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The Hamlet of Early Years

Seven Persons - Once Hundred Sixty Acres and a Dream

Chapter 7

"Our Town", as the hamlet was fondly called, was well patronized for many years. Horses provided the principle means of travel. To go to Medicine Hat meant an additional sixteen miles, more or less, each way, over mere wagon trails. Wheat and other grains were brought to the local elevators; cattle and horses were driven to the stock yard. Coal, lumber and all necessities, and especially people, had to be moved to the surrounding country. Horses under saddle, or hitched to wagons, buggies, democrats, carts or sleighs were in common use. There were even a few mules and a few oxen brought in to do the work of horses. There was quite a race to get the land producing and the community developed.

The Narrow Gauge Railway, utilizing the Turkey Track, used a thirty-six inch narrow gauge track, a type popular in the United States. It was built by the North-west Coal and Navigation Company to haul coal from Coal Banks at Lethbridge to Canadian Pacific Railway trains at Dunmore, and replaced the steamboat fleet on the South Saskatchewan River. Sometime later the Spokane Flier used this line, but the tracks were modified to fifty-six and a half inches which is standard gauge. When the Canadian Pacific Railway Company purchased the Spokane Flier it used this rail as part of its route through the Crowsnest Pass to Vancouver.

Throughout the years the Canadian Pacific Railway has given good service between Seven Persons and the two major cities, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. A railway connecting Lethbridge with Foremost, Etzikom, Orion and Manyberries was not put into operation until sometime during 1917, so prior to that time Seven Persons was the business centre for that large expanse to the south. For many homesteaders this meant travelling with horses, a distance of possibly seventy miles, spending two days each way, taking loads both directions.

The hamlet grew and grew, and, at one time comprised numerous places of business. There was a post office, another general store, owned and operated by Charlie Robb, a dry goods store with Mr. Calder and his daughter Minnie as shopkeepers, a three-storied hotel and saloon managed by Bert Stubbs, four grain elevators,three lumber yards, two blacksmith shops with George Boman and Roy Spooner and later John Meyer, Junior, as smithies, three livery barns, a hardware store, built by John Reynolds and sold later to Mr. Bill Bish, a machinery shop, owned by Sam Parker, a creamery operated by Mr. Marlette, Fisher's Saddlery, Art Dinnetz' Shoe Repair, Yokum's Undertaking Parlor with Mr. Yokum and Mr.Posey as undertakers, two banks, the Royal and the Union Banks, with Mr. McAdams as manager of the former, Bergman's Meat Market. Mrs. Wiley Orr's Icecream Parlor, the Smith Pool Hall, McNeill's Barber Shop, Mrs. Madill's Bakery, a Chinese restaurant, a Chinese laundry, a church with a manse and a stable, a two-roomed school, a community hall, Dr. Crawford's medical office and drugstore, a depot, a water tower, a stock yard, and others.

Many homes were constructed in short periods of time. Lumber, brought in by freight trains, did not always reach the lumber yards, but was purchased and taken right from the cars at the loading platform. Carpenters were much in demand, Homeowners became handimen in creating their shelters.

Common two-by-fours sold for twenty-three dollars a thousand board feet, ship-lap for twenty-seven dollars. Insulation, as we know it, was unheard of, but tar paper was used to make the houses more wind resistant, and in many cases became an outer covering for the building.

A few "sod shanties" were erected, but they were neither preferable nor economical.

"Man, unlike a mole, hates to live in a hole."

Songs entitled, "My Tar Papered Shack", and My Little Sod Shanty on the Plains", were genuinely composed and proudly sung. A man's home is ever his castle.

Seven Persons became a typical, spreading village, in the years of 1908 to 1920. It was picturesquely situated at the bend of the creek, a pretty stream that rose to flood proportions during the spring thaws, and had trees along its banks. There were rows of business places, with plank sidewalks connecting doorways, as if all were tied together. The residences were illuminated by coal oil, and later, by gasoline lamps or lanterns, and heated by coal and wood stoves. Each had an outhouse, or "Mrs. Murphy" at the back of its lot. Many of the lots had a barn for a cow and horses, and a coop for chickens. Attempts were made to raise trees and gardens. The roadways or streets were dusty, rutted with mud, or covered with deep drifts of snow. Over all, there were indications of activity, progress, industry and good will.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup