Below are transcriptions of some letters written by Alice Rendell during her journey in 1903 and in the early days of Lloydminster. Alice Willey was born March 9, 1857 in St. John’s Wood, one of the first suburbs of London, England. On September 4, 1897, in Willesden Green, England, she married William Rendell (born April 12, 1857 in Abbotskerswell, Devon, England). They quickly had four children: William Leslie Rendell -
Below: a screenshot of the ship’s list of the Lake Simcoe. A sister ship of the Lake Manitoba, it left Liverpool a week after the “main party”. As can be seen, infant son Eric was not aboard, having been left with relatives.
[on board] S.S. Lake Simcoe -
My Dear Friends:
As I am quite unable to write to each individually, I have decided to write a circular letter giving you a brief account of our adventures on the voyage out to the new country.
As for the trying ordeal of wishing our dear relatives and friends farewell (many of whom assembled at Newton Station to see the last of us and give us a cheery sendoff) we proceeded to Liverpool traveling most comfortably in a "reserved carriage" the children quite happy and amused at their new experience as travelers.
We duly arrived at Liverpool at 5:50, where we were met by officials of the Beaver Line and directed to a boarding house all connected with the Beaver Line. This boarding house is evidently built and fitted up absolutely for the use and convenience of emigrants, scrupulously clean, but the bedrooms all divided off into small cubicles. Well there was only one night to spend there (thank goodness!) but it was a grand opportunity for studying human nature, all sorts and conditions of men and women and all nationalities.
At 11:00 on April 8th we were conducted by brake to the docks. There we were met by our cousins, Mr. & Mrs. Wallace Rendell, the latter accompanying us on the tender to see us safely on board the Lake Simcoe.
For a while all was chaos. Bewildered looking groups sitting on their baggage waiting like sheep to be allotted to their pens. However, after a somewhat severe test of our patience, we found ourselves safely housed in a very comfortable four-
April 9th, was a fair day but several of the passengers were already succumbing to the dreaded sea sickness. We spent a pleasant day sitting on deck watching the passing steamers and the fast receding Irish shore.
By the time the bugle sounded for late dinner the vacant seats told their own tale and the following day, April 10th, the decks greatly resembled a battlefield strewed with dead and dying. I am thankful to say I still kept up my reputation as a good sailor and was able to flit about and help some of the less fortunate. Yet the awful ground swell was fearfully trying, far worse than a rough sea.
Saturday, April 11th, was a lovely calm morning with glorious blue sky and sunshine as the day wore on some of the disabled ones gradually resurrected and the decks were quite lively, all sorts of games going on. It was indeed a grand day, the most thoroughly enjoyed basking in the glorious sunshine. The children were delighted running about all over the deck as happy as could be. They (both Doris and Leslie) have proved capital sailors. Doris especially so.
On Easter Sunday there was a service in the saloon conducted by a clergyman, one of the passengers on board who came originally from Exmouth.
Monday proved a terribly rough day, the waves breaking right over the ship. The climate had by this time undergone a great change and was bitterly cold. The captain had to proceed very cautiously owing to fog and icebergs. The latter were passed during the night and sometimes they prove very dangerous.
Tuesday we were surprised to see snow on the decks and it was so slippery it was impossible to keep ones footing, and everyone had to seek shelter in the saloons. It seemed a long day but it was an eventful one on board as a gentleman slipped over the stairs leading to the cabin and broke his leg. Also there was a birth on board and a foreigner in the steerage cut his throat and is not expected to live. In addition to all this they have discovered no less than 20 stowaways.
Today, Wednesday, we expect to sight land and very thankful we shall be. We have made friends with a very nice gentleman who is going up to our settlement. I only hope we may be near neighbours. His wife and family are coming out in June. Wednesday night – there is a grand concert on tonight in aid of the sailors’ widow and orphans, after which there is to be a display of fireworks in honour of the record voyage. I think this must end my general letter for the present as there will be too much of a rush tomorrow to be able to add anymore.
My next letter will probably be from Saskatoon or the settlement. I must ask your indulgence for this disjointed account, but my little ones do not leave me much free time.
My best wishes to all. Yours ever sincerely,
Above: The S.S. Lake Simcoe rated at almost 5,000 tons -
The Rendell’s left Liverpool 9 days behind the “main party” but thanks to their fast passage and the misadventures of the “Barr party” they had made up almost 4 days.
Saskatoon, April 22nd, 1903
My Dear Friends,
My letter this time will contain just a few startling incidents of emigrant experience.
We landed at Saint John, [New Brunswick] last Wednesday, April 15th, and were just rushed off the Lake Simcoe like a pack of hounds in a most disgraceful way quite late in the day. We had had the usual 12 o’clock meal and by this time the poor children were famished, all tired out with waiting to land and they would not even give out a drop of milk for them until some of the passengers made a big disturbance and they were compelled at last to lay a meal. We were one and all faint, cold and weary.
Mr. Barr and his party had landed a few days before on the [SS Lake] Manitoba and the customs authorities had not been able to get clear of all the baggage and were not at all prepared to receive any more. Having made a record voyage, the Beaver Line ought most certainly to have kept us on board for the night but we were driven off the boat into the bitter sleet and snow with no possibility of getting on our prospective journey for hours. As well, we were landed miles from the emigrant shed where we had to go and await the arrival of baggage owing to the proper dock being full. By way of filling up the time the women and children were safely deposited in a kind of café where they could get a concoction called "tea" but unrecognizable as far as flavour went.
Presently we heard an alarm of fire and looking out of the window, found the whole place black with smoke. It was not many minutes before we recognized we were in peril and must beat a hasty retreat. The men were, for the most part, away hunting for baggage. For the moment I was terrified lest there might be a panic. Thank God my husband arrived on the scene and rescued us. Barnes rescuing the dog and the luggage. The train was standing in the roadway and we had literally to be thrown in to escape the danger of being either scorched or stifled with smoke. Once in safely we all felt like breaking down. It was a moment not too soon to be forgotten.
