THE WALTER SOPER FAMILY
By Myrtle Soper Christensen
In the late summer of 1911, the Soper family - Walter, Grace, and children Myrtle, Bert, Melvin, and Edna left Crookston, Minnesota and moved to Tyrol, later changed to Mooswa, Alberta.
The first winter we lived with Arthur and Cecil Chilbeck, while friends and relatives built a log cabin on the homestead. It was finished enough to move into by spring and people came for miles to the house warming and dance. Music was played by several. Rex Hatchard played the violin as did the Findley brothers from Elk Point who also tap danced. Art Bowtell played violin too, and Walter Soper the accordion.
After farming for more than two years Dad Soper had a job offered at the Indian Reservation at Onion Lake, Saskatchewan. The children attended the Catholic Mission Indian School. We moved back to Mooswa in 1916 and lived with Art Bowtell at the telegraph station. The Saskatchewan River flooded its banks that spring, the creek back of the telegraph station flooded almost to the top of the hill and the bridge over the creek connecting to the river was covered over the railing. Everything floated down the river in ~luding houses, barns, cows, and logs. After the flood subsided we moved to the house on the bank near the ferry Dad Soper was to run. He also was to run the post office.
That summer the Frisby family came across the river with a herd of cattle. The first cattle went on the ferry and walked off the apron and swam across the river, the remainder swam the river and scattered all over. Mrs. Frisby, Sudie and Freddie came and watched the cattle swim across. We took down hot coffee and fresh bread and had a picnic with the Frisby family. The winter the flu was so bad several people died and Dr. F.G. Miller from Elk Point was called many times. Mrs. Soper and Mrs. Bowtell were very ill and Mr. Jackson died. Grandma Chilbeck took care of our family who had the flu, the only ones escaping it being Myrtle and the new baby Arthur. Cars came across the partly melted ice of the river carrying caskets on top of them
In the fall and winter the ferry was taken out of the river and put on side on the bank with the help of men, horses, and pulleys. When the ice cleared away in the spring the ferry had to be put back into the river by the same method. During the flood five ferries were lost on the river, two being saved were Mooswa and Elk Point. At the same time the store near the telegraph station ran out of groceries, so $100.00 worth of groceries was brought out from Vermilion to the river. A carrier was put on a ferry cable across the river to the north bank and groceries taken to Hogans and May-ben's store. When Grace Soper was in Vermilion when Arthur was born, the Saskatchewan River was partly frozen so they were put into a boat to cross the river. It floated in the river and when they came upon ice the men pulled the boat.
School started in the spring and lasted until it snowed in the fall. Teachers were hard to get and usually after teaching one term they did not return, except those who lived there. The teacher had to board with some family and walk several miles to school. At school the boys played baseball, the girls playing also. We played "Run Sheep Run", traded hats and peeked around the corner of the building; it was great fun. We had spelling bee's, square dances and box socials. Also Christmas programs with a tree and gifts for all the families. In the spring of the year part of the school yard was plowed and marked off into small plots. Every student had a garden and prizes were awarded at the end of the season. There were about forty children in the community of school age but the little ones were not able to walk so far and when the older boys and girls got tired they quit school. An average attendance of twenty or twenty-five was considered good.
The entertainment in the winter was dances at various homes and in the summer time there were picnics at Whitney Lake.
In the summer there were a lot of high bush cranberries, chokecheries and blueberries. Even before the snow was gone in the spring the crocuses were in bloom.
When World War I started all the men were drafted excepting those who went to the Peace River country. Grandpa Chilbeck died in 1918 and Aunt Edna Clysdale came from Grand Rapids Minnesota. When she returned, Myrtle went with her to attend high school. The next spring Grandma Chilbeck died and later the rest of the family went back to Minnesota to live. In 1925 the family moved to Vancouver, Washington.
Walter Soper died in 1950, and Grace Soper in 1972.
Myrtle Soper Christensen lives in Vancouver, Wash.
Bert Soper has a dairy farm in Clark Co., Vancouver, Wash.
Melvin Soper lives at Grass Velley, California and is retired.
Edna Soper Hamilton lives in Vancouver, Wash.
Arthur Soper, born in Lindbergh, is in the Panama Canal zone.