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Topic: The Women of Aspenland
Article: Mary (Dymack) Freeman
Date Posted: September 21/2012
Main District: Wetaskiwin
Decades: 1870's to 1950's
Mary's mother was a widow with six children when her father, John Dymack met and married her. John was born in Poland and her mother was born in Germany. They immigrated to the United States and eventually, after much travel, settled in Iowa. After their marriage, two more children were born: Mae Anastasia (Mary) and Bertha. Bertha was born in 1870 and Mary was born February 2, 1873.
The family later moved to Thompson, North Dakota, where Mary met Fred Freeman. They were married in 1890 and had eight children: Madeline born in 1891, Sarah born in 1893, Clarence born in 1896, Charles born in 1899, Mary born in 1901, Caroline born in 1904, Bertha born in 1906 and Josephine born in 1909.
Mary's parents moved to Alberta and settled on a homestead about six miles east of Gwynne. They in turn convinced Fred and Mary to move from Thompson, North Dakota to Alberta, telling of the wonderful opportunities available in the new land. Fred Freeman returned with his father-in-law and proceeded to purchase six quarter sections. He then returned to Thompson, packed up their belongings and moved by train to Wetaskiwin in 1900.
Not having heard too much about their new home, Mary was quite anxious to see it. After one look at the two room shack with a sod roof, she was ready to walk back to the States. She said: "The chicken coop in Thompson was better than this!"
The house was situated above a small lake. Along the steep banks, Mary and Fred made two dugouts, one for vegetable storage and the other for keeping dairy products. They had fresh vegetables all year round. Mary would skim the cream off the top of the milk kept in the dairy dugout and churn it into butter. This delicious butter, which was always in demand, would be sold at the store. With the money she made from selling her butter and eggs, Mary was always able to purchase other necessities.
Mary was a very energetic lady who not only worked in the house but also cultivated a beautiful flower and vegetable garden. In one area she had a very productive bed of mushrooms. When they first arrived in Wetaskiwin they did not have time to build up a good herd of cattle, or a good flock of chickens or turkeys, so Mary would take out her sixteen gauge shotgun, go out and shoot a supply of wild fowl and rabbits. After dressing her catch, she would make a delicious meal that would whet the appetite of anyone. Along with preparing the meals, Mary made many preserves of fruit, jams, pickles and vegetables.
Snow was brought in and placed in the reservoir on the back of the stove for doing dishes, cleaning, bathing and washing clothes. This reservoir was always kept full. On wash day the white clothes were scrubbed on a washboard and then placed in the big copper boiler on the stove, rinsed and hung out to dry. The "snow-white" linens were always perfectly starched and ironed.
Mary was a beautiful seamstress. She made all her curtains, which had three or four inches of tatted lace on them. For thirty-two years, Fred was secretary-treasurer for the Roseland School, built in 1902. The district people would come to their home to pay their taxes and Mary was always there serving coffee and goodies.
After their new house was built, they boarded School teachers. An elderly lady from Wetaskiwin would come and board with Mary and Fred from April until fall each year. Her room was built over the front porch and was not warm enough for winter occupancy.
During this time, Mary taught Sunday school. She was also trained as a practical nurse and often by herself, or assisting Dr. Robertson, brought many babies into this world. Her assistance was also needed during the great flu epidemic in 1918 and 1919.
Mary was involved with the United Farmers Women's Association and spent many terms as president. Mary, along with other mothers and girls in the Gwynne area formed the Gwynne Sunshine Club (a sewing club). They made many pieces of clothing, quilts and knitted items. Some of these items were given to those in need, but most were shipped to headquarters in Edmonton.
Due to a few crop failures and the purchasing of some expensive cattle during the depression, Mary and Fred had to turn their farm over to the bank and move to Battle Lake. Their son Charlie built them a nice little house, which was across the road and up the hill from his own home.
When Fred passed away with cancer in 1940, Mary went to live with her daughters, Mary and Sarah. Mary passed away suddenly in July, 1957 at the age of eighty-four. Both are at rest in the Roseland Cemetery, Gwynne, Alberta.
Information compiled in 1999.
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