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Once Upon a Household

by Helen Waugh

Manitoba Pageant, Winter 1975, Volume 20, Number 2

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.

It is with the kind permission and co-operation of Mr. Lewis Ealing, 17 Vivian Avenue, St. Vital, Manitoba, that this story was made available.

Albert Ealing came out from England in 1906. He was a landscape gardener, and, in that way, he hoped to make enough money to consider homesteading in the Interlake area of Manitoba, recently opened to settlers, and where he had heard there were already several British families.

The homestead regulations required the applicant to pay $10.00 when filing for 160 acres of land. The location could be the applicant’s choice where land was available. He must live on the land six months of each year for the first three years, put up a building and break not less than thirty acres. At the end of the three years, upon receipt of his patent, he became the legal owner of the 160 acres.

Albert Ealing filed his application early in 1908. In September of that year, he and his wife moved up to what was known as Parkview, an area between Lily Bay on Lake Manitoba and Lundar. Three weeks after their arrival, when they were living in a tent, Mrs. Ealing died very suddenly. This was tragedy indeed for the strange young Englishman facing his first venture in an unfamiliar land. However he soon learned the kindness and generosity of the settlers around him. Before the cold weather set in, neighbors had helped him put up a small cabin and done all in their power to prepare him for the difficulties ahead in a prairie winter. Realizing that he could not carry on alone with the massive task ahead of him, in the spring of 1909 Albert wrote to his younger brother in England asking him to join him. Lewis Ealing arrived that summer and the two brothers took on landscaping work in Winnipeg to make enough money to establish themselves on the homestead and thus fulfill the requirements for future ownership.

In September 1909, they bought a two wheeled cart, a tent, stove, tools and a plentiful supply of groceries. Albert remembered it had cost him thirty dollars to go by wagon team from Oak Point to the homestead on his original trip. He suggested that they ship the whole unit by rail to Oak Point, then pull it from there. The station-master at Westside Station dashed their hopes. Everything, he said, including the cart, would have to be crated in order to ship it by rail. This was a blow. It would cost a lot of money, which they did not have, a lot of work and a delay they could not risk. Their only feasible plan, said Albert, was to pack the cart carefully and pull it all the way from Winnipeg. Being a green immigrant, blissfully ignorant of the 90 miles ahead, Lewis agreed. They started out.

They made sixteen miles that first day, but the farther they got from Winnipeg, the worse the wagon-trails became. The cart wheels did not span as wide as the horse-wagon tracks. However they were young, strong men in their early twenties, their hearts full of courage and dreams of the future, so they took their time, camped in the tent at night, rested in pleasant spots, and quite probably enjoyed themselves, At the end of three weeks they reached the homestead.

They found men of all trades in that country, but few of them were farmers. Albert was a landscape gardener and an artist. Lewis had plenty of practical ability but he found that not much of it was suitable to managing a breaker plough on the tough prairie sod at the rear end of two un-cooperative thick headed oxen. The breaker plough of those days was a machine with a sharp cutting front blade and behind that a curved sloping mold board to turn over the rich black soil. They found only the first few inches rich and black, after that, gravel and hard pan. In spite of their mistakes, which were legion, and the back breaking toil from dawn to dark in all weathers, the two men did get their thirty acres broken during those first three years. The stones had to be cleared by hand and carted to the boundaries. The job seemed to go on forever. At the end of the three years, the brothers had fulfilled all homestead regulations, received their patent, and the one hundred and sixty acres was theirs.

In February, 1920, Albert Ealing was lost in one of those sudden, unpredictable prairie snowstorms while on his way from Lily Bay to Lundar. Three weeks after he was buried beside his wife in the tiny Lily Bay cemetery, Lewis and his wife left the homestead to take up another life in Winnipeg.

The Ealings never forgot that section of their life where so many deep and lasting friendships were made, where everyone shared in good times and bad, and no one counted the cost if it meant a neighbour was in need.

Page revised: 20 July 2009

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