Ivy Avery - Kelso Pioneer

FTLComm - Moosomin - Friday, November 23, 2001
Ivy Avery's story is an adventure of a little girl who came to Canada, went back to England then back to Canada where she grew up as her family's hired hand, married, raised her family and we are proud to celebrate her amazing one hundred years of challenge. This story is the Ivy's story as told to Joan Gillich.

- prepared by her niece, Joan Gillich

Ivy Avery
Editor's Note:

I asked her about this story yesterday and she said she had seen copies of the two stories about her laying on a table at her hundredth birthday party, but she said there were so many more stories she would like to tell.

"At thirteen he (her father) took me out of school we hitched up the five horses and I went to work in the field"

Our Thanks to John Gillich for putting down so many details about this remarkable woman. Joan is the daughter of Henry Shire.

Aunt Ivy was born May 1, 1901 in a flintstone farmhouse on property called Barne Farm, Clayhidon Devonshire England.

Her mother Nell and father Jack had decided to call her Ivy May - her middle name May because she was born on May first. Uncle Sam, Jack's brother was carrying Ivy when they were going to the church to have her christened. Sam picked up a slip off the wild ivy bush and a slip of the hildaberry bush and laid them on Ivy's robe. Pastor Clark saw the ivy and hilda plants and christened Ivy-Ivy Hilda. Ivy never liked her middle name,

Ivy and her parents came by boat in 1902 to Montreal and her dad got a job working on one of Senator Rufus Pope's farms. Ivy was one year old. They were there a few years then Senator Pope sent her dad and family out to Alberta to the Pope Ranch, near Carbon Alberta. Jack was to help run the ranch and Nell cooked for the cowboys. Ivy loved the Pope ranch, the horses and the cowboys. They lived in the main house. It had a big stone fireplace. The cowboys would take her for rides on their horses. There was a big, heavy wooden table the cowboys ate at. When they were finished eating they would play music and get Ivy up on the table to dance. She would have been four or five at the time.

Ivy's mother sent her to St. Mary's Academy in Calgary. Ivy found Sister Catherine to be very nice and Mother Superior also, but Sister Rosita, a big German woman, was very mean and rough with all the girls. Mother Superior told the girls never to take a green candy from anyone. To this day, Ivy wonít eat a green candy.

When Ivy was back on the ranch, away from school, her mother Nell would often let her go with her dad Jack into town, sometimes to Calgary to get supplies for the ranch. They would take a team and wagon. Her mother hoped having Ivy along would detour him from getting in the bars with his cowboy friends. On one trip into Calgary with Paw, she saw a pair of boots that she really liked. They were red felt with high legs with black leather on the front where the eyelets were. Her dad said they couldn't afford them. Then he went to the bar. He finally gave her the money to go and buy the boots (to get rid of her). Ivy was very proud of the boots, but her mother wasnít too impressed.

On another trip for supplies, Paw was breaking a colt to drive. He put it with a quiet mare and drove it to town. He got in with the cowboys drinking. On the way back to the ranch he went to sleep. Ivy drove the team home. She was so small that she could hardly see over the front of the wagon box. The ranch boss, Mr. Smiley, got after Paw.

Ivy's brother Henry was born in Calgary at Mrs. Bate's house in 1907. Ivy has lots of memories and stories of her dad breaking horses on the ranch. She remembers one Sunday when friends and neighbors were at the ranch. The cowboys were breaking horses to ride. A big black horse, called Jim, couldn't be ridden so Paw got on him. He reared up and Paw hit him between the ears with a bottle of whiskey (likely empty) and the horse took off running right out of sight. He didn't come back. Maw was crying, so Ivy cried too. They all thought the horse and Paw likely went over a cut bank and were hurt or killed. Then Paw came back, smoking his pipe, riding the now quiet Jim.

A neighbor girl called Nancy Green, was quite taken with the horse. She was there that day visiting. Paw got her to ride the horse when he got off. Nancy and her father, a sheep rancher, came back a few days later and bought the horse and she rode him home.

They had lots of prairie fires on the ranch. Paw got a pony from the Sarcee Indians and broke it for Nell and Ivy. They lost the pony when a prairie fire came through and burned the barn with the pony in it.

