Family Histories
of the Swan River Valley
Manitoba, Canada
Pioneer Centennial
History Book
100 Years in the
Swan River Valley
1898 - 1998

Jack and Floss Allen

My dad was known as Jack, and my mom as Floss for Florence, and I’m Effie, an only child. We came from a farm ten miles north of Lanigan, SK. It was very dry country. Water was scarce and many dry wells were dug. Dust storms were common. I can remember my mother lighting the lamp in early afternoon. Also, there were prairie fires, and I can remember dad riding horseback lighting a back fire with many neighbours out there as well.

There was news in the papers about the Swan River Valley, so we decided to make the trip by car with the idea of locating in the valley. My mom’s mother came with us too. We spent a day driving around with Mr. Jack Bryant, who worked for the Great West Land Company. The most important things we wanted for our location was that it be near a school and have water. However, we decided on a farm west of Thunder Hill School, about 3/4 of a mile from school. Dad made the payment, and we hit home. There was a family living there until April 1st.

We thrashed our crop and hauled what grain there was and began loading for our trip to the valley. We were relocating to an area where we had no relatives and knew no one. The chickens were loaded on the wagon in a long crate, a calf also on the wagon and seven pigs in the wagon box. Two Holstein cows were tied behind. One was milked every morning. I brought my rabbits. We had a cage for the big cat and two dogs followed. On October 15, 1931 after sad goodbyes to all our relatives, we left on the journey. We were seventeen days on the road with horses and mules pulling the load.

A family moved with us, and their nephew, who was eighteen, came to help. My dad travelled ahead to find a place to camp where there was feed and water. My mother drove a team all the way. It was great weather. I was eight years old. I drove the caboose team a lot of the way. Finally Thunder Hill came in sight.

Everyday for a few days in a row the question was asked how far to the hill, and the answer we got was about seventy miles, so we were not losing or gaining. Some people were great along the way, and some were not. One family sticks in my memory who lived at Hyas. We decided to camp there and were at the Wotherspoons. The horses were put in the barn. A big supper was made for us all. What a great treat that was. By now the mules were history.

Carl Helgason’s, who moved with us, met the Crones, so Mrs. Helgason and the baby stayed with them. Carl had a farm in Roaring River District, so we came on to Arran. We passed a farm near noon where a man was standing at the gate. He said, “We feed the stock” and we were all asked to lunch. This way my first experience with borscht. I never knew their names.

Mr. Bryant met us and brought us to our winter home, four and a half miles north west of Benito. Well our farm didn’t turn out; things were not as they were supposed to be, so we moved to Egilson School District on April 15, 1932 Easter Sunday. Lucky for us as this was much better location. We located on the NE 11-36-29.

In 1944, I married Alex Rooks, and remained on the farm. Four sons were born to us, but two were lost in infancy. Ray married Vivian Thompson in 1971 and moved on to the farm. Later years they took over the farm and PMU business. Alex and I still remain in our home on the farm. Ray and Vivian have four children, two boys and two girls. Kristen is driving truck, Colleen is working and Shannon will finish her teaching degree this year. Hayden, the youngest, is in Grade 11.

Our youngest son Neil lives on a farm in Crestview District and also has PMU. Neil has two daughters. Lori, the eldest, lives at Red Deer , AB and has two children. Amber, lives with her dad and is finishing her Grade 12.

We had the best neighbours anyone could ask for. Mom soon fit into the new area and wasn’t so lonely; but we visited the folks back at Lanigan every year. However we never want to go back to stay.

Submitted by: Effie Rooks


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.