My grandmother, Grace Merle Lorraine Davis, was born on a Wednesday, October 13, 1915 in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan, a village of only 300 men, women and children. Although small, Shellbrook was a busy little hub, home to a doctor, butcher, barber, bookkeeper, blacksmith, druggist, photographer, newspaper, bank, grain elevator, laundry, school, livery, restaurant, creamery, lumber yard, post office, hotel, pool room, and railroad station.
Shellbrook was also a multicultural little village. While half the inhabitants were native-born Canadians of Ontario or Quebec ancestry, the other half were immigrants from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Russia, Austria, the United States and China. While the two largest religious groups were Anglican and Catholic, there were also Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Mormons, Jews, Christian Scientists, and even two men who declared their region as "none", including Robert Davis, Grace's uncle, who was living with the family.
The day that Grace was born was cool and dry. While the autumn chill had held the daily high to 9°C, it hadn't yet snowed that year. Her mother, Emily Robina Elizabeth Davis née Campbell was only 24 years old but Grace was already her third child. Her father, Charles Elijah Davis, 34, was a busy man: farming, driving livery, running mail, and sitting on the village council.
As Emily went into labour, Charlie may have run to fetch Dr. Frederick Ellis Conner, a 45-year-old physician trained at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, who only lived a few doors down from the family, while the neighbours looked after their children: Peter, 5, and Emma, 2. As with most babies of this place and time, Emily likely gave birth in her home.
The Davis family, established in Prince Albert in 1909, only resided in Shellbrook for 6 years before relocating permanently to Birch Hills. So really, this post is about the Davis family of Birch Hills, more than anywhere else. However, my Grandma Grace moved back to Shellbrook with her husband and children many years later and that's where I visited them and where I view my family as "from" in Saskatchewan.
After Grace, Emily and Charlie had 2 more children in Shellbrook, the twins Arnold and Elmer. After moving to Birch Hills, they had yet another 2 sons, Pat and John. Interestingly, they appear to have followed a traditional naming pattern, with Peter and Emma named after Emily's parents and Grace and Joseph (Elmer) after Charlie's parents and Charles and John possibly after each of their grandfathers.
Below are descriptions of all the members of the Davis family, including some parents and siblings, 90% related by Uncle Arnold with some photos and additional facts tossed in by me.
Charles Elijah Davis
Graces's brother, my Great-Uncle Arnold Davis, wrote about his father for his daughter, Dena, and in the local history for Birch Hills. Most the text below is from him verbatim but sometimes mixed from both sources.
Charles Elijah Davis or ''Charlie" was was born January 7, 1881 at Maynooth, near Bancroft, in the County of Hastings, Ontario, the eldest child of seven children. These were John, Robert, George, Sarah, Jane, Amos, Goodwin, Mary and Thomas.
The farm he lived on with his father and mother was stony, heavily wooded and very scenic country but poor farmland with a lot of "hardwood" stumps on it. I did visit the farm three or four times when I was in Kingston. It was quite near to the Papineau Lake. That was named after the French leader of the uprising of 1837. Mackenzie was the Canadian leader. After the revolt was defeated, Papineau hid out near this lake until amnesty for him was granted.
Charlie worked very hard from an early age helping on the farm and first going to the brush for the winter as a lumberjack when he was 16. His education was only the fourth grade, strange to me he was a marvellous mathematician, computing figures very well at the age of ninety. Even at the age of 91 he had a remarkable memory, recounting anecdotes of the 'early' days as he called them.
On the 1881 census, Charles, age 3/12, is shown living with his father, Joseph, and mother, Grace. Nearby, lived his grandparents, Joseph and Sarah Davis, as well as many uncles, aunts, and cousins.
He came West in 1902 on a harvest excursion and was so taken up with the country he left Ontario in 1903 and came to Prince Albert. He worked in the bush in the first winter, in summer for the farmers. In 1906, he worked at the lumber mill. He was always a sharp horse trader. In 1908, he accumulated enough money and bought a livery barn. He also kept and drove livery (same as taxi, only horsepower). He got to know the country very well. During his time in Prince Albert he became involved in a couple of rough and tumble fights in which he emerged the victor. The city at that time wanted him to join their police force. In those days, the police had to be stronger than the person they arrested. He declined.
In 1909, Charles Davis and Emily Campbell were united in marriage at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Prince Albert. Also that year, he took his brother-in-law, an Indian guide named Badger (Muskoday Reserve), a span (team) of horses, and several saddle horses and started out for the foothills of Alberta (near Calgary).
