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Kimberley Families

The Higgins Family

as told by Fred

Fred Higgins was born in Perry Sound, Ontario in 1892, the eldest of thirteen children. He has spent most of his eighty-five years working in the woods, beginning at age thirteen.

He was overseas during the first World War. He went all through the four years until September, 1918, just two months before the Armistice when he was hit by a piece of Shrapnel in the neck, just missing the juggler vein, but it chipped a vertebrae. He arrived in Halifax in March of 1919and was discharged from Kingston as A-I, so he received no disability pension.

Before going overseas, he worked for a farmer named Vigress for three years, and on his return, he went back to work there for a short time. The eldest daughter of the Vigress' twelve children was Minnie. She and Fred were married and decided to strike out on their own. They went to Alsask, a farming district on the Alberta- Saskatchewan border and both got jobs. Fred helped with the harvest and the threshing while Minnie cooked and did housework, until winter found them without jobs.

Their next move was a brief one to Calgary where Minnie had some cousins. It was there that Fred heard of work in Fernie where a logging railroad into Cedar Valley was being built. They moved to Fernie in November of 1919 where Fred worked between Fernie and Hosmer for the next six years. Four children were born in these years; Madeline, Oscar, Gerald and Stan. Fred remembers the Fernie Dr. Aselstine and his old Model T Ford and in winter he would use gunny sacks tied on the wheels for traction.

The next move was to Irishman Creek in 1926 where Fred made fence posts for the C.P.R. He built a log house where they lived for one year.

Fred Higgins

In 1928 Fred went to work for the Company at Kimberley for eight years. In the winter he was a timerman underground but in summer he was on exploration, prospecting for phosphate. One summer he headed a crew of fifteen men up Lang Creek near where Elkford is today. He wishes he had kept a diary and carried a camera of those days. He acted as cook, wrangler or worked at whatever job needed a hand.

One trip took him from the Flathead through Banff and Jasper parks and on up to the Athabasca river. In Rocky Mountain Park he saw sixty-one moose in one afternoon. He has had a couple of near clashes with angy bull moose.

In 1937, Fred moved his family to Meadowbrook but shortly after he purchased fourteen lots in the area of Marsden Street. There was a three-roomed shack already on the property which he enlarged. During the 1948 flood one of the lots was washed away.

In 1944, he left the Company and started the Matthew Creek Sawmills, in partnership with Frank and Henry Pearson. He hoped to have jobs waiting for his sons when they came back from serving overseas in the Second World War.

Oscar saw action in several countries in Europe, especially Italy. During the war his health was greatly damaged and on his return he spent three years in Shawnessy hospital and several months at Tranquille with T.B. plus many other problems. Gerald was killed in action. Stan trained as a pilot with the airforce and became a flight engineer but did not go overseas.

Madeline began working as a housekeeper for a few years before her marriage to Frank Pearson. He had worked underground but was advised to get outside work. This was when the timber limit at Matthew Creek was obtained. They had four children; Lorraine, Lorne, Diane and Gerry. Frank passed away just before Gerry was born.

Lorraine married Dale Roff and they have four sons and live at Wycliffe. Lorne is an assayor for a Company in Porcupine, Ontario. They have three children of their own and two adopted ones. Diane lives near Sudbury, Ontario and has two children. Gerry is a plumber in Sudbury and he also has two children. Madeline is married again and is Mrs. Don McMasters and they reside near Porcupine.

The Matthew Creek sawmills operated for over ten years before they sold out to Harry Wilson in Fernie in the mid 1950's. During those years they supplied lumber for a great many projects; the lumber for the houses on Lois Creek and some in Blarchmont, the Moose Hall and all the 12 by 12 timbers for the 3700foot level haulage tunnel. They put out as much as 30,000 board feet in a day and sometimes had as many as 15,000 ties waiting for shipment to the mine.

Oscar and Stan both had their own farms near Wycliffe. Recently, Oscar moved to a farm near Wardner. Stan and his father worked for Fabro's supplying the mill with logs from such areas as Kimberley Creek, Cherry Creek and the Estella Basin. They supplied and operated the heavy equipment needed in the woods.

They volunteered their time and equipment to the Rod and Gun Club assisting them in clearing a road and campsite at Premier Lake, and for the Boy Scouts at Camp Stone. Their only pay was the logs that were taken from the cleared area.

Fred and Stan got the contract to tear down the McDougal Hall when the City decided to do away with it. The beautiful maple hardwood floors now grace Stan's home at Wycliffe. The house is built of peeled logs that Fred prepared. He also built a log house in Marysville which he recently sold. Fred still lives in the big two-story house he built years ago, renting the downstairs. Minnie passed away in 1975.Fred is the only active Legion member that is a veteran of the first World War and still attends meetings regularly.

Fred had to spend most of his time away from his family when they were growing up, a situation he couldn't avoid but regrets very much.

He still makes cedar shakes and tends his garden, but claims he just doesn't have as much energy as he used to.

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