Bruderheim? The book, “From Bush to Bushels A History of Bruderheim
and District” sheds some light on this question and many others related
to the Bruderheim community. To quickly summarize, Andreas Lilge, the Moravian
Church, and the Canadian government were all instrumental in the development
of this community.
first made entry on his original homestead, SW16 55-20-W4, on or about July
22, 1894. It was located about four miles south of present day Bruderheim,
along an old Indian trail. This homestead featured a lake and creek. Carl
writes that after they unloaded the wagon Gustav and Michael
built a temporary place for the family to sleep. They cut down a tree to make
a rail that was placed on two up-right posts. Then they cut down small trees
and shrubs with leaves with the axe they had brought from Volhynia. They stood
the small trees apart at the ground and leaned them against the rail. These
were then covered with layers of branches. This was the first shelter until
Gustav and Michael were able to build a log house. Soon they built a 12 foot
by 22 foot log house and similar size stable. Furniture items were gradually
constructed by Michael Eichelt. Carl writes, "... One day my father had
gone a distance to find work and while he was away, a bush fire came along
and burnt down the hut. My dear mother saved the children (Adoline inside)
and a few belongings but her face and hands were badly burnt. As there was
no doctor or salve available, she suffered terribly." It is unclear exactly
when this fire occurred but it is believed that it occurred before the birth
of their son Carl in 1896.
Carl describes Gustav and Michael's construction of a new shelter built after
the fire, "... they cut down more trees to make logs for a new shelter.
They cut the logs in at the ends so that they fit close together when they
made the walls. The walls were six or seven feet high and the roof was a layer
of rails covered with sod. ...After it stopped raining and the sun was shining,
it still rained inside the cabin. There were no windows or floors in the shelter,
and there were no lamps, coal-oil or matches. The door had home made wooden
hinges and latch. The window had no glass but was covered with an old gunnysack
- in the winter it was shut up. The family had no lamps so my father went
to visit some people in Josephburg where he was able to obtain some tallow.
From the tallow my parents made candles so they would have some form of light
during the long winter nights. My mother took grass, rolled it and then wrapped
it in clay to make bricks. These were arranged to enclose a fire; my father
got a piece of tin from Fort Saskatchewan and laid it on top of the bricks.
That was the stove. The beds were made of wooden rails and had a linen mattress
filled with hay. I was born in that cabin on February 18, 1896."
In 1895 Andreas Lilge negotiated a financial arrangement with the Mennonites
by which a six-year interest free loan was agreed upon for livestock and equipment.
Each family received two cows and two oxen, payable within six years. There
is no doubt that the first few years were very difficult and that the livestock
received in 1895 helped members of this new community become established.
Homestead records for Michael
Eichelt have been located in the Provincial archives. Michael homesteaded
NW34 T56-R20-W4. In 1895 10 acres were broken, 1896 another 10 acres were
broken and 10 cropped, 1897 another 10 acres broken and 10 cropped, 1898 another
10 broken and 20 cropped, 1899 none broken and 40 cropped. By the summer of
1899 Michael notes that he had 6 cattle, 4 horses, 26 pigs and 3 sheep. Sometime
after 1896 and before 1900 the Werner family decided to abandon their original
homestead location and move to Michael Eichelt’s original homestead
land. The official reason given for abandonment of their original homestead
was that the land was “too stony and too much covered with brush”.
Official transfer of ownership of NW34 55-20-W4 occurred in 1900 although
the Werner family may have actually moved there earlier.
continues, "When the family first arrived they had no money to buy food.
Rabbits were plentiful so they dug into the ground a hole which was deep enough
that rabbits couldn't get out. Brush grass or hay was layered on top of the
hole to fool the rabbits so they would fall when they ran across. My father
would then butcher enough rabbits to eat and let the rest go. This was repeated
everyday. There was no salt so they had to do without. The skin and fur was
used for different purposes: caps and mittens were made from it and it was
wrapped around wooden soled shoes with a strap. These were my grandfather's
ideas to keep hands and feet from freezing. They also cooked pigweed for vegetables
and ate wild raspberries and saskatoon berries. When the children were small,
my parents had to walk ten or twelve miles to work. They were paid with potatoes
and later they got some barley chop. My handy mother separated the hulls or
chaff from the grain with a shaker. She then cooked the crushed barley in
water for the family to eat. It was a favorite food. My father eventually
got two old horses but no wagon. He cut down some rails and built a stone-boat.
He even used it in summer. The Mennonites from Manitoba gave each family a
cow and a bag of flour until they made some money to repay them. My father
also got some hens, but I don't know where. My father mentioned he took some
eggs and butter in a willow basket grandfather Eichelt had made and walked
to the nearest trading post, Fort Edmonton. He got only six cents a dozen
for eggs and eight cents in trade for a pound of butter exchanged for salt
a retail price. Sometimes he could not sell the eggs or butter. The trip was
a long one, some 36 or 40 miles one way, and the road was poor, winding around
small lakes and passing through heavy bush. The land had to be cleared by
hand before grain could be planted. Once the trees and brush were cleared,
the soil was removed so the roots could be cut and removed. The grain was
seeded by hand. My father tied a sheet around him as a bag to hold the grain
seed. In the fall the grain was cut by hand with a scythe and stooked. My
father was a big man, standing six feet three inches tall, and was able-bodied
and strong. He decided to make hay for sale. He had to make it all by hand,
cutting the grass with a scythe. Altogether he made forty loads, a large stack
one summer. But he could not dispose of it that fall or winter, and when he
finally got rid of it the following spring, he realized on it the fabulous
amount of $25.00, or sixty cents a load. Grandfather Eichelt was a good carpenter
and he put his skills to work chopping down trees. From them he made wooden
troughs for the cattle, bath tubs for the family, and from birch he carved
large bowls, which were used for kneading bread dough, dishes, spoons and
ladles. He also made wooden wagons for the children, chairs from willows and
wooden wagon wheels. A few years later my father and Julius Prochnau made
something like two sawhorses from small logs. It stood six or eight feet high,
and logs to be cut were put on top of the rig. They got a saw blade five or
six feet long and had long handles on each end. One of them then got on top
of the rig and the other below on the ground. In this way they sawed some
boards. The boards were used to make a floor in the log house and they were
also used to make a table and a rocking cradle to rock the babies to sleep.
It was hard to get string in those days, so my mother made some with ripe
flax. The flax was soaked in water for two days and then beaten with a stick
to remove the outer part of the stalk. The inner part contained woody linen.
My mother would spin this into a fine string. Spinning took a long time. My
grandfather would weave the spun flax and my mother would sew pillowcases,
mattresses and grain bags. My father was instrumental in organizing the community
to build the first school in the district. It was often referred to as Mud
Lake School however the official name was Bruderheim School. The school was
built two miles east of Bruderheim and was one mile east of our home. My father
was secretary-treasurer of the school district for twenty-five years and was
road council for the district.
My father was also very active in the formation and building of the Moravian
Church. He was one of the main carpenters that constructed the log church
in 1895, and he served as elder for many years. Grandfather Eichelt made the
first pews in the church from willows. My father and grandfather Eichelt built
the family home in 1899. They also built a clay stove so that my mother could
bake bread. The family lived on this homestead for a few years and it was
later farmed by people by the name of "Teske."