The family of Joseph ‘Joe’ Henry George b. 18JUL1880; d. 08Jan1960 and Marie ‘Mary’ Louise George (Humbke) b. 01Apr1879; m. 08JUN1903; d. 15JUN1957 consisted of 10 children:
Earl Henry George – 29FEB1904 to 02JAN2000
Elvin George – 23AUG1906 to 16APR1907
Benjamin Dietrich Ernst George – 27JUL1907 to 07MAR1998
Agnes Louise Mary George – 22FEB1910 to 06JUL1986
Frederick Conrad George – 09MAY1912 to 13AUG2000
William Joseph George – 21AUG1913 to 28JUL2003
James Christian George – 28JUL1916 to 08MAR2006
Joseph George – 11SEP1919 to 11SEP1919
Louise Emma Marie George – 11SEP1919 to 15FEB2007
Lloyd Charles George – 27JAN1921 to 20AUG2007
FAMILY HISTORY AS WRITTEN BY DENNIS GEORGE (SON OF BEN)
Born in the County of Leeds, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, July 18, 1880 – the third eldest in a family of six children (4 sons and 2 daughters) to John Hutchinson George and his wife, the former Mary Franklin – she being a daughter of Nathaniel and Jane Franklin of the same County.
Joe George, as he came to be known, lived only his first ten years with his own family – until shortly after his mother’s death. She had died while giving birth to his youngest sister, Mary Jane – the sister also later died at the age of only three months. Joseph then went to live with his maternal Grandparents, the Franklins, who likewise lived closeby the Village of Kinears Mills, Quebec. Other member so his family also left to live with various relatives at this time, since his widowed father was unable to care for all five of his remaining children – then between the ages of 3 and 14 years.
This unfortunate series of events very nearly cost this young lad the loss of all contact with his immediate family for, but a short time later, in 1893, he was moved away from these familiar surroundings in the pleasant, rolling wooded hills south of the great St. Lawrence River (and about 70 miles directly south of Quebec City), to the wide-open-spaces of the untamed West.
Travelling with his Grandparents, who had agreed to care for him and see to his bringing-up, they were accompanied by his uncle, their second youngest son,, James – who was, by this time, thirty five years of age. This foursome travelled first by train as far as the growing Red River settlement off Winnipeg – which had only received its charter as a city twenty years earlier, three years had passed since the execution here of Louis Riel late in 1885.
They travelled a further 1,000 miles by horse and wagon, over narrow, meandering trails that stretched out ahead of them from one horizon to the next, finally reaching their destination in the more hospitable and protective countryside of what is now Alberta. (At that time, however, this area was still a part of Canada’s North West Territories, for Alberta and Saskatchewan did not become Provinces until the year 1905). From there
They made their way to an area near the widening Battle River where they would make their new home. This found them some fourteen miles to the east of the Town of Wetaskiwin, in the District then known a Louisville (the name later being changed to become the District of Haultain). Joe George was now barely thirteen years old, in the wilds of an unfamiliar land, and separated from all his former friends and relatives. After working a few acres of land on the homestead which they found to be partially clear of trees and brush, they seeded some wheat and oats as their first crops; this would provide the flour for their own need, and see their few animals through the coming winter. Joe made several one trips over the fifty miles to Edmonton in order to have their what ground into flour.
We think nothing of a trip of that distance today, butt in Joe’s time this was a considerably trying and hazardous venture. The journey to Edmonton and back would take him at least three or four days with his wagon-load of grain. The team of horses he drove were not quite as tame as they might have been either and with coyotes, wolves, bears and even cougars frequenting the area. Joe told of having to sleep beside the wagon with a rope tied to the horses, and held in his hands, in case the horses became frightened and bolted off during the night.
It was several years later before this lengthy journey was finally reduced to one of less than a quarter this distance, after an English milling family settled near Bittern Lake and there set up a grinding mill. They had brought their huge, round mill-stones with them and before long had a thriving business, and gratitude of all who lived in the area.
