Hobden, John


John Hobden and Katherine Crouch were married in Sussex, England, in 1890. There, one year later my brother Jack was born and in 1893 I, their daughter Kate, arrived, to be joined later by another sister and a brother. Our father was head gardener on a large estate. It was a lovely place to live, although we had only a modest cottage. I had attended school for one year when Father made the big decision to move to Canada.

We boarded ship for Canada in July of 1899, and a crowded, dismal journey it turned out to be. But all things end. We settled in Ottawa, Ontario, where the family grew to eight children over the ensuing years. Father worked at various labors, none very rewarding, and we had plenty of practice in making-do. We also learned the meaning of work at an early age.

The city of Ottawa was not the most healthy place to live in those days; typhoid struck in the year following our arrival and we all fell ill of this; scarlet fever was rampant and we got it; inflammatory rheumatism hit me twice, but I survived. The damp air seemed to encourage colds and there was a lot of smoke and fog.

In 1911 Father left his farm laborer's job to fill a position as a Presbyterian missionary in the Hopkins district of Alberta - later to become Elk Point. I was twenty years old when, together with my brother Bert, we set out for Alberta by train to join our father on his homestead near a bush-surrounded, mosquito-infested but beautiful little lake.

Father rode many miles to preach to the settlers and in the villages around, on horseback, over trails and through the virgin countryside. Mosquitos and sandflies could be a minor nightmare. His flock fed and bedded him along his way; as well, they fed and stabled his horse.

Father was undisputed head of his household, took his Bible seriously, and woe betide the frivolous member who would dare make merry on the Sabbath! Our ears could be boxed for even a burst of laughter or any song not holy. No work was to be done on the Sunday - by him - but Mother always had a special meal to prepare for all of us and often company too. Although not an ordained minister, Father conducted funerals and baptisms, but did not officiate at weddings.

John Hobden wore a full fierce beard and spoke with authority and some dry humor in his broad Sussex accent. His call to missionary work dwindled, as churches were popping up. He did odd jobs, carpentry, some farm work, including proving-up on that homestead. After his wife Katherine passed away in 1916, at fifty-seven years, leaving him with four teenage children still at home, things were pretty rough for photos Time passed, the children grew; John married Ellen Siverstrom, a widow with one daughter who later became brother Bert's wife, Enid.

The children of John and Katherine Hobden are Jack (deceased in 1969), myself, Kate, Anne, Herbert, Louise, William, Harold and Jenny. My father was a gardener in a land of homesteaders, and while he never cleared and farmed large fields, he certainly knew and loved the land. Flowers would grow for him on a rock pile, if he so desired. The valley of Armistice still shows the trees and shrubs he planted there, when he kept the post office and a tiny store lean-to on his house. The landscaping of the first Elk Point Municipal Hospital was a project undertaken in his later years. Widowed again, he built a small house in the town of Elk Point and spent his last years there.

A couple of weeks prior to his entering the hospital for the operation from which he did not recover, John Hobden was on hand to help Elk Point celebrate, with great to-do, the opening of the bridge over the North Saskatchewan river. He saw it all, the speeches, the dancers, the throngs around the barbeque. He remarked on how greatly the bridge would help us to get to know our neighbors on the south side of the ‘stream'.

Dr. Ross, visiting him one morning when little time wasleft to him, asked, "How do you feel? ". Father, game to the last, replied in typical dry manner, "With my hands, of course.

John Hobden passed away in 1950 at the age of eighty-five. The countryside is the more lovely for the many flowers and trees he planted wherever he lived. He also populated Canada with some 115 descendants.

The Hobden Family As of 1913

John Hobden, father, and Katherine, his wife. Eight children in order of seniority: John, Kate, Anne, Bert, Louise, Bill, Harold, and Jane.

Kate married Grant Arnold of Elk Point, in 1914. Ann married Ross Driver of Edmonton in 1915. Louise married George Stewart of Spruce Grove in 1916, and was divorced in 1926. She remarried to Buck Eaton in 1932.

