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Page Index of Forest to Field Volume One
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days later they arrived in Halifax, but decided to stay in Ontario for a few weeks before going to Manitoba. They arrived in Winnipeg, via Chicago, on the 24th of May, 1880.
They had intended to go to Gladstone, but hearing in Winnipeg that Gladstone was under water they decided to go on to Tanner's Crossing where they could keep their feet dry. They went as far as Portage la Prairie, where they bought a covered wagon, a team of oxen and a cow. Loading all their worldly goods, plus three adults and four children into the wagon and leading the unwilling cow, they started on their long journey to Minnedosa. Eleven days and many mud holes later they arrived there and set up their tent on the hill to the south of town. About 74 years later the Rev. Duncan Matheson told me that as a boy of 14 he saw them arrive and helped them to set up their tent and get a fire going.
Mr. Averill then started to look for open land to settle on. After walking some 120 miles he found a homestead, the N.E. 36-16-18, which had been abandoned, and put in a claim for that, but he had to wait for 30 days to give the first owner a chance to reclaim it. He never did, but it meant losing a lot of time.
On the 15th of July they left Minnedosa and started for their new property, spending the first night at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Moad, then going on to a little shanty owned by a young bachelor, Jim Proven, who had offered them the use of it while their own house was being built. I well remember that little log shanty 14 x 16 feet, for Jim Proven moved it up near his new house when he sold the homestead quarter to my father, John Crawley, in 1897. The Averill family, plus Jim Proven, lived in that little shanty for three months until their own house was being made ready.
Getting the logs cut and hauled to the site was no small task for a little Englishman with no experience of such work, but on August 19 a gang of neighbors arrived to put up the new house - bringing their wives to help with the dinner, no small job as it had to be got ready in the shanty and carried nearly a mile. The walls and rafters were put up that day, but it was October 15 before they were able to move into it. Someone told them that the green logs would not burn, but the last week in March a chimney fire lighted the roof and soon spread. Mr. Averill was away and the women and children could not get everything out, so much was lost to the fire. They had to move back to Jim Proven's shanty again and start once more the heart-breaking job of getting out logs and building a new house. A few years later that too was burned, in the night this time, with nothing saved and the family escaped in their night clothes. They went to Minnedosa the next day, in borrowed clothes, and Paddy McDermott told them to take anything they needed in the store. He did not send them a bill for many years after.
In the spring of 1881 they were able to rent 10 acres of land from Pat Burns, whose homestead was just three miles to the south. Mr. Averill planted wheat on it and in the fall he cut it with the cradle while his wife and her sister tied the sheaves by hand and stooked them. After that they were threshed with a flail, all of which meant many hours of back-breaking labor.
In the spring of 1884, Mr. Averill donated an acre of
land for All Saints Church and cemetery. He also got friends in England to raise enough money to build the church, and he oversaw the building of it, with the result that it was paid for before the opening date of August 15, 1884. Most of the services were held at 11 a.m. and people coming from a distance were asked home for dinner, with often as many as 20 being there. Mr. Averill was a lay reader, and when no minister was available took the service while his wife played the organ. He also took many baptisms and funerals. He was also a Justice of the Peace.
Octavious and Emma A verill.
By the early nineties things had improved a good deal; the oxen were replaced with horses, of which the Averills had a large number. That made the 12 miles trip to Minnedosa much easier, and the young people used to drive to dances in Pearson's Hall, above the present Clothing Store, then drive home again. Sometimes the boys would have breakfast and go back to Minnedosa with a load of cordwood.
About 1896 their older daughter, Fanny, married Lawrence Constable, and they farmed east of Clan william for a few years. Then they moved into Clan william and built and operated a small store.
In 1897, Ethel married John Crawley. (refer to Crawley - John and Ethel). They purchased the Proven homestead, S.W. 31-18-17W, where they both lived out the rest of their lives.
In September, 1900, tragedy struck the Averill family when their younger son, Pax, was thrown from a horse at the Minnedosa Fair and was killed. That forced them to give up the battle, and in 1903 they sold the farm to Charlie Oman and moved to British Columbia on the first passenger train out of Clanwilliam.
Mr. Averill died in 1906, aged 60, after being thrown from a buggy when his horse ran away, scared by an early car. Mrs. Averill died in 1915 at the age of 65 as the result