At that time, there was much hatred between the Blood tribe of Southern Alberta and the Wood Cree and Plains Cree of Saskatchewan and Alberta. So the party carefully avoided Blood territory. They were successful in buying horses at a good price from ranchers and arrived back in Prince Albert. The journey had taken approximately two months (June to August). My father made good on this trip, selling these horses.
In 1911, he moved to Shellbrook and started a livery barn there. In those days livery barn operator not only had a barn for stabling and custom feeding of stock but also ran a livery service. This entailed going out whatever the weather or 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.
He got to know a lot of country and people (homesteaders) around the country. He also drove mail between Prince Albert and Shellbrook. Here in Shellbrook his four children, Emma, Grace and the twins, Elmer and Arnold, were born.
He served on the council and as overseer of Shellbrook for a time.
During elections, both the Liberal and Conservative candidates hired Charlie to drive them around the region as they stumped for votes.
Charlie operated the livery barn in Shellbrook until 1918. That year the Birch Hills Board of Trade approached him with a view to his starting a livery barn in 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
Emily Robina Elizabeth Campbell
Uncle Arnold described his mother, Emily, as "a kind, gentle person engrossed with her family. A daughter of the west and original pioneer family, she knew all the difficulties of pioneering." According to my father, she was also an avid teetotaler who who once locked an inebriated Charlie out of their house until he swore to never drink again.
Emily was born in the North West Territories, which is today Saskatchewan, on May 18th, 1891, the 6th child and 2nd daughter of Peter and Emma Campbell.
Emily's father, Peter George Campbell, had first moved into the territory in 1878. "He took the train as far as Fisher's Landing in Minnesota and from there it was horses as far as Fort Gary (Red River and Winnipeg). There he obtained an ox cart, oxen and a saddle horse and made the trip via Fort Qu'Appelle to Prince Albert. The trip took about six weeks. "
However, the next summer he journeyed back east to Smith's Falls, Ontario to marry Emma Jane McGregor on April 5th, 1880. Uncle Arnold described his grandmother as a woman who "loved to dance, sing and generally have fun. She seemed forever young." The couple returned to the territories by the summer of 1882, when they officially applied for their homestead in township 46, range 25, west of the 2nd meridian. After successfully clearing enough land and establishing their farm, Canada officially granted them their land on October 30th, 1888.
In these times, without railroads, roads, or towns, where the days were spent clearing trees and brush and the nights were spent in a tiny log house, Uncle Arnold related that his "grandmother Campbell often spoke of knitting in the evening by the light of the open stove door."
Happily, since Emma's parents and younger siblings had also migrated west and settled nearby, Emily grew up in a more comfortable time with a large family surrounding her.
Uncle Arnold described her childhood home: "The old Campbell farm was a hospitable place for travellers to stay at. No charge of course! Many were the people stopped there for a night’s lodging on their way to Prince Albert from the Carrot River country
It was quite a large farm with a lot of substantial buildings, including a nice two-storey home of four bedrooms, a parlor, dining room and a large kitchen with a breakfast nook to one side. There were two large granaries, a buggy shed and above these buildings there was a large loft in which dances were held. There was a chicken house, a large cow barn and a very large horse barn. Pete Campbell ran a herd of fifty horses and 100 cattle on his 1400 acres. This was a large farm for those days."
Despite the relative prosperity of the family, life was never easy in these times. As one of the earliest settlers in the area, Peter and Emma had already had many hair-raising experiences. However, when Emily was 4, the family suffered it's greatest tragedy: the death of their oldest son, 14-year old John Duncan Lorne Campbell, in October, 1994. According to Uncle Arnold, he had been out working on the farm in cold rain and had contract pneumonia.
Two years later, Emma gave birth to another daughter. Tragically, two years later, little Myrtle became ill with membranous croup, "The rider sent to get the doctor, 18 miles away in Prince Albert, got drunk and stayed for two days. When the doctor arrived, it was too late. Myrtle was buried in South Hill Cemetery in Prince Albert beside her mother and father and her brother Lorne."
About Emily's education, Arnold wrote, "Emily attended school at St. Leonard's, where she received her Grade Eight at that school and since that was as far as the grades in that school went she was finished school for good."
In 1906, three years before she married Charlie, Emily was 15 and living with her parents and 17-year old brother Arthur, the rest of her siblings either having married and established farms of their own or worked as hired hands.
