50th Anniversary Reflections

Life & weddings of the first Estonian pioneers here in Eckville at 1901
(written in July, 1967, by Mom (Linda Kingsep) Mottus)

In May 1899 Henry Kingsep family with 2 small daughters Linda 3 yrs and Salme 11 months, landed here on Canadian soil.

The place was 2 miles east of Sylvan Lake, at the time called Snake Lake.

Soon after some more Estonians moved in. There came Henry Kingsep's brother Kristjan Kingsep family - Peter Herman family - 3 Kask brother's families - Neithal family - & Wall family with 2 grown sons, Gust and Madis.

Three years later, in 1902, Henry Kingsep family moved out from Sylvan Lake to a place about 20 miles west - to Eckville. At this time the place was called Medicine, after the Medicine River.

There was no Eckville then - not even Alberta, this country around here was then called North West Territories.

The country was nicer here along the Medicine River, open water for the cattle and lots of fish for the people. But it was a brush country with lots of willow brush and poplar trees, that had to be cleared off the land by hand to make a living. Not long after, a lot of other Estonians were coming into this country - and they were moving in fast. They all took homesteads - 160 acres of land along the Medicine River.

In a few years time, about the time Alberta was named, there moved in about 40 families of those early Estonian settlers.

Of course Henry Kingsep family was always the first one to move into a new country, and started living here in Eckville in 1902.

Then came John Kinna family with 4 grown up children - Fritz - Olga - Minnie - Arthur - and Ernest - yet a baby. John Kinna had 2 brothers - Henry and Sam Kinna - and a sister, Tina Kinna with 2 teenage daughters - Emma and Anna.

All the rest of them that came, were all young married couples like Henry Kingsep at that time with small children.

There came August Posti - John Wernick - Adam Matteus - Ed. Viro - John Teener - Oscar Ossul - John Wares - Peter Perler - John Toomingas Maisep - Daniel Saag - John Ahtman - 3 Sestrap brothers - Mart - Mike - and Gustav, 2 Huul brothers - August and Karl.

Then there was that big Mottus family of 7 brothers out west - Oscar - Hugo - Alex - Ludwig - Johannes - Arthur - and Wally - all single at that time except Oscar the oldest who was married. 4 Moro brothers - Carl - John - Henry - and Jaan - 2 Raabis brothers - Karl and John. 2 Koot brothers - Peter and Paul - 2 Langer brothers - Carl and Paul - 3 Pihooja brothers - August - Carl - and John - 2 other Matteus brothers but no relation - Gust and Jacob.

And all those mentioned early Estonian pioneers of more than 40 families - were all at that time on the same level. They all had the same ambition to get ahead in life, to clear their homesteads of trees and brush and to get bigger grain fields - and bigger income and to get richer than the other fellow. But this getting richer was such a slow going, to clear land by hand acre by acre. Early pioneer people were ambitious, had strong willpower, and were happy of the fact that they could do it.

They all took part in that hard work of clearing land. Men - women - children and all, and the grain fields got bigger and bigger - acre by acre - day by day.

And they were so happy to have their wishes come true, - though it was through hard work and sweat.

They were proud of the fact that they had accomplished something big, had built beautiful homes for themselves and their families, had built up the country - making roads, building bridges and cities and beautiful parks. They are proud that through their efforts, Alberta is of what you see it to-day, after almost 70 long years, that through their efforts beautiful Alberta was born.

Later - there were changes taking place. Alberta was named in 1905, and Eckville "Killick" Store and Gilby stores were built.

Around this time the first Estonian wedding took place of Olga Kinna and Karl Raabis.

A few years later, second wedding took place of Anna Kinna and Carl Langer. Then came the third wedding of Emma Kinna and John Toomingas, then the fourth in 1912 of Lydia Perler and Paul Langer.

And 5 years later in 1917 there came the fifth wedding of Linda Kingsep and Gust Mattus, their wedding has lasted for 50 long years, and this is their golden wedding of Linda & Gust of what we are celebrating now.

