Harold (Lyde) Christensen about 1950.

Harold Elijah Christensen Autobiography


  My name is Harold Elijah Christensen. I was born in Brigham City, Utah, on February 28, 1892. They decided to call me Lyde after my grandfather, who was Elijah Fuller, an early Utah Pioneer, as my dad was also named Harold.

  My father was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and came to America with his parents when he was four years old. My mother was born just out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Her name was Rosette Fuller. She had four sisters, Kate, May, Annie, and Lillie, and one brother named Joe. Mom and Dad went to school together in Brigham City. They got married when my dad was 19 and she was about 17.

  My father was a bricklayer and horse trader. He and a fellow by the name of Hans Anderson were boyhood friends. One day they were talking to a man named Frodsom who had a little cattle ranch out north of Brigham, and the subject of Canada came up. Frodsom told them he was going to move to Canada and homestead. Dad thought that would be a good thing to do, so he and Hans, who worked for cattle and sheep men in Wyoming and other places, decided they would go into partnership and buy some cattle and go to Canada with Frodsom in the spring. So they started buying cattle and horses to take to Canada. Dad always had a few good horses.

  In early spring of 1900 they were loaded and ready to start on their trip to Canada. They went by train to Montana, and there they unloaded their stock and wagons and started their drive to Cardston, N.W.T. I think they unloaded near Sweet Grass, Montana, as that was as close as the train went to where they were going.  They got into some real bad storms and lost some of their cattle from the storms and poor feed, but they finally got to Cardston.  Mr. Frodsom said Cardston looked good enough for him, and he decided to stay there and find a homestead. But Dad and Hans wanted to go further west near the mountains. After resting a few days in Cardston they met a man who had homesteaded a place out on Yarrow Creek (about thirty-five miles further west). He told them he had put up five big haystacks about 50 feet long out there, and had made arrangements with a big rancher to winter a bunch of weaners, but while he was away getting the cattle he was going to feed, someone set fire to his hay and he lost everything. He said he guessed they didn't want any Mormons out there, and he had had enough. He wanted my dad to settle on his homestead and buy his buildings. He had a two-room frame house and a one room log cabin, and he wanted $250 for them. They went out and looked at his place, but decided to take a homestead up on the hill, as this place was down on the river bottom. I guess they did make some kind of a deal though, because we moved out there and lived on that place for four or five years, and Dad's place was the next quarter joining it. Dad and Hans had adjoining homesteads. They took their cattle and moved out there, and then Dad sent for Mother and my brother and myself.


  I was seven years old, and I was sure anxious to go on the train. It was a narrow gauge train and didn't travel very fast. We were four days on that train. We had to go to Butte, Montana, and there we had to change trains to go to Canada. We sat in the station waiting for a bus to pick us up and take us across town to a different train. While we were waiting some miners got into a fight and one got cut up so bad they had to carry him out, and in a few minutes they came back yelling and they had a lot of guns. I thought we would all get shot. They ran around there a few minutes, then the bus came and I don't know whether they shot anyone or not.

  We finally got on the other train, and the first thing that happened was a doctor came in with the conductor and said anyone that hadn't been vaccinated should go in the car ahead, where he had a table with a white sheet set up, and a sort of office. There he scraped the arm until he had the skin scraped off, then he put some-thing on that made it hurt a lot. I sure thought he was going to kill me, but he finally got through and the next morning my arm was awfully sore and swollen up. The doctor said "now if this takes, it's going to be real sore," and I guess mine sure took. It got to be as big a scar as a 50c piece.

  We finally came to a little town where we got off the train and went through customs, and that was where we met my dad. He was there with a big sheep camp wagon and four horse team, and two dogs had followed him. One was named Dutch. He was a real cow dog and he belonged to Mr. Frodsom, but he had taken to Dad and wouldn't stay with Mr. Frodsom. The thirty-five miles between ranches didn't seem to bother him.

  We weren't long getting started for our new home. It took a week to get there, but we couldn't travel fast as there weren't any real roads and the horses had to be staked out to eat grass, which wasn't very good yet. We had to cross three rivers that were quite high, and Dad always had to look for a place where he could get out on the other side. He had the wagon box chained to the running gears. He said that might save us from having a boat ride.

