of the Swan River Valley
100 Years in the
Swan River Valley
1898 - 1998
Alfred and Ada Burton
Alfred’s father, William Kinsmen Burton (1836-1904), was born in Jacobstow, Cornwall, England and immigrated to Ontario in 1853. Alfreds’ mother, Phoebe was Williams’ third wife whom he married in 1872 at Lindsay. Of the fourteen children born of this union, Alfred (1875-1949) was the second child and was born in Lindsay, ON, (near Lake Scugog). Alfred, in his teens, came west to Portage Plains, MB, and found employment on a farm. He worked diligently and managed to send some money home to his large family in Ontario. Eventually, his parents and some of his brothers and sisters moved west to the Portage La Prairie area.
Ada Blanche Irwin (1875-1948) was born at Haliburton, Ontario, second youngest of six children of Thomas James Irwin (1837-1912) born in Halimand, ON and Rebecca McAskie (1839-1915) born in Tyrone, Ireland. Ada and her family arrived at Beaver, MB in 1879. Ada and Alf met, courted and were married at MacGregor MB in 1900 when they were both 25 years old. They farmed in that area on the old “White” place. Six children were born there or at Beaver; James, Norman, Naomi, Allan, Ruth and Thelma. In 1918 their barn and contents were destroyed by fire. Neighbors and friends helped them out by providing hay, grain and other essentials. However, perhaps this tragedy prompted them to relocate to another farm not too far away from Beaver. In 1920, after hearing so much about the fertile farmland in the Swan River Valley, they moved once more. Son Norman travelled by train with all the farm machinery, livestock and household goods to the rented farm in the Floradale district north-west of Minitonas. The rest of the family travelled by Model T Ford and were met by the Martin family of Floradale who would help them get settled.
Alfred purchased a quarter section of land from the CNR in 1923 with a good house where Ada gave birth to their last child, Cecil. This property was not far from the Floradale School.
Times were tough and money scarce. Ada was a thrifty and accomplished cook and seamstress. Money was saved by sewing clothes; sugar and flour sacks were sewed up into tea towels, aprons, pillow-cases, table cloths and curtains. Alfred cut and sold wood for as much as $2.50. He also earned money using his skills as a carpenter.
Life was not all work and no play. Ada enjoyed playing the organ (as she did in the church at Beaver/MacGregor), many songs and hymns were played and with Alfred accompanying on his mouth-harp or harmonica. As Ada was a very religous woman, Sundays were rather restricted for the young people-NO card games were played that day!
Social life was enjoyed in homes or the nearby school houses. What fun they must have had at the Box socials, the Christmas concerts, dances, picnics, ballgames and swimming in the river. Many stories have been told, especially of the “older boys” hi-jinks on Hallowe’en nights.
Ada and Alfred’s children grew up, moved away and began their own lives.
James McAskie (1900-1967) moved to Detroit, then to California, married Minerva Cornish-one son. Norman Irwin (1902-1926) moved to Harris, SK in 1922, and died just before he was to be married. Naomi Marah (1904-1978) married Lou Martin, lived in Swan River and Winnipeg, and had one son named Keith. Allan Thomas (1906-1987) married Ethel Perry, lived in the area before moving to Calgary. They had seven children, Doreen, Blanche, Charlie, Marlene, Betty-Lou, Darril and Stanley. Ruth Rebecca (1909-1989) married Edwin Van Paull and resided in Swan River. They had four children, Arlene, Delbert, Eldon and Dale. Thelma Blanche (1914-1982) married Harold Doughty and lived in Flin Flon, Swan River, Kamsack and Winnipeg. They had two daughters Glenice and Linda. Cecil Alfred (1923-1945) worked in the mine at Flin Flon for four years before he died at age 22.
Ada and Alfred retired to a more comfortable and leisurely life on property just east of Swan River next to Edwin and Ruth’s farm. A few years later they moved to a house in Swan River near their daughter Naomi’s home.
Submitted by: Arlene Leslie
Manitoba's Swan River Valley is an area rich in history. These family histories were a part of the 1998 Pioneer Centennial History Book project. If you would like the history of your area available online, have your historic group contact the Key Rock Group for information on electronic publication. We offer publication free of charge and also provide the option for making your history book available on CD.