The Seibels at Boggy Creek - Part One

Written by Henry S. Seibel c. 1955

Transcribed by Cliff Seibel - seibelce[at]gmail.com

Preface
Johann Seibel first appears in St. Onufry near Sereth, Bukovina, Austria - Hungary in the early 1800's. He was German speaking, but I have not been able to find where he came from. The Family farmed in St. Onufry until 1893 when Heinrich and his family emigrated to Canada. They travelled by rail to Hamburg where they boarded the S. S Pichuben on the 4th of June and arrived in Montreal on the 18th of June.

My father never talked about the families origins in Bukovina, maybe he didn't know. He always said they were from Austria.

One day in the 1950's he sat down and began to type the families early story in Canada. It could use some editing, but I have chosen to leave it pretty much as he wrote it. I think it gives an insight into the trials and tribulations that many early prairie settlers suffered.

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It was in or about the month of April in the year 1893 that Heinrich Seibel his wife Anna and their five children John, AdoIph, Emil, Anna and Mina arrived at Regina from St Onufry, Bukovina, Austrian Empire where they had been well-to-do farmers. They came partly because they were lured by the promise of cheap land and partly to escape the increasing signs of militarism and compulsory military service which would soon take John and Adolph, the two older boys.

When they arrived they looked over various parcels of land and decided to buy section 23 which was about 3 miles north of where the Regina goal is situated. The reason for the choice was because it was located so that a small stream flowed through it, which promised a plentiful supply of water. This was a tributary of Boggy Creek and it was not named. For a few years it ran practically continuously all summer. They could not know that later on, except for a few days in the spring, it would be dried up except for the numerous bogs that would entrap cattle from time to time. There were a few suckers in this creek and a plentiful supply of minnows and tadpoles. On these the tame ducks would grow fast and become fat. But in the fall they had to be confined and be fed grain to remove the fishy taste.

The land was cheap - about $5.00 per acre. They bought 640 acres. They also bought two yokes of oxen, 2 hand ploughs, a small hoe drill, a drag harrow, a couple of wagons, two cows, a few pieces of lumber and some windows, some seed wheat, potatoes, chickens and ducks and they were in business. Later they bought a 6 foot binder and a mower and rake. They also bought some garden tools, but many of them they made for themselves. They also bought what the storekeeper assured them was most necessary of all, a shot-gun. With it they got a supply of priming caps, shot, powder complete with powder horn and some lead and a pellet mold so that they could refill the shells themselves.

On board ship they had practiced the use of Canadian money, but when they got here they discovered that most of the currency in use was pounds, shillings and pence and some American silver. So they had to learn all over again. The shilling and the quarter were accepted in the stores as equivalent.

There were no trees of any kind in the vicinity at that time and they traveled for their wood to Muscow, an Indian reservation a distance of about 40 miles or so. There were numerous sloughs that had to be detoured so that in the summer time the distance was far greater.

They immediately set to work breaking up a few acres and planting their seed and their garden. Then they started to set up a house. I can remember this quite well. It was built into the side of a small hill so that that the front door was level with the ground and the windows at the back were just about at ground level. It was about 30 feet in length by about 20 feet in width. It had an upstairs that was reached from the outside. It was built of small poplar logs plastered with clay in which chopped hay was mixed. It had a shingle roof. The upstairs had a wooden floor but the downstairs floor was of clay

I remember the old house quite well because it was used as a chicken house for many years. The plasterwork inside was quite smooth and there were still signs of the whitewash with which the inside walls were finished.

It was said to be quite warm for the whole house was heated with a cook stove, the upstairs getting it’s heat from the stovepipe, which passed through it. There were no proper beds but each room had a bunk or two with the framework of poplar poles and the springs of small willows and the mattresses were the inevitable straw sacks filled with slough hay. The prairie wool could not be used because of the spear grass, which was found in it. They were not too uncomfortable if the hay was fluffed up each day and this was part of the daily chore of bed making, but the beds rustled when you moved about in them. Each bed had its great good feather comforter, which I recall was sometimes a foot in thickness, and no cold could penetrate them. Next a small stable was built of poles and mud with a sod roof and after the purchase of some weanling pigs they were ready for business.

By that time their money was all gone. Over $4000.00 had been used up and there was no more, but with the usual optimism of farmers they knew they had only to wait for the harvest. Alas! The Red Fife wheat grew 7 feet tall and froze completely. The oats did not turn out, but the potatoes were plentiful. So they lived on potatoes, jack rabbits and prairie chickens. I recall my father saying that his mother had been able to cook potatoes in 27 different ways. But other supplies were needed too and the only way to get them was to haul firewood to the bustling town of Regina, 10 miles away. So the men drove to Muscow with their sleighs and oxen 40 miles away. They cut their wood and hauled it back 40 miles and then the women sawed the wood into firewood. Whenever a load had been sawed one of the men hauled it to Regina and traded it to the storekeeper for $1.25. If he could sell it direct to a consumer he sometimes got $1.50, but if there was a good supply of wood in town he might have to wait over a day or two and pay .25 cents per night lodging and his meals and arrive home with less money then he started out with. The Indians too had to be paid .10 cents for each load of wood that was cut on the reserve.

