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Fierce Storm Struck South

Our Treasured Heritage
A History of Coalhurst and District
Pages 78-79
A Herald Flashback

South Alberta has been swept by many a blizzard but the fierce storm of 1927 was one of the worst marked by the tragic death of four men and a boy.

The blizzard hit on the afternoon of Dec. 5, 1927, just 37 years ago this week. The tragic story broke in The Herald of Tuesday, Dec. 6, with a banner headline across the seven-column front page: "Three Dead, One Missing In Monday's Storm."

Missing was John Huculak, seven-year-old Coalhurst school boy. Dead were William Cameron, Vulcan district farm hand; John Richardson, 65-year-old Skiff sheep rancher; and John Johnston, aged farmer of the Champion district.

Another Body

The following day another man was found dead 25 miles east of Retlaw. His body was discovered on the CPR tracks close to Ronalane, on the Suffield Retlaw branch. He was thought to have been a coyote hunter. The body was sent to Medicine Hat for identification. He was James Partridge, a First World War veteran of Winnipeg.

At the same time, Wednesday, hope was diminishing that the Coalhurst school boy would be found alive. The death toll was counted at four men and one boy.

Johnny Huculak's body was found a week after the blizzard, on the farm of a Mrs. Gray, southeast of Coalhurst. He died 3 1/2 miles southeast of his own home. The body was discovered by Harry Black, a farmer, beside a strawstack. The boy froze to death within a quarter of a mile of the Gray farm home. Johnny had set off for the Coalhurst village school on that fateful Monday. The storm had driven him off the road.

It had been a week of severe tension for Johnny's family. While searchers braved the biting cold Johnny's mother, father and five brothers and sisters waited in their cottage at Wigan, suburb of Coalhurst village. Mr. Huculak was an invalid miner.

The four men died as they had lived, in the outdoors.

About six miles southeast of Champion, John Johnson, the aged farmer, was found frozen to death on the prairie.

Skiff sheep rancher John Richardson was found in his wagon near Skiff, his horses standing nearby.

The story of how he had tried to help Richardson and failed was told by Carl Nelson.

The two were travelling with a four-horse team attached to a wagon when the afternoon storm struck. They became chilled. Nelson tried to get Mr. Richardson to ride one of the horses, leave the wagon and make for safety.

The elderly man was so overcome by the cold and snow that he was unable to ride a horse. Nelson helped him back into the wagon and took one of the horses to go for help. On reaching the shelter of a farmhouse, Nelson himself was badly frozen, but went out again to look for his friend. Efforts to locate Richardson proved unsuccessful until Tuesday morning when his frozen remains were found.

Farm Hand Dies

William Cameron, farm hand of the Reid Hill district, 15 miles east of Vulcan, perished in the blizzard after having been sent to a coal mine by his employer. Cameron's body was found by a search party at midnight. He was found near Lake McGregor.

There were many tales of people who escaped the storm but perhaps the story of Telitha Carlson of Glenwood was the most harrowing. The 15-year-old daughter of John Carlson was caught on the road to school and in trying to make a farmhouse lost her way. From I to 9 p. m. she wandered through the storm.

Telitha was found at 9 p.m. in the deep snow. She had collapsed. Her face and feet were badly frozen. One shoe was off. Both stockings were down around her ankles and the other shoe was frozen to her foot. She was found by Owen Stringam, son of George L. Stringam, member of the Alberta legislature.

Owen carried the girl for half a mile on his back, was met by his father, and they took her home. She survived.

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Mary Tollestrup