  We had only been on the road a day when an Indian came into our camp and wanted a meal. So he got off his horse and Mother fed him. He saw me trying to catch gophers so he got a piece of string and showed me how to snare the gophers. I soon became good at it. He said he was on his way to a wedding and wanted one of our "fat dogs" to make a big feast, but of course he couldn't get the dog. He had an antelope skin on the back of his saddle. My dad thought that would be nice to step out of bed on in the mornings, so he traded a carton of Bull Durham and some coffee for the skin, but Mother didn't let him keep it very long because the hair would break off when he walked on it.

  When we got to Cardston Dad told Ma that this was where we would do our shopping. We went into a store - I think it was a Hudson Bay Store. They had a big wash boiler on the stove full of coffee. Dad said they let the Indians have coffee and cookies so they would stay there and spend their money. They used to have what was called Treaty Day, and Cardston was right on the edge of the Blood Reserve. That was the last time I saw a town for four or five years, as we only went to town about twice a year, and that nearly always took two days. If you went on a Saturday you had to get out early if you had a load, as it was against the law to work on Sunday.

  Cardston was a Mormon settlement. I remember it was a pretty good sized town when we got there. There were two or three stores and wood sidewalks. There was a creek running right through town.

  Canada, in the early 1900's was rolling land and brush, with lots of lakes and meadows. There were no fences, and the grass grew so high that you would get your feet wet riding your horse through it in the morning. I remember seeing lots of buffalo skulls lying around the country, but there were no buffalo any more.

  When we got home Dad took us to the old place. There was a pretty good sized two room house, with board walls and a wood floor. Hans lived in the log house. Our house had a cook stove but Hans' only had a heater. There was a spring right on the bank of Yarrow Creek about 35 yards from the house, and there was a root cellar in the back. We always had a good garden and stored vegetables in the root cellar. The garden was Mother's job and she worked hard on it. The biggest trouble she had was gophers. I caught hundreds of them.

  I don't think they had any game laws when we moved in there. If they did we didn't know it. There were no deer around except up in the mountains, but there were prairie chickens and ruffled grouse, and all kinds of ducks and geese. There were lots of trout and grayling in the stream. Mother and I were in charge of getting fish. Hans and Dad used to get ducks, geese, and prairie chickens. We raised chickens and they lived in a log chicken house. We always ate well. When we needed supplies we would charge them at the store. Almost everyone did that, and paid their bills when they sold their beef in the fall. You could use credit to buy anything - even wagons. We only bought staples like rice, beans, bacon, coffee, tea, etc.

  My mom worked hard out there on the ranch. When we first got there she only weighed 90 pounds. She was about 5'5" and really thin, but later she got up to about 150 pounds. She was a brave woman, and later she and I ran the ranch by ourselves when Dad went to Calgary to lay brick. The only thing that bothered her was when the Stony Indians, who instead of knocking on the door, would come up and put their faces against the window and flatten their noses against the glass. That would just about scare my mother to death. Those Indians were almost all Catholic. They would come in and hunt wolves, kill deer, and trade deer meat for coffee and tobacco. They dressed in brightly colored Hudson Bay blankets and had long hair in those days.


  When haying time came, about the first of July, and we were beginning to think about putting in our hay, we discovered that all our horses had disappeared and we couldn't put up any hay until we found them. All we had left was a little saddle mare that we kept staked out. Well, Hans started looking for the horses and he rode every day until about the first of September, when he met a man that said he had seen a few head of horses about thirty miles east of our place on the Blood Reserve. Hans went down there, and sure enough, they were our horses. So Hans and Dad got to haying. They were real lucky they didn't get an early snow. They did get enough hay to put them through that winter.