In late 1907 or 1908, they left the ranch. A prairie fire had destroyed a lot of the cattle and buildings on the ranch. Jack's father was sick in England. His mother wanted Jack to come back to see him. They went to Calgary and were getting ready to get on the train. A man was talking to a tailor about fixing the lining of her coat; Paw was getting papers ready. A train came, Ivy got on it without them. They had to stop the train at Priddis, just out of Calgary and take her off. She spent a scary night there, till Jack and Nell and baby Henry got there in the early morning. Someone had taken them by horse and buckboard. They went on from there by train to Montreal. They got on a boat for England (possibly called Coronado). Nell was very seasick. The trip didnít bother Ivy. She was all over the ship. She went down in the engine room. One of the workers played a mouth organ. Ivy danced Irish jigs and Highland flings for them.

Ivy looked down a pipe on one of the funnels on the ship. She got tar on her pink dress. Aunt Bess, Jack's sister, fixed it up when they got to England. They rented a place to stay in England - a house made for workers, three places under one roof owned by Mr. Adair.

Jack got a job as a shepherd for a landowner and was paid twelve shillings a month. Nell got a job going to wealthy gentry people's houses and getting big dinners ready for hunters when they put on big hunts. She got paid six pence and got to bring home a bowl of bacon fat. Jack did odd jobs too, like sawing up big tress for people. Sometimes the big ash or oak trees came down with wind or lightning strikes. He used a bucksaw to cut them up. They were quite poor and found England cold and damp after being in Canada. They vowed to come back to Canada as soon as they had enough money saved. Ivy hated it in England. Any money she made or her Uncle Sam gave her, she put into a little pig to save to come back to Canada.

When they first got back to England, Ivy stayed with her Gramma Shire at Fairhouse farm and went to school from there for awhile. Frank, Jack's young brother was going to school too so Ivy went with him. She wore a white fur coat trimmed with green velvet. The other kids would yell, "Ivy Shire's a teddy bear. Ivy Shire's a teddy bear".

When Ivy got a bit bigger she went back with her parents. She had four miles to go to school from where they lived.

Her brother Bill (William) was born in 1910 in Bishop Lodge at Ashprior maybe at the parent's place Fairhouse Farm. Another boy was born in England. He was named Tommy, but he died of pneumonia very young. He was likely born in Clayhidon. Ivy's mother Nell would be away early cooking. Her dad would go to work too. Ivy would take her baby brother Bill to the blacksmith's wife (Mrs Webber) to look after for the day. She lived fairly close by. Then she would run home and get her brother Henry who was put in a cage, or pen, that her dad had made to keep him in while she was away with Bill. She would put Henry in a pushcart. He could sit up in it. It had small wheels. She would push him four and one half miles to Mrs Easton's to look after. Then she ran back a half mile to a red brick school at a small town called Wivelescombe. On her way to schooi, pushing Henryin his pram she had to got up a steep hill. It was heavy going. Her teacher, a lady that drove a Dartmouth pony on a cart would catch up to her on the hill every morning. As she would pass Ivy she would always call out "Good morning Ivy, donít be late for school." Most days she had nothing to take for lunch, so she would run home, her mother Nell would leave a slice of bread soaking in the cold tea left from breakfast. This would be her noon lunch. Then she went back to school. After school she picked Henry up and pushed him home. She had to have the table set and the beds turned down for night.

Paw was quite strict with her. She took sewing lessons on certain days at school. One day she left her needle with a gold eye stuck in her sweater collar. They were supposed to leave all sewing supplies at the school when they were finished the class. Ivy had just sat down for supper when Paw spied the needle. He made Ivy leave the supper and run the four miles back to the Governess at school to return the needle. She thought the governess would be happy and praise her for bringing the needle back, but all she said was "I wish more of the students had fathers like yours to keep them in line." Ivy remembers this whenever she sees a gold-eyed needle (no supper that night).

One time her mother and dad told her she was to go into the little town of Wiveliscombe after school and buy some sugar, tea, and a bag of shag (tobacco). She got home and she had forgotten to get the tobacco. So Paw sent her back four miles to get it before she could have supper. Ivy didn't always do as she was told. Her mother told her to walk out to the road and meet the breadman, a man with a horse drawn, closed-in van. He was from a bigger town and sold bread to smaller towns and people along the way. She was to get two loaves of bread. She got doing something else and forgot about the bread. She told her mother that the breadman didn't come. Her mother gave her a licking.

One day Ivy didnít want to got to Sunday school. She refused to go. She had on a felt hat with a wide ribbon band, with long ribbon ends that were kind of slashed. Her dad gave her a lickin' and the long ends hit her in the eye with every swat. Then he sent her on her way to Sunday school. She went as far as the railway bridge that was near the church. Here she met her friend Elsie Webber who was on her way home from the Sunday class. She memorized the lesson from Elsie and when her dad asked her to quote the lesson, she knew it. After supper he went to the neighbors (Webber's) and asked Elsie to quote the lesson. They were the same, so he always thought that Ivy had gone that day to Sunday school.

