of the Swan River Valley
100 Years in the
Swan River Valley
1898 - 1998
Josef and Ida Beselt
Josef and Ida Beselt lived with their family on a small farm near Rozyszcze, Poland (Russia). They lived very near the fighting on the eastern front in WWI. Josef saw service with the Russian Army, spending a large part of the war years in a German P.O.W. camp. Tabea told of hearing the sounds the shells made; their size could be determined from the sound. Their farm was small by Canadian standards. The prospects of finding enough farm land for their growing family became very bleak. That, and the troubled political climate led this family to leave their homeland and seek a new beginning in Canada.
An original application made in 1927, which would have seen this family settle in Northern Ontario, was rejected by Canadian officials. An error had aged Josef by ten years. But the family, consisting of Tabea (1908), Otilge (1911), Joesph (1917), Jacob (1920), Benjamin (1922), Martha (1925), and Reinholt (1927), arrived in our valley in October of 1928. They settled into a small log house three miles south and east of Minitonas (NW 1/4 32-35-25) for their first Canadian winter.
Ben tells how his mother was most apprehensive about where they were being taken as she watched the wild country of Northern Ontario pass by their train windows. Was this really the ‘land of plenty’?
Their family was blessed with the birth of another daughter, Agnes, in 1930.
Josef and Ida were willing workers in the early growth of the new German Baptist Church in Minitonas. Josef often stepped in and delivered the Sunday morning service when the pastor was absent.
Josef loved his newly adopted country. He always seemed to know where the finest mushrooms and hazel nuts could be found. His smoke house was always full of bacon. He kept bees. It was no strange sight to see him coming home with a tree branch over his shoulder and a swarm of bees buzzing near the top of the branch. He certainly enjoyed his gardening; strawberries and raspberries were a specialty.
Josef made some of the finest wicker baskets out of willows. There was always a w illow broom by the back door and he always seemed to be able to quickly presenta new willow whistle to any visiting grandchildren. His swing in the maple tree in the front yard was well used by all his children, young and old alike.
Ida excelled in her garden; a green thumb she passed on to her children. Her small but beautiful flower garden was a joy to behold. You could always see her coming from her garden, heavily laden with vegtables or raspberries for her family. She was a most loving person. Tabea described her mom as being much more than a mother. She claimed Ida was the dearest friend she ever had.
But Ida’s specialty was her cooking. It seemed an easy task for her to cook for a family of eight children. She wouldn’t bat an eye knowing she was cooking for a whole threshing crew of hungry men. She simply took on the task and not a single man was hungry when the meal was consumed. Her special treat was the very best sweet dough buns filled with poppy seed or cottage cheese and her pantry was always full of these delicacies. Many a duffel bag, filled with her huge sandwiches and coffee, golden brown from real cream, was carried by young legs to the men working in the fields.
Two sons live in the Valley. Ray, and wife, Dorothy, still live on the home farm, while Ben and Erna have moved off their farm into Minitonas.
Submitted by: George Henderson
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.