Although I haven't yet heard the story about how Charlie and Emily first met, as a livery owner in Prince Albert certainly traveled about. Further, my father described him as a very outgoing and friendly man, who took 2 hours to walk down a street because he stopped and spoke with everyone he met.
Regardless, Charlie met Emily and they married on December 22nd, 1909 at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Prince Albert.
The Davis family below are all the words of Uncle Arnold from the Birch Hills history book, with the italics mine.
Peter Charles Davis
Peter Charles Davis was born in Prince Albert in December, 1910. He moved with his parents to Shellbrook in 1912 and started school. Peter moved to Birch Hills in 1918 and took all his public school and part of his high school in Birch Hills
Peter worked for Burns in Prince Albert and later General Motors in Regina. Shortly before the war, Peter appears to have traveled about Saskatchewan, possibly working in the oil fields. In the summer of 1938, he met Irene in Weyburn, Saskatchewan and they had one daughter, Hazel. However, Peter did not stay in Weyburn and we don't know if he was aware of his daughter. Shortly afterwards, he met and married Peggy and they had one son, Michael.
During the War he did war work in Fort Williams, Ontario with Canada Car. He moved to the oil fields for the rest of his life.
Emma Delilah Olive Davis
Emma was born in June of 1913 at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She received the earliest part of her public school education at Shellbrook and completed her public and high school education in Birch Hills. During this time she was quite active in sports. In 1931 and 1932 she attended Normal School in Saskatoon. She taught in rural school at Coolidge, Waitville, Cosby, and Star City.
In 1940, she married Bill Sanderson and moved to Whitewood, Saskatchewan. In 1942, they moved to Brantford, Ontario and she resided there ever since. During this time, she taught in schools near Brantford, Ontario. She retired from teaching in 1975.
Her husband Bill died in 1980.
They had one son, Dave Sanderson. Dave attended Queens University in Kingston and graduated as a teacher. He later became a principal in Theodore, Saskatchewan.
Grace Merle Lorraine Davis
Grace was born in Shellbrook in 1915 and moved with her family to Birch Hills 1918 and took her public and high school in Birch Hills. She was active in sports during her school years.
She graduated when she was sixteen and had to wait a year before entering Normal School. She taught school at Red Deer Hill, Stanleyville, Heatherdell, Readlyn, Shell Lake and Shellbrook.
In 1939, she was married to Lowell Simpson and Lowell joined the Army shortly after. During this time Grace had moved to Brantford, Ontario to be with her sister Emma. Upon Lowell's medical discharge from the Army, they returned to the west where Lowell took training as an electrician and Grace resumed teaching.
Me: During this time, Lowell worked in a variety of places, including joining his brother down in California for many months. Grace and my father lived in various teacherages while her two other sons spent a great deal of time living with Charlie and Emily on their farm in Birch Hills. When I asked my father about when he started school, he said that he was always in school, since he sat in the classes that his mother was teaching since he was a toddler.
They moved to Shellbrook shortly after where Lowell established an electrical contracting business. Grace taught in Shellbrook until she retired from teaching and made Shellbrook her retirement home.
Joseph Elmer Davis
Joseph Elmer Davis was born in Shellbrook in 1917. He moved with his family to Birch Hills in 1918. He took all his education in Birch Hills. In 1937, he left to work in the mines with his uncle at Timmons, Ontario. He returned to Saskatchewan at the outbreak of the war and joined the Royal Canadian Air-force in 1940 for pilot training. In 1941, he transferred to the Army and took officer's training at Gordon Head in British Columbia. During his time, he became ill and was later diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and was discharged from the Army. He then went to For William and was engaged in the war industry.
In 1942, he married Edna Doyle of Eldersly, Saskatchewan. Three children were born to them: Joan, Joseph, and Jean.
On declaration of peace he took over management of the Horse Cooperative Plant in Swift Current. In 1960 he took a local administration course and became Secretary-Treasurer of Municipalities Mantario and Val Marie.
In 1974 his disease became crippling and he moved to Saskatoon. In 1979 he was forced to enter City Hospital and confined there until his death in 1981.
Arnold Campbell Davis
I, Arnold Campbell Davis and my twin brother Elmer, were born in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan in 1917. I attended public school in the Masonic Hall, the Lutheran Church basement and the four room brick school and went to high school in the two roomed school on McCallum Ave.
Memories from school days include the diamond jubilee of Confederation, children's day, first aeroplane to be seen in Birch Hills, pinching laths from the lumberyard with which to manufacture wooden swords and generally observing the antics of grown ups through the eyes of a child.
