Estonians came to Stettler district around 1903-1909

This early Estonian settlement was situated about ten miles south of Stettler, in the province of Alberta. On the east it was bordered by the shores of Lone Pine Lake and from there the border extended south-southwest nearly to the Red Deer River. Linda Hall when built was considered to be in the centre of this community, for most of the Estonians lived here in this area.

In the beginning, because of the suppressive nature of the government under Russian domination, many Estonians left their native land of Estonia and went to other parts of Russia, life here proved just as unsatisfactory. So when the call came from Canada for immigrants, with the promise of greater freedom, and the opportunity to buy acres of land for ten dollars, and with subsidized assistance to help with their fares to Canada, many Estonians came to Canada in this way. It was to them a new land and a new beginning, with the freedom to practise their traditions and cultures in their own way.

Over forty families, mostly large, along with single men came out to this area and took up homesteads around 1903-1909. Some came and stayed with friends and relatives rather than take up land, and later left for other parts of the country. Most of these Estonian immigrants brought with them all of their household goods, garden seeds and whatever else they possessed to start this new life. They were of the Lutheran faith and very devout.

Since at this time there was no railroad in Stettler, they had to pack whatever necessities they needed from the nearest large town, which was then Red Deer. This meant packing such things as flour, salt, sugar, etc. on their backs and walking the eighty miles or more there and back to do so. Later they were able to buy draft animals from the neighbouring ranchers. It also took a great deal of dealing because the ranchers, many of them, resented the homesteaders because they thought they took up too much of the good grass land with their homesteads; and too because many of these homesteaders had no real knowledge of the real threat of prairie fires. Prairie fires were always a great hazard because of the high grass and open prairies. When they were able to buy steers they had to be trained to work, ploughing, pulling a cart and other jobs that horses did. However a trip to Red Deer how with these oxen, while tedious, was certainly a great improvement over packing supplies on one's back. Also usually one trip with oxen would bring back a winter's supply of whatever was needed, whereas by back packing, the settler either made more than one trip or did without. A trip to Red Deer usually took a week either with oxen or on foot.

Most of the Estonian settlers in this area built good substantial homes and farm buildings. They were made of poplar logs which were plentiful. Because of the good community spirit, it was common practice to help each other with construction of these buildings. Those who had oxen, (steers they had trained) were kept busy plowing fireguards, garden plots, and fields for their neighbours and friends. There were prairie fires and these were always a potential threat to the settlers and ranchers.

Sometime between 1909 and 1911 the community organized and built their first community hall. This they named after their legendary Saint, 'Linda'. Today it is still called Linda Hall. This hall was used for community gatherings, weddings, dances, picnics as well as a place to hold farm meetings. Most of the farmers of this area belonged to the United Farmers of Alberta. The women too belonged and were called the United Farm Women of Alberta. In 1930 the Hall burned down. A new one was constructed on the same site. It is used today by the local community of Canadians of different (many) Ethnic origins and it is considered one of the most modern and better organized community halls in the province.

They also organized their own brass band, with A. Fridulin as the first band leader. Later there were the 4K's who became famous for their band music.

One of Alberta's first Estonian families, members of the Hennel family who settled in Stettler, Alberta, gather for a picture in an undated photograph. At the time of this writing there are very few of the original Estonian settlers left in this area: Quite a few families have left for one reason or another. Many have passed away. Most of the second and third generation have intermarried. Some of these however are still farming in this area and have proved themselves to be very able and productive farmers. The descendants of those settlers are: Hennels, Soops, Wagensteins, Kerbes, Tipmans, Klauses, Oros, Fridulins, Rahos, Nickloms, Kudras, and Saars. A lot of the younger generations of these Estonians have been absorbed into industry and professions in other parts of Canada.

