Coriander’s Story as appeared in Wagon Trails Along the White Mud in 1971
Story by Mrs. Gladys Gunn Walker, written by Mrs. Edna Shapley
My father John A. Gunn filed W1/2 19-4-12-W3 in 1911 in what later became known as Coriander District. The East Branch of Snake Creek wound it’s way south west through this area to join the White Mud River near the foot of Seventy Mile Butte – which lay about twelve to fifteen miles South West of our prairie home. The old N.W.M.P. Trail crossed the White Mud at the foot of Seventy Mile Butte. That would be seventy miles eastward from Val Marie. Father and Mother had come directly from their home in England to spend a short time in Manitoba. From there we came by train to Swift Current and by wagon and ox team to our new home on the banks of East Branch of Snake Creek.
Dad first farmed with oxen and later with horses. I was eleven years of age and gloried in the riot of wild flowers that carpeted the thick prairie grass. The colorful water fowl that raised their young along the nearby creek and sloughs, the pump of Bitterns all thrilled me and the cry of Killdeer, of Curlew, of great Golden Eagles, of Owls and great Marsh Hawks – even the Meadow Larks – Red Winged Black Birds – the tiny singing birds – even the shy Mourning Doves – opened a fascinating world to me. I experienced a new freedom to explore these attractions – in this Big Sky Country. For there was no school and I was glad to study Nature Books of Beauty around me.
Our family consisted of my sturdy blue-eyed father and my tall slender mother with her dark brown hair and eyes; as well as my brothers; George and wife Mary, Harry, Robert and my sister Nellie who later became Mrs. Stanley King, Edith who later married Walter Gough, Gladys and myself.
Father hauled lumber from Swift Current and built a frame house of one and a half stories. He also broke up some prairie sod for a garden and turned some prairie land into a plowed field – ready to plant grain for our horses. All my brothers found homesteads along the creek or nearby. Oxen could live and work on grass but horses had to have grain when working. We brought our supply of groceries and clothing from Swift Current, usually enough for six months. The closest store was at Notre Dame on North Bank of Notekeu Creek – near present site of Ponteix. In 1911 a Post Office was opened at Wallard about thirty miles N.E. of us. We got our mail at Wallard until the Post Office of Coriander was opened in 1912.
Many settlers moved into our district in 1911-1914. In 1912, the first Post Office was held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Cleve Arendes. It came in once a week. Later my father was appointed Post Master. My sister Edith took over when my parents were unable to care for the mail. Our last Post Master was George Hurst and he took care of it until it closed in the 1940’s. Mr. Louis Denniel was first mail-carrier, by oxen from Notre Dame, then my father John Gunn who carried it by horse from Wallard and later my brother Bob by car. After the Railway came in 1924, mail was brought by Pierre Cornet, who carried neighbors in his truck to and from.
In early years the mail order catologs – T. Eaton and Simpsons were our shopping centres for clothing, bedding, etc. Many of us children never went to town even once a year. Enormous parcels of clothing would come in the fall. The women usually had a sewing machine but many sewed all garments by hand. They sewed most of the mens and womens everyday clothes and knitted mittens to line the leather mitts. Also socks were often all knitted while heavy coats and foot wear was bought. A few people began to keep sheep and many a fleece was carded into a wool batt to fill the wool comforters used on the prairies. Those quilts were light and very warm. The tops were often made of scraps from sewing.
Our groceries were usually tea, coffee, navy beans, flour, salt, oats, dried fruits, prunes, peaches, pears, apricots, apples. Dried fruit came in wooden boxes that held thirty pounds. Most of the homesteaders are more prunes and apples than any other for they were the cheapest. Wild berries were picked, jam was made and meat was sometimes beef, chicken and wild fowl and antelope.
We also brought Kerosine to be used in our lamps and this was my job to trim lamps and wash the chimney every morning. All our furniture was made of wood and we made our own soap for washing. For cooking and heating we used coal and wood stoves and heaters. We often used prairie chips (dried manure). Our men had to bring wood from Wood Coulee, some ten miles N.E. of us on the slopes of Pinto Horse Butte. But all our coal had to be hauled from Swift Current some seventy five miles away.
I would like to say here the settlers who moved in were mostly a fine lot of people. There was very little lawlessness and not many epidemic diseases. Our greatest fears were prairie fires. In 1912 a prairie fire from Lake Pelletier, swept through our country burning thousands of acres of lovely grass land. Remember the one of the south of us in Montana, the one that lit up the whole night sky? The year of 1912 was bad for wind storms too. We heard that a great part of Regina blew away in a Tornado that year. So we feared cyclones. In spite of this we raised a lovely garden and had five acres of wheat and oats. So we faced the winter with greater hopes. We often read aloud and sang songs to help the winter evenings pass quickly.
Before being opened for Homesteaders the land east of us had been grazed by cattle from Texas and other Southern States, wearing the Turkey Track Brand. While cattle to the west of us wore the famous “76” brand on left hip. They also grazed as far east as our district. So Homesteaders had to fence their crops. There were many horse raised in this area between 1912 and 1930. One of the men who hauled fencing supplies and other freight for the 76 outfit was Shorty Anderson. He hauled supplies with four and six horses to a team and a three-deck-wagon to the head Camp on the White Mud River at fifty-mile crossing – near the Maguire Ranch – about thirty miles west of us.