass and the swift, shining water of the river where we often caught pike for our dinner cooked over a campfire.  The boys would go to this mine with a wagon with a double or triple bed and either a four or six-horse team to get as many tons of coal as possible at one time, as we used coal entirely for our stoves.  Everyone had a coalhouse, made purposely to store coal for winter, as the roads made it impossible to bring out any more coal in the winter.

We all looked forward to Dominion Day when we would ride our horses in the parade, grooming them for days before.  The girls had divided skirts so that when they walked they were full enough to look like and ordinary skirt.

There was always a demonstration of fancy work, cooking, garden vegetables and grain in sheaf and also shelled, under the grandstand.  The cowboys came from far and near to demonstrate their skill as they do today, but our cowboys were from the ranches and just came to town for Dominion Day.  Raymond Knight, noted cowboy and rancher who started stampedes in Canada, was always there and greeted with clapping of hands and friendly shouts from the crowd.

On July 24, our LDS Pioneer Day, we always had a parade and sports, such as sack racing, foot racing, horseshoes and always a baseball game, which was the real sport in the early times.  Much rivalry existed among the towns.  We do I remember watching games played between Lethbridge and Raymond where the Galt Gardens are now.  Polo was also played there by the Mounties and others.

Bounding our farm on the North was a barbed wire fence erected by the town of Raymond.  This extended a few miles east then south to a mile on the south of the town and west a few miles.  Unless herded, cattle were not allowed inside this fence.  Our farm boundary on the south was the then beautiful fifteen Mile Lake in some places it reached a depth of some 15 to 20 feet, a channel between two peninsulas jutting out from the north and south sides into the lake was very narrow, deep and swift.  Geese, swans, ducks, loans, and snips were in abundance.  Hunters came from Lethbridge and other places and on one Sunday afternoon a group found the dead body of a man floating in the canal.  Two men went to Lethbridge to report (no country phones at that time).  The RCMP came out to investigate and the hunters all received a fine for hunting on Sunday.

The man proved to be a tramp who often came that way and had drowned while trying to dross the channel.  There was a natural waterway between the fifteen and Eighteen Mile Lakes.  The Road to Lethbridge from Raymond was around the north end of Temple Hill on north through what was known as Gumbo Flat across a bridge over the lake’s waterway, past the Charley James Ranch, the Liffeu farm, over a bridge, on six mile coulee, west to cross the Railway Tracks that  (now Mayor Magrath Drive) about where 10th Ave now is, straight across country to the 7th Ave. past the RCMP Barracks to the fifth street south.

Most of our trading was done at the Hudson’s Bay store, which is now the Trianon.  This trek we made quite often to sell our butter to customers who would pay 25 cents per pound for ranch butter and in Raymond it was only 10 cents per pound, milk 5 cents per quart and cream 20 cents per quart.

On May 11 there came a drizzling rain, but on arising on the morning of May 12 we were astounded to find snow falling.  Soon a wind came up and the often spoken “May” blizzard had arrived.  The tent sagged under the weight of the snow, a few times the tent poles fell but were raised again by the men folk.

On the second morning huge drifts surrounded us.  We all wished ourselves back in our comfortable home in a warmer climate.  But the sun finally came out in all its bright glory, a warm Chinook wind began, the snow melted, water was everywhere, grass green as only our grass can be, a small pond one quarter mile south of our abode was full to over flowing with the run off water, wild flowers appeared and we as a family decided this is our land.  Here we will remain and we still feel that way.  Some of our cattle and horses perished from the cold or drowned in the ponds and lake.  It was a hectic time but we were a family whose parents always taught us that trials were to be overcome and also to put our complete trust in the Lord.

As soon as possible plowing was begun.  A four-horse team on a sulky plow, a disk and harrow, then the drill to plant the seed all were horse drawn.  Our father found a place for us where a Mr. Cannon had plowed a small plot of ground and becoming discouraged left for a warmer climate.  The place because it jutted out into the lake, was called Cannous Point.  Here we planted a garden and were amazed at the yield and size of our vegetables.