The Estonian Chapel was built near Linda Hall in the Stettler area of Alberta in 1906. Numerous upgrades and improvements were completed over the years. About a mile east of Linda Hall, with its well kept grounds, stands probably the only Estonian Cemetery in Canada. The 69 early Estonians are a link with the past and a mute testimony to what was once a flourishing Estonian community. In a corner of the Cemetery stands the old Estonian Lutheran church. It was built in 1906 by these settlers, for a place to worship. Rev. John Silak was their Lutheran Estonian Minister. He came from Medicine Hat to preach and care for the religious needs of this congregation as often as he could. But sometimes only three or four times a year. He is gone now and since his passing the Chapel stands empty, a memorial of the passage of time.

Second of a series

Early Estonian families

The first thing the Estonian settlers did after they had filed on their homesteads was to build a house and other essential buildings. Then they ploughed a fireguard around the buildings, which often doubled as a garden plot as well. They used for their gardens the seeds they brought with them from their native land. This done, they would then leave their families in charge of the homestead while the men folk would go out looking for work. They were mostly employed on railroad construction in summertime, while some worked in coal mines and others in logging camps in winter. Wages were low and all the money earned and saved was used to buy livestock and draft animals, (mostly oxen), wagons and eventually farm machinery.

Most of the homesteaders' families raised good gardens. With a plentiful supply of prairie chickens and snow shoe rabbits, their larders were hardly ever low, except for tea, coffee, sugar, flour, oatmeal, salt and pepper. These they had to pack on their backs from Red Deer. Later on they were able to get oxen and wagons to do this.

Magnus Tipman and Hans Johansen set about designing and building a flour mill on the Johansen homestead. The mill was made primarily of wood and the structure could be moved so the mill would face the wind. The mill produced wheat and rye flour, and pearled barley. One of the early Estonian settlers by the name of Roon had been a flour miller in his native land. He roamed the area until he found two suitable stones to his liking. With a great deal of skill and ingenuity he chiselled them out to make flour milling stones. Then he constructed a so-called Dutch windmill to turn these stones to grist flour for himself and the community. Later on Mr. Roon left for Australia. This windmill grinding outfit was sold at his auction sale to a Mr. Alex Liiu (Liiv?). Mr. Liiu was a tradesman in the furniture business. He earmarked each piece before he tore it down so he would know where each belonged. Then he tore it down and reset it up on his own homestead. Here it stayed as a landmark in the community after being much used as well. Later Mr. Liiu moved to Calgary and set up his own furniture business. I am told that these flour milling stones are now resting in the Wetaskiwin museum. Some of the Estonians who immigrated to this area were artisans or tradesmen who had left their occupations fro the lure of the new land. One of these was a Mr. Reinglas who with his family homesteaded on the north-shore of Lone Pine Lake. He was a harness maker in Estonia. Since he had very little practical knowledge of tilling the soil and farming in general for a living, he found pioneering in this country quite arduous.

The summer of 1905 had been an ideal year with plentiful supply of moisture for good growing conditions, with a good supply of grass all over the prairies. The winter of 1905 and 1906 had been very mild, so very little feed was required to winter cattle herds. Some of the ranchers who had moved in at this period took it for granted that all winters were mild. The winter of 1907 unlike the previous winters was very cold with a lot of drifting snow. This caught these ranchers unprepared to feed and shelter their cattle. Hundreds and hundreds of cattle got drifted in and were frozen to death. They say that some of these cattle got drifted in and were huddled together in coolies or in the shelter of trees, and froze to death here. As the spring thaw came they slowly fell from their standing up positions to the ground.

Mr. Reinglas considered this an ideal opportunity for him. Being a harness maker, and with a ready market for all the harness he could make; these hides could be make into harness leather just for the taking of them. So he and his sons organized themselves into a skinning crew. They were very methodical in their operations. They cut the skin on the belly and around the legs and neck. Then they used a pony to jerk the hide off, by attaching the pony's harness to the hide. This way they could skin quite a few animals in an hour. They salvaged a large number of hides this way, until the animals thawed and the odor of them became too offensive.