I graduated from high school in 1935. In the winter of 1936-37, I joined the Royal Canadian School of Signals, first at Camp Borden, Ontario and then at Kingston. At the outbreak of war in 1939, I became a member of the P.A.V.'s later transferring to the Saskatoon Light Infantry (M.G.). While a member of the Sask. L.I., I was stationed at Dundurn and Kingston, Ontario.
In 1941, I was drafted overseas. I served in England, Africa, Sicily, and Italy. I returned to Canada and was discharged in July 1945.
Note: Lieutenant Arnold Davis was wounded in the Sicily campaign.
While in England I met and married Hazel Spence. Hazel was born in Yorkshire and educated in the schools there. At the outbreak of War she commenced work in a war factory and upon reaching military age she joined the women's army. During her service she had the thrilling experience of being bombed twice.
Our daughter Janet was born in England in June of 1943. Hazel and Janet joined me in Canada in 1946. We moved back to Birch Hills in May 1947 after my appointment as Postmaster for Birch Hills. Two more children were added to our family in Birch Hills, Barry, our son, was born in 1955 and our daughter, Dena, was born in 1961.
While in Birch Hills, besides having the pleasure of seeing our family grow up and be educated as well as them taking part in the youth activities of the town, we were quite active in public affairs. Hazel was a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Legion for many years besides supporting me in my public endeavors. During this time I served as a Service Officer for many years of the Royal Canadian Legion as well as President, Secretary, and Treasurer for a few years. I was a member of the Hospital Board, the Young Men's Service Club and the Cemetery Committee. I held an appointment as Civil Defense Director for Birch Hills Area for a number of years. I had been a founding member and on the executive of the Birch Hills Credit Union and a member of the Board of Trade.
But aside from my service work in the Region the most interesting work I found was my 18 years service on council. In this period, the town dearly doubled in size, and received natural gas, power and water, dial telephones, paved and oiled streets, new rinks, new auditorium and municipal offices. New buildings took place on new subdivisions of land acquired from Chester Botham, the school board, Ernest Clark, Josh Ward, the Hospital Board, and Richard Bellamy.
In 1976 I retired from the Post Office and started a real estate office. In this work I enjoyed meeting many different people. I sold this business in 1983 and retired. Hazel passed away on January 2, 1985. Since that time I have spent most of my time between my cottage at Emma Lake, and apartment in Prince Albert, and winter travelling.
Charles Gordon Goodwin Davis
Pat Davis was born in Birch Hills in 1922. He received his public and high school education in Birch Hills. Pat was very active in sports, playing hockey for the High School and Senior teams. He left Birch Hills to work in the mines in Ontario and Quebec in 1940.
In 1941 he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and received his training as a Pilot and proceeded overseas to England. He received further training in England and was posted to a Beaufighter Squadron. They flew patrols over the North Atlantic. Early in 1944, Pat was transferred to Egypt. From the base near Cairo, his squadron flew over the Grecian Islands attacking shipping. His aircraft was shot down and he was captured by Germans. He was held at a prisoner of war "Camp Stalag" near the Russian border and took part in the infamous "death march" when the Germans were forced to withdraw due to Russian attacks.
On his return to Canada in 1945, Pat married Doreen Healy of Montreal. They had five children.
Pat attended McGill University in Montreal and studied civil engineering. On his graduation, he worked for Kaiser Corporation and later for Atlas Company in several places in Canada in the U.S.A.
In 1966, he accepted the position of General Manager for Mannin Construction Company and moved to Calgary. In 1969, he discovered he was suffereing from a terminal disease and his moved his family back to Birch Hills. He died in October of that year.
John MacArthur Davis
John Davis was born at Birch Hills on June 19, 1924. He received his education in Birch Hills Schools and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force when he was seventeen and a half. After his training he was dispatched overseas in 1944 and flew out of England for the remainder of the war. He received his discharge from the Air Force in 1946 and attended the University of Manitoba where he obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology.
During university he was a member of the Canadian Officers Corp. After graduation from University, he received his commission in the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. He proceeded to Korea in 1951 with his battalion. For his service in Korea, he received the honor of "mention" in dispatches. On his return from Korea, he transferred to headquarters staff and served as a personnel officer.
He was granted a leave of absence in 1957 and attended the University of Alberta where he obtained his Master's Degree in Psychology. He was pensioned from the Army service in 1968 and practiced psychology in Regina.
He was married to Florence Wilmott of Winnipeg in 1947. Two boys were born of this union: Jack and Brett.