John married Nellie Hughes of Sussex, England, in 1918. Bert married Enid Siverstrom of Strome in 1919. Bill married Inga Selland of Elk Point in 1932.

Katherine died in 1914, at Elk Point. John Hobden Sr. died in 1950, at Elk Point. John Hobden Jr. died in 1968 at Victoria, B.C.


BACK ROW, Left to Rtght: Jack Hobden, Mr John Hobden. FRONT ROW Harold, Btll, Mrs John Hobden, Jennie, Louise taken 1914 at the homestead.


by Bill Hobden

My father and mother, John and Katherine Hobden, arrived in Ottawa from England in 1899. I was born there in 1902, the sixth child in what was to be a family of eight, four girls and four boys.

We lived in Ottawa for several years, then moved to Cornwall, and later to Summerstown, a village about sixty miles up the St. Lawrence River from Montreal.

Father was always very active in the church, and often delivered the Sunday sermon at our local church. In 1911 he was offered a position as missionary for the Elk Point district which he accepted, and arrived to take up his duties in 1912. Bert and Kate followed shortly after, with mother and the rest of the family arriving later in the year.


"Preacher" John Hobden.

We came west by C.N.R. Excursion Train. I believe it took us about a week to reach Vermilion. We stayed at the Immigration Hall while waiting for transportation to Elk Point.

After a few days Jim Hitchcock showed up with our brother Bert. They had a light wagon and an overworked team of horses, who were hard pressed to haul the wagon piled high with our belongings. After two days over rutted, rocky, muddy roads we arrived at Jim's place. It was midnight, the horses exhausted, and we walked the two miles to our homestead. It was pitch dark and raining. The mud was ankle deep. There were millions of mosquitos. We carried a lantern to show the way.

Our new home was a one-room log house with a dirt floor and a sod roof. There was a tent to handle the overflow.

The nearest post office was at Charlie Hood's place, and his house was about a half mile north-east of the present town of Elk Point. This meant we had to walk about sixteen miles for our mail. Often the stage from Vermilion was late and the return trip home was made in darkness. That first summer Martin Johnson built a log store on the corner where the Esso station now stands, and we were able to get our groceries there.

It was the first business in Elk Point. Other stores came later. Charlie Hood opened a hardware store and post office, and C.A. Johnson built a pool hall. Frank Plouffe opened a restaurant, and we acquired a blacksmith shop, a livery barn and a community hall. Elk Point was now solidly on the map.

Our first school was called Paramount, and was located two miles east of our homestead. Our first teacher was a girl named Elsie Bradshaw. The school closed down for the winter, and the following year we had a man teacher named Bill Hustler, who later became one of Edmonton's finest surgeons, Dr. William Hustler.

In those days we had all grades from one to eight, and about twenty pupils. Most of us walked to school; a few of the lucky ones had a horse to ride. We also had the best baseball team in the country, thanks to Bill Hustler.

Travel was limited to oxen, horses, and walking. The first car to arrive was a sensation and was stuck in the mud most of the time.

The Saskatchewan River was most important to us as most of our supplies, and all of our mail, came from Vermilion. This meant no supplies or mail during freeze up and also during spring break up, as the ferry was hauled out at those times.

They used to rig a sling on the cable, and mail and the occasional traveller was brought across that way.

During the 20's, when we had a dance band consisting of brother Bert on drums, Harold on banjo, Augie Bartling and myself on violins, we were booked to play for a dance one night at Angle Lake Hall. We crossed the river on that swaying contraption, with our band instruments tied around us.

For the benefit of those who have never had the doubtful pleasure of the cable ride, I should explain that the cable was strung from two high towers each side of the river, and sagged down near the surface of the water in the middle of the river. This meant a wild downhill ride to the low point and then you had to stand up, grab the cable, and pull the sling the rest of the way. It was no ride for the faint hearted.