They then started to prepare for the tanning operations. He soon learned that a harness maker's trade and a tanner's were entirely two different things. He found he did not have the knowledge or skill to make good harness leather. It was said that when one hooked a team to a wagon with his harness, every time the team gave an extra pull, the traces stretched and the pole would drop out of the neck yoke. It seems he finally gave up in disgust, hauled the rest of the hides and half tanned leather into the bush and left them there. He then had an auction sale and left for Australia.

The Oro family farm near Stettler, Alberta in 2009. On the west-shore of Lone Pine Lake were the Fridulin brothers, Aspers, Johanson, Karl Jurkin, Magnus Tipman and the Oro family. At present Alex Oro is the only original surviving homesteader. He still lives in his original log house that he built in his homestead days. He has renovated it both, inside and out, so that it looks like, and is, a very modern house. He is 88 years old and is still farming, doing this work in partnership with his son, Harold. His wife is still living and helps as well.

One mile south and across another lake, lived Gus Niklom family. Gus had been a Vesper in the church in the old country with Rev. John Silak. Mr. John Silak was the Estonian Pastor who lived in Medicine Hat and attended to the needs of the community here. Gus officiated at most of the baptisms and funerals.

Sometimes homesteading had its humorous sides as to how some decisions were made. Take the case of Tony Fridulin and his friend Konsa. They had walked out from Red Deer and were south of Settler trying to find a homestead they could file on. While eating their lunch and admiring the scenery and scanning their map, they came to a conclusion that the land they were looking at, which was about a quarter of a mile away had a nice pond on it and was homestead land. Which one was to have it? They agreed that they would have a foot race to the pond and the one, who reached it first, took off all his clothes and submerged himself in the water, would file on this quarter section of land. Konsa being the best runner of the two, had no trouble getting to the pond first,took his clothes off and was taking a swim in the pond, which was to be his homestead, before Tony arrived.

Third of a series:

It cannot be said that all Estonian pioneers that homesteaded south of Stettler, came directly here after reaching Canada. In those years the end of the railroad was Red Deer. This then was the starting place where the search for homesteads began, carrying the barest of essentials which usually consisted of a shotgun and shells, some oatmeal and salt, tea and a pot and pan. They shot prairie chicken, ducks and rabbits for food. Some walked to Hand Hills, and the Hanna country; while others went as far east as Coronation. A lot of these however came back and homesteaded in the area south of Stettler. Others walking out from Red Deer were satisfied with the land and homesteaded in this area, not going any further.

One of the longest treks made by any of these pioneers in the search for a homestead, to their liking, was made by Magnus Tipman and Mike Kudras. They started out from Medicine Hat carrying as usual the barest necessities and lived off the country. They walked in a north-westerly direction not having found any homesteads to their liking until they finally arrived south of Stettler. Here they located their homesteads, and then walked to Red Deer where their families were.

The government gave a grant of ten acres of land from S.E. 28-37-19 W. 4 to the congregation of the Estonian Lutheran Church, recorded on the title as Trustees were Kristian Hennel, Joseph Tipman Sr. and William Klaus. The balance of this quarter section later was homesteaded by William Hennel.


Mike Tipman going to pick up bundles for threshing on his homestead near Stettler, Alberta. The first binder in the area was purchased by Joseph Hennel. The first threshing outfit was purchased by Martin Oliver and Adolph Saar in partnership. It was a single cylinder, high wheeled tractor, with a wooden separator. Oscar Roon bought an International threshing outfit about the same time and type. It was all stack threshing those days as there were only a few threshing machines in the country. Consequently they were kept busy most of the fall and winter. The magnetos on these engines were of low voltage using an igniter with a make and breaker system, instead of the impulse system. This made these engines very hard to start in cold weather. The engineers started cranking them about six in the morning, and if it was below zero, they were lucky to get a pop out of it in an hour or two.

After they got started, they threshed until nine o'clock in the evening. After dark two coal oil lanterns were lit and hung one on each side of the feeder for the bundle pitchers to see by. They hardly ever threshed any later than nine at night if they did some smart-alec was sure to throw in bundles cross-wise to plug the machine. If that didn't work, then he would throw a bunch of bundles cross-ways and then let the fork he was using, slip through his hands as if it were accidentally done. This fork would follow the crossed bundles into the machine and usually did the trick of plugging the separator. It usually took the separator man an hour or two to clean it out. Threshing was a lot of hard work and long hours, but the got the job done.

After a couple of years the Oliver and Saar partnership was dissolved and Adolph Saar bought a steam powered threshing outfit. He threshed with this for a few years when he too went to Australia. By this time there were a number of threshing outfits in the country, mostly steam. Some of the other Estonians had got their own threshing machines with much improved gas engines.

Fourth in a Series

In the homestead days, one of the problems of using oxen as draft animals was generally this: During the heat of the day when the gadflies came out they would head for the closest water, dragging whatever they were hitched to. Here they would stand or lie in the water until the day cooled off and the gadflies disappeared. I can recall quite a number of times when my dad was breaking prairie with oxen hooked to a walking plough, the oxen would suddenly start to twirl their tails and in no time at all would be standing in a slough having pulled the plough behind them. I was generally called to watch the oxen to see when they were ready to come out. This might seem a long time, but I didn't mind, as the strawberries grew in profusion and I spent my time picking and eating them. Later in the season there was also an abundance of raspberries and Saskatoon berries.

The first big change that took place was when the people started selling their oxen and buying horses. With the coming of the horse age, some of the Estonians tried to outdo each other by getting the fanciest buggy, pulled by horses. In that era there was a large number of half broke horses used that often got out of control and were consequently continually running away. When they spooked and started to run away, with whatever they were pulling behind them and scared them even more. This drove them into a real frenzy and they went into full gallop until they usually freed them from what they were hitched to, and eventually tangled themselves with their harness into the trees or bushes.

As a boy I was involved in countless runaways but one I never forgot. There were a large number of spectators. It started innocently enough, and happened at my sister Letha's christening party. Most of the Estonians of the community were present for the christening services and a little party that followed.

One of the neighbours drove up with a very high spirited team and a brand new buggy. He had purchased the outfit about a week before. He stepped out of the buggy while his bride of a few months held the lines. He tied the horses to the hitch rack and took off their bridles and hung then on the harness. He took the lines from his wife, wrapped them around the buggy whip and helped her out of the buggy.

In the evening the party broke up so the people could go home to milk their cows. The man helped his wife into the buggy, and then untied the horses, but for some reason forgot to put the bridles back on and left them still hanging on the harness. He picked up the lines and started out. Some of the spectators noticed the bridles still hanging on the harness and ran towards the team to try to stop them. But they were seconds too late! The horses after standing at the hitch rack in the hot sun for several hours must have felt they needed some exercise, for they started out on a gallop. The people barely had time to get out of the way. The couple in the buggy hung on for their lives! The man was pulling on the useless lines while his wife hung onto him. Every time the buggy hit a rock or bump, it would throw the couple into the air for what looked like a foot or so. The horses headed for a bit of open prairie of about a hundred acres, with bushes around the edges. At about the second round they ran over some bushes overturning the buggy with its occupants. They were lucky to escape with only a few bruises and scratches. The horses kept on running for a couple of turns around the meadow, until the buggy was broken into pieces. After they lost the buggy, they kept on running in a mad panic through the bushes until they had lost most of their harness. When they were found they were lathered and shaking. By coincidence, while I was cultivating the same field now in 1977, the cultivator shovel picked up one of the pieces of a buggy, the scroll work identified it as the buggy destroyed in 1911 by this runaway team. This brought this incident to mind and sharpened my memory of it.