In those days, life in the West, or anywhere away from the larger urban centres for that matter, was not only difficult – as those of us in these later generations have so often been told, – but it could also even be very harsh. It is said that Nathaniel, Joe’s Grandfather, had been “a good natured old Englishman”, (his father incidentally, in the early 1800’s had worked at gardening for the uncle of the famous Charles Dickens*), and surely this love of life and ability to overcome hardship must have influenced Young Joseph in his later years. Nathaniel, at various times, earned his and his family’s living by butchering and peddling meat, peddling clothing and carry the mail. Joe sometimes accompanied him on these rounds when he could be spared from the farm.
Since Jim Franklin had already gained his own farm and the Franklins had promised to raise young Joseph and provide for him, Nathaniel willed that Joe should inherit the homestead. These were now very trying and lonely times for Joe. He left the farm for a time and worked in and around Wetaskiwin, trying to determine his strength and find a sense of purpose.
Enough of the land had soon been cleared to support them and before long, Jim Franklin had married and moved to a nearby farm of his own.
When the crops were in and Joe wasn’t urgently need on the farm he would go into Wetaskiwin and hire himself our for a few weeks at a time driving a dray-wagon and busy himself hauling freight. This area of the country was now beginning to open up at a rapidly increasing rate and every available man was needed to accomplish it. He soon became known as a strong, hardy young man who was very adept at breaking wild horses (these were often herded up from Montana country) to be trained and used for saddle and work horses throughout the district.
But things never seemed to go well for long, for within two years of their leaving Quebec, his Grandmother (nee Jane Cook), died of dropsey, – two days after Christmas, 1895. And barely two years after that, his Grandfather, Nathaniel, also died – in the spring of 1897 at the age of 77. Joseph was now left on his own, no yet having reached his 17th birthday.
NOTES: Nathaniel Franklin and Jane Cook were married September 30th, 1842 at Inverness in the County of Megantic, Province of Quebec by the Reverend Mr. Ingls.
Recollections of an incident have been passed down relating to an occasion when Nathaniel Franklin’s father was apprehended by the local Gamekeeper for snaring two rabbits. This necessitated obtaining bail money from Charles Dickens’ uncle, his employer, who paid the fine.
Jane Cook, Nathaniel’s wife, had had no easy life either. She had been orphaned at an early age and was first put in a Catholic Orphanage. Later, her older brothers and sisters, being concerned for her well-being had her place instead in a Protestant Institution. She nevertheless maintained that she “had a wonderful bringing-up”.
He had seldom heard any word from his father and the others left behind in Quebec. He even showed some resentment towards them for their allowing him to be taken away and separated by such a great distance from the other members of his family. At first, he had intended that he would someday go back to rejoin them ‘back East’, but now he determined otherwise, deciding instead that he would make his name and become a man out in this new frontier – where a fellow with ambition and strength had room to grow – to expand, and acquire as much land as he wanted and could handle, and perhaps even become rich in the process. He knew he had the courage and determination needed to tame his share of it; he would stay with the West and the promise it held. As it turned out, he would not return to his birthplace until some 60 years later, in the summer of 1958.
Thus, Joe set about making a new life for himself. He returned to the farm he had inherited and there, with the help of a few neighbors, they built a fine new home, – set a bit further back from the edge of his land than the first house had been, overlooking the brow of a low hill near a clump of sturdy trees and brush for protection from the cold, North winter winds. It was just a small house at first, and it had a good deep cellar. Later, after he married, he could build other rooms onto it to make it a good and sturdy home. In fact, the original section of this house is still standing at the time of this writing, and although it is deserted and open to the elements, it can be seen that it was built very well indeed to last these many years.
The young lady he was soon to marry would prove herself an equally strong and resourceful partner for her future husband. Joe had been batching on this thriving farm of his for about two years when, one hot summer afternoon as a great, boiling thunderstorm could be seen approaching from the West, two young sisters came by on their way home from visiting some friends who lived a few miles past Joe’s farm. They had hoped to reach home before the storm stuck, but the fury of the storm was so great that they barely had time to cover a couple of miles before it was upon them. Although they were a first reluctant to accept the hospitality of this handsome young bachelor, Joe finally convinced them that unless they quickly got themselves into his house they would soon be drenches. So it was that Joseph met his future wife, Maria Humbke, and her sister, Alvina.