No story of the river would be complete without mention of the time the ferry broke loose and sailed away down river with Jim Hitchcock and his team and wagon. A lady passenger, Alta Merrick, was also aboard, bound for Vermilion. After a wild ride down river, the ferry finally ran aground on an island near Heinsburg, and they were rescued. I never did find out how they got the ferry back upstream.

Dances were the most popular form of entertainment, and they were held in homes, barns, and halls. For our first fairs they would lay a floor and dance in the open. Needless to say, rain was our nemesis. Our first fairs were held on the 4th of July as most of the early settlers were Americans.

Hunting and fishing was a way of life as most of us had to depend on game for fresh meat, and game was plentiful. The bushland teemed with ruffed grouse, and the open spaces were filled with sharp-tailed grouse. Deer and moose were a common sight, as were the black bears. The lakes were black with ducks of all species, and the nights were filled with the howling of coyotes.

I suppose the Elk Point area could be best described as parkland, especially along the north side of the river. But farther north it was covered with stands of second growth poplar trees. There were some older trees growing in low places where the fires spared them. We had two huge spruce trees near our house which were at least a hundred years old.

The countryside bore the scars of previous bush fires, and they were an ever present hazard. Most of them were set by homesteaders as it was helpful to use fire in clearing the land.

The most common building material was logs, with poles and sod for a roof. In later years a few local sawmills were set up and then we had rough lumber and slabs to work with. Eventually some one brought in a planer and we finally had dressed lumber.

Outdoor toilets were simply a hole in the ground with what was commonly referred to as a "two holer" built over it.

We dug wells for our water supply. Wood was the principal fuel, lighting was mainly coal oil lamps and lanterns, as well as candles.

Then came a great improvement, the Aladdin Lamp. This lamp utilized a mantle and produced a beautiful soft light. Then came gasoline lamps and lanterns.

We read the Family Herald and Weekly Star, also the Free Press Prairie Farmer, and the Farmers' Advocate.

Health facilities were nil those first years. Our closest doctor and hospital was St. Paul, twenty miles away, not so far by todays' standards, but a days' drive at that time. My mother had her first heart attack at Christmas of 1914. It was three days before the doctor showed up. Mrs. Hitchcock was a registered nurse and delivered many of the babies born at that time. The flu epidemic of '19 was our worst disaster. Dr. Miller and Dr. Ross were our first doctors and were worked overtime to fill the needs of the community.

Fresh fruit was practically non-existent at our local stores, so berry picking was a must. I think blueberrys were our favorite, and there were strawberrys, choke cherries, raspberries, and saskatoons.

Our clothing was mostly mail order, and in winter it was Mackinaw coats and shirts and pants, heavy knee length "German" socks with moccasins, store made and by local Indians. There were also some heavy cowhide things called "shoe packs". Another favorite was the knee length felts, worn with rubbers. In summertime bib overalls were common, and gum rubbers for the wet weather. I remember a lot of buckskin being worn.

Like any other place, we had our share of what were referred to as "characters" and many stories were circulated about them.

One night in the 20's my brothers and I were playing for a house warming dance. One of the guests who was known for his drinking ability was having a ball until one of the local girls refused to dance with photos This precipitated some harsh words and our host decided to bring the dance to a close as it was about 3 a.m.

Our trouble-maker would have none of that, so he stuck ten dollars in my pocket and told us to keep playing until he said to stop. Of course our host took a dim view of that, so more harsh words were spoken and they finally came to blows.

Not to be outdone and to save face, the troublemaker came to me again about an hour later and gave me another $10.00 to pack up the instruments and go home.

I think this was the only dance where we were ever paid what our efforts were worth!

Dances in those days usually went on until daybreak.

Suddenly the war of 1914-18 was over. Some of the boys came back to make a fresh start. Cars were fairly common by then but most of the farming was still done with horses. Prices for farm produce were pretty fair, and the V.L.A. pumped a lot of money into the country.

I left Elk Point in the fall of 1928 to reside in Edmonton, and weathered the big depression in comparative comfort, as I was never out of work.

It is now nearly fifty years since I left Elk Point, but it will always be my home town