  Dad realized that I should be in school, and the Yarrow School was six miles down the river from where we lived. We had to have a horse for me to ride to school. About that time every year the government used to let the Stony Indians come into our part of the country and hunt wolves, and we heard there was a group of them up the river from where we lived. One day he took me and we went up the river a mile or so to where a bunch of Indians were camped on the flat where the Yarrow Creek Campground is- today. We met two of the Indians. One was named Noah, the other was Holy Moses Coyote Tail. They had horses they would sell, but all the saddle horses we saw were not very fat, and most of them had sore backs. Dad said it was from pulling those travois - poles with all their belongings held on with ropes over their backs to keep the poles in place. We finally bought a young sorrel stallion from Noah for $8.00. He was a fine pony and I called him Noah. I soon had him broke so I could go any place on him, and so I started to school. He wasn't a very large pony, but he could take an easy lope and keep at it all day. One day a vet named Dr. Warnock came out to our place. He said Noah was the most perfect built horse he had ever seen, and he finally bought him for one of his boys.

  When I started school I found there was a girl going to the same school that had to travel the same trail I did. Her name was Winnie Shannon and she was about 16 years old. Winnie was a fine rider and was as good as any cowboy when they were working their cattle. The Shannon's lived 2 1/2 miles west of us, the Binghams lived 1 1/2 miles east of us, and they were our closest neighbors. Winnie Shannon's family always had real fine saddle horses, and she used to ride a big brown horse named Brownie. Since the school was about six miles east of our place I used to have to cross the river. When the river was high Winnie always waited for me and I would get on back of her on her horse Brownie, and we would just lead my pony across.

  Our first teacher was named Miss Mahafy. Some of her pupils were pretty big kids, but she didn't have too much trouble. She used to use her pointer to discipline, and one time she got real mad at me for bringing a snake into class. She started chasing me with her pointer, and one of the boys, Holly Bruneau reached out and grabbed her and just sat there with her on his lap. He was about 17 years old and a real tough guy.

  Kids from all over went to that school. Some came from down the river where the Yarrow runs into the Waterton. Others came from Fishburn. When the weather got cold Winnie stayed at Bruneaus, so Dad told me to go over to Uptons and see if I could stay there when it was cold. So I went over and told Mr. Upton my Dad wanted to know if I could stay there when it was cold, and if so how much it would cost. Mr. Upton sent Charlie, his son, into the house for a tape. He measured me around the waist and he measured my height, and then he measured Noah. Then he said well, I'll let you stay here, bed you down and your horse, and feed the two of you for $14.00 a month.

  We all got our mail at Uptons. He was a big man and a real jolly fellow. He always made me think of Santa Claus. He had a white moustache and red cheeks. Every Tuesday he went into Pincher Creek with a load of vegetables or a couple of dressed hogs and get enough to buy staples, and he would bring back the mail. I got to know everyone in the country, staying at Uptons.

  Of all the people I met, the one I liked best was Billie Huddlestun. He was the only real cowboy in our part of the country. He had a homestead in the brush along Horseshoe, but I don't know the exact place. There was a young fellow named Buddy Jamieson who used to ride with him. Billie always shook hands with me and treated me like I was a man. Then there was Henry Riviere. He was a big Frenchman and a real mountain man. He was game war-den after they started having game laws. There were old timers such as Choteau Reed and Glascow, and down the river lived Up-tons, Bruneaus, and Calahans. Mr. Morris lived over by the Forks. He was a squatter as he never took up any land. He had three daughters but no wife, and he had two houses. One was just above the Yarrow Creek Forks and the other was up close to Choteau Reed's on the Waterton. Then there was Phil Lucas, who I don't think ever took any land. If he did I don't know where. He used to work for anyone that needed help. Calahan had his place down further east on Yarrow Creek. He was a blacksmith. Then the Upton place, also on Yarrow, and across the river from Upton's was the Bruneaus. The next place, below Bruneau's about 2 miles was Sheads. They had five daughters, Mabel, Edith, Betha, Jessie and Helen. They went to school with me. I don't know how they made a living, as I never knew him to do any work. Next was McFarlands, then south of us was Billie Huddleston. Then Choteau Reed and Vade Endersbe and Kootenai Brown and Ted Endersbe.

