We recently spent two days researching at the Saskatchewan Archives. One of the great finds were the homestead records of my two grandfathers and of my husband’s grandfather and great grandmother.
Here is the homesteading story of my grandfather William John Irvine as written by my grandmother, Isabel Irvine (nee Woodland). I’m sure my love of family history originated with her.
“Bill Irvine was born to John and Mary (nee Hunter) Irvine on April 4th, 1892 in Crumlin county, Antrim, Ireland. He left home when he was 19 years old, landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on April 21, 1911. He came from Ireland with the John McClughan family who lived near Duval, Saskatchewan, and then worked for a year at Strasbourg.
Bill travelled to Nokomis, Saskatchewan, to file on a quarter section (160 acres of land) for a fee of $10. Situated 20 miles southwest of Young in McCranny municipality, its legal description was: SW 1/4 15-30-28 W2.
In the fall of 1912, Bill, aged 20, journeyed northwest from Duval through the hills with a team of oxen, pulling a rack loaded with his belongings, including a cat for company.
The homestead was quite hilly and Bill selected the highest hill in the NW corner of the homestead to build his shack. It was probably the windiest spot around. He batched, baking his own bread and bannock. He bought eggs, milk and butter from Mrs. Bertha Ronning until he obtained his own hens and cows. A slough at the bottom, where runoff was accumulated from the melting winter snow, was used for water. A shallow seepage well was dug and cribbed to assure year round water after the slough dried up.
After spending three years “proving the land” by breaking the required acres and building a habitation, namely a shack, he was able to register the homestead. This meant travelling to the land registry in Humboldt with Mr. Ronning, Sr., who acted as a witness. This was September 2, 1916 according to the diary he started that year.1
The homestead application of my grandfather appears below. This is a photo of the microfilm record.
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William J Irvine Homestead Application
Land Location SW 15 30 28 W2
Stamped Dominion Lands Office December 6, 1912
I, William John Irvine of Strassburg, Sask do hereby apply for an Entry for a Homestead, under the provision of Section ___ in that behalf of the Dominion Lands Act, for the SW Quarter Section of Section number 15 in Township 30, Range 28 of the 2 Meridian.
(2) I am a British subject
(3) [paragraph struck out as not applicable]
Sig: William John Irvine
Full name signature
Age 20, place of birth Ireland, Co. Antrim,
Last place of residence: Strassburg Sask
Previous occupation – Farm Labourer
(Note Strassburg = Strasbourg)
Stamp at Bottom of application “Dominion Lands Office Humboldt, Sask. Dec 11. $10 (followed initials of officer)”2.
The two pages that follow the one above contain sworn statements from neighbours Roy Ronning and Oscar Ronning confirming that Bill Irvine did indeed establish a homestead on this land.
The last page is a statement by Bill with the details of the homestead. This is genealogy gold.
Click here to see all six pages of William J Irvine’s Dominion land grant application.
1. Irvine, Isabel Eliza (Woodland). “Manuscript”. “William John and Isabel Eliza Irvine”, 1985, p.1. Privately held by Joan Miller, [address for private use], Calgary Alberta, 2010.
The 11 page recounting of the lives of Isabel and Bill Irvine was written by Isabel when Bill was 93 years old. Isabel wrote many stories of their homestead life over the years, and Bill kept a diary for 60 years. (and Isabel wrote on the back of most of the photos!). This line is a joy to research.
2. Saskatchewan Archives, Regina, File 2842888, microfilm record of original application (which is held in Saskatoon).
Photo permission granted by Sask Archives.