John James Harding 1878


John James Harding

By his daughters Phyllis Harding and Vera H. Bennett

John James HardingJohn James Harding, son of John Harding and Jane Evans Harding was born on 25 November 1878, in Sugar House Ward, Salt Lake City, Utah.  His parents, converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had both come from England in 1871, John Harding from Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England and Jane Evans from Eldersfield, Worcestershire, England; both traveling to Salt Lake City and settling there.  Here they met and married.  John Harding a weaver wove the first yard of cloth by power loom in the Utah region.  Jane had worked as a maid in the home of Brigham Young.  (Father brought the cupboard to Canada with him that Brigham Young had given his mother for a wedding gift.  We used it in out home for many years.)

Our Father, John James, was the third child of a family of eight children.  They were:

William Edward born 27 December 1874

Mary Maria born 24 September 1876

John James born 25 November 1878

Albert Zeine born 27 August 1880

Earl Noble born 21 February 1883

Reed August born 17 August 1885

Royal LeGrand born 7 March 1890

Iva Jane born 29 September 1892

This family resided in Salt Lake City until 1884 when they moved to Provo, Utah where the last three:  Reed, Roy and Iva were born.  Father was six years of age when his folks left Salt Lake City.

As his parents operated a restaurant in Provo for a period of time the children had to help with the dishes.  Dad didn’t care for that part of his life at all.

The home he remembered best was the one located in Provo on what is now 27- West 4 South.  A pear tree grew in the back yard and the beautiful mountains to the east of the valley seemed so near to the house he could almost reach out and touch them.  The millstream (the mill race that powered the woolen mills) ran close by on whose banks the children ran and played.  When Dad as a boy was out playing somewhere about the town his mother would call “Oh Johnny” in a loud clear voice.  Other children hearing her first would take up the call and pass it on until the message reached Father.

One day he was swinging on a trapeze and fell off.  His father who was watching shouted, “You stupid blockhead.”  This became Dad’s favorite expression to use on his own children.

Father’s formal education began at the age of seven when he attended a private school in a room above a carpenter’s shop.  A year and a half later he developed hip disease in the right hip joint and for a year and a half he had to miss school.  Eventually a cumbersome iron brace was put on his leg, which he wore for over two years.  His brothers remember him hobbling along far behind the other eleven year olds; on his way to or from the public school he was then attending.  Dad was shorter than his brothers because of having this disease during his growing years.

Dad was baptized 25 June 1887 when eight years old.

When father was thirteen years old and in the sixth grade he quit school to help the family finances along by working in the Provo woolen mills.

At sixteen he got a job as assistant to the cook in the Asylum for the mentally ill in Provo.  The cooking skills he learned there stood him in good stead in later life for he had to cook meals for himself when batching or for his family when Mother was sick or busy with other things.  Some of our earliest memories of Dad were the times when he tied a big white dishtowel around himself on Sundays to take care of the roast and make the gravy.  He often made pancakes for supper (he called them flapjacks) or fried big pan full of potatoes with onions.

Dad often told stories of this period of his life when he worked at the Asylum.  One incident was the time he hit a rattlesnake with a rock on his afternoon off.  He decided it would be fun to take it back with him to scare the nurses with the next day.  He stored it in a garbage can outside the back door.  Next morning the cook took the lid off the can and the snake crawled out.  The poor cook could never figure out how it got in there.

After a year and a half at the Asylum, Father went back to school again at the Brigham Young Academy where he completed the seventh grade.

For the next three years he worked as a section hand on the railroad.  One of his co-workers Art Wilde, later settled at Welling, Alberta.

After this, he went back to the BYA to take first and second year normal which was the equivalent of High School.  The principal of the BYA told him he would make a good teacher and tried to persuade him to make teaching his career.

Dad did become a very good elocutionist and was called on to recite at social gatherings off and on throughout his life.  We kids were thrilled indeed on the rare occasions when he would “say his pieces” to his family.  We especially enjoyed “Gone With a Handsomer Man” and “When He Ain’t Got Rheumatiz” and “I Pulled My Pants on Wrong Side Out Before I was Awake.”  He had some good recitations on records, such as:  “Because I Have This Chap At Home Who Think the World of Me”, “Like Mother Like Son, Is a Saying so True; The World will Judge Largely of Mother by You.”

The summer following his graduation Father went with a surveying party on the Uintah Indian Reservation.  While working here he and some of the other fellows out of curiosity, dug up an Indian grave one night.

Dad also helped to survey the land around Midway, Utah which was nothing but uninhabited sagebrush country then.  This skill was another he found good use for in later life when he ran irrigation ditches through his farm.

The next winter he got a job in Provo driving a delivery wagon for a butcher.  He made the best use of his time at the shop and learned a lot about butchering.  For many years on the farm he butchered meat for his family.  He made the best sausages we have ever tasted!

At this time Father was faced with a decision, the result of which would affect not only his life but also the generations to come.  He was offered the choice of being a mail carrier, a schoolteacher, studying law, colonizing in Mexico or homesteading in Canada.

Dad answered the call of the Church Authorities in Salt Lake City to go to Southern Albert to settle and to help with the building of irrigation canals there.  Dad was one of a large outfit of Mormon men using over two hundred horses and the required moving equipment (which was owned by Adebert and Orson Cazier, Mormons of Nephi, Utah.  See History of the Mormon Church in Canada page 67) in constructing twenty miles of the Milk River Canal.