Well, we never got away from Saint John until long past midnight on Thursday, owing to the dilatory way in which the luggage was discharged from the Lake Simcoe. It was simply scandalous. My husband could not find a single piece of all our baggage and they telephoned from the ship that everything was out of the hold, and after causing us and many others hours of anxiety and very great suffering and privation, they found that any amount of baggage had been left in the hold owing to carelessness. After weary waiting my poor husband’s patience was at last rewarded and our lost property duly checked and on board the train en route for Saskatoon.
Well I have heard a great deal about travelling on the CPR and, being a shareholder in it too, felt a special interest in it. I have always understood its cars and accommodation to be unequalled for comfort and luxury, but if you substitute for the two latter terms "Discomfort" and "misery" you will be nearer the mark. I can only say the 3rd class carriages on the English Railways are a king to the filthy cars we were huddled into.
No sleeping accommodation and as to the lavatory arrangements, they were simply a disgrace to civilization and in this misery, we were boxed up to spend just on a week. I do think for the sake of others it ought to be exposed. With so many little children to be cared for it was a wonder there was not a serious outbreak of illness. Owing to the overcrowding of the carriages it was almost impossible to get at our provisions and many a time we had felt faint and famished with hunger to say nothing of being starved with cold. Our two little ones have proved themselves brave little souls facing already hunger and privations too numerous to mention. However, the most unfortunate part was I took a chill at Saint John from exposure and a dreadful abscess formed in my face causing me terrible suffering for three days until it broke.
But enough of the gloomy side. I cannot give much description of the country we passed through, as pain almost blinded me, but skirting some of the great lakes there were some grand bits of scenery but not a sign of life, no birds, no cattle, the vastness of it all just strikes one with awe.
Friday, April 24th. We have now been located ins Saskatoon since Wednesday evening busy setting all in readiness to trek up to the Settlement. We have overtaken Mr. Barr and his party. They are all in a huge camp, but the children and I and Willie in a "room" – just a shelter that is all.
Yesterday I was greatly pleased to see my husband and our travelling companion and friend Mr. Young come in with smiling faces and say they had been successful in securing a splendid pair of horses and a wagon. These are ours as Mr. Young is not purchasing yet. The children and I went in the afternoon to see the new purchase. The horses are really beautiful animals, strong, powerful, good-
The next bit of good news is that we have had our land allotted to us and Mr. Barr has arranged that Mr. Young’s homestead is within a mile of us. I need not say how mutually pleased we are at the prospect of being near neighbours. Mr. Young is in every respect such a perfect gentleman. He will go with us up to the settlement. We hope to start tomorrow.
Saturday – we are only waiting now for our baggage. Saturday night -
As to our journey up to Battleford I must condense my account as much as possible as I want to post this at Battleford where we arrived safely yesterday, Sunday, May 2nd, after 4 ½ days trekking through most perilous country. Some of the dykes we had to pass over were simply awful. Very few got through the journey without some serious loss of baggage or horses. I have a fair amount of courage but it has been taxed to the utmost in the past few days.
The children have been most plucky. The natives here think my husband and Barnes have done splendidly to have brought us through so well and free of all mishap. It has been bitterly cold camping out some nights – two degrees below freezing. Still we are alive and contemplate continuing our journey to the settlement tomorrow.
Tuesday, May 4th another 70 miles.
We have camp stove and start and end the day with a good foundation of porridge which we all find a splendid thing to keep us warm and satisfied. This morning I rushed first thing to the Post Office but experienced a very bitter disappointment – not one line from home, everyone with smiling faces eagerly devouring their home news. I must say I came away feeling very sad and lonely, as it is just a month now we left home.
On our way my husband fired his first shot on Canadian soil and shot a fine duck and three prairie chicken and today we are greatly looking forward to a nice savoury dinner, the first hot meal for many days. We cannot feel too thankful that we are all safe thus far. There have been so many mishaps and no wonder – the bogs, ravine and gullies are really fearful. Our good horses have done splendidly. We are enjoying a rest today. I am writing this in camp. The vastness of this country is wonderful and fearfully wild.
I must now close my second general letter written, as before under great difficulties. Our thoughts are constantly wandering to our dear old friends and the dear old country, but although we have passed through so much already, our courage is still undaunted.
Dear friends, don’t forget our address is Post Office, Battleford, N.W.T., Canada. Love and kindest remembrance to all.
Yours as ever,
May 15, 1903
My Dear Friends,
It seems a long time since I last had a paper chat will you all, but my thoughts have been wandering many times to old times, old friends and the old country, causing me a bitter pang of homesickness.
We arrived here at "Doris Court", our own estate, yesterday, May 15th, and are now rejoicing that we are at last at our journey’s end.
On reaching Mr. Barr’s camp by husband went to survey the section of land allotted to him, but he was not at all satisfied and would have nothing to do with it, so Mr. Barr went with him to look in a different section which resulted most happily for my husband, and he is now perfectly satisfied with his location and considers he is the proud possessor of as find a tract of land as is possible to procure.
As I am writing I can look out my tent door and see him quite happy doing his first ploughing on his own soil. There is no doubt it is most beautiful land. We have plenty of wood and water which is a great boon and much to be thankful for. Our friend and travelling companion has the next land adjoining ours which is just as good.
We are only half an hour’s drive from the stores in Mr. Barr’s camp, half a mile from the prospective station, and only a few minutes from the school site. I must now hark back a bit and tell you something of our bitter experience while trekking up to the "Promised Land". On leaving, Battleford we had a 90 mile journey through most awful country shaking us all to pieces, sometimes charging across great steams and gullies, at others driving through thick and scrub. After a long day’s journey we had arrived at the government tent simply perished with cold and hunger.
By the time we reached Mr. Barr’s camp I think we all felt weary, worn, and sad. My dear little Doris was taken ill the day before we arrived and seeing how very feverish she was I was terribly anxious. However, Willie immediately sought out the camp doctor. She had a temperature of 104 I had to poultice her and, thanks to the doctor’s kind attention, she soon pulled around, but misfortune seemed to dog our footsteps. Barnes now sickened and we thought it necessary to call in medical advice. He was much concerned about him and told us he feared it would turn to pneumonia. Owing to skillful and careful treatment he managed to ward it off. I suppose all the worry and anxiety proved the last straw as far as I was concerned for I was the next to collapse with a bad chill and bronchitis from which I am still suffering together with an abscess in my face all of which combined makes me feel very low and out of sorts.