Fifth in a Series on our Estonian Settlers

Water Supplies

One of the essentials of these early pioneer homes was a supply of good clean water. To get the water they dug wells by hand, usually about four feet by four feet square. This size gave the person digging the well, room to work in. Also if the water seeped in slowly this gave adequate space for the water storage. The water was usually found at 20 to 30 feet down. However some had to dig down to 40 or 50 feet, before they found water in sufficient quantity. The usual way was to construct a tripod over the site, then hang a pulley securely to the tripod. A rope would go over the pulley with a bucket at the end. The man doing the digging would fill the bucket at the bottom of the well. Then the person at the top (could be the homesteader's wife) would pull the bucket of dirt up, standing at the edge of the hole, using hand over hand method. Then dump the dirt in a pile and return the bucket for another load. This process was repeated till water started coming in. When it did there was a scramble for the digger to get out of the well. Also a rush to get the well curbed up before the water collapsed the sides of the well.

The curbing had been previously made like a four by four foot tunnel, out of inch lumber, with long two by fours at the corners. This was hastily lowered into the well till it stood about three and a half feet above the ground. Two, two by fours were nailed to the curbing on opposite sides. Another piece nailed on across the top of these. The pulley was then fastened on this and a rope passed over the pulley with a bucket on the end and this then completed the water system.

Huge poplar logs were hollowed out as water troughs for the cattle to drink from. Later on pumps and pipe made out of wood were installed by some of these early settlers. This made the chore a lot easier. Later the steel pumps and pipe and rods, as we know them now were used.

As the cattle herds increased, so did the use of water. This lowered the water tables and the era of the dug wells came to an end. Luckily about this time, some homesteaders coming in from the United States brought with them horsepower operated boring machines. This machine was moved from place to place using a team of horses. One big horse was used for power to operate this machine. The horse was hooked to the end of a ten foot sweep, the other end of which was fastened to the table of the machine. The horse walked around and around turning all the top structure of the machine through gears for pulling up the auger bucket. The auger bucket had to be pulled up and emptied every time it got full. These auger buckets came in two sizes, eighteen inch and twenty four inch. The boring auger bucket was fastened with a series of ten foot lengths of pipe depending on the depth of the well to the top. The top end in turn was fastened to the table with two heavy sliding jacks.

The capabilities of these machines depended mostly on the depth above sand rock, generally from sixty to one hundred feet in this area. Whenever a rock was encountered in the hole, the operator had to be let down on a cable into the two foot wide hole, break the rock loose and bring it up. In a lot of wells the operator had to go down a dozen times to bring up rock that was lodged in the hole.

When water was struck, generally flowing above the sand rock; the wall was curbed up by spruce boards. The operator had to careful in his selection of lumber, as one single board other than spruce would taint the water.

I got involved in boring these wells at an early age, by buying one of these machines. One of the previous homesteaders who had bought this machine from an American was known as "Windy Bill" by his neighbours (I don't recall his last name). His first well he made was an eighteen inch hole. Somewhere down twenty feet he encountered his first rock. He worked it loose with the bucket. However the rock was too big to go into the auger bucket so it could be brought up. He had his helper let him down to pick the rock up. Try as he might he found that in eighteen inches of space there wasn't enough room to pick up the rock. He then had his helper with the help of the owner of the homestead, tie a rope around his foot and let him down. He planned to grasp the rock in his arms and have himself and the rock pulled up. Everything would have worked as he planned, if he had not made one miscalculation. This nearly cost him his life. It was the fall of the year and the weather was chilly and he was wearing a short sheepskin coat. After he grasped the rock in his arms and started up the hole, the sheepskin coat doubled up on the edge and wedged tight in the hole. The house wife who was washing clothes at the time saved his life! She poured the soapy clothes water down the hole while the men sloshed him up and down, until they were able to pull him out. When he revived he was through with boring and well making. So there was a boring machine for sale cheap!

