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Letters from Elkhorn 1887-1890

Manitoba Pageant, Summer 1979, Volume 24, Number 4

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.

Norwood Elkhorn P.O.
19th March 1887

Dear Brother

I had your letter of Feby. 3rd. I am very glad you have got the last of the money lent to Bella. I am sure we expected to have had it paid long ago but times have not been very flourishing here, no more nor at home - what with hail storms, death in cattle, drought and fire it has made times pretty tight with us. First year we lost an ox. 2 years ago we lost another killed by lightning and a cow calving. This year we lost a horse, we had a cow choked with a turnip but we got some good of her. Crop before last nearly all lost by hail storm, this year's crop spoiled by drought. We had about 8 bushels wheat per acre the oats nearly a failure. And to crown all we had prairie fires in the fall. We fought against fires 11 days and nights excepting 2 nights. The other time we only managed to get 2 or 3 hours sleep at a time. It was pretty up-hill work I can tell you. We got our stable, implement shed, piggery and hen house and a number of other things burned but with great exertion we managed to save the house.

But I am glad to say that we have got another stable built, we have also got another horse, - we have now a team of beautiful mares, one of them in foal, - one team of fine oxen, 3 cows, a bull, 4 young cattle. We intend to put in about 100 acres in crop. Should it prove a good crop it will put us on easy circumstances as we expect to make as much off the cows as will pay our store bills. We had on the whole, a pretty good winter in Manitoba, considering we have had such stormy weather in so many places in America ... I think making butter and cheese will pay best here. We have made up our mind to go in for stock as soon as we can as I am quite sure now that mixed farming will pay best. We got 3 cows & 3 heifers to keep for a man for 2½ years. He gets back his cows at that time and we divide equally the increase. Of course we get milking them all the time for their keep. But for all our mishaps we are much better nor we were in the old country. We live pretty comfortably and have no landlord to press for the rent.

I am glad to see Mother is about her usual way. I am sorry to hear our brothers are not getting on in Australia. Poor fellows, - they have had a sad struggle... You was asking about the boys. Alick is in Elkhorn - manage a store for Mr. Rowswell. John is in a store at Griswold about 50 miles from this, near Brandon. The others are at home. 2 of them are always at James' and Gavin's place in the valley about 2½ miles off adjoining Mr. Chew's place. The 3 youngest take it in turns - we have the most of our cattle here. Bella, Sarah and their husbands are quite well. You must have a pretty busy time between Sabbath Schools and one thing and another. You ask me in your letter if we get the Herald and Hamilton Advertiser. We seldom ever get a paper of any kind from the old country. I will send you a Winnipeg paper to see what you think of it. With kindest love from all here. - to you and Mrs. Steuart - not forgetting the little boy.

I remain
Your Affe. Brother
Alick.

P.S. We are all well and in good spirits.

Ravenswood, Elkhorn P.O. Man
Aug. 24th. 1890.

Dear Uncle,

I have thot of writing you for some time back, but have really been so busy all summer, & so many visitors it is the hardest job imaginable to find time for letter writing. It is now nine o'clock. We have just got through choir practice which is held here on Sunday nights during harvest & hay time instead of Thursdays. We have English Church service in the valley at H. M. Powers, every other Sunday night thro' the summer & Fall. We often have the Parson stay with us till Monday - have a congregation of between 30 and 40. We enjoy the services very much. I suppose you would get a lot of news about the country and us from Alick. Is he changed much do you think? We have finished cutting grain but none of it is hauled in yet. Weather very backward. Dick has been cutting for the boys on Friday. Saturday was wet. Tomorrow, if fine he will be cutting for them, also on Tuesday. Then we will be hauling in or haying, haying having had to be stopped for harvest. I do hope the weather will be fine now or the crops will get spoiled. Crops are good around here, there has been frost one or two nights but not enough to hurt the grain I think. We have a young man from Glasgow working with us. Dick has quite a big crop this year and they have been kept pretty busy, about 75 acres crop. I have been busy pulling and preserving fruit for winter. The fruit is all growing wild in the woods & on the farm and is much harder to get than just sitting down and pulling in the garden. Have preserved a quantity of Saskatoons, Green Gooseberry Jam, and Jelly, Gooseberry and Saskatoon Jally, which is very like red currant jelly, Black Currant & Saskatoon Jam, Black Currant & Raspberry Jam, Lemon Marmalade & a quantity of Rhubarb. Have also made Saskatoon Wine, Vinegar, Preserved a jar of Green Peas for winter, also a jar of mixed pickles, composed of cucumbers, peas, onions, radish pods and mango mellons. Also a jar of Indian corn. Have about 33 citrons for preserves, but we keep them in a cool place & they keep without pressrving for a long time, and preserve as we want. Have still some black currants to pull for jam & jelly. Choke Cherries for wine, Hops for yeast, - have not far to go for them as the front of the house is nearly covered with the vines. Then there's cranberries to pull. We pull them before ripe (they are the latest fruit), let them ripen in baskets, then put them in an outhouse to freeze when the frost comes, and preserve just as they are wanted. I may make some black currant wine also & some raspberry vinegar if I can get the rasps. Have also some Mango Mellons to preserve & ripe cucumbers to pickle. Have nuts to pull also, Red Cabbage to pickle and Beets. - a quantity of chicory to cut up, dry and roast, then we buy coffee beans & mix to taste & grind in coffee mill. Have also dried a quantity of peas for soup in winter. I packed a box of eggs the other night also for winter. Mag & I have been as busy as bees ever since the fruit began. What with housework, washings, fruit & wine etc., making dresses, overall jackets, trousers, etc. etc., & making calls and receiving callers, entertaining visitors riding & driving. Then I have my turkeys & hens & chickens to look after, dog & cats & canary, and I coddle up the ponies a good deal too, carrying milk to them. Nearly all harvest time I had to go out to the pasture field every morning to catch Gip a mare, who was running with a colt. Neither Mr. Chew nor Mr. Anderson could catch her. Then I would run out & help when they came in to keep the colts from them until they had cooled down after work. I also do a little weeding occasionally. So you see I have not much time for idleness but as happy as a big Sun flower & so well this year it seems a treat to run round & do all I can to help my dear husband who is very kind and indulging to me. We have a very pretty place here & the fields of golden grain are so pretty. Have now a good many head of stock - horses, cattle and sheep.

Made to the stage for the mails on Friday. You would look to see me riding alone, or driving a team of horses. Rode down to Mrs. Powers twice last week. Also drove over to Mrs. Aucotts & Lindsays. Must try to get up to see Sally before long. Mag was up there for two days last week. She is well, also her wee son, who is a smart child. Father's folks are all well, boys busy with harvest. There have somewhere about 200 acres crop. Their stock I cannot tell about. They have a good many mares and horses, also cattle, & about 12 or 13 lambs.

Hope you will write soon & give me all your news about your dear wife & bairnies. Hope she is feeling stronger now, also yourself. Where does Uncle Jamie mean to go when he leaves Selms.

It is bed time so I will close with love from Dick & myself to you & your dear wife & kisses for the children from

Your's
Belle H. Chew.

Rough calculations have preserved about 107 lbs. fruit, now.

More Elkhorn letters here

Page revised: 20 July 2009

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