After a brief courtship, Joseph and Mary (as she was more frequently called) were married on the 8th of June, 1903. Together, they added another room to the 2-room house Joe had built, – it was already complete with a cozy upstairs for their bedroom, but they had pans for a pioneer-sized family, and the sooner they started making preparations the better.
Their first child, a son, was due to arrive the following March, and without discrediting even his present day reputation of being a “stickler for accuracy”, and still less his slight tendency towards impatience, Earl Henry George
would undoubtedly, and with unerring timing, have arrived on the very first day of the prescribed month. However, no one had advised him that it had been decreed back in the day of Julius Caesar the the year 1904 would have one extra day, and so it was that baby Earl arrived on the 29th day of February – a LEAP YEAR lad! This was a good omen – their very first child, and already they had a celebrity in the family!
During the next six years that they would spend on this farm raising their cattle and sheep, and beginnings of their family, Mary and Joe would be blessed with first two more sons and then a daughter. As fate would have it, however, their second son, Elvin, would not survive his first harsh, prairie winter and died after contracting measles compounded with pneumonia, – after only a brief eight months of life. Their next son, Benjamin, followed soon afterwards, and his arrival helped to relieve the of their grief.
Next to arrive was Agnes, the first of only two daughters. Soon after passing her first birthday, and young Earl’s completion of Grade One at the nearby Haultain School, a somewhat extraordinary change in the normal flow of events was to come about.
After some preliminary exchanges, it was found that Mary’s younger brother, Dick Humbke, was very much attracted to Joe’s quarter-section of land and its prospects for productive grain farming. Joe, on the other hand, felt that Dick’s land, some six mile to North and East along the broad, open valley of the Battle River, would be ideally suited to sheep ranching, which he hoped to make his speciality. And so, in the summer of 1910, without further discussion, the two families decided to swap farms even-up, – homes, fences, corrals and outbuilding included! This would also allow Mary to be in closer contact with her mother and her younger sisters who lived on the farm adjoining her brother Dick’s quarter section.
At the same time, Joe managed to buy another half-section of land – the East 1/2 of section 11 – perhaps after giving some thought to the possible folly of living too closely to one’s in-laws! They then had the-house-that Dick-built moved to this newly acquired land 1 1/2 miles to the Southwest. This location later came to be more commonly thought of as “The George home-place”, for it was here that the other six member of their family of ten children were to be born, raised and grow to maturity.
In the ensuing years as their family grew and the children gained their Primary education at the Verdun District School, one mile to the South, more and more of their land was cleared for farming. This was accomplished initially by use of oxen. The powerful strength of 5 of these huge beasts along with their owner, Gus Syes, were hired to pull the stumps and roots left from the first clearing, and then to draw the heavy breaking-plow which would turn up the rich, black to soil for the very first time.
As the older sons finished their schooling, other adjoining tracts of land were acquired, and process begun anew. Some of the land was bought outright, other portions, under restricted ownership agreements, were merely leased – either from the CPR, Hudson’s Bay Co. or in some cases (on what is referred to as School-land) from the local Municipality. Eventually, there would be up to ten quarter-sections of land owned &/or leased by either Joe George or his sons. Earl, the eldest of the children, was first to leave the home-place and make a home of his own on one of the nearby parcels of land following his marriage in 1927. The others followed soon after.
By this time also, realizing they had spawned a proliferous (and still growing) group of musicians, and being in need of some respite from the din of their enthusiasm, the bungalow, a small one-room house had been built about 30 yards away, over the spot where they had previously located their root-cellar. (I have often wondered whether it had been built far enough away, – can you imagine seven members of one family, and probably a few of their friends and relatives as well, all practicing their instruments at the same time in a 12′ X 12′ room? Included would be a piano, organ, set of drums, two violins, banjo & saxophone – one or more of these alternated with odd trumpet, trombone, clarinet or guitar, etc. etc.)
