JÕULU PUU RAHA (Christmas Tree Money)

By Ellen Erdman

H. Minnik, 75 cents; A. Kewe, 25 cents; Peter Musten, 75 cents; J. Kulpas, 50 cents; G. Krikental $1.00; J. Kotkas, 50 cents; J. Erdman, 50 cents; A. Kulpas 25 cents; P. Lentsman, 50 cents; J. Musten, 50 cents; J. Reinstein, 25 cents; J. Malberg, 50 cents; J. Kewe, $1.00; P. Meer, 75 cents; H. Watman, 25 cents; G. Erdman, 25 cents. In 1908 there were 20 Estonian families (77 individuals) in this area.

My grandfather built a wooden house with sod insulation and a large barn which housed Estonians coming to Barons until their own houses were built. Grandfather and Dad prospered at farming and acquired more land. Wheat was hauled to Lethbridge in the early days. Dad would get up at two or three a.m., deliver the grain and return home the same day, getting home very late. It was expensive to stay overnight in the city, especially with a four- horse team. He would bring mail, coal, and groceries home.

In 1908 Dad sent to Crimea for his childhood sweetheart, Magda Lik. He met her in England. When they returned to Canada they were married in Jacob and Mary's house where they lived for several years. My mother never saw any of her family again. Mother and Dad both went to Barons for evening classes, with others, to learn to read and write English.

A Lutheran minister, Reverend Sillak, came from Medicine Hat a few times a year and performed church services baptized, married, and buried the dead. In the meantime, the Bible was read by Dad, who also performed other church services when necessary.

Grandfather gave two acres of land (S.E. corner of S.E.1/4 8-12- 23) to the Estonians around 1905 as a burial ground where the plots were free to all Estonians. This is where Grandmother and Grandfather, my parents and other relations are buried. This cemetery was given to the village of Barons in 1923 and has been used by the community since that date.

Ira Allen and his wife came to the Lutheran church services, which were spoken in Estonian and German, to hear the Estonians sing. Estonians loved to sing (still do) and at every gathering there was a sing-song.

Dad and Mother moved to their own farm in 1914 and in 1918 they built a large house with a Delco power plant, a dumb-waiter, central heating, bathroom, billiard room, and hot and cold running water. Victor, Ralph, Oscar, and I were born at Grandfather's house and Alfred and Mary were born at the new farm. Mary died when she was 15.

My Uncle Robert was the gardener at Grampa's home and ordered tulips, irises, and peonies directly from Holland and Japan. He set up the tennis court at Grandpa's. Robert passed away in 1927.

My father had a threshing outfit about 1919 and at that time had about 180 horses, 200 head of cattle, and 80 or so sheep. My mother carded the sheep's wool in the winter, made quilts, spun yarn and knit socks and mitts. She could knit and read at the same time. Mother also crocheted and made rugs. We always had a big garden - growing enough vegetables to last till the following year's crop. We used to make 20-gallon crocks of sauerkraut, salt pork and corned beef. Mother canned many fruits and vegetables, as did the other pioneer women. She belonged to the Women's Institute. Mother died in 1941 when she was 55 years old.

At threshing time, there would be two woman cooks in the cook car and 20 to 24 men on the outfit. In the early days, there would be a year-round hired girl and hired man.

When company came in the summer, we often played "anti-i-over" the house, tennis or hide and seek.

My father was a charter member of the U.G.G. and the Alberta Wheat Pool, a school trustee for many years and an elder of the church.

He was well known in Southern Alberta for his horses. He first raised and showed registered draft Belgians and won many prizes for them. At one time his Belgians contracted sleeping sickness. He stayed in the barn to treat them and got sick himself. He took the same medicine that his horses had, and all recovered. Later he raised Palominos and Appaloosas and rode them in parades at celebrations and fairs, winning many ribbons.

Dad was interested in young people and after we all left home he had some city boys come out to the farm to help him during the summer months. Douglas Fitch (lawyer in Calgary) and Rendal Kulpas (writer for a Toronto newspaper) were two of these. He died in 1965 at the age of 79.

Natalie and Charlotte Erdman attended public school at Lundy and Wheatland Centre. Charlotte worked in Lethbridge, as did other young Estonian girls, for $15.00 a month. She later went to Lacombe to go to high school there and she also took a business course. She became a Seventh Day Adventist and was secretary of this organization for many years, until her retirement. When she became ill, she returned to the farm and stayed with Dad until her admission to the Auxiliary Hospital in Claresholm. She passed away in 1963.

In 1917 Natalie received a B.A. degree from the University of Alberta. She became a missionary and worked in the near east where she met and married Keith Stevenson of Australia.

Helena Erdman Watman married John Kotkas. Lisa married Martin Silbermann. Miina married Anton Kulpas in Crimea. When Miina became ill in Alberta she and her husband and Grandma moved to Salem, Oregon, in 1920 where they bought a frit and walnut orchard. Grandma and Grandpa came back to Alberta in 1929.

Note: The full story about the Erdman family is published in Wheatheart of the West: A History of Barons and District, 1971.

By Rudy Kotkas:

In 1951 we purchased a property in Waterton Lakes and built a house in which we have spent many pleasant holidays, and it has been my pleasure to help several youngsters, besides our own of course, to catch their first fish. This is a tremendous thing for a youngster and even if it is only seven or eight inches long, in their eyes it is quite an accomplishment. I strongly recommend this co- operation to other grown-ups.

I have acted as a director and later as chairman of our local Co-op. Association, which later joined the South Alberta Co-op. Assn. I was elected to the original board of our Community Hall and in due time, also as chairman. This hall is one of our communities' proudest accomplishments in that every bit of it was done by the local people. As to our family involvement in fraternal organizations, Ken's wife Joyce and my wife, Jean, are both Past Matrons of the Eastern Star. Ken and I are both Past Masters of our Masonic Lodge, and I have been accorded the honor of being the District Deputy of the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Alberta. Jean is also a Past Honored Royal Lady of the Order of the Royal Purple and I have been the Exalted Ruler of the Elks Lodge.

Finally, here we are on Sunday, October 10, 1971 - just Jean and myself alone once more. Joyce is at her home making preparations for a Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Ken and Perry are at a Trap Shoot in Mossleigh. Loreen and Susie are visiting Reta at the University at Reno where she is now in pre-med. Jean is digging carrots to send along with Perry when he goes back to University in Calgary, where he and two other boys are batching, and I am at long last finishing this family history.

We have had our share of the good things in life, and to those of our descendants who follow, and some day many years hence may have occasion to read this, Jean and I wish to close with this verse entitled:

By Jean Kotkas:

Often your tasks will be many
And more than you think you can do.
Often the road will be rugged
And the hills insurmountable too.
But always remember, the hills ahead
Are never as steep as they seem,
So with faith in your heart start upward,
And climb till you reach your dream.
Alberta's Estonian Heritage