KIM'S GIFT FROM HER GRANDMOTHER LENORA PERREAUX (HARRIS)

(This story was written by Grandma Lenora Harris to her grand-daughter Kim Susan Perreaux at Kim's request. It was written sometime between 1977 and 1980 at Odessa, Saskatchewan. It is the only handwritten account of the history of the Harris/Holden/Perreaux family. Her son Noel Edward has since made it his retirement life's work to gather and present the history photographically and genealogically.

Dear Kim -
In this next few pages I intend to set out all the information I have learned from my parents concerning the beginnings of this family and I regret that I didn't ask more questions when my mother was still here to answer them.
So that we don't get confused, I will speak of my parents rather than referring to them as your great-grand parents. So now - where do I begin? 

My father -
Oliver Harris ( see photo below) - was born at Henley on Thames, England on April 11th, 1876, one of 6 children born to Aaron and Phoebe Harris.  My grandfather (Aaron) was a coal merchant and at an early age my father helped him.  The coal was loaded on a barge (like a raft with sides) on the Thames River.  One horse was hitched to this in such a way that the horse walked along the river bank and pulled the barge along the water near shore.  My father told us that during the Henley Regatta (boat races between the Colleges of Oxford rand and Cambridge) the coal merchants tied ribbons to their horses.  If they favored the Oxford team they tied the Oxford blue ribbons to the horses head and the Cambridge blue to the tail.  If they favored Cambridge the colors were reversed.
When he was 16 years old my father (
Oliver) came to Canada.  At that time there was a great deal of advertising in the English newspapers section of land free if he would live on it for part of the year and clear and cultivate a certain number of acres per year.  In 3 years he would have the title to the land.  So, of course, many men came out to make a fortune quickly and go back home again.  Sad to say, it didn't always work out that way and my father found too late that he was not cut out to be a farmer; he didn't get rich quick, and, he never went back to his old home in England.  He spent his winters in logging camps at Roblin, Arrow River, Hamiota and other places in Manitoba and worked in the summer to "prove up" on his homestead at Sinclair, Manitoba.  There I will leave him for the present.
My mother -
Margaret Holden  (see photo below) was born at Burnley, Lancashire, England on January 29th, 1875.  She was one of five children born to Thomas Holden II and Elizabeth Holden (nee) Duerden).  Three of their children died in infancy leaving my mother and one sister, Sarah Ann. Sarah Ann later married John Heaton, but more about that later.  My grandfather was a beef butcher and my grandmother was a weaver.  My grandfather died at the age of 38 from diabetes.  Grandmother was 60 years old when she passed away.  My mother attended school but I'm not sure for how long, or what grade she was in when she finished.  I remember her telling us that at age 12 she was doing part time work as a weaver and before leaving to come to Canada she was managing eight looms.  My grandmother died in 1900.  My aunt Sarah Ann had married and she and her husband decided to go to the Unites States.  They persuaded my mother to go along and they eventually lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  Mother once again got a job as a weaver.
 She later found that she had two cousins living there.  Her one cousin was Edith A. Duerden and the other one's last name was McKenzie. Edith's Social Security Card shows that she lived her whole life in the United States and died in February of 1980.
  Little is known of McKenzie.  After a year Sarah Ann and her husband returned to England.
In 1903, mother left New Bedford and came to Canada where she stayed with cousins Ann (Lonsdale) and her husband Joseph Wood at Griswold, Manitoba.  There were four children in the family, 3 of school age so it was good for them to live in the village where they could go to school.  However, Joe Wood was a restless type and one day announced that he had bought some land in "Assiniboia" and was moving the family at once. (Assiniboia was the name of the southern part of what would later become Saskatchewan)
(Clicking on photos will pop them up to a larger size)                             


          

















 





 This 1900 map shows the boundaries of the second District of Assiniboia.
So the Wood family packed up and moved; but on arriving found only a small sod building which was intended to be lived in.  To the horizon not a tree was to be seen in any direction. This was not much to Ann's liking, and, since her temper had a very short fuse, it blew up quite often.  An arrangement had to be made quickly.
When school started in the fall the three (Wood) children were not accepted since the school was in Manitoba and their land was thought to be outside the boundary line.  So, for several winters my mother kept the children in a house near Heron School in Manitoba, about 15 miles from home.  In the summer they went home to Saskatchewan and spent their time looking after a herd of cattle.  
So for several years my mother babysat children (they called it "looking after children" then) and herded cattle. 
These cattle were supplied by several "homesteaders" and the business was born. It operated the same way Community Pastures do today with one exception.  There were no fences in those days so it kept 3 kids and my mother busy on horseback making sure the cattle did not stray from the herd.  
In 1905 Saskatchewan became a province and the Wood's land was then in Manitoba, so the school problem was solved.  My mother sometimes went out to work in other homes to make a little extra money but still made her home with the Woods'.  While there was always plenty of work to do, there were lonesome times too.  Several things contributed to this, e.g.  No trees grew on the prairies except for a few willows near water, so a person could see for miles and no neighbors were very near.   She told of walking up to the top of the only hill around just to see some signs of people. There is to this day a sign at the top of this hill.
Gradually, people began taking up homesteads and as the land was broken up to plant crops, the trees also began to grow. However, for years the greatest fear for all was prairie fires which could start and burn for miles before they were stopped.   People ploughed a few burrows around their building to stop a fire.  Even so, many families lost their home to fire in the early days.  When this happened, all the neighbors for miles around gathered to help build a new house.  Everyone worked.  The men did the building and the women came prepared to help with the cooking.  Most of them brought some food along and it was just like a big picnic.  Much of that tradition still exists on the prairies. Usually the family could move into the new house by nightfall, and the remaining work was done afterwards.   
When winter came people went visiting and were always made welcome even though there was no way to let them know how many to expect as visitors.  After supper the furniture was pushed out of the way so they could dance. There always seems to be some who could play the fiddle and also someone who could call "squares" for square dancing.     My father was a good square dance caller.  It was at those winter parties that he met my mother.                                                                                                                                                                               
  My parents, Oliver and Margaret were married on February 8th, 1911.  In 1912 they moved to a farm 9 miles south of Antler, Saskatchewan and there three children were born.  Edna May, Lenora and Arthur.  I was the middle one born July 6th, 1915.
My sister and I attended school at Fertile, Saskatchewan until we moved into Antler on June 3rd of 1923.  We lived 7 miles from Fertile and were transported in a school van drawn by 2 horses.  The van was like a wagon box covered with a canvas and had runners or skids instead of wheels in winter time.   I remember it being very cold in winter and very warm in springtime.  The "van" picked up children from five families and we were first on and last off every day.  That meant we had to be ready at 7.00 AM and didn't get home until after 6.00 PM.  We carried our lunch in a honey pail and drank water from the well at school.  I hated those school lunches and was very glad to go home at noon after we moved to Antler.
 
I remember the town kids taking lunch to school in winter every time there was a storm, but I never again carried lunch no matter how bad the weather became.
After we moved to town my mother had to earn the living because my dad was paralyzed as a result of a farm accident and spent 9 years in a wheel chair.  One of the jobs she undertook was caretaker for the school.  My sister and I were soon given the job of sweeping the floors after school and doing the dusting.  We didn't get any pay for this because all the money had to go into the household account and even then, with prices very low, $30.00 per month had to be stretched to make ends meet.
After I finished school (Grade 11 was as far as we could go in Antler) I worked on farms as a "hired girl" for $5.00 per month.  That was in 1932 after my father died on September 12, 1932.  The "Depression" you have heard about was just starting and people were short of money.  Then in 1933 the weather became very dry and we had dust storms every time the wind blew.  From then until 1938 every spring was the same.  Wind and dust.  When we set the table for a meal we turned all the dishes upside down so the dust didn't collect on the plates.  If company arrived for a meal an extra table cloth was used to cover the dished until the meal was ready.  Even then, we often felt as though we were eating sand.  We washed floors every morning and many people used coal  oil to do the dusting, ( we didn't have Endust or any of the fancy products we have now) because the dust would stick to the duster that way and coal oil was reasonably cheap and always available since we used it in our lamps to light our homes..
As times got harder and crops and gardens didn't grow: the railways carried car loads of fruit and vegetable sent from the people in Ontario.  I can remember whole railway cars full of apples, cheese, honey and even canned fruit.  It was the responsibility of the Rural Municipal Council to distribute these products fairly among all the people.  There were often hard feelings because some were thought to have managed to get more than a fair share.
However, three were good times too.  The country schools were used for dances and the price of admission was " Gents - .25 cents - Ladies with lunch free"  Usually local people provided the music and the hat was passed around at lunch time to pay them. 
                                                                                                                                                      
Your Grandpa (Fernie) and I were both attracted to these dances and that was where we met.  There was no hope of getting married on $5.00 per month so we had to settle for being friends for about 4 years. We were married on November 29, 1938 at Bellegarde, Saskatchewan after I had taken instruction and joined the Catholic Church.                                                                                                                                        
And the rest is history that I Noel Edward Perreaux, your father has continued.  Fortunately I was the recipient of what is now known as the "Burnley Letters".   I will give you a copy of these.
These are the opening pages of the Burnley Letters which will give you some explanation of what they are about.



THE BURNLEY LETTERS
August 20, 1920 - October 25, 1995

        For 75 years letters went between Canada and England. These are known as the "Burnley Letters".  Some of them have been lost over time.                
The letters that follow are letters that I, Noel Edward Perreaux received from and in part wrote to Sarah and Wilfree Heaton in Burnley, Lancashire, England.
During a trip we made to Europe I was presented with the first 55 letters, which they had saved for me. The first letter is dated August 20, 1920. These letters covered 60 years that my grandmother Margaret Harris (Holden), my mother Lenora Perreaux (Harris), my Uncle Arthur Harris, my Aunt Edna May Smyth (Harris) and later Joan Harris (McLean) had written to England.  The letters were all written to my grandmother's nephew, Wilfree Heaton and his wife Sarah.   When my mother passed away I continued to write to them on until the day they passed away.
I was especially happy to receive them, much like a treasure to me; they represent 60 years of my family's history, or story should I say.  They reveal a little and a lot depending on how they are interpreted. To me every word has a meaning. 
The words in these letters are transcribed as written, spelling errors and all.  Should any words offend, please remember that they were written most often as feelings.  Bearing in mind that feelings are neither right nor wrong, let us not judge why the words were written as they were, but rather let us realize that they are words written on the spur of the moment.  No offense given or taken.
Better to leave the honesty in than have many words erased or edited out with x's then wonder to eternity what the x's meant or covered up.
They are recorded here for posterity, so that someday my descendants will have a base to see and feel and know that some of their roots are here in these letters if they care to look. 
The world was a very different place in 1920 and you are left to imagine how things have changed over the years. Or have they?
Wilfree Heaton is my aunt Edna May, my mother Lenora and Uncle Arthur Walter Harris's cousin.  Wilfree's mother was a "sister" to my grandmother Margaret Harris (Holden). 
These letters started my research of my family's genealogy, a journey that is now completed.  I started collecting and saving this information after my visit to England in October of 1989.
My plan is to leave these letters and this record in the Saskatchewan Archives in Regina, Saskatchewan.  Should anyone wish to research further they will find records there.
Enjoy!
Your Dad
Noel Edward Perreaux                                                                                                                  


Oliver Harris
Maggie Holden