In the spring of 1902, when twenty-three years old, he moved to Canada.  He travelled by train.  When he got to the US – Canada boundary line he was afraid he would have trouble taking his revolver through Customs so he stuck it in his back pocket thinking his coat would cover it.  The funny thing was his coat got caught on the handle and everyone who stood behind him on the train could see the gun as plain as day.

As Sidney Harding, his cousin, had already settled in Raymond, Father worked for him on his farm from March to May.

Early in the summer Father and another fellow got a job, herding sheep for the Knight Sugar Company.  There were three Knight brother: Will, Jesse, and Raymond.  Ray supervised the ranching operations and was Dad’s boss.  The eleven months Dad spent with the sheep was a very lonesome time.  He told how it rained for days at a time so that every stick and blade of grass and chip was soaked through.  The two sheepherders would come into the sheep wagon where they bunked, wet and chilled to the bone.  Unable to find anything dry enough to make a fire they had to crawl into bed cold and damp.  As their food was unvaried and uninteresting, one day they began to think of all the good food they had eaten in the past.  When pies were mentioned, they couldn’t stand it; they got out their packet of dried fruit and made a pie.  When it came out of the oven it looked better than anything their mothers had ever made.  The decided they wouldn’t eat it until all the outside work was done for the day; then they would sit down to supper and really enjoy it.  While they were out tending the sheep, their boss, Ray Knight brought a friend around to show him the camp.  The pie looked good to them too, they ate it all up.

When Dad decided to leave the sheep business Ray Knight offered him a partnership if he would stay.  In later years, he often regretted his decision to leave because he would have been far better off financially, but at the time he was completely fed up with it all.

In 1903, Father bought a farm near Raymond, located about five miles north near the Temple Hill Cemetery.  One of Father’s neighbors was one of his boyhood chums from Utah, Alphonzo Russell.  They each had a cook car to live in on their farms but the loneliness was too much for ‘Phonzo.  One night as he sat alone, he decided he couldn’t take the silence any longer.  He moved in with Dad in the middle of the night and for the remainder of the season worked his farm from there.

Another neighbor a little farther way was William Moroni Palmer, his wife Christine and their family.  This man had served as Mission President for the church for nine years in the North Western States Mission, we believe it was.  He was a very spiritual man and when he prayed in family prayer he would pray very long prayers.  Sometimes he would call on Dad to pray.  (Dad became a good prayer and usually did the praying in our own family prayer around the breakfast table.)

One spring Grandpa Palmer had asked Dad to plough for him.  “It’s too dry to plough”, Dad said.  “Well, it might rain,” drawled Grandpa Palmer.  It did rain and Dad ploughed twenty acres with a hand plough.  Grandpa Palmer had two daughters of marriageable age and as he was a strong advocate of marriage, Father often received invitations to his home.  After a few such invitations he gave father a lecture on the joys and advantages of marriage, then informed him that he could have his pick of his daughters.

One day Father (for a joke) put a pod of nine peas over his doorway.  According to superstitious belief the first girl to enter would be the one he would marry.  Helen Palmer was the girl.

In December 1906, Father and Helen Christina Palmer with her father as chaperone, went down to Salt Lake City to be married in the temple.  However, as the temple was closed for the Christmas season, Grandpa Palmer advised the couple to be married, and then go to the temple later.  He performed the ceremony on 24 December 1906, and they were sealed in the temple on January 17,1907.

In this year 1907, Dad took up a homestead in Taber.  (The Canadian Government had opened up some land for homesteads east of Lethbridge beginning around 1903.  At this time there was just a section house at Woodpecker, now Barnwell, a CPR Watertank, Tank 77, and a one roomed store where Taber now stands, and only one ranch house between Lethbridge and Woodpecker.  The land around Taber was open and unfenced.  To take up a homestead, farmers had to fence their land and build a house on it.)  His wife, Helen, didn’t come with him because she was expecting a baby (Bill who was born in November) but the next spring Dad brought her over to Taber and showed her the place.  It was about five miles south, southeast of the town as the crow flies (six miles by road after roadways and fences were set up.)  The place looked so desolate out there “in the middle of nowhere” that Helen tried to persuade him to give it up.  Even then Father must have had a vision of its future:  he could see “Rocky Lake” filed with water and irrigation ditches crossing the farm lands.  During the Depression he could still see that vision and although the land was mortgaged and he paid for it “ten times over” in interest he still hung on to it.  Only a few years before his death did he see his dream come true.  It must give him great satisfaction not to see his descendants reaping the rewards of his faith and labor.

In 1908, he sold his farm in Raymond and moved into a two-roomed house he had built on the homestead.  Aunt Ruby’s brother Tom Lyons had helped him.  Beside the house was a deep well with a pump.  This well served us through hall the years we lived on this farm mostly as the watering place for the horses and cows.  One of the most pressing needs of the pioneer farmer (or anyone) was a good year round supply of water.  (A good well must have given Father a much needed sense of security because he was often digging for one.  You had to watch your step when you walked around his farm because the unwary was apt to fall in one of his holes.  The two big holes we especially remember was one just southeast of the garden patch and one in the middle of the windbreak of trees.)

