Olsons Move to Canada
The young couple began their married life at Atwater, Minnesota, where their first four children, Walter (born 1898), Esther (born 1900), George (born 1902), and baby Eddie (born 1904), were born. In 1905, they decided to emigrate to Western Canada. Loading up all their belongings, they travelled by train north to the Brownlee area of Saskatchewan to take advantage of the homestead opportunities. Ole's brother, Andrew, also came to Canada. Andrew was not married and looked forward to the adventure.
Ole and Andrew both acquired homesteads at Brownlee, proved up on the land and farmed there.
Olof homesteaded the northwest quarter of Section 4, Township 21, Range 29, W2M, and Andrew homesteaded the southwest quarter - see Saskatchewan Homestead Records.. Olof's name is spelled "Olaf Olson" on the homestead records, and Andrews is spelled "Bengt Anders Olson".
The young family is listed in the 1906 Canada Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Life was quite hard in those days. The railroad had not been extended to Brownlee yet, so when the Olsons first arrived in Canada they had to travel by train to Caron, then they crossed the prairie by wagon to Brownlee. The youngest baby, Eddie, was only a year old, and George was only 3. Esther was 5 so she was still pretty small, but Walter was 7, so he perhaps was big enough to help his dad with the wagon. Christine was also pregnant with Martha, who was born in 1906, so the trip must have been especially difficult for her.
This part of Saskatchewan was a vast land with no trees and gently rolling hills and coulees. There was an abundance of wild life, antelope, deer, coyotes, ducks, geese and other birds. Wild berries, such as saskatoons, blueberries, and strawberries, were abundant around the sloughs and were gathered and preserved for use throughout the winter. Picking berries was always an enjoyable outing on a warm, sunny Saskatchewan day.
Christine brought with her three items she thought important: fried pork, flour, and an old fence post. They had just butchered before they left the U.S., and one way of preserving pork was to fry it and cover it with lard. This would keep it from spoiling for quite some time. This is the pork they carried with them. Another item they brought with them was flour. However, when Christine used the Canadian flour that was milled from hard wheat, she found it much better for baking bread than the soft wheat flour they had brought with them from the States. As a result, they never used up the American flour. Christine also brought an old fence post (you never knew when it would come in handy), but it was left at the homestead in Brownlee after 1913 when again they decided to move.
By 1913, Andrew had married, and he and his wife, having proved up on their land, decided to move back to Minnesota. Ole was not in a financial position to buy Andrew's farm so he had no option but to sell his land at Brownlee and move further west to homestead new land by taking up a pre-emption - a purchased homestead near Riverhurst, Saskatchewan. By this time, there had been 3 more children born: Martha (1906), Earl (1908) and Ernie (1910). With a total of 7 children, from the ages of 3 to 15, the move was on again. They repeated all the things they had previously done just a few years before, pulling up stakes and moving out to a new homestead, breaking land, and building a house and barn. Fortunately they came from the south side of the South Saskatchewan River so they didn't need to cross the Riverhurst Ferry, which was often not running.
In 1913, the family arrived in the Rolling Prairie district, at their new homestead. The name Rolling Prairie was chosen as the land was hilly, prairie landscape as far as the eye could see. The Olsons moved all their children and belongings by team and wagon in the spring. They had their livestock, chickens, furniture, dishes and cooking utensils with them. During the summer they were able to live on another man's farm where there was a house they could stay in; it didn't have to be large, as long as everybody fit. They lived there while their house was being built. Christine's brothers were all carpenters, and they had come along too so were able to build the house, this being only one building in the area built by these men. By autumn, the house was finished and they were able to move onto their homestead.
Barns in the Rolling Prairie area were built of sod or lumber. Most of the settlers had a herd of milk cows and a team of two or more horses. The Olsons loved their animals - Arthur Olson named all his cattle. They would have used a plough, disc, harrow, mower and rake and binder to farm their land.
The next big family event happened in September 1913 with the birth of Arthur. Ole and Christine now had 8 children. The local midwife then was Mrs. Heieie, the wife of another homesteader. Mrs. Heieie is responsible for the successful entry into the world of a great many people living in this area of rural Saskatchewan.
