Transcription of the biography of Arie Van Gendren, his wife and family as taken from “Cabri, Through the Years.”
My father, Arie Robert VanGendren, was born in the U.S. in 1866. My mother, Emma Christine Jensen, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in l876 and moved to North Dakota when she was 12 years old, along with the rest of her family. About 1896 she married Hans Hansen and they had three children: Victor born 1900, Bertha born 1901, and Hannah born 1903 and four days after, her father passed away from a heart condition. In those days there was no help for a lady trying and did any work she could get to support herself and her three children.
Father and Mother were married in Minnesota, U.S.A. in 1910. l was brought into this world by a mid-wife on August 17, 1911 and my brother Robert put in his appearance on October 12, 1912 to finish off the family.
When l was four years old we started out for Canada in a covered wagon, but only got as far as lowa. It must have been quite crowded with the seven of us in that wagon. When we got to Iowa, Mother’s parents (Nels and Christine Jensen) came to live with us. Grampa spoke very little english, so in April 1917 when they wanted to come up to Cabri to live with their other daughter, Marie Peterson, my sister came with them. The War was on and they thought that they might have trouble crossing the border, as Gramma never spoke too good english either. When they did get to the border, Grampa started to say something and Gramma gave him a poke in the ribs to keep quiet. The Customs Officer asked if they were German, they said they weren’t, but they were still taken off the train and were made to stay in North Portal for 24 hours.
ln October 1917, Mother, Bertha, Robert and l arrived in Cabri by train, and about a week later Dad arrived with a box car full of settlers effects, which included two horses, some chickens, and a cat which we had for many years, along with the furniture for our house.
Victor joined the U.S. Navy in 1916 when he was only 16 years old. He couldn’t get his discharge for quite sometime after the War ended, as they were needed to bring the troops and supplies back to the States, so he didn’t arrive in Cabri until about 1920. He worked around Cabri for a few years then moved to Fort St. John, B.C. when he took a homestead, and married Mary Pomeroy. They had five children, maybe four and Mary is now living in Mission, B.C. Their family is all living in B.C. Bertha married August Gummeson in 1921 and they lived on August’s homestead which was only a quarter of a mile south of Cabri when they were first married, then they moved into town.
They had two children while living in Cabri. Their oldest daughter passed away during an appendix operation at the age of 3 1/2 years. They moved out to Chilliwack, B.C. in the fall of 1936 where another girl and boy came along to join their family. August passed away several years ago, and Bertha passed away June 1983. Their family all live out around Chilliwack.
Hannah still lives at Cabri with husband Edwin Johnson. Robert and I attended the Kings County School for a short time. There was not any school in the district when we moved there. Mother was the one who was instrumental in getting that school started. Some of the first students to attend that school were: Ruby and Ruth Spink, Phyllis and Roy Maycock (who passed away within six weeks of each other with typhoid fever, that was such a sad thing for us all), Wilfred, Clayton and Willie Oliver, and the Humphrey children who came to school in a two wheeled cart drawn by one horse. Robert and I had about three miles to go to school and most of the time we walked. In those days practically all children went bare foot in the summer. I remember one afternoon while attending school there, it was time for us to be dismissed for the day. The teacher happened to look out the window and saw a storm coming, so she kept us all in. I guess it was a good thing that she did, because it was a small cyclone. It didn’t seem to hit the school, but it turned the school barn one quarter of the way around. Of course, all the horses tied in the barn broke loose, and they were so frightened that they were really hard to catch. Wherever that cyclone touched down it left a big pile of weeds and dirt, so there were little knolls in the fields where there never was any before. From Kings County we moved in near Cabri and attended Cabri School. Three of the teachers I had that I remember were Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Sullivan, and Mr. Backus. I took piano lessons from Mrs. Backus for a year or two.
During the Easter Holidays in 1926 we moved to the Gavrelle District and lived on the farm known as the Joe Pierce quarter. In June of the same year Robert, Lenora Thomas and myself went into Cabri to write our departmental exams, and we were all successful in passing. Robert and l went to school one more year, as our parents were getting on in years and needed us at home to help out. Mother was very badly crippled with arthritis. Robert and I did the janitor work at the school for a number of years.
I recall one event that might be of interest to some younger people. A dance was held at the school on Good Friday 1927. We had spring like weather for sometime, but that night it started to snow, very softly and no wind, but by the time people were ready to go home there must have been at least two feet or more of real wet heavy snow. Cars were unable to move so most of the people there had to stay the night and most of the following day at the school. Some were there until Sunday p.m. Mr. Bruce Greer stopped at our place and asked if we could spare some food for the folks at the school. That was the first we knew that people were stranded at the school, as we had no phones at that time.
I do not remember the year we left the Gavrelle District, but we moved into the Miry Creek School District, and lived there until 1943. Mother passed away in 1941 and Dad in 1943, they are both buried in Cabri Cemetery. Robert and I had a sale and left the farm. Robert went to Dawson Creek, B.C. I went to my sister’s in Chilliwack, B.C. where I worked in a cannery, also at the Boeing Aircraft Plant, and then I joined the Army in 1944.
After my discharge from the Army I returned to Chilliwack for a short time. I met and married John Johnston and moved to Wainwright, Alta. where I still live. We had three boys, Dwight, Johnie and Arie. My husband, John, passed away in 1971.
I am now married to Earl Bronson and living in Wainwright. We are retired and are enjoying our retirement.
By Irene (VanGendren) Bronson
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