Friday, November 9, 2018

Gladstone gathering renews old acquaintances and memories

Musical Interlude with Adam Grose, Holly and Bev Everts, Hilah Simmons, Dave Simmons, Sarah Spranza (Iva Hemphill photos)

Hilah Simmons -
Almost 50 people gathered on the evening of Saturday, November 3, to talk about old times in the Gladstone Valley, tell stories, make music, and feast on pot luck offerings. This took place at Gladstone Mountain Conference Grounds at the kind invitation of the Hemphill family.

Iva Hemphill, Stan Fisher and David Simmons came up with the idea so people could learn more about the history of Gladstone Valley and reminisce about old times and past residents. People came here from as far away as Edmonton to join in the fun. We learned that when Stan Fisher moved here in the 40’s (making him one of the valley’s longest term residents), the valley was called “Pleasant Valley,” and at some point it was referred to as “Shotgun Valley.”

After dinner, the evening was kicked off by a reading of two letters from former residents who couldn’t make it to the gathering: Donna Elliott and Donna Murray. Donna Elliot mentioned tipi rings, which can still be seen near Gladstone Creek, showing the Indigenous history of the valley. Her grandparents, the Barclays, had homesteaded here. Donna Murray worked at the Gladstone Guest Ranch when it was run by Chuck Ridder’s family, both as a “Jill of all trades” as well as a master ferrier until she was seriously injured in an accident. Bev Everts, who also worked at the Guest Ranch, read her letter and has maintained her friendship with Donna ever since.

A number of people stood up to share memories and stories. Jim and Donna Cisar joined the gathering from their home in Cowley. Ancestors of Jim - and his aunt Anne Cisar’s husband Frank - arrived in the valley in 1914 from the area of present-day Czech Republic so there is a connection with Iva Hemphill in that they came from the same part of Europe. The first Wenzel Cisar (in a line of several Wenzel Cisars over the generations) worked in the coal mines but was injured in an mine explosion. 

Truda Louey , Stanley Fisher, Gloria Bond
Gloria Bond spoke about her brother Gus’s and her residence in the valley near the Hagglunds with their dad, who made a living hunting and trapping off the land for his family. They were very self-reliant, using bush remedies such as pine pitch for toothache. Once he walked all the way to town and back to see a dentist when that remedy failed to work. Gus still lives on Hagglund Road.

Willem and Marcia Langenberg spoke about her parents, the Johnstons, bringing her and her sisters here to their vacation cabin when they were little girls. Willem and Marcia are still coming from Edmonton to enjoy the landscape and the friendly neighbours several times a year.

Jacques Daignault was the comedian of the bunch and helped everyone to many good laughs. He told the story of the “old blue car” which stopped running, got pushed into the bushes, and has been here every since, but now has big trees growing up through it. He also reminded us that we are all newcomers and need to enjoy and share each others’ traditions.

Musical interludes included eleven year old Ruby Spranza playing “Swallowtail Jig” very adeptly on her fiddle. Her granny and Adam Grose played a song called “Gladstone Valley,” a parody on the song “Oklahoma” by Rogers and Hammerstein which ends “You’re doing fine Gladstone Valley, Gladstone Valley, our home.”

Holly (Keith) Everts talked about the long history of sustainable land stewardship adapted to the valley’s unique ecology, including both tried and proven practices as well as a recent experiment in organic ranching.

In addition to ranching and farming, coal mining, work in the oil patch, logging, dairy, and lumber milling took place in Gladstone Valley. A railroad came through at the foot of the valley and caused the Mountain Mill Church to be moved.

Sally Rumsey spoke about the parents of her husband Danny, Clint and Bet, and how they settled and farmed here for many years. They were plagued by fires, fierce winters, and being snowbound in the middle of winter. Clint would snowshoe over the ridge to Beaver Mines for supplies and mail, quite a long trek. As many farmers still do, Rumseys used creative ways of making a living for the family with five children: selling vegetables, cream, and eggs; selective logging; sawing lumber with Clint’s home-made portable sawmill; driving school bus; and hunting.

Hans Buhrmann, who raised llamas and alpacas for several years, told us he bought the land without a guaranteed source of water. In the winter of the following year he was relieved to discover a huge ice field, indicating productive springs.

Another musical interlude was the singing of the “Church in the Wildwood” as rewritten by Beryl Pauls for the 100th anniversary of Mountain Mill, the little church at the downstream end of Gladstone Valley. Both at Hemphills’ upstream end where many gospel meetings and camps are carried on, and at the “little white church” at the downstream end, meaningful worship and fellowship still take place.

Another Gladstone Valley gathering is planned for the future to keep our community connected and continue sharing and recording stories, music, and good food in this beautiful foothills landscape.

Thanks to Hemphills for hosting us and to those who organized the memorable event.

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