It's awesome what you can find on the web.. My Grandma Grace's family lived around Birch Hills, Saskatchewan. Researching Birch Hills, I stumbled across a local history, complete with many family biographies. Several of those biographies were written by Grandma's brother, my great uncle, Arnold Davis.
I only met met my Uncle Arnold a few times and never knew him well. I knew he was a hero, who had fought in WWII in Africa, Sicily, and Italy, and that he was interested in family history. When I met him, he seemed to be a very warm, personable man who had a bit of a twinkle in his eye. When I began researching family history, I found several references to him on the web. He was deeply involved in his community in Birch Hills and with the Legion, so it was no surprise when I found he had written some priceless family biographies.
Below is his biography of his parents, my great-grandparents, Charles "Charlie" Elijah Davis and Emily Robina Elizabeth Campbell. I added links to some interesting supporting records to his story.. Also,at the bottom, I linked Emily's and Charlie's obituaries, which add some additional information about their lives.
I've heard some stories about Charlie Davis from my father. He mentioned that after Emily died, my grandma Grace kept buying him clothes. One day when they were over at his house, they looked in his closet and saw all the clothes, never worn, hanging neatly in his closet. In another story, Charlie once came home after having a few drinks. Emily, a teetotaler, locked him out of the house until he swore never to imbibe again.
Since his brothers apparently spent more time with Charlie, my Dad says that they probably know more about him. I think I need to start hassling them.
There are several other biographies in these local histories, some specifically about family members, some that mention family members, such as my uncles. One even mentioned a school yard scrap! I'll write about those later.
Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Davis
By Arnold Davis
Charles Davis was born near Bancroft, in Hastings County, Ontario, in the year 1881. He was the oldest child of seven [nine] boys and girls. His scanty education was received at a one-room rural school. Charles Davis worked on the family farm and spent the winters as a lumberjack in the Ontario woods. In 1903 he came west on a harvest excursion and stayed in the west. He worked in the woods and the Prince Albert Lumber Co. Mill in East Prince Albert or Goshen as it was called. He bought a livery barn in 1909 in Prince Albert. In 1909 Charles Davis and Emily Campbell were united in marriage at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Prince Albert.
Emily Campbell was the daughter of Peter Campbell and Emma Campbell, both from Ontario. They had come west to the Puckhan (later Fenton) district in 1878 by train to Minnesota, by democrat to the Red River and the last stage by Red River ox cart to Fenton. Peter later served in the North West uprising of 1885. For this service he received “script" for 'A section of land. It might be of interest that he chose one quarter owned later by Bob Dunning and still later by Sigurd and Greta Hoknes. The other quarter was the Forbey Campbell quarter and now owned by Willard and Eunice Evans.
The Davises lived in Prince Albert until 1911 and moved to Shellbrook where Charles operated a livery barn. In those days a livery barn operator not only had the barn for stabling and custom feeding of stock but also ran a livery service. This entailed going out whatever the weather or the condition of the roads driving doctors, police officers, homestead inspectors, cattle buyers, and the general public. Roads were dirt and mud holes were frequent. Many roads were just wagon trails through the bush.
Charlie Davis operated the livery barn at Shellbrook until 1918. That year the Birch Hills Board of Trade approached him with a view to his starting a livery barn at Birch Hills. The barn was built and in August, 1918, the family moved to Birch Hills. At that time there were five children in the family. Peter was born in Prince Albert; Emma, Grace, Elmer and Arnold (twins) were all born in Shellbrook. In Birch Hills, two more children were born, Charles, (known as ‘Pat’) in 1922 and John in 1924.
During his time in Birch Hills Charlie Davis bought and sold cattle, horses and feed as well as running the livery barn and driving livery. He owned a couple of river lots in St. Leonard's district but he sold these in 1928 and bought a 1/2 section 6 miles west of Birch Hills. For two terms he served on the village council including one term as overseer.
The livery barn burnt down in 1930 and with its burning an era passed. Many memories still remain of tales told around a hot stove in the barn office. The stories included Walter Crossing's tales of the American wild west as it was in the 1870’s and 1880's and my father's experiences in the woods, and on livery trips. We often heard about a trip taken in 1909 to the foothills of the Rockies with an Indian Guide to secure Alberta broncos. This herd of horses was driven overland to Prince Albert and sold.
Immigrants from the British Isles and Central Europe would tell of their hard life in Europe and their great difficulties in establishing a new life in Canada; but here, they always all said “We own our land”. These people would spent as much as two or three days in Birch Hills waiting for their grain to be gristed into a year's supply of flour. During this time they ate and slept in the office of the barn.
One of my father's most memorable livery trips was on a 48 below winter's day to take the late John Diefenbaker back to Wakaw in time to defend a case at law there. Both the late Rt. Hon. John Diefenbaker and my father mentioned this trip long after and recalled how difficult it was.
From 1930 until 1943 the Davises lived on the farm for two months in the summer and then returned to Birch Hills for the school term. In 1943 their house in Birch Hills burned and they lived from then to 1961 on the farm. For a time in the 1930's Charles Davis worked for the Dept. of Highways as well as farmed. He was a member of the R.M. of Birch Hills rural council for ten years. The Davises retired to Birch Hills in 1961 and Mrs. Davis passed away in 1969 and Charles Davis in 1973.
My mother was a kind, gentle person engrossed with her family. A daughter of the west and of an original pioneer family, she knew all the difficulties of pioneering. My father was, above all, a horseman, and he loved horses. He rode them, drove them, showed them at fairs from Melfort to Prince Albert. He, too, knew the rough but kind pioneering ways. He had many friends from every district and from every ethnic group.