Our grain grew and ripened so our parents decided that a winter home in Raymond would be nice.  They bought an acre in the northeast corner of town.  Our grandfather Larson, who was a carpenter and ship builder in his younger days in Sweden and our brother Parley who was an experienced carpenter, built our home (the one owned by Mr. And Mrs. Red Matkin) and we came to town in the early fall so my brother, Less, and I could start to school in the building that is now the Japanese church.

There was a large bell in the Belfry, which rang at 8, 8:30, and 9 o’clock each school morning.  Miss Middlemiss, a French Canadian from Quebec, was my first teacher and she dearly loved to use the strap.  I remember the first Sunday after we moved to town my father, who had spent altogether 12 years on missions for the LDS church was asked to speak at the afternoon meeting.  Later he was called upon to speak in Magrath and Cardston.  Having been blind until the age of 12, his mother taught him the bible verse by verse.  He could give a verse or many verses verbatim at any time or place, never forgetting to the time of his passing at 83 years of age.

He also went with Charles McCarthy to cover the southern part of Alberta urging the people to plant sugar beets to get a sugar factory, which was later built by the Knight Sugar Company.

Raymond grew by leaps ad bounds.  A church house was built where the Stake House now stands.  This was a happy town full of friendly people.

Well do we remember Raymond’s Broadway!  Our town was laid out under the supervision of Raymond and William Knight, something on the same order of a large USA city (so they say).  Flag pole in the center of the First Street on Broadway, the Avenues going southeast and northeast and northwest and southwest.  What a cut off it made to school.

Along Broadway on the west side coming from the south was Kings Store.  Dry goods and groceries, J.O. Chance Grocery, oh how we liked to take two eggs and buy candy there.  It was close to the School House, the Kelley’s Implement Shop (later moved next to the Utah Café to make a Pool Room).  The Bank of Montreal was in the mercantile block, the one now the J.E. Anderson Apartment House was built later.

The Raymond Hotel built and managed by Mr. And Mrs. Charles McCarthy, a sample room where the store managers went to meet the travelers (Drummers they were then called) to select goods.  Mr. Woods Butcher Shop, a Chinese Café, some years later the Security Investment Co. built what is not the Broadway Store.  Plank walks were laid the full length of the business blocks.

Dances were held on the top floor in the Schoolhouse, which was our Recreation Hall.  These were held every Friday night.

On the east side of the street were a Chinese restaurant, a hat shop, Mr. Jones Café, and on the corner of 2 North, Mr. John Fairbanks Photo Studio.  East of that Frank (Poulaw) Browns restaurant, where the Canning Factory now is.

Across from the studio North Cooper and Lamb store, later O’Brien, Nalder, then Graham motors now.  The new Post office, North of this was a Chinese Laundry, a butcher shop, later H. McKean Lumber Yard where Jubilee Motors now operates.

Later years the block where Raymond Motors are was started with a number of nice restaurants, Taylor shop, Ladies Wear etc.

By this time our brother Parley married Ella LeBaron and they later moved to Barnwell, sister Helen married John Harding, they lived on their farm north of Raymond then sold it and they moved to Taber where she passed away in 1911 when a baby daughter was born.  The remainder of the family stayed with the farm for a few years.  How we worked.  The elder one married and left us to run the farm, oh yes we had a beet field west of Raymond where we learned to crawl on our knees to thin beets.  Some of our first Indian helpers were Chief Mountain Horse (Jim Snake) with his family.  Mike Mountain Horse who later became famous as a Mounted Police and writer and lecturer of Indian Lore, became a very dear friend of our family.  Chief Mountain Horse and my Father were fast friends throughout the years.  It was very interesting to listen to their tales of the years they remembered.

My father had a friend of his boyhood, Mr. Heber McBride who lived in Welling.  We listened intently to them recounting their young man-days at Ogden Utah.

The many people that came to our home to converse on religions, community, political or national subjects with my father would hold us spell bound b y the hour.  I often look back and think how full our home life was of happiness brought about by my fathers ability as a story teller, sometimes writing a poem or story for a magazine, and wewould be all agog to read them or listen.  My mother had a very real humor often, accompanied bythe family would burst into laughter and fun.  In ourhome was often heard, if you cannot say anything good of people better play dumb.  So life, went on in Canada.