On 13 October 1909, Helen started in labor with her second child.  It was a very foggy morning and when Dad couldn’t find his horses to go after the doctor, his neighbor Hans Hansen offered to go so that Dad could stay home with his wife.  The baby was born before the doctor arrived.  As Dad didn’t know how to cut the cord and tie it baby Iola was turning blue before the help arrived.  The doctor soon had her revived and in good health.

Helen wasn’t well during her third pregnancy.  In the middle of her sixth month her condition was so critical that her parents came over from Raymond to be with her.  On 13 May 1911, she died in childbirth.  The baby, Helen, weighed only two and one half pounds.  As no one expected her to live Grandpa Palmer named and blessed her that first day.  Grandma Palmer took her back to Raymond and raised her as her own.

After the funeral (Helen was buried in Raymond), Father took Bill who had been staying with Uncle Reed and Aunt Sarah, home with him most of the time.  He was then three and a half years old.  Iola who was one and a half years old had stayed first with Aunty Ruby, then with Aunt Sarah, then with Grandpa and Grandma Palmer in Raymond where she had to sleep between them at the foot of the bed.  Finally she was placed with Mary and Art Wilde who had a homestead three miles west of Father’s farm at Taber.  There she was quite happy except for the fact that the cradle she slept in was pushed under the table at night to be out of the way and it gave her a feeling of claustrophobia.

By this time all of Dad’s brothers had moved form Utah to Canada.  Uncle Will, Earl and Reed were operating a Harness Shop in Taber and Uncle Roy was living with Dad on the farm.

John, Mollie 55In the spring of 1912, Mary Aspinall, (a convert to the Mormon church who had arrived from England a short while before), through the urging of the Wilde family of Welling with whom she was staying, took the job of housekeeper for Dad and his two children.  She was then thirty years old.  Iola can remember being brought home at last, seeing her father sitting on a rocking chair holding bill on his lap.  Feeling very emotionally insecure she felt strongly the preference her father showed for his son.  But because Bill was first in his father’s heart he became first in her heart too, and she usually gave into his wishes.

When Mother came to work for Dad in his two-room house Dad and Uncle Roy slept on a folding bed in the kitchen – dining room while Mother slept with Bill and Iola in the bedroom.  Soon the whole family learned to love her and decided they couldn’t love without her as one of the family.

In December on 1912, Dad and Mother went down to Salt Lake City to be married, taking the children along.  Dad sold four cows to get the money to pay for the trip.

Mother got sick on the train on the way down to Utah and when they finally arrived in Provo she had to go to bed for several days.  As it was Christmas time the temple was closed.  They stayed with Dad’s parents, Grandma and Grandpa Harding, over the holidays.  On January 10, 1913, they were married in the temple.  After staying a few days in Salt Lake City with relatives and friends they went to Provo to pick up the children, and then returned to their homestead home in Canada.

On this homestead Dad had planted a nice windbreak of trees.  After Norman, (born 31 October 1913) and Vera (born 12 September 1915) had arrived Mother persuaded Dad to move the house south to a new location behind the shelter of the trees.  Father got a friend, Tom Shaw, to help him build an addition to the house after it was moved.  Dad had dug a good well, cemented the sides then built a cement cellar with the well in the southeast corner of the basement room.  A back kitchen was built on, which gave access to the cellar on the north.  Above this room was an upstairs bedroom.  Three bedrooms were added on the east side of the house and a closed in back porch in the north east corner.  Dad also built a nice big barn but he didn’t have it long before it was destroyed by fire.

The year before, the house where we were born was remodeled (about 1916).  Uncle Earl, in payment of a debt, had turned over his old harness shop building to Dad as he had moved uptown into a bigger shop.  This house had three rooms; one bedroom, a kitchen and big living room.  Later on, Dad and Tom Shaw built our nice big barn in town.  Father had fixed up the house in town in order to bring his family in for the winter. But because of the dreadful flu epidemic of 1918, they had to stay on the farm for Christmas.  Everyone in the family came down with the flu at once except Mother.  Despite the fact that Mother was eight months pregnant she had to care for all of them with an occasional visit from dear overworked Dr. Hamman.  (Norman developed pneumonia as well.)  When Uncle Reed and Aunt Sarah came out to see how things were, they immediately arranged for a man to come out from town each day to do the chores.

By mid-January they were all sufficiently recovered to make the move to town.  Baby Mary was born 25 January 1919.  No sooner was Mother on her feet again than all the family was stricken down a second time.  George Birch’s sister (Aunt Mattie) gave mother a hand with the sick this time.  When the rest of the family got better the baby took sick.  Bishop Anthony Haynes had previously come to our home to name and bless Mary, as there was a ban on public meetings.  Mary died of pneumonia on 10 April 1919.  The funeral was held in our town house in the big living room with the little coffin resting on the sewing machine under the north window.  The few people who attended wore masks as regulations required to lessen the risk of spreading germs.

Phyllis (the youngest), was born 29 April 1920.  As the family had just moved back to the farm after spending the winter in town, Mother naturally had been doing a lot of packing and lifting that she shouldn’t have in her condition.  The baby was born prematurely but Dr. Hammon arrived in time to take charge much to the relief of poor Aunt Sarah who was with mother.