Two old ladies lived near the family. Ivy's mother and father would send her over to their place every Saturday and she was to scrub their floors and take not any pay. It was just to help the poor old souls out.

Any spare time she had, and sometimes going to or from school, she gathered sheep wool and bones and rags off the fences. They were traded or sold to the coal man for a bit of coal or coal oil for heat and light.

Ivy and other poor kids would be sent to the copse (woods) to gather dry sticks to heat the house or to cook with. She would lay them on a rope with a lot knot, tie them up in a bundle and carry them home on her back.

About 1911, Ivy's dad Jack left England for Canada again. He planned to go to Alberta with his brother Bob and a friend name Sam Bale who came from England with him. They were all going to get work in Alberta. They came out on an old boat called the Parishioner. It was said to have made twenty-eight crossings. Bob and Sam became very sick on the crossing and when they got off the boat in Montreal they took the train as far as Winnipeg where Bob and Sam were admitted to the hospital. There was no medicare in those days. By the time they were better, all of their money, and Paw's too, was pretty well gone. They only had enough money to get as far as Kelso - not Alberta. Bob went to work for Andy McVicar. Sam went to work for the Stutts, and Jack Shire went to work for Kenny McDonald on the farm NW2-12-33 W1.

As soon as Jack had enough money - maybe a year - he sent over to have Nell, Ivy, Henry, and Bill come out to Canada. They came out in about 1912 on a ship called the Colinado (or Coronado). Ivy was about eleven years old. Her mother, Nell, took seasick as soon as they got on the boat and never came out of her cabin until they got to Montreal. Ivy had to take care of the boys and luggage. Henry got lost on the boat. Ivy had to look all over for him. She found him kneeling under the iron railings on the ship watching the waves. She crept up behind him, as she didn't want to startle him in case he fell in the ocean. Boys wore long dresses till they were four or five in those days. Ivy grabbed the end of the long dress and pulled him back.

A big Negro (a porter) helped her quite a bit. When they got to Montreal she had to wait at if lazy-susan sort-of-thing, for their luggage to come up from the hold. She got it all but on e big woven bag. The Negro man went with her to the luggage place and they found it. When they got back, Henry had got away on Maw. The Negro man went with Ivy and they looked all over and finally found him. He had got off the boat and was down at the water on some big rock. He had a willow switch and was playing in the water with it.

They left soon for the long trip by train across the country to Kelso Saskatchewan. Nell had sent Jack a telegram to say that the family was coming but he hadn't received it. No one was there to meet them when they got off the train at Kelso station. Ivy remembers the big pot belly heater in the station. Her mother, Nell, looked around and said "What has your father brought us to this God forsaken place for?Ē they got there at 4:00 oíclock in the morning.

A Mr. McDonald, who ran the livery barn, came over to the station to get a parcel and was surprised to see them. He took them to his house in town and his wife made them breakfast. After breakfast, Mr McDonald hitched a team to a two-seater democrat and drove them out to the farm where Paw worked. Ivy marvelled at all the flowers growing in the prairie red lilies, blue beils, etc.... Mr McDonald let them off at the big stone house and went to the field to tell Paw that they were there. Paw unhitched his four horse team and jumped on one and rode it with the other horses beside it into the yard at a great rate. 'Wheel the gallop', dust blowing around him and the horses.. He had on a jim crow hat with a wide brim. The brim was pressed back with the wind. He was glad to see them after so long.

Maw sent Ivy for a pail of water. She went to the pump. The water was dirty looking and very salty. Maw threw it out. Poor Ivy. They had to dig another well that was not too bad water.

Maw was looking around the place and opened the warming oven over the stove. It was right full of egg shells. Paw must have eaten lots of eggs before they got there.

Ivy went to Kelso school from there. The old stone house was very cold in the winter. There would be frost all over the blankets when they woke in the mornings.

Paw brought a pony from some Indians for Ivy to ride and drive to school. He made a small cutter for Ivy to drive to school in the winter. The seat had space under it for oats and a bundle of hay for the horse when they got to school. A blizzard got up one day when she was coming home from school. She couldn't see so she tied the lines in front and crawled under the seat out of the wind. She was sure that her Cyuse pony would take her home. Her Dad came riding out to look for her. He met the pony and cutter almost home, and didn"t see Ivy. He went on a bit before he realized that Ivy must be under the seat.