How weall remember the water situation.  A few people had their own wells and the town drilled a well where the Ridge View lodge now stands.

James Turner used to have a large tank drawn by a team of horses and would fill barrels we had by our house or fence for 35 cents a barrel, we would place a large tub over the barrel to keep the water clean.  Some people had one barrel, some two or as many as the family needed.  In the winter one barrel was placed in the house to keep the water from freezing.  Just inside the door it was handy for the waterman’s hose.

How memory goes back to Mr. Turner has he was always cheerful, friendly and one could hear him whistling before he got to the house.  He was loved by everyone.

O how cold the first winter seemed to us, we had never worn overshoes or heavy coats before, but we got used to them and the snow, and would know that some morning (having heard a wind during the night) we would look out the window and see no snow, but water running around the snow all gone.  “The Chinook had arrived.”  No cement sidewalks, not even cinders for a time and they were cleared by a sort of scraper V-shaped; do not remember if the roads were cleared or not.

Oh, how rich we all felt when a Sugar Factory where men and girls could work was built.  The girls received one dollar for a twelve hour shift.  Riches to us who at tone time worked there.

Amusement for young and old were, children’s dances for children up to twelve in the afternoon ,junior dances from twelve to sixteen  from six to nine, and evening dances to which hyoung and married people attended from nine to twelve sometimes till one on special occasions.  This was before the time of movies.  Also home dramatics were put on in the church which had a very nice stage and gas lamps for lighting.

Oh yes, these were th days of lamp and unless they were kept filled with oil, the wicks well trimmed and chimneys clean, it would have been a dreary evening at home.  This was my job in our home and cannot say I was very happy about it.

In our kitchen was a very beautiful range called the jewel – chrome trimmed and of course, every Saturday the black part covered with polish and then brushed to a perfect shine, the chrome cleaned and polished until one could see their face inti.  We ahd a wood floor in the kitchen which had to be scrubbed several times a week.  No indoor plumbing.  Oh, we Palmers along with others learned to work which stood us in good stead in later years.

Many will remember the Presbyterian church that was on the northwest corner of the lot and the Manse or house on the eastern part of the same lot, later ownedby Mr. And Mrs. Gerald Harker.  Rev. McKillop was the misiter and with his wife and family lived in the manse.  He was a well educated and friendly man often visiting my father at ou home where he would discuss religion pro and con.  They became very good friends and I remember, nothing pleased father more than an argument on religion.  There was no swimming pool in town in the early years, and so we all went out to the flume southeast of town to swim.  We would let the water carry us through the flume and then get out and walk back for another go, and how we enjoyed it.

Many of the young people went to the Millpond in the winter to skate.  We had a pond a block north on which we spent many happy ours.  It wasn’t so large but what of that, we could skate couldn’t we?  The water was from an overflow of the irrigation ditches.  We milked a few cows and sold milk at 5 cents per quart and cream 30 cents per quart, to our neighbors who did not have cows, but many of the people living here had cows and a few horses in town, also pigs and chickens.  No refrigerators so cellars were made.  Inside we kept a screened cupboard to put out pans of milk in or after we had a separator, then we put the cream and our butter, which for a few years we churned in a dash churn and when we got a barrel churn we were proud people (my grandson in Calgary has my last churn on exhibition in his rumpus room).

So time went and our church was too small to accommodate everyone, the Wards were divided and J.W. Evans was our bishop.  We, the second ward, had the school house to hold meetings in and the first ward had the church house.

We were a very happy and untied ward.  We all had church work to do, teaching in the different organizations, putting on home dramiatic concerts etc. for money to keep the ward going.

There was just enough rivalry between the two wards to keep everyone  busy, especially in the Athletics.  Of course we attended the other ward when they had a bazaar or concert and they attended ours, ti was just a friendly rivalry.  If any one had illness the neighbnors were there to help in any way possible, we became almost as one family on our neighborhood.


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