I am writing this on May 17th, dear father’s 83rd birthday and my thoughts have been with him. Every good wish and we hope he spends as happy a day as possible under the circumstances.
Whilst in the Barr camp we were greatly terrified at the terrible prairie fires which simply surrounded us on all sides and we had some very narrow escapes of being burned out of "house and home". At one time every man in camp, every horse and plough was ordered out to plough round the camp to save it from total destruction.
It was terrible to witness a terrific wind carrying all before it and as night came on it really was an awful sight, the pitiless flames as far as eye could see in every direction. There was a lovely lot of grass on our land when Willie first came to see it, but the next day it was all burnt, still all the lovely young grass is shooting up very quickly and at any rate we are now safe from fire of which I am very nervous after all I have witnessed.
May 18th – Willie started ploughing Mr. Young’s land on Saturday morning and in the afternoon started his own. This morning Monday, he had made up his mind to a good day’s work as both Willie and Mr. Young are anxious to get in a few oats for the horses, but also, both are disappointed for the snow is falling and we are thankful to keep in our home by the fire. I think all the country around here will be pretty in a short while.
We are now hunting out a nice spot for our little house which we are anxious to get up as soon as possible. The great difficulty is to get lumber. There is a gentleman in Mr. Barrr’s camp who thinks of returning home. He has the plan of a little four-
We have any amount of prairie chicken and wild duck all over the estate and Willie, I need not say, keeps us supplied. Yesterday and today, we have thoroughly enjoyed a delicious dinner of prairie chicken, beans and potatoes. The beans are like little white peas and very good. They are used here a great deal instead of potatoes which are very scarce and very dear, equivalent to 3d. per lb. We are getting some vegetable seed from Battleford to start our kitchen garden as soon as possible. I shall be so thankful when the warmer weather sets in. I can quite understand the charms of camping then but under the circumstances it has very few charms, I can assure you, and what with the bitter cold and hard ground we don’t get much refreshing rest. Still with all the hardships it is certainly a glorious feeling to be able to look around on our own property and feel that each day’s work is for the future benefit, no landlord and no rent to pay and no taxes. This indeed compensates for a very great deal.
Best love and remembrances to all relations, friends and acquaintances.
Yours every sincerely,
June 4th, 1903
Barr’s Colony; c/o Battleford N.W.T., Section 36, Township 49, Range 1
My Dear Friends,
So much has happened since I last wrote that I hardly know where to begin.
Firstly I have to tell you of a very sad occurrence. Our poor friend and neighbour Mr. Young took a chill during the severe weather ago. He seemed unwell when my husband went up to see him in his own tent ½ mile away and I suggested to Willie to drive him down to us as Barnes had gone back to Battleford to fetch back implements etc., and his tent was vacant for some days, then we could look after him. We went for the camp doctor who thought it a serious case. Friday and Saturday he became actually worse and was very delirious. Two doctors came on Saturday and there happened to be an experienced nurse in camp and she came out to remain the night on Saturday.
I was alone with the poor fellow whilst Willie drove the doctors back to camp and fetched the nurse during which time he told me he knew well he was going to die and wished me to note down his wishes and write and cable to his wife. He wished Willie to take charge of everything he had until such time as we should receive instructions from his family. He passed away at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 24, after only four days illness. It was an awful blow to us as you might imagine. We had been such good friends and he and Willie were so much together. He was buried the same evening at 7 o’clock on his own ground, Dr. Amos and Rev. Lloyd making all arrangements.
We cabled the poor wife in Manchester and I wrote her a long letter giving her all the details and we are now awaiting instructions from her. They were coming out this month. He has four children, two sons 18 and 10 and two daughters 16 and 13. We have the satisfaction of knowing we did everything we possibly could to save him. It all seems like a dream. Ever since this sad event we have had glorious weather and as one looks around on the lovely green grass and the bushes all in thick foliage one can hardly realize that a fortnight ago the ground was covered with snow. Willie has been working very had. He started ploughing (as I told you in a former letter) on May 16th, the day after we arrived here. Now June 4th, he has 5 acres ploughed), ½ acre into potatoes, 1 acre barley and 3 ½ acres oats. The latter are already well up and looking splendid.
About a week ago we managed to buy a nice cow and calf and I can assure you that I feel quite proud that I am not only able to have a nice drop of milk for our own use, but I supply our next neighbour with a quart a day, and yesterday we all thoroughly enjoyed a good cup of cream for tea. What a treat it was!!
Next Monday Barnes goes off to Onion Lake, and Fort Pitt to fetch lumber to start our bungalow. We have chosen the site so I suppose it will be commenced in a fortnight’s time. We have never received any home papers yet. We are going into camp this eve in hope that a mail may be in. Barnes brought a few letters back from Battleford, father’s, Miss Harvey’s (with good news of my little darling Eric) Lille Laxton’s and Mr. Roger’s. How we poured over those letters – the first from home!
I can quite understand the alarm felt on our behalf on reading all the reports but there was a great deal more truth than fiction in them. Mr. Barr did not carry out all he promised (though we have no cause to complain as he always dealt very fairly with us) but there was no provision for the people on their arrival or on the journey up to the Colony either in the way of provisions or accommodation great sufferings in consequence, more especially among the women and children. But everyone is loud in their praises of how all the women have faced their hardships and privations and they were not trifles, I can assure you. Mr. Barr is pretty well out of it now I think, but we have a splendid man in his place the Rev. Lloyd and he is doing everything that can be done for benefit of the colonists. They say Barr will be arrested but I don’t know if it is true. Mr. Lloyd has gone after him to Battleford and all the Stores Committee and there is evidently something wrong somewhere. We are alright and have lost nothing through him – he has always been especially kind to us in all our dealings with him. I forgot to mention when telling about the cow that one of the young fellows who brought it up to us was called Lyle and he told us he had an uncle of that name living at Newton Abbot. He is a clergyman but retired. We are just tortured to death with mosquitoes – the poor children are nearly driven crazy with them. We had to cover our faces with mosquito netting in order to rest at all. I must now close as it is time to get tea and be off and I want to post this in camp tonight.