About 1916 the family moved to NW-4-12-33 W1. They rented the farm from Jim Hendry. Ivy gave up school about this time and worked on the farm with her dad. They each had an ouffit of five horses. She learned to plant a straight furrow. Paw was very insistent that the furrows be straight. She harrowed, riding in a cart behind the harrows. One year, spring was early and the fields were bare. Paw sent her out to harrow on the 19th of March. There was no snow, but it was very cold. Ivy wore Paw's old fur coat.

Ivy seeded grain, packed it with the old crowfoot packers, cut it with a binder (all pulled with four or five horses). She stooked the crop, then drove a team at thrashing time. Working with her dad, she developed a great love for horses.

From her mother she got a love of music and dancing. She would go into Kelso to dances and to the school dances. She would ride into Kelso and go with the Hamilton's sometimes. No matter how late she got home, she had to have her horses ready for the field in the early morning and help milk the cows.

Ivy came in from the field one day and poor Paw was sick in bed. He had a bad back and couldn't get up. She went to pump water to the cows and the handle of the pump broke in half. She took some boards off the top of the well and pailed the water up with a rope tied on a bucket until she had the cows all watered. This was very hard work. When she went to the house, two neighbour men were standing outside looking up. There at the upstairs window was Paw waving to them to come up. Ivy was mad because Paw said he couldn't get up. She told the men (George Cooper and Mr Peltier to go. She went up to Paw's room and told him to get up. He said that he couldn't move. Ivy pulled the bed clothes off and here he had a small half gallon stone jug with whiskey in it. The window was open and Ivy grabbed the jug and dropped it out of the upstairs window. It hit a rock below and shattered to pieces. Paw jumped out of bed and chased her down the stairs. There was a long buggy whip in the corner at the bottom of the stairs. Ivy grabbed it and turned on Paw who was wearing a night shirt and had bare legs. She kept flicking the whip on his bare legs and chased him right back up the stairs. Paw cried that he never thought he'd see the day when his daughter would turn on him like that. Ivy laughs about it till this day.

Paw put hay up one summer on land that was nine miles away. They stacked it there. In the winter they would go with two teams; Ivy and Paw; and fork the hay on and haul it home. They sold some to Albert Thompson. They made a trip one cold day in winter. When they got to Albert's with the hay, Albert had to pry Ivy's hands open from the lines because they were so cold. He sent her up to the house to his wife Clare to get warmed up and have hot tea while he and Paw unloaded the hay.

They were hauling straw one time in winter. The sleigh slipped off the beaten tack and upset in deep snow. They had to get the rack back on the road, then load all the straw again with forks.

Paw once made a new rack. He went to Moose Mountains and got some big long heavy trees for the sills and cut small poplars which Ivy peeled for Paw to make the sides and front. The rack was very heavy when it was finished because it was made from green wood. They put it on a wagon. Ivy helped her Dad lift it on. He said "Heave, Ivy, heave. Build up your muscles so you'll get stronger."

Ivy's mother Nell, her brother Henry and Ivy went to visit a neighbor lady, Mrs Bale, who lived on the next quarter. Mrs Bale's husband worked on the railway and they lived on this yardsite. When they were going up to the house, they saw a small girl with light brown or blonde coloured hair wearing a pink dress with a wide sash. She was hippity hopping down a path that led away from the house down through some trees and disappeared. They told Mrs Bale and she said there was no little girl around there. Ivy, her mother, and Henry always said that this was a fairy that they had seen.

Ivy's dad, Jack, made a deal with Albert Thompson to summerfallow eighty-five acres for him. Ivy and Paw ploughed it all then had to harrow it three times. The land was just across the fence from the Avery farm. Rob Avery came across the field one day to see her. He brought her an orange to eat as he thought she might like it on such a dusty, dry day. He asked if he might take her to a dance in Kelso. Ivy said she'd have to ask her mother and dad. She went with him to the dance. She said Rob had good, very sharp looking, pretty horses and had a nice buggy. Rob used to show horses at the fairs. Paw helped trim them and braided their manes. He had learned to do this in England.

Ivy Shire married Robert Frederick Avery on November 10, 1921 in Moosomin at the Anglican Church manse. They were to Regina on the train for a few days.

Robbie's mother, Sara Avery lived with them. Ivy thought that she wouldn't have to work in the fields now that she was married, but Rob hurt his hand when the Great West plough that he was fixing fell on it. So Ivy was back to driving horses and putting the crop in, seeding and harrowing, etc. She continued to help with the field work, driving horses for many years.