  The first time I saw Kootenai Brown was at Uptons. He had come for his mail and he stayed all night as it was a very cold day. He was dressed in buckskin pants and jacket and had long hair, and the language he used was not very nice in front of the Upton girls. His wife was an Indian woman. West of us were the two Shannon families, and north was Henry Riviere, the Harlands, the Wards and the Gladstones. Frenchy was married to a sister of the Gladstone boys. They had four children. I don't know where those kids went to school, but they weren't old enough at that time to go in our part of the country.

  Well the time flew, and in 1903 we had more children in our neighborhood. There was Ernest and Jim Hillier, each with four or five children. Harlands had two children, Wards had two children, and Mitchell's had a girl. So they decided we needed a school. In 1904 they opened our school. It was called Twin Butte, and we had about 14 kids. I believe there are still some of them living around Alberta and B.C.

  One of the most exciting people I knew was Ed Dalton. He worked for Cam Rankin and homesteaded up there. Ed Dalton always carried a gun and dressed well, and always rode nice horses. Glascow used to claim that Dalton stole his horses and took them to Montana to sell them. When the police went out to arrest him he was at a big party at Shannon's place. He rode out between the mounties and got away. I think he was in love with Winnie Shannon. She was a very pretty girl, and he spent a lot of time at her place. I don't know whether he was a horse thief, but he was accused of being one and he left the country.

  When we first came to Canada it was all open range. If you didn't fence your property everyone's cattle would come in and eat all your hay. All the cattle in the country ran wild. Every year they would have a big roundup until there were so many fences that there was not much open country.

  I helped Dad fence, and it took us a long time to get the fence posts and barb wire. One time when I was about 10 years old I was holding the posts while my dad was driving them with a sledge. He was standing in the wagon and I was on the ground. We had Dutch, Dad's dog, with us. He was lying in the shade of the wagon when some men came along a few hundred yards from us with about 20 head of cattle. One of them yelled and said, "Keep that damned dog under the wagon." Dad said "Go to hell." One of them, a big half breed, came riding down and said to Dad "We've got a real wild bunch of cattle and we don't want them stampeded down to the river bottom." Dad said "That dog won't move unless I tell him to." The half breed turned and rode back. When he got close enough so the other fellows could hear he yelled out "I'd put a rope around that son of a B's neck if he hadn't had a shotgun leaning against the seat." Not long after that I had a bad toothache so Dad took me to town to get it pulled. The first bar we went into we saw that half breed. Dad just walked over and asked him if he remembered him. He said "Yes, I've seen you before." "Well, I'm the one you called a Son of a B." and he hauled off and hit the guy so hard he went halfway across the pool table.


  Hans finally got married and moved to Montana. He married the oldest Shead girl, Mabel. Dad bought one quarter section from him and Bill Terrill bought the homestead. Terrill had two children at that time, and more later on. After Hans left Dad started buying cattle and feeders and sold them at three years old. I did the feeding. We ran our cattle with Billie Huddleston's. We herded them up in Yarrow and Smith Canyons for a few years. We always kept them there until July, when we had to let them go so we could put up our hay. We had to be there early every morning as they would try to come down out of the mountains as soon as the flies got out, so Billie and I used to get up there early every morning. I was about 16 years old then, and I loved every bit of that life. When we took our beef to town Billie and I always went together. Dad, who had moved to Calgary to contract brick work, used to come down and do the selling, then he would tell me to stay with Billie and help him get his money in the bank, as he knew so many old timers and was so big hearted that by the time he bought drinks for all his friends there was quite a hole in his earnings. Sometimes he would come with me and sometimes he wouldn't. When we would get out of town and he was a little short of money he used to say "They ought to put a tent over that town and call it robbers' roost."

  One time Billie and I were holding our cattle back in Yarrow Canyon when an old man came up to us and said he had been prospecting back in there. He had run out of tobacco and wanted a smoke pretty bad. Billie cut off a piece of T&B plug and gave it to him. He picked up a piece of paper that had come from one of our lunches and made himself a smoke, and went on his way. That was the last we heard of him until the next spring. Frenchy found his bed roll and skeleton on a muskeg just outside the canyon.