Ole was soon able to purchase another ¼ section of land, which added to what they presently held, giving them a ½ section in total. The family settled comfortably into their new home. They planted a garden, raised chickens and turkeys, and picked lots of berries. These early pioneer families made great use of everything and were very adept at preserving foods. Canning was always a big part of their food preparation skills.
By 1917, the Canadian National Railroad had installed a railroad line into Riverhurst. This brought the railroad a little closer to the Olson farm.
The Olsons called their farm Grand View, because of its spectacular view of the valley below. The house was not large; it had a large, warm kitchen with a huge cookstove, a fair-sized livingroom/diningroom combination, and a small bedroom on the main floor (where Ole and Christine slept). This room also held a very beautiful pump organ which all the children played. There was a large bedroom that extended over the whole top floor. This room was such a good size that it could hold many beds.
The Olson family was very musical. Music had always been a big part of the Olson's family culture. As well as playing the organ, they also played the violin, fiddle, guitar and harp - instruments they had brought with them. The large pump organ was always a fascination for the grandchildren, and the ones who took piano lessons were allowed to play it from time to time. Although four of the Olsons never acquired musical skills, they very much enjoyed the music the rest of the family generated. These instruments have since been passed down to the grandchildren.
The pioneers of these days used inventive means to heat and light their homes, one item being buffalo chips, which were dried manure from the buffalo or cattle who roamed the area. Buffalo chips were quite efficient as heating fuel. Wood was chopped, and brush as well, and both used for fuel. Coal oil lamps were used for light and later gasoline lamps were used. In the fall and throughout the winter, the men would haul coal from Chaplin, a distance of 25 miles, and Gilroy, Lawson and Riverhurst. Grain was hauled to these communities by team to be marketed. Most of the grain was hauled in the winter and the trips were long and cold. The family also shopped in the closest communities like Chaplin for groceries and supplies. The items they purchased were ones they couldn't provide for themselves, such as coffee, sugar, salt, and pepper. They were able to supply all of their other food items themselves.
The Rolling Prairie School was built in 1911 on the SE/4 of Section 20, Township 20, Range 6, W3M, on land owned by the Olson brothers (Walter, Eddie, Art, and Everett). This had originally been Carl Olson's homestead, but was later owned by Walter Olson. The school opened in 1912 and Grades 1 to 8 were taught. Rolling Prairie School operated until 1963, when it closed after 51 years of service.
Lutheran church services were held in the Rolling Prairie school until a church was built in Chaplin in the late 1950's. The church choir was lead by Earl Olson and John Svaren and consisted of about 18 members. Earl was the organist and when Earl left the area, Lawrence Olson took over these duties. Afer Lawrence left home, Marion Olson and Gayleen Svaren were the organists. The Rolling Prairie Quartette consisted of John Svaren, Lawrence Olson, Arthur Olson and Melvin Johnson.
In 1914, Walter Olson was 16 and taking on jobs in the area. Esther was about 14, and she was busy helping her mother and at the same time learning how to care for a family, such as washing clothes, baking, cooking, etc. There were always good neighbours close by and lots of relatives as well. Settlers came from all over, Ontario, England, Norway, and many other counties around the world. All these cultures commingled to create a new culture in this area of settlement in the Canadian west.
By 1919, Walter was 21 and had acquired a homestead of his own. He had married and was the first to leave home and start building a life of his own. Sadly, in 1920, his wife, Ivy, died in childbirth. This kind of death was not rare but nevertheless always hard to accept. A great number of women in those years died in childbirth and many of their babies as well. Many cemeteries in Western Canada have graves marked with the mother's and baby's names together.
Health care during these years was sparse, and mainly consisted of the local midwife, who was also usually a trained nurse and the only medical expert in the area. When somebody got sick or went into labour to have their child, they usually tried to cope themselves, and if they couldn't, the midwife did the best she could. Another condition that often led to death was appendicitis because the doctors were usually quite far away, and appendicitis usually required surgery. Often the doctors did not arrive in time to save the patient. Also, the flu epidemic of 1918-1919 led to the death of many children in the area and many family members of the Olsons and Logstroms in the U.S., such as Christine's younger sister, Martha, and brother, Albin Eric. When the flu epidemic struck the Rolling Prairie area in 1918-1919, Dr. Straith attended the sick.
