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Topic: The Women of Aspenland
Article: Margaret (Morrison) Lucas
Date Posted: October 9/2012
Main District: Wetaskiwin
Decades: 1860's to 1920's
In 1875, at fifteen years of age, Margaret came to Canada with her parents, Noble and Jane Morrison. They moved from the small village of Trillick, Ireland. Margaret, born August 29, 1860, was the youngest of her seven siblings. The Morrisons first set up homestead in Aylmer, Quebec.
On December 12, 1883 Margaret married Francis Arnold Lucas at the Christ Church in Ottawa. In 1884, they accompanied Frank's brother, Samuel Brigham Lucas to Alberta to assist with instructing farming to the natives. This trip was made via train from Ottawa to Owen Sound, then boat to Port Arthur, train to Calgary and on to the farm by way of horses, wagon, and foot along the Calgary/Edmonton Trail. They arrived at the farm July 16, 1884.
At first sight, the area appeared as an Industrial School site. There were a few small trees, a large house for the instructor, two stables, four houses for the natives, corrals, root houses and a cattle shed. Fences were in place and a bridge was constructed over the creek. This creek was named Bigstone Creek.
In 1885, with the Riel Rebellion, Margaret, for her safety, was moved to the Hudson Bay Fort in Edmonton. Here she remained for approximately two months before returning to their homestead. During this time her husband was away hauling freight. Margaret worried about his safety and whether their farm would still be intact upon their return.
When she finally returned, Margaret found a fort in her front yard. This fort, named Fort Ethier, was erected during the Riel Rebellion by the 65th Mounted Rifles of Montreal. The total number of officers and fusiliers was twenty-two. During their stay, until June 1885, Margaret helped prepare all their meals. The fort block house still remains today.
The farm was the stopping station for the stagecoach which stopped once a week during its run between Calgary and Edmonton. Passengers were fed and remained overnight. If Clergy was present, they would stay in the house. Other passengers were put up in the barn. Accommodation for the passengers and feed and stable for two horses cost $1.50; four horses cost $2.00.
Margaret and Francis had nine children. They grew up amongst the Indians who were learning to farm. The two eldest daughters, Frances and Maude, were therefore able to speak Cree fluently.
Margaret was quick with a shotgun or revolver, inhibiting any predator wishing to take one of her fowl. She was known for her wonderful hospitality from those who frequented the farm. This included stagecoach passengers, NWMP, settlers, missionaries and any others requiring accommodation. She knitted socks and mitts and sold them for one dollar per pair. It was stated that she could knit one pair of socks or mitts a day. She was kept busy with baking, cooking, washing, mending, tending to other family needs, caring for chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese as well as working in the garden. Her brother-in-law, Dick Hawkins, built her a large outdoor oven made of brick for all her baking needs.
In 1897, Mr. Fred Stinston, a teacher, was hired during the winter months. One room upstairs in the house was used as a school room. Margaret fed the children their lunch while they attended classes. In 1902 the Lucas School District was formed. Later the children went to school in Wetaskiwin. When stores were established and supplies made available in Wetaskiwin, Margaret would take the children to town for their schooling and then do her shopping.
The house had a large room upstairs with five double beds where the children slept. Stovepipes ran the full length of the room and the walls and rafters were papered with newspapers. On February 16, 1898, the original house burned. With temperatures reaching minus forty degrees during the cold winter months, the wood stove was in constant use. It is thought that the fire must have started in the overheated pipes. For the remainder of that winter, Margaret and family lived in a tent or small log building (the story is not quite clear). A new house was built later that year.
After living on the land for nine years, Frank Lucas was finally granted title in 1893. Over these nine years, some of Margaret's siblings had also set up homestead in the west. A few buildings they had constructed are still standing today.
Margaret and Frank were the first farmers to grow grain in the area and to have the first cattle site. They had the first white baby in the district, first baptism and funeral. Their youngest son, Cortez and the first car (1915 McLaughlin), first tractor and helped build many roads in the region.
Entertainment enjoyed on the farm entailed parties, dances, rodeos and swimming or skating on the creek. Some of the prominent visitors to the farm were Rev. John McDougall, Father Lacombe, Rev. Glass and Major Griesbach of the "K" Division of the NWMP.
1915, Margaret and her daughter Maude became founding members of the Wetaskiwin Women's Institute. In addition, Margaret served on the board.
In writings, it is noted that Margaret was one of the best known and one of the most popular residents of the district. Her kindness to early settlers will never be forgotten. Margaret is credited with being the first white lady to come to the Wetaskiwin district and take up permanent residence. Today her home farm is cared for by her grandson, Sam, and his family.
Information compiled in 1999.
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