Merle Frances was born on the first of September 1922. The morning of the day that Merle was born, Ivy had milked five cows by hand and done all the chores. Merle was born at home in the old house. Old Dr Chestnut came out.

Ivy worked very hard making ends meet in the years following. Ivy was good at sewing and made lots of clothes for herself and Rob. She made shirts out of dyed fiour bags. They looked so good that the neighbor men wanted some so she made them some too. She made caps for them all and clothes for Merle too. Friends in Winnipeg would send up old clothes and Ivy would take them apart and make new things or cut them down to size. She had a real old Singer sewing machine that she even fixed the binder canvas on.

Ivy always had a lot of iaying hens, sold the eggs, and canned the old hens in jars. She milked cows and always kept the stable clean. She did some canning of fruit.

Rob and Ivy raised pigs too. They always killed their own beef and pigs. They were always butchered and cut up at home. Ivy would work all day and maybe all night rendering fat down and canning beef. She would cut the heads all apart and make headcheese in loaves. Nothing was wasted - no freezers in those days.

It wasn't all work though. Ivy and Rob both enjoyed dances and went to many, taking lots of prizes. When Rob didnít go, Ivy's brother Bill was with her.

She learned to drive a car and driving became a life long pleasure. In the early years, Rob and she had a small coupe car. She drove it miles to dances, etc. She liked driving in the rain.

Ivy made up plays and she and the family and neighbours would put them on at the school at Riga. They also went to Kelso and Spring Creek to perform them.

When radios came in to the area, Ivy got great enjoyment from listening to radio plays such as Maw Perkins, Amos and Andy, etc. Her and Rob's house was always open for visitors. They had house parties, music on the piano, songs, and skit with costumes.

A friend's son, Jack Sanders, from Winnipeg, always came up to spend time with them on summer holidays. He finally came and lived with Ivy and Rob for many years. Jack worked with them, had a few of his own cattle, bought a half~section, and did some trucking. He was part of their family.

Ivy skated. The neighbours and friends would come over and they would all skate on the dam ice. Ivy tried skiing also, but took a fall that hurt her shoulder ever after.

When Merle was going to school, Ivy made most of her clothes. She had lots of laying hens, raised turkeys, and roasting chickens. She put Merle through school by selling her poultry. Merle was in the calf club. Ivy and Rob helped her with her calves.

Ivy loved to make big meals and have family and friends in. She always made baking power biscuits that have been enjoyed by many friends, neighbors, and family.

Ivy and Rob enjoyed farming. They got tractors that made things easier. Ivy like the little Ford 8N tractor and used it a lot for different jobs.

Ivy and Rob remodelled the old Avery house. They took the top off of it and made a comfortable home out of it, moved it across the yard, and planted trees around it. Ivy was very proud of her home.

Ivy was good at nursing sick people too. She took care of her mother-inlaw (Rob's mother) and her dad Jack in her home until they died.

Ivy was a strong, robust woman until her late fifties and sixties when arthritis hit her. Some doctor mistakenly thought if she had her teeth out that the arthritis would go away. She had a beautiful set of teeth, her pride and joy, but she had them all out and still had arthritis and heart trouble. But she learned to live with them both.

Rob died of cancer on February 16, 1966. Ivy continued on the farm with Jack Sanders for a number of years but her heart and arthritis got worse. Doctor Davidson talked her into moving to Moosomin. She bought a small house on Gordon Street, 1118 from Flora Whittington and Billy McKenzie remodelled it and added on to it. She used to love to have her friends and neighbours in for meals and tea parties for birthdays and St. Patrick's Day. She had her car, a 1957 Pontiac that she drove for many years, taking neighbours around town or going out to the farm to visit her family.

Ivy and her daughter Merle got on a jet plane in Winnipeg and flew to Los Angeles California USA to visit some old friends, Franklin and Velma Thompson. Ivy has gone from all types of horse drawn conveyances, trains, cars, trucks, to travel by the most modern jet air craft.

In the early 80's Merle brought a 1981 Chev Citation car up for Ivy. It had been her husband, Henry's. I showed Ivy how to drive it. She had never driven an automatic before. She made a few trips up and down the lane and she knew how to handle it. She drove that car until she was on into her nineties. I think she was 96 when she got her last license.

She enjoys television - the soap opera stories and plays. She made her famous biscuits up until the last few years.

She went for a ride on a horse every year until she was 91. She rode her niece's horse around and even jogged on it.