I end with my usual appeal for news from all friends who can find time to write if only a few lines also anything in the way of literature. We haven’t seen a English paper since we left home.
With best remembrances to all and love to dear Father and Frank.
Yours ever sincerely and affectionately
July 22, 1903
Lloydminster, Britannia Colony
C/o Battleford, N.W.T., Canada
Having heard so much of all the exaggerated reports in praise of and in condemnation of this new colony and everything connected with it I have decided to devote some of the few spare moments of my time to writing my actual personal experience as one of the new colonist settlers, hoping that a true, unvarnished account of the state of affairs may perhaps, if made public, counteract a great deal of unnecessary harm which such reports must reflect on the Colony.
To start from the commencement, I left England April 8th by the Lake Simcoe as I was unable to settle up my affairs in time to join the Barr party on the Lake Manitoba, which afterward proved to be more of an advantage than disadvantage. As far as qualifications are concerned for my starting farming in Canada I may say I have farmed in the Old Country all my life; the estate I rented in Devonshire having been farmed by my forefathers for over 200 years. I was paying rent at the rate of over 10 dollars per acre in addition to rates, tithes and taxes and wages. A crisis having come and failing to get my landlord to do anything either in reduction of rent or repairs of any kind to dwelling house or out buildings, all of which were rapidly falling into ruins, I determined to throw up the life of slavery for others and strike for independence in Canada for good or ill.
Having acquired from headquarters all necessary information respecting the free grant lands in N.W.T. I applied for a homestead for myself and another for one of my men who had decided to throw his lot in with mine and in spite of the disapproval of many and dismal prophecies of failure, I, with my wife and children aged 2 and 4, left the old country, not without many a heartache for all near and dear to us that we were leaving behind yet with a strong determination to face all difficulties and succeed in the end.
Our voyage from Liverpool to St. John’s was a record one and we landed in St. John’s April 13th, having sailed from Liverpool April 8th and from this time onward our trial of endurance commenced. We were just bustled off the Lake Simcoe like so many cattle late in the day in terrible weather, snow and sleet, hungry and miserable, no proper meal having been provided on board since early in the day. Owing to the Lake Manitoba being still in dock, we had to land a long distance away and managed to be in the very thick of the fire which is now ancient history but was alarming indeed to those who happened to be as near it as ourselves, next door in fact. Thank God, I got my wife and children, also baggage, in safety. We then had to wait till past midnight to get our baggage from the Lake Simcoe, was from Wednesday till Thursday midnight just huddled together in the train almost starved with cold and hunger. Over the next portion of our journey I would like to draw a veil. It seems all the sleeping and colonist cars had been requisitioned by the Manitoba party, consequently the accommodation provided for us by the C.P.R. was of the most miserable description both as regards comfort and cleanliness, such as no English would tolerate for cattle. My wife, who is a shareholder in the C.P.R. exclaimed "Is this the wonderful C.P.R. that we hear so much of with all its wonderful accommodation for comfortable travelling? After enduring indescribable misery in the train from April 15th to April 22nd, we reached Saskatoon remaining there until April 29th. Here was the huge Barr encampment, but of the arrangements there I know little or nothing as I made my own independent arrangements and took a room for my wife and children but I much doubt if those in camp suffered much more than we did, for accommodation and food were alike miserable and even filthy.
My first business at Saskatoon was to purchase wagon and pair of horses and harness which cost me $508.00, a stiff outlay but a necessitous one, also camp stove, plough, harrows and a good supply of nails and tools. I had to waste a week here waiting for baggage thanks to the total lack of organization on the part of the C.P.R. causing us great unnecessary expense which we could ill afford. However, we managed at last having duly packed up our traps, to set out April 29 en route for Battleford having provisioned ourselves for the journey which was fortunate for there was nothing to be got on the road as represented or rather misrepresented, thus causing much misery and privation to many of the poorer class who had in a great measure counted on availing themselves of this promised boon. My experience of horses and driving in the Old Country stood me in good stead and, in spite of all difficulties, inclement weather, rough country, we reached Battleford safe and sound without one mishap in 4 ½ days which was considered very good as I had a heavy load. We remained in camp from May 10, to May 15th, prairie fires raging around on all sides causing terrible damage and giving rise to serious anxiety at one time for the safety of the whole camp, necessitating summoning out all men, horses and ploughs that happened to be available.
I lost no time in starting to view the homestead allotted to me by Mr. Barr in Township 49, Section 23, 24, Range 1 but quickly decided it was not good for agricultural purposes and after due application Mr. Barr escorted me himself the next day to Township 49, Section 36, Range 1, which land I was greatly pleased with and decided at once upon it for my location, and on May 15, after many and great difficulties, we pitched our tents at last on our own domain with a blessed feeling of thankfulness that the journeying was over and longed for goal reached at least. I started the next day to plough and in less than a week had ploughed and tilled three acres of oats and the week after 1 ½ acres barley and ½ acre of potatoes. At the time of writing this, July 22nd, I have ¼ acres Swedes also mangos and vegetables of all kinds in my garden all of which are looking splendid considering late sowing in consequence of the severest and latest Spring known in the colony for 25 years.
I am much pleased with my land which is good soil mostly cleared for plough with sufficient wood and brush for useful purposes. My wife and I view daily from our tent door the rapid completion of our bungalow which is to be our future home. This has been a heavy expenditure owing to the lack of lumber having to fetch all from Fort Pitt or Onion Lake 30 miles distant. The supply is totally inadequate to the demand which seems the great drawback in respect to all supplies and a great hindrance to the settlers generally who have so much to do in the short time and this is a matter which greatly needs the attention of the authorities. The stores are terribly deficient of all necessities and unless arrangements are made to improve this department and greater facilities for obtaining tools, implements and general necessities, the colonists will be heavily and seriously handicapped and the success of the colony seriously affected. This is the cry of the majority of the colonists and the difficulties above mentioned are doing much to discourage those anxious and willing to work, to say nothing of those who belong to the noble army of grumblers and who are only too ready to look on the black side of everything.