When Bill and Iola started to school they went to Wadena School two miles west of the farm.  Usually they walked to school; occasionally they rode a horse.  In bad wintry weather Dad would take them with team and sleigh.  By the time the rest of the kids had started to school the family were living in town for the winter months.  The kids went to Taber Central School in the winter, Wadena School in the fall and spring.

Father’s original homestead was the eighty acres located on SW ¼ 10 9 16W 4th, but later on he bought another quarter section to the north from Clark Zeh.  Dad got a very good crop on this land and it only took him a couple of years to pay for it.  However, he lost the north place and the eighty acres south of the pasture for taxes but reclaimed them again later.  There was a quarter section of grass unfenced, (belonging to a man in the United States) just south of our place, which our horses pastured for years.  Finally Rudolph Marose rented it and fenced it.

Dad wasn’t afraid of work and could turn his hand at almost every type of job such as carpentering, butchering, hide tanning (not his kids), and rope making.  He had us helping with the interesting rope making machine quite often.  He also had us blowing the bellows on the forge on which he got the ploughshares red hot then sharpened them by pounding them with his sledge hammer on the anvil.

Frequently during the hard times he and Uncle Earl in the winter months dug their own coal out of the banks of the Old Man River.  But it was dangerous work.  One time when they were getting coal under a steep cliff on the old White Ash site, the rocks kept tumbling down in small avalanches.  Finally one rock (almost the size of two fists) hit dad on the head and nearly killed him.  He carried around a huge lump on his head for a while.

Another time they got out in time just as the whole bank came tumbling down right where they had been working.  Dad’s horses tied to the wagon nearby had given them to the warning that had saved their lives.  Dad noticing that his horses were snorting and pulling back on their ropes came out to investigate and saw dust rising from a crack in the bank above.  Quickly they got themselves and their outfit out of its way just as the whole bank caved in.

When Dad would have to make a trip to the farm when we were living in town and darkness would close in before he got back, Mother would stand on the front step listening for the sound of wagon wheels and how relieved she would be when she heard him coming.  There was a road from the railway crossing east of town that angled off in a northwesterly direction across the prairie toward our place, which he took on his way to and from the farm.  (The Central School was just a block NW of our home).  We can remember him after hauling grain in the winter from the farm to the Taber elevator with the grain box on the sleigh, coming into the house with his face covered with icicles fr4om his frozen breath.

Dad was a good driver of horses and had many good ones he had raised and broken to harness.  The first h\team his family remembers was a team of mules named Dick and Jock or (Jack and Dock).  They would stand and bray under Dad’s bedroom window when they figured it was time for breakfast.  One of them when he figured it was time for quitting in the field and time for his dinner would lie right down in his harness.  But he got cured of that one day.  Dad had a horse blind in one eye named Mac.  If he was touched by anyone anywhere on his blind side he would try to kick the stuffing out of that person.  One day Dad hitched Mac and this mule up together.  Near noon when the mule laid down on Mac’s blind side he got the stuffing kicked out of him and he never lay down in harness again.

Dad hitched one of the mules to his single horse buggy one day and he and Bill went to Raymond to stay a few days with the Palmers.  It took all day to get there.  The mule was turned into Grandpa’s haystack to feed during his stay there.  He liked this good hay so much that after Dad had brought him back to the dry grass at Taber he turned around and started back for Raymond.  Bill had to go a mile or more to catch him and bring him home.

Our last remaining mule on the night it died came to stand under Dad’s bedroom window again and died standing on its feet there then slid down the wall.

When Oscar Lyons died Dad bought two of his horses.  One, a brown horse, was named Rufus, the other, and old gray mare that we could ride was named Googy.

One of our early mares named Pet knew how to open the latch on the granary door.  She had another trick too.  We hauled water in a barrel for about a mile.  Pet knew how to root the tub off the barrel with her nose and drink our good drinking water.  She was a riding horse.  If she stumbled and the rider fell off she would patiently wait for him to get back on.  But if the rider got off on his own and left him standing, Pet would lead him a merry chase, just like a good game of tag, never quite catching up to her.

We have memories of Dad driving six horses at a time hitched to the plough or cultivators, four head were used on the drill, two on the rake, four when he hauled grain etc.  Some of his horses names were:  Maud, Snap, peanuts, Smokey, Nig, Sunset, Prince, two Queenies, two Pets, Jess, Topsy, Charlie, Dinkyponkus, Bessie, Googie, Sailor (our Stallion), and Tarzan.  Satan and Pet we think was our last team on the irrigated farm.

As children we like to watch Dad harnessing his work horses; putting on the big horse collars, hitching up the tugs onto the double trees, snapping on the lines etc., which was an interesting business when several horses were used at once.  Dad drove his best-behaved team when taking his family riding.  We rode in wags, hayracks, buggies, sleighs, our surrey (a second hand one without the fringe on top), and finally the rubber tired Bennet wagon.

But when he started buying cars he left almost all of the driving to Bill and later Iola and Norman.  Our first cars were second-hand ones:  a model T 1925 Ford, then a Model T closed model Ford.  (He paid sixty dollars for this one.)  The early Fords had no self-starters, they had to be cranked, and flat tires were common.  Then Dad had an old Chevrolet for a short time before getting a better model Chevy with a self-starter.