Henry Kingsep's oldest child and the oldest daughter Linda was going to get married.

At this time weddings were performed in their own homes, because there were no halls, and going to Red Deer was out of question to go on that long 3 day trip with horse team on bad roads. As many guests as there was room were invited.

Here is the wedding of Linda and Gust. It happened to be a nice bright sunny day, on this 29th of July 1917. But at night came such a heavy frost that froze all grain in and around Eckville.

The guests came at 4 o'clock, and the wedding ceremony was performed at 5 by the priest Andrew Harju. There were 3 brides maids, Salme Kingsep - Amanda Moro - and Anna Posti and there were 3 best men, Jakob Mottus - Hugo Mottus - and Carl Pihooja.

Now there came that big wedding supper at 6 o'clock, all good Estonian home-made food, such as very -vorst (blood sausage), veri-kook (blood patties), sült (jelly meat) and there were all kinds of other meats, and that good fresh smoked fish from the Medicine River, even the drink was home-made what they called 'Kali', a whole barrel of it to what everybody helped themselves from the top. The dessert and cakes were brought from outside by the guests.

In those times going on a honeymoon was unknown as with no income they could not afford it. The wedding lasted till late the next morning, the sun was up already when the guests left. Now the young couple Linda and Gust had to go too, to start their new life together of their own. The horse team was ready waiting outside. Gust's brother Jakob was driving, and the bride's sister Salme sat beside him. The young couple were sitting behind on a democrat.

Now the four of them were starting out West to Risula way where the newly weds were going to make their home with Jakob at the start.

The house was nicely decorated with young green trees along the walls, there were close neighbours to meet them, singing all kinds of wedding songs, and making jokes. Sweet aroma filled the air as the chicken and the trimmings were cooking on the stove for the next meal.

It was a happy life in those times when people were so friendly as one family. They were all on the same level, all poor settlers.

Work came first in those days, and the young married couple had to start working right away. Gust and his brother Jakob took axes on their backs and went to clear more land the next morning, while Linda had to do the chore and the house-hold duties around the home.

The people had their youth - their health - their high dreams for the better future. They did not mind the hard work, whenever possible they visited one another and had social gatherings much more than now-days. They started building halls, they made Gilby Hall and Estonian Hall. Life was progressing fast. They had all kinds of social doings in the hall, where Henry Kingsep took the lead. He was the soul of the community, a born social leader, and a starter of this early life here in Eckville.

Even before the halls were built, Henry Kingsep formed a social group what he called, "Medicine Oru Eesti Selts" (Medicine Valley Estonian Society). Henry and Sam Kinna had the biggest house at the time, and they welcomed the people to go there for their social gatherings. The meetings there were once in 2 weeks. And how happy they all were, mainly to be together, which was so satisfying for their lonely souls. They had choir and dialogue practice for the program they had at Christmas and Easter. And here again Henry Kingsep took the lead, played his violin to teach songs, and he said the most wonderful speeches.

There were rescitations, and debates close of the meeting which was so much fun. At the end of the program they had that delicious Estonian home-made lunch what each had brought along, and that happy chatter filled the room during lunch period.

Those were the happy days of the old Estonian Pioneers at the beginning of 1900. So many of them are gone, but those that are left, still remember those good old times, and some of them might even remember the wedding of Linda and Gust.

This wedding has lasted for 50 long years and has matured into Golden Wedding, and into centennial year to make it important. And this is the Golden Wedding we are celebrating to-night of Linda and Gust.

Note: This valuable article was written by sister Linda to be read at the big celebration of her and Gust's Golden Wedding Anniversary on July 29, 1967, the Centennial year. Brother Otto was to read it, as he was appointed the master of ceremony for that important event.

But instead of that happy get-together, our Joy turned into sorrow as the big family were grieved and saddened by our dear sister's illness and passing on Oct. 28th. This article will be a sweet remembrance of her.

In loving memory,

Alberta's Estonian Heritage