In 1920, Marion was born, the 11th of the Olson children, and in 1922 Everett, the youngest, and 12th, came along.
The Olsons always raised turkeys, and Christine always had a big flock. New neighbours had moved to the area from the U.S., where turkeys were wild and would commonly be seen wandering around hunting for food. The neighbour saw this big flock of turkeys, ran and got his gun, and started shooting them. Somebody told him, "Don't shoot them! Those are the Olson's turkeys!". From that time on, the family had the nickname "Turkey Olson".
Ole B. was quite a talented man in many areas: he was a clockmaker, he repaired organs, he was an amateur veterinarian, and shoemaker. These extra jobs all added to the financial wellbeing of the family. Other members of the family, being very talented musically, also belonged to dancebands and played for dances throughout the area, and this also was a good source of income for the family.
After his wife died, Walter left home and moved to South Dakota, where he remarried. In 1920, Esther married George Jennings and moved to their new home, which was very close.
The Olsons were very social people and joined in all the social events of the area - bees of various kinds, house parties, musical get-togethers, baseball and hockey. Christine always looked forward to these events. Sunday was Christine's favourite day - the Olsons' home was always a great gathering place on Sundays, when neighbours and relatives alike gathered and visited, playing music, singing, and playing games outside when the weather was nice.
By 1925, George had moved to the west coast of Oregon. Even with George and Walter both being gone from home and Esther being married, there were still quite a few young people living at home.
One personality trait that seems to have been passed along to many of Christine's descendents is this .. Christine was always the type of person who worried, worried, worried! She would always say "I worried, I worried." She worried about her children, about the times they lived in, about her grandchildren. She worried, worried, worried!
In 1916, the telephone came to the area, and in 1930-31 the Canadian National Railway was built through Aquadell. This brought train service once a week, providing transportation for people, cream shipments, wheat and other grains. The first automobiles came to the area in about 1919, with Mannie Nelson purchasing his first Model T Ford. Hans Heieie operated the first steam threshing machine, and did threshing for the surrounding area.
The depression and drought hit in the 1930's and lasted 10 years. People relied on relief from the government for food, fodder, and seed. There were many prairie fires in the early years, and later insects, weeds and hail were troubles the residents had to deal with.
The Olson family survived the depression, and at the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, the size of the family living at home had dwindled somewhat. Martha had gotten married and moved to Portland, Oregon. Margaret was married and living in the area. Earl was playing with an danceband in Swift Current, and Ernie was also away working. At home still were Eddie, Art, Lawrence, Everett and Marion.
During the war, Earl, Ernie, Everett and Lawrence all joined the Canadian Air Force. By this time, the economy had picked up, and the price of grain had improved after the development of the Canadian Wheat Board. Also during the war, there was more employment because so many young people were involved in the war effort in different capacities.
Art and Eddie stayed at home during the war to help Ole with the farming operation. Marion had remained home as well to help and support her mother, who found it hard when her boys were away at the war. Marion never married, although she had a young man in love with her. He asked her to marry him, but she put him off, not wanting to leave Christine, and finally he couldn't wait any longer to marry. Marion must not have been in love with him because Christine would never have held her back if she really wanted to marry, and also this young man lived in the area, close to the Olsons, so Marion would not have been far from her mother if she had married him.
After the war, Earl, Ernie, and Lawrence all married and increased the number of Christine's and Ole's grandchildren. Christine always enjoyed having the grandchildren at the farm, but she was always warning, "Don't go into the barn - the bull might step on you." or "Don't go near the geese; they'll bite you." or "Don't go into the stooks! There are mice in there." She always foresaw the dangers of the farm, and worried for her grandchildren.