It passed through quite a number of owners and finally I acquired it. I bored quite a number of wells every year as off season work on the farm. The last well I made I distinctly recall even today! It was, Good Friday on the farm of Dick Tremmel, south of Botha. I had bored down about 70 or 80 feet when I hit a rock and water also. I let he Tremmel brothers let me down the hole, to see if I could pick up the rock. When I got down I found water coming in fast, so I signalled for them to pull me up. I had come up about ten feet when the water coming in from the bottom undermined the walls. These were made of marl, and they started caving above my head and fell into the hole with a great splash, filling the hole at my feet. With the noise of the splash the horse stopped. The Tremmel brothers thinking the machine itself was going to fall in, (they thought the whole well was collapsing) jumped off the machine. After the vibrations of the dirt falling and the splashing of the water, there was a complete silence. I hollered at them to pull me up. I distinctly heard one brother say to the other, "I thought he was dead."

This incident capped all the previous ones I had, so with it I also lost all interest in boring wells. There was a cheap boring machine for sale again!

This was also the final passing of an era for the boring machine. By this time there was quite a number of well punching machines with four and six inch holes. The two inch well going to depths of several hundred feet, it used water pressure to bring the drilling sediment to the surface and now the rotary with four and six inch holes. Submersible pumps in farm wells capable of bringing up ten or more gallons of water up under pressure for the household use and cattle, for the whole farmstead.

The horse powered boring machine also belongs to the bygone era by the passage of time.

Sixth in a Series on our Estonian Settlers

John Kerbes donated the first acre of land to the community. On this land Linda Hall was built. It was always been a tradition of special significance for the old Estonians to celebrate St. John's Day on the 24th of June, with a picnic and social gathering in the evening. This was always celebrated at Linda Hall in the early years. To this gathering came Estonians from other parts of Alberta and Canada. This was also the occasion for those who had left for other trades and professions to be at the picnic to visit with friends and relatives.

The social evening usually started out with everybody getting up and joining hands with one couple in the middle of the ring. Then they would start singing some popular folk songs. When they came to the chorus, the singers would immediately increase the tempo. Then those in the centre of the ring would each pick a new partner and dance a fast polka to the tune of the chorus. This process was repeated till everybody was in the centre of the floor, each one having had a share in the singing and dancing. By this time the violinists would start tuning up their instruments for the dances to follow.

The dances always started with and ended with a waltz. Then there was the fox trot, the one step, two step, and four step; also the beautiful French Minuet. There were square dances, about half a dozen of them, in the course of an evening.

The violin players as I remember them in those days were, John Kerbes, Martin Neithal, Mike Tipman, John Raho and Dick Hennel. Most of the musicians started playing their instruments when they were very young. I can remember Archie Kerbes; while his father played the violin for the dances he would accompany him on the piano when he was five or six years old.

I started calling square dances at an early age. I had a loud clear voice and got a kick out of contributing to the enjoyment of the occasions. I was generally invited to call for square dances for miles around. Some of them were quite large gatherings.

I remember calling a square dance in the Trocadero Hall in Edmonton with about fifty squares participating on the floor. The square dance I like to remember best was for our group on the main street in Peking, China. There were over seven hundred thousand people dancing in that street that night. All of those in seeing or hearing distance stopped and watched the Canadian delegates of farm people go through one of our old fashioned square dances.

In the course of my readings and taking an interest in the other parts of the world, has created in me a yearning to see some of these far away places. This included the so called Seven Wonders of the World. In 1963 as a director of the Canadian Co-operative Implements Ltd., I had the opportunity to participate in a delegation to China with a group of thirty two other people. Most of them were directors of farm cooperatives. There was also a prominent doctor, school teachers, a nurse, a civil servant and journalists and newspapermen. We were given the real red carpet treatment. On our arrival at the Peking station (railroads), each one of us was presented with a huge bouquet of flowers by the Chinese ladies. Then the band started playing for us all the way through this huge new station. When we got to the busses outside, the Chinese had lined themselves on both sides of the street, clapping their hands as we passed on our way to the hotel.