Soon afterward, another half-section of land was bought, this time on the Northern side of the river, nearer to Bittern Lake Village, and in 1932 Mary and Joseph moved to this new location where a large modern home had been built for them and the younger members of their family. By 1937, five more of their children had married and were settled on farms of their own, leaving only the youngest son, Lloyd, living with his parents. Together they had raised a fine prodigious family, and Mary and Joe could take pride in themselves for a life well spent. Not that didn’t each have a good many more years still ahead of them, but now at long last they could enjoy the fruits of their labors, so to speak, and begin to take a well-earned rest.
Joe George and his untiring bride were still the focal point of the entire family group until their deaths, – as those of us who recall the frequent regular get-togethers out a Grandma and Grandpa’s will always remember, – whether it was for their annual anniversary or that of one of their children, or Christmas, New Year’s. or whatever.
June the 8th, 1953 saw their GOLDEN 50th Anniversary, but for this occasion, knowing their fine home would be no match for the anticipated crowds of well-wishers, the spacious Gwynne Curling Arena was retained. And luckily so, for before long even this great building was filled to near capacity with friends and relatives, some of whom had come nearly half-way across the country to pay their respect to them on this great day. It was truly a fitting celebration for such a grand couple!
On June 15, 1957 Joseph was predeceased by his wife, Maria, who died one week after their 54th Anniversary. He was by now living in the City of Wetaskiwin at the home of his youngest daughter, Louise, where he would spend his remaining years.
The following year, in August of 1958, after Joe’s son Benjamin had made the trip East, the summer before, to renew the family ties. Joseph accompanied by his daughter, Agnes, went back to the Eastern Townships to visit with his brother Benjamin Franklin George, (his son’s namesake) and his many nieces and nephews and their families, none of whom he had ever seen before. However, he soon again grew lonely for the West, and after a few weeks they both returned to his beloved Alberta.
OTHER WRITERS OF THE GEORGE FAMILY HISTORIES
Joe & Mary George’s sons (Earl and Ben) also liked to write and the following quotes are taken from articles they wrote for family histories. You will hear more from each of them when I do a blogs on their individual family.
Earl George: “Our religious bringing up was in the home. Mother had an organ which she could play very well and on Sundays we would have Church service in the home with the Missionary doing the preaching and some of the neighbors joining in. My Mother taught me music on the organ at the age of 4 years, an education that has done wonders for me and my family…”
“All of us children were brought into this world by midwives. Fina Cook was the midwife for us four children who were born in the Haultain District. Fina was Joseph Cook’ sister who lived with them. The Cooks lived a mile Northeast of our place.”
“Wild duck and goose feathers were saved and made into pillows and feather ticks that were very warm. We certainly needed them in the winter for none of the houses were insulated and in the winter the bed clothes were frozen against the wall and frost around our faces in the morning. Wood was the only heat we had and when the fire went out it was as cold in the house as it was outside. You had no rugs to stand on in the morning while you dressed. Just the cold board floor. The water in the tea kettle on the stove was frozen almost solid. Very few had cellars under their houses because you couldn’t keep vegetables from freezing.”
“Most of the settlers made root houses. Our root house was about twelve feet square and about seven fee deep with heavy beams across the top, then small brush and a thick layer of hay or straw and then a mound of earth five or six feet high rounded off so it would shed water in the spring. A stairway was built into the pit with steps dug into the soil on a slope filled full of hay to keep the frost out. In there we would store all our vegetable and they would keep till the middle of summer. We had no fridges or deep freezers to keep our butter and milk from spoiling so we dug a ten feet deep hole and cribbed the walls with poles or boards to keep the walls from caving in. During the winter we would cut ice in square blocks on the lakes and filled the hole almost full and cover the ice with about two feet of either saw-dust or real damp straw. We made a little roof over it to keep the rain out otherwise it would melt the ice, and there we would keep our butter, milk, cream , and eggs. The ice would last till fall, and no cost for refrigeration.