They were hard times indeed. The use of sugar was stopped so was the use of coffee, but the use of tea was continued. Coal oil had to be bought. Flour, lard, salt and spices were necessities and feed for the pigs, which were retained for breeding. There was no money for socks or mitts. When a pair of socks wore out the wool was unraveled and reknitt. The same was done with the mitts. Each of the men had to do his own knitting and they became quite expert.

I am told that my grandmother continually bemoaned her fate and begged to be taken back to Austria from this grim and cruel land and was promised by my grandfather that as soon as passage money was available they would go back. Finally when enough money had been gotten together she had, like the woman she was, changed her mind and never looked backward again.

The bad times continued. The crops froze each year, but the cattle and hogs prospered. If wheat did not mature the oats and barley did very well. The chickens multiplied and laid eggs. The cows feeding on grass to their bellies produced milk in abundance and there was no lack of cream and butter. The gardens produced enormously too and although for a few years they had no money gradually the food became more plentiful and of greater variety.

Although these years were hard there was still tine for some enjoyment.

Settlers were fairly far apart but a wedding or christening was apt to be attended by everyone for 20 miles around. There was a continuous flow of immigrants many of them without a dollar when they landed here. They were always taken in by somebody until they could find work and in the meantime they worked for their keep. Two particularly I can remember as a small boy who were terrific storytellers so everyone thought. I thought so too and many a night I hid just around the doorway, when I was thought to be in bed, and listened to tales of marvel and adventure, Years later I read the same stories for myself in Grim's Fairy Tales, Tales of the Arabian Nights and Baron Munchhausen, but they could never recapture for me the glamour and excitement which they had when told by these two story tellers. There were nights too when the stories were of horror and of superstition and many nights when I crept back to my bed I suffered the most terrible nightmares after hearing these stories.

However, I am getting ahead of myself. My earliest recollection of these stories goes back to about 1912, but I understand that that time these same two men had been coming back every winter for about 17 years.


Photo taken 1993

To get back to the original story. About 1897 enough large stones had been hauled from the creek bed to build a more permanent house and a large stone house was built. It was 44 feet by about 22 feet and also had an upstairs. The walls were over two feet thick. It had a large cellar in which as many as 800 bushels of potatoes were stored as well as several tons of other root vegetables and a plentiful supply of canned rhubarb and wild strawberries and several barrels of sauerkraut filled the air which their rich aroma which supplied the vitamins in the winter time which the salt pork lacked. I recall that I hated the smell and the taste of sauerkraut but I did develop a taste for cabbage rolls.

When the new house was built it was a time of pure luxury. There was still no money, firewood had still to be hauled in poles from the reserve near Muscow; and had still to be peddled in Regina, but things were looking different. Much more land had been broken up. The cattle had multiplied and by about 1900 over 200 head grazed on the prairie. Horses had been bought by this time including a huge Shire stallion and eventually even with numerous horses being sold each year over 70 workhorses as well as about 40 spare and breeding animals were on the farm.

The new house cost incredibly little. The stonemason who did the stone work was an immigrant who was earning his wife's and children’s passageway in this way and the same applied to the carpenter. The best lumber available was about $20.00 per 1000 board feet. The lime for the mortar was burned on the farm out of the limestone rocks, which could found. The charcoal used for burning the lime was made out of willows. The whole house did not cost more than about $300.00, plus an incredible amount of labour.

There was little money until about 1907 when the farm yielded the first good crop. In that year it was decided to build a large barn, By this time sufficient stones had again been hauled from the creek bed and a barn was built 128 feet long by 44 feet wide, Three stone walls divided this barn into four separate sections. It had a huge hip roof on it. The stone foundation was about 12 feet high. The walls were about 3 feet thick and an immense amount of material went into it. I never heard exactly what it cost but the cost must have been small. The carpentry work on the barn took a father and son team of carpenters 12 months to complete. For this they received $200.00 and their board and lodging and when they were done they took their wages and sent to their country of origin to bring their families over here. It may be thought now that these were surely incredibly low wages, but I understood that they were indeed slightly above the average. I never heard what it cost to do the masonry work, but again the cost must have been small.

With the good crop in sight my father and grandfather decided to buy a threshing machine of their own and my father bought a New Hamburg steam engine and a New Hamburg separator. It was the only steamer in the immediate district and during 1907 and 1908 it threshed a good many of the farmers in the vicinity. Until then there ware only some horse driven machines in the district, or so I understand

There was never any money. When there was some it went either into machinery or more land. Cutting wood in the reserve continued every winter and as before it was marketed in Regina, at a very low price, but by this time horses which could travel much faster than oxen were used.

I remember hearing about the terrific epidemic of diphtheria which went across the country about 1901 or thereabouts. The Indians near Fort Qu’Appelle were without food and were dying. I recall hearing that for many weeks my grandmother and Mrs. Malcolm Kind who with her family were also one of the early settlers baked bread and prepared other food for the Indians without which those who recovered from their sickness would have starved. My father continued to haul the food to the Indians until he took the sickness.

The crops had been gradually improving over the years. There was only one year when relief seed was obtained from the Dominion Government. Although the crops continued to freeze each year enough could always be cleaned out for seed. I assume that in this way the earlier and more mature kernels were picked out each year and gradually a quicker maturing strain became selected. But it still had one serious drawback. It lodged and shattered very badly and when Marquis wheat became available about 1909 or 1910 it really put wheat growing into business.

The Seibels at Boggy Creek - Part Two



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