“Moose Jaw, she said, used to be called Canada’s Gretna Green ( a Scottish town where young lovers would cross the border to get married) because ‘so many bachelors met their lady friends there.”
March 9, 2015
I am not a big fan of online dating but, unfortunately, I think it has become the major way that people find dates and sometimes life long partners nowadays.
I guess there is a small segment of online dating in which the couple agrees to marry before they meet each other.
In the late 1800s, on the Canadian prairies, this happened quite frequently.
Here is a profile about one of the women who lived this:
December 21, 1982
Still active at age of 93
by Tanya Lester
A week after her 93rd birthday, Catherine Bjerstedt sat in her tidy livingroom with a small stack of newspapers on the footstool in front of her. The newspapers, which her son-in-law brings over for her each week, symbolize her lifelong interest in reading.
And Mrs. Bjerstedt is still very interested in life. In 1912, she moved from the State of Wisconsin to marry a man who was homesteading the land 28 miles from Gravelbourg. “I guess he didn’t like the idea of batching so he sent for me,” she said.
Moose Jaw, she said, used to be called Canada’s Gretna Green ( a Scottish town where young lovers would cross the border to get married) because so many bachelors met their lady friends there.”
At that time, Mrs. Bjerstedt said there were trainloads of people coming to settle on the Prairies. And the Prairies were very bare. The only trees were around the creek bed. The later installment of telephone poles improved the scenery because “at least something was sticking up,” Mrs. Bjerstedt said.
Mrs. Bjerstedt remembers when she first was married, she and her husband lived in a one room homesteader’s shack. Her husband enjoyed hosting the many bachelors in the area to all hours of the night. This posed one problem for Mrs. Bjerstedt who could not go to bed until they left.
As Mrs. Bjerstedt said, she got on “her high legs” and told her husband he would have to either get rid of his friends or build a larger house. He built on another room which became the bedroom.
But for Mrs. Bjerstedt, there were many lonely times. “There was no phone, no transportation outside the horse and buggy, ” she said. “To go anyplace, you had to take off right across the Prairies. There were no highways and roads.”
Mrs. Bjerstedt remembers the farmers who hauled their grain to Morris by ox cart. She said once she and her husband passed three carts as they squeaked towards the town. The Bjerstedts arrived at Morris, did their shopping, and spent the night there. The next day as they were returning to their homestead. Mrs. Bjerstedt and her husband met the same ox carts as they continued their slow journey to the town.
Mrs. Bjerstedt had six children. For three of the births, her husband sent her back to the States to get proper medical assistance. The other three children were born right in their house with a doctor in attendance.
One Christmas, Mrs. Bjerstedt’s husband went up to the roof and made noises imitating sleigh bells while shouting, “Ho, Ho, Ho!” Mrs. Bjerstedt’s young son got excited because he thought Santa Claus was on the roof. But one of Mrs. Bjerstedt’s daughters did not believe any of it. “That’s not Santa Claus,” she said “That’s Dad.”
Mrs. Bjerstedt’s children are now living as across Canada although she still has one daughter living in Gravelbourg. Her oldest daughter is 70 years old and went to university in Quebec and Saskatoon after graduating from the convent school in Gravelbourg.
Mrs Bjerstedt has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “I don’t want any great-greats,” she said. “That would be going a bit too far.”
Mrs. Bjerstedt is old enough to remember when women were creating a lot of “commotion” to win the vote in Saskatchewan. She agreed with their cause. “Sure, why not?” she said. “Why shouldn’t you have something to say about it (the laws) as long as you have to obey them.”
She can remember some of the women who came over to Canada from Europe hardly even owned “their own souls.”
Mrs. Bjerstedt also recalls the time time when towns like Hodgeville and Gravelbourg began popping up “like mushrooms.”
But there is little than Mrs. Bjerstedt misses from the past. One exception is the friendliness neighbours used to have for each other. “We had a lot of association with our neighbours because that’s all we had,” she said. She remembers the good times people used to have when they gathered for dances at the local school.
Families stayed closer together in those days, too. “In the early days they were sort of like tribes,” Mrs. Bjerstedt said. “Now, you raise your kids and raise them up and away they go.”
The first friend Mrs. Bjerstedt made when she came to Saskatchewan is still living in the senior citizen section of the hospital. But, age has interfered with their friendship. The woman can no longers remember who Mrs. Bjerstedt is.
Mrs. Bjerstedt has strong empathy for the old people, she often sees, who sit idly through each day unable to do anything. She is so unlike these senior citizens with a keen interest in reading newspapers and the large print books from the library. She is still very much an observer of life, too…
To read the early posts in this blog, go to writingsmall.wordpress.com
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Tanya Lester’s book, Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader, can be purchased from the author or by going to the author and title names to amazon.com (Do not be deterred by some of the unusual ways they do things. If your order a book, you will get it).
Tanya Lester’s other books are Friends I Never Knew, Dreams & Tricksters, and Women Rights/Writes All of her books are available in some library systems and can be found also at the Legislative Library of Manitoba.
If you want a psychic reading from Tanya or to get her to housesit, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org