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The Memoirs of Lois Clarinda Twichell - Blackwell

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The following summer I went west early in July to a meeting of the Brethren at Moose Jaw, then on to Calgary and spent a few days with my Mary and her family there. In the spring, Avon had joined the ranks of the soldiers and went overseas. It was hard for dear Mary thus to see her sons going off to the terrible war. About the end of July, I went on to Kamloops, B.C. where Milton met me and I spent the months of August with his family and spent a very interesting time with them. Towards the end of the month, I left for Laura’s home a Canim Lake going by railway to Ashcroft, a couple of hours on the train, then by auto to the 100 Mile House on the Cariboo Road. Leaving that road for a newer and lower trail for 24 miles through a more or less sparsely timbered and settled country to the head of Canim Lake, where lived Lester McNeil and his wife and children, a girl of 12 and a boy of 7. They kept the Post Office and have a large ranch with accommodation for travelers. We passed but 4 houses and a schoolhouse on our way. The children were out for recess. I might say here that we left Ashcroft about 4 p.m. and reached the 70 Mile House about dark. The road had wound around the mountains on an upgrade to Clinton, about 35 miles. Clinton was a new and growing village and the railroad was running there from New Westminster. The houses or stopping places along the Cariboo Road are numbered according to their distance from the C.P.R. railroad. The 70 Mile House was a comfortable stopping place for the automobile, express train, and other travelers. A man and his wife and 4 or 5 children lived there. I did not see any neighbors but was told there were 4 or 5 scattered families and a school about two miles distance.

The next morning, after a comfortable night and a good breakfast, we started again. The road was less mountainous and we reached a height of land at about the 80 Mile House. The weather was fine and the road good. It was a government road and kept in good condition as was necessary, otherwise it would have been dangerous in many places. In good weather the journey was a pleasant one over what was to me a new and unknown country. After leaving the 80 Mile House the road became more level, more like the prairie and after we left the Cariboo Road there was less hilly country. We passed an Indian village at Rancherree as it was called there and saw a number of log houses occupied by Indians. There was also a Catholic Church and the Priest’s house where he stays when he makes his annual call.

These Indians dress like white people and their children are sent for a few months every winter to a Catholic Mission some 80 miles distant, where they are taught to read and write and the girls are taught to sew and do housework while the boys learn a trade or some other occupation; and to make themselves more comfortable and self-sustaining when at home in their villages.

We reached Lester McNeil’s about 2 P.M. The driver of the auto, whose family lived on Vancouver Island, had never been over the road before and was quite glad to get to the journey’s end. I found out, while walking to him, that he had known Arthur Flack when he lived in Emerson, Manitoba, so in that remote place I met one who knew friends of ours. Here at Lester McNeil’s, Laura met me with her husband and her little boys and, after dinner, we were taken in a gasoline launch for 14 miles down Canim Lake, an Indian name meaning Canoe Lake. It is a beautiful sheet of water 21 miles long and 7 miles wide with a dry shingle beach where grow evergreens, birches and maples of the soft variety, and many other kinds of trees and shrubs fringe its banks, lending beauty to the scene. Some small islands dot its surface and fish abound in its clear depths. It is said to be deep enough to accommodate steamers of considerable size, and maybe at some future time, the lake may be a resort for those who wish to leave the populous cities of man. I often thought as I rode along past many a sheltered spot of the lines of a poem I once read, "Let me live in a house by the side of the road, and be a friend to man". Just a comfortable home where a weary and hungry traveler might find rest and refreshment, it seems to me that would afford a pleasure that would be satisfying even in this far inland corner of B.C.

We left the lake and the inland country on October 6th and reached Ashcroft. The day was fine and the Cariboo Road was good. We stayed all night with Lest McNeil and left there the next day by car with Ben McNeil. The last I saw of Laura, she was standing on the shore of the lake with her two little boys. When shall I ever see them again? It was dark before we reached the landing place coming up the lake. Mrs. Lester McNeil was with me for she and her husband had been up to Laura’s and returned with us. Mrs. McNeil was a fine guide always encouraging me by saying it was not much farther now and that we would soon be through the meadowland. From the boat we left the men to go ahead with the grips while we followed by the light of the moon and stars. I was very tired and glad when we reached the house. But rest came speedily and we did no rise early.

I did not mention that Laura had a Chinaman to help in the house and he was very good too. They had several buildings built of peeled logs so their place looks like quite an establishment. A good, sized house, 2 large rooms below and 4 bedrooms above. They have a store 40 feet long, the upper with flour and staple groceries, patent medicines, and a good variety of dry goods such as shirts, caps, overalls, mitts, socks, boots, overshoes, sateens, prints, ginghams and woolen goods. I asked who were the customers and they told me there were some homesteaders a few miles distant and Indians from the Rancheree came there to buy, also stray travelers or perhaps a survey party or geologists; perhaps road builders, or someone seeking respite to spend a few days hunting or fishing. The chance for both is fine.

The vegetables and flowers I saw in Laura’s garden were the best I ever saw anywhere and the sample of wheat and barley was fine. The soil is very good and climate seems similar to Manitoba, rather dry in summer and fairly cold in winter, but the winter cold does not last as long as in Manitoba. In the summer they go by launch or rowboat to the head of the lake and in winter they go over the ice but in between seasons it is not easy going as they must use the road around the mountain, which is not good. However, the government has promised them it will be completed in 1924. It will be 18 miles to the head of the lake by road around the mountain. This road may be extended to Mahood Lake and Clear Lake which empties into the Clearwater River and thence, I am told, finds its way to the Thompson River and out to the ocean.

Ben McNeil has everything convenient for a large ranch including a large house and store, a bunkhouse supplied with several beds and a stove to make it comfortable for campers who may need such accommodation. Then, there is a meat house where they keep cut up and cured meat and have it ready for sale. One part of this building is divided off and made into a millhouse and fruit room. All are well built of hewn logs. A smokehouse is soon filled with smoke and the meat can hang until required. Then there is a large blacksmith shop where the large variety of farm implements can be repaired, usually in the winter months in preparation for the coming season. Besides these buildings is the cow barn, horse stable, pig pen, etc. and yards for the stock to roam. All these buildings are beside Brus Creek that empties into the lake.

A mill is needed in these parts to convert the grain into flour, which would be a boon to the scattered settlers. A sawmill would also be a great convenience. There are not enough settlers around for a school and Laura’s boys have to be sent away for schooling.

To return to our journey. We left Lester McNeil in the afternoon and went about 30 miles to the 105 Mile House on the Cariboo Road where Ben and Laura first began house keeping. This is a well-built house for the accommodation of travelers on the main road. It has 21 bedrooms and often accommodates a large number as the Barkerville Mines, 50 miles farther north, lure many travelers that way.  (Photo Below)

                 McNeil Home - Now a Heritage Site located at 108 Mile House, BC.
     This is the Ben and Laura McNeil - Blackwell Home
It is now Heritage Property and gets many visitors every year.
This is the home that Lois visited in her comments above.
                                 Photo 192

The McNeil House was once located at 105 Mile and was one of the original roadhouses. Fashioned in the classical Victorian style, the house boasted 10 bedrooms. It ceased to be a roadhouse in 1912 and is now home to a most interesting museum  Click Here to visit the website that offers more information on the area.  (Note that the bedroom count differs from what Lois stated.  I assume as time went buy, larger rooms were required so that possibly just knocked out the walls and made two small rooms into one more attractive to their cliental.  I assume only the affluent would holiday here in those days. (REB)

Note  There is a McNeil Lake that is located just off Mahood Lake Road.  Obviously, it is named in their honour.  Map

 I was left here a few hours to rest while the car took Ben a few miles up the road to do some business. When they returned, it was 5 p.m. and we drove on to the 70 Mile House. It was dark when we got there and the wind was blowing very disagreeably, making the roads very dusty. Here we stopped overnight and had a good supper and breakfast. We left about 8 o’clock for Clinton and on our way we drove through a herd of about 250 cattle in charge of 6 men on horseback. They had stopped and camped overnight on the road near Clinton. The cattle had been gathered from different ranches, some being from the 105 Mile House.

At Clinton we had our dinner and later went on to Ashcroft and there spent some time waiting for the train, which took us to Kamloops. At Kamloops, Ben engaged a bus to take me to Mrs. Kennedy’s, a friend of ours in Kamloops, but Ben went on to Calgary. Kamloops is a hilly place and it was quite dark and the bus driver had some trouble finding the home of my friend, which he finally did by the aid of a newsboy. I spent the night with my friend and the next day we went shopping and sent word to my son Milton at Barnhartvale that I would await his arrival. He came the next day and took me out to the "Vale" where I remained about three weeks and then on the last of the month, I left for Calgary.

I was loathe to leave Milton and the home of his wife and ten children. The two eldest were twin boys about 15 years; then there were four girls and four other boys, the youngest a babe, a few weeks old, and all as busy as bees. A fine family and one to be proud of. They will surely learn how to work and not be helpless if left to make their own way in the world.

Their large farm is broken by fields and hills and divided by ridges. There is a lake or pond in one part and a river around the side, and the front of it has a government ditch for irrigation purposes and affords much pleasure for the youngsters. There is fine scenery here as you may guess. The farm is 11 miles from Kamloops and on a very good road. There are some families living along the road and neighbours are not far away. The Post Office is near and the family of the Postmaster lives nearby. The school is also close by. Meetings are held in the schoolhouse alternately by an Anglican and Methodist preacher. They are not without education privileges as well as the advantages of Gospel meetings.

The four oldest and passed their entrance examinations at this time of writing (1923) and two of them were going on with their high school grades, continuing their studies under their own teacher at the country school. But the time came for me to leave and to on to Calgary where my daughter Mary was living. So with goodbyes that I felt would be our last to this dear and interesting family, I left. The trees were lovely I their autumn plumage and there was much to please the eye of the beholder and we gave our parting glances over the hills and dales and rocky summit as we took the train for Calgary City.

It was the time of the flu epidemic in 1918 when on the train, and as we approached the boundary between B.C. and Alberta, we were met by a man with a basket containing white cotton masks made of cheesecloth. He told us the law was that everyone traveling must have one as the flu was so bad and the masks prevented contagion. So the passengers were soon looking peculiar with their masks tied over their mouths but by the time we reached Calgary we were used to it. We reached Calgary October 26th. Mary with Merle and Bernie were there. Avon and Hallie were overseas. Mary was living in part of a house with Mrs. Thompson and her daughter. The latter was a schoolteacher and we learned from her that the flu was very prevalent and all the schools were closed, and public meetings, churches and all large gatherings were banned.

The teachers were all enlisted as nurses and some of the schools were turned into hospitals and the sick were everywhere. The reports in the papers about the state of the city seemed, aside from the war reports, the most interesting topic. Calls from the country places came for help and nearly all of the people of the small towns were laid low with flu. Several autos were in constant use taking soup and other necessities to houses where there was no one to cook for the sick. There were many deaths and it was indeed a time of mourning.

Miss Thompson had had the flu but was recovered before I arrived there. Mary’s boy Bernie (10.2.4.2.3) was just getting over it when I came there. Miss Thompson was with the volunteer nurses and went out to help in a country home. The care of the sick was the major task of the times.

While with my dear Mary, I attended a number of lectures by a Mr. Ferguson on the British Israel question. They were very interesting and from his viewpoint one would conclude the evidence very strong in favor of the idea that the last 10 tribes of Israel found a home in the British Isles. From there our Anglo-Saxon race had sprung. The meetings were not large but there were a few who were quite convinced that the British descended from the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If so, great is the responsibility of Great Britain for she must use her wonderful opportunities to Christianize the world and spread the Gospel to every corner of the Globe.

While in Calgary news came that the armistice was sighed and great was the rejoicing and the public demonstrations of thankfulness could not be prevented. A wonderful meeting was held in the Allan Theatre where some fine speeches were made and some wonderful music played. It was a real Thanksgiving, especially by the Jews as they felt that the day was not approaching when it would be acknowledged that Palestine was the real homeland of the Jews, from which they had been exiled over the earth in bondage to the Gentile nations.

Not long after, the news came that Avon’s Battalion was coming home. They had not been in action but were at Rimmel Camp, Wales, when the Armistice was signed. They had gone overseas in a boat that was originally intended for a cattle boat and had left Canada before the flu epidemic. A few soldiers were not very well before the boat started but it was thought they just had colds and would soon recover. But they grew worse and the third day at sea, the first death occurred and they buried at sea the first victim of the flu. The number of deaths slowly increased until as many as seven died in one day.

Avon said it was a terrible nightmare, the like of which resembled a nightmare that he did not wish to think of. Over thirty deaths occurred during the 14 days they were at sea. When they landed at Bristol, 150 were taken ashore in ambulances and conveyed to hospital there and the boat went on to its final destination where the rest of the soldiers went ashore and marched to their camp. It was a long weary tramp to some who were not strong and they had to be allowed to rest often and sometimes the stronger men had to help the weaker ones along. When they arrived at the camp they were given hot coffee and had a rest, which they sorely needed. It was past midnight when they went to bed but they were allowed to sleep late in the next morning. Avon had helped to care for the sick while on board but had mercifully escape the flu himself. He said there were no new cases in camp and all recovered, as well as those in hospital at Bristol.

