We were curious about the three women who partnered Harry Adair on that long trek, and so we searched Archives in Alberta, Montana and Oklahoma for any information.While there are numerous articles about the exploits of Harry Adair in the Grande Prairie papers, there is almost no information about his wife, Tessa Oldham Adair; her sister, Ina Oldham; and her daughter Gertrude Adair. We found only one article and no photographs, except for their gravemarkers, which are all together in the Greenwood Cemetery in San Diego. What do we know about these three courageous women who spent three years on the trail going ever farther north into a sparsely habited land?
Tessa Viola Oldham married Harry Adair at Tecumseh in the Indian Territory of Oklahoma in 1896. Born in Jackson, Missouri, It appears that her family joined the 1889 Oklahoma Land Rush, so her formative years were spent in the “Wild West”. After her three years on the trail with Harry Adair, she managed the Adair home as a community centre in the Scenic Heights area for 20 years, welcoming people as illustrious as Nellie McClung, author, activist, and MLA. She died in San Diego, California, in 1958.
Ina Beatrice Oldham, Tessa’s sister, was the first postmistress in Oldham, Montana. This is where the Wild Horse Border Crossing is now on Highway 41 at the Canadian border. Continuing down into the U.S. this highway is still known as the Wild Horse Trail. The post office opened Sept 24, 1904, named Oldham after Ina. She served until about May 1906, at which time she headed north with the Adairs. Ina was born in 1878 and died in San Diego, CA in 1957.
While still in Oklahoma, Tessa and Harry had a daughter they named Gertrude. Born in July 1897, she was nine or ten when the trek began in the summer of 1906. She left the Peace Country in 1914, when she was 18 years old and married Eugene Roberge. They lived near North Battleford, Saskatchewan and had four children. After the marriage ended, she joined Tessa and Ina in San Diego and died in 1965.