The many who "turned back" and spread such alarming and distressing reports of the colony were mostly those who placed too much confidence in the rosy accounts of everything they read in print and relied too much on the promises made as to the provisions and transport on their journey up to the settlement. That there was real ground for compliant in respect to the latter there is no doubt whatever. On the other hand many never brought their common sense into use at all, else they would have realized that as pioneers in a new colony they must have many serious difficulties and drawbacks to encounter and that all the courage and determination one is possessed of must needless be brought into play to surmount the inevitable drawbacks we are bound to face before we can "stem the tide". I cannot speak too highly in praise of the valuable and kindly assistance of the Government Officials who have spared no trouble or pains to smooth away all difficulties as far as they were able. We cannot live without supplies, we cannot work without tools, neither one or the other are forthcoming as they ought to be. When complaints are made we are told "Oh, it will be alright when we get the railway through the colony." I quite believe it, but what are we going to do meanwhile for the workers on the railway cannot get on with their work for the very same reason, they cannot procure the necessary tools. Delay everywhere. Real workers eager to get on with the success of the Colony at heart will, I am sure, join with me in a very earnest plea that those in authority who have the power to do so will come to our aid, remedy the above mentioned deficiencies and save much needless distress and anxiety to those who have given up home, country and friends in the Old Country to devote their future to the success of the new colony.
"W. R. Rendell"
The next letter is by William H. Rendell. In it he addresses the controversy which had been fuelled by sensational newspaper reports of difficulties and divisions in "the Colony". Note that Rendell, in common with the other colonists, now uses the name “Britannia Colony” for the settlement; not “Barr Colony”.
Township 49, Section 36, Range 1
August 6, 1903
I see my last letter was dated June 4th. Time flies even in camp life which thank goodness terminates today, for this afternoon we contemplate moving up to "Doris Court" and sleep tonight, for the first time in four months, within the shelter of four walls. July is the rainy month here and when the rain does come down it is like a deluge. Imagine the delight of being aroused night after night from your slumbers by the rain trickling down on you and as a rule it has the nasty habit of drifting just the very side of the tent you happen to be lying. I can assure you we have found it very trying. Next month, September, we are supposed to get what they term "Indian Summer". Then about the 2nd week in October winter sets in.
Since writing the above we have really removed to our very own domicile, and right proud we feel to look around, even though it be bare boards, and feel it is our own home. All the weary trekking at an end. We look from one window and see the lovely oats and barley looking splendid. From another window I look across and see the "master of Doris Court" ploughing away for dear life with his fine pair of horses, each acre ploughed meaning the better prospect for the coming year. The said team are just as fat as butter, they having taken themselves off 7 weeks ago across the prairie and baffled all efforts to find them until 4 days ago when Barnes and another young fellow rode away, we having had some tidings of their whereabouts, and, greatly to our delight, they returned the same evening bringing the delinquents with them. Their long absence was getting a serious matter as time is growing short and every available hour must be devoted to ploughing before winter sets in.
Well the many friends who are sufficiently interested in our welfare will be wondering what sort of "shanty" Doris Court is, so I must try and paint it as vividly as possible in our mind’s eye. It is in bungalow form, measuring 30 ft. by 30 and contains 5 rooms, 1 large attic the whole extent of the house quite fit to use for a bedroom as we have had it all nicely boarded round and floored and 2 very large cellars in which we can store all necessary provisions for the winter. I shall try and send with this a little plan which will give you all a pretty clear idea of the position and size of rooms. Everyone that sees it is of the same opinion that it is quite the best home in the colony.
There will be a verandah 4 or 5 feet wide round three sides of the house which will be lovely in the summer and a fine garden all around as we are not stinted for ground and we hope in the spring to get up some fruit and other trees from the experimental farm to plant around. There is certainly a great charm and fascination in planning it all out knowing that it is our own property. I often say it compensates one largely for all the hardships we have passed through.
Everyone assures us that we shall not have the chance of feeling lonely through the winter as we are close to the township and they will all be trooping out to see us. We have gone to more expense over our house than we intended in the first instance but so many want putting up for the winter that we felt it would repay us to have extra room. As it is we have had a lot of applications already which we have under consideration.
Our bungalow will be warmed throughout by means of pipes from the kitchen stove and a heating stove which will be placed in the octagonal hall. There are no stoves as [in] England and we burn nothing but wood. The fires have to be kept going night and day during the winter and we have to put up double windows, viz. outside frames which can be removed in the summer.
The wild flowers are very lovely and those of my friends who know me best will guess the delight they afford me. The small single sunflower is now in abundance all over our land, also gallardias, a kind of lily of the valley and red tiger lilies. Whilst I think of it I want all old friends who can send me some seeds in a letter as I would much like my garden to be one of reminiscences of the dear Old Country, especially Buckland, Netherton, Homefield, and Home House and I should prize them so.
The mail goes out this eve so I must reluctantly curtail this edition and reserve further news until the next budget.
Love and kindest remembrances to all relations and friends,
Yours ever sincerely,
Above: In the British fashion, the Rendell’s gave their homestead a name "Doris Court" in honour of their eldest daughter. The photos is from fall 1903. Far left, young Leslie on a hobby horse, unidentified female visitor, Alice, standing by the door, and Doris sitting on the step.
In later years, a veranda would be added on three sides, and trees, shrubs and flowers would further enhance it’s appearance.
Oct 21st, 1903
Doris Court, Britannia, Lloydminster, N.W.T., Canada
My Dear Friends:
Whenever anything of importance happens I always feel it is about time to write a general letter.
Yesterday was a day never to be forgotten by any of the inmates at Doris Court or inhabitants of Lloydminster. For days past we have been anxiously watching 7 huge prairie fires raging in the distance, fearing that a wind might bring heavy disaster to our homestead and town.
The night of Oct. 20 was an anxious one, the terrible circle of fire closing around us. The general opinion was that we were safe for the night but I could not sleep. The next morning our worst fears were realized and we knew that a few hours would decide our fate.
The only safeguard against prairie fires is a broad belt of ploughing all around your homestead. This my husband had done with the exception of one side which, alas, was the very side towards which the fire was sweeping with awful rapidity. Needless to say the plough was soon at work and it was literally ploughing for dear life. Every available tub was filled with water, every sack collected together to beat out the flames when the time should come. Mr. Rendell, Barnes and another man who is working for us, were all on the alert, watching with intense eagerness all the different points. Meanwhile within the house, I, together with Mrs. Flamank, the wife of our postmaster who is boarding with us for the winter, and Mrs. Bunyan, who nursed me when our little girl was born, stood gazing out of the window horror stricken at the awful sight that met our eyes. We, each of us, had 3 little children and each one in arms. We mustered 9 little ones, all under 6. Our little flock fortunately were too young to realize the deadly peril we were in and we had to keep on "rounding them up" preparation to a hasty flight.
I collected a few little valuables and looked around with a very heavy heart wondering whatever would become of us if in an hour or two we should be homeless. At last we could stand still no longer and we three women rushed out and filling buckets with the clay and soil dug up from the foundation we scattered it all over the ground immediately around the house. The wind was blowing a hurricane, bringing or rather driving the fire straight for us. The awful roar of the flames was enough to make the bravest shudder and the smoke and smell stifling. Willie continued ploughing until absolutely compelled to stop owing to heat and smoke. Our two men meanwhile drenched our roof with water and arming themselves with wet sacks, hurried to the weakest points where there was the least probability of the flames "jumping" the fire guard which was only 150 yds. off the house all round.
We could do nothing more than wait with bated breath.
At last came the joyful sound "safe" from the western side but the danger was not yet over for on the north west side we were again threatened and after the horses had been placed in safety, all hands had to fly around to meet the enemy at the fresh point of attack and, after a hard fight, thanks to cool heads and strong arms, the dreaded fire was kept at bay and after a short time of awful suspense and anxiety my husband came back to us with the welcome assurance "all danger over, safe for another year". We were all too overjoyed for the words and after the dreadful strain of so many hours you may pretty well guess what the reaction was like. Mr. Rendell was literally tired out but after a little rest and refreshment we all felt better. We lost 4 ton of hay only but many lost their hay ricks.
The fire started by the Vermilion river and was raging for days before it reached us and swept on down towards Battleford. There is no doubt whatever but that our fire guard in a great measure saved the town life. Apart from the horror of it, it was a most wonderful site. Of course on the prairie you can see an enormous distance and for 20 or 30 miles there was nothing but flames. As it grows dusk the effect is most weird. How thankful we were that the fire reached us in the daytime and not at night. Thus ends my description of a prairie fire and I earnestly trust I may never witness such another.
We have quite a houseful at present mustering 15 in all, which is a big family to cater and cook for. My little ones are quite happy, the little Canadian girl being especially bonnie and thriving splendidly.
Our town site is all surveyed and the Government have decided to grant a plot of land to every colonist who cares to apply for it. Mr. Rendell and Barnes have each got one and we intend erecting a little store on ours for the disposal of our dairy produce. We are hoping to get 2 or 3 more cows this next week. Everyone likes our butter made in the old Devonshire fashion.
I have been for a drive today and the town is growing very very fast, dozens of little "shacks" springing up all around. There are two large general stores, two restaurants, Post office, Butchers shop, Blacksmiths, Vicarage all within 20 minutes walk of Doris Court. I have had to write this at odd moments and in great haste and must reluctantly curtail this and write the rest of my news later on.
I was overjoyed to receive today six home letters from my dear old friends in acknowledgment of the news of the birth of my little daughter.
Yours as ever,
Dec 10, 1903
My Dear Friends,
Little did I dream this time last year that I would be sending you my New Year Greeting this year from over the sea thousands of miles away. The approach of Xmas makes me feel pretty homesick at times, though I haven’t much time to brood over it which is a very good thing. Before launching into my "yarn" let me wish one and all every happiness and prosperity for the coming year and all succeeding ones.
There is to be a general gathering of the whole colony on Xmas day and great preparations are being made to make it a great success. Church Service at 10:30 High Tea at 5 followed by Concert and large Xmas tree for the children. It is all being well organized, sub-
Mr. Hall, who is the owner of the large store, is lending his building for the occasion and on Boxing Night we hope to have a dance. Everything is going ahead now with amazing rapidity.
We have been most fortunate in having most glorious weather, continuous sunshine from day to day and hard frost at night. Our clergyman, Mr. Lloyd, is a very musical man and every Wednesday he holds a choir practice at his own house. The first hour is devoted to the music for the following Sunday services after which we have secular music, quartettes, trios, duets and solos, all the best music we can muster. He has now formed a "Musical Union" and we already have 110 names on the list of members. I need hardly say I have joined and I thoroughly enjoy the practices they are so splendidly conducted. We really have a very fine choir. Every Thursday eve there is either a concert or debate upon some popular and instructive topic. The past fortnight it has been decided by general consent to erect a structure which, for the time being, will serve as church, school and recreation room. Everyone is giving a log (it is, of course, to be built of logs) and the names of each donor to be engraved thereon by their own hand. All the work of erecting it is to be done voluntarily each one having volunteered a day’s, two day’s or a week’s work. Things go ahead and no mistake. With regard to the Choral Union, the idea is for all the places around such as Battleford, Onion Lake, Bresaylor all to form branches and practice the same music and then have a meeting from time to time of the massed choirs. The Lloydminster Choir has already been invited to Onion Lake in March (36 miles). The whole party to go in sleighs.
We have a sleigh now which we use with our wagon box. It is a delightful sensation flying over the snow which is not soft like in England but very hard and crisp. One great drawback is the lack of water. We dug one well without success and now have started another. They got down 20 feet but no luck as yet. Every drop of water I use for cooking and washing is melted snow and lovely water it is too, but, of course, it means a lot of labour carting it in and melting it down.
Everyone is in great excitement just now. An "overseer" has to be elected (same as our Mayor) and canvassing is going on pretty smartly and I rather fancy the general favourite is Mr. Amos (Dr.). So you see with one thing and another we are quite busy.
And now, dear friends, a little bird tells me some of you are just working hard for the benefit of the hospital here in response to my appeal. I can find no words to express my delight and gratitude and am positive that your kindly effort in so good a cause will surely bring its own reward and I am sure many a hearty blessing will be evoked on your behalf in Lloydminster.
A little lumber shack is to be put up almost immediately so great is the need for it. Thank you all most earnestly. You would not wonder at my taking this so much to heart could you have witnessed what I have or been through what I myself have suffered. You cannot realize how awful it is. My letter to you will be a true and accurate account of how we spent our first Xmas in the colony.
The little ones are all well and happy and growing very rapidly. The wee Canadian is the happiest baby I have ever seen. She will, I think, be very like Doris. I think I have told you most of the news. I have been somewhat handicapped in my work lately owing to a sprained arm. I have managed at some time or another to strain the principal muscle of my left arm. It has been terribly painful. Dr. Amos feared at first that I had put it out of joint. Mr. Rendell has just bought a piece of railway land adjoining our homestead consisting of 320 acres. As soon as the railway is up it must be most valuable and will add greatly to the value of our homestead. We have also bought a little colt one year old for $11.00 and a ton of hay thrown in. The children are very delighted. Our old Sport is very well and quite at home. Our police (N.W.M.P.) are still with us and are very lively boys, no fear of being dull where they are. They make a great pet of Doris. She always pours tea for them. The other people are leaving next Wednesday, for which I am truly thankful.
I must close now with hearty good wishes to all.
Your affectionate friend.
Left: “Doris Court” in the winter of 1903 -
Jan 19, 1904
Doris Court, Lloydminster, Britannia, Sask., N.W.T. Canada
According to promise I am going to do my best to give you, to the best of my ability, a graphic account of how we spent our first Xmas in Lloydminster.
I think as Xmas approached we all rather dreaded it knowing how this special season brings with it so forcibly the memory of all the home gatherings in the Old Country. Fortunately, we, personally, are far to busy with our surrounding to brood over vain regrets and Xmas day was upon us almost before we could realize the fact.
There was service at 11 o’clock a.m. and at 5 p.m. the festivities started. Thanks to the generosity of Messrs. Hall, Scott and co., who have just completed a very large building for general stores, the gathering of the Colonists took place there and it is certainly owing to their great kindness that our Xmas and New Year was spent so pleasantly and happily.
The first item on the programme was a big feed followed by a capital concert divided into two parts. After the first half had been successfully carried through came a large Xmas tree very prettily decorated, the girls being delivered by an ideal "Santa Claus". I need scarcely say how delighted the little ones were. The whole proceedings were brought to a close about 11:30 p.m. after a most enjoyable social gathering and the first Xmas in Lloydminster is a thing of the past but nevertheless it will be remembered by all who were present as a bright and happy one, the more so as it was unexpected and well carried out. The effect that is had upon us was that we all felt cheered by this little excitement after all we had previously passed through and somehow "longed for more". Thanks again to Messrs. Hall Scott and Co., another happy gathering was arranged for New Year’s Eve and yet another for New Year’s Day. They not only gave the use of their splendid building for a dance but undertook all arrangements and issued a general invitation and welcome to all. The room was prettily decorated and the floor was well waxed. The band consisted of several violins, two coronets and a harmonium. We started dancing at 8:30 p.m. and, after a most enjoyable evening, broke up about 4:30 a.m.
We all felt years younger. We women up with Sir Roger and Auld Lang Syne and walked back to Doris Court in brilliant moonlight arriving home as the clock struck 5 a.m.
The next evening (Saturday) there was an excellent concert at the conclusion of which there was an inpromptu dance, this being the last chance in Messrs. Hall, Scott and Co’s spacious building. You will see that our Xmas and New Year was by no means dull or miserable, nor were our dear absent ones forgotten.
We are much amused at the reports that reach us from England as to the terrible plight that we are in even to the verge of starvation. Please one and all disabuse your minds of any such ideas. We are quite happy and contented, very much better off than we were in England, whilst as to food, we live quite as well as we ever did. We have two butchers on the townsite. Our meat is delivered at the door and is of the very best quality.
Certainly we have had difficulties to surmount and hardships to endure but we quite expected we should before we left England and we treasured up a reserve fund of determination and pluck which stood us in good stead when the need came. I would never advise anyone to come out here who is the least afraid of work. They are better off at home.
There is plenty of room to breathe in this country and if the work is hard, the freedom, which is the indispensable attribute of life here, makes one far less susceptible to physical fatigue than in England where one seems to have such a feeling of weighty oppression to handicap one’s energies. Here one feels that each week’s work is a step onward whilst also in the Old Country oftentimes, a year’s hard toil brought nothing but disappointment and additional anxiety.
We are proud possessors of the best home in the Colony and I think I might also add, the best homestead. It is generally pronounced by those whose opinion is worth having, to be of exceptionally good value owing to its close proximity to the town, our land is actually adjoining the townsite.
There is no doubt whatever but that Lloydminster bids fair to be a very important centre, its growth week by week is marvelous.
The Government is now erecting a large Emigration Hall in anticipation of the arrival of new comers in the Spring. Meetings are now being held to discuss and perfect all arrangements for the meeting of expected friends and families and ensure their safe conduct right up to the Colony. There seems to be a terrible feeling of jealousy or something akin to it existing at Saskatoon and Battleford with regard to this country and they are doing their utmost to dissuade people from coming up beyond those two points by spreading the most gloomy reports which are utterly untrue. Many there are who seem to expect that luxuries sprang up on the prairies like mushrooms, ready for them without any special effort or exertion on their part. I need scarcely say that they are now sadder and wiser men.
So far we have passed through the winter splendidly and at the time of writing this it is January 19. Brilliant sunshine from week’s end to week’s end. Our bungalow has kept beautifully warm; it is heated throughout by pipes connected with the kitchen stove and a heating stove in the Hall. The rooms are all pretty well of an even temperature.