“For recreation we would go to basket socials, pie socials, and have house and card parties. One of my uncles “Dave Fountain”, who was a French Canadian, married my mother’s sister, Alvina. He was a very good violin player and played at all the parties. In the summer time we got together and played Horse Shoes. My dad wa a very good boxer, and on Sundays all the young boys would come over and practise boxing with dad as instructor, for you see he had a boxing instruction book by Tommy Burns who
was World Champion at that time. Such young lads as the Eikerman, Reimer boys and many more from the Verdun DistrictDistrict would come over and they would have lots of fun. [Tommy Burns, born 17JUN1881 as Noah Brusso, was the 12th of 13 children in an impoverished German-Canadian family living in Ontario. At 5ft. 7in. and 175 lbs, Tommy was the only Canadian to become Heavy Weight Boxing Champion of the World. He won the title in 1906 and successfully defended it 11 times in the next 2 years against challengers of all colors and nationalities. He lost in a 1908 fight in Sydney, Australia to Jack Johnson, an American Negro.]
Today when I look back over 70 years of life, I admire the immigrants that built this Province and they should be admired for their courage and hope, by all of us descendants and other who came late to the Haultain District.
Ben George: “…Joe had come with very few possessions, but one of his belongings was a black tom cat, blind in one eye. Tommy was a good mouser and rabbit catcher. Joe would make a hole in the haystack and sit there with Tommy and when a rabbit came close enough to catch, Joe would let the cat go. Often the rabbit would be caught and would be rabbit stew the next day.”
“Because Joe was known for his helpful nature here is a little story to show how his willingness really paid off. One day, when he was just a boy, a Cattle- buyer came to the farm to rest and have a meal. Joe prepared his meal and looked after his horses so well that the grateful cattle-buyer gave Joe a pony all his own. This poney he named Dolly. He and Dolly were inseparable for many years to come. On one occasion Joe rode the many miles to town for medicine, for a neighboring family. It wasn’t only work and errands for Joe and Dolly, for they had their time for fun too. During the long snowy winters, he and the other neighbors would get on their saddle ponies and chase coyotes. Coyotes were plentiful and their skins were valuable. Thus their sport in the winter was turned into profit. Coyote hides were worth about .50 cents each, but it helped to keep them in tea, sugar, flour, salt and yeast cakes”.
” By now Joe and Mary George had accumulated 10 quarters of land. Mary George was known as the family gardener and their root cellar was always well stocked. There was always a box of cucumbers or carrots or a head of cabbage to give to family and friends. She had a green thumb if ever anyone had one. We will never forget her and her yard full of beautiful flowers. Joe and Mary move to Wetaskiwin about 1954.”
WILL AND PROBATE OF JOSEPH GEORGE
According to the will the boys had all been provided for during his life time and all other assets and amount owing him were to be divided by his two surviving daughters.
The Inventory and Valuation Documents were as follows:
According to Alberta Registrations of Death:
Mary George (Humbke): place of death was the Wetaskiwin Hospital and the condition directly leading to death was a blood clot in the brain caused by hardening and narrowing of the arteries plus congestive heart failure. She had also suffered a fractured thigh bone.
Joseph George: place of death was the St. Mary’s Hospital, Camrose and the condition directly leading to death was Heart Failure . At the time he was suffering from senile dementia.
Marie “Mary” Louise Lizette GEORGE (Humbke) and Joesph Henry GEORGE are buried in the Wetaskiwin City Cemetery by the water tower.
Many rewarding hours were spent researching the George family in the Alberta Archives, Edmonton Genealogy Society, Wetaskiwin Archives, libraries, museums, cemeteries and online. It has all resulted in a strong feeling that the family is rightly very proud of George and Mary, the family accomplishments, and their strong support for each other.
Individual members of the family came alive for me and I deeply regret not attending funerals when I could of paid my respects and celebrated their life.
I understand that George cousins meet on a regular basis in Wetaskiwin and hope one day to attend one of their meetings.