In 1955, Ole B. Olson died at the age of 80. This left a huge hole in the family. Thankfully Christine was not alone; she had Marion, Eddie, and Art still living at home with her. Later on Everett returned home and joined the farming operation with Art and Eddie.
Time went on, and the family was able to obtain a few of the modern conveniences that were now available. They had a telephone installed. The line had been installed in about 1917, and from that time on they were on the rural telephone line, which was a big asset to them even though during the early years it wasn't too reliable. By 1955 or 1956, power came to rural Saskatchewan and to their area. For the first time, they enjoyed the modern convenience of having electricity, which allowed them to have many modern appliances. Radio had become quite a source of entertainment for the family. By 1955, television came to the province. For the first few years reception wasn't very good, but it was such a novelty that people would even sit and watch the Indian on the test tube. Running water and sewer services made quite a change in their lives. They no longer had to go outside to the little outdoor toilet in the trees during the dead of winter. Better farm machinery was purchased, which made the farming operation easier and yields more bountiful.
In 1963, Esther was tragically killed in a car accident near Outlook, Saskatchewan. In 1966, Earl passed away at age 58 from complications of asthma. The following year, Eddie, who had been a little baby when they came to Canada, died due to a heart condition. Christine was getting older, and she found it extremely hard to lose her children. Children should always outlive their parents, and Christine had lost so many. Thankfully, Marion and the boys were close, and helped her through those hard times.
Christine always tried to stay active in her latter years, and she was still quite able to bake bread, one of her proud achievements. She also made cakes and did some canning. She often had a little help when working.
Christine and Boysie
Christine always had a certain wit, which many of her descendents have inherited. She would joke about her lack of teeth, and whether she could talk the dentist into giving her false teeth that would make room for her only remaining bottom tooth as she had become quite attached to it. She always enjoyed a little drink of Johnnie Walker scotch whiskey. She would always ask for a little "Yonnie Walker" in her lilting, delightful, Swedish accent. Many times for her birthday her children and grandchildren would bring little 2-oz. bottles of scotch whiskey. She always enjoyed having a little drink "to help things along".
Christine never like sitting around. She always liked to go places, but she was a little leery of cars. She enjoyed visiting and telling stories of the early days in Brownlee and about the roughnecks, the bars, etc. She remembered all the happenings over the years, the depression they had come through, all the sickness in the family, and all the company that were always so welcome at her home.
Ole and Christine were people who always enjoyed company. They never expected anything in return. Because of their generous nature, they wanted to be good to everybody. Luckily, over the years, Christine remained physically healthy, and if there was a car going somewhere, she would like to go. She was always very happy when the family came home. Because so many of her children lived far away, they would come home to stay for a few weeks, and she and Ole always looked forward to these visits.
The Olson family loved animals, especially dogs and cats. One of their dogs was Nettie, a border collie who was very adept at rounding up cattle. They had a very large cat, Boisy, who loved to sleep under the warm cookstove in the kitchen. Even though he wasn't allowed in the house, you could find him under the stove any time of the day. The children also brought home their pets, and Christine used to comment on how Ernie's cat would always steal her chair if she got up for just one minute. Their horse, Topsy, was a beautiful brown mare used for rounding up cattle. When she got too old, Eddie purchased a barrel racer, Lady, who had been injured and was forced into retirement. The Olson physique, which survives to this day, was very unique and could be a problem when riding horses. Having an extremely long body and short legs, Eddie would always have to mount his new barrel racer from a ledge because his legs were so short, and her legs were so long. After he was mounted, though, he sat tall in the saddle.
Christine died in 1968 at the ripe old age of 89. She died of a perforated ulcer - maybe that Johnnie Walker didn't help things along too well after all. All Ole's and Christine's children have passed away now too. Marion was the last to go, even though she wasn't the youngest. Fortunately, Earl's children were able to visit Marion, Art and Everett quite often before they passed away. The whole Olson family is missed by their many grandchildren and also the greatgrandchildren who were not able to get to know them.
The Olson saga continues; Ole and Christine left many descendents thru their 12 children. The family has spread out over all of North America, with many living in Western Canada and the United States.