1911-2008. — 0.5 cm of textual records. — 18 photographs.
Dan Kirkham, born Dec 15, 1883, to Sarah and William Kirkham, in the Meskoka District of Ontario, was the eldest son in a family of five boys and five girls. At the age of ten, Dan began doing brush work with his father and soon he and his reliable dog team would make long treks through the wilderness. He worked in lumber camps in the winter and in the summer worked on the rivers as a log drover. His experience led to a job with the Grande Trunk Railway Co. as a surveyor’s guide working in northern Ontario. By 1909 he and his brother, Allan, were looking for new horizons and set off across country with a harvest crew reaching Edmonton early in 1910. Here Dan worked for Mr. Robinson using oxen to haul gravel out of the North Saskatchewan River for building streets in the city. That winter he headed north to the Peace country via the Athabaska-Grouard Trail with a party that included Norman Eagar, Dick Badger and Bill Hanna.
Dan got familiar with both the Long Trail and the Edson Trail freighting supplies north, including at least one trip with oxen. He knew Baldy Red and many other characters who travelled the trails. In 1912, in Edson, he met and joined the Lowes as they travelled north. Dan filed on the quarter section NE 8-74-6-6 April 22, 1912, northeast of what is now Sexsmith and built a log house in 1917 that was to be his home from then on. On March 20, 1919, Dan married Margaret Welter whom he had met while she worked on the Benny Foster farm. By 1920 a school was needed and Dan was among those responsible for the formation of the Equity School District. All of Dan and Margaret’s five children, Sadie, Jean, Bill, Jim and Bernice attended this school. Dan continued to work in the bush getting timber for his own buildings and for bridges and culvert work for the government road gang. He was a foreman for Mr. McQuarry doing road construction and by 1928 he had a Caterpillar 30 tractor to help him. The crew now included a cook car and Margaret often helped by supplying vegetables, eggs and meat. Their oldest son, Bill started to farm at age fourteen and also worked on the roads with his father. After buying the Larry Balisky and Jim Conlin land, the farm grew to include purebred Shorthorn cattle, pigs and a good outfit of horses and, in 1937, a large frame house replaced the original log one. Dan continued to work for the Municipal District of Bear Lake and then the County of Grande Prairie during the 1950s as forman for road building. Margaret died in 1964 and Dan died in 1977.
Mary Hakes grew up in Spirit River and waited tables in Bromwell’s Café in Rycroft and Joe’s Café in Spirit River. She worked for her board for the Martin, Holmberg and Inken families and then worked at the Holy Cross Hospital in order to finish high school. After graduation, she worked at the Royal Bank in Spirit River. She transferred to the bank in Sexsmith where she met Bill in 1947. Bill and Mary Hakes were married in 1948. Mary always kept busy with sewing, crafts, selling butter, eggs and chickens. She worked at the Auction Mart in Grande Prairie and the Seed Plant in Sexsmith. In 1961 she joined the Royal Purple Lodge and was their first president.
In 1950-51 Bill worked with his brotherJim driving a water truck on the rigs near Manning and at Fugel’s Mill in Dawson Creek. He drove a snow plow for the County of Grande Prairie on the night shift and then worked for Roy Tink at the Auction Mart for 20 years. Bill gradually took over the farming from his father, bought his own place in 1952 and moved into the log shack on the place until their house was built in 1937. He served on the REA Board helping to get people to sign up for power service which arrived in 1954. Bill served on the North Sexsmith Telephone Company Board and put up his own line to the house in 1952. In the 1960s he was a brand inspector for the Alberta Government and later was the Feeder’s Assoc. supervisor for 6 years. and chairman of the Sexsmith Seed Plant Board, working hard for the new plant idea. During the 1995 Canada Winter Games in Grande Prairie, Bill was president of the Sexsmith Agricultural Society Board. He joined the Elks in 1953 and was active until 2004.
Dan’s original farm expanded under Bill’s hands and and grandsons Kelvin and Dan , and great grandson Bill are at the helm in 2010.
The photographs were collected and donated to the South Peace Regional Archives by Mary Kirkham in 2010 and 2011.
Scope and Content
The fonds consists of 18 photographs of Dan Kirkham and Bill Kirkham family history, a letter and a receipt concerning the sale of the Webster School building in 1957 and an inspector’s report for Mary Kirkham from 1949.