Our first brand new car was called a Kaiser model.  This was bought after World War II when Dad had become more prosperous.  Next he went back to a Ford car again (new this time) – a Meteor.  Norman got this car after Dad died.

When the mines closed down and Depression came many people sold out and left the Taber area.  Dad liked to attend local auction sales to get the items we needed.  That is here he got his anvil, forge, rope-making machine, block and tackle (for use when butchering his pigs) etc.  But he also bought nice things for the house:  dishes and silverware, butter churns of different sizes and shapes, a cheese press, all kinds of chairs including rocking chairs, our round dining room table with six leaves and even an old style parlor organ.  When that one broke down he bought an organ resembling an upright piano, which of course had to be pumped with the feet.  This organ the family enjoyed for many years in the town house living room.

Dad always had plenty of milk cows to keep his family supplied with lots of milk and cream.  He often helped when not busy with farm work, with the churning and the printing of the butter as some of our big barrel churns we had would yield as many as eight or ten pounds of butter.

Whenever we had plenty of extra milk on hand Dad would make cheese.  He would put a brand new washtub full of milk on the cook stove, drop in the cheese tablets for curdling, and cheese coloring, keep the milk at a certain temperature for a certain length of time, then chop up the curds, strain the whey off through cheese cloth, put the curds in the cheese press and press under a heavy weight and leave in a cool place to ripen.  In two weeks the cheese would be at the stage it is most delicious.  How we loved those big round cheeses!  Dad always had good potatoes for his family too, and built good pits for them.

For a winter or two when our crops had failed Dad was forced to find a job at the Taber coal Mines.  Mother was so thankful his work was above ground as she lived long enough in a coal mining area in England to fear the tragedies that could occur underground.  Dad was one of many farmers in the area forced to work to get enough money to buy seed and horse feed for the following year.  (Money in the pocket was non-existent for a good many years.  If we kids ever had a nickel to spend we felt rich.)  Dad often helped others in dire circumstances without being repaid which left us very pinched for money ourselves.

But the Lord blessed Dad and his family in so many ways during these hard times.  For instance, when he went to get a job at the coalmines he was told that there were a hundred applicants ahead of him on the list.  However, when they found they needed a short man for a certain job they remembered him because he had his name last on the list and they hired him.  That was an answer to prayer.

Another time Mother and Dad had their tithing saved for the year ready to pay to the Bishop when they got word their town house in which they were living was going to go for taxes.  They had a tough decision to make:  whether to pay their tithing of lose their home.  They paid their tithing.  Then almost at once the received an unexpected United Grain Growers Patronage dividend, enough money to see them through the crisis.

During these times the folks sold butter and eggs to Smith and Woods Store in exchange for groceries.

Sometimes during the 1930’s depression years when we were behind in the town taxes Dad would help pay them off by working on a town project, gravelling the3 streets of Taber, dad supplied a team and wagon as well which the town paid for.

In the rural areas road gangs were formed to build or grade country roads so that farmers could pay off their municipal taxes.  Norman worked at this using an earth-moving machine called a Fresno and a team of Dad’s horses.  The horses could bring more money than the man.

Once the Banker had come out to the Homestead to talk to Dad.  “What do you want to hang on to this old dried up spot for?  Move somewhere else.”  But Dad stuck.

Dad had more than his share of crop failures it seemed to us.  The farmers had to put up quite a fight against hordes of grasshoppers some years in those early days of farming using poison bait, etc.  Hail was always an ever-present threat to crops.  We will never forget after one of our most damaging hailstorms when dad’s crops were wiped out and the hailstones were piled several inches deep by our back doorstep, Dad scooping up the icy balls, smiling and saying, “Let’s celebrate.  Let’s make ice cream!”  And we did.  The hailstones froze Mothers custard beautifully in the hand cranked ice cream freezer.

(This was one of Dad’s strong points that impressed us the most being philosophical over the troubles that came to him – even fire).  He experienced three fire losses during his lifetime. All three fires were on the homestead place.  The first fire started early one Sunday morning (when his family was very young).  Dad happened to look out the window and saw a cow running by with its hide burned off.  Some more cows in the same conditions came along as he ran out to find his nice big barn on fire.  Several cows and a horse or two were destroyed with the barn as well as a small granary nearby where the fire had started.  The kerosene brooder for baby chicks in the granery must have exploded destroying several hundred chicks as well.

The second fire, too, was on Sunday.  Dad, along with his family were driving home in the late afternoon after church in the surrey.  Suddenly, when they were about a mile from the farm Dad yelled, “Fire!”  He leaped up to a standing position, grabbed the buggy whip from its socket (something he rarely used), and began whipping the horses to a headlong gallop down the road.  “Open the gate!” he yelled when he got to the North West corner of our land.  A few rods inside the gate was a blazing granary in which was Dad’s fanning mill and some wheat, which was all destroyed.  Although surrounded by a wide fireguard of ploughed land some sparks had come from a smoldering straw stack burned the day before.  Dad was so mad at the hired man who was supposed to watch this.

The third fire was the dear old homestead house caused from an overheated chimney in a terrific wind.  This happened in 1940 when Jennie and Bill and Iola and Calvin were both living out there.

This same year when the men were almost finished harvesting grain with the binder the disease of sleeping sickness struck and several of our horses died as did many others on farms round about.  Also this same year a lovely little colt dad had tied to a post so that it wouldn’t follow the binder, wrapped its rope round and round the pole until it choked itself to death.

Drought, of course, was the most persistent cause of crop failures and Dad decided to try to do something about this.

Briefly, here is a little history of the coming of the irrigation ditch to the Taber area.

Several farmers in the Taber District were anxious to secure water to irrigate their farms.  In 1913 Bishop R. A. Van Orman (first Bishop of Taber Ward), suggested Taber should have irrigation as at that time part of Raymond, Magrath and Coaldale Districts were under the ditch.  This suggestion was made to Ted Sundal who was then Secretary of the Taber Agricultural Society.  Ted Sundal wrote to the CP Railway Office at Calgary to inquire if it would be possible to continue the water from the ditch, which ran within about ten miles west of Taber.

In 1915 the farmers between Chin coulee and Taber created the Taber Irrigation District with Ted Sundal as the secretary treasurer of the Board of Trustees and Carl C Cook as chairman.  It was the first district to be formed under the Alberta District Irrigation Act.

In 1920, the CPR having contacted the construction of the new canal, the ditch was finished and the first water was Dad’s dream of bringing irrigation water to his dry land was realized at last.

A farmer, Albert Green, owned a half section of land just northwest of our NW corner and he had a water right on his land.  Dad got permission to bring a ditch across the road from his main ditch to our farm.  All attempts to get water failed however, at first because the ditches were always low.  Finally, after two years of work he constructed a “fill” a high built up ditch along the north fence line of our neighbor on the west formerly Mr. Schrapp, later Mr. Sekura, bringing the ditch across the road to enter our farm on the North West corner.  Surveying the land himself.  (Ted Sundal said we would never get water across our land, it was uphill.)  He let the water seek its own level, do its own surveying and made ditches on the west side of our farm running along in the field down to just behind our backyard then continuing on south and draining into our pasture ponds.  However when Dad began to irrigate more extensively he needed to make a good drain ditch to Rocky Lake.  As none of the other farms around would help him it cost around $700 to make this ditch.  The St. Mary’s Irrigation Officials promised Dad he would get the $700 back when the company took the system over but he didn’t ever get it.

In 1925, Canadian Sugar Factories Limited took over the Raymond Sugar Factory and farmers in the Taber district began growing sugar beets to by shipped to Raymond when harvested.  (The first crop of sugar beets in Alberta was grown in the Raymond area for the Knight Sugar Company in 1904 but the plant was later closed down because of hard times.)

Father tried two acres of beets on his homestead farm where his new ditches ran.  When thinning time came Dad blocked the beets while Mother and Norman crawled along the rows to thin and weed them.

Soon the church authorities of the Lethbridge Stake were advising farmers to get a piece of irrigated land and to deep it.  In 1929 Dad borrowed money from the bank and bought eighty acres of good irrigated land one and one half miles south of Taber where Mother’s home is now located S ½ of NE ¼ 29 9 16 N 4.

During the summer of 1930 Dad lived with his family in the dear old homestead home for the last time.

It was in the spring of this year while Dad and Bill were out there alone putting the crops in the Dad had the worst accident of his life.

It happened in the barn.  His barn had six stalls with mangers where he fed his workhorses or tied up the cows for milking and such.  One afternoon when approaching his team tied up in the horse stall nearest the door he tripped over something and fell against the back leg of one of his horses, old Nig.  The horse, usually gently, was startled into kicking out at whatever was touching his leg.  Dad was kicked in the head, his scalp was cut, and he was knocked unconscious.  This agitated Nig even more.  He kicked several times more breaking Dad’s right leg in two places.  When Dad came to and found out what had happened, he realized the horse might get panicky again when he tried to move.  Very slowly and carefully he dragged himself out of the barn.  Since Bill was out working in the field and couldn’t hear his shouting Dad had to drag himself along the ground to the car, which was quite a distance away, parked by the house.  Then very painfully he raised himself to reach the steering wheel so that he could honk the horn.  Bill realizing that there was something wrong came in from the field.

Dad arrived at the town house in a great deal of pain with only a cushion under his broken leg to support it on the six-mile trip.  After Dad had been helped to the living room couch Dr. Brown, who had been summoned and who had arrived before Mother did (she was at a Primary Officers Meeting) examined Dad’s leg.  He found two compound fractures and informed us that his patient would have to be moved to the Galt Hospital in Lethbridge, which was the hospital nearest us at the time.  One of Dad’s friends with a good car that had a seat that folded down took him to Lethbridge.  Dad was administered to before he left.  The next day in the hospital when Dr. Brown came to set the bones he was concerned that Dad would have to go through terrible pain while the leg was being pulled around.  But to his surprise dad felt no pain.  “It was through the blessing of the administration,” Dad testified to us later.

When Father came out of the hospital he had a cast on his right leg from foot to hip.  How he hated that cast!  Long before it should have been removed he got a saw, went out behind the trees where no one could see him and cut the tip of the cast off, the part that was hurting him.  As time went by he gradually whittled down the rest until very little was left for the doctor to remove.

As the break was in the same leg that had been left shortened a bit by hip disease, from this time on he walked with a slight limp.  Arthritis developed in his hip after this.  For the last few years of his life he used a cane to help him get around at home but he never would use it in public.