The worst feature that we have had to contend with is the lack of water. We have two wells sunk close to the house but up to now have not been successful in striking water. Of course we are never without water whilst snow is about. We have had a good supply of wood from our own land and the "price of coals" is another item over which we have no need to worry.
We have to pay very dearly for flour, $4.50 for 100 lbs. The reason things are so high is of course owing to the freightage. When the railway comes through the Colony everything will be cheaper.
There is every prospect of the rail being opened up in a year from now. The telegraph will be in working order in a few weeks time. We have two large general stores, drug stores, a resident doctor and hospital in view. We have a Choral Union mustering 120 members and they are now forming a Rifle Corps, 160 members enrolled. Mr. Rendell has been appointed Lieutenant and Auditor.
The temperature at time of writing registered 28 below zero. Those who have been outside say it is a bit "nippy" and if you don’t take proper precautions to well protect nose and ears you soon get the frost bitten. The only remedy there is to well rub the part with snow till circulation is restored.
The land here is of splendid quality fit to grow anything and especially adapted for mixed farming. We have now 480 acres.
By next spring several thousand more are expected to arrive in the Colony and no trouble is being spared to arrange everything for their comfort on their arrival either at Saskatoon or Edmonton. Should this letter be made public and meet the eye of any who may be desirous of coming out to the Colony I can only say we shall be only too pleased to answer any questions or give any information in our power. There can be no doubt whatever but that the Colony will succeed and that Lloydminster in a few years time, will be a very large and prosperous centre. But I certainly hope I have ere this dispelled all unfavourable ideas as to our fortune. Probably many who have been commiserating our lot have greater need of pity than we, for whilst they are still plodding and "hibernating", we are on the progressive, probably making greater headway in twelve months than they in as many years for this is nothing if not a "go ahead" country.
Best wishes to all old friends in the Old Country from
Lloydminster, November 1905
It has come to my ears that some of you are still athirst for more about Canada, so I am going to try to send you a short account of how we are progressing in this far away land. Well, the town of Lloydminster is growing – not "slowly and surely" but "rapidly and surely". Just recently we have a fine Bank Building belonging to the Canadian Bank of Commerce.
It is such a long time since I last wrote you a general letter that I think I must make an effort to give you some idea of how we are getting on up to date.
Much has happened since I wrote last and I hardly know where to begin.
Lloydminster is now quite a little town; the rail is up and our station is quite a pretty addition to the town. Little did I think that the whistle of an engine would ever sound so sweet.
The passenger service is not properly organized yet as the line is still in the hands of the construction party but as soon as the line is completed and handed over to the C.N.R. company then we shall have a regular service. It is hard for you in the Old Country surrounded by every comfort and luxury, to realize to the smallest degree what we have all been through the past two years in comparative isolation. Sometimes without the slightest idea of what was going on in the outside world for a fortnight or three weeks together. For the winter, comparatively at the mercy of the weather for news of provisions, all having to come by road from Saskatoon and when they did come the price of the commonest necessity was enough to make the pluckiest feel downhearted when they saw the capital we had thought ample to carry us on for a year or so vanishing like dust almost care in living.
It will be different when the train .. has become a stock phrase.
It was weary waiting and many of us had almost lost heart until one day we heard the rails were laid within two miles of Lloydminster and in less than a week later the first train steamed into Lloydminster. Since then there has been quite a revolution in the price of everything. Flour, which we had paid $5 per 100 for is now $2.80 top price and everything else in proportion. Lumber too is coming down in price. Town lots have been on the market and brought high prices.
Everyone is now building lumber houses instead of the log shack of the "old timers", bricks too are being extensively used for building and this winter will probably be a pretty severe test as to whether they will stand the climate or no.
To those like ourselves who were amongst the first to arrive up in the Colony in May 1903 and at most one dozen tents were all that could be seen on the bare prairies, and now three large hotels are in the course of erection, stores of all kinds, a fine building for the branch of Canadian Bank of Commerce, drug store, printing office from which is issued weekly our newsy little paper the "Lloydminster Times". It is just marvellous.
This year has been a good season on the whole for harvest, but everything has to be done with such a rush the summer season is so short. One needs an infinite amount of patience in this climate, the late and early frost play such awful havoc.
This year we had 50 acres under cultivation – our grain is not threshed yet as the threshing outfit has not been up our way yet but the general yield is – oats about 50 to 60 bushels per acre; wheat about 25. We had about two acres of potatoes and a splendid crop, but alas, an early frost spoilt half before they could be got out of the ground.
From 4 lb. of seed from the Experimental Farm Mr. Rendell had a yield of 136 lbs. Many of them weighing over 20 ounces. Our garden produce was splendid. We picked several cwt. of peas and disposed of them in town, one restaurant taking nearly all we could supply.
We have put on a large addition to our house in the shape of a substantial log building 14 ft by 18 which will serve to store grain in winter and in summer will be utilized for a summer kitchen.
Mr. Rendell is now completing a fine stable also log – 30 by 15. We have some good cows and our milk is disposed of right away and fetched from the door so that we have no bother.
The Recipe for Success
It's going onward despite defeat,
And fighting staunchly but keeping sweet,
It's being clean and it's playing fair,
It's laughing lightly at Dame Despair;
It's looking up at the stars above
And drinking deeply of life and love.
It's struggling on with the will to win
But taking loss with a cheerful grin,
It's sharing sorrow and work and mirth
And making better the good old earth;
It's doing your job the best you can
And being just to your fellow man.
It's serving, striving through strain & stress
It's doing your noblest that's Success.
Above: Lloydminster’s first bank, that Alice describes in her letter (left), Beside it a team of young oxen, and in the rear St. John’s Minster.
Alice Rendell remained an active and supportive member of the Lloydminster community for many years. She was especially active in drama and music, both as a performer and volunteer and was talented in many areas. At bottom of this page is a needle-
Alice died in Edmonton November 28, 1944 and is buried in the Lloydminster Cemetery alongside William who had passed away in Lloydminster, May 15, 1934 -
The Rendell name survives in Lloydminster as befits a couple who gave so much to the community in it’s early days and whose values reflected their era.
They truly followed Alice’s hand-