  When we quit holding our cattle up in the mountains they would scatter all over the country and that meant a big roundup in the fall. We started at Crooked Creek on the south side of the Kootenai River, and covered all the country clear to the head of Pincher Creek. I still remember the last big roundup. I think it was about 1909. I believe there are only Murton Harland, Fred Campbell, and myself still living that were in that roundup.

  One year the wolves were quite bad and Choteau Reed and Billie Huddlestun set a day for a hunt. There was about a dozen men came. I don't remember if they got any wolves, but when we got up to the end of Pine Ridge we saw a man leading a horse with some-thing on it. Billie went down to see what was going on. When he came back he said it was Bert Riggall and his wife. His wife was sick and he was taking her over to Pat. Carnell's place. Next day we met someone and they said Mrs. Riggall had had a baby girl. I think it was their first child.

  I got to be good friends with Eugene McFarland, as his mother used to make a marmalade out of carrots that I thought was the best in the world, and he liked something my mother made for my lunch. So the first thing we would do when we got to school was to trade lunches. After I was in school in Twin Butte I used to go down and stay over a weekend with him. One time we were running a race on our horses and my horse stepped in a badger hole and threw me. I was unconscious for several hours. His big brother came and hauled me up to their house in a wagon. They were pretty worried, but I finally came out of it.

  Another time, after we got to be about 12 or 13, we decided to go hunting up in the mountains for deer and we went to his place so he could get ready. We were riding along when we met a Mountie named Goodridge. He was friendly and wanted to know where we were going to hunt. We told him and he asked if we had our licenses. We told him no, that we were going to go to Wes Shannon and get our licenses later. He said "Well, you boys are really too young to hunt deer and you will just be wasting your money to buy a license. Now I'll tell you what to do. Go ahead and hunt, and if you are lucky enough to kill a deer you just come down to the police station and I'll fix you up with licenses." We thought that was pretty good, but when I got home, Dad said I couldn't go the day we planned as we had to move some cattle. Dad wouldn't let us go without licenses either. The next day we went to get our license and Mr. Shannon, who was the Justice of the Peace, said "Well, Lyde," I'm sure glad to see you and sell you a license. Mr. Goodridge was here yesterday and told me where you fellows were camped and told me to go get you, and I would have been on my way this morning." So we went hunting. We didn't kill any deer, but we had a real good hunt. That Goodridge was a stinker!

  Murton and I went on another hunting trip once, and I shot a big ram. I took the head to Calgary and had it mounted. It measured 171/2 inches around the base and was 42 inches long. The taxidermist offered me $100 for it, but I didn't sell it.

  I always loved to hunt. One time Percy Gregory and I decided to go into Waterton Lakes Park and get a bear. It was illegal to hunt in the Park, and it was patrolled daily. We were on the trail of a bear up on Horseshoe when we saw a game warden was chasing us. He would have caught us but there was bear smell strong on the trail and his horse wouldn't follow it. We had a wild ride down the back of the canyon on the north side of the mountain. My horse wasn't any good for a year after that. He was only a year old and I was breaking him. I never had any desire to hunt in the Park after that.


  I met Sadie Bevan at a housewarming, I think it was a dance at Bill Thorton's home. She was a beautiful girl, very friendly and outgoing. Sadie was quite a big girl when her family moved out to our part of the country. I guess she was about 14. They homesteaded on the Kootenai River and Sadie had been doing all the baking for her family since she was about twelve. She was very popular. There were a few gals around the country after me too, but it was love at first sight for both of us.

  My family moved to Calgary about 1910 and I was learning how to lay brick. Dad was still contracting in Calgary and had a lot of big jobs going. Sadie and I had been going together for three years when we got married in 1911. One of my granddaughters, Rose's youngest girl [Anne Richardson], looks quite a bit like Sadie.

  After we got married we lived in Calgary with Mom and Dad for about a year. Harold was born at the Calgary Hospital while we lived there. Mom and Dad about spoiled him to death. I later found a house and rented it for $30.

  After 1913 there was no brickwork because of the war. I tried to enlist in the Army, but they told me to get out and ranch and grow food, so Sadie and I moved back to the ranch and started raising cattle.