Because of his injury and he having to be on crutches most of that crop year Dad was unable to take care of his new irrigated farm and of course, suffered financially as well as physically.

From this time on Dad began to show his age a bit.  His thick brown hair turned gray and thinned out on top.  But his face stayed young looking and unlined all his life.  He had very fine eyes, which although they looked dark were actually quite gray.

Father was an early to bed, early to rise man and had little patience with people who were slow starting the day.  He was always first up in the morning.  He always made the fire in the stove and in winter got breakfast ready for the rest of the family.

Another thing he had little patience with was tardiness.  On Sundays when we were living in town he would get dressed for church and go without waiting for anyone.  He was ready to go and just as ready to come home again.  Whenever we were invited out to dinner anywhere as soon as the meal was over he would say, “Let’s go.” Of course, Mother and the rest of us had other ideas.

Dad hated to take a bath.  Mother always had to insist that he take that Saturday night bath.  He was lucky that he had a pleasant body odor and could get away with it.  His skin under his shirtsleeves was startlingly white.

Dad was a quiet, soft-spoken man not easily roused to anger.  However, when he was once roused we had to look out.  But Mother went into gales of laughter once when Dad lost his temper trying to past wallpaper on the kitchen wall and got wrapped up in a sticky strip.  Bill remembers a shouting match Dad had wit ha neighbor Rudolph Marose one day who had come over to complain about something.  Bill looking on was afraid for a while that they were going to fight but they didn’t.

Between 1931 and 1932, Dad bought an old house from the abandoned With Ash Mine site near Taber.  Leonard Johnson moved it out to the irrigated farm for us.  It was in a very rundown condition and dad didn’t have money or time to spend on it.  Dad and his sons batched in the two back rooms of it while running this farm for the next few years.

Jennie and Bill lived in a couple of the rooms of the main part of the house when they married in 1933.  They moved out to the Homestead house the summer.  In the spring of 1934, Dad moved his family to their new home on the irrigated farm.  Iola and Calvin when they married in June 1934 lived in the town house for a year.  Dad had the big barn in own moved out to the new farm.  Bishop’s Movers did the Job. (See Mother’s history for Norman’s brush with death).

Dad rented the town house after this but times were bad and rent couldn’t always be collected.  Eventually Father sold the house to tom Reamsbottom for three hundred dollars.  He in turn, shortly afterwards sold it for six hundred dollars as good times returned.

Dad and Mother went to the temple in Cardston as often as possible getting up at 4 o’clock in t he morning to do so.  One day (it was during World War II) President E J Wood advised those present to have their homes dedicated to the Lord.  He said the blessing would help complete and pay for it.  On the 19 February 1941 patriarch Harris dedicated our home.

Never free from debt until World War II, Dad finally finished paying for his land when prices for farm products improved.  After the war when electricity was taken to the rural areas Dad got Mother her first washing machine and refrigerator.  Later he had a propane gas furnace, heater and kitchen range installed so that for probably the first time in his adult life he didn’t have to shake down ashes as start a fire in the mornings.

Dad had a few horses with which he worked his irrigated land at first.  Then around 1935-36, he bought an old time Hart Parr steel wheeled tractor to use for ploughing.  Our last team we believed was Satan and Pet, two black horses we used for row cropping, haying, etc.

Dad raised crops of corn and sometimes string beans for the Taber Canning Co. (established in the late 1930’s then purchases in 1948 by Canada Safeway’s and Called Cornwall Canning Co.) and sugar beets  (the Taber Sugar factory was built in 1950 and the acreage of beets expanded to thousands of acres in Taber area) besides his grain crops and alfalfa.  Dad at first hauled corn and sugar beets with a tractor and chassis until he could buy a truck.

The corn was picked by hand.  In the war years farmers could hire Germans who were prisoners of war to come from the prison camp at Lethbridge to pick their corn and the women folks had to cook their dinner.

Beet workers to thin the beets in the spring and top them in fall were brought in first from the “Old Country”.  Then when war was declared against Japan, Japanese families from the BC coast were moved to Alberta and farmers could apply for a family to work in the beets.  We were very fortunate to have the wonderful family of Mr. And Mrs. George Okamoto live on our farm for several years and become very good friends.

Before Dad owned a beet cultivator of his own our neighbor John Easthope came over to cultivate for Dad.

Some of the sugar beets harvested had to be stored in silo piles in the field and dug out from under a layer of snow later and forked by hand onto the chassis to haul to the beet dump.

Besides field crops Dad raised and marketed hogs, shipped cream from his milk cows and kept chickens.

There wasn’t much time or money for vacations or traveling but Dad did take a few trips in later life.  In 1938 when he had the joy of sending a son on a mission (Samoa), Dad accompanied him to Salt Lake City and Provo (the first time he had been back in 26 years).  Sometime after that he went down to Utah with Uncle Earl visiting Yellowstone Park on the way back.  One summer he and mother went by train to Victoria BC to visit Uncle Hugh and Aunt Lizzie.  Then when Phyllis was released from her mission to Eastern Canada, he bought his first new car and he and Mother with Ken Harding driving went to Winnipeg to meet her and incidentally to visit Uncle bill and Aunt Betty.  He enjoyed this trip so much he had Ken drive them to Victoria, BC.  The last trip he took was in 1951 when he and Mother went with Bill and Jennie to Utah to see Myrle.

