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Reminiscences by the late Ruth Moody Hooker

Manitoba Pageant, September 1957, Volume 3, Number 1

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

Note: Mrs. Hooker at the time of her death was engaged in writing and compiling the booklet published in connection with Selkirk's anniversary.

Canada's drier climate was supposed to be beneficial for consumption, so in 1870, Richard Cobden Moody, aged 24, with a few sovereigns in his pocket, was sent from England to Canada. He worked for a farmer near Toronto for five or six years, and then came to Manitoba in 1876, conducting a family by the name of Shore to their father in Winnipeg. They travelled by way of Grand Forks, arriving in Winnipeg on a flat bottomed boat.

Papa - for R. C. Moody was my father - came of merchant stock and had attended a school in England for the children of commercial travelers, and had received and digested a good business education. He worked in stores in Winnipeg for a year or so, and then in the fall of 1879 went out to Hecla on Big Island in Lake Winnipeg to manage a store and a saw-mill. He and Mr. and Mrs. Edward Flynn were the only English speaking people in this Icelandic settlement, which was a part of the New Iceland which stretched along the western shores of Lake Winnipeg. The first morning in the store an elderly Icelander opened the door and said, "Gothen Dian," being 'good day' in his own language. Father picked up the weight of the scale and said "Go and die yourself." This made the young Englishman realize what a great advantage it would be to learn to speak Icelandic. There were four or five young Icelanders who wanted to learn English. So they got together, and Father was taught Icelandic and they were taught English. Father for many years served as interpreter for the older generation and in many ways helped these Icelandic immigrants as they established themselves in the fishing industry. It was always an advantage and pleasure to him, even after he settled in Selkirk, and had a business of his own. He had many, many good Icelandic friends.

In the summer of 1880, Mrs. Flynn went in to Winnipeg to visit her folks, and on her return brought her young sister back to Hecla with her - Hester Adeline Moore, aged 20. On November 2, 1880, Richard Cobden Moody and Hester Adeline Moore were united in marriage, by Rev. Halldor Breim, minister of the Icelandic Lutheran Church. The marriage license and the minister had to be brought across the Lake by boat from Gimli.

Mother's wedding ring was hammered out of a $5.00 gold piece by an old Icelander. This same old man had other unusual abilities. He made a face for Father's watch out of a cow's horn. When the mill broke down, the old fellow repaired it, and Father fired the engineer and hired the old chap to run the mill. He asked him if he had a certificate, and was told he had. The certificate was proudly produced, and Father never knew that he had been shown a birth certificate written in Icelandic. (Father never learned to write Icelandic, only to speak it.)

It was about this time that two men - Dan. F. Reid and a Mr. Clarke - came from Collingwood to test Lake Winnipeg for commercial fishing. They conferred with Father, and asked to be shown where the Icelanders set their nets. They set half a three pound net. Mother and Father both went with them to lift it, and they had 400 Jumbo Whitefish. So the first commercial fish company on Lake Winnipeg came into being.

The summer of 1882, the lumber mill and lumber were seized for debt, and neither Father nor the crew were paid. So the Moodys and the Flynns moved to Winnipeg.

In the winter of this unfortunate year, the little six month old Moody baby contracted small pox. Mother insisted on going with him to the 'Pest House' - a miserable shack on the prairie with a minimum of care given to the unfortunate patients. Father had to take food and comforts to her at the gate of the place. Mother told of a young girl, an Irish immigrant, who suffered terribly and died, while the two men who were supposed to care for the patients were stupidly drunk. Undoubtedly, the baby boy would have died, too, had it not been for the courage and love of his young mother - she was only 22.

The Moodys moved to Selkirk in 1886, with all their worldly possessions piled high on a hay rack.

Page revised: 30 June 2009

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