There was a wonderful time in Brandon when the soldier boys passed through on their way to camp before going overseas. All of their friends met the train and many walked up and down past the loaded cars of soldiers and many were the kind words and cheers for them, and many a warm handclasp for the departing ones, some of whom, alas, never returned to home and friends and rest beneath the ocean wave or on the poppy fields of France.

Avon said letters from his mother reached him while he was I camp in Wales but word had come that Calgary was terribly stricken with the flu. He knew not until he reached Calgary whether there would be anyone to welcome him home and his joy at finding his mother and sister and Bernie at the station to meet him was great you may be sure.

Hal had gone overseas before Avon and was still in England where he was retained as Medical Examiner at some of the camps of Canadian soldiers till they were returned to Canada. Had did not return home for about a year later. I remained in Calgary with Mary until after Avon came home and then she wanted me to stay as long as possible or until Christmas at least. The children in Brandon wanted me to come there for Christmas, so I remained with Mary until Dec 23rd.

We had a wonderful time there together and with Mrs. Thompson and her daughter. Bernie got some work to do in the express office and Avon some work in the Post Office. Merle had got through with her course in Business College and had a position in an office. So the day for parting came. I left my darling Mary and her family and came on to Kirkella.
 Charlie and Lena met the train but they did not go on to Brandon then and I did not get off the train but went on to Brandon, arriving there December 24th.

I had been a long time in the west, since the last of June. I had spent five or seven days at the General assembly of the Brethren at Moose Jaw over the 1st of July, and then with Mary at Calgary till the end of the month; then on to Kamloops, and the month of august was spent at Milton’s; then I went on to Laura’s, the end of the month was with them in their far away inland home for about six weeks, and was there on my 77th birthday. (1918)(REB) Laura made a cake for the occasion and seven large candles, one for each ten years of my life, then seven smaller ones for the seven odd years. Laura’s little boys enjoyed it very much and we all had a nice time. There were some travelers there too and altogether we had a very pleasant time. Then back to Milton’s for about three weeks, having stopped a couple of days at Kamloops with friends there; then on to Calgary, and finally back to Brandon.

I remained in Brandon all winter most of the time at Norma’s, as she had a very comfortable house and plenty of room and I could often see Ernest and family and go to them and also see Seraph, who was teaching in Brandon and had been for some time. In the spring, I returned to Charlie on the farm and was with them till into June; then I went to Winnipeg where George lived. I also spent some time at Will Kennedy’s, then went to Alvin’s at Wellwood, then with Ernest in the car to his farm near Killarney. Norma and her husband had gone there to run Ernest’s farm.

Norma was sick for a long time that summer but finally I could leave her as she had good health. I left there October 13th, Thanksgiving Day. Mrs. Victor Blaker drove me to Nannette Station in a horse and buggy. The day was fine and mild and I was soon in Brandon. I soon went to Alvin’s at Wellwood and so went another day there before returning to Kirkella.

Meantime a little girl had come to Charlie’s home, July 7th, and their home seemed to have added attraction. The little girl was very sweet with her mother’s dark hair and eyes, a lovely little darling, and they called her Ivy Rose, and she seemed the light and sunshine of their prairie home. The days sped by. Summer was soon gone and autumn was here and winter came on. I stayed on the farm that winter and Ernest and family and Norma and family came up for Christmas. I went to Woolsey to the General Meeting of the Brethren. It was indeed a wonderful meeting and there were a number of conversions at that gathering.

Returned home for a time and George was here on a Mission for the Government, Crop Inspector for this part of the Province. We arranged, George and I, to go to Minnesota and went in august. We visited at Alexandria and Holmes City on the families made up of the children of Henry Blackwell, my husband’s brother, and we went then to Anoka and were entertained my a Mrs. Ella Magson, the daughter of my old friend Mrs. Kelsy. We spent a very pleasant day and night there and met Mrs. Candy and Mrs. Quincy, old schoolmates, and called at my old prairie home, then a young girl, and the trees in the yard that my mother and I had planted when I was teaching in the Quaker settlement, and old Mrs. Price dug the trees out of the swamp and brought them down to my father’s farm one day when he was going to Anoka. The trees were fine tall trees and at least 60 years old. The house is still good. Some additions have been made to it but in the main it is the same as when I left for Canada in the fall of 1864.

Anoka, MN. in the early 1900s
Photo Courtesy of Anoka County Historical Society
Photo 232

From Anoka, we went to Zimmerman where a granddaughter of Uncle Henry Blackwell’s lived, (Ruth McKenzie), now Mrs. Charles Cohoes. We had a pleasant visit there overnight and then went to Minneapolis where Stella Chase lived. She was the daughter of my niece, Mrs. Chase. She took us to her brothers and we spent the night there with Stella in her room.

