Alexander Bremner was born on 12 February 1885 at Upper Asswanly, Glass to James Bremner, Gamekeeper and Helen Gauld. He was baptised on August 9th 1885. He had two older brothers and four sisters.
This is the story of his life in Canada by Dorothy (Bremner) Axley, his daughter.
“Dad took his schooling at a country school in the hills of Aberdeenshire to the equivalent of grade eight in Canada, but, in Scotland at that time they progressed by Standards.
Dad told of his boyhood days that were of the average country boy. Main means of travel was to walk or ride bicycle. He had a working knowledge that included working the turnip fields (turnips were fed to the sheep and cattle) and tending flocks of sheep. Many of these memories were of sleet, cold and baby lambs being born, all at the same time. This must have been a pretty hard struggle for a young lad not yet in his teens. He worked with the blacksmiths helping to shoe horses, repair wagons etc also “flushed” game out of the heather and bluffs for “Lords” (Lairds) and gentry to shoot. None of this proved to be completely satisfying, as he had dreams of adventure, so decided to sail to Canada where he had an uncle at Crossfield, Alberta. (George Gauld b 1866 Glass – his mother’s brother)
It was in the year of 1906 that he arrived in Calgary, which at that time was still a very small town with lots being sold for $2.00 in the choice locations.
Upon arriving at Crossfield, to his disappointment, there was no more homesteading land left, so he travelled north. It was in the Gatsby area that he stayed and spent the bad winter of 1906 – 1907. He lived in this area for several years, built a shack and worked much of the time for Ora and Billy Porter.
One of the stories I remember Dad telling was of the day he made a trip to the nearest post office and store for supplies. It was a nice sunny morning after many days of bitter cold and deep snow fall, so he decided to take the skis as the snow was very deep and with the skis he could make better time. All went well going and he was getting the knack of skiing pretty good. The mail was picked up and the groceries were placed in the gunny sack. With the sack slung over his shoulder (oh yes, by the way, he didn’t have ski poles) he headed for home. This was midday and by now the temperature was rising and a chinook had blown in. All this was lovely except he had on too many clothes and the skis were becoming harder and harder to slide along. He took off the skis only to find walking in the deep, soft snow, carry groceries plus skis was very tiring and a slow job. He trudged on and although he planned to be home early enough to have a late dinner, he realized he’d be lucky if he’d make it home before dark. Being very tired and hungry he stopped at a bachelor’s place to rest. The fellow wasn’t home but on the table were biscuits and a roast of beef, both frozen solid. Dad ate until his hunger was satisfied and after a rest started on his way. By now it was getting evening and the snow was less sticky so on went the skis and the trip was completed. He expected to have a stomach ache after eating the frozen roast and biscuits, but everything went well. I don’t think he ever had skis on thereafter.
I am sure to a new Canadian those two winters must have been the conditioner for the many hardships and disappointments that went with homesteading.
It was in 1910 that he rode horseback with a friend to find homesteads in the area south of Czar.
Dad built a shack, brought his horses to his new home, plowed a fire guard around the shack and returned to Gatsby for the winter. Next Spring he rode home to start improving the land, to find a prairie fire had swept through the country. He expected to find his shack gone, but thanks to the fire guard it was still there. His horses had become homesick, I guess and were nowhere to be found. This started many days of riding as there were few fences. Riding in a new location all black from the prairie fire was no easy task. The horses were finally found after many miles of riding and questioning the few ranchers in the wide area.
Dad broke 10 or 15 acres that year walking behind three horses on a breaking plow. Walking all day long behind a plow or harrows was taken for granted plus having to do your own cooking and housekeeping.
He was able to look after the needs of cooking etc. and he soon got a cow and some chickens. He would also take the time to bake his own bread as “bannock” was not his favourite bread.
A few Indian families passed through his land during the spring months moving from winter hunting grounds and Dad would notice getting fewer eggs during the time they were camping nearby. The adult Indians were friendly and never bothered your belongings but he felt sure the children that you seldom saw enjoyed gathering a few eggs.
Dad’s closest neighbors and friends were all bachelors and exchanged working needs and were always there with a helping hand to do chores etc.
Many lost their lives in the bad flu of 1918. The only doctor was miles away and when he did call on the homesteaders the only medicine he had was whiskey. Along with many of his friends Dad had the flu but then he got pneumonia. These folks were lucky and all returned to good health.
In April 1922 Dad married LaVern Bush Von Metch when she decided she would share his life on the homestead. Dad’s one room shack soon had to be enlarged as the newlyweds always had lots of company and with an upright piano and many friends gathering for good old sing-songs, there just wasn’t enough room. Even years later when we were growing up how I remember the friends and neighbors that gathered on Sundays to visit and have Mom play and sing.
Mother and Dad retired from the farm in 1964 to make their new home in Hughenden, Alberta. It was with much pride and pleasure for Dad when he sold the farm to Lorne and I as it was his greatest desire to have his farm remain within the family.
Dad passed away at the age of 84 years and although there were no sons to carry on the Bremner name, with six grandsons, Sandy’s homestead, I hope, shall remain in the family”
Dorothy’s son Eugene Axley still runs the very successful farm at Czar, Alberta along with his wife and children. You can visit their webpage here: