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North of Our River

Prince Albert is renowned for its incredible lakes and parklands that lie within easy reach of the city. Thousands travel from afar to bask in these wonders of nature.

Nestled in this land of beauty are several small centres, each with many stories of human endeavour. The Municipality of Buckland encloses several of these communities.

Victor Gignac, a curling friend of mine, has loaned me his copy of the area’s local history: “Buckland’s Heritage.” This history was drafted from the inputs of local Buckland residents. It is fascinating reading and certainly reveals the spirit and fabric of what held and continues to hold these communities together.  

One chapter of the book is entitled “ Midwife to Medicare.”

The chapter contains an illuminating account of the medical challenges and methods of treatment that existed not too long ago. It certainly brings home how much we owe to the present day medical miracles we enjoy. I will quote directly from the book itself, as it tells the story so well.

“In the early days the settlers were indeed isolated when it came to medical treatment. There was no resident doctor at hand. There were no phones to use to get advice. Fortunate were the districts where a retired ex-nurse could chance to marry a local boy.        

Only in extreme cases did people go to the doctor. Money was much too scarce to spend on fees. Besides, travel by horses, oxen, or walking to fetch a doctor were much too slow except in extreme cases. 

Thus, early settlers depended on their own skills and home remedies passed down from previous generations.

For colds: hot ginger tea; Minards Liniment for everything from boils to Rheumatism; Watkins’ products added to hot milk; garlic mixed in milk; camphor swallowed slowly (a sure remedy for easing croupy throats); poultices from chewed bread and sugar for slivers; onions for colds; rose petal powder and tea.

Various rubs for throat, chest and back included: Oil of Wintergreen, goose grease, mustard plasters, and mixtures of onions and Camphorated oil. 

For sore throats a dirty sock pinned around the neck; the dirtier the better. 

Hot salt bags were used as hot water bottles. Epsom Salts played an important part to relieve constipation. Cob-webs to draw out infection.

Wart cures abounded! Rub them with a potato, or a bone , which must then be buried where no one could walk over it; rub them with a copper penny. Get someone else to do this and pay you the penny, thus buying the wart. 

Warm fresh cow dung in a dressing to swollen throats.”

( How many of my readers can remember such a treatment or recovery arising from these unique methods?) 

The chapter then goes on to portray the wonders wrought  by Midwives. They were seen as a godsend to those without easy access to doctors or hospitals. Again I quote from “Buckland’s Heritage.”

“Certainly few babies would have seen the light of day without the services of them (midwives).

In Spruce home and surrounding area the better known ones were Mrs. Staufseng, Mrs ‘Billie’ Bean, Emilie Wiggin, Mrs. Holland, Mrs. Hendrickson, Mrs. Alphonse Carriere ( who was said to have delivered 100 babies), and Bessie McLeod.

Bessie remembers that one month in Paddockwood she cared for three mothers after delivering their babies and nursed 75 outpatients. She went to Christopher Lake in an old car with no floor boards and from there in a stone-boat to get a pneumonia patient back to the hospital.

At one time she went 12 miles in 40 degrees below zero to aid with a baby, not stopping to warm herself until the baby was cleaned and dressed in layette.”

Such was the spirit which spurred the growth of those early communities. No wonder people are so fiercely proud of their heritage. They come from true and tried pioneers.

More stories to come – stories that we all would do well to remember and revere.

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