We travelled about three thousand miles by plane, train, bus and taxi while we were in China for those 21 days. Observing the people and noting their resourcefulness, their methods of farming and soil conservation on land that had been farmed for thousands of years. Their ways of doing things reminded me so much of our homestead days. Not only was I to see new ways and new beginnings on this trip but also to walk on the Great Wall of China. It is a couple of thousand miles long and three thousand years old. It is today still in a reasonably good state of repair. While I was walking and standing on top of it, I was contemplating the engineering feat and superb workmanship of that time, in comparison with quite a few of our older brick buildings that are less than a century old. To me it was a momentous occasion, to stand on this Great Wall that has passed its usefulness and is left as only an historic site by the passage of time.

Last of a series on the history of the Estonians:

Off the farm work was sought in slack times

It was only natural that the sons of these early pioneers would follow in the footsteps of the older generation, by seeking "off the farm" work in the slack periods on the farms. The railroading was practically finished at this period in time, and only the logging industry was left in which to get this kind of employment. The methods of logging until then had hardly any chance of modernizing from the earliest times. In the early 1920s I got my initiation into logging in a railroad tie camp. It didn't take me long to realize a man had to be skilled and an expert to handle the tools in this trade.

A proper sized tree had to be picked out, then notched or undercut with an axe to make it fall in the direction you intended it to go. Then with a one man crosscut saw, it was sawed just a little above the notch or undercut on the opposite side. After the tree had fallen down the branches were cut off and the tree was notched or scored on each side. The tie hacker then took his broadaxe with its 12 or 14 inch blade and stood on the log placing one foot behind the other. Every time he made a chop or stroke with his broad axe it would cut a slice about a foot long, leaving a smooth glazed surface or face. When both sides of the tree were hewed, the tree then would be cut into either foot lengths. These ties were then pulled together with a picaroon and put into a pile.

The tie haulers could then come with four up teams and haul them to the railroad siding. The tie loaders, usually three in a gang would then load them into the box cars. A four inch thick plank, sixteen inches wide; would be placed from ground level to the box car door level. The tie loader would leave these green, No. 1 ties averaging between two and three hundred pounds each on his shoulder and walk to the plank and deposit them in the box cars. The No. 1 ties as I remember it had to have at least nine inches of smooth face on the small end and be seven and a half inches thick. Packing them into the box car at three cents each, a loader earned every penny of his wages. The tie loader generally averaged about fifteen dollars a day, which was a big wage compared to driving a four horse team for fifty or sixty dollars plus board, a month.

It seemed it was just natural for me to graduate from hacking ties to driving a four up and hauling ties to the siding. Then when I got hardened up I started loading them into the box cars. My brother Mike and another Estonian from the east, worked as a tie loading gang for the better part of three years. By this time I figured I had saved enough to start farming on my own.

The farm I got was the land that was originally what my Dad and my brother Gus had homesteaded. I went in for a totally continuous cropping program about twenty years ago. I have slowly evolved into a program that has proven reasonably successful. I've had the minimum of erosion by either wind or water. In that time I have found that the land has been very generous to me. I simply follow the old adage that if you treat the land right, the land will always treat you right.

When the rural electrification came into the area, I gave a helping hand as a guest speaker, in order to start some of the R.E.A.'s first meetings. I had been taking electrical wiring lessons in my earlier years, so I had no problem in passing my exams for certification as an electrical wireman. In my off season work from the farm, I was able to help quite a number of farmers in the community to get their farms and homes wired for electricity. The reason I lost interest in farm yard wiring came by an accident to me. While working on a farmer's yard pole, five miles east of Fenn, I failed to notice that the pole was rotten at the bottom before I climbed to the top end of it. It tumbled over and crashed to the ground while I was on the top! I had no choice but cling to it and ride it down to the bottom. After this incident I have no notion of repeating this performance!

When I think of general practise of individuals of this generation specializing in just one profession, occupation or trade, I wonder. It now appears that the general practise of people of the previous era who branched out to acquire many different kinds of knowledge and skills is out-moded by the passage of time.

Written by Jos. J. Tipman, May 18, 1977.

Alberta's Estonian Heritage