Dad was active in the Church all his life.  He was twice called to fill a mission for the church. The first time was in 1901 but when he explained to his Bishop that he was planning on going to Canada he told him that would be his mission.  The second call came in the spring of 1911 but his wife was sick and died in May of that year leaving him with small children making it impossible for him to go.

In 1923 Father and Vernon Biglow were sustained as counselors to Eddie Price in the Sunday School Superintendence.

In the winter of 1929 Dad served on what the church called a Home Mission in the Burdett branch.

In 1931 when Uncle Reed was released as Ward Clerk (when he moved to Kimberly, BC) Father was sustained as Ward Clerk and served the capacity for 17 years with Bishop T W Harris and Bishop Harold Wood.  It was near the end of his years of service that the type (loose-leaf) ward membership record books were made up.

Dad had a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel but bore it in public rarely at times like cottage meetings or after receiving special blessings (after his accident and both operations, etc.)

Dad underwent surgery twice in his lifetime.  In 1941 when he was 63 years old Dr. Wiens, our Taber doctor operated on him in the Galt Hospital in Lethbridge for a duodenum ulcer, which had begun to bleed.  The whole family fasted for him and held a family prayer the morning of the operation with his son Bill offering the prayer.  Then Bill drove us to Lethbridge.  (Dad, or course, was already in the hospital).  We were all rather terrified as this was the first time any of us had had to undergo surgery.  However, we were all standing smiling on the steps of the hospital when the doctor arrived and he seemed to think we were taking things a little too lightly.  But our faith was strong; Dad got along fine.  On the afternoon Father came home from the hospital he felt so well he foolishly went out and hoed the garden.  The doctor certainly shook his head over that when he heard about it.

It was very hard for Dad to follow a diet and because he worried so much over his crops and his debts he was continually having stomach troubles.  In 1951 when he was seventy-three years old he underwent his second ulcer operation.  Dr. John Muth had advised Dad to have the same kind of operation he himself had done where in most of his stomach had been removed.  Dr. Muth performed this operation at the Taber Hospital two weeks before Christmas and Dad came through it with flying colors.  He got quite a kick out of the nurse who wanted to take his teeth out before he went to the operating room all his teeth were his own and very good ones too.  In fact, he had gone only a very few times to the dentist all his life.  His postoperative condition was so favorable that he was allowed to come home for Christmas dinner.

After the second operation Dad didn’t participate in the actual work of the farm very much although he stayed in hood health except for severe arthritis in his legs.  He took over the milking and other farm chores so that Norman could do the rest of the work.

It was just after he had finished milking the cows on the morning of April 21, 1955, that sickness struck.  He came in with milk pail to separate the milk.  He complained to mother of a severe headache which was an affliction almost unknown to Dad.  Mother was home alone with him at the time.  Mother sat him down in his armchair and began to try to relieve his suffering but she soon could see by his symptoms (vomiting, etc.) that he was having a stroke.  She called for a doctor and an ambulance.  Then she called her son, Bill, who accompanied her to the Taber Hospital, Bishop Douglas Miller was called and he and Bill administered to him.  Then Bill drove Mother around to inform the rest of the family of Dad’s serious condition.  He passed away about six o’clock that night.

The funeral was held on 25 April 1955 with Humphrey Funeral Home of Taber handling the arrangements.  The service began at 2 o’clock in the Taber LDS Chapel with the Family Prayer in the Lounge Room given by his son Bill.  Sox grandsons were pallbearers.  It was a beautiful service.  The front of the chapel was banked with flowers including so many beautiful red roses and a special wreath of talisman roses from Dad’s High Priests Quorum.  This is the program as we remember it.

Opening Prayer – Milton Conrad

Song by Choir – Oh My Father

Remarks – by second counselor dale Clifton who was conducting the service as Bishop Ray Evanson was away in the US and the first counselor Dennis Bennett was a mourner.  He gave a life sketch of Dad.

Talk – Bishop Harold Wood

Ladies Chorus – “My Peace I Leave With You” – Myra Evanson, Mary Easthope, Rita Miller, Anne Miller, Alta Erickson, and Bernice Bodie

Talk – Bishop Anthony Haynes

Marimba Solo – “Perfect Day” by Bill Bullock with Lulah Gibb as accompanist.

Closing Prayer – John Haynes

Dedication of the grave at the Taber Cemetery – Eddie Price

Father was 76 years old when he passed away.  He always said he never wanted to be helpless; he hoped he could go before he could become a burden to anyone in his old age.  With this in mind his family felt grateful that he could leave this life as he did.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Emily Fay
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 19:47:27

    Oh I am so glad I came across your website! My Great-Grandfather is Earl Noble Harding. (I come through Fay Harding Gibson, his daughter). Thank you for this wonderful connection for me to my Harding family! 🙂


  2. David Walton
    Nov 05, 2016 @ 02:11:21

    David Walton . . . I enjoyed reading your website. My mother is Naida Harding Walton, daughter of Earl Noble Harding. John and Earl shared many experiences and I loved hearing about their time in Provo and the experiences in Southern Alberta.


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