  We had a second baby on the ranch. Just me and the midwife were there, and no doctor. It was a boy and we named him Joseph, but he died. He was bleeding and we couldn't stop it. I don't know where his grave is now. I've looked for it but can't find it. After that Sadie said she was going to have her children in town, so Rose and Wanda were born in Cardston in kind of a midwife home.

  We got along pretty well on the ranch. When Sadie got pregnant again she wanted to be near her mother, so we all took a trip to Utah and Lillian was born in Tooele. While we were in Utah, in 1919, I got some kind of flu. Thousands of people died from the flu that year. Then I had pneumonia twice, and was so sick I couldn't travel for a long time. It was March before we started back to Canada. Even then I couldn't do much work. I could milk cows, so I opened up the first dairy at Waterton Lakes Park, and somehow we got by. We did O.K. in the summer, but when winter came it got pretty rough.

  I kept meeting people who told me how good it was in California, and how much brickwork they were doing there, so I decided to move to California. I had to go where I could find work, so I went to Wenatchee, Washington, then to Seattle. From there I went to Oakland. It was June, and foggy and cold there, so I moved to Sacramento to get warm. I think my first job there was working on the California Life Building.

  I rented a little house on 1st Avenue and then went back to Canada for Sadie and the kids. Sadie loved this town. She liked to be working in the church and right in the thick of things. She made lots of friends here and was head of everything she ever got into. Bob, my youngest son, was born in Sacramento.

  One little last story. After we were grown up my brother Irving and I used to try to take a week or ten days up at Waterton Lakes. One year we decided to take about 10 days, so we loaded our wagon with tent and bedding and anything we might each need. Sadie and I had three kids at that time, and the baby had to have cows milk, so I decided I'd take a milk cow. We finally got started and I had the cow tied on back of the wagon. She had to come of course, and we couldn't go faster than a walk. I was driving a good gentle team. One of them was called Nettie and she had a colt about a month old.

  We finally got to the lake and camped at the east entrance. Flies were thick and they were really bothering the cow. When I went out to milk her she took after me and I had to run behind a tree. When she got to the end of her rope it broke, and she took off going east. I never saw her again until the roundup. The only thing I could do was tie the colt up and give the baby mare's milk. She got along fine. We stayed our full planned holiday. That baby [Wanda Cannon] is a very successful career woman now - has two children and four grandchildren. My oldest son [Harold B. Christensen] is doing well in the oil business. Daughter Rose [Richardson] has been most active in 'church work, civic activities, mother of five, 3 grandchildren, and pursues a career. Daughter Lillian [Strebel] has a flair for dramatics and always brings a lot of cheer to any party with her sense of humor. She has four children, one grandson. Bob, my youngest, is carrying on my trade. He has a fine wife and five children.

  In case you are interested in Hans Anderson's story, he married and moved to Montana, and had three children. His wife died real young, and he left the kids with his wife's mother and disappeared. Nobody heard anything of him for many years, but after I got to Sacramento I heard of a guy named Hans Anderson who had homesteaded in Canada and was working for a rancher in Woodland. Dad spent a long time finding him, but he did and he and Hans had a good talk. I don't really know where Hans was all those years.

  I am sending along a family picture from homesteading days. The stallion's name was Black Hawk. Morgan Breed was a good worker and fine for breeding , but he was mean. I don't remember where we got him, but we heard later that he had killed two men in the Crows Nest Pass. He was so mean that I used to have to stand with a pitch fork to keep him back while Mother poured water in a tub for him to drink while Dad was away. He would even kill chickens that got in his stall. Once he took after Winnie on her horse. He bit the rear of her horse and took big bites out of her saddle. He would chase anyone on a horse. When they wanted to catch him they would send someone on horseback in to run through a corral with two gates, and when he chased them someone would close him in.

  My Dad died at Boise, Idaho in 1935. Mother died at Salt Lake City, Utah in 1948.

--Pincher Creek Historical Society, Prairie Grass to Mountain Pass: 
History of the Pioneers of Pincher Creek and District, 1974, pp. 727-738.

To read the autobiography of Lyde's brother Irving, click here.
To return to the Christensen Family index page, click here.