The next day, Steve Chase told us to see another of Mrs. Chase’s granddaughters, Mrs. Clara Drum. There we spent the night. Her husband is a railroad man and arrives home early in the morning. We had a pleasant visit there until Sunday afternoon when Mr. Chase came for us and took us about the city and out to a park by Lake Como and Lake Harriet. Before we went to Mrs. Drum’s, Mrs. Chase had gone with George to see the Capitol in St. Paul. We had been to the Parliament Buildings in Winnipeg before we went to Minnesota (In error, every province has Legislature Buildings. Parliament Buildings are only in Ottawa. A lot of people refer to the Legislature Buildings as Parliament Buildings even to this day - Even Canadians)  The Federal Government sits in Parliament. (Ottawa) The Provincial Governments sit in the Legislature in each Province..  (REB)

Early Monday morning we took the train for Grantsburg, Wisconsin, to visit a nephew of mine, Ernest Howard Smith., arriving there about noon. My nephew met us and, after having dinner at the house of a friend, took us behind a pair of his nice horses and light spring wagon to his home ten miles into the country, where we met his wife. We also met a Miss Telford from Winona, a teacher. She was spending her holidays there, far removed from the din and bustle of the city and free from the cares of the schoolroom. (Ernest Howard Smith is from the Twichell side by marriage) (REB) (View Webpage)

Ernest had things in a rather primitive style but had some 20 head of good-looking cattle. He had no help but a young boy of 12 or 14 years of age. He and his wife Susie seemed very happy together and were getting along very comfortably. We spent the night there and the next morning he and his wife took us back to the station and we took the train back to Minneapolis, reaching there about 4:30 p.m. We were met by Mr. & Mrs. Steve Chase and Mrs. Drum. After supper at a restaurant, they saw us off on the train for Winnipeg.

We were on the train all night. I had not been very well on the train, could not sleep all night, but we arrived in Winnipeg about 8 p.m. We were on the streetcar for Stoney Mountain and were at George’s home by 9 o’clock. We found Ruth was the housekeeper as George’s wife had not yet returned from a trip to B.C. After breakfast, George hurried to his schoolroom and I went to bed for most of that day. While on our trip, we met 44 relatives and friends, attended Church on Sunday in Alexandria, a meeting at Lowry and a Prayer Meeting at Anoka, and in all traveled by train, motor car, street car and lumber wagon a distance well over 700 miles.

We saw much of St. Paul and Minneapolis and some other towns of interest and did the whole in barely two weeks, arriving the first day of September in time for the opening of school term at Stoney Mountain, well pleased with our trip too and visits with our many friends. We say the town of Anoka where George was born on May 14th, 1864 and now I have come back with him 56 years later. (1920) He was a baby when I took him away on the 9th of October, 1867 and now we had come back together in 1920 but my boy took care of me on this trip and I was well cared for. We were very tired but stayed at George’s till Mary, his wife, returned on the Saturday.

Sunday afternoon, Will Kennedy and wife came over from Winnipeg. I returned with them and stayed 2 or 3 days when I went on to Brandon, later to Kirkella and home. We found all well at home and stayed till the cold weather set in, then went to Brandon for the winter. That fall and winter were much as usual but Seraph, who was teaching in Brandon, broke down at Christmas and was no longer able to teach. She spent some time at the hospital, then went to Norma’s for a time and later to Ernest’s.

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EPILOGUE

Up to two years before her death, Mrs. Lois Clarinda Blackwell enjoyed good health and continued to travel and visit her many friends and loved ones. She settled finally in Kirkella with her daughter, Norma Wilkinson, and later took two serious strokes which deprived her of the use of her right hand and her power of speech, although her other faculties remained normal. But her strength gradually declined until she finally passed away on Friday, November 27th, 1925

She was laid to rest beside her husband in Brandon Cemetery on Sunday, November 29th, 1925, and was survived by five sons and three daughters:

George H. Blackwell, who was Principal of Darlington School, Manitoba;
Alvin W. Blackwell of Brandon;
Milton F. Blackwell of Kamloops, B.C.;
John Ernest Blackwell of Killarney, Manitoba;
Seraph Blackwell of Brandon;
Laura (Mrs. B. H. McNeil) of Canim Lake, B.C.;
Norma (Mrs. C. Wilkinson) of Brandon.         (View all the Children on the Website)

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THE END

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