Relocation once again
By the turn of the century, a variety of circumstances developed which once again left Robert and Margaret entertaining ideas of relocating. One consideration was the increasing need to expand the farm acreage to provide sufficient income to meet the needs of the large family. The use of new machinery required farmers to expand land holdings in order to produce a sufficient amount of grain to make ends meet. Yet both the cost of buying more land and renting new machines required considerable capital outlay which the Fergusons did not have.
In 1901, records show that ten year old son, Herbert Wesley, died. The cause is not disclosed. The following spring Margaret gave birth to a daughter, Margaret. She was the last child. Tragically, in 1903, eleven year old daughter, Ida May, died of tuberculosis. The recent losses, and fears of that dreaded disease, seemed to be a constant haunting that left a lasting impression on the family, especially George.
For Margaret, these years were particularly difficult. In the early 1890’s her eyesight began to fail. Oral history tells us that by 1895, at the age of 40, she was nearly blind. Of course her teenage daughters, Emma, Fanny and Laura, assisted with the household chores, but it must have been particularly heart wrenching trying to care for her youngest daughters, Margaret, Helen, and Etta, who were all born after 1895!
For Robert, the consideration to relocate was once again presented by the lure of free land being offered in Western Canada. His family’s needs had changed with Margaret’s loss of sight, and the family’s need for a larger house. Many Dakota farmers responded to the Canadian land rush and sold their farms, put the proceeds in the bank, and moved north to begin homesteading in regions which appeared to offer conditions more suitable to the production of a wider diversity of crops.
In 1902, Robert decided to send his son, George, to Canada to investigate th purchase of farmland. George travelled by train to Winnipeg, and westward to Calgary and Edmonton. By this time good information concerning soil quality, annual rainfall and the length of the growing season were available to would-be buyers. In the end, George decided that it was most advantageous to choose good land which had already been broken by the plow, near a town and railway line. He reasoned that this combination of geographical and economic features would offer the best chances of success.
On July 21st, 1902, on advice from George, Robert purchased the east half of section 27, and the northeast quarter of section 22, township 25, range 4, west of the second meridian for $4,800.00. It was situated one mile south of Broadway St, next to the heart of a bustling town of Yorkton, Saskatchewan, and was acquired from Yorkton’s “Merchant Prince,” Levi Beck. The transaction was astute. The North Dakota farm of 460 acres was sold for $20.00 per acre, yielding a sum of $9,600.00. Robert financed the purchase of 480 acres in Yorkton by taking over an existing mortgage on the property of $2,500.00 at 9% per annum. He also assumed an additional $2,000 mortgage payable to Levi Beck. This left a significant portion for Robert to afford materials for the construction of dwelling and barn as well as other equipment. In the summer of 1903, the entire family moved to Yorkton from North Dakota other than Jim and Eliza.
(Add a paragraph about Yorkton, -need to do a search for vintage pics of Yorkton Sask.)
Not long after moving to Yorkton, Robert began to experience some chronic health concerns. Fatigue brought on by a lack of iron in the diet contributed to a deficiency of red blood cells. This lowered the supply of oxygen to the body making him feel weak. Iron-deficiency anemia was treatable with diet changes and iron supplements. The condition was severe enough that the doctor suggested Robert be treated at a facility in Bellingham, Washington. He was only 55 years old. He died there six weeks later on Feb. 17th, 1906.
With four younger sons and six young daughters, Margaret continued to live on the farm. Although blind, she assumed her role as “widow and administratrix of the estate”, and farm manager, and even built a large nine bedroom house for the family which included beautiful hardwood floors. The farm complex grew to include a 36’ x 22’ horse barn, a cattle barn, 30’ x 40’, a well and windmill. Each barn had a cement floor with gutters. However, as was typical, poor insulation left the house cold and draughty in winters and difficult to heat.
The farm prospered. In 1909 the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway bought eight acres from the east half of secton 27 as a right-of-way for the Regina-Yorkton line. As a result the Fergusons now had their own railway siding on the farm, and loaded their grain directly into boxcars parked at the siding. Three more additions were made to the acreage and by 1910 it had reached the size of 1,120 acres. However, annual interest payments of 8-9% ate away profits. Eventually